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Runtrails' Rocky Mountain Journal
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"A nomad I will remain for life,
in love with distant and uncharted places."
-  Isabella Eberhardt


Like Isabella, I love to explore places I've never seen before. I doubt any of them have ever been "uncharted," but if it's new to me, it's bound to capture my interest.

That's one of the things about trail running I enjoy so much. I'll never live long enough to find all the trails in my own state (Virginia), let alone the whole United States or world. But it sure is fun to sample some of those "distant places."

It was exciting every day last year when I was on the Appalachian Trail because almost all of it was new to me. Most days I couldn't wait to get up and hit the Trail. I wonder what is around the next bend. What grand new vistas - or tiny glimpses of nature - will I be fortunate enough to see today?

I expect equally interesting experiences this summer.


Our journey West began three days ago. It was a relief to be on the road after planning for this trip the last few months. As you can imagine, the final countdown as we prepared for a three- to four-month trip away from home was sometimes stressful.

This is the third year we've lived in our camper for several months. After Jim retired in early 2004, we sold our house in Montana and didn't even know where we'd be living next. That's called "full-timing" in a camper or RV (recreational vehicle), and it lasted for a little over three months before we put down roots in Virginia.

We're the kind of nomads that need a home base!

Last summer we spent even more time in the camper as I ran and walked from Georgia to Maine on the Appalachian Trail. That lasted closer to five months, with several trips home to Virginia during the trek.

This time is more like two years ago, but we're taking less stuff. Our "master list" of things to take on a trip has been honed and pared through experience. After three days, so far the only thing we wish we'd brought was a different salt shaker! I'm sure we'll discover more in the days ahead . . . but this time, we aren't going home several times in the middle of the trip. That added a bit of pressure.

Not only did we have to figure out exactly what we wanted to cart all over the country, we also had to make sure the truck and camper were in tip-top condition . . .

. . . and arrange with our neighbors to tend to our house, yard, and mail. It was a relief to know that those logistics were finalized and we could actually begin our journey.


We don't have any fascinating stories to tell about the first 800 miles from Roanoke, Virginia to Cuba, Missouri. (Cuba?? Yep. It's an interesting little town about sixty miles southwest of St. Louis on I-44.) 

The learning curve on driving the camper was pretty short, even though we haven't driven it for almost nine months. Kinda like riding a bike, I suppose. It's pretty easy to handle and after spending two nights in the camper, it feels natural again. It's nice to be able to travel more leisurely than last year. Feels odd not having a trail segment to run each day, though!

The weather was sunny and hot the two days we drove, and rainy when we boon-docked at a nice Wal-Mart superstore near Frankfort, KY the first night (the dogs even had cool grass to roll around on next to the camper). We saw only one bad accident and endured many miles of road construction in Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, and Missouri. But the scenic hilly, treed terrain on I-64 most of the trip made up for any inconveniences.

We were able to find diesel fuel OK at several Flying J truck stops, with the price about the same as at home. It'll probably increase in cost as we go further west. Our largest expense on this trip will be fuel. Camping will be much less than last year because we can camp free most of the time on Colorado's public lands. You can't do that as much in the eastern United States.

It was fun to drive part of the historic Route 66 west of St. Louis and in the area around Cuba, Missouri, where we ended the second day:

Cuba capitalizes on the nostalgia of Route 66 with numerous murals and plaques about town that explain its history. This is one of the murals, now adorning a bank:

We liked the looks of the colorful Route 66 Caf, below, and thought of earlier times when the road was in its heyday, before traffic was diverted around town on the nearby freeway:

(Cuba, by the way, has the tiniest Wal-Mart we've ever seen. It must be one of their first stores. We aren't too far from Arkansas, after all.)

Missouri prides itself on its frontier heritage. It was one of the main gateways for the westward expansion in the nineteenth century. The most prominent symbol of that pioneer spirit is the impressive Gateway Arch in St. Louis.

According to our 2003 AAA tour book for Missouri (p. 114), "Today's explorers can retrace the Santa Fe, Oregon, and California trails, following in the footsteps of people who dared to go in search of a better life or a new beginning." 

Hmmm . . . there's an idea for another journey run someday!


We're near the northern boundary of the Ozark Mountain Range, which stretches from northeastern Oklahoma, through part of Arkansas and most of southern Missouri, to southwestern Illinois.

I've never been to the Ozarks but have long heard about the beautiful forests and hills and lakes and rivers. It sounds like paradise for an active outdoors person. Jim grew up in nearby southern Illinois. He used to camp in the lake area when he was a kid and has visited Meramec Caverns, which we saw on our way to Cuba. I read that there are over 5,000 caverns in Missouri.

Our destination in the Ozarks is the Berryman Trail. This popular 24-mile equestrian-cycling-pedestrian loop trail is located in one of the many units of the Mark Twain National Forest in Missouri, named after the famous author and humorist who grew up in Hannibal.

We're enjoying a four-night stay near exit 203 off I-44 at the Blue Moon RV and Horse Park, which advertises itself as "pet-friendly." Cody and Tater are happy as can be. We're camped in a fairly spacious, shaded site with full hook-ups, right next to the woods. The regular Good Sam Club rates are very low, and a total steal for veterans who get to camp for half price on Memorial weekend! (Jim's an Army and National Guard veteran.)


I've mentioned already that this trip will be much less stressful (most days) than the Appalachian Trail adventure last year. I brought along several books for us to read, knowing we won't be able to get on-line as much as we do at home. We both spend a lot of time on the computers. We use our cell phones to get on-line in the camper, and have to watch how many minutes we're using before 9 PM and after 6 AM. Sometimes we'll use modems at a campground if they are free, find a WiFi connection, or use library computers. Our internet time will be limited and slower this summer, compared to at home.

So we'll have to find other things to occupy our down time. Diesel fuel is so doggone expensive that we'll also have to limit the miles we drive for "entertainment." Jim has found a couple technical glitches with the camper's solar and electrical systems to occupy some of his time and brain cells, but the inevitable has happened on Day Three:

Jim is already finding it difficult to deal with "nothing to do!" I don't think I heard him say that even ONCE last summer.

I laughed, because I was wondering just how long it would be before I heard that. Only three days! I suggested he go read a book or magazine. Instead we took the dogs on a walk to visit the horses in the corral next to the campground. Then he putzed around with the inverter or something under the camper.

I'm still learning how to relax and become more of a Type B personality, seven years after retiring from a stressful job. Relaxing is a very hard thing to do for people like us. I'm guessing many of our readers are also Type A's. Having to be "busy" or "productive" every minute of the day gets to be so ingrained.

Gotta chill out . . .


Part of our day today was preparing for the Berryman 50-Mile Trail Run tomorrow morning. We've never done this race, which we are treating as a long training run for the Bighorn 100-miler in, gulp, only three weeks. Next week I'll talk more about our training since getting off the AT last fall. Let's just say we feel decently trained for 50 miles, but we need this long run to feel more confident for Bighorn. I'm in better shape than I was last spring when I started the AT thru-run/hike. Jim's mileage is less than normal before a 100-miler because of surgery and back problems, but his recent long runs have been good.

A more major concern is the weather prediction. It's supposed to be 92 muggy degrees during the race tomorrow, and we aren't acclimated for that much heat. Roanoke had several days in the low 80s in April, but May was cooler than normal and we lost what heat training we had. I've had two bad hot-day long runs, one in March and one in April, where calf, hamstring, and adductor cramps in both legs had me almost screaming in pain. I'm worried about the same thing happening tomorrow.

We're both taking the early (6 AM) start to have another hour of cooler morning temps and more time to finish so we don't push too hard for our conditioning. Fluids and electrolytes will be foremost on our minds tomorrow.

This afternoon we drove to the race start/finish at Berryman Campground to pick up our packets, see the area, and determine how much drive time to allow in the morning. Many of the 160 marathoners and 50-milers will be passing us before we're done with our two loops. That's OK. We want to run conservatively and get quality time on our feet. As Jim rationalizes, the longer we're out there, the better training it will be for Bighorn. He's more competitive than I am, so we'll see how conservatively he runs Berryman!

We were one of the first to pick up our packets. We got to meet the race directors, Victoria (in red shirt) and David White and their daughter, Jessica (in green race shirt the entrants receive):

The Whites were very friendly and answered all the questions we had about the race. After talking with them for several minutes, we walked part of the trail and returned to the camper to finish getting everything ready for the race. We packed two drop boxes with additional supplies (Perpetuem, Hammergel, Endurolytes, etc.) so we don't have to carry them the whole way. I'll talk about the ultra running gear and products we use in an entry in the next week or two.

We took the dogs to a nearby air conditioned kennel for the next two nights. Poor Tater (Po Tater) felt totally betrayed. She hates kennels and tried to open the chain-link door while we were there. Cody was totally cool about it, as usual. He's pretty happy no matter where he is. Could be a lesson there!

Early, early to bed tonight, about 9 PM. Gotta get up at 4 AM. Tonight's low is predicted to be 70 degrees. Could be brutal tomorrow. I'll do a race report on Sunday.

Quiz: whose quote is this??  "Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter."

Happy trails,

"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Cody, and Tater

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2006 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil