Take me home, country roads
Country roads, take me home
To the place I belong…
Take me home, country roads
— John Denver, Bill Danoff, Taffy Nivert
This past weekend I returned home for my 20th high school class reunion. On Friday night, our class had an informal gathering at the Wyalusing Hotel and then on Saturday night, we had a banquet at the Towanda Elks Club. And on Saturday morning, in between the two, I ran nine miles of a scheduled 12 miles on country roads around my hometown of New Albany, Pa., technically Laddsburg, Pa., home to among other things, and much to the chagrin of my teetotaling parents, the Laddsburg Mountain Winery.
When I was in high school, I used to run the roads around our home in Laddsburg with neighbors Ed, Steve, Sue and Pat Naspinski as we prepared for cross country. One of our favorite routes was a four mile loop that we, like other kids who have their favorite routes, called “The Block.” It started on U.S. Route 220, went down the Marsh Road, down what is called the Moxie Laddsburg Road on maps now, and then back around Jordan Road and down Laddsburg Hill Road back to 220. On Saturday, I did a variation of that, expanding the loop to 12 miles (of which I did nine) as I ran out from my parents on Drew Road to 220 to the Marsh Road almost to Dushore, went up Taylor Road to Dog Farm Road to Irish Settlement Road to Kane Road to Jordan Road.
I was to have finished going up Coyle Road, down Murphy Hill Road and then back to my parents on Drew Road, but since I had a late start Saturday morning after getting in late from the gathering the night before, I only made it part way up Jordan Road before I called my wife via cell phone to come and get me. I was only within a mile of my parent’s, but my energy level was waning as the humidity was rising and my thoughts were turning with memories from high school — and how far I really hadn’t gone since high school, not only in terms of physical geography (only 70 miles from where my parents live), but also in terms of emotional geography.
I enjoyed the first four miles of the run, which was mostly on the Marsh Road. When I was in high school, I remember I’d struggle to get to the top of this one hill, really more a slight incline now, and on Saturday, I felt a small sense of accomplishment in being able to get up it now more than 20 years later. I also recall making myself run from one pole to another just past that hill, just to keep myself going. On Saturday, I didn’t have to do that as I ran past all the poles there, again feeling a small sense of accomplishment. Partway out the Marsh Road, I took a detour on to a rail trail, which probably is on private property now, but it was probably the most fun on the run as it was nice and cool with the trees forming a tunnel through which I could run.
At one other point, later down the road, I thought I could find the rail trail, but unfortunately, it wasn’t cleared. Stubborn (or stupid) as I am, I kept pushing through the brush until I came out to Taylor Road. That pretty much ruined my momentum from there on out as I already had begun to walk and would walk most of the rest of the way, with a few exceptions, including past Cummiskey’s farm and another farm on Kane Road. (I just remember James Brown’s “Superbad” helped me a lot during that stretch.)
Funny thing about the reunion: in our yearbook, my photo was in there for cross country, even though I quit my senior year because I was sick of always coming in last for our team and sometimes in the race, period. I think the yearbook staff put together the proofs for the book before the season ended and didn’t cut me out. In both photos, I sported a mustache and a really bad haircut (no mullet, but still bad). In one photo, I also wore knee-high socks. One of my classmates kept taking it around and showing everyone. (I don’t have my scanner set up yet; otherwise, I’d post the photo here, really. 😉 It even made me laugh since now I’d never imagine wearing those large cotton $@$”>!?*$@$^&#@!) socks.
The only consolation in all of this is that I now wear much cooler running gear (yeah, those tight Under Armour pants are so much more hip and discreet than those short shorts I wore in high school) and no longer finish last (second or third to last, but hey, not last).