We chose 14 hours of driving, instead of 2. The ambassador for the state of West Virginia, told us that there was going to be a lot of media waiting for us. We stuck to our original location of Morgantown, after we were feeling the pressure from this ambassador. We wanted media because of the exposure to raise money for the charity. Instead of driving just 45 min to cross into the state of WV, and then another 45 min to Maryland the next night, we took the 7 hour drive, totaling 14 hours of unnecessary driving. In hindsight, we should have driven the 45 min.
The swim was in a lake up in the mountains. We pulled in very early in the morning, still pitch black, and parked in some random parking lot. We had no idea where we were actually supposed to be, as far as parking, so we literally just stopped and parked. I would always stir when we would park the RV, probably from sleeping lightly and feeling it stop. The Wingmen would look for any spot to sleep, it never mattered where, as long as they could close their eyes and sleep. This morning, it was spooning with me. I was on the bed up front, with kids in the back of the RV. Casey and Aaron climbed right over me onto this crappy bed. I slid to the edge, and the three of us slept like sardines until the sun came up. Any sleep was welcome, even if we were sandwiched.
James was a ways behind us, and when he arrived we all got up and got started on the oatmeal and his gear. The air was crisp and cool, what a treat! I love the mountains so much, and the cool, fresh air hits my heart with a strong punch. I inhaled deeply and expressed gratitude for the beauty that we had experienced on this journey. I walked to the edge of the parking lot, look out over the trees and could see the water. Man, this place was gorgeous! I just stood there and took several deep breaths. What a day to be alive!
When James arrived, he wasn’t feeling as alive… We got him up and he realized how cool it was outside. He was worried about the temperature of the water, with the air being as cool as it was. James had dropped so dramatically in body fat, that he was easily chilled. The swim became a temperature problem, and he always felt hesitant getting into open water.
The swim started over by a fish cleaning station, which was a good 1/4 mile walk. The Wingmen and I walked over there, and they were sure to capture photos at this fish cleaning station. James got going on the swim and we walked back to the RV. Casey and Aaron were going to do a run; after all, they were doing the event in New York in just a week or so, and with no training on this whole journey! I guess it was time to squeeze in a workout where they could. “Hey Sunny! The kids are sleeping, come run!” I was hesitant, I didn’t even know if I could run anymore. I hadn’t done anything in well over a month, other than goof off in the water a bit. Not only had I not done anything in over a month, but I had easily gained 7-10 pounds up to this point. It was really sad to be honest…
After much persuasion, I got changed and tied my shoes. The kids were sleeping, and there was a little out and back trail down on the water, just 100 yards from the RV. I was always nervous leaving the kids, locking the door behind me, but at this point, it had become routine for them to wake up and just chill until I reappeared in the RV.
We started to jog and my body screamed, “WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU ARE DOING FATTY?!” My legs acted like two toddlers throwing a tantrum, trying to teach me a lesson for abandoning them for so long. I expected this, but not to this extent. Those two Wingmen stayed back and ran with me, at a pathetic pace, as I tried not to die. I felt my lungs burning, and I expressed this to them, “How on earth could my lungs be burning? WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO ME?!” Casey laughed, Aaron felt bad for me, and they just kept encouraging me.
When we turned around, I told them to go ahead. Casey’s slow pace is a 6:20 pace, and he would have made Aaron work hard to stay with him. Instead, they had stayed with me, in my suffering and pity. I insisted over and over, “Go ahead, I will meet you back at the RV.” Eventually, they hesitantly took off, and I laughed at myself, “I feel bad for myself, I feel like I just had a baby…” One foot in front of the other, one thigh chaffing the other thigh, wondering what the new rub was under my arms. I ran 30 minutes and made my way back to the RV.
I felt excited that I got to run, and then felt sad that I have lost a part of myself. I have been working out, every morning, since I was 15 years old. I lied for my first gym pass, telling them that I was 16, when I was really only 15. I changed my birth year on the application, and felt like I was signing my life away. I was so stressed about the $8 monthly fee for my pass. I still remember the girl Stephanie who signed me up, “What if I can’t pay the $8 one month?!?!” Her response fit the situation appropriately, “Honey, if you can’t pay the $8, I will pay it for you.” To her, $8 was a joke, but as a 15 year old girl, who had been working for her own money since she was 11, I was nervous about this new financial commitment. I have never liked spending, and I wanted to make sure that I had a nice savings account, when I moved out of my parents house after my 18th birthday.
Here it was, 15 years later, and I looked and felt like I had been inflated with a bicycle pump. I still had another month left before we went home, back to routine. I needed to stay present, focus on this temporary stage of my life. I would tell myself, “It is only temporary. It is like having a baby, you take some time off, and you will bounce back.” I had talked myself through it, felt invigorated with the run and the smell of the mountain air; I then opened the door to the RV.
My ducklings were awake and arguing about who moves more in their sleep. “Are you kidding? I kicked you? You kicked me like 50 times!” I laughed, imagining the 3 kids on a twin bed, knowing that they will always remember this journey! “Casey, Aaron and I all slept on this tiny bed last night, and we loved it!” They all started laughing, knowing that everyone sleeps horrible. The entire mood changed, as everyone laughed hysterically; we were all ready for another day.
James exited the water, nearly frozen to death! The heater was cranked up, and we had a long drive ahead of us to get to the transition spot for the day. It was a 40 minute drive, so that gave him enough time to warm back up. The roads were narrow, and there was a lot of traffic. We laughed as we tried to stay inside of our lanes with our giant RV, towing The Little White Mazda behind us. The looks on peoples’ faces, as we drove through town, is imprinted in my mind forever, hilarious. Morganstown was all up and down, no matter where you went. We went up and down, and up and down, and up and down, all the while feeling worried for James’ bike ride….
We parked in front of a building, which had a bike shop inside of it. It was a nice slanted parking lot, and again we worried about the bike ride. There were a couple of people there, with whom I didn’t feel super comfortable talking to; one guy, in particular, kind of rubbed me wrong. I just went back into the RV. When they took off on the bike, we made a game plan for the day. After several oil changes in all of the vehicles, it was time to get the RV serviced. The Wingmen were going to find a place to get the RV service done, and I was going to find a laundromat. We had SO much laundry!
The kids and I loaded the RV, and the Wingmen drove us way out of town to the place recommended to us by the ambassador, “We don’t really want to work on your RV.” Wow, just like that huh, I guess we were on to the next place. We drove further, and pulled into a place with semis, “Yeah, we don’t work on RVs.” Casey’s response made us all laugh, “Well, why is there an RV right there then?” The employee held firm with his no.
At this point, we decided we would part ways. We unloaded The Little White Mazda, transferred boxes, and started pulling the laundry out of the RV. The laundry just kept coming, towels, sheets, blankets, etc. It was a good thing we were able to do this at a laundromat! If you have ever been camping, imagine camping for 25 days. You can imagine that everything needed to be washed. The kids climbed into the car, “I call NOT sharing!” Once they were settled, we started trying to get the laundry into the Mazda. This is a moment that I will remember for the rest of my life. The trunk was full of tools for the trailer and RV, so we could fit maybe one load in there, but that was it. Each of the 4 kids in the back seat was holding a basket of dirty laundry. Lucy, in the front seat, had two baskets, and then I climbed into the driver seat and had Casey hand me a basket. “One, two, three!” He shut the door, and we were packed in there like a bunch of clowns! Now, to figure out how to drive this 5-speed manual with a basket of laundry on my lap, and a basket in between the driver and front seat.
It is moments like this that I know there is a God! I am not joking, this situation was impossible! I don’t know how we got everyone and everything into this car. There was no other option for this laundry, all of it had to be done, and we had no way of doing anything differently. I handed Lucy my phone. “Find us a laundromat, I can’t see my phone.” With the magic of GPS, we had directions. It took us 35 minutes to get there, because we had driven so far out of town to try to get the RV some engine love.
After 26 days, I was starting to become really annoyed that we ‘couldn’t’ use the van. ‘The’ crew member had taken ownership of the van from Washington. There were 2 people in the van, and there were 6 minimum in The Little White Mazda, designed to seat 5. I knew in West Virginia that I needed to find a way to make the van our family car, but I knew that it would’t work if I just asked for it. To this day, I still can’t understand how this member of our crew didn’t think to let us use the van, just by using common sense. But I guess ‘they’ were never around until the 5k, except for a swim here and there, so how was I going to get my hands on MY van?!
The roads were so narrow…so, so narrow! We found the laundromat and strategically exited the car. I just love a laundromat, 8 loads of laundry done, all at once! It cost me $30, but we were in and out of there in just a couple of hours. It was a big laundromat, and there was only 1 other person in there, who changed their load and left. The kids could play around and just hang out. I left Lucy and Lily and went to grab lunch. I brought it back and the kids spaced out and enjoyed their lunch as they waited. When the laundry was done, I had to figure out how to get it all back in the car again. We folded everything very nicely, and did whatever we could do to minimize the space needed for the blankets, sheets, and everything else. The miracle happened again, but in a much more organized manner. I called the Wingmen and they informed me that they were at the bike shop, where we had sent James off on the bike.
We entered it into GPS, and it was 2 min away! I thought I had the address wrong, it had to be further than that, it took forever to get to the laundromat. I then remembered that we had driven to ‘China’ for the RV, so I was disoriented. I pulled out of the parking lot, turned left, went down a steep hill, and right in front of me was the RV. I couldn’t believe it; I was so excited! We dropped the laundry off, and loaded Target into our GPS.
Target was 20 min away, geeze, that just seemed so far. We were stopped at a light, I looked around and thought, “All I see is trees! Where on earth is this GPS taking us?” The light turned green and we were once again going down a hill. All of a sudden, out of the middle of nowhere, there was a whole shopping center. I couldn’t see it before because I was above it, and there were so many trees blocking the buildings. It was kind of cool once I realized it!
The kids buddied up and went to look for treasures in the $1 bins at Target. I went through the aisles to grab things that we needed. Things like water! We had the hardest time keeping the water filled in the RV. Between filling the water and keeping the septic emptied, the RV was a huge responsibility! We were out of water and we had nowhere to fill it. I grabbed lots of water, so at least we had water in the RV. We could drink it, use it for washing hands and the toilet, until we could get the tank filled. I soon met up with the kids, still undecided on what they wanted. I walked around to give them more time. I went to look in the home department, particularly organizing things like bins; I am a total junky for organizing stuff.
The kids had moved back to the toys, so I bumped into them back there and encouraged them to make their choices. We were needing to get back to the RV, the 5k would be starting soon. With much hesitation, not sure if they had made the right choice, the kids made their decisions and we checked out. On the way out the door, we punched in the address for the RV on the GPS, and it was only 10 minutes away! Again, I thought I had put in the wrong address. Why did it take me 20 minutes to get there, but only 10 minutes to get back? Turns out on the way there, the GPS had taken us all the way around, in a big circle. Annoying! Fortunately, driving back was a straight shot, and it was close!
Our friend Haydn was working in Pittsburgh. He does body work for professional athletes and was making his way down to work on James. It was only a 45 minute drive, and he was happy to do it. When he showed up, we embraced; man I love this guy! He is jolly and always a pleasure to be around. He was grilling me a bit, he was worried about James. He wanted to know all of the details of how James was feeling. Haydn was familiar with James’ body, and he wanted to make sure he took good care of James that night, giving his muscles the treatment they are used to, and love.
When James finished the bike, we were relieved to hear that he didn’t have to climb hills all day. But it was still no cake walk, being that it was on a limestone path. He laid down on the massage table, and Haydn worked on him for a good 45 minutes. Haydn worked James over, giving his body the gift of pain and love all at once! James was lured off of the massage table, knowing that he needed to run the 5k. Haydn waited with us so that he could work on James when he was finished for the night.
I visited with some supporters while James ran. I always love hearing all of the different personal stories and journeys that people experience. I love connecting with people in general, so I always enjoy this part of the day. Again, ‘that’ guy from that morning, rubbed me wrong as I crossed paths with him at the 5k. As it turns out, he rubbed all of us wrong, all day.
There was little media, no huge crowd, and no reason for us to have added the 7 hours of driving. We should have changed course and only done the 45 minutes of driving. We all felt like we were ‘tricked’ into coming out there, for other people’s selfish desires. The night grew later and later. We knew that the RV needed to get on the road to get going on the 7 hour drive, which would be 8 hours in an RV. We gave James hugs and prepared to leave. I visited with Haydn for a bit, and then we made our way into the RV. I began to prep to leave, an easier task today since the RV was gone all day, and the Wingmen loaded The Little White Mazda onto the trailer. The RV was on the road; I distributed the laundry and did chores, as we drove.
We realized we didn’t eat dinner; it was 10 pm and no one had eaten! Oh man, I am the worst mom ever! The kids said, “Oh, we are hungry, but we just grabbed snacks.” I was so glad because it had slipped away from me, as I had visited with the supporters during the 5k. We looked everywhere before we left town and there was nothing. We figured we would catch something as we were headed towards Maryland…well, there was nothing!
We stopped for gas, and I decided to go in and see if there was anything in there to be a pretend dinner. There happened to be a Little Caesars inside, thank goodness. Horrible pizza, but better than gas station food for sure. It was dark, oh no, it was closed! Then an employee says, “Hey, you guys want free pizza? We just closed and I am going to throw these pizzas away.” The Wingmen go crazy with excitement! They took the pizzas and posed for pictures.
We took them out to the RV and the kids were pumped! Quinn was already asleep; he must not have been as hungry as I worried. The pizza was passed around, kids got their jammies on, brushed their teeth and then settled in for the night. We had a long drive ahead of us, Maryland was anxiously awaiting us the next morning!