Angle to Key West: Nerves (10/1)

Prescott, WI – October 1, 2011

It’s impossible not to stare up at the bridges over the Mississippi. Some are huge, arching constructs of metal, others are blocky and plain as grey concrete, but they all have character. From the water, you can see the design, the engineering involved in hanging a roadway in the air. In a car at 70 mph, you might not even realize you’re crossing the river, but underneath it, as thousands of pounds of truck rumble on top of you, you appreciate every bit of the wonder above your head.

I always stare up, watching the cars and trucks, guessing at where they are going and imagining all the lives passing by. I see people rushing to work, kids heading to school, couples on their first date. I imagine entire lives in my head as they disappear in the distance, replaced by the next rumble of tires.

I’ve always wondered if anyone looks down, if anyone sees the bright yellow kayak sliding by on the water below and imagines where I am going too.

Then a white car stopped as I passed a boat ramp next to Interstate 494 and answered the question for me.

On his way to work on an airplane he’s building to fly to Massachusetts, Bob Collins looked down and the flash of yellow against Mississippi brown caught his eye. The last time he’d seen it, the boat was hanging out on a patio in downtown Minneapolis where we’d talked about the trip.

We marveled at our luck and chatted for a bit about the barges and locks, before he had to get going.

“Wait,” I said. “I forgot, where are you going to fly your plane again?”

“Massachusetts,” he said. “But I’m a bit nervous because I’ve never flown that far and I don’t know the airspace.”

I thought of flying a plane built by hand, of navigating crowded airspace, of trusting that you’d tightened every rivet. I thought of last night among the barges, how my heart still raced from it, how scary things often wait along great adventures.

“Don’t worry,” I said, half to him, half to me. “If you weren’t nervous, you’d need to dream bigger.”


Bob wrote a fantastic article about the trip for Minnesota Public Radio. It was great to meet him once and even better to meet him again. Here’s a link to his article, definitely check it out!

4 thoughts on “Angle to Key West: Nerves (10/1)

  1. Superb last line………..“Don’t worry,” I said, half to him, half to me. “If you weren’t nervous, you’d need to dream bigger.”

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