Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Keystone State

Many will agree Pennsylvania is one of the most beautiful states in the union and I agree. Hwy 30 winds into scenic forested Allegheny mountains near by. I am abruptly awakened to the still climbs having been so ever 'spoiled' be the flatter gentler states Indiana and Ohio. Hwy 30 climbs and then climbs some more, my legs are not used to this! The breathtaking vistas of this section of Pennsylvania making it worth the effort to run and enjoy. The coal trucks carrying coal from the local mines leave their 'oily scent' of coal lingering in the mountain air on this 15 mile stretch. It snows one day-though not a heavy snow-it was fun to run through while it shortly lasted. Cabins and well crafted homes of stone dot the forested Hwy 30 (Lincoln Highway). Fortunately I have a wide shoulder to run on which surprised me, a few narrow sections in the beginning which made me uneasy as any runner would attest.

Latrobe, Pa home of legendary pro golpher Mr. Arnold Palmer was a beautiful town and friendly, towns like Irwin, Boswell, Bedford all quaint and with much early American key history, Bedford being one one of my favorites small towns. Also running near the Flight 93 Memorial was quite powerful and moving experience.

Pennsylvania does a great job with marking each historical landmarks all pertinent to our early American history and focal points of events.Temperatures now in the low 30's at night and yet a 'mild Indian summer' exist during the days which is quite a blessing being the weather gods have been kind so far. The last section of the hills awaits me in the busy hub of Breezewood.

To be continued...

Running Ohio

The Buckeye State is where I met Michael Hayward, who felt compelled to help because of the purpose of the run. Michael crewed me starting from Van Wert, Ohio just east of the Indiana state line - a small Americana town even Andy Griffith would be proud of! Here I run pick up America's oldest and longest highway, the Lincoln Highway 30. Mike has a home in Findlay, Ohio and is quite sharp with the Ohio roads. Each state that I have run through is having its own geographical personality. Long lonely farm roads stretching for miles, dotted with beautiful red barns- all symbolic of the Ohio landscape. Trans USA Runner Phil Rosenstein and fellow ultra marathoner join me for a day of running on Halloween. We encounter kids in their costumes trick or' treating before dark with their families. We are offered candy, hot chocolate and cider.One family took a keen interest with our run and the grandfather was a well -versed historian on the Lincoln Hwy -knowledge which he proudly shared with us. He and his wife offered coffee, candy and even dinner and a shower if we wanted-we graciously declined and kept to our running schedule. Running with Phil was a real treat and honor having him run with me-he ran the same route I was following, two years earlier! Phil was always a very humble and encouraging person- with crewing and generally helping runners to achieve their best- all part of his good nature and big heart. Phil briefs me on the latest news in ultra running and friends which I enjoyed hearing..

We spent a night in Findlay, Ohio at Michael's home. His wife Leni cooks us a great pasta dinner and went out of her way to ensure that were fed and rested. Phil departs back to Akron, Ohio to see his girlfriend. Phil's company and encouragement made my day and will always be appreciated.

Farmers are working late to plow their fields for next years crops, amazes me how big their farm machinery is and the control they have over them. Like an artist, they landscape their fields, their income and livelihood. Running lonely stretches offers its dangers too-dogs! Man's best friend-well stated and true. However any mailman, meter reader,runner and cyclist will tell you differently-dogs can be your worst 'nightmare' too! Unsecured they can pose a danger - dog bites can ruin you day and even cause serious harm. I've had close calls with dogs during the run, no bites-knock on wood! Been chased and charged at many times-my line of defense has been my water bottle which I have 'squirted' them with-works most of the time-no pepper spray, although it's been suggested I do carry it. Rocks also most of the time check their 'charge'.Running in a real rural section of Oklahoma I carried a rake pole which I was told by the locals to keep because of unchained mean dogs wanting a taste of your calf muscles. Never had to use it-maybe it was an intimidating object to them, who knows? Had a lab puppy follow me in Missouri-about a mile before his owner came looking for him.

Micheal waits 6 miles up the Hwy for me. Now parked in a drive way, a family is awaiting me to come by, Michael being the very personable person he is, struck up the conversation with the young family, as they were very curious about our run and The Way to Happiness Foundation we both support. The young father, who was a welder by trade - shows us the 'robot' he made out of pipes, parts, wires and how it was the main Halloween 'attraction' on the block. We are invited in for homemade pizza which was quite good. Michael and I felt part of the family, very kind people we will not forget, accepting two strangers into their home.

The following day Phil refers us to a fellow Badwater runner David Corfman's brother and wife Richard and Sue who live near Orville, OH, home of the Smuckers jam, let us spend a night at their beautiful home. Richard, a former bike mechanic was kind enough to repair my baby jogger wheel bearings and made it like new! Richard treated us to a nice dinner at a local eatery with some of the best homemade breads and soups and gave us a 'cooks tour' of Orville. Sue, his wife, set up a great breakfast the next morning before leaving to run. Great family!

We are fortunate to spend another night 40 miles further east at Gail Vance's home who crewed David Corfman during the Badwater race this past summer. Lance loves running, very upbeat guy. He shares with us that he weighed over 250 pounds, had a double bypass heart operation and has now run four marathons and is now training for another with his wife Gail! Very inspiring man-Vance is inspiring to anyone who meets him. He treated Michael and I to a nice dinner and was just great company and a unique person who has overcome major health issues.

Ohio now tends to become hillier as we enter West Virgina and cross over the Ohio River. It's always a great feeling crossing into a new state. We did receive some nice press in Ohio which carried over into West Virgina. People quickly recognized us and told us that they enjoyed the news article and thanked us for running for youth and The Way to Happiness Foundation. West Virgina and crossing into Pennsylvania was quick. Didn't get to see much of West Virgina.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Hoosier State Indiana

Running out of Chicago was enjoyable with the completion of finishing Route 66 still fresh in my mind. I met Mike Tyler who agreed to crew me out of the tricky sections of Chicago and onto Hwy 30, the Lincoln Highway- America's first Trans America Highway.Mike was a lot of fun and a champion wrestler in high school, sharing some fun stories on his odd but effective training methods.

I'm finding Indiana to be a very flat state- rarely did I have a 'hill to climb'! Hwy 30 had a nice wide shoulder to run on, but the trade off was the 'jet blasts of wind' from the trucks- still quite intense and 'hat knock offs' I lost count of! The colder temperatures now made it more challenging.

In the following days ahead John Spencer volunteered to crew me 3 great days through Indiana. John works in the Battle Creek Michigan area and had some extra time to help, which he enjoys (and I appreciate). John and I ran across Europe in 1999, Athens, Greece to Hamburg, Germany so John is no stranger to ultra running and crewing. A real honor to have him along for 3 days.

Tornado! Finishing a 40 mile day, we finished in Warsaw (not Poland!) Indiana - the weather was changing fast - lightening and wind gusts, etc. A „distant siren“ is heard - not having ever heard this, I didn't realize that it signaled a tornado in our vicinity! We 'staked' our stop point (so I could continue on from there, after the break) and headed off to a local eatery to satiate our hungry appetites. The local TV station was on with tornado warnings, so we had stopped just in time - my first encounter with a tornado warning that close by! Fortunately it was soon down graded. But too close for comfort-you could feel the low pressure on your body-at least I did. In California we have earthquakes and forest fires-this tornado was all new for me! Indiana has miles of farm lands, mostly being corn.

John crews me competently and we catch up on each other's lives and share some great times running across Europe. The 3 days John gave me were quite productive with some good press in Warsaw about our run for Youth and The Way to Happiness Foundation.

The Three Rivers Running Store out of Ft Wayne, Ind. - met 'Casey' the store manager , who passed a runner by me -“Ed“'- a snappy and runner savvy marathoner from Van Wert, Ohio, who gave a day of crewing and joined in with me on my run as Ed would leave his truck and 'run up and back' with me to his truck getting his training in at the same time. Ed was a 'folksy' personable guy- family man- father of four. Ed shared his experiences with me, of running the Boston Marathon and a 50km trail race in Indiana. Ed crews me to the Ohio State line on Hwy 30 with a large sign welcoming you to Ohio. With a good day of running in, Ed takes me into Van Wert, his home town where I secure a motel for my first night in the Buckeye State of Ohio. Ed was a big help and an enjoyable personality to run with.

To be continued...

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,