Friday, November 27, 2015

Day Three: An Uncertain Conclusion

I woke, dressed, and limped to the motel office so I could check out. Then I limped to the Exxon Station next door, bought Gatorade, and poured it into my hydration bladder. After that, I limped to Huddle House for breakfast. It was 6:50 am when I sat in a booth facing east and looked out the window the direction I had planned to go. I pondered the impending doom and conclusion of my journey. My feet were terribly painful, but worse than that, my lower right calf was sore in a frightening way. There was no way I could make it to French Camp. The human body can't limp all day without something else breaking. I would call John Misterfeldt to pick me up, but before I did, I would walk a mile or two. I would cover some distance before I threw in the towel.

At least I had coffee, and I drank three cups to go along with the three over easy eggs I ate with the grits, sausage, and toast. I finished my meal, paid my bill, and went outside to face my failure. "Lord," I prayed, "at least help me get to Highway 407. Get me there, please." 

I then began to limp down the shoulder of the highway until I was able to turn onto the old 82, a less traveled road. Slowly, my body warmed and my pace improved. I was watching with interest the numbers on the Garmin and noticed the tempo, very slow at first, become quicker and quicker. A little over two miles later, I was at the intersection of Highways 51 and 407. "Thank you, Lord. Help me to get out of town, to the airport road. That won't be as embarrassing if I can make it out of town."

Amazingly, my feet didn't hurt anymore. I found that to be the pattern of the trip. Each day started with sore, painful feet, but a mile or two in and they felt OK. My calf, however, was still sore, worrisome. When I made it to the airport road, I prayed for God to help me make it to Vaiden Road. If I can get there, that will be some sort of victory. I shot a short video as I continued to walk along saying that The Great Noxapater Journey Run as turning into The Great Noxapater Journey Walk. 

But the calf was loosening, my limp was disappearing, and my confidence was starting to rise like the day's temperature. I topped a hill and thought, I can shuffle to the bottom. I did and when I got to the bottom I kept going. My legs felt fine, and I thought, I'm OK; I began to have fun again like I did on the first day. I made it to Vaiden Road, and then I prayed to get to Community Baptist Church which is on the west side of the Big Black River bottom. 

I got to the church at 11.53 miles, and since I had many more miles to go, I decided to take a break there. I stopped under their breezeway, hooked my phone to its charger, and plugged it in. I stretched my calves on the edge of the concrete slab then I lay down and ate a Cliff Bar.

When I left twenty minutes later, I was running and praying to get across the Big Black River bottom, which I did. The next goal was to stride into Poplar Creek. First, I had to climb the 1.1 mile hill that rises out of the river bottom back into the hills. I walked that whole thing. Although I was feeling confident now, I feared a run up that incline would put way too much pressure on my plantar fascia and calf. Not only that, but with all the miles I had come and still had to go, running up hills didn't make much sense.

Poplar Creek is a community, not an actual town. But is was a nice milestone for me, and I knew when I passed through it there would be precious few humans until I came to French Camp.

I made it several miles past Poplar Creek when I took a pull on my hydration tube and got only bubbles. I was out of Gatorade and had a long way to go before the day was done. I heard a four wheeler and some voices. Off the road to the right, I could see some campers on the other side of a line of trees. Deer camp, I thought.

"Hey," I hollered and crossed the road.

"Hey," someone yelled back.

"Can I have some water?"

"Yeah. Come on up."

I met Phil Lekner from Biloxi who was very interested in my journey. He was even more interested in how many deer I had seen, which I told him consisted only of a dead one strapped to the back of a four wheeler which was strapped to a utility trailer which was pulled by a truck. To make a short story long, I left with water in my hydration pack, a cold bottle of water in my hand, and a cold coke stuffed into my pack. 

Despite a chilly start, the day had been sunny and warm. But a cold front was moving in and the sky began to darken while the wind rose blowing the fall leaves over the road and into my face. I decided to drink the water and the coke before I resumed running, and while I walked along, I tried again to call the bed and breakfast at French Camp. I had been calling all morning and could not get them on the phone. I was beginning to think I might be homeless for the night. I know what you're thinking: why did you not have reservations already? Shoot me; I'm a procrastinator. 

The temps were predicted to make a major dip in the night,  to below freezing, and for a bit I became frightened at the prospects of being without shelter. Then I thought about my great-grand father. He was homeless for six months; I could survive being homeless for one night. The more I thought about it, however, the more exciting the idea of sleeping in the woods became. I could put on all the clothes I had packed and make my way to one of those pine thickets beside Highway 413 where I would get out of the wind. I'd gather a mound of pine straw and dig myself into the center of it. If I could get even a few hours of sleep, I should be able to move on in the night and generate enough body heat to stay warm.

As the sky continued to darken and the air began to chill, my spirits soared to their loftiest highs of the journey. A line from a movie came to mind which reminded me of another reason I do this sort of thing. In The Shawshank Redemption, when Morgan Freeman's character boards the bus for Mexico at the end of the film, he says, "I felt the excitement that only a free man can feel at the beginning of a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain."

As I ran along towards French Camp, I felt the freedom of a little boy turned loose to play for the day. I was excited. I was happy.