I managed to bank a good two hours of sleep and gamble about five hours of potential sleep on the metaphorical alcohol stock market. It crashed and burned, and so would I later on in the Trek van.
A wonderfully strong smell was wafting in from both an easterly and westernly direction. It was probably my armpits. Or Liz’s. Or both. The bad news is that there was no time for a proper shower. The good news is that I am well trained in the quick-pits wash and decided to go ahead with this option. I figured that the rest of the Trekkers would eventually get to sample my smell (whether they liked it or not!), so it was totally acceptable and not at all lazy or disgusting of me shut up stop judging me Jesus Christ Lord okay fine I’ll go shower jeeeeepers creeepers.
The phone in the hotel room screeched harsh in our hungover ears. It was Adam/reception wondering if we were still alive. The rest of the group were already in the lobby, so technically we were late for the 7.30am meeting. However, if we intended to be late, does that actually make us late? Think about it. Hashtag latecrewforlife.
Liz, Jo and I plodded along to the lobby and joined everyone. We were situated in a funked-up kind of circle with our luggage and excited hats stuck firmly on our heads. Our tour leader, Devon, was also there. He’d later turn out to be the greatest tour leader/Kanjam player/limousine picker/hat collector I have met thus far in my life.
We didn’t spend too long in the lobby as we needed to get on the road as soon as possible. It was going to be a mammoth 480 miles of driving today. That’s roughly 770 km. Or probably 207 Hagrid lunges. This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. The extra time in the van granted us the perfect opportunity to get to know each other.
After loading the trailer with our luggage, we each picked a seat and got the hell out of Seattle. Conversations in the van flowed way too easy, like water escaping through a destroyed dam. It was so effortless to strike up a conversation with almost anyone. It was weird. In a good way.
Meeting and chatting to Trekkers before the tour started helped with our crazy bonding. What helped the most, however, was the fact that the Trekkers shared the same sick sense of humour and contagious kindness. A great mix!
The characters that made up the Mountain Trail Massive were Charlie, Ros, Laura, Saskia, Josefine, Graham, Liesbet, Fred, Natalie, Adam, Stacey, Liz and me. And Devon, of course. The UK had a strong presence in the van, accounting for eleven of the thirteen Trekkers. Belgium and Denmark made up the remaining two.
We stopped for our first group lunch at a lake near Sprague. It was very hot and very dry, but our mouths were soon watered with a delicious assortment of picnic grub. It was a peaceful place and it helped rejuvenate us after a long slog of driving.
Graham had front seat privileges for the first half of the day, so I offered to swap to let him get his banter on with the backseat crew. He agreed, so I spent the second half of the journey in the front seat next to Devon.
I put some music on and Devon and I got chatting. Turns out, he was reading the same book as me. Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian. Now, if you haven’t read this one then you should totally add it to your reading list. But, as Devon and I agreed, it’s a meaty mission to get through. The prose is so poetic. The sentences are crafted with precision and make for literature perfection! This makes the book a bit of a task to get through. If you let your mind wander for a second, you’ll find yourself reading the same passage again because every word counts in Blood Meridian.
Devon and I also discussed the podcast phenomenon that is Serial. If you’re one of five people on Earth who haven’t listened to Serial yet, then stop reading this explosion of tasteless writing and listen to it! We ended up doing so on the trip via the van’s speakers on our long driving days. I found that it’s just as addictive on the second listen as it is on the first!
We soon left the state of Washington, and I quickly entered the state of sleep deprivation (haha wordplay). At one point I nodded off for a second, slapped my thumb on my iPhone screen and changed the current song halfway through to Bon Jovi. This is what top university professors would call a ‘Bon Jovi Bomb’ or a ‘Bomb Jovi’.
We entered Idaho for a short while and then left it behind after spending just an hour and a half there. I’m not sure exactly what Idaho has to offer, but Idahope there’s some interesting things to see (haha wordplay).
Montana was going to have to put up with us for the night as this is where we planned to finish up for the day. Jellystone Park, Missoula, to be specific. But before we graced Yogi Bear’s home with our presence, Devon stopped at 50,000 Silver $ Bar. Not going to lie, it was an unusual place, but very much welcomed. The place was part casino, part motel, part restaurant, part RV park, part souvenir shop and part bar.
Devon went to fill up some gas, so we all headed inside to browse the shop. It was massive, and it sold pretty much everything and anything, from glasses that could fit a whole wine bottle to morning star clubs. It was random stops like this that have become mini highlights for me during my travels across America. These type of places were typically American and very expressive, boldly exercising their right of freedom. And you know what? One definition of freedom could well be the act of stopping at a random souvenir store and being able to purchase medieval weaponry and a Coca Cola.
We weren’t too far from Jellystone, so it was an easy drive after the Silver $ Bar. We got to the campsite around evening and immediately set up the tents. Devon gave us instructions on how to pop them up, and we were also divided into tent buddies and groups. As mentioned in previous journals, you get split into four groups on Trek. Each group will have rotating responsibilities each day. A typical day could be this:
Group A – Cooking
Group B – Cleaning
Group C – Loading/Unloading trailer
As this was the first day, Devon was going to cook for us. He ended up making some tasty tacos and briefed us on what to expect over the next fourteen days. We then finished grub, cleaned up, showered and sat around drinking beer and chatting.
I should mention that Jellystone was a great little place. Quiet. Decent amenities. Statues of Yogi. TRACTORS!
The only weird thing was trying to sneak past Yogi in the night. He looked well shifty.
After Natalie managed to ‘wow’ everyone with her incredible effort at trying to throw the conversation bar over a bottomless pit, we soon retired for our first official night on Trek.