Andy, DanO, Kris and I went off for lunch to a local Italian place. When the drinks arrived, DanO picked up his straw, removed the wrapper, plunked it into his drink, and started drinking.

"Given how environmentally conscious you are, I'm surprised you use straws. Is there a particular reason for doing so?" I commented and asked.

Kris looked over at me surprised at my directness. Andy looked over at me unsurprised, but reached for his drink.

DanO hemmed and hawwed for a few moments, trying to come up with some reason for using a straw, as I continued, "You know, those take decades to decompose. They're made of plastic."

Kris sat silent. Andy looked down, busy with something in his hands.

DanO continued to wave his hands and say little, until he finally stopped, and stated, "I like drinking from straws."

"That's fine," I responded, "As long as there's a reason, and not just a mindless use of them. Liking them and deliberately using them, say, to keep the liquids from staining your teeth, is reasonable."

We looked over at the relief on Kris' face.

And Andy's answer to my straw accusation:

It exploded five seconds after the picture.

ToT6, the journey back


We woke up today at 6:15 AM. I managed all of four hours of sleep, for the second night in a row. I'm not sure why I woke up so early, I blame Shadow. Andy immediately got up and starting making breakfast. I took a little longer, like a half hour longer, to actually wake up, stretch, read a couple chapters of Harry Potter, get up. You know, the important things.

We packed up and started off on the remaining part of our hike. The dogs started walking fairly slowly, Blue with his athletic tape booties, and Shadow with his Sampras look.

The hike out wasn't nearly as long, it seemed, as the hike in. Knowing much of the path really helped. We weren't able to time the hike with half hour increments, as DanO, Megan and I did on the way in, so I tried to remember where I was at the various points. I recalled crossing into the Ventana Wilderness at 12:20, so we had only two miles to go when we found that sign. I also recalled seeing a fantastic ocean view around mile three.

Shadow was able to walk up hills pretty well, and Blue was able to gallop or stop, but not much in between. The pads on his feet were fairly well chewed up. That he could move at all was impressive. Andy was, of course, the most impressive of all, carrying one or the other dog at various points during the hike. The dogs are 50-60 pounds. Even with his harness, the one that nearly choked him at one point, Andy had to use a lot of arm strength to hold them up. He never mentioned his knees hurting, even carrying the extra 90+ pounds over some incredibly unstable ground.

We arrived at the end of the trail around 12:40 PM. After checking to see if the station had any ice cream (it didn't), we sat down on the tarp under a large pine tree that had a breeze. Shadow didn't really want to lie down on the tarp, and opted, instead, to sit in the back seat of the first open car. The owners of said car were actually quite confused when they looked into the seat and saw a dog sitting there.

I rushed over to get Shadow from the back back seat of the van he was lying in, calling him to come. He didn't budge. I had to climb into the back of the van, pull him out, pick him up, and walk him all of 30 yards to the tarp. Sure, I could argue I didn't have my pack balancing me out, but I don't think I could have carried Shadow very far on the trail unless I really really really had to, Andy's encouragement to the contrary.

After settling the dogs on the tarp, I confessed to Andy I had read Harry Potter from 1:00 am to 2:00 am this morning when I couldn't sleep, and suggested he read to catch up to where I was. Me? I'd sleep.

So, Andy read and I slept for about an hour. Once again, I was unable to sleep without knowing he was there, and fell asleep with a light touch against him. He woke me up by dropping a cashew into my hand. Tasty, tasty cashew.

We read Harry Potter for a while until even that wasn't very interesting. Andy called his dad to see if he was around locally, but had to leave a message. After a bit, I offered to rosham to see who would walk the half mile to the lodge for ice cream. Andy offered and started walking.

He made it all of three minutes before DanO walked up, the three of them done with their hike at 2:40 PM. Borrowing DanO's cell phone, I called Andy, who had my cell phone, and back he came within moments. Ten minutes minutes later, we were off to drop Andy off at his truck, listening to the various craziness of our fellow teammates: Mark swimming downstream instead of hiking being the biggest news.

The distance between the two trail entrances was actually two hours, not something I had realized, though Andy did when he figured out where his exit (and DanO's, Megan's, Sitka's and my entrance) was. Up the coast, through Carmel Valley, up the mountain, farther up the mountain on a dirt road, and a smidge off, and we were at Andy's truck. The same thing in reverse to head back down for the four of us to go home, sans Andy, Blue and Shadow.

Now, Mark had told us about the race at Laguna Seca. He told us not to continue along Carmel Valley, but to head back to 1 before heading north to the 156 and the 101.

What Mark didn't realize was that traffic was going to just as bad on 1 as it would be on the 101. All from the race.

We stopped for dinner at some Baja Racing Grill place, with a Steve McQueen Le Mans poster on the wall, before braving the traffic heading back north to the Bay Area. After about fifteen minutes in the back seat with my lying down next to him, Sitka decided he couldn't stand me any more, despite documented proof of the momentary snuggling he showed me, and climbed over me to way back of the truck. He curled up on our bags and fell asleep.

More room for me! I stretched out in the back seat and passed out. DanO and Megan slowed when the drove by my house, throwing me out the side door and rolling my bag out the back. I stumbled into the house around 10:30 PM, thinking, oof, DanO and Megan had another hour to drive. Ugh.

Tragically, the dirt on my legs was so thick, I had to shower like the heathens do, and used a washcloth to scrub the dirt off. Kris would have been proud, if he hadn't been so engrossed in Harry Potter at the moment.