LABOR DAY, OUR SUMMER ENDS
Trip Start Jun 15, 2003
44Trip End Nov 26, 2003
We were in an intimate college town in Washington state. The bars had just closed. And frat-boy Adam, as he did best, was drinking. He revealed to us that when he drinks, one of the things he most loved to do was sprint.
He even took the official sprinter's stance and had us say, "On your mark, get set, go!" He pumped his arms and puffed down the quiet street, a look of seriousness atop his square body that suggested he believed he actually was in the Olympics. It was funniest to see Adam go off the runner's block. Once, the delay from runner's block to upward sprint took a full two seconds, as if he was held back by something. But, boy, he thought he was ready to take on Michael Johnson.
Adam "The Hare" Rohr and I and Johnny were in Bellingham, Washington - a great little town - for one final hijinks-filled stay. A good friend of Julie's was putting us up. His name was Nick, and he was nasally-voiced and thin. He was a t-shirt-wearing party animal. He loved attending Western Washington University, and he was excited to show us Canada-trekkers one final good time.
Our first full day with Nick was Labor Day. I decided I would have a gallon of milk for breakfast.
Whether or not I could drink a gallon of 2 % milk in an hour - the "milk challenge" - had been a heated element of debate between Adam "Flash" Rohr and I for weeks. Many of Adam's crazy fraternity friends had tried it, and they'd all fallen short and puked bucket-fulls.
But those guys were silly, and they didn't adhere to my all-ice-cream-diet. I downed a good chunk of the gallon in the opening minutes, and I thought I was going to coast.
One man had drunk the gallon in eight minutes during a contest in Kansas City. The internet spoke of even women who'd accomplished the very difficult feat. A sixteen-year-old boy, at a fair in 1967 in Minnesota, had set the record by drinking 3 1/2 gallons in an hour. These were the iron-stomached individuals all we contesting "milk contest" contestants idolize and revere - until we puke in agony and pray for death.
The bottom of the milk jug seemed so deep, as I slowed considerably. Milk welled up in my throat, and puking was a neighbor. All the spectators - including Nick's roommate, Joe, who had his video camera on me - were eager to see me vomit. With six minutes left in the hour, one glass still remained. I had to get it down, even it didn't stay that way, to at least have a chance.
59:57 of the hour had elapsed when the milk disappeared. I needed to keep the milk down for thirty minutes. I felt like a volcano pre-eruption. "I'm not gonna make it, I'm not gonna make it," I whined.
But, dairy was my forte. After thirty minutes, Johnny crowned me "milk contest" winner. As a result of a bet I had with Adam, Adam would have to wear a grass skirt to the bar that night.
Nick entertained us on Labor Day by taking us to a lake we could cliff-jump at, taking us frisbee-golfing, and barbecuing shiskebobs and corn. At night, we got to enjoy a great American institution: "Hula Hoop Monday," at a Bellingham bar.
Girls and sometimes guys shook their hips in hula hoops all over the dance-floor. It was a wild scene. Shaven-headed Johnny shook really fast in his baggy blue jeans and was able to keep the hoop hula-ing for a tiny while. Adam and I were the worst at it. Nick was the best, even able to jump off the stage and keep the hoop going.
We figured we could enjoy ourselves even more in this atmosphere if we started hitting on girls. I stopped two young ones, and I optimistically explained how I was going to give them expert lessons on how to hula hoop. (My hula-ing disaster that would've followed would've been funny to at least me.)
Johnny then walked by, purposefully snagged his foot on one of the girl's hula hoops, and tripped over-dramatically. It was an ice-breaker move of blue-eyed Johnny's that I especially admired. However, the frigid girls, unamused, shot, "We're lesbians," at us and walked away.
No girls would talk to us and we were pathetic hula hoop-ers, but at least we could enjoy a fun night dancing. Johnny and I squat-stepped around each other and others on the floor. We even did the side-step together. Adam, in his grass skirt, stepped in-and-out of a hula hoop he held really quickly, with an "Uh-oh!" look on his face. And Nick, who was the most hammered of us, just went around trying to get girls to booty-dance with him.
The following morning, Nick went to work at the bank. He was awfully hung over, and people asked him all day worriedly, "Are you all right?"
I worked too. Nick generously said I could paint a fence for him to make some bucks.
A second day of hijinks followed this workday. Adam and I made another wager, this one related to baseball knowledge. We both lost. Keeping my end of the bet, I called the fourth Canada-trekker, Julie, and confessed to her that I had a huge crush on a female friend of hers nick-named, "Jovial Johnny." Keeping his end of the bet, Adam called "Jovial Johnny" and poured to her that he had a huge crush on Julie. The two girls would've discovered we were kidding when they called each other afterwards. It was a good bet.
We played a version of Risk so drunken and unruly that the neighbors complained about our loudness before we finished debating the rules, and Adam slurred, "Fuck you, man!" or "I'luv u!" the drunker he got. We watched the sun come up at Denny's. Their summer over, a table of high school boys took shots of syrup with us to toast the upcoming schoolyear.
Nick didn't let us sleep in for long. On the last day before Johnny and Adam flew home, Nick took us on our best hike of the trip.
He took us to Mt. Baker/Snoqualcie National Forest. We gradually climbed Mt. Baker through a wet-green forest. In spots, gardens of large, maple-leaf-shaped ferns replaced trees and decorated the mountain for hundreds of feet.
We left the forest and reached a clearing, right below Mt. Baker's white-topped head. We had to step and hop across rocks in a wide stream, which was fed by pure-foam waterfalls tumbling merrily down bare rock. We ate lunch on a solitary, house-sized boulder.
A marmot left its hole in the rocks to welcome the day's only visitors. He looked like Gopher from Winnie the Pooh, with a white snout and a gray hooded sweatshirt.
The hiking became fun and scary as we pressed on snow-wards. Johnny and I clung to steep, loose rock and slithered our way up safely, relieved.
The rivety, drity glacier teemed alongside our path and up before us. Devil's spikes of ice crammed into one spot, pointing up. A cool thing happened when we heard a "Crack!" like an auto hitting nature. We looked at the spikes, and a block of ice became dislodged and broke off and bounced around the glacier. "Wow!" I involuntarily said.
We jumped up and down on the glacier. We dug our feet in the snow to see how far we could walk up. Reaching our highest, we slid down fast on our butts and feet and enjoyed the out-of-control, snow-blinding ride.
Johnny was a bit unsure about the sliding at first, but he went through with it and loved the zoom. He had all kinds of exciting ideas for plans post-trip. He wanted to travel tons, and he wanted to take massage classes and become a masseuse.
Adam, meanwhile, had loved his first big trip. He'd always lived in Maryland until now, but he was considering going to live in New York City or the American West now that he'd graduated.
We turned home. Mt. Baker was a great hike and a great last-day activity.
The following morning, Nick drove Johnny and Adam into Seattle to fly home. Man, I was going to miss those guys. It was sure fun travelling with two guys and a girl.
What a great summer.
What a great trip.
- Justin "Johnny" Breen
with my friends, Lucas "Johnny" Seipp-Williams, Adam "Johnny" Rohr, and Julie "Johnny" Zollmann
Much thanks to Nick & Joe for the place to crash!
NOTEABLE WILDLIFE SIGHTINGS: marmot