So many hours pass on the asphalt and there is little time to tell stories from the road as they happen. A story drifts into old news before time arrives to put it to words. These passing stories have begun to run together from this past week.
To begin, my push cart is no more than a cyclist’s stroller. I seem to forget that and give it substantial utilitarian value. The truth is, many motorist driving past think I might be pushing a baby down the highway. With the weather as hot as its been and my location so remote, it has caused my being stopped by law enforcement officers on two occasions to see if I might have a child in a stressful situation. Numerous motorist have also stopped to ask the question: “what’s in there?” “My stuff,” is the short answer, but I am of course respectful of people’s concerns and assure them no child is under the cover. Sometimes I open it up so that doubting wife in the truck’s passenger seat can see for herself. You can tell when you need to make the extra effort. As for law enforcement, it can go either way. Walking down the highway, with or without a baby, just seems to create a problem. A man with a cart doesn’t just enter and exit a county in an hour or two with the help of a good combustion engine. Nope … he’s on slow time, and that means he needs to rest his head somewhere. “After a cart inspection the next question is, “Where are you staying?” My answer, “The best motel I can find officer. If the motels are all full, I’ll be calling you.” It isn’t a bad thing to be stopped. Actually it feels reassuring. When the temps were so hot a few days back I had a truck pull up and a farmer pass a cold wet towel and a bottle of water out his window. “I’ve driven back and forth down this road three times today and the last time I past by I told myself to bring something back.” Later in the afternoon another man and his wife dropped off four large bottles of cold Gatorade and said “Have fun!” It is in some way an act of connection … this walking the highway.
Another story that hasn’t left me yet concerns lodging in Arapaho. A nice older innkeeper provided “a special deal” since I was walking across America. Her place was called The Shady Rest. It was a small family owned motor court that flourished across the America of my youth. I enjoyed the town and got a few things done before turning in at 9pm. I noticed an old red pickup truck in front of her office/home with a license plate that read “CreamPuff”. The story materializes a few hours after falling off to sleep. I awoke to a sound of my rooms door being tampered with. It opened and a lady’s thin wiry wrist popped through the opening and began to fiddle with the chain. With a quick hand motion she had the chain lock off its catch and then began to push the door, which I thought had been safely blocked by my cart… not so. In a second or two the cart obstacle had been breeched. Since my first awakenings my voice had grown loud with concern. “I’m Here!” “I’m trying to sleep… What the hell are you doing!” Louder louder, louder, my fearful voice rose. How odd. I am shouting at a frail aged innkeeper dead set on entering my room and breaching my defenses like I hadn’t any. Well, as soon as she got the door open and the light on to expose my farmer-tanned torso rising out of the bedsheets, she stopped. She flipped off the light and shut the door. I put my pants on and wanted some kind of explanation. Outside, walking back from the room next door was my intruder. She had two Harley enthusiasts leaning against their bikes with some amusement on their faces. “I’m sorry. I woke you up, didn’t I? I just couldn’t remember renting out room 105 and these gentlemen needed rooms side by side. You get back to sleep.”
Do not to underestimate the elderly. Thin wrists, a lack of hearing, and a soft memory can have many useful applications. And if their nickname is CreamPuff …