July 3, 2018
I slept in until 7:00am this morning. I mean, I definitely woke up at 4:00am and had to use the bathroom, but I forced myself to go back to bed and fell right to sleep for another few hours. The room was nice and comfortably cool because every room had a box fan and I put it in the open window. Otherwise, the room would have been very warm.
Down in the kitchen, I pilfered some instant coffee from a container with nobody’s name on it, added my organic grass-fed cream that I’d bought at Safeway, and enjoyed a little coffee before I got a text from Sparky saying they were on their way to pick me up. I hobbled upstairs to get my fleece and a bottle of water. My trail family parked right outside the door and when I climbed in the back seat I said “Take me into town, Robert. I need to do a little shopping,” in my most posh, 1% accent. It got a good laugh from Sparky.
We got breakfast then went to a lovely little farmers market where we couldn’t really buy much because we’re hiking, but we did buy a bag of fresh blueberries, which were delicious!
We visited a few outfitters and I found the HOKAs I needed, then we went to the post office and mailed some stuff home and/or ahead. After that, we went to the Thai buffet, where I ate way too much delicious food and am not sorry at all. I’m only sorry Ghosthiker wasn’t really a fan. I guess it was all a little too spicy for her.
After all that running around, Sparky dropped us off at the hostel so I could unload my new shoes and Ghosthiker could drop her old Altras in the hiker box there – which was hidden in a locked closet and none of the staff seemed to know very much about it. Sparky went to return the rental car and said he’d come find us later, so Ghosthiker and I browsed the little outdoor sports store a few doors down from the hostel, then we made our way back toward the main street through town to wait for Sparky. On the way, we saw a Zoltar the Fortune Teller kiosk sitting outside one of the stores, and Ghosthiker just had to have her fortune told! I made sure it was plugged in first, lol!
All throughout the day, I could feel the burning UTI symptoms coming back. I thought I felt it during my 4:00am bathroom visit, but I guess I was in denial. I began to get very stressed about what to do. There’s an Amtrak station in Truckee, making it an easy exit point for me to get off trail and back to Indiana to get treated. But if I decided to stick it out for a while and hike to Sierra City, I’d basically have to hitch back to Truckee to get off if the symptoms got really bad.
I agonized over this dilemma pretty much all day without saying anything, but as the afternoon wore on and the symptoms got worse, I eventually shared my plight with my trail family. I’d also sent a brief text to my brother, and he called me while we were still at the hostel. He had me check my pulse. My resting heart rate was a little high but he said nothing to be too worried about yet, just keep an eye on it. A fever would definitely be a sign that it was time to get off the trail.
Ghosthiker and I visited a shop or two along the main street, then sat down to wait for Sparky. Ghosthiker said the cocktail she’d had the previous night was so good she’d really like a drink, but we should wait for Sparky.
“How soon will he be back?”
“They (the car rental company) can’t give him a ride until they close at 5:00.” She said.
“That’s an hour from now!” I said. “Let’s go get drinks. Sparky will just have to catch up.”
The stairs leading up to the Truckee Tavern and Grill were right in front of us, so that’s where we went. Fortunately for us, they had just opened for the evening, so we sat at the bar and ordered some fancy cocktails. The bartender, Ryan, was very nice and VERY good at his job.
While we’d walked from the hostel to the main street, I’d asked Ghosthiker what she would do in my situation. She hadn’t known how to answer right away. and then we got distracted talking about other things. Now, settled at the bar with our drinks, I asked her again. I told her there was no pressure, I was just having trouble deciding. She said if it were her, and her health was in question, she would get off trail and take care of it.
“You’ll have a better time hiking if you’re healthy.” She reasoned.
When Sparky arrived and ordered a drink for himself, I asked him the same question and he had a similar answer. Health should always come first. And I can always rejoin them wherever they are and pick up the missed sections later. This appealed to me a lot because it means I’d be doing the hot, arid part of Northern California last, meaning a 10-20 degree difference in temperature! I was totally on board with that.
When I first started this adventure, I wanted to be a purist. I wanted to hike a continuous footpath from Mexico to Canada, always moving North, in one large section. Well, that plan went to hell the minute I hitched from Hikertown to Tehachapi, so…yeah. Even when I had to pick up those miles, I was determined to be a purist from then on, but now I honestly just don’t care. I skipped 100 miles between Bridgeport and Reno and I won’t cry if I never hike those miles. I will still consider myself a thru-hiker, or at least a true PCT hiker.
“All roads lead to Santiago,” or, as MC Camel would say, “Hike your own hike, bitch!” Meaning, this is my journey. If trying to meet the unspoken expectations of other hikers, or even the grandiose expectations I set for myself is making me miserable and possibly compromising my health, there’s nothing to be gained from that but misery. A weak sense of accomplishment no one really gives a shit about but me.
Anyway, before the evening was over (or rather, before we were more than two cocktails in) I purchased a train ticket home online. 51 hrs from Truckee to Chicago and another 1.5 hours to South Bend, IN. I felt oddly calm about this huge change to my journey. The drinks probably helped with that. I’m sure they did NOT help my UTI. But I didn’t care. I felt like a terrible weight had been lifted from my shoulders, my heart, my everything. A decision had been made, and a wise one at that. I wanted to complete this hike, but I don’t want to kill myself doing it.
Ghosthiker announced that she was really in the mood for Mexican food, and I am pretty much always in the mood for Mexican food, so we headed there next, being deterred often by shops and such until our need to use a restroom outweighed our curiosity in Truckee goods.
The Mexican food was, of course, delicious. It was so nice to be able to hang out with them without the pressure of wondering what I was going to do. I’d made my decision. All that was left to do was have a good time until we parted ways. They’d keep in touch and I’d get right back on trail wherever they were.
Sparky and Ghosthiker walked me part of the way to the Redlight Hostel before turning toward their AirBnB. We passed by the shop where Zoltar had been and noticed that he was gone. The shop was closed for the night and he was nowhere to be found! Had they hauled that heavy kiosk into the store for the night? Ghosthiker is not superstitious, but it was odd nonetheless. Had he ever really been there??