Day 35: Today I Caved. Oh, and Also: The Best Hitch Ever

I was right about the big winds and rain during the night. I can’t believe how well my tent holds up to wind. If I take the time to get a taut pitch, it doesn’t even remotely feel like it’s going to fall over, and this wind last night was easily comparable  to good ol’ San Felipe. Setting up the tent in the wind, though, well…that’s a huge pain in the ass.

Today we are still on jeep roads, and will later visit the Aqueduct again, but as I get started, I notice it’s not as pretty and expansive as it was yesterday. It’s also hilly, and a more serious storm is rolling its way down the Tehachapi hills, right where we are supposed to hike. I even see snow covering the highest peak.

My nerve damaged leg is acting up again, this time shooting warning signals up into my back. Any time I go up or down a hill -even a small one- sharp stabs ripple from my foot to my thigh. I remember the magic of the Ipod yesterday, how it completely transformed my experience. I put my headphones in and scroll through the playlists. I’m thinking audio-book this morning, test that out, see if it carries the same motivation music did.

I play an audio-book where famous comedians respond to fake questions with fake advice. It works okay. The Louis C.K. one annoys me. Plus, I can hear my feet trudging, my breath puffing. It’s hard to focus on the content. Meh. Maybe it’s just not a very good book.

The wind is so horrible today, too. I’m heading straight into it. So cold. It hurts my ears and my head, so I put on gloves and wind jacket, hood up. Wow. This wind jacket is great! Another Zpacks product that doesn’t let down.

I stop at a water source, not for water, but because TnT and I loosely agreed to meet here. I do not like the look of the clouds. It’s gonna be a biggie, and either we will be walking through it, or we’ll have to hunker down in our tents for who knows how long. I don’t know. I just don’t feel like doing it.

And isn’t that part of the problem with how we’ve been doing things? Each time I take the path of least resistance, it becomes easier to choose it, again and again. Acknowledging this to myself doesn’t help me toughen up, (like I bet it would for normal people) but instead deflates me. What am I doing here, anyway. I barely have the trail legs I grew from Campo. I don’t even feel like a thru hiker at this point.

I feel no urge to go forward. When TnT find me, it’s me that suggests we hitch to Tehachapi. I’m the one that encourages the gang to throw in the towel. Of course, TnT agree wholeheartedly ( “I’m sure as shit not going in that,” Texas tells me Tumbler muttered when he saw the snow-covered peak.), but still. I recognize this weakness coming over me. It’s familiar. It’s what I’ve struggled with my entire life. And right now, I’m giving in to it. Willfully. Petulantly. I suck, I tell myself with horrid conviction.

I don’t share these negative feelings with TnT, I don’t want them to feel bad. It’s totally my issue. Also, like I’ve mentioned, we all have a weird pride about our flipping, skipping, jumping, hitching. We call ourselves Team Fuckers (said endearingly) and even now we are joking around, telling each other, “I don’t get it. Why does everybody say hiking the PCT is so hard?”

Earlier, I saw a road in the distance with a lone car on it. Looking at my map, I think we can follow the Aqueduct to that road, and then, well, I don’t know. We head that way, and find an asphalt road about twenty minutes later. It’s empty. Tumbler looks at the notes he carries with him, tidbits and facts gleaned from hikers ahead of us. He points to another road above us, heading east. “We walk that road for 6 miles and it will take us to a ‘hitching road’,” says he.

Oh man. That’s gonna be long and lame. Maybe we can find an Angel to pick us up, even though we don’t exactly know where we are. Texas is talking to a trail angel when a wind farm worker shows up in his utility truck. Oh, by the way, we are in the middle of a giant wind farm. He rolls down a window, and Tumbler tries to convey our situation and confirm where we are, but the dude gets confused. “Do we go that way to get to Tehachapi-Willow Springs Road?” I interject, pointing east. “Yes,” he says, smiling at me, “about six miles.” I return the friendliest smile I can muster, use my friendliest voice to ask, “Is there any chance you can give a ride there? Or at least some distance down this road? We’re trying to get to Tehachapi to avoid the storm and I think we can find a ride from there.” I can’t help but add a small plea to my voice. “It would be extremely helpful.”

“I’m not supposed to give rides when I’m on duty,” he hesitates, “And two of ya will have to go in the back of the truck- it’ll be a rough ride, and-” But I’m already jumping up and down, thanking him. I throw my pack in the truck bed before he can change his mind. Then I sidle up to his window and say conspiratorially, “I can pay you in pot edibles….” He looks surprised. “I think we can work something out,” he agrees.

Hooray! Texas and I jump in the back, while Tumbler heads up front with Buster. Buster is not his real name; he basically broke the law for us, so I have to protect his identity. Texas told me I should call him Buster, so Buster it is. Buster has a working man’s good looks: flannel shirt, beard, scruffy haircut. As he drives us along the rocky, bumpy utility road, he occasionally stops to wave snakes out of the way. ” They’ll get killed if they stay there!” He informs Texas and me. What a great guy, stopping for snakes and hikers alike!

Texas and I are enjoying the scenery when we get to Tehachapi-Willow Springs Road. We both start to get up, but the truck lurches again into action, and suddenly we are on another dirt road, heading north instead of east. Texas and I look at each other, eyes wide, excited and nervous at the same time. Where the hell are we going?

We end up getting a tour of the wind farm as Buster winds his way through, sometimes driving right along the base of the gigantic wind mills. I stare up into the blue sky and watch the white blades whoosh whoosh and cut the air right above me. It’s amazing. I can’t believe I’m here! A stranger’s truck, touring a wind farm on decimated dirt roads in the middle of the desert! So it’s not the PCT. So it’s not hiking. It IS an adventure. It’s not what I expected, but it’s still a gift. A crazy gift I will never forget.

My heart is full again, a goofy, wide smile on my face as we bump and bounce in the back of the truck, not knowing where we’re going. Hoping Buster is just taking us closer to Tehachapi, and not some desert killing field known only to wind farm workers.

Buster knows all the roads around here. How cool. He turns and swerves and, okay…backtracks a few times until Texas and I can see our road on the right. We slow to a stop. I stand up, ready to jump out of this truck and give Buster a giant hug for getting us farther up the road. “Okay, girls, time for you to lay down!” Tumbler shouts from his window. “And hide those packs, too, so no one can see them or you! Buster’s gonna try to take us as far as he can without getting caught!”

“You’re AWESOME!” I shout and point at him. “So awesome!” Texas and I lay flat in the truck bed, trying to hold on to our packs and whatever else for dear life, as suddenly we are going very fast and giggling uncontrollably. The weather turns foul and gets foggy and cold, but we don’t care. I feel like a kid again, I can’t get over how neat this whole experience is. How helpful people can be, just for the hell of it. How, no matter why or how much my trek has deviated from what I thought it should be, it’s still been full of surprises and adventure and interesting, gracious people. People like Buster, who risk a work write-up, just to help a couple of strange, smelly hikers out.

Somehow, someway, Buster manages to get us all the way to TnT’s hotel. I jump out and give him a  big hug. “You’re the best!” I say, laughing. Buster has a big grin on his face, feeling cool, our knight in shining armor. “Ah hell,” he says, “I’ve done some section hiking, myself. And I see that storm coming, so I figure, why not?” Why not, indeed, Buster. You’re wonderful. Thank you for showing us those monster wind mills up close. Thank you for your streak of defiance that got us where we needed to go. I’m so glad I met you!

I don’t have reservations here at this hotel, and we are a day early. Aaron and I planned for him and Nisa to meet me here with resupply boxes that I need to prepare for the next leg of this journey. Luckily, the hotel has availability, and even lets us check in early. I head straight for my room to take a shower. I don’t know how I manage to get so dirty so fast.

While I clean up, I think about that the PCT has been for me so far. I am glad for what I have gotten from it, I don’t want to diminish what it has been; how it has unfolded. I mean, I should’ve known it wouldn’t be for me what it is for others. But, in spite of a surprisingly good hitch that caused me to see the beauty of plans gone awry, I still feel a disillusionment. A dissatisfaction. I’m sad. And worn out. And I don’t really know exactly why, or what I am supposed to do about it.