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November 29, 2012

Rambling On

“Leaves are falling all around, it's time I was on my way –

Thanks to you I'm much obliged, for such a pleasant stay … “
-     -   Led Zeppelin, “Ramble On” (video after post)

At Thanksgiving I posted an old Bloom County comic strip that referenced the notion of permanence – which, ironically, was published in the summer of 1989, just a handful of weeks before author Berke Breathed officially brought that chapter of his career to a close.  I remember feeling quite melancholy about the departure of Bloom County from the daily comics*, even though I recognized that the strip had morphed and changed and played out so many crazy story lines that it must have been practically impossible to keep things fresh and exciting anymore. 

(*Coincidentally, in the summer of 1989 I had a lot of things going for me: I had finished my freshman year at the college I had dreamed of attending since I was a little kid, spent one of the most exhilarating seasons I could remember as part of the UCLA rowing team, and wasted more days than I can remember bumming around the beaches of southern California.  And although I didn’t realize it at the time, I had met the girl who would eventually become my wife.  Yet I was still legitimately sad about this nutty comic strip coming to an end – which should tell you all you need to know about my maturity level in the late 1980s.)

I couldn’t even honestly say that Bloom County was my favorite strip anymore; at the time, both Calvin and Hobbes and The Far Side were at the top of their games, proving themselves far more endearing and universally funny - and in hindsight, they would hold up much better over the ensuing two decades.  Yet there was something special about Bloom County for me.  Perhaps it was the lovably quirky characters, or the absurdly fantastic adventures they set out on, or the often embarrassingly candid expressions of introspection and insecurity they displayed – whatever it was, I simply identified with this cartoon more than all the others.

Click to enlarge

The final story line of the strip described how the characters eventually found work at other comic strips; among my favorites was African-American computer wiz Oliver Wendell Jones being bused in to join the cast of Family Circus.  Ultimately Opus, the character who had become the heart and soul of the strip, walked off into the sunset with the promise of more crazy experiences awaiting him at some nondescript destination - later revealed to be Outland, a Sunday-only spinoff that was relatively short-lived and never remotely established the same emotional connection as the original.

Click to enlarge

The reason I’m telling you all this is because it wasn’t a coincidence that I ran that strip here last week.  It’s time to bring a chapter of my own life to a close … and we’re entering the final weeks of Running and Rambling.

It’s a decision that’s been percolating in my head for the better part of a year, and finally reached critical mass over the past couple of months.  This website has always been a labor of love, but the “labor” side of that equation has been overwhelming the “love” side with increasing frequency, and I’ve long since reached the point of diminishing returns in regards to how much time I want to invest on this pet hobby of mine.

Lest anyone be concerned, rest assured that everything is fine with me.  Longtime readers will recall that I tried to quit once before, a decision that was precipitated by a family crisis, under circumstances that seemed abrupt and beyond my control.  (And no, I’m not linking to those posts – it’s not exactly a period of time I’m eager to revisit.)  This time around, things couldn’t be more different: I’ve had a ton of time to mull it over, and it’s a decision that I’m making completely on my own, without any external drivers influencing me one way or the other.

"Goodbye, me" - click to enlarge

In fact, it’s precisely because I find myself so richly blessed that the day to day machinations of maintaining a website seem extremely inconsequential in the grand scheme of things.  Life is morphing and changing and inserting me into a hundred crazy story lines, and I want to give all of them my full attention without worrying about how much time I need to be spending on my laptop in order to get the next post published.  Or, to paraphrase the immortal philosopher Ferris Bueller: life is moving pretty fast, and if I don’t stop and look around, I’m afraid I might miss it.

However, none of this implies that you’ve seen the last of me.  Like the Bloom County characters of 1989, many aspects of this blog will carry on elsewhere.  I’ll continue to be a gear guru, with minimalist footwear reviews posted on Gear Institute, and all other manner of products reviewed on Feed the Habit (I’ve contributed to each of these sites for a number of years now).  Team Soft Star will continue to race at ultras - although which ones and when, I have no idea yet – with race reports published on Soft Star’s Live Bare blog.  And if things go according to plan, you'll occasionally see my name pop up on freelance writing gigs for various outdoor or health-related magazines.  None of these will have quite the same emotional connection for me as my original website, but they're exactly the type of outlets I need right now.

Same idiot, different websites

I’m tentatively planning to publish my final post on December 31 – that seems like a fitting date to bring things to a close – so think of the next four weeks around here as one final adventure.  I honestly have no idea how things will play out; maybe I’ll run some favorite posts, maybe I’ll try some crazy things I've never gotten around to, or maybe I’ll just continue business as usual and then play "Freebird" on my way out of the building.  All I know for now is that I have a few product reviews to post and at least one more contest giveaway to offer, which you’ll see for yourself next week.

In the meantime, I’m overwhelmingly obliged to everyone who helped make Running and Rambling a success; it’s been such a pleasant stay that I know a part of me will always be legitimately sad about its departure.  Hopefully I’ll be able to convey the extent of that gratitude at some point … but for now, it’s time for me to go – and as fate would have it, tonight there’s a full moon to guide me.

“Now it’s time for me to go, the autumn moon lights my way … ”
-      Led Zeppelin, “Ramble On” (click to play):

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xJOSHx 11/30/12, 4:35 AM  

It's sad to hear you are leaving I have really enjoyed your blog this last year.

Anonymous,  11/30/12, 4:44 AM  

Same here, I've always enjoyed your posts, and many of my running gear purchase decisions were more than merely influenced by your blog. But if a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do, then all the best for the rest of your life. :-)

Steve 11/30/12, 5:40 AM  

I have really enjoyed following your blog over the years and will miss it. Thanks, for all the effort you put into it and insights you have shared.

Michael Shane Helton 11/30/12, 6:52 AM  


This caught me off-guard to say the least. R&R is my go-to site for gear and stories. I cannot think of any other blog I follow where I actually read everything published.

But I understand how projects like this can become monsters and consume all of your time. So, while you will be sorely missed, I wish you the best of luck on your next phase of life.

51feetunder 11/30/12, 7:05 AM  

"Man’s feelings are always purest and most glowing in the hour of meeting and of farewell" Enjoy your new jouney

Anonymous,  11/30/12, 7:58 AM  

Michael's comments are mine also.


David 11/30/12, 12:40 PM  

My favorite bloggers are dropping like flies! Man, I'm bummed to see you go. Who gives you the right to have a life outside this blog!

Unlike some of your contemporaries in the blogging world, you are a professional writer, and it shows. I'll miss your self-deprecating humor, your gear reviews, and your race reports.

I am about the same age as you, share a similar family situation, and have approximately the same talent as a runner (for better or worse). I have less experience in the ultra world than you, so every time I try a new distance I find it helpful to reference your race reports to give me confidence that I really can do it.

Should you wish to periodically un-retire so as to post a report on your 'big' races (e.g. once or twice a year), I will not think any less of you. Perhaps not having the anchor of weekly deadlines and reviewing free gear will put some of the fun back in the equation?

Dan 12/1/12, 12:08 AM  

I second David's suggestion. Your race reports are pure joy to read, word smithing at its very best!

Morgan Hill

JimDog 12/1/12, 6:25 AM  


Just kidding. But like others have said, I too really enjoy your blog and it has helped with several purchases in the past.

Best of luck!

JohnF 12/1/12, 6:29 AM  

Thanks for sharing some classic Bloom County. back in the day that was one of my favorite strips.

Thanks also for all the writing you have shared over the years.

Ken,  12/1/12, 7:02 PM  

Figured you were headed this way. Enjoyed your posts and good luck in your future endeavors. Will miss your posts.
Thank you.

Scott Lynch 12/2/12, 8:10 AM  

Sad to hear this Donald! But understandable. Thanks for introducing me to the joys of Runamocs!

Akemi,  12/2/12, 1:17 PM  

I only found your blog in the last year or two, but I've enjoyed it. Thanks for sharing with us.

Kelly 12/2/12, 2:34 PM  

I will miss your race reports the most!!

Anonymous,  12/3/12, 3:20 AM  

I've really enjoyed reading your blog over the last couple of years. Sorry to see you go, but best of luck in the future! Looking forward to reading more from you on other sites!

Joe Wrigley 12/3/12, 3:43 AM  

Will you keep the blog up as an archive?

Donald 12/4/12, 12:01 AM  

@Joe: Yes, the blog will stay online as an archive.

Paul 12/4/12, 1:37 PM  

I've been a regular visitor to your blog since just about Day 1. I'll miss it.

I was a journalist for more than two decades, so I have a good idea just how much work goes into maintaining the blog. I originally figured you would burn out within a year or two. Thankfully for readers like me, you kept the blog alive and at a very high level for far longer than I expected. For that, I thank you.

I hope we continue to see your byline in Ultrarunning. I very much enjoyed your recent piece on Leadville.

Best of luck. Now go put your shoes on ...

Jeff Gallup 12/17/12, 2:39 PM  

Wow... bummed to hear it's coming to an end, but I understand. You are my gear reviewing idol! Seriously, your blog has always been an inspiration, as well as all your running tales. I wish you the best for 2013 and beyond... don't forget to give me a heads up before heading to CO.. would love to climb the Incline with you!


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