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Back To The Future Part I 

Days 26

The McClusky Canal
  • Day 26
  • The McClusky Canal

Day 26
Turtle Lake to West Park Lake, North Dakota

20.8 miles (33.47 kms)

What is this handsome bird?
  • Day 26
  • What is this handsome bird?
Just out of Turtle Lake I see the McClusky Canal and its Maintenance Roads on either side. It’s a beautiful day and I take the canal. The walking is good. In the canal are ducks which take flight at my approach and scare the big brown carp who twitch their tails on the surface and glide into the depths. Turtles plop off their sunny rocks into the water. A deer hightails it into some scrub. Handsome gold-headed birds hang out with the red-winged blackbirds. I think about the way to do things—experiencing the days moment by moment, one step at a time. Taking it as it comes—all the T-shirt wisdom that is so simple and brilliant and easily forgotten. I delight in my delightedness that life and this trip is a series of problem-solving exercises and decisions. Just what I wanted! To practice solving problems. I’m as happy as a lark. Is this trip my life or just something I’m doing? I trundle along, calling to cows I see, stopping to admire birds in marshes. I’m a one-woman life-is-what-you-make-it songbird.

I get to the lake fishing access tired and glad to be somewhere to put up the tent and get off my feet, but happy about such a good day.

In the night there is a severe thunderstorm. There wasn’t rain in the forecast. Before it starts there is sheet lightning to the south and west and I watch it, and move Bob into the large outhouse vault toilet. I stay in the tent. I think about moving the tent and me into the outhouse but I don’t.

Day 27
West Park Lake to Turtle Lake, North Dakota

16.02 miles (26.07 kms)

Remember this riddle?

A hunter walks out of the front door,
Walks ten miles south, walks ten miles east, walks ten miles north.
And is
back at the front door. The hunter shoots a bear.
What colour is the bear?*

In two days I have walked 37 miles, 60 kilometres, to be back in Turtle Lake. It thunders and strobes in the night. I decide the lightning will hit the outhouse instead of the tent. I awaken in the predawn to rain. In the tent. It is raining in the tent. Everything is soaked. I huddle into the smallest ball I can to avoid puddles and sleep fitfully until eight o’clock. The seam sealing tape on the fly of the tent is pulling away. It leaks like a bastard. I must get the tent sealed up. I can’t go on like this.

Day 27
  • Day 27

The clouds are blue. The wind is up. The way ahead on the Maintenance road by the canal is muddy. I am soaked. I hang the tent to dry a bit and in the outhouse make coffee. I walk eight miles north to Mercer, where there is a gas station and a guy named Ed and a great dog named Leroy. He says the only place around that might have sealing tape or spray for the tent is… Turtle Lake. Two days back the way I have come or about four hours back if I go by Route 200. Fuck!

  • Day 28

I call Sharon Rittenbach from Ed’s. She rented me the $25 apartment on Turtle Lake’s Main Street three days ago. It’s available. I drag my sorry ass back towards Turtle Lake. Part of me is glad I will get inside again and get the tent improved. Part of me is feeling failure and doesn‘t want me happy or positive. Three miles from Main Street a Sheriff’s car pulls up and the officer says they’ve been getting “several people calling in about some woman walking on the road.” He wants to know what the heck I am doing and asks for ID. I show my passport and he radios my info to the office. He drives me the rest of the way to Turtle Lake, Bob in the trunk and me in the cramped back seat with the doors that don’t open from the inside and the cop grill between me and the front seat. This happened in Montana too.

Back in the same apartment where my garbage from two days ago is still in the bin and the bed hasn’t been changed and the towels aren’t clean I sit on the couch. WTF? What was I thinking yesterday? Problems are good? In the sun and breeze by the canal that was easy, wasn’t it? I’m such a lifelong twit. I have no desire for adventure. I am achy and tired. I walked only 16 miles today—what the hell is the matter with me? My toes don’t curl under—are my feet that swollen? The backs of my hands are peeling from weather and sunburn. I’ve been calling it Mommy Burn—like a Farmer’s Tan, but from pushing a stroller all day, everyday. My fingernails are filthy.

I troll Main Street—Hank’s Hardware, the gun store, Farmer’s Union—for sealing tape which no one carries. I settle for a can of water repellant and Gorilla Tape. The tape comes $5.99 for 12 yards or $9.99 for 35 yards. I get the King Kong roll. I’m going to seal that fucker up if it’s the last thing I do. Being rained on in the tent at night is like anytime in life—it’s one thing if your day is shot to shit by whatever—illness or bills or fights or failure or loss—but it’s another thing much more grievous if your sleep is shot to hell too.

Sign in the grocery store window
  • Day 27
  • Sign in the grocery store window

I eat cheese puffs and wieners & beans for supper, washed down with chocolate milk, V8 and vitamin water. Then I scarf down reduced-price easter candy from the Rexall across the street. I tell myself all kinds of unfair things. I better get a better attitude about misery, Missy, because there’s going to be more of it. And stop whining about the weather! You wanted to be out in the world. What a pussy. Whatever happens is what is happening.

Sharon comes to collect her dough. Two more nights. Unbelievable. Also unbelievable that I cannot allow myself to enjoy anything about this. “Oh, by the way,” Sharon says, “do you know there’s severe weather forecast for Saturday? You should plan on being here three nights.”

Day 28
Turtle Lake

In the morning I finish reading my book, She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb and then set up the tent in the living room and apply sealant. I drink instant coffee with the treat of half-and-half from the Jack & Jill grocery store up the street. I finish the wieners and beans. I feel better. My feet are good. My hands are better. My hair is clean. I better start taking my own idiot T-shirt wisdom to heart. That’s my only goal for the day. Plus get to the WIFI spot at the library in the afternoon. I don’t even want to write to LvB and have her know I’m back here. Christ.

What was that moronic thing I was telling myself last week? Oh, yeah: you decide when it hurts.

Spare me.

* White. The hunter lives at the North Pole. Doofus.


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