Let down...

   "Walking the Pembina Trail," with Jackie Helms, Tom Thronsedt, and Orlin Ostby's family: his wife, Amanda, their 15 year old son Christopher and 12 year old daughter Catherine for the better part of 400 miles in the sweltering heat and winds of July and August 2008 from Pembina, ND to St. Paul, MN in commemoration of Minnesota's 150th birthday--then have it 'suddenly' end sort of leaves me with an empty feeling, although we accomplished what we set out to do.  I wondered about this end-of-trail syndrome. Taking the opportunity, I asked two women who participated in the Sesquicentennial wagon train that traveled from Cannon Falls, Minnesota to the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul in May of 2008 about it. They had said the trip had been a good one but they were glad it was over so they could get back to real beds and hot showers. They had walked for five days and covered 150 miles... What would we think after 50 some days and 400 miles? 

    Reviewing the superb website, http://pembinatrail.blogspot.com helps recall many of the memories I have of the trip and also includes images of me--important because I was one of the photographers of our group and wasn't in the 2000 or so images I captured. At least it verifies to myself that I was there and this all wasn't some strange hallucination on my part that I walked and talked to a Holstein ox named 'Pum' for 400 miles who liked to smell and lick my sleeve... What deviant would dream that up other than some exceptionally tall guy named Bunyan with a bad case of the bovine 'blues?' 

    We all had been involved with all the trip's aspects that it predominated most of our other concerns. Thinking about Pum the ox and his entourage, having to remember to do this or that, contacting people/making arrangements, talking at length with people who stopped us along the road or at county fairs and the Minnesota State Fair, autographing t-shirts, selling WTPT buttons, and taking tons of digital images of the unique slow-moving caravan, the reality of being home and working at the toy factory full time again has left me, and the others, in a sort of fog. Two weeks home and we haven't completely unpacked from this lifestyle we adopted for two months and don't seem to really want to... 

Writing three hours each morning for a book I'm publishing about the trip, as well as laying out a Special Edition/Raven issue, at least in my head, pre-occupies my immediate thought processes so much so I have to catch myself on occasion and tell myself to think about what I'm doing right now. It's sort of akin to slapping yourself in the face to 'wake up.' It hasn't gotten so bad that I need to sleep in my Metis shirt or tie my Metis sash to the rear view mirror in my car or even wear my wide-brimmed canvas hat in the house these days, but the seeming self-importance the trip lent me is hard to replace. I know, I know--readers are out there are saying, "Get a life, buddy."

Well, it doesn't help matters for almost all of us participants 'to have to' be in local parades, fall festivals, and threshing shows after the fact with Pum and the ox cart, and have to talk about our trip again and again. Nor does it help when the two younger walkers, brother and sister Chris and Catherine Ostby, talk about the trip with some actually fond memories of it and laugh about them now, when in fact at the time, it was understandably difficult for them at their ages--walking along the roads with a bunch of old people and an ox--of all things. Natural aging aside, I think we all matured a little more on that trip somehow, whether we were 12 years old or 67, relating to one another in a wholly alien environment apart from our normal 21st century lives--and walking all that way, changed us somehow. It was as though the world passed us by in their headlong rush to 'go someplace,' and we just strolled along beside it in a sort of time warp, talking among ourselves, laughing, avoiding sudden poop piles that Pum would unleash on the unsuspecting...

It was a good time, all in all. An adventure, to be sure. A chance of a lifetime... 

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