Waking up in Merkel was pretty easy. I didn't want to TRY to sleep anymore so I was dressed, packed, and on the road at about 7. The morning was a wonderful temperature to start hiking and I made a lot of distance by 11ish am -- I'd guestimate 20-25 miles -- west on I-20 toward Sweetwater.
Then a white dodge pick up drove past and the driver gave me a goofy look. He looked familiar so I watched the truck drive past, stop, shift to reverse and stop again next to me. James was his name, and his co-pilot was Masha. Both are ACU alum and were on their way to Midland to visit one of their friends who is working as an intern at a church there.
James had recognized me from this years Red Dirt Challenge which I participated in. He was an officer in the ACU outdoor club and was there helping run things for the competitors. He offered me a lift and I accepted. I threw my pack in the back of his truck and sat next to the ever-so-lovely Masha.
We chatted it up the whole way to Sweetwater where I had asked to be dropped off, but James and Masha are far too cool to not take me a little farther. And by a little, I mean all the way to Snyder. On top of that, the man buys me a burrito lunch! They dropped me off at the north side of Snyder and headed back to I-20 to be on there way to Midland.
I packed up and headed north on 84 making it about 20 miles before I had to stop and set up camp at about 4 or 5. I had developed some pretty gnarly blisters that needed to be tended to so I set up my tent on the edge of the property fence that bordered the highway. (I'll include a pic of this later).
After painfully cleaning and bandaging the sores I took a nap in the tent only to be woken up by the sound of a car door closing. "Oh crap," I thought to myself "here comes a DPS to tell me I can't camp here and probably arrest me."
Taking the initiative I said "Hello?" A man named Steve and his co-worker on an oilfield had stopped to make sure who ever was in the tent was alright. They said they were heading towards Lubbock to go back to work on a oil drilling rig -- they're the guys that drill and drill and drill (sometimes 14,000 ft) to find oil. They dig where the geologists tell them to, then move out of the way for another crew to install the pumping rig.
Steve offered me a ride north as far as he was going before he had to turn off. I accepted and threw my pack in the back of his truck. We enjoyed a SINGLE beer on the road over a great conversation and a couple of cigs. He was 49 and looked 30 and he was a grandfather. I learned about him and he learned about me and it was actually pretty sad to say goodbye when he dropped me off at a small hotel on the north side of Slaton. Steve told me that Lubbock was, at most, 15 minutes away by car.
So I call up my buddy Josh Groves who lives in Lubbock. Earlier in the year when Josh and I lived in Abilene he had told me "when you come up threw Lubbock, give me a call!" So I did, and he drove 15 minutes down to Slaton and picked me up. He brought me into town, fed me, let me shower, smoked me out and drove me around the city.
Lubbock was interesting, but I just wanted to sleeeeeeeep! So after a movie (that I thought was really good and still want to finish) I passed out in a comfortable bed and slept incredibly well, with the exception of a series of nightmares that I honestly can't remember.
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