The Cuba Town Stop

Saturday, May 17, 2014

I neglected to mention that the night before I got a ride into Cuba with Scarecrow in the back of a New Mexico State Trooper’s vehicle. He actually ran our licenses before allowing us to get in the back haha. And it was one cramped back with our packs on our laps. Jokes on him though, we smelled like rotting rhino carcasses. I was half worried he’d find something on me from my past that was somehow never officially taken care of. The fear was real! Alas, my record was clean of course.

Woke up feeling surprisingly good considering the circumstances I was in yesterday. I drank a ton of water and Gatorade and topped it off with a beer before bed last night.  Got up fairly early even though I had every opportunity to sleep and me Scarecrow and Greyhound walked a mile down the road to a breakfast diner that was supposedly pretty good in Cuba.  What was frustrating about this, beyond actually having to walk a mile to breakfast and then back afterwards, was that this was technically part of the trail. Scarecrow and I made the commitment to head back to the trailhead where the trooper picked us up and to knock out the 6 mile walk back into town today.  Unfortunately for him, I knew that it was an empty promise on my part as I never planned to do ANY extra walking on this day, this was to be my zero day. But here I was walking two miles that wouldn’t be considered part of my thru-hike, that’s the frustrating part. 

Breakfast was delicious though as I ordered my usual two meals. I do this any time I eat out while on trail.  Best case scenario I eat it all and am pleasantly satisfied.  Worst case scenario I have leftovers and eat them later and am still pleasantly satisfied.  I can’t lose, I rarely do, not never, but rarely. Just before we finished up our breakfast, Hikaholic walked into the diner. He had got up early from wherever he was back on trail and made the hike in.  We stayed with him until he ordered and finished his breakfast while we all drank coffee and digested.  Finally we started our walk back to the motel. We really should have timed our breakfast better as we passed the CLOSED Post Office a half mile from the motel still. It opened in an hour. Too long to wait, but by the time we got back to the motel it would be just about time to get ready to head to the PO to retrieve all of our bounce boxes. 

Yet again I was left trying to track down a package that I had no idea where it was.  It was supposedly delivered to the motel but the motel people said they didn’t have it and the Post Office said they delivered it. If I couldn’t track it down before the PO closed at noon I would be forced to wait until Monday when they reopened, this trend was beginning to thoroughly annoy me.  But at the same time I also valued my zero days in town and for that part of it I was thankful, annoyed, but thankful.  Double edged sword though as it would mean bigger mile days again to keep pace with the schedule and not get too far behind the other hikers.  I don’t mind hiking alone at all, in fact I have definitely come to prefer it. 

After a bit I informed the other hikers that I would be forced to stay the night on Sunday. This didn’t feel too surprising to them as I have pretty much stayed one more day than everybody at every single stop and yet still seemed to always make it to town at the same time as them, at least the same day for sure.  I got with Scarecrow and told him that I didn’t have time to hike the 6 miles into town from the south trailhead today as we had some Warrior Hike obligations to manage the rest of the day.  I would get up and hike the 6 miles tomorrow after breakfast or something.

Hung around the rest of the day until our first of two Warrior Hike Events.  The first event was coordinated by a local doctor whose goal was to get people in the small town of Cuba out and walking around places for better health and exercise.  It was called “Step Into Cuba” and the director, when he heard that we were coming to town, decided to incorporate our hike into their community and invited community members to walk with use down main street for a mile or so.  Down the same exact stretch that I have now walked about 6 times to and from the motel.  I probably was already coming close to walking 6 miles but it doesn’t count for the 6 miles that I had to do still. There is no compromise when it comes to the integrity of my hike, one continuous footpath, unbroken from Mexico to Canada.

We got down to the South end of town and a handful of locals met us for the walk to the community center where there would be a ceremony with the mayor and a few others.  It was fun getting to walk with some of them as a few of them were veterans themselves. I am always eager to meet the people of these smaller towns as the Warrior Hike “Walk Off the War” Program really gives the opportunity to interact with these communities on an intimate level that most people wouldn’t normally have the chance to do, especially on a thru hike.  I really enjoy this aspect of the hike and it’s a welcome break from some of the grueling days of hiking.    That’s not a complaint about hiking, for the record. You will almost never hear me complaining about any aspect of this or any hike. While I do technically consider it my job, I fully appreciate the fact that I am not sitting in an office EVER.

Once we made it to the community center, the mayor of Cuba did a dedication to the Warrior Hikers as the group of veteran color guard escorted us into the building.  What an honor.  One of their state representatives also spoke to us in front of the crowd. Truly appreciative when these small towns come out in such a big way for people they don’t even know, the support is always overwhelming but in such a good way.  After everybody spoke who was lined up to, they asked all of us to speak a little about ourselves and why we were here.  I let the others go first while I wrapped it up with some background about the program and thanked them all for their efforts and making us all feel welcome and a part of their community.  After some snacks were scarfed down we got a ride back to the motel to chill out for a bit before we were taken out to dinner at a local Mexican joint.  The owner of Bruno’s, a wonderful woman named Hazel, took care of us for our meal as a good contingent of the community joined us. Hazel had the whole place decorated in red, white, and blue as it just happened to be Armed Forces Day. What a coincidence. Dinner was awesome, we had margaritas and several appetizers shared amongst everybody at the table.  I ordered the ribeye smothered “Christmas style” which means red and green chile sauce all over it. If you ever come down to this part of the country, try both, but the green chile is to die for.

After completely gorging ourselves it was time to retire to the motel where laying down felt like the only viable option. TV and beer until the lids became too heavy to stay open.  Slept like a baby.

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Sunday, May 18, 2014

Woke up and grabbed breakfast back at the diner on the south end of town. Rick Romero who was the local fire chief offered to pick us up and take us down there for a free meal. He and his girlfriend (maybe his wife, I forget) Albina were awesome people and were extremely helpful the entire weekend as we needed help getting to and from places on occasion.  Rick, Albina, the Doctor (whose name escapes me because I am pretty bad with names especially when we are meeting so many people all at once) and his wife, the mayor and a wealth of other locals and veterans that were at the dinner the night before were all there.  Ate two meals yet again and arranged with Rick to drop me and Scarecrow off at the trail head south as we still had to hike the 6 miles into town.  On my walk out of the diner I noticed an older gentleman walk in and sit by himself at a small table near the door. I could instantly tell he was a hiker, hikers can spot other hikers in an instant. As I walked passed him I greeted him and quickly introduced myself and asked how the hike was going. His name was Bigfoot but he was the antithesis of the word. A shorter gentleman with the feet to match.  We left and Rick dropped us off outside of town.

When we got to the trail head there were two other hikers sitting there that were preparing for the 6 mile road walk into town, Texas Poo and Seeking. Two friends that had met while hiking the Pacific Crest Trail in 2013.  The new company made the 6 miles pass by quicker than I anticipated which was a welcomed surprise.  We were in town before we knew it and enjoyed the laughs and conversation with the fresh, social meat.

Upon returning to the motel there was a bunch of Hiker Trash (Bigfoot, Ursa, and Hikesawhile) hanging out on the stoop of our rooms while everybody was slowly getting ready to check out of the rooms to hike out.  I was the only one who was sticking around, with the exception of Bigfoot. Apparently he was going to stay the night and I offered to split a room with him.  He agreed to get a new, clean room and we would split the cost. We went out to dinner that night at Bruno’s after all the others hiked out and we got to know each other a little bit.  A retired man from the railroad who currently lived in Idaho who was a father and a husband.  I also found out that he was drafted and served in the army during Vietnam but was one of the few who didn’t deploy.  I enjoyed getting to know him and we had a good time together before retiring to our room early and falling asleep after watching the Billboard Music Awards, definitely my first time watching those, ever.

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