I did 21 miles today and I’m in a motel in Auburn, Nebraska. Out in the middle of nowhere this morning, from behind me I heard, “Wahoooo!!” I turned to see a guy on a totally loaded down bike. I had the pleasure of meeting Jack Smith who calls himself “Timber Jack” Smith because he was in the timber business in Michigan before he retired. “Timber Jack” is from Battle Creek, Michigan, he’s 71 years old and he left Oregon on June 1 to bike all of the Lewis and Clark Trail. He most definitely loves life!
Hope you enjoy this story from my Appalachian Trail hike in 1999:
On my birthday, June 17th, I hiked into the city of Waynesboro, Virginia, and checked into a nice motel. I decided I would treat myself to one of my favorite dishes, white clam sauce over linguini. I searched the phone book and found an Italian restaurant within walking distance. All I had in the way of clothing were nylon hiking shorts with “cargo pockets” and nylon tee-shirts. Both sets were badly stained. This was a special occasion and I did want to look nice on my 54th birthday. Then I remembered, attached to my backpack was a very brightly colored dress tie!
Just before starting my hike, I was in a local bar, the Long Branch Saloon, telling a car salesman friend of mine my plans to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail in just a few days. My friend gets this really surprised look on his face and shaking his head in amazement, says, “I can’t believe this!” and still shaking his head, he reaches down and takes hold of his beautiful tie and says, “See this tie, one of the best friends I ever had gave me this tie.” He then became very serious and told me this story. “My friend and I worked together for years selling cars, me and everyone else at that dealership knew he had put back money for years toward a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. He talked about it often.” Then my friend looked down at the floor and said, “He got cancer before he could carry out his dream. He never made his fortieth birthday.” Still holding onto the tie his good friend had given him, he explained to me, “This has become my lucky tie. Whenever we have slow sales, I wear this tie and it always works. I had a great day today!” He then undid the tie and with eyes welled up with tears, handed it to me and asked, “Steve would you carry this tie on your hike of that trail?” “Absolutely,” I answered.
How touching, this man was giving up his “lucky tie” that meant so much to him to symbolically send his friend on the thru-hike he was unable to do. I felt honored. So, now that I had proper attire, I tied the best knot I could and headed to the Italian restaurant wearing this expensive, brightly colored tie with drab green cargo shorts and an even drabber green tee-shirt. The waiter never mentioned my attire or even seemed to notice my fine tie. At the table across from me, were two plain-clothes detectives. I saw their badges on their belts and overheard them discussing the training seminar they had attended that day. They were in conversation about the day’s doings and their occupation in general, but I did catch both of them glancing over at me occasionally. That’s a police officer’s job, you know, noticing odd looking things. Finally, the one nearest turned to me and said, “That’s a fine looking tie you have on.” “Why thank you!” I said, “Today is my birthday and I just felt like dressin’ up.” I shared with them the significance of the tie. They bought me a beer and, wished me a happy birthday and proposed a toast. We raised our glasses and one of them toasted, “Here’s to you, to your friend… and to his friend!” They both said, “Salud!” nodding their heads in agreement and respect. I had a great birthday. I was having the time of my life. LOVE LIFE my friends!!