Our correspondent walks the McCarran Loop in the hopes of enhancing fitness, learning about his community, and getting tan
Editor’s note: Twenty-one-year-old college student Sean Mazner’s mission was to walk around McCarran Boulevard, a 25-mile trek. His day-long suburban hike was undertaken for a personal fitness aspiration, a chance to learn more about Reno and Sparks, and to develop a tan. All but the last were accomplished, and his journey was logged in a notebook while he walked. He’s a non-smoking, 140-pound, healthy male who works retail and is used to being on his feet eight hours a day.
May 13, 2010, 6:30 a.m. My alarm clock liberates me from the comforting embrace of a tranquil night’s sleep. As I reach to my left to silence it, I come to the swift realization that today is the day I will walk the length of McCarran Boulevard. I shudder at a few of the many scenarios that arise from this prospect. One of the more ominous visions is one where I get run down by a semi and land in a ditch. My dead body goes undiscovered except by hungry vultures that pluck my eyes out and defecate on my rotting corpse. Or I could just walk all day and get really tired afterward. It certainly will be a long day, so I must waste no time in getting ready for the walk. I am no stranger to urban hiking. I’ve walked major portions of downtown Las Vegas, San Francisco and Reno. Urban hiking combines the fitness aspects of rural trail hiking with staying closer to home (and the ability to visit 7-Elevens along the way).
7:14 a.m. My boyfriend, Derek, arrives at my apartment. He’s driving me to McCarran. I make my final preparations and check items off my survival list and add them to my backpack.
• Backpack I bought from Savers, donated by a woman who forgot to clean out a side pocket full of feminine hygiene products: check
• Five generic water bottles frozen in varying degrees due to inconsistent chilling patterns in my freezer: check
• A handful of leftover Halloween candy from a 75-percent-off, post-holiday sale that will act as my sustenance and will most certainly melt in my pockets: check
• Replacement Dr. Scholl’s shoe inserts for the ones already installed in my Converses: check
• Extra sunscreen to slather on just in case the sunscreen I already applied in a fashion similar to glazing a ham wears out: check
• Pokéwalker pedometer with my most beloved Pokémon—Chansey, by the way—to track the number of steps I take: check
• Sunglasses to block the sun, but mostly to make me look cool: check
• Notebook and writing utensil by which I will chronicle my voyage (and possibly my last words): check
7:25 a.m. I finish scribing my last will and testament in this notebook as Derek drives to the starting point of my journey, the intersection of North McCarran Boulevard and North Virginia Street. A traffic accident delays us from arriving at the planned start time of 7:30. When we arrive at the intersection, I employ the patented tuck-and-roll technique to jump out of the moving car while also dodging the traffic behind us.
7:38 a.m. The adventure begins. Adrenaline is running high. My spirits are growing inside me, as is all the alcohol I drank the night before during a semester’s end party that lasted until midnight. I make the best of these mixed feelings as I head past Evans Road, Sutro Street and Clear Acre Lane. I am making the journey clockwise because of my familiarity with the Sparks side of McCarran and because the last leg of the hike is downhill.
8:08 a.m. I survey the accident we encountered from the Highway 395 overpass. Officers are blocking entry to the freeway and acknowledge me with little more than grunts. I notice from Northtowne Lane that the Walmart parking lot is remarkably empty. Readers wishing to experience uninhibited shopping should do so Thursday mornings around 8 a.m., preferably with a traffic accident to block other potential shoppers.
8:17 a.m. By the time I cross Sullivan Lane, I have already observed a number of interesting vehicles passing me. The Wild 105.7 truck sped past me with a sign in tow. A Keebler truck was exiting a shopping complex, tempting me to imitate a scene out of Fast & Furious and steal their yummy cargo. And finally a blonde in a buggy was swerving around lanes of traffic with driving tactics akin to those in Mario Kart. All that was left for her to do was throw a banana peel on the road.
8:31 a.m. As I pass Wildcreek Golf Course, I notice a ball under my foot. I guesstimate the distance between me and the fence of the golf course to be at least 100 feet. For a ball to reach where I am, the person would have to have purposely been hitting balls into traffic, which sounds fun to do, honestly. Either that or there is someone in this town that is actually a worse golfer than I am. Both scenarios are why I avoid driving by golf courses.
8:59 a.m. The north end of the boulevard was scattered with the pleasant scent of sagebrush in bloom, lots of barking dogs in peoples’ backyards, and election campaign signs that no one but me would ever look at. I step over broken taillights and glass in the street, reaffirming my belief that I will get hit by at least one car by the end of the day.
9:15 a.m. My feet begin to hurt, and I realize that one pair of socks on my feet will not be enough for walking in my Converse, Dr. Scholl’s or not. I decide to stop into the Big Lots on Greenbrae Drive to get more socks. After I grab four pairs of “slightly irregular” socks for $4, I take a quick look at any books I might want. While The Magic of the Pope and Vagina Warriors both sound like tempting buys, I decide against both. Instead, I grab 35 garbage bags and check out. Now wearing two pairs of oddly shaped socks on each foot, I continue.
9:52 a.m. While I’m around a shopping complex, I also decide to grab a quick breakfast. Ruling out fast food, I decide for a quick bite at Cosmic Coffee. The sign above the pastries state they were made locally at the House of Bread. I walk out eating the delicious apple strudel muffin and then make a quick note to Google Map the House of Bread when I get home.
10:02 a.m. I try to take my picture with the wooden Black Bear Diner Bear sitting outside the restaurant. After three unsuccessful attempts, I cross under the Interstate 80 intersection, marking a quarter of my walk already done. No aches yet, but I don’t really want to jinx it.
10:21 a.m. Too late. I start to feel the first bits of pain in my feet as I walk upward inside a train overpass. A funny-looking Secret Witness billboard takes my mind off the pain for a few seconds, as I continue on through the industrial district of the boulevard. I also pass some free- range horses and cows. I am also able to take a picture of a cow the exact moment it is pooping. For a second at the Mill intersection, I think I see a dog driving a pick-up truck, but quickly realize he is sitting on a man’s lap. Isn’t that illegal?
10:50 a.m. As I pass Rock Boulevard again, I see the Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters building. The name makes me wonder if they wear funny hats and chant ancient scriptures inside there. I also pass Mira Loma Park. Some seniors are playing tennis, and some younger guys are skateboarding (shouldn’t they be in school?). The grass smells freshly cut and is a welcome change from the overbearing smell of car exhaust and cow poop I just experienced.
11:06 a.m. As I cross Mira Loma Drive, a sign twirler is advertising Round Table Pizza with complex maneuvers of varying success. Spinning a plank of wood somehow makes me hungry so I decide to eat lunch soon. Before I cross the Rio Poco Road intersection, I find a steak knife on the ground. A bent fork is on the other side. I’m thinking a Thanksgiving family dinner went awry, and the feud escalated to the streets.
11:35 a.m. I come to the Longley Lane intersection but not before noticing a restaurant named The Spicy Pickle on the other side. I cross McCarran (the only time I do so) and go inside. I order The Spicy Pickle Tuna Salad, which is a delight. It comes with zesty tuna, pickle relish, kalamata olives and lemon olive-oil dressing on the side. The salad is great, especially the olives, though I believe I got one lettuce core too many mixed in. I also get the Santa Cruz sandwich, complete with mesquite turkey, lettuce, avocado, cheddar, corn relish and chipotle mayo. The meat on the sandwich is freshly sliced, abundantly applied, but a little dry. I wish a bit more chipotle mayo was drizzled on to make the sandwich go down smoother. Nonetheless, a great meal and a sandwich shop I will visit again.
12:01 p.m. I leave the shop just before the lunch rush. Good thing, too. The people who were already in line were staring at me. It must have been the overbearing stench of car exhaust and cheap sunscreen I am emitting. I pass Airway Drive and Neil Road, with the mall to my left. Oh, the mall. How I wish I had spent the day there instead, especially since they added that really cool trampoline where you get strapped in and do flips and stuff. I also pass another sign twirler, this time for Subway. Too late, man, I already ate a sandwich. I also go into my workplace real quick to get the next week’s schedule. I won’t say exactly where I work, but it has a giraffe for a mascot, and kids love to shop in it.
12:42 p.m. Wow, that sidetrack to my store took longer than I planned. I cross under Highway 395 this time, meaning I am halfway finished already. I quickly cross Kietzke Lane, and everything smells like macaroni all of a sudden. I don’t know if that’s a sign that I’m about to collapse or if Marie Callender’s and crew are hosting a pasta-eating competition. After crossing Talbot Lane, I smell fresh-cut grass again, and the health scare is over.
1:11 p.m. The real scare becomes apparent as I cross over Plumas Street. Pretty much the next quarter of this walk is all uphill. My feet react upon this realization, and I swear I hear them whimper as I hike up the first giant hill. My mind gets taken off the stark reality when I pass the Lakeridge Golf Course. I watch as at least eight guys on the practice green all miss putts. Now, while I have abysmal golf skills, I have at least played enough mini-golf to be able to make a 10-foot putt. Not them. I also pass the first bit of roadkill so far. At least Public Works seems to be doing its job. After all, it took me about 16 miles before I saw a headless pigeon.
1:23 p.m. After crossing Greensboro, I start to notice a trail of mini Sutter House chardonnay bottles dotting the ditches for at least a mile. Whatever the reason for this, it certainly gives the Reno Wine Walk a run for its money. My face is starting to turn red, and I slow my pace and down an entire bottle of water. Right afterwards I see a knocked-over sign far across the other side of the ditch with all the chardonnay bottles. I wonder if the incidents are related.
1:45 p.m. Oh my God, when does the climbing end? I am slouching forward to avoid rolling backwards down the hill as gravity slowly turns against me. I’m getting so tired that I don’t even bother to determine what the second piece of roadkill I pass by once was. Manzanita Lane, Skyline Boulevard and Cashill Boulevard blur together for me. I only recall alternating between taking pictures of the valley floor and contemplating whether getting run down by a car would really be that bad.
2:16 p.m. My feet are throbbing so badly, they might as well have a cheese grater taken to them. The constant pain is consuming my thoughts. The only breaks I get from reflecting on this agony are a mysterious yellow liquid-filled Pepsi bottle and the alluring scent of sagebrush. It’s times like this I’m glad I brought my camera and that I’m not forced to pick up trash on the sides of roads.
2:44 p.m. I cross Plumb Lane after having the road level off only to watch it angle upward as far as I can see. Shit. At least the optimist in me notes it’s a straight climb. Then the pessimist in me beats the crap out of the optimist, robs it, and reminds me once more that my feet are worse off than James Caan’s in Misery.
3:01 p.m. I pass Mayberry and see a Jackson’s gas station by Fourth Street. This seems like as good a place as any for my body to keel over and die, but my stubborn brain insists I move forward. My brain then bribes my body with a cherry slushie and a couple minutes of rest on the curb. I might as well have been dead on that sidewalk, since the people walking into the store regard me as they would a corpse.
3:16 p.m. After tiring of peoples’ horrified looks, I finally take off from the gas station. Shortly after getting back on the road, my left toe does its best Axl Rose impression by trying to separate itself from the rest of the group while causing as much pain as possible. As this happens, “A Thousand Miles” starts playing on the radio. Vanessa Carlton can suck it: There’s no man out there that she would walk even 10 miles for before giving up.
3:29 p.m. I reach I-80 again and wait a literal seven minutes for the damned crossing light to come on. It never does, so I decide to break my jaywalking rule because I want to cross the road sometime in the next 24 hours. At that same intersection, I see a hubcap sitting at least 10 feet up a hill. That image definitely does not help reinforce my decision to cut across traffic. I do anyway and also dodge construction equipment on that stretch through Mae Anne Avenue. I have always wondered what the hell it is they are doing to that road. I decide they are digging for Hoffa’s body and continue.
3:47 p.m. The smells of all these fast food restaurants are torturing me. That siren’s call of deep-fried deliciousness is avoided when I take one whiff of my shirt. Nothing kills the appetite like the smell of something akin to rolling around in Amy Winehouse’s trash. I walk past the third sign twirler of the day. This one is dressed like Spongebob Squarepants and is advertising Great Clips. I don’t know what a hairless cartoon character has to do with a hair salon. I’m also convinced a secret cult of sign twirlers is plotting my demise. They meet in the same building as the Council of Carpenters. I’m guessing my death will come in the form of sign bludgeoning, but that would be too obvious.
4:06 p.m. Where are the sign twirlers when you need them? I’m ready to die now. I’m on King’s Row, which is so close, yet so far to my goal. Life is suffering. The pain in my feet numbs the rest of my body. To top it off, the radio station will not stop playing that awful Lady Antebellum song. Things could not get worse. Then, salvation is before my eyes. I can see the finish line past the last hill. All I need to do is walk one more mile, all downhill. As I walk by Rancho San Rafael Park, I arrange for Derek to pick me up. Hopefully, he can get to North Virginia Street soon. I might not make it another half hour.
4:26 p.m. I make it. Don’t ask me how. My brain literally shuts off, and it’s only pure adrenaline and the desire not to die while wearing striped boxers that drive me to the end. The moment my feet hit North Virginia is surreal. I’m just surprised I still have feet. My ride picks me up exactly where I was dropped off, but not before driving past me—twice. I’m thinking he doesn’t want me to stink up the upholstery. I make my way up the flight of stairs to my apartment (ow!), eat pizza, take a bath (my first one since I was 10), and fall asleep at 8 p.m.
Things I learned on my journey
• Converse was a bad choice for shoes, no matter how cushy.
• It was not fatigue that almost killed me, just simple pain. Don’t forget the aspirin next time.
• Ambivalence about death crops up during longer hikes.
• Walgreens brand SPF 50 in generous dosage will keep you just as pale as you were before your hike.
• Partly cloudy and 69 degrees is the ideal hiking weather. One of the few things I really can’t complain about is the weather. Too bad Reno is bestowed five days like this a year by Mother Nature.
• There is a book called Vagina Warriors.
• If anyone else wants to attempt a similar hike, take it easy first. Don’t dive head first into a 25-mile hike. If you’re not willing to venture as far as Lake Tahoe or Mt. Rose, you can find some great places right here in Reno. It is a beautiful place to walk around and offers many gorgeous parks, hills and neighborhood routes, no matter your age or fitness level. I can say despite the pain and my writing suggesting otherwise, I really did enjoy this hike and would attempt it again, knowing now what to prepare for next time.