The final day of the 2015 running trip was here. I’ve learned over the years that the final day should be a little more relaxed than other days. By day seven, both the body and the mind are fatigued, so the day should be spent celebrating the accomplishment.
Leading into the trip, I had been dealing with what seemed to be an issue with my sciatic nerve. My lower body, especially my left leg, was experiencing a type of pain that I had never felt. My training was basically non-existent during the last month. I was worried about how I would fare on the trip. I visited the chiropractor probably ten times over the past month and a half to get adjusted, stretched, massaged and even acupunctured. Surprisingly, I was not affected one bit on the trip. I felt fantastic throughout the week, and I need to thank the folks at Rebarcek Chiropractic in Ames for helping me through the issue.
Brad and I were up by 6am on Saturday and out the door by 7am en route to Knoxville, Tennessee. The night before was one of our latest of the trip, so we were both already really tired for a day that was expected to be our longest. Our plan was to get to Knoxville by 9am, run 5 miles, scalp a few tickets to the Tennessee vs. North Texas game, go to the game, grab a bite to eat in Knoxville while watching the Iowa State football game, and then drive to Atlanta, where we would fly out the next morning. Loooooong day!
Our starting point for our Knoxville run was the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame. If you know anything about women’s basketball, you’ll know that Knoxville is the perfect place for the Hall of Fame. Coaching legend Pat Summit’s impact on the women’s game is huge, and Knoxville was home to her career. I thanked my high school friend Tiff Conrad. Tiff was a basketball player herself, so I thought it was fitting. Tiff and I grew up around the corner from each other in Fort Dodge and ran in the same crowd. I always love seeing and laughing with her and was able to do so a few weeks back at our hometown Dodgers’ football game in Waukee.
We parked next door to the Hall of Fame at the James White Fort. At the time, it was a simple parking spot. Now, after learning about the place, I’m pretty darn glad we parked there. James White was an American pioneer and soldier who founded Knoxville, Tennessee. In 1783, he led an expedition into the upper Tennessee Valley, where he discovered the future site of Knoxville. The fort was chosen as the capital of the Southwest Territory in 1790, and White donated the land for a permanent city, Knoxville, in 1791. Well how about that for a $10 parking spot with a little history?! I thanked Brad & Kelly Becker once again.
As we entered Downtown Knoxville, I spotted a striking statue at the Old Knoxville Courthouse. The Hiker, named after a term soldiers of the period used to describe themselves, stands atop a boulder from the nearby Great Smoky Mountains National Park and was erected in 1940 to memorialize the fallen soldiers, sailors, and marines who served in Cuba, Puerto Rico, China, and the Philippines from 1898 to 1902. Fun fact – There are 50 of these statues across the United States. I thanked Bronk & Jess Harms, friends from my days at Iowa State. As I always mention, I am a Phi Delt because of Bronk Harms, and I’m thankful for that everyday. Bronk has been a great role model since the day I met him, and he married his college sweetheart Jess. They live in Denver with their two adorable kids and amazing dog.
We looked into more cannons on the grounds of the old courthouse.
Brad spotted another great Knoxville statue of a man rowing. I thanked Joe & Jess Vonsak one last time for their donation.
Just down the road was the Tennessee Theatre where I thanked Kelly Caughlin. I’m a huge fan of these types of signs. I know Kelly from my family’s time visiting the Northwoods in Wisconsin each year. Each summer, we would spend a week at Westphal’s Resort near Park Falls, Wisconsin. My summer memories at Wesphal’s are some of my fondest. Probably the neatest thing about our summer vacation was that many of the same families would be there each summer. The Caughlins were one of those families.
Knoxville has a really neat downtown, and we were lucky enough to run through Market Square during their farmers market. It was a lively scene, and I think that we captured it nicely with the following picture. I thanked Nancy Brannon again for her donation.
Did you know that Knoxville, Tennessee was home to the 1982 World’s Fair (formally known as the Knoxville International Energy Exposition)? It opened on May 1, 1982, and closed on October 31, 1982 after receiving over 11 million visitors. 1982 just so happens to be the year that I was born. Another fun irony. The World’s Fair Park in Knoxville is now a great space that sits between Downtown and the University of Tennessee. I thanked my dog-lovin’ pal Chris Shrader. Chris is long-time volunteer for Phi Delta Theta, and I enjoy his friendship. Both of his boys joined Phi Delta Theta at Alabama, and I know that Chris is a very proud father.
We entered the University of Tennessee. Shout out to the land grant universities.
We stopped at Ayres Hall, a central landmark on campus. The building currently houses the offices of the University’s College of Arts and Sciences as well as UT’s mathematics department. I thanked Adam & Lindsey Good one last time.
We then circled Neyland Stadium, the home of the Tennessee Volunteer football team. Neyland Stadium is the sixth largest stadium in the United States, the eighth largest stadium in the world, and the second largest stadium in the Southeastern Conference. It holds 102,455 people! It is an amazing venue for a college football game.
I thanked one of my best buds Ross Roti and his fiancée Megan. Ross is my seat mate extraordinaire for Cyclone football and basketball games, so we get to see each other a lot during the year. Ross and Megan are getting married this May in Punta Cana, Domincan Republic, and Tillie and I couldn’t be more excited to join them for their special day.
Throughout the day, we heard many renditions of “Rocky Top,” the familiar fight song of the Tennessee Vols. A great tradition on game day is the Pride of the Southland Band’s Vol Walk. So great!
We walked back to our car to change for the game. On the way back to the stadium, we stopped by the Vol Navy. The Vol Navy is another unique aspect of game day at Tennessee. You can see in the picture that Neyland Stadium is on the river. The fans figured it out and began tailgating in their yachts on game day. I thanked another one of my best buds Travis Griffith and his wife Steph. Travis and I were inseparable as kids as we lived across the street from each other in Fort Dodge. Travis has remained a wonderful friend throughout our lives, and we link up throughout the year for sporting events and to let the kids play. He and Steph, along with their two daughters, live in Ankeny, just down the road from Ames.
As mentioned, a game at Tennessee should be on every college football fan’s bucket list. The sea of orange is amazing, and you may not find a more loyal fan base in the country. It was Homecoming at Tennessee, and we watched the Vols handily beat the North Texas Mean Green.
Making up for my missed landmark in Asheville, I took the opportunity to thank the Etler family once again for their donation.
Following the game, we hit a few of my final landmarks. The University of Tennessee has named many of the roads near their stadiums after prominent Vol sports figures. We stopped at Peyton Manning Pass to thank Kevin and Renée Crist Lefter. Kevin and Renée are proud to live in Indiana, so the stop made great sense. Renée has worked at Phi Delta Theta for many years and has been a wonderful colleague throughout my time with the Fraternity.
We also stopped on Johnny Majors Drive which brought in our Cyclone connection. Johnny Majors was an important coach for both Tennessee and Iowa State, and what do you know, he was at the Iowa State game later that day. I thanked my Iowa State friend Riley Smith again for his donation.
Our final stop of the day was at the Pat Summitt statue. As mentioned before, Pat Summit is probably the most important figure in women’s collegiate basketball, and Knoxville, Tennesse was her platform. Look at that record! I thanked Tom Jensen and Lauren Bell one last time.
We then joined my former colleague Eric Schimmoeller and fellow Phi Chad Rogers at Sky Box for dinner and the Iowa State football game. It was great to see Eric and meet Chad! Following dinner, we drove three hours back to Rich & Heather Fabritius’ house to sleep for a few hours before flying out on Sunday morning.
When I returned home on Sunday, I realized that I had forgotten one donor. 1 out of 103! Ahhhhh! To make up for it, I thanked Brendan & Steph Cunningham at my most important landmark – home. Arriving home after 9 days on the road is always amazing, especially when you have a wonderful wife, two wacky dogs, and two amazing children waiting. Brendan is a former colleague at Phi Delt, and we started our tenure at the same time. They now live in Upstate New York with their one-year-old son Declan and pup. I also want to thank Mike & Deb Purdy for their donation during my trip. While I didn’t have the time to print a sign for them, I am grateful. Mike & Deb are the parents of my sister-in-law Jadee’s husband Jason. I was able to have dinner with them in San Antonio during last year’s run, and they have been great supporters of my trip!
The 2015 running trip has come to an end, and once again, it provided an amazing experience.
A very special thank you goes to a few different people:
First and foremost, to my wife Tillie and Brad’s wife Mindy. Brad and I are both very lucky to have wives who allow us to take such trips. Both of us now have children, and we know how tough it can be to be at home alone with the little ones. Brad and Mindy just had their boy two months ago, and Mindy was an absolute trooper. I am constantly amazed by my wife’s ability to do so many things. I love her deeply and am so thankful that she allows me to pursue my passions on these trips.
To Rich & Heather Fabritius, thank you for letting Brad and me utilize your house for two nights as our Atlanta home base. It was a great luxury to have and your hospitality was much appreciated.
To my running buddy Brad Carlson, it was an absolute treat to have you by my side for the trip. Brad and I have always been great friends, but trips like this strengthen the bond. We had many great life discussions along the way, and I am grateful for your friendship. Brad was a seasoned travel companion and killed it on the camera. He had to put up with my crazy logistics and early mornings on the trip as I sat in front of my computer typing up my blog posts. I learned on this trip that having a friend next to me greatly enhances the experience. I hope to bring others along in the future, and I also hope that Brad will someday join me for another trip. We will be posting a fun “Best of the Running Trip” piece soon that highlights some of our top moments from the trip.
Our route for the day.