The Arizona Trail had been an absolutely wonderful experience! Everyday was scenic. We chose a good year to hike it too! There was more water available than usual, not to mention the superbloom that locals told us was more vibrant this year than the past two decades! I was also thrilled that my health didn’t fail me this time. No fractures, so I’m hopeful that’s confirmation that my new meds are working. Fingers crossed!
The time had finally come to tread dirt elsewhere. First thing first, we had to get out of the middle of nowhere and to a town. Everyone at the campground was sleeping or making breakfast, so we decided to start walking the 10 miles to the highway, hoping that someone would pass by and give us a lift. After walking about a mile, two men named Mike in a Toyota FJ Cruiser pulled over.
“You’ll have to ride on the back bumper, the car is full. You wouldn’t be the first!”
We took them up on the offer, partially out of desperation and partially because it sounded dangerously fun! It was a dusty ride, and was done in two spurts since they wanted to claim a tent site on the way. Our legs were pretty cramped, so that was fine with me!
After dropping us at the highway, they tossed some apples, chips and dip our way.
“Look at him eating the dip!” Driver Mike said to Passenger Mike, with the same enthusiasm one has while enjoying wildlife. They turned around to return to their camp site as we stood on the side of the road dancing with our thumbs out, hoping someone would take us to the town of Page, AZ.
Everyone driving by us responded with irritated or fearful expressions. This was a first. Our dancing didn’t lighten anyones mood on this road, that is until a tiny car blasting techno music blew by. I caught a glimpse of the three people in the car smiling and laughing, which made me happy. Even if people don’t pick us up, it’s always nice to put smiles on people’s faces. Fortunately for us, they decided to turn around and help us out.
The driver’s name was Paul and he was from Finland. The girl in the backseat was an American named Ana who was married to Paul, and the guy in the passenger seat was her brother Cody. They told us that they decided to turn around because we had been dancing on beat with the song they were listening to. In case you want assistance painting a picture of this moment, they were listening to “Skibidi” by the Russian group Little Big. According to Paul, the dance moves to the song are the latest craze in Europe. The rave continued as we exchanged music during the ride to Page.
When we got to town we got a room for the night, then freshened up, ate huge quantities of food, then worked towards finding our way back to Flagstaff. Frisbee’s license just so happened to expire while we were away, so flying would be a hassle, requiring him to schedule a lengthy interrogation. As much as I dreaded it, we decided to make our exit via the Greyhound, and the closest station was in Flag. Frisbee was thrilled about this new experience. I knew oh so well what I was in for, and was much less enthused.
After dancing by an intersection, we had a few people tell us they might be able to help us out later in the day or that they could take us halfway. We continued thumbing it until a guy in a truck pulled over and said, “I’m only going to Flagstaff.” I responded, “That’s perfect! that’s exactly where we’re headed!”
The driver’s name was Eric and he was a Navy veteran who was currently working at the nearby power plant. Over the 2-hour drive, we had a lot of good conversation. We talked about our hike, life, and he shared with us his desire to go on a similar adventure. He was straightforward about what was holding him back. It wasn’t financial security, he was good to go in that department. He didn’t have any huge obligations or responsibilities. He also loved travel and hiking. He actually explored a new place to hike on his days off, and was heading to Flag to check out a trailer he was debating on purchasing. What he claimed was really holding him back was his fear of stepping outside of his comfort zone. We shared some lessons we learned over the years, and hoped we inspired him to do what he’s been dreaming of doing when he leaves his job. Adventure always starts right outside of your comfort zone.
Once we were back in Flagstaff, we scheduled our bus ride for the following day and wandered around town. We were happy to run back into our buddies (and trail angels) Hendrix and Squirrel Pilot. The four of us went out to eat BBQ, then did our share of people watching. It was Cinco de Mayo, so there was plenty of drunken shenanigans to witness.
One guy climbed the light post by the train tracks and jumped on it like he was on a trampoline. Shortly after that, we unexpectedly approached two drunk girls peeing in a bush. On a different street, two guys were in the process of getting arrested as others were stumbling along the streets. Since we weren’t partaking in the libations, we giggled a bit at some intoxicated people on the patio and on the dance floor at one of the bars we passed.
It was getting late, so they drove us back to the forest so we could set up our tent for the night. They’d drive us to the Greyhound station the next morning.
To be continued…