And sometimes you don’t.

You may not know this, but I was planning on running from Lubbock, Texas to the Gulf of Mexico in under two weeks in August 2012. It’s somewhere between 550 and 600 miles.

Training got serious around April after I healed from tearing my achilles in the fall of 2011. I ran and ran and ran. Most of it was on my own. I thought the main reason, besides having a hurt leg, the 50 mile run was difficult was because I always had my Dad as a safety net during my training. He was actually going to be there every few miles for the Gulf Run, unlike the 50 miler but I thought a stronger mind was better to have and not need.

I got up to 220 miles in one week and was planning on doing it the next two weeks leading up to August 1, 2012, the start date of the endeavor. I would do forty miles at a time, sometimes thirty or thirty-five if I wasn’t feeling it.

My shoes were still unlaced when I stepped out of my car to hide my water bladder in the bushes. I had a small blue camel back that I ran with and would refill halfway. There’s a big tree on the opposite side of the highway that marked twenty miles from my starting point, it always looks about five miles closer than it actually is. I blasted pump-up jams as I made my way to the start of the run, this was the fifth time I had done this this week.

I made sure my two gatorades were still in position to be gulped down at mile ten and mile 30, they were. You would not see the two orange tops sticking up out of the grass unless you knew where they were but I always checked anyway. The highway was always bare the occasional truck passing by, but it was a lonely road most of the way.

I laced up my shoes and waited for all the cars to pass by as I pretended like I was stretching. I hated to start a run with judgmental cars whizzing by. It was a slow and steady pace but running none the less. I reached the ten mile mark, drank my gatorade and was on my way before my achilles started acting up. It had not done this in over a thousand miles at least.

It was not a terrible feeling but it worried me so I decided to call it a day and turned to walk back to my car, sipping on gatorade to ease my frustration. This was going to be a problem. I was planning on running 550 miles across Texas in a few weeks and injuries would not due.

The next morning I decided to take it easy and run 6 miles. I could not make it past 4 with out excruciating pain shooting up my leg, nearly as bad as the trail run. I hooked a left and walked the one mile home, careful to use precise form to not strain my achilles. After sleeping in the next day, I tried again. Two miles. It was getting worse.

Throughout my training I went to Dr. Jared Carrey. He does muscle magic. It may be voodoo, I do not know, but it works. I went to see him shortly after my achilles was first injured. I could barely put weight on my foot when I walked in and I walked out with a brand new leg. He had gotten me through the fifty miler and I was hoping he could do it again. The best part about what he does is he encourages you to keep working out, not rest, that was the best part. It doesn’t make sense, but it works.

I went to him after my two mile adventure and got the treatment I thought I needed. Hoping for the best I went for six miles the next day only making it to four with pain throughout. I put my shirt up over my face and pulled down my hat to hide the tears. It had come one thought at a time but now, my dream of running some incredible distance before I turned 18, was over.

I had to tell my Dad, that was going to be the worst part. I don’t know what it was about telling him that made it so hard but I couldn’t do it, I would try and then get asked how my run went that day and I’d lose it. I went on for a few days telling him about runs that did not happen wishing I knew how to break the news. Maybe it was hard because up until this point he had invested just as much time and emotion into the feat as I had.

It was late morning as I sat at my desk wallowing in my failure when my dad came and peeked his head around the door. “How’s the running going?” Tears built up in my eyes as I stared at the ground trying to find the right words, they started streaming as I looked up at him. He shut the door and sat down on the step to my room, “I’m not running.” His eyes were filled before I even said it, he already knew. There was nothing more to say, we just sat and cried. It could have been five minutes or an hour, I don’t know, but we cried and it felt good.

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His name is not really Johnny.

Sorry I left you guys hanging. I hope this clears up why my trip ended sooner than planned. I know I left a lot of you loyal readers in the dark, but just know, this is not the end of the story, there are many plans to be unfolded and I hope whoever is reading this is willing to tag along for the next adventure.

Ready, go.

By now I was used to sleeping in my tree so I woke up around 10 AM. I made the routine trip to starbucks, watched a documentary and had a cup of hot chocolate before heading to Ocean Beach.

I only had one book with me, The Old Man And The Sea, and picked up reading where I left off the day before. I guess you can say this is my favorite book. It is also the only book that I ever actually read for the required summer reading during my school years, sorry Coach Neal. Maybe I would have liked some of the others too, who knows. I was sitting just obove the water line where the land makes a dip straight into the ocean. I had to move every five minutes or so to stay under the shade of the Life Guard tower. (I was severley sunburned from too much beach time.)

It was early in the day so not many people were out yet, but that did not stop Johnny from coming up and asking for one dollar and fifty cents. He was a scrawny kid wearing an old tattered Jan Sport backpack. It was tan with a gold and red Eno hammock hanging from one of the straps. In his right hand was a skateboard with big blue cruising wheels.

“I’m not going to use it for anything bad” he assured me, “I just want to get some doritos.”

“How about Subway?” There was one just down the street and I was hungry anyway.

“Hell yeah!”

We were on our way.

We talked about everything under the sun over a nice meatball sandwich and some Doritos. He told me he had been on Heroin for the past three years and that his mom was on it too. In fact she was the one who introduced him to it after smoking weed just didn’t make the cut. He was living in his hammock too, which was pretty cool. It also seemed ironic that he was 19 as well. He told me all about how he would scrape up hundreds of dollars to get his fix every day, which was quite amazing. He’d ask for ten dollars at a time or help people set up there beach gear for a few bucks and managed to get enough to keep him buzzed all day. After a while we went our seperate ways and I assured him that he would be in my prayers.

It was about eleven O’ Clock and I was just getting ready to fall asleep after watching the fireworks over the ocean coming from Sea World’s direction when I heard my name called out in a raspy voice. There it was again. I looked down and saw none other than Johnny, halfway up my tree.

“Tardy, Hey man is it cool if I sleep here tonight?”

“Hell yeah! Come on up.”

As soon as we got his hammock up, I had to help him a little, he didn’t seem to be all there, he went on to tell me what happened only hours before. Johnny’s mom decided that she really did not want to keep on sharing her Heroin with her son so she took it upon herself to fix the problem. As he lay on the coach at their dealers house, she came running at him with a knife screaming that he was the problem with her life and that she was going to end it right then and there. Johnny grabbed his stuffed and made it out the door as she hit the ground, stumbling to get to him.

He was balling his eyes out at this point.

He knew where I was staying and had no where else to go so he rode his skateboard the fifteen miles to my tree.

“Tardy, why are you here man? I can’t believe you are here. You gotta get out of here now. Has your mom ever done drugs Tardy?”

He was spitting out questions too fast for me to keep up, “Johnny, Johnny calm down it’s alright, it’s gonna be alright.”

“Tardy,” he paused for what seemed like forever, mustering his strength to keep talking through the tears, “Why are you doing this Tardy?” I couldn’t tell him. I couldn’t tell him that I left my perfect family to go do exactly what he was being forced to do by the circumstance life had thrown at him.

How do you tell someone you chose to be in their same situation they are in and make it sound like a good idea? Before I could find an answer he begged that I return home. There’s no way I could say no.

The next morning I woke up around 9 AM and he was gone. I called my dad and told him my plan to return and bought a bus ticket to leave the next morning. Johnny had called his Mom off of my phone the day before and I have been trying to get ahold of him ever since, but there has been no response.

I called teen challenge and they were willing to help get Johnny into a better situation, but there is nothing we can do without being able to contact him.

I pray for Johnny every time he crosses my mind, and I hope for the day I get a call from a San Diego area code with that raspy voice on the other end, even if he just needs another dollar and fifty cents.

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Palo Duro Trail Run

So I wrote this story out for senior chapel but I did not get the time I needed to tell the story in all it’s glory so I told them I wasn’t going to talk. But seeing how this is my blog and everything, I’m gonna share it with you now. 

A while back when all my brothers and sisters were gathered in the same place, there’s 12 of us, my three older brothers Daniel, Kirk and Evan got to telling stories about all the trouble they used to get in. I was asked if I had any stories until I was informed that a good five year rule applies to anything you can get in trouble for, so I didn’t have any stories. However, It is approaching the five year mark on when the true beginning of this entire adventure got started. So buckle up, it is gonna be a long one. 

Throughout elementary school we had a weekly running day. One mile every thursday and then you got to play the rest of class. There were some fast girls and I did not want a girl to beat me, so I ran. Eventually it got to where me and two others guys were finishing consistently at the top 3 every time. 

I moved to trinity in 6th grade and that was the same deal just slightly more competitive. Seventh grade is when I really got going. Not another sole was in cross country from my grade. Just me. I would run every practice up at the front with Donny Quick and Coach Kieth. I ran on the 8th grade team for cross country and track since there was no one else. 

It was also in seventh grade that I remember seeing Forest Gump for the first time. They made it look so simple when he was running across america and he did it so easily and my first thought was, I can do that. What most people do not realize about Forest is he had been training his whole  life. He ran everywhere since he was 7 or 8 years old. It makes me sick when people say he couldn’t just do that but yes, he probably could. 

It was probably no more than 5 minutes after that movie that I was on a map figuring out where I could run to. I got it, I’m going to Lake Erie. My only reasoning behind this was that it had to be a body of water a good distance away because I would want to jump in when I got there. I went to state my freshman year and was hoping to run under 18 minutes and 30 seconds, but I did absolutely terrible and ran it in 23 minutes. I was devastated and decided to stop running. 

Thats when me and some buddy’s got a little curious. We turned into pot heads. It was summer now and we had a mobile car wash. We would wake up pretty early actually and be out at the first houses around 8 A.M. only after burning one down of course. It went on like this everyday and weekend just about until late into my sophomore year. It had almost been a year of just smoking all the time and I wanted to stop. But I still wanted to be cool you know? Thats when I came up with the best plan ever. I’m just going to become a runner again and then I can say I can’t smoke because I’m running. Tardy you are a genius. 

I thought back to my plan to run to Lake Erie and looked at the map again. Now Coach Huestes definitely thought I learned nothing in his freshman geography class, mainly because I failed, but I did know that Lake Erie was going to be cold when I got there. I needed a warm place. A place in Texas. The Gulf of Mexico. The Gulf Run 2012. 

This was 2011 now and I needed to figure out if I was even going to be capable of running 600 miles in under two weeks. How do you do that? 50 mile Ultra marathon. 

I found a bunch of articles about Ultras and this whole big movement and all that BS. I was just looking for where to sign up. I found the Palo Duro trail run was about 4 months away and I figured that was enough time for me to procrastinate and train for the race. So I signed up, about ten minutes after thinking about it. 

The training was very easy actually believe it or not. I ran my first marathon in training only a month and a half after starting from scratch. Then I just kept doing it every weekend building up to 30 miles. 

Now in this time of training I also trained and competed at the National Championships of Extreme Trampoline and Power Tumbling. I had a bet with my dad that if I got top 3 in any event I would get an iPhone. I got second in Tumbling behind a kid from the Bronx named Oreo who had only tumbled on the street for 6 months and he got a perfect score. I have never been so proud to lose to someone before. you deserved it Oreo. All I needed was a 2nd anyway. 

Between that and the race a girl I had tumbled with somehow got me to sign up to be a cheerleader. What. I can’t imagine what my parents thought of all this stuff. So now I was training for a 50 mile Ultra, learning how to do competitive cheer, and doing gymnastics. Oh, and Cross Country. 

It was a sunday when it happened. The saturday before was the race at Mae Simmons park, some people say its one of the hardest CC courses in Texas. I ran my best time ever in 18:36s. Then I went home and ran 10 more miles in 70 minutes. Two PR times in one day. I woke up at five sunday morning and slowly started out along my ten mile route. I had to run it 3 times. 

You wouldn’t believe me but it was surprisingly not hard. Sure it was harder than not doing it but definitely was not agony. I was worse off the day before after three miles than when I finished the 30 miles, 5 hours and 20 minutes later. As if the weekend had not been eventful enough, I went to cheer practice only a few hours after running. We were told to warm up our tumbling and on the first flip flop a searing pain shot up my leg. I knew immediately something was very wrong. 

My achilles was partially torn and I had a race to run that I had told everyone and their dog about because I was so excited. It was only 4 weeks away. 

I was determined to start that race “even if they carry me from the car and plop me down on the starting line” I would always say. I was going to at least have tried and failed than to not have tried at all. Nothing in this world makes me more angry, furious, than when I hear someone take the credit of being a failure for something they have not even tried. Do not credit yourself as a failure if you have not tried. 

I was on crutches for the first week and was doing my stretches from Mr. Wimberly at least ten times a day, not missing a beat. It hurt to walk up until a the beginning of the last week before the race. I jogged two laps around a track with the CC team on the wednesday before the race but that is all I could do. The pain was too much to bare. 

I probably stretched 50 times a day in those days before the race.  

My dad and I drove to amarillo friday night and ate at Olive Garden. I got spaghetti cause I saw it in a movie before this fat guy ran a marathon. We stayed in a hotel on the edge of town. As I lay in bed I was praying to God just to let me finish. I did not care what it took to do it, or if I died with that last step across the finish line but I was going to finish. Thats when I got this weird voice like feeling telling me to spit on my hand and rub it on my leg. 

You have got to be kidding me, I am not doing that. 

A few minutes later I was spitting on my hand and rubbing it onto my ankle and achilles and oddly, but probably just a mind trick, the slight sting in my achilles went away and I fell asleep. I do not remember anything from waking up but I did grab a few bananas out of the dining area on the way to the car. While driving to the canyon I spit on my leg again and rubbed it in. Then somehow I came up with or was given the idea that I only had 3. I could only spit on my leg 3 times to stop the pain. Okay. 

I signed in and did my stretches. As you can see from all my pictures on facebook, I looked like some kid coming to do a fun run 5K. Everyone else had on a fancy gear and arm sleeves and stuff. I was wearing a cotton sweatshirt that weighed 5 pounds compared to everyones gear. I was fine with it. I did not care about what any one else was doing, I was going to finish. 

 

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The countdown started and that nervous feeling starting building up from where it rested the last few weeks until the gun went off. We started down the dark morning trail, headlights bouncing around, darting along the edge of the trail. It was a long single file line with the occasional dumb ass sprinting to the front along the edge of the trail. I don’t know how long it was or how many miles before the first aid station and the separation of 50K runners and 50 mile runners but it was refreshing to see people cheering you on. My achilles did not hurt.

 

50 mile race

 

By the end of the first lap, 12 miles, everyone was pretty spaced out and I was running alone. As I crossed the finish line for the first time I got pretty upset at my parents, telling me I don’t have to finish, its okay if you want to stop, things like that and I just wanted to scream, No. No, its not okay. I have to finish. About halfway through the second lap my leg started hurting again, bad. 

I took it until the end of the lap, 25 miles, but I couldn’t take much more. I had given just about all I had. I kept walking as my family refilled my water and opened snickers bars and bananas and then I went on immediately not saying a word to anyone, ignoring questions and encouragements. I wanted to get down the road so I could rub some more spit on my damn achilles. As soon as I was out of site i took off my shoe and rubbed my achilles really good. The pain did not completely subside but it was bearable. 

A few more miles left on the 3rd lap and I was breaking down, mentally and physically at about the same rate. Things were getting blurry with water filling my eyes as I approached the most treacherous hill on the course. It was all red rock, slippery and steep. It had to be 100 degrees outside. I started walking up it. I did not makeit 10 steps before I fell to my knees and couldn’t see anything. I had told myself earlier if it came to this I would keep moving as long as I was conscience so I started up the hill on my hands and knees. 

My legs would cramp with every pull upward and my knees were scraping on the rock. I did not have the strength to lift them all the way off the ground. Tears started running down my face but it was not like I was crying. My body did not want to give any effort to anything but finishing. I laid on the ground and closed my eyes. Every part of my body was in tremendous pain and I just wanted to go to sleep. 

“Hey wake up. Come on we are going to help you up, ready?” Two men wearing red shirts and riding mountain bikes were standing over me. The EMS crew. I had seen them at one of the aid stations helping a man with severe cramps. “There is an aid station just at the top of this hill with our truck. We are going to get you out of here.” The only thing going through my mind since the start of the race was, “I’m not quitting.” And that is exactly what I told them as they held me me up by my arms. They let me drop to my hands and knees again. “Im sorry buddy.” He was barely able to get out, “We aren’t allowed to touch you if you are still racing.” 

They stood there and watched me crawl to a rock where I stood up and looked back to wave from the top, trying to keep my positivity up, he was crying as he waved back. “Good luck Buddy.”

I got to the flat part of the race and eventually made it back to the finish line for the third time. There were people BBQing and eating burgers as I struggled on by. My family was waiting with some race officials. They looked very concerned and asked that I not go on. They thought something was going to happen and so did my parents. I guess I looked pretty rough. “I’m not quitting.” 

I changed my shirt and socks for the fourth time and refueled on snacks and fluid. Actually just Snickers bars, energy gel, and Coca Cola. I was on my way for the last lap. I had 3 hours before the cut off time of 12 hours. I just wanted it all to be over and I felt alright after seeing faces and getting refueled and clean clothes. So I started out at a very fast pace, around 8 minutes a mile or less. I don’t know how long I maintained this pace, maybe a two miles, maybe one, but it was a huge mistake. I slowed down and went as far as I could and then started walking. I felt exhausted. I don’t mean how you felt after volleyball practice. I mean when you have completely used 100 percent of your energy, there is absolutely nothing left. I sat down on a rock, completely alone in between two huge walls going up a hundred feet or so just before the big red hill that took me under last lap. During the last hour as I had been walking and jogging, or scooting, whatever you call it, I had been singing bible songs like I’ve Got the Joy or This Little Light of Mine but they had to have been the most profane songs you had ever heard. I was screaming out anything I could think of. I was furious. 

As I sat on the rock looking up at the mountain before me, I softly started singing the same songs in the lightest voice I could to save energy, then I started up the hill. First on my feet but I quickly went to my hands and knees and gave it all I could possibly give and I collapsed at the top of the hill. 

 

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I don’t know if I had passed out again but all I could see was white and figured it was God so I prayed, shouted/cussed rather that if I am supposed to finish this race then you had better do something about it because i have given everything I have and there is nothing left. Then I saw a man coming towards me looking like an angel surrounded by the white light but slowly turned in to a fat mexican with a beer gut. He reached out his hand and helped me up. “Follow me. Just look at my back and don’t let it get away from your eyes.” 

So I did. I followed him down the path with my eyes buried in the loose shirt hanging on his lower back. He had a water bottle in either hand both filled with coke. I heard women hipping and hollering and thought I was going to heaven. I don’t recall any pain that I felt on this trail, I just followed. We got closer and closer to the yelling and I saw a sign that read “AID STATION” but that was marked out and underneath read “Dos Loco Senoritas Aid Station.” Clever. 

We came around the ben and two older ladies were there and got really excited to see the two of us. They called the mexican their boyfriend. We learned we were the last ones on the course and we had little more than an hour to complete 3 miles. They filled me up with Coke and I took a whole container of M & M’s. We went on our way again and got into the flat lands where it was green and shady and you could hear the water running alongside the trail. I swear I was on my way to heaven. We got to the last aid station two miles from the finish line. The mexican went on without me and I gave all my gear to Bobo, my little brother. I took my time and walked and looked at all the animals running around and I could smell the fresh water passing over the ground in the wetter areas. Everything was perfect. 

I came out of the trees and it was a 300 meter run to the finish line. I went as fast as I could which was about a jog. Just my family and the couple that does the race were there. Everything else was deserted. I ran in between a line of Texas and American flags and at 11:54 minutes after I started, I crossed the finish line for the fourth and final time.  

 

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I went back to the canyon with a good friend from amarillo a little over a year ago. Somehow we ended up on top of the big red hill and I could just see everything that happened so perfectly. I saw the way I looked and what kind of condition I was in and how badly I had been beaten down and it made me so sick I couldn’t stand. I felt dizzy and nauseated. We had to leave. I could not handle it. I miss that feeling more than anything in the world, the moment right before you quit, but you keep going, you dig a little deeper and you go on until you win. 

 

                         50 mile race

 

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Near Death Experience

I am writing this on a 4×5″ composition notepad that I got for $4.75 with pens which was $4 more than I had hoped to pay. You don’t realize how badly you want to write things down untill you don’t have that option, but maybe that’s just me.

I am using this instead of my Macbook because sitting on the boardwalk at midnight, typing away on a fancy laptop, surrounded by homeless dudes just seems like asking for trouble. I have wished I brought my leather bound journal with me numerous times but at 4:45 on the morning of my flight as I packed my bag I guess I decided it was too bulky to tag along.

I don’t have a place to sleep tonight for the first time in the 3 full weeks that I have been gone. It is a funny story actually. By funny I mean that I was tremendously angry over a simple miscommunication, but I will get to that later.

Some of my few readers requested that I provide more detail on what is actually going on so I will try to do my best.

My bare feet are sitting on a thin layer of cool damp sand, the kind rejected by the rest of the beach on the slope to the ocean at my back. The concrete underneath the sand is warm enough for my toes though but there is a chilly breeze on top of my feet and ankles. My pant legs are rolled up just enough to keep the deep soft sand off of my jeans while I walked by the ocean. The waves are unpleasantly loud actually but they are my only friend right now so I have kept myself from asking them to keep it down.

 

Ocean Beach

 

Two young boys are running along the barrier I’m sitting on trying to keep their balance as they come towards me. Their mom yelling at them to wait for “mommy and daddy.” My guess is she doesn’t want them running past the group of guys that have obviously been to friendly with Mr. Daniels tonight without being by their mothers side, as any mother would.

Earlier, as I walked with my feet in the water just out of hearing distance from the numerous bonfires lining the beach, I found a group of boulders marching out quite a ways into the sea. It was very odd to me that no one was out on the rocks but I was going to climb them anyway.

I started out along the tops of the boulders staying away from the waves crashing on either side of me. As I appraoched the end I saw a dark figure the size of a sand dollar glide across a light colored rock. I had no idea what it could be so I pulled out the flashlight on my phone and lit the rocks on fire.

Now if you can picture the giant spider in The Lord of the Rings, that’s what it was. Except on a much smaller scale and it was a crab but it was terrifying. I had no shoes on and I was in his territory barely able to balance let alone escape his enormous half inch long claws. I needed off these rocks, now.

Then I turned around.

They were everywhere. Hundreds of tiny toe eating crabs staring me in the eye, daring me to come towards them. I got off those rocks faster than you just replied to that last message on tinder. That is the last time I climb on forbidden rocks in the ocean.

The street is empty now except for the occasional smoker coming out of the hotel to polish off his pack before bed. My desire to get why I was so angry off my chest has gone for now and I think I know of a place I can sleep so that story is just going to have to wait for another day.

I am going to let the ocean sleep now since the waves have politely quieted down to let me write. But then there’s the drunk girls screaming at the waves.

I’m sorry ocean, niether of us are going to sleep tonight.

 

 

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Just close your eyes, and fall asleep.

I went to Santa Barbara Community Church the first sunday I was in Cali. It was quite the feat getting there because it was uphill for about 8 miles at about 80 degrees. Not to mention my 40 pound pack and very inadequate skate shoes for hiking. 

I did all this (at four in the afternoon, mind you) mainly because I just really needed to talk to someone. Not an any weird emotional way like they do at trinity, “We are always here if you need to talk,” but I just really wanted to tell someone how much fun I was having and what I was doing because I thought it was pretty damn cool. 

There were a bunch of kids that made up the band and I do not know if Lubbock just has really bad ass musicians or what but these guys seemed below average. Not to mention the songs they were singing were just straight up weird, like something a really good singer would do but they stayed monotone the whole time with a few hiccups here and there. Then they started singing ‘In Christ Alone.’

I saw the title come up on the projector and I immediately was taken back to the night before. I had left a downtown coffee shop to hike up to my tree on the edge of this very cliff-like hill. I decided to take a short cut through a neighborhood and it ended up taking me way out in the middle of everywhere. Thought I was going to say nowhere didn’t you. 

It was 11:30 at this point and I was getting very nervous. The night before a man’s dog ran up the hill and started barking at me as I stood with my legs spread wide between to trunks of diverging trees readjusting my hammock straps to get the maximum amout of comfort from them. I was madder than hell that that stupid dog found me because his owner started his way up towards me calling after his stupid freaking dog, ‘Sunshine.’ He went on to tell me I could stay here a day or two but this was not a permanent spot and I had to move on. He went off into the bushes up the hill a ways and disappeared. I did not know if he was homeless as weel claiming his territory or maybe that path led to his back door in the neighborhood at the top of the hill and was just being kind. His name was Paul. I met a homeless mexican at the beach named Pual who told me where to get free burritos every morning. Mexican Paul did not have a dog. He scared me, I am glad it was not mexican Paul. 

This was going to be the second time sleeping in the same tree after that incident. I was at the top of the hill now one hundred yards or so from the path off the street to my tree. My heart sank down into my stomach and my feet were more reluctant to move. It felt like I was on at that moment when you are half way down a steep hill and you can either slam your foot on the ground to stop or you are committed to riding it out to the bottom when you realize it is already too late. I was terrified that something might happen getting to my tree or while I was sleeping. I had never been this scared or worried or felt this trapped before in my life. I did not know anywhere else to go and it was already getting late. 

When the song started playing I thought back to that night and the roller coaster of emotions that flooded my mind. I would stoop down to my lowest and then pump myself up again and get ready to move on, over and over again. As soon as I saw the title on the screen my chest lifted up like it was swollen with joy and I got that feeling where you just want to start shouting and dancing around but you know there is nothing you can do to adequately express your joy and I immediatley made sure nothing was running down my face, then they started singing. 

I realized that myself and everyone I know are one hundred percent spoiled brats. Sure, I had to pay for half of my car but besides that my entire circle is completely and utterly spoiled. Basically meaning if I have met you and probalbly if you are reading this. I have worried about whether I can afford to buy 3 $.89 cans of noodles or 4. I have worried for hours at a time if I am going to be attacked or have all of my stuff stolen when I am asleep. I have had to carry all of my belongings with me literally everywhere I go and you are worried about whether or not Chik-fil-a got your order right because god forbid you get a medium fry when you ordered a large. 

I saw the words ‘When fears are stilled, when strivings cease. My comforter my all in all, here in the love of christ I stand.” Tears started puring down my face before they even sang the words. Then came the lyrics, “Scorned by the ones he came to save. Til’ on that cross as Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied, for every sin on him was laid, here in the death of Christ I live.’

Can you even imagine had angry Christ had a right to be. He came to save the very people that were turning against him. Imagine leaving your fancy house and driving to a homeless shelter to feed them, and they start mocking you and throw the food back in your face. Ha! You would probably sue. 

He came from heaven, freaking heaven, and was killed. Killed. Dead, gone, donski. I have felt just a fraction of what he could have possibly been feeling and he just took it. He won, he freaking won. And luckily, like it is freaking crazy that we can be saved solely by believing and accepting forgiveness and go on being spoiled brats but I guess we can, but luckily, he did that for us. 

My favorite quote is “God loves you because of who God is, not because of anything you did or did not do.” Freaking awesome. I would highly, highly, highly, recommend putting yourself in a position where you have to completely rely on God to help you. And no I am not talking about a “Mission Trip” where you go and tour a beautiful country while playing soccer with awesome kids all day. I mean true dependency, like not knowing if you are going to be arrested for sleeping in a tree or not but you trust him anyway and close your eyes an fall asleep. 

You just close your eyes, and fall asleep. 

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Sleeping In A Hammock

My plane was running late from Denver to Phoenix and I was barely a minute late getting to the gate headed to Santa Barbara. I was put on a later flight and told everything would be alright, but what I was not told was that I would still have plenty of daylight to search for a safe, secluded area to hang my hammock on my first night being “homeless.”

After landing and watching the sunset as I made my way to a 24 hour McDonalds, where I planned on pulling an all nighter on YouTube, I recieved a call from Gabe Wilke, a good friend of mine. I was resting at a park and told him to get on google street view so he could see exactly what I was seeing. It is a pretty cool feature actually. He got on and found where I was and realized it was daytime on google.

“Dude, I can find you a tree on here.”

Those were the most beautiful words I had ever heard. He led me to what looked like a nice hidden area and I set up my hammock and gear all up in the tree. The tree was backed up in a corner 50 feet or so from a bike path with a tall brick wall and an even taller tennis court fence on the south and east sides. There was full coverage from the bike path and the street and I figured no one in the parking lot behind the brick wall would be looking in trees for Eno’ers after their graveyard shift at the factory.

There was a 6 foot gap between the other side of the tennis court and the brick wall making a sort of alley leading directly to the base of my tree, where I was hanging within hands reach from the ground, completely exposed. There was leaves all around and it was very hard to walk without making a ton of noise.

It was around midnight and I was finally sitting in my hammock ready to crash when the incredibly nerve racking thoughts flooded my mind. What if the police come? What are you going to say? What if they take you to jail? You don’t know anyone to bail you out. What if a homeless man assualts me? What if a tweeker wants something from me? I guess these thoughts eventually wore off and I dozed off into a light sleep.

I woke up.

Someone was walking down the alley. I lay there frozen as the footsteps, obviously human, slowed and stopped directly under my back at the base of the tree. He’s probably just peeing. What if he doesn’t see me? He has to see me I’m right here. I’m gonna die, I’m gonna die, I’m gonna die. No, you are fine. Just look over the edge and talk to him, he probably is just curious. Wrong again, it’s like 3 in the morning, all he wants is trouble.

I was frozen until it felt like ten minutes had passed. I had not made a single move and found myself regulating my breathing to be silent. I reached into my shirt pocket and looked at the time. 12:48. Okay Tardy, at 12:50 you are going to look over the edge, you won’t be able to sleep until you do. I froze for what felt like two minutes and went to look at my phone again. I realized I had to do something as soon as I found both of my hands to be clenched in tight fists and my jaw furiously locked shut. It was 1:00.

I pulled myself together and jerked my upper body up and looked over the edge of my hammock. My fists were clenched and my face was ready to take a punch and I immediately darted my eyes to wear my predecessor was. Nothing. Everything was just as it was when I got in my hammock an hour ago. I guess I dreamt the footsteps.

That dream sucked.

I got up for the day at 4:45 that morning, 45 minutes before my alarm was supposed to go off due to my cumpulsive shivering and lack of proper PJs. Thankfully that was the worst night I have had so far, though I have been cautious when sleeping in new trees.

What I did not realize about that first night was that I woke up without my back aching. No matter what position I slept in on a bed, I always woke up with a sore back and felt tired all morning. Somehow sleeping in a hammock has changed that. I wake up with only 5 or 6 hours of sleep every day and love it. My body feels rejuvenated, my back does not ache, and I am wide awake every time from the moment my eyes open.

I have figured out the perfect tension to hang my hammock and I fall asleep almost immediately after laying down. As long as I know I am safe that is. But then again, on my last night in Santa Barbara as I was lying in my hammock on Facebook, a man walked directly off the street towards my tree, examined my longboard at the base of the tree as he peed, and continued on about 30 feet to the next set of bushes where he layed down to sleep.

A week earlier and I would have wet the hammock, but I shrugged it off and got back on Facebook. No big deal.

I looked up the benefits of sleeping in a hammock (http://www.treklightgear.com/treklife/sleeping-in-a-hammock-guide/) and they are pretty numerous and very accurate. I can honestly say I have experienced them all and would highly recommend throwing a hammock up in that dorm room of yours, it just may be worth the switch.

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