If I would’ve reached the 0 mile marker on my Mississippi trip last year instead of taking out in New Orleans, I probably would’ve taken out in Baton Rouge this year and been satisfied with that decision. The following two weeks were tense paddling, constant radio confirmation of our location to ships and barges, and loud camping at night. I missed the sandbars, migrating birds, and the moments where a thought could be dwelled on for hours before being changed. But I am thankful to have had those throughout this trip, even if it wasn’t in the ending.
Tom and I the day before we were on the river…
Tom, Bill and I on the last day on the river…
Kevin the canoeist took out at Jackson Square in New Orleans. His desire to continue on for another three nights and four days had been lost in the idea of warm showers and comfortable beds. Still, though section paddled, many cannot say they went from Itasca to New Orleans on the Mississippi.
Just another morning waking up on the river…
Tom and I were fortunate for low water levels which gave us “ok” camping. The only downside was the speed in which we paddled…four miles per hour was our average for the last 100 miles. Talk about giving you that time to reflect on all the stories you’ve gained throughout the trip.
I thought it would be interesting to answer a few questions that every person we meet asks…
What did you eat?
Mac and cheese, pop-tarts, instant mash potatoes and stuffing, oatmeal, etc. I craved salad and ice cream throughout the trip. Tom had about six cases of MRE’s throughout the course of the trip.
Where did you sleep?
It’s amazing all the places you can pitch a tent.
What was the hardest thing?
I don’t know how to answer this question and I encourage you not to ask it to people on these trips. I told some friends of mine to pitch a tent in their yard every night for a week before they go to sleep. They don’t have to stay in it, just put it up before dark and take it down before work in the morning. It is a process, a life, a routine that allows the little things like just being able to walk out of your house in the morning to not be taken advantage of for some time.
What all did you learn?
A lot of things. I met many people, saw many different ways to live, and was able to discover the different cultures of our nation in one journey. Truthfully, we live in separate nations in my opinion, it all simply falls under the umbrella of “The United States of America” title. The farmers, the Native Americans, the fisherman, the Bible Belters, etc, all think of each other differently and often have yet to experience the culture of the others. It’s amazing how many people know the way the world works after living in one town their entire life. I hope you can taste the sarcasm in that last line.
Do you have any future travel plans?
Yes. I’d like to attempt the Yellowstone River next year, go live in Vietnam for 5 months, graduate, write a book, cycle to South America, and attempt the Amazon within the next decade of my life. Excuse me; I will do these things I meant. (This response to the question often gives me the pleasure of hearing all the improbabilities of achieving these goals. My only response – there is a way to do it, I’ll figure it out.) “Well what about wife and kids?” is usually the next topic to arise. I intend to be an outstanding father and husband, but I am 21 at the moment and refuse to be one of the dad’s who goes “I wish I would’ve…”
What’s going to happen to Bill?
I have a fenced in backyard and a Black Lab already at my home. He will be fine. I have to get him use to being on a bicycle now so he can travel with me around town. Chick Magnet hahahahaha.
How do you afford these trips?
I work my ass off. I know many people can say the same and still could not come up with the funds after 5-6 months, but there is a way and I have found it. I serve at a restaurant every night that I can, work during the day at my school, on my nights off I play my drum at the beach to make a few more dollars, I got rid of my car last semester and drove a scooter around so I wouldn’t have to pay insurance and could have a cheaper gas expense, etc. It’s a sacrifice definitely. But hearing one man tell you that you are living their dream makes it all worth it, let alone hearing every man you meet say that. I find no sacrifice easier to take than those that open up the door to traveling.
Are you going to write a book?
That is my current contemplation actually. Everyone says to go for it, but I have not had enough time to decide when would be the most appropriate, though I have the first three chapters outlined.
Are you happy to be home?
I have a beautiful life in Florida. When I travel I miss home, when I am home I miss traveling. It is a bittersweet taste that only leaves the mouth during the first few days of transition between the two. But I feel that the purpose of our lives is happiness, and there is always a way to find it.
Thank you sincerely for all of you who have helped along this journey. I am honored to have each of you as a part of it. Not just those who invited us into their homes, fed us, gave us rides, opened themselves in conversation or said they would pray for us along the way. But also for those who simply just read and visit the website. When I look at the numbers that steadily increase throughout the trip it is highly encouraging in the battling wind, escaping rain, and cold oatmeal type moments of the trip. If half of the readers of this site donated $5 for the shelter, almost $5,000 could be made.
The organization I have been raising money/awareness throughout this 147 day, 3,769 mile trip…
SAFE, Shelter & Aftercare Inc. partnering with Wings of Shelter Int’l Inc. has opened the first long term shelter in the state of Florida dedicated specifically to female minor age victims rescued out or Human Sex Slavery/ Trafficking. We work with FBI, Sheriff’s Offices, ICE (Immigrations and Customs Enforcement)-who has placed our first 4 girls in our home. January 2010, SAFE house opened its doors as a family style model with House Parents to hold 5 girls at a time. We provide a healthy family model, education, counseling, medical needs, mentoring, while assessing the individual needs of each teen victim trapped in the deceptive, traumatizing crime of human trafficking.The program is designed for a minimum of 9 months stay because restoration is a process. We serve on the Task Force in Lee County, and collaborate with surrounding counties to make a difference in awareness and education of the public to Florida’s shameful reputation of being #3 in human trafficking activity out of the 50 states. We are all custodians of our community. Thank you for your support in our efforts to rescue and restore minor age girls that have been victims of the organized crime of sexual slavery.
For more information or to donate visit www.safe-refuge.org
I love the size comparison of this photo. You have a tugboat on the left that pushes the barges up and down the river, ocean liner in the middle, and Navy vessel on the right. A tugboat it three times the length of our kayaks.
From Tom’s Perspective…
Mmmm… Food. So much food. It’s wonderful; I have options, and they don’t involve oatmeal mac and cheese or things from plastic!!! It’s wonderful. As I shake myself out of my amazement I walk out of the local grocery store here in Fort Meyers Florida where I am staying with Charles for 2 days while we clean our gear.
Since Baton Rouge it has been one long slog to the finish line. The scenery quickly changed into industrial plants and shipping posts. The actual paddling has been rather more stressful due to the constant fear of being run down by barge captains or ships whose displacement is approximately 160,000 tons. To put that in perspective our displacement is approximately 300 pounds apiece, which is under a millionth of the size. Yeah we’re tiny in comparison. They run aircraft carriers up the river, we haven’t seen any fortunately since they create mini-tsunamis as they pass. All joking aside though the large ship pilots have been very polite and accommodating. The last stop of the trip was at “Pilot Town” where American pilots take over foreign and domestic ships and guide them through the ever shifting lower Mississippi to New Orleans. This town was not accessible by road and was only 2 miles above our goal (the mile marker zero at Head of Passes). Here we were told to make ourselves home at the buffet. There was soft-shell and king crab. Never having had crab before, I seriously dug this one last diversion. After the 2 quick miles we were done!
My father sagely told me to really capture the emotional moment of finishing. Unfortunately it was a little anticlimactic. To myself: “This is the end… I thought the marker was another mile on… Quick paddle ahead of Charles so I can hit the post first! Wait this is it? Ok how am I gonna get back home?” From here it degenerated into packing gear mode interspersed by people coming up and asking where we started and looking rather flabbergasted when we told them. I personally didn’t see the big deal but was enraptured by the idea of having a roof to sleep underneath. I expect some deeper sense of meaning to emerge as I have some time to reflect on the experience. But that’s the next post.