I rolled out of Camp Clearwater at White Lake pretty early this morning, and slowly built up to a wog (which is a “walk-jog”, for the uninitiated). The sun was coming up to the East (which it seems to do with regularity, I’ve noticed), and school buses and trash trucks started making their rounds, picking up and hauling off.

Except for another pretty morning on the road, there wasn’t much to get too excited about, so I let my mind wander a bit. I started thinking about the miles that I have already come (362, but who’s counting?), and what a joy this whole experience has been. About how much I have learned about North Carolina and how diverse this state really is.

As I waxed philosophical (in my head, I was doing some serious waxing), I must have allowed my mouth to hang open, because, all of a sudden, the most foul smell and taste combination entered my mouth that nearly made me eject the oatmeal and banana that Chuck has so painstakingly made for me this morning. If you have never experienced a tractor trailer full of chickens, then you haven’t truly lived.

I spent several moments rinsing out my mouth with water, and felt dirtier than usual only 30 minutes into today’s run. I learned a valuable lesson today: Treat all big trucks like chicken trucks. Keep your mouth shut when they go by, and give them a wide berth. Blech.

NC Highway 53 is especially busy on Monday mornings, so I was passed by no less than 10 trucks before I made it to a side road where the Mountains to Sea Trail headed slightly east towards Jones Lake. The started off on sidewalks that led to the lake, then followed the northwestern edge of the lake on honest to goodness trails -with roots and rocks and everything!

The trail quickly led to North Carolina game lands and sandy roads with some super deep puddles, but it was still nice to get off the roads, away from the cars and on something a little softer, even if it was challenging to run through.

Soon I came to a yard with some chickens wandering in front. I could hear them long before I could see them, because the rooster was letting his presence be known. When I got closer, I noticed that there were actually several roosters and not just one that was making a series of rat-a-tat crows in rapid-fire succession. The roosters were situated on the right side of a tree crowing, strutting, scratching the ground and bragging about the size of their televisions. The hens were huddled on the left side of the tree, scratching, pecking and figuring out how they got stuck with the losers on the other side of the yard.

While all of this might be predictable, I realized that there were more roosters than hens. How can that possibly be productive? We all know perfectly well, that you’re going to need two hens to every rooster, just to fix whatever he screws up. There’s no way that this ends well.

A few miles down the road, the trail dipped a little east to go around Jones Lake, steering me even further away from cars and nipping dogs. Gorgeous views, and the rain hadn’t started up, so I was able to take a few pictures, and run on something besides asphalt or sand, if just for a little while.

The trail became sandy after a couple of miles, and there were a few pits of water that had to be foraged, but it was all in fun. And, no, Mom, I didn’t see any snakes today.

Before I made it back to the road, I thought that my back was unusually sweaty, but cold and it was somehow dripping on the backs of my legs. Ew. No, wait, the bladder in my hydration pack was leaking. I was soaked and now a little chillier. I kept the pack on because it was  good place to store my food and phone, but I got a handheld water bottle from Dean and muscled on. I would have said “… like a good soldier”, but honestly, it didn’t feel very soldier-like and I feel spoiled enough by my crew. Perhaps I should have sucked it up and kept the cold, wet, slimy thing on my back until it emptied its remaining contents on my already squishy butt cheeks and shoes. That’s what a tough guy does, right?

When I got back on the road that would lead me West to NC Highway 53, I encountered the first of two dogs that didn’t care for my funky scent and preferred that I go back to where I came from.

Now, before I tell this story, let me caveat it by saying I love dogs. I have cared for many dogs and most have been larger than 60-70 pounds, so I’m generally more comfortable with big dogs than small dogs.

Puppy number one was medium sized, about 50 pounds, noisy, fairly harmless and he just wanted me to leave without much drama. I obliged and we were both much happier when I passed the end of their yard. He stood in the middle of the highway daring me to come back. I didn’t.

Puppies number two and three, however were the canine Hanson Brothers with more teeth and they liked to bite. I saw the two off-white pit mix dogs coming my way from the back of their house. With so many vehicles passing by, they weren’t sure what to attack first, but since I seemed to be much slower than the cars, I was a pretty easy target. They wasted no time and their barks weren’t warnings – they were battle cries.

The smaller of the two kept tripping the older one that seemed to have a cataract in its right eye. The freaky eye didn’t make it look less demonic, by the way.

I tried to say, “Hey guys!” in the friendliest tone I could muster, but it came out as more of a hiccup as I was side-stepping their jaws and squirting them with my water bottle at the same time. I felt one of them brush the back of my leg as it just nearly missed biting me again and I was starting to get pissed on top of getting worried. These dogs were coming into the street after me and they didn’t care where they took me down. Cars be damned.

As I was doing the watusi in the middle of Highway 53, at least 3 drivers slowed down just long enough to be annoyed by the inconvenience of this runner mauling, but not one offered to help or interject on my behalf. Two different vehicles unintentionally saved me however.

First, a truck drove by close enough that it distracted them and they chased the truck a little ways giving me time to get a little further up the road. They quickly remember the easy kill and came back my way and began to surround me on both sides – no bueno. To surround me, however, the younger one stood in the middle of the road in the path of an oncoming Buick. The driver blew his horn at the dogs, rolled down his window and yelled apologetically to me “I don’t want to hit them!”

I yelled back, “At this point, I’m not sure I mind!”

But the brothers weren’t happy about this interruption and decided to take it out on the Buick. That was my cue to ease on down, ease on down the road. When I looked back, Older And Creepier was head-butting the front bumper and Youngster was chewing the tires. Shortly thereafter, somebody in bright red pajamas walked out of their house to discourage them from such rude behavior.

After the adrenaline wore off, I stopped shaking and decided against telling the owner what I thought of his puppy parenting skills, I had a relatively uneventful, yet cold and rainy remainder of the day. I only had four more chicken trucks and two more pig trucks befoul me before I reached the post office in White Oak.

24 miles more miles closer to home.

Be patient with you. Go slow if you have to, but go. Watch out for the Hanson Brothers. Keep Moving Forward.


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