I woke up while we were still driving, sat up, and looked at the window. It was absolutely beautiful, where were we? Tennessee, we were about an hour from the swim start. I was blown away at how green the rolling hills were, absolutely beautiful! “We definitely have to come back here!” We followed a river, crossed bridges and had trees that lined both sides of the highway.
The swim was in a river, and it was located on/near private property. It took us some time to find our way through the narrow roads, eventually arriving at our location. There was a long, narrow driveway, surrounded by other narrow driveways. “How on earth are we going to get out of here?!?!” Aaron was following us in the Subaru, as well as the Zyto people in their rental car. Aaron hopped out, and attempted to back out the RV, but he couldn’t get it. I gave it a go, and after a 75 point turn, I got it. I remember Josh, from Zyto, standing there giving me directions to go to the very limit before I had to turn again. Backing the RV became my job on the 50/50/50. I was the only person who could back the RV with the trailer. I am proud of this, because I didn’t have any experience backing a trailer. I had my dad in my head saying, “Turn the wheel the opposite way as you want to turn.” I just did it very, very slowly. We were using someone’s driveway and I swear, we were lucky that the angles at which we were turning kept us from driving on their lawn!
Waking James up became a very hard job. I don’t remember it being a huge issue until this morning, and then every single day after this. I am not sure if it was because I wasn’t always at the swim, but this day was rough. It took us a while to get him to where he was alert and ready to swim. When he finally was up, he and Casey headed down the appropriate driveway, to a private dock. There were only a couple of swimmers there, and they hopped in the water. The river was supposed to have a current and carry him smoothly to a pick-up spot.
We skipped back to the RV and were ready to drive to our pick-up spot. I fantasized about that cool, open water, and how delicious it must have felt! I love open water swimming, I call it Jesus water, because it is water that God gave us to enjoy on this earth. I also have always had eczema and am not a fan of chlorine, so Jesus water is great for my skin! We squeaked through these narrow streets and headed to a park in the city. We pulled to the side of the street and anticipated James any time. The kids had fresh berries, and they pulled out their sidewalk chalk. Again, we left the engine running on the RV because it was beginning to get hot.
Across the way, the van had been in a fender-bender. Our driver was not at fault, and our van was fine, their car had more damage. We were grateful that it was no big deal, and it didn’t affect our people or our day.
People had given us some breakfast foods, muffins and such, and we gratefully enjoyed this kind gesture. We were surprised that we hadn’t seen James yet. We kept checking our watches surprised. His time was now a bit slower than normal, but with the current he should have been done swimming by now. He finally arrives, “That was not a current in my favor! The current was moving the opposite direction!” Ha ha! So, I guess that the swim was different than he had expected, and definitely took more time and energy than was anticipated.
The bike start, and spot for the day, was at a college in Chattanooga. We parked, looked around, and the campus was beautiful. We had a nice shaded spot, and hoped that it would stay shady most of the day. James took off on the bike and we asked what there was to do around there. “Nothing really, everything is a ways away.” Chattanooga has the corporate location for Little Debbie. One of the ladies there worked for Little Debbie, so I asked if we could have a tour, “No, they don’t do tours.” Bummer, that would have been really cool! To make up for it, she brought us a load of Little Debbie snacks that filled the entire front seat. The Wingmen ate mud pie after mud pie as they drove at night! We were then informed that we could use the fitness center on campus during our visit.
It was SO HOT, James tells it as over 100 degrees, and with no real air conditioning in the RV, the pool was very inviting. We quickly got changed and got out of the RV. It was a small pool, almost more like a medical pool than a pool for swimming. The kids didn’t mind one bit. They jumped off the side, doing tricks, setting up competitions, and enjoying the cool water. The lifeguards were a little restrictive, but the kids managed just fine. When they finished up, we all got showered, a treat in itself. We went out to the foyer and crossed paths with the Wingmen, who were just headed into the pool. We were stopped by one of the school employees who told us anything at the cafe was on the him! “Are you sure?” I said in disbelief. He said, “Absolutely, without a doubt!” He leaned over to the employee, “Put their food on my tab.” We all ordered smoothies and the kids felt spoiled!
We went back out to the RV and decided that we would look for something to do. I unloaded The Little White Mazda, and started the air conditioner to get it cooled down ASAP! We figured we would drive for a bit and see what we could find. We drove into ‘town’ and there was a small strip mall, oh, and we passed a carwash! We felt so blessed when we realized that one of the stores in the strip mall was a dollar store. We whipped around as quick as we could, and spent 2 hours in that dollar store. It was blissful! The AC was blasting and it was a large dollar store, so the kids had variety beyond measure, as they scanned every item, down every aisle. I looked around for a bit, and then I sat down and let the kids take all the time they wanted. I took advantage of the time and air conditioning by going through emails, making phone calls, and addressing the business side of this journey. The kids were happy and distracted, definitely a tender mercy from heaven.
As I was sitting there, I got a phone call, “James is okay, but he has been in an accident,” it was Casey. I appreciated that he started it the way he did, letting me know that he was okay, but I was still hoping for more details. “What do you mean an accident? Was he hit by a car?” That is always the first thing that comes to mind with bikes. He calmly says, “He fell asleep on the bike and crashed. He is a little banged up, but he is okay.” I was surprised, although I really shouldn’t have been, “Are you serious? Like full-on fell asleep?” “Yep, but he has just gotten on the bike and is back on the road again.” I guess it had been a couple of hours since he had crashed. They didn’t call until he was up and at it again. I wasn’t sure if I should be mad that they didn’t let me know earlier, mad that I didn’t get to talk to James to see if he was really okay, or glad that they didn’t get me all worked up, only for it to all be okay. I still felt overall concerned, I wondered how he was feeling emotionally. He was not in a good place last night, I can’t imagine this helped. I was definitely wishing that I had a few private minutes with him, to rub his feet, kiss his soft lips, and reassure him that everything was going to workout.
When the kids had their fill at the dollar store, we went to a Mexican restaurant. It was in this same, small strip mall. The kids were thrilled about chips and salsa (one of our favorite snacks at home), and my heart always races with Mexican food! I absolutely love Mexican food, and I don’t get it very often, so this was a real treat. We took our time eating and just relaxed, enjoying each other, a chill day, and the air conditioning. But in the back of my mind I was really hoping that James was okay…
It was time to head back to our ‘spot’ for the day. My cute, blonde ducklings had enjoyed the days activities and climbed into The Little White Mazda, as always, negotiating who had to share a seat. We swung by the car wash and gave The Little White Mazda a bath. It is so fulfilling to scrub that thing and make it shine! I felt completely refreshed, driving the freshly washed car, as we drove back to meet the group.
We pulled in and there were quite a few people there, but not as many as we were expecting. It turns out that the local media had broadcasted the 5k start location somewhere different. We had to send someone over to the other location to inform our supporters where we were actually meeting for the 5k. I visited with our crew and supporters as we waited for that to be sorted out. I spent quite a bit of time visiting with the Amazing Athletes group.
The 5k started and everyone was off running in the heat. He had a great group, and he felt the love in Tennessee for sure. When they returned, James popped in to the RV for some TLC; he had a chiropractic adjustment, some massage, and then said goodnight to us as he headed back out. I began working on the RV, and like every other night, it took me 90 minutes to prep the RV to leave. Once we finally figured out that the RV side popped out, a few states ago, we would act like it was out all the time by putting things in the extra space from it being popped out. But in order to drive, we had to bring the RV side back in, eliminating the extra space. All of that stuff placed in the open space needed a new home. It was my job to find a place for everything. It was also very important to make sure that things were tucked away. We would use the counters during the day, but at night they had to be clear. As I have mentioned earlier, there had been many nights where we were woken up to a loud CRASH, because of stuff falling off the counter. The beds had to be organized and prepped. Who is sleeping where? This was shuffled and different every night. We had recently discovered that there was a sleeping platform at the front of the RV, it was over the driver and passenger seat. This created two more sleep spots; however, it was to be used when the RV was parked. I had mastered the exact amount of space that we needed to get it just right, where people could squeeze up there while driving. It was just high enough for the driver to see, and we thought it was pure genius… In addition to those specific things, I had to clean everything up: put the dirty laundry in a bag, take out the trash, clean up any food that was in the RV, or food from meals, etc. I enjoy cleaning and organizing, but it was a task that took me away from everything going on, that I didn’t like so much.
It was another late night. It was after midnight when the RV left, James had been left behind to spend the night sleeping in the hatchback of the Subaru. We had a longer drive, and we wouldn’t make it if we waited for James to finish. I had no clue where the van was. Everyone was sweating like crazy as we drove; we were all dreaming of better days, when the cold air blew freely through the entire RV. We opened the very back windows, creating some airflow by the back beds. It was loud, but totally worth the trade off of some air coming in; after all, the night air was actually much cooler than what we had experienced during the day. I nestled in, and was in and out of sleep. This night felt different.
I couldn’t sleep like I normally would. I worried about James, I worried about his crash, and how late he would be finishing, again. I worried about getting back on track with our time. As we moved east, we were losing time with the time zones. With some states, we would go back and forth, in and out of a time zone. I worried about the haters on the internet who were relentless. I worried about the link getting set up for the Jamie Oliver Foundation. I worried about the 2 hours a day that I had been committing to keep our Facebook up to date, making sure to post, answer questions, read comments, etc. I worried about emails that were coming in, and felt relieved that Dano had taken that off of my plate. I worried about some complications inside of the crew. And I really worried about Casey driving that night. I had been hearing rumble strips over and over, as I had been having these thoughts. These Wingmen had been put through the ringer, and poor Aaron was still driving, by himself, every night, in the Subaru.
I paid close attention for a few minutes, and noticed a lot of swerving. Even after having packed things away, there were still things falling in the RV. I walked up to Casey, “Hey buddy! You doing okay?” His zombie response, “Yeah, I am good.” “Do you want me to drive for a bit?” His cry for help was always, “Sure, if you want to.” We switched places, while in cruise control, and he fell right to sleep. How do I know? I asked him a question within seconds of him going back, seriously less than a minute, and he was snoring.
I put on my headphones, and prayed in gratitude for another day on this crazy journey. I prayed for my sweet husband, who was still out there, step by step, in the humid, hot temperatures, trying to finish up his day. I thanked my Heavenly Father for my precious children, and prayed they would enjoy this journey. I also thanked Him for all the help, from people around us: strangers, our Wingmen, sponsors, etc. I thanked Him that we had been safe, and for our purpose on this journey. And then I prayed that I could stay awake and drive, so that my dear friend could sleep in the back.
We were headed to Mississippi. There had been weather warnings of intense heat and more hurricane weather. I drove and wondered what tomorrow would bring us.