Today I knocked out a nearly 20-mile walk, following a standard local bike route from my house in Carrboro to the Saxapahaw General Store. I figured it would take a bit more than 5 hours, so to beat the heat I left at 6:45am. Scores of cyclists seemed to have adjusted their Sunday rides for similar reasons. But maybe so many out on a Sunday morning is normal?
Last week I learned what not to wear on a long walk in North Carolina humidity. So today I confidently rocked a pair of running shorts, a snap-up cowboy shirt, and a camouflage handkerchief atop my head, locked down with a hunter orange ball cap. Add my trekking poles to this fashion disaster and it’s safe to assume I was a complete spectacle. Somebody’s grandpa. But I’m fine with that—especially if folks ripping past at 70 m.p.h. notice me between texts.
When I started it was not yet scorching hot. Didn’t take long for me to be soaked. My shorts squished like a diaper. I’d have been drier if I were naked.
At some point I found a Superman magnet. Hilarious irony.
But I busied myself with discovery. I’m always fascinated by stuff scattered along the side of the road. There’s no lack of beer cans and plastic liquor bottles, fast food wrappers and random broken car parts. But there’s also an abundance of cassette tapes and CDs. Even an occasional broken vinyl. I like to wonder why someone would toss music out their car window. Maybe they were like, “Damn, I’m over this,” then roll down the window and whoosh, gone. Today I stopped to look at a CD laying on its head—Bone Thugs-n-Harmony. To this day they remind me of my Army days. Music blasting in the barracks, early 90s. Wasn’t a fan. Not a fan.
The side of the road is also a museum of dead stuff. Dead stuff that, before it became dead, was either headed to, or from, the tall grass beyond the narrow shoulder. The same green strip of earth I often find myself in when cars or bikes pass. This morning I saw two dead copperheads. Fresh ones. A couple rat snakes, too. No telling how many of these suckers I stepped on (or over) while keeping a safe distance from passing country drivers.
For most of today’s walk I had one song stuck in my head. Sweet Leaf by Black Sabbath. Its tempo is a little slow for the pace I wanted to keep, but it never got old. In fact, I’m still humming along to it. Even after listening to a few Bones songs to confirm my disinterest.
By mid-morning there were fewer cyclists and an increase in cars. Church was probably getting out, folks were finally awake and starting their days, and all I could think about was putting a cork in mine.
At hour four I did the math: I had ingested more than four liters of water and not peed at all. And still, as I write this hours later with probably an additional liter (or more) in my belly, still no pee. When I tell you I sweat gallons of sweat today, I am being literal.
It scared me when, at the 5-hour mark, my body was suddenly overcome with chills. My phone said it was 98°. It also said, “Feels like 108°.” Not much of a difference if you ask me.
So when I saw that familiar sign welcoming me to Saxapahaw, I got a little hep in my step. With the town in sight, I knocked out the final quarter-mile in a shivery flash. At some point saying aloud, “Really, is that all you got?” And though I was talking to the sun burning a hole through my head, I could have easily been asking myself the same goddamned thing.
Thanks a bunch!