Happy Trails to You
Last Monday I took my first run in my new neighborhood. After running through Dry Creek Valley for the last four years, I was ready for a change of scenery. But it was not without regret. My old loop overlaps the courses of the Healdsburg half marathon, Wine Country half marathon, and Water to Wine half marathon. I’ve seen more than one racer literally stop mid-stride to snap photographs, awe-struck by the red and golden foliage flecking the fall grapevines. It’s spectacular country. It’s also reassuring to know the exact placement of every port-a-potty.
I strapped on my head lamp and laced up with anticipation. It turns out that in the dark, Chalk Hill Road is like pretty much every other country road, except worse. There’s no sidewalk, and it narrows into a funnel barely wide enough to accommodate two-way traffic. It had rained solidly the night before, and I kept side sloshing insidious puddles engulfing the full width of the road. My uber-absorbent, silver weave tech socks were water logged. Somewhere along mile 2, I thought heard the rush of water. “A stream,” I imagined, “how lovely.” I later realized it was just overflow rain water from crappy drainage. Potholes puckered the street at such regular intervals that I risked twisting an ankle every third step. And the entire street canted on just enough of an incline to reinflame an old hip injury. By the time I hit the 30 minute mark, I’d had enough. I was sucking air, and my legs felt like lead. I was logging junk miles at a paltry 9:46 pace. I turned for home.
Grey light swept across the hillsides, and the fog glowed. Through the haze of sunrise, I saw fuzzy, green moss clinging to the branches of 100 year old trees.* Dangling boughs arched into the road, just like that Robert Frost poem you read in 10th grade literature. Carefully trellised vines crisscrossed the slopes to the east. I heard the Weepies crooning in my ear.
“All this beauty
You might have to close your eyes
And slowly open wide”
“Well shit,” I thought. Then I’d really fall and break my ankle. In the early morning light, I could just make out the terrain. On the way out, I’d actually climbed a pretty steep hill. My final 1.5 miles would be a downhill slalom. I topped the crest and opened up my stride. Well placed house numbers alerted me when I had exactly one mile to go. I dug into fifth gear. I spied our “Torrey Hill” vineyard sign in the distance, as Fiona Apple wailed,
“If there was a better way to go then it would find me
I can’t help it, the road just rolls out behind me
Be kind to me, or treat me mean
I’ll make the most of it, I’m an extraordinary machine.”
And I sprinted home.
This year may you too explore new roads and conquer your hills.
Happy 2013 and thank you for supporting Bruliam Wines.
*I can’t date the trees with certainty. But the adjacent sign says “Welcome to Chalk Hill Valley. Elevation 450. Population 2.”