Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Day 11 June 15th 2009, Benton to Degray Lake outside of Caddo Valley (about 45 miles)

It was really foggy this morning and visibility was very low. About 50 feet ahead. My bag was way too heavy and in the quest for a lighter backpack I tossed some shit. I got rid of one pair of boardshorts which were too big for me anyway. My bigass mapbook; I just ripped the pages I needed and tossed the rest which was at least a pound. I had some date fruit cockroaches kept getting into and tossed that too, another two pounds. I had an extra lamp and knife, I left those in Little Rock. Im really hoping to ease the back pain.

Leaving Benton was confusing. I took River St which dead ended onto a river, but not according to google. So I had to turn back around and get to the interstate where I got into AR-229 a two mile ride which eventually connected with AR-67. I got there at about 730 although I left at 630. Only four or five miles were covered and I had to step up the pace. The highway to Glenrose was very hilly. Long uphills and short downhill bursts. I still had a while to go. At approximately 1030 I got to Malvern and was exhausted and drenched in sweat. I was so happy to get there I decided to pose next to the sign. I took a little break and headed to the library to settle my shit with Eureka.

At the public library a young woman came up to my computer and asked if I was travelling after she saw playing around with her 4 year old daughter who was fascinated by my skateboard. After we talked for a little bit I was introduced to her husband, Sean who turned out to be a really cool guy. It turned out through conversations later that he had walked all around the country. He called himself a wanderer and had lived in many places including South America and the Pacific Islands. I overheard him talk about mushrooms so I asked what he was all about. He said he was going to pick some up at a cow pasture later and I could come along if I wanted. Fuck yeah, so I did. First he had to get his sandals from his house. On the way there he asked why I was yawning so much and I said I didn't have a good sleep because of my busted ass tent and was trying to settle things with Eureka. He offered me one of his. When we got to his house he brought his tent out and gave it to me. I tried it out and it was easier to set up, lighter, bigger on the inside and it was freestanding which meant that it didn't have to be staked to the ground. Perfect. His wife also gave me a bag of vegetables including an apple, onions, peas, tomatoes and cucumbers. Fuck yeah. Then off to Hot Springs we went where the farm and mushrooms were.

On the way there we were conversating some more when I found out he lived in Yellowstone. He also made some money on the side by working as a tour guide. I knew a guy a did the same thing a while back in my town in Rhode Island. I asked if he knew Freddie Dawson, old man Freddie. He knew him! What a tiny ass world, and he said "It usually tends to be that way" Freddie if you are reading this, I miss you man I hope things have improved in your life, I know you were going through some harsh times when I left to Ghana. We picked a big bag full of mushrooms, some being the biggest I have ever seen, some fresh peaches and blackberries. It was a trip and he asked if I wanted to eat some tonight. Aaaaaah. As much as I wanted to, I had to focus on my trip. Tomorrow wouldn't be a good day if I ate some. On the way back to Malvern he bought me a chicken kabob that was fried with onions and potatoes and it was fucking delicious. And so I covered the next 20 miles to DeGray Dam and settled in a spot called Lower Lakes recreation area at about 517. At 730 Clark county sheriff came up to me and hasseled me because I was camped. He had a small little mustache and was kind of chubby. Slowly walking towards me

"How you doin?" in his southern accent

"Im ok"

"The weather is hot"

"I guess, its ok right now. Any problems, sir?"

"Yeah well I saw your tent. Im going to have to call the park ranger and see what he says. There is no camping allowed here. Do you have an ID?"

"Yeah" I reached in my pocket, opened my wallet and handed it to him and so he went to check things out. He came back 10 minutes later and handed me my ID back

"Let me tell you, next time don't set your tent up during the day. If I hadn't seen you, you would have gotten away with it"

"So I have to be sneaky about it now? I set my tent up and let everybody know my intentions. Im not trying to cause any trouble, just passing through and will be gone early in the morning"
He wouldn't have it

"We will wait for the park ranger, he should be here shortly" So we waited and waited and he never showed up. After 20 minutes I got up to take a picture of the lake behind the dam at sunset when I spotted the sheriff driving away. I quickly ran up to his car

"Hes supposed to come"

"So what does that mean?"

"You can do whatever you want to do"
"So I can stay here?"

"Whatever you wannado, leave or stay, I don't care"

"Ok" I was so confused

"Be safe"
"I will"

That was that. Fucking cops. They are all a bunch of action junkies that find out when they become cops, most work consists of doing paperwork and they hated it, so they always tried to find some shit to do, even if it was hasseling people who never did shit. But in reality I have passed many cops in my journey so far, almost all who have never even said a word to me.

I was asleep at 1010 when I was awaken by bright lights coming down the road. I had a feeling it was the park ranger. His white Ford truck came up passed me then turned back around then he shined his bright flashlight on my tent and in my eyes.

"Are you the park ranger sir?" approaching the truck and the old man in it
"You can't camp here sir"
"Why not? Im just passing through and leave before 6 tomorrow"
"This is not a camping area sir"

"My map says it is"

"Please sir dont lie to me, this is my job, Ill show you my map"

"I swear Im not lying"

"Show me your map" We walked over to my map and I unfolded it

"This is DeGray Lake, right?"

"Look it says I can camp, right here in this Arkansas State Highway map"
He looked closely "Hmmm, well let me show you mine"

"I know you are not lying to me sir, I know you are right. I just want you to know where Im coming from."

"I understand where you are coming from, but I will take you somewhere else" he emphasized

"Sir its 10 at night and I was already asleep. Now I have to pack again and then unpack one more time"

After some thinking he said he would let me stay if I left early, then another ranger car came up

"Now you are gonna have to go"
God damn it, I thought. So I went to my shit and began packing. When I looked up and saw him talking to a lady ranger I overheard her say "Well I don't have a problem with it" Without even hesitating. Man I love women, so I walked up

"So whats you story?" she asked in a very friendly tone

After telling her what I was about we ended up talking about skiing and laughing about skateboard falls even with the old man. He smiled every so often. She was a very nice woman, completely understanding. He was a grumpy old man who believed so strongly that somebody was going to come and harass me or kill me.

"Im not worried about it"

"You should be, I dont trust anybody"

"Well I have my knife"
"We will let you go back to sleep" she cut him off and so I did
Tomorrow is another day.


  1. great stories bro! if you pass through phoenix you got a spot to crash. -chris

  2. Omar! You are the man. So fucking mellow about everything. I'm really enjoying reading about your journey and the small interactions with people. I love the details. Keep it up man!

    -Sorry if I fucked you over with River Street. Thats what Google Map said...those fuckers didn't mention any river in the middle.