Meeting the Neighbors

Toasters in front of The Toaster House

Day 22: May 15, 2019

Destination: Pie Town, CDT Mile 424.6

Today’s Miles: 0

Start Location: Pie Town, CDT Mile 424.6

Trip Miles: 348.9

I had the room I’m in at the Toaster House to myself last night. It was nice to have the privacy! There are two other mattresses in it. I guess yesterday’s bubble of hikers was smaller. Tonight appears to be a full house.

I went to bed early and woke up early. I headed over to The Gathering Place, the only cafe in town that is open today. Pie Town is really just a blip on the side of highway 60. If you’re imagining a town with a Main Street, gas station, and soda fountain, you’re thinking way too big. Instead, think of a bunch of open land with a highway running through it, and two cafes across the street from each other (almost, more like kitty corner). There is a third place that makes pie over the hill called the Pioneer, but it is only open three days a week so I haven’t been there yet. I might check it out tomorrow!

A nice light breakfast....

I had a breakfast burrito smothered in green chilies and coffee for breakfast. I then walked the quarter mile back to the Toaster House to get my laundry. On the hike in, 3 miles before town, is The Top of the World convenience store. They also have a laundromat, so I planned to hitchhike there.

I got all of my stuff and took a few of the “community” towels from the hostel that we have all been using to wash as well. I don’t think they get cleaned very often.... I stood at the intersection of the highway and the road where the Toaster House and Post Office are. Cars whizzed by and I stuck my thumb out and smiled and waived for about 35 minutes, but no luck. Hitchhiking is basically the only time a middle-aged white male in America might not have an advantage.... My wife kindly reminded me of this when I later told her it took me a while to get a ride. In fact, I didn’t get a ride! Two young female hikers in their 20s stopped a car and asked the lady very sweetly if she might give their poor, struggling, fatherly hiker compadre a ride to the convenience store. I was actually picking up a Gatorade and ginger ale for one of the girls (she’s been quite ill recently), so they knew I was headed to Top of the World. The lady, now with confirmation from the girls that I was not a deranged lunatic, swung over and I hopped in.

I can’t remember her name, but her chihuahua, Coco, made my lap his seat as we sped along the highway. I thanked her profusely for the ride. I wondered how in the heck I would ever get back.

Laundry time!

Laundry went smoothly. They had WiFi there, so I could see that my tent part was shipping today. I still am not sure when it will arrive, but I guess Friday. I’ll just rest my feet until then and think about snow melting in Colorado. I did some more research on snow shoes. Right now, I’m planning on picking up a pair of snowshoes and having those sent to Cuba, NM. I’ll use those to get me just over the Colorado border to the pass where we all hitch into Chama, NM. That’s where I’ll pick up my ice axe and micro spikes, which I will likely need farther north. That’s what I’m thinking.

I also ordered a third pair of socks. Starting in Grants, for the first time, I’ll be hiking with three pairs of socks instead of two. In an effort to reduce blisters, I’m going to try to change out my socks more frequently. It’s so dusty out here, I think my socks get crusty more quickly. That small amount of abrasion can’t be helping my feet.

I failed at hitching again, but a nice older gentleman who was doing laundry as well gave me a ride back. His name was Bob - great guy. At the store I also bought sea salt (they didn’t have Epsom salts). At the Toaster House I cleaned a bucket that was sitting outside, filled it with warm water and sea salt, and soaked my feet. It felt great!

Around that time, this guy came out on the porch and told us all that he lived down the road. He said he and his wife were making pizza and beer and had some guitars, and welcomed us to go visit. He seemed nice enough, but also had an edge to him. I wasn’t going to go, but after I soaked and elevated my feet, I decided pizza sounded pretty good. Besides, towns on the trail are part of the adventure! The owner of the Toaster House pulled up and then offered us a ride there (she knew him, of course), so a few hikers and I jumped in. He didn’t live far, but I was happy not to have to walk.

I will not use his real name here for privacy reasons. I’ll call him Eric, since he said he really liked Eric Clapton. Eric was definitely the kind of guy who liked to drink beer all day. When we got there he was very gracious and offered us some microwave pizzas and beverages of various alcoholic strengths.... I grabbed a coke out of the fridge!

Eric showed us the brandy he was fermenting in the middle of his kitchen in a large, plastic storage container. He had a bunch of guitars and what looked like a sniper rifle by the back door of his trailer. We all went to his back porch, where he and his wife played some songs on acoustic guitar. They are both quite talented! His wife had the most beautifully haunting voice, and the authenticity of her sound was the kind one can only acquire through trials and tribulations. I loved listening to them!

In between songs there was witty banter, but also stories of those very trials and tribulations. Eric is my age and served in the first Iraq engagement. He’s from Kentucky, but later moved here to get some space and to get away from drugs. He told us he was on heroin and homeless at one point after the war, but managed to get clean and stay clean on his own. He met his wife and they moved out here.

Mickey greets all at The Toaster House

I can see how some people would feel uncomfortable around him - he’s a very frank guy, and there was a ton of drinking and some smoking of “alternative” cigarettes, if you know what I mean. Normally I make my secret exit and sneak out in these situations, but, for whatever reason, I felt like I could understand him, if only just a little bit. I stuck around for a few more songs, and then when the Toaster House owner left, I caught a ride back with her.

I felt touched that Eric had let us into his little world, just for a little while. He doesn’t like to leave his house really, which probably has at least some PTSD roots. But in his own way, he welcomed us to his home and shared a little about his life, which is more honesty than we might get from some neighbors we have in a lifetime. I hope he can find peace and be happy here, whatever that means for him.

I didn’t sit back at the Toaster House for long before deciding to head back to The Gathering Place for food. Despite the pizza, I was still hungry and it was only 4:30.

I ate some enchiladas and lemon chess pie while a few of us hikers played “guess my real name.” I had Serenity convinced for a moment that my name was Billy Bob Jebediah, because I am from Georgia.

Tomorrow I hope to have a better idea of when my tent part should get here. I’m happy to rest my feet, but also ready to fly. Speaking of which, there are tons of hummingbirds here! Two were just buzzing around my hat!

I’m glad I have a nice place to rest and stay. I know this will serve me well as I head north. Meanwhile, I have some route choices to make to get to Grants, NM. Both seem cool so I am still trying to decide.

Adios for now!

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