Animal Cages to Big Bear Lake
Miles: 251-266 (15)
I crank out fifteen quick ones and stop at Highway 18, a magnificent stretch of pavement that leads to a hostel in Big Bear Lake. I’m ready for a shower, a resupply, and some familiar faces. I got a text from Andy yesterday – The AhWe Tribe is in town. I wave my thumb in the air for a few seconds and POOF, I’m on my way. It’s that easy.
The Big Bear Hostel is run by a gritty forty-something-year-old man, named Sarge. Sarge is a retired gunnery sergeant, who did a tour somewhere, where he blew things up with big guns. He has a dainty lisp, wears a t-shirt with the sleeves cut off, and displays a Rhandy Rhodes poster behind the front desk of his hostel. I imagine him shooting at foreign enemies, in a far away sandbox, to the tune of War Pigs. Sarge is a self-proclaimed millionaire, who says he made millions by investing in the grocery business after his military service. “I’m the hardest working forty-whatever-year-old retired millionaire you ever met,” he tells me, before beginning his long-winded spiel about the proper way to close doors quietly. Despite being rich beyond anyone’s wildest dreams, Sarge lives in a small apartment above his mediocre hostel. And if you slam the front door too loudly, well, he might just shoot you with a pellet gun, from him bedroom window.
The Ahwe Tribe (Andy, Demetre, Nicky Chafe, and Tali) got here last night. I haven’t seen them in over 200 miles, since I was sidelined in Laguna with a swollen shin splint, and it’s strangely exciting to see them again. I request a bed in their dorm room, and a Coors Light-fueled reunion commences. Tali has earned the trailname Mah, for her willingness to do motherly things for three grown men who don’t eat enough vegetables and need help doing their laundry. Nick is still Chafe, even though he doesn’t actually have any chafe, Andy is still the whimsical instigator, and Demetre is a slightly grimier version of the smiling, good-humored Texan that I remember meeting when I first landed in San Diego. This is a fun, well-balance little trail family. I’m happy to be here right now.
I’m also pretty excited to wash my swollen, smashed, dirty feet.