June 27, 2018
I didn’t take any photos today, so I borrowed the cover photo from tomorrow:-)
The first thing I did when I woke up at 5:00am was stretch and exercise. I loved it and hoped to maintain the habit long after I finished the trail. I always feel so much better after I stretch and am active first thing in the morning. The Bridgeport Hotel didn’t start serving breakfast until 7:00am so I went across the street to Nugents High Sierra Bakery to get a latte and a few day-old shortbread cookies.
At 7:00am on the dot, I went back to the hotel for breakfast. Pancakes, eggs, sausage, coffee…my appetite had drastically improved since yesterday. Even after my huge salad and big basket of fries last night, I still felt hungry as I fell asleep. I guess that’s good.
Once I had everything packed and ready to go up in my room (which didn’t take me long), I sat on the floor and meditated for about 20 minutes, then headed to the bus stop early. It was situated a couple of blocks away from the main thoroughfare next to an empty park, so I made use of the peace and quiet to make a few phone calls and organize my referral to see a specialist in Reno. I’d already contacted my friends in Sparks, NV, to see if they were in town and if they wouldn’t mind picking me up at the bus station in Reno.
Shortly before the bus arrived, Couch Potato and another hiker named John appeared. There were a few others, but I hadn’t met them and they weren’t very chatty. Neither was Couch Potato, but John was very friendly and we chatted for a while until the bus came. We all piled on. It was a long ride, 3.5 hours in total! I listened to music for the whole ride and tried to focus my mind on something other than how strange it felt to be riding a bus farther and farther away from the trail. I thought about what I’d do when I finished this hike, the things I’d focus on when I got home. My career, my dog, adopting a more rigorous health and fitness routine. It helped clear my head and get me excited about the future.
When we finally arrived at the Greyhound station in Reno, we all disembarked and Couch Potato, John, and I decided to walk to the nearest Starbucks for coffee, wifi, and to wait for my ride to come pick me up. I mapped the route to the Starbucks on my phone and was leading the way at what I thought was a casual pace, but this was Reno and apparently my city stride came into play because John said, “Wow, you really ARE from Chicago!” It had been part of our introductions when I met him. I learned when I moved out west that most people don’t know where Indiana is, so I just tell them I’m originally from Chicago, which is basically true.
I asked what he meant, and he proceeded to describe my walk through the city streets – strong, purposeful strides and eyes straight ahead, daring anyone (especially any of the homeless that surrounded the Greyhound station) to waylay me. Well, he wasn’t wrong. Without thought, I’d done what I always do in any city. I studied the map, put my phone away, and started walking as if I’d known the route the whole time, as if I owned this city. We laughed and I slowed my roll a little so we could chat along the way. John was a really nice guy who I guessed to be around my dad’s age, maybe a bit younger. I’d met him a few times throughout the course of my hike but had never really had a chance to get to know him. Couch Potato was quiet. I figured he had a lot to think about now that his main agenda wasn’t that of a hiker: food, water, hike, poop, hike, food, rest, hike…etc.
We arrived at Starbucks and it was like entering another world. There were people everywhere. Clean people in normal, clean clothes (our clothes were clean now, but faded and very worn). We ordered lattes and coffees and such and claimed a table by an outlet so we could charge our phones for a bit. John regaled us with stories about his hike so far while we waited for my friend Bob to arrive.
When he finally did, he was very excited to meet my fellow hikers and offered to give either of them a ride wherever they needed to go in Reno. He even offered to buy them lunch! John had been about to call an Uber but gladly accepted a ride with us. He was on his way to the VA hospital. It was nothing serious, but I believe he had a leg injury that was becoming more aggravated by hiking, so he wanted to get it checked out.
Much to my surprise, when we prepared to leave and I raised my fist for the usual hikertrash farewell, Couch Potato jumped up and gave me a hug. He’s obviously a hugger. It was very touching and nice to not feel forgotten in the midst of all the things he seemed to be dealing with. He wished me luck with my medical issues and with the remainder of my hike, and I told him I hope he found everything he was looking for back in Toronto.
We left the Starbucks, dropped John off at the VA hospital, and Bob insisted on stopping anywhere I wanted to get some food. I guess I looked hungry! I spotted a Jimmy Johns and for a huge sub sandwich and chips, then we drove to his house in Sparks where his office had been converted into a bedroom for me, thanks to a handy pullout couch. Bob and his wife Kris are dear old friends of my family, particularly my mom and me, and it was lovely to see them both. Kris kept apologizing that the room was so small and the bed was just a pullout, but I assured her it was perfect, literally an absolute luxury for me. There’s nothing quite like a nice, air-conditioned house surrounded by an arid desert, or a bed in a private, quiet room.
A little side note about me: I do not like humidity. I actually hate it quite a bit. I’m all about working up a good sweat during exercise or outdoor labor, but growing up in the midwest meant that all you had to do was walk outside in July and your clothes started sticking to you. Blech! Under the right conditions, I actually like the desert quite a bit. Maybe I’ll hike the Arizona Trail someday, but I’ll do it with the right shoes this time!
It was strange to be so completely removed from the hiker community. Kris and Bob were very interested in my hike and asked lots of questions, more so than your typical question or two from friends or family, such as “So, how was your hike? How long were you out there?” When they asked me pointed questions, I sometimes found it hard to talk about my hike or explain what it was like to people so far removed from that kind of an experience. I’d completely removed myself from the hiker community in the middle of my adventure and wasn’t prepared for the overwhelming feeling of isolation and loss, even while surrounded by good friends. There was no way I could convey to them what it was like to shed every other modern-world concern and simply eat, sleep, and hike for over three months, or how difficult it was to suddenly NOT be doing that.
Later, alone in the guestroom, I had lots of time to reflect. I was struggling to sleep in the dead silence of such a well-insulated room, accompanied only by the gentle whir of a nearby internet modem.