Into the Deep (south that is!) – Mississippi State #17

Just ran my first official southern state, Jackson, Mississippi. You may have noticed a slight change in my blog. I’ve decided from now on I’m going to start numbering my states. I may even go back and put numbers on all my past races as well but we’ll see. This was one heck of an adventure. Once I decided on running the Jackson, Mississippi Blues Marathon I realized driving was out of the question and so I was going to need to check out the flight situation. As it turned out there was a big football game going on the same weekend as the marathon and I waited too long to book a flight. All the cheap flights and hotels were taken by the people going to the football game. Since the airfare was outrageous I thought I’d pick the next closest city and fly there instead. The next closest city turned out to be Shreveport, Louisiana. Shreveport to Jackson is a 3 1/2 hour drive so that meant of course I would need to include a car rental in my package as well. So here I am, $ hotel, $ car, $ flight, it was really starting to add up quickly. Knowing that the TSA screeners at the airport were going to be watching very closely everything I brought on board with me I had to pack like a chipmunk storing nuts for the winter.Friendly looking at they? I went on-line to the TSA webpage to make sure of what I could and could not take and the exact amounts they would allow of my creams and lotions. When I run a marathon I usually take with me Vaseline, Bio-freeze, mole skin, tape, cu-tips, medicated powder, Tylenol, ibuprofen, knife, nail clippers, scissors, 5 or 6 packets of Gu, tissue, rubber gloves, a couple Cliff bars, banana, orange and several bottles of water. Well, right away I knew the knife, nail clippers and scissors weren’t coming. The water, banana and orange had to be left behind as well and everything else that was liquid or gel had to fit into a teenie weenie little quart size bag. I booked the absolutely cheapest hotel I could find, which (not surprisingly) was in the most run down, scariest part of town imaginable.

The one star hotel I stayed at!

The one star hotel I stayed at!

It would have been nice to have had my gun but of course this was another item the TSA guys frowned on people carrying in their luggage so along with my water and nail clippers the gun stayed home as well. I would be flying from Salt Lake City, Utah to Dallas, Texas and after several hours of waiting around the airport on to Shreveport, Louisiana. Once I got to the Salt Lake Airport and up to my terminal low and behold I was surprised by my Wife’s cousin, Cindy Davis.

My cousin (in-law) Cindy and her Husband Steve

My cousin (in-law) Cindy and her Husband Steve

She and her Husband, Steve Davis, were on their way to a vacation in Belize, Mexico. They had a stop in Salt Lake and Dallas. This made the trip so much less stressful since I now had friends and family with me on the flight and then during the several hour layover in Dallas. We talked and ate lunch and had a good time. I wished they could have continued with me on to Louisiana but after Texas they were off to Mexico. When I got to Shreveport I went to the car rental area and picked up my car and headed to the hotel. I arrived a few hours early and my room wasn’t quite ready yet so I decided to go and start carbing up for the race on Saturday. I decided that since I was in the south I was going to eat some local cuisine. I asked the guy at the front desk of the hotel where I might find a restaurant and he pointed out that right next door was a nice place. Let me just state for the record right up front that I don’t have a prejudice bone in my entire body. I love all people and races and colors and creeds and am tolerant in all respects to all peoples political, alternative lifestyles and religious views. With that said and out of the way it did occur to me that since leaving the airport I don’t believe I saw a single other white person. The only reason I mentioned this is because I’m from Utah and there is quite a contrast between living here and being in Louisiana.

Looks pretty local

Looks pretty local

When I walked into the restaurant which was called the ‘Brothers Seafood and Creole Restaurant’ I noticed the placed was packed. I also noticed that every single person stopped eating and turned to look at me. Need I say this was a little strange but hey I was the only white guy in the entire place so I guess it wasn’t all that strange. I looked at the menu and ordered two grilled filleted catfish, along with a side of plain white rice and a glass of water. After a short time she brought me Breaded, deep fried catfish, deep fried french fries and a coke. When she sat it down in front of me I told her she had brought me the wrong order and I repeated my choice again. She then began to argue with me. It might have been a different situation if she had gotten at least one thing correct but all 3 items? The argument was pointless because she refused to back down. So I acquiesced and asked if she could just bring me a side of plain white rice. All these items were in the menu and I didn’t do any creative ordering. The rice side was listed as ‘plain white rice’. After several minutes she brought out a bowl of white rice completely covered in brown gravy and sat in down in front of me and said,’Here’s your rice and gravy just like you ordered it’. When I reminded her I only ordered plain white rice and not rice and gravy another argument began. Let’s just say I lost that fight as well and ended up eating battered, deep fried catfish with fries and rice swimming in gravy and washing it down with a coke. The rest of the evening went about as well as dinner. My room was what I like to call sub-economy. I asked for a non smoking room so they had the house keeping lady go in and remove all the ash trays for me even though the room stunk to high heaven with the lingering smell of cigarettes. Someone had stolen the batteries out of the remote for the T.V. I was told this happens all the time and they’d try and find some new ones for me later. Since the marathon was a 3 1/2 hour drive away in Jackson, Mississippi and I had to be there by 6:00am to get my packet I figured that meant I would have to leave by 2:30am to get there on time so I had better get a few hours of shut eye before the race. It was hard to get any sleep with all the yelling and gun shots and cars peeling rubber all evening but I did my best.

An empty bottle of liquor right outside my door

An empty bottle of liquor right outside my door

I woke up at 1:30am and started getting all my stuff ready for the race. It was raining and in fact had been raining every since I arrived. I drove all the way to Mississippi in the pouring rain trying my best not to slide off the road. It doesn’t rain there like it rains in Utah. It comes down in sheets or buckets. I’ve never seen rain like the rain they have. I live in the desert and consider two drops of water on my windshield a major storm. This was killer flood rain in my opinion but the locals didn’t seem to even notice it. Finally I arrived at the start of the race and the packet pickup area but I hadn’t had any time yet to eat or drink a thing. To anyone who has ever run a marathon they know that eating and especially drinking before a race if very important. Every marathon I have run so far has had a couple of tables of fruit and breads and bottles of water for the runners so I wasn’t worried because I figured when I arrived I could scarf down on some stuff just before the race. To my utter disappointment there was no bread, no water, no fruit and no toilet paper in the portable Johns. Take a guess which one of these missing items concerned me the most! Forget everything you’ve ever heard about the hot, sweltering south. It was only about 40 degrees and it rained on and off through the entire race. I was wet and cold and numb but we did see some really nice sites running through the city of Jackson. We also saw what some of the local runners described as ‘shotgun shacks’. That’s a southern term for a broken down house that’s been condemned. I finished this race in about 5 hours and 45 minutes. I was really hoping to be under 5 hours but with the chilly rain and somewhat tough course I was a bit slower than I wanted. What made the course so difficult was the constant rolling hills. The entire 26.2 miles you were either going up a hill or coming down the backside of one. Even though they had a tent set up for runners at the finishing line I was so cold that I didn’t stick around too long after I finished. When I tried to get a massage I was shaking so hard the masseuse couldn’t keep from laughing. Since I had another 3 1/2 hour drive back to Shreveport and my hotel room I knew I should eat something before leaving Jackson. It took my GPS 4 tries to find a me a restaurant that wasn’t closed down. I finally settled on the ‘Waffle House’. Once again I was the only white guy in the whole place. The waitress got my order right but when I asked for a refill on my water she took my used/dirty glass filled it up and gave it to another customer. I then had to get up and go retrieve it from this person. The waitress noticed me get up and get my water and then asked, ‘Is there a problem Sir?’. When I told her she gave my glass to someone else she then began to argue with me and deny ever doing such a thing. A couple of hours later while I was still driving back to Shreveport I noticed a Wendy’s off the freeway and since I was dying of thirst I thought I’d stop and get a large Sprite. I learned long ago the best drink after a marathon is Sprite, Sprite and more Sprite. Don’t ask me why but it really makes me feel about a 100% better. I pulled up to the drive through and ordered my large Sprite. The girl repeated THREE times,’Large Sprite, that’s all you want? A large Sprite?’ to which I kept answering back, ‘Yes, just a large Sprite’. When I got up to window number 2 she handed me a drink and said, ‘Here’s your medium Sprite!’ I couldn’t help but just sit there in my car and laugh. Is every waitress in the State of Louisiana incapable of getting an order correct? After driving back in the pouring rain for 3 1/2 hours I finally arrived at my hotel only to find my door key didn’t work. Apparently the hotel staff was under the impression that I had checked out. That took a while to get straighten out but surprisingly my room and all the stuff I left there was untouched. The bed was made and that was about it. Why they thought I had checked out was and is still a mystery. I was exhausted, stinky, really super stinky, wet and drained both mentally and physically. I just wanted to shower and sleep.

Tired, stinky and wet, but very happy at the end of the race!

Tired, stinky and wet, but very happy at the end of the race!

Once again I was awoken by men and women yelling, cars peeling out and loud booms that sounded like gun shots but I didn’t care. The race was over, I had my giant guitar medal and I was so tired I easily fell back into unconsciousness after every interruption. The next morning I woke up early so I could take advantage of the complimentary breakfast the hotel offered. It was a do it yourself waffle bar! Apparently I didn’t put any butter on the waffle iron making the waffle stick to the iron. One of the hotel staff took the initiative to yell at me and call me a dumb white boy. I think I said the words ‘I’m so sorry’ about 20 times before he left me alone. While eating breakfast the hotel’s big screen T.V. was on and we got to watch a local Baptist Minister’s Sunday program. It was the most unusual? Interesting? Humorous? Animated? thing I think I’ve ever watched before. To give you an idea of what it was like every 5 minutes or so all the other guests of the hotel in the breakfast room would shout out, ‘Amen!’. When I left the hotel for the airport the fog was so thick you could have cut it with a knife.

Scary, thick fog like in a 'Zombie' movie

Scary, thick fog like in a ‘Zombie’ movie

After several hours of flying and another lay over in Dallas I finally made it back home. What a long weekend it turned out to be. I almost forgot to mention that along with some other freebies in my packet I also got a souvenir harmonica. I’ll have to take lessons or something and learn how to play the blues with it!

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