Monday, July 7, 2008

The Nitro (Pt. 2)

Vermont is glorious in the summer. It blooms out of a cold, enduring winter and surprises even the most seasoned New Englander. In sharp contrast to the jagged peaks of the New Hampshire Whites, the Green Mountains offer a pastoral beauty reminiscent of my childhood before suburban sprawl inevitably revealed itself. The trail follows crisscrossed farmland and stretching pastures, and elevates gracefully into the unassuming Greens. After the rugged and difficult trail in Maine and New Hampshire, Vermont guarantees that each day will be fulfilling, peaceful, and restful. On a particularly clear and warm afternoon, Seaweed Sally and I were coming over a bright green ridge when we noticed a lone Adirondack chair about fifty yards off the trail. Some industrious soul had carried this beast up the mountain to simply rest comfortably in admiration of the view over a valley of pastures. We indulged.

That moment capsule served as the jumping off point for our Vermont voyage; a memorable excursion that is so often characterized by the presence of the Nitro. After the initial thrill of driving it subsided, the road trip from Rutland to the Canadian border became another wonderful hike through Vermont, but in fast forward. We chose to take back roads, and spent nearly the entire trip on a highway that followed a young and boisterous river. We passed through small town after small town, and stopped often to bask in the stereotypical general store experience. While the drive itself was a pleasure, music suddenly became a priority.

Most of us had been deprived of extended sessions with music--either intentionally or unintentionally--and the sudden accessibility of it (with the help of satellite radio) amused us to no end. Similar to our pre-AT adventures, Blake and I were at the helm forcing our anything-goes musical preference. Blake and I have a theory that EVERYONE loves pop music; some just choose to repress their feelings. Males especially. The intimate relationships that we developed with our fellow hikers skipped the usual pathways of friendship, and led to a more honest sharing of ideas, loves, hates, and opinions. As such--and without the normal barriers in place-- our theory (at least in our small sample) held up. We all sang Madonna and Britney Spears. We all sang Grateful Dead and Alphabet Soup. We all sang Fergie and Jack Johnson. We attempted the harmonies on Bohemian Rhapsody. We belted out ABBA and gave our best shot at the whistle register when Mariah Carey came on. We sang to no one, we sang to each other, and we serenaded the passengers in other vehicles. And we sang every song at the top of our lungs. The joy that was expressed in that four hour car ride I can only equate with certain moments while performing in my gospel choir.

We spent that night in a cabin that our hotel owner graciously offered due to a lack of tenants. We loved that it had four walls. But--mind-boggling to us at the time--the cabin also had two bedrooms, a full kitchen, a full bathroom, a living room, a loft, and a front porch. It sat on the bank of the very river that we had followed all afternoon. There was also a pool directly in front of our home. We stocked up on beer and food, and prepared ourselves to spend the night frolicking in our amazing new digs. After about an hour or so, we ended up in the Nitro. All five of us. Why? Music. Again, we were enraptured by the lovely sounds that we all missed so thoroughly. We spent the night talking about future adventures, past relationships, current relationships, political views, academic goals, life goals, and absolutely everything in between. All the while, our soundtrack blared at full volume into the otherwise quiet Vermont darkness.

Why was the Nitro such a pivotal piece of gear? Sure, it gave us a well-deserved road trip. It provided a very different mode of traveling, and a completely fresh experience after nearly two months of arduous walking. I suppose it was an escape. But, more than anything, it brought us together in a manner that is hard to capture in everyday life. It gave our minds time to catch up to our muscles. The Nitro supplied an environment in which uninhibited expression and joy flourished. I think that the rarity of that kind of experience elevated its importance. There is something priceless about the way in which people interact when drastic and highly deserved change occurs. Or, maybe it was simply because the Nitro could effortlessly carry Styrofoam coolers filled with cheap beer.

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