In May I (Dave Zook) went on a running vacation with my skiing friends Ian Klepetar and Scott Lommele. Over eight running days we ran 186 miles, averaging just under a marathon per day and traversing half of Oregon’s coastline, from Florence to Astoria, on the state’s northern border. We brought a bike to share when fatigue or injury dictated its use, and a baby stroller for gear hauling.
Ian is on the prowl for creative ways to get people moving, active and out of cars, and is exploring running transportation as one option. “I think our time-space relationship has become skewed from being thrown in a car at an early age, and running brings us back to a more normal and true sense of distance,” he says. In his mid-30’s, his burly physique stems from relentless skiing and biking, but never a gym workout. He wears a perpetual sun-crisped, scruffy face, but sports a hairstyle that develops from early winter buzz to fall mullet. Scott, 27, has a penchant for skiing fast, running slow, and embarking on kooky trips with friends. He was in.
Hakuna Matata Attitude
Warm and bright skies greeted us on day one instead of the prevailing soggy Oregon spring. We pulled energy off the open ocean, rolled over mellow hills, and relished the inhalation of oxygen-thick air after a long winter at elevation. Run a mile or two, see some sights, run some more.
This hakuna matata attitude lasted all of eight miles (4% in), before lactic acid invaded my legs like sludge. Throughout our first two days, I couldn’t walk down stairs without the support of a handrail. Scott came into some knee pain that intensified through the trip, and Ian hit a stomach issue on day four, relegating him to a day of walking, with frequent trips into the woods.
We took the busy commercial thoroughfare of Highway 101 virtually the whole way, which proved a stressor to patience and even safety. En route to Lincoln City, Scott and I rounded a long left turn against traffic on a narrow shoulder. A truck full of fine Oregon timber approached and the driver, perhaps feeling too close, jerkily turned away from us. The direction change caused the tail to appear to drift towards us, the noisy beast seemingly being about to plow straight into our stopped, gawking selves. It didn’t, thankfully, and the subsequent whoosh of air blasted us. “Holy shit, did you see that?” Scott asked. “Sure did, very sketch.” Still on the mini shoulder and exposed, we kept going.
“Every age has its pleasures, its style of wit, and its own ways…”
– Nicholas Boileau-Despreaux
Despite a few tense moments, we walked, biked, and strollered north. We passed empty surf, bucolic pastures, and worn out tourist towns as the days ticked down. Upon seeing our bike leaning against the tired State Park bathroom, I pulled off to find the others. Chilly and frazzled from a morning of pushing a baby stroller up and down hills in the rain, I welcomed some shelter, even a bathroom filled with two other dudes. I entered the damp, dim room to Ian sitting on the toilet with the seat down, sipping a tinny red wine and Scott by the door, drinking water. I gulped down a good sampling of both liquids, thinking that while the poo aroma wasn’t crippling, it did indeed exist. I cracked a hard boiled egg, tossing the flaky shells on the dirt-streaked floor. “It’s wonderful we could all get together and do this! How are YOU guys doing?” Ian asked. “err, super,” I said, unconvinced I meant it, but not positive I didn’t either.
I was inspired by how much this exertion-heavy travel style made me appreciate the little things. Heretofore nonevents became everything. A quiet bench overlooking a grey ocean with a pint of Ben & Jerry’s became a lavish palace with a gluttonous feast. An ice bath in a garbage can with nips of cheap whiskey became a swanky spa with poolside cocktails.
We can zip around the earth in planes and cars and still not enjoy any of it. But on day five, after 30 miles, when our hosts unexpectedly served us grilled halibut, roasted beets, quinoa, and a few crisp Oregon whites, it was impossible not to appreciate it. A dinner, human interaction, and a deep rest superseded all needs in that moment.
The Road Stretches On
Hanging out at the top of the 125-foot Astoria column overlooking the 4-mile wide Columbia river and the chippy coastal mountain range, we had reached the end. Scott and Ian tossed balsa airplanes off the ledge, and watched them twirl and almost fly before crashing in spectacular fashion. In our plain sight, the 101 stretched into Washington on the Astoria-Megler bridge, and I imagined following it further. Content to stop, I was also now aware that continuing would not only be doable but fulfilling in a refreshingly simple way.
On October 18 Dave heads out to join his friends Seth McBride and Kelly Schwan on a section of their 10,000 mile cycle from Oregon to Argentina. Check out their trip and sponsor them here.