Stoke Factor: 5
Miserableness Factor: 5
Snot Rockets Blown: 0
Avg Speed: 0mph
Waking up on Badger’s couch, I looked around and saw the mess we made the night before. My stomach roared in pain- something I ate wasn’t sitting right with me. In order to go to the bathroom to so number 2, I would have had to walked about 1/8th of a mile to the lodge and sat down in there. Nobody wants to change the septic system in an RV. Instead of moving, I laid in aching pain. The hangover began to set in and it was only 4am. I was way too early for my alarm.
I looked out the window and saw a dusting of snow blowing over the trees. The branches whistled as 30+mph winds forced their ways through. Out of both of the places I had lived, seeing winds like that would have been cause for alarm. In Wyoming, they were commonplace. I checked the weather report and saw a terrifying warning: wind gusts over 50mph were expected and cars were told to stay off the freeways. “Lucky me,” I thought. The freeway was exactly where I was headed.
As I tossed myself around on the couch, the sinking center section gradually got on my nerves. In and out of consciousness I rolled around trying to get comfortable. It just wasn’t happening. Badger woke up early as well and we laughed together about our night. He had such a good spirit for a guy who had 18 years of his life wasted in a maximum security prison. We got along famously. Badger fixed me steak and eggs for breakfast. He boasted about how the steak was local and the eggs were farm fresh, but after seeing how carelessly he tended to actually refrigerating things, paired with the ongoing mice problem and fly issues, I hardly could even think about eating. The pan he used had mice turds in it – it was stored in the oven. I don’t know what it was, but suddenly I didn’t want to spend more time at Badger’s house in Wyoming.
Regardless of any quality issues, the steak was easily the best I ever had. My only complaint was that I didn’t have more. The eggs were mostly yolk and fluffy as ever. It was a truly delicious breakfast. I offered to do the dishes but he wouldn’t let me- besides, two pans, two plates, and two forks wasn’t a lot. He did the dishes while I changed over my laundry. As I stepped out to do my laundry and finally expel whatever it was aching my stomach, there was no way I could push on. The wind knocked me off my feet.
Badger had to go to work. For his work, he sits by his phone and waits for it to ring, then disappears for hours to drive big trucks around doing heavy pulling. He expected an early call because of the weather, so he jumped back in bed to get a quick nap and wake up to the ringing. I too passed out again. I still wasn’t feeling 100%. Hours passed by. Around 1 in the afternoon, Badger was screaming “FUCK” rather audibly and shaking his head. His phone ringer didn’t go off- somehow his phone was set to silent and he missed the call to work by a few hours. He was upset, visibly upset. He grabbed a beer out of the fridge and started drinking. At no point in the two days I was with him did he change his clothes or do any personal care. In fact, I never even saw him go to the bathroom. He slept in his boots and I wasn’t sure if he ever took them off.
He offered to pay for me to do my laundry. He pulled out $1.50 in quarters from a tiny piggy bank and handed them to me. I wrestled up my clothing and he handed me a sweatshirt and sweatpants so I could do all of my laundry without having to do multiple loads. I stepped outside. It was freezing cold and the snow was hardened. I trudged over it, feeling the nipping of the wind gusts at my face. Short walks seemed longer in the cold. The lodge where I was to do my laundry was warm as ever. There was a vending machine for cans of soda. 25 cents a pop. I desperately wanted a root beer; sometimes an ice cold root beer was all I could look forward to. Someone had left their laundry detergent on the top of the machine with no clothes to be found. I took advantage of the free soap and popped my laundry in. It was the first time I had done my own laundry- everywhere I went others would do it for me. Typically they ask whether I wanted it warm or cold, or some special setting. Could you imagine being picky about how your only set of clothes was washed? Never in my life did I understand the point of separating colors from whites, or any of the settings. I always did cold wash, normal dry. I figured if the wash was cold, nothing would run and nothing would shrink. 26 years of living and I never messed up.
In the bathroom I did some basic personal care- brushing my teeth, washing my face, whatever. I slowly stepped back to Badger’s RV and noticed he was taking a swig of his pint of vodka. That guy loved vodka, and drinking in general. You would think that with 18 years in a maximum security prison your taste for drinking would leave you. Not Badger O’Boyle. I didn’t want to drink. Especially not so early. The thought of being drunk and knowing that I should have been skating ate at me.
Badger put some music on. His RV had a great sound system and played hits from the radio. His favorite station was on- older country music. Artists like Gordon Lightfoot, Joan Baez, Crosby Stills and Nash, and more took over the airwaves at full blast. Eventually, to appease me, Badger put on an all women country radio station over Pandora Radio. After a few artists played while my eyes were closed laying on the couch, I noticed he was crying. Literally wailing. His loneliness was obvious, and I was positive the drinking really brought it out i him. It must have been a long time since the last time he cried. He told me that he just felt comfortable with me, and I appreciated that. On the contrary, what a strange experience it was to be on the tail end of my Wyoming adventure watching a grown man cry. Even in my most hormone-fueled days, I never cried. Occasionally a movie would make me cry. Have you ever seen Hatchi? That movie made me cry for three days straight.
I had no idea how to console the man. In truth, I wanted him to be at work. Spending too much time in such a space with only one other person began to drive me crazy. My patience wore thin. I could hear the wind dying down outside and watched as the snow began to melt. I had wasted a day. I was sure that Badger really just wanted the company, and I was happy to be there with him, but at the same time I had a journey to conquer. I wanted to be skating. However, since I wound up in Cheyenne and it wasn’t on my path, the only way to my next leg was by walking on the freeway. I was relying on him to drive me across the border and I couldn’t have done it alone.
The day rolled on, minute by minute trying to sleep it away. Badger began to recite poetry after some time of drinking. One of the poems he read to me really stuck:
The Men That Don’t Fit In by Robert Service
There’s a race of men that don’t fit in,
A race that can’t stay still;
So they break the hearts of kith and kin,
And they roam the world at will.
They range the field and they rove the flood,
And they climb the mountain’s crest;
Theirs is the curse of the gypsy blood,
And they don’t know how to rest.
If they just went straight they might go far;
They are strong and brave and true;
But they’re always tired of the things that are,
And they want the strange and new.
They say: “Could I find my proper groove,
What a deep mark I would make!”
So they chop and change, and each fresh move
Is only a fresh mistake.
And each forgets, as he strips and runs
With a brilliant, fitful pace,
It’s the steady, quiet, plodding ones
Who win in the lifelong race.
And each forgets that his youth has fled,
Forgets that his prime is past,
Till he stands one day, with a hope that’s dead,
In the glare of the truth at last.
He has failed, he has failed; he has missed his chance;
He has just done things by half.
Life’s been a jolly good joke on him,
And now is the time to laugh.
Ha, ha! He is one of the Legion Lost;
He was never meant to win;
He’s a rolling stone, and it’s bred in the bone;
He’s a man who won’t fit in.
It really resonated with me. Although far from a man, the wording was unique and ambiguous. Anyone could have been a man who didn’t fit in. The men that didn’t fit in were the adventurers. The ones who couldn’t grasp the simple normalcy of other’s lives. I was a man who didn’t fit in.
When the laundry was finished, I put my clothes on and got warm. Badger wanted me to get a jacket for the rain and snow. I told him I already ditched mine about 1,000 miles back, and all the new ones were too expensive. I asked about a thrift store but he seemed unwilling to go shopping. “I have just the jacket for you in my storage unit!” he exclaimed. We hopped in his car. I wasn’t sure why I suddenly forgot that he was drunk.
He drove me to the storage unit, and after fumbling around with the gate code, we entered. It was all junk. He kept pointing at junk and claimed it was worth thousands of dollars. Naturally, almost all of it was worthless, but some old comic books really caught my eye. They were old perverted porn comics from days long ago. I didn’t open any from the package, but there were hundreds. Why you would store junk and just keep junk around for the sake of having it was beyond me. Surely, he could sell the junk, make a nice penny, move out of the RV, quit his job and subsist on social security, then finally get that timber cabin he wanted in Montana. “That’s where I’m gonna die,” he repeated over and over. I had no idea what it was like to plan for my own death. Surely I told myself I’d be dead at 27, but at the age of 26 I only wanted to live forever. Every day was better than the last.
The jacket he wanted to give me was ratty, heavy, and faded. It was far too large to fit in my pack and for something that I was only going to wear on special occasions, I couldn’t justify taking it. We left the unit empty-handed.
We visited a liquor store so he could re-up on booze. A six pack and a pint was his specialty. He bragged about me to the cashiers who seemed less than interested. Embarrassed, I stood by as he flirted with a woman who was obviously not only disinterested, but also married. Badger kept talking to me about this 17 year old girl at the gas station he frequented. “Maybe she needs a grandpa,” he said. I told him he was a pervert. “It’s been 27 years since I hugged somebody.”
We revisited Wal-Mart so he could get supplies for dinner. He was far too drunk to be there. The woman at the deli counter had a big crush on Badger. “She’s too fat,” he said. She was an extremely thin, 60 year old woman who laughed at every one of his jokes. She smiled as he talked to her. He just liked to hear her talk, but she was interested. I tried to get her to ask him out, but the ways of the West didn’t put that thought in her head. She would spend the rest of her life laughing at his jokes waiting for him to come to his senses. Badger was too focused on trying to get the 17 year old to come to his RV.
Fully annoyed with his antics of picking on the self-checkout attendant at Wal-Mart, I dragged him out of there. I bought a large amount of Mac and Cheese and paid for whatever he got because he was too drunk to actually just move along and get done what he needed to. I had to literally hold his hand and pull him out of the store. I tried to get him to give me his keys but he wouldn’t let me drive. “Whatever,” I thought. “It’s just a straight shot up the hill.”
He proceeded to drive in between the oncoming and going lanes. All the way. I paid close attention and kept a hand at ready to pull him away should he fail to move if a car was coming. I wasn’t scared, but I was definitely questioning my own sanity after everything. Pint in hand, he turned the wheel back to the RV.
In small, slow steps he prepped dinner. Watching him get ready to cook ate at my nerves. He kept stopping in the middle of accomplishing anything, sat down, and talked about nothing. I swear he talked about his favorite general from the Civil War for two hours. Time passed by, and the sun set on us. His eyes were hardly open. I threw everything in plastic bags and put it in the fridge. I grabbed his car keys, poked at him until he woke up, and told him I was getting us dinner. He followed me to the truck, jumped in the driver’s seat, and I protested. “Not a fucking chance, old man.”
He obliged and went to the passenger side. I drove 10 miles into town to a Chic-Fil-A. He wanted red meat. I didn’t care. I was going to get in the drive thru but there was no way I was going to sit there while he refused to tell me what he wanted in the line, trying to flirt with a voice behind a speaker. Instead, I made him come inside with me. Almost instantly he perked up and was back to his antics. 30 minutes with nobody in line behind us he flirted with the 16 year old cashier. I continued and continued to try and get him to just order. Between her and I we decided he would have just the original chicken sandwich. Figuring out what he wanted to drink was a whole other operation. Eventually he started to pick on her for her acne. “What’s that crap on your face?” he asked with a smile. Where he thought he was funny, she was visibly upset. It got even worse when he told her she was “a real plumper.” I was embarrassed beyond belief. The manager even came over and gave us our food before we finished paying. Everybody wanted us to leave. All eyes on Badger.
Relentlessly the employees kept coming to the cashier’s aid to try and de-escalate the situation with Badger and get us to leave. I tried to pull his hand again and he said, “This one wants to go home with me.” He laughed at his own jokes while everybody else stared. I paid for our meal with my own money once again after he failed to make me dinner like he said, and got angry with him and very stern to try and assert myself. He didn’t like that. A manager came from behind the counter and started pushing him as I pulled. It was an embarrassing mess. Stubborn old fucker, that guy.
Back in the car, I silently drove us back to the RV. I wanted to sleep, he wanted to go to another liquor store. I didn’t stop anywhere. I pulled in to the parking spot, went inside, and he dropped his entire meal upside down on the dirt and snow. Lo’ and behold, he ate it anyways. Of course, he only ate the bread, because he missed picking up the chicken patty.
I pleaded with him to go to bed, but a neighborhood kid came and asked “Uncle Badger” to come to his wrestling meet. This ended in Badger throwing a 15 year old boy in a headlock and I had to end that quickly. The poor kid was scared half to death. Once the kid was gone, I pushed him to his bed, and finally laid down. I couldn’t wait to leave.
Almost as soon as he was in bed, his work called. Drunk as skunk, Badger prepped to go to work. Luckily for him, he was still wearing the same clothes from two days ago- probably even longer. I watched as he packed an uncooked burger patty for lunch. My hope was that I could write a note and leave before he got back. Back to bed I went, finally separated. Although he was a sweet, lonely man, my time with him had run its course. I had no interest in babysitting and I had no interest in being near people. All I could think about was getting back on the road, back to solitude. Just my board and me.