The final day. This was it. 1000 miles already done. We just had to make it to the Gateway Arch of St Louis for 10am and then the ginger would not have to get into a freezing cold wetsuit for a long time. All the alarms went off early and we were out of bed pretty quickly. The post expedition depression was already dawning on us and so we all had watery eyes. I blamed hay fever.
We were going to be hardcore and wear the little shorts, tops and bare feet from the whole journey but then Mike’s kit was so cosy and we just couldn’t turn it down. So we suited up and headed to the cars. Out jumped Jess Giard from Chamberlain and Rod Wellington, another uber adventurer who had paddled almost 2000 miles of the Missouri and had just reached our starting point. They had road tripped 12 hours through the night to join us for the last day and we couldn’t have been more excited. What a treat. Yes. This was the final day and we had amazing people there for us.
We drove in Mike’s car with minimal gear and after packing up the boards, staring in awe at the Chain of Rocks and beating each other up in the sand, we were ready. For the last time. Dale was alongside us in his canoe. And we just headed for the big arch. Of course they got me about four times with made up stories along the way. One being that the story of Rapunzel was actually based on something that happened on the water and the castle she was locked in was this little tower where we put in. Annoyingly I believed it because it was a perfect castle for the story. Grrrrr. Gullible Gimli done again.
We kept going. And the arch got bigger. We were filming. Tweeting. Facebooking. And keeping everyone posted. The coastguard came out. Barge dudes were screaming “are you kidding me?!” The sun was shining. And finally we started to pull in.
Miles, Miguel, Jess, Rod, Dale, Gary, Marsha, Patrick Albert (a blogger who had been following us), some other people and press were all running down and clapping. Lots of friendly faces and a huge arch behind them. Shining in the sun. We had done it. We pulled in. Cameras in our faces. We hugged. Held back tears. And then stood together for the interviews before racing each other up the stairs to the base of the arch. We had done it. Together. The ginger had swum 1000 miles and we had completed the Swim 1000 expedition. I’m not one for getting deep but the its choking me up writing about it now. Boy does it feel good/ sad/ overwhelming/ reflective. This experience has changed my life and I loved every second of it (more of that in the post to follow).
After hugs and all, we piled back to Mikes pad to sort the canoe, send all the kit back to Memphis with Dale, shower and get ready for the evening entertainment. While we emptied the entire expedition onto the grass, Gary and Marsha brought us mini burgers, chips and onion rings. As if they hadn’t done enough?! And we realised that an expedition that takes so much organising and mental and physical strength to do, can be packed up in a couple of hours.
Showered and shiny, we put ourselves in the hands of Miles who drove us all the way to Columbia for his very own college football game. 70,000 people were piled into the stadium of the University of Columbia. Mizzou vs Vandy. What an atmosphere.
We were in a special section and we screamed our heads off. We made lots of friends, felt like we were in ‘One Tree Hill’, danced when the full band marched around, laughed as the helmet car whizzed around, tried to high five the tiger mascot, checked out the cheerleaders and just loved it. Miles is an absolute gem. He treated us to the whole evening and really is an absolute dude.
Now that’s a proper Yankee end to the expedition. All of us passed out within five seconds on the drive home and went straight to bed (party animals) with so much love for everyone we met along the way.
This Sunday was different from the ones before, with no alarm, no boards to pack and no swimmer to tend too. Instead we packed up, said goodbyes, missed the river and ate a delicious breakfast whipped up by Muddy Mike. I even peed outside as the bathroom freaked me out. Skyped my parents and headed to the airport. I write this from the plane. With a blanket over my lap as I flick through the photos of the past 60 days. I’ve already sobbed my way through two films that weren’t even sad. Now its back to reality. But only for a little bit. And to be honest my brain is so strange, it’s never really understood reality. So I’m going to be on the river and on a sandbar in my head. Which is exactly where I want to stay. For a while anyway.