Friday, June 28, 2013

Hitchin' a Ride

"What's that smell?"

"What smell?" asked Whistle, playing innocent and shrugging her shoulders. The four-year-old in his carseat grinned, reached over and took a handful of Whistle's shirtsleeve in his hand. He pulled it to his nose, sniffed and giggled again.

"That smell!"

Whistle made a goofy face and said that she lives in a tent, and so she doesn't always have access to a shower. Isaac, the boy, nodded with understanding, clearly not offended by the smell. Just curious; learning things about the world.

"If you were sleeping, and a dinosaur ripped open your tent in the middle of the night, what would you do?" queried Isaac, raising his eyebrows concernedly. Whistle gasped.

"Oh my goodness, I don't know! What would you do?"

Isaac leveled his eyes at her, blinking once and responding with the gravity of Lawrence of Olivier:

"I'd tape my tent."

In the front seat I was having a lovely conversation with Isaac's adoptive father Frank, who had very kindly offered to give us a ride from the post office, to the grocery store, and back to the trail head. This was the fourth ride we'd gotten in as many hours. Whistle and I were alone, sent as disciples into town to pick up stuff from the post office and grocery store. The trouble was that we had to get from one town to another town about 10 miles away, which meant that we would have to hitch in several different directions. 

I have a short attention span when it comes to hitch-hiking. I think this comes from having terrible luck and being generally defeatist about my ability to attract a ride. I think I have a cursed thumb. Whistle, on the other hand, has a very good technique of being adorable and wholesome-looking, while also wiping her forehead with the back of her hand, which is sign language for "Golly! It sure is hot out here!" 

For the first hitch, we had been attempting for about 10 minutes when I got distracted by a fully fruiting blackberry bush by the side of the road. I chirped in delight and crashed through the bushes, filling my hands with berries. I was just about finished collecting a handful for myself and one for Whistle when a pickup truck pulled over. I stumbled out of the shrubbery, stuffing berries in my mouth hurriedly. The resulting explosion of juice from the velocity of consumption put purple stains all over my hand, shirt and mouth. And I wonder why I don't have better luck hitch-hiking.

The first hitch was able to get us a few miles down the road, and dropped us off at an intersection to head in another direction. The intersection was busy and populated mostly by huge semi-trucks. We stood in the heat, the bright sun beating down on our backs and radiating up from the asphalt. My tan is coming along quite nicely. Future Clever Girl is going to read that previous sentence and shake her fists at the sky, hurling curses at Past Clever Girl and her brazen ignorance of the power of the sun. I'm sorry Future Clever Girl. I love you very much. You're beautiful, even if you look like an old leather bag.

After a while, a man walked up on us from out of nowhere. He said he'd passed us earlier, but hadn't been able to pull over. He asked where we were headed, and said he'd be willing to head in that direction. He gestured for us to follow him. Whistle and I made eye contact, shrugged, and followed him. He led us up the hill to a truck stop, and we realized our good luck: he was a truck driver. We were finally going to be able to get a ride in an 18-wheeler. DREAM. REALIZED.

His name was Clint, and he was quite polite and charming. He bought smoothies for Whistle and I, then brought us to his truck. Climbing up into the cab was a little bit like climbing into a tree house... If your tree house can go 65mph down the highway and transport several tons of merchandise across the country. Whistle and I were jostled around like cans of soda, gripping the molded plastic as we sat in the back of the cab and watched the road go by from up in our mobile lookout post. Clint played old school pop music from a radio, while Whistle and I sang along, bobbing our heads with the beat and the boinging about of the truck. 

Clint dropped us off 3 miles from the post office, as it was the closest he could get in his gigantic truck. We bid him farewell, and he honked his horn as he trundled off back down the road to heaven knows where. Whistle and I made our way down the road, and stood on the road in front of a McDonald's. Out came the thumbs.

"Where are you ladies headed?" 

The voice came not from the road, but behind us. We turned to see a sweet woman by her old school Suburban SUV. She told us that she had to take her daughter and her daughter's boyfriend to work, but that she could take us to the post office on the way back. She said it would probably be about 40 minutes round trip. We immediately agreed. Taking a ride down the highway, feeling the wind in our hair, seemed like a heck of a lot more fun than standing on the side of the road. 

I got in the front seat and Whistle climbed into the way-back. The woman's name was Missy, and she had a heart of gold. Missy's daughter and boyfriend emerged from McDonald's, and off we were. 

"Where do you guys work?" I asked Beth and her boyfriend.

"The chicken factory."

We drove to a town that is known for its chicken factories. The town's water tower has, in place of a town name, painted portraits of chickens in repose. When we arrived at the factory, Beth's boyfriend tried to pop forward the seat to allow Whistle to climb up to the middle seats. Whistle's foot got stuck between the seat and the doorframe, and she tumbled forward and nearly fell out into the chicken factory parking lot. Luckily, days of hiking without poles have made Whistle as agile as a cat. She recovered. The chickens were not so lucky.

I had a truly wonderful time chatting with Missy on our way out of town and back to the post office. It was definitely the right decision to spend an extra 40 minutes on another adventure. Missy had a genuine laugh, and found hope even in difficult times. Hiking this trail has shown me some of the most beautiful vistas I have seen in my entire life, but it has also shown me some of the most beautiful people.

Upon arriving at the post office, Whistle and I met an older gentleman and his small, friendly son. This was Isaac and his father, and they brought Whistle and I to the grocery store, as they also had some grocery shopping to do. After we bought a huge carton of ice cream, among other essentials, Frank brought us to his house to meet his wife. He pulled into the garage and honked the car horn hollering out to his wife, 

"Look! I picked up some girls at the post office!"

He then very generously offered to bring us back to the trail head. We had spent a grand total of 20 minutes in town, after close to 4 hours of being shuttled around rural Pennsylvania. What is this but an adventure!?

Clever Girl


  1. There are some great trail journals from the class of 2013, but yours is my favorite. I hope you keep writing and blogging even when you move on to your post-trail adventures.

    You are an excellent, and very entertaining, writer!

    1. Hey there Hurricane Mikey! Thank you so much!! That is so sweet to say, and I really appreciate it. I hope to be able to keep blogging- here's to regular life being as exciting as the trail!

    2. I'm doing the long walk next year, and hope that my scribblings are half as entertaining as yours are!

      BTW, my trail name is Blueberry. I can be found with the rest of the 2014 degenerates on Trail Journals.

      Hope your foot feels better soon. Also, the post where you substituted elementary school arts-and-crafts for bodily functions while fighting the norovirus is one of the funniest things I've ever read. I had tears in my eyes and my cheeks hurt from laughing so hard.

      Good luck and good health to you and Dumptruck! (I love his pics, too!)

    3. Thanks Blueberry! I look forward to following along your adventure next year. Let me know if you have any questions about prep, etc. I'd be happy to chat :)

  2. Hurricane Mikey is in the right! Your blog is wonderful. I know we're supposed to say that cause we're your parents and all, but even Moms and Dads get it right sometimes! We love and miss you bunches! Mom and Dad