Editor’s note: Daren Schumaker of Cedar Rapids and Dennis Lee of Walford are attempting to run across Iowa’s 99 counties to raise money for the American Heart Association. They have completed 59 counties. This is No. 59. Next: Osceola.
By Daren Schumaker, community contributor
CEDAR RAPIDS — Time is a funny thing.
The seconds, minutes, and hours that make up each day are a constant. However, time always seem to pass slowly when we want it to fly by and it always moves too quickly when we want it to slow down. For being a constant, time also is a relative term as none of us know how much we have. We could be here one day, and literally be gone the next.
Unfortunately, most of us don’t truly learn to appreciate time until we experience something that forces us to realize we may already have spent most of the time we’ve been given, an experience that puts everything into perspective.
Team 99 Counties appreciates time more than most, but Wapello County still was able to truly put things into perspective for us, a perspective we hope to share.
On June 22, we departed Walford at 7 a.m. with Rick Colton to cross Wapello County, where Colton was born and raised. After scouting our route, we arrived in Blakesburg on the western border of Wapello County. We gathered in the Blakesburg Cemetery where two tombstones drew our attention — Jonathan M. Derby (July 14, 1786 to October 6, 1864) and Clarissa V. Derby (December 5, 1786 to August 6, 1861). Our path was starting where the paths of each of the Derbys ended about 150 years ago.
Now that’s perspective.
Our look into the past was thrust into the future as we headed eastward through Blakesburg and toward Ottumwa via Bluegrass Road, a relatively uneventful stretch of road if not for the blazing heat that quickly danced toward a high of 88 degrees. We chatted, hydrated and kept moving. All the while, Colton had a smile on his face. He was looking back from the present to more than 25 years ago when he rode his bicycle on the very same road we were running. To Colton, at that moment 25 years ago seemed like yesterday.
After spending 11 miles on Bluegrass Road we entered Ottumwa where we ran West and East Mary Street until we merged with a trail on the banks of the Des Moines River, crossed the Des Moines River on Highway 34, and jumped onto another trail that took us eastward. Before long, our time on that oven-like trail had passed when the trail literally ended at the edge of a damp and dark wood.
With luck on our side, we chose the correct deer path to follow up a steep hill that dropped us onto railroad tracks that we ran for a quarter-mile before they, by pure chance, dropped us off where we wanted to be, Old Agency Road — a nondescript gravel road that used to be a “state highway” before Iowa became a state on December 28, 1864.
We battled a few hills and took 73rd Street into Agency. At this point, we were 21.5 miles deep in our adventure and all pretty miserable, especially Lee, who needed 15 minutes in the shade and some encouraging words to continue. As we trudged eastward, we heard thunder and saw dark clouds approaching from the west, a front that dropped the temperature by 20 degrees and brought heavy rains that soaked us to the bone as we completed our 23rd mile and merged onto Highway 34.
Lee bounced back, Colton got tired and we all got hailed on and shivered on a day that started off too hot. We completed our journey just west of Batavia, spending 4:01:40 of precious time to cross 27.6 miles of Wapello County, No. 59.
Time passes quickly. From hot to cold and young to old. At some point it will all seem like the blink of an eye. Sooner or later, each of us will end up in the ground where we will be for a very long time — the Derbys are evidence of that.
That fact should not be depressing. Instead, it should be motivational. As long as each of us doesn’t waste the time we’re given, the end will be a celebration. Moral of the story, life is too short to not take chances. Don’t linger on your mistakes and look to improve your future. Step out of your comfort zone. Don’t be afraid to make a fool out of yourself. Spend every second, minute and hour looking for the next challenge. Allow yourself to look back at the past and smile. Don’t let time pass you by, instead lace up your shoes and run with it stride for stride as long as you can.
Inspiration through perspiration. Become active or make a donation to Team 99 Counties or the American Heart Association to help fight heart disease.