Friday, January 30, 2009
Gonzales, LA: Trail Magic
Miles since last blog: 25.5
Miles Total: 1850.7
A few nights back things didn't go perfectly, as those of you who follow my blog will recall. Still at the end I found myself saying it was a good day on the road. This was easy to think as I went to sleep, I knew that because of that day, somewhere else down the road something would line up for a perfect experience that I would otherwise have missed. These are very non-mathematician thoughts to have, faith in something and all that, but I have come to the conclusion after over 1500 miles without rain now, the road loves those who love the road. I expected that somewhere down the line, it would all pay off, I just didn't expect it to be so soon.
The simple fact is, had I not wandered around town and walked all that extra way, had I gotten to sleep before 2 am, then I wouldn't have slept in until 10 am and the rest of the day would have been just a fraction less amazing. And a fraction of amazing is a lot.
It was around 2:30 p.m. when I heard a voice behind me say, "You're walking across America?" And a man whisked up beside me on bike. Remember M, and his analogy about the grass to explain all the coincidental meetings? Well M, yesterday I met the Jolly Green Giant. Really, that was his trail name when he hiked 1800 miles of the Appalachian trail from Georgia and on up into Canada. The name stuck.
Jolly Green was dressed all in green, right down to his socks and with the sole exception of his black cycle shoes, but there were a pair of green Crocs sitting on his bikes saddle bags. He had green eyes and wild red hair barely contained by his ponytail, with fluorescent streamers hanging from the back of his helmet. It goes without saying that Giant is tall. Jolly Green had caught up with me on what would be his one day bike from New Orleans to Baton Rouge and he had done it in an amazing place, which is what I now believe the previous night was all about.
When JG found me it was across from street from a gas station, not only was this the only place I had seen having food available in over 10 miles, it was the only place for the next 15 after. Trail Magic. The fact that we had met up precisely here was amazing in a day that from beginning to dark was filled solely with highway, bayou, spanish moss and grass fields was improbably at best. The station even had a table and set of benches outside to sit and talk, about my walk and Jolly Green's ride through the 48 contiguous states. He plans to take a year zigzagging the country.
It turns out that Jolly Green will be in Baton Rouge for several days, so we will meet up again and maybe even try to gather up a Couchsurfing meet up with locals. The day was already fantastic, it always puts me in a great mood to see someone fearlessly chasing after their dreams and especially when it's another 'adventurer.'
Flash forward to hours later, it's dark and I'm peeing on the side of the road when headlights pull up behind me.
"Cheese it, it's the fuzz!" I hissed at my midmost appendage. And it was The Fuzz, but it wasn't the police. The Fuzz, from what I could make out while he was backlit by the headlights of his minivan, was an older gentleman in a truckers hat and grey and white beard. Literally, all I could really see of the man was fuzz in this vantage.
"Where do you sleep at night?" he said in what I would consider a classic frontiersman voice.
"Well, I camp or sometimes I sleep on people's couches."
"I'm at a motel on the right up the road, I'll be waiting for ya." He said and gave me the room number. In 1800 miles, no one had ever pulled over to offer me a place to sleep, what was truly amazing was that a mile later, it happened again. A farmer offered me a place at his house, but I had already talked to The Fuzz and he was on my route so I moved on.
I wish I could have gotten The Fuzz on film, but he preferred not to be caught by the camera. He was a character and unsurprisingly his job was as a driver on an 18-wheeler where he carted off ground up debris from Katrina. The Hurricanes seem to be the thread tying together all the people of Louisiana.
"A storm took me out of Louisiana, and damned if a storm didn't bring me back." ha laughed as he remembered leaving to Alabama to clean up after Ivan and then being moved back in the wake of Katrina. He talked about his jobs, his wives, his sons. Sometimes I couldn't understand him, but that is becoming more common as I get deeper into the state, the mumbly rhythmic speaking somehow fails to make words but still communicates a lot about the person.
I was surprised to find that the room had three beds so I had my choice of the two The Fuzz wasn't using. He was a good man who would quit his job when there wasn't work even though his employer would pay him to stay on. He said, "I come back when there's work, but I don't want to get paid to sit on my butt." I assumed that he didn't want to be on camera because of a checkered past, but he was warm and welcoming and I myself have made a few mistakes in life. It was a cold night outside and fantastic day on the road.
"Trail magic," I whispered to myself while I was falling asleep.