Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Nitro (Pt. 1)

After spending two months in the woods reinventing the way in which I approached daily life, coming into civilization was an experience completely independent from the rest of the journey. We considered ourselves ‘wildlife’ among the everyday Americans going about their lives--on their lunch breaks, perusing the local classifieds for apartment listings, analyzing stock prices and changes in the commodities markets, arguing over sports, complicating uncomplicated matters for the sake of causing trouble, and generally buzzing about. Entering a new town was not only strange in that it was a completely foreign community, but also because inevitably we were received in vastly different manners, and predicting those receptions was difficult at best. Some towns had nasty reputations due to either eminent domain issues, or simply a general feeling of disgust toward disgusting hikers. Some towns had overwhelmingly strong reputations for generosity, friendliness, and acceptance. Regardless of the reception we were granted, it was usually fairly different from the reputation that it carried on the trail.

If you are interested to know what it feels like to experience a thru-hiker reception, take three weeks off from work and follow this list: lug on a 40 pound backpack, enter the woods, climb 7-8 mountains a day regardless of the weather, don’t shower, don’t do your laundry, sleep in the clothes and socks you hike in, walk through a truckload of moose shit, take a few spills and don’t wash off the dirt or blood, eat only noodles, peanut butter, flour tortillas, snickers bars, and water, don’t speak to any non-hikers, don’t listen to any music, sit next to a campfire every night, and don’t shave. Then come out of the woods and promptly visit your local grocery store. Hooooo boy.

After two months, this grocery store moment had only slightly lost its luster. We did, however, come to expect the aghast mothers, the not so subtle looks, and the inevitable thru-hiker presentations (see forthcoming ‘Thru-Hiker Presentation). It became hard to shock the thru-hikers even though it was easy to shock the general public. We fell into a pattern of searching, purchasing, and repackaging. It became both a tangible pleasure and a careful science. Things continued in this fashion until late August. In Rutland, VT, we got a shock that propelled our already hilariously fantastic adventure to a new stratosphere. In Rutland, VT, while we sat outside of the Price Chopper in the parking lot repackaging our mac and cheese, our Enterprise Rent-A-Car agent pulled up in our Dodge Nitro.

The Dodge Nitro is your typical gas-guzzling monstrosity that can been seen quite often cruising down the rugged terrains of Main Street in middle America. It is big, it is unnecessary, and it looks like a tank with jazz hands. We were heading to a reggae festival in northern Vermont, and mainly needed it to transport five bodies and five packs the size of five smaller bodies. The Enterprise agent assured us that it would suffice. Suffice it did. The Nitro, with its immense capacity for creating an environment that was the polar opposite of hiking, immediately relieved our knee pains, cured our irritable dispositions, and disposed of the literal weights on our backs. I begged the group to allow me to drive, and, while en route, I often glanced in the rear-view mirror and noticed one of the trail weary hikers grinning and looking over his shoulder at the passing highway framed by the mountain of packs and the chrome trim of the Nitro.

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