"The world does not reward honesty and independence, it rewards obedience and service. It’s a world of concentrated power, and those who have power are not going to reward people who question that power."-Chomsky

"The trouble with self-delusion, either in a person or a society, is that reality doesn't care what anybody believes, or what story they put out. Reality doesn't "spin." Reality does not have a self-image problem. Reality does not yield its workings to self-esteem management." -J.H. Kunstler

"You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows."-Dylan

Saturday, July 12, 2008

7/12/08: Pocatello to McCammon, ID-Slaying a Dragon

I woke up rather late beneath the bushes huddled beneath my raincoat for protection from the sprinkler and the chilly night. I packed quicker than normal because I was unusually close to the exit ramp, and rather than being in a depression in the terrain, I was on a small hill in plain view of Pocatello’s Saturday morning traffic.

Then it was off to the Flying J gas station. I got my 65-cent
coffee refill and sat down outside hoping the backpack would help strike up a conversation leading to a ride to at least the truck stop in McCammon. I got half of it; the conversation. There was a couple of trucks filled with Boy Scouts returning from camping in the Tetons but headed west; toward Rupert. I would not be going back to Rupert.

I was now fixated on the "real" Flying J in McCammon, and hoped getting there would help me decide: Montana or Denver. (Still undecided!) It had become clear, and did not escape me, how fearful I still was. Montana, or anywhere but Denver carried with it risk. Denver was safe and within reach. My fear was overpowering my sense of adventure and clouding judgment preventing me from relying on recent history and hard-earned experience. I "knew" I’d gone through all of this before, in San Francisco, and that there was little difference between then and now, but just couldn’t get the clarity needed to allow that experience, and the memory of meeting Eric & Marine, guide me. I would not "really" be able to see that until much later.

After an hour, I made my planned trip to the Walmart Supercenter, conveniently located directly behind the gas station, to get food and cigarettes while at my apex of the indecision cycle and thinking Montana was the way to go. I went directly to the canned food section grabbing some salmon, off-brand Beefaroni, and a new staple: pork & beans. I also picked up Ibuprofen, razors, and a couple of Clif bars.

The Clif bars had by now been all but eliminated due to cost. Some places charge as much as $1.85/ea. and, while they are great for energy and convenient, I was spending in the neighborhood of $20 a week on them; something I could easily eliminate. Walmart had them for $.75 making it a difficult decision not to get a whole box!

I was a great curiosity at Walmart. I guess people are not used to seeing a fully loaded backpacker come through doing his Saturday morning shopping. The looks! It was curiosity mixed with utter amazement at the size of the pack and my appearance. I took no small pleasure in this. Kids were the best! I overheard one saying to his dad, “He looks like Survivorman!” I got a kick out of that because Survivorman (Les Stroud) is my favorite TV show, but I also felt a bit ashamed! I doubt Les would have been plagued by the asinine, fabricated, mental drama I had created over the last 24 hours! Let alone be caught dead at Walmart buying Clif bars and canned salmon!

On the way out, I realized that I had forgotten my tobacco (horrors!), so had to go back to the ‘tobacco line’. At the register, I slowly began to recognize the young man working it! It was the kid driving the overheated minivan in Jerome! I could not believe it, but after a moment of metaphysical reflection, I could. He remembered me and said, “This is all the farther you’ve gotten?” I just shook my head not repeating what I was thinking. “Why the hell didn’t I hit you up for a ride when I had the chance?” That was one of the more odd events of the trip so far. Eerie. It was as though the universe is mocking me saying, “See? I tried helping you. You refused. Dumbass!” I walked out shaking my head dumbfounded.

The plan was to sit down outside, pack my new loot, and then head to the I-86 ramp to score a ride to McCammon. There was, thankfully, a different feel to the day and I felt optimistic that I’d have success at getting out there and perhaps beyond.

I was walking past the lawn furniture display and sitting there was a large, badass looking young man who, despite looking like he belonged on the cage fighting circuit, was quite friendly and asked what I was up to. I thought he had the right idea and became another person demonstrating the comfort and versatility of this luxurious Walmart lawn furniture. I began packing while chatting with Trevor about the California and Oregon coasts, and he got particularly interested when I told him about the freight train. Funny thing about that train: it seems to be the one story I have that garners the most attention even though, to me, after the initial euphoria, at the time it was no big deal; even something of a disappointment.

He asked where I was going next, and when I said I was trying to get to the Flying J truck stop in McCammon he lit up saying he and his friends were going right by there on their way to Lava Hot Springs where they were going to drink beer and "play on the river". He immediately called a friend to see if I could catch a ride. After some creative ways of generating gas money: no problem. I felt bad that I could not really offer them anything but that was the reality.

Trevor seemed like a decent dude, but he offhandedly talked about how he would be going to jail on Monday because of a failure to pay his probation officer. This left me mildly concerned, and I spent a few moments creating my now famous imaginary scenarios that conclude with me in a bloody heap out in the desert, minus my (almost empty) wallet and backpack. I can be a creatively disturbing cuss. I caught myself slipping into Paranoid Bitch role, again, and quietly, but severely chastised myself, then felt quite at ease when his friend Dustin and his girlfriend emerged from the store. It helped to remember how much of a tool I felt like after the Boise ride.

I again declined to load my pack into the trunk (just a good policy if you can help it) instead keeping it stowed on my lap in the front seat as we set off toward the "real"  Flying J, 25-miles south of the I-86/I-15 interchange. These were just some kids off to have some good (mildly) clean fun. They reminded me of people I would have hung out with if I was a bit younger, and for a while, I missed those days! Drinking beer, basking in the sun, and hoping you didn’t get hurt. At least not too bad! I even thought about tagging along to experience a REAL Idaho Saturday night but decided against it in favor of trying to get my head on straight and getting this indecision under control. In retrospect, going with them and not thinking about it may have been exactly the tonic I needed, but I will never know for sure.

Trevor (the bald guy), Dustin, and Mystery Girl dropped me at the truck
stop after quite an enjoyable and informative ride. I learned quite a bit about the area and found it to be not unlike where I grew up. Just fewer trees! I got a picture and they went on their way while I began surveying the Flying J I had been so hellbent on.

It was definitely a "real" truckstop. About the same size as
Jerome' and had good traffic. It was also located on US-30, so I could indeed go either way: Montana or Denver. Even to Utah if I could find a ride through it, or at least to a truck stop that may serve as a haven shielding me from fascists and Mormons!

I sat outside for a bit then trudged into the trucker’s lounge to write and charge the cell. I was disengaging. If you would have asked me why I could not have answered. I just felt like it was the right thing to do. I had reached the point where I simply had to begin the process of reflection, self-examination, and the same processing of events I'd needed back in Fruitland. There were no intermittent destinations to help me to procrastinate the inevitable. This was it. So, there I sat. Writing. Thinking. Drinking coffee.

The weight of my money issue became THE significant problem. So much so that, at times, it factored into every detail of my thought process. Like the fog on the coast, I could not see through it.

There were times that I was sure the trip was over; even for good and that,= I was destined to be back in Santa Fe, even if it were via Denver for a short time. The thought of going back to find work seemed to lead only to my contrived inevitable: quitting.

Yet, through all of this negativity there were examples of clear recollection fighting to escape.

I remembered the conflict with myself in San Francisco. Again. Deciding to enter the Headlands was obviously a bigger decision than I realized at the time. It also reminded me of one of my favorite questions to ask yourself, “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” 

I had also asked myself in San Francisco, “Would you have traded meeting Florian and his family for anything?” Of course not. Then why eliminate the adventure up the road to Oregon? That is what had reset my brain in California and led to Eric and Marine 3-days later. But, despite that, it still was not working today.

During the day Laina surprisingly pointed out, or rather reiterated, something that had been obvious to me until this point. Things always work out. Things come along at the right time. I had seen this, and now believed it. Friar had seen and experienced it on his cross country walk. Laina now even believed it! Nevertheless, for me, then, it was impossible to lean on. It seemed that my faith in not only that, but myself, was beginning to fail. I was fully aware of the attitude changes of the past couple of days and wondered if I could rely on myself to keep a clear head, make good decisions, and follow through.

A nasty rabbit hole I had descended in to! 

***I had no way to realize it at the time, but this episode was a miniature example of something that would continue to haunt me on a much larger scale much later on.***

Fear and Impatience won Saturday’s battle, even though I knew for sure that, for whatever reason I was supposed to be here. Even though I could see the forest through the trees, I didn’t want to just accept that the forest was there. I had taken 10-steps back: trying to intellectually and institutionally manhandle the situation; something I knew better than to try to do. I was painfully relearning a most valuable lesson. An important lesson was being bonded into my brain.

Things got progressively worse as the day moved to night. I had found a table outside where I could sit, relax, smoke, write, and hope for a ride. I sat there thinking, lost in my own head until I came to the realization of the obvious: the source of my frustration was…myself.

It was not "money's"’ fault. It was mine for losing sight of the original vision and getting giddy about how much "fun" I was having. It was my own fault if I had to quit. It was my own fault if I could not make the decisions I wanted to make now because of foolish spending all along. I was not frustrated or mad with anyone but my own damn self!

Not even the Mormons! Well, maybe a little...

That realization came slowly and as my mood began to lighten, with both acceptance of it and a developing stubborn, ornery, resolve to “fucking fix it!”, things began slowly returning to normal. My thinking moved away from self-pity “woe is me!” to lessons and solutions.

Shortly after all this began, I found a potential ride with a trucker. He was going to Salt Lake City in the (Sunday) morning, and while SLC did not thrill me, I had begun to alter my thinking back to taking things as they came. The driver said he was leaving at 5am, so I said I would be there at 4:30.

With that, a very trying, troubling day came to a merciful end. I walked to the opposite side of the truck parking, set up the nest, set the alarm, and tried to get a few hours sleep before my chariot to Salt Lake City departed. 

I had trouble sleeping as I thought about the course of the day. Lying there, I began to reclaim a bit more responsibility for myself and the fact that I control the future of this trip. I concluded that this day, as unflattering (and embarrassing to write about) as it was, was going to be one of the most important of any I will have as long as this lasts.