"I'm totally drunk," said my driver.
"How many beers have you had?" I asked nervously, knowing that we had about 10 miles to go.
"Shit, I've drunken an entire case today!" he boasted as he chugged another beer. The sun had set.
How do I get myself in these situations?
My friends and family are all worried that I'll die via a bear attack, hypothermia, drowning, starvation, a fall, or profound boredom.
However, few consider perhaps the biggest risk a thru-hiker takes: jumping into a stranger's car every four days. About every four days thru-hikers hitchhike into town to get more food and supplies. Although you can walk to some towns, most towns are far from the trail, sometimes more than 30 miles. Of course, one could walk the 60 mile roundtrip, but you'd probably get run over by some drunk driver. It's so much better to be in the truck of the drunk driver and watch him mow down some other hapless pedestrian.
Before I conclude my real life story with the drunk driver, here’s a quick trail update:
It’s been cold, raining everyday (got some hail today), and it’s hard to find a camping spot below 10,000 feet. Guess where I am? Colorado, of course! (I’m specifically in Grand Lake.)
Colorado is the state that I love, but sometimes want to destroy. It rewards me as much as it tortures me. Rarely has any place I’ve backpacked produced such a dramatic mix of emotions. However, I suspect September will be much better than May, as long as I avoid drunk drivers…
"You scared?" my drunk driver asked me.
"No," I lied.
He started swerving. "Heheh!" he chuckled. "I bet that scared you the fuck out of you!"
I laughed nervously. I could smell the intense alcohol from his breath. Five miles to go on this dark and deserted road.
"Did you see this?" he asked as he showed me a revolver.
"No," I replied. "It looks nice," I said stupidly, not knowing what else to say.
"Yeah," he giggled, "And it's fuckin' loaded."
"Sweet," I lied.
He continued to slowly poke along the road.
Then with a funny look in his eye he said, "I'm not sure I trust you. You're not gonna to mess with me, are you?"
"No," I said calmly. "Why don't you trust me?"
"Look at you. You're all bundled up and shit. I don't trust that."
Although I was wearing all my clothes, it’s not much: a T-shirt, long sleeve shirt, and a feather light wind jacket. The sun had set and I knew it would get colder, but it wasn't that cold at that moment. However, I have little body fat, so I get cold easily. Although my driver didn't have much body fat either, he was intoxicated, which makes your blood move to the edge of your skin giving you an artificial, and temporary, sensation of warmth. Therefore, he was probably feeling very warm and I looked odd with three layers. Why this means he shouldn't trust me is a mystery.
Three miles to go.
"Do you have any money?" he asked.
I wonder if this guy is going to rob me or just wants a tip. I always offer "gas money" to anyone who gives me a ride, but maybe that won't be enough for this guy. Two miles to go.
"Keep talking," he demanded. "Or else I'm going to fall asleep behind the wheel."
I started blabbing and asking him many questions. At one point he struggled with his pickup. He thought his high-beams were off, but they were on. He didn't handle a particular curve too well.
"Do you want me to drive?" I asked helpfully.
"If I let you drive, I'd have to kill you," he answered.
"OK, then keep driving." I exhaled calmly.
To my amazement, his driving was pretty good for someone who drank 24 beers in 12 hours. Fortunately, he was aware that he was drunk and was purposefully driving far more slowly than any sober person would drive. However, it was dark, the road had no traffic, he was drunk, and had a loaded .44 pistol on the dashboard. One mile to go.
"Now when we stop, you're just gonna leave me alone, right? You're not some homo right?" he asked.
"Don't worry, I'll leave you alone once we get there."
"Cuz I'm just gonna crash. I'm so tired..."
I kept asking him questions about his gun and rifle collection. That kept him awake and excited. Eventually, after an eternity had passed, we stopped and I got out.
I gave him $10 and he was grateful. That should help him buy another case of beer. The wilderness never felt so safe.
So that we don't end on such a sober note, listen to this MP3
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A pinch light is great for summer hiking, but if you need some real illumination, I go with the Arc Flashlight.
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