“I want to know how God created this world. I am not interested in this or that phenomenon, in the spectrum of this or that element. I want to know His thoughts, the rest are details.” – Albert Einstein
When I saw my blog was approaching its 10,000th visitor, I figured I would write something incredibly entertaining, inspire my readers, maybe change the world. Then I was struck by the great writer’s dilemma—the harder you try, and the more you press, the more elusive the ideas and stories become. So I did what I’d done my entire life when confronted with a dilemma–I went for a run.
I didn’t go for just any run, I went for another magical run on the Delaware Canal Towpath; the trail where I ran the Bucks County Marathon last year, and the trail I ran a half-marathon on my fiftieth birthday (see Chapter Sixteen.) The sixty-five-mile towpath was built in the early to mid-1800s for commerce between Bristol and Easton, PA. The Upper Delaware River, which parallels the towpath, is a tranquil wonder of nature, full of wildlife and scenic views, a place sportsmen and women flock to fish, cycle, kayak, run, hike, or just plain, old fashion goof-off.
What better place to begin a journey to loosen up the creative juices than somewhere you are warned not to go? I’ve come to understand that the word “don’t” means “double-dare” to my grandchildren. Don’t stick jellybeans in Duke’s ears (their hound) actually means I double-dare you to try to fit ten jellybeans in Duke’s ear, and as a golf ball whizzes past my noggin after I’ve said, “don’t throw the golf ball in the house,” my grandson is already looking at me saying “Sorry, Pop Pop” as it crashes into the living room wall. I try my hardest not to laugh because I don’t want him to know I think he is hilarious. Apparently, that’s what an adult is supposed to do, but Kids is Kids, you know. When I read the sign at the towpath trailhead, I realized my grandkids have my genes.
I found the Upper Delaware region when my kids were young and we’d go exploring. I grew up in a row house in Philadelphia and worked on the Delaware River waterfront where it wasn’t uncommon to see tires, oil drums, or an occasional body floating by, so the further I drove north on River Road into Bucks County, the more I didn’t recognize the serene Upper Delaware as the river of my youth. The Upper Delaware River and Canal is tranquil, robust with wildlife, and the water is prolific with more species of fish than I can remember.
As I ran, a lifetime of memories on the Upper Delaware flowed through my mind: the two-foot tiger muskie my son caught when he was ten years old; the empty air conditioner box we filled with frogs that escaped from our garage that night after we got home (see Chapter Twenty of Cannery Row to get a picture of the chaos); the shad my son and I had within arms-reach of our canoe, and then almost fell into the river during a lightning storm and thunder crashing all around us; camping out in the pouring rain and our futile attempt to start a campfire in the soggy, pitch black of night (somehow, we were successful); playing hooky from work for the annual shad run; fishing before dawn, listening to faint voices and bodily noises, and then seeing the silhouette of fishermen lined up and down river.
The Upper Delaware has a history of independence and individualism, as well. To this day, there are Dump the Pump signs and Don’t Tread on Me flags that were symbols of the late-1980s protest to block construction of the pumping station that now diverts water from the Delaware River to the Limerick nuclear power plant. Apple Jacks, a cellar bar and 1980’s hangout of the legendary Abbie Hoffman of the Chicago Seven notoriety, who became the face of the pump opposition group Del-Aware. Did I mention that I stopped at Apple Jacks for a beer in the middle of that thirteen-mile run I took for my fiftieth birthday?
All of these stories flowed from my one-and-a-half run. It never fails. Brian-freeze, writer’s block, or plain old stressed out—a run works every time. And sometimes, just sometimes, it’s worth bypassing the warning sign.
It took 17 months to reach 5,000 visitors; less then half that time to get to 10,000. There are many things I could do to increase my blog traffic, attract more readers, but time spent working on the blog is time not writing. And one thing I’ve learned since becoming a writer is that it’s all about the story.
Full Disclosure: For the blogging naïf, some bloggers get 10,000 visitors in a day, and many literary agents won’t even look at a writer if his blog doesn’t get 10,000 visitors per month. So reaching 10,000 visitors in nearly two years is really quite pedestrian. In running terms, it’s like running a marathon and then looking up your finishing time online only to find a seventy-five year old kicked your butt.
Click here to see all the pictures from the towpath run.