Today’s Miles: 28.9
Total Miles: 919.4
Lønsdal, Norway – August 8, 2016
I reach the road late. The sun is low and hidden behind a ceiling of black clouds. Rain caught me in the last hours, as the miles ticked into the high twenties, leaving me cold, wet, and exhausted.
I tell myself that no one will pick me up. It is easier that way. It is too late in the day. I am too soaked with rain. There aren’t enough cars. They can barely see me. I need to crush the hope that I’ve clung to for days. I need to make the promise of tomorrow again, just like I made it yesterday. There will be no food tonight.
I decide to try anyway, at least until I start shivering and have to make camp to stay warm. I walk a bit, half to generate heat, half to find a mediocre pullout, then stick out my thumb.
The first car stops.
I sit in the passenger seat, my hands over the vents of warm air, apologizing for the water dripping off me. He waves the apology off and turns up the heat.
The grocery store’s aisles glow. I can barely think of what I want for all the choices there are. I walk back and forth, filling up my cart, half lost, still not all believing that I am there, that the man picked me up when I thought I had no chance.
I stand in the lobby if the store packing away my food, still soaked, still a bit cold, but giddy and alive with excitement. Let it rain, let the cold wind blow, what do I care? I will hide in my tent and feast like a king.
As I struggled to squeeze a loaf of bread in my pack without crushing it, I hear someone stop behind me. A young man is standing there, curious about where I am heading.
“To Tarifa, Spain,” I say.
He has been there. He tells me he remembers a friend’s cell phone roaming signal from Morocco.
“It’s so close that you can see it,” he says.
I try not to think of Tarifa. It feels so far away that it scares me to think about it. I’ve worked so hard and walked so far and still have a thousand miles of Scandinavia left. Tarifa feels impossible.
“I’m driving north to visit my grandmother,” he says. “But the tunnel won’t open until 11 so let me buy you dinner.”
We end up at a small diner just down the street and order fish and chips. It’s empty other than us, but the woman working there doesn’t seem to mind. She’s warm and kind and even gives us extra mashed potatoes left over from the day.
I’d walked almost thirty miles on a bag of peanuts. I was still soaked and cold. I’d given up hope for food. But there I was, sitting in that warm restaurant booth, sharing stories with a new friend, feasting on fish and chips and a heap of leftover mashed potatoes.
Every bite is delicious. Weariness fades. I feel warm again. I feel life trickling back into my legs, my arms, my hands, my feet. The world feels magical again.
The longest wild stretch I will face on this trip is over.