Those of you who have read Leeís adventure stories in the Hudson River Sampler or have come in to Captain Pizza in Rhinebeck to hear some in person or have known him since his original Captain Pizza days may be wondering how he ended up back in his old roost and is not still out wandering the world. This is that story. Let me start by introducing myself--Mrs. Captain Pizza--Ann Marie. I grew up in Greene County.
Several years ago, I hiked the Appalachian Trail, a 2100-mile trail that runs from Georgia to Maine. By now most of you know that Lee and I met while hiking the Appalachian Trail. For those of you unfamiliar with long distance hiking think of the entire 2100 miles as a series of week-long backpacking trips, because every 5-7 days hikers need to re-supply. There are many towns along the way that are close enough to the trail that have all a hiker can need--inexpensive lodging, hot showers, Post Office, grocery store and maybe if a hiker is lucky an all-you-can-eat restaurant.
My "trail name" was Novice, because this was my first big backpacking trip, and because I had had some mishaps back in Georgia, before I got my trail legs under me. I was resupplying in Hot Springs, TN, when Lee introduced himself to me as "Cappy" Ė short for Captain Pizza. There we were, hundreds of miles away from home and neither of us had seen anyone from home in over a month. We quickly found that we both had stories to share about our beloved Catskill Mountains, the majestic Hudson River, and the wider Mid-Hudson Valley in general. We were still talking as we hiked out of town the next day.
Unfortunately, we werenít on the same schedule again until Damascus, VA, nearly a month later. We hiked together on and off and then met again in Pearisburg, VA. Lee will say thatís when things got serious. He actually asked if we could hike out of town together! I guess you could call that our first date Ė it lasted until Harperís Ferry, WV, a whole month later. Lee will tell you he fell in love with me because we walk at the same pace. Iíd say that it certainly helped the situation! After all, that is what we did every day Ė walk through the woods. On average we covered 12-15 miles a day, every once in awhile we would push it to a 20 mile day-but those were few and far between. Lots of time to get to know someone. Before you get this Hollywood picture of two isolated people traveling together--there were many other people around. In fact there were seven of us hiking together, we called ourselves The Hula Hooping Gypsies, but that is a whole other story.
Remember, we were out in the elements every day, setting up tents at night, filtering our drinking water from streams and cooking on little portable stoves. Lee didnít carry a stove, so he was cooking on a fire every night. One night, I took pity on him and let him use my stove. In return, he began filtering my water. By Harpers Ferry, WV, we were pretty much living together-which on the trail means sharing equipment and helping to set up camp each night. We were figuring this was "just a trail thing", so when he left the trail for a month in Pennsylvania to come home and manage Fairgrounds Pizza while his brother was away on his honeymoon it was no big deal. I kept hiking with the Gypsies and life went on. Towards the end of that month, when I had made it up to Vermont, I called him to see if he wanted to join up with me there instead of going back down to Pennsylvania. To this day Lee has not hiked the state of Pennsylvania. We were back on the trail together through Vermont, New Hampshire and on into Maine, another month of walking through the woods together. We just fell into such an easy partnership as well as relationship. Believe me, if you can put up with someone when you are sweaty, bug bitten and bone tired, itís real easy to get along when the terrain is smooth and the sun is shining.
We were just part way into Maine when I got notified that I had a job waiting for me back home. I hadnít reached my goal of Mt. Katahdin, in Baxter State Park, but I would be out of money when I got home. It was best to take this job while I had the opportunity. Lee decided to leave the trail too, considering he had already hiked from NY to Mt, Katahdin three years before. Besides, by now he had begun to plan for his next adventure, to go out west to be a ski instructor for the winter. Still, our relationship was still supposed to be "just a trail thing" and we would go home and go our own way. Well, home for him was Red Hook and my new job landed me in Woodstock, not exactly going different directions. However, he did stick to his plan and I helped him pack for Colorado the first week of December. And away he went. I considered going with him, but I didnít even know how to ski and I am, after all, a practical person.
A week and a half later I get a phone call from Colorado. Itís Lee, telling me how the drive out was and how beautiful the mountains are. Heís found a great place to stay with other ski instructors, but he isnít feeling right. He wants to know if he comes home would I consider getting married. I was elated, I was going to get to spend the rest of my life with Cappy, I immediately said yes!! He then tells me, this could just be altitude sickness, heíll call me next week to see how he feels. I was thunderstruck--Was it love or altitude sickness? I was on pins and needles waiting for the phone call. When the appointed date and time of the scheduled call came I sat and waited, not knowing if I was engaged or not. Well, you know the answer because here we are 14 years later still working on our partnership/relationship. The pizzeria is one of many adventures we have taken together in the 14 years. This one takes just as much patience, hard work and determination as any of our other ones. The advice that I give to anyone looking for a relationship--Go take a walk in the woods, you meet some of the best people there.