After regrouping from my backpack trip in the Wallowas, I boarded a Delta flight to Charlotte, North Carolina. Having scored a window seat in an exit row, I was treated to views of the Oregon Cascades as far south as the Three Sisters. But it was the view of the Wallowas that sent a shiver down my spine. As the plane past north of this mountain range, I could see the area that I had been backpacking in just days before. There were so many memories down there.
My visit to Charlotte was short, but long enough to enjoy dinner with Scott and his girlfriend Julie. And Julie, if you're reading this, thanks for the cookies and trail mix.
The next morning we departed for Madison, Wisconsin. Our route took us through the Appalancan and Cumberland mountain ranges. I also set foot on four states that I have not visited before: Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana. Furthermore, Manus Hand would have been proud, because we visited the grave sites of three American Presidents. Andrew Johnson in Greenville, TN, William Henry Harrison in North Bend, OH, and his grandson Benjamin Harrison in Indianapolis, IN. Once in Madison we picked up my father, who had flown in from Seattle.
Please note, we were not converging on Madison on a whim. My brother was going to take part in the Wisconsin Ironman. This was not my first trip to Madison. Ten years ago I was here to visit my friend Eric, who was then working on his doctorate at the University of Wisconsin. Eric has since moved on to greener pastures, but his friend Dave provided local expertise. Not only did he provide insights on the various hills surrounding Madison, but we had a wonderful dinner at his home.
Not only did I spend time with Scott and Dad on this trip, but I also had a lot of quality time with Scott's dog Winston. Even though Winston is nearly seven years old, several people would come up to us and ask if they could pet the 'puppy'. I could see why people would think that Winston was so young, because he was the one taking me for a walk down the streets of Madison.
With over two thousand participants and even more spectators, it was difficult to get a good view of the swimming portion of the race. We had better luck with the 112 mile long bicycle portion. The trick is to know the mileage at various viewpoints along the route. We would go to a spot, wait for Scott, and then scramble to the next view point. Dad would cheer and ring the cowbell, I would take photos, and Winston would wag his tail.
In the end, it was dark and we were in downtown Madison. In the background was the lighted capitol dome. It was an emotional scene. Often children would join their parent for the last steps to the finish line. And then Scott came around the corner. My camera failed me at this critical moment, but a least I was there. Way to go Scott!!!
The next day I found myself on the plane, going back home to Portland. Dad would drive back with Scott. Unfortunately, thunderstorms delayed my arrival to Atlanta. We were diverted to Huntsville, Alabama to refuel. By the time I arrived in Atlanta the last flight to Portland had left. It had been three years since I had flown, now I remember why. Delta gave me a slight discount at a hotel. I caught the first flight to Portland. Even though I had a middle seat, I could see Mts Rainier, St. Helens, and Adams as we approached the airport. Despite the prospect of getting to work half a day late, I was happy to be home.