Justin and Tod Purvis slowly are going blind.
That didn't stop the brothers from traversing the edges of the continental U.S. on a monthlong adventure they called Driving Blind.
When their vision darkens, the pair will have plenty of beautiful scenes to reflect on, they said at a luau-theme reception thrown by their parents, Rollie and Sandie Purvis, at Grovetown United Methodist Church on Monday.
"So far, it is all such a jumble," said Justin Purvis after spending more than a month and traveling about 10,000 miles on America's roads. "I think the overall trip has been amazing, visually and experience-wise."
The brothers suffer from choroideremia, a rare and genetic degenerative eye disease that causes progressive vision loss and blindness.
Because the disease first affects peripheral vision, the brothers routed a trip through the peripheral states.
They documented their trip, which started Sept. 7, on film to be produced into a documentary also called Driving Blind . A three-man film crew, led by director Brian Griffo of Perfect Karma production company, followed the pair on their journey.
"They are insane," Griffo said of the Purvis brothers. "Lots of fun. They've had machine guns in their hands. ... They've blown up fireworks. They jumped off cliffs."
The film was aimed at raising awareness of the disease and to raise funds for the Choroideremia Research Foundation and the Lions Club, which supports the blind.
Justin, 34, is an improvisational comedian and teacher in Washington, D.C., while Tod , 39, is a television editor in Los Angeles. Both have bad night vision, so drove mostly during the day.
The trip was born out of the brothers' desire to see and experience the country before their vision fails.
"We've been overdosed on visual stimulus," Tod said. "So it is just like whenever we want to go back, we can think of the Grand Canyon, even the sunsets we saw driving, which I thought were phenomenal, especially the Grand Canyon, Devil's Tower and White Sands (New Mexico)."
Justin always thought he'd like his last vision to be the sunset over the North Shore of Oahu.
But after seeing the sun sink below the horizon at the Grand Canyon on Sept. 30, he's undecided.
"We reached the Grand Canyon about an hour before sunset," Justin wrote in a blog on www.drivingblind.net. "I have to tell you, I thought I knew where I wanted to be for my last seeing day, but now I am confused."
Along the way, starting in the Northeast with lighthouses and Niagra Falls, the pair have stayed with family and old and new friends, including some people who suffer from the same disease. They spent a night with a father in Minnesota who only has 1 percent of vision remaining and were inspired by his straightforwardness and upbeat attitude.
Justin was diagnosed with choroideremia when he was 14, and Tod, though he had suspected he also had the disease, was diagnosed two years ago.
A man dubbed Art Man showed them New Orleans and shared his experience with the disease. "He told me kind of what I already knew," Tod said, "because it was good to hear it from somebody who has gone through it, that it is a mental game. You play it every day, whether you are depressed or angry."
The brothers agree that the trip has been an experience of a lifetime, one that brought them closer and created a mutual respect.
The route originally reached from the Northeast west to Washington state and down the West Coast through Texas to the Florida Keys and back to Grovetown, to visit their parents.
"It just amazes me," Sandie Purvis said of her sons' experience. "I'm so proud and thankful that things went well."
But adaptations -- deleting the Keys from the trip -- were made for time, safety and for some great experiences.
"The reason we lost the Keys is because we got this opportunity to go to this zoo and actually get in the cages with some animals and interact with them," Justin said.
The brothers got to feed full-grown tigers, play with a tiger cub, lemurs, Capuchin monkeys, snakes and kangaroos at the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo in Gulf Shores, Ala.
"It was crazy," Justin said. "It was awesome. ... It would have been great to get down there (to the Keys). But we'll save that for the sequel."
To read about the brothers' trip or for ways to help fund the movie, visit www.drivingblind.net.
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