Today’s the day to decide: where to from here? Am I really going to pedal blaze the PCT? I think so.
This interruption in my thru-hike comes at such a strange time. Exactly halfway. Halfway to where? To an imaginary line drawn a long time ago? To a little monument in the woods, but nowhere in particular? To enlightenment? Happiness? Two more months of crazy foot pain?
The trail was the thread, a brown ribbon of continuity tying together the days, pulling me forwards, wrapping me up in obsessive thoughts about WALKING FASTER. With the thread severed I feel adrift – untethered – lost – free.
Outside the grocery store we run into fellow hikers Chris and Sarah. “Be honest,” Sarah lowers her voice, looks me straight in the eye, “don’t you feel like you’ve sort of been let off the hook?”
Yes! Yes, I do. If the trail is there, if I can walk, I feel obligated to finish. It’s what I set out to do, and I finish what I start. Now, with the fires, what was one path has branched into many. Road walk? Hitchhike? Skip and flip? Skip and come back next year? Go home?
Options/questions, every day has them, but today they have me. I’m relieved to have nowhere to walk to for a moment. The horrible obsession/anxiety about walking more, walking faster, walking harder, walking longer… all gone. My pilgrimage had turned into something else, something less, and I can reinvent it again.
It’s going to be born again, with oceans and fog, redwoods and sea cliffs.
At the library I spend a while looking at routes, but the internet is too slow to accomplish anything. I stop by the local dentist to say Hi to Tooth Fairy, and I am given a complimentary toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, and homemade cookies. I inquire about chiropractors in town – I’ve got something up with my back and neck and it’s driving me crazy – but the two in town are closed on Mondays. She says to try Good Vibrations, a local health/art shop – they do massage therapy.
I walk into Good Vibrations, an eclectic mix of beautiful prints, alternative health supplements, crystals, and knick-knacks. I’ve hardly explained my predicament to the two ladies running the store before I’m on a massage table getting worked on. It feels like something underneath my shoulder blade is twisted, pinching up into my neck and down my back, and my left arm has been twitching for three days now. Oh, to finally have someone touching it, with magic fingers, magicking it into place again! Sharon doesn’t let me pay – “go buy a bicycle!” she tells me. “Good luck on your journey!”
J and I head over towards the bicycle shop. It’s closed, but the owner of Bodfish Bicycles, Chuck, is going to open it up just for us at three.
It’s his one day off a week, but there he is at the shop, our bikes-to-be outside in a row. Pacman and 3D are already here. Bicycles, spare tubes, helmets, racks… Chuck is incredibly generous, both in materials and in time. (Far more than we expected or deserved… Chester is full of trail angels, but Chuck more than earned his wings.) I get out my little rectangle of plastic and for the first time in my life, I’m the owner of a brand new bicycle.
We’re all giddy with our purchases, riding around the parking lot like Christmas morning. “Team Whiskers! Rowr!” Pacman yells.
“Team Whiskers!” 3D joins in. Spending money like this, all at once, is like giving blood, but now it’s over and we’re lightheaded and bicycled.
The day is overwhelming with feelings, kindness, new adventures. Bicycles! I’ve lost my mind! I don’t think I’ve ever sat on a bicycle for more than two hours running. Looks like that’s about to change.
The rest of the evening we spend discussing ideas for the trip, plans for transferring our pack contents to our bike racks, and just being excited. Every day a new day, right?
Chuck, 3D, Pacman, and Dirtnap (J).
We’re going to be riding in style!