It's so alien waking up in the dark to me. I know this might sound weird, but I can be quite a lazy person. I like having things that need to be done, like an approaching deadline, a request that can only be done that day, or 30-odd miles that won't run themselves. If I don't have something like this, or have even a slightly sketchy excuse, I'll take it. Getting up at 6am has to be worth it then. Today it was. I got dressed in hi-viz as it's usually pitch black at this time and put on my mini cycle lights to at least make a car feel guilty if it cleans me out on the shoulde
When I stepped out though there was an amazing full moon, which my camera phone couldn't even handle! I aimed to get as many miles done before it got super hot, which was the agenda for the next three days as the Texas summer raged against the dying of the light. Just give it up Texas, we won't think anything less of you!
Four miles down the road I took the Google mapped turn off to the right which was pretty much a dirt track, but I was happy about is as it's the closest I've got to trail running apart from if the breakdown lane is non-existent. Fresh from my disaster at Mason I was acutely aware that this was a getting lost opportunity and I'd only gone wrong about 400m when I retraced my steps to see that the “road” actually went through someone's fence with no gate. I figured that unless they had a ferocious dog that I hadn't seen, I'd give it a go, after all, I like the excuse to run fast! No dog, no shotgun being readied and I found a way out over a gate a mile away that said that I had been trespassing...a little. I blame Google. He said it was OK. NB! I only said Google was a “he” in this instance as I'm sure female Google would have been more careful…
The run into Menard was pure farming country and it reminded me of a cross between certain aspects of the UK and Australia, merged together, maybe with the sun starting to make its presence felt, the latter dominated. Accompanied by the obligatory vultures and “Burning” by The War on Drugs (which you may have heard on my “trailer video” on Youtube – if not – give it a watch on my channel, runroblarun. It's pretty good...as I didn't have much to do with it. Cheers Fin!), who you should check out if you don't know them. I'm waiting for a stretch of road to do them justice when I play the two albums I've got back-to-back, as it's ultimate road trip music. Maybe the Guadalupe Mountains...SOON. After Menard, I got reacquainted with a good old buddy of mine – the 190. We've come a long way since the death bridge of Baton Rouge and it was just off the 190 where we found a sneaky place to stay for the night and had a nice relaxing evening, feeling not too tired and knowing tomorrow was going to be a shorter day. I like.
Start: Hext. Finish: Highway 190/FM 864. 33.98 miles
Short day! Short day! Due to the need for supplies, fresh water and empty grey/black water tanks we had to make a big trek off route to San Angelo to stay in an RV park as they're pretty non-existent on this part of our run. We decided to go for another early start as it worked well the previous day and if we got our agreed mileage of 24 miles done, we might get into town early enough to watch Liverpool play Man United. No ulterior motive. Even though it's a pretty big distance still, it just feels like a day off, especially with lure of more free and fun time on the horizon. 8 miles in I came to the Toe Nail Trail (Note: My toe nails are in surprisingly good nick so far! Rotating my trainers seems to be at least not making things worse.), which was the best marker for us being halfway through Texas. It seems like an age ago that we met Jeremy and his Golden Triangle Strutters at the border and in Beaumont, but also not very long at all. Curious. The rest of the running was fairly standard fare, though it was getting pretty hot and the headwind/hills were ever present. I didn't care. Early clock off.
We set off on the highway to San Angelo with a plan, that spectacularly unravelled itself, along with the tread on our right inside rear tyre, with a bang and a lot of further commotion. When we got out to inspect we saw remnants of the tyre stretching back down the highway. Nads went and chucked the big bits to the side of the road and I called the breakdown people as I didn't fancy the task at hand given Jenny's size. While we were waiting for this, we had a friendly local trucker, Adrian come up behind who reckoned we could limp to the town if we let the buggered tyre down a bit and he also advised us to change one of the other rear tyres. When we got there after a frustratingly and anxiously slow drive, we found we needed three. $440 later we were up and running. So frustrating to get a big bill so soon after getting Jenny, especially as the tyres all looked good when we got her. I don't rule out more…
The match was crap. What was good though was meeting a local couple: Lisa and Pat who pledged to follow us and tell everyone they know about the trip. After they'd left, I went to the bar to find that they'd left two beers behind the bar for us. Very kind. The kindness continued later into the evening when we met Cynthia, a professor in Kinesiology at McMurry University, whose husband is now a coach, but used to be a former US Marine. As such, they were well aware of the Gary Sinise Foundation and Cynthia even posed with the beard! She wants to let her students in on the runroblarun madness as well. Later, as I went to the showers, she handed me $20 for me to take Nadine out for some food when we next could and she wouldn't take no for an answer! Tonight was not that night, as Nads had rustled up some burritos with an amazing salad. She's getting really good (not that she was ever bad) at making filling meals that taste great, which is obviously handy as my appetite is often terrible in the evenings. Oh yeah, I saw an owl perfectly silhouetted against the post-sunset sky on a Yield sign. It looked like a cat. I know it wasn't a cat as I wouldn't have gotten up there and it flew away when I got close (not before getting a great photo). 5 years studying Veterinary Medicine has not gone to waste.
Start: Highway 190/FM 864. Finish: A pylon. About 10 miles east of Eldorado. 24.1 miles
Feeling good! Smelling good! Looking average! Off from the pylon of commencement (Note: Always try and finish the day on top of a hill, if one is visible. It's depressing going straight up one.) and onto Eldorado. The Golden One. The Lost City of Gold (Best cartoon ever, for those of a certain age in the UK). Famed for a John Wayne film of the same name. This Eldorado is none of these, though it does apparently confuse a lot of foreign tourists. Eldorado is however, the only town in the county and therefore the best one in the county. It is a key stopping point of the Monarch butterfly on its migration. Unlike the butterflies referred to by Nick Cave, in his song Midnight Man - “Hold the chrysalis in your palm, see it shift and change. It won't do you any harm, it's just trying to rearrange. It was born to live a day, now it flies up from your hand...” - these guys live at least a few weeks, depending on the time of year/location, but the lucky butterflies of Eldorado are the fourth generation of the year and get to go to Mexico on holiday and get to live for up to eight months! Fascinating creatures. The bulk of the kaleidoscope (YES! That's the name for a group of flutterbyes! This is my favourite fact of 2016.) had already moved on by the time we arrived in the town centre, as we were informed by Kathy, of the Eldorado Success, but there were still enough to make an impressive sight. Kathy had been busy for the last hour or so trying to get good angles with the sun for photos as I approached the city limits, for the next edition of the Success – which is a great name for a paper. Hope she got my good side. She was a mine of information on the town and our future route, informing us that we were just about to enter...nothingness. This was after the cotton fields, with a few samples taken for Nads' collection of things I like to present her with, with me dressed from top to toe in white, in an attempt to repel the sun's gaze. This was the part of Texas we were excited and afeared of in equal measure. The expanse and isolation is a double edged sword with the experience being tempered by logistical issues as we scour satellite maps for lay-bys and side roads able to accommodate Jenny on scheduled stops and also for resupply/dumping spots. We were on the road to Iraan (Gets me every time).
Start: The pylon. Finish: Sneaky back road, so secret I can't tell you, in case they come and wake us up and tell us to move. 31.25 miles