Driving from Louisiana to Arkansas had it’s adventures. First, as we were driving through a rundown city, on our way out of Louisiana, someone yelled and signaled, “Hey, something is wrong with the car you are pulling!” It was Casey, me and he kids, and he literally stopped in the middle of the road, we turned on the hazards and jumped out. Sure enough, the car was falling off, and the bolt (or piece) that we needed was lost. It was a good thing that the good samaritan yelled to us, or it would have been much worse later. I really wouldn’t expect anything to go smoothly at this point of the journey, so we improvised, found our way to a hardware store, while praying the whole way that the car wouldn’t fall off. Casey ran inside, got what we needed, and we were off.
Casey was spending much of his time driving down the rumble strips. I was feeling pretty nervous, and didn’t feel safe falling asleep. Again, this guy was absolutely exhausted. Soon enough, I went up front and offered to drive, and without any hesitation he responded, “Sure!” We pulled over at a gas station in the middle of nowhere, figuring we would get gas while we switched. This gas station was straight out of a movie, with old pumps, a beat-up building, minimal lighting, and a hint of southern charm. Inside, it was the same, old and rundown, weird music playing, a redneck at the counter, and a smell of simplicity. We laughed about how cool it was, and we were back on the road.
The rain was so bad, it was clear that we were still in this hurricane. It was dark, very dark, as I drove through a densely treed area. The road was rolling the whole way, so I couldn’t see what was ahead of me. Let me summarize this drive: no street lights, one headlight, heavy rain, and rolling hills so I couldn’t see in front of me. Needless to say, I was pretty nervous, but just did my best to stay focused and awake. It was definitely a good thing that I was driving instead of Casey. His fuzzy mind would have made this drive especially dangerous.
We arrived at the pool in Arkansas, parked in the far parking lot to wait for the swim start. When James arrived in his car, and was up and at ’em, we headed into the pool. They got ready in the men’s locker room, while I walked all alone into the women’s locker room. I was soon cheered up when I saw how nice this locker room was! I have spent my entire life inside of gyms, and I get a little giddy when the gym is nice, and as mentioned before, even more when the locker room is nice!
The staff was hesitant about this OUTDOOR swim, due to the hurricane weather. The sky was gray, but wasn’t too bad starting. We agreed that if it got too bad, James would hop out. We prayed hard that he could just get through this swim, because of his shoulder and the weather!
There were only a couple of guys at this swim start. I visited with them as the Wingmen made their speedo debut. They had bought speedos and made iron-on Iron Cowboy patches. They made James to smile, which was a big deal, being that he was miserable over the past 13 days. Into the water James went, and he fought through the pain. There was no time to baby his shoulder if we were going to beat the bad weather. The sky was black now and we talked about the ‘what ifs’ because of the weather. We continued to stress and pray that he would finish this swim without getting kicked out of the water! When he completed his swim, we were all relieved. When we went back into the gym, the staff said concerned, “You guys were still out there swimming?” They had forgotten that we were out there; otherwise, they would have pulled us out of the pool. We thanked heaven again, right then and there.
We decided that he needed to start the bike inside of the gym, the weather did not seem to be in our favor. Our friend Carriann showed up to support us. She had lived in Utah for a few years, and had moved back to Arkansas. Gymnastics is her background and she is well known for her strength. She spent time with James while he was biking inside, and then later rejoined us for the 5k. Fortunately, after spending days inside, James was later able to head outside for the rest of the bike.
I attended boarding school in Cleveland, OH. I had friends, from my church there, whom I had stayed in touch with. My friend Chuck was originally from Arkansas, and had since moved back. I had planned to spend the day with him and his wife Chelsie. We unloaded The Little White Mazda, ran a couple of errands and then made our way out to his house.
The greeting was warm and it was so fun to spend time with Chelsie, getting to know her better. Chuck and I reminisce about our days together. They fed us lunch, we got going on laundry, and then prepped for our outing. We were headed to the original Wal-Mart, the 5 and 10, and a museum. The 5 and 10 was awesome, like an old candy/toy store, full of candies and toys from that era. I love history, and it was really cool to see how Wal-Mart started and grew. It was obviously different than the stores that our kids are used to shopping in, so they really appreciated it as well. Chuck bought us ice cream, in the old ice cream shop, and we visited and enjoyed our treat.
The museum had art to look at, but also a whole kids section. There were puppets to play with, an art station, and fun things to see. It was unique, different than other attractions we had seen thus far, so that made it really great as well. This gave the kids something to do, but allowed me to relax a little, even if for just 30 min. Just like Oklahoma, our day in Arkansas, was sites specific to this state, and that contributed to this being a successful day.
We drove back to Chuck’s house to gather the laundry and then needed to get back to the RV, to meet the crew. This state was special, one that I was really looking forward to, and it became sentimental to me as well. It was so nice to see my friend, get to know his family, and for Chelsie to share her gentility and kindness with me. What an incredible family! They are a great example of good people, and it was a blessing that after all these years, that we could reconnect!
We grabbed sandwiches at Panera, then zipped back to the gym where we started the day. This 5k was also unique and special, like the earlier part of the day had been for us, because this was the first time we had families showing up for the 5k. This journey was to raise awareness for childhood obesity, and we were finally having families show up! It was seriously fantastic!
There was some scuffle during the 5k, with things being disorganized, and it was really chaotic. There long phones calls with problem resolution, car conflicts, task conflicts, and social media attacks, frustration beyond explanation. I tried to stay focused on how amazing the day had been. The voice of the haters was screaming in our faces, giving their opinions on the indoor days. But even worse, they were wondering why the donations were going to our website instead of to the Jamie Oliver site. I didn’t want to be a jerk to the charity, but wished I could explain the situation. I played it cool, not knowing it would still be weeks before we got this link! It seemed to be one or two people who had created this storm about the charity donations. People were creating fake accounts, as cowards, to stir the pot, and to create and feed the bonfire. This created more pressure on us, to put pressure on the charity, to get this link up.
Things in general were very heavy on the business side. Our friend Kyle, who had spent time with us already during the journey, had used his magic skills to get us organized during our Vegas time. Our friend Dano had stepped in, behind the scenes, to help us try to get our feet back underneath us with emails and other things. Dano and I have been friends since 1st grade, and he and James have since become good friends. These two guys were both emotionally invested in this dream and journey, and were willing to do whatever it took to help us out.
Dano had been working on getting the JOF (Jamie Oliver Foundation) to get this link up. He had also been helping us by booking the AirBnB, after that had been a disaster in the beginning. We thought things were booked, when come to find out, they had not. Dano was trying to catch up on those bookings. He and Kyle had then come up with a plan to be in charge of ambassadors. They would contact them, make sure all of the info was up-to-date, get us addresses, etc. He and Kyle alternated days, so they could balance it with their own, busy personal lives. It was killing both of them that they couldn’t be there through all 50 states with us. As these burdens were being lifted, new ones were being created.
We left before James that night. The drive was long, and James would be finishing late. We bid our farewells, and we were off into the night, one rumble strip after another.