The end was inevitable. I tried hard to prolong my journey but the remaining miles were in double digit numbers. Ventura had been a great host. We had plenty of rest in two hotels. I enjoyed shooting the breeze with Carlos of the Best Western Ventura. The beach vibe permeated the town and it helped put me into a chill mood. My mom remained at the Best Western while Crystal and I occupied the room at the neighboring hotel. Both places made us feel welcome and relaxed.
After a hearty calorie dense breakfast, I took to the road. I headed inland and hit acres and acres of agricultural land. After a few miles of flat running I crossed a canal and discovered a small Cal State University nestled in the hills. The hill turned into a mountain with each step. Crystal and my mom passed me with the beast. A line of cars trailed them like a caravan. The beast was strong but it wasn’t built for speed. Although the sun was out, the wind was strong. The steep climb eventually peaked and I was able to coast downhill into the town of Thousand Oaks. As I crossed a bridge that took me over the freeway, I encountered another runner. He looked like he was focused on his training. A sweaty t-shirt clung to his torso and he wore a very serious face. Watching him took me back to a time when I trained relentlessly. Once again I drew inspiration from a fellow runner. The little boost gave me enough juice to reach the Palm Garden Hotel with upright posture and my head held high.
A grilled cheese sandwich called my name from the In N Out across the freeway. It added another mile on my legs but at that point extra miles didn’t mean much. I didn’t have much more worry about recuperation or recovery. I knew plenty of rest awaited. In fact, I was still ahead of schedule. Crystal said to me, “We could have stayed in Ventura another day. Carlos had offered to let us stay for several more days.” I never realized I would be lingering around Los Angeles waiting to complete my journey. From prior experience I knew that ending early would mean a lonely ending. I of course wanted to celebrate with friends and family. We had been planning the end for some time.
I jumped into a hot bath and scrubbed my salty body. The spacious room invited me to lounge around. I relaxed and thought about all that I had overcome. I thought about the many obstacles and unknowns that I had conquered. As I relaxed Crystal said to me, “Tomorrow you can ask if they will host us for another day. We are way ahead of schedule and our accommodations in Santa Monica are not for a couple days.” I agreed to ask them the next morning after breakfast. I found that the hotel had given us a few drink tickets so Crystal and I walked to Brendan’s Irish Pub and redeemed our beverages. The bartender gave us great service and delicious beverages. We played a couple complimentary games of pool then returned to our room. Despite being a running day away from my destination, I felt like I was already home. The news channels on the television were all familiar stations.
Day five-hundred and three became a rest day. It felt like my miles were descending in distance and my rest days were increasing in frequency. Without a doubt the finish was going to be strong. On my day off I managed to arrange for a neighboring Indian restaurant to donate our lunch. It seemed like all I did on rest days was eat and sleep. I reminded myself that I could only afford these luxuries because I was running so many miles. Once this adventure stopped my calorie intake would need to fall a few notches. Before that happened I decided that I would let Olive Garden satiate my monster appetite that evening. My carbohydrate rich plate of pasta was just what I needed for the following day’s run to Malibu.
I tied the laces on my sneakers after my breakfast and I hit the road. The nature was gone for a while as I navigated the city streets. I noticed that people no longer waited with patience for runners and pedestrians. In the city they tried to turn before a person’s foot hit the crosswalks. I had to go on the defensive once again. I lost touch with my wild side as I felt the mass of society smother me. I started to itemize what I needed to do once the running came to a halt.
After reaching Calabasas I had one last bit of nature to conquer. I ran into the Santa Monica Mountains on the way to Malibu. I had plenty of road on my uphill journey until I reached a 70 yard tunnel. I stepped quickly and with caution on the little walkway that hugged the wall. Tiny pebbles littered the cement ledge. I needed to have my eyes watching two different directions. Of course the rumble of the passing cars sent enough vibration to guide a man that was deaf and blind but one misstep on a rock on the crumbling walkway could have been hazardous.
I saw the light at the end of the tunnel. Only a curve and a short climb remained. I felt no pain and a light breeze passed under my feet. A rapid pace came to my legs with little effort. When I saw the water and my final destination in the distance I almost broke down in tears. I sprinted downhill to the day’s ending spot. When I arrived at the end point for the day, I was greeted with the news that our luck had held up and that we were spending the evening at the Malibu Country Inn. It was a slight task trying to find parking for the beast but eventually we came upon a nook on Pacific Coast Highway. The sea air was invigorating and the view from the hotel was grand. The grand ocean dwarfed my presence and my accomplishment but I was reminded of something I tell the kids. Without a drop of water there can be no ocean. All big endeavors have small and humble beginnings.