Friday, August 17, 2007


Len (of Len and Jen who so graciously invited us into their front yard when we had our first sighting of Lake Michigan 1,127 miles into the run - when I saw Lake Michigan in Wisconsin I really wanted to get right up next to the water and Jen was happy to accommodate when she heard how far I had come to see the lake) asked about "the most amazing thing" I'd seen so far. For some reason, I find it hard to ascribe "amazing" to any one sighting...amazing being defined as overwhelming with surprise... but there were certainly a number of surprises - most of them quite delightful. I've been putting together a list; here it is in no particular order:
  • Waving. I still smile thinking of all of the drivers (particularly in Nebraska) waving and smiling as they drove carefully by me. I very quickly started waving back - and, in fact, am still waving at drivers, cyclists, and runners who pass by me in Boulder.
  • Quiet. So many miles were filled with only the sound of the wind and birds (and, if a hot day, the sound of ice melting in my hat). hard to find in the midst of city living, so very welcome as I passed through the heartland.
  • A town park in every single town we stopped at for midday break - most with water and/or bathrooms and some with sculptures and fountains such as this park in Emerson, Nebraska.
  • No jets above - from eastern Colorado to Minnesota.
  • The sky, the clouds, the horizon: so blue, so active, so expansive.
Mountain-Bay Trail, Wisconsin
  • Turtles along the road in Colorado and Nebraska.
  • My first sighting of the Colorado state bird - the lark bunting (found primarily on the eastern plains).
  • Red-winged blackbirds and killdeer squawking at me all the way from Boulder to Petoskey.
  • Discovering my picture staring out at me from the front page of the Brush News-Tribune when I ran into town on June 9. (The editor had interviewed me on-line and asked me to send a photo to accompany the article.)
  • The wildest lightening show I've ever seen, while we were camping in Julesberg. Across the entire sky, continuous, sheet lightening and bolts. Stunning!
  • Boot fences in Nebraska.
  • Watching the corn grow - from calf-high in Colorado to taller-than-me in eastern Nebraska. (Yes, it was a sloooow crossing of the country.)
  • Giant farm vehicles (see teeny runner to the left, humungo farm vehicle to the right below).
  • A stretch of Lincoln Highway when trains appeared to my left, my right, and straight ahead. I really enjoyed the accompaniment of the trains, the rhythm of their chugging often in synch with my own. I'd always wave when they passed by, and about a third of the engineers would toot their horns at me. Another smiling moment.
  • The beauty of the Nebraska Sandhills.
  • Klingon cow. Yes, a cow (bull, actually) that was at least a head taller than any of the other cows in the herd and had a head and brow that was distinctly Klingon.
  • Horses - almost more horses than cows in Nebraska. (The pie and coffee ladies at the Burwell Senior Center said most of the herds were out in the hills.) Horses (unlike cows who stampeded whenever I passed by) would tend to run with me. These four appeared from behind hay bales and lined up all in a row (not holding position quite long enough for Kendall, who was cycling with me, to get his camera out).
  • Stampeding cows - every time I would pass except for the time they all lined up along the fence when my son, Paul, was describing the latest Spiderman movie to me. Could Paul be a cow whisperer? Are cows craving story hour? Or....
  • A tailwind north of North Platte that was so strong that Paul, who was cycling next to me, didn't even need to all...even to get started...on a steep uphill. We'd race each other: I'd start running and challenge him to catch up to me without pedaling. He won every time.
  • Pie and coffee at the Burwell Senior Center. My one injury stopped me from running more than two miles on Friday, June 22nd. I climbed into the motor home and suggested to Lysa (who was crewing for me that week) that we go into town and get some coffee...and we discovered that Fridays are pie and coffee days at the Burwell Senior Center. That led to one of the most delightful mornings of my life!
  • No mean dogs (other than the two ferocious junk yard dogs who went after running buddy Joe on the day he crewed for 3 of the run). I've come to believe that the "big honking whistle" that I carried (in order to, hopefully, scare a charging dog for at least a couple seconds) was a good dog talisman, keeping bad dogs away. During the run, there were, indeed, several occasions when overly friendly dogs wanted to join the run - much easier to deal with than angry dogs.
  • Trying out motorhome camping - and liking it!
  • Funny campground showers (push a button and get water at one speed and one temperature, pull a chain and do pirouettes to rinse off while holding the chain, corn-motif shower curtains...)
  • Discovering I was running in long-time running buddy Patti's childhood neighborhood in Sioux City.
  • Corn as far as the eye could see in Minnesota.
  • Wild raspberries along every trail. Yum! Beats Gu any day!
  • Hearing a deer (sort of a high huffy noise...).
  • So few biting bugs, so many varieties of other insects: dragonflies, butterflies, lightning bugs...
  • Sandhill cranes in Wisconsin.
  • Bald eagle circling above then zooming into the trees next to me and coming back out with a partner and soaring together to the wilds beyond.
  • Many many turkey families - young turkeys don't even look like turkeys!
  • Discovering the Buffalo River ATV trail as a refreshing 30+ mile alternative to Highway 10 in Wisconsin. Yahoo!
  • Running through Amish country and sharing the shoulder with horses & buggies.
  • The Pulaski Polka fest, camping right next to it and being lullabied to sleep with polka music...
  • Only three chance encounters with runners in 1400 miles (excluding Mackinac Island). The runner who passed me in Wisconsin said I was the first runner she had ever seen along that stretch of road - which she runs every time she visits her parents.
  • Discovering that my GPS/watch unit battery is only good for 12 hours. That's just 1.5 days of running!
  • WWII airplanes flying in formation overhead (12 planes, in four sets of 3) as I crossed the bridge from Wisconsin to Michigan. (My dad was a WWII pilot. He died this past December, ever-skeptical of this running venture, but oh how he looked out for me all summer...)
  • A bizarre collection of tunes stuck in my head: the Beverly Hillbillies theme song (Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota), Mama makes shortenin' bread (Minnesota and Wisconsin), Take Heed It's a Tumbleweed (a song of my own composition, sung in Nebraska pretty much whenever I saw a tumbleweed, much to my son's dismay) - and finally, Sousa marches - a vast improvement which occurred when I crossed into Michigan.
  • Seeing Boulder buddy Deb waiting for me at the end of the day/trail in northern Michigan two days before the finish - cheering me along with pom poms made of toilet paper...nothing but the best!
  • Wild flowers: roadside, trailside, forest floor ...
  • Reading an article about my run in the Northern Express, written by high school buddy and good friend Connie.
  • Spotting my "pjv" chalk mark in western UP on our way back to Colorado. (The mark was left at the end of the day July 24th, and spotted again on August 7th!)
  • Son Paul's sense of humor and his uncanny ability to keep me steady.
Sakatah State Trail, Minnesota. PJV with Paul,
the consummate cycling support crew

Paul with his mom
after catching her first glimpse of the Michigan state line

No comments: