Friday, July 24, 2009

All Good Things Have A Hand Signal

-Manchester, VT-

Aunt Joanna dropped us off with full bellies, fresh legs, and our eyes set on getting to Vermont in good time. We decided that after making the big push to to Warwick, there was now no need to rush. We didn't have anywhere to be and finishing earlier only meant that Rainman's time on the trail would be cut short. Finally, for the first time since getting hurt in the beginning of the trail, we were going to slow down.

And that mindset last about three days.

Give us some credit - we did three days with less than 16 miles a piece. One day we only did 11! I'm most impressed with Rainman, who for once, reined in his own fire for impressive miles. I fell into the same flame for some time, so enjoying the new scenery of the North was a nice change of pace. However, three days later, it came time to pick a date for the Xtravaganza.

With our father's wanting to join us for the trail and us not wanting to lose the main crew we have been hiking with or around for the past three months, we had no choice but to shift back into high gear and pull some big miles to get to VT in about two weeks. At first, the miles per day didn't seem too bad, but because we wanted to hang out with people rather than blow right past them for Rainman's last part of the trail, we sacrificed our mellow days and set ourselves up for a 100 mile push in four days. More on this later.

The night of our 11-mile day, we stayed at Native Landscapes and Gardens, a nice place right off the trail that had free showers, camping, and good location to a fantastic deli. It seemed like the perfect place on paper, and just like the paper-perfect Yankees, this place ended up blowing it long and hard in the end. I'm talking A-Rod in October-type blowing it.

On one side of the building was a two-lane highway and the other side was an active commuter railroad track. If this wasn't bad enough, the place was also patrolled by a rooster going through puberty. Put them all together, you've got whizzing truck traffic as your background, the occasional commuter rail busting through on the hour, and at 5:30am, the prepubescent rooster cracking out a shrill cock-a-doodle-doo. It was a cocktail of insomnia for us all, but it did make for a great story. To Native Landscapes - thanks for your generosity, but it may be a good move on your part to not allow camping, for both your sake and all future hikers.

The next notable stop was the Birdcage in Dalton, MA. My mom had told me about it during her "research" (stalking) of the trail, and other confirmed that the Birdcage was worth the visit. Rainman and I busted out a 28-miler to make it to his doorstep and he did not disappoint. We rolled in around 9:30 at night, not sure if this guy would even be awake, but sure enough he picked us up, washed our clothes, offered his shower, provided fresh clothes, a bed, and beer within the first five minutes we were in the door. This man - no, no - this MAN is the man and his name is Rob Bird.

Chugging down cigarettes and helping people out is what Rob does best and he does them better than anybody I know. He opens his house and says exactly what you want to hear, every time, without fail. We had only one big mountain to conquer before getting to Vermont and Rob slackpacked us over it. I got an itch for cream soda while I'm hiking and sure enough, there are cold ones waiting for us in his fridge. For a guy who has never set a foot on the trail, he sure knows hikers well, and god, I'm grateful for it. The Birdcage is one hell of a place.

We hiked a bit more to get to Bennington, VT and Mr. Rainman was set to join us. While 10 miles a day for next four days was a break for us, we knew it was not going to be easy for our fathers. However, slowly but surely, Mr. Rainman chugged out mile after mile and held his own for all four days. My father was only able to come out for two, but boy was it awesome to see.

Melville (my father's appointed trail name) isn't the backpacking type and while he prides himself on having a quick and long stride moving through airports and strutting around the block, it's a whole new ballgame when you add a backpack, some hills, and some weather. Thankfully, he had all three to deal with, and his underestimation to the trails difficulty became evident oh so quickly. The fresh spring in his step died out, the constant conversation silenced itself over time, and the beaming smile of excitement was replaced with the emotionless stare of exhaustion I know all too well. I couldn't help but laugh, only because I saw myself go through the same thing and see the "What the hell have I gotten myself into?" face. I can only imagine what my face must have looked like. Much worse, I guarantee you that.

However, even at the age of 61 and 63 respectively, Mr. Rainman and my father did very well for their first couple days on the trail and it was awesome having them out there. On top of that, Rainman's sister Hilary, who I've known since she was very little, came out for two days as well and rocked it. It was cool to combine our trail life with our off-trail life for those few days and was really a lot of fun. Thank you guys and good work!

We pulled into the parking lot outside Manchester to meet the Mama's, give smelly hugs, and get ready for the madness that would be the Xtravaganza.

Five words: The most epic event ever. It will never be repeated and shouldn't be out of fear that it won't compare. 63-hikers in one house, everyone helping making massive meals, movie marathons galore, cliff-jumping in a rock quarry, shuttling everyone to where they need to go, and laughing all the way. If you want more details than that, just ask. My fingers would fall off if I even tried to type it all out.

The worst part of all of this? Rainman is done. The dynamic duo of Rainman and Ahab must split and I'll be the first to admit that it sucks. No more squabbling over useless arguments, no more funny stories from our childhood, and worst of all, no more laughs on tap. He single-handedly kept me on the trail during the beginning of this trip, through pain and anguish, and he'll be the reason that I finish it. I said it before and I'll say it again: he's the best friend I'll ever have and he's the best man I know. Rainman - I can't thank you enough for everything, buddy. Our trips of the past were pretty good, but this takes the cake. I can't wait for the next one. Thanks for being there, kicking my ass when necessary, and keeping the good times coming. I just want to shout it from the rooftop - I love you, man. Booop!

Alright. No more whining.

It's time to be a champion.


1 comment:

  1. hey...I thought I was your best friend??

    so glad you are having a great time. you truly kick ass.

    miss you and can't wait to see you!