Monday, November 15, 2010

The Last Stretch of Route 66!

Running through Southern Missouri I still faced heat and humidity, yet more tolerable than Oklahoma and Kansas. Missouri is by no means a 'flat' state with Rt 66 tossing in some rolling hills which makes you work harder. Fellow Badwater crew and friend Steve Shepard volunteered to crew me 5 days. Steve lives in Houston, is a seasoned runner and ultra cyclist, having recently finished a 100 mile bike ride. Steve was a big help on crewing me towards St. Louis. Steve competently navigated me along and with help from his wife using Google maps we found those 'beloved frontage roads' (not always Rt 66) which basically followed Interstate 44. We faced some tricky spots and dangerous sections with traffic. Reaching St Louis and Steve having to go back home, I am now in St. Louis, Mo!

In St. Louis we have a The Way to Happiness Chapter here which I connect up with friends and we receive very positive TV and press coverage. St Louis is a genuine Midwestern City, famous for its arts and music and note worthy people. Thomas Jefferson, Charles Lindbergh to name a few. The giant 'Arch' is a world famous landmark and surrounded by a path with runners enjoying the scenic National Park. No, I never was bold enough to ride up in the ARCH! Take the museum self-guided tour -- yes! Wanting to run around the park with fellow runners, never got that chance - legs were to tired and slow to hold their pace.

Springfield was quite nice and where Abe Lincoln once lived and studied law. I was welcomed to Springfield by a coyote darting in front of me. In Illinois I began to see a lot of pride in their marking of RT 66, making it easier to spot turn offs. I'm hit with strong head winds coming into Pontiac, IL.

Following old „broken up Rt 66“ was closed and safer to run than the narrow adjacent highway, but having to jump off and on . Tedious game it became. People honk and wave and I'm wondering what they are thinking, seeing this man run with a baby jogger - 'is he crazy?'. Taking a water/bathroom break at the local MacDonald's in Pontiac, IL, I met „Gene“ a native to the area. Gene took an interest in my run across America, telling me he was much into ultra cycling and has ridden across many states before he had a stroke. (Though I never noticed much of a limp or physical limitation.) Gene was a retired school bus drive for 38 years, never one accident or ticket, including with his car. Gene was a very likable man, we hit it off well. Gene talked me in having him give me a 'cooks tour' of Pontiac Museum and seeing the beautiful RT 66 Museum they have. Gene made a nice ever lasting impression and inspiration to me as I continued on Rt 66.

Joliet, Il a big town south of Chicago, here I begin to really experience more traffic and leaving more rural areas behind. One of the most difficult sections I faced so far on RT 66, extremely narrow sections, especially for a baby jogger.Trucks barreling down the highway too close for comfort. Camped off the road that night in what I thought was 'secluded' in a wooded area, only shared by a dog barking all night. Although I was comfortable in my one man tent, I don't recall falling asleep.

Chicago! After having RT 66 joining on to Interstate 55, "not a runner friendly section"- finding this out from a knowledgeable truck driver, who pointed out a frontage road that would get me back on Rt 66. Having to back track 3 miles was a bit disappointing but the only solution. Now running into suburbs, sidewalks are a welcome sight to run on and out of traffic.The longest stretches of sidewalks I have seen anywhere. Seeing the tall Chicago buildings and the Sears Tower made it clear I was nearing the end of RT 66 but yet still the last ten miles would be work with traffic and the city congestion. Rt 66 signs now more apparent, which boosts my morale. Chicago is a magnificent city with it's own personality. More people now, more odd looks as run and now walking my jogger, avoiding crowds of people. A lady asked if I was a homeless veteran, a vet yes, homeless not really, I'm running across America for youth and The Way to Happiness Foundation and presented her with our brochure. Later that night I receive a facebook message from this person apologizing thinking I was homeless and makes a nice contribution to our cause!

The last 3 miles: Meeting a friend in Chicago who happens to live along Rt 66 and the last 3 miles gives me a place to stay as I would finish the last 3 miles with friends and fellow runners/walkers the following morning. With almost perfect sunny weather,we follow Jackson Ave on to Lake Michigan and crossing over a block where RT 66 would officially begin on Adams Street across from the Chicago Institute of Art. We reach the start point of RT 66 and it was a very big relief, after running 2,400 miles and what I have been aiming for since July 4th beginning in Santa Monica, CA. I 'hug' the RT 66 sign knowing it's now complete and high fived by all my friends and even strangers who just joined in to be part of the finish. The challenges of covering 2,400 miles are now a reality and it begins to sink in. Still a lot to process. A life changing running adventure through harsh conditions,meeting amazing people along the way, you can't help but grow from this experience.I highly recommend you take a drive ( not encouraging you to run Rt 66!) and enjoy America's most famous Highway!Running RT 66 though an incredible journey, it is extremely dangerous on foot. Trucks, cars travel fast! Be aware.

Here some of the Route 66 facts:
RT 66 covers 8 States: California, Arizona, New Mexico,Texas,Oklahoma,Kansas,Missouri, Illinois.
85% of RT 66 is still drivable. Officially designated 66 Chicago to Los Angeles to Chicago in 1926. Much colorful history has been written about RT 66, movies made, songs sang.
Email / Phone: 909-336-6131.
National Historic Route 66 Federation, PO Box 1848 Dept.WS, Lake Arrow Head, CA 92352-1848

Striding on,

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