Saturday, June 4, 2016

Day 35 : How Do You Leave Mojave?

0 miles today
2105 miles to go

Ahhh zero days. The thru-hiker weekend. Technically started today but I felt it yesterday when I arrived a filthy rag-a-muffin on his last legs. Checked in, got my resupply box, took a totally amazing hot shower, iced my leg, went to Carl's Jr, got an Original Six Dollar burger with Bacon Cheddar Cheese fries and a hand scooped Oreo shake, iced my leg again, exploded my pack, fell fast asleep by six pm.

I am awake at five am in a luxurious king size bed. I must have needed it. I walk over to Denny's and eat an entire Lumberjack Slam: two buttermilk pancakes, two eggs, two slices of bacon, two sausages, a slice of ham, and two slices of toast. I feel ready to take on the day and get my town chores done. I walk a mile to the Stater Bros and buy spare batteries for my headlamp/Spot. It's early but already in the nineties. As I walk back I see the Oak Canyon Road overpass and count the cars going over it heading towards the trailhead. I count zero, that's on Saturday I wonder if early Sunday there will be more traffic than now, my guess is no. Hitching back to the trailhead doesn't seem too likely, at least not on the schedule I'd prefer. Early, before it gets hot.

Back at my room I read through my handbook notes for Mojave for ways back to the trail. Information is sparse. Bus is an option, except on Sunday, which is tomorrow, which is when I hope to leave. I call the bus line anyway, no luck. There's a taxi number, I call it and the guy could do it but he'd be driving here from Tehachapi to pick me up so the earliest would be eight am. If I want a ride I'll need to call him tomorrow at seven-thirty. Ok, there's an option. I sort through my gear and pile up all my clothes except my shorts, which I hand washed last night. Wearing my town shirt and shorts with my hiking shoes without socks I walk to the coin operated laundry. I stop by the office and talk with the owner, “Do you know anyone offering rides to the trailhead to PCT thru-hikers?” “No, I had a list last year but none for this year.” “Do you still have last year’s list?” “No, all the numbers on it were disconnected when you called them.” “Okay, thank you,” I said cheerfully. On the way I spot Stoken coffee and donuts. I stop in to this cool locally owned place and ask if they have any ‘foo-foo’ type drinks like Starbucks. They say all they have is iced vanilla coffee. “Perfect, I'll take one of those and a glazed donut.” I get three dollars changed to quarters when I pay so I have quarters for the washing machines. I see some hiker friends, Billy, Orbit, and Kitkat in the back so I sit and chat briefly with them. They head back to the trail today. They're taking the bus. That's something I am still mulling over, how to get to the trailhead. 

I head to the Mojave Coin Laundry. This is a run down seedy place. Part of the ceiling is collapsing, the backdoor/emergency exit is boarded shut, you can't get to it anyway because of the derelict, cannibalized washing machines blocking it. There's a friendly lady working through a huge pile of laundry. I guess they are open. I walk over to the soap dispenser machine, five quarters for a single load. I put five quarters in the Tide selector. I try to push the slide button, it won't work, it's either jammed or out. Then I try All, same issue. What about Oxyclean, success, the slide pushes in, the machine accepts my money, nothing comes out. The lady says, “you may want to try the Family Dollar store across from the Mc Donald's. The sign on the wall says “If you have any problems with a machine complete the refund request form as instructed.” I can't locate any refund request forms and there isn't any attendant in attendance or published instructions. I head down the street, it's another half mile or so to the Mc Donald's. Woo hoo, Family Dollar store has detergent. Only one of them is a dollar the rest of them are more, a lot more. I don't need to do twenty loads. I pick the dollar priced one. It's six loads worth of liquid detergent, I don't need that much. I have one load. You'd think a store with ‘Dollar’ in the name would have more dollar priced options.

I get back to the coin op laundry and locate a vacant machine. I dump my stuff sack full of clothes into the machine then take off my ‘town’ shirt and throw it in too. I use a single dose of detergent and offer the remaining contents to the friendly lady for her kindness. She accepts it graciously. I sit on my washing machine and chat with another guy that was there. I don't really know if he is washing anything or just hanging out. He has a bunch of wires and electronics. He’s reaching behind some of the machines and plugging his stuff in. He says he made his own Bluetooth headphones and he’s plugging his phone in to do something or the other. He’s an interesting character to talk with. He says he made some mistakes in the past, “got his hand caught in the cookie jar,” is how he puts it. He's changed his ways now and is on the straight and narrow, “because I'm a Capricorn, you know.” I'm not exactly following everything he's saying but I smile and nod. We talk nonstop while my clothes wash except for the period of time that it takes him to go across to Carl's Jr and get a large soda. The woman washing her clothes lights up a cigarette and listens in. I try to imagine what it would be like to live here, in this tired run down area. Where machines take your money and that just how it goes. These smart people learn, adapt, and adjust how they live to the environment they find themselves. Life happens all over. Sometimes I live in a bubble and think that everybody lives like me. My laundry finishes and I throw it in a dryer for six minutes, one quarter’s worth of dryer time. 

Six minutes got most of the moisture out. Back in my room I hang stuff up to dry it out the rest of the way. I write a letter to Kelli, then I walk to the Post Office. I know it's closed today. I just want to buy a stamp. I meet a Thru-hiker named Mike who is off the trail till his bout with giardia is over. He had thought he could walk to Stater Bros, but alas, he can't make it that far. He's not staying in my motel, but if he was, he wouldn't be allowed in the pool because of his condition. I ask him when he's leaving. “Tomorrow if I'm feeling better, my motel offers free rides, you could probably come too.” “When you thinking about leaving?” “Oh, I don't know, call me at seven-thirty tomorrow.” I get his cell phone number. Option two, still not ideal, who knows if Mike is going to be up for it, and if so, when he'd be ready to leave. We say goodbye and I walk into the Post Office. There is no stamp machine. At a loss, I cannot figure out how to mail this letter today, I guess I'm carrying it for now. I stop by Stoken coffee and donuts and buy two scoops of mint chip ice cream. I ask the server if she knows anyone who gives rides to PCT thru-hikers. She thinks a bit. “If you go down to the Elks they'll know someone.” I determine the “the Elks” is the Elks lodge down the street. “Ask for Ted.” She then calls her manager and asks her about Ted. I eat my ice cream thinking this would be great. A trail angel ride is always better than for hire rides. She comes back, “Sorry, Ted used to give rides but he doesn't anymore. He was the guy at the Elks who gave rides.” I smile cheerfully, “that's okay, thanks for checking. By the way what time do you close today?” “Two, but you better be here before one-thirty if you want a hot sandwich.” “Okay, I would love a sandwich later.” A dad walks in with his daughter in his arms. She's got a cute ponytail sticking straight up off the top of her head. Dad asks her which one? Pointing at the candy jars lining the counter. She points to the one she wants, the server hands over a sample. “One small scoop,” dad says, “and two of these, pointing at the donut case. Purchases complete they come and sit. “One and a half?” I ask him. “Almost two.” “I was visiting my grandkids a few weeks ago in Redlands. One is two, the other eight months.” We chat about kids and being a dad, I tell him the what I remember was being tired a lot. He nods. “Redlands?” He asks. “Yea, I'm hiking the PCT and trying to figure out how to get back to the trailhead.” “I drive by there all the time. I know exactly where that is. I can give you a ride right now.” “Wow, that would be great, except I'll be here till tomorrow, I'm planning on leaving first thing in the morning. You won't be driving there then will you?” “No, I live in Tehachapi. I used to live here, I come about once a week.” “Well, thanks for the offer.” 

Back in my motel room I sort through my food I have enough without having to supplement it by buying more. In fact I have too much. I set aside a small donation for the hiker box I saw in the office. All this working with food has made me hungry. I head back over to Stoken coffee and donuts. “You again?” The server asks. “I like it here. What's the best sandwich?” “The hot pastrami is my favorite but the best seller is the Cuban.” “I'll have a hot pastrami.” I take a seat. The decor is sort of like how I imagine an airplane hanger of a flying enthusiast would look. Pictures of home built experimental aircraft, B2 bombers, and Cowboys herding wild horses adorn the walls. There are lockers with names on them I'm not sure if they're part of the decor or for the employees. There are models of World War II airplanes hanging from the ceiling. As I sit waiting for my sandwich Billy and Kitkat show up in full Thru-hiker regalia except for the dirt. They order ice cream. We exchange pleasantries and my sandwich arrives. I learn that the bus works if you hike all the way to Cameron Road on highway fifty eight. I will do that tomorrow. I wouldn't have been able to do that yesterday. So I am where I am and the bus will never work for me even if I stayed another day. It is was it is. I think the cab might be it. At least I know I get to the trailhead, albeit later than I want. Sigh of resignation. Plumb out of ideas. At least the sandwich is good. I suddenly remember where I saw Billy last. I turn to her and say, “I remember when I met you, it was at the hostel in Big Bear!” She smiles and nods. It's funny how fickle and unpredictable my memory is. I can remember anything, given enough time, often it's too late. Finishing my sandwich I say my goodbyes to Kitkat and Billy, “See you on the trail.” Which is a pretty safe bet.

Back at my room I begin packing. I need more ice for my leg. I grab the hiker box donations and the ice bucket and head to the office first. The owner is not there. “Can I help you?” The guy and the desk asks. “Just have some stuff for the hiker box.” “Oh, that is so cool. Thank you!” “Do you know anyone who gives rides to the trailhead for Thru-hikers?” I ask. “I do that all the time, when do you want to go?” “I was hoping to go tomorrow morning before eight.” “How early do you want to leave?” “I would love to leave at six am.” “Call me at five I'll be up.” He gives me his number. Wow this will be cool if this works out.

I get my ice and ice my knee again. Then I pack some more until I start to get hungry. Dinner time, Carl's Jr. Burger, fries, and milkshake again. Awesome and a ton of calories, yay! One more night of luxury before I head back out into the dirt. It's supposed to be cooler tomorrow but I have a lot of elevation to deal with, one thousand feet down before two thousand feet back up. I ice my knee one last time before heading off to sleep.

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