I'd put my tent in amongst the trees. Gosh it got dark back there. The fog and the rain quite obscured the stars. It wasn't so awfully cold. Still I was slow in packing up. Some days you just don't have the strength. It really is a pain in the ass. I've got to get me a valet. Or a Sherpa. Or a positive attitude and a more energetic soul.
Despite the promises of almost a week the sun was nowhere to be seen. The world was shrouded in a thickish fog that did not quite reach the ground. My road took me more or less due east, up and down rolling hills. Up. Then down. Then up again. Each looked quite like the next. There was no sense of progress. There was plenty of corn. And one or two friendly cows.
I stopped several times, every mile or two, to eat more bread and cheese. And to break the monotony. You get bored after a while. And somehow my pack felt lopsided. My back was bothering me some. It didn't hurt but it felt like it might. I've been fairly lucky so far. The only injury I've suffered is a broken heart. Trust me, you get used to that.
And I bear no grudges. I have nothing but the utmost respect and admiration for the brave men and women of the United States Forest Service. They work hard, mean well, have beautiful eyes and smile that would melt your heart.
Some hours in, I sensed the sun. I couldn't see it but I knew it was there. And ten minutes later it had cooked off the fog and revealed a clear blue sky. Ornamented here and there with white fluffy clouds of the sort a child might draw. It was beautiful. I thought I might cry. It was by then one p.m.
And I was out of water. I've been carrying the same superfluous half-gallon since Valentine. But today I drank it up with eight more miles to town.
Now you can walk eight miles without water. You can walk it without shoes or socks. But I can be highly suggestible when it comes to dying of thirst. I start thinking I might and my throat goes dry and soon it starts to swell shut. If I'd had anything else on my mind I wouldn't have noticed at all.
I stopped at a friendly farmhouse. A nice lady filled up my jug. Her husband had a grand moustache. They had a lot of cats. Being so close to the highway, the poor things often get squished. So rather than risk one day being without, they like to keep a few in reserve.
From there it was down the road to Pilger. It was a mile out of my way. But I had a burger in the saloon. Everyone was real nice. But I couldn't linger. I was back on the road in something under an hour. And I no longer need thirty-nine Cokes, now that it's not so hot.
I left Pilger (pronounced Pill-grrr, not Pill-jurr) on a back road. Dirt. It was lined with corn. There were very few cars but every one slowed so the people inside could stare. I was starting to feel just a little self-conscious, like I had cheese in my beard.
I had grown quite accustomed to my Cowboy Trail. A dirt road's the next best thing. It is strange after so many days on my own to have traffic roaring by. My favorite place to walk is still on sidewalks. I hardly meet those at all. If I were an Internet billionaire, I'd build a sidewalk across America.
And no one could use it but me.
And people I like. And people I would like if I ever met them. And people I hate just a little. And their friends.
I am now on Highway 51 east, or camped artfully beside it. It is getting harder to find good spots. It is lucky I've got hobo skills. Safe, not too cold and invisible, fifteen feet off the road.
It is not a very well travelled road, not on late Sunday afternoons. I hope it is every bit as empty tomorrow. There is no shoulder at all. I am almost out of cheese. My next meal is yet sixteen miles away. Unless I want to eat tinned weeners, which between you and me, I don't.
MY DIRT Road took me past several feed lots. It let me avoid several more. They are stinking and awful places. The cows--steers, I guess they are--look at me pleadingly. The food's good but they don't like it there. They want me to let them go.
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