Monday, September 19, 2011

Day 92-93 (8/17-18) Homeward Bound

After a nice relaxing morning on sleeping in, showering, then going back to sleep (three things I never got to do on the trail), I repacked my gear and headed back towards the bus stop. Today had a strange feel to it. I had pretty much 12 hours to take a 10 mile bus ride, so I had to get used to the idea of having nothing to do. First stop, Taco Bell for a hearty dose of everything that I love about fast food. Also, unlimited refills on fountain drinks! Who needs to worry about rationing that last liter of water now? Just go back to fill up your 32oz cup again and keep on drinking. After lunch I paid a full $4.50 for the bus ride, and arrived in Dunsmuir around 1pm. Now I only had 11 hours to kill. Since my legs were already complaining about the amount of sitting and lack of exercise I went for a walk through the town, up main street on one side, then back through the ‘shopping district’ one street over. That took no more than an hour despite spending as much time as I could wandering and perusing everything.

Next stop was the post office, where I arranged to have my boxes from Etna shipped back home. That would save me the hassle of trying to do it from Deerfield. With all of my chores completed, the only thing left to do was head over to the burger joint for a blackberry malt. Did I mention its HOT around here? I’m used to hanging out in the mountains around 5-6,000 ft, and this town is probably closer to 2,000. Boy it makes a difference, and I was so glad for air conditioning on a day like this. I whiled away the time by catching up on some of my favorite online comic strips on my phone, then when that was done I wandered over to a thrift shop and picked up a pair of books for my flight. The first is Player Piano by Kurt Vonnegut Jr. and the second is Cradle by Arthur C. Clarke and Gentry Lee. I’m not sure which I’m looking forward to more, but I’ll start with Vonnegut since its shorter. Its been a few years since I’ve read a book for pleasure, so this should be a nice refresher. I headed back to the burger place for an ice cream cone and worked a little bit on my journals. I expected to feel very emotional right now, but it hasn’t really set in. I’m curious when that’ll happen and how it’ll hit me.

The Amtrak train as I got off in Sacramento
When the burger joint closed around 5 I decided I felt like pizza for dinner. They would be open until 10, so it would be the perfect place to hang out until I was getting closer to the midnight train. I ordered a ‘personal’ pan pizza, or rather, I personally ordered a large pan pizza, and proceeded to slowly work through the whole thing. I have to remind myself that I shouldn’t be eating like I’m out on the trail anymore, because I’ll quickly put on a ton of weight if I keep this up. For the next few days I think its okay though, as my body is probably going to be working overtime to finally fix and repair all the little things I’ve damaged and haven’t allowed to heal. The hours seemed to drag on despite the various distractions of my phone and book. Finally the restaurant was closing, so I walked a few blocks down to the train station. I settled into a nice chair and continued reading, though I was admittedly starting to get tired by this point. Plus, around 10:30 a woman and her daughter came in, the daughter immediately falling asleep on the bench, and then started snoring! If there is anything that makes a tired person super jealous, and extra tired, it is watching (or hearing) another person sleeping. I had to keep standing up and moving around to make sure I wouldn’t drift off. Finally it was near midnight and I decided to wait outside to watch for the train. I haven’t ridden Amtrak since early in my youth, so this was another new experience for me. Those of us without physical tickets were taken to the dining car where we checked in and paid, then were assigned a seat in the main car where we could sleep. Although the seats are more spacious than those on a plane, I had no success finding a comfortable position that didn’t involve jamming my knees into the upright tray table. I drifted off to sleep only to find myself scrunched up on the floor with my head against the seat. Somehow my unconscious self found the only comfortable (though very unconventional) way to sleep in this seat. I drifted back to sleep after setting my alarm for 6am.

We arrived in Sacramento 45 minutes early, before my alarm went off, and I was fortunate to have my seat-mate shake me awake. I would hope that the conductor would’ve made rounds to wake people up, but this worked out well. I couldn’t believe how early we were, and made my way out and into the train station. There I indulged in a huge cup of coffee and a muffin to try to shake off the cobwebs from a short night’s sleep. I hung out for a bit, gathering my bearings before looking for a cab to the airport. It was going to be $35 to go just 11 miles to the airport, compared to $60 to take the train 200 miles to get here. I was a bit frustrated, but lacking other options I hopped in and 15 minutes later was standing outside the airport. 

My flight home!
Security at the airport was no problem, and I was able to get a heavy garbage bag to protect my pack from having the straps torn off. From that point on, it was just a waiting game, spending my time alternating between catching up with the real world on my phone and reading my book. I had a short layover in Phoenix, and then I rocketed back east to Chicago and home. I picked up my bag and walked outside the terminal where I met my dad. It was good to see him and I really just can’t believe its already over. At home I got to see my mom for the first time in three months (she couldn’t come visit this summer since she’s been working a new job), and we all got to talk a bunch while I proceeded to devour anything set in front of me. It’s good to be home, though that will be short lived as grad school resumes in just 3 days!

In the course of 8 hours I travelled more than the distance I walked this entire summer, but I think the last three months have given me a much better perspective on things. Sometimes its the miles that matter, but in my case, I see the most important part as the way you cover those miles. I’ve met dozens and dozens of amazing people out on the trail, experienced some of the most wonderful parts of the country, and had a great chance to step back from the rush of daily life to live fully in the moment. No, I didn’t make it all 2,600 miles to Canada this year, but looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing.

Miles Today: ~2 around town
Trip Mileage: 1318

*Note - I think part of my delay in posting the last few entries has been a desire not to admit that this amazing trip is actually over. With this post I’m finally closing out the narrative of my experiences, though I’ve been working on a few reflective posts to talk about how this trip affected me and where I go from here. Thanks for sticking with me this summer, and I hope you enjoyed reading these posts as much as I enjoyed writing them! - Brian

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