Halfway through the day we passed over the border, not even noticing we had done so, and twenty miles later, we waited for my dad just past the closed lodge we were supposed to be meeting at. After a half an hour, my mom cocked her head to the side, looking in the side mirror, noticing someone coming up the road on bike. "Is that him?" I pivoted around in the front seat, noting the meandering pace of the packed down biker. "No. That is definitely not him." The biker came riding up beside us, shirtless with a grin spreading across his face. He pointed at the bikes on the back of the truck, "You're doing the trail as well?" he said in a lisping British drawl. We looked at each other, my mother pointed to me, "Well, yeah...she is. Pretty much." We asked him if he could use any water and declining politely he wished us well and went on his way.
Forty minutes later, my dad wind burnt and drained got in the truck and directed us to a primitive camping site shown on the trail map. When we pulled onto the road where the supposed sites were, we looked around in confusion only seeing trampled down prairie grass, the ground hard and undulating underneath. "This is the nice camping site they mentioned?" We drove a little ways up the dirt road, until it became narrow and the grade steepened. We backtracked, trying to find an alternative to the night that would be spent lying on small mounds of packed roots and dirt. As we backed the truck closer to the turn, we noticed a cleared spot to the right of us with even ground and a recently used fire pit. We pulled the truck in, shrugging and setting up the tents and a new fire pit that would not be surrounded by dried grass and leaves.
We all looked up towards the road where we heard the rustling of bags and tires over gravel. My dad waved as the Englishman rode past us, "I'm not sure there's any decent campsites up that way," he called to the man. He rode about a quarter of a mile up the road, rotating his head in that same desperate way we had when we saw the mashed down grass. My dad walked towards him. "You can share this site with us up here, there's plenty of room." The man pedaled back towards us, swinging his long leg over the seat and walked his bike up into the site where we had begun to set up. He introduced himself as Joe, shaking my parents' hands, cordial and relieved to have found a spot for the night. When we got the fire started and the chairs and coolers set out, Joe brought his little pot with water over, asked if we minded him using a part of the fire. Knowing what was coming, I squinted up to my mom, looked back at the squatting Joe, "You're welcome to join us for dinner. We have potatoes and all kinds of meat and vegetables." "VEGETABLES?!" Joe cheeped in a way that made it seem inconceivable that there would be fresh food this far in on the trail. "Oh my goodness," he said, "I was just going to have my Kraft dinner, but potatoes and vegetables sound lovely." "Do you drink beer, Joe?" My mother asked delicately. His eyes widened, the edges of his lips turning upward, "Oh! Yes!" We sat around the fire, talking and drinking, shooing Joe off of the beer cooler every twenty minutes for refreshers until the dark set in around us, the fire burning to coals, the lantern's incandescence creating a circle only wide enough for the four of us. The next morning, I woke hearing tires rolling past my tent, thank yous and goodbyes ringing through the cold, knowing we would most likely not see the jovial cyclist again.