I left with Jared and Eduard at the crack of dawn. We had three of the older dump trucks with cyclone fencing welded and clamped across the windshields and doors. The added protection would keep us from getting hurt if the windows were broken out during our trip. The lead truck also had an added feature;two iron plates in a shallow “V” were welded onto the front bumper. It reminded me of a cow catcher on a steam train from the old west.
The route was simple, but not easy. We traced our previous route when we got the tractors. That took us out the Lincoln gate, left on Glassel, across the river, and across the freeway. Nothing had changed from our first run through this stretch of town. We had a path through the wrecks and turned right onto La Palma Avenue where the zombies were a little thinner. We stayed in a single file convoy the entire time, me in front, followed by Jared, and Eduard trailed.
Fifteen miles an hour was all I did going through these streets. It was fast enough to outpace the zombies, but not risk real damage from them striking any of the trucks. I also liked having plenty of time to pick out a path around or through groups of cars without needing to stop. This worked well after we passed the small strawberry farm where we picked up the tractors.
This road wasn’t going to take us where we needed to go though. Several blocks down the road was blocked at Imperial Highway. An accident eight lanes wide and fifty cars long blocked the intersection. There’s no doubt that it was because this was near the freeway onramp and people were desperate to get out. I half expected a problem here though. I used to work down the street and this intersection was always tough when people weren’t eating each other.
We just did a slow U-turn and took a side street to the next main street farther from the freeway. It had a new underpass that had always been seldom used and got us past Imperial Highway. This road was Orangethorpe and it ran next to the main rail line heading east, out of the county. Orangethorpe had little traffic at this end and was less likely to be blocked than other streets. This was going to be our highway.
We had another underpass get us past Yorba Linda Boulevard, but we needed to change streets again. This was where Orangethorpe diverged from the rail line and went into the hills. An access road crossed the railroad tracks at this point. I drove through the chain ling gate, over the tracks, and turned east onto La Palma Avenue again. We were skirting some ritzy suburbs at the edge of Orange County hers and shouldn’t have too much trouble with wrecks.
We had picked up quite a following on our drive. I’m sure we had over a thousand zombies trailing behind in a train that was a mile or two long. As long as we didn’t have to back-track too much, we would be fine. I thought that too soon. We had to back-track a bit when we got to Gypsum Canyon Road. This street had another freeway entrance and the jam stretched well onto La Palma in both directions. We would be mobbed long before we could clear a lane. The sidewalks weren’t an option either as people had desperately tried to use them already.
We did another U-turn, this time slower since the road wasn’t as wide and smashed a dozen or more zeds as we took a detour through the ritzy neighborhood. The road I was hoping to take was Camp Bryant Road. The only problem was it had an underpass to get by the rail line. That underpass had what was left of a fiery pileup jammed inside. Again, it wasn’t passable.
My heart started racing now. I knew there wasn’t another cross street farther down in the residential area and zombies were already flowing into the neighborhood. I worried that we would need to do what I did next eventually, I just wanted to wait till the last minute if I could.
I pulled left heading east on a street that ran parallel to the railroad tracks. Once an access road appeared, I lead the convoy over the curb and onto the north edge of the tracks. We would use the railway for our highway. I just hoped we didn’t have any bridges we needed to cross.
This worked out well for us over the next three miles. We outpaced the zombies while moving at an easy ten miles an hour. The dump trucks were at home on the dusty gravel of the rail bed. We had a small hitch when we had a bridge over a bike path that ran up to the dam in Corona. We could get off and go onto the bike path, it was wide and paved. I had ridden on it many times over the last few years. That would take us onto the north side of the dam though. We would have to go to the far north to get around it and make our way back south again. Then, we would have to make a bridge crossing and multiple freeway crossing in thickly populated areas.
I wanted to try crossing the freeway at Green River instead. It was the first exit for Corona, but was in a lightly populated area since it is at the base of the hills on the other side of the freeway. This meant we were going to risk riding on the rails.
The gravel was well maintained and was level with the railroad ties. Getting onto the tracks wasn’t too tough. We didn’t have a blowout hopping the rail and straddling to one side. I found that it wasn’t as bumpy of a ride as I expected and we stayed on the rails for two miles, until we reached Green River. The road was impassable.
We didn’t miss a beat. Zombies were pouring off of the highway trying to get us. We stayed on the rail line as it passed under the freeway. The zombies were walking off the edge of the freeway and started raining down on us in an attempt to reach us. I had one land on the passenger side of the windshield and shatter the entire glass. I was blind for a minute with a bloody carcass squirming in front of me. Using a tire iron on the front seat that I had for this purpose, I smashed out a little viewport so I could see where I was driving. Then I pulled my 9mm from its holster and shot the zombie between the eyes when it turned to get me. It fell onto the hood. I pulled right and tapped the brakes, letting it slide off the hood and onto the tracks.
I finished popping out some more of the shattered glass just in time to see the access road. I pulled to the right and we were on Green River, heading into the back hills of Corona, Riverside County.
The truck was a mess. I pulled onto an access road to a municipal water storage compound up the hill. I rammed through the gate and led the convoy in a wide turn facing back to the gate. The hillside was bare this time of year and we were temporarily out of sire from the surging river of zombies near the highway. I yelled to Jared and Eduard to meet at Jared’s truck and we would clear the area.
Hopping out with our .22s with MP4s slung, we checked around and under the vehicles, the Jared hopped onto his truck to provide security while Eduard and I quickly moved through the water depot and around the tank. It was clear.
Eduard helped me take out the windshield from inside the cab and sweep away most of the glass. Jared stayed on top of his truck and watched at the bottom of the hill. Most of the zombies were following the rail line east. I guess there weren’t enough of them that got a clear view of us turn off because of the trees and buildings near the tracks. What a break, we might be able to take a breath before moving out again.
Jared had the sharpest eyes, so I had him keep watch. I asked Eduard to carefully lay some dirt over the blood and guts left coating the hood of my truck. I didn’t want to smell it or look at it any more than I had to. I pulled out my map and the notes I had made. I quickly checked the next leg of our journey in case we needed to move out quickly, then made notes in my journal about the route we took to get here and what we saw on the way.
I called Eduard over and asked him how he was doing in his truck. He smiled uneasily and said he was doing fine. I had him go over the next part of the route with me. We would take Green River to where it made a dog-leg northeast, then go right onto Ontario where we could skirt near the hillside. I wanted to stay at the edge of the residential area as much as possible. I was also hoping that the zombies were at least partially lazy and would go downhill more often than uphill. That would mean still thinner hordes for us to deal with. Ontario would take us to Magnolia and Magnolia is where I wanted to cross the 15 freeway.
I made sure the boys made a pit stop, had a drink, and were focused again before hitting the road. We pulled down onto Green River and made our right turn along the base of the hill. Only a few zombies got in our way down this road and we made our dog-leg turn left. Then I got a bit uneasy.
Down this road were a few open fields and more dense housing. Cars were stalled in the narrow road that caused us to slow down and weave through. More zombies were in the area as well. I smashed over a dozen in the three blocks before turning onto Ontario. It only got worse from there.
Ontario opened into a wider street, but a lot more cars were strewn about on the road. No major pileups blocked the road entirely, but I needed to smash my way past several stalled sedans. Smash was the word because the road had become thick with zombies. Half way to our Magnolia turnoff it looked like we might get bogged down in the wrecks and the bodies. I punched the accelerator and sped up to twenty five. This made the “V” bumper on my truck act like a knife and zombies started losing their legs, torsos flying through the air and then splattering on the pavement. I had to scoot into the center of the cab because a bloody mist was making it through the edges of what used to be my windshield. What a mess.
I slowed down a little as we approached the 15 interchange. More cars were here, but I was able to find a lane through the McDonald’s parking lot and the sidewalk on the opposite side of the street. Only one car had to be knocked out of the way. Once on the other side, I paused the convoy and took a look back.
Thousands upon thousands of zombies were flowing down the gentle slope towards us, the leading edge only a few minutes away. I grabbed a towel from my bag and quickly wiped myself off. After donning my sunglasses and a facemask, I started the convoy rolling again.
Originally I wanted to take a road that ran close to the railroad through riverside, but I caught a glimpse of that horde we had started by the freeway. There were five or ten thousand zombies shambling down the rail line stirring up all the zeds within shuffling distance. That route was out. We couldn’t stand still for the second horde, so I drove us along the base of the hills to our right and made our way east.
The road had plenty of turns and some small wrecks we needed to push out of the way, but we were able to get by. It was still dangerously close to the rail line in places and we picked up a following that measured in the hundreds. That was manageable until we squeezed past the hills and could hook south and east again to place some distance from the first two hordes.
We had some relief crossing through a semi-rural area down Victoria Avenue in Riverside. When the land opened up a bit we could see the tree line bustling in all directions. Our sound was carrying and they were coming out to meet us. By the time we crossed the two miles to another stretch of residential housing, we were pushing through and over a small mob reaching their arms out for us. For some reason, this seemed one of the creepiest moments to me on our expedition. I could just here them in my imagination saying “Brains…I want your brains…”.
We pressed on some more and cut to the right after making it past the line of hills on the right. We were getting close to the 216/60 interchange for Moreno Valley. I had one last trick for losing our following and sneak across our last freeway.
We turned down Allesadro Boulevard and plowed through crowds and wrecks till we reached the turnoff I had been waiting for. It was the access road behind the sewage treatment plant. It was a packed dirt road that went outside the fence of this enormous facility. A lot of zombies followed us, but such a large mass does not turn on a dime to move between a fence and an industrial building to chase a target they can’t necessarily see anymore. As such, well over ninety percent of the horde kept moving down Allesandro and away from where we were going.
We turned onto another access road that took us down a slope, through a gully, and up into a heavy industrial area. Using my side mirror I would guess only a hundred or so zeds were on our trail, but the terrain would slow them a bit and they may thin out some more before entering the industrial park.
What I saw here made my heart jump and then fall. To the left was a huge distribution center for Ralph’s grocery stores. This was probably their hub for much of Southern California. I’m sure there was enough food for our group to last many years. The only problem was it was way out here and we had other things to bring back with us on this trip. I put the thought out of my mind and headed to the right.
The freeway crossing was easy here because it was used almost entirely by the distributors here and they shut down before the panic spread to this area. We moved into Moreno valley and did a zig-zag pattern to the southeastern edge of town to minimize our following until we arrived and Moreno Beach Boulevard, a mile away from Doc’s fire house.