Today, Mike and I began our road trip down to California to do some exploring. I will be updating once we have covered more on our journey, but for now, a quick post about Ashland! We left Portland this morning, and it was monsooning. Sheets of rain were coming down as we were packing up the car. A sign that we were heading in the right direction? I think so! To top things off, we met our neighbor for the first time today, even though he’s lived above us for 2 years. After talking for a minute, we discovered that he is from… where? Oh yes, Ventura, CA, the exact location we are headed to. He said he loved it, and he would move back any day! He even gave us tips about where to go, where to avoid, etc. As if we haven’t had enough signs from the universe already, there it was today in big, flashing, blinking lights. I have never felt so right on our path.
Our first stop was in Ashland today, where we had a mandatory stop at Caldera Brewing. I had an incredibly delicious, beautifully colored Ginger Hibiscus Ale. Oh my… In combination with my Stinky Hippie sandwich (zucchini, hummus, grilled onions, garlic spread all on sourdough) I was in Ashland Heaven. I have never been to Ashland before, and I can honestly say that I can’t wait to go back! It’s Stinky Hippie heaven! There was even a drum circle in the quaint downtown. On a Wednesday. I’d live there, but alas, there is no surf for Mike. In addition to beer, sandwich and drum circle heaven, this little town is a runner’s dream. And if you know of one Hal Koerner, an ultrarunner’s dream.
As I was slowly chewing my Stinky Hippie, Mike and I were discussing the fact that Hal Koerner lives in Ashland. In fact, we knew that Hal actually owns Rogue Valley Runners, a running store in town. Yes, we are on a first name basis now. So we strolled along Main Street, a delightful throwback to everything that has ever been delightful. Sweet smells of incense and sunshine filled the air, and there was a relaxed feeling of anything goes. And of course, Ashland is known for the Shakespeare Festival, so there are hints of that claim to fame everywhere.
We finally stumbled upon Rogue Valley Runners, the store we were hoping to find. We went in, not really expecting to see Hal, but who can resist a running store, really? They have group runs at the store, and there was a trail map on the wall. Elevation gain is an understatement. I found a cute shirt, and asked the sweet girl at the register if they had my size. As she was looking for it, I continued to look around. I turned around, and hey, there was Hal. For real? I hesitated for about 3 seconds, and then walked up and said, “Are you Hal?”
As if I didn’t know. “Yes,” he said nicely, looking around looking slightly embarrassed. I quickly explained to him that I was a big fan and we wanted to stop by his store, but never expected to actually see him. What a nice guy! He told us a little bit about the running around Ashland, explaining that it was either up or down. Judging by the mountains and hills that towered all around the little downtown, I could see what he was talking about. No wonder he likes this place to live! He said that the community group runs that meet at the store routinely turn into 8 miles or more with some pretty huge elevation. I wouldn’t expect any less from this cute little town, that is seemingly home to a pretty hardcore group of runners. You’d have to be strong to run around here! He did admit that he was thinking of having other groups that did shorter distances, but in this town, I’m not sure that anyone would show up. It kind of seemed like it was go big or go home around these parts. I love it! Hal certainly lived up to his reputation of being a hell of a nice guy. He was very humble, and he has that rugged appearance that shows his experience and miles on the trail. I hope to run into him at a race one day! I was giddy for several minutes after our time at the RVR store. And I got a new shirt! Mike and I are already thinking about taking a detour on the way home and going back to Ashland for some trail running. But first, we’ll have to ask Rogue Valley Runners where to go….
Tomorrow, adventures in Redding, CA on the trails. We are planning a nice trail run tomorrow with Mt. Shasta towering over our heads. Not a bad place to be!