Has it really been over 3 weeks since my last update? I’d like to say it’s been because I’ve been so busy, I’d like to argue that I’ve written over a thousand words the past three weeks, because both are true. But it’s been a struggle to get a coherent post on the page – partly because I have been busy running through middle America, partly because I’ve been trying to soak up as much of this run as possible, maximizing rest days, but mostly it’s because I’ve been overwhelmed, in the best possible way. Overwhelmed with friends flying in to surprise me in Albuquerque. Overwhelmed with the wounded veterans presenting me with an honorary purple heart on behalf of all the wounded. Overwhelmed with the smell of the Pampa VFW, because it smelled just the like church where we shipped Devon off to Iraq. Overwhelmed with complete strangers opening their arms and their doors to us. Overwhelmed because we haven’t paid for a meal since hitting the Texas border. Overwhelmed when the WWII vet thanks me for my service. Overwhelmed because the small towns here remind me so much of where I’m from. Overwhelmed with the pain that small community is enduring right now. Overwhelmed with the Gold Star family who hosted us, and reminded me so much of my parents and even a little bit of my grandparents. I’ve been overwhelmed with the amount of support, faith, and love I’ve gotten from all corners of my world. And if I’m being completely honest I’ve been insecure in my ability to do these experiences justice. I want to share them, I desperately want to write them down so I can remember every little seemingly mundane detail, hoping for the ability to capture the solemn and the simple, without being over sentimental. I read a book in college, The Places in Between, about a British man who walked across Afghanistan. I didn’t really understand that title until this week – but it’s really the places and the moments in between that have made this run.
When I last updated I had had my first emotional breakdown just inside of New Mexico. Day 29-30 I had my friends Justin and Linday, who took time during their anniversary weekend to come run and support. Ok mostly walk and support. It was sorely needed. Day 30 I was booted off native lands, and rightly so, I didn't do the due diligence of researching and requesting a permit. Turned out to be a blessing as the reservation officer let us know that it was legal to run on the interstate in New Mexico...so we backtracked (wasting 10 miles) and headed back out of the interstate, which ended up saving us about 10 miles. The universe seems to work like that sometimes.
Getting close to Texas we thought about maybe riding the 40 all the way across to OK, shortening our mileage, but talking to our guy in Texas, we decided to take the backroads and hit some small town USA. Boy, I'm glad we did. But more on that later.
Day31 brought a surprise guest, Michelle, who flew out to Albuquerque despite her demanding residency schedule to share some miles. Michele is much faster and fitter than me, but she walked step for step with me, and it felt so good to catch up. Becca would come join us for some miles, reminding me of just how lucky I am to have such strong supportive women in my life.
Day 31 also brought the eclipse, which thanks to a welder along the route who let us borrow his helmet, we were both able to see without burning our retinas. We also were surprised with a visit from the 512th rescue squadron at the beautiful New Mexico Veterans Memorial. The CO presented me with a coin, patch, and bracelet as a reminder of what brave men and women train to do every day. About midway through Day 32 we were surprised with none other than Team Pathman. Despite my hot water balloons of pain (aka my feet) I jumped up and down and clapped my hands like a toddler when I saw them cruising down the hill. I got to share a few miles over the next couple days with Jim and Riley, more thankful than ever that I’ve got such amazing people in my life. Day 36 we stayed at the JX ranch in middle of nowhere New Mexico. Tom, a Vietnam Vet, and his wife Mimi were fantastic hosts wishing us luck and even making a donation, and Becca thinks their steak might be the best she ever tasted. Day 37 brought a new friend, and the first “stranger” to join me on the run – an Army reservist from a nearby base joined me for two days. She’s no longer a stranger.
Day 38 was a much-needed rest day in Amarillo, or sorry, “Amarilla”. A friend of mine had reached out to a friend of hers, Caralee, who arranged an entire day of pampering and rest. Spa treatment, massage, lunch at an amazing Italian restaurant, shoes and running gear from Get Fit Amarillo – I was beginning to see what people were meaning about Texas hospitality. Day 39 we hit Friona, the Cheeseburger capital of Texas. I thought about asking for a tofu burger but figured that might be considered an insult, so I got the local Mexican food. We had dinner and tasty ice with the mayor and then headed into Hereford, home of the whitefaces (it’s a cow not some sort of weird racist thing). Along the road I ran into Merrill, a local welder who rode his bike to say hello. I got 8 miles in with an Amarillo resident, and another new friend. I was presented with some amazing mementos from local veterans’ organizations (who skipped Friday night football to welcome me – how about that!?) I hit a pretty good stride on day 43, through the town of White Deer which has at least four antique shops for its 100 or so residents. I picked out a treasure box to hold all the treasures (aka things we find on the side of the road). We finished up at the Pampa VFW where we shared beers and bawdy jokes with the members. Day 44 and 45 were spent with the Gold Star family in Canadian, TX. We got a full tour of the town, an interview with the local paper, and my very first zipline! Their land was beautiful, their home inviting, and their spirit encouraging. They even bestowed upon us honorary Texan citizenship. Day 46 meant crossing into Oklahoma, windy with rolling hills for the next few days – and more gracious people. We stopped in Hinton, OK for a meet and greet and dinner and couldn’t even pay for our dinner. We made it to Oklahoma City, where my recruiter joined me for a couple miles and we hit the halfway point. After a chair donation and get together with the local chapter of Ainsley’s Angels we had some much-deserved pizza and beer, where I met a woman who had just finished walking across the country – see there are plenty of weirdos out there. She was heading back across the country and stopped in OKC to say hello to some folks who had taken her and her dog in for a couple weeks (she picked up the pooch somewhere in Arkansas). Amazing.
It’s now getting darker here on Day 51 with a pretty hectic Day 52 right around the corner. The past few weeks have been nothing short of soul-reviving. Aside from the people and places, the miles have given me a lot to think, and write, about….now if I can just get it down on the screen.