NEWS

The End

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

RC Aerial

A big thank you to our aerial cinematographers, brothers Ivan and Jonas Marcinko, who drove down to Mexico from Idaho to shoot Sam's PCT finish! Using miniature, remote-controlled helicopters that they designed and built themselves, Ivan and Jonas get the most beautiful footage from up way up in the sky. To see their reel and their beautiful photography, click on the video above.

Desert, Dessert Delights

October 12, 2011 Apart from rattlesnakes, runaway bandits, and the threat of death by dehydration, the desert is quite advantageous. For filming a movie of course. There is a reason why Hollywood films all of its movies here. It is desolate and expansive, which can serve a.) to provide the foundation to recreate almost any environment, or b.)  as a compliment to showcase or enhance the tone of a film. We often rely on the latter because we don't have the money to recreate Times Square, but we also benefit from a third advantage, often forgotten by the Michael Bays out there, which is visibility of the Pacific Crest Trail of course. Since the terrain has gradually changed from forest to desert, access to the trails and the success of our shots, have gotten easier. Not a lot easier, but easier. This day provides a perfect example of the aforementioned easy access.

 

Sam woke up at 4:45 a.m. this morning and began his 40+ mile day. We woke up a little bit later than that and found a place where the trail crosses an isolated road, and made it our destination, leaving a cloud of dust in our wake. The road to the crossing seemed to have been made by a roller coaster engineer complete with drops so steep you couldn't see the the pavement until you were flying down it. Ordinarily, I might have enjoyed this, but when you are driving your house, there is a lot more at stake. Plus, it's a rental. Gingerly, we drove our way to the trail, and scouted a location.  According to the "dog collar" GPS tracking system, Sam was over 5 miles away, allowing us ample time to set up and eat lunch. The Garmin GPS device, normally used to keep track of hunting dogs, but for our purposes to "hunt" Sam, has been instrumental in our planning, since we are actually able to pinpoint where he is. Needless to say, many of our strategies have been unconventional, but mostly successful.

For God's sake Ben, smile!

The location we picked out allowed visibility of half a mile of the trail, making Sam a little white speck when our lenses first caught him. Ben stayed wide with his camera and followed him as he charged along the meandering trail. As he approached, we wondered what it must be like to be completely alone all day and then suddenly, without warning, bump into a group of people silently filming/photographing you. Strange, I would imagine. After filming a quick break at our RV, Sam took off to finish the last 8 miles for the day, and we took the roller coaster route back down, in search of food and gas. After refueling, we made equally crucial purchases of  neon sunglasses and local beef jerky, in order to demonstrate how we've fully adapted to the local culture. Sam was scheduled to leave at 2 a.m. the next morning, and given the excellent footage we'd captured in the past few days, we decided not to film him leaving in the dark, and splurged on a campground for the night instead.  A pool! Electric outlets! Running Water! Level ground! These are the finest of luxuries, and they did not go unnoticed, or unused.

The next morning, Ben, Jon-Michael, and Marion woke up early to film the sunrise in the desert valley, and we met John and Eric later that afternoon at a trail crossing right next to Highway 58, where Sam would be coming in later. Like the Chevron station at Snoqualmie, WA and the impound lot in Ashland, OR, we made the side of Highway 58 our own by furnishing the gravel turnoff with folding chairs. Jon-Michael and Ben filmed the wind turbines, and barbed-wire fence along the trail, before capturing Sam arrive in the 90 degree heat late in the afternoon. Sam, now pushing harder than ever, has regimented himself to 50 miles per outing, punctuated by 5 hours of rest in between. He promptly went to sleep, to be woken up at midnight for the next leg. Our mission for the day a success, we shared some beers with Eric and John and ate chicken and rice for dinner. Having adjusted to the sound of 18-wheelers whizzing by, our decision to stay put for the night fit within our increasingly low standards, and I slept soundly. Our crew has become efficient and dynamic, a well-oiled machine. But just because we are close to the end, that doesn't make the miles easier for us, or Sam. The days are still long and tolling, we are just more used to it now.  The next day, we went back to LA for perhaps our final break, as Sam barrels towards the border of Mexico, like Thelma and Louise, with the fuzz hot on their trail.

 

Until next time,

Cecily "Crazy Legs" Mauran

 

More pics:

 

We Lost a Window, But We Haven't Lost Our Spirit

October 11, 2011 As we drive north up Hwy 14 for one of our final installments in the Run While You Can encyclopedia, I feel confident and poised. My reactionary nerves are seasoned and honed for whatever upsets may cross our dusty, untraveled path. I can predict what the trailhead will be like (maybe an outhouse, definitely no cell phone service), and what we will need (beer, dinner, a level piece of ground for the RV). We've all gotten better at predicting Sam's ETA ("Well, he started at ___a.m., and he got a pretty good night's sleep, so he'll be moving at ___ mph, so he should be here at around ____p.m."). Those are things I can prepare for, because I have learned what happens when we don't have cell service, or when we can't find the trailhead in the dark, or when we sleep on an incline and roll into each other, or when Sam is early, or late, or at a completely different location. I marvel at how the unpredictable events that have shaped this journey have also shaped us. Our crew has evolved to expect changes, sleep at odd hours, find humor in sinister moments, and just plain make-do. We've finally achieved some sort of rhythm, maybe a jazz rhythm, since it often deviates and meanders from the original sheet music, but by now we have learned to expect the unexpected, and fill in the unknown with knowledge gained from experience, optimism, and lots of b-roll.

The actual view of the Sierras from McDonalds at Lone Pine

We were still driving as the sun went down over the Mojave desert. The desert, like much else on this journey, was unknown to me, and the RV swayed as Marion (at the wheel) and I craned our necks over the arid and solitary expanse. We New England girls had never in person seen a landscape so epic, and the sterile rocks and dust were both enticing and terrifying. Now nighttime, we turned onto a winding road that took us to the PCT trailhead, where we performed the usual ritual of immediate cocktail hour, followed by cooking dinner, and finally, eating, all to the soundtrack of someone's iPod. We were happy to see each other after our week apart, and I felt as if we'd never left. The same old mixed feelings about the RV returned, but those worn-in sentiments were a comfort in and of themselves.

Sam and Mount Whitney in the upper left-hand corner

Contoured rocks in the Alabama Hills

It was getting late, and we were still waiting for Sam and the Support Team to show up. I settled in to an episode of Arrested Development, but began to wonder where they could be. Finally, Marion drove to find cell phone reception to check for any messages, and sure enough, she discovered that Sam, John, and Eric had decided to stay put for the night. Maybe earlier in the trip, we'd have been irritated not to receive this message earlier, but now we just laughed and shrugged and planned to meet up with them in the morning. As everyone got ready to go to sleep Ben tried to pull the side window shut, whereupon it spontaneously shattered. Again, there was nothing to do but laugh and sweep up the pieces. Of all the things that could go wrong that was nothing. Silly me, I thought I was conditioned for such surprises, but maybe it's that I am conditioned in my reaction instead, because you can never really predict a window to shatter.

Fragments of glass still in the window

The next day, we reunited with John, Eric, and Sam in a scenic McDonalds parking lot in Lone Pine, CA. Sam had taken the previous day to rest after the summit of Mt. Whitney, so he was well rested and willing to give us an extensive interview. While we waited for Sam to nap and take advantage of our convenient location by loading up on quarter pounders, a chicken sandwich, and a cherry pie, Marion, Ben, Jeff, and Jon-Michael took Marion's car - a welcome addition to our caravan - to the Alabama Hills to scout out a location. The smooth, contoured rocks of the Hills, which famously provided a backdrop to many of the beloved spaghetti western films, (as well as Gladiator and Tremors,) presented a stark contrast to Mount Whitney and the rest of the Sierras behind them. It was a fitting place to film Sam as the terrain on the PCT transforms from rugged peaks to earthy desert, and Sam seemed like a suitable addition to the storys of cowboys, gunfights, and epic adventures that the hills possessed.

Alabama Hills

"That's gonna leave a mark"

Well-rested and relaxed, Sam obliged us with an in-depth recap, allowing us to ask those difficult questions he would otherwise be too tired to answer. The interview manifested itself as an easy dialogue facilitated by Marion's empathy and patience and Sam's openness. He talked extensively about his motivations for Run While You Can, his mom, and the reaction of members of the PCT community to his highly-publicized endeavor. After several hours in the hot sun, Marion wrapped up the interview and we hopped in the RV back to base-camp at McDonald's. Marion purchased a sheet of plastic as a temporary and slightly degrading replacement for our window, and we rode off into the sunset towards the trailhead, where we had spent the night before, and where Sam would return to the PCT. 24 hours later, we found ourselves in the same place, minus one window, plus one interview, and several sunburns. Pleased with the success of day, the five of us toasted, the beers cans and plastic cups of wine making a dull clink as they collided. Although our RV may look like the car from Tommy Boy, and we're all a little dirty and sunburnt, we're definitely doing something right.

 

Yours truly,

Cecily "Crazy Legs" Mauran