|Hiking in the heat near the end of a 6 mile road walk|
So there I was, picking blackberries on the side of highway 96 less than two miles away from Siead Valley Cafe which closes in fifteen minutes. I'm sweaty, thirsty, and tired after speed hiking the past fifteen miles. I have give up on making it to the cafe and my last milkshake in the state of California. Portrait is ahead-he never thought we would make it to the cafe in time. For the six miles of road walk we needed to average 3.7 mph, but I only managed 3.4.
The berries have just ripened. They are sun warmed and juicy but not nearly as satisfying as a milkshake. As I'm gathering a handful a car slows and then stops behind me. When I turn an older women leans out her window towards me.
"I saw you go by and thought to myself they'll never make it to the cafe in time. I thought they might make it if I give them a ride. Would you like one?"
Yes. I have seconds to decide. Do I skip just under two miles of hot road walking and get a milkshake for the last time in California or do I walk the road and get whatever constellation prize the convenience sized store has on its selves? Portrait won't want a ride unless we can get back to the pick-up spot. "I would, but we'd have to get back here somehow. We can't skip a section"
She nods. She beckons me over. "I've given plenty of rides to hikers, but none have ever wanted to go back to where I picked them up. I can bring you back here."
I move towards her bronze colored car. She has said just what I wanted to hear. "That would be awesome." I put my pack on the back seat and climb in front.
Portrait hasn't looked back once since I stopped for berries, but he does once the car slows next to him. I already know he doesn't want to yellow blaze to the cafe--he doesn't want to interrupt his continuous walk north.
Once the car stops and Portrait sees me waving to him from the front street he crosses the road to the women's open window and bends slightly at the waist to hear what she has to say. "I saw the two of you go past and I just thought to myself, those two will never make it to the cafe. Not by walking, anyway."
With a little bit of persuasion and the promise that we will return to the exact place we left trail Portrait climbs into the back of the car. She doesn't wait for him to settle in-milkshakes are on the line. She asks us the usual questions as she drives us over the narrow bridge and down the hill to town.
"I think you'll have just made it," she says as the town of Siead--one building that holds the small store, the PO, and the Cafe. From the front seat I spot packs leaning against the front of the building and hikers milling around the PO.
She pulls up and stops next to the PO. "I have to let you out here," she says, "but it's the last door down."
We thank her and open the doors to get out. A chorus of disbelief greats us. "What is this?" Train asks, clearly scandalized that we arrived via auto and not by bipedal means of transportation. "Don't worry, we'll go back to where we were, but the cafe is closing," I say while walking past. We have escorts to the door of the cafe while they listen to the story of our hitch.
Once inside the cafe it is a mix of hikers and locals. We join No Amp at her table right as the waitress places a glass of cherry lemonade brimming with ice in front of her. Portrait and I order the same drink after tasting No Amp's.
While we wait to order food and get our meal I still feel keyed up. I feel like the waitress and cook might change their minds and tell us the cafe is closed. I worry that we won't be able to get back to the trail, but our ride sits at the counter drinking a soda and talking to the cook. Then a large peanut butter shake with a steep mountain of whipped cream on tops lands in front of me, and I relax. The day is complete, as far as I'm concerned.
Our ride comes over to our table before our food has arrived. "I'll gladly take the two of you back where I found you, but I'm going to go home first. How long do you think you need?" Portrait and I look at each other, clueless.
"A half hour?" I guess. She agrees, leaves, and then, a few minutes later, our grilled cheeses with fries arrive. We eat, I drink my milkshake, and my lemonade. We people watch. The locals order as many milkshakes as the hikers. They run out of blackberries for the shakes.
Once finished we wait for our ride outside. I check my watch a few times in the few minutes we are outside. She's late, although I hadn't looked at my watch when we said a half hour. I only just start to really worry when I see her bronze car swing into the parking area.
We load up, turn around, go back up the hill, across the bridge, past where Portrait was, and back to my berry patch. She pulls over and again we thank her as we grab our packs and get out.
The half hour walk into is just long enough that I start to feel sweaty and tired again. The mid-day sun is merciless. I can almost feel my prized milkshake curdling in my stomach.
As we approach the town again, this time on foot, a new chorus of greetings erupts from the crowd of hikers on the RV park's lawn. We turn off the road towards the hikers in the grass--they look like cows laying down in the field and we join them.