October 30, 2011 It's over. Yet somehow, Marion and I find ourselves in the RV, parked at a Best Western in Ashland, Oregon, rolling out our sleeping bags and setting our alarms for 4:30 a.m. Two days earlier, we were at the southern terminus of the Pacific Crest Trail at the Mexican border, filming Sam and his mother Lucy walk arm in arm to the finish, which I why I am now incredulous of my current location. How is it possible that, after having replaced our broken down RV in Ashland five weeks earlier, we find ourselves back in the very same spot on our journey where we were so deep in its grasp that the end was not yet fathomable? The answer is brutally simple, we have to return the RV to Portland.
Just that morning we had been in Palm Springs, California, celebrating Sam's triumphant finish, quite literally, next to the sheet metal wall, vigorously guarded by US Border Patrol. As Sam inched closer and closer to the finish, the film crew and a small group of Sam's family and friends anxiously waited for his blonde bun and neon green spandex to come into view. Jon-Michael was in position to film Lucy as Sam met up with her, while Ben stood poised with his camera next to the PCT monument. Additionally, Marion hired Ivan and Jonas Marcinko, friends of Jon-Michael's from Idaho, who have invented remote-controlled helicopters which can carry cameras, producing some AMAZING aerial footage. As we got the word from John that Sam was close, the Marcinko brothers launched the helicopter, following steadily above Sam in the final moments.
Once Sam reached the terminus, hugs, smiles, and plastic cups of champagne were passed around. Eventually the group disbanded, Lucy and Jim to Palm Springs to get the house they rented ready, and the film crew to a nearby motel with free wifi so that we could upload footage to NBC Nightly News' server. Sitting in the RV, waiting for the enormous file to upload, the stress and fatigue that my adrenaline had been keeping at bay, slowly crept in and settled like a thick fog over me. Fighting every urge to fall asleep, we drove the three hours to Palm Springs and rolled into the gorgeous house that the Foxes had rented, looking like tumbleweeds from the desert we had just crossed through. After a shower, some food, and a couple beers, we all crawled into our beds, not to be disturbed until way past daylight. After a sound night's sleep, everyone felt more rested, and ready to celebrate. Lucy, Jim, and Jim's sister Cynthia, made a beautiful dinner, and the heartfelt toasts encouraged the refilling of wine and champagne glasses. Wine at the table turned into tequila in the hot tub, and the rest is up to your imagination. I will say that the cameras stayed firmly packed away in their cases for this duration.
The next morning at 7 a.m., Marion and I woke up, feeling a little groggy (everything in moderation, kids) and drove to LA, where we cleaned out the RV and drove our rickety old friend (whom we sometimes hate) to Portland, literally backtracking the trip we had just completed. We left Ashland by 5 a.m. and returned the RV in Portland, pumped, dumped, and scrubbed by 11 a.m. Minus a few extra L&D expenses, we were finally done! Later on in the airport, I felt as if the weight of the RV had been lifted off my shoulders. The RV, with its faulty generator and wobbly drawers, seemed to house all of my gripes and frustrations of the journey. Yet now that it was no longer in our possession, I felt free to reflect on the last two months of my life.
Although I am still processing everything, in short, it has been crazy, tiring, inspiring, emotional, stressful, and above all, eye-opening. Eye-opening to the absolute majesty and beauty of the West, to the kindness of complete strangers, and the true actions and strength of character that manifests when pretense is long-gone. Eye-opening to my own limitations and capabilities, as well as to the limitations and trials of a man faced with an impossible challenge. This challenge brought John, Eric, Ben, Jeff, Jon-Michael, Marion, and me together, united by Sam and the desire for adventure, challenge, and inspiration, and it is this challenge that has forged camaraderie between us that only we can understand, and that we will forever share.
Looking at the bigger picture, at a campground on the second to last day, Lucy and I discussed a theme that has been an undercurrent of this entire project, which is the unified groups of people around a single man, idea, cause, and adventure. Over the past 61 days, we have interacted with PCT thru-hikers, ultrarunners, filmmakers, those affected by Parkinson's, and friends and family who enjoyed tuning in every day, who share this one thing in common. Each group draws something different from it, but all are passionately involved, and all can take a little responsibility for the shining success of Run While You Can, for donating, emailing, comforting, and just caring. This adventure has been just that, an adventure, that I would not be able to sustain much longer, but for its two-month existence, I will look back fondly on it. But for now, it will be nice not to have to search, in a panic, for the tiny PCT trailhead marking in the middle of the night.
Thank you so much to everyone who supported us!
All the best,
Cecily "Crazy Legs" Mauran