Almost three months ago I stood on the side of a Canadian highway where the pavement gives way to dirt and you feel like civilization ends. The sun baked overhead, I had no water, and I hadn’t seen a car for an hour.
“One last ride,” I thought. “I just need one last ride to get to the Angle.”
I wondered if my boat would still be behind Ron’s general store. I wondered what that first stroke of my paddle would feel like. I wondered if I had any chance of making it across Lake of the Woods.
I saw a pair of trucks in the distance and held out my thumb.
“One more ride,” I thought. “And the adventure begins.”
This morning, Tom stopped again, not to attach mud flaps for a dirt road or to give me a ride to the northern tip of Minnesota, but just to share a jelly donut, say hello, and introduce me to his three grandkids before they all headed up to go hiking near Grand Portage.
“He’s going to paddle that kayak all the way to Florida,” Tom told them. “Think you guys would ever try something like that?”
The kids stared at me like I was crazy and shook there heads. I smiled back at them.
“You guys could do it,” I said.
I believe it too. I think that is what Tom wanted them to see, he wanted them to know that any spark in their imagination is possible, that if I could do a trip like this, they could do it too.
I hope one day they do, but when they’re sitting around a campfire at the start of the Appalachian Trail, setting off to canoe to Hudson Bay, or riding a bike across America and someone asks why, I don’t think they will say it was because they stopped in Duluth for jelly donuts and met some crazy person with a kayak.
No, I think they’ll say it’s because their grandpa took them hiking every summer when they were kids.