A Month Later...

From the eyes of Nico.

A few nights ago, for the first time, I was asked, “What was the highlight of your trip?”

Now, I have been asked a variety of questions over the past few weeks, but never that. And, honestly, it caught me off guard. I had no idea how to respond, and I spent the rest of the night distracted, pitting the top memories from each state against each other as I sought out the answer.

About two scoops of ice cream into this endeavor, I realized that I had a fundamental problem - I had no idea how I wanted to define the term “highlight”. Was it the time I most connected with the community, or my favorite run? The most beautiful drive, or my favorite meal? Or what about the moment when we most connected as a team, when our goofiness bubbled forth to create immense amounts of joy?

I have been putting this post off because I did not feel I had adequately reflected, did not feel like I would be signing off with an insight worthy of the experience or worthy of you as my reader. But four weeks in, I have realized that every time I have a conversation of this sort, I learn or understand or recall something else. And I do not think that is going to change for a long time. Four months from now, when we finally end our fundraising campaign (side note: this means that our fundraising is STILL going on, and it is absolutely not too late to share and donate: www.curealz.org/heroes/running-road-trip), I will still be connecting the dots, coming ever closer to fully understanding how this journey impacted me and those around me.

In the meantime, however, we (all four of us) will (very sporadically and inconsistently) be updating this blog with realizations that hit us and with stories that we feel need to be told. And with that, I will leave you today with one last thought:

I finally realized what the highlight of my trip would be, mainly because I figured out what the trip meant to me. On the surface, I was invested in this trip because I wanted to raise money for Alzheimer’s disease research (which we are still doing right here: www.curealz.org/heroes/running-road-trip) and do what I could to fight against the disease that took my grandfather. On a superficial level, I wanted to be able to say that I had visited all 50 states. But on a core level, I think I just wanted to connect. I think I just wanted to feel in a way I hadn’t necessarily let myself feel. More than that, I wanted to know that other people understood what I felt, understood the pain of watching a family suffer through Alzheimer’s.

And so, to answer the original question, I will tell a little story about the moment that most impacted me on this trip, or, in other words, my highlight…

 

We were stopped at a gas station in western Arkansas, everyone having needed a brief bathroom break before heading on. I had just finished my turn and was heading for the door when it opened, a stocky man of middling height entering, clearly in a bad mood. A woman’s voice came from behind me: “Honey, I got you this.”

I glanced over my shoulder to see a woman holding up a Rockstar. “You should know I don’t drink that flavor,” spat the man, stomping past me and snatching the drink out of his fiancé’s hand before continuing on to the drink fridge.

As I exited, I couldn’t help but think that he represented all of the negative stereotypes Boulderites tend to associate with rural Southerners - slightly overweight, hair so short you couldn’t tell if he was balding, rude, and entitled in a sexist sort of way. I was disappointingly quick to snap to judgement.

When the man emerged from the store, I was leaning against the passenger door of the car, telling Zivvy about the interaction I had just witnessed. “That’s him,” I said, flicking my head in his direction. Zivvy turned slightly to look at him, and the man began to head directly towards us.

He stopped a step or two away, gesturing towards the hood. “What is all this?”

As Zivvy and I explained what we were doing, his features began to soften. A couple of moments passed, his eyes wandering up and down the car body before coming to rest on me. “My grandparents both died of Alzheimer’s last year…” he began.

By the time his fiancé emerged from the store, his eyes were wet and swollen. “Honey, do you have any change,” he sniffled. The woman held out a five dollar bill, and he graciously took it before handing it to me. “Here. Use it for…I don’t know…buy yourself a bag of chips or something. What you guys are doing is incredible. You…I…just thank you.” And with that he shuffled away.

The mix of emotions I felt in the moments after was intense. I felt pain and sadness and empathy from the story of his grandparents’ final years. I felt ashamed at my quickness to judge him. But above all I felt moved, knowing that what we were doing had the ability to touch someone the way that it just had.

 

And that…that is exactly what I wanted this summer.

Day 56.

Day 56 - Tiburon, CA

Run - Dipsea Trail, CA

From the eyes of Nico

This morning, I woke up feeling a bit reflective, slightly sad that the trip was coming to a close. Luckily, my team was there for me, replacing any sort of sad feelings with relief that we are almost done in a matter of minutes.

It all started when we were sitting in the car waiting for Charlie. Like normal, he began his 10-minute coffee-making process roughly 3 minutes before our scheduled departure. Knowing that we would not have a real place to park at the beginning of the trail today, I ask Bailee to get our shoes down from the box on the roof in an effort to limit our exposure to the traffic that would be speeding by us when we get to the trail. Unfortunately, after 55 days on the road, she still fails to open the rocket box. After trying each of the four keys three or four times, she gives up and hands the key ring to Charlie, who has finally emerged from the house. He quickly inserts the key, turns the lock, and pops open the rocket box.

“Ooooooooooh…Whoops. I was turning the key the other way…”

Bailee proceeds to pull the shoes out, everybody gets buckled up, and we drive off. At this point, we are only 9 minutes behind schedule, which, by our standards, really is not bad at all. However, let me say that the emphasis in that last sentence is on “At this point”.

As we reach the bottom of the hill our host’s home is on, I hear a “Nico?” from the backseat: “Can we turn around? I forgot my wallet and sort of need it to drive when I drop you guys.”

Annoyed, I glance at Sadie in the backseat before pulling a U-ey and racing back up the hill. By the time we reach the house, Charlie has realized that we forgot the GoPro in his backpack, so he and Sadie jump out and run inside to grab their things. They are halfway back to the car when Charlie breaks down laughing, pointing at the roof: “Ummmm, Bailee. I think you forgot something.”

Bailee leans out her window, glances skyward, and lets out her second “Whoops” of the morning. She hops out of the car and reaches up, asking for Sadie and Charlie’s help to close the rocket box that somebody had forgotten to close. I watch them struggle for a few moments before putting the car in park and hopping out to help. Between the four of us, we manage to wrestle the thing closed, and once again we are on our way, stopping only to get gas and to pick up a pair of my shoes that had flown out of the top halfway down the hill.

 

But, from there on out, everything was wonderful and smooth. Sadie dropped us at the head of the Dipsea trail and off we ran. Now, a note about the Dipsea trail: this thing is all sorts of famous in the running community. They hold one of the most difficult races every year, and it is just absolutely gorgeous. Since we first conceived of this trip, this was the run I was most excited for, and that excitement was a big part of why we are finishing this journey in California. I can happily say that the trail, the experience, completely blew my lofty expectations out of the water. And, I can sadly say, that I will not be describing that experience in detail here because I am not yet a talented enough writer to do it justice. Maybe someday. All I will say is that it involved large amounts of fog, alternating segments of forest and open fields of scrubby bushes, wild turkeys and quail, incredibly steep grades, and the most perfect final mile of descent.

After a running pilgrimage, the only way to adequately end my day was with a beer pilgrimage. Russian River Brewery is based in Santa Rosa, California, and is famous for what are two of the best beers in the world, Pliny the Elder (a double IPA) and Pliny the Younger (a triple IPA). Pliny the Younger is legendary in that you can only get in on tap at the brewpub for two weeks a year, causing lines that can be over eight hours long. Pliny the Elder, however, is available year-round, making it the only possible choice of beverage after Charlie and my fifty-minute drive. Add to that some pizza and hot wings, and my stomach and taste buds left the bar happy, satisfied, and ready to enjoy the seven hour drive down the 1 and the 101 to LA tomorrow.

And, since I will be driving that first part, it is time for me to say goodnight. Bye bye.

 

Stats/facts of the day:

Miles driven: 152

Miles run: 18.9

Elevation gained (feet): 4282

Wild turkey spotted: 9

California Alzheimer's deaths, 2013: 11891

http://curealz.org/heroes/running-road-trip

 

Day 55.

Day 55 - South Lake Tahoe, CA, to Tiburon, CA

Run - Van Sickle Bi-State Park, South Lake Tahoe, CA/NV

From the eyes of Bailee

Lake Tahoe is a magical place to run. I woke up around 5:45am and took a leisurely time getting dressed, stretching, and drinking tons of water. I had the feeling the trails would play that familiar siren song once I was on them and try to convince me to go farther than I should. I left around 6:45am from the house. The temperature was perfect, a cool 47༠(my ideal running temperature usually). It was less than a mile down the road to the Van Sickle Bi-State Park and the real start of the run. I got on the trail from the lower entrance/parking lot, which unfortunately was not the trail I had planned to start on. Luckily, the trail connected to the main Van Sickle trail, so there was no real downside to jumping on the dirt early. From the start, the trail crawled leisurely uphill. It wound upwards and passed a waterfall early on. The trail was smooth dirt with a few rocks thrown in occasionally for spice. I hit the Rim Trail sign around five miles in and wound up at a short lookout point to take in the view. From there, I decided to head right on the Rim Trail where it split. The right fork seemed to continue up while the left fork seemed to slope downwards and the golden rule of trail running is the correct path is always up. I checked my watch to see how I was doing on time and decided to run for an hour and a half before turning. That gave me a little bit of time on the rim trail before I had to turn and head back. The actual trail was much flatter than the original connector. There were a couple of flat sections, a few short downhills, and a lot more climbing. When I reached an hour and a half, I realized how tired I was already and stopped long enough to eat half of an Evo Hemp bar and drink some water. Running back, I really noticed how tired I was. My curiosity and love of the trail had pushed me to go farther than I originally planned to and as a result, my legs felt dead. I ended up texting the rest of the road trip team when I had reached the Van Sickle connector to see if anyone was willing to come pick me up from the trailhead so I didn’t have to run the last mile uphill on asphalt. Luckily for me, Nico agreed. Unfortunately, he arrived at the parking lot when I was still almost two miles away from finishing. I saw his text when I stopped at a small overlook to take a picture of the city. I powered down the last bit of downhill and let the trail and gravity pull me. I finished on the Van Sickle trail, the way I originally should have started, but continued on to the original parking lot where I’d jumped on the trail. This meant that I missed Nico. Thankfully, he’s a good friend and drove down from the upper lot to meet me. It was an amazing trail and I hope someday I can return and run the whole 135 mile trail.

Post-run, the crew packed up and hopped in the car to head to Tiburon, California. We stopped for lunch at a Mexican place with a salsa bar before continuing on our way. Once we arrived, we unpacked quickly and settled in. Our host, Jill, told us she had to drop her husband’s Tesla at the dealership to be repaired. Her husband had accidently cracked the sunroof by dropping his mountain bike on it. Charlie and I agreed to drive the Tesla out to the dealership so that we could leave it there and she could drive us back. Charlie drove, and I sat shotgun. It took a couple of minutes to figure out the controls, but once we did we flew down the roads. It was amazing how quickly the car could reach 45 mph from 0 and slow down to a complete stop. We arrived at the dealership to find out that they weren’t able to fix the car that day. On the bright side, this meant that Charlie and I got to drive all the way back to the house.

Shortly after we got back, we departed for dinner. It’s Sadie’s birthday today so we decided to go get sushi. After finding out the first sushi place had almost an hour and a half long wait, we decided to go to a different place. But first, we made a quick detour to see the Marin Headlands. The Marin Headlands consisted of a long road up a mountain with sweeping views of the bay and a breathtaking view of the Golden Gate Bridge. After taking a couple of pictures, we headed to dinner. We gorged on sushi and are now headed to bed. Tomorrow marks our last official run of the trip. After that, we just have our closing event with Goodr in LA. It’s crazy to think this adventure is already almost over. It seems like not that long ago we were just driving through New York and Washington D.C.

Well, I’d better head to bed because I’m exhausted. Hope you all enjoyed listening to our podcast, and if you haven’t go check out the link on our Facebook! Until next time.

Stats/facts of the day:

Miles driven: 201

Miles run: 27.3

Elevation gained (feet): 3438

Chuck's excitement at getting to drive a Tesla: 219/10

Cause of death rank of Alzheimer's in California: 5th

http://curealz.org/heroes/running-road-trip

Day 54.

Day 54 - Las Vegas, NV, to South Lake Tahoe, NV

Run - None

From the eyes of Charlie

Unlike many other fast paced trips I’ve taken over the years (in which at the end I would proclaim, “Wow, I can’t believe it’s over now, where has all the time gone?”), on the Running Road Trip, I can definitely say I know exactly where that time has gone. It’s gone to hot afternoons spent napping in the sunny passenger seat of a purple 2012 RAV4. It’s gone to late nights writing blog posts, sifting through blog-cover-worthy photos, while fighting off heavy eyelids. I’ve eaten amounts of hot chips over the span of a few days that would make any mere mortal’s knees quiver, we’ve all become professional post-run “tick checkers”, snarfed down countless bowls of hot oats, raisins, and nut butter before our 6:30 am departure time, and my favorite part...engaged in hours and hours of involved conversation with fantastic runners and generous hosts from all corners of this great country.

Today was no different. Today, I spent part of the toasty afternoon napping in the passenger seat of our beautiful, trusty RAV4 steed. Today, I dove into a quick bowl of oats and raisins (but no nut butter!). Today, I resisted buying a bag of $1.69 spicy chips at the gas station (seriously, it’s impressive how consistent the price of a bag of chips is in gas stations across the country). Today, we didn’t run so there were no ticks to check! Today, I’m writing the blog! Today, we got to hang out with Scott, our very generous Couchsurfing.com host in South Lake Tahoe. The guy is renting a beautiful, spacious condo just ten minutes from the lake, nestled in a classic Tahoe pine forest. And get this!! His place has a large second story wooden patio, with a large four person tent complete with its own queen sized air mattress and pillows! When he pointed it out during the house tour, I called DIBS! I’m serious when I say that the two outdoor showers I used on this trip (in New Hampshire and in North Carolina) were two of my top 5 trip experiences. Now I get to sleep outside while in Tahoe, but also not have to set up the tent or blow up the air mattress. Such luxury!

The drive we did today was such a grab bag of beautiful scenes in the American West. We began our journey in the concrete metropolis of “Lost Wages”, NV. As we climbed and climbed farther northwest, the suburban sprawl just kept going and going. There were identical, light brown, Spanish-style, single family homes “from the 200s” stretching for probably 20-30 miles northwest of Vegas as we drove out of town on Hwy 95. After a quick, expensive gas pit stop (you can never be too careful in the desert), we drove through the driest and most majestic desert in North America: the Mojave. Stretching for miles and miles ahead of us were wiggly joshua trees, unforgivingly hot and rocky mountains, and of course the ever-present gently sloping plains populated with a uniform distribution of hardy desert flora. After about two and a half hours of desert rambling, we started climbing through the easternmost mountains in southwest Nevada, the very mountains that slice through Death Valley National Park. As we climbed and climbed, we started to escape the deadly rain shadow, and began descending through taller and more coniferous trees and shrubs. We wound through the hills for the next hour, as the roads became more and more windy, even descending to “one lane, yield to oncoming traffic” for about 1000 ft, we popped out onto a descent into my favorite valley in the USA: the Eastern Sierra.

The Sierras never fail to blow me away. As Sadie whipped us around another tight corner of CA-168, I laid eyes on those majestic peaks for the first time in over a year. The only way I could discern their jagged forms from the uniform blue of the skyline was from the distributed, high-albedo (aka white) patches of frozen water strewn across their many peaks and high alpine valleys. As we continued to descend through the semi-arid mountains of far eastern California, the Sierras would pop in and out of view, teasing us incessantly. Finally, we pulled off onto a small dirt turnout, and gave Bailee a chance to recover from carsickness while the rest of us basked in the glow of the rough and tumble Sierra Nevada peaks ripping up out of the valley below.

The reason I love this valley so much, as well as its mother road US-395, is the feeling of enclosure you get while speeding north as the mountains press ever closer to your vehicle. We took a quick food pit stop in Bishop to eat homemade burgers and fries (veg + gluten-free friendly!) at Bishop Burger Barn, and one near Mono Lake to stare at California’s great salty lake. At this point I was in the drivers’ seat, but a little over an hour after passing Mono Lake, my eyelids started to gain considerable weight (even after a fantastic cup of coffee from Black Sheep Coffee Roasters in Bishop) so Nico and I switched seats. After my fantastic afternoon nap in the passenger seat, we only had an hour or so to go until hitting Tahoe! I haven’t been here since I was a little kid, so it’s been great to experience familiar sights and smells once again. I’m really pumped to run up the mountain tomorrow. Apparently our trail takes us from below the base of a ski mountain all the way to the mid-mountain lodge. I hope I survive!

Stats/facts of the day:

Miles driven: 443

Miles run: 0

Elevation gained (feet): 0

Bears seem outside of host's location: 1

Percentage of CAF raised from individual donations: 64.2%

http://curealz.org/heroes/running-road-trip

Day 53.

Day 53 - Flagstaff, AZ, to Las Vegas, NV

Run - Old Caves Crater Trail, Flagstaff, AZ

From the eyes of Sadie.

All four of us woke up pretty early this morning - around 5:30am. I made some coffee and sat out on our deck overlooking the San Francisco Peaks and rolling green hills of rural Flagstaff, while the roosters crowed and dawn was breaking under an overcast sky. It was incredibly peaceful. And the weather was amazing! It was cool and dry - perfect running weather. This was the best early morning I would say we’ve experienced on the trip. We were all up doing our own thing early voluntarily, taking it slow as to enjoy dawn in such a beautiful place. I’ve never been to Flagstaff but I’ve heard great things about it so I was particularly excited to visit… and I wasn’t disappointed.

Bailee and I went to get groceries the night before for dinner and on our way we saw a trailhead: the Old Caves Crater Trail. We estimated it was maybe 1.5 miles away from the house so we figured we could all just get up whenever and run to the trailhead then complete its four-mile loop. We made a pretty bad estimate. Bailee and I left around 6:30 and discovered it was nearly three miles to the trailhead from the house. Oops. We studied the map and set off through the trees in the silent, empty woods. We made it to the summit of the mountain hitting around 7,000 feet (I LOVE U ALTITUDE!!!) and took in the sights of northern Arizona. I was in awe by how green and beautiful it was up there! It looked like a combination of Boulder and Crested Butte (my two fave places in Colorado!). It felt like I was back home after two months on the road in a sense. We made our way back around the looped trail and back down to the trailhead with three more miles to run back to the house, clocking in around 9.5 miles for our Arizona run.

We got a slow start to make our 11:00 check out time but we succeeded. On our way out we talked to our host who was definitely a colorful character. She showed us all her chickens and geese, which Bailee enjoyed immensely because she finally got to hold one of the chickens. On our way out of town we drove through the NAU campus and downtown just to check out more of Flagstaff before hitting the road towards Vegas. Tonight we will be staying in the penthouse suite at the Bellagio, rolling up to the hottest clubs, getting VIP access to the Chainsmokers show, popping champagne with them, getting dope face tattoos, and if we’re lucky, wake up with a tiger in our room tomorrow afternoon. Stay tuned for day 54’s blog post detailing the RRT crew’s night out in Vegas. ;) 

Stats/facts of the day:

Miles driven: 262

Miles run: 38.6

Elevation gained (feet): 3024

Temperature when we arrived in Vegas (Fahrenheit): 100

Increase in Alzheimer's deaths since 2000, Nevada: 130%

http://curealz.org/heroes/running-road-trip

Day 52.

Day 52 - Albuquerque, NM, to Flagstaff, AZ

Run - Embudito Trail, Albuquerque, NM

From the eyes of Nico.

Today was a good day. A very good day. In fact, I think today may have been my favorite run so far, finally dethroning my North Dakota adventure for the number one position. Now, because I haven’t yet had time to fully reflect on the run (and because I do not yet know how sore I will be in the morning), I can not yet say definitively that this was the best run of the trip. However, on first impression, it seems that it will take that spot. Anyway, I suppose I should actually tell you about the run…

There are two things that make a run amazing for me. The first is that I have to feel good, and damn did I feel good today. Although I was extremely tight yesterday after 11 hours in the car, I woke up feeling fresh and strong, and that feeling lasted throughout the majority of my run. I found my pace right at the foot of the climb, and from there was able to just grind my way up the mountain. This was vastly different than the previous times we did runs like this, first in Crested Butte and then in Idaho. On both those occasions, going up the mountain killed me. Nowhere close to being in distance shape after sprint season, the endless climbs combined with the immense changes in altitude completely destroyed my body, leaving me to struggle and crawl up the slope. After having averaged 50 miles a week over the past month and a half, I didn’t experience any of that pain today. That is not to say that I didn’t hurt at parts; the final mile or so was rough, but more because I was trying to push the pace than because of any lack of strength.

The second is the landscape and trail itself. Today’s trail started in the foothills of the Sandia Mountains, the loose dirt and gravel path winding its way across the desert landscape and up through the savanna. Easily the hardest part of the trail, this section wasn’t particularly steep, but the loose dirt made the running slippery, and the cacti encroaching on the trail made it all the more dangerous. After cresting the foothills, the trail sloped down and into a juniper, evergreen, and conifer forest, a life zone drastically different than where the trail began. I continued up through this for a couple of miles until reaching a ridge that opened on a stunning view of the southern portion of the mountain range. At this point the clock forced me to turn around, although not before a hummingbird flitted inches from my ear, nearly spooking me off of the rock I was perched on.

And then, somehow, the evening was just as wonderful. We are staying at an Airbnb about 25 minutes outside of Flagstaff, Arizona. Our flat sits atop a garage, and the deck looks out across a gorgeous valley surrounded by mountains. The afternoon was filled with honks from the geese and clucks from the chickens, but now that everything has gone to bed, it is incredibly peaceful. There is something magical about being able to sit outside, sip a beer, stare at the stars, and not be at all threatened by bugs in the air (one of the many benefits of staying at altitude. Also, the slight breeze helps).

And with that, I am out. We are less than a week away from completing our journey, and I need to make sure to enjoy every moment of it, especially the serenity of tonight. Sleep well…

Facts/stats of the day:

Miles driven: 346

Miles run: 26.5

Elevation gained (feet): 5545

Close calls with cactus on trail: 17

Arizona Alzheimer's death rank: 7th

http://curealz.org/heroes/running-road-trip

Day 51.

Day 51 - Austin, TX, to Albuquerque, NM

Run - None

From the eyes of Bailee.

We have six stops left on the road trip before we head back to Boulder: Albuquerque, Flagstaff, Las Vegas, Lake Tahoe, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. Las Vegas is just a rest day to break up the long drive between Flagstaff and Tahoe. Los Angeles is our unofficial end to the trip, where we can relax a little before returning home. We’ll probably head home early the morning of August 13th, so we have ten days left. It’s crazy to think that this trip will be over in just ten days. We spent two years planning, two months doing, and in ten days it will be over.

This trip has brought out the best and worst in the group. As you might expect from four kids trapped in a car together for two months, we can get on each others nerves. We spend almost every minute of the day together. We wake up together, eat breakfast together, drive in a car together, maybe get a minute away from each other to write/practice violin/do roadtrip work at our host’s, eat dinner together, and then go to sleep together. So it’s not a surprise that we step on each other’s toes. There have been days when I want to explode because everything one of the others does annoys me. We’ve experienced hanger and irritability due to having to sit in the car for hours without stretching our legs. But we’ve also learned how to keep things fun and give each other space when we need to.

There are days when I wish the trip was longer. Or not really longer because I’m ready to go home, but slower. I wish we had more time to enjoy our surroundings and explore the places we’re visiting. For example, yesterday in Austin, Texas, we ran on the Barton Creek Greenbelt trail. It was shocking to find such a long section of nature within such a big city. As we neared our turnaround point, the trail gave way to the city, revealing skyscrapers. I turned back a little earlier than the boys and stumbled across the Barton Springs, a natural cold springs, as I was looking for a bathroom before running back to the car. I saw a lady with a dog also looking at the “closed” sign in front of the bathroom and asked her if she thought it would take long. She told me sometimes it takes them more than hour to finish cleaning the bathroom, but that she had gone to the main spring building before and they’d let her in. They wouldn’t let her in with her dog, so I offered to hold her dog while she went. We took turns and then went our separate ways. But while I was walking around the building to the bathroom, I saw the springs. It reminded me a lot of Glenwood. The pool was long and the water looked incredibly clear and refreshing. Even though it wasn’t even eight in the morning, people were already soaking or swimming in the pool. When I got back to the car, I told everyone about my discovery. We found out that the springs was free before eight in the morning or after nine at night and planned on going later. Unfortunately, after an early morning, heavy barbecue, book shopping, and ice cream, we were all too exhausted. By three we’d returned to our host’s home, showered, and passed out to nap. When we finally regathered, we voted by acclamation to drop our plans of going out to swim late that night. The weather was pleasant, but not in that burn your skin off kind of way that makes cold pools feel refreshing rather than frigid. In addition, we were all so tired nine o’clock seemed too late to be going out again. This morning, we had to leave early for our long drive and didn’t have time to stop by the springs on our way out of town. This has been one of the most present themes of our trip, being surrounded by fun and exciting opportunities, yet too exhausted to do everything we want to.

I’m not sure if I’ll ever go back to visit a lot of these places ever again. It’s been incredible seeing how varied life is outside of the People’s Republic of Boulder, but some of the places we’ve visited I probably never would have gone to if it weren’t for this trip. (Although, to be fair some of the places have pleasantly surprised me with how much I enjoyed them and maybe I will consider going back to those places). It makes me that much sadder that we haven’t had the time to fully experience every place we’ve visited. But, if we went slower and took more time with the trip, I wouldn’t be back in Boulder in time for school and I miss my home. Plus, my parents got a new dog since I’ve been away and I can’t wait to meet him (and see the love of my life, Cody dog).  Overall, it’s been an amazing adventure but I’m excited that we’ll be done soon.

Facts/stats of the day: 

Miles driven: 701

Miles run: 10.5

Elevation gained (feet): 866

Distance we could see during rainstorm (meters): 5

Expected increase in Alzheimer's cases in NM by 2025: 43.2%

http://curealz.org/heroes/running-road-trip

 

Day 50.

Day 50 - Austin, TX

Run - Barton Creek Greenway, Austin, TX

From the eyes of Sadie

We rolled out of bed in Austin, Texas, to get on the road by 5:45 this morning. At that time it was already 80 degrees out, so despite disliking the very early start, we were relieved we got up and out to start running before sunrise (which was at 6:51am). We drove in the darkness to Barton Springs Greenbelt where we planned to meet Matt Sorenson from the Runified podcast. He had interviewed Nico over the phone back in March and ran with us this morning to not only meet us, but to record a group interview. The first part of the interview he recorded was before we set out to run. He then divided up other questions for each of us individually to answer during the run. We were the first people he’s interviewed while running so he’s unsure how the sound quality will be on that portion of the podcast. I already struggle to eloquently articulate a structured response to a formal question on the fly, so I definitely found it more difficult to fluidly respond through panting while simultaneously dodging branches and rocks. (Let the record hold that I was the last of the four of us to be interviewed during the run, hence was solidly panting at this point in the run). It was a fun trail and we all enjoyed finally meeting Matt, who we were introduced to through one of our sponsors, goodr.

After credit carding the sweat off our backs (a trick Ziv taught us… on our last humid state run), we hopped in the car to tackle Austin traffic and head towards a popular BBQ place, La Barbeque. This is a place where you have to wait in line before they open so we made sure to get there early. Luckily we started the line, which paid off. The line grew quickly, becoming very long as it got closer to their opening time, 11:00. We had sausage, chipotle coleslaw, brisket, potato salad, and a massive beef rib. Nico, Bailee, Ziv, and I scarfed all of this down right in front of our resident vegan, lil Charlie. It was incredibly good and incredibly rich. We had to check off getting some good Texas BBQ during our stay in Austin! After our feast, we said our goodbyes to our guest runner/Media Technician, Zivvy, who had joined our cramped car for Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. It was awesome having him for part of the road trip even though it meant there was even less space in the car for our 5-8 hour drives.

The rest of the afternoon, the four of us split up but ultimately ended in all of us taking long naps, which was much needed. Tomorrow we wake up early yet again, but not to run. We will be driving all the way to Albuquerque, New Mexico, tomorrow, which will be our longest drive on the road trip, clocking in a staggering 11.5 hours. Add in stretch breaks/switching drivers, potential traffic, and stopping for lunch, and it should be easily over 12. The four of us, especially Bailee, is very excited to be getting into the dry climate of the West again after so much of the last month being humid on top of the summer heat. I’m also very excited to be heading back towards the West because of my familiarity with it relative to other regions in the country. For New Mexico in particular, we’re pumped for the Southwestern food that includes roasted hatch green chillies. Mmmm… yum.

Four more states to go.

Stats/facts of the day:

Miles driven: 30

Miles run: 30.2

Elevation gained (feet): 1,388

Position in line for BBQ: 1st

Gifts received by Cure Alzheimer's Fund in 2016: 15,347

http://curealz.org/heroes/running-road-trip

Day 49.

I definitely had the most terrifying experience of the entire trip today. After we parked in front of Nico's friend's dad's house, I swung open my door and my water bottle tumbled out of the car, onto the road, and rolled down into the 10 foot long, ungrated sewer, making a loud crash as the full 48 oz Nalgene which had become my baby, my faithful companion, and hydration savior over the past three years disappeared into the abyss never to be seen again. I freaked out!! I mean sure, the thing could be replaced with only $8 and an Amazon Prime membership, but to me, its sentimental value was worth 100x that.

I peeked in the grate, and couldn’t see the bottle, only a blank concrete wall. I sat there on top of the grate, hands on my knees for a minute or so just trying to comprehend what had just happened. If only I hadn’t squeezed my bottle in between my seat and the door to save precious foot space during the car ride, then it would still be with me right now! The others started unloading the car without me, and as they walked past they asked questions like: “Was that your laptop?” “Did you break your phone, AGAIN?” and “That sounded like your laptop falling!”. When I answered “It was my water bottle!!” they looked less impressed. That was fine though! It’s hard for others to comprehend the storied relationship one can have with one’s longtime water receptacle. :'''(

It was at this moment that Nico’s friend Derek’s dad: “Papa P” walked out onto the front lawn to come meet and greet us. I shook his hand and then immediately asked, “Is there any way I can get into this sewer drain?” He said, “Oh, my kids and I used to have to go in sewer drains to grab little lost toys by using a special tool, but I’ve since misplaced it.” In lieu of the tool, we brainstormed for a few minutes and eventually settled upon a socket wrench with an extendable tip as the ideal tool for the job. I stood guard while he went inside to hunt for the tool, making sure that if a flash flood were to erupt at any given moment, that I could use my body to block its entrance to the drain. I hoped this would ensure that my water bottle could chill down there long enough for us to be able to retrieve it! Finally, once Papa P (aka Brian) emerged with the tool, a thought struck me and I acted on it instantly. I just bent down and pulled at the center hook on the sewer with one hand and with a groan it sprang up from the hole, and I set it down with a thump on the ground next to the manhole. I was stunned! All that deliberation about tools and the looming impossibility of the entire venture, and all along the thing was just sitting there unlocked. I'm so glad we hadn't given up sooner! More great news was soon to follow! If I placed my head at ground level, I could just barely see my water bottle safe, sound, and unbroken only a few feet away from the cover itself...though about 5-6 feet underground. Luckily, Papa P had come prepared with the tools for every eventuality. He pulled out a plastic broom, which I first used to brush the biggest spiders and spider webs away from the opening itself, then used the same implement to gently roll my bottle towards us until it was located directly under the hole. At this point, he hands me one of those flimsy little plastic grabber hands that kids buy from Target for $5 when they’re 8 years old, and with it... I took hold of my heavy, still full 48 oz Nalgene and heroically extracted it from its subterranean prison.

Victory!!!!!!! At last!!!!! I was so happy to see that wonderful thing again, after almost certainly having called it quits on the retrieval just a few minutes before. Once reunited, I gave it a thorough inside and outside cleaning (sorely needed after two months on the road, and probably three months since its last scouring). And here it sits with me today, accompanying my coffee and my laptop as I post this blog approximately 12 hours late to our website. Sorry dear readers! Last night was quite the whirlwind post-bottle-rescue. We headed off soon after to the grocery store, argued about whether or not to buy pepperoni for five minutes, left with cheese pizza, greens, and beer, then rushed home to consume all three. Once we were sitting there washing dishes, it was already 9:30 pm, and we knew our wakeup time the next morning was coming up in about 7.5 hours. Somehow, through all of this, Nico, Ziv, and Bailee decided to crack open a righteous game of Settlers of Catan while I sat and did more job interview prep + job emails, all of us resigned to the sleep debt in our future. We didn’t end up getting to bed until after 11 pm (sadly) and got up this morning at 5:15 am (Wednesday) to run with Matt, the man + voice behind the Runified podcast! It was totally worth it though! Matt is an awesome dude, runs a great show, and the trail we ran was flat, soft, and reminded me a lot of Southern California’s Arroyo Seco. But of course you’ll hear way more details about all of this and more of today's activities in tonight’s blog post.

Stay tuned! And check back tonight for an ON TIME post this go-around!

 

Peace,

Charlie

 

Stats/facts of the day:

Miles driven: 393

Miles run: 24.3

Elevation gained (feet): 1690

Level of exhaustion on a scale from 1 to 10 after playing Settlers of Catan until 11 pm and still having to get up at 5:15 am: 1000

Oklahomans age 85 and older with Alzheimer's (2016): 25,000/57,000

Donate here: http://curealz.org/heroes/running-road-trip

 

Day 48.

Day 48 - Hot Springs, AR, to Norman, OK

Run - Hot Springs Exploration

From the eyes of Nico

The past two weeks, I’ve gotten into the habit of running earlier and earlier in the morning. My wake-up habits haven’t changed; I’ve still been getting out of bed between 0500 and 0530, but instead of hopping on the computer and writing cover letters, I’ve instead been taking advantage of our Airbnbs’ locations, lacing up my shoes and jogging out the door before most of the rest of the team is even awake.

This morning was no different, as I left our Airbnb in Hot Springs, Arkansas, just a touch after 0600, roughly 20 minutes before sunrise. That is really the main reason I enjoy running so early – I fell in love with the sunrise while living on a ship during my semester abroad through Semester at Sea. While on the ocean, I got used to watching the sun peak out over the horizon every morning, illuminating the miles of water surrounding the small dot that was my home. When given the opportunity to witness something similar back here on land, I jump at the opportunity. The added bonuses on this trip? Getting some alone time and not having to suffer the frustration of waiting around for everyone else to be ready to go.

After roughly 30 minutes of ditzing around town, I found myself atop Hot Springs Mountain. A gazebo awaited me, granting me a view of a lush green valley as I sat on the gazebo’s stone wall. It is moments like this that I search for when I run alone, or even when I travel in general. Moments when I can stare out at the morning rays brightening the forest below as they tease a light fog out from the cool canopy. Moments when I can zone, and zen…

And then I run again. This time it was down the mountain and back into town. Next time it may be along a creek in Austin, or maybe across a beach in California. Regardless, I come flying back into reality, both refreshed and relaxed. Ready to start the day.

The rest of today was great. The drive to Norman, Oklahoma, went by quickly. The group run (a pub run) was phenomenal, primarily because the people we talked with were an incredibly kind and interesting group of human beings. And then dinner was all sorts of tasty, consisting of butternut squash, pasta with fresh tomato sauce, and spinach.

And then tomorrow we get to do it all over again…

I won’t be able to say that in a little over a week. After working on this for so long, that is an immensely scary thought. For the first time ever, I have no idea what two months from now will look like. I know I will be living somewhere in New York City, but I have no clue where. I know (read: hope) that I will be working somewhere, but, again, I have no clue where, nor do I even know what I will be doing. The safety net of school will be gone, as will the safety net of The Running Road Trip, something that has been looming in the background for the past two years. I do know two things though, two things that will certainly be enough to pull me along through the uncertainty that I secretly dread. The first is that I will be running the New York City Marathon in November. (While I missed the normal entry period, I can sign up to run for CaringKind, an organization focused on Alzheimer’s and dementia caregiving, not only allowing me to race, but also allowing me to continue to support the effort to counter the disease that took my grandfather). The second, and the more important and driving of the two, is that I will be happily living with the woman that I love, so regardless of what I am doing (or not doing), I will be surrounded by support.

But yeah, in the end, it is weird to think this is coming to an end. Luckily, we still have 10 more days and five more states to explore. And hopefully a lot more money to raise along with that. So be sure to share what we are doing, whether it be with friends, family, colleagues, or random people you run into in the street (all of the above is preferred).

Thank you all for the continued support.

 

Stats/facts of the day:

Miles driven: 311

Miles run: 32.8

Elevation gained (feet): 3071

Level of sadness at not having enough time to play Settlers of Catan: 100

Oklahomans age 85 and older with Alzheimer's (2016): 25,000/57,000

Donate here: http://curealz.org/heroes/running-road-trip 

 

Day 47.

Day 47 - New Orleans, LA, to Hot Springs, AR

 

Run - \varnothing

From the eyes of Zivvy - guest starring for the southern leg of the trip

Deep in the south, today represented a large step in propelling the Running Road Trip to its final, westward chapter. The 47th day (chirp chirp unreal right) was to be a long day of driving to Hot Springs, Arkansas, so we skipped the morning run and aimed at getting on the road by 8:30. We told Charlie we would be at his Airbnb (Jen, Charlie’s supremely wonderful girlfriend, had flown into NOLA for the weekend, so they had their own separate airbnb about 1.5 miles from ours) at 7:45 with absolutely no intent of getting there then: for those of you who don’t know him personally, Charlie is so laudably organized and meticulous that he is often late for things. So we figured the deceit would actually get him out of the house at 8:15, which is when we intended to actually get to his place. To Charlie’s credit, however, he was ready at 7:45 and made us look like a purple clown car of buffoons.

The drive began with the epic Lake Pontchartrain Causeway - the longest continuous bridge over water in the world. The bridge is just under 24 miles, and driving on it is a truly bizarre experience. After 15 minutes of zipping along at 75 mph, you can’t see land in any direction. Only water and the thin abstract strip of concrete extend to the horizon. Spearheaded by Bailee, we filled the time contemplating the logistics of hosting the First Annual Lake Pontchartrain Causeway Marathon. Indeed the run would be hellishly monotonous, and spectatorship would have to be a boat-based venture. But there wouldn’t be any issues with getting lost on the course, and aid stations could use water directly from the lake. Not my cup of tea, but people are known for doing absurdly painful things.

The drive itself proceeded uneventfully through the rolling hills of rural Mississippi and Arkansas. We rolled into our cute little cottage in Hot Springs late afternoon, giving us plenty of time for us to cook a wholesome dinner, for Nico to drink the local Craft Beer and run home, and for a quick afternoon catnap. Afterwards, we revelled with delicious veg.

We were all very excited because this night, the 47th night of the RRT, is the golden night of evening media consumption. There is both a new Game of Thrones episode and Rick and Morty season premiere. For millennials who love twisted comedy, the convergence of these two shows rivals an eclipse.

 

Facts/stats of the day:

Miles driven: 459

Miles run: 3.6

Elevation gained (feet): 315

Times Zivvy almost jumped out of the car at yet another country song: 47

Number of deaths due to Alzheimer's in 2007 (Arkansas): 824

http://curealz.org/heroes/running-road-trip

 

Day 46

Day 46 - New Orleans, LA

Run - Boy Scout Road Trail, Lacombe, LA

From the eyes of Bailee

I woke up today at 5:30am. It took me a minute to stop panicking; right before I woke up I dreamt that I’d slept until 9:30am. By the time I’d woken up Nico decided it was too late for us to run and we failed to run in Louisiana. After looking at my phone to reassure myself that I hadn’t actually overslept, I rolled out of bed and started getting ready to run.

Last night, Nico, Sadie, and Zivvy went out on the town and got back a little late, so today was just a Bailee-Nico run. We headed across the lake from New Orleans to Lacombe. Once there, we hopped on a short trail through marsh land. The run was around five miles and began on a boardwalk before winding through a forest. Although it was warm and humid, the boardwalk section offered a light breeze. Unfortunately, the breeze ended when we reached the trees and was replaced with much less pleasant bugs, which proceeded to eat us alive.

Post run, we walked back out along the boardwalk from the car to cool down with the breeze and enjoy the views. After going a little ways, we stopped and sat down in the middle of the walkway. We were surrounded on both sides by submergent marsh. Lily pads dotted the dark water with white flowers sprinkled here and there. The sounds of the marsh were punctured only by my occasional comment. Gradually my comments petered out and were replaced with the quite croaking of bullfrogs as they greeted each other from across the marsh. We could hear chickens clucking and a dog barking. The sky was gray and seemed to threaten rain. Islands of clouds floated purposefully across it. Eventually, we sat back up and headed back down the boardwalk to Barney. A turtle peered at us from between lily pads, as if to say goodbye as we exited the marshland.

Nico drove us back to the city. I played the song Camelot from the Broadway show before letting Nico take over control of music. Moments later, I woke up from my power nap to realize it was pouring. Threatening clouds had transitioned to cats and dogs. The rain abated just as we pulled into the city. We went to the Crescent City Farmer’s Market and picked up juicy pears. After, we went to meet Sadie and Zivvy at Cafe Du Monde.

The line stretched down the block as we drove past. I hopped out of the car while Nico went to search for parking so that I could start the process of waiting. A slight drizzle continued. Eventually, we got a small round table. The Cafe was like a finely tuned machine; it turned out customers quickly and efficiently. As soon as we sat down, a waiter took our order. Their menu is simple, consisting of beignets and coffee. We got two orders of beignets for the table. They arrived, covered in powdered sugar and piled high on a small plate. I’ve had beignets before at Lucille’s in Boulder, but these were a completely different species. Lucille’s beignets are light and fluffy. They seem airy and have room inside for jam. On the contrary, these were denser and doughier. We devoured our treats in record time as the waiters buzzed around ushering people out for the next group as quickly as possible.

By the time we finished, Charlie and Jen had arrived. We decided to make reservations at the Ruby Slipper Cafe for brunch. They wouldn’t have seating for our large group for another hour, so Nico and I ran home to re-park the car and change out of our running clothes, while the others went on a coffee shop crawl through town. It continued to sprinkle on and off as Nico and I walked to the car, so when we got back to the Airbnb, I grabbed my raincoat. Unfortunately, as soon as we left to walk downtown again, it seemed the rain was over for the day and my precautions were unnecessary.

Brunch was delicious. I got eggs benedict with smoked salmon. It was served on a biscuit rather than the traditional english muffin. The hollandaise was buttery perfection and the eggs were poached perfectly so that as soon as you cut into them, the yolks ran out and doused the plate with gooey deliciousness.

Post-brunch, Charlie and Jen split from the group again. Sadie, Zivvy, Nico, and I walked to the French Market to better experience New Orleans. Where the farmers market this morning had been much smaller than expected (only a few tables), French Market was much larger. There were countless rows of vendors, and just when you thought you’d reached the end, there was another whole section to walk through. Exhausted, we walked back to our Airbnb to rest a little before dinner.

For dinner, we walked down Rampart street to Ray’s on the Ave. It was a dimly lit hole in the wall eatery that offered all of the typical New Orleans faire. Post dinner, the group split up again. Zivvy, Jen, and Charlie headed out to listen to some jazz. Sadie, Nico, and I went to get rolled ice cream.

The ice cream shop was popping when we got there. People sat scattered throughout playing games like connect four and uno, but no one seemed to have ice cream. When we ordered, we realized it was due to the fact that rolled ice cream is a time and labor intensive endeavor. We ended up waiting around an hour before they got to making our ice cream. They chopped up an oreo for our cookie ice cream, and mixed together nutella and almonds for our chocolate nutella one. After topping them (graham crackers, sprinkles, caramel, and blueberries for the the cookies and cream and whipped cream for the chocolate almond nutella) we devoured our sweet dairy treats as a group. Overall, it was a unique experience and it was really exciting to get rolled ice cream. However, taste-wise, wait time-wise, and cost-wise traditional ice cream still holds first place in my heart.

Well, it’s much later than expected now mostly due to ice cream wait time. We have an early morning tomorrow and a long drive ahead of us, so I’ll say goodnight. Today has been an extremely full and fun day, but I’m ready to shut down for the night. ‘Til next time.

Stats/facts of the day: 

Miles driven: 81

Miles run: 10.1

Elevation gained (feet): 14

Minutes spent waiting for rolled ice cream: 53

Percent of your donations that go directly to research: 100

Donate to the Cure Alzheimer's Fund here: http://curealz.org/heroes/running-road-trip