“We just passed you on the highway, somewhere near the world’s largest pistachio.” – Email from a kind passerby
I woke up on Tuesday and set out for a light 16 mile day, and what would be the day I hit 1,000 miles. Despite being well rested, the pack had never felt so heavy. My right shoulder felt like it was crushing under the weight of my pack straps, and my left hip was experiencing a sharp pain. I tried to use the adrenaline of getting to 1,000 miles to distract from the discomfort, which worked for a time, but fled once I hit 1,002 miles. It was bitterly cold, with a light snow dusting at my feet and a forceful, stinging wind on my cheeks.
All the tactics I use to psych myself up were falling short, and I felt as if I were crawling. Tumbleweeds flew across the highway, cars were racing around them, there was no sun and I just felt bad overall. I was struggling. And then I saw it – a billboard for Pistachio Land.
I was getting close. For 115 miles I had walked past billboards for Pistachio Land, reading “Home of the World’s Largest Pistachio!” and “Bigger is Always Better!” I thought back to the first one I saw, near Deming, NM, which read “We Like Big Nuts and We Cannot Lie! Alamogordo!”
At that point I gave it little thought, other than the fact that they were probably advertising too early. Alamogordo was a good 120 miles away. Now, inching along the highway and yearning for warmth, nothing seemed more important than making it to Pistachio Land.
I thought back over the last 115 miles, and couldn’t remember seeing billboards for anything BUT pistachio land. Today, the billboards were every half mile, each one more detailed and hype-inducing than the last. I started to feel a pep in my step.
“Just make it to the pistachio,” I told myself.
I saw the trees first – a beautiful snow-dusted orchard behind a white fence. I could make out a few pistachios clinging to branches, what I assumed were the last of the season. I pictured them as cute little alien-like critters warm in their shells as they hung on for dear life. The Pistachio Land building was coming into view, red on my side and covered in signage for pistachios, ice cream, and novelty gifts. Then, after a few more steps, I could see it shining behind the flags – the world’s largest pistachio.
It was truly massive. It sat on a small stand with a plaque naming its superlative of size. The pistachio is dedicated to Thomas Michael McGinn, founder of Pistachio Tree Ranch, who “dreamed big” and would have said “this monument is not big enough!” Respect, Tom, respect.
I walked into Pistachio Land to find every kind of pistachio imaginable- candied, sour, savory. It was warm inside with friendly folks, and was everything I needed to get through the rest of the day. I picked out pistachio brittle and margarita flavored pistachios, and went on my way.
It may seem like a run-of-the-mill roadside attraction, but Pistachio Land was so much more for me. Pistachio Land was arriving at a destination, the closing of a chapter, after days and miles of anticipation. It was seeing a small town and it’s pride. It was a history lesson and the chance to learn about Tom McGinn and his dream to go big. It was realizing that all the billboards were in fact honest and true in their hype. It was a break from my first real winter day, a moment of comfort.
The sweet satisfaction of pulling pistachio brittle out of my teeth lasted the rest of the afternoon. I made it to my destination that afternoon tired but grateful for a pocket full of nuts.