"Hello old friend," Loophole greets the king-size Snickers bar sitting gently between his index finger and thumb (wrapper facing up and toward him in proper fashion) with a longing gaze on a morning a few weeks back when team morale was particularly low (owing mostly to sore feet, uncharacteristically high temps and long-mileage days). In the other hand, hanging down by his side rests an empty glass bottle (still perspiring)--drained of its cool, sweet Starbucks Frappuccino contents somewhere between the cash register and the front porch steps of the camp store that we just left. The time is 10am. In my hands: a pint carton that recently contained 16oz of whole milk, a half-full bottle of knock-off diet Dr. Pepper (Mc's drink that I thought she might need help finishing) and two Reeses fast break bars. And something incredible is about to happen. Something comparable to dumping nitrous into the engine of a drag-racer. That concentrated mass of sugar is about to hit our system like a tsunami! And sure, these things may not burn long, but they for-Dang-sure burn hot. And now we know that the scientifically perfected mixture of Frappuccino and Snickers is good for almost two full hours of Loop's finest and most aggressive hiking. We are now trying to create some sort of harness system that will dangle a Snickers in front of Loop and enable others to be pulled behind him. The prototype is currently in the testing phase.
So, updates. Whew, so much has happened in the last seven days that I honestly don't know where to start. I suppose I could start by apologizing to our faithful followers for going so long in between posts. 3G can be a bit spotty out here. We are all safe and sound in Hershey, PA tonight, in the cool A/C and warm hospitality of Susannah Ray's home. Sidenote--Susannah is Steve Tingle's baby sister. If you have your AT map handy, you may be asking yourself why we are in Hershey when it's 30 miles from the nearest point of the trail? Well, before I jump right into answering your question, let me take a minute to re-cap the last week--that will lay a good foundation for our coming here.
Doug, Karena and the rest of the gang turned us loose last Tuesday AM, and Doug drove us to the spot where we left off in Harpers Ferry, WV. Despite the fact that we failed to bring home the gold medal for the Flynns in family olympics, and the fact that Loop broke Doug's nose, Doug still insisted on aiding us further by driving our heavy packs ahead for us. JACKPOT--sweet, slack-packy goodness! Pause. The nose breaking story is well worth a diversion. Picture the scene: final event of the day, Van Wingertons (the nice, yet aggrivatingly-talented family that wins every year) are ahead on the scoreboard by a few points, sun is setting, bugs are heading home for the evening, temp is good, air pressure is good. It's dusk--the magic hour. The time when anything is possible. A Flynn victory would clinch the GOLD MEDAL. Desire. Nervous, but confident--this is what we have trained for. The event is the relay race. Perfect--we are deep in the speed category! The course circles the church building. The baton is a sponge and the relay points are buckets of water. I dip my hand into the starting bucket, my fingers clasp the heavy sponge and I'm suddenly aware of my surroundings once more. I thrive off of this pressure. My muscles tense as I crouch, waiting for the whistle. Right arm ready to hold off the other racers once we bottleneck at the hairpin turn by the blue Igloo cooler. TWEET!!! We're off and I'm winning. Arm-barring and shirt pulling at the Igloo cooler as expected--they obviously hadn't thought of it ahead of time like I had. Here's the bucket. Sponge in. Sponge out, and Marie explodes into the second leg of the race. I trot back to the finish line to get a good view of the final bucket (manned by Doug)--this is going to be a close one. Silence. Nothing. Waiting. WHOOSH! Loop peels around the side of the church like a gazelle, with the Van Wingertons two full strides behind him. I know this taste, it's familiar--yes, I can actually taste the victory! Loop finishes his relay by lunging left as he drops the sponge into the bucket which is surrounded by other baton-receivers clamoring for their own respective sponges. Problem. Doug simultaneously lunges to his right to leave room for Loop to run straight through. Loop, moving almost 76mph has no time to swerve. Suddenly, Doug's nose and Loop's shoulder are occupying the same space at the same time. Massive amounts of kinetic energy are now being transferred from Loops shoulder into Doug's face. Disaster!!! And the title slips away, as in other years to the defending champions. Doug thinks his nose may be broken (judging by the general crookedness of its appearance), and decides to seek medical attention. I know that an X-ray is not necessary. I can prove with 98.7% certainty that his nose is broken using a basic physics equation. Force = Mass x Acceleration (F=MA). Loop, weighing approx. 68kg and moving at a rate of approx. 9m/s squared struck Doug with a force of 5kN (kiloNewtons)--way over the necessary amount to break a nose. Physics people, check my equation--accuracy is of the utmost importance.
Stay with me though! Remember, I'm talking about the Flynn's generosity. After slackpacking about 23 miles out of Harpers Ferry, we picked up our packs on Tuesday evening at a state park. The Flynn family takes an annual vacation to a cabin that sits 1/4 mile off the AT, so the rest of last week was nicely broken-up by surprise sightings of Flynns in the woods, unexpected pizza dinners, hiking company and more slack packing (oh, and knocking out West Virginia and Maryland). We've been completely spoiled. Our time together ended on Friday at the Ironmaster's Mansion in Pine Grove Furnace State Park, where the Flynns accompanied us for ice cream. Loop, Caboose and I easily dusted a half-gallon a piece to recognize being just over halfway done with our journey--approx. 1,100 miles!
Shortly after we left the Ironmasters Hostel the next AM, I started to feel kindof lousy. Fever, headache, muscle aches, crazy tiredness-type lousy. A couple days of walking showed that I definitely couldn't hold the normal pace, so we pulled our third 26-miler to get into Duncannon with plans of seeking some medical attention. Just before we made it to town, we bumped into a fellow named Joel from West Va, who was visiting his grandparents in Duncannon and had taken a hike up the hill above town to catch the sunset. He knew Duncannon didn't have much to offer in the way of a good medical lab, and offered to drive us into Harrisburg (20 miles away). We wrote down his number, and after sleeping in a local roach motel, we met up with him to cash in on the offered ride. Once in Harrisburg, we were able to tell Andy (Caboose's uncle who's our doctor at home) where a good spot would be to order some blood work. We swung by the downtown hospital, gave them some of my blood and then checked-in to a nearby hotel for some A/C and rest. We laid around most of the afternoon (much-needed) and feasted on the spoils of the many drop-boxes that we scooped up in Duncannon (thank you Honey, OD/Cat, Elizabeth and Drew, Bryan and Megan and one mystery UPS sender!). When evening rolled around, we indulged in a showing of the new Pirates of the Caribbean at the IMAX theater--but not without stuffing our pockets full of beef jerky, candy bars and other treats to enjoy in the dark (also from our drop boxes). 11AM came awfully early this morning, and before we were really ready we found ourselves having to move all of our gear down to the lobby for checkout. That good old fashioned homeless bum/ stranded in a strange city feeling was just starting to set in when I remembered that the Tingles have family in Pennsylvania. My call to Matt for help was a quick success. His aunt "Susie" had unexpectedly had the day off from work and was willing and able to come scoop us up! The Lord's precise provision throughout this trip has been so humbling. She invited us to spend the night at her place and also offered to shuttle us back to the trail in the morning! To top our two zero days off, we snagged dinner with Susannah at Fudruckers in Hershey, and came home for a batch of her homemade chocolate chip cookies.
Now you're mostly caught up on the little details of the last week. But, the most earth shattering development (I feel like I should warn you to sit down before reading further) is that our fearless team leader Caboose will be heading home to South Carolina at the end of the week. She can probably fill you in best, but the paraphrased version is that after about four weeks of thought/prayer and battling with the feeling of being completely worn out, she's taking it to the house for some rest. We've got nothing but admiration and appreciation for her efforts over the last ten weeks and almost 1200 miles in the woods. And we are definitely going to miss her. I miss her already. But, in the spirit of finishing the adventure and taking up the torch, Loop and I will be pushing-on---Lord willing, to Maine. We may end up in New Mexico without her daily direction, but she's promised to still coordinate and plan progress from home. Who knows, maybe it'll turn out that she's got too much gravel in her gut to sleep in a comfy bed and she'll have to come do some more rock crawling. Either way, please join us in congratulating her for such an amazing feat of toughness and courage. Caboose--hats off to you. We're proud to have hiked so much with you. (Haha, this is kindof crazy because I'm farewelling my wife in a super formal boss/employee kind of way. I promise there were more hugs, kisses and tears involved in the actual team powwow.)
So Loop and I carry on. We're dropping a tent, a plate, a spoon and a few other items--lightening up for the hard journey ahead. Sock Brock has undergone a sex change and is now going by Sock Mc. He/She will carry on with us in Caboose's honor. No way she'll hike as hard or make us get up from lunch/sleeping/etc. near as soon as the real Mc. I'd like to say a special thanks to everyone who's made this trip possible for us--there is no way we could have made it this far without the support from everyone at home and everyone we've met along the way. If you haven't checked out our sponsor tab and you have a minute after reading this rambling novella, take a look at the companies who generously provided us with all sorts of healthy and energizing foods to eat. Thank you all, sincerely.
All for now. You stay classy. We'll keep pushing-out the miles.
sleepy boy at the pizza joint
Mike & Eoin with bunny ears
1/2 way point!
Marie, Ana, Lydia, Douglas & Ian [and Big Doug] walked from their vacation cabin to the Ironmasters Hostel with us -- this meant that they passed the 1/2 way point on the trail with us!
Brock, Me, & Mike at the 1/2 way point
Me & Mike at the 1/2 way point [1090.5 miles!]
the Flynns walking towards the Ironmasters hostel
1/2 gallon challenge!
Mine - chocolate chip cookie dough [34 min 50 sec]
Mike - Black Raspberry Burst [24 min]
Brock - chocolate [29 min]
*I'm afraid that my Nutrition degree may be revoked after eating a whole 1/2 gallon of ice cream in one sitting.
Mike with his "member of half gallon club" spoon
saying goodbye to the Flynns at the Ironmasters Hostel
Brock, Mike & Me looking out over Duncannon
all of the goodies from our drop boxes
Thanks: Honey, OD & Cathy, Elizabeth, BD & Megan!!
and Thanks to Erin for goodies at our last drop (:
We LOVE all of the treats...we just aren't sure how we'll carry them all! hahaha
a beautiful church in Harrisburg, PA
founded in the 1700s
Mimi, this is for you...the Reading Railroad! (: wish we could play some monopoly with you right now!