I used to joke that my Hyundai Elantra would make it only as far as Chicago before biting the dust. That was until one day when I was less than a mile from work it did just that. So needless to say, it was time for an upgrade. I replace running shoes when they’ve covered about 500 miles.. perhaps the Elantra’s limit was 178,000. So I went and got myself a sweet new Subaru to tackle 3000 miles worth of whatever the USA would throw at me. I packed it to the brim, left probably too much of the journey unplanned and hit the road.
Sunday – Day -1.
Woke up, drove to Lynn, had a ton of fun at the Project Wheels 5k thanks to my man Patrick, set a new PR and FINALLY achieved what seemed to be my white whale time for quite a while. Nothing like leaving town to be a swift kick in the rear end to perform on a great day. The middle of the day was dedicated to packing and realizing how much packing should have already been done, getting anxious about it, throwing out more things, donating more shoes and calling it quits.
It’s extremely rare that we get the whole New England Running Company staff together. But it so happened that for this occasion, almost everyone was able to break away from his or her busy lives and celebrate a final night with me as a part of the gang. A gesture I more than appreciate and truly is a testament to how much each member of this family means to the group. So like any family party, we went bowling! Being able to goof off, relax and have some fun with my Beverly family was exactly what we needed. While we all had the same sad thought in our minds, it was excellent to smile together. It won’t be goodbye, but the farewell still stings. It was a quiet drive home, to say the least.
Monday – Beverly, MA to Cleveland, OH.
The alarm rang out in the night, but I wasn’t asleep. There was too much to still be packed to just be resting. Packing the car became a giant game of Tetris and I couldn’t seem to find that big long piece to eliminate all the rows below it. It all just piled up. Fortunately I was finally able to get on the road around 7:30, but not without a stop at Dunks for a Dunkaccino with whipped cream. Put that on the growing list of things I already miss.
Naturally there was a little traffic on the outskirts of Boston, but with that in the rear view it was smooth sailing throughMass and New York. This is the first time I’ve ever driven solo in a car for 7+ hours on consecutive days, so multiple routes were planned if I needed to stop early or felt good and wanted to continue. The original plan was to visit a friend from high school in Buffalo, NY but as I cruised through just before 3pm I opted to simply refuel and continue on. An old friend from my year in the AmeriCorps had been on alert that I may head his way. Adam gladly grabbed an extra beer at the store and tossed a blanket on the couch. He lives a little outside the city just a couple blocks from Lake Erie which gave me the chance to take a walk at sunset to a small beach and meditate on how far I’d come in a day and how real this all was becoming.
Tuesday – Cleveland, OH to Omaha, NE
Up and out before dawn. This was going to be a pretty boring day aesthetically so it was important to get a bunch done before the sun came up. It felt like a whole different day before sunrise. Even heading away from Lake Erie there was some lake effect spray but as soon as the run raised it was clear as can be. Each day I’d try to get two or three hours in before stopping to grab breakfast and mocha. On this particular day the route was going to take me just a couple miles south of the Michigan border. A state I’ve never set foot in and haven’t ever known how to check that off the list! With opportunity abound, there was to be a slight route change. My standard for visiting a state is that you have to, at the very least, purchase and eat a meal there to promote the local economy. Mochas all around! And Sturgis, MI seemed like a perfect place to snag a bagel.
Once the excitement of getting to state #44 was over, it was only 400-something miles on the same flat, straight road leading to Des Moines where I’d meet another AmeriCorps buddy, David. Just had to go through Indiana, Illinois and almost all of Iowa to get there. But in a last minute turn of events, he had to be in court (he’s a lawyer) early the next morning and wasn’t going to be around! Curveball! So while at the World’s Largest Truck Stop (a classic Iowa staple) I searched for campgrounds outside Omaha, Nebraska and arrived just before sunset. Fortunately there was enough time to set up my hammock and pop the small bottle of Prosecco I had planned to share with David before listening to the wild turkeys in the distance and drifting to sleep.
Wednesday – Omaha, NE to Denver, CO
Over the years people have given me a hard time for my poor ability to adapt to temperatures. For example, it takes me like 10 minutes to ease into a hot tub, even when it feels insanely relaxing after a day of snowboarding. I’m just a wimp. So take it with a grain of salt when I say that I woke up with what may have been the chilliest nose of my life. 4:45am and the day was off to a rough start.
Thanks to the extra couple add-on hours from the day before, it would only be 7 hours of driving to Denver. Crossing through the middle of Nebraska, which may as well have been the exact center of my journey, the sunrise in the rearview mirror was a sight to behold. It was a neat metaphor and tribute to the wonderful and beautiful things behind me (in life) as I trudged on to the unknown of the future.
Before the trip began, I raided Mama’s house and found a bunch of CDs that hadn’t been played in a decade. You better believe those came along! Nearly the whole trip was to the soundtrack of my high school career. Sing-alongs literally for days. It was also on this day that there was the only near run-out-of-gas experience. Judd was receiving the live updates as the situation was unfolding. He has grown accustomed to my antics but on this one he was very unsettled. When I finally refueled, 15.898 gallons were put into in the 16-gallon tank. Never doing that again. Thankfully it was enough to carry me through into the city of Denver where another AmeriCorps friend took me for coffee. An old Connecticut friend had a spare couch in the city and the soft cushion was a warm welcome to the mountain west.
Thursday – Denver, CO to Colorado Springs, CO
No plans are the best plans. This was a mental recovery day to go exploring! Some recommendations took me to North Table in the town of Golden (home of the Coors Light factory). There is a permanent archway in the downtown that states “Howdy Folks! Welcome to Golden; Where the West Lives” Apparently the sun also lives, because that adventure left me with a burnt imprint of my hydration pack. I finally stopped peeling like last week. Defeated, red and dehydrated, I headed down to see my cousin and meet his new baby. Driving across the country was a great excuse to spend time with family.
Friday – Colorado Springs, CO to Ogden, UT
The morning comes early after a night in a comfy bed. But onward! Leaving Colorado was tough because not only do I love the state but I also knew Wyoming was next. Nothing against Wyoming—this would be my first time there. It just didn’t seem like one of the highlights of the trip. There is no “but” here.. it wasn’t. There were a few mountains to look at in the distance but otherwise it was long, straight shots for dozens and dozens and dozens of miles.
Our old Salomon rep Mike, who has been a great resource for me over the past couple years, now works at Salomon HQ in Ogden. Visiting him along the way seemed to make sense. He showed me around the offices (which I had applied to work at a couple times) as well as snuck me into a trail running film festival event they were having that evening! He let me geek out a little bit by seeing some of Killian Jornet’s prototype shoes (I’m not allowed to post photos.. Sorry!) and introduced me to Salomon athlete Anna Frost, who happened to be in town for the weekend. That’s a pretty surreal experience for a young and starry-eyed trail runner. I posted up at another local campground and drifted to sleep, dreaming of running glorious mountains in a foreign land.
Saturday – Ogden, UT to Bend, OR
The finish line is in sight. Crazy to think of all the distance covered in the past few days. Eight hours separated me from my new home. It felt like forever away but didn’t go any more slowly than the other days. Southeast Oregon is pretty desolate. ‘112 miles to the next gas station’ desolate. Just being in Oregon finally was a relief. On this day a friend asked if cruise control had become my new best friend. It was then that I remembered my car had cruise control, because I had yet to use it! At this point we may as well just commit to not turning it on at all, to have as a claim to fame.
Late afternoon some familiar signs started coming into view and my memories of Bend began to appear all around. Just after 5pm I turned down the street I’d call home for the next few weeks, grinning from ear to ear. While this brief journey of living out of the car had ended, or so I thought, it was a perfect bridge to this next phase of life. It was a week of purely enjoying the journey. A week to appreciate life and breathe fresh air, eat sunflower seeds and turn the music up loud, see friends from across the country and make a new car feel like home. While a lengthy journey in itself, this adventure was merely a piece to the bigger puzzle. And I don’t quite know what the bigger picture I’m creating is yet, but I do know each of these little pieces fit right in.