Stevenson, Washington is somewhere outside of Portland, Oregon… 45 minutes or so by airport transfer. From what I’ve been told, the mountains I’m looking at are the Cascades.
It’s a picture here. All of it. Any way you turn. I nearly ran into a wall the first time I walked passed a window. I was unable to avert my eyes from the lake giving way to the mountains, circled in white, the peaks rising above the clouds to meet the sky. It’s everything you’ll never see in Chicago. It is civilization built around the landscape, rather than landscape being what civilization has made it.
I went for a run this afternoon. It’s the first day of our event, and I’ve made it a habit now in three cities (Danvers, Massachusetts and Portland, Maine and now here) to run mid-afternoon. It puts me in a mood far better than the one I wear during the morning hours.
I ran down a mountain (to a born and breed Midwesterner, they are all mountains) realizing that the problem with running down the mountain was that eventually, to return to work, I would have to run back up it.
But nevermind that. It didn’t matter. Instead, I thought about some of the small things that change when a person diverts from one path and chooses another.
Since graduate school, my career has included a fair amount of business travel. I am notoriously under-whelmed with the opportunities presented when traveling on the company’s dime. I have no desire, if you will, to take advantage of the few precious off hours by playing tourist. I’d rather hole up in my hotel room and eat room service in bed while watching CNN. This… as one might imagine… is not exactly conducive to seeing the place one is visiting.
And then, I started running.
Sure, I may not be taking in the local culture or trying the best of whatever it is they eat where ever I am… but man… running is a hell of a way to see a town. Today, I thought about all the amazing places where I have been able to run as I passed rivers and trains, the mountains always looming in the distance...
In Washington, DC, I was stopped by police when I tried to run on Pennsylvania Avenue. Apparently, Dick Cheney was about to arrive at the White House at any moment.
In Anaheim, I ran on flat sidewalks past matching duplexes with kiddie pools in the front yards.
In Baltimore, I ran along the water in perfect weather and watched a trapeze lesson during which four people learn how to fly through the air with the greatest of ease.
In Nice, France, I ran on the boardwalk along the Mediterranean Sea. I mean, what can I say? I was freaking in France.
In Danvers, Massachusetts (outside of Boston), I ran up two huge hills that paled in comparison to the mountain I tried to run up today.
In Sawyer, Michigan, MM and I ran on the other side of the Lake through a state park, finally stopping at a mountain-sized sand dune (which MM climbed).
I guess, in reality, it’s not that many. But, my whole experience of traveling for business (and pleasure) has been changed by something so simple. There is so much more than the view from the hotel window. There's so much beauty in the world. And I imagine that this -- running, that is -- is the greatest possible way to see it all.