September 18, 2011 Ashland, Oregon
Well yesterday started out well. We spent the night at the trailhead and were told by John and Eric to expect Sam some time between 8 and 10 a.m. A few minutes after we had woken up and were savoring the final few minutes of warmth in our sleeping bags, we heard a knock on the door. A man named Ben from Ashland had seen the article about Sam in the local newspaper and came to catch a glimpse of him arriving at the support point. We told him that unfortunately he hadn’t come in yet, but he was welcome to wait with us. He said no thanks, but gave us twenty dollars and wished us luck.
A little bit later, after we’d pulled ourselves out of bed to make scrambled eggs and coffee. A woman named Marilyn pulled up, also hoping to catch a glimpse of Sam. She said he had heard about Sam in the local newspaper article as well as an NPR interview that just aired. Being a bit of a runner herself, she was helping out at a 100-mile race that was going on in the area. She also had to leave to help out with the race, but wished Sam the best.
Marilyn and John
Finally we heard a hearty “GOOD MORNING!” from the woods as Sam cruised in around 9:30 a.m., cheery and energetic. As he sat outside the RV soaking his feet and reading the article that was just published about him, another car pulled up, and a man came out to watch this strange little routine. As it turned out, the man owned a lodge down the road called Callahan’s. The lodge welcomes PCT thru-hikers who often camp on the lodge’s front lawn and are treated to free breakfast.
While we often receive support via Facebook, the film crew’s blog or Sam’s blog, run by the talented Eric DePalo, the physical manifestation of support right outside our RVs was truly heartwarming. When we are on the road, it is difficult to stay connected to the world that exists beyond the stretch of road or trail in front of us, and oftentimes our only way of reaching out is through the Internet, wherever can we find it. Posting pictures and blog updates into cyperspace doesn’t always confirm that people are watching or listening, and while we have tons of AMAZING support from our friends and families, there is something gratifying about receiving support from complete strangers; it shows that they are purely interested in Sam’s cause. It completely reinforces the fact that what we’re doing is special, and maybe even a little influential. Furthermore, it is such a testament to the kind of people who offer food and shelter to thru-hikers and provide support complete strangers in endeavors that they mutually believe in.
Because of our visitors, the morning had an upbeat tone to it, and Sam, who got a solid 5 or 6 hours of sleep the night before, seemed relatively well-rested and cheery. To add to our good fortune, there was a road that paralleled the portion of the PCT around Mount Ashland that Sam would be hiking that day. For us, this meant that we could drive ahead and plan our shots, instead of racing Sam on foot to a remote area outside of walkie range or something equally frustrating. It also guaranteed plenty of Sam footage, which we never take for granted. On top of Mount Ashland, we set up our equipment and waited with binoculars and walkie-talkies for a few hours. After some entertaining, albeit disturbing, banter between some deer hunters, we captured Sam emerging from the trees, and slowly drove RV down the road, as he nimbly made his way through a rocky meadow. We agreed to stop where the PCT crossed the road, so he could take a break and talk with us.
We sat on the dusty road, in the shade of our RV and offered Sam a beer and some candy. Beer, yes, candy, no thank you, he is so sick of chocolate and peanut butter. We talked about how Sam was so close to the California border, yet despite this achievement; he is not yet halfway finished with the entire run. Sam began talking about fighting off naps, the persistent rocks in between his toes, and his struggle to find motivation at this point in the game. We tried to keep the conversation light, talking about the classic, Not Another Teen Movie, but the talk inevitably steered back to how many more miles he had to do, and how tired he was. In these moments, it is really difficult to say the right thing and try and boost Sam’s mood. Sam encounters challenges that I can’t even relate to, so it’s dumb to say, “almost there buddy” or “it’s ONLY 1700 more miles, it’ll be over before you know it.” I’m slowly discovering that the best way to support him is by staying positive, joking around, and just giving him lots of food. At that point I just have to remind myself that Sam agreed to do this and all we can do is give him high fives at the edge of the trail. We did just that and told him we’d see him in California. In a flashback, the theme from Gilligan’s Island would be playing, a three-hour tour…we’ll see you in California…
Throughout this trip, we are concerned about Sam breaking down. When he is late, we’re concerned that he is injured and needs help. We never think, however, that the trusty old RV that we rely on to get us from support point to support point would be the one to break down. But it did. Whomp whomp. Guess we won’t see Sam in California. That’s right, our flashy, brand new RV (with hardwood floors!) decided to break down in the most dramatic way right in front of the inspection line at the California border. What an attention-whore. Not one to a let a little single-mode-of-transportation breakdown get in the way, I whipped up some mac n’ cheese, since it was dinnertime, and we ate. On the side of the road. At the California border. After dinner, we were towed to the nearest impound lot, where we were locked in, and spent the night. No worries, Marion and I watched an episode of Sex and the City, and fell fast asleep.
The next day, a mechanic arrived, told us to turn on the engine, and then to immediately turn it off. The clunking metal sound I told myself I was imagining actually turned out to be the sound of a busted engine. Dunzo. So now we’re in a hotel enjoying Internet, hot showers, TV, and above all, our own beds! With sheets! A new RV will be delivered to us from San Francisco and soon we will be on our merry way. To make matters slightly more complicated, as our RV was dying a slow, painful death, Sam’s Support Director, John was rushed to the ER with a nasty case of shingles. Brought on by the immense stress of keeping Sam safe and supported, John had to be on an IV drip for the past 24 hours and is now going home to San Francisco for a week to recover. While we will miss John and his wise words, I am confident that Eric can handle double duty for a few days. As we wait in the hotel room for the new RV to arrive, I will savor the last few hours of Internet, and take one more shower. Given these past few days, who know what will happen next, so it’s best to prepare for anything.
Hopefully headed for California tonight,
Cecily "Crazy Legs" Mauran
P.S. Check out the article about Sam in the Ashland Newspaper :
and the NPR interview: