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Wheels on the bike go round and round 9: Hiking
by Mike Jennett
2009-05-28 09:34:07
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Palm Springs: Went there. Hiked. Left.

Ditto Joshua Tree:

Hiking is like smoking; no good, second-hand.

You have to be the one doing it to give a damn about how hard the day is, or how spectacular the view looks. Accounts of endlessly trudging sandy washes or fighting near-vertical climbs to distant clumps of palm trees belong in the watching-paint-dry category.

Maybe if you were mauled by a mountain lion or lost your honor to a particularly insistent sheep, then you’d have something to brag about in the pub. Otherwise, it’s just another got-the-tee-shirt story about sun and rocks and blisters - and who really cares about that?

A trainspotter, in England, is someone who’ll get up in all weathers and several hours before dawn and travel a very long way to stand on a railway bridge or a station platform. He’ll do all this to wait for the passing of a particular engine, and then note its number down in a little book.

It has become used as a derogatory term.

For example, I might start a conversation about hiking and think I am enthralling you with vivid descriptions of the intense brightness, the waves of heat from ashen rocks and the pain in my feet when I stand still to take a piss, because my socks have dug into my heel and begun to feel like sandpaper.

You’d be polite and listen as I continued about the constant fear of losing my footing on the downhill trek, about dizziness and running out of water and about there being no shade whatever to hide in an area where it regularly reaches 120 Fahrenheit.

You’d be bored, but still say nothing, when I tell you of the intense pleasure from reaching the summit at the end of a long climb or finding an unexpected picnic table in the depths of nowhere. You may be even laugh at the imagined sight of my constantly-in-motion cap, with the peek always turned towards the sun to get whatever shade it can.

But eventually you would have had enough.

Waiting for a small pause, you’d comment, with a degree of sarcasm that could be scraped off the wall, “Trainspotter.”

Even other hikers get bored. You might think they’re listening, but they’re not. At best, they’re wondering when your diatribe will cease so they can top your stories of misadventure with better ones of their own.

It’s not the hiking that’s interesting about hiking, it’s the other stuff; the attempted mugging, the food poisoning incident, the one night stand from the sleazy bar down the street – that sort of thing.

Palm Springs had Lyon’s hangout for old timers and Joshua Tree had its Saloon, a put-together-by-accident western bar, where they played karaoke to bikers and bulbous chicks on Wednesday nights. In neither place did I get robbed or poisoned and I didn’t even want to get laid, so nothing worthy of note occurred on this hiking trip.

The Crossroads Café could get a small mention, but drinking wine with outdoorsy folk and trying to look unlike someone who’s spent the last two years finding excuses to avoid the gym, doesn’t rate many points on the scorecard of life.

Oh, err - if you are in England and like collecting train numbers from, ahem, special engines, at early hours of the morning, please don’t think I attribute anything negative to the activity. Hah hah hah.

I told you this wouldn’t be a travelogue…

Read more at: www.mikeonwheels.com OR www.wheelsonthebikegoroundandround.blogspot.com   

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