Pre-hike entry #2
July 8, 2003
The alarm sounded at 4a.m. -- time to get up and get ready for my next adventure. Steve drove me to Flagstaff, where we waited at the Greyhound station, talking over ideas and dreams for the future, as we often do.
The 7:05 bus came, filled and went. I, meanwhile, was still standing in line with several others, as the door to the boarding area closed in our faces, without a word from anyone who knew something about another bus ... I hoped. I continued to wait, my backpack propped against my legs, my duffel bag at my feet, and the daypack loaded with ten days' worth of food slung over my shoulder.
Twenty minutes later, those re-boarding for points east were called to the door, and another bus was nearly filled. By the time we new passengers were let through, only three seats remained. There were eight of us in line. Five were a family, a mother with four small children, so I was able to take one of the open seats, only half of which was available to me; those bus seats are narrower than many travelers. So I braced myself with one cheek off the seat and my right leg and foot in the aisle. For seven hours. It was a long, uncomfortable ride, to say the least.
When I very happily arrived in Albuquerque, I spotted Allen right away, with his trim, white beard and, of course, hiking shoes. He's taller than I'd thought and as friendly as I'd expected after our numerous e-mail exchanges.
Allen helped me carry my luggage and gear to the pickup truck that he'd forewarned me has no air conditioning. I lowered my passenger-side window, then looked down to my left and said, "Uh-oh. Stumped, you didn't tell me you have a stick. I don't know how to drive a stick, Stumped." (Remember, we're driving 1500 miles to Minnesota, starting tomorrow.)
"Okay," he said. "I'll teach you. We can pull off somewhere along the way, and I'll give you a quick lesson."
After much conversation about other topics, I, again eying the stick shift, said, "I'm a really good co-pilot, Stumped. I won't fall asleep, I promise. I've tried to learn to drive a stick twice, but I have like, this mental block or something."
So we'll see. I may get a compulsory third lesson. God help us and Allen's transmission.
Anyhow, we hung out for a while at the Stibora's thirteenth-floor condo (which is on floor number fourteen according to the elevator buttons), talking about hiking and gear and various other subjects, until it was almost time to meet Allen's wife, Beth, at their favorite Mexican restaurant. As we'd e-mailed about yesterday afternoon, Allen gave me enough Esbit fuel tablets to last the entire trip, since those I ordered from Campmor didn't arrive before I left. I reimbursed Allen, who said he'd already decided to use his alcohol stove instead of Esbits when I'd told him mine were a no-show. He also told me he'd reserved a cabin at Gunflint Outfitters for Friday night. That's where we're dropping off the ten days of food for the second leg of the hike, between there and our next resupply at Grand Marais.
We left for dinner a little early, so I could buy some DEET and a head net to fend off Minnesota's notoriously prolific mosquitoes. Then we headed to the restaurant to wait for Beth, who arrived soon afterward and greeted me with a warm smile and friendly handshake. She and Allen treated me to a delicious feast of steak fajitas and sopapillas, my first meal of the day. The greasy food available at the pit-stop the bus had made was less than unappealing, especially with the close and uncomfortable quarters on the bus.
Tonight I'm enjoying some reading and journal-writing as I lounge on the Stiboras' couch. Beth is in the easy chair, immersed in the latest Harry Potter book, and Allen has gone to bed for a good night's sleep before the long drive. I guess I'll put my book and journal away and hit the sack myself, so I'll be fully awake to be the good little CO-pilot I am.
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