The highlight of the day came early when a National Park Service bicycling trail volunteer named Norman skidded to a stop beside me. Norman is amazing – kind of a wiry little guy probably close to seventy – all decked out in bike safety gear – very official looking.
Norman quizzed me on my trip for fifteen minutes before he took off on his duties to patrol that part of the Towpath. I was impressed by his vitality and his stories about biking across the country and hiking the Appalachian Trail. I was even more impressed when he told me of his two knee replacements and a reconstructed shoulder. A tough old bird!
Immediately after that, I briefly met two young guys at Huckleberry Camp who are hiking the ADT with a dog. They seemed pretty nice, but I didn’t get to talk to them long because just then, Norman came back and skidded to a stop again.
He wanted to know how much a foot of trail would cost in San Benito County and if he could get a foot of the River Parkway named after him.
Then that sly old dog walked up to me, handed me a check for $25, and skeedaddled before I knew what hit me. It happened too fast for me to notice he had made the check out to “Reach Across America.”
Straight donations should be made out to the Community Foundation of San Benito County, but he didn’t know that. Oh well, we’ll sort that out later.
The last thing he said was “how much trail will that get me?”
I was too startled to answer. But when I resumed walking, I began to think it over. Hmmm, let’s see. Say the trail will be twenty miles long and the endowment fund drive is wildly successful so we raise a million dollars. He donated twenty-five. Try a little grade school pre-common core algebra.
If 20 miles equals 1,000,000 dollars, then how many miles equals 25 dollars? I’m doing this on the fly after walking about 18 miles today, but I think that comes out to 0.0005 miles or 2.64 feet. Somebody check my arithmetic. And start looking for a 2.64-foot section of the river we can name after Norman.
(Some of you old-timers will be reminded of Richard Brautigan’s classic novel “Trout Fishing in America” right about now.)
I royally screwed up and forgot to take Norman’s picture. But here are a few photos of his well-patrolled section of the C&O Canal Towpath between Harper’s Ferry and Shepherdstown.
Side note: I’m not going to talk about Antietam. Twenty-three thousand soldiers died in that battle. It’s too sad.
Peace, Love, and Norman the Great,