One of my customers is in central Louisiana. Being there poses a little challenge to my health. On the one hand, the food is incredibly good. So good that I still make some of it at home. The portion sizes are huge, and lots of things there are deep fried. So of course eating there is tasty but not so healthy.
On the other hand, this is a place where the car (or more often the pickup truck) is king. There are no sidewalks in most of the town where I live. As a result, an active lifestyle can’t really happen naturally. There’s no walking to the restaurant in the evening because there are no crosswalks or even a way to request that the light change to get to the other side of the road. The only way to get to dinner, or work, or the store, is to get in a car and drive there.
Still, I need to keep active for my health and to keep my mood lifted. And so, I would try to do some running while I was down there. Most of the time it was on the treadmill which was absolutely dismal and boring. But other times, especially when the weather there was warn and weather back home was still cold and wintry I would go outside. The options weren’t that great. Sometimes I would run along a highway with no sidewalk. Other times I would run laps around the parking lot of a nearby outlet mall. It felt a little safer than running on the busy highway. I did look strange, I’m sure, but just running at all here made me look strange so where I did it so it didn’t matter to me.
One day I looked at Google Maps and saw a small road that headed off in to a rural area. I decided that I would try running on that route. And so, after work, I got my shoes on and left the hotel. About ten minutes in I wasn’t entirely sure if I was making a good choice as things started to look a little strange.
I persevered, though and headed further in to the forest. Another kilometre away I saw a few house trailers set back from the road. As I ran by I heard barking. Though I grew up in a rural area, I had forgotten the possibility of dogs running loose. This might not end well. I had nothing but my phone and a plastic key card to get back in to my hotel room. I would be at the mercy of whatever happened.
As I ran past, the barking got louder and louder until I could hear it right behind me. I picked up my pace to avoid becoming badly bitten or worse. I wasn’t able to shake it, but neither was it able to catch me so I sneaked a glance over my shoulder to see what was trying to eat me and saw one of these:
I had nothing to worry about. Eventually its tiny legs got tired and it trotted back home.
As I ran the area became even more rural, and eventually I came to a small stream.
I took out my earbuds and listened. The air was filled with the sounds of insects and frogs. The din of the highway was gone, the barking dogs were gone and there was even a pause in the passing cars. It was a moment of peace. Part of me wanted to explore a bit but the brush was thick, and in this part of the world, I’d already encountered some different risks than back home.
It’s enough of a risk that there are sometimes even signs posted like this:
Soon after, I turned back. When I came back to where the dog had chased me, out he came again, this time with a much bigger friend. I still a bit nervous but I needn’t have worried. He was just bringing his friend to introduce him to the nice man who likes to play “chase”. I even stopped for a minute to give them both a bit of attention.
I would make a few trips down this road over the next few months. Over time, though, I got tired of the worry about traffic and drivers who not only aren’t expecting to see runners on the road but also have access to drive-through alcoholic daiquiri shops. And so, eventually I moved my runs here – it was still better than the treadmill. And I could still be happy about running outdoors in shorts in February.
Inspired by this week’s Dutch Goes the Photo Challenge of Reflection.