"You can't be too analytical and philosophical
about killing yourself.
You just have to go out and run your damn ass off.
I did not think."
The two visitors in my writing class--a father and his daughter--were special compared to the others who sit in because the father was the cousin of the university's president. They were visiting the campus as part of the daughter's college search. I remember thinking that having the president's relatives as guests in my class was a curious kind of pressure I hadn't experienced. We take pride in teaching excellence at Pacific University, and I knew I had to do a really good job that day.
The class was one of my favorites--a basic English composition class, but with a particular topic: "Writing About Sports." Students are able to investigate the many intriguing realms of sports while they also learn the basics of college writing. We had no idea that one of our visitors that day was himself a great sports story.
When the class ended, I chatted with the visitors and asked if they had any questions about Pacific. Both the father and daughter had liked the class--then he mentioned in an off-handed manner that he had a particular interest in these sports matters because he had run across the country just the year before. At first, I wasn't sure I had understood him correctly--"Ran across the country, you say?"
He looked normal to me--middle-aged but fit, average height and weight, a pretty good tan accenting the touch of grey in his hair. There was no obvious indication that he was an athlete with an unbelievable achievement in his background. His pretty daughter chimed in to confirm what he had said; indeed, she had been with her dad for part of his run across the country.
I had never met someone who had run across the country. In fact, the group of those who have done this is one of the smallest imaginable, as Dean mentioned later, more people have climbed Mt. Everest than have run across North America. We made some small talk about his feat. I remember thinking that I had had a great resource sitting right there in class and hadn't known it. I had missed an opportunity for the teachable moment.
We shook hands and went our separate ways. Eventually, the daughter chose to attend Pacific--where she won a national championship as a novice handball player. The proud Dad went back to work. Several months later, he telephoned me to inquire about collaborating on the story of his run across the country. Intrigued by the possibilities, I decided to give it a try.
I've been around sports most of my life. My maternal grandfather, who died before I was born, had been an accomplished baseball player in the Yankees organization. His example was ever before me as my relatives offered countless reminders, an invisible standard of excellence, frustrating, elusive. Then I attended Notre Dame, surrounded by some of the best athletes on the face of the earth. In my own teaching career at Pacific, I've been involved in coaching a variety of sports--cross-country, football, handball, baseball. Two of my books (with more to come) have been about sports. Some of my favorite teaching involves an academic approach to the phenomenon of sports. Something deep within me responds without question to the call of competition; I've been a tournament-level handball player for more than two decades and have coached ten national champions in handball in the last decade. I know sports.
In spite of sports being well within my comfort zone, I had virtually no way of comprehending what Dean Crawford had done to execute a successful run across the continent. After further consideration, I realized that most of my experience had been with competitive situations in which the opposition is more or less head to head, man-to-man, team against team. One up, one down. Of course, almost all athletes have to encounter and overcome that particular weakness that threatens their success. Baseball batters have to overcome that knee-buckling instinct in the face of a wicked curve ball or slider. Football receivers have to concentrate on the catch, rib cage exposed, while ignoring the impending collision with a hostile linebacker or the human version of a surface-to-air missile, the free safety. Basically, my experience in this area had to do with the athlete's overcoming some version of fear--fear of injury, pain, public failure, whatever. Fear caused by some external stimulus.
Dean Crawford lived with fear during his run. Much more will be said in this book about his justified fears for his personal safety. But there is another kind of fear, not one deriving from an external stimulus. This is the fear one has from the concern for meeting one's own standards. We know that fearful football receivers often use "alligator arms" just before a big hit while the ball is in the air. Not many average people would want to catch a football under those conditions, with a Ronnie Lott or Lawrence Taylor lurking predatorily in the vicinity. Yet strong safeties and linebackers are finite threats. The moment for action is known clearly and there is always the chance to beat them at their game, to put a move on them that earns that single step of advantage that turns into freedom and the long touchdown..
What about a continent? How does a man beat a continent? There is always the mind-numbing knowledge that it just sits there, passive, massive, indifferent, yet with all its many surprises, demands, and assaults on the physical and mental makeup of the runner. There is no avoiding it, no isolating the most intense physical moment to a split second when one's performance must be steady, sure, predictable, perhaps even brilliant. There is no readily perceivable target--no end zone nirvana just behind the defensive secondary.
Instead, there's the dim awareness that there is another ocean, one's goal, about one-tenth of the world away.
I do not really understand why someone would choose to run across the United States. Even Dean will admit that it's crazy. Nevertheless, he made the decision and then kept his focus clearly on reaching the Atlantic Ocean, in spite of countless distractions, incredible pain, and various daily threats to his security. In light of this, clearly something within him had to drive him--both drive him to the idea and drive him stubbornly to keep putting one bleeding foot in front of the other--across a continent.
I say "something within him. . . ." Dean clearly needed to prove something about himself to himself. Perhaps he also had to prove something to others. Perhaps the run was part of an extended exorcism of personal hauntings, those inheritances that stay submerged through a person's younger years only to emerge after years of experience and reflection. If so, they won't be visited here.
In fact, I am not sure what the story here is--a strange predicament for a writer. Dean used every available ounce of energy and concentration to meet his daily mileage goal. He was not out there conducting an opinion poll with the man in the street on the state of the nation, or recording the many beauties of the landscape. He was not observing nature. He was not writing a social history. He was not taking notes for a literary adventure. Instead, he was running--doggedly, insistently, madly running. Without frills. So, the country he ran through is not going to be realized in words for the reader as it might if this were merely travelogue.
Dean is himself certainly a major component of the story, but he's a private man, not given to sharing his innermost thoughts. Readers will find ample interesting material about the conditions he faced and overcame during the run, but they will not find an array of stunning insights into the man himself. All-Stars, Hall of Fame types, and world class athletes are often unable to articulate those most compelling aspects of self that place the self in jeapordy during competition. Or they have to speak in an arcane manner, a private language, that leaves almost all others, except the very few peers and initiates, behind, uncomprehending. To a certain degree, that is the case here.
The run itself remains as a possible core story. Yet, there are many difficulties with attempting to recreate an event as complex and sustained as this run. In spite of the massive presence of the continent itself, the run is composed of those 15-mile daily segments, slowly wending from San Diego to Jacksonville. If anyone is interested in what 15 miles means, Dean asks that you simply take your family car and find a fairly straight stretch of your average country road. Drive it. Not at Interstate speed, but say at 35 miles per hour. Take in the whole process. Watch the miles roll by--trees, farms, pastures, homes, businesses, malls, parking lots, churches, gas stations, bars, schools, playgrounds. See where you end up, 15 miles from your front door. Then, contemplate running those miles. Finally, ponder doing that six days a week for seven and a half months.
If you find that elusive as a concept, find your local high school's quarter-mile track and run around it, doggedly, 58 times. After your body recovers from that, then do it six days a week for nearly eight months.
Then you'll have the idea.
PROBING: Modern humans are deeply insulated, perhaps unalterably alienated, from many of the countless natural elements of this world. We have warm clothing to protect us from frigid air, cutting winds, sharply slanting rains; readily available food sources with the leisure and technology to prepare them in countless delicious ways; instant sources of heat; walls, windows, and roofs that allow total control over what we allow to enter our lives; a vast array of electronic devices universally claimed to make life easier, avoiding the sharp pain of fatigued muscles and aching bones; and massive, numbingly efficient transportation systems that cross continents and oceans in a matter of several sterile hours.
With all of these devices and aids, no one really has to confront the world and oneself in an unmediated, raw encounter. We don't have to awake early in the day and contemplate , as Dean Crawford did, the particular day's task--a mind-numbing ten-mile run up sharp gradients, through drifting snow and cutting winds, followed by a five-mile descent, hip sockets, knees and ankles jarring with each step, knowing that there will be perhaps fifty more such challenges on the road ahead. No one really must do all that, confronting the inner self and wrestling with its understandable, insidious efforts to find the easy way. To avoid those moments, modern life equips all of us with myriad easy excuses.
It is a rare person, especially from the ranks of amateurs, who overcomes the seductions of the material pursuits of happiness to confront one's mental and physical weaknesses and limitations, the stresses of incredible pain, and the total indifference to human comfort of the natural order, for the purpose of facing a personally-defined challenge that will completely exhaust one's various resources. Instead, there are too many excuses, too many distractions, too many appeals to comfort and ease. The incredibly powerful allure of the Pleasure Principle should never be underestimated.
But one must wonder if life, perhaps life at its very best, was meant to be lived in that soft manner. We know of other cultures where the insulating factors are minimal, where individuals are routinely expected to search for the essential self, perhaps in a vision quest, or through an arduous hunt or other quest, to find a self not compromised by artificial, inhibiting social definitions. Humans have for millennia overcome nature through the powers of civilization to leave behind towering structures mutely attesting to our ingenuity, monuments to the majesty of human conceptions and human abilities to conquer the natural order. We have been taught by virtually all of our educational structures to value these temporary triumphs over time and nature. Of much less significance for most of us have been the invisible, interior achievements, earned privately, without public acclaim, leaving behind not one shard of evidence that a human being, on a private mission to overcome the myriad reluctances and infirmities within, ever passed this way.
A strong case could be made that most modern humans, with all of the advantages mentioned above, do not routinely have to come to grips with matters involving personal courage. To be sure, there are a few who directly choose to encounter opportunities and challenges that demand courage, and courage is purposively tested for the men and women who enter the military. It might even be said that it takes a kind of mild courage to move forward in one's education, or up the career ladder, but this is not the kind of courage I have in mind here. I am thinking of the courage needed to encounter whitewater for the first time, or to climb the sheer, frozen face of a mountain, or to face a wall of water as a neophyte surfer. Many cultures embed a ritualized set of experiences in the formative years that cause young people to come to know themselves in an intimate way, to know their capacities and limits, their failings and strengths. Once learned, these lessons are reinforced throughout a person's life and become part of what that culture passes from one generation to a younger generation.
Modern life has dispensed with the need for all people to learn of courage in a direct manner. Instead, we find ourselves able to participate vicariously, through television primarily, as we watch others who have chosen to encounter themselves and what life has to offer in the deepest ways. In short, we watch our heroes and heroines as they live their lives to the fullest. Content with that diluted kind of life, it is possible for most humans in the industrialized world more or less to go through life virtually untested--though there will surely be times when knowing one's full capacity to face the unknown would be highly beneficial.
Dean Crawford chose to call upon his reserves of courage in order to execute his planned run. He really did not know what he was getting into with this project--no accurate idea of the pain, dangers, frustrations, and logistics. Perhaps it was just as well. Because he had not pushed himself to the final degree prior to the run, he had only a dim sense of what his body would face. Once he started, he would have to face the unknown--about the conditions of the run, himself, and his own inner reserves. Short of surprises in our lives, we seldom go into situations with no inkling of the resources available to us. Dean Crawford knew he would need time, food, support, shoes, and his art. But he couldn't have known more than that. He would have to find out if he had what it takes.
He is an artist, with an artist's temperament--impatient, idealistic, perhaps slightly haunted--with an acute eye for beauty, color, shape; the trained ear for the perfect note, the right lyric; always noting the unusual, even the ugly. He is an eccentric to boot. Purple clouds please him in the right mood. Why go with the crowd? That way lies the death of the individual. He is an impatient man, a bit of a loner, a driven man, although, as with most of us, the demons that drive him may not be fully known or understood. He is a successful businessman, familiar with the cruel demands of the marketplace. Above all, perhaps, he is a runner.
And it is while running that his whole person becomes fully expressed and comes into focus--the artist torturing his own body to create something from nothing--the Ahab figure driven to exorcise whatever demons afflict him--the highly organized, keen enterpreneur who looks for the profitable edge in any deal.
Dean Crawford, at the age of 48, up and decided to run across the United States. San Diego to Jacksonville. As he had reminded himself him many times, "There's no excuse." Crawford looks to such figures as Britain's Stephen Hawking, the astrophysicist, confined to a wheel chair with advanced ALS, who somehow manages to overcome his physical state to be one of the world's leading scientists. Such people somehow find a way, refusing to surrender to despair and passivity. Undaunted by life's surprises and cruelties, they don't look for the easy way out.
In any case, most artists leave something behind them, some evidence of their work, their creativity, their insights into reality. Painters leave their paintings, sculptors their statues, musicians their music, dancers and actors their performances, however evanescent, ephemeral, ethereal. Some artists, then, aspire to immortality by leaving behind some artifacts; others operate in realms where the performance leaves little or no evidence of its existence.
Running across a continent is like art that disappears as soon as the performance is over. Be that as it may, there is one stark difference between most artists and the artist of the cross-country ultramarathon. Painters, sculptors, actors, dancers, and musicians all do their work with some sense that someone will see and perhaps even appreciate their work. Indeed, in some ways, their hopes are met by those for whom art is a necessity--people who need art in order to live, just as they need air. Humans, as a corporate body, may need art in this very way. So, artists tend to exist in a world that is capable of appreciating their work, even if not all will do so, much less understand the work of art.
But the artist whose work is "the run"--in this case, Dean Crawford--cannot count on that knowledge. There are so many athletic attractions and distractions, so many that televise easily, the athletic effort trapped on a screen perhaps twenty-five inches wide. Replays capture the precise moment of the unbelievable move, the slam dunk, the breakaway run, the overhand smash, the birdie putt, or stunning failures, the precise moment when the athlete realizes that abject failure looms and can only brave the moment, go limp with the impact, spin out of control, hope for the best. Sports fans can see all this by merely channel-surfing in their living rooms and dens.
Art connoisseurs and sports fans seldom see all that goes into the finished product--in many cases, sheer mental and physical agony, debilitating fatigue, horrendous self-doubts, perhaps countless false starts and failed efforts, obstacles blocking their paths.
So, if the art work is "the run"--but we cannot "see" the run, perhaps only snippets of it--is the run, then, the totality of it, all 2,524 miles of it? Or is it that exquisite moment when the runner, the artist, finally dips himself into the Atlantic Ocean? Perhaps there really has been no audience other than the lone runner--the artist and audience in one?
"I'm going to Jacksonville," he told the exasperated state trooper near Lordsburg, Arizona. Dean had politely stopped at the trooper's request, aware that state law could stop him from running on the Interstate highway--laws designed to protect people like Crawford from the speeding, oblivious vehicles on their countless trips across the continent. The policeman was skeptical. "Gotta get to Jacksonville, officer," Crawford entreated, aware of losing time on this segment of the day's run.
"Florida. Gotta get there. I need to run here for a few miles, to avoid a long dog leg, and then I'll get off."
Lots of people can run a mile under ten minutes, but Crawford doggedly, sometimes maniacally, maintained that steady pace for seven-and-a-half months, for three-and-a-half gut-wrenching, agonizing marathons for each week of those grueling months.
He wanted to run a few miles on the interstate highway in order to avoid the smaller rural roads that traversed the country in a leisurely meander--not the kind of route a single-minded person would appreciate while running to Jacksonville. The trooper looked carefully at this strange apparition in his small office--sweaty, limping slightly, but trim, well-groomed, polite yet firm, not a threat to anyone--just to himself, a potential insect on the interstate's windshield of life. OK, he thought, it's his life. The kindly trooper let Crawford take the interstate detour and saved him about 50 miles of unnecessary running.
Crawford left immediately and started his run again, never looking back. His gaze fixed to the horizon, the pain, the future, the Atlantic Ocean, he said, "Thanks, officer. I'll be OK. Gotta get to Jacksonville. Can't have an . . .there's no excuse!!"
Running nearly more than 2,500 miles across a continent does not leave behind much hard physical evidence. Oh, there will be quite a few drivers who motor on past the runner. Perhaps his presence will register with them, a slight variation in the monotony of their machine-aided journeys--"A jogger!"--especially in those places or seasons or conditions where such a sight is unusual. In flat terrain, an alert driver might be able to spot the solitary, struggling figure of the runner several miles out, will watch the tiny figure take on greater dimensions and human physicality, will perhaps appreciate the sheer physical feat of his running several hundred yards even as the churning vehicle closes the distance, the miles. Then, at highway cruising speed, the close encounter passes in a fraction of a second, the runner dopplering into the distance in the rear view mirror.
No driver ever sees a continent being run. It is not like looking at a masterpiece hanging on the wall of a museum, where the viewer can stand there and take in the full view, moving slightly from here to there to make the masterpiece come into sharper focus. Instead, with someone running across North America, a viewer sees a portion only, as if one were looking at a square inch in the lower left corner of the Mona Lisa. Under those circumstances, it's impossible to comprehend and appreciate the entire masterpiece.
This reveals a certain limitation to the socially dictated act of perception. We are not encouraged to see the process and the becoming, what ultramarathon swimmer Diana Nyad refers to as "emergence." We see only the moment, this spot of time, and have handy, ready-made nomenclature on which to hang it. When someone is running for seven months across a continent, the individual moment reveals the "jogger."
We miss the point.
The lucky ones, those with better awareness than most, those on a well-earned leisurely trip, might notice the same runner five days later, 67 miles down the road. Perhaps they stopped along the way to visit Aunt Matilda and Uncle Vernon and show the family's videotapes of the kids playing Little League. Or they went fishing, got off the highway, camped a bit, missed the big ones, then had to put a cap on the vacation. Everything seems regular enough, including that runner up the road. But he's the same guy. . . the one they saw last week. What gives? Perhaps a dim sense of déjà vu flits across their minds. Maybe they think they've hit a time warp, with Rod Serling's voice and "Twlight Zone" music in the background of their memories.
The brighter ones, good people, will wave and smile, or slow down and even offer a snack through an opened window along with a friendly word of encouragement. They still don't have the big picture yet; they have to engage to get that. Runners don't display license plates on their butts for the curious. But the people have a dim awareness that he was back there Monday and here Friday. They can do the calculation. With that, they may have some lingering admiration for what is going on. Perhaps it recalls physical achievements from their youth; they can identify up to a point. They have felt the lungs burning, the heart drumming, the muscles rebelling. But very few people today can identify completely. The roster of modern humans who have run across this continent is extremely small--perhaps the smallest special interest group on record.
The vast majority of the people who saw Dean Crawford on his run across the continent in 1992 were good people. They offered help when it seemed appropriate, or when asked. A lone figure running along a back road can strike a sympathetic observer as an extremely vulnerable figure. The sky stretches forever, plains undulate to the horizon, mountains dwarf the human figure, the bend in the river threatens to engulf. People are basically empathetic. When given the opportunity, they usually try to see themselves in another's reality. Strangers can be threatening to the native folks in many locales, but that is when it appears they are invading one's territory, threatening to become fixtures. But runners are transitory figures, plodding through one's consciousness and neighborhood, not raising a big fuss, but taking on the local dogs and insects, dodging the splashes from passing vehicles. They're here and gone.
But there are some cruel people who find a Dean Crawford to be a target. Invariably, they are among the most powerful one can find on the road. Encased in towering cabs, hauling huge trailers on eighteen wheels, or a load of freshly-cut pine logs strapped on the rig with heavy chains, Crawford found truckers on the back roads to be a pretty aggressive lot, often literally chasing him off the road, into ditches, culverts and shallow canals. In the South, he survived these roaring brushes with eternity by diving off the road into water filled with leeches or cottonmouths. And this is a man who hates snakes.
One must wonder why a few members of the knighthood of the highways felt the primal need to try to turn a helpless runner into human road pizza. Is it the sheer power of their rigs, gone to their heads? The uppers they ingest? Some arcane scoring system known only to them--with runners being among the most highly-prized targets? We may never know, because they were not articulate about their secret rages and yearnings to dominate. But make no mistake--a run across America will reveal an alarming incidence of animosity, ugliness, and hatred.
What is perhaps even more notable is that Crawford eventually began to play chicken with the big rigs. Perhaps he felt impervious to the danger, or had developed a certain kind of innocent trust in the truckers' reflexes and ability to judge distance and velocity in split seconds. Maybe Crawford's reaction was entirely predictable--after all, what kind of personality takes on a continent? But if a certain alarming aspect of America was revealed sitting in big cabs, another trait showed up in the frail, tired figure of a runner who, after two thousand miles, had simply taken enough crap.
Who runs across a continent? Perfectly sane people? Men and women off the street? Superior athletes? Former cross-country runners? Dogged individuals? Obsessive-compulsive types?
The figure that keeps coming to mind is Ahab--driven to chasing down that elusive reverse symbol, to him, of evil--willing to take a whole crew to their deaths in the demented attempt. On a crazy external mission, but one that ultimately plays out within the confines of the human breast, Blake's grain of sand revealing the whole universe. Ahabs cannot help themselves, cannot do but what they do.
What separates Dean Crawford from an Ahab is that Crawford was able to descend into the personal hell of self-inflicted torture, chase a continent, beat it, and come out of it alive, to tell us all, tell us all. With only average athletic gifts, but the kind of iron will that sends humans into the furthest reaches of experience, he kissed the Atlantic Ocean, after seeking it for more than seven months, but then returned to the kind of life that most of us experience on a daily basis. Ahab, the momomaniac par excellence, could not possibly have made the adjustment back to what passes for most people as the real world. Very few mythical figures have been able to do the full circuit, to hell and back, and if they do, what they have to say invariably goes unheeded, a crucial message that cannot be fully decoded. Western culture tends to model one-way figures. Ahab fits the model. Crawford, perhaps like many Native Americans--and not of mythical proportions--purposely put himself in touch with his deepest self, conquered his fears and doubts, and returned to mundane reality to go on with life.
What is the story here? At least three possibilities come to mind. There is the man, the runner, the unrelenting demands made upon a partially willing body. There is the continent, the country--California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida--mountain, valleys, deserts, ceaseless boredom, rivers, thunderstorms, clouds of insects, sleet, snow, enervating heat, and the people of that country, whatever ineffable qualities that bind them together, the Californian and the Alabamian. The run itself: not one step walked, fifteen robotic miles per day, at moments enough chest pain to make Crawford aware of the threat of a heart attack, nevertheless mumbling "Gotta get to Jacksonville!" in spite of the squeezing iron band wrapped around the inside of his chest, as if that hypnotic incantation were sufficient unto the task. Eleven pairs of running shoes consumed. Feet abused enough with bruises to be black for six months after the run was completed. Legs in so much pain that he couldn't walk without leaning on a support, without tottering--yet getting on with the project of making those same protesting legs function for yet another fifteen miles.
Some runners use objects in the middle distance as points by which to measure progress. They see that billboard up there in the distance on the right and check it out every thirty minutes or so. Gradually, the object takes on sharper delineation, looms larger, blots out more of the scenery, the sky. Others have the luxury of shutting out any distractions.
Imagine facing the daily grind of running fifteen miles. What markers are there? The Atlantic Ocean, from the vantage point of southern California, is impossible to conceive. The route from San Diego to Jacksonville does not lend itself to contemplation of a distant ocean. The brute reality of the run means crossing hundreds of miles of desert. Sealed in air-conditioned cars and trucks, buses and trains, Americans can safely ignore the desert. They don't have to force scalding air into their lungs, sweat so much that they eventually can sweat no more, losing the natural thermal relief in the process.
So, my task here is to make the reader come to some degree of understanding and insight even though neither the writer nor the reader were there. I hope you enjoy the ride.
Chapter 4: The desert
For hundreds of miles, Dean Crawford ran in conditions the rest of us do everything to avoid. Through parts of four states, California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas, he ran in desert or near-desert conditions, on scorched roads that passed nothing of an obvious nature except arid landscapes, cactuses, and an occasional lizard. After enough deprivation, Crawford started to talk to himself. It was often childish: "Wonder when I'll see another lizard? Come on lizard; let's just see one today. " In many ways, his time spent running in these conditions provide the sharpest possible focus for his effort. Crawford admits that his sole purpose, the thing he kept reminding himself, in these trying conditions "was not to crack."
One of the strongest impressions Crawford had of this portion of the run was of the sheer emptiness he encountered. He did not see another human or evidence of other humans living there for days or weeks on end. It reached the point where he had to ask himself, "What overpopulation problem?" Americans, in his opinion, had no sense of the distances involved in being one of the few continental nations in the world. Most Americans live in urban or suburban areas; they are accustomed to the many features of modern civilization--buildings, signs, traffic, businesses, and all the human interchanges that go with it. We are simply surrounded by all this and need it to feel comfortable, to feel centered in life.
Crawford found it to be so quiet that he could hear his heart pounding in his chest, straining from the demands of the run. He would be out there running for hours on end and have only minimal stimulation of any kind. Of course, there are things to see in a desert, but there's a sameness that is not found elsewhere. After hours on end, it amounts to sensory deprivation. Athletes often need to use their surrounding context to help in their effort. Pro basketball players know their arenas like they know their living rooms. It helps them, certainly at a subconscious level, in their shooting. Pro baseball players have to know the conditions well in their parks. It makes all the difference in Wrigley Field for pitchers and outfielders, for instance, whether the wind is blowing in or out. Batters anywhere need to know how high the infield grass is cut; infielders sometimes look like birds pecking in the dirt, hunting for concealed pebbles and clods of dirt that threaten to make a batted ball bounce erratically. Football players need to know if the field is fast or slow, or has soft spots in it that could hurt a cutback move. Runners and officials in track have to pay attention to the wind. These are just a few examples of the way athletes pay attention to their surroundings.
But running in the desert for Dean added up to meaning one of two things--he'd be running in high desert and very cold conditions, or if the temperature was bearable, then there was the bleakness of it all, occasionally relieved by some incredible rock outcropping. Dean would see little evidence of human life at all, not to mention other forms of life. And all of the time he ran in the desert he had only the Maggie and Naylor with whom to commune back at the campsite. It would have been different if he had had Walter Jones, but that's not the way it worked out.
Desert conditions also mean that there are no decent restaurants in the vicinity. Dean had to pay attention to his diet and HATES fried food, but it seems that having a restaurant in or near a desert required the creation of a menu laden with fried food. The physical demands of Dean's project demanded a diet high in complex carbohydrates, and fried food doesn't cut it in that regard.
There were other considerations--not being near good repair facilities if something went wrong, long distances between campsites or other distractions and recreational areas, terrible satellite TV reception (and no network feeds). The miles went by at about the same rate as anywhere else because Dean kept up a uniform pace, but psychologically these were long, slow miles, with few reference points to use to help measure a day's progress. All in all, running in the desert was more of a draining experience than almost any other conditions he encountered.
Dean came to be an expert at spotting emerging signs of civilization--signs, outlying buildings, heavier traffic, greenery--all those little things the rest of us take completely for granted. He came to have a sixth sense for the kinds of demands the desert would be making on him on a given day. Signs of life came to his attention in almost mysterious ways. Above all, however, in ways that most of us would find completely unacceptable, Dean Crawford came to know utter loneliness
Chapter 5: Naylor
[I need to know where/when he pulled the gun on you]
[Robert Naylor, her companion of sorts, had been boffing her sister, even mailing cards to her on the trip],
Dean Crawford knew he would run into various problems during the run, but it was a total surprise to learn that his chief nemesis came along with him from the outset.
The idea for running across the country came to him through an employee in Dean's gift card shop, Maggie Rhinehart, from England--a name she earned by marrying, for twenty minutes, some witless American guy she met in a bar so she would be eligible for a green card. Dean describes her as a "Mother Theresa" figure. She mentioned to him that was going to be leaving her job and moving back east. Crawford had regularly been running 40 miles a week and had been toying with the idea of something bigger. He wondered if Maggie would be interested in helping him in his dream project of running across the country while she completed her move east. He knew he would need a reliable driver as an escort. Maggie's partner, Robert, came to her mind--and he had a truck-driving background, so the fit looked good.
Crawford's plan called for the use of two motor homes, a smaller vehicle--an Isuzu, and the use of a series of campgrounds as bases for each leg of the trip. He would start each day's run early in the morning, with the driver taking him out from the base camp to the drop off point, marked by a small red flag (not used after the first month, replaced by whatever obvious landmarks were nearby), where the run would resume. During the actual run, these drop offs might be a hundred miles or more from the base camp--and the return trip would simply reverse the morning's outbound trip. There were very few days when the run actually started at the camp site, so the shuttle driver was fully involved in the process. For example, once a daily run had started, the driver would meet Dean at pre-arranged mile markers (at six, nine, and twelve miles) to offer Gatorade, V-8 juice, oranges, orange juice, or other needed help. At the end of the day's run, the driver would find the runner, Dean would set the marker flag or find a landmark, then return to the base camp, again perhaps nearly a hundred miles distant. As an integral part of the total effort, the driver would need a certain discipline, good timing, a good sense of direction, and an ability to empathize with the needs of the runner who would be so dependent on him.
Athletes need immense amounts of support--psychologically and emotionally, to sustain their efforts; physically, to assist them when their efforts are imperiled. Support personnel, such as coaches and trainers, come to know the athletes in their charge intimately--what makes them tick, what motivates them, what hinders their performance, and so forth. These people have to have strong inclinations to work with and serve others, combined with an ability and willingness to subordinate one's own interests to achieving the goals of the larger endeavor.
Robert Naylor, in fact, provided almost none of this. Instead, Crawford found that he and his project were afflicted with a moody, childish, violent-prone, functionally illiterate, irresponsible alcoholic in Robert Naylor. Other than those nagging problems, Naylor was just fine for the task.
Naylor had suffered a troubled childhood--having been kicked out of his home by his parents, going off to an orphanage and then bouncing from foster home to foster home, he never established the kind of comfort zone with a family structure that would provide stability and maturity. His schooling was substandard at best; apparently he never graduated from high school, a minor technicality in view of the fact that he was a functional illiterate. This benighted condition, unknown to Crawford when he hired him, partially accounts for the several times Naylor got lost or took wrong turns as the shuttle driver. Literacy helps as a credential for reading maps. At other times, Naylor may simply have been disoriented by the frenzied oral sex he had just put some black hooker through.
He seemed to have a fixation on violence. At one point in his life, he had run a pig farm. He told Crawford of the pleasure he took in slitting the throats of pigs. Even while on the trip towards Jacksonville, he kept looking for animals being slaughtered. He had an apparently unslaked thirst to see blood running. This was not a particularly comforting thought for Dean, especially in view of the weapons Naylor kept around him. To top it all off, Crawford knew that Naylor thought he was having an affair with Maggie--a ridiculous thought in view of the energy demands faced by Dean on a daily basis and the weakened physical condition he was in after his exertions.
It took Naylor only about three days out from San Diego to become lost the first time, something that Crawford couldn't believe. This meant, in practical terms, that Crawford had to run twelve or thirteen miles without his scheduled fluid intake. It was but a small harbinger of much bigger things to come.
In New Mexico, after having failed to convince a state trooper to let him run on a certain section of highway, Dean had to run eleven miles on railroad tracks. Naylor didn't get lost on this occasion, for he did manage to arrive on time with the expected orange juice. But Crawford was in for a surprise--off in the distance he could see his Isuzu, slithering crazily from rut to rut in the mud of the side road. Even from this distance, Crawford could hear the grinding whine of the trucks's gears--Naylor was speed shifting the four wheeler, trying to impress the terrified Maggie. So, here was Crawford having to jolt himself from head to toe on his railroad track detour, while Naylor was off goofing around in the Isuzu, threatening one of the most crucial components of the run.
Obviously, Naylor had little empathy for Crawford and what he was trying to do. Instead, he was almost totally concerned with his own creature comforts and showed little regard for how his behavior affected those around him. As early as the third day out from San Diego, aside from Naylor's getting lost, Crawford had seen Robert Naylor hiding beneath his motor home, or staring at him from under the chassis with a vulture's eyes. Even at this early phase of the journey, Naylor had demonstrated that he could not or would not help Maggie and Crawford set up the campsite, proving himself incompetent with the simple tasks of plugging into the campsite's electrical outlets and the local water. He could be counted on, however, to be nursing a glass of cheap red wine, Gallo, while the others worked on setting up the campsite. Worse yet, he often began to hit the sauce in the middle of the morning, reducing even further the little reliability he had.
Naylor smoked big, cheap, cigars incessantly, usually in Crawford's presence, another sign of his lack of concern for their shared undertaking. Crawford, who had quit drinking years before the run, a man who pays exquisite attention to his food intake and general physical conditioning, could barely suffer the clouds of foul cigar smoke Naylor emitted. He himself still enjoyed a good cigar at the end of the day, to help savor and celebrate his work for the day, but he never inhaled and he tried to avoid smoking from any source during the course of a daily run. Just leaving the smoke-filled Isuzu to start a day's run--even knowing the physical pain he'd meet--was a relief. Following a 15-mile run--exhausted, hurting, limping--Crawford had to face the prospect of sitting in the cramped Isuzu with the bilious Naylor puffing away on the soggy remains of his afternoon's cigar. These acrimonious return drives to the campsite could last seventy miles or more.
Back at the campsite, an exhausted Dean Crawford would sometimes have to be lifted out of the small truck and helped up the steps of his motor home, only then to crawl down the passage to his bed where he would peel off blood-soaked socks from bloody shoes. But even then there would be no escaping the baleful presence of Naylor because Dean could hear him, every night, raging at the harmless, trembling Maggie. Or he could look out the window and see their 33-foot motor home shaking to its foundation from his raging temper tantrums. Crawford wondered how she put up with the abuse, but she seemed to cower in Naylor's presence. At times, she seemed almost hypnotized by him, a condition Dean never quite reached. Crawford knew that he could put up with anything as long as he was meeting a goal.
Nevertheless, Dean has his limits. One of them involves having his life threatened by someone brandishing a firearm. As a young man, only a few years out of college, Dean had left a teaching job in California and moved to Nashville to pursue his dream of being a song writer. To keep alive he took another teaching job, this one involving the educable mentally retarded. His last day on this job was precipitated by one of the students pointing a loaded .38 revolver at his head and saying, "Mr. Crawford, I've got to kill you."
"Now why is that?" Dean asked, while he summed up the grim situation and tried to think of what to do next to save his life, lessons that his college professors had not included in their course syllabi.
"Because you won't let me hump my girl friend in the back of the room."
"But you're not allowed to," Crawford reminded--and then he swung his arm to knock aside the menacing pistol. Infuriated, Crawford pounded his disarmed assailant in the face, then rushed him up to the principal's office, where he used the school's paddle on him before throwing it out the window and summarily quitting. He had seen enough.
One week later, his assailant murdered a male prostitute in cold blood.
Crawford's brush with guns and violence impressed him enough to make him always seek a secure environment. He structured his life accordingly. So, when Naylor pulled a gun on him (which he did more than once), Crawford more or less knew how to handle it, but he wasn't dealing with a teenager he could take to the principal's office. He was stuck with the guy, at least until he could sever the relationship.
So, twenty years after his first brush with death, Naylor would also pull a gun on Crawford, in Byless, Texas--as good a place as any other for homicidal pranks. Near Byless, Dean found that he had to stop to rip his shirt up to use as a bandage to stop the bleeding of his toe, so he was off his stated schedule. He looked up and saw Naylor off in the distance. He had been shooting at a shooting range, then later at night Naylor did the Clint Eastwood thing, feigning blowing smoke from the barrel of the gun, smirking, wanting Dean to make his day. He would do it again later in the trip, just inside Louisiana. Blowing cigar smoke off his pointed index finger, Naylor smirked one time too many for Dean, then capped it with an ominous warning: "You'll never finish the run." It didn't take long for Dean to decide that Naylor was expendable. . . but how was he going to find a replacement out there in the middle of the country?
Maggie and Robert Naylor would thus not last the whole trip to Jacksonville. Tensions mounted, his erratic behavior continued, violence threatened, increasing the incredible pressures around Crawford to the point that Dean released them, given their need to return to California for a trial Naylor was involved in, just as the run had him getting out of Texas, making good progress through Louisiana. In almost a single stroke Dean left behind him the twin nightmares of the maniacal drivers of east Texas and the increasingly erratic, threatening behavior of Robert Naylor. As he ran across the bridge into Louisiana, into a new state and a very different landscape, Dean Crawford felt he had unburdened himself--he left a handwritten message in their motor home: "It's over. I'm gone." He hadn't yet found a new replacement driver.
And even after Naylor disappeared, he haunted Dean. His replacement, Walter Jones, would be staying in hotels and the like, not staying in the second motor home. Dean let Maggie and Naylor use the other motor home, thinking he had arranged it with them to take care of it and return it in good shape. But a month after the completion of the run, the FBI contacted Dean about the remains of a motor home registered in his name--found abandoned in North Carolina. It was a total wreck. Naylor had put an additional 50,000 miles on it, had run it into the ground, then walked. Because Dean had willingly let him drive it, his insurance company would not honor any claims--Dean was out $21,000. But even that figure was less than the emotional cost of having Naylor along for the whole trip.
Chapter 5: Materialism
The pavement in Mississippi shimmered and seemed to buckle from the heat with each step. Crawford had run in heat plenty of times, but this was beyond belief--as if the triple-digit temperature was matched by triple-digit humidity. That's impossible, of course, but the seeming is as real as anything could be. Even his own perspiration seemed too hot.
Walter was not scheduled to arrive for an orange juice stop for some time yet. Crawford had occasionally been passing by some shacks and cabins that seemed to lean in upon themselves from the oppressive heat. Battered cars rusted into nearby heaps without complaint, perhaps relieved to be out of action on days like this. The people, in spite of their lack of means, seemed friendly enough, though a bit shy around the stranger running through their lives. In his single-minded effort, Crawford was not paying much attention to anything except the brutal heat and summoning up the will to take the next step.
Suddenly, there was a figure beside him--"Mistah? Mistah? You want some of this?"
Crawford brought his attention to bear and saw a young black child running beside him, in the loose gravel beside the searing pavement. He was about twelve and had an earnest smile as he offered a big paper cup filled with orange juice.
It was like manna from heaven. Crawford drained the cup and offered his thanks. The youngster jogged along with him for a few minutes, a pair bonded through simple kindness. After a few moments, the child left off running while Crawford plunged eastward, toward Jacksonville.
The run had done something to Crawford. On some of his Sundays, the planned days off from the run, he would drive to the nearest shopping mall and just sit there on a bench watching the people, who were oblivious to his stares. He was like a kid in a large zoo--surrounded by interesting, exotic life forms. On the run, he was almost totally isolated from human contact. It had to be that way and he knew it. But it left him hungry for what he deprived himself of. On the other days, humans were reduced to staring pinheads peeping above the window line of speeding cars and big trucks.
Running through Mississippi and other parts of the South had left an indelible impression on Crawford of the region's poverty--some genteel, some totally dehumanizing. But most of the people rose above their conditions and showed a lively interest in the runner passing their modest homes. And invariably Crawford could count on them reaching out to him, with a kind word, a smile, some small but meaningful token of recognition.
He thought back to the ruined lives he knew in Laguna Beach or Ft. Lauderdale, people who placed their blind, unwavering faith in material possessions and mindless consumption. They measured their personal worth strictly in terms of income, real estate, jewelry, or being in the right yacht club. In their quest, they had lost or abandoned the human dimension, however. And once it was lost, it is almost impossible to replace. There were rewards for this abandonment of self, to be sure, but they were strictly material and transitory. Seeing this, Crawford wondered if this was really living. At best, it was artificial--true human relationships disappeared, replaced by attachment to things and lifestyle. A person's main efforts would go into further acquisitions, bigger deals, greater profits--while the essence of that person's humanity shriveled into dust and blew away--the topsoil of the personality gone forever, leaving desert conditions behind.
The people who lived on the edges of society had their own drives and hopes, but they seemed not to place their faith in acquiring more material goods. Instead, they tended to seek human contact and relationships, even to the point of sharing what little they had. Simply retaining stuff when one doesn't have much was not a behavior pattern for them. Without solicitation, they opened their hearts and gave of themselves. Crawford seldom saw that from wealthy people.
He came to appreciate simplicity--echoing Thoreau's demand, "Simplify! Simplify!" Crawford knows the problems--stress, complexity, ceaseless demands for more, more, more. He even reached the point where he stopped watching his beloved escape of baseball on TV, just turned it off, cold turkey, and threw himself into his art--no noise, no interruptions, no distractions--just quiet, peace, solitude, and private thoughts. A man with enough material possessions and personal success to meet the needs of most people, Crawford had nevertheless learned this lesson of simplicity and common humanity from people who did not even know they were serving as living examples. He would feel forever indebted to them and their basic goodness. This became one of his dominant memories from his journey--the many good people he encountered, the pride he took in the kind of country they contributed to.
Chapter 6: On the earth & Indian runners
In his very fine book about the Kiowa experience in Oklahoma, The Way to Rainy Mountain, N. Scott Momaday writes:
East of my grandmother's house the sun rises out of the plain. Once in his life a man ought to concentrate his mind upon the remembered earth, I believe. He ought to give himself up to a particular landscape, to look at it from as many angles as he can, to wonder about it, to dwell upon it. He ought to imagine that he touches it with his hands at every season and listens to the sounds that are made upon it. He ought to imagine the creatures there and all the faintest motions of the wind. He ought to recollect the glare of noon and all the colors of the dawn and dusk.
As a Kiowa, Momaday knows that tribal legend has it that they left the Rockies in western Montana and journeyed to the great plains, to Oklahoma. They did not run the length of their long journey, as Crawford did on his trek, but they still performed quite a feat--moving across hundreds of miles of difficult terrain, through harsh weather conditions, amidst predators, all without benefit of industrial technology.
In the course of their difficult journey, and during their centuries in Oklahoma, the Kiowa came to appreciate the majesty and beauty and necessity of the land. They were not divorced from its sights, sounds, and the feelings it engenders. They knew the land and its denizens in intimate terms. They came to know all of the facets of the world around them in ways that are seldom practiced today.
Dean Crawford, much like the Kiowa, left a certain comfort zone in his urban American lifestyle to encounter the land of this country in its fruitful abundance, terror, magnificence, and sheer vastness. He came to know what the winter wind would bring with it in the mountains and how the brutal, glaring sun could wither life in the deserts. But he was also amazed by the extent of our greed, our need to strip the land--of trees, of wetlands, of its natural bounty--in order to turn that big profit, to develop and construct that sprawling mall, or to dump toxic industrial effluents into that picturesque river.
But the chief impression in this regard must be the millions of steps that Crawford had to take upon and across the land of America--approximately 4.5 million steps. He never ran a mile in more than 10 minutes, so had plenty of time to regard the land around him. As he trudged along, mountains slowly loom on the horizon--dark smudges topping off the surrounding fields of corn or wheat, or the flat of the desert, smudges that gradually become irregular bumps, then purplish masses. The road's grade gradually begins to change to an upward slope (the worst Crawford would face would be an 8 per cent gradient--a cruel assault on his whole frame) and the fields drop behind, replaced by mountain greenery that becomes sparse at higher altitudes. But what transpires here in a few words took many hours for Crawford, perhaps the better part of several days, not to mention the stabbing pain in his feet and legs, or the searing demands placed upon the lungs thousands of feet above sea level, the sweat dripping down his body to his legs and into the bloody running shoes.
In any case, casual travellers can zip past America's landscape with no thought whatsoever of the "remembered earth." They have other goals, other plans and desires. They are driven by factors that a Kiowa would find impossible to honor. With the help of American technology, they do not allow a close, meaningful relationship to develop with the land, the earth, and the creatures who have managed to live there, sometimes in spite of humans. They remain insulated and isolated. They don't even have to feel their own bodies, much less regard other life forms.
Crawford's feat isolated him, too, but in a different way. He wasn't surrounded by the steel frame of a car or truck, cut off from his surroundings. Instead, he was largely cut off from people. He had the Naylors, and later Walter Jones, to be sure. There were the occasional offers of help, smiles, helping hands--and the terrifying encounters with homicidal crazies. But for the most part, Crawford did it alone, hearing his own heart beating while running through the desert, watching for any signs of life--the lizards, deer, insects, snakes, cattle--whatever presented itself for his contemplation and distraction. His self-enforced solitude would eventually drive him to seek out people, going to shopping malls where he could just sit and let the sight of crowds of people just wash over him, bringing him back to the human family.
Ultimately, Dean Crawford shared intimacy with the land. He had to attend to the details that the rest of us either escape or ignore. He could not let bad weather or heat or snow stop him. There's no excuse, right? The US Post Office could learn from him in that regard. But he had to know what he would be facing on a given day, to prepare himself for the physical demands of the day. In the desert and in the South, sweltering temperatures would make the pavement nearly buckle under each step. He would run through thunder and lightning, sleet, hail, snow, and even pesticide mistakenly sprayed from a careless cropduster.
Sometimes the land was his ally--rolling hills to protect him from freezing blasts of wind from the north. At other times, in other places, the earth was incredibly beautiful--farms manicured to perfection, stately trees, mysterious bayous, sparkling lakes, swift rivers, towering mountains with thick forests running up to the tree line. But the earth could also try to deliver a knockout blow--through storms chasing him across the landscape, freezing temperatures that nearly turned his hands blue, unbelievable heat and humidity, and, finally, its sheer, nearly overwhelming magnitude. This had the potential to break almost any athlete. Dean would need to summon every fiber of strength available.
In this regard, Momaday's grandmother remembers seeing the last Sun Dance carried out by the Kiowas. This must have been in the 1880's, when she was a small child, just prior to the government's banning the Sun Dance.
The Sun Dance was a central cultural event for many tribes in the Great Plains and Northern Plains. All elements of a tribe would be involved, but the culminating events were reserved for the young men. This was an incredible test of courage and the ability to withstand pain. Dancers would pierce the flesh on their chests with sharp instruments of wood or perhaps bone, this tied to a tree with long strips of rawhide. At the appropriate moment, the dancer would pull away from the tree, the skin would give way, tearing the skin, leaving a deep scar as testament to the sun dancer's fortitude, strength of character, and courage.
Akin to this is the ability of many Native Americans, notably Apaches, Navajos, and Pimas, to engage in stupendous feats of long-distance running. Runners serve community needs, running hundreds of miles to send important messages and announcements from one place to another. To the south, Mexico's Tarahumara Indians not only run long linear distances but also cover hundreds of miles over precipitous mountain terrain, herding their animals, hunting fleeing deer until they drop from sheer exhaustion, playing the ball game of rarajipari over several days, up and down the sheer sides of mountains.
These impressive feats are culturally sanctioned and expected. Sun Dancers and long-distance runners are meeting important social needs and norms with their deeds. Both they and their communities would be the lesser were they unable to participate in their chosen activity. (The Sun Dance is held surreptitiously today, circumventing government restrictions long ago placed against it).
Dean Crawford, to the contrary, was not meeting a social need or performing an act to sustain community solidarity. The gods were not involved. He was not running for someone else. His was a private act, although necessarily performed in public. If there were lessons to be learned by others, it would be up to them to make the effort.
Chapter 7: Truckers
Crawford lost track of the many cruelties practiced against him by total strangers. It was a regular event to have people throw such things as Coke bottles and water balloons at him. From what he could see in the cars that launched at him, most parents didn't even bother to discipline the unruly kids in the backseat who fired some missile or other at him. Beyond those minor indignities, Crawford had to learn a harsh, unexpected lesson on his grueling run--some fellow travelers on the road of life simply didn't care to see him operating in their territory, alive and breathing.
There was no way he could have predicted that a goodly number of America's truckers harbored enough ill will toward him, or runners in general, that they would take it upon themselves to aim their behemoth rigs at him. Runners have to get used to the occasional dog attack, and Crawford had seen plenty of that in his years running 40 miles per week, but this matter of mean, pathological truckers was a different order of experience.
It didn't happen all the time, but it was regular enough, a shocking confrontation almost every day of the run. Crawford was on the road six days a week for more than seven months, running nearly 15 miles on each outing, for roughly 180 days, half a year spent pounding the pavement. Imagine being a totally vulnerable figure running on the edge of an isolated two-lane highway, concentrating almost solely on the matter of overcoming the body's reluctance to accept further torture. Pain wracks your joints, a tumor on your foot shoots jolts up your leg, blood stains your socks. Your body seeks comfort, any shelter, from the onslaught--but then one can hear the low rumble in the distance to the rear. In a few moments, he can feel the shuddering vibrations in the road, and then the sudden rush of churning air and noise as the rig slams past the frail runner.
That's when it's normal, not homicidal.
Crawford had to develop a sixth sense for those chilling encounters when malevolent truckers would swerve toward him, or line up straight on him, forcing him to save himself by jumping off the road as the truck thundered past him, often with less than one foot of clearance. Most of us can go through life not paying much attention to the meaning of the countless sights and sounds around us. We simply don't have to perform constant threat assessment. Dean Crawford, however, much like Native Americans living before industrialized technology overtook the continent (with its own kind of threats), had to learn to attend to the smallest details--the quality of a noise, its direction and speed. He had to do this while struggling with the physical and mental plight brought on by the harshness of the run. Imagine knowing that you are, on a daily basis, the center of target practice even while trying to operate in a state of general debilitation and extreme fatigue. What's then revealed is the degree to which most of us remain insulated and protected from dangers and extreme physical demands.
These terrifying confrontations took place with greater frequency in the South, starting with east Texas, where Crawford noticed a remarkable degree of general hostility directed toward him by almost all drivers he met. Maybe they somehow recognized him as an outsider trespassing in their domain--or these Bubbas just acted out their basic hostilities against a defenseless figure.
The worst case took place deep in Louisiana. After running in the South for more than two months, Crawford had begun to develop a certain disregard for the near misses. The truckers were mean, yes, but it was as if both parties knew that the expected end result was just a nasty scare--a major but regular annoyance for Dean and amusing entertainment for the truckers. Perhaps the truckers spread the word among themselves about the runner following a certain trail across the country. Maybe they took some pride in seeing how close they could come to him without slicing him in half or observing how far his fragile figure could jump to avoid death. They may even have had some arcane scoring system for their efforts that followed him across the country, recorded on the walls of restrooms in the big truckstops.
But this one time there was genuine malice behind the wheel. Crawford was slogging in his usual single-minded way through the heat and humidity--one of the forty unbearable days during the run above 100°--trying not to scratch at the maddening chiggers burrowing in the folds of his skin--when he felt the familiar rush of a big truck behind him hurtling directly toward him at more than 90 feet a second. He glanced behind him, by now his trained reflex, to eyeball the onrushing threat. He saw an alarming sight--a fully loaded log truck far off to the right side of the pavement, almost on the soft shoulder, speeding right at him, the driver, a huge man, hunkered over his steering wheel lining up his massive weapon for a sure hit. Instantly, Crawford knew that this was not designed to be the usual, scary near miss.
As he frantically leaped off the road, across the shoulder, and toward a water-filled ditch, he could glimpse the blur of the dingy red cab and the driver's angry, brutal face, grinning, toothless--but also very disappointed in the knowledge that he had missed. The log truck sped past him, the furious, heated rush of wind slapping Crawford as he splashed into the ditch. Gagging from the brackish water, Crawford shook a fist at the quickly receding truck, then did his best to escape the leeches and snakes as quickly as possible.
Dripping wet but alive and back on the road, he composed himself and pushed on with the run. He noticed that his leg was bleeding--a patch of skin the size of his palm hung from his right upper thigh where he must have scraped the edge of the canal or a log or something. Almost absent-mindedly, Dean tucked the patch of skin back in place and kept on chugging. People stared at him in a mixture of pity and fear as blood ran down his leg, staining his socks and shoes. The little problems he had grown accustomed to--heat, insects, pain--seemed almost welcome compared to this near-death experience with this maniacal trucker. Behind this alarming incident there had been a clear intent to harm , cold, grinning malice.
Crawford ran several miles along the highway, passing the usual collection of ramshackle structures, rusting pickup trucks, and near-naked children. The Spanish moss hanging languidly from the huge live oaks along the road seemed to soothe him a little with its relaxed way of facing life in Mississippi. No cares there.
Up the road a few miles later he saw a combination truck stop and sleazy bar. To his surprise, he recognized the beat up red cab of the truck involved in the incident from several miles back. Yes, there it sat, shimmering in the sullen heat, the big engine making metallic clicking sounds as it tried to cool off after its own run. Dean calmly noted where he was stopping, a road sign near the bar that told him where to start his run again, then slowed down, stopping the run. On the spur of the moment, he had decided to try to find the man who within the hour had had evil designs on his life.
The squat building had several cruddy diesel pumps off to the side, a run down garage, and featured a "convenience store" attached to a bar. Beer appeared to be the main product on sale in both places. Inside the dark saloon, lit mainly by a variety of weak neon beer signs, Crawford let his eyes adjust to the dimness and then started scanning the several customers at the bar. The patrons were mainly truckers on their breaks, weary men, beefy, just trying to take the edge off their nerves. The smell of stale beer called up in Dean the urge to slake his thirst with a cold one, but he had other business. Dismissing the temptation, he completed his search. One of the men at the bar stood out, even though he was seated. Crawford drifted toward the massive figure, seeing him to be ruddy in the face, highlighting missing teeth.
Seated, the man was almost as tall as Dean Crawford as he stood just behind his shoulder. The man was laughing heartily over something, although the only person near him, the bartender, did not seem to be paying him much attention. Crawford leaned forward and tapped the man's shoulder.
"Excuse me," he said. When the man turned in response Dean knew instantly it was the trucker. The man stood up--towering more than 6 feet 8 inches, weighing nearly 300 pounds.
"Whaddya want?" the giant exploded.
Dean tried the direct approach. "Well, sir, I was wondering why you tried to kill me back there." The bartender had stopped whatever he was doing and was eyeing the exchange.
Crawford saw the man gather himself, almost puffing himself up to an even larger size. His gleaming eyes squinted, then he grunted through the gaping, toothless mouth, "Get lost, mothafucker!"
Sizing up his chances, Crawford said, "That's a good enough answer for me," and turned to go. On his way out of the sleazy bar, Crawford realized he would apparently never understand the attitudes and motives of the kind of men who enjoyed intimidation and domination. Did they have some kind of inferiority complex that made them drive huge rigs and then lord it over the smaller denizens of the highways? What experiences did they have in their backgrounds that caused such hostility?
It would remain a mystery to Crawford, perhaps one in which a complete understanding would be unpleasant at best.
Dean found the roadside marker and turned eastward, still alive and ever-thankful, toward Jacksonville and the Atlantic Ocean.
Chapter 7: Crawling
People who spend much time relaxing in the nation's many campgrounds enjoy the opportunities they have for meeting all kinds of different people. They encounter folks from all walks of life, all class and education levels, and from all around the world. Campers enjoy travel, the feeling of freedom, the absence of all those things that keep others tied down, enfeebled, lacking adventure in their lives.
Cowboys mix with cosmopolitan types. Farmers meet cannery workers. Teachers run into steel workers. New Englanders hear Tidewater accents in the middle of Wyoming. Retirees get to reminisce with newlyweds. There may be no other phenomenon quite like it.
Folks pull into the campground, register, and either set up a tent or take a motor home slot. If the latter, they hook up to the campground's water and electricity, then sit back for the life of Riley--at least until they have to leave. Dean Crawford and the two motor homes in his entourage did not, at first, appear much different from the other campers in these places. The larger campgrounds have endless diversions for patrons--including modest tracks for those who like to stay in shape by jogging. Crawford, however, never made use of those facilities.
There were many days when Crawford would have liked to make use of these opportunities, except he really wouldn't have been able to do much. His body was simply too wasted to do anything--other than go on that day and the next with another fifteen brutal miles. He admits that sheer stubbornness was the quality that got him through each brutal day. Had he been less naive about what he was getting into, he now admits, he would not have put himself into this situation, in harm's way each and every day.
Had his fellow campers paid much attention on a typical day, they would have seen Crawford get up early, have his usual breakfast of oatmeal, then get into an Isuzu with a driver and take off. He'd be dressed in running gear. There was nothing unusual. They'd see him drive off to the east. Then they'd forget it; life goes on.
Several hours later, they'd see something different--the return loop from Crawford's run.
The dusty Isuzu would trundle into the campground then pull right up next to Crawford's RV, a 33-foot Excalibur. A scowling, burly man would get out from behind the wheel, toss away the foul stub of a cigar, and go to the passenger, Crawford. He'd open the door and bend down in order to get his arms around Crawford. After getting him arranged, he'd stagger away from the Isuzu with his load. The first thing they'd see then would be the bloody shoes dangling from a pitiful, weakened body. Crawford's bleeding feet had soaked through his socks, then through the mesh of the lightweight running shoes.
The big man, Naylor, would carry the exhausted runner to the door of the RV, then let him down on the door step as gently as possible. Crawford would pull himself up the steps to the RV's floor level, then crawl into the Excalibur. Unable to stand, he'd crawl the length of the motor home until he could reach the foot of his bed, then haul himself up to collapse there. On the good days, he'd be able to stagger down the hallway to his bed or the bathroom, clutching at the knobs on cabinets to get any handhold he could find.
Crawford would mangle eleven pairs of running shoes (Brooks Fusion shoes) in the course of his run. His battered feet would stay blackened with bruises from the abuse for six months after the completion of his journey. During the more than seven months on the road, he endured a constant battle with blisters. One foot, the right one, was host to a benign tumor, a Morton's neuroma, that hammered at the nearby nerves with each step of the run, pounding the pain even deeper into Crawford's legs and hips.
His back acted up on him; at its worst he could barely bend over or straighten up. There were times when he thought he was having a heart attack in the middle of a run. His chest and left arm tightened up; his heart raced in irregular rhythms. In spite of these drastic warning signals, and against the advice of Walter, Crawford repeated his personal mantra--"Gotta get to Jacksonville!!"--and kept on trucking.
The heat of the south assaulted his cardiovascular system like nothing else on the trip. Crawford, as pale as Hamlet's father's ghost, would doggedly stumble along until Walter would bring him his orange juice at six or nine miles.
It was crazy, he admits now in retrospect. Just ask running guru, the late Jim Fixx. People don't just run through the physical events of a heart attack. But Crawford wasn't intent on being rational as he insisted on continuing his run. He could have died for such bull-headedness, dropped dead right there on the sweltering pavement, and he wouldn't have complained, really. He would have never known of his failure, would have needed no consolation.
But Crawford didn't die. It just seemed like it to him and anyone with a heart who might have been watching his ordeal. Death is nature's way of telling you to slow down, goes the bleak saying. He didn't slow down either, but somehow managed to continue to put up with the self-inflicted torture that racked almost every part of his body. He may not have set any speed records on his run across the continent, but he certainly pushed the envelope in the realm of exercising self-control, will power, whatever you want to call it. He could have pulled the plug on the project--somewhere in the middle of the Arizona desert, or in a blizzard high on a mountain pass, or in the god-awful, ennervating heat and humdity of Mississippi. He could have walked a quarter mile in the privacy of a weak moment--who was to see? Who cared? But he never succumbed to the siren call of weakness, never dodged the pain or took the eay way out by walking. Not one step did he walk, he reminds us. In getting ready to run on the worst days, he would say to himself, "I can crawl through the motor home, therefore I can run." Pain became a constant presence; there was no need to try to escape it. Crawford came to see the inevitability, the unavoidability of pain in life. For him, the run across the country was no different. As long as he had his goal ever in mind, no distraction was going to keep him from reaching it.
Dean Crawford is the youngest son in his family. There are high-powered personalities in his family. He could have taken the easy way of going with the family flow, achieving success and status already defined and lived by others, following meekly in the steps made by others, finding excuses or making them up. Youngest sons have it easy in some ways, but hard in many other ways. Dean chafed at the controlling factors in his life and struck out on his own--to become the kind of artist and human that he wanted to be.
So, with that in his personal background, it's not surprising that he continued his self-defined and self-regulated project--even as it attacked his body's joints, ligaments, muscles, and organs. He was not pleasing someone else. There was no one else on the "team" whom he had to feel responsibility for. No, this was all his and there was only one judge of the total effort--Dean Crawford.
Weaker people can cheat or fudge or skimp here and there and go on and live with it. They lack an essential part of character. Their internal set of standards is not high enough to have to bother with meeting strict, self-imposed criteria for success. They do not have the kind of fortitude that would even put them in a situation where the limits of the mind and body are as severely tested as what Crawford faced.
Chapter 8: Art
There were not many sustaining factors for Dean Crawford during the course of his run across the continent. He was basically alone, by choice. He did have the Naylors, but there was small comfort in that. Maggie could be helpful and solicitous now and then, but she basically cowered in fear of Robert, essentially ineffective as a support. Naylor himself was an albatross around Dean's neck, a major hindrance in all phases of the undertaking. Later, Walter Jones would sign on to replace Maggie and Naylor, and he provided both a measure of stability and a caring attitude that Crawford had not enjoyed from California to Louisiana. But Walter was just a kid, more or less along for the ride, with his chief interests being women and liquor. He was steady, reliable, and had a great sense of humor where Naylor had been unpredictable, moody, and violent. But he didn't share a lot of Dean's interests. Even with Walter, Crawford was basically alone.
When a day's run was over, Dean had to either come down off a runner's high or decompress from the pressure and pain. For much of his sojourn he was almost a zombie. Through his necessary decision to remain as alone as possible, to minimize distractions and keep a sharp focus on the project, Crawford basically cut himself off from human interaction. It might have been otherwise had the Naylors turned out differently, more sociable. They could have been a reserve of comfort and compatibility, but it hadn't turned out that way. Early on, Crawford realized that he needed to stay away from their rat's nest. There was nothing else for him to do. His human interactions accordingly became rare and somewhat superficial. He needed above all else to keep his focus, with no distractions.
Nevertheless, Dean needed something to keep him in touch with the world and with himself. His art, he says, kept him from becoming a zombie. He had to be able to paint at the end of a day.
In his Excalibur motor home, he had a $25,000 computer set up that allowed him to convert videotaped images into the raw data that he could then manipulate. The basic equipment were Relax Optical drives--temperamental contraptions that were under constant threats from the heat and dust from the deserts and other dry areas.
He would make a video that would then feed into his computer, make a template, then work on it, a Mac iicI computer, doing mostly faces, the huge mountains near Durango, California, but he ran out of energy. He would then use old pictures and reminisce. He had been working on his art nearly every night, but also wanted to escape. He also noted the importance, emotionally, of his cappucino machine, a highlight, in the middle of nowhere, with coffee brought in by UPS, ordered through Phoenix, Italian coffee. UPS wd find you anywhere. . . including places like Lordsburg, New Mexico, and Byless Texas, totally god-forsaken places.
Creativity is one of the chief components of Dean's personality, and was also one of the factors in his life most threatened by the rigors of the run across the country. Art and creativity are not basic necessities when surviving is the name of the game. This is not to say that art is a total luxury, but it is best accomplished when there is a creative level of adversity or tension. When conditions become too stringent, too demanding, the personality attempts to preserve itself by cutting losses, sticking to those matters that keep breath flowing. Artists try everything they can to keep their creative juices in operation, as did Dean, but there comes a time when sanity dictates otherwise. Dean had that kind of moment after months running in the South, when all his reserves were exhausted, when doubts crept into his mind.
I think Dean made it because his project, the run, had its own creative, artistic elements. Yes, it was a net physical and emotional drain, but when the process was near completion, Dean turned on the intensity and toughed it out, just as the artist must do when difficulties and obstacles threaten a work in progress. But to do that, to complete his run, he more or less had to abandon the normal time he would devote to his visual art or his music.
To grasp this is to understand and appreciate the nature of the survivance he practiced in order to complete the task.
Chapter 9: The daily log
Thursday, January 2, 1992: At 11:30 a.m., in the presence of Penny, Marcus, Peter, and Maggie, Dean Crawford set off on the first daily leg of his run to Jacksonville. He was wearing the first of the eleven pairs of shoes he'd use. The air was brisk, for San Diego, and Dean's emotions were running high, amid friends and supporters, with his good vibes for the start of his run across the continent. He had been accustomed to ten mile runs. He had driven the route as a test, starting at the beach, then crossing under the Interstate. This day, the first of nearly 200, he ticked off 12.2 miles.
Friday, January 3, 1992: The weather soured on his second day out--it rained for the first eight miles then turned very cold as the rain faded away in the last five miles of the run. This was the first such challenge for him, but he'd faced this kind of weather before in his weekly running, so he didn't get alarmed or concerned. He was still fresh, physically and psychologically whole. He ran twelve miles, for a total of 24.2 in two days, about one per cent of the total run.
Saturday, January 4, 1992: Another surprise and challenge--an 8% grade uphill for eight staggering miles in the Barona Indian Reservation. This is one of the steepest grades to be found short of the Rockies, with only the beauty of the mountains and oak-lined canyons to alleviate the wear and tear on Dean's calves and ankles. In spite of the run uphill, he managed to turn in 13.2 miles, totalling 37.4 in his first three runs.
Monday, January 6, 1992: The altitude and time of year made it a cold day for a run, but his legs had recovered from the 8% grade uphill run on Saturday. Now he was just moving at a good pace through the rolling hills on the Reservation. There were not many signs of human habitation, but Dean noted the large number of dogs that seemed to roam around at will--a common feature of many reservations. He clocked 12.1 miles for the day, coming to 49.5 miles so far.
Tuesday, January 7, 1992: Crawford's first genuinely tough day--on a course going only uphill, with some 4,000 feet of altitude in the Laguna Mountains, he plowed through rain for eight miles, the rain turning into snow until the end of the run, at 12.1 miles. He had thought to bring some gloves to protect his hands from the cold. He was laboring and Maggie, driving that day instead of Robert, began to worry about him. At nine miles, she appealed for him to cut the run short. Dean saw that his hands were nearly purple, numb from the cold, even in gloves. But frostbite is no excuse, so he pushed on to complete the day's run. His disappointments weren't over though. Somehow, in trying to get his satellite antenna aligned properly, he managed to break it. He couldn't find the right tool to fix it, but a neighboring camper not only had the proper tool, he gave it to him to use for the rest of the trip. Total miles so far: 61.6 miles.
Friday, January 10, 1992: The speedometer on the Isuzu broke and he wasted three days hanging around for it to be fixed. But after that, starting at 4,200 feet, near Julian, California, famous for its apples, Crawford slogged 13.2 miles through snow. Sombrero Peak, at 4,229 feet, was off to Dean's right for much of the day's run. Total miles so far: 74.8 miles--about 3% of the total run.
Saturday, January 11, 1992: Naylor's strange behavior had already caught Dean's attention--lurking and smirking around the motor homes, but today he got his first taste of Naylor's basic incompetence. There are few major roads in this area, so one shouldn't get lost, but Robert Naylor still managed the trick. Dean would come to learn that such deviations were more than likely because Naylor was out hunting for Black whores to provide oral sex. For Dean, it was more than a discomfort--his route took him through high desert and he worked up a major thirst without his expected orange juice. He also had to keep an eye out for snakes. He had also learned by now, at the campground in Durango Springs, that Naylor would be no help whatsoever in setting up the motor homes at a camp site. Naylor had also intimated his suspicion that Dean and Maggie were having an affair. If he had only been able to see Crawford's nearly frozen hands the other day, and if he could have understood the driven nature of the man, these thoughts would never have crossed his mind. Be that as it may, and in spite of the inconvenience caused by lack of fluid intake, or perhaps because of it, Dean cruised for 14.1 miles, his best yet. That night he made sure he ate lots of carbohydrates, mostly pasta (the runner's best friend). He had run for a total of 88.9 miles to date.
Sunday, January 12, 1992: Naylor did it again--lost in the vicinity of Ocotello wells. Dean was relieved to see no snakes. This was his first day running with a new pair of shoes, pair #2. With a daily total of 13.8 miles, he went over the century mark--102.7 miles total so far.
Monday, January 13, 1992: Hiway 78 finally merged with the four-lane hiway 86. Crawford was still running in desert--with the Salton Sea north, to his left, 235 feet below sea level. There were no unpleasant surprises from Naylor, no snow, no sub-freezing conditions. The grade was table flat, altogether a boring day of running. There would be days, however, when he wished he could have a merely boring run. Total milage: 115.3 miles.
Tuesday, January 14, 1992: What hiway 86 offered in width it took away in being slanted, for drainage, more than other roads, so that Dean was running with his right foot pounding down inches further with each step than his left foot, which was slamming into the pavement a split second earlier. Result, after several miles--a wrenched back. It was simple physics--for each action, a reaction. For the human body, the changed stride meant the jarring would transfer through the joints, until absorbed. Dean's lower back took the brunt of the punishment, causing scorching stabs of pain for every part of his body involved in the act of running. It was his first such physical challenge, the beginning of a particular pattern, the first that made him think that he had taken on a project that might break him, cause him to fail. It was the first time that he called up strength from his mantra: "There's no excuse." In persevering through the pain, he struggled into a town called Westmoreland and found it virtually deserted. This sight would also be Dean's first experience with what became another pattern on the trip--he would not have to go far beyond any urban area before there would be almost no signs of human habitation. Here he was, little more than 100 miles from one of the largest metropolitan areas in the United States, and he was running through an almost empty town--empty storefronts, empty streets, few signs of life. Struggling through the pain, amazed by the barren town, Dean racked up 13.1 miles, for a total of 128.4 miles. He had knocked off 5% of the total run, but he couldn't think about such details.
Wednesday, January 15, 1992: Running for the sixth straight day, Crawford could feel fatigue from the first step. His body was beginning to rebel against the constant pounding, after ten actual days of running. His back, however, had recovered to the point where he wasn't debating his own sanity. In any case, he kicked in his will power and mastered the fatigue. For the day, he put in 13.1 miles, for a total of 141.5 miles.
Friday, January 17, 1992: The Thursday taken off did not seem to have much effect on Crawford's fatigue. Starting in Brawley, California, he still felt tired at the beginning of the run. He was beginning to learn that he could handle ten miles fairly easily, but after ten miles he would have to take control of his mind's and body's attempts to rebel against further punishment. Today, however, Dean had a pleasant surprise in store for himself--he overcame the initial fatigue and ended the day feeling fresh, somewhat recovered. When he returned to the motor home after 13 miles, he rejoiced as his endorphins kicked in big time. He enjoyed a victory cigar and some good wine as he congratulated himself. It crossed his mind that moments like this, in spite of drawbacks like Naylor, the weather, or bodily complaints, were as euphoric as good sex. His total reached 154.5 miles.
Saturday, January 18, 1992: Involvement in athletics can be cruel. Following the elation of Friday's achievement, Crawford found himself runnning down physically as he faced strong wind resistance. He was running near the Imperial sand dunes, where the winds seemed to pick up force without natural barriers such as trees or hills. Running into the gusting wind made him nearly double his effort; it was like running with a big hand insistently pushing against his chest. The hard work made him even thirstier than usual, so he was fighting two adversaries. Naylor, of course, wasn't observant enough to see the difficulty, so no help arrived when it was needed. Returning to the motor home, a mere 24 hours after Friday's euphoria, was an entirely different matter. He popped open a non-alcoholic beer, downed a couple of aspirins, and tried to hit the sack. Dean had, however, pushed on for 13.1 miles, reaching 167.6 miles completed to date.
Sunday, January 19, 1992: The windy conditions continued yet Crawford faced an additional adversary--eleven miles to run uphill, in the Chocolate Mountains (no consolation there, however), towards Glamis, past its gold mine. Leaning forward against the wind, he could feel the constant pounding in his upper legs, the strain on his Achilles tendons. The twin challenge proved to be a steady drain on Dean's reserves throughout the day's run. He capped it at 13.2 miles for the day, completing 180.8 miles so far.
Monday, January 20, 1992: Twin troubles continued to plague Crawford--the terrain had turned hilly, with the road rollercoasting up and down, instead of a steady upgrade. The hammering his legs had taken on the way to Glamis paid him back today with sore legs. Wobbling along in this way, Crawford had his first extended experience with trucks cutting it a little too close for comfort. These guys weren't really aiming at him, but they seemed to enjoy their little game of shaving the distance between their rigs and the struggling runner out in the middle of nowhere. Maybe they were bored with the long hauls without distractions. But their sense of adventure didn't accord well with Dean's need to keep his focus on the task at hand. He steeled his nerves, ignored the pain in his legs, and ran 13 miles, for a total of 193.8 miles.
Tuesday, January 21, 1992: A milestone of sorts was looming--leaving California and entering a new state, Arizona. Dean hoped to reach that goal by the end of the week, but first he aimed at closing the distance to Palo Verde. He was feeling pretty chipper, running in desert again, with Pilot Mountain to the northwest as the road curved towards Palo Verde. He felt great at the end of the run. As usual, he repeated his ritual of raising his arms high over his head, like Rocky Balboa, and shouting "Shit! I did it again!!" Back at the motor home, he reflected on his good fortune--to feel so good legally, a man-made high without government restrictions. For the day, he had covered 13.4 miles, with 207.2 miles completed.
Wednesday, January 22, 1992: After Palo Verde, population 606 souls, Dean headed toward Ripley. Believe it or not, though, Ripley wasn't on the maps. Arizona was nearing, but somehow Crawford hurt his right foot. With sharp pains shooting through his foot, Dean racked up 13.2 miles, for a total of 220.4 miles. Arizona was about a day's run away.
Friday, January 24, 1992: Dean's right foot continued to throb, but he reached Blyth, California, the last town of any size in California. He wanted to make it to 14 miles on the day, also reaching Arizona in the process, and he could even see the sign marking the state line up ahead, but the foot was hurting too much. He decided to give himself a chance at an upper to start the next run, so he stopped 100 feet short of Arizona. For the day, he ran 13.9 miles, for a total of 234.3 miles.
Saturday, January 25, 1992: After crossing the Colorado River separating California from Arizona, Dean began a personal tradition that he would follow whenever he crossed into a new state: he'd look for the first signpost announcing the auspicious event, then go up to it and start humping it. Crawford also asked for his first assistance not far into Arizona. He knew he could save some miles by running on Interstate 10 so he asked permission from an Arizona State trooper. After some negotiating, the trooper let him do it--but Dean found that the run would be all uphill. His foot nagged at him, but he toughed it out and was able to cover 14.1 miles, just south of the Colorado River Indian Reservation, to reach 248.4 so far.
Sunday, January 26, 1992: Staying in Interstate 10, with Naylor following closely behind, Dean ran through Quartzsite, Arizona, in desert conditions, the monotony broken somewhat by the Dome Rock Mountains and an occasional cactus jutting from the sand to the seering sky. For the day's run, he logged 13.3 miles, for a total of 251.7 miles--nearly 10% of the journey across the continent.
Monday, January 27, 1992: Dean finished his stay on Interstate 10, with five miles cruising on its quality surface before heading for Brenda. For the day, he added 13.5 to his total, for a total of 265.2 miles.
Tuesday, January 28, 1992: Dean's entourage took up at a new campsite. Running entirely uphill for what seemed the umpteenth time, he clocked 13.6 miles. It was boring, he says, the kind of conditions where he would start talking to himself, or looking for any signs of life, intelligent or otherwise. He reached 278.8 miles for the trip's total.
Wednesday, January 29, 1992: As he finished up his first month of running, Dean continued through territory that was largely empty, with the Harcuvar Mountains watching over the emptiness. He did get through two small towns in the one day, Salome and Wenden, and somehow, once again, hurt his right foot. He had been alternating his shoes, his second and third pairs, but couldn't figure out what he had done to the foot, unless it was just the stress caused by the run. In spite of the sharp pain, he racked up 13.4 miles for a new total of 292.2 miles.
Friday, January 31, 1992: Dean ended his first month of running with another boring stretch, headed for Aguila, Arizona. There were no distractions, no people, nothing but vast stretches of land. Crawford found himself starting to muse over claims about over-population. He was in part of the country where his motor home's TV hookup couldn't bring in network broadcasts. He found this to be the case for some 30% of the country he ran through. Where could all the people be? To finish the month, he logged 13.6 miles for a total of 305.8 miles.
In that month, the Super Bowl had been played, the presidential election heated up in earnest, and tens of millions of Americans had gone on with their lives, many of them in totally sedentary fashion. Several thousand of them, on the back roads east of San Diego and in the mountains west of Phoenix, had driven by Crawford's solitary figure as he plunged into the land mass of the continent of North America. Had they investigated, they would have found a man hell bent on getting to Jacksonville, Florida, a man who was beginning to appreciate the magnitude of the project he had given himself, who was also beginning to understand and appreciate the nature of the physical challenge. He was also beginning to change, becoming even more withdrawn, especially from the idiocies of Naylor. It would prove to become a necessary survival skill.
Saturday, February 1, 1992: Dean Crawford started his second month of running by making it through Aguila. His route took him past a campground, one of the few signs of humans to be seen for miles, other than the road itself. Dean offered a big wave as he passed the people enjoying themselves. It's better than talking to himself in the emptiness, he thought. For the day, he trucked 13.8 miles, reaching 319.6 miles total.
Sunday, February 2, 1992: He was on the last stretch to Wickensburg. The road was absolutely straight for eight miles, a mesmerizing experience for drivers, he knew. It was uneventful though and he made it to within 5 miles of Wickensburg. For the day, he racked up 13.3 miles for a total of 332.9.
Monday, February 3, 1992: Dean was feeling great--his body was being kind to him, the weather wasn't at all bad, the road was fair, and he was seeing signs of Phoenix looming--a few more cars and trucks cruising his route. He enjoyed running through Wickensburg, with its population of about 5,000--perhaps the most people he'd seen in one place since California. He ended up six miles past the town, with another 13.5 miles logged in, and had a good return to his Excalibur. As usual, he worked at his computer on his art, watched a baseball game via satellite, relaxed and built up strength for the next day's run. He was up to 346.4 miles for the trip.
Tuesday, February 4, 1992: Another good day for the run, headed slightly downhill on the Phoenix side of the Gila Bend mountains. All systems were go. After 28 days of running, his body was beginning to accomodate to the demands. He was finding his form and routine. Dean was now alternating shoes daily. His rationale for this was his theory that the foam in the shoes did not return to its original shape for a couple of days, and could thus be a factor in the pain in his feet. He would let them dry out, tilting the shoes at night, the toes down. The nearby presence of Phoenix also motivated him--just a couple of days away. For the day, he reached a new high--14.2 miles to reach a total of 360.6.
Wednesday, February 5, 1992: As Crawford continued his approach to Phoenix, two factors made the effort more difficult: he noticed that the road's shoulder had narrowed considerably and he could see signs of smog. The shoulder just made him operate that much closer to the increasing traffic whizzing by, while the smog attacked his ability to metabolize oxygen efficiently. He still seemed to feel all right so put in 13.3 miles to make his trip's total mileage 373.9.
Thursday, February 6, 1992: Only ten miles from downtown Phoenix, Dean made a grand entrance to the metropolitan area by running down Grand Avenue. U.S. highway 60, the route he'd been following for a week, became one of the main arterials in the city. After weeks being away from heavily populated areas, the heavy traffic was unnerving. Along with traffic and population, the smog thickened considerably. Crawford plugged along for a day's total of 13.3 miles. In reaching Phoenix, Crawford had accumulated a total of 387.2 miles, putting him over 15% of the total run.
Saturday, February 8, 1992: Maybe all the people in the vicinity got to him, who knows? Anyway, Dean saw a topless bar looming in the near distance as he ran through Phoenix. He couldn't resist--he stopped, marked his spot so he'd know where to begin running again, and went in the place. Once his eyes adjusted to the dim lighting and smoke, he saw a luscious young blonde woman slowly gyrating to some background disco noise. She wasn't topless though. When the music stopped, Dean went up to her and asked, innocently, if she'd be so kind as to take off her halter top, just for a peek. To his surprise, she motioned to a hallway behind her and said she'd "do it" for $45. This really wasn't what he had in mind, thank you. Nope, not horny. That wasn't his problem, at least not in the midst of a cross-country run. Not a man easily deterred, Dean launched into an explanation of his little project and saw that his tale made her perk up. Not the usual jerk customer, she must have thought, because she leaned forward and gave him a big, warm, sincere, busty hug. Free. It was another legal high, and Dean finished the day with 13.6 miles, going over 400 miles total, 401.4 to be precise.
Sunday, February 9, 1992: Crawford made it through Phoenix with no mishaps or further siren calls, but Tempe caused another stop--for coffee. One of Dean's luxuries on the run was making his own cappuccino, but that wasn't when he was in the midst of a run. He was cruising on Tempe's Mill street when he passed a coffee plantation. Oscar Wilde once said he could resist anything--except temptation. The aroma was too much for Dean; as usual, he marked his stopping point and took the time out. The coffee hit the spot and, newly fortified, Dean plugged along for 13.5 miles. His total for the run so far came to 414.9 miles.
Monday, February 10, 1992: After experiencing a topless bar and unscheduled coffee on consecutive days, Dean had to pay a price. Fatigue hit him pretty hard this day, even though the run was straight and the conditions were fair. He managed to put in 13.3 miles, topping out for a total of 428.2 miles.
Tuesday, February 11, 1992: The fatigue passed away quickly enough and Crawford felt great the day afterward. When he passed Apache Junction, he knew he was reaching the outside limit of the Phoenix suburbs. Signs of city life thinned out, traffic decreased, air quality steadily improved. He could see more of the Salt River Valley in which Phoenix nestles. Dean ran crisply, reaching 14.4 miles in good time--his best daily total to date. He reached 442.6 miles for the trip's total.
Wednesday, February 12, 1992: Dean was treated to running through the Tonto National Forest on his way to Superior. He was operating at a 3,000 foot altitude, some of the highest road work since the mountains of California. For the day, he put in 13.4 miles, reaching 456 miles overall.
Thursday, February 13, 1992: Crawford was bound to run into further difficulties and this day proved to be the case. The grade was all uphill, eventually reaching 5,000 feet in altitude, at 38°, with rain, then snow, on a narrow road, with trucks lumbering by with reckless abandon. Dean's route had been through the southern portion of the mammoth Tonto National Forest that takes up much of the center of Arizona, but on this day he had enough distractions and problematic conditions that he couldn't attend much to the beauty of the Forest. For the day, he struggled through to 13.2 difficult miles. His total for the trip reached 469.4 miles.
Friday, February 14, 1992: Valentine's Day. While other people expressed their love to lovers, opened up countless cards, ate enough chocolates to worry the FDA, and generally enjoyed the day reserved to memorialize amor, Crawford plugged away to put the Tonto Forest behind him. He could shake that, but the narrow road stayed with him right through Miami, Arizona, and beyond. He was becoming accustomed to the constant brushes with death as the thundering trucks rolled past him, often pushing a shock wave of hot air just ahead of their cabs. With 13.4 miles done for the day, Dean achieved a total of 482.6 miles.
Sunday, February 16, 1992: The temperature was 55° but the desert air seemed much colder. Dean ran through Globe, a solitary human outpost in the midst of an otherwise barren area. Crawford was leaving the foothills that fringe the Superstition Mountains and approaching the San Carlos Indian Reservation. Though there was the distinct chill in the air, it was a fair day for the run. He ran13.5 miles for a total of 496.3 miles.
Monday, February 17, 1992: Dean was now running in the territory of the San Carlos Indian Reservation. Conditions had not changed in any dramatic way, but he somehow injured his right heel. Dean would get hurt doing normal, mundane activities, such as sneezing, or going to the fridge. For a long-distance runner, there is no injury more bothersome than a heel injury. Every step eventually projects pressure or weight to the heel. Crawford had had smooth sailing regarding injuries for quite a while, but he hadn't forgotten how to shut out pain. He would need every bit of self-control to be able to keep up his pace. Most people would be unable to function very well at all, much less decide to pound a heel injury for several miles in the middle of winter in a desert. Dean shut it out, finished 13.5 miles, and reached a new plateau on the trip. The day put him at 509.8 miles so far--20% of the trip was done.
Tuesday, February 18, 1992: Running in the desert didn't help Dean forget his heel. There were no distractions whatsoever. Even the traffic had seemingly dried up with everything else. Although the San Carlos Lake was just to the south, he couldn't see any signs of water--nor the many life forms so dependent upon it. There were no lizards, no snakes, no birds, no people, no livestock, and no plants large enough to register on his consciousness. It came down to Dean and the road and the horizon. And his heel kept complaining--not as sharp as yesterday, but a dull, throbbing reminder with each step. He pushed on for 13.5 miles. Hos total for the trip so far reached 523.3 miles.
Wednesday, February 19, 1992: Crawford's heel did not heal much overnight. It stayed sore through the day's run. He finished his run through the San Carlos Reservation and ran, literally, into history--the town of Geronimo, Arizona, named for the famous Apache leader of the last century, a man who lived well into the twentieth century after capitulating to an insistent U. S. military power. For much of his run, certainly through the southwest, Dean would be operating in territory with many levels of history, areas where thriving tribes had lived for centuries, or areas contested in the last century by the indigenous people and migrating settlers. Even as he was making and living his own personal history, Dean was thus operating in territory with its own intriguing, often sad, but always interesting history. For the day, he clocked 13.5 miles, for the fourh day in a row. His new total came to 536.8 miles.
Thursday, February 20, 1992: After three days of pounding, Dean's heel somehow felt better. Three days of this abuse for the average person would have resulted in a hospital stay. Dean, however, had slogged on through the torment for more than 40 miles. The injured heel, in that time, had been slammed into the unyielding, unforgiving pavement more than 35,000 times. He was running at a slow pace now, right around ten minutes per mile, a pace that eventually took him past Fort Thomas. He knew he was almost finished with his second state, knowledge that sustained him as he toughed out the heel injury, although it had become a habit to remind himself that there are no excuses. He ended the day with 13.5 miles. His total for the trip was 550.3 miles.
Friday, February 21, 1992: One of the major components of the run across the country was the shuttling back and forth from a campground site to a starting point and then the finishing point for a given day. This routine happened nearly 200 times but only three times did Dean find himself running right to the camp site. This was one of those days, with the run going through Safford, ending after 13 miles at the campground. Crawford's total for the trip stood at 563.3--with most of the recent run going through desert.
Sunday, February 23, 1992: The desert conditions combined with altitude for a tough run. Off to his right, to the southeast, Dean could see Mt. Graham, at 10,713 feet the highest peak of the Galiuro Mountains. The Gila Mountains ran off to his left, with the Peloncillo Mountains ahead, near the border with New Mexico. Running in a starkly beautiful landscape, Dean logged in 13.7 miles for a total of 577 miles.
Monday, February 24, 1992: The desert conditions continued and the altitude made him feel as if he couldn't get enough oxygen. His lungs seemed to be overworking and his heart pounded away methodically--one of those days when the thumping of his heart and his labored breathing were the only sounds to meet his ears. Some red ants did manage to bite his legs after Dean bothered them, so there were some signs of life. Altogether, it was a great run, for 13.4 miles and a new total of 590.4 miles.
Tuesday, February 25, 1992: Dean reached Duncan, Arizona, right on the state border. It was his first day since hurting his heel twelve days earlier that he was able to run with no pain. To the south, he could see Cochise Head rise over 8,000 feet, as his highway 70 route followed the Gila River toward New Mexico. He felt great and enjoyed the twin milestones of going over 600 miles for the trip and getting ready to enter a new state, his third. For the day, he ran 13.8 miles. His total reached 604.2 miles.
Wednesday, February 26, 1992: A pattern was beginning to emerge, a variation of Murphy's Law--when things seem to be going well, you've overlooked something. Dean made it into his third state, New Mexico, and found it to be windy and hilly. He should have felt a measure of euphoria, but instead he developed a blister. Dean had lots of them, usually involving his right foot, the problem foot, the tumor foot. The gusting winds and hills required him to push off with each stride slightly more than he would under more neutral conditions and the extra work chafed the foot into a blister. The cruel thought entered his mind that he had been running for nearly two months--why get a blister now? Weren't his feet tough enough after all he'd been through? In spite of the problems, he clocked 13.5 miles. After entering New Mexico, his total for the journey had reached 617.7 miles.
Thursday, February 27, 1992: Conditions eased a bit, still uphill, still windy, just not quite as tough as yesterday's run. The blister nagged at him but not enough to make him back off. The desert was there, as it had been for weeks, but Dean had seen enough of it and knew how to shut it out to focus on the run. So, one full day into New Mexico, and healing from yesterday's blister, Dean showed his mettle by pushing on for 14.4 miles, tied with his best daily run so far, and a new total of 632.1 miles. Crawford was one-fourth of the way across the country.
Friday, February 28, 1992: Dean neared the continental divide as he ran through Lordsburg, altitude over 4,200 feet, tucked in at the base of the Pyramid Mountains, then picked up the Interstate towards Deming. The blister was a memory now and he had Texas in front of him to give him focus. Running the Interstate was bland enough, although there was a marked increase in the speed of passing vehicles. He ended the month with 13.5 miles and reached 645.6 as his new total.
Sunday, March 1, 1992: Dean started a new month, his third on the road, with his run for the day entirely on the Interstate in high desert. Dean hadn't asked permission to be on the Interstate, but he lucked out, seeing no Smokies for the entire run. There was a downside to this, though, as he noticed the trucks coming perilously close to him running along on the shoulder. He wondered what a cop would have done had he even bothered to notice the trucks apparently taking aim at him. After all, they did have the whole of two lanes; it wasn't like they had to squeeze through against oncoming traffic. No, this was deliberate. Did they feel their manhood challenged by the runner working their highway? Was he unwittingly violating some territorial imperative? Dean ran 14.1 miles while trying to adjust to the sudden rush, the noise and slamming winds, of the huge trucks driving mere inches from him. For the trip so far, Dean had accumulated 658.7 miles.
Monday, March 2, 1992: Dean managed to get another three more miles done on the Interstate before his route forced him to operate on a gravel frontage road. This is hardly the optimal surface--it's brutally hard on the shoes and offers little stability and sure footing to the runner. Dean had to put up with each step being slightly different than others. His feet and ankles absorbed even more abuse than usual. He toughed it out for eleven miles on the gravel, slogging through for a day's total of14 miles. He had put 672.7 miles behind him.
Tuesday, March 3, 1992: A steady overnight rain turned the gravel road into a quagmire. Dean had run through rain on several earlier occasions, but plain old mud was something new. He had to go on with it, though the constant slipping and sliding in the mud placed an unusual demand on Dean's total system. Later, he admitted that he felt like he was dying. This is where Crawford's run, to be honest, takes on an irrational, dangerous cast. Athletes are trained to monitor their physical condition, to adjust to changing conditions, and to assess risks and react accordingly. Some sporting figures, such as race car drivers, constantly perform with the shadow of death lingering second by second. They have made their peace with the prospects. In their case, it would all be over in a nanosecond. But Dean literally ran right into it, incrementally, feeling his strength diminishing, knowing that he was becoming disoriented, feeling his cardiovascular system laboring under the stress and strain. But he was determined never to let anything defeat him and this day would be no different. Braving the stress, wretched conditions, and fears for his own life, Dean made 14 miles for a new total of 686.7 miles. Back at the motor home, he collapsed and felt relieved just to be breathing.
Wednesday, March 4, 1992: Crawford finally caught some breaks this day. For once, he had a decent wind coming from his back. Additionally, the gravel frontage road had paving on it. This was hog heaven compared to the horrible day he had just survived. There was a touch of chill in the air at 48°, but it wasn't the kind of weather to make the run miserable. With the wind behind him, Dean sailed on for 14.1 miles. His total reached a new threshold, 700.8 miles.
Thursday, March 5, 1992: As he neared Deming, Dean found himself relieved of the sensory deprivation of the desert. Instead, he could see nearly endless fields of cotton and feed grain, fed by the Mimbres River. It was a relief to see evidence of people--shops, stores, churches, gas stations, cars, schools. It was almost intoxicating, so much so, in fact, that Dean took timeout for some coffee with Maggie before finishing his run that day. He reached 13.5 miles and upped his total to 714.3 miles.
Friday, March 6, 1992: Dean found himself running on old highway 70 outside of Deming. He wasn't sure about the road surface's composition, but it was terribly hard and played havoc with his feet and shins. It was the same pattern again--a day of celebration followed by a day filled with adversity. Dean had a sobering moment when he came across a roadside historical marker revealing the deaths of six settlers in an ambush by local Indians. He could look up to the surrounding hills and all but see the angry natives seeking revenge for the many indignities they suffered. In this case, they had stolen the settlers' horses, but left them out in the open and set a trap around them. The family blundered into the trap and lost their lives. The landscape behind him was so flat, he could see 100 miles to the west. It was like looking through time, into the past when the six unfortunates lost their lives. It was chilling. Thus haunted by the history he was running through, once again Dean persevered, adding 13.7 miles to his achievement. After 55 days on the road, Dean's total stood at 728 miles.
Sunday, March 8, 1992: Back to the frontage road, after a day's rest for his feet and legs, but it wasn't an improvement at all. His legs took another beating from the road's surface, Each step was a small agony. He usually felt pretty fresh after a day's rest, although it was also hard to motivate himself to get a run started. Whatever gains he had earned with Saturday's being off, Dean felt he had lost within a few miles. This day's run proved to be one of the most difficult to date. Take away a runner's legs and there's not much left. Dean slogged along for 13.7 miles. When he finished, he had 741.7 miles for his total.
Monday, March 9, 1992: Dean had to keep on moving in spite of the grueling run yesterday. He lucked out with eight miles of good Interstate, then six miles on the frontage road. At least his work didn't take his legs away from him. But as he closed in on Texas, winter made itself known with a bitter temperature that reminded him of his frozen hands in the mountains of California back in January. He kept thinking of the next major location on his trip--El Paso--a goal that warmed him enough to go 13.9 miles. He reached 755.6 miles for his total to date.
Tuesday, March 10, 1992: Dean had basically been running east for most of the run. When he reached Las Cruces, he turned sharply to the south, towards El Paso, following the Rio Grande through lush pecan farms. Las Cruces, with some 62,000 inhabitants, was by far the largest town he'd seen since Phoenix, more than a month and nearly 400 miles in the past. The city seemed to help perk him up; he had a good run for 13.9 miles. With his new total of 769.5 miles, he had completed 30% of his journey to Jacksonville.
Wednesday, March 11, 1992: After one month's running through desolate areas, Dean would have a few days of running in the corridor of towns and suburbs between Las Cruces and El Paso, a welcome change. When running in desert conditions, with almost no contact with other people, Dean became extremely introverted. For this day's run, he had the luxury of running through areas of thriving shops and neat homes and lawns, all distinctly Latino. He put in another 13.9 miles for a total of 783.4 miles. And Texas loomed ahead.
Thursday, March 12, 1992: Dean chugged through Anthony, New Mexico, and on into Anthony, Texas. He had motored along for nearly 800 miles in three states over two and a half months. For the next two and a half months, he would push forward for almost 900 grueling miles--but it would all be in one state, Texas. This writer drove from Oregon to Louisiana a few years back for a family vacation--with four young children along and camping the whole way. We were on the road for ten days, but four of those days were spent driving in Texas. Its sheer size is enough to defeat one psychologically, and we were just driving through, not involved in a self-defined competition. Well, Dean Crawford has been around the block, with homes in California and Florida. He's been through Texas. Did he know what he'd be getting into? Yes, in the physical dimension, but there were some other surprises awaiting him. On his first day in Texas, he chipped away for another 13.9 miles, reaching 797.3 for the trip so far.
Friday, March 13, 1992: Nearly a million people live within the metropolitan area of Juarez, Mexico, and El Paso. Mexico does not have the stringent air pollution laws found in the U. S. Accordingly, Dean felt the effects of the worst pollution he would encounter on the trip. He could see the smog, smell it, and feel it burning his nose and lungs as he ploughed through the stuff. The prevailing winds would make the foul stuff drift in his direction for a couple of days. In spite of the conditions, he managed to run 14.2 miles. He reached the 800-mile plateau, with 811.5 total miles racked up.
Saturday, March 14, 1992: Dean followed El Paso's Montana Avenue due east, amid the hubbub of a major thoroughfare. A few days before, he was looking for signs of life, but now he had to watch for traffic from all sides. He chugged along at a steady pace, reaching the eastern outskirts of El Paso. For the day, he logged another 13.9 miles. His total milage reached 825.4.
Monday, March 16, 1992: He stayed friendly with Montana Avenue for six more miles, pretty much leaving El Paso to his back, then he began a slow ascent into the Cornudas Mountains. The road conditions were good, the altitude put him above the bad air of El Paso, and he could concentrate better on the run without all the urban distractions. He wasn't far to the east of El Paso before he was running in totally arid salt flats. With no signs of life other than the lingering air pollution, his brief flirtation with humans was already drying up. There was always the give and take of any change in his routine: if he was totally isolated in the desert, there was the matter of feeling desolate; if he was in a heavily populated area, there were more demands on his concentration just to keep track of traffic, dogs, kids on bikes, and the like. For the day, he put in another 13.9 miles, reaching 839.3 total miles.
Tuesday, March 17, 1992: St. Patrick's Day--the Chicago River would be turned green and Irish wannabes everywhere would be guzzling green beer. For his part, Crawford spent the first six miles of the day's run still going up into the mountains, eschewing Irish celebrations, keeping his focus on Jacksonville. Cerro Alto stood to his left, at 6,717 feet, and he was laboring not far below it. The cold, thin air penetrated his running gear, chilling him and making him feel stiffer than he'd like to be. As usual, he shrugged it off and motored along for 14 miles, having racked up 853.3 miles for the trip.
Wednesday, March 18, 1992: Back in high desert, El Paso seemed like a distant memory. The unobstructed wind whipped across the landscape with a vengeance. Dean recognized the pattern again--almost no signs, other than the road itself, of human inhabitants even though he was only a few days from a metropolitan area. Look where he might, he found precious little evidence of fellow humans . . . no houses, farms, ball parks, construction, gardens . . . just zilch. He couldn't help but question the claims of overpopulation. "Where are all those people?" he wondered. Why would anyone want to opt for overcrowding in a big city when there was all this open, seemingly unused land just a few dozen miles beyond the city limits? Such thoughts were rare for Dean. He was normally thinking of music lyrics or mulling over his painting while running--if he wasn't fighting off his injuries or some viciously adverse condition. In this fashion, Dean knocked off 13.8 miles. His total for the run so far reached 867.1 miles.
Thursday, March 19, 1992: For the second consecutive day, Crawford faced nearly total nothingness. The wind had died down enough to make it little more than an occasional whisper. There were no signs of wildlife and traffic was at a bare minimum. Dean plugged along in the absolute quiet of the high desert. Gradually, he became aware of a sound--a consistent thump-thump. There could be only one explanation--he was hearing his own heart. Listening more closely, he could make out the heart's actual "lub-dub." This was the essence of solitude, a self-communion that only someone in Dean's situation could ever hear or understand. He pushed it along for an even 14 miles, achieving a new total of 881 miles.
Friday, March 20, 1992: Dean had the chance for a rare social event, making a new friend, May. She literally owned the one-hotel town of Cornudas, Texas. She was about 65 years old, a big, busty woman with flaming red hair. Dean did a painting of her. She was the mayor, and ran everything in sight. The truckers loved her and the hearty food she prepared. It took a week to get past the town and its Hemingway type bar. May's sheer lust for life must have juiced him up a bit because he set a new PR for the run--15.3 miles. This brought him to 896.3 miles for the long haul, 35% of his trip to Jacksonville.
Sunday, March 22, 1992: Crawford's route took him through Salt Flats, Texas, and further up into the Guadalupe Mountains. He moved his base camp to Pecos, further east in Texas. The weather and terrain were cooperating, a rare combination for him. His spirits soared--his own version of runner's high kicked in. He felt good overall, putting in a good day--14.7 miles, for a new milestone total of 911 miles.
Monday, March 23, 1992: Dean reached new personal heights, literally, on this day--by virtue of a determined assault for ten straight miles up the flank of Guadalupe Peak. This peak reaches 8,751 feet and he took it straight on for a run that included 6,000 feet of altitude. As he chugged along, it struck him that he was beating El Capitan (the name of the peak) in the process. Things were going well, especially in view of the strain the grade caused for his legs. For the day, Dean persevered for 14 miles. His new total for the trip stood at 925 miles.
Tuesday, March 24, 1992: He paid for it the next day though; the run up Guadalupe Peak had stressed his legs more than he thought. His legs complained for most of this day's run. In spite of the nagging pain, Dean was aware of a stark irony when he passed a Vision Quest convict wagon caravan. Here he was, free and running across North America (even if the truckers were trying to scrape him off the road on a daily basis) and there they were--young prisoners, incarcerated for whatever reason, trying to make it better, true, but severely limited in what they could do. Or was Dean his own prisoner, following his self-inflicted, tortuous journey that would scar his body as badly as anything these chaps faced? No, he was free, even free to make excuses for himself on a bad day when all the elements were conspiring to break his spirit and determination to finish the project, but he refused to do buckle. It had been these unfortunates, young men half his age, who had allowed circumstances to break them, young men lacking Dean's impressive deep resources of character, who had made some kind of disastrous decisions and were now paying the price. Excuses come in all kind of shapes: drugs, booze, violence. Let a problem beat you down and then surrender--an excuse will very quickly come along in handy fashion, assuaging remorse and self-doubts. Damned if he'd let it happen to him, he thought. He had made his share of regrettable decisions in the past and had paid the consequences. That was then; this is now. As he pushed along past the long caravan, he wished them well. Dean couldn't get ahead of them; they were on the same pace. So, here was Dean doing his daily thing in the midst of ex-drug dealers, both going x-country, although they were headed from New Mexico to Kansas, supported by the government's hope for rehabilitation. They disrupted Dean's run, although they were friendly, but wanted to share lunch, and kept up a constant patter ofjive talking. Nice guys, yes, but a distraction and a drag. For the day, he kept up a good pace, knocked off 14.2 miles, and reached a total of 939.2 miles.
Wednesday, March 25, 1992: Dean was once again running through desert. He could feel a good sign of his body's ability to recover from the physical demands he was placing on it, in this case the run up the Peak two days earlier and the subsequent soreness, because today he felt on top of the world. He knew it as soon as he hit the road--runner's high almost from the outset. Oddly enough, on this one day there were very few cars and trucks, which also meant less hostility to face, fewer sheer survival reactions to have to make. The temperature was just right--cool, not bitterly cold, and far from the heat he'd be facing when he reached the deep South. Ideal conditions, and Dean made the most of it, going more than 20% further for his daily run than he'd ever gone, hitting an incredible 17.1 miles for the day. He was exuberant, almost orgasmic, when he got back to the motor home. He had a good glass of wine to celebrate his achievement. So far, he had run 956.4 miles.
Thursday, March 26, 1992: Once again, Dean was struck to the quick by the total silence in the desert. No birds singing, dogs barking, CDs playing, channel surfing blipping, air conditioning, phones ringing, dishwasher sloshing, children squawking. In fact, Dean was the only source of noise for miles around--the steady, rhythmic slapping of his shoes on the road's surface, his even breathing, the soft rustle of his running gear, his heart beating. For most of us, this absence of sound would be disconcerting, vaguely ominous. Dean found a day of nearly total peace and cruised along for 15.1 miles. His new total reached 971.5 miles.
Friday, March 27, 1992: Dean put in his last few miles on highway 62. He had grown fond of this road, especially for the peace it brought him in the welcome relief from the stress he could expect to face back at the motor home with Naylor around. He could also feel the occasion of 1,000 miles approaching. Crawford motored along for 14.5 miles in another day of nearly total silence. His total to date came to 986 miles.
Sunday, March 29, 1992: Somehow, Dean managed to stay steady on his day off, Saturday, knowing that the 1,000-mile mark loomed. He still burned up plenty of energy just thinking about it. He set out, still headed in the general direction of Odessa, and let the adrenaline rush carry him along for another 14.5 miles. With those miles, he slipped past the benchmark he had been watching for days, totalling 1,000.5 miles. Back at the motor home after his run, his endorhpins were raging.
Monday, March 30, 1992: After many days of running through virtual (but peaceful) emptiness, Dean managed to reach highway 302 and Mentone, Texas. He was only 75 miles now from Odessa, although the visible signs of either current or impending habitation were not exactly abundant. For the third straight day, he put in 14.5 miles. His total reached 1015 miles, more than 40% of run.
Tuesday, March 31, 1992: Mentone disappeared quickly enough behind him, and Dean was abruptly back in desert conditions, broken only by occasional patches of very dry scrub brush. After weeks of being relatively free of injury, Crawford managed to bang up his right toe. The pain stabbed into his foot sharply with each step. He had been in cruise control for so long, this became an annoyance. His feet took tremendous abuse already without his having to face this indignity. As usual, however, he managed to ignore the pain long enough push on for 14.1 miles. His new total came to 1029.1 miles.
Wednesday, April 1, 1992: The April Fool's joke by the state of Texas for Dean was to provide him with the coldest day in a long time--into the low 30's. His toe functioned well enough. He figured he had spent nearly one month running in desert conditions--one month out of his three on the road. He reached Kermit, Texas, but saw no large frogs. His run for the day came to 14.5 miles, bringing him to 1043.6 miles.
Thursday, April 2, 1992: Desert again, but with a minor variation. Instead of isolated patches of scrub brush, he was treated to small waves of sand dunes that seemed to roll across his vision. The cold temperature stayed along for the ride. Dean pushed on for 14.5 miles, achieving a new total of 1,058.1 miles.
Friday, April 3, 1992: Somebody had a sense of humor out here--Dean ran through a place very accurately called "Notrees" Texas. Maggie did the shuttling because, thank God, Naylor was off somewhere getting his VW fixed. At least Dean didn't have to put up with his usual maliciousness. He couldn't figure how she tolerated him; it seemed like she was operating more out of fear than love. She seemed to be like the proverbial deer frozen in the headlights. With no trees getting in his way, Dean cruised along for 14.6 miles, hitting a total of 1072.7 miles for the trip.
Sunday, April 5, 1992: Ever since entering Texas Dean had been operating in the Permian Basin, which extends northward into the Panhandle area, famed for its oil and natural gas deposits. Its underground wealth leaves little, however, for the imagination or the consolation of the lone figure of the runner as he wends his way across the brown landscape. The occasional oil derrick, its huge snout and arm mechanically rising and dipping, presents little for the runner to contemplate. Sure, a derrick meant that people had to put it there, but they would soon leave it behind, letting the device do their work for them. Dean had had moments when he hoped to see a lizard or another cow, just to break the monotony, but he never found himself hoping to see another oil derrick. He was nearing the end of his run in the Basin; Odessa was ahead, about 90,000 people. So, here was the pattern again--total solitude, then urban crowds . . . or blissful, easy running, then mind-numbing pain . . . or cloudless skies and balmy weather, then cruel cold. In retrospect, it became apparent that you can't really train for something like this. As he loped along, Dean could once again see the early signs of civilization--a few more buildings each mile, less range fencing running for miles, more traffic. With mounting signs of human life, he felt like the Energizer rabbit--he was feeding off the stimulation and felt good. He clocked 14.5 miles for a new total of 1,087.2 miles.
Monday, April 6, 1992: That annoying pattern--up and down, good and bad. It hit again, with its usual cruelty. Dean was totally unprepared for what he saw in Odessa--poverty beyond belief. He asked himself, "Where is George Bush?" After all, he's a Texan. Don't Presidents take care of their own? Dean saw the faces of wasted lives, the detritus of hopes blasted. He saw hopelessness, despair. People seemed whipped. Buildings sagged in disrepair. Paint, faded and chipped, revealed the human failures beneath the surface. He had run out of the desert, it seemed, into the Third World. What could account for this? Arab machinations in the oil industry? A failure of vision? He stopped thinking along those lines; this was an American matter now, no matter the source, and no one seemed to care. Oddly enough, he saw signs directing tourists to visit Odessa's replica of Shakespeare's Globe theater, high art in the midst of an economic depression. His spirits went south; the haunting images wore him down. He could only manage to run 13.6 miles. For the journey, Dean had accumulated 1,100.8 miles.
Tuesday, April 7, 1992: Midland, Texas, supposedly midway between Fort Worth and El Paso, was just a few miles down the road from Odessa. Another 90,000 or so folks, but not the Third World of a few miles back. Six days earlier, the temperature had been near freezing. Midland gave him his first taste of what he'd be facing the rest of the run through the south in the summer. The temperature now reached 85°, brutally combined with at least 90% humidity. Odessa had taken it out of him in a spiritual or psychological sense. Now the heat and humidity were beating him down. He pushed on nevertheless for 14.5 miles. He now had gone 1,115.3 miles into his journey into his own capacity to endure.
Wednesday, April 8, 1992: After Midland, Dean turned slightly south, taking highway 158 towards Ballinger. He was now in the mindset where the new departure meant conquering the highway. He would be on this road for nearly two weeks; it seemed best to take on Texas piece by piece. He put in a pretty good day, 14.4 miles, topping out at 1,129.7 total miles.
Thursday, April 9, 1992: Some new things entered Crawford's life on the road--increasing signs of verdant green around him and both the welcome sight and sounds of birds. He was beginning to enter that Texas where there was greater precipitation and the head waters of long rivers that eventually drained into the Gulf of Mexico, leaving many lakes behind. He was being put in touch again with elements of life that he had almost taken for granted, this man who so loved the ocean and water, where greenery and birds abound. In an odd way, his thirty days wandering in deserts had amounted to sensory deprivation. What he gained here, however, he had to pay for with another injury, for his right leg started acting up. More than 1,000 miles' running was having its inexorable impact on his body. He toughed it out for 14.9 miles, giving him a total of 1,144.6 miles, 45% of his planned run.
Friday, April 10, 1992: This proved to be one of the more unique days in Dean's sojourn because he had the joy of seeing a wide variety of landscapes. The run began in the usual near-desert conditions. Yawn. Been there, done that. But then the desert would gradually flower into a lush farm, perhaps a dairy, or growing feed crops. There were plenty of cattle to contemplate; he wouldn't need to run along in total isolation hoping to see a bovine biological to keep him company. Then there were trees. Tall trees. Crawford hadn't seen much evidence of tall trees, except those dead ones blasting by on roaring log trucks, since he had left the mountains of New Mexico. Mixed in with all this was the occasional oil well, or a field of wells. What Texas couldn't do on the land, it apparently did under the land. Anyway, it was a lush feast, this run. Dean put in 14.7 fairly happy miles. For the trip, he had run 1,159.3 miles.
Sunday, April 12, 1992: He thought he had seen it elsewhere, deja vû. Here he was in west Texas, on a cool morning, with wisps of steam rising from his sweating body, running through patches of fog. Cattle lounged around in the undulant fields nearby. Then it hit him--Shannon, Ireland. How odd, he thought. Thousands of miles away he had seen a similar sight, but one that he never thought of in the same breath as Texas. It was a good sign, reaching out to the world like this, connecting different points of his life to his current task. He ran 14.5 miles, with his mind flashing back and forth between Texas and Ireland. For the trip, he had reached 1,173.8 miles.
Monday, April 13, 1992: Dean's attack on highway 158 was about halfway done when he reached Sterling City. A four-lane Federal highway, number 67, crossed through Sterling City, the only such sight he would see until 158 reached Ballinger. The landscape remained pleasantly diverse and Dean was chugging along in good fashion when he had one of those moments that one thinks should have happened more often, but didn't. He was zoning out, concentrating on the job at hand, when he suddenly noticed a deer off to his left. There was no traffic around so the deer wasn't in a big hurry. It apparently thought Dean wasn't much of a threat. Casually, it pranced out in front of him and then ran elegantly across the road, clearly what D. H. Lawrence once called one of the "lords of life." Dean felt tremendously privileged to share that brief, beautiful snippet of life with the deer. The quiet beauty of the moment helped make his day. It also meant that he was now operating in country that sustained something other than oil derricks and cattle. The deer was lucky, too, because some Bubba had not seen it and pulled a rifle off a gun rack in his pickup's rear window to turn it into venison. Boosted in spirit, Dean added 14.5 miles to his project. His achievement so far reached 1,188.3 miles.
Tuesday, April 14, 1992: Dean moved his campsite and ran to Robert Lee, Texas. For much of the day's run, Dean could hear and see a big thunderstorm following along behind him, complete with huge bolts of lightning that flashed across the landscape, lighting it with an instant of blue intensity, and rumbles of thunder that seemed to shake the earth a foot deep. It seemed malevolent at first, and worried Dean a bit, but it more or less became a friend for the day. It rained buckets on him and helped to weaken him for the flu that would hit him shortly. Chased along by the big storm, Dean managed to cover 14.7 miles. His new total reached 1,203 miles.
Wednesday, April 15, 1992: Dean had faced numerous injuries on his journey, and had had some upset over greasy, fried food that he normally detested, but he had not really been ill. That changed as soon as he woke up and became aware of flu symptoms. He had been able to run before when he felt not quite up to par, but he had not been pursuing a continent, had not made severe demands on his body and strength, and had all other factors in his favor. He made the instantaneous decision to go forward with the day's run. He had a difficult time breathing, felt weak, and congested in his upper chest--not at all good for a runner. This was not at all like running with a blister, a hurt toe, or a bad knee. Those could be isolated, maneuvered around, ignored. This, on the other hand, involved his entire system; he could not isolate or ignore it. In retrospect, Dean would admit running with the flu was a bad decision. He called it "the hardest dumbass run" he had ever faced. He sniffled, sneezed, coughed, and gagged his way for 14.5 miles. That he had run 1,217.5 miles was little consolation when he dragged himself back into the motor home, wondering if he had any chicken soup in the cupboard.
Friday, April 17, 1992: Dean was unable to run Thursday and just stayed in bed, sick as a dog. There are, however, no excuses, so he got up and gave it a shot anyway. He felt half dead, and so was able only to put in little more than a half day's running--8.2 miles, for a new total of 1,225.7 miles. Dean admitted that it was a dumb thing to do.
Sunday, April 19, 1992: The eight miles on Friday had really knocked Dean out, so he took off Saturday. He was by no means in good health this day, but he did not feel half dead. You know the drill--there are no excuses. So he dragged his reluctant ass off to highway 158 and gave it a shot. Hey--he found out running was better than the alternative. And here we encounter an essential aspect of Dean Crawford's character--in spite of not being 100%, he genuinely felt excited, thrilled to be alive. That was it in a nutshell. Running, for Dean Crawford, affirmed life. The simple act of putting one foot vigorously in front of the other, of breathing, his heart beating, in the midst of neat farms in middle America, in the middle of a grand project--all added up to sheer joy for Dean. Lesser mortals would be contemplating entering a hospital, but here was Dean running half of a marathon while fighting off the flu. He ticked off 13.7 miles and made it to 1,239.4 total miles.
Monday, April 20, 1992: For every plus a negative--for more than a week, Dean had been cruising through some gorgeous farming areas. With the farms came plenty of vegetation. So, Dean had some pleasing, beautiful sights to share his time on the run. But compared to the desert conditions of the past weeks, the spring vegetation also meant an extremely high pollen count. He still had some flu symptoms to top it all off. Oh well, just another adjustment to make. He made it to W. Ballinger, putting in 13.5 miles. His total came to 1,252.9 miles.
Tuesday, April 21, 1992: Dean's assault on highway 158 was over. He picked up highway 67 and moved the campsite to a state park in Coleman. The pollen was still in the air, but the flu symptoms were pretty much gone. He moved it along 13.8 miles and reached 1,266.7 total miles. He was pretty tired and wasn't particularly aware that he had just gone past the 50% mark for the trip.
Wednesday, April 22, 1992: When he got up the next day, the flu seemed to be a distant memory. Crawford felt strong for the first time in many days. He was running through some very small towns--Talpa and Valera--in an area that mixed farms and desert. The road was a good one. Dean trucked along for 14.4 miles. His total for the trip reached 1,281.1 miles.
Thursday, April 23, 1992: Everything seemed to fall into place on this day, building on the good base he felt the day before. He could feel it as he reached each stage of the run and decided to keep running. When athletes are in a zone like this, it's enexplicable. Everything seems to defend on feeling, a total physical experience of well being, perceptiveness, and eagerness to stay on a roll. Dean just kept pushing it along and when the day was over, he had run an amazing 20.2 miles, making up for the pitiful day when he could only manage 8 miles. It had been only eight days since he had run under brutal conditions with the flu. To keep his achievement this day in perspective, keep in mind that Crawford had been running for nearly four months, had run across half a continent, had faced significant injuries and pain, was just getting over an illness, and had just run more than 14 miles the day before. Some people might be able to go out and put in a good day's road workout, but few have faced the mounting list of factors predating a run of this magnitude. His new total was 1,301.3 miles.
Friday, April 24, 1992: Surely he had to know that he would pay the price for his new record, and he did, although perhaps it wasn't as painful as one would think. The temperature soared and this helped a bit working out his soreness from the long run. He ran past Brownwood and noted that Dallas was only 125 miles away, to the north of his basic track. In spite of his feeling so sore, Dean ran 14.7 miles and brought his total to 1,316 miles.
Sunday, April 26, 1992: Dean used his day off, Saturday, for a trip to Ft. Worth. He went to some malls; it was like leaving a prison cell. He rejoiced in wsimple things like seeing people eating Haagen-Dasz ice cream. He knew he had to readjust to life--even though he would go out and eat daily but he didn't let people break his concentration. Whereas he had been sore during his last run, today he was stiff. And Texas played its little joke on him and his stiff knees, legs, and back--lots of little hills for plenty of up-down running. So, Dean just rolled with the punches, up and down, for 14.5 miles. His new total reached 1,330.5 miles.
Monday, April 27, 1992: Dean had a treat this day, thanks to his proximity to Dallas--he had a chance to listen to his brother's radio station in Dallas, KPBC. In fact, such contact was Dean's way of staying in touch with the world--his TV satellite hook-up on the motor home and radio connections like this. His run took him through Comanche, one of the many remote contact points he and his run had with Native Americans and their marvelous history. He clicked off 14.5 miles. His new total reached 1,347 miles.
Tuesday, April 28, 1992: Dean felt fully recovered now from his extra-long run of the 23rd; he could usually tell pretty early how things would go that day. Today he felt strong; the miles passed almost effortlessly, as if he were pushing the long road past him, like a swimmer does the water. He was passing immaculately groomed farms; they looked like they should be in Kentucky, or on post cards, rather than in central Texas. He didn't give it much thought, really. Not that he was mired in the project now that he was in the middle of the trek, but the sheer routine of the daily regimen weighed heavily on him. The magnitude of the undertaking, the daily hammering, left him a bit awed at what he was doing, yet he was now deeply aware of the fact that this was routine. He kept on trucking, putting one neat farm after another behind him--for 14.5 miles. When he got back to the motor home, he had reached 1,361.5 miles for his new total. He had been running on the road for 100 days.
Wednesday, April 29, 1992: Dean ran into Ireland for the second time while in Texas, this time by going through the town called Dublin. Reaching this town finished his work on highway 67; he turned slightly south on highway 6 and headed toward Hico. For the day, he added 14.7 miles. Continuing across a seemingly endless Texas, Dean's new total hit 1,376.2 miles.
Thursday, April 30, 1992: Dean closed out his fourth month on the road, closing in on 1,500 incredible miles, by hurting his right leg. The temperature was probably the hottest he had encountered so far--91°. The rolling hills stayed with him, providing both beauty and a change of scenery. Even in the heat, he managed to run 14.5 miles. He had completed 1,390.7 miles.
Friday, May 1, 1992: The heat continued (and Dean would just have to get used to it for most of the rest of the run). His run for the day took him through the small town of Iredell. After so many days and weeks of nothingness on his runs and between population centers, Dean was surprised by how many such towns simply popped up in Texas. The pain in his right leg was still there. In a word, he just blocked it out. This is no mean feat for an athlete. If the injury is in a non-essential area, it's fairly easily handled. If it involves an essential limb, joint, or surface, then the athlete can try to protect it in some manner, or adjust the athletic performance to minimize the impact. Football players get taped up and wear various pads; baseball players wear pads or other protection to cover an injury. If they can't do this, they probably won't push it. Dean, to the contrary, couldn't really pad it or protect it. And he wasn't going to stop to give it a break. No, instead he "ran through it"--for 14.5 miles and an updated total of 1,405.2 miles, completing 55% of his grand project.
Sunday, May 3, 1992: Dean's route took him through Meridian, a town of about 1,500, plus at least one very large German Shepherd. As he jogged along, he saw the big dog come into his view. "Uh oh," he thought. Instead, the dog loped along in front of him a bit, his tongue lolling in the heat. Every now and then, the dog would look back just to check up on Dean to make sure he was still there. Dean could tell that the dog was up to no good. Naylor came back and saw that the dog wouldn't let Dean move, so Naylor drove the car at the dog, but he left anyway. The dog eventually took off when a bird distracted it--Dean was too much of a project and the bird looked like a good snack anyway. Like everything else, Dean got used to it--although the dog was big enough to have caused some serious trouble. It turned out that, after a couple of miles, they separated, returning Dean to his basic solitude. For the day, Dean turned another 14.5 miles; the dog loped for 2. In sum, Dean had traveled 1,419.7 total miles.
Monday, May 4, 1992: Operating on highway 22, Dean faced the prospect of running across Lake Whitney and its dam. The road was treacherously narrow and he got a taste of what the rest of Texas would hold for him--trucks coming perilously close, partially by design in this case, but also because of the narrow confines over the lake. In spite of the dangers, Dean managed to add 14.6 miles to push his cross-country total to 1,434.3 miles.
Tuesday, May 5, 1992: With the lake behind him, Dean zipped through three small towns in quick succession--Whitney, Peoria, Hillsboro. At least this gave the impression of moving along briskly, a feeling he needed because the temperature reached 100° to go with 90% humidity--killing conditions, but Dean found himself thriving in it. He plugged along, dripping the whole way, for another 14.6 miles. His total reached 1,448.9 miles.
Wednesday, May 6, 1992: Thankfully, the weather cooled off to bearable levels. Crawford made another contact with his family when he heard his brother, Al, on radio station KGGR in Dallas, his other brother Jack's station. He had a good day again, with 14.7 miles added to reach 1,463.6 miles logged in so far.
Thursday, May 7, 1992: He kept up his good pace as he skirted the southern limits of the Dallas metropolitan area. He noticed a marked increase in the hostility and bad road manners of the drivers as he neared the Dallas area. It couldn't get much worse; he wondered, once again, if this was intentional or not. By this time, he knew the truck drivers meant it. How could so many people drive so aggressively and maliciously without having chaos be the result? Somehow, it worked--although not to the advantage of runners. Dean
kept up his pace, with another 14.7 miles. At the end of the day, he had covered 1,478.3 total miles.
Friday, May 8, 1992: His steady pace got him past Dallas to the north and directly through Corsicana. His next goal would be Palestine, Texas. Dean wondered to himself, asking, "Is this Texas?" He noted the change in the land, with more signs of life, more green, not so desolate. Dean put in another good day, 14.6 miles. His total milage reached 1,492.9 miles.
Sunday, May 10, 1992: Most of Texas was now behind him, but the heat and humidity weren't going anywhere, especially the latter this day. They moved campgrounds to Palestine. Along the way, he noticed his first roadside sign for Louisiana--only 180 miles away, a relieving, welcome sight in view of the fact that he had spent more than half of March and all of April in Texas, with two/thirds of May scheduled to be spent the same way. Perhaps inspired by the prospects, he managed to hang in there for 15.1 miles. This put him over the 1,500 mile mark--precisely 1,508 total miles.
Monday, May 11, 1992: Dean's run today was a contrast in irony--across the 44,000 acres of Richland Chambers Lake, but in the midst of stunning heat, near 100° as he ran along just over the tantalizing, cool surface of the lake. It was another narrow road, and the traffic cut things pretty close. He was sorely tempted to throw himself off the road into the water. (He would have his chances later--but not of his own free will). He persevered in the heat for 14.6 miles, jumping his total to 1,522.6 miles. Dean had just passed the 60% mark for his trip.
Tuesday, May 12, 1992: Maybe he was getting accustomed to the conditions in Texas, a slightly alarming thought. This day, the temperature was 90° and the humidity was an even 100%. He didn't need to be near a lake--it was all around him in the air, rubbing uncomfortably up against him. He was running in some gentle hills, variety he hadn't seen for quite a while. It helped him keep his mind off the heat. He put in a good day at the office--15.1 miles, for a total of 1,537.7 miles.
Wednesday, May 13, 1992: This turned out to be the hottest day so far, well over 100°, and Dean was learning that the ambient temperature was not his main problem on a hot day. Instead, it was becoming apparent that even greater heat would reflect off the pavement, baking his shoes and feet--the same phenomenon faced by athletes who must play their sport on artificial surfaces, where various kinds of turf can reach scorching temperatures often more than 20% hotter than the air's temperature. Dean had to wring out his t-shirt six times during the run. He hung in there for 14.6 miles, going past Palestine. He had now covered 1,552.3 total miles.
Thursday, May 14, 1992: Dean motored on through Elkhart, now on a pace equal to three and a half marathons a week. Among other bodily parts, his feet paid the price, abused so severely that they would stay black well into 1993. Dean was also becoming accustomed to basically moving like a cripple when he wasn't runnning. He kept up the pace, 14.6 miles, and achieved a total of 1,566.9 miles.
Friday, May 15, 1992: Two months earlier when he entered Texas, Dean had felt the misery of people living in despair, their hopes for a better life all but blasted. Here he was, on the opposite side of the same state, having just passed by the southern edge of the Dallas/Fort Worth metropolitan area, one of the most important financial centers of wealth in the country, and he was still seeing Third World conditions. Buildings were boarded up, people lived in shacks, thirty-year-old cars rusted in disuse, people walked along with hunched shoulders and downcast eyes. Despair was palpable. Was anybody paying any attention to this, he wondered. Where were the politicians, their speeches, their pork barrel projects? Where was the leadership? In these depressing conditions and with these haunting questions, Dean moved along another 14.6 miles. His new total reached 1,581.5 miles.
Sunday, May 17, 1992: Dean ran into rain and the Isuzu used to shuttle him around broke down, a double whammy. He took the Isuzu into Dallas and left it a week for repairs. In retrospect, even though the Isuzu took a beating and kept on ticking, it was almost impossible to find a repair shop quickly in the kinds of rural places where his route took him. He vowed that if there was a next time, the shuttle vehicle would be a Ford or Chevy. In Dallas, he rented a car and got back to the camp site. For the day, nearing Louisiana, he cranked out 14.5 miles and hit 1,596 miles for his total to date.
Monday, May 18, 1992: Maybe it was the conditions, hopeless as they seemed, that made the drivers in east Texas as malevolent as they were. Perhaps it was the sheer size of the state, so big that human dimensions were lost--but that did not account for the fact that drivers in west Texas were much more decent. Or, having been unwilling targets, always on the receiving end, in their pathetically unfruitful lives, perhaps when they saw a helpless runner on the side of the road, they just couldn't help themselves but saw this as an opportunity to take an anonymous swipe at all that afflicted them. Whatever the case, from Dallas eastward, the drivers in Texas were as bad as the worst truckers. Now Dean had to cringe and flinch, or be prepared to use evasive tactics, with virtually any and all vehicles that passed him, not just the heavy trucks. How could there be so many Bubbas and Joe Bobs all in one place? Even some of the women were killers. He would never understand it. He flinched his way through 14.4 miles. His new total came to 1,610 miles.
Tuesday, May 19, 1992: The heat was back on as Dean ran his way out of Texas. He managed to move on past Nacogodoches, operating in hilly terrain. Somehow, he never could figure these things out, they just happened, he worked up another huge blister. It could be his shoes (pair #7), or his socks, or a combination of the heat, the hills, and the shoes. Once again, he went on in spite of the pain. Limping along, Dean clocked 14.6 miles. Since leaving San Diego after New Year's Day, he had covered 1,625 miles.
Wednesday, May 20, 1992: For the better part of 120 days, Dean had been running in isolated conditions. Naylor's warped antics had long ago ruined any hope of going back to the motor home after a day's run and having something like a normal social existence with friends. There had been whole weeks when he had gone for hours with almost no sign of another human being in the vicinity. Nacogodoches, however, presented him with some 13,000 college students, at Stephen F. Austin State University. This, combined with the approaching state line, gave him a needed boost. He pushed forward 14.5 miles, moving his total to 1,639.5 miles.
Thursday, May 21, 1992: Dean's run took him past San Augustine in a beautiful landscape influenced by the outer fringe of the Gulf coast. He found a beautiful college sampus, some good cappucino there, and young, alive people. He had a good run and looked forward to seeing his daughter, Stephanie, who would bd to see her and be able to share his project with her. She had become a good tennis player so she was familiar with the demands of athletics. On their first day together, however, the sweltering heat just made him die. There would be no heroics in front of his daughter. She had great pride in her Dad, but she worried about the Texas drivers and his ability to withstand the heat while he doggedly ran his quota for the day. He dripped along for 14.6 miles, bringing his total to 1,668.6 miles.
Sunday, May 24, 1992: After 900 miles of running in Texas, Dean finally and thankfully put the Lone Star State behind him, crossing into Louisiana on highway 21 in the middle of a huge body of water, the Toledo Bend Reservoir. His driver was Stephanie, and she had the odd experience of seeing her dad go up to the first signpost announcing the new state, wrap his arms around it, hug it, then start humping it. She was just glad that there were no law officers in the area to see him having dry sex with a signpost. For the day, Dean showed off a little bit by running 16.2 miles--one of his best days--achieving a new total of 1,684.8 miles.
Tuesday, May 26, 1992: The whole group moved the base camp to Natchitoches (pronounced "Nawkitish" by the good people of the Cajun state, a place where lots of words take on different or peculiar pronunciations). Natchitoches is the oldest town in the old Louisiana Purchase, founded in 1714, is famous for a certain kind of meat pie, and is the home of Northwestern Louisiana State University, a fact that would take on great significance for Dean and his project before long. It did not take long for Louisiana to take on a character of its own for Dean--bugs, bugs everywhere, making his first night there sheer hell. He could not get to sleep. He would eventually become the host campsite for an entire community of chiggers, mean little critters that make you itch until you're raw. Dean did have a good run, however, reaching 15.2 miles to hit the 1,700 mile mark right on the button.
Wednesday, May 27, 1992: The humidity became a factor again, and would remain a factor for much of what lay ahead of Dean. He also noticed that the Louisiana landscape had a very different flavor to it, with much of it having a very low water table, barely above sea level (the highest point in the state, Driskill Mountain, soars some 535 feet--an amazing contrast to Dean's runs at 6,000 feet and higher) and bayous wandering in and out of the scenery in their lazy way. Bugs and all, Dean scooted along for 14.8 miles, bringing his trek's total to 1,714.8 miles.
Thursday, May 28, 1992: For only the third time, Dean's run ended right at the campground near Natchitoches. Two conditions remained the same--humidity and chiggers. As with virtually everything else, Dean put up with it. If it wasn't central to the matter at hand--Jacksonville--then he worked around it to keep the project moving right along. The chiggers, however, would prove to be worthy adversaries, one of the chief torments and memories for Crawford of his time on the road. He chugged along for 14.5 miles, topping out at 1,729.3 miles.
Friday, May 29, 1992: There were at least two constants at this point--chiggers and the constant aggravation of Naylor's baleful presence. The one would need lots of special attention, hygenic conditions, regular bathing, washed clothes, antiseptic ointment liberally applied, and, eventually, total removal from the source of the irritation. Of course, most of this was impossible in the conditions of the run. Dean would just have to put up with the damned things even though they attacked his armpits and groin, as well as his shins and ankles--any choice skin they could find. As for the other, total removal would do it. Basically, Dean had faced sheer terror due to Naylor for nearly five months. Something had to give. Naylor was scheduled to return to California to be part of a trial involving an injury caused by an automobile accident. Dean saw his chance. While he pondered the matter, he ran through the village of Clarence, then picked up highway 84--the last road he would be on for the rest of the journey to Jacksonville. He pondered his way for 14.5 miles, topping out at 1,743.8 total miles.
Saturday, May 30, 1992: The Naylors would take off for California in two days. Great. What next? Stephanie had gone on to Europe. What was he going to do to find a new driver? Here he was, in the middle of the country, hundreds of miles from friends or family, and the whole project was threatened. He had to do something. Dean kept up a good pace and hit 14.5 miles, reaching a new total of 1,758.3 miles.
Sunday, May 31, 1992: Forging his way through Louisiana, Dean noticed that the state's landscaping left much to be desired. There was no planning for the future; the landscape looked like Hiroshima, flattened, totally bombed out. People buy land, log it, leave it. In the midst of the desolation, Dean now had his plan to find a replacement--and would put it into action the next day. He ran past Winnfield, reaching a daily figure of 14.7 miles. For his trip across country, Dean had gone 1,773 miles--70% of his task was behind him.
Dean's project of running from San Diego to Jacksonville was seemingly doomed if Naylor stayed on to present a constant threat to Dean's sanity and physical safety, but the trip couldn't go forward without a driver. Unfortunately, Dean was located in northwest Louisiana, hundreds of miles from anyone he knew, amid total strangers, in alien territory. He had to do something and he had to do it fast. He didn't have time to advertise in a local paper and he needed someone with more commitment than a temporary worker would be likely to provide. The people in the campground were all nomads like himself; they didn't know of anyone who would be able to do this.
He had to find someone  who could drive  who had enough free time to drive  who was not demented  who was reliable. Where was he likely to find someone with these qualities?
On Monday, June 2, 1992, Dean drove into Natchitoches, to the campus of Northwest Louisiana State. There he roamed around until he located the student union building. Students were everywhere--classes were over, final exams were finished, and the students were footloose and fancy free. Most were making last-minute preparations to return to their homes for the summer. Dean had to do something quick or he would lose the opportunity. So he stood in the middle of the building's lobby and shouted, "Anyone want to drive to Jacksonville?" Most of the milling students ignored him, some of the kids stared at him as if he had just landed from outer space, others ignored him--intent on getting home for the summer. But one particularly pert, petite Southern belle--blonde, cute, bubbly, and clueless--came right up to him and drawled, "Ah'll go to Jacksonville."
Dean took one look and immediately knew this would be a problem. "I'm sorry--there's just no way," he told her gently.
"But my Daddy'll let me go to Jacksonville," she lamented, pouting, sweet. Tempting. It struck Dean that this would be a real excuse, and he averted the temptation.
After a while, he had settled a deal with a young man, Walter Jones, a friendly, responsible young man who agreed to drive for Dean for $50 a day. He just had to continue the routine--starting out daily, bringing orange juice at the mile stops, picking Dean up on time, returning to the campsite. Walter would be staying in hotels, paying for his room and meals out of the per diem payment. He would prove to be a major source of amusement for Dean--what with his outrageous accent, his charming ways with females, and his sheer honesty. Once they were having a beer in a bar, watching a confrontation between two other customers, when Walter confessed, "Ya know, Dane, I've had an awful lots of fights in my life." Dean found this to be not fully believable--especially in view of Walter's basically peaceful approach to life and the fact that he hardly seemed physically challenging to anyone. But Walter persisted: "That's right, Dane . . . and I lost every one of 'em." Walter's honesty cracked up Dean. He couldn't even finish his beer and his face started hurting because he had laughed so hard.
Unlike Naylor, Walter proved to have genuine empathy for Dean and his project. Once Dean was feeling what he thought was a heart attack--but there are no excuses, including death. He complained of the chest pains that gripped his upper body and Walter tried to talk him out of the run. But Dean persisted--and Walter, not able to bear the sight, turned his eyes away--something Naylor did not have the humanity to do.
Let it be stated: Dean is ever thankul to young Walter Jones for saving the trip.
Tuesday, June 2, 1992: Dean began a new month, his sixth, with his new driver, Walter Jones, the student he had "recruited" at Northwestern Louisiana State University. Dean also experienced a name change. Prior to Walter, his name rhymed with "'seen." Walter's southern accent changed it to sound like "Dane," rhyming with "rain." This was a small price to pay for being rid of Naylor, for gaining true peace of mind, and for finding a competent driver. Dean would need all the quiet help he could get, for running through the deep south would be a total challenge to everything Dean could bring to the effort. Dean plugged along for 14.6 miles, bringing his total to 1,787.6 miles.
Wednesday, June 3, 1992: His run took him through Jena. He was still amazed and disturbed by the cavalier manner in which locals, or perhaps absentee major logging corporations, slashed down forests of trees and just walked away, leaving pitiful stumps, scraggly brush overgrowth, top soil depletion, and desolation for whatever animals had been living there. Sometimes he felt as if he saw more trees passing him on log trucks than he was passing as he ran. For the day, he added another 14.8 miles, topping out at 1,802. 4 miles.
Thursday, June 4, 1992: Compared to much of his run prior to Louisiana, Dean was operating in absolutely lush surroundings. Huge live oaks, with Spanish moss dripping from the branches, cropped up here and there, often near many of the wide variety of farms--sugar cane, rice, cotton, livestock. That the state had so many beautiful areas in it, but let parts of it lay waste, was an irony almost too sad to contemplate. Dean worked along at a good clip, even though it was really hot, and added another 14.5 miles to reach a new total of 1,816.9 miles.
Friday, June 5, 1992: Louisiana--the Sportsman's Paradise. Hunting, fishing, water sports, you name it. It was too good to pass up--water, water everywhere. There had to be some fish out there somewhere. So, after Dean's run for the day, another 14.5 miles, Dean went fishing. He rented a bamboo pole at a 7-11 store and hoped for the best. Indeed, the fish were out there--but the ones stupid enough to be caught were somewhere else. Dean had plenty of bites, but no fish. Maybe Cajun fish know when an outlander is tempting them. As a fisherman, Dean was a great runner. This day, the Cajun state had plenty of well-fed fish. For his run to date, Dean had crossed 1,831.4 total miles.
Saturday, June 6, 1992: This would be Dean's last day in Louisiana. As he motored along, with luxuriant farms on either side of the road, Dean watched a cropduster in his work, swooping low over the ground, then roaring upwards and turning sharply and competently to start the run again. He made several passes, gradually coming closer to Dean's position. They were obviously watching each other. Almost imperceptibly, the cropduster drifted ever closer to Dean. Finally, making one more pass, something went wrong--a sudden puff of wind, some technical malfunction, a mote in the pilot's eye--and the cropduster unloaded its insecticide right on Dean's head from an altitude of about 45 feet. Just before Dean was blinded by the drifting spray, he saw the mortified pilot dip his wings and hold his head in amazement and sincere apology. Gagging and choking, Dean ran another nine miles before he could see and breathe normally again. He coughed and blinked along for 14.6 miles, his total coming to 1,846 miles.
Sunday, June 7, 1992: There it was--another state line signpost, a new state, Mississippi. Dean went over to the sign and did his thing with it. One wonders what passing motorists must have been thinking of this strange apparition humping away at the sign. He had crossed another major landmark, the Mississippi River, and passed through Natchez. The heat factor, the opposite of the wind chill factor up north, came to 103°. It was so hot that Dean and Walter decided he should run in the late afternoon, after 2 pm. He logged in 14.3 miles, hitting a new total of 1,860.3 miles.
Tuesday, June 9, 1992: The Mississippi sun was glaring down brutally, as it would for much of the rest of the run. Dean slogged along in 92° heat, accompanied by the usual high humidity. Such conditions could just sap the body's ability to operate efficiently. Dean pushed along for 14.5 stuffy miles, bringing his total run so far to 1,874.8 miles.
Wednesday, June 10. 1992: Walter, the new driver, had family business to do--he seemed to have relatives everywhere--so the run this day was done late in the afternoon. There really wasn't much of a way to avoid the heat, short of running at 2 a.m., so Dean just did what he could. With the late start, Dean managed only 11.3 miles. He had company, much like the German shepherd that ran 2 miles with him back in early May in Texas. This time, the company hung around for a good 4 miles, double the effort of the dog. It wasn't particularly social company either, since it was a great big horsefly, really more of a nuisance than anything else, buzzing along with Dean in apparent total bliss. So, at this point in the run, other life forms had "run" along with him for 6 miles, and Dean had accumulated 1,875.1 total miles.
Thursday, June 11, 1992: No horsefly today--though the chiggers he had picked up in Louisiana were still along for the ride, bugging him incessantly. As he kept up his pace this day, he watched yet another big thunderstorm developing, its towering thunderheads piling up high in the humid sky. The sky darkened, turning almost pea green in places, then spilled its guts on Dean in a torrent. He kept on running, his shoes splashing through the rivulets cascading off highway 84. Dean's only significant worry in thse conditions was not lightning, but the fact that the highway was very narrow. He was, of course, almost blasé about the trucks cutting close to him, but he was concerned that the deluge would make the road too slick for good control, causing some vehicle to fishtail into him. Drenched, but a wee bit cooler than he would have been otherwise, Dean sloshed along for 15.1 miles, hitting a new total of 1,890.2 miles.
Friday, June 12, 1992: Pockets of poverty had followed Dean across the country. What he was seeing now was different, not just the result of a failed economy as he had seen in Texas. This seemed to be the product of sheer neglect, intentional, malicious. Structures seem to have survived, barely, from before the Civil War. He saw few signs of modern living conditons. The people seemed defeated, vanquished by forces they did not understand or even perceive. It looked like they could do no worse if they just bulldozed what they called homes and started all over. Or put up some Army tents. In such depressing conditions, Dean managed 14.9 miles, hitting 1,905.1 miles for his new total. His perseverence meant he had completed 75% of his run across the country.
Saturday, June 13, 1992: Whatever government oversight that allowed or encouraged the miserable housing conditions Dean had been seeing, seemed also to decided to skimp on highway 84. The road seemed barely sufficient to sustain one generous lane for traffic rather than have to cram two lanes of traffic speeding past the frail figure running along the nonexistent shoulder of the road. The Bubbas were still trying to kill Dean, too, and the narrow road made their work that much easier. Even the good drivers were cutting it too close for comfort. His run took him past his campsite at Brookhaven. For the day, he cranked out 14.5 miles. His new total topped out at 1,919.6 miles.
Monday, June 15, 1992: Other than the heat, it was pleasant enough running through the Pine Hills of Mississippi, an area that pretty much covered the southern and eastern portions of the state. Walter's cousin, Tony, made a visit from his home in Hattiesburg. "Dane" enjoyed the company, even more because Walter was a gem to have--reliable, with normal social skills, the direct antithesis of Naylor. Buoyed by the human interaction, Dean pushed along for 14.6 miles. Altogether, he had run 1,934.2 miles.
Tuesday, June 16, 1992: The humidity was so high that Dean felt like he should have been swimming through Monticello instead of running. At one point in the day's run, Dean actually used his hands to scoop a space from before his face so he could breathe. In spite of the lousy conditions, Dean was able to dog paddle 14.5 miles, topping out at 1,948.7 total miles.
Wednesday, June 17, 1992: Dean had seen enough of Mississippi's heat and humidity. He had to do something to avoid the enervating heat, so he made plans with Walter for an early assault on the day. They got up around 6 a.m., then shuttled for an hour to the starting point, all in order for Dean to begin his run at 7:45 a.m. Even with this precaution, he could feel the promise of the stultifying temperature that would develop later in the day. The air was not really cool, but just lay there, heavy, seeming to soak up the sun. Dean moved his project forward 14.5 miles, achieving a new total of 1,963.2 miles.
Thursday, June 18, 1992: His run took him through Collins and then through one of those places that make you wonder about the collective sanity or wisdom of the town's founders--Hot Coffee, Mississippi. What had those people been deprived of when they settled here? Why name anything in this part of the country "hot" anything? Isn't it redundant? Actually, the place had been named by traders who assembled there on a regular basis in another century. Well, it was too much for Dean to pass up so he stopped and bought a souvenir, one that some bright citizen of Hot Coffee had to put in a lot of work on--a mug, with the town's name proudly, loudly displayed. Thus fortified, Dean put in 14.5 miles for the day. His new total came to 1,977.7 miles.
Friday, June 19, 1992: The humidity and heat continued unabated. It was an open question in Dean's mind as to whether it was tougher to run in the frigid air at 6,000 feet, or in the desolation of the desert, or in this. All of them, in different and insidious ways, sapped his energy, his psyche, and assaulted his will--although the latter never broke. One matter that did find in all this a serious challenge--Dean's creative, artistic talents. After more than five months on the road, he knew well the physical challenge, the pain, the blackened feet. But the heat and humidity seemed to go to the core of his being, draining his reserves of energy that typically go into his art. Artists, often a temperamental lot, need to walk the fine line between having some stimulus, some goad, to further their art--but not having so much adverse stimuli in their surrounding conditions that the artistic effort is squelched. It's a safe bet that other artists in the country at the time that Dean was running across the country were not doggedly running their fifteen miles and going home to their easels, keyboards, typewriters, or potter's wheels to create great works of art. Well, he was trying to do that back at his motor home, but with each major change in the challenges he faced, he found himself having to wrestle with new means of coming to grips with those challenges--and each effort chipped away at his creative wellsprings. The run was having its inexorable effect on him. For the day, he ran 14.9 miles, bringing his total to 1,992.8 miles.
Saturday, June 20, 1992: About halfway through the day's run Dean hit the 2,000-mile mark. He just kept running, although he took one moment when he stopped and danced a little jig. One thousand miles earlier, he had been in central Texas. A thousand miles before that, he had been at the Pacific Ocean. In a way, the end was in sight; if he could conceive of having done 2,000 miles, what's another 500 or so? But he couldn't allow himself to linger on that prospect. It would happen when it happened. He had to keep the focus on the daily task at hand--the micro-problems of insects, mad truckers, heat, humidity, pain, constantly bleeding feet. He kept up his usual pace, capping it at 14.5 miles. His run's total had reached an impressive 2,007.3 miles.
Tuesday, June 23, 1992: Throughout the run, Dean didn't allow himself much outright frivolity; he had to keep his edge. So, what does a guy who's running across a continent do for a break? Well, whatever other people do, Dean couldn't pass up the opportunity to drive to New Orleans, staying there for two days, taking in the sights of the 1992 Olympic track trials. It's a very safe bet that almost none of the world class athletes at the trials knew they were competing in the presence of a spectator with a 2,000-mile run behind him. When he returned to his own trial on the Mississippi highway, Dean added another 15.1 miles, hitting a total of 2,022.4 miles. He had completed 80% of his transcontinental journey.
Wednesday, June 24, 1992: On his way out of Mississippi, Dean passed the Waynesboro Country Club, its lush lawns and sharply manicured hedges a pleasant sight for sore eyes. And here Dean had another of his encounters--this time, a simple golf ball. Zen and the art of finding golf balls. Man running. Golfer, at some point in time, golfing. Ball wanders out of view. Maybe it means nothing, but there it is, another confluence--out of all the spots of times in time, and of all the places and/or possible physical points in the universe, this particular golf ball rests in a specific spot on this very highway when this particular runner comes upon it. He picks it up, a memento of the moment, and takes it with him. How does this fit in the grand scheme? Perhaps nowhere. Ponder as you will. Dean chugged out of Mississippi and on in to Alabama this day, reaping 16.1 miles for his day's effort. His total figure stood at 2,038.5 miles.
Thursday, June 25, 1992: Maybe there's some right way to make this run and not face manifold assaults from ridiculous climate conditions. It crossed Dean's mind that these people living in western Alabama had it tough enough without having to face triple-digit temperatures and loathsome humidity. But he had to run in it while most of them lounged around, wiser perhaps. He ran, dripping, past Isney and Bolinger. He felt totally drained, but put in 14.5 miles, bringing his total to 2,053 miles.
Friday, June 26, 1992: Somehow, this man almost always managed to find some new source of strength, or determination, or true grit, to make himself crawl down that motor home's hallway, limp down the steps, and into the shuttle car to start his run. Today was one of those days--out of yesterday's blast furnace into today's tropical inferno, Dean managed it. He made it past Coffeyville (yet another coffee place?) and later feasted on a big dinner of pasta. On the rebound, he plugged along for 14.6 more miles, making his total come to 2,067.6 miles.
Saturday, June 27, 1992: Even as the end seemed closer, Dean needed some sort of R&R. His run took him past Grove Hill, Alabama. The pasta dinner seemed to give him a boost that helped manage the demands of the ever-present heat. As for R&R, water called to him, the siren call of his life. After his day's run of 14.5 miles, he took off, drove to Mobile and then went to Gulf Shores. Just kicking back and doing nothing was a treat; letting the warm waters of the gulf bathe his abused feet gave him a more positive outlook. His total milage reached 2,082.1.
Monday, June 29, 1992: Perhaps the trip to the beach provided too much contrast with the daily drain of the run, but the accumulated stress and strain, attrition really, had diminished Dean's physical and psychological resources to their bare minimum. It proved to be a struggle to keep up the pace. His body complained and rebelled; his spirits sagged. He had no grandiose vision of a triumphant conclusion to the project--he just gritted his teeth and vowed to finish. On the edge of collapse, Dean persisted for 14.7 miles, hitting 2,096.8 miles for his new total.
Tuesday, June 30, 1992: Water, water everywhere--and no place to escape. Dean had been surfing through the humidity in any case, fighting for breath, but today the skies just went ahead and poured on him, even as he crossed a bridge going over the Alabama river. It was total water--water above him, around him, under him. He couldn't tell if the rain made him feel cooler or not. Maybe he was beyond such distinctions. He put in a good day, however, going 16.6 miles and reaching a new height of 2,113.4 total miles.
Wednesday, July 1, 1992: A new month, headed towards a new state in a few days, but the humidity lingered, a constant presence and drain. And his dinner the night before had been terrible--no carbohydrates whatsoever. One thing he knew--he was goddamned tired of greasy food. Because of the bad food, he had to pay for it today. He felt totally run down or run over, one of the little creatures knocked to the side by the Energizer rabbit. As usual, he clocked 14.5 miles, then crawled in misery into the motor home. His new total reached 2,127.9 miles.
Friday, July 3, 1992: On his day off, Dean went back to the beach, back to his beloved water. It was great to lounge around on the sand and just enjoy the beach's warmth without having to conquer it. Back to his task, Dean had the odd sensation of running past his own campground on highway 84, situated near Interstate 65 and Evergreen, Alabama. The heat, nearly unbearable, continued. Dean could see the heat radiating in waves from the pavement, and feel it baking through his shoes. He galloped along for 14.7 miles, bringing his aggregate to 2,142.6 miles.
Saturday, July 4, 1992: Dean celebrated the Fourth with a good run of 15 miles, hoping that the expected fireworks wouldn't add to the heat. He had a good day, in spite of the drain of the heat on his body, and reached a new total of 2,157.6 miles. He had now completed 85% of his trek.
Monday, July 6, 1992: This day's run took Dean to one of the highest spots he'd seen in many weeks--as high as 600 feet. Combined with the heat, it was a hard day at the office. The heat factor hit an incredible 109°. Most athletes working hard in such unbelievable heat would dehydrate, but Dean's plans were well-designed to keep him hydrated. And his diet actually worked to increase his weight from 170 pounds to 190 pounds during the course of the run. He persisted for 15 miles, an absolutely amazing performance in this kind of heat. His new total reached 2,172.6 miles.
Tuesday, July 7, 1992: His route took him past Opp and moved his campsite to Dothan. The heat was as brutal as it had been the day before. The heat weltered away; Dean felt tremendously fatigued but managed 15 miles again for the day, hitting 2,187.6 total miles.
Wednesday, July 8, 1992: Discipline had been the order of the day throughout Dean's run--no distractions, no temptations, concentrate to defeat weakness and injuries. But the heat could be a killer. So Dean added an extra water stop to give himself the little boost that some cold water could provide. God is in the little details. He maintained his pace of 15 miles for the day, his total topping out at 2,202.6 miles.
Friday, July 10, 1992: Surprise!--there was a heat alert in Dothan. So, even Alabamians were becoming alarmed by the tremendous heat wave that had settled in. This is the kind of heat that kills elderly people in droves in places like Chicago, but here was Dean bullheadedly plowing through the thick of it, gasp by gasp. Dean panted along for another defiant 15 miles. His total came to 2,217.6 miles.
Saturday, July 11, 1992: What the hell--same old same, incredible heat and brutal humidity--so Dean ran even further than the day before, hitting 15.2 miles for the day, reaching 2,232.8 total miles for his cross-country run. You have to be impressed by his sheer capacity to fly in the face of reason and enlightened self-interest. He was really putting his life on the line on days like this. It's safe to say that there weren't too many athletes running 15 miles per day during heat alert conditions in central Alabama in the middle of July.
Monday, July 13, 1992: Dean ran past Dothan, Alabama, on his way out of Alabama. A few miles into the run, he had the chilling experience of being forced off the road by two cars. This took place on two separate incidents, both with kids, smoking pot. Dean could hear them coming. Bubbas who found it funny in the extreme, their faces contorted in wide open laughter as their cars hurtled past a skittering Dean. This was a group activity--not quite like the murderous encounters with solitary truckers. No, instead this required conspiratorial agreement among a group of people. How could folks conspire to be sociopathic, violent, uncaring, and hostile against an innocent, harmless, unprotected runner? It escaped rational analysis. In characteristic fashion, after taking crap like this all the way across the face of America, Dean showed his contempt for them by running a little bit extra for the day--15.3 miles. His total now stood at 2,248.1 miles.
Tuesday, July 14, 1992: On his previous day off, on Sunday, Dean had driven to Panama City, Florida, where he saw a sign on a church that declared: "Florida is hot--Hell is hotter." Well, he wasn't so sure about that. Alabama had been hot enough on its own. After Alabama, he didn't feel a need to know more about hellish heat. They broke the mold with the incinerator conditions he had been enduring since his first encounter with it in Texas. He kept up a good pace, adding another 15 miles to reach 2,263.1 miles for the trip.
Wednesday, July 15, 1992: Dean crossed yet another state line, in the process humping his sixth state border sign, and enjoyed a benefit he had not seen for many days--heavy clouds. The temperature obligingly dropped ten degrees. With this unexpected break, Dean felt welcomed to Georgia. With this little emotional and physical boost, Dean ran merrily along for 15.7 miles and reached 2,278.8 total miles--thereby completing 90% of his journey.
Friday, July 17, 1992: Dean reached yet another milestone this day when he crossed into the eastern time zone, another indication of the magnitude of his achievement. His route took him past Donaldsville, Georgia. As he moved along, he became aware of pain in his right knee. It had been quite a while since he'd had an outright injury, although the daily aches and pains never quit. Another difficulty for him was how hard it had been seeing the ocean on one of his mini-vacations, renting a room so he could hear the waves--but the break always made it hard to get back to being an animal. Nevertheless, he was maintaining an excellent pace now, even with the knee, racking up another 15.3 miles. His new total reached 2,294.1 miles.
Saturday, July 18, 1992: Today Dean came across one of those places, even better than Hot Coffee, that make you wonder what was going on in the minds of the founders--Climax, Georgia. He stopped and bought seven t-shirts, three for Walter--who, it turned out, had plenty of practice in climaxing. Dean had developed an amazing ability to shut out the larger world for its ability to threaten his project. But Climax presented too many avenues for distractions, so he ran along reviewing some of the most beautiful moments in a human's life. The run was so pleasant that he clocked 16 miles, topping out his aggregate at 2,310.1 miles.
Monday, July 20, 1992: Dean's route took him past Cairo, Georgia, the hometown of one of America's greatest athletes, Theresa Edwards, one of the 1992 Olympic basketball team stars. There was a sign announcing this fact--small town pride showing its love for the favorite daughter. For the state of Georgia to take some pride in the accomplishment of a black female athlete is surely a sign of positively changing times--especially in light of the ironic, stark contrast Dean had seen in the poverty and racism in other parts of the South. So, for the second time during his trip, Dean, the driven amateur in the midst of an incredible personal venture, was in touch with the life of one of those with world-class athletic skills. Perhaps inspired by her example, Dean had one of his best days--17 miles, for a new total of 2,327.1 miles.
Tuesday, July 21, 1992: Dean was in the middle of an impressive string of what would become 24 consecutive days with 15 or more miles run each day out. Surely he could feel the call of the Atlantic ocean, of Jacksonville, of the end of his incredible feat. His run took him past his campground in Thomasville, only the fourth time in seven months that he ran by his own home base. For the day, he plugged away for 15.5 miles. His new total came to 2,342.6 miles.
Wednesday, July 22, 1992: For the second time during his ordeal, his daughter Stephanie flew in for a visit. She could see that he was beat all to heck, but that the competitive fires to complete the project burned brightly within him. She could also see that it was no accident that he was sustaining such a good pace now that he had the companionship of Walter rather than the constant drain named Naylor. Dean had the joy of his daughter's being there and the constant knowledge of being near the end of his journey. With all this, he clipped along for 15 miles. His total came to 2,357.6 miles.
Friday, July 24, 1992: In spite of his personal joys, there were still the constant negatives. If anything haunted Dean at the personal level, especially during and after Louisiana, it would have to be insects--the constant presence of gnats when he was running, sometimes clouds of them, always getting in his face, his eyes, his nostrils, never letting him settle into a normal routine for breathing . . . and then the chiggers, almost invisible, but always gnawing away at him, making him itch and scratch. Runners have plenty of time to think out on the open road, and it crossed Dean's mind that God must have been having a bad hair day, or a rough day at the office, when it came time to create these damnable creatures. But in spite of God's little critters, Dean pushed along for 15.5 miles, hitting 2,373.1 total miles.
Saturday, July 25, 1992: Dean had momentum going for him, tremendous intensity aimed at finishing the project, but he hadn't planned to make a wrong turn this late in the run. Plans aside, he did make a wrong turn that cost him 3 miles; construction messed up the route. Berating himself for the dumb mistake, he knocked off another 15 miles, topping out at 2,388.1 total miles.
Monday, July 27, 1992: Dean knew he'd have to make up for the wrong turn on this day, so he prepared himself for the extra duty. The run was like something out of his many days spent in Texas--long, straight sections of road, scorched pavement that seared his shoes and feet, and clouds of bugs. He added the extra mile, did 16 for the day, and hit 2,404.1 miles for his new total. Going over 2,400 miles meant that Dean had completed more than 95% of his run across the continent of North America.
Tuesday, July 28, 1992: Stephanie needed a ride to the airport for the start of her trip to Holland for the year. Dean, the proud Dad, changed his schedule so he could drive her to a local airport. Instead of an early run, he would do it late in the afternoon, torn a bit between his fond hopes for Stephanie to have a great year abroad but regretful that she wouldn't be able to enjoy his completion of the run. Even with the change in routine, Dean forged ahead another 15 miles. His new total hit 2,419.1 miles.
Wednesday, July 29, 1992: Dean's route took him past Fargo and he had the penultimate pleasure of moving his campsite from Thomasville, Georgia, to Jacksonville. His sense of anticipation was palpable. He got a good view of the city and a glimpse of the ocean he wanted to bathe in. Now, he just wished for good luck and health, that the gods wouldn't be cruel and play some cosmic joke to keep him from attaining his goal. Almost holding his breath in the hope that everything would just go smoothly, Dean zipped along for 15.1 miles, bringing his total to 2,434.2 miles.
Friday, July 31, 1992: Humans propose, gods dispose. On the last day of his seventh month running across the country, and in spite of his personal wishes, the air conditioner in his motor home broke down. To add to the poignancy of the moment, the temperature was 94°. Throughout his sojourn, there had been numerous little cruelties, ironies, and humiliations, and this just added to the list. Dean ignored it--there are no excuses with less than 100 miles to go--so he put in a good day with 15.7 miles. His total came to 2,449.9 miles.
Saturday, August 2, 1992: This would be the last Saturday Dean would spend on his run. He seemed to sense the special nature of his final days out on the roads of America. His senses seemed to reach out for full comprehension of his surroundings--but the dominant sensation was of silence. It was as if the world were holding its collective breath, waiting for Dean to make the final conquest of the land he had crossed. To augment the silence, he saw the usual collection of birds and the triple nemeses of horseflies, gnats, and snakes. He kept up his finishing line pace, managing 16.1 miles for the day, reaching 2,466 total miles.
Monday, August 3, 1992: With the end in sight, Dean now knew that the addition of Walter meant that his ambitious project would not fail. He now knew how difficult--perhaps even impossible--it would have been to complete the run under the disturbing, depressing influence of Naylor. Walter was reliable, humane, humorous, compassionate, and benevolent--the complete antithesis of Naylor. It was likely that the intense pace Dean maintained during the final third of his run had its major support from Walter's simple kindness. Full to the brim with gratitude, Dean ran 15.1 miles. He had completed 2,481.1 miles.
Tuesday, August 4, 1992: Life's little cruelties continued to plague Dean--only three days from the end of the run. For starters, somehow he came up with the a small case of flu. His right knee hurt him. Finally, the temperature hovered in the 94° range for the whole run. Of course, there were the ubiquitous gnats and chiggers. Just another day at the office for Dean--so he ran 16.1 miles, defiant of his fate. His total now stood at 2,497.2 miles.
Thursday, August 6, 1992: Amazingly, in light of being this close to the end, Dean managed to take a day off, showing his characteristic discipline. When he did hit the road, the highway 90 bridge over the St. Johns River turned out to be one of the most dangerous segments of road he had been on--very narrow, with no escape route, and traffic cutting it awfully close. There was also a last reminder of the poverty this nation allows as he passed through a wretched slum area. With only one more day to go, Dean plugged along for 15.2 miles. With this day's run, he went over the 2,500-mile mark, hitting 2,512.4 total miles. In spite of the slum conditions, he could detect the smell of the Atlantic ocean. In case anyone asked, a few words described Dean on his mission--sheer stubborness to survive.
Friday, August 7, 1992: One more small bridge from the ocean, now only two miles away, and Dean had only to cover those last two miles as an incredible mix of feelings welled up within him. Suffice it to say that he was at total peace when his shoes hit the sand of the beach and he felt the warmth of the Atlantic Ocean on his legs.
He had done it!
Chapter 10: Jacksonville
Dean Crawford loves the ocean and needs to be near it for his own fulfillment. He has homes in Ft. Lauderdale and Laguna Beach, and twice managed to break out some time during the run to get to the beach at Gulfport, Mississippi, important time for release from the demands of the run. He finds tremendous sources of inspiration in the ocean. It is no accident that he started at the Pacific and took as his objective reaching the ocean on the opposite side of the North American continent.
So, much was going through this man on August 7, 1992, as he ran across the bridge over the St. Johns River in Jacksonville, a mere two miles from the Atlantic Ocean. If anyone driving the bridge had paid attention, they would have seen a man in jogging gear, almost wobbling and staggering as he ran, incongruously singing the national anthem and weeping, even though there was not much clearance to separate him from the bridge's traffic.
So much was going through Crawford's mind and heart as his achievement reached fruition. Singing the national anthem, for him, signified his intense feeling that this was his Olympic moment, his personal moment in the sun. Four and a half million marathon run steps were behind him. A continent was behind him--its broad rivers, stifling deserts, and inspiring mountains. The Pacific Ocean was behind him. He had defeated a continent.
The bridge towered over the river glistening below. The running lane was narrow, perhaps the most dangerous section of road he'd been on. This final run would be 11.4 miles, with each step toward the final destination an excruciating mixture of joy and anguish.
Finally, across the bridge, the pavement levelled out and led to the ocean. Crawford had invited one friend, Jack Mortenson of Lexington, Kentucky,, to help him celebrate the end of the run. Walter was there, as were a few others, and some stragglers, perhaps tourists, watching as a tired, sweaty runner staggered off the highway to the narrow beach. They saw him run directly into the ocean's shallows where he knelt in the waves, poured water from his cupped hands over his head, anointing himself in a healing fashion, and kissed the ocean. He opened a small quart jug and poured water from the Pacific Ocean into the Atlantic, ceremonially uniting the two ends of the run. The jar's metal seal had rusted; it was difficult to open. The man, Dean Crawford, was crying--weeping such tears of ectsasy that it reminded observers of the feelings people exhibited when lovers were reunited after long absences, or at weddings and other of the major celebrations of life. It was a born-again feeling, 20 seconds of Warhol's 15 minues of fame, beyond a Maslow peak-experience, not-repeatable, a conversion experience.
One man, Dean Crawford, had run every step of the continent, for 2,524 miles, ocean to ocean. For him, the country was "united" in a very private way. He had resisted the beating a continent can administer, survived the animosity and stupidity of Robert Naylor, dodged the attempted murders of truckers and whacko drivers in east Texas, overcome the attacks of countless insects, braved subzero temperatures, toughed out scores of injuries, sweltered through triple-digits, and conquered the naysayers and private demons of doubt.
For this man, there had been, indeed, no excuses.