The train tracks paralleled the highway as the road circled around Tillamook Bay. It was noon by the time I left the campsite. A man named Jude invited me into his RV and offered me apple juice, almonds, and powdered donuts. Farther down the tracks, I picked blackberries from the bramble. The sun emerged from the clouds and the views over the bay were breathtaking.
This man was seated on the side of the road. We waved at each other and I went over to say hi. He was hiking, he told me, and I got excited: I’d met a dozen or so cyclists but hadn’t yet encountered another hiker. He told me he was travelling north from San Francisco. ”Make sure you stop at the San Rafael service center,” he told me, ”they have great services there.” I told him I’d make a note of it. His name was Mike or Dave or John – something vaguely American yet unassuming.
I asked him how heavy his backpack was. This is the kind of idle conversation other people tend to make with me when they realize they can’t chit-chat about miles per gallon or horsepower or resale value. He told me it weighed 80 pounds; I was taken aback.
What do you got in there, I wondered?
”I’m carrying the lost parts of people’s souls that I find along the way.”
”And they’re so heavy?”
”Yeah. I pick them up off pieces of papers and things like that. I find many in suitcases.”
With that, he turned around and walked north. Of course, I thought it was weird, at first, but then I realized that that was what I was doing, too.