My hiking book, The Unlikely Thru-Hiker is complete, yet due to length and continuity, some stories were left out. It was difficult to add them without causing some hiccups in the progress of the narrative. Still, I know in my heart, the whole story has been told as well as I could have wished for. That said, I would like to share the cut chapters and events in this blog. Let’s start from the beginning, here’s the prologue:
NYC – Up All Night
This is beyond me, beyond what I know…
The time on the cable box reads 2:32 a.m. and restlessness has taken over my mind. I’m in bed staring into the dark; my head feels like a speedway with a singular thought racing around in circles with no finish line in sight. This Daytona of a thought may change me forever.
Yesterday I returned to New York City after months in Italy. The time spent abroad was extremely gratifying, still I was ecstatic about flying back home. Exploring the world and connecting with new facets of life is what I live for, yet this city has an alluring hold on me.
When I set out to pursue a life full of adventure, part of my plan was to live in a foreign country. Anywhere was fine by me, as long as it was faraway from New York. Surprisingly, after months in Italy, I felt a need to return to where I fit in, to where I didn’t have to constantly struggle to get my point across in a language I had yet to learn. The hardest aspect was the reactions I received when my humor would fall flat; my punch lines were met with straight faces or crinkled noses, as if I offended them with a fart. The laughter I tried to elicit from others was replaced with confusion and worry. I once spent an exhausting amount of time trying to explain to a couple that I wasn’t trying to eat their baby. I tend to turn to humor when I’m put in an uncomfortable situation, but doing so with limited knowledge of a language, made me feel less than witty. In fact, the blank stares I received seemed to convey that I was a non-Italian speaking dimwit.
So, I’m now back in the States, my time in Europe cut short, in turn, making my stay in America an indefinite one. Thrilled with the situation I currently find myself in, a cross country road trip was my first thought. I can explore this wonderful country I found myself surprisingly missing. I could buy a used car and drive coast-to-coast, meeting English-speaking strangers that will have an easier time understanding my jokes, while eating all the babies I wanted. However, with no solid plan, the idea seemed somewhat rickety.
Hmm, what can I do?
Around midnight, as I lay in bed, it hits me, it’s what I’ve wanted to do for a long while. New York responsibilities, mainly my job and my apartment, kept it at bay, but now both are nonexistent. There may be no better time, of course if I were inclined to, I could conjure up an endless amount of excuses why I should not do such a thing. However, it’s too late; the idea is embedded into my brain. Changing my mind isn’t going to happen; inspired thoughts invoke a challenge in me that refuses to go away. It’s a simple way, yet at times, not so simple to follow through.
However, I’ve achieved plenty in my life with this ambitious drive. I’ve also made some ridiculous choices, but luckily the most serious ones were during my pre-adolescent years, while under adult supervision. For example, when I was 8 years old, I thought it would be a novel idea if I jumped off the roof of our two-story apartment building, wearing a homemade parachute, put together with cotton twine that I would tie at each corner of a white bed sheet. I had made parachutes for my toy soldiers before and they worked perfectly, so of course I can easily construct one for myself. With a few design adjustments, it would work like a charm.
The only problem, I thought I had, was that there wasn’t an access to the roof from our apartment, unless… I made a ladder that would somehow hook to the edge of the roof and placed just over our open living room window.
In need of tools, I went through my mother’s so-called toolbox. The box contained a small hammer, rusty nails, a dull wood chisel, a miniature precision screwdriver kit, tatting needles, a pocket knife, thread, a roll of stainless steel wire, tattered cloth, pieces of small wood and various other items that were useless to everyone except my mother and that puppet maker Geppetto.
I grabbed the hammer and the chisel, and then ran outside in search of wood pallets that will help me up onto the top of our apartment building, so I can turn around and jump right off the roof. This was my fail-safe plan… well, until my mother walked in during my ladder construction.
“¡Ah, Dios mío! ¿Derick, qué estás haciendo?” is something I’ve heard her say throughout my childhood.
It was Saturday, Mom was working overtime and so was I, because I lost track of time and was busted. Normally she’s supportive of my creativity or at least able to tolerate most of my zany ideas, but not when it covers her living room floor with nails and broken pieces of wood. I explained my grand plan as she looked down at me with her hands on her hips. I thought she would find my ingenuity endearing and ask if she could watch, however I was sorely mistaken.
For years, the thought of soaring through the air with a parachute, I was sure to make, never left my mind. Except for my better understanding of weight and the drag principle of a parachute, not much has changed. If it seems like a good idea to me, it will not go away unless I do something about it or a better idea replaces it.
At present, I’m not concerned that I have never done anything like what I am contemplating on doing. That said, I’m not sure if I will even like doing what I am contemplating. Nevertheless, it’s a challenge and it’s extreme enough that it dares me; so much so that I’m now convinced it’s something I have to do. Just the same, a part of me wonders, like that 8-year-old Derick, am I leaping into danger?
It’s almost three in the morning and I’m wide awake. As soon as this idea found its way into my frontal lobe, it replaced sleep, keeping me up all night. Sometime after I noticed sunrays shining through my bedroom blinds, I give way to rest, yet I know that as soon as I wake up, I will plunge into this new zany idea.
A couple of hours later, I stir in bed, unable to sleep any longer. I should be exhausted, but upon opening my heavy eyes, I recall my decision. I then feel a smile making its way across my sleepy face.
I’m really going to do it.
I’m going to hike the Appalachian Trail and from that moment on, I thought of nothing else.
If you’re interested in reading more about my wacky, yet adventurous AT experience, check out my memoir, The Unlikely Thru-Hiker.