Camels, cowboys, and a UFO are what you would see if you come out west to visit me (and Steve). In the past 4 months of running in a new city I’ve learned to enjoy the little unexpected things you forget about when you always run in the same places year after year. A river runs through it. Tucson, that is, has a river; the Rillito River stretches from the Sabino Canyon to the Freeway. (I still don’t understand the difference between a freeway and a highway, but Freeway is what they call I-10). There really isn’t even a true river; “the river” is an empty river bed that during the monsoon season inspires people in Tucson to fantasize about a running river. What does run along the river is a nice trail for a 14 – mile loop. And it’s along that river trail that I have been entertained. Or maybe it’s that the river trail is about a 20 minute run from our apartment and lots of other weirdo’s hang out there too. When Steve and I were not quite sure where to go for one of our first long runs, I suggested the river. I was so proud to have discovered it (completely by accident) earlier in the week. It’s pretty common to see horses along the trail, but on this particular morning I happened to glance over and see camels. Three camels. Granted, camels are probably not all that exciting, but have you ever been on a run with camels right up close and personal? Steve wasn’t impressed either. But, that was confirmation to me; I am officially living in the dessert. I remember suddenly feeling parched.
For a while I was trying to retrain myself into becoming a morning runner. I’d get up early and head out to the river (I didn’t know where else to go). One morning I heard some music and spotted a real live cowboy playing a guitar and singing a song. I don’t actually know what a real cowboy looks like, but since he had the hat on I’m calling him a cowboy. It was so great! It was such a serene moment and just like a western romantic scene with the sun coming up and the smell of horse poop in the air. I kept running in the mornings just to see if I had imagined the cowboy that day. I never saw him again. But, on one of those mornings that Steve and I ran at the river together we crossed paths with two old guys who sparked up our run so much it left a lasting smile the rest of the day. A UFO had apparently been sighted and the old guys told us to “watch out” because those aliens were looking for two young runners to take back to the ship! We laughed about it the rest of the way home, all the while keeping our eyes peeled for the UFO. The morning news report had a story identifying the UFO, but we missed it, so we still claim to have spotted a real UFO.
As all creatures of habit, my running eventually returned to late afternoons and sunsets. The sunsets here are often incredibly beautiful with the big bright pink and orange streaks across the mountains. One afternoon, after a week of late monsoon season weather, I ran along the river and saw water! It was almost running too. So, while the colors in the sky were changing and there was water in the river, I slowed down to capture the picture in my mind to enjoy the next time I ran along the river.
Y’all are welcome to come visit anytime! We love having our Tallahassee friends here; it makes Tucson feel like home. And, we promise not to make you run a marathon or even downhill!