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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Cecily "Crazy Legs" Mauran