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CDT NM 7th Section

Days 76-77: Another Travel Odyssey and the End (for now!)

Day 76: Albuquerque

I woke up even before my 6am alarm went off. I was half packed up before I realized I was going way too fast, so I stopped to lie back down and stare at the map for a few minutes. I didn’t need to eat breakfast, so even with wiping red dirt off the bottom of my tent then washing it off my hands, I still was headed out onto the road by 7:15. I passed a lady setting up an easel and a bunch low dirt roofed huts that looked like movie sets if not for the screen doors. And then I was finally at the trailhead and not in the national forest anymore.

I dropped my pack inside the Long House since it didn’t seem like it was being used. Then, what to my wondering eyes should appear but an outlet on the wall that actually worked. So I left my phone and battery to charge too. I put on my name badge and walked to the dining hall and right inside like I owned the place just as breakfast was starting. 30 minutes later I was fed and had many hours to pass.

I washed my hair in the bathroom sink, then fetched my phone and took it to the patio of the library to use the wifi. I confirmed the bus stop and pickup time with RTD. When I heard a teacher announce a group of kids would head up to the Arts Center, I went to fetch my backpack down. I chilled in front of the library for an hour with the flies and the shade of an overcast sky.

Just before 10:30, a class from a writing retreat showed up and kicked me off the patio because that is where they were meeting. So I gathered my things and moved to a chair in the field in front of the dining hall. I still had internet so it was fine, but the kids playing in the pool were very noisy compared to the quiet morning on the patio.

A bit after 11, I could finally check in for my flight. At 11:30, I decided to put on sunscreen before lunch. At noon, it was time for lunch, so I headed back inside the dining hall.

Slices of beef with gravy, beans and corn, cole slaw, salad. Lemonade. Chocolate cake for dessert and an apple to go. I dropped my dishes, went back out to pick up my pack and started walking down the road to the highway.

Along the way, I fell in beside a girl wearing A Liquid Death shirt. She was there for the writers retreat, and asked if I was too despite my assuredly grungy appearance and enormous backpack. But enough about me–I immediately deflected with questions about the classes, her Denver writing network, and the nature of screenwriting. Past the museum entrance, though, I was walking down the road alone. Well, alone except for the gate guard and the dozens of cars headed into the ranch. All these people coming to visit despite the place already being mobbed by writers and children.

I arrived at the bus stop 20 minutes early. It was just a sign on the side of the highway–no shade. I stood a while, then realized I might be riding bathroomless busses for the next three hours and walked down the steep shoulder into a nook that couldn’t be seen from the road. Then I stood on the roadside for another ten minutes. Let me tell you, waiting in the sun beside a highway for a bus that’s more than five minutes late is nowhere near as fun as hiking in the mountains. Anyway, it finally came and I was on my way back to Española.

As soon as we came into range, the driver started cranking the radio, blasting country music into the back at a million decibels. No one else seemed to mind, but I put in my headphones unplugged just to passively dampen the cacophony. It was clear those speakers weren’t designed to handle quite that much amplitude. We then took a long stop picking up a cyclist whose fat tire bike didn’t fit in the front-mounted bike rack, but they sure tried before they gave up and brought it inside the bus.

Finally, 50 minutes from when I got on, I got off at the transit center, which is admittedly just a parking lot. I dropped my pack on the shady side of the little shelter and sat on it. For 1.5 hours. A bunch of people went thru, but the last half hour, the shelter was occupied by a couple of Latino guys, one of which was an old guy with a bottle of some apparently very strong liquor. His manner of speech was exactly like a typical Latino movie gangster. If you’re imagining a portrayal so broad it has to be racist, you’re spot on. He sounded exactly like that. Except he was talking about his fat son wasting bananas and how he just found out he had a daughter from a fling at age 19 who is already my age. Which wasn’t a surprise when just a minute before he had been bragging about how much he used to f*ck when he was young. (Keep in mind that stereotype you were imagining before when you picture him saying this latter bit.)

Anyway, another kid came up and asked to borrow my phone to make a call just before the bus arrived. The bus arrived on time, and I had to reclaim my phone before he could finish. Finally, though, I was headed to Santa Fe. Not my final destination, but the air-conditioned bus was a godsend on a hot day, several degrees cooler than the parking lot.

It was an unexpectedly quick trip to the terminus in Santa Fe. I waited there at the station for maybe ten, fifteen minutes and a 2 bus came. Everything was running behind our something, but I should have paid more attention to the direction. It was headed downtown and I wanted to go south. But I had already paid my one-way fare and it was my last dollar (unless they could make change). So I was just going to keep riding up and back to where I started and then down again.

I got off across the street from the office for the shuttle to ABQ, and they made me a booking right there in the office. They told me it left at 7:45, then 6:45. Well, that meant an hour for dinner. I poked into the Vietnamese place across the breezeway, but it looked fancy inside and they had no outdoor seating. I was far too grubby for that. At the other end of the strip, there was a Mexican diner. So I went in and had a couple of beers and an enchilada plate, which came with sopapillas. And a chips and salsa starter.

I finished just before 6:45, then went back to the office. I sat in the curb outside, then the driver of the van that was running by the opposite curb set off its car alarm. I went over to find out what was up and found out he was my driver, but he wasn’t leaving until 7:25. Well, statistically, they got the time right.

But he let me load up and wait in the van for the half hour and we just chatted until it was time to go. We had a couple of other stops in town, but we only ended up picking up one other passenger. Then it was off to the airport.

It felt like a much longer trip than the one into Española. Maybe just because it had been a long day and the sun was setting. I mean, it probably was a bit longer too. But this time the driver played the classical station and not particularly loud. And wanted to chat about hiking and science news even when the road noise was too loud to hear him over.

It was maybe like 8:30 or 8:45 when he, after dropping the other guy, looped around for the hotel shuttle pickup island. I called the hotel and they said the shuttle had left four minutes before and would arrive shortly. And so it did. I got on with all the flight crew of an American Airlines flight. Yes, the flight attendants still tall like that even once they’re out of the terminal. But I was able to go check in first, and while I was, I got quarters for the guest laundry, a razor, and she even gave me a box of detergent and soda for free just to avoid having to deal with making more change for me.

Then, in the room, I lounged, got a shower, shaved, lounged some more, and finally, just before midnight, put on my backup clothes (which smelled sour from their proximity to my rain-damp towel) and took the rest to the laundry. I was up way past my bedtime, but I didn’t think there would be enough time in the morning. I should have started washing them earlier but after going all day, it just took so much motivation to get up.

Anyway, I retrieved the dry clothes a bit before 1, and finally put out the lights, leaving the repacking of my backpack for the flight for the morning.

Trail miles: like 2

Day 77: Home

I had set an alarm for 8 on my phone, but I woke up even before my 6am watch alarm. And this despite the incredible blackout curtains that left me wondering whether my room even had a window well after sunrise. I guess a full night’s sleep just wasn’t in the cards.

I put on my Sockwas as slippers and headed to the lobby. I ordered a breakfast quesadilla and a latte from the “restaurant,” which looked more like a Starbucks counter with a bucket of yogurt cups on it. I ate it there in the lobby, then headed back to the room to get my bag repacked and myself otherwise ready for flying. I checked out just before 9:30, arranging for the next shuttle and buying a root beer for the road.

As ABQ is a pretty small airport, checking my bag took no time, but getting through security took a surprisingly long time even with pre-check. Even so, I still had like half an hour until boarding started. So I bought another soda and sat down. Boarding went exceedingly slowly. I boarded with at the very end of my boarding group so I could spend as little time standing in line as possible. With no carry-on, there’s no reason to get on early.

I was sat in a middle seat next to the only guy on the plane who wanted to repeatedly open the window shade and blind everyone and a cute girl dressed all in denim who spent half the flight airsick and rubbing at her temples but managed not to have to use an airsick bag (but took it with her for her connecting flight just in case). The drink service actually offered small bags of Sun Chips as a snack, an unusual treat for an airplane snack.

The plane had left the gate a few minutes late, but not so much that time couldn’t be made up in the air. It landed on time, but even with the time required to reach baggage claim, it was another 45 minutes before bags started arriving at the carousel. Enough time to get in line at Auntie Ann’s, acquire some pretzel bites and cheese, eat them, stand around, find a seat, and sit for a bit before the first bags started coming off. But my bag was one of the first off and the Lyft driver came four minutes after being called, so I managed to get on the road by 6pm, just an hour and a half after landing.

But that’s 6pm on Friday, so obviously it was still going to be an hour before I got home.

Yet I got home early, got fed way more food than I’m used to, watched some Gunsmoke tried on some new pants, got online for a bit, then found I was sleepy at the same hour I had been going to sleep at. Which was strange because I was two hours east of where I had woken up. Maybe it was just the staying up late the night before that did me in. Anyway, it wasn’t nearly as big as day as the previous. And that was it. All done.

But that doesn’t mean this blog is all done!

Firstly, recall that, while I have now completed the CDT, I still have not hiked the Mt. Jefferson section of the PCT due to the Lionshead fire closure. Who knows when it will finally reopen or when I can get out there again? Maybe next year! That’ll be another week long section. I also have a special treat planned as a one-off post in the next couple of months.

However, I do expect that within the next few months I will begin the process of archiving this blog. That is to say, I will be compressing the recent photos, moving this blog to a subdomain, and making the top level site more of a personal page with links to other content I have hosted here, including the blogs. The new address will likely be http://shinydays.rutteric.com. So get ready to update your bookmarks if you have any.

That’s all for now. HYOH!

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