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True adventures of a hitchhiker on a 12,000 mile journey across the U.S. in 1929
Excerpt #4 from Thumbs Up by Harry I. Heller
The enthusiasm with which I had started to climb Pike’s Peak gradually died as time passed. My progress slowed as my strength ebbed away. The strenuous climbing began to show its effects on my legs. More and more of an effort was required to raise and lower them as I gained altitude. The grades became steeper and steeper. In order to surmount them, I had to bend over so far that it seemed, at times, as if my forehead would touch my shoes.
The day blended into an inky night whose black curtain seemed to cut me off from the rest of the world and left me alone in a wilderness. Silhouettes of high mountains reared their heads into the very heavens and hemmed me in on all sides like a prisoner. Escape lay in reaching the very pinnacle of them all.
On and on, ever upward, I urged my leaden feet. At the end of every struggle to ascend a few more paces, I stopped to allow my overtaxed and pounding heart to recuperate. How good it felt to lie on the bare and windswept ground, but over the enjoyment of these rest periods, just like a sword of doom, hung the thought that they were brief interludes in an agonizing attempt to gain more altitude. Hour after hour, I continued to struggle onward.
Intermittent flashes of blinding lightning turned the night into weird day before they faded. The only sounds to be heard in all the emptiness were the threatening rumble of thunder and the occasional patter of rain. I came around a curve and there before me was a big orange moon that scurrying clouds soon hid.
Sitting on a rock high up on the mountainside and away from the civilized world, whose lights blinked faintly in the valley below, I realized the insignificance of a puny human in comparison to the rest of the universe. Many questions framed themselves in my mind, but I ran against an unassailable stone wall when I tried to answer them.
When I got above the timber line where the earth is strewn with boulders, the clouds broke and the moon came out in its entire cold splendor. A frigid wind howled, searching for victims to assault. My nose became numb, and my ears followed suit. It was necessary to massage them vigorously to keep the blood circulating.
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