Lucky’s Best Story [Video]

NOTEWhen I hiked the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine in 2015 I hiked a good part of the way with “The [Famous] Hiking Vikings.” [My trail name was “Lucky.”]  One day when we stopped for lunch Viking whipped out his camera and asked me to tell my best story, which he put on his YouTube channel. So you can listen to “Lucky’s Best Story” or you can read it, below. Or both.

Here it is, the video version: Lucky’s Best Story

 

And the written version….

I smelled her before I saw her.

She was old woman walking slowly, carefully, down the aisle of Memorial Auditorium in Raleigh, directly toward the section where my wife, Donna, and I were seated.

We had arrived early for a performance of Riverdance, a wonderful Irish dance company that I was eager to see.

Please, I thought, please, don’t sit anywhere near me.

But she came closer and closer. And then she turned down our row, squeezed past us, and sat down in the seat right beside me. The woman had not had a bath in quite some time and she had tried, without success, to disguise her body odor with cheap perfume.

If I were the fainting type, I would have fainted.

Instead, I put my arm around my wife and leaned my head on her shoulder to get my nose as far away from the woman as I could. People behind us must have noticed, and thought, “Look at that dear old couple, still in love after all these years.”

When the performance began I hoped I would be distracted.

I wasn’t.

Or, maybe, I would just get use to it.

I didn’t.

I took a deep breath, through my nose, hoping that terrible odor would numb my sensors.

No luck.

I pressed the Riverdance program to right side of my face, to create a barrier between the woman and my nose.

Didn’t help.

And then, for some reason, I put my hand in my jacket packet and felt two ear plugs. I pulled them out, big, orange earplugs, and I knew immediately what I would do with them.

I stuck them up my nose.

The orange earplugs helped a lot but they did not solve the problem. The woman who had sat down beside me in Memorial Auditorium smelled that bad.

Riverdance: the best show on earth.
Riverdance: the best show on earth.

I couldn’t focus on the Irish dancers performing on stage.

Luckily, there were some empty seats far away from her and Donna and I decided to move at intermission.

I went to the Men’s Restroom and, to my surprise, the line was out door, like it almost always is for women. And, inside, the Men’s Restroom was packed. After I peed I stood in line again, to get to a lavatory.

While I was washing my hands I decided to pull the ear plugs out of my nose, as unobtrusively as possible, of course.

The first one was a little slimy and it slid right out. But when I tried to pull the other one out, it was gone! I stuck my little finger up my nose as far as it would go but the ear plug just wasn’t there anymore.

It has slid up into my sinus.

Now what was I going to do? It didn’t hurt, but you just can’t just leave an orange ear plug in your head. Was I going to have to go to the hospital emergency room after the show? Was somebody going to have to cut my face open?

And then I thought, well, nothing ventured, nothing gained. Maybe, just maybe, it would come out if I blew my nose.

So I leaned over the lavatory and blew. The ear plug popped right out. I picked it, put it in my pocket and squeezed past the men all around me, went to our new seats, and enjoyed the rest of the show.

But I’ve always known that several men had to have seen what happened. And they must have returned to their seats and said to their wives, “Hon, you are not going to believe this. I just saw a man blow a big, orange goober out of his nose. And then he picked it up and put it in his pocket!”

Coming Friday: The Gentle Strong Man

The [Warm] Iceman

The text message I received on July 8 said:

Good morning Lucky!”

Welcome back to Pennsylvania. Where do you think you will be on Monday or Tuesday evening. It would be nice to see you again. Iceman”

Lucky, L, and Viking
Lucky, L, and Viking

My trail name is Lucky.  And, earlier this month, Viking [AKA Nate Harrington] and I were on the second day of six-day, 100-mile hike on the Appalachian Trail, headed south to Pen Mar, MD.  This message was good news. Iceman, who has hiked all of the A.T. himself, section by section, is a trail angel I met on my A.T. thru-hike two years ago. Or, I should say: he met me.

* * *

On May 8, 2015, I hiked 24.1 miles into Port Clinton, PA, where I first laid eyes on Iceman, AKA David Martin of Lancaster, PA.

[How did he get his trail name? He brought ice to a young girl who had fallen and injured her leg. She named him.]

I blogged my 2015 hike from Georgia to Maine on Trailjournals.com. This is what I wrote about that first encounter:

Lucky and Iceman, last week
Lucky, L, and Iceman, last week

There to meet me as I came off the mountain was Iceman – he had read my blog, knew I might arrive this afternoon, and drove to Port Clinton to offer me some trail magic, beginning with an ice cold Coke and a ride to the pavilion where Crockman, Umbrella Man, Temper and I planned to spend the night.”

He invited me to his home and took me to the Cracker Barrel for supper. What an end to an already good day…thanks to Iceman, a trail angel who came right out of the blue, here I am in Lancaster, Pennsylvania: full, clean, and with clean clothes to wear tomorrow.”

Next day he drove me back to Port Clinton, took all of us to an outfitter where we could buy equipment we needed and to a grocery store to resupply –a huge help– and then back to the trailhead.

Almost two months later, on July 5, 2015, in Maine, nine days from Mt. Katahdin, the end of the hike, I blogged that I had run out of food.

I had instant potatoes for breakfast and no lunch. And there was no chance for me to buy more food until noon tomorrow in Caratunk, ME. And then along came Iceman bearing gifts for me and all the other thru-hikers [more than a dozen] gathered at Pierce Pond, waiting for morning to be ferried across the Kennebec River. Iceman had messaged me earlier asking where I’d be and then he showed up with soft drinks and lots of high calorie junk food that hikers crave.”

[He gave me extra food which allowed me to skip a time consuming resupply at Caratunk and reach Monson, 40 miles away, in two days instead of three, cutting a full day off of my trip.]

* * *

And now, here he was again, texting, asking where I’d be in a couple of days. I knew what that meant and so did Viking.

We were right.

Iceman arrived at Quarry Gap Shelters with three large pizzas, cookies, and soft drinks, enough not only for Viking and me, but, as usual, other hikers at the shelter.

Iceman reads hiker blogs, picks out hikers he wants to help, and then helps them and everyone around them. He knew Viking and I were doing a section hike in Pennsylvania because he had seen the video Viking had posted about our upcoming trip.

So how was our hike?

Terrific.

Good hikes start with the people you’re with.

I had hiked, off and on, with the Hiking Vikings [Nate and his wife, Sharon] for, I’m guessing, more than 1,500 miles two years ago, and they were good company. Sharon [Hiking], who is going to have a child in the fall, their second, did not get to come on this trip. 

Parts of the trail were NOT all that easy.
Parts of the trail were NOT all that easy.

Viking and I averaged 16.67 miles a day, a little more than we had planned. We finished the hike a half a day little early because this section was so easy, even for someone who is not in good shape.

I had hiked 154 miles around my neighborhood to prepare, but I’m not in hiker shape. Far from it. I’m way too fat.

There were a couple of [to me] hard climbs, including a really difficult climb coming south out of Duncannon, PA. But this section also has what I think it the easiest 14 miles on entire A.T. [mile 1119.7 – 1133.6] around Boiling Springs, PA.

Our hike was a tiny bit like my thru-hike:

     –There was Iceman, of course.

     –We got rained on several times.

     –One of my feet blistered, and I’m going to lose three toenails.

Why?

Most of the trail is a "green tunnel." But sometimes you get a treat, like this.
This time of year most of the trail is a “green tunnel.” But sometimes you get a treat, like this.

My boots are too small. They are size 11s; I used to be a size 10 and your boots should be a size to a size and a half larger than your foot, to allow for swelling. But my feet expanded on the thru-hike to a permanent size 11 so I need a bigger boot. Yes, yes, I finished the thru-hike in these boots and I hiked almost 200 miles in them last year. I thought they had stretched enough for me to keep wearing them, but I was wrong.

   –We ran into a lot of friendly NoBos –northbound thru-hikers– and a nutcake or two.

   –We started with a plan, and then altered it several times take advantage of conditions, like the morning we went through Duncannon and the trail ran within a few feet of a restaurant. Backpacks were lined up against the wall outside. That’s was a clue. We had already eaten a trail breakfast [Pop-Tarts and hot chocolate for me] but, naturally, we ate again.

Viking is 40-some years younger than me, but I wore him out. Oh, yea! Most of the time he was eating my dust.

That’s not the truth, but it is a fact.

He would stop and talk to almost everybody we met, gathering Hiker Tales.  I would keep trudging along. And when he finished talking Viking would come after me, double time, until he caught up. Sometimes all that running with a pack on his back wore him out.

And that’s a fact.

Coming Friday: Salvation, Part I