On our very first rest day of the trip, in Eureka, MT, Chris and I received an unexpected gift. We were sitting in the laundromat, reading our books as we waited for the wash cycle to complete. The door swung open, and a head of strawberry blonde dreadlocks sitting atop a long-sleeved flannel shirt and torn jeans strolled in. He was carrying a basket full of clothing, and, as he scanned the room, he spotted us.
“Are those your bikes?” He proceeded to strike up a conversation. I tried to keep my head down, as though absorbed in my book, and let Chris field the initial questions. After hearing all about our trip, the conversation took an unexpected turn: “Hey, do you guys want some mushrooms?”
My head shot up as I glanced at Chris. The look we gave each other said it all: does he mean mushrooms or shrooms?
While, in the spirit of all cyclists, ever, we will always take free food, we weren’t sure if we were willing to risk the hallucinogenic experience that might come with that food.
My jaw dropped as our laundromat companion reached under the clothing in his basket and pulled out a jar – no, really a barrel, like one of those massive containers you get pretzels or cheese balls in, filled with dehydrated mushrooms.
“I- we- don’t really have anything to put them in,” Chris sputtered, trying to come up with an excuse; a nice way to turn down this offer.
“Oh, no worries! I have plastic bags!” He pulled out a Ziploc sandwich bag, unscrewed the lid of his container of mushrooms, and began to fill the bag with mushrooms. He didn’t stop until it was nearly bursting, just barely managing to seal it.
Chris smiled nervously as he accepted the bag. Our mop-haired comrade turned away to start his laundry, after which, as he exited the building, he turned to bid us adieu with a large, genuine smile, “Have a good one! Gotta go fishing; gotta catch some dinner!”
Chris and I turned to look at each other. “What do we do with them?” I asked him, “Do we throw them away? If those are shrooms, that’s a ridiculous amount that he just gave us!”
We decided to hold onto them until we had a better idea of whether or not they were dinner table mushrooms or their bohemian cousin. Blame that decision on my inability to waste food.
A few days later, while we were biking with my parents, we came upon a sign with information about permits for picking morels, mushrooms that grow well in recent burn areas. The distinctive honeycomb pattern of the mushrooms pictured on the sign was indisputably the same pattern as the mushrooms we now carried with us. “Chris, look!” I laughed as I pointed at the sign, “Our mushrooms are morels!”
My parents looked confused; we hadn’t told them about the food we’d been gifted, so we recounted the story to them. “Wow! People treat morels like gold around here!” My dad exclaimed when we were finished, “I can’t believe he gave you some of his!”
Indeed, when we cooked up the mushrooms in Polebridge, they were delicious! We learned our lesson not to judge a book by its cover, because trail angels certainly don’t always come in the shape or form that we expect!
*You’re welcome for restraining myself from inserting puns like “bike trippin'” into this post.