As I rode along the banks of the Mississippi River today I realized how fortunate I am to live near the The Mighty Mississippi. It is 3,903 miles long making it the fourth longest river in the world. The first 19 years of my life I spent in the Quad Cities. The 4 cities straddle the Mississippi River. I never found my appreciation for the Old Miss until later in life. It wasn’t until I was 31 and had travelled a bit of the world that I came back to it and realized what a gem it is.
It reminds me of when I first saw the ocean. I had driven three hours from I was visiting to get to the coast. By the time I arrived there was only a half hour of sun left. I walked to the ocean and let the cold water roll over my feet. Up and down the waves came and went. Then it was dark. I remember thinking that oceans are not that great. I didn’t get it. I was 26 years old and had waited so long only to be let down. I remember thinking how much cooler mountains are than the oceans. It wasn’t until a few years later that I started to understand why people are drawn to the oceans. I had just worked a high stress job for a few weeks out on the coast. When I had finished the job I headed down towards San Francisco and found a beach nearby. That day I ended up walking a few hours up and a few hours down the coastline. I could feel the tension and stress from the last few weeks melt away. And finally I had my “ah aha” moment with the ocean. I get it now.
A few years after my “ah ha” experience I took a coastal road trip along highway 1. I spent 6 days driving on the Pacific Coast. I spent 6 nights sleeping on the coastal cliffs of the Pacific. It transformed me. I saw humpback whales for the first time ever. They were really quite far away and even at a great distance they were absolutely majestic. I was awestruck. I spent 6 days watching the sunset over the beautiful Pacific. I was travelling solo with my favorite four legged friend Rosco. The nights were void of any city noises and filled with rich sounds from the ocean. The air was filled with sounds from the crashing of the waves onto the rocks below and whispers of the winds coming across the water. On the 7th day of that journey I found myself in Jedidiah Redwood National Forest. The gentle giants around me were equally amazing. Like the humpback whales, I was awestruck by their beauty and size. But I noticed something was different when I fell asleep. I noticed it when I woke up as well. I was no longer next to the ocean. I could no longer hear those powerful waves below me. I felt sad. I felt like a part of me was missing. And for the first time in my life, I missed the ocean.
So in many ways the banks of the Old’ Miss are my coastline. The river is my ocean. I took my four legged friend Rosco for a walk along the bike path last week. I’ve been dealing with nerves from my upcoming race. We spent a few hours of very slowly walking. And for me it was just like the time I had walked the coastline of The Pacific. My nerves simply melted away in a very short time. My breathing had calmed and my heart rate had settled. The sunset was beautiful. I was happy. I’m glad that I’m finally learning to appreciate some of the beauty that the Old Miss has to offer.