Hawkeye and I discussed options for our next day. He wanted to get to the next shelter so that it would only be 7 miles to the next town of Pearisburg. That would mean 18.8 miles. I felt that I could not do that. I finally decided to take a Nero the next day in Bland.
The Trail to Bland
Each day I feel a bit better although I must say my fatigue at the end of each day’s hike is immense. My calves and feet especially are taking a beating. More than likely the decision to Nero Bland instead of doing the 18.8 will result in the loss of Hawkeye. That will be significant since he has been one of the class act moments of the trail.
The Beginnings of the Shenandoah Valley South of Bland, Virginia
As usual the trail toward Bland was up. I stopped several times to make phone calls and each time I got passed by someone. By this time I don’t care how far behind I am as long as I end up a little closer to Maine.
The Appearance of Van Gogh
During a call to my mother another hiker appeared. Long legged be was easily motoring up the mountain. He stopped for a moment. He was called Van Gogh. I tried to tell him how Joke had taught me to say it but I’m pretty sure I failed. Anyway he seemed duly impressed with my vast knowledge of the Dutch language and Van Gogh history. Of course you could take that knowledge and place it in a thimble and have room left over.
Van Gogh was an accountant but he had grown tired of that and decided to go back to college . He is presently a junior studying physics with a math minor . Stupid me failed to ask him what his plans were to do with those degrees. He appeared capable of doing whatever he wanted to do.
The Breezy Side of the Mountain
It was fortunate that on this hot day the trail was running along the breezy side of the mountain. It brought back remembrances of the early months of this hike when I literally prayed that a turn in the trail would take me to the side of the mountain away from the wind. The wind then had been so fierce and unbearably cold. Now just any small breeze is more than welcome. I’ve just gotta be on the breezy side of the mountain.
I finally came out on U.S. 52. Right there in front of me was Brushy Mountain Outpost the home of the best hamburger in these here parts. Of course this was the input of a British hiker who ate cucumbers and onions on the trail so I’m not sure how valid the recommendation was. It was an old nondescript block building that could have been abandoned. A sign outside said ,”Yes,Yes, We’re here.” The normal “Leave Pack Outside” sign was on the door. Each states Health Departments have become aware that Appalachian Thru Hikers are a filthy lot which means that our packs are filthier. At least we clean up once a week or so.
I went into the store and immediately saw everyone I had seen on the trail in-line to buy a hamburger. Van Gogh was last in line. “Hey Defib! We’re gonna buy a burger. You want one?” Heck yes. It doesn’t matter what you major in while in college. A burger at the Outpost is a must. Just then I noticed a sign on the wall. Bubba’s Shuttle. A possible ride into Bland. It would take awhile for him to get there. I’d call and then order my burger with Van Gogh. Bubba answered on the first ring. “I’m sitting right outside. Come on”. I walked outside with the thoughts of that burger. I would never know that taste of the tomato or onion or lettuce or slab of mayo. I was on my way to Bland with Bubba.
The Big Walker Motel
I was in luck. Not only was Bubba sitting at the Outpost when I got there….. his wife was the receptionist at the only motel in town. Sometimes you’ve just got it. Once in Bubba’s vehicle I realized just how terrible I smelled. Decent South Carolina hogs would probably reject me on account of my less than acceptable hygiene. I signed into the hotel in a flash. No vehicle to register. Just give your trail name and you’re in. They don’t care where you’re from, what you do, or who you know. Soft drinks are around the corner.
I entered my room. Number 3 of 15. Very nice. A bed, a shower, a light over the sink, a TV, an air conditioner. Across the street a Dairy Queen. I ordered a burger and a Blizzard. The Blizzard lived up to expectations. The burger left me pining for the lost opportunity lost up on the mountain at the Outpost.
I returned to my room and washed my shirt in the sink. I’d been wearing it for two days. The proof is in the pudding. We are a nasty dirty lot of drifters. The picture says it all. You’ve got to love dirt to hike on.