As I run, various patterns begin to emerge. Patterns of landscape transformations, weather developments, patterns of my own fatigue. One of my favorite patterns involves the arrival into a new town. When you’re driving, you hardly notice this pattern, and most signs seem to go by in a flash. But when you’re running, the long-awaited arrival into the next town is a completely different experience.
It all depends on the terrain, but these days it starts 4 or 5 miles out. You see the first signs of civilization long before you actually see the civilization. And those signs pull you through the last 5 miles. Most days it starts with the water tower. It sticks out of the landscape, a big old white tank 50 feet high against a bright blue sky. Hard to miss. Today, the tower was a light blue, and shaped like an upright cylinder, rather than the usual circular tub-like water towers. It had Dickens painted down its side.
The cell-phone tower comes next, and sometimes its the first thing. A sign of civilization that would have seemed out of place only 20 years ago. You look at the red and white tower stretching up towards the clouds and try to estimate the mileage. 4 miles? More? Even better – less?
As you get closer, you might spot an extra police car or two- they don’t often stray too far from their city limits. A few houses spring up. Maybe just 2 or 3. One of them is bound to have a couple scary dogs and you never forget that as you approach them.
The next mile or so is, I guess, the hardest. You know the town must be coming up but you can’t see any buildings yet. And suddenly, the magic traffic sign appears: “Reduced Speed Ahead” In the middle of nowhere, that’s a sure sign that a town is just up the road. And for you it might as well read: “Water Ahead. Gas station restroom, food, salty things ahead. People ahead. Popsicles” Because that’s everything wonderful that a town means to you at this point, whether it’s got a population of 300 or 30,000.
Today I ran 30 miles from Crosbyton, TX to just south of Dickens, TX, and was half-tortured because I saw the water tower a good 8 or 9 miles out, but could see no other signs that I was actually close to Dickens until I was practically on top of it, because it lay just behind and below a giant hill. And then Dickens had no Dairy Queen which crushed me because EVERY tiny town in Texas has had at least a DQ.
But actually today was a fantastic day. Lots of wind and hills but a perfect day to be a runner. Beautiful weather, incredible landscape, and my legs felt strong and my feet light. A few miles outside of Crosbyton I ran into a huge descent and” dropped off the Caprock” as they call it here. Basically, I ran off a part of the Southern edge of the Great Plains. What a sight. I can’t even explain it. Imagine seeing nothing but fields and fields and flat flat fields for 2 weeks and then turning a corner and literally dropping 4 or 500 feet into a totally different landscape. Rolling hills, buttes, mesas, trees, curves in the landscape. It was incredible. I would place it in the top 5 most memorable runs of this trip.
Now I am settled down into yet another wonderful home, hosted by yet another incredibly kind family, this time in Spur, TX. They made a delicious dinner and then we had a birthday party for the 4 yr old son’s stuffed animal. That makes two nights in a row of birthday cake for me. Life is good : ) right now the 4 yr old and his Dad (a cattle rancher) are out sleeping in the backyard in a tepee. I asked the son, Henry, if he was sleeping in a tent. He said that no he was not sleeping in a tent because tents are for campers. He is a cowboy and cowboys sleep in tepees.
A perfect day : )