Friday, October 15, 2010

Running on Deer Isle: Part III

This fall, a series of four essays is running in the Island Ad-Vantages, the local newspaper for Deer Isle and Stonington, ME. After each of my essays appears in the paper, I will also post it here.

When I decided to run every road on Deer Isle, I initially planned to skip all the private roads, because I didn't want to trespass onto private property. However, as soon as I started running the roads, I very quickly learned that if I skipped the roads marked "PVT," I'd miss 90 percent of Deer Isle. One of the reasons for running every road on Deer Isle was to really explore the island and see all of it, and to do that I had to run the private roads.

To respect property owners while still being true to my goal, I came up with a few simple rules. First, if there is a "No Trespassing" sign, I turn around at the sign. Similarly, if there is a rope or chain across the driveway, I turn around there. These rules result in some rather silly behavior: I run about four feet down a road, turn around at the rope, and run four feet back out, just so I can "count" the road as one I have done.

Additionally, if the road ends at a house, I turn around about 100 feet before I get to the house. However, it's often hard to tell whether the road ends. Several times, when the road curved around the back of the house, it looked like it kept going, so I ran down the road past the house, only to stop short when I realized the road ended in a parking spot. Other times, the road looked like it stopped at a house, so I turned around, only to inspect the satellite images later on the computer and find that the road did continue past the house. When that happened, I went back and ran the road again, this time all the way to the end.

To my surprise and continual delight, I have never had any trouble running on private roads. When I am running on a private road and a car comes by, I am always afraid they will stop and question me – but I smile and wave at them, and every time they just wave back and keep driving. (My theory is that on a private road with multiple houses, everyone just assumes that I'm someone else's crazy houseguest or renter.) I have run past people sitting on the porch in their pajamas, people mowing lawns, people out for a walk. I wave to them, and they wave back. When running on the main road, I wave to every car that passes, and usually the driver gives me a two-finger wave. Everyone is friendly.

One time, I was running on the French Camp Road, and I was doing a workout: 15 seconds sprinting and 30 seconds jogging, repeated over and over. I was afraid that someone would come home to find me absolutely tearing out of their driveway at full speed, and they would make the logical deduction that I had burglarized their house and was making a getaway. Luckily, I didn't see anyone the whole time I was running there.

I did get caught trespassing once, but it was my own fault for being lazy and not following my own rules. Most roads on Deer Isle, I have to run twice: once on the way in and once coming out. This particular day, my map showed that two roads connected in a "V" shape, so I could run in one road and out the other. However, when I ran down the first road, I found that it didn't quite connect to the second one, though I could see the second road through the trees. I didn't feel like running all the way out the way I had just came, and then running all the way down the other road just to end up at a place that I could see from where I was standing, so I quickly walked through 100 feet of woods and started jogging out the other road – and found myself on the wrong side of an 8-foot-tall metal gate!

The bad news: the landowner was in the woods gardening, and sternly informed me that I was on private property, and then listened unsympathetically to my explanation about my map. The good news: it had been pouring rain for an hour, and I was thoroughly soaked, so when the woman asked me where I came from and I told her Ron's Mobil (at this point about three miles away), she evidently decided that I was crazy and simply said "good luck." Even more good news: there was an eight-inch gap between the bottom of the gate and the road, so I was able to slide under it and get out of there.

So thanks, Deer Isle and Stonington, for sharing your roads with me and for allowing me to enjoy their beauty as you do.

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