I wake too early (again) in our nice stealth spot in the forest below the gas station and we pack up and sit outside in the cold as the morning warms looking at our phones until the doors open and we buy two hot cups of coffee and eat the bananas and look at our phones some more. By and by we figure maybe we should hitchhike to Visalia, where neither of us has ever been and which is two hours away on the winding mountain highway, because it’s a real town with a grocery store and we should be able to reasonably buy eight days of food there. Our first ride is an SUV being driven by a couple from Mexico and in the backseat with us is the nicest, most velvety pitbull with the most somber eyes full of bottomless longing (dogs have the yearning on lock), and our second ride is Alicia. Alicia drives an old Toyota tacoma with a campershell and she’s lived in the truck for six years (warm Anza Borrega in the winters) and she works in Sequoia Kings Canyon on a trail crew running chainsaws and she’s got her bike on the back of the truck and it’s her weekend and she’s wearing a cute skirt and she’s headed down to Pismo beach to skateboard. It turns out that Alicia and I know a lot of people in common, folks I haven’t seen in years but which place both of us in the early-2000s west coast anarchist punk scene. Alicia fills me in- people I remember as having small babies now have teenagers, etc. How time flies/how malleable is time. Looking backwards and forwards, walking in meditative circles, standing still. Alicia and I do summersaults through time as the truck rattles us downhill (no AC, windows open ruffling all our hair) out of the giant sequoias and into the hot San Joaquin valley where it’s 102 degrees today. Remember when people rode freight trains and bike toured everywhere? Remember when people lived in shacks that they built out of scrapped lumber? Remember when people taught themselves to sail?
Our new best friend Alicia drops us at the motel 6 in Visalia but as soon as the front desk clerk sees our busted asses he says he’s sorry, contrary to what he told me on the phone his current cheapest room is $120. We wander out into the blistering smoky heat, confused, but then spot a motel next door that looks just as nice as the motel 6 and is called either the Majestic Inn or Marco Polo Motel, depending on if you go by google maps or the sign. They are very kindly and have a tidy room for us for $60. Next door is a chinese restaurant that, luck would have it, has some of the best ratings of any restaurant in a five mile radius, and we feast on glorious meat and glorious vegetables. Shortly after we are wilted indoors with the air conditioning on blast and the curtains drawn shut against the light. We fall asleep in this manner against our best intentions and it’s dark when I schedule a Lyft to take us the two miles to Winco because, fuck walking in this heat.
I have neither resupplied nor shopped in a Winco, although I have heard tell of it. Turns out the massive store is everything I ever imagined, and more. Winco reminds me of Shop N Kart in Ashland, aka the best grocery store on earth, only with fewer niche brands and zero deep-discount expiration date edgeplay. The bulk section is out of this world, having, for example, bins of gummy bears sorted by color, as well as instant refried beans. Kodak and I have fun filling our carts with what may or may not be eight days of food. Kodak buys a great quantity of granola, peanut butter, gummy worms, bulk fruit snacks, cheese, tortillas, coffee, hot cocoa powder, ramen, mac n’ cheese, a giant bag of peanuts, two kinds of discount sandwich cookies, two boxes of pop tarts, fruit leathers, one box of cheez-its, instant refried beans and a giant summer sausage log. I buy a party-size bag of wavy lays, figs and goji berries, twenty-five bars, dinners consisting of rice noodles, instant refried beans, olive oil and curry powder, two pounds of salami, jerky, dark chocolate, and two boxes of the daiya gf df mac n’ cheese (one for the motel, one for my birthday). If you’re noticing a discrepancy in the amount of food I bought for eight days versus the amount that Kodak bought, you’re not mistaken, and that will play out later in this story, as well as the fact that the next section actually will actually take us nine days…
Since today is a zero day and we’re not doing any hiking, here are some things I’ve learned about Kodak so far. From age twelve to seventeen, he was a nationally ranked competitive archer, in the olympic recurve style. He’s also a bow hunter, by extension, and enjoys eating the deer. He’s super dedicated to his photography, and on our hike so far I’ve watched him stop, whip out his camera and change lenses during sketchy stream crossings, on steep snowfields, in bushwhacks, while crossing talus… In the regular world he works as an arborist, climbing up trees for pay, and he’s very good with knots, always rigging up his tarp in wild technical ways.
We fall asleep (again) in the dark motel room with the AC blasting surrounded by our plastic shopping bags of food and empty chinese takeout containers (we had chinese food again for dinner) after doing every phone errand that needed done and outside the cars roll past on the highway like whales sounding in the ocean, serene.