Monday, December 31, 2007

Report From 30,000 ft

I'm on my way to Florida! I stayed up until about 2:30 in the morning last night, getting the last of my affairs in order. I wrote out a check to the IRS for those pesky estimated taxes I'm required to pay by January 15th. I did a few last minute tweaks to Atlas Quest, and copied the last of my changes to the all important flash drive.

I'm sure I forgot a few things, but I'll live. =)

I slept about two or three hours before waking up again to go to the airport. I didn't sleep especially well, but who does the night before they go off for a 3 1/2 month hike? Not nervous--I've done this before, after all--but anxious and excited. The moment has come. And I'm bald! =)

Yesterday was a long day for me, and much of it was spent running around town looking for seam sealer that works on silcone impregnated nylon. I've been sewing lots of colored bags--much nicer than the all green, all the time bags I made for the AT. I have about a dozen colors available this time--bright red, yellow, white, light blue, mid-tone blue, dark blue, purple, black, orange, a wonderfully gaudy flourescent yellow, and even a shiny silver color.

The thing is, when you poke a bunch of holes in it with a sewing machine, it tends not to be waterproof anymore. It's a slippery material that most seam sealers can't stick to well, so I needed a special seam sealer that works specifically for this material.

I didn't buy it with the fabric since I *thought* I already had some, but two days ago, after much searching, gave up. I walked to Mountain Air Sports to pick some up, but got the wrong kind. The back had a sentence which started, "For silicone impregnated nylon...." I stopped reading at this point--time is short, and that's what I needed!

Big mistake. Turns out, the end of the sentence read, "do not use this product, use such-and-such OTHER product."

Whoops. So yesterday, I walked back to exchange the item. Except they ran out of the seam sealer I needed. No problem, I think, I'll get it at Granite Mountain Stairway. I walk to that store... and they were closed on Sunday.

Crap. Now I had a problem. I had no idea where else in town would carry such a specialty item. Maybe, just maybe, Big 5 would have it. It was a long shot, but I was desperate.

Being on foot, keep in mind, I'm walking around to all these places.

Along the way, I passed what appeared to be a fishing store with lots of outdoor gear, so I stopped in to check. Nope. They suggested an army surplus store nearby--so I went there, but they were closed on Sunday.

Drats. Next, Big 5, and not surprisingly, struck out again. Since I was now at Madonna Plaza, I dropped into Payless Shoes to look for an extra set that my mom could forward to me on the trail, and I did find another nice set of shoes. I have two spare sets available now.

Then I stopped at Ralphs, the nearly supermarket, buying lots of food for the trail.

But I still needed seam sealer. On the way back to my mom's place, I stopped at a bicycle shop in pure desperation, and as expected, they had no such thing.

I figured I'd have to acquire it in Florida and seam seal my bags there, until I discovered my own sorce at 12:30 last night! Woo-who! I knew I had some! =)

By then, it was too late to apply it in California--it wouldn't be cured well enough before I had to leave for the airport. I still need to seam seal my bags.

I'm now somewhere over Texas or something. Maybe we're even further--Alabama or Louisiana or something. I see solid ground outside, so I know we aren't over the Gulf of Mexico.

They were supposed to play the Nancy Drew movie for this fight, which I'm sure Amanda would have been thrilled to know I finally saw it, but they had trouble with the tape and played The Nanny Diaries instead.

Kind of a strange movie, but there was a line near the end that seemed oddly apropriate for me at on this particular fight. I don't remember the quote exactly, but to paraphrase, it was that some anthropologists would say you have to put yourself into another culture to really understand your own.

That's a seniment I feel strongly is true. The culture shock of Guatemala really pointed out the things I took for granted in the United States. Eggs that don't need refrigeration, putting used toilet paper in a trash can instead of the toilet, and even sodas in plastic bags.

The Appalachian Trail wasn't nearly as extreme for me, but the same principle applies. You would not believe how incredibly good food can taste, and I still remember a certain slice of apple pie I had in Rangely, Maine.

The Appalachian Trail has a culture, and I lived it for nearly six months.

The last couple of years, I've felt like I've been getting to comfortable. I needed to immerse myself in another culture once again--not only because it's fun, but because it helps understand my life outside of it as well.

I usually don't dwell on philosophical thoughts, and I promise not to bore you all with them on a regular basis.

Tonight, DebBee has offered to put me up for the night, and I have a hunch there are going to be a lot of bags with seam sealer hanging around curing overnight. ;o)

Then tomorrow, Key West and the first steps of the adventure.

I also wanted to thank everyone who has sent me messages wishing me good luck on my little adventure. I'm rather surprised at the number of people who've taken the time to write, and while I have not replied to all of them, I have read all of your e-mails and thank you so much for your suport. It's been a humbling experience! =)

In other news, I've now lost sight of land. We must be over the Gulf of Mexico now. Florida, ready or not, here I come!


Anonymous said...

Hey Now, Ryan!

Have a great hike, what a fantastic way to start the new year--may they be HAPPY!


Anonymous said...

I'm really looking forward to your updates on your hike. Good luck and congratulations for following your dreams and the trail before you.


Anonymous said...

i too look for your updates. it has become the first thing i look for when signing in followed my my aq mail, then new vrtboxes and lastly any new posts.

if i could lose lots of weight that would be my dream to hike the entire AT. not just a few miles here and there.

i am so excited for you ryan. stay safe and warm. keep away from the pesty critters both that fly and walk.

happy new year ryan.


Anonymous said...

I'm so excited to hear updates of your travels. I'd love to do something like this and I admire you for following your dreams. I'll be in Florida late February through March so if you need anything and are in Orlando area, just let me know.


Anonymous said...

Wishing you dry belongings; enjoy every step.


Marissa Dupont said...

Good luck on your trek, Ryan! I can't wait to hear your many adventures on the trail! I'm so jealous! :)

Anonymous said...

Inquiring minds want to know if you are going to sleep with your food to protect it from the alligators.

Good luck and have fun!

Anonymous said...

DIY silnyl seam sealer: 1 part clear 100% silicone sealant (of the type sold to seal around a bathtub and stuff)and 2 parts solvent (white gas and mineral spirits each have their adherents, I like using boiled linseed oil). Mix with a stick, apply with a brush or whatever you have at hand.

Elizabeth Metz said...

YAY! Happy new year, Ryan! I can't wait to hear the updates when you can get them to us. :)

Anonymous said...

Happy New Year, Ryan!! Stay safe on your trip, will be watching your blog for updates. What fun you will have.
Okie Dog

Anonymous said...

Give us a shout Ryan if you're in the Orlando area and you need something...anything!
We're here for you, and hope to run into you along the way!

be well,
lorax and MC

Funhog said...

I am envious! With snow in the Cascades, I can only dream of next summer's nights on the trail. Just think how good a piece of Key Lime pie will taste in about a week. Enjoy!

Anonymous said...

Wishing you the best. I thought of you today as I was leaving south Florida and driving home to the Carolinas. I know a "cold" front is coming through in the next couple of days. I'm sure you can handle it though.

Anonymous said...

Can't wait to hear about your trip. We're in FL now but heading back to GA on Sunday. Let us know if we can help. that DebBee, she's a nice one!

Trailtracker said...

Hey Ryan!

Your seam sealer adventure and philosophical flight are already interesting! Cannot wait to hear more!

We are with you in spirit all the way! May you have dry feet the entire trek!


Anonymous said...

I have a suggestion you may or may not use, how about on your webpage, a pic as usual, a pic of without hair before you left, and a pic when you return? Ha, before and after, after. I bet you will be lean "er" and mean after your ?? ordeal???, mean only the first night back, if you haven't had a shower and are hungry. Gee, do your folks know where you are and what you are doing? Sheesh! Stay safe!
Okie Dog