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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 and awareness for the American Heart Association. They’ve completed 98 counties. The two hope to cross their final county April 15. This is No. 98. Next: Delaware
Bridges are structures built to span obstacles, such as wide rivers and deep valleys.
Bridges are structures built to connect things, such as people of all types and locations both near and far.
Regardless of whether built to span obstacles or connect things, bridges serve as transitions. The fact of the matter is, as they span and connect, bridges carry us from one place to another.
On Jan. 21, we departed Cedar Rapids at 9 a.m. The morning was warm for January and a thick fog blanketed the ground as we drove north on Interstate 380 and merged onto westbound Highway 20 for the last time. When compared to the tens of thousands of miles we had already traveled, our drive was quite short. Before long, we had exited Highway 20 and traveled three miles north to our route — our route across Hardin County — and we were ready to start our day at 11 a.m.
The fog remained, refusing to burn off in the near midday sun, and the first few miles seemed like a dream. The temperature fluctuated between 35 and 40 degrees, and we soon realized we were overdressed. The breeze out of the south-southwest was our only salvation, keeping us cool on an unusually warm January day.
Our route followed Old Highway 20 and within the first mile we had crossed our first notable bridge, a bridge across the South Fork of the Iowa River. The shoulder upon which we ran was soft from a recent rain and the warm temperatures. During our sixth mile, we passed through Alden and continued east, traversing bridges that carried us across the Iowa River on three occasions. Old Highway 20 led us along the Iowa River, just as so many other roadways had steered us along so many other rivers.
We entered Iowa Falls — the Scenic City — during our 11th mile as Old Highway 20 transitioned into Washington Avenue. We enjoyed the benefits of civilization, in particular somewhat dry sidewalks, as we continued through Iowa Falls. As we neared the Iowa River for the fifth time, we turned north on Sarah Avenue and danced our way into Assembly Ground Park where we descended toward the Iowa River.
We again crossed the Iowa River, this time via a “swinging bridge” made of damp railroad ties — a bridge from which we were able to view several “scenic” stone bluffs. On the east side of the river we met with a reporter from the Iowa Falls Times-Citizen for a brief interview about our quest, in particular our changing perspective as we moved toward completion one step at a time.
After posing for a few photographs we headed south on Cedar Street, east on Washington Street and north on Oak Street before leaving town on Rocksylvania Avenue. We left Iowa Falls as we neared completion of our 15th mile and Rocksylvania Avenue transitioned into Highway D15. We climbed a few hills, passed Meadow Hills Golf Course and settled into a routine of similar sights — pine trees to the left of the roadway followed by a large puddle in the field to the right.
The day remained dreary, but as Highway D15 bent to the north and resumed its eastward march during our 21st mile, the sun made its first appearance of the day. We continued east, running on a soupy shoulder that sometimes soiled — and dampened — our shoes. During our 23rd mile, Highway D15 curved to the north and entered Ackley where it transitioned into Franklin Street.
Just as we entered the southernmost part of Ackely, we turned east on 10th Avenue and merged onto 110th Street — a sloppy gravel road that we endured for our final mile, passing the Ackley Municipal Airport just a few minutes before completing our 98th county a mere 3:40:22 after we had started.
We had crossed 26.2 miles of Hardin County, one step and one bridge at a time.
Bridges are beneficial. Bridges help us span obstacles. Bridges help us connect things. Bridges serve as transitions and carry us from one place to another. We crossed many bridges in Hardin County, bridges that spanned obstacles, such as the Iowa River, and connected things, such as one part of our lives to the next.
Hardin County was a bridge. The majority of our cross county runs were relatively solitary affairs with Dennis and I running and Kris as our one-woman support crew. Occasionally others tagged along, but we were generally able to be ourselves, to do our own thing and enjoy our special bond.
Hardin County carried us from a solitary journey to our final county, a county that will be anything like any other. Hardin County transitioned us from a trio to a much larger ensemble. Once you get on a bridge, you can’t turn off. You’re committed to the cause, committed to cross to the other side. Team 99 Counties has crossed that bridge, from a mission for three to a mission for all to see.
The running will stop, but the cause will carry on. The journey has not been easy, but our arrival is all that matters. All bridges can be crossed, so do not give up as the darkest night is often the bridge to the brightest tomorrow.
Faith becomes the bridge between where we are and where we want to go. Discipline becomes the bridge between goals and accomplishments. Mistakes are the bridge between inexperience and wisdom. Until you cross the bridge of your insecurities, you can’t begin to explore your possibilities.
The world will provide you with stones everyday, someone will always throw stones in your path. What you build out of those stones, a bridge or a wall, is up to you.
Some bridges, once crossed, will change you forever. There is no doubt this journey has changed each of us, but more importantly, we hope this journey has changed each of you. The bridges that are hardest to cross lead to the most magical places.
Span the obstacles in your life. Connect to those around you. Don’t burn bridges. Instead, build bridges and allow them to carry you as you transition from yourself to a better version of yourself. Keep building. Keeping improving.
Inspiration through perspiration. Span. Connect. Transition. He who would be a leader must be a bridge.
• To make a donation or buy a T-shirt, email Dennis Lee at firstname.lastname@example.org