Morning visits to the radio station and newspapers brought no luck. KPMX was booked solid and the newspapers were concentrating on the weekend's festivities, the 125th anniversary of the founding of Logan County. Counties are so cute when they are that age.
On the positive side, a marine running across country from west to east in support of the Wounded Warrior Project was here a few weeks ago and got a lot of publicity for the charity. Our paths don't overlap again since he's not on the ADT, so together we can get the charity maximum exposure.
Friday's trail followed the South Platte River. I came only a few miles from the site of the Battle of Summit Springs, which brought to an end the Indian wars in Colorado. The weather was cool and I managed a brisk pace, finding the town of Merino shortly after four.
Merino was a blank slate for me. I only decided to aim for there the day before. What was in store for me? More small town hospitality in the form of Jambalaya's, a cafe with an open air bar.
Finding a comfort zone took only minutes. I was soon absorbed in conversation with fellow Cubs fan Sherry and her friend Dale. They discussed the differences between raising thoroughbreds and quarter-horses while I asked questions most second graders know the answer to around here.
I also met Gary, who told me about the Japanese internment camps located in Ovid during World War II. His father had been held there, a casualty of one of the most shameful decisions in our country's history.
Jambalaya's owner Donna invited me to camp behind the bar, although I was unsure why she called me Jackass instead of Alastair. I was told not to worry, she had been on the same drinking binge since 1972 and called her friends worse things.
In a rare moment of lucidity Donna told me about Mark Turner (ADT 2010-11), who ended up staying in Merino for close to a month. I was enjoying the company so much I wondered if I too could become entangled in Jambalaya's web.
The evening's entertainment was equally delightful. A country western duo charmed the crowd with their renditions of "Folsom Prison Blues," "The Tennessee Waltz," "The Green Grass of Home", and many others. I sat with Snuffy Smith, a veteran of the Korean War. Snuffy actually had a real name, but he looked so much like the character from the comics I gathered he'd given up using it. Donna was nice enough to give the octogenarian a lap dance.
The next act was Chad from Orlando, Florida. He had come to Merino to meet his mother, who had given him up for adoption twenty two years ago. The reunion appears to have gone well and while he was around Donna had invited him to play Jambalaya's. His playlist consisted of John Mayer (he was a huge fan), Matisyahu, and what Chad dubbed "older songs" by stone age bands like Hootie and the Blowfish, Dave Matthews Band, and Oasis.
As the midnight hour loomed I worried staying there might be a mistake. I'd already broken my usual three beer limit by a few and getting sleep in the loud bar was unlikely in the near future. Everything on this trip seems to happen for a reason, however, and as I was pointlessly setting up my tent Joel Norvell came and introduced himself, his buddy Josh, and his wife Angie. Joel is a veteran of Iraq II, where he helped to construct schools and playgrounds there. He was intrigued by my mission and I was touched by his stories from overseas and his obvious deep love for his two children and Angie. Their time apart had been very hard. After a couple of hours of talk I was invited to join the family for breakfast in the morning.
I'll be seeing them in just a few short hours. In the words of Major Ken Dwyer, "sleep is for the weak."
16 miles/2369 total miles