Whenever I see the word Mississippi, I think of the movie Annie. Ms. Hannigan had shut Annie in a closet, while Daddy Warbuck’s assistant is at the orphanage, trying to pick an orphan to take with her to the mansion. “I want an orphan who is smart.” Annie begins to spell, “MISS-ISS-IPPI.” We were headed to the Jackson area, which always leads my thoughts to the Bruno Mars song, when he sings “Jackson, Mississippi.” This became the theme song of this day, we repeated this line over and over throughout the day.
Throughout the state, there were weather warnings. There were warnings of extreme heat on billboards as we drove through the state. So far, the weather seemed fine, just nice and toasty hot. But apparently, the locals new something that we didn’t know, thus offering the warnings.
It had been another long drive, and we were starting another day, as a team, working for our goal. The RV arrived at the pool around 7:15 am., which was late, considering we had intended to start all of our days at 6. I could feel the heat of the sun in the RV as soon as we turned off the engine. Within just 5 or so minutes, we turned the engine back on to keep our fake air conditioning going while the kids slept. Outside I could hear our supporters. Casey was hanging out with them for quite some time before I headed out to say hello. I visited briefly, then headed back into the RV to eat breakfast and get organized for the morning, taking advantage of the extra time I had before James got there.
We had been there a long time. We were wondering where James was. Aaron was driving him in the Subaru, and they hadn’t arrived yet. We figured if we left early, we should have arrived close to the same time, and as usual, no one knew where the van was. Casey texted Aaron to see how far out they were; he said 45 minutes, which turned into over an hour. We couldn’t figure out how they could be 2 hours behind us. We would later find out that James took his time leaving Chattanooga, TN. He had taken an ice bath, and poked around before finally getting out of there.
When they finally arrived, I was mad. If I remember correctly, it was around 9:30 before James even got in the water. That means that if everything went well, he wouldn’t finish, for the day, until after midnight; tomorrow we had another long drive ahead of us. This would lead us to another later start tomorrow morning. Aaron opened the back of the Subaru, and James was smooshed diagonally in the back. The back seat was folded down, but he still didn’t have much more space than just the hatchback. He tried to get out and was completely delirious! This was the worst that I had ever seen him! He didn’t know where we were, looked at me like he had no idea who I was, and couldn’t get out of the car because of the stiffness. Turns out that he had stiffened up worse than usual, due to his crash from falling asleep, the day before. He had hit his hip hard when he went down, so he couldn’t lay on that side at all. Then with every move he made while sleeping, pain shot through his whole body. Needless to say, he did NOT sleep well. It literally took us 30 minutes to get him to wake up and get out of the Subaru. He just kept laying back down. It felt impossible to wake James up, aka, the worst job ever. From this point forward we played the ‘NOT IT!’ game when it came time to wake James up.
The kids were up, going in and out of the RV; they were confused by James’ behavior because he was so out of it. When he finally made his way toward the pool, he took forever to get in. His behavior was odd, he was just doing anything he could to procrastinate getting in the water, like stopping to lean on the table, or to sit in a chair. The people of Mississippi had to have been traumatized! He finally got in the water and had trouble with the swim, taking him over 2 hours to complete it. The morning as a whole was a disaster!
Someone had provided us with breakfast, just in a room inside the fitness center. The kids and our crew were thrilled! We filled our bellies, and while we were eating, Dolly lost a filling in her mouth. I thought, “Any other time would be no big deal, but WHY on the 50?!?!” Word got around, and one of the women there said, “My husband is a dentist! His office is right up the street, I will let him know that you are coming!” I was shocked! “Are you serious? Are you sure?” With a friendly, southern smile she responds, “Yes! Of course!” I left immediately, leaving some of the kids back to swim, thanks to some extra help.
We had been instructed to have the key in the ignition, and the battery turned on in The Little White Mazda, in order to pull it on the trailer. This always concerned me, knowing that it would kill the battery. I always made an effort to turn the key off as soon as we arrived at our location. There had been several times, over the last bit, that the Mazda battery had been dead, so we would have to find someone to jump it. I decided that we would swing by an auto store and grab a battery charging pack when we were out getting Dolly’s tooth fixed.
Josh, from Zyto, drove us in his rental car, and took us to the dentist. The kind and generous dentist fixed her tooth right then and there, and didn’t charge us! I was completely overjoyed! We don’t even know these people, and they have been so generous, and saved the day. Josh waited patiently with us, and then drove us to the auto store. I asked the guy working there for help, and he had no clue what I was talking about. He then says, “But we do have a battery charging pack.” I turned to Josh and said, “Is this guy serious?” He showed me 2 options, I asked, “Which one is better? I want the better one!” He then looks at me like I just asked him in Chinese. Who was paying this guy?! I studied the info on the two boxes, made my choice and we laughed all the way out of the store, bless this employees heart.
We drove back to the fitness center. I went into the RV and saw James laying there with an IV. “How far has he gone on the bike?” Our helper Trey looks at me, like he doesn’t dare answer, “He hasn’t started the bike yet…” I about blew my lid! I tried to be composed and said, “What do you mean? How long has he been in here?” Trey nervously responds, ”Over an hour ma’am.” I was ready to scream at the top of my lungs! I looked at my watch, it was 11:30 am, and he hadn’t even started the bike! Everyone just felt so bad for him, they didn’t dare wake him.
There was a good-sized group there to support James that day. There were people, whom I talked to before James arrived, who only had a short time before work and were going to swim with him. There were people who only had part of the day, or who had traded shifts to be able to support the Iron Cowboy. These people had made sacrifices and he was sleeping in the RV!
I was so upset, I didn’t know who to scream at! I was careful to not let anyone know how upset I was. I started to wake James, and then I scolded the Wingmen and told them to come help me get him out of there. It took all of the self-control I had to not rip James apart for not thinking of all of these people who had make sacrifices for HIM! Of course, he had no clue, the guy was a zombie! I knew this, but I was still so upset that we had wasted these peoples’ days and that even with the sacrifices they had made, they did not get to bike or swim with him. And obviously, there were other issues on my mind (or in my face!) that made me even more easily triggered by this scenario.
The weather warnings were more firm, and the storm was on it’s way in. The wind had picked up, the pool was outside with just a top cover on it, and the pool started to get wavy. The locals knew what was coming, and that his bike was going to need to be inside. They got a trainer set up in one of the empty gym rooms. We turned the engine off in the RV and the kids headed inside. I grabbed a pillow and went in to lay down for just a few minutes while James biked. Aaron said to me, “I am going to mess around with this generator for a bit and see if I can get it working again.”
Mississippi and the Wingmen put everything that James needed right next to him while he biked. The Wingmen made sure that they were at James’ beckon call if he needed them. The kids were playing with each other and visiting with supporters. I laid on the hard floor with my pillow and immediately fell asleep. I slept about an hour or so, woke up and saw Casey and Aaron looking like they had just survived another night’s drive for the Iron Cowboy and 1/2 of the next day. Casey tapped out, and we switched spot. I was on duty, and he took my spot on the floor. Aaron managed to find some random, and uncomfortable spot to catch his nap. I think he rolled up a shirt as a pillow, that was all he needed.
Supporters had brought us food. We had pinwheels (like a tortilla wrap), pineapple and other snacks. The kids were still giggling and having fun. I couldn’t believe how late it was, and how little James had done so far. I went out to the RV to brush my teeth and clean up the display from James’ nap. I walked through the pool room, and the weather was crazy! The sky was dark and the wind was angry! I now knew why the locals started to warn people early, this weather was gnarly!
When I returned to the room where James was, Trish, and her now husband Keith, were in there visiting. They approached me and said, “We would like to take you and the kids to dinner.” I was thrilled and relieved! “That would be so awesome, thank you!” I gathered the kids up and went out to the car. We decided we would just follow them, since we were 8 together. Too bad I didn’t have the van.
I told them I wanted to go somewhere that was very Mississippian. They said that they knew just the place, and that they would lead the way. The wind was insane, and I wondered what it would be like to live there; this weather probably didn’t phase them the way that it impacted me. They took us to a restaurant across town and right on the water. Apparently it was where the swim was originally supposed to be, but they moved it because of weather. The kids excitedly scurried into the restaurant. Trish and Keith were right, this place was exactly what I was looking for. We were sat down by a waitress, using her thick southern accent and southern hospitality. We opened up the menu and we could have fried chicken or fried cod. That was it, just 2 things to choose from. I ordered the cod, since I am the only one in my family who likes fish, I don’t get to have it very often. Everything came with hush puppies and corn on the cob. I didn’t know what hush puppies were until I went to this Mississippian restaurant! A hush puppy is simple really, just a ball of bread dough, fried. And come to find out, it is a southern favorite.
Trish and Keith were so kind and radiated southern hospitality. We visited and my kids were out of control rambunctious, and I was ready to whoop them! They always behave appropriately, especially in public, but that day, they were horrible! I was so embarrassed, but our hosts consoled me, reassuring me that it wasn’t as bad as I thought. I was still ready to whoop them!
They generously paid for our meal and we headed out to the cars. They confirmed that I could find my way back, and we went our separate ways. I chewed my kids out big time! I was so bugged that they had been so disruptive and behaved inappropriately! Of course, they had been cooped up all day, inside, how else did I really expect them to act? I should have had them run back along side the car…
The weather had really picked up now, and I was nervous driving back, but we made it safely. It was close to 8:00 p.m. now, time that the 5k should have started. It was pouring, raining violently! When we got back, they informed me that they were canceling the 5k. Sad, another disappointment for the supporters in Mississippi. I had to brave the storm and go get an ointment for James’ hip at Rite Aide. When I returned, we were informed that we needed to switch gyms. The one where James was, was closing, we had to find one that was open 24 hours. Everyone packed up and we drove to the new gym.
When we got in the RV, we figured we would give the another generator another try; after all, Aaron had been messing with it earlier in the day. IT WORKED!!!!!! We now had AC and electricity again! Talk about a huge blessing that would change our experience dramatically!
We followed the lead car to the new gym, where they dropped James off to finish up his night. I needed to make a call to James’ coach David, so I opted to wait in the parking lot, while Casey went to get gas in the RV. There were several issues that needed to be addressed. I had tried to talk to James about it, but he disagreed with me. Because I have been married to him for a long time, I knew exactly how to make things happen, by having his coach talk to him. I talked to David for a good 30 minutes, discussing my concerns, most of which were addressing the time issues. I felt a huge sense of relief when David agreed with me.
James was in the gym, and we didn’t even get to see him before we left. He had been in another car on the way to the new gym, the car that would wait and drive him late that night, after he finished for the day. We just got in the RV and left, I felt totally ripped off. It was a rough ride through the storm, on our way to Alabama. Being in a regular car would have been rough, but being in the tall RV was brutal, and pulling a trailer…enough said.
When I had returned from the pharmacy early that evening, James had told me that his hip was killing from his crash. He thought that he should maybe do his run on the elliptical. With every step he took, the ‘bang’ of the landing rocked that hip! I felt confident in my opinion, “Don’t do it. We don’t need any more criticism.” He did it anyway, and the next morning we paid a huge price for that decision.