Day 59 & 60 Damascus, VA Miles Hiked To Date: 554 Hiked that day: 0 Miles to Katahdin: 1630.2
First, to Susie (Talker's Mom), I'll gladly give your son a big hug when I see him! He's been very kind to my daughter. She said that she has been fortunate that during her few shelter stays, Talker has been at the same shelter; he helped hang her backpack on the hooks that were above her 5'1" stature. Apparently, he is very much a "big brother" to her out on the trail and always treats her as an equal, "not just some 14 year old kid". You did a good job raising him! He's polite, kind and as I said before, his quick actions during the hiker parade may well have saved my daughter's life. I hope to see him soon and post a more current picture here for you to see.
Second, today's blog will not have any photos. I'm sorry about that. The public computer I'm using at the library would allow me to download photos but not retrieve them for upload. The gentleman who oversees the public computers tried several things before saying, "I don't know. I just don't know why they can't be found in any searches. Sorry." So, if you came for the pictures, you might want to skip today's update. I'll try to post pics tomorrow, depending on which library I use.
You may notice that I combined 2 days above and that the total miles hiked over those 2 days is ZERO. Chipmunk hiked steadily for the past week and was "banking" miles so that she could spend some down time with her dad, Papa Chip, whose bicycle tour stopped in Damascus, VA on the 28th & 29th. His tour left Williamsburg, VA May 18th and will continue west to Eugene, OR, ending August 8th. He and his co-leader, Lee (or is it Les??), took "Mayor" up on her offer to have all 16 cyclists camp in her yard during their 2 days in Damascus, VA.
Because it was a Zero day for Chipmunk, I let her choose where she'd like to eat breakfast out on the 1 hour ride South towards Damascus. She chose Macado's in Marion, VA and devoured a 1/2 lb. cheeseburger and cheese fries along with a Dr. Pepper. She got a cookie dough/chocolate milk shake to go. She was dressed in her cool purple jeans, a dark blue shirt and a pale blue cardigan; she wore a string of pearls around her neck and her hair up in a bun. (It was like eating across from a modern day June Cleaver.) She liked being out of her spandex hiking pants but did complain that she could feel all the seams in her pants. After "breakfast", we drove onto "Mayor's home, a.k.a. The Hiker (and now Biker) Compound in Damascus and found that some of the riders had already arrived and set up their tents on her front and side lawns. Papa Chip had not arrived yet because he was riding the "sweep" position: making sure all the riders got to where they needed to go, changing flat tires, etc.
Around 4pm, Mayor invited us to join her in town at the Blue Blaze Cafe. She had to work that evening and reminded us it was Taco Tuesday ... your choice of beef, chicken, black bean or fish tacos for only $1.50 each. Chipmunk jumped at the opportunity and we found ourselves sitting in a comfy booth at the Blue Blaze until 8pm. Hikers we'd met who still hadn't left the vortex that is Damascus, joined us for trail talk. The waiters who have gotten to know Chipmunk stopped by the table and asked her to draw pictures of them on the big kraft paper that covers the wooden booth tables. She was happy to oblige.
Around 8:30pm, I grew concerned that we hadn't yet seen Papa Chip; I figured he would stop in town or call the cafe to let us know he had arrived. Without a cell. signal, neither of us could reach each other that way. Mayor let me borrow the restaurant phone to call her house, but the call went directly to voicemail. She saw that I was concerned and offered to send "Truck Surfer" (a hiker who has been staying with her for a few weeks) out on the Creeper Trail to look for him. I told her I'd just drive out to her house and see if he'd come in off the road yet. She said that she'd bring Chipmunk back with her after work since Chipmunk was "holding court" with her local fans in the dining room. I thanked her, hugger her good bye and left ... not realizing I hadn't paid the check yet! (Woo Hoo! My first Dine and Dash!)
Of course, Papa Chip was safe at Mayor's house and was glad to see me. About a half hour later, Mayor and Chipmunk arrived and I asked her if I could pay the check the next day; she said that she'd already paid the check and not to worry about it. NOOOOOOOO! This lady has been so kind to me and my family and how do I repay it?? I stiff her for the tacos! YIKES! So, I suggested that we run to the grocery down the street and grab a few "girlie" beers, my treat, and catch up on everything.
We returned and popped open blueberry beer & crisp apple wheat beer while Papa Chip (a.k.a. RAY???) and Lee joined us with manly IPA beers. We found ourselves laughing and telling funny stories for the next hour as we lounged around her living room. It felt so good to see Papa Chip and hang out with my gal pal Val (Mayor) and get to know Lee ... if only Spicy Jesus could have been there! Around 11pm, we all headed off for bed. Papa Chip joined me in the truck camper and Chipmunk scored a private bedroom in Mayor's house. I got the best night of sleep I'd had since Papa Chip left on his bike tour.
In the morning, Mayor reminded us that the Blue Blaze had fresh Blueberry pancakes and of course, chocolate chip pancakes for Chipmunk. She headed into town and Papa Chip, Chipmunk and I were close behind. Lee agreed to handle the mid-day "shuttles" for the cyclists so that Papa Chip could hang out with us for the day; then Papa Chip did the late day/evening shuttle for happy hour and/or dinner at the Blue Blaze Cafe. Chipmunk ordered a short stack of 3 chocolate chip pancakes and as she finished them, ordered another 3. She loves using her Chipmunk bucks for treats on her Zero days. Papa Chip ordered a big stack of 5 Blueberry pancakes and I had 3 Blueberry pancakes. They were soooooo good! They had big juicy fresh REAL blueberries in them and they were a buttery maple syrup treat!
After breakfast, we drove to the local library for blog posting and Papa Chip found a shady spot to repair the roof damage on the camper. While Chipmunk caught up online with friends from home, we worked together to slather resin onto the fiberglass cloth and then cover the puncture on the right front side of the camper, over our bunk area. When it was all done, we cleaned up and joined Chipmunk for about 45 minutes of WIFI. From there, we made pit stops in several of the downtown outfitter stores and bike rental stores in search of a replacement cassette for Papa Chip's bike. It was acting up and he wanted to have one on hand should he need it. No luck! In fact, we discovered that there wasn't a real bicycle repair business in town ... hmm ... we love Damascus, Papa Chip is an awesome bike mechanic, Chipmunk is a local celebrity, two of my favorite people (Mayor & Spicy Jesus) live there ... I smell a possible change of residence ?!?!
We enjoyed the sunny afternoon together and returned Papa Chip to Mayor's house in time for the evening shuttle shift. Chipmunk and I strolled through the stores in town and then met Papa Chip for ALL YOU CAN EAT SPAGHETTI Night at the Blue Blaze ... $5.99, includes a salad and buttered garlic bread! YUMMMMM! Plus, you can add meatballs, or Italian sausage, or Chicken Parmigian for only $3 more. So, I got meatballs, Papa Chip got Italian sausage and Chipmunk got her favorite: Chicken Parmigian. We ate and talked and introduced Papa Chip to the locals we've come to know. We drew pictures on the kraft paper and hung them on the walls, as many before us have done, too. We admired and scrutinized the art work that ranged from stick figures to elaborate pop art and modern art.
When Papa Chip left to take the cyclists back to the Hiker/Biker Compound, Chipmunk and I lingered. We were joined by a hiker known as "Rainboy" who looked a big flushed. I asked if he was feeling ok and he said, "No. I think I poisoned myself." My mom ears perked right up and I began asking questions. He had done something dumb and was embarassed to talk about it. Like many of the young hikers, he was figuring life out on the trail. He had heard that some of the wild mushrooms would give you a "natural high" or a slightly hallucinogenic feeling so, without consulting a book or anyone else, he picked some and ate them. It made him pretty sick and he spent the last 2 days vomiting regularly. I asked when was the last time he ate and he said "this morning, but I wasn't able to keep it down."
I called Mayor over and explained the situation. She pulled out her cell. phone and called "Wild Bill", a local man who hikes, bikes and lives in the woods in Damascus. I'd met him before when we all went to breakfast while my brakes were out a week ago. He was a true gentle man and knew just about everything about wild vegetation and living off the land. He is well spoken, kind and has a great sense of humor. He arrived via bike within a few minutes and joined us at the table. He asked Rainboy to draw the mushrooms he ate, as close to size and color as he could. He looked at it, asked a few questions and then said, "well, they won't kill you but they will make you sick for a good day. You need to eat and get it out of your system." Within minutes, Mayor had a salad and a plate of spaghetti in front of him. I asked Rainboy if he'd talked to his parents recently and he said that his parents haven't really been part of his life lately and I saw a sadness in his eyes. I asked if there was anyone back home in Oklahoma that was worrying about him and he said a few friends. I took his picture while he ate, gave him the website address and told him that I'd post updates on him when I could so that they'd see he was ok. He told me that he debated getting off the trail and I encouraged him to stay on it; that it sounded like he needed a good, safe place to be while he moved forward in life. I also reminded him to learn from his mistake and not eat wild ANYTHING unless he knew 100% that it was safe. He agreed.
After he finished eating, he joined a few other hikers on the sidewalk out front, where Chipmunk was exchanging trail stories with other hikers. It was getting late and I PAID THE CHECK and started for the front door. As I passed a table, I recognized Sunshine, the hiker who had a small (what I earlier thought was a chihuahua) rat terrier as a hiking companion. Chipmunk was ahead of her on the trail after she ran into some issues. She was lucky enough to connect with a former hiking partner from her 2011 attempt and now he was coaching her and transporting her pack from gap to gap so that she could lay down more miles. It was great to see the mom of 4 from Texas and I told her I'd look forward to seeing her down the trail somewhere.
As Chipmunk and I walked back to the truck camper, we saw the bright colored "Mayor loves Spicy Jesus" in Sharpie Marker on the back door and I smiled. Earlier in the day, I picked up a bunch of Permanent colored markers so that the hikers can put messages, art or whatever on the camper. Mayor was the first! Papa Chip and I figured that the camper couldn't look any worse by doing it AND just might look better! A few days ago, Chipmunk and I debated whether we'd put the camper in a bonfire pit when we return to Florida but now I might just have to preserve it. We drove back to Mayor's house, fell into our respective sleeping spots and called it a night. This morning, Chipmunk returned to the trailhead where she had left off with a 17 mile hike on the schedule for the day. More about that tomorrow.
FYI, we are trying to build support and maybe even get some sponsors to help in the expenses of Chipmunk’s quest to become the youngest solo thru hiker to complete the Appalachian Trail. We could use your help. 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 left of today’s blog post. Feel free to forward our website link (or email updates) to your family, friends, co-workers, etc, (www.ridethenation.org). Chipmunk maintains a twitter account: @openlymtngoat where a common hashtag is #GoChipmunk and she can receive personal messages directly to her email: email@example.com. She or we (firstname.lastname@example.org) 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)