Recap – 2018 Running Trip – Arizona

It’s been a little over a week since I returned home from my 2018 Running Trip through Arizona. Generally, I like to do a recap of the trip after some time has passed, but this year’s recap is a little different. See, we had about an eight hour drive to the Phoenix airport on the tail end of the trip, and I had a few remaining donors to thank along the way.

So, to start the recap, I’d like to take you through our adventurous journey back to the airport and Iowa. We woke up bright and early once again on Friday of the trip, ready to get a jump start on our long drive. Our plan was to take off just before sunset, but we once again miscalculated the quirky Arizona time zones. Before this Sunday’s daylight savings, Arizona was Pacific Standard Time. Currently, it’s in Mountain Standard Time. Arizona is the only mainland state that does not observe daylight savings. But there’s an exception – Navajo Nation (within Arizona). And that’s where we woke up that morning.

We were a little over an hour away from sunrise when we got going that morning, but decided to get on our way. I’m glad we did as we had three travel setbacks during the drive.

Our first stop as the sun came up was the Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site.  Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site is a historic site on Highway 191 in Ganado, Arizona. It is considered a meeting ground of two cultures between the Navajo and the settlers who came to the area to trade. I thanked my Fraternity brother Josh Ehlen at the site. Josh’s athletic feats have inspired me over the years, and I remember watching him train for long distance races during college. To this day, he remains very active, and he’s a darn good runner! I ran into Josh and his family randomly at a football game this fall!

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Our first blunder of the day was a shortcut gone wrong in Navajo Nation. I thought I was being smart and cutting off some time, but we landed on a VERY bumpy gravel road for about 15 miles to find out that it didn’t connect to the highway. The bonus, we finally saw a cow in the middle of the road. Those signs are there for a reason!

In Holbrook, Arizona, we found ourselves on Historic Route 66 again. We didn’t see much of the touristy Route 66 when we were in Flagstaff, but we got our fill in Holbrook! Dinosaur statues galore. We found this fun mural where I could thank my old colleague Jon Rogowski. Jon now works for MillerCoors in Atlanta, and I’m envious of the many sideline passes for sporting events he now receives. Thanks Rogo!

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In Holbrook, we also found the classic Wigwam Hotel. It’s basically a set out of the movie Cars, and yes, the “hotel rooms” are the teepees. Classic indeed! I thanked Jeff and Julie Larson for their donation. I grew up around the Larson family in Fort Dodge. Their two daughters are the same ages as my sister and me, and we attended the same church. Now in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, I’ve been meaning to spend a weekend in this under-the-radar town!

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The Petrified National Forest is just outside Holbrook, and being in the area, we had to drive through it. Named for its large deposits of petrified wood, the park covers about 230 square miles. The Petrified Forest is known for its fossils, especially fallen trees that lived in the Late Triassic Period, about 225 million years ago. You can also find sections of Arizona’s Painted Desert within the park. Think the Badlands of South Dakota. I thanked Kerrie Herren once again sitting on one of the majestic old chunks of wood.

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As mentioned, you go from these wide open spaces containing petrified wood to beautiful painted rocks. Right around the corner! I thanked Adam & Lindsey Good again for the donation, and this serves as another reminder to Adam that he’ll be joining me on a future running trip.

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Another awesome picture of the painted desert. I told you, very similar to the Badlands! I thanked the wonderful Linda Carlson for her donation. Linda, the mother of my pal Brad Carlson, is one great woman and a former school teacher in Iowa.

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Our second travel blunder for the day was not our fault, but it set us back another 45 minutes to an hour. Driving through the Tonto National Forest, a beautiful drive by the way, we approached stand still traffic. We could see smoke coming out of a vehicle up the road, and we learned that a semi had caught fire. I found a picture of it online. Scary!

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We finally arrived at Theodore Roosevelt Lake in Roosevelt, Arizona. Now, in a bit of a rush, we didn’t have much time to spend in the area, but my goodness, that lake is beautiful. The shoreline was quickly filling up with RVs for the weekend. I gave another shout to Rob & Julie Waltz for their incredible support for this trip. We were back in cactus land.

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Also at the lake is the Theodore Roosevelt dam, one of the world’s highest masonry dams. It was an incredible site, and once again provided great dam scenery for a thank you picture. I thanked Robbie Marsden, a guy I wish I could hang out with every day. Robbie and I used to work together, and Ross and I joined him in Philadelphia for a run to start last year’s Running Trip. Robbie is a big history buff, and I know he was excited about thanking a landmark named after a U.S. President. Robbie now teaches and coaches in Philadelphia and truly has a zest for life.

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So our third travel blunder is now pretty hilarious thinking back on it. It was mid-afternoon, we were about 50 miles east of the airport, and we were making good time to get to our 7pm flight home. At the dam, we had two options – 1) Take the Apache Trail Scenic Byway straight west into the Phoenix area, or 2) go south a bit and avoid the hills to Phoenix. If you know me at all, you know what decision I made. Scenic route all the way. I clearly hadn’t done my research. At mile two we hit a gravel road and signs that said “Caution, mountainous roads for the next 40 miles.” Sitting pretty in our Toyota Corolla, what could possibly go wrong?

Still not worried, we stopped for a scenic picture to thank Brad & Tracy Sievers. Brad is another Iowa State Phi Delt who played a part in shaping my decision to join Phi Delta Theta, and Tracy is his wonderful wife. I enjoy watching their love for baseball through their kids in Texas. Those kids are ballers!

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To make a long story short, that mountainous road was very mountainous. The road itself, was just wide enough to fit two cars, and we spent two and half hours driving 40 miles up and down, right to left, up and down. Two big bonuses though – Beautiful views despite our rush and mountain goat sightings.

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Thankfully, the last 15 miles were paved, but it was still slow going around the many curves. We finally reached Apache Junction, Arizona and found our last stop of the trip – Goldfield Ghost Town, a roadside reconstruction of a gold discovery boom town. At this point, we were in panic mode, so we jumped out of the car, got the picture, and jumped back in. I wish we would have more time to explore this wonder of a place. I know what you’re thinking – you thanked Rob & Julie a ton of times during this trip, couldn’t you have just skipped this one? They never would know. See, I take these thank you signs very seriously!

I threw on my Lost Dutchman shirt one more time as the race occurs in Apache Junction, a beautiful area!

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We had just enough to time to swing by MVP of the trip Sam Eastman’s apartment for our first shower in two days. We rushed to drop off the rental car and jumped into a Lyft to get to the airport. At the end of the day, we made it, but it should have been a lot more relaxing.

The running trip is always full of surprises, and I still had one in store for me. As I sat and watched Netflix the whole way home, I noticed that Travis had made friends in his row in front of me. When we landed in Des Moines, Travis turned around to me and asked if I would take a few people to Ames who were planning on Ubering the 45 minute drive. After a long week of grueling travel, you could have convinced me to do just about anything.

So here’s the fun part. Travis is a sports nut, and I learned that the people I was going to be driving home were friends of an Iowa State football player. And what do you know, their friend is our phenom freshman quarterback, Brock Purdy, who is from Arizona.

I’m convinced that there are these little moments in life where a little kindness (and random circumstance) lead to memorable experiences and relationships. It was awesome getting to know Zach and Cutter and showing them a bit of Iowa for the first time as they experienced their best friend taking our small community by storm with his athletic talents. They even joined our crew on Saturday morning at our tailgate before the game!

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My #1 takeaway from this trip was the beauty of Arizona. I now know why people flock to this area. We covered 1,900 miles in our car during the week and saw so much of what the state has to offer. The diversity of the state’s landscapes left us in awe, and every corner brought a new surprise.

My dad asked me what I would change about the trip if I could do it again. Always a great question. After thinking about it, I mentioned the following:

1) At least one more day at the Grand Canyon and Sedona. You could spend a week at either.

2) I was disappointed that we couldn’t get to The Wave or Vermillion Cliffs National Monument in Northern Arizona, but we learned during the trip how tough some of these park permits are to obtain.

3) I didn’t track our mileage on foot throughout the week, the first trip I forgot to do so. This trip was a lot more hiking than normal which was a good thing. I wouldn’t say it was less grueling, but it was just different.

Travis was a wonderful travel partner, and I was so glad to be able to experience this with him. We had many laughs, deep conversations, and incredible moments throughout the trip, and it was fun to hear him talk about coming back with his family at some point. Thanks Travis, for being my road dog since 1988ish.

I always mention the costs of these trips, simply because I take great pride in doing these for a reasonable cost. My average over the years has been somewhere between $1,000 – $1,200 per trip. This trip came out to be approximately $1,200 or about $133/day. That includes flights, rental car, lodging, food/beverage, park entries, gas, etc.

Along the way, we were completely grateful to many wonderful people who joined us, put us up, fed and hydrated us, and provided simple words of encouragement. I’m always amazed by the kindness of others when you’re on mission to do something good for a cause.

To this year’s donors, thank you, your support is the fuel for this ever-aging runner. I take pride in thanking all of you who made a donation to support our efforts to Leave ALS Better Than We Found It.

Planning has already begun for next year’s trip, and it looks like it is going to be centered around the National Parks of Utah. Utah will be wonderful!

I hope that you enjoyed this year’s ride in the passenger seat.

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One Comment Add yours

  1. Rob Waltz says:

    Awesome Steve!

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