Well, I can’t believe it, I’m actually halfway across the country. I remember when I first started planning this and I found out about another runner who had run a similar route. I was looking at his blog and happened to see a video he made when he crossed his halfway point. At the time it seemed like my own halfway point was impossibly far away. Even just the starting line seemed so far away, as I worked on the preparations day after day. Mapping the route, calling local companies, fundraising, training, evaluating gear. Now I’m halfway done and of course all that feels like a dream that I had just last night. Now I’ve only got 2 1/2 more months of the paradise that I’m living daily.
It’s been amazing so far and I don’t want it to end. I’ve run through pastures, oil fields, acres of cotton plants, mountains, desert, mining towns, giant metroplexes, places where the wild wild west seems to still exist in the citizens’ pioneer attitudes. As I came into Bridgeport a few days ago, I began to realize I was leaving small-town Texas behind. I was hit with waves of traffic, a Walmart Supercenter, traffic lights and crosswalks. I went on to pass through Decatur and onto Denton, a city that I would consider a suburb of Dallas.
As I ran into Denton on hwy 380, flanked on all sides by various gas stations, traffic lights, covered overhead by interstate 35 overpasses and exit ramps, I was temporarily consumed with shock and apprehension. This was state highway 380, MY highway, a small red line that has taken me from the start of Texas to where I now stood. Highway 380, where I had been graced with wide, flat shoulders, and traffic so rare that I could have run in the middle of the street. I stood for a while at the intersection with I-35 and said my goodbyes to the small-town Texas I had become familiar with. I bid farewell to the American Southwest, the dry deserts, the old mining towns, the monster mountains.
Here in Denton there were trees, squirrels, flowers. It was humid. There was exhaust in the air, but there was also that cosmopolitan energy of a beautiful spring day at the end of the week, and all the lively social events that could occur that weekend. My halfway mark seemed to fall, coincidentally, on a cross-roads of American cultures, landscapes, and traffic patterns.
I regained composure and moved on. The shoulders disappeared and I ran on the grass for a few miles, knowing I’d reach the city limits in a few more miles, and hopefully be again treated to a wider road. The sounds and activities of a big city can be overwhelming at first: the blinking lights, the car crash I saw at my 3rd stop light, navigating sporadic sidewalks. But it’s all part of it, of us. We built these things and presumably we use them, so it’s hard to pretend they are useless nuisances.
On this trip I have far more enjoyed the small towns, for both the ease of navigation through them, and the quality of visits I’ve had there. But I’m still not sure if that’s because it’s just easier to orientate yourself in one day a town of 1,000 then it is in a town of 1,000,000. Small towns mask their problems very well, whereas big cities seem to advertise them. The New Yorks and Miamis of the world have their charm and comfort, it just takes far longer to find it. Aside from this run I’m still figuring out what type of setting I’d like to end up in. Certainly somewhere where I’m free to run along beautiful landscapes.
In any case, as I begin the second half of the journey, I can look forward to my favorite thing- GREENAGE! Green fields, trees, hills, parks. In the last few days, spring has bloomed in the Dallas Fort Worth metroplex, and I realized with a delight that for the next two months I will really truly experience each and every stage of spring, day in and day out. I’ll run alongside flowers blooming, trees budding, birds singing, and probably bugs stinging.
And all of that makes me quite happy.