Wednesday, November 17, 2010

All Who Wander Are Lost

Would you like to see an incomplete list of people/things that have a better sense of direction than I do? No? Ok, then, here it is:

• The DVD case for North Shore
• My 21-month-old cousin
• George Donner
This cat
• My copy of The Complete Works of Shakespeare from college
• Kale
• Etc.

I missed an entire day of high school toward the end of my senior year because I got lost driving to school. I wasn’t the new kid or anything – I’d lived in the same house since 5th grade yet I took 8,897 wrong turns and ended up in front of the Washington monument, 20 miles from my school.

Things did not, unfortunately, get better as I got older. In college, with the help of a good friend, I went over the Ben Franklin Bridge six times in attempt to find The Spaghetti Warehouse, three whole miles from where I lived at the time. Total necessary trips over the bridge to get to The Spaghetti Warehouse? None.

Often, I contemplate which makes me more sad – the fact that I spent a Friday night going over the same bridge six times by accident or the fact that I spent a Friday night trying to go to The Spaghetti Warehouse on purpose.

Things haven’t changed. Whenever I go somewhere new I have an atlas (I am not kidding), MapQuest directions and at least one GPS ready to go. Yet still I get lost.

I am extremely fortunate that my lack of internal compass carries over to foot-based activities.

A few years ago I hung out in Oslo for a week or two, mostly because I am a dork and thus became mildly obsessed with the Vigeland Park. I went for a run one day through the park and toward some hills in the distance.

After about 30 minutes I reached the hills and ducked into the woods. Not too smart and no proper trails but it was beautiful and I wanted to explore. I reasoned if I went straight ahead and up I could easily find my way back by turning around and going straight ahead and down. Incorrect. Four hours of running/jogging/hiking/uh, will I ever see another human again/if I do will they have Gatorade?/I wonder if I can survive on the moss growing on that log over there/maybe I will at least find Viking bones later I made it back to the hostel.

Best unintentional long run ever.

A year or two later Bill was on a kick for a bit that I should know how to navigate in adventure races so we spent many early weekend mornings orienteering. We were surrounded by dudes with names like Thorbjorn and Vedmundr who wore outfits like this…

…and this …
I won't lie ... at first I did a bit of internal
mocking. And then I realized that these
peeps could crush me in all sorts of sport.

… while I wore running shorts. Each time. I never learned my lesson and ended up looking like Edward Scissorhands and Freddy Krueger played Pirates of the Caribbean swordfight on my legs. The lack of appropriate wardrobe was the high point of my orienteering career. Low point? Getting so lost at one meet that the dudes with names like Thorbjorn and Vedmundr had to come looking for me.

The fun continues. Last week I and my friend Christine headed to Columbus, Ohio, to meet my friend Annemarie’s new adorable kid.

Columbus, home of a marathon so flat with so few turns that even I can eek out a time just good enough to sneek into the Boston Marathon. The course is basically a couple of straight out-and-backs and a few loops and goes within a block of Annemarie’s house. The course markers are left up year round giving locals or bobos visiting from out of town the chance to train on the exact race course.

See? Doesn't that look easy?
On Sunday I headed out for a quick run. “I will be back in 20 minutes,” I told my friends. I quickly found the 25-mile marker for the race and decided to head to the finish line and then back to their house. Impossible to screw up.

Fourteen miles and 109 minutes later I made it back.

From the 26-mile marker I headed right when I should have headed left and ended up seeing most of Columbus on foot. At one point I ran onto the entrance ramp for a highway but realized my mistake before I had to merge.

“Columbus is the size of a pea,” I kept telling myself. “I will stumble upon their house sometime soon.” Thirty minutes went by. “Well, as long as I don’t see signs for Cincinnati I am ok.” I looked up and saw a sign for Cincinnati.

“Um, hmm,” I thought. “I am still in marathon recovery mode. This might not be good. Even more tragic, my iPod battery is low.”

Eventually I saw the mighty Columbus skyline and headed toward it reasoning that at least I knew I was in the right city. A half-hour later I saw signs directing to a landmark only a mile or so from Annemarie’s and finally wove my way back. I felt like a champion!

My buds admitted they were starting to get worried, but here is why I love them: “Well, I just guessed that you found the marathon route, followed it for a while, tried to come right back but went in the exact opposite direction,” Christine said. “I thought you would eventually come back.” And I did.

Together again.


Abby said...

Did you do the Savage this past year? There were two canoe points on land, and teams were allowed to send one member to get either or both of them without the boat and the rest of the team. I was sent for the second one, probably about 1/4 mile round trip run. It took me 20 minutes and I somehow ended up all the way back at the TA.


Laurie said...

Ha! I volunteered at that race and was at the canoe put-in most of the day. I never looked at a course map but all day long peopel were doing all sorts of unusual nav. things, including the team who suddenly appeared portaging their boat from the road and people who apparently didn't care that they were supposed to be in a canoe and instead seemed to swim the entire way.

Abby said...

I remember seeing someone with a Boston jacket at the canoe put-in - I bet that was you!

Laurie said...

Yup. That was me. So thrilled that the marathon colors this year were bright green and neon yellow. But I needed another $90 running jacket, dammit.

Unknown said...

At least you never got lost hiking in the POCONOS. Riding in the state trooper car back to our camp site after getting picked up on the other side of the mountain, I say: I bet this happens all the time. Trooper: Nope, never.

Laurie said...

Sarah! That was quite the entertainig camping trip. Here's a timeline of that day:
Get up.
Your sister asks if we can get a camp site with fewer rocks, roots and less nature.
You cook something awesome for breakfast.
You and your people get 8,979 maps and leave to go on a 400-yard hike.
Bill and I leave for a bike ride.
We get back two hours later. You are not there. We assume you went to your uncle's for a cookout or something.
We leave and go out to dinner.
We get back. You and your peeps are all packed up to get the hell out of there. You think we were lost mountain biking and didn't want to leave without knowing we weren't in the bottom of a quarry somewhere.
You share with us that you got a bit lost and ended up 7 towns over and that you hitched a ride back to the campground with a townie cop.
You and your people leave, scared that the woods will swallow you up.
Good times!
Let's go camping in the spring!