Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Things! (Part 2) Boots

I've gotten my boots (at least my first pair to try on and break in), and here is what they are:

Brand: Keen

Style: Targhee II Mid Hiking Boots

Waterproof: So they say

Weight: 1 lb, 14oz per pair

The weight is important, as I have heard that "one pound on your feet is equivalent to five pounds on your back." Which, frankly, sounds crazy to me. However, it was then explained to me that having extra weight at the end of your leg is like having a giant dumb bell on the end of a pendulum. At the end of a day of hiking I will be particularly aware of every single ounce of weight on my feet, as I will be lifting them over boulders, fallen trees, and the slumbering bodies of all the bears I will render unconscious with my bare hands.

The other piece of wisdom is that you want the pattern of the sole of your hiking boot to be irregular. I suspect it has something to do with leaving a unique mark on the faces of the bears I will ninja-kick, such that they can warn all the other bears to leave me alone.

More sincerely, I think the irregular pattern is to make it less likely that I will slip and fall down an entire mountain. Also, I promise I won't roundhouse any bears.

I have owned these boots for about a week, and I wore them for four days straight during an excursion up to Maine. So far they feel comfortable, though I'm not used to wearing high-top shoes. My brain continues to send me signals that something is touching my ankles. It's like wearing a new ring, that for the first several days of wearing it, you are conscious of something wrapped around your finger. This goes on until your brain finally gives you up as a bad job, to the tune of, "Well fine, if you won't pay attention to me, then I'm just going to stop telling you things. So there."

At this point it's really hard to tell if these are the right boots for me and I just have to break them in, or if they're the wrong boots for me. The excellent thing about REI is that I can totally destroy these boots and then still take them back to the store for an exchange. I don't want to do that, but it's nice to know that it's an option.

A trustworthy friend of mine pulled these off my feet and gave them a good sniffing, and said they were acceptable.

That's good enough for now.

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Process of Moving (Part 3)

We lived for four years in the same apartment, and I swear to god we weren't hoarders. But there is something magical that happened with our things while living in NYC. I think because we didn't have much space, that we unconsciously figured out a way to compress all of our items into denser and denser compartments, such that it looked like we didn't own very much at all. However, when we stared moving everything out to put into boxes, it seems like all of our stuff expanded like beer snakes exploding out of a can. To be fair, we didn't own very much in the grand scheme of things. But if I tried to carry all of my possessions with me on the trail, I would have to be able to lift a free weight that weighs somewhere around 3,000 pounds. Which is more or less exactly impossible. I know. I'm a total pansy.

We are currently living in a four bedroom apartment in Manhattan with three beautiful women. There's a bar and a coffee shop directly around the corner from our apartment. All we need is a laugh track and we'd be on NBC in a second. I would call it "One Dude and Four Chicks" because, let's be honest here, NBC doesn't trouble itself much with nuance in the naming of their sitcoms. When we were moving in we had to put a lot of our stuff into storage because we couldn't bring it all to the new apartment. We figured the best solution would be to put most of it into storage up in Maine, as we will be moving to Maine at the end of the trail, and it would be in our best interest to keep our stuff near-ish to our final destination. My dad kindly offered to bring a cargo van down to NYC and help us load up. 

Due to the shape of the inside of the cargo van, we had to put our mattress and box spring in first (as they had to go in at an angle) and then hold them up in the air while we loaded in all the boxes underneath the mattresses. One of our friends, Max, is a teacher who has the summers off, who fears some karmic retribution for having the luxury of 2 months off where he can go to the beach and sleep until 2pm. So we were able to guilt him into helping us move the boxes by the simple expedient of making eye contact with him. More to the point, he's a very kind human. It was very hot that day in early July, and it took about 10 minutes before he tore his shirt off. All of our cardboard boxes he carried have a perfect torso-shaped permanent sweat stain. We can't say he never gave us anything. 

Here is what the inside of the van looked like after it was filled:

My dad: the master of packing Tetris

That van was so densely packed that we could have rolled it down the side of a hill and nothing would have moved. 

For the 8 hour trip up to Maine, I had to sit on a couple of pillows in between the two seats in the front. This was mostly due to the fact that I am the smallest person who was going on the trip. If Mike had been forced to sit in the "jump" seat, his legs would have broken the windshield. I positioned the pillows on a small stool, which was relatively comfortable, if utterly unsafe. I thought about wearing a bike helmet for the trip, but then came to the conclusion that a helmet probably wouldn't make much of a difference. Every hour or so I would realize that the pillows and stool had oozed forward, and I was sitting cramped down into a small cavity of space between the stool and the back of our dresser. Witness!

Once in Maine, we put all of our stuff into my parents' storage unit. We thought that was the most practical, as then we could be informed if all of our stuff went up in a crazy fire or got totally flooded. Not that we would be able to do anything about it from the trail, but at least we'd have the knowledge.

Back in New York, we were able to move the remainder of our things to our new apartment in a small UHaul. We're sleeping on an IKEA futon, which had previously been our couch, which is startlingly comfortable. Everything we own fits into one small room. In 5 months, everything I own will fit into a 70 liter backpack.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Process of Moving (Part 2)

I'm not going to make this post about cats, because no matter how hilarious their hijinks may be, no one thinks they're funny. Unless the person on the receiving end of the story also has cats - in which case, go right ahead and explain in epic detail how your cat once got stuck on the roof of your college house in a torrential rainstorm, and the only way to save her was to slide a giant wooden board out the second story window and hope to god that the force of her jumping down and landing on the unsteady board wouldn't see-saw launch you out the window and crashing to the ground 2 stories below.

Oh no wait, that wasn't you, that was me. And look, I went ahead and made this post about cats.

Please feel free to not read this post if you suspect that it will be boring for you. To entice you, I'll give away the end of the forthcoming story: I end up covered in urine. If THAT doesn't draw you in, then you should probably get out now, because it only gets worse from here.

Mike and I have two cats that we have owned for the past four years. One is very smart. One is very dumb. I will show you just these two pictures of them, and you can decide for yourself which one is which. The brown one is Captain Malcolm Reynolds, and the orange one is Harley Quinn.

We knew that at our new apartment, we would not be able to have cats. Additionally, we can't have cats on the trail. Though I relish the idea of strapping little saddle bags to them and having them hike 2000 miles with us, I suspect that's bordering on inhumane, as the only thing my cats want to do is sleep for 20 hours a day and plot murder for the other 4. So, the cats will be living with my parents in their farmhouse up in the foothills of the White Mountains in rural Maine until we're done with the trail. They get to move from a one-bedroom apartment in the heights of NYC to a gigantic farm house straight out of a Van Gogh painting, so I don't really feel bad about it.

In May we had let our landlord company know that we would not be renewing our lease, and they immediately told us that within a few days brokers would be coming to our apartment to show the space to prospective renters. This was a problem, as per the stipulations of our lease, we were not allowed to have cats. And yet, there were our cats, lounging around our apartment doing nefariously catlike things like meowing and shedding hair all over everything I've ever owned. Something had to be done. So we rented a car last minute, wrestled the cats into their travel carriers, and put them in a rental car for the 8 hour drive up to Maine.

After about 45 minutes of Malcolm crying nonstop from the backseat, the guilt began to set in. Mike was driving, and I was starting to get a neck cramp from how often I would look over my shoulder into the backseat and make eye contact with the saddest looking creature on the planet. His eyes were like bottomless black pits of despair, staring our mournfully at me from behind the mesh prison window of his fabric travel carrier.

So I let him out.

They say hindsight is 20/20, but sometimes your vision comes into focus right at the moment when the terrible thing is happening, and that's even more awful. As soon as the front of the carrier was unzipped, I was slapped in the face by the smell of cat pee. Immediately I put my hand up as a block, trying to shove him back into the carrier as gently as possible. However, if you'll remember, I was buckled into the front seat of a car, reaching into the backseat, and I didn't have much leverage.

I'd like for you to imagine that you have been zipped into a sleeping bag. At some point, you pee all over yourself. Maybe you're an idiot. Or maybe you're unaware of how terrible it might be to have to lay in a puddle of your own stuff. Or maybe you're a 10-year-old me at sleep-away girl scout camp and the other campers pulled that evil prank on you where they put your hand in a bowl of water while you're sleeping and you wake up in the morning in the cabin, soaking wet, mortified, incapable of speech or movement, and surrounded by laughing terrible little girls. Anyway, you have to lay there for an hour until someone comes along an unzips your sleeping bag, freeing you from your self-induced prison. Then, after unzipping you, the person places their hand firmly on your forehead, and says "Wait! No! Stay in there!" Do you think that you could possibly be restrained?

Absolutely not.

Malcolm exploded out of that carrier like he had been sitting on a bottle rocket. The car, which was hurtling down the highway at 70 mph, instantly filled with the unmistakable smell of cat pee. I started screaming, which induced Mike to start screaming, which only further delighted Malcolm, who was prancing all over the back seat, rubbing his urine-soaked body all over our borrowed property.

Mal settled happily on top of Quinn's fabric carrier, sinking the roof of the carrier down and squashing her underneath his heavy body. Quinn remained silent, but made eye contact with me from underneath Mal's soaking fur. I will not describe to you in detail the anthropomorphic emotions I layered into her stoic cat expression, but in short, it was something like "For this, you will pay dearly."

I tried to push Malcolm off of Quinn, and he eventually obliged, but then felt compelled to come up into the front seat. I tried to stop him. I swear I did. But I was powerless. He climbed up over the arm rest and into my lap, rubbing his body all over me. I grimaced and held my hands in the air as Mal's wet rat tail flicked all over my neck. I glanced over at Mike, whose face was set in a determined scowl, one of his eyes twitching slightly. We passed a signed that said "Next Rest Stop 10 Miles." And for 10 minutes we endured.

When we finally pulled into the rest area, we were actually at a loss for what to do. First we threw away the urine-soaked cat carrier, but after that, we weren't sure what to do next. Mike went into the little store and came out with two big bottles of water and some napkins. We stood there outside the car, looking in the windows at Malcolm rolling all over everything.

"We can't take him out to wash him, he could escape," said Mike, shrugging.

"Well. I'll hold him down in the foot well of the backseat, and we can pour water all over him."

"Got it."

Mike and I both climbed into the backseat and closed the door behind us. Now, I haven't yet shown you a photo of Mike, but he is 6'2" and all legs, so the situation in the backseat was a bit like a clown car. I crouched in the seat and leaned down into the foot well, gently holding Malcolm in place. He looked up at me, blissfully unaware of what was about to happen to him.

The instant the water poured onto his legs, he became hysterical, trying to get up and run away. Malcolm is very strong, I have weak little noodle arms (a thing I should probably rectify before heading out onto the trail), and more to the point, at the end of all of his feet are scary slice-y claws. Malcolm shot out from under my hands and flew up into the backseat. Mike and I kept flinging water on him as he scrambled around, getting everything in the backseat completely soaking wet, including us and all the upholstery of the rental car. I can't imagine what we looked like from the outside, but it was probably something like that scene in Jurassic Park when Wayne Knight got eaten in his Jeep by those poison-spitting Dilophosauruses.

Quinn remained in her carrier, silent and stoic in her rage.

After Malcolm was thoroughly wet down, we dried him as best we could with napkins, but he still wasn't totally devoid of pee smell. We knew when we got to Maine he would need a real bath. When I went back into the front seat and we set off back down the highway, Malcolm curled up my arms, shivering and skinny.

When we arrived at my parents house, I scooped him up and carried him inside. This is what I think his thought process was probably like:

Trees! New Place! Outdoors! New smells! Big house! DOG. DOG. DOG WTF DOG. STAIRS?! BATHROOM. TUB. WATER. MURDER MURDER MURDER.

But he survived. He and Quinn have settled into the new place and are very happy there. Malcolm and Quinn actually love the dog, who is very kind and cat-accommodating. We miss them a lot, but we know they're happy. They'll be fostered at my parents' house until we're done with the trail, and then we will take them to whatever new home we make.

Congratulations, you made it through a whole story about cats. You now have a new badge of honor that can be cashed in when talking to grandmothers everywhere.