Day 41-42 // Zeros: Tehachapi Tension

When I wake, it's all chores in front of me. I need to get my resupply, buy a little food from the grocery store, do laundry, eat, rest. 

Somehow these things take all day. Twisted stirs, a fellow early morning person. I dip out and down to the free continental breakfast that they have, one of the perks of the hotel I'm staying in. I grab eggs, sausage, toast, jelly, yogurt and a big waffle. I eat with Banana Pants, Little Engine, Twisted and Second Wind. The TV in the breakfast room plays the news and it depresses me. The weather man reports that a heat wave is moving in, right before we're about to do one of the driest stretches on the PCT.

Back in the hotel room, it gets loud while everyone plays and jokes around on Tinder the hookup app and Bananas plays the movie Homeward Bound. I put in my headphones, but I can't block out the noise. So I leave for the bakery, irritated.

 I just want quiet space. My nerves are rattled.

I take the back corner of the cafe and sit and write. Twisted joins me for a little bit, another introvert escapee. We make light plans for a post office run and a resupply together. The post office is a mile and a half away, too far for hikers to walk in town. So we fret and delay over it. 

I get a text from Bananas asking to add more people to the room. I text him and everyone back that I'd like a chill mellow environment without too much partying and late nights. I prefaced this before we all came into Tehachapi and the room being booked under my card, I suggest that maybe they could get their own room since it's already pretty full. I can feel the tension building. 

When I go back to the room, it's palpable. Bananas ignores me when I ask him what his plans are. I try to feel out who else might be staying so I can figure out the cost for another night. The lady at the front desk is ringing and asking.  

I'm overwhelmed.   

Twisted and I decide to go run our errands. A trail angel slides up next to us on the road gives us a ride to the post office. The friendly lady behind the counter gives me six boxes. All my Sierra gear came a town too early by mistake of my folks doing my resupply boxes. Thankfully, if you don't open a priority box, you can move it forward for free. I stand in the back corner and fill out little address slips before I send them all off to Kennedy Meadows, the infamous Sierra gateway. I'm shaking with hunger and I can barely think straight.

I clutch my large priority box and my little amazon box to my chest and walk back to the old white Toyota truck with Twisted. The trail angel Daniel, is snoozing. We shuffle and make a little noise and he wakes. He kindly offers to take us to his favorite lunch spot, an all you can eat Chinese buffet. We offer him a few bucks for the ride and he accepts it and walks us inside the buffet. Steaming tables of amazing food await us and we say goodbye to him.  

Twisted and I pile up our plates high and sit together. He grasps his fork and a knife and sits up straight when he eats. I watch him with amusement, he eats so proper. 

We look at our Chinese zodiac signs.  

"What are you?" I ask. "I'm an Ox." 

"Ahhh, a Boar." 

"What's your sign of the zodiac if you don't mind my asking?" 

"Capricorn."

"Ohhhh, so serious." I say. "You've got that Saturn going on." 

We talk astrology a bit and I learn about him. He's a software developer and grew up with a doctor father and a hippy mother. He asks her for his time of birth and she texts him back a full natal chart analysis.  

"I like your mom!" I laugh.  "Aquarius rising, Capricorn sun and a... oooh, Scorpio moon. Intense. That's a really neat combo. We share the same rising sign. We come across as aloof weirdos to folks at first." 

I apologize for being too astrology nerdy. We both pick at our food and I feel far too full. 

"Want to go to the grocery store?" He asks. 

We wander out into the bright sun towards the grocery store. I hold my boxes in my arms and put them in a shopping cart while I shop around to round out my food for the next stretch. Candy, chips and other little things.  

We seperate and he finds me fretting over which cookies to buy. Something is happening, and I can feel myself slipping away from my trail family. 

We step out of the store with bags full of junk food. A man asks us if we're PCT hikers and chats us up.  

"Where are you headed?" Twisted asks him.  

"You need a ride, huh?" The man says.  

I shoot Twisted a look and he winks at me. Ride aquired! And in no time we're dropped off at the hotel. The room is empty and we both sort through our food. I open up my amazon box and in it is a beautiful shiny new jetboil. I hold it up to Twisted and smile. 

"Too heavy," He says smirking.

I roll my eyes at him. "Yes, but hot food!" 

"When are you going to hike out?" He asks me.  

"I dunno. I think I need to put some distance between me and my trail family. We've been hiking together from the start and I kinda need to shoot off on my own, I think. There have been tensions." 

The evening moves on and the others begin drinking. It gets loud and my peace escapes me. I decide to not let it frustrate me. We move out into the pool area and get into the hot tub. Ten or so hikers all piled in. We joke and laugh. Folks are getting drunk on wine and I have only two beers. 

Bananas says something passive aggressive to me that sets me off and we have a light argument. He leaves the hot tub and takes off to the airport campground acting wounded.

Everyone gathers back into the room and I curl up on the bed across from Twisted. It gets very loud and my stomach hurts from beer, town stress and too much Chinese food. Second Wind and Acid Jesus are very drunk and being loud and goofy. 

Twisted reads my distress and nudges me with his toe, "just tell them if you want quiet."

"I'm OK. It'll die down soon I think. My stomach just really hurts." 

He gives me some German digestif tablets. I crinkle my nose at the smell and taste of it.  

We try to convince Second Wind to stay in the hotel, since she's very drunk. Another hiker named Papa Oats who remained sober promises to take Acid Jesus and Second Wind to the campground safely. 

The whirl wind of drunkenness leaves the room and suddenly it is silent. I ball up into my sleeping bag and feel horrible about everything. Little Engine turns out the lights and we all move into sleep.

 

In the morning I wake early, my mood still low. I mince my way into the continental breakfast again. Twisted soon joins me and another German named Cat Weasel. They speak in English around me, so as to politely involve me in their conversation. I eat my huge sticky waffle while heat wave warnings still flash on the TV.  

Back in the room, we all pack up, check out an head to the bakery down the street. I still have a small box of things to mail off, to make room for my new cook pot. A lady in an SUV rolls up next to us and asks if we need anything, serendipitously.  

"I would love a ride to the post office!"  

"Get in!"  She commands.

She tells me that her name is Sugar, because she loves sugar on trail. She asks me how my hike has been so far, and I tell her of my recent woes. She tells me how she lost her husband of 40 years to a drunk driver and how it devastated her. It puts so much into perspective for me. 

I drop my little box containing my old cook pot off at the post office and send it home. She takes me back to the bakery, where I find Twisted, Baloo, Little Engine and Bananas.

Bananas acts like I'm not there. It's awkward. We all loiter for a bit. Twisted and I decided to all up Daniel the trail angel for a ride to the trailhead in a few hours. I need to put distance between me and my trail family now. 

It's time to strike out on my own. 

Twisted and I head towards the Burger King and eat there while we wait for our ride. Two young boys of about 16 hammer us with questions that even most adults haven't asked us. We encourage them to save their money and do the trail.  

Daniel shows up in his rattling old Toyota pickup. We load up and head out into the blazing setting sun. The wind turbines turn and turn forever and ever. 

Daniel hands me something from his pocket and it's a tiny pamphlet about attitude. I read it out loud and Twisted leans in from the back to listen. It's good.

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He takes our picture before letting us off into the small wooded area before the road. Twisted and I complain about our big packs, heavy with food. We both have small packs then most folks, and we're always concerned about how big they look. Right out of town, their always the worst. 

We find a nice site near each other, so he can hang his new hammock between two huge oaks. The turbines go WHOOSH WHOOSH WHOOSH. 

"Can I try it?" I ask him. 

"Of course." 

He shows me how to lay in it in such a way, that I am slightly diagonal and my back lies more flat.  

"This is incredible!" I exclaim. "I'm actually jealous."

He gives me a reasonably smug look. 

I lay out my ground sheet and blow up my pad, fluff up my sleeping bag and organize my gear around me. I feel better and I curl up into the warmth and watch the sway of trees and turbines turning, turning, turning. Forever into the night.