April, 2011. Lost in Tewksbury.
I’d say we were up bright and early on Saturday morning, but, while it was early (6 am), it was anything but bright. That big nasty storm that gave MeganKate and stewmanji snow, and popped tornadoes through OK and other states, crept up on Ontario while we were sleeping and it was pouring rain in Niagara Falls. Glad I was driving and not running. We drove past the river above the falls for a bit – icebergs! OMG, I don’t think I’ve seen anything that looked so cold before in my life.
It took us most of the day to get to Boston, but once we reached the front end of the rain, it wasn’t a bad drive. We passed or were passed by a few cars who were obviously on their way to the same place we were. We traded thumbs up. We were ahead of schedule and decided to check into the hotel before going to the airport to pick up Connor. Mrs. Dave also suggested I get in a few of my 15 miles. Splitting up the long run is normally a no-no, but you all know what I do when Mrs. Dave says I should do something.
So, I made a quick change and did 3.5 miles of the 15 mile route I had planned. Colder and windier than I expected, and I could not find the gloves I’d packed. What does Dave do in a case like this? Run anyway, of course. That run itself was a nice little adventure, giving what I thought would be a taste of the rest of the 15, which I would do later. I went up a hill, down another, past some cool looking old houses, turned onto an old country road and down another long hill. Not much in the way of sidewalks, but fortunately also not much in the way of traffic. Near the bottom, I turned around and ran back up the hill, turned off the country road and back up the second hill. Passed a house nearing build completion that had a port-o-potty next door, which turned out to be extremely fortuitous. Then, back to the hotel where I was just in time for the airport run.
By now it was after 6, and I figured I’d better get moving on the other 11.5 miles of my 15. It seemed like the smartest thing to do was to have Connor drop me off along the route I’d mapped out before, then I’d know sort of where I was and if I had trouble the family could trace my route along the map I’d made. This would go along with 2 other really smart things I’d done. The first was that I’d made 2 maps – one for Mrs. Dave and another for myself that I laminated and planned to carry with me. I’d be able to check my location whenever I needed to. The other was the last thing I said to Connor when he let me out of the car. “If I’m not back in 2 hours, come looking for me.”
This was going to be so much fun. I love new running routes, exploring new neighborhoods. The first mile went down a hill and then turned next to a big, high school sports complex – ice arena, football stadium, practice fields, baseball diamond. The map seemed to say I needed to go through it, but the gate was locked. Not to be deterred, I slipped through and ran around most of the place only to realize that that one gate was the only one that was open enough for me to get past. So after a half mile of wandering, I went back out the same gate and went around. I circled a shopping center a block or so over, then turned and found myself under a freeway – not where I expected to be. So I turned around and took another few blocks to find myself again.
This led to a road with a bunch of really cool looking old houses and I followed it into an old section of town, then felt the need for another pit stop. This is something I don’t normally have problems with, but when it happens, it happens. I ducked into a gas station and was informed by the nice attendant that they had no bathroom, but maybe I could ask at the pizza place down the block. It was the only option I could see, so I stepped inside and asked the old Italian guy behind the counter if I could trouble him for some toilet time. He didn’t seem happy, but since he said I could, I figured he always looked like that. Not a moment too soon, I used the facilities, thanked the man as graciously as I could and hit the road again.
2 blocks later I was at a bridge over the river, which I was sure was nowhere on the map. So I stopped again, checked the map, headed back in the other direction and almost immediately found the street I was looking for, the sign for which was invisible from the direction I’d come from. Confident once again, I passed through another nice neighborhood and a park, followed by a cemetery. Coming down the hill I saw “2 miles” marked on the road, so I guess this nice little part of my route had been used for a local race. Next was an elementary school and a park among some old woods, when I had do to another little stop behind a tree (notice a pattern here?).
By this time I was finally confident that I knew where I was going, and hit the next few miles at a pretty good clip, just waiting for the next turn on my loop. It took a little longer than I thought it should, but that’s normal when you aren’t familiar with an area.
Here’s something I don’t think I’ve ever seen before. I crossed over a freeway at one point, and saw a shoe on the side of the road. If you think about it, a shoe on the side of the road isn’t so unusual, but have you ever seen more than one? I never have. It‘s always a single piece of footwear. I’ve always wondered who would lose one shoe out of their car and not go back for it. 15 feet later, there was the matching shoe. Crazy, huh?
This road I’d been following had no sidewalk, and every few minutes 2 cars would come by and I’d have to step off onto the shoulder (there wasn’t much of one). Then another few minutes and another 2 cars would pass. I think I had a couple dozen go by like that while I was coming back into the next more civilized area.
Now it gets interesting. I ran by the town center of this little New England hamlet, turned up the main street and then branched off where the map said to go. Did I mention that it was getting dark by this time? Really dark. It was cloudy, windy and every once in a while there’d be some spits of rain. It was chilly, but not so much that my fingers were freezing. I was getting close to 12 miles, and if I was on the right road I’d be getting back soon. Trouble was, I had sort of a feeling that I wasn’t very close to where I wanted to be.
Here’s something else I noticed about the greater Boston area: they aren’t real big on street signs. Once your on a main road, for example, they don’t seem to think you need reminded of it, so there’s not often a sign that lets you know what road you’re on. About half the side streets will be marked, if you watch very closely. Out in the small towns (at least the ones I was in), they don’t seem to think you need street lights, either. So, my little map was getting harder and harder to use to verify my location.
At any rate, after it had been pretty pitch black for awhile, I stopped where I found a little league baseball game going on and asked if anyone knew the name of the street I was on. It was not the street I thought, and not the street I needed. Someone asked me if I was on a scavenger hunt (funny!). One guy gave me directions. “Go up this road over here, then turn left and cross the railroad tracks. After that you … No, wait, that’s really complicated.” So he started again, giving me the exact same directions. “Then take the first right after the tracks – no, not the first one. That one comes off really quick and will take you somewhere else. Take the second one and it will get you to Kendall Street, which will dump you off onto Highway 133.”
So, off I went into the night, finally on track to finish and before anyone had to come looking for me. Or so I thought. I crossed the railroad tracks, and saw not 1 but 2 roads going right, so I took the second, like the guy said. That road wound up a forested hill (good thing I’m not afraid of dark, spooky looking woods anymore) and then leveled out. About a mile farther on there were some more houses, but the road kept turning in a direction I was pretty sure was not where I wanted to go, but didn’t see any alternative but to follow it. This besides the fact that I couldn’t really see anything at all.
Hal beeped the mile and when I checked, it was 15 and I was at about the 2 hour limit I’d given Connor. My run should have been done. I felt fine, but didn’t really know how much farther I needed to go, nor did I know which direction I needed to be going. I did know that as long as I didn’t feel dehydrated or started getting chills I was OK healthwise, but Mrs. Dave knew about when I was supposed to be back and I knew she’d begin worrying right away if I wasn’t. Since I wasn’t on the right road, anyone coming to find me wouldn’t have a prayer of doing so. That person would drive my route backwards (assuming they could find the streets) from finish to start, then call the cops. The ensuing panic would be slightly less than what we’d had the day the forest service operator in Colorado told Mrs. Dave that a man had died on the mountain I’d been climbing. There’s a story you should read sometime.
I decided to something very unmanly – more unmanly than stopping at the baseball game for directions, even. I stopped at the first likely house and asked to use the phone.
Brilliant, you say? I suppose it might be considered brilliant if I hadn’t knocked on the door of a house where the only person home was a 70 year old woman from India who only spoke Hindi. What possible horrors were going through her mind, I can only imagine. 8:30pm on a dark and storming night. She’s all alone in a big house on a dark street when a knock comes to the door. There on the porch is a man in shorts, soaking with sweat, his hair standing crazily up on top of his head. “Excuse me. Could I use your telephone?” How many Wes Craven movies start out like that?
Now get this: Not only did she let me inside and let me use the phone (she did understand the word, “telephone.”), but she gave me a glass of orange juice and a bottle of water, then brought a fan in and turned it on me. I also got her to understand I needed her address so I could have someone come and find me, so she found one of those credit card mailings that everyone gets 2-3 of everyday (it’s not just me, right?) and let me look at it. If I understand the Hindu reincarnation properly, this woman has done enough good in her life and can now achieve nirvana.
Anyway, I call Mrs. Dave, who about 4 minutes before had sent Connor out to look for me, gave her the address and sat down to wait. In the meantime, my hostess kept asking me if I wanted more juice or water, and called her son to talk to me. He spoke excellent English and I tried to let him know just how much I appreciated his dear sweet mother. His girlfriend dropped a few minutes later and we chatted for a bit until Connor showed up to complete my rescue.
Turns out I was almost exactly 3 miles from the hotel, but the twists and turns required to exit that little neighborhood and get me back to Highway 133 would have challenged Lewis and Clark. I’d never have made it out alive.
In the log, this will only go down as 15.25 miles at 9:01 pace. But it’s a run that I’ll remember for as long as I live.
The night I was lost in Tewksbury.
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