After many days of clear running weather, the inevitable happened. The wet streets shined from the slick hydration. Water hit my face from various angles and I took to the road with my new protective rain gear. My mom had purchased these army green Frog Toggs from a sporting goods store in anticipation of this day. I was thankful that she had literally prepared for a rainy day. The material felt thick and stiff but it did the trick. I originally planned my route through the mountain to avoid speeding vehicles in wet weather conditions. The mileage was higher but I thought it might have been safer. After running a bit on my route, Crystal and my mom called to convince me to take the shorter route. They didn’t feel it was safe for me to run through a slippery and muddy mountain. I changed direction and heeded their advice.
The rainwater hit my mouth as I sloshed through the streets. I ended up on the 101 highway with ample room to run. I hooked up with Crystal ten miles down. She had parked right off the freeway. I had been running without the rain pants because they were a little large on me but I had to change into some dry running shorts because my lower half had absorbed several pounds of water. I decided to wear the pants to run. I must have looked like I was running with clothing made from the material of brown paper bags but I was happy to keep the rain from hitting my clothes. As for staying dry, my body would still produce sweat from the inside.
I was headed to the town of Santa Ynez but we had no place to stay in the one horse town. Crystal had no luck with the other little towns in the area. When I reached my destination we looked for a secure parking location. We circled the entire town with the beast. Our tour took three minutes. We settled on parking on a dirt lot. The heater was the first item turned on. We searched for a place to eat but discovered the restaurants were serving gold in their food. That was the only explanation for the prices. It was going to be a simple and early evening in the trailer.
The next day the clouds sat at a low elevation. The landscape resembled an old Chinese painting depicting mountains and fog. It cleared up as I trekked up and down the large hills. My body could tell I was getting close to home and it was already telling me to take it easy. The air was crisp. My lungs enjoyed the clean sea air. When I hit the peak of the range, I took moment to stare at the steep downhill path before my feet. I begged my knees to be kind to me for a couple more days. Our deal was that I would give them a nice rest if they got me through the day. They came through with flying colors. I felt the wind cool my sweaty clothes.
I took a turn towards Santa Barbara and discovered a view of hillside mansions, fresh organic farms, and the Pacific Ocean. Cyclists zipped past me on this stretch. Where did they all come from? I only saw one going uphill. The estates with acres of lush land gave way to a cozy community. A citrus scent sat in the air when I reached the bottom of the hill. Citrus and avocado trees decorated my route. I wanted to pick the delicious treats to eat but decided to wait until I reached the Extended Stay Hotel. As I neared our lodging, my stomach rumbled and demanded food. I would meet up with Crystal and my mom and grab a grilled cheese sandwich at the In-N-Out next to our lodging. I was happy to stuff the cheesy sandwich and into my mouth.
I was surprised the next morning to discover muffins and fruit available for breakfast. I had been under the impression that Extended Stays didn’t provide breakfast. It was nice to save the money since our funds were a bit low. The simple meal provided me with enough energy to reach Carpinteria, just eighteen miles away. Along the way I enjoyed the ocean community. The sunny skies and warm temperatures powered my body. Watching runners on both sides of the street added a little inspiration to my steps as well. Around the four mile mark, a couple guys began to contest my pace. I got pulled into a little race. Even though there was nothing at stake, I couldn’t help but turn on the wheels. The guys ended up sprinting past me but stopped shortly after. I continued to power past them until I found Crystal and my mom parked in front of a Chinese restaurant. We decided to have a light lunch right there then meet up at the next hotel. I had a few squares of vegetarian meat cooked in an orange sauce. The sweet and tangy dish provided a good amount of protein which satiated my appetite.
I darted off feeling energized from the food and the competitive dash. Little did I know, four miles into my next stretch, another runner would throw down his gauntlet. This guy and I traded leads for a mile until I decided to draft him and let him set the pace. After a couple miles on his heels, I turned on the boosters, kicked into another gear, and ran to the hotel. We were staying at The Holiday Inn Express of Carpinteria. I was given a warm greeting from the manager Michael. He expressed enthusiasm and support for our project. He even invited us to return for an event in the future. Then he told me to go rest up. He didn’t know that eighteen miles was a short day for me. The property was huge. Crystal had spent her time working out in the fitness center while waiting for me. We were both trying to look our best for the last day of the Great Reading Run.
The route to Ventura was breathtaking. The waves crashed and legions of surfers took to the water. RV’s lined the road and the people sat out enjoying the California lifestyle. PCH was my main road. Crystal and my mom pulled the trailer in front of me and found an open parking spot. While I took a short hydration break, Crystal found herself talking to a sweet Southern California couple. They were retired and they were impressed by my undertaking. They connected with us on social media and gave us a little something to keep going.
Once I turned onto my main road in Ventura the scent of bean burritos and carne asada filled the air. Little eateries called to people on both sides of the street. After running a few blocks in Ventura, I reached the Best Western Inn of Ventura. I encountered Carlos who recognized me right away. He was the manager of the hotel with a friendly outgoing personality. We chatted about my adventures before I headed for the room.
My mouth had been watering ever since the scent of California style Mexican food had drifted into my nose. Crystal, my mom, and I made a trip across the street from our hotel. There we dined on tamales, and burritos. Before returning to our room, I chatted with Carlos a bit more. He told us we should stay at his hotel a bit longer. He even offered to host us another night. We let him know that the Country Inn and Suites right next door had planned to host us the next night. He told us to keep the room another night and give it to my mother. He figured we could all use the extra space. It was a wonderful and generous gesture. Our room was extremely comfortable and we decided to relax by watching movies on the tube. My legs were feeling a bit fatigued from the two challenges of the prior day.
After a breakfast of eggs, beans, yogurt, and toast I took off for a light run to Oxnard. It was the next town over. I figured I could keep the days light and preserve my body on the final days of the journey. This would allow me to finish my last day strong. Once again I passed some agricultural areas. I had always thought migrant workers picked the strawberries from the field but on this day I discovered a vehicle with large rotating bands doing the work. The waters on this day looked brown and murky but it didn’t darken my mood. Nothing could at that point. The finish line was inevitable.