2015 Running Trip – Day 1 – Savannah, Georgia

The 2015 running trip is here! What a schedule we have, visiting a number of must-see American cities as we navigate a list of 103 landmarks, where I will be thanking many generous people who have donated to my Iron Phi effort. Leading up to the trip, I was able to eclipse my $16,000 fundraising goal that has been compiled over my five years raising money for Iron Phi. I have a permanent running buddy throughout this trip, with my pal Brad Carlson by my side. As I make this first post, it has already been an incredible ride, and it’s great to be able to share this experience with a great friend.

The trip began on Friday, as Brad and I flew from The Moines (Des Moines) to Atlanta. Easing into the trip, we had a day and a half to spend prior to our first run in Savannah. Upon arriving, we made our way to Sixt, to pick up our rental car. Sixt may sound foreign to those who rent cars often, but please do check it out. As one of the largest rental car companies in the world (out of Germany), they have begun to penetrate the U.S. market. For the price of a standard car through your standard rental car company, we were able to book a Mercedes for the duration of the trip. Neither of us have any business driving this thing, but it sure is a nice upgrade from my normal mode of transportation (Megabus). We’re still trying to figure out the bells and whistles.

With a few short hours to kill in Atlanta, we both drove and walked around Georgia Tech a bit. Georgia Tech is a beautiful, urban campus, filled with students who are much smarter than Brad and me.
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Following our campus tour, I had to take Brad to my favorite pizza place in the country. Antico Pizza is the absolute real-deal, and it is always a special treat. It did not dissapoint.

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After filling our stomach with some goodness, we spent a few hours at SweetWater Brewing Company. The place was packed with yuppies celebrating their week, and the facility (and beer) is quite impressive. We then drove to our home for the evening. Rich & Heather Fabritius were kind enough to open their home to us for the evening, and we will be moving in again the night before we fly back home from Atlanta. Rich is the President of Phi Delta Theta’s General Council and has become a wonderful friend and mentor during his time as a volunteer for Phi Delta Theta. Luckily, we were able to meet up with Rich, Heather, and their girls in Savannah.

With another day before our running was to begin, Brad and I spent game day in Athens, Georgia on Saturday. If you’re a fan of college football, game day in Athens should be on your bucket list. Like any SEC football experience, it is filled with great fanfare, passionate fans and memorable experiences. The forecast, game time, and opponent (Kentucky) brought with it a smaller crowd than normal, but our experience was still a great one.

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One of the greatest things about the running trip is the rekindling of friendships along the way. Brad and his wife Mindy lived the ex-pat life in Den Haag, Netherlands a few years back, and one of Brad’s colleagues (who was also in the the Netherlands during their time), was our tour guide for the day. We joined Phil for a few pre-game drinks and the game. It’s always amazing to have a local guide on football Saturday, as it allowed us to learn more about the city, school and game day experience. Thanks Phil!

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One great thing about game day at Georgia is that anybody can walk down to the renowned hedges of Sanford Stadium. During halftime and part of the third quarter, we took the opportunity to be “just outside the hedges” and take in the atmosphere. A dream come true for this college football fan, despite the heavy security guard presence near UGA, everyone’s favorite (and completely pampered) live mascot.

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Following the game, Brad and I grabbed our new favorite beer (Creature Comforts Brewing Co.’s Tropicalia) at a bar conveniently named AllGood and grabbed dinner before driving to August, Georgia for the evening.

After watching our beloved Cyclones get shellacked by Oklahoma and a good night’s rest, we were on the road at 7:30 for Savannah. Having the rental car has already paid dividends, as we were able to explore a bit on the way to our first running stop. Being an Iowan, the local crop is always a discussion point. In all my travels, I had never seen a cotton farm. Pretty cool!

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After two and half hours on the road and nearly destroying a flock of vultures on the road, we made it to Savannah. The weather forecast called for rain all day, so we hit the road right away. I’ve been looking forward to visiting Savannah for years. I have never heard a bad thing about the city, and people rave about its beauty. They weren’t kidding. Our goal for the day was to run through all of Savannah’s 24 public squares. They’re everywhere and are amazing. We began our route at the iconic Forsyth Park. The fountain at Forsyth Park is one of the main attractions in town. You can see why. I was prepared for rain with my obnoxious rain jacket. I thanked my former colleague Kerrie Herren at the fountain. Man I love hanging out with Kerrie. We spent two years on staff together at Phi Delt, and he is one of the most fun-loving guys I know. He is now a principal in Kansas City, shaping the minds of our future.

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Another view of Forsyth Park. You’ll notice a theme throughout the pictures of the Live Oak trees with Spanish Moss. Probably the coolest tree out there.

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After a passing a number of squares, we came upon Jones Street. Jones Street is often referred to as the most beautiful street in America. I won’t be arguing against the claim. Filled with amazing houses, trees, flags, etc., we ran the entire distance of the street. The only tough thing about running the street was the rugged surface, uneven bricks. I’ll take that surface any day with the view. I thanked my mother-in-law Julie and her husband Rob on Jones Street. Cal & Tess adore visiting the Waltz farm, as any Iowa kid should. Just a mile from one of the famous Bridges of Madison County, a trip to “Grandmommy’s” house and shenanigans with Scotch, their dog, brings instant excitement! Julie, you would absolutely adore this street.

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Our next stop was the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, a church that towers above the city. I thanked my Fraternity brother Jon Hernandez at the stop. Jon has been a loyal supporter of my running trips over the years, and for that I’m very thankful. It’s always a treat to see Jon, and I enjoy laughing with him about anything and everything.

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I had to capture one of the Savannah squares as a Runner’s Choice. Behind me below is Sergeant Jasper at Madison Square. Brad and I were both impressed with the square, so I took the opportunity to thank my colleague Andrew LaPorte. For some reason, I kept imagining Andrew on top of this monument with the flag, so it seemed relevant. Andrew was recently in Ames for an Iowa State game, and we had a blast.

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The next stop was one of the most popular squares in Savannah – Chippewa Square. If you’ve seen Forrest Gump, you’ll remember him sitting on a bench telling his story. Well this is where it happened. I was a bit disappointed to learn the bench Forrest sat on was a prop and now lives in the Telfair Museum in town. So we improvised a bit. Stupid is as stupid does. I thanked Drew & Cara Miller. Drew, another Fraternity brother of mine, has also been a loyal supporter for my trips. He’s a John Deere guy, a familiar company in Iowa, and ironically enough, Brad and I recruited him into the Fraternity.

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After a few Forrest Gump quotes, we headed to the birthplace of Juliette Gordon Low, the founder of Girl Scouts. We were fully prepared to buy a few boxes of cookies from the scouts outside the birthplace, but they weren’t there. Brad seemed a bit bitter during the stop, and I quickly learned that he was disappointed when the organization changed the Samoas name to Carmel Delights. I challenged him to go inside and leave feedback in the comments box, but he decided against it. I thanked the Robles family here. The Robles are friends from Cincinnati. April and Tillie used to work together and Rich is a Phi Delt. Their kids crack me up, and I’m assuming that Eva was/is a girl scout herself, hence the request for this site.

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Our next stop was the Telfair Museums, the first public art museum in the Southern United States. Currently, it may claim the #1 spot for scaffolding used per museum square feet. A bit of a bummer, but at least it was colorful. I thanked the wonderful Norma Friedrich, Tillie’s grandmother, and a consumer of my amazing Keurig coffee. I enjoy sharing a cup of coffee with Norma, but I really enjoy watching her interact with my kids. Great grandparents are an amazing thing!

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We strolled through City Market, a fun open street filled with vendors and small businesses. Filled with activity and patient horses, I thanked my main man Ben Fleming. Another Fraternity brother, Ben is my favorite Parisian. One of nicest men I know, Ben is absolute treat to be around, and I don’t get to see him enough. Brad and I reminisced on some amazing stories that Ben has somehow gotten himself into.

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Close to City Market, Brad spotted a great spot for another Runner’s Choice photos. I’m not really sure what it is, but I do know that the people thanked at this spot are amazing. April Etler watches our kids, and we are VERY thankful to have her in our lives. She is the best and our kids love her. They also love April’s husband and kids, so much that Tess never wants to leave David’s side if he is around when I show up, and when I ask Cal who his best friends are, Emma and Austin fill the top two spots. I have an amazing stop in Asheville for the Etlers to come.

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Nearby, I found another Runner’s Choice photo op that I found to be very symbolic. If you read my fundraising page, you’ll know that the world lost a great man this year to ALS. Neil Alexander was a very positive influence in my life, as he battled the terrible disease with the most grace and fortitude that you could imagine. He did not hide from the public as he battled the disease, rather he did something about it through LiveLikeLou.org. I miss chatting with Neil, but his legacy will forever remain. My relationship with the Alexanders began during my initial running trip, and it will continue to be an inspiration as I continue to make the trips. I thanked Neil’s wife Suzanne. As you can imagine, it takes an amazing woman to be able to navigate everything that comes with supporting somebody with ALS. Suzanne is just that, and she continues to advocate for an ALS cure. Suzanne, I can’t tell you how much your support means to me.

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Our next stop was the Olde Pink House restaurant, probably the most recognizable restaurant in town. I thanked Kristin Morrison, one of my high school friends. Kristen and her husband Andy have two adorable girls, and her Facebook posts absolutely crack me up. Kristen’s wit is completely on point, and I appreciate every bit of it!

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I’m pretty proud of this next Runner’s Choice. This type of stop is fun because I sometimes have the opportunity to find places that have parallels to the people whom I thank. We found the statue of John Wesley, the founder of Methodism. I thanked my high school friends, Joe & Jess Vonsak, who ironically enough, have a son named Wes. I think his full name is Wesley, but even if not, I was pretty pumped.

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The final stop was River Street, a street along the river (go figure) that attracts many Savannah visitors. It is full of restaurants, bars, candy stores, gifts shops, etc. I thanked Jeremy Sale, who joined me for my Athens, Georgia run a few years back. Jeremy has been a great supporter of Iron Phi over the years. He is an Iron Phi himself, and a passionate Phi. Jeremy helps young high schoolers find the college of their dreams, and I think that’s pretty great.

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Following our run, we enjoyed lunch at a cool spot – The Crystal Beer Parlor. Besides great food and drink, the place has a great history. The Crystal was one of the first American eating establishments to serve alcohol after the repeal of Prohibition. Many think this is the case because they never stopped serving, but who am I to judge. Rich, Heather and their girls joined us for a bit of camaraderie before they jumped in the car to head back to Atlanta. Rich & Heather completed a half-marathon relay at yesterday’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Savannah Marathon. It was fun to celebrate with them a bit!

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We jumped into the car to visit Bonaventure Cemetery and Wormsloe Historic Site. Pure Savannah beauty. While cemeteries really aren’t my thing, Bonaventure was a treat. The Wormsloe Historic Site protects part of what was once the Wormsloe Plantation, a large estate established by one of Georgia’s colonial founders, Noble Jones. I told you these trees were amazing! I thanked Adam & Lindsey Good, my cousins. Adam & Lindsey are having their first child (another Good boy) this December, and we can’t wait to see them in this role. Adam is my Iowa State halftime partner in crime in the parking lots and the two of them live in Ames.

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The arch leading into Wormsloe.

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Another awesome tree and view at Wormsloe.

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We ended our day where we will lay our heads tonight – The amazing Dresser Palmer House. The bed and breakfast sits on a picturesque street near Forsyth Square, and it is beautiful, and soooo Savannah! I’ve had the opportunity to stay at some truly unique places during my running trips, and what I appreciate the most is when my lodging truly represents the ambiance and character of the city where I am. The Dresser Palmer House does just that, and it feels like home.

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Brad and I joined fellow guests during the social hour – An awesome couple from Fort Wayne and a just-married (yesterday) couple from Jacksonville. The community that bed and breakfasts create is infectious, and it adds serious value to any trip. A big thanks to Kolin at the Dresser Palmer House for hosting us for the evening. What a gorgeous place with amazing hospitality.

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A look at today’s route. On to Charleston, South Carolina in the morning.

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