Archive for December 8th, 2008|Daily archive page

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.

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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.