“Is everything in order?” I ask the folks in the issue room.
“Yeah, everything looks good, your students have all checked out” comes the reply.
“Alrighty then, I am out of here” I say as I turn around and grab my pack from the concrete floor, tossing it over my shoulder and walking out of the bay. The moment comes slowly and I breathe easily. I slow down and enjoy the freedom. Tonight a graduation and dinner. Tomorrow a debrief. Right now, a walk.
“So what are you going to do when you get back?” Charlie asks me, dangling his right arm over my shoulder and a big smile on his face.
“Well, I have several weeks off…” I start to reply as we walk side by side in that fashion down the gravel road of the group site at Red Rock Canyon’s campground.
“No, no, I mean, what do you like to do when you get back? Eat a hamburger, drink a beer? Is there a certain someone you want to call?” he interjects. He takes his arm off my shoulder and we stop walking and talk face to face.
“Hmm” I wonder out loud. “I don’t really have that many vices…” I trail off. “Go climbing?” I answer half halfheartedly.
We all have our rituals, the things we look forward to. For some it is drinking a beer in the shower. Others it is a telephone call or a burger at the Gannett Grill. For me it is nothing so indulgent. My NOLS Rocky Mountain end of course ritual is the walk. The moment when I am free of the students, when they are off debriefing with a program supervisor, my co-instructors have showered and left the branch, headed home and all loose ends are tied up, that is the moment I relish. I slow down the pace from the typical de-issue day speedy and find some sense of peace.
It is only two and half blocks from the NOLS Rocky Mountain Branch to my pseudo home of room 306 in the Noble Hotel. The walk might involve a few detours or a stop. These days it is likely that I will deposit something in my truck, parked in between. Probably my backpack. I will stroll on carrying just the essentials: student diplomas, a few shower items, my clipboard.
The walk is done at a leisurely, calm pace. The hectic frenzy of the de-issue process is over and all the hard work has been done. In years past I would wander slowly past the new and used cars for sale in the lot on the corner of 4th and Lincoln, marveling at the size of the trucks, wondering how people could afford the gas. The dealership is gone now, moved down the road and only a vacant lot with an empty showroom across the street remain. A lopsided real estate sign proclaims the property for sale. I amble on, not quite anxious to get to the Noble, not quite wanting to walk more.
Though the course is over, my mind still swirls with plans and details. Dinner, making diplomas, graduation, they all have details that can not be overlooked. As I amble on I enjoy the warmth of the sun on my flip flop shod feet and the feel of a stomach full of burgers and potato salad, a summertime post course treat of which I am not sure I could ever get enough.
Yeah, I look forward to checking my mail, drinking a Bolthouse Farms beverage, and maybe a Coors Original. I definitely look forward to climbing. Those are things that are still off in the future. The walk, the journey from the branch to the Noble, that is where the process of unwinding and relaxing begins.