Last journal entry

It will take a while to get to a point where I can write about the journey objectively.    I began trying to wrap it up several days ago, but I have been unable to say what I would like to say in a way that sounds right.  Writing while on the road was a struggle sometimes, but I was always satisfied in the end.  I feel that my efforts now are forced and end up with sentences that are missing something.  I will try again later.   If you kept up with my journal and are looking back now after this long lapse of entries, then the journey meant something to you too.  I hope you found enjoyment in your reading.  If you are one of my new friends I made along the way, thank you for blessing me with your open arms.  I enter the New Year a richer man.  If you were my friend before the journey, then we have had a relationship for some period of time.  I hope you find me better than before I left.   Merrie has always told me I am a good man.   During the journey, I met many people that made me question just how I measure up.  I have decided that goodness is like running.  If you are satisfied where you are, then just keep doing what you are doing.  If you want to get better, then you have to practice.

For the record, I did 2946 miles in 150 days and 7.83 hours.  Of the 150 days, 29 were rest days.

The Finale–December 12, 2008, 12:05 p.m.

I posted a mini-report about the finish yesterday, but the battery on the computer went dead before I could get it published.  The mini-report was lost.  Sorry.  Below is the full version.

I looked in the dictionary for the right word for my arrival at the ocean in Mission Beach.  Finish is not right because the journey is never over.  There really is a “what’s next?” regardless of our plans.  “Grand finale” is not right because I did not feel the “climactic.”  The Merriam-Webster online dictionary gives the definition of finale as, ” the close or termination of something: as a: the last section of an instrumental musical composition b: the closing part, scene, or number in a public performance c: the last and often climactic event or item in a sequence.”  That sounds about right, especially the “of something” and “item in a sequence” part.

Merrie arrived on time Thursday and we rented a car for the next few days.  It’s a red Chevy HHR.  We drove to the home of my cousin and his wife, David and Cheryl Lampley for the night.  It was good to see them and we sat up and talked a couple of hours before going to bed.  We did not set the clock and got up about 7 a.m.  David helped us load the car and we headed out for breakfast.  After a huge breakfast (more than I have been eating)  we drove over to La Jolla and checked in the Scripps Inn.  They were expecting us and let us check in early so we could get started toward Mission Beach. 

I found myself dawdling.  I had no focus and no desire to get started.  One of the things I felt the urge to do was check my email.  There were several of congratulation and one from a State Farm agent in nearby Encinitas.  An online account of my journey had just come out this morning on the State Farm intranet site.   Dale Long had read the report and realized that the finish was this morning and emailed to see if he could help.  His email was only written 10 minutes before I opened up my email.  Merrie and I did not have a ride back from Mission Beach or anyone to take pictures.  I call the phone number Dale provided and and he agreed to do both.  Again, the story of this journey happens.  The carpet was rolled out for us.

Dale and I had agreed on a time for our meeting in Mission Beach.  Now we had to get moving.  No dawdling from here on out but no hurry either.  I wanted to enjoy these last few minutes.  Merrie and I began walking south on La Jolla Blvd and when the side walk was wide enough we would run side-by-side.  At other times we would walk holding hands as we often do any time we are together walking.  Not far past Bird Rock we come to Mission Blvd and turn right.  Another mile and we make the last turn and reach the boardwalk that will take us the rest of the way.  We alternate running and walking and enjoy seeing lots of other runners and walkers.  I could not see anything ahead that would identify the finish until we were right at it.  Three people were ahead obviously taking pictures of us.  We ran up to them and I could then see the roller coaster that I had picked out as the spot where I would go to the ocean and end the trip.  We meet Dale along with Mike Morrell, a San Diego State Farm Agent, and Gena Stephens, an Agency Field Executive.  We all exchange greetings.  We then walk to the Pacific Ocean where I wade knee-deep and lots of pictures are taken.  Lunch is mentioned but I’m not ready to leave yet.  We chat awhile and I put my shoes back on.  Then we discuss lunch and Mike knows a good Greek place near his office.   The five of us go there and Gena treats us to lunch.  Afterwards, Dale drives us back to Mission Beach.  I had forgotten to get a couple of bags of sand.  He drives us to our motel and we say our good-byes.  It has been a good day.

And it is only half over.  Merrie and I spend the rest of the day relaxing and seeing La Jolla.  The ocean is nice here.  There are rocky cliffs as well as a sandy beach.  People are enjoying the beach and there are seals on the rocks.

There is no question that the last day should be dedicated to Merrie.  I have said some of this before in my journal but they need to be said again.  I am very fortunate to have Merrie for my wife for lots of reasons.   The one reason I will write about here is the freedom she gives me.  We both agree that love should set us free, not constrain us.  That does not mean that we have no responsibility to each other.  On the contrary, love with freedom makes the responsibility more keenly felt.  We each allow the other the freedom to be ourselves and pursue our individual dreams and goals.  By doing this journey I have liberally used the freedom her love allows me.   During the time I have been gone, she has kept our home going.  I now feel deeply the responsibility to return and continue my role as her husband.  She tells me how good I am to her.  I am going to work very hard now to show her how good I can really be.

Thank you Merrie.  You are the best.  I love you.

Pictures are posted.

I’m at the airport waiting for Merrie.  I trimmed my mustache!

Within the hour I’ll land, and strangely enough I’m in no hurry to have it pass. I haven’t the slightest desire to sleep. There’s not an ache in my body. The night is cool and safe. I want to sit quietly in this cockpit and let the realization of my completed flight sink in… It’s like struggling up a mountain after a rare flower, and then, when you have it within arm’s reach, realizing that the satisfaction and happiness lie more in the finding than in the having. Plucking the flower and having it whither are inseparable… I almost wish Paris were a few more hours away. It seems a shame to land with the night so clear and so much fuel in my tanks.”


– Charles Lindebergh

Rick update

Rick French came home today (Wednesday) after having triple bypass last Friday.  Kathy said he was really tired and resting, but glad to be home.

Special Dedication

I have been blessed all of this journey.  Fortune and luck has had little or nothing to do with it.  There was actually little planning en route more than a week to 10 days ahead.  Nevertheless, my path was rolled out for me most of the time like a carpet.  The struggles I encountered were mostly of my invention and developed because I tried to control the path instead of letting it happen.  Anytime I stopped and really listened, the direction would emerge clearly.  What I am trying to say is that my most successful days and the days I learned the most were those days that I got up and stepped out in faith without expectations.  There have been so many people praying for me that the only way I could have failed is if I had tried to do it on my own.  My forever thanks goes to everyone who kept me in their thoughts and prayers.

It always seems to take me so many repetitions to learn a lesson.  The biggest lesson of this journey I hope I have finally learned and can begin to practice more myself.  From the beginning, there have been those who have given me assistance.  Friends, relatives, and people along the way stepped forward and offered me help in the form of motels, home stays, food, shuttles, and money.  Strangers in cars showed up at opportune moments and offered me water.  In addition to the many individual connections I made, there was also the connection I made with State Farm agents.  Bennett Deane (my agent) got me started by writing a letter of introduction.  My daughter, Dana, began with the letter and later used the agents I stayed with as references, and found food and lodging for me.  Later, the agents themselves,  would call ahead for me and make arrangements with the next agent.  The State Farm agents, as a group and without exception, were of exemplary character.  I cannot say enough about them.  I told many of them that State Farm must have sent them to “Nice School.”  In total I stayed with 20 agents a total of 37 nights.  Some stays were in motels and some were in the agent’s homes.  If I had not connected with them, it surely would have been a different trip, and I feel strongly that I might have packed it up and headed home from Tennessee.

This brings me to this special dedication.  I crossed New Mexico passing through mostly very small towns and did not contact State Farm agents there.  I re-connected with them just after crossing the Arizona border in Eagar.  My crew was leaving Thursday and I needed 3 nights in Eagar.  A connection was made with Todd Bosen, the Eagar agent, and I called him to see what we could work out.  From the beginning Todd was one of the most helpful and giving people I have ever met.  I met him at his office after finishing the day 20 miles short of Eagar.  After being introduced to his staff he took me to his home where I met his wife, Julie.  Todd helped me carry my things into his home and Julie showed me to my room for the stay.  I was told a 3 night stay would be fine and Todd said, “Thank you for blessing us with your visit.”  The next day Todd shuttled me out the 20 miles to my starting point and picked me up at the finish.  During my stay Julie cooked for me and made sure I had everything that was needed.  She offered her car when I wanted to go to the grocery.  I was able to wash clothes and use the computer.  They took me out to dinner.  Every time I would thank either of them the response would be to thank me for allowing them to help or for blessing them with my visit.  We watched Secondhand Lions, one of Todd’s favorite movies and one I had not seen.  I sat down to watch and the next thing I knew Todd had put a cut-up apple by me.  Later I had a phone call and when I returned, there was a bowl of munchies there.  One day I was using the computer and found a glass of water placed by me.  Todd and Julie exemplify everything I have been taught about loving your neighbor and reaching out to others.

The day I left Eagar, Todd drove me to my starting point.  Again, he said, “Thank you for blessing me with your visit.”  I thanked him and reached to shake his hand.  We shook hands and his had a $50 bill in it.  Todd and Julie, I thank you again for all the help.  I am sometimes a slow learner.  The example you showed me is one that was taught to me as a child and one that has been ever-present in this journey.  It seemed to come to rest at your house.  I left your home promising myself that I  would remember your example  and work very hard to practice those principles you illustrate so well.  Thank you.  I love you both.

Day 121–La Jolla (12/07/08)

This is a day that I don’t know quite what to write.  It is the last long day.  I did 25 miles, all on the coastal highway, or a road between it and the ocean.  Much of the time I could see the water.  For a cool day, there were quite a few surfers and beachgoers.  I had feelings that I cannot get a handle on to describe.  Part of me wishes I had come to the coastal highway much further north so that I could run three more days this week.  As it is, Eric has estimated after today I have less than 6 miles to the finish at the big roller coaster in Belmont Park at Mission Beach.  I only recently picked out that spot.  I have been planning Mission Beach a long time, but Mission Beach is a long span of sand.  It was necessary to pick out a spot to avoid getting there and not knowing exactly when the run was done.  It seems like things just suddenly hurried up.  Here I am right next to the finish.  I am glad though that I did have today to run by the ocean alone and begin to contemplate what this run means to me.  

It was a beautiful day.  Sometimes it was sunny but most of the time there were clouds.  I ran in short sleeves and shorts as usual and the John Deere visor that I bought many months ago in Wadesboro, N.C.  This is the second day in my last pair of new shoes.  They feel good.  There are lots of people on the sidewalk and along the bike lane.  Some are getting their exercise and others are just out for a stroll.  Some of the time I choose the stroll pace.  Occcasionally, I have the urge to say, “Hey.  Where are you going?  Guess where I came from.”  I finally did break down and tell the cashier where I bought a cup of coffee.  She said all the right things.  “Amazing.”  “Where did you start from?”  “When did you start?” I feel somewhat bad that I felt the need to tell anyone.  But that feeling has been a part of the day and it would not go away.  Thankfully, telling the one person was sufficient let it subside.  I tried to keep the focus on the technical part of the run.  I needed to finish today close enough to Mission Beach that Merrie and I would be able to walk back to the car after we are done.  Then I was back on the cell phone again talking with friends.  All day though there were rumblings going on in my head.  I don’t think I dealt with many of them.  They will surface again when the time is right.  All the while my feet were moving and the end of the next-to-the-last-day was coming.  It came at a city park in La Jolla.  Eric met me on the bike and led me in.  I don’t know how to classify this day other than to say it was an end unto itself.  Not the end, but the end of the last long day.

Today is dedicated to Dana and Erin.  I am so proud of both of them.  Sometimes because and sometimes in spite of the example I set for them they have matured into good, well-rounded adults.  They are both in their thirties now, so perhaps you think and perhaps they think too, that I should let up and stop thinking of them growing up.  But if I have reached their level of maturity, it has only been in the last dozen years.  Also, I am their dad, so I do not have to ever stop being proud of them.  There has not been a day on this trip when I did not think of them and ask God to bless them.  I love them so much.

Day 120 –Carlsbad (12/06/08)

The run today had exciting possibilities the greatest of which was seeing the Pacific Ocean for the first time.  It began like so many others though, leading me down a frontage road along Interstate 15.  The key word in the last sentence was down.  I am headed toward the ocean so there are lots more downs than ups.  I enjoyed the downs and ran much of it, not adhering to the run a mile, walk a mile rule.  I soon came to the first turn onto Highway 76 and it was much as Eric had described it.  There was almost no shoulder and none in some areas.  It is also a main artery from the Temecula area to the beach at Oceanside so the Saturday traffic was terrible.  Passing is not allowed along this stretch of highway, so the vehicles were in packs of 15 to 20 all traveling the 55 mph speed limit.  I found myself walking all of it and stepping off the highway into tall weeds often.  The shoulder was now mowed.  At the many culverts, the guardrail was on top of the white line and I would wait at the end of the guardrail until the road was clear and run across quickly before another vehicle got there.  Highway 76 has to rank as one of the worst I have done.  When Eric met me after 6 miles of it and offered an alternate route only a few tenths of a mile longer, I had no trouble with the decision.  At about the 7 mile point of highway 76, we made the turn onto North River Road.  Again there was no shoulder, but with a car every 5 minutes or so, this was nice.  I followed this new road a few miles and saw up close another part of California.  There were lots of farms here and winter has not slowed down the work.  I saw lots of row crops.  There were workers harvesting carrots, a man plowing with a tractor, two workers spraying a field with what smelled like a pesticide, and a lone man planting by hand a field of about 2 acres with plants I did not recognize.  I stepped of the road far enough to talk with him.  I found quickly that he spoke no English but I was able to tell him in Spanish that I was from North Carolina.  I  touched one of the plants and asked “Que es este?”  If I understood his answer correctly, he did not know what he was planting.  Probably though, he had no idea what I was saying.  I moved on and met Eric again, this time getting instructions on how to access the 7 mile bike trail that would take me into Oceanside.  I reached the bike trail soon after.  There was a nice area with tables at the access, so I suggested we stop for a picnic.  Eric had already eaten but I was hungry and ate my burrito and some cashews.  We then headed down the path.  Eric accompanied me on the bike about half the distance to Oceanside before he returned to the van.  Before I could finish the bike path, he drove to the Oceanside end and rode back to meet me.  We finished together and as we made a right turn, I looked to the right and got a very small glimpse of the Pacific Ocean down a side street.  I called Merrie, Beth Cadieu, Tom Gabell, Frank and Shelby Sherrill, my daughters, family, and other friends and told them all I saw the ocean.  I cannot remember how many friends I called but it all ended when the phone battery went dead.  All this time I continued to walk and ended the day in Carlsbad, Ca. after having seen the ocean several more times and walking by a couple of beaches.  Please understand though, this is not the end.  I am following the coastal highway and did not go down to the water or even onto the beach.  The end will not happen until Merrie arrives Thursday and we do the last few miles Friday, December 12.

This will be a long dedication.  Other than Merrie, perhaps the person who has shared in this journey the most is Beth Cadieu.  I went to high school with Beth.  Years later our paths crossed again when I sat down with her and her father, Neal, to discuss the possibility of having a marathon at the Ellerbe Springs Inn.  The arrangement we started that day resulted in The Ellerbe Springs Marathon, an event that continues to this day even though Beth no longer runs the inn and I retired as director.  Working with Beth each year during the marathon was always a pleasure. 

When I started planning this run/walk across the U.S., I decided that I wanted a good record of the journey.  My section hike of the Appalachian Trail that took 17 years started with me keeping a detailed journal.  As time passed I became lax with that journal and most of the last few years I kept no record at all.  I miss not being able to look back at the days and remember in detail sometimes, the things I did and the names of people I met.  With the coming of this adventure, I felt the real need to insure that I had the best, most complete record possible.  In addition to my personal desire to remember, I wanted Merrie, my daughters, family, and other friends to share in the daily adventure.  Also, many who have done long foot journeys have written about the experience.  I did not know if a book would ever arise from my journey, but if I ever wanted to write about it, a good complete record would be essential.

This is where Beth enters the picture.  Beth is a journalist.  She majored in English at UNC-Chapel Hill and worked at The Miami Herald  for  10 years.  She works now teaching English and Journalism at North Moore High School in Robbins, N.C.  There would be no person better able help me keep the journal and assist me if I decided to write about the experience later.  I planned to talk with her in the spring of 2008, but I ran into her in October, 2007 at the Seaboard Festival in Hamlet, N.C.  I pretty much said hello and jumped right in to the plans about the run.  I was abrupt and excited as I talked to her.  She mostly listened.  I told her I wanted the best records of the journey possible and that I would keep a journal.  But on top of the journal, I wanted to call her each night of the run and recount the events and thoughts of the day.  She would get the complete experience.  Things that happened that did not make the online journal.  Thoughts I had that I did not or was not ready to put in print.  My high times, my low times, my fears.  Also, she would be asking questions to complete the picture.  She responded that she would think about my request and get back  to me.  I waited as long as long as I could stand it, and emailed her to find out her answer.  Her response was, “In a word, Yes.  Definitely.” 

Every day since the July 15 start of this adventure, I have called Beth and we have talked about my day on the road.  Only a few days did we not connect for one reason or another.  I have also left messages on her answering machine during the day.  She has been there every time ready to listen, whether my mood was good or bad.  At times, she has offered her thoughts, but mostly she has listened and recorded mine.  I have enjoyed having the daily connection from home.  I appreciate the large amount of time she has given me and the effort she has invested in my journey.  Most of all, I have enjoyed recounting the daily adventures with her.   She has become not just a helpful friend on the phone, but a daily companion on this journey who has experienced it better than anyone else other than myself.  Thank you Beth for everything.  Asking for your help is one of the smartest decisions I made.

Day 120–Carlsbad

I got in late tonight and I’ll do this post tomorrow or Monday.  I did want you to know that I saw the Pacific Ocean in Oceanside today for the first time.  I’ll be following the Coastal Highway from Oceanside to San Diego and will be running again in the morning so it may be Monday before I catch up the journal.  Rick had a triple bypass Friday morning and everything went well.  He is in the cardiac recovery unit at Sanger.

Pictures updated 12/05/08