The porch was full of backpacks. There was a large, multi-day pack that had clothes spilling out of each pocket. There was a bulging daypack. And there was some sort of large, flexible cooler. The worst part was that all of the gear belonged to one person and one person only: Lumonox. Bewildered, I stared at the pile of stuff and wondered why one person needed all of it for a three day trip while E-Rock and the One OG (“OG”) roared with laughter. When the hubbub had died down for a moment, Lumonox looked at me sheepishly and tried to explain that he had been waiting for me and or E-Rock to tell him what he needed. Without hesitation, I looked at the cooler and said with a straight face “You won’t be needing that”. Immediately, Lumonox opened the cooler and pulled out a can.
“Yes,” He said calmly, hiding the can’s label from the rest of us. “I need it, because it contains my….” And with a flourish, he whipped his hand off the label so we could all see what it said, “…my victory BUD LIGHT!!!”
For the next several minutes, laughter poured out of the driveway of Lumonox’s house and into the surrounding sleeping houses of his neighborhood. I could only laugh until my stomach hurt. It was six hours until we arrived at the Whitney Portal, and it was less than one day until we started the climb, and instead of being absolutely ready to go, we were having comedy hour in Lumonox’s driveway. Somehow, I wasn’t surprised. After everything that had happened, deep down inside in my core, I had known it was going to be like this. It wasn’t a surprise. And despite everything that wasn’t perfect, I found that I was fine with the situation. The group, despite their best – or worst efforts, was consistently out of their element. It happened. All it meant was that I was going to have to laugh when I could, and watch everyone like a hawk for every other waking moment that it wasn’t comedy hour. I was ready; I had been in similar situations before, and since I hadn’t lost anyone – or their appendages yet, I was confident that despite the flaws that were present in the group, I could lead everyone up and down yet another mountain safely.
With that goal firmly in mind, I laughed again, and banged on the roof of the car and yelled something inane to the members of Team Legendary like “saddle up, Team Legendary”. Somewhere, in the flood of relentless last minute e-mails and calls, Lumonox had come up with the names “Team Legendary” and “Team Cool Kids” to designate our two carloads traveling to Whitney. Team Legendary was my carload of Lumonox, E-Rock, and OG. Team Cool Kids was the truck carrying Ms. Super-Athlete (“Ms. SA”) and her boyfriend, Stouty Yeti (“SY”)– so named for his beer preference and his unnatural obsession with all things sasquatch, and not for any actual physical attributes, because even I was taller and heavier than him in build.
The over-heavy packs thudded into the back of my car, and I slammed the hatch shut. While I and everyone else had plenty of doubts about what we were doing, it was clear that we had made one good decision to start the trip – taking my car. Before we had loaded my car to the gills, there had been a brief talk about taking E-Rock’s car. In all actuality, there hadn’t even been a talk. E-Rock had offered to drive; and the rest of us had stared silently at the pile of gear, which wouldn’t have fit in the trunk or the backseat of his small, German-made car. E-Rock had then stated that we should take my car. I didn’t mind – taking my car meant that I got to be where I was most comfortable – behind the wheel. It also meant that everyone else had a little more room, and that Lumonox got to bring his cooler, even though we had made it abundantly clear that it wouldn’t be leaving the parking lot. With one last look at my partially obstructed rear window, I swung into the driver’s seat and started the engine. There was no turning back now – I really was taking the group to the mountain.