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Young man on the run
Jim Dunn
August 12, 1974
He had strong legs, a poet's eye, and he was 16 years old—what more did he need to cover the 1,750 miles between Mexico and Canada?
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August 12, 1974

Young Man On The Run

He had strong legs, a poet's eye, and he was 16 years old—what more did he need to cover the 1,750 miles between Mexico and Canada?

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The only straight shot to Santa Barbara was on the freeway, but I thought pedestrians were prohibited on the road. At the freeway entrance I found out differently. A guy with a bike was there, eating breakfast. He explained that if there is no other road going to a place and it would be a hassle to go any other way, then I could use the freeway. He pointed out that the entrance sign to this section of freeway did not forbid pedestrians. He was biking up to San Francisco to his sisters wedding. His name was John Notch. I found out that he had run in the Mission Bay Marathon the same year I had. We then said goodby, not expecting to see each other again, but after running about 10 miles I found John and Mom talking together. He had decided to run with me to Santa Barbara. I warned him that we still had 20 miles to go, but he said he didn't mind. It was good to have company. I had not talked to many people since leaving home. About 10 miles up the road there was a NO PEDESTRIANS ALLOWED sign and we left the freeway for another route. We stopped for a protein milk shake with some ice cream added. It tasted good compared to the dry air I had been swallowing.

I guess people would think I would cat lots and lots of health foods on my trip. Actually I never ate stuff like that, taking only protein powder before starting in the morning. After the first few days I even stopped using that or salt tablets. I guess that I should also mention that I am a vegetarian and never eat meat, fish or eggs. On the trip I just ate what I felt like at the moment. Many times I would go without lunch because Mom wasn't around at the time, and there was no place to buy anything. Sometimes I didn't eat breakfast, either, because I just wasn't hungry.

We got going once more, and soon were at the foot of the pier in Santa Barbara. It was just as pretty as I had expected. Mom took shots of John and me, and we exchanged addresses. We then took his bike out of the back of the car, and he was off.

My destination the next day was Gaviota State Beach. I took a walk on the pier. The moon was casting shadows. You could see the dark beach for miles in both directions. It was a scene I would love to have a picture of. I slept on the ground as I did whenever we camped, thinking of the beauty of the world. The next day I got an early enough start, but the heat of the afternoon fatigued me. Halfway to Lompoc on an uphill, twisty road the sun became so hot I felt it had a personal grudge against me. Then, to make matters worse, at a desolate place I began hearing gunshots. When you are running on a deserted highway, you often imagine things, but I don't believe I was wrong. I started to race, and finally left the gunshots behind. In Lompoc I went to buy shoes. The ones I was wearing were not padded enough, and as a result my legs were troubling me. I purchased a light and cushioned pair, and found when I ran in them the pains went away like magic.

Outside of Lompoc the road went up a mountain and down the other side. It rained while I was running over the top of the mountain but I didn't mind at all. I could look down on farmers working in the fields. One man was setting up a piped-water system. His dog barked as I came close, and the farmer waved.

I ended the day in Guadalupe. There was no place to stay, so I got in the car and we drove to Oceano, 13 miles to the north. That night I tried to call a talk show whose host had asked me to check in during the trip, but I couldn't get through. After losing a dime I gave up and went to bed on the grass, listening to the radio.

The next morning I got back in the car with Mom and returned to Guadalupe. I made a promise that if I couldn't go the whole distance without getting in a car I would at least cover the whole distance without skipping a foot. In Guadalupe I went to the spot where I had stopped the night before and even retraced my steps several yards so there would be no mistake and then started to run. I went through a large eucalyptus grove. As the leaves fell I would try to catch them. I caught only one. When I got to Oceano and rejoined Mom, she took some pictures of me next to a sign saying PISMO STATE BEACH� MILE.

In the days ahead we moved into a desolate, lovely area where there weren't many places to camp. Because of this I decided to cover longer distances. But I took my time getting places. I stopped on the side of a pasture near Cayocus and talked to the cows. They were scared of me. They ran away, and I raced them. I hate to say it, but they beat me. I would play games like seeing a billboard in the distance and not looking up till I felt sure I was right next to it. Or at least close by. I won that game only once. I even tried to wave as the cars passed, but few people waved back, so I quit. Some bikers went by and I yelled a howdy. At least they waved. It started to get cold and windy, and the sun went down just as I got to Cambria. I had only a few miles more now till San Simeon. It seemed like forever before I got there—and then I didn't know where I was. It was too dark to read the sign, close to eight o'clock.

That night I tried to call the radio talk show again. I got through. The host was pleased. I told him what I had been doing, and he encouraged me to keep it up.

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