He feels the end of the race now. Here's his plan for the rain:
The entry into Missouri: Water. Rivers, Lakes, Tributaries, Streams, Dams and Ponds. The prairie rollers carry on, but the multiple dams make twisting, spiny lakes and *super* drone shots. Like super-duper drone shots and you feel two things happening.
The Continental Divide isn't a joke. There's more water all of a sudden. Also, farms. Corn, soy, wind, and folk. Folk love to talk, and in Missouri they want to talk to you. And with you. Coming out of the desert - a very dry and windy and contemplative place - to the rolling hills and farms and lush fields of the heartland, you can feel the humanity getting lusher too. Nothing against our friends in Colorado, but it's still pretty western there. Ruggedness and self-reliance are in the footprints.
As we move into Missouri it won't take long before a man 7 feet tall and happy as a mountain at dawn knocks on your trailer door to show you the rattlesnake he just killed with a shovel.
"Big 'un! Thought you'd probably want to see!"
How many thousands of thoughts a day do you have out there?
Flat. Sure was flat. Broken up by areas of relative evenness.
But that's a great arena for your man to start eating the wind and rain. Chewing noodles and miles as he says. The flats are an opportunity to bear down and find continuity.
Look at his face. Look at his joy - he's smiling because he can feel the race sliding into a comfort zone. It could be the calm before the storm, but it could be the race starting to come under his command.
The heat is heartland heat. The desert heat wants to cook your noodle, but prairie heat wants a hug, almost.
And the sky...
Out there on the road at around 6 AM on the 19th, André passed the halfway point.
The day was spent on the endless rolling Kansan plains. One of the highlights of this race is how comfortably far from Interstates the route stays. It's the road trip of your dreams, with a distinct scarcity of modern commerce and transit bustle. The kind of road trip you think maybe doesn't happen as much as it used to. We have to plan our water, our gas and diesel, and especially propane out well in advance. Mobile phone outages are common and feel a little thrilling. When you can't always tell if you know where you are...
The propane generator onboard the sweet RV (thank you Luxe RV - book yours now... 888.600.0793) powers and charges every last battery we have - and we have tons and tons of batteries and more shipping in soon. Batteries for big cameras, little cameras, drones, laptops, iPhones, and GoPros. There are batteries everywhere. Part of what keeps the team from getting enough sleep is not just keeping up with André but also the process of gear management. All the media needs to be harvested and double backed up. We are typically shooting many terabytes of material a day and that process will take hours. Hours. Usually at night.
Today's events come with a welcome shift - a slight change in the temperatures. The mornings and evenings are finally cooling off. New outfit for your guy. The Kansan roads are long, straight and the feeling driving across them in the day is pretty zen like. Keep your eyes open and an eagle eye out. But it's nice how the mind is set free on the long open byways.
The days are long. It's can be hard on people. Obviously André is pushing his body to unknown personal and human limits, and we are feeling fatigue of our own. Everyone is having to seek out time for sleep and feeding, set aside time to make sure we stay frosty and dialed into André's story and the work he's doing.
Roy fell trying to get out of the car. Did a sweet number on his knee. Ministrations. But that's not why he left. He had to jump off the road and go to Montana to shoot something without us.
We will miss Roy Marasigan. To explain why we can play a game - which one of these things is NOT true about Roy Marasigan:
1. Roy has wrestled alligators in a controlled yet terrifying setting.
2. Roy attended bullriding school and almost got his head stove in.
3. Roy once punched Stacey Keach in the moustache.
4. Roy take tap dancing lessons and plays the ukulele.
It's number 3. He never met Stacey Keach.
Day Five began in Alamosa, CO and remained a Colorado day. Some incredible passes on the Continental Divide. At this point André began his day at mile 1104 and an elevation of 8178, down from the highest point of the race of 10856. The scenery was nothing short of spectacular.
Here's your moment to meet Maria Durana and her amazing work. Maria is a member of our team from the Bay Area, by way of Columbia. She's Pablo's sister and a tireless shooter, supporter and was recently found sleeping in the shade of a grain silo. As you do. From the mountain passes of Colorado she brings you this day of zen and mountain.
Such a treat to have Maria shooting stills of this journey.
A lake on a mountain. And then a descent into the valley before the Kansas border.
Here's Maria -
First thing's first. When you wake up the guy after 800 miles and then a inhumanely short nap, coffee comes first. Then sunscreen. Matt's system for managing André's sleep seems to have paid off. He reported feeling like he slept 8 hours.
What came next was a hot landscape rolling ride for André and a photographer's dream come true. These photos are just a taste of what we got - don't want to spill all our carefully captured beans - for that you have to wait for the film, but this was a truly special ride.
Monument Valley, Valley of the Gods, Elephant Butte and the whole of the Navajo Nation Reservation give way to a serious climb and greener landscapes. Bits of vegetation began growing in spots and elk warning signs gave way to goats wandering all over to cattle in their pastures.
That serious climb will continue into tomorrow as we approach the big, breezy and exciting descent into Kansas. A super long day of down down down! But the day today is all about making that Durango cutoff and it comes at the end of a hell of a day. André made the station and stopped off for a quick bite of birthday cake as a treat.
Day Three started out on the road from Camp Verde and thrust the convoy north through Hopi and Navajo territories, coming to a rest at the front door of Monument Valley. After the first big push, André's crew chief started to move your man (and so everyone else) to a more steady schedule. From now on we will begin to see a pattern. Rhythm. A nice long bike ride, followed by a 90 minute nap just before dawn. The goal is for André to go to bed in the dark and wake up in the full light. Helps to create a sense of having slept longer...
It's similar for the film crew. We shoot him getting on the road at 7, then some morning shots, some afternoon drones and GoPro management, shoot out the crew change and golden hour footage, when the sun is at it's most awesome-making position, and then the dusky shots. Dinner comes around 9 or so. Then everyone has a million batteries to charge, gear to stow, clothes to change and a bit of 'hi there, bye there' before we get back on the road. Driving up ahead of André in the evening makes the morning easier, but tiring. We will drive until 1am or so, park the minivan shooter and the RV: JoyMother (PLAN YOUR NEXT TRIP WITH LUXE RV!!!), and sleep until 5:30. Then it's up, repack for the day, gobble up some kind of food for the day and meet the race just before 7. We only get about 5 hours of sleep at most, but since André only gets 90 minutes and is doing a significanly harder job...
André is consistently clocking his days in well before minimum safe distance. The race officials have plotted what the latest time anyone has ever hit the sequential time stations and still completed the race. Despite two separate breaks of 30 minutes or so to deal with mechanical issues that irritated everyone, André still hit his final mark yesterday with a full 3 hours to spare. And he's in the top third of all racers - including teams!
New fun bit of something - Today is Joy-A-Thon!
A 24 hour Challenge to André!
Couple things here - one, André is not a pro athlete and when he's not kicking this race's ass he is also a guy that has to take a couple weeks off work to do it. Also? MOTIVATION! André's sisters Anya and Bianca, as well as Andre's Childhood friend Buck, and are all pledging a Buck a Mile for the next 24 hour period to help André's bottom line! Join the fun! Make a pledge! Head to our FB page to make the pledge! This is not a film expense... All the money goes directly to André.
The film crew is a devoted machine of parts. Everyone scrambles in tough conditions and tight quarters to come up with this story daily. There's a ton of love going around. Today was Maria's birthday! We celebrated with dinner in a Navajo roadhouse and then back to the RV: JoyMother for some strawberry shortcake. For about five minutes. Then we packed up the gear to get just a littler further down the road before the next day jumped up on us.
It's awesome being here. Making this film is a lifetime thrill, and yet at the same time it's perfectly normal. Just before he rolled this morning André said to me, "It's like I've been here before. The déjå vu is really strong. I've never rode or traveled this route before but every bend feels familiar to me.
Tomorrow: Monument Valley, André Kajlich turns 37 years old, and we ride for Durango - the first of three cutoff stations...