Sunday, June 14, 2009

It's A Tough Job Being Unemployed

-Potomac, MD-

Ahhhh, some peace and quiet. No library limits or Wi-Fi ranges to worry about. I get to type to you all at my own leisure and make this last post a good one.

First, let's go over some highlights on the past week. We were ready to rock into the Shenendoahs in good spirits after an excellent and extremely comfortable time in Waynesboro. Definitely one of my favorite trail towns thus far - the people are nice, the amentities are plentiful, and the accomodations get better the cheaper they are. Instead of paying for another night at the Quality Inn, we heard the Grace Lutheran Church runs a hostel for thru-hikers free of charge. With a limited number of spots, we lined up outside the door in the rain and shouldered for position like the church was about to hand out Red Sox-Yankees tickets and Rainman and I, armed with our forced Boston accents to intimidate the other thru-hikers, rightfully earned our spots on the roster. It wasn't nearly that dramatic, but if any of us knew exactly what was behind those doors, I would have been slingin' Southie one-linahhhs, tellin' dah othah fackin' thru-hikahs to clear tha' fackin' way 'cause I'm rounded th'errrd like Ellsbury on six or seven Red Bulls and I'm comin' home ready to throw some fackin' bows!

But it didn't. What a shame.

This place was great. Cots to sleep in, big screen to watch movies, fresh fruit, excellent showers, and my very own box of Honey Bunches of Oats with Strawberries. I killed the box in one sitting. It was magical. So magical in fact that I bought two more boxes and powdered milk on my resupply so that I could enjoy that wonderful taste on the trail. Did I mention that I like Honey Bunches of Oats with Strawberries?

So after we settled into our divine abode for the evening, myself and my friend August Rush decided to visit the YMCA down the road to shoot some hoops. At first, we were both awful. I didn't hit rim in my first 15 shots, and each time I let out a groan of frustration, each one louder and more pathetic than the previous. Finally, someone mentioned it. "Hey, you wanna play a game?" My ankles quivered, telling my brain, "No! We'll twist and this trip will be over! Don't let him do it! Murphy's Law!!", but it was no use. It was time to ball up.

I looked to the other side of the gym to see three high school kids, all athletic-looking and comfortable with a basketball. They were messing around, shooting threes and doing trick shots, but as soon as they heard "You wanna play a game?", the warm-ups came off, the looks got serious, and they accepted our challenge without a verbal response. We were asking for it.

However, with the competitive fire now lit underneath us and these young lads looking to take us down, Team Nobo Hobo decided to step up our game and take these kids to school. I drove the lane and kissed winners off the glass right off the bat. I drove and dished to Rush who was hitting elbow 15-footers with ease. I backed down into the post and worked my game downlow, pulling spin moves and hitting hook shots that both Doctor J and my father would be proud of. We went up 17-3 at one point, and while they got hot late, I smothered the flame with two three-point daggers to close the game at 21-9. We shook hands and left the court with our egos stroked to a shine.

We slept and awoke to a downpour outside. We all tried to keep our spirits high, but with each minute that passed, the rain drained us of motivation to set out for our first day with 21 miles ahead of us. We made it all the way to the trailhead when we all decided that Chinese buffet sounded much more appealling. So we went back into town, back to Ming Garden, and pounded General Tso's for another two hours. When the rain finally let up, we stumbled out of the restaurant and headed back to the trail. Thankfully we only had seven miles to hike so it was nothing too strenuous.

The rest of the Shenendoahs was a vacation. No need to pack a week's worth of food with you because you can buy that dinner at one of the many stores or restaurants. We enjoyed breakfasts with waiters and dinners with beer. The terrain was forgiving and the rain held off until the evening. Life was good and we thought we deserved it.

However expensive it was or boring the scenery (it was nice, but repetitive and boring compared to earlier views on the trip), the Shenendoahs were good to us. We marched into Front Royal after covering over 100 miles in six days, and that's with that first day of only seven miles. Now the one thing on our minds was the tubing with Kickass Cove.

The plan was to hitch ahead on the trail to Bluemont and head south so that we walk into Front Royal the day of the event. Pretty uneventful two days - met a family of Pennsylvania Dutch (Dave, Steven, Mark, Mailan, John, and David - we're old friends now), watched Winston chase down a rabid raccoon and kill it, hiked over the famed Roller Coaster with ease, saw three Copperhead snakes....

Yeah, I know. Winston is a badass. And he did it after throwing up all night! Yeah, it sucks it was all over Wheeler's tent, but give it to the dog! Winston is the alpha male of the AT and that's that. Alright, I'll tell the story.

So Wheeler is up early (4 am) after Winston blows chunks in his tent. The only reason I know is because Winston came up and hung out under my tarp with me, embarassed to go back to site of the explosion. Anyways, Wheeler decides that after three days of messy poops and vomiting, he has to take Winston to the vet. Only 3.5 miles to US 50, get a hitch back to the Front Royal, and he'll be on meds by dinner time sleeping in a motel room. Beautiful.

About 2 miles into the morning, we cross upon Carpenter with his eyes bugged out of his head and fighting for air. "Don't go up there man! There's a raccoon that just chased me! It's got rabies man! It's out for blood, like 10 yards back. If I was you, I wouldn't go up there!" As soon as he finishes this warning, Winston perks up, slams his nose to the forest floor, and is running down hill on the trail of a strong scent. Wheeler tries to call him back but it's no use. We hope for the best.

No more than 30 seconds later, we hear Winston yelping for help. Wheeler, Joe Kickass, and myself drop our packs and bound down the hill and through the brush to find Winston standing unscathed with a twitching, foaming raccoon at his feet. It's back broken and body twitching uncontrollably, we ended its misery and while Winston gave his final staredown, as if to say, "Yeah, that's right. Alphamale, bitch."

Thankfully, Winston was already on his way to the vet, so with a rabies booster shot and some meds for his stomach bug, he's back to being the best dog ever (rather than the best dog ever with the worst gas imaginable. I'm talking room-clearing, sharp-enough-to-make-your-eyes-water gas. Thank god it's over)

Then came Tubing Day. To celebrate having marched 1000 miles (or damn close to), we bought beer, rented some tubes, and floated down the Shenendoah river for a couple hours. Soaking my feet in cool water while soaking up some sun was a well-deserved prize for all of us, and we marveled at just how far we've come. Old friends who are far ahead of us came down for the event, giving Rainman and I more motivation to get moving to catch up. Four State challenge anyone (42 miles in 24 hours? It's worth a shot.)

That begins tomorrow. And I need some sleep to pull it off. So, if you'll excuse me.

Thanks for reading.

Miss you all!


Thursday, June 4, 2009

Rule #7: If In Doubt, Do It

-Waynesboro, VA-

Last we left off, the epic bash that is, and was, Trail Days 2009 had officially ended, and it was now time to handle my parents. It was great seeing them and they helped us out a bunch with a clean bed to sleep in, a ride anywhere we pleased, and Chinese food. It wasn't a buffett, but damn it was good. It was also bad at the same time, but only by association with its inspiration with a meal I planned that went horribly wrong. Let's just say that the brilliance of General Tso's chicken cannot be recreated by simply adding a seasoning packet with his name on it to pouch-sealed chicken and macaroni. Far from it, my friends. My stomach still hates me.

Anyways, the parents saw us off into the woods and Rainman and I, who have yet to seperate despite our gear seperation, hiked a short day to Rice Knob Shelter. The only reason I remember the name of it is because it came with the best sunset on the trail thus far. A bald right out front with a perfect view of the West, and with a clear day, made for a spectacular display. We continued to hang out until sunlight became starlight and feast our eyes on the twinkling spectrum above. A great first night back on the trail.

The next notable spot I remember is pulling into Catawba, VA which is the location of the greatest restaurant I've ever been to. Sorry Redbones - you still have the tastiest ribs around, but the Homeplace is the titan of southern comfort. All-you-can-eat mashed taters, mac n' cheese, beans, slaw, roast beef, ham, fried chicken, and cherry cobbler is a combination of country delicacy that I rolled out of the Homeplace about a bean or two from popping. We jokingly asked if we could sleep outside because we weren't sure if we could make it across the street to camp at the store, and the owner surprisingly agreed. So we rocked our food babies on the porch chairs outside and spent the night planning the coming days and sleeping in the gazebo. A perfect night.

We realized that we had Memorial Day to deal with that coming Monday, and because most of us had packages to pick up in Daleville, we decided to hitch into town. I put on my best puppyface and sure enough, Greg Johnston decided that he could take a detour into Daleville. We piled on his flatbed pickup with his wife and two kids in the cab and got to Daleville to take care of errands. Props to Greg Johnston. If you read this, you are the man.

We got a ride back to Catawba and hiked into Daleville under our own power and made our first stop at the outfitter where I saw it. It clearly had been on the shelf for some time (with good reason) but as soon as I saw it, I knew that I had to drop the cash to have it. What "it" is is essentially a rice farmer hat made by Kavu - circular brimming coming to a point on top. It's undeniably practical but pretty unfashionable at the same time. The choice was obvious - I had to have it. There's even one girl on the trail who now calls me "Rice Patty Daddy". Yeah, that's right.

Time is ticking and the librarian is glaring at me so I'll wrap up the rest real quick. Left Daleville with dreams of Waynesboro and seeing Star Trek (which didn't happen). Jumped off a 30-foot bridge which was a great time. Rainman hit Bambi with his Buzz Lightyear kite. Got some excellent trail magic at the Dutch Haus and had a stuffed bell pepper. Grooved into Waynesboro with some light days and spent most of the day drinking beers and doing errands all day yesterday. Met up with some old friends from earlier in the trail who agreed that if we catch them in the Shenendoahs, they would buy us lunch or dinner (oh, it's on like Donkey Kong). Made some river float plans to celebrate making it halfway in Harper's Ferry. Ate at the Ming Chinese restaurant which was EPIC! And now, we finally get to enjoy some flat terrain of the Shenendoahs and get to really bust out some serious miles. 30 miles in one day? Oh, I'm doing it!

It's been great hearing from you guys and hearing of the support from all of you. It certainly makes being out here for this long easier. Just know that I can't wait to see all of you and after I get back, I'll bore you with as many stories as possible.

Also, I saw the Coniston montage and got really jealous. Douce, ZZ, and the Doc coming back? God damnit! Ahhh, I'll visit the beginning of August and get my Coniston fill.

Whew! That's my story right now and there will be plenty more once I get to Fort Royal (Port Royal?) and Harper's Ferry. Coming up on halfway!

Boo yah.

Love you guys!