Durham has had a month of crazy weather, and it isn’t changing. I was there for two 20 degree days of delicious sunshine, perfect and unexpected after the heat of Phoenix, when I thought I’d be heading to British conditions. But it’s due to plunge to near freezing by tuesday. Tom at parkrun said they’d had 15 degree shifts within a day, which reminded me of Perth, though admittedly the temperature plunge there just took it from unbelievably hot to ‘hot if I were at home’.
I got into town on Friday afternoon, bleary eyed from travelling through the night but happy to see sunshine. US towns, with out of town malls housing the shopping areas, often don’t have a recognisable centre, and from the station I couldn’t spot an obvious direction for the action. I followed signs to Bright Leaf square, a quaint street of shops and restaurants, all red brick and pedestrian only. After lunch I explored, and the ex industrial nature of town was obvious. I was very pleased to spot a CSi truck as I wandered round town, before I found a grassy spot for a snooze.
After an hour in the library, my host, Julie, sent me a message that she was done with work and would pick me up, so I had a tour of the city as we rode out to pick up numbers for the 25k the next day. Her and Martin’s house is within walking distance of the city, though I only realised that on Saturday when we actually did the walk. Durham is nicely revitalised, with old warehouses and factories that were never knocked down turned into bars and restaurants. A couple of people expressed the sentiment that they liked the ‘edgy’ nature of Durham’s reputation; it’s not really true any more, but it keeps the socially aspirant locals in Raleigh. My hosts treated me to dinner in a local, fabulously busy, bar, with American craft beers by the handful to try. Throwing a jumper on was enough for us to sit outside as the sun set, and I got a quick preview of the hill that awaited them both in the final few hundred metres of their Saturday race. Cruel and unusual, it seemed to me.
Post parkrun, on Saturday, Tom the photographer gave me a lift into town and set himself up to take photos of the action. Julie and Martin were surprised I hadn’t been treated to talk of Tom’s old running club in Alabama, though we had got onto his work overseas for an oil company, and visits to US cities, so just ran out of time for more. The atmosphere after the 25k-and its cruel hill-was fabulous, helped by the fact that the finish area was surrounded by bars. Id was needed to get a certified ‘old enough to drink’ wristband, but Martin was right in suggesting ‘you might get away with it with the accent’, so I had a lovely feeling of being with ‘my people’ while polishing off a stout in the sun.
We even managed to fit a walk home, shower and trip back into town for lunch before my coach out of town to Richmond; a tight fit, but it worked, and I left with a wave and full stomach.
That coach trip was my longest Greyhound trip, but an uneventful 5 hours, arriving in the city around 7, and then I had the joy of resting for the night round the corner from the terminal, in a motel which had itself entered a terminal state. Dingy and dank, the bathroom door had at some point been kicked in and the bathroom was stained. The remnants of the swimming pool were decaying out back, while the reception area slept, dreaming of better days, days before her windows were cracked. Downtown was altogether more lively, though I only saw it from a brief walk for dinner, before I headed back to sleep. Just a stop over, I was on the bus again at 9.30 the following morning.