Day 144 on the Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked to Date: 1545 Hiked yesterday: 15 Trail Miles, Miles left to hike: 639
First, a big SHOUT OUT to Ganina and her "DUNGEONS" and "DRAGONS" ... Good job keeping Chipmunk in good spirits while she's away from her home life! You make her laugh out loud uproariously and that, in turn, makes me laugh. I consider you part of the success in Chipmunk's daily journey.
Second, to Aunt Janice, Papa Chip said, "I have a dark side" in response to your comment that the very upright citizen Papa Chip married a woman who steals your ice cream. (To our non-Aunt Janice readers: It wasn't me.)
As per usual, Papa Chip and I drove into the town where Chipmunk would likely be ending her hike that evening. We found a Dunkin' Donuts and settled in for coffee and blogging. Afterwards, we went to the local grocery store and picked up a few essentials and some Doritos (her daily vitamin, apparently) for Chipmunk.
We loaded up the pantry, drained the water and added ice to the cooler and then put the perishables in on top of the sodas and chilled water and green tea (Papa Chip's new favorite bottled drink). I hopped down to take the cart to the cart stall and as I did, I noticed that a couple who parked a few spaces away, paused to look at the Chip Mobile. I smiled and said, "Those are mostly Appalachian Trail thru hikers' signatures on the camper. Our daughter is hiking the trail and we are following her along." The lady smiled and said, "Oh. That's nice. And where did she start?" I told her Georgia and that she'd hiked over 1500 miles of the trail so far. She raised her eyebrows and said, "Oh. That's nice. Well, you picked the right vehicle. No one will park too close since you just don't know what would come out of that."
Whaaaaaat? Did that lady just deliver a nasty insult about my po' white trash truck camper? AND US?? And she did it while wearing a beautifully matched set of designer clothes and shoes ... and a big smile. Wow! I was floored and unprepared with a response. I was in "proud mom" mode and although I was offended by her remark, I was unable to rifle back anything. I walked back to the camper, shaking my head, and told Papa Chip that it must be an interesting life when you are so wealthy that you can deliver insults with a smile and seemingly no guilt to a total stranger who has done nothing wrong to you.
I literally shook it off, climbed into the cab and twice tried to shut the now "cockeyed" passenger's door. Papa Chip said, "I'll take a look at that when we park at the trailhead." As we drove along, I wondered to myself if I'd ever been that rude to a total stranger; a person who did nothing to provoke such a response. I couldn't think of a specific time ... but I'm betting that the lady in the designer clothes probably won't remember this incident either. She looked pretty comfortable delivering the lines that were still bothering me hours later.
We drove to the trailhead which we found easily from the coordinates in the A.T. Guide. We parked and soon a car pulled in next to ours. A family of 5 climbed out and began organizing their hiking gear. The dad was filling the two largest packs with things while the mom helped the three young boys organize their smaller backpacks. They had a dog on a leash and Papa Chip stepped out of the truck, holding Chocolate Chip in his arms. He turned to the mom and said, "Would it be o.k. if I let my dog down to meet yours." In a gruff tone, the mom said, "If your dog is nice ... otherwise, please just keep him in your truck." Wow! Really? What is wrong with everyone today?? Papa Chip pet their dog on the head and said, "She's a sweetheart, believe me." The lady said, "Yeah, whatever."
This time, I immediately thought of a bunch of stuff I wanted to say. But, then I looked at the three young boys and decided that none of the phrases or words were appropriate. I chose to stay in the cab and keep my head down as I scrolled through and deleted fuzzy pictures from my phone's photo gallery. I found myself shaking my head a few times as I thought about the people whom we'd met so far that day. Up to this point in the trip, there have been so few people we've met that really got on our nerves. And here ... in the middle of nowhere Massachusetts, there were 2 within hours of one another. Hmm. Years ago, my dear friend, Sue B., (who lived in Massachusetts) told us that the state had plenty of "MASS-holes". I guess we were just lucky enough to meet 2 in the same day.
As I thought about Sue B., my mood changed. She and I were both BMX moms and I loved her and her two children, Amanda and David. She drove them to races all around the country, like we did with Chipmunk. Her husband never came to the races so many of the BMX dads jumped in to help when her car broke down or her kids' bikes needed things done to it that she didn't know how to do. After the races, we parents would sit around laughing and talking and sorting out life. I always enjoyed Sue's company and once on the way back from a race in New Hampshire, we took her up on an invitation to visit her home. We laughed around her kitchen table and had so much fun that we delayed our return home by another day and all went out to breakfast the next morning. All of the kids sat at one table, entertained by her son, David's shenanigans, while we drank coffee well past the table being cleared.
About 6 months after that, we moved to Hawaii for a year and then moved to Florida. Throughout that time, she and I emailed and forwarded funny stories and jokes to one another. When we started our family bike ride in 2011, I was online so rarely, out of touch with my extended group of friends, that I didn't notice her emails had stopped. I wasn't on facebook much at all then and didn't know that Sue had gotten seriously ill until my friend, Zoe, told me something "was up" during one of our stops at a BMX race. I emailed Sue but got no return message. I went on Facebook and messaged her daughter, Amanda, inquiring about Sue. I received a message back from a then 19 year old Amanda.
She explained that her mom had been having bad headaches; that nothing was giving her relief. Sue's doctor ordered a CAT scan and it was revealed that the ongoing pain was from a sizable brain tumor that had swelled to the point that it cracked her skull. Amanda went on to explain that because it was inoperable, her mom has been on horribly sickening rounds of chemotherapy. She said her mom is in bed a lot and can't focus to go online any longer. She told me that the last round of chemo showed no change in the tumor size and that the doctors were going to try something else; they were going to try morphine. She said she was hopeful that it would help.
As I read the words, I realized that Amanda was unaware that morphine wasn't a treatment to shrink the tumor but rather one to make her mom comfortable in a hopeless situation. I thanked her for the update and told her to give her mom a hug for me; to tell her I missed her and loved her. Sadly, Sue died a few days later at home. I watched, feeling helpless as Amanda wrote updates on facebook, noting the funeral arrangements that she and her dad were making.
As I sat at the trailhead yesterday, thinking about Sue and her beautiful family ... I thought how Sue had nailed it when she termed the type of people who'd been so rude to my husband and me that day as "MASS-holes". Man, I miss Sue. She had so much more to offer this world then either of those folks could possibly. It doesn't seem right that they're here and she's not. I was mad, I was sad and I needed something to turn it around. As tears rolled down my face, Chocolate Chip instinctively came to me. I leaned down towards her face and she licked the tears from my cheeks. It was the comfort I needed.
Not much later, Chipmunk called from the roadway behind us. I jumped out of the truck and hugged her. I was so glad to see her. She dropped her pack, opened a soda and told us a little about her hiking so far. It was a good way to turn my day around. After lunch, Papa Chip and I walked with her back to the trailhead, kissing her goodbye and confirming our end of day meet up spot.
We were lucky enough to have GPS coordinates for the end of day meet up spot in the A.T. Guide and we entered them into Evil Vengeful Rosie the GPS. We drove down the peaceful winding mountain roads and into the town where she'd be ending her day's hike. Along the way, we saw a sign for "outlets" and I suggested we see if there was any affordable cold weather Under Armour stuff for the later portion of Chipmunk's hike. We parked and as we walked around, the sight of all the "label conscious" shoppers just kind of brought my mood down again. We didn't find anything we wanted at the Under Armour outlet and I suggested that we just get out of there; head to the trailhead. Papa Chip agreed and we easily found the parking area for the hikers.
I searched my phone's GPS maps and found that there was a campground nearby that participated in our Passport America Campground discount program. I called and they confirmed that they had space available, hot showers, a dump station, etc. and that it would only be $20. Sweet! Chipmunk arrived a few hours later and we drove to the campground. As soon as we were settled into our campsite, Chipmunk and I grabbed our shower bags and headed to the shower house.
Although the shower house was older and the stalls a little small, the shower itself had a great shower head (not too forceful, not too light) and adjustable temp (Oooooh! Niiiiice) and it felt really good to stand under it a while after I was fully clean. When i came out of the stall, I found a lady waiting for the shower and apologized, telling her I was unaware she was there. She smiled and said, "No problem." She asked if ours was the camper with all the signatures and what it was all about. I told her the basics and she said, "Wow. That's awesome! I love what you're doing!" Her positive response was a great ending to my luxurious shower. I gave her one of our business cards and she said she was going to check it out online. We talked for a while longer while I waited for Chipmunk to finish showering. She told me the story of a man (known as "Lee the Logger") who'd been stricken with cancer and decided to take a covered wagon and two horses cross country in pursuit of seeing his high school sweetheart before he died. He didn't have the money to do it but found that people in most every town were eager to provide feed for his horses and dog and also groceries for him. The lady told me how she had horses and brought him 6 bales of hay, a bunch of feed and a few bags of groceries.
I smiled and said, "You're a really good person. It's really nice to know you." She said, "It was nice hearing about your daughter's adventure, too." Chipmunk had finished in the shower house, paused to share a little about her hike with the lady and her 14 year old sister before we returned to the campsite. In the walk from the shower house to the camper, I realized I felt better about the day. Conversation with the lady in the shower house provided the balance I needed after randomly meeting the other folks I had met that day.
We returned to the camper and Papa Chip left to get his shower and to trim up his beard. When he returned, we ate dinner and listened as the young campers next to us toyed with their Karaoke setup. By 9 PM, we were all in our bunks. Chipmunk read the fan fiction she'd downloaded earlier and Papa Chip and I cuddled 'til we fell asleep. It wasn't a perfect day ... but we were 15 miles closer to our daughter meeting her goal. Soooo... I guess it wasn't a bad day.
If you enjoy reading the story of our adventure, and you’d like to send some “Trail Magic” to Chipmunk, click on the “Donate” button at the upper right corner of today’s blog post. Chipmunk maintains a twitter account: @openlymtngoat where a common hashtag is #GoChipmunk . She (or we) will try to answer any questions you may have about her hike and this family adventure.
Thanks again for all your support,
Mama Chip, Papa Chip, Chipmunk and her dog, Chocolate Chip
(Tammy, Jay, Neva and Coco)