Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Long Run, January 3rd: The Hop, Skip, and Jump

It felt nearly impossible that a full two weeks had gone by when I set off at 8:05am on a 12-mile run to wrap up my stay in Cheyney. I was sad, partly because I had to get up early and could clearly see out my bedroom window that it was beginning to freezing rain, and also because in general I was not ready to leave home. A large part of this was due to the fact that, after several months of persuasive hinting, we went to the Delaware County SPCA a few hours after my morning long run on December 20th (just to "look") and came home with perfection in the form of a gray, striped kitten. We have been down to one cat since Cosette died in June, and No-Tail's obvious grieving and loneliness had to be addressed at some point. Needless to say, I was instantly attached to our newcomer, Noelle. I could go on for many paragraphs describing her adorable face and booming purrbox that goes off on a hair trigger, but that is not the point of this blog, so I will move on. Still though...feast your eyes on that....

So anyway, I went running. I had a touch of a cough since New Years Day, along with a suspicious number of itchy bumps that prompted a massive Bed Bug Search and Destroy Operation that turned up nothing but about 20 years of disgustingness that we scraped up from the spaces in between the pine floor boards. So I was feeling rather sluggish, and still mysteriously itchy. I decided to not get too creative with my route and just re-do the one I did last year on December 21st, a hilly 12-miler. I almost felt sort of in a daze for most of it, maybe because the world seemed so muted and quiet with the thick layer of clouds bearing down seemingly inches above the tree line. I took my usual route down Creek Road, continuing past but wincing a bit at the winding steepness of Locksley Road that disappeared into the woods to my left about a mile in. At mile 6 I would be slogging up that hill, but I instead tried to focus on the immediate landmarks ahead--first the frozen pond, and then the intersection with Old Gradyville Road, followed by the crossing at Glen Mills. When I did finally arrive at the "town" of Glen Mills (it's just an intersection with a post office and an old train station), I could see that the Pig Out BBQ Pit had unfortunately gone out of business. Nathaniel and I had always talked about going to this odd restaurant in the middle of nowhere, but it seems that opportunity has disappeared in more ways than one now. The road leading out of the town slowly gains steepness up out of the creek bed and into the highlands, past a point where Nathaniel and I once had to slowly cruise through in the car to search for a glove he'd dropped at some point on his run.

At the crest of the hill, to my left was a sprawling field with a rather striking lone tree in the middle, and to my right was the Glen Mills School for naughty boys. I've been on the campus just once, when I had to be fingerprinted upon being hired at Westtown much for my one free crime before my prints are in the system. From the outside, the brick grandeur actually exudes quite a bit of New England prep school prestige and anal-retentiveness, but who actually knows what the deal is inside. Nathaniel was once actually stopped by the police while running in this area, on the assumption that he was one of the delinquent students on the run. A pretty laughable thought, as Nathaniel almost never broke rules, although of course the one time he did it occurred in the form of trespassing on the golf course that abuts the back of this very school, as it is easily accessed from the train tracks. He and his friend were caught by guards and hauled onto campus. Apparently they were told off, but I don't think anything major resulted since I am fairly sure my parents never found out.

From the highlands I passed through one of the cookie cutter developments (this particular one is called "Cobblestones"), freely judging the blandness of all the identical mansions. I passed an ornate sign for "The Carriages at Cobblestones," a separate section of even larger identical houses that are set apart from the rest, probably so that the super mega rich people don't have to mingle too heavily with the regular mega rich people.  Turning out of the development onto the upper portion of Locksley is a definite shift in the real estate scene. My friend Gordon and I spent some time slowly cruising these parts in his pickup right before Christmas, observing the multitude of Christmas decorations while categorizing and separating the "classy" decorations from the far more prevalent "not classy" ones. There is a house on Locksley that always impresses me with their display, mainly because of the sheer magnitude of light-up reindeer and plastic candy canes and creepy elves that scatter the lawn. The apex of the collection is a life-sized, highly detailed Santa doll in a rather authentic-looking costume that stands in the center of the lawn. Lest this prize item get wet, he is surrounded by a box made from plexiglass nailed to a wooden frame the size of a shower stall, like a life-sized version of those display cases that you could buy to protect your rare retired beanie babies in back in 1997. I have run by this house many times in the summer, and know for a fact that these decorations stay up all 12 months of the year, although they do throw a tarp over the imprisoned Santa and bungee cord it so that there is just a giant blue rectangle standing in the front lawn. "Not classy."

Right at mile 6, I came down the hellishly steep Blossom Hill Road (every road here has hills, so if it actually has the word "hill" in the name, you know its a doozie), which is a relief to go down and not up for once. Crossing Creek Road, I hopped back on to Locksley to go up the slow 3/4 mile climb. I was definitely pretty pooped at this point, mostly just in the legs. The last push up the hill goes by a fenced in field, and I was surprised to see four cows standing in it--I often come this way, and can never remember actually seeing any livestock on this property. They were miniature breeds, although the only one I could properly name was the Jersey with its beautiful fawn coloring. I had to stop, and spent some minutes coaxing them over to me. They did come, and I fed them grass and petted their heads and let them lick my gloves. They were very cute, and I felt a noticeable rise in my energy level as I finally continued over the last portion of the hill.

The freezing rain was picking up and kept pinging painfully off my face, and I kept thinking about eating breakfast. But I had a few neighborhoods to go, and I passed the miles by breaking the remaining route into 3 chunks, as we used to do for the final leg of our drive to the Nicholson family cabin in Jersey. As kids, the one and a quarter hour long trip felt impossibly long, so my mom would do as her parents did and pacify our incessant inquiries of "are we there yet?" during the final half hour by saying we were either on the Hop, the Skip, or the Jump. The Jump was the final segment after turning right at the water tower (or the "stack"), and during my run I decided that the three housing developments left to run through would be my Hop, Skip, and Jump. The Hop took me through the older homes East of Westtown, and after crossing 926 again I entered the Skip, a oval-shaped loop through clusters of townhouses. And finally the Jump, the development at the bottom of my street that we fought tooth and nail against the approval of back in the 1990s at a series of township meetings, hoping for preservation of the beautiful wooded tract (we lost, and ironically they named the development "Tall Trees" despite the fact that Toll Brothers cut all the trees down). Out of Tall Trees and up our drive and I was soon home, cleaned up, and off into West Chester for an appropriately huge breakfast to celebrate my last day home.

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