Stock Island, FL – March 8, 2013
Sad the trip is almost over? Me too, but I’m sure the next adventure is coming soon. If you want to keep up to date, follow the blog via email (look for the link on the right side or bottom of every page), facebook, or twitter and you’ll know as soon as I’m lost again.
I used the Ceronskys‘ house as a mailing depot and makeshift outfitter. By the time I flew into Minneapolis, a stack of boxes stood three feet high in their spare room. Kenna and Necky believed in me enough to give me a boat on my word that I would try to paddle it to Key West. The outfitter Hoigaard’s stored it until I picked it up. Jendayi and Dawn drove me to the Atlanta airport after a night of dancing. Ron and Jeanette thought I was crazy, but let me stash the boat behind their store in the Angle while I returned the rental car and hitched back to begin the trip.
A woman heading to a birthday party drove me from Grand Forks, North Dakota, to Greenbush, Minnesota after I got of a train from Minneapolis. Mavis showed me around Greenbush and bought me lunch. The high school custodian and his wife gave me Ali and a tour of the Greenbush Gators’ gym. A guy who hated his ex-wife gave me a ride further north where a couple from Badger picked me up and got me across the Canadian border. A man renovating his house on Moose Lake took me another ten miles and then a group of fisherman got me the rest of the way to Ron’s store and the boat.
The Hansens wouldn’t let me leave until the weather cleared and they introduced me to the wonder of fried walleye. Janet found me in the library and invited me back to her house to camp. Her husband Neal gave me home-made beef jerky and introduced me to Art who let me crash at his place up the Rainy River and helped me fix the rudder.
Friends, family, and strangers rallied over two-thousand votes to help me win a grant from Outside Magazine.
Emma figured out how to get the boat to her house in International Falls and her family took me in like a lost child. Ranger Drum at Crane Lake told me to go to Isle Royale. Canoe Country Outfitters at Moose Lake watched the boat while I went to Ely to resupply. Steve gave me a ride back even though Moose Lake was far out of his way. The Outward Bound ladies inspired me long after they disappeared into the Boundary Waters on a rainy day.
Jessica and Travis stored my boat in Grand Portage so that I could go see my dad in South Bend. Chris the fireman gave me a ride to Monica’s house in Grand Marais where I met Alden, Derek, and Becca, ate the world’s greatest donuts, and helped corner the market on granola. A hotel manager gave me a ride to Duluth. Two guys gave me a ride back to Two Harbors. A football running back from Silver Bay and a Thunder Bay politician got me back to Grand Marais. Renee sent me a bracelet that I still have on my life vest.
Four Canadian paddlers gave me enough food to paddle around Isle Royale twice. A different group of four cooked me lunch on a cold, windy day and told me stories about Ben Franklin. The crew of the Absolut-ly Knot caught fish and cooked meals and laughed a lot while we waited out the wind on Belle Isle. Dave, Linel, and Sara dressed up like Voyageurs and went to Rendezvous with me. Lucas bought me breakfast a year after someone bought him breakfast. Kenny, Keith, Lorry, and Jean made sure I had a second home in Two Harbors and kept reminding me this trip is like eating an elephant, just take one bite at a time. Four kayakers from Minneapolis shared their dinner and campsite with me on Rocky Island in the Apostles. The Monday Night Potluck Group in Corny had room for one more to join them. I shared a campfire and marshmallows with three people in Herbster. The WDIO Newsteam launched one of the craziest nights of my life in Duluth. Deanna gave me her apartment for the weekend even though we only knew each other for five minutes.
Ana made pizza and gave me a bed to sleep in off the St. Louis River on the recommendation of a volunteer named Ben from Isle Royale. Sam Cook fed me information on the Savanna Portage. A guy in Jay Cook pretended he didn’t see me and let me pass when he could have stopped the trip with a phone call. Steve in Floodwood drew me a map of beaver dams and old paths to give me a bit of hope before entering the Savanna Portage. A nice woman who works at the state park showed me a secret put-in on a lake so I didn’t have to walk another three miles. A guy handed me a giant Northern Pike he wasn’t going to eat when I was resting on the shores of Big Sandy. Mike and Wade welcomed me to the Mississippi with a warm campfire and steel-cut oatmeal (which is amazing).
Randy and Jess threw open the Chap Restaurant’s freezer door and told me to resupply out of it. Wilderness Bob rode his bike a few hundred miles out of his way to make sure my spirits would be high. Sharon picked me up in Coon Rapids and fed me amazing ribs because I hiked with her son on the Pacific Crest Trail. I danced salsa with Kimberly and she introduced me to David, whose parents let me stay with them in Illinois. The captain of the Minneapolis Queen taught me how to use a marine radio to talk to barges and locks. The Ceronskys welcomed me back to Minneapolis with open arms and many hugs.
Sally, Coni, and Cher met me at the Wisconsin border with a tray of hot lasagna. A woman gave me an apple on a dock, then Beef Stew’s mom brought me lunch in Winona. Judy, Bob, Ken, Sunny, and Jim made sure I would never forget Cordova or the taste of hot pumpkin pie. Harlan and Susie introduced me to the magic of Whitey’s Ice Cream and taco pizzas. Gesh and Junkfood made sure I didn’t fold in the middle of Iowa with winter at my heels. Marisol and Nerissa sent me packages that made me smile for weeks. Mr. Dickerson watched my boat on the ramp at Muscatine.
The tour guide at Fort Madison showed me every room in the museum. The captain of the Jerry Jarret waved at me once. The lockmaster at Mel Price called a tug on the radio just to make sure they wouldn’t run me over. Camille and JK ran around St. Louis with me and made me feel young again. Ralph picked up the boat in an old moving van. Tazu (a.k.a. Steve) got us in the City Museum. Larry and Genice took me to lunch at Blueberry Hill. Mr. French looked after the boat in New Madrid. Brenda had a dance off with me. The lady running the gas station restaurant there made sure I knew the food was all you can eat if I sat inside.
Marjorie, Frank, Joseph and the rest of the Memphis thanksgiving crowd introduced me to chocolate covered bacon, eggs stuffed in sausage, and fried turkeys. They also made sure I would always think of them on Thanksgiving for the rest of my life. Giulia, Gesh, and Imee added homemade cookies and handwritten notes to the festivities. Daniel and Tiffany took me dancing in Memphis until 3 AM.
Mike gave me water where the Ohio meets the Mississippi. Will and Allie picked up the pieces for me after a disastrous day near St. Francisville. Josh lent me a radio when mine broke so I wouldn’t get killed by barges south of Baton Rouge. A friend of theirs let me store the kayak at his place next to a giant garden.
The crew of the Virginia made sure every barge on the Mississippi knew I was coming and wouldn’t run me over near New Orleans. Dan showed me the city like no one else could, taking me to caroling parties, white elephants, and the sugar shack while making sure I knew where to get Cajun food and fried chicken that is close to divine. Jonathan put me in touch with Captain Lori. A fisherman stopped me in the marshes to warn me of an upcoming storm. Captain Lori, the Dolphin Queen, and Mike opened their doors on Christmas to two strangers. Giulia braved paddling with me for a week and survived. My dad, Donna, and my mom dropped off and picked me up a few times so that I could spend New Years in Tallahassee.
Kayak Dave shared his house in Navarre and introduced me to the inspiring Navarre Beach Science Station. Lesley, Robin, Rod, and the rest of Carrabelle made sure I saw a place I’d been a hundred times with new eyes. Yingxue cooked me the best Chinese food in Tallahassee. My dancing family danced me back to good spirits. Doug sent me notes about the Gulf Coast. Leroy, Ginger, and Carol showed me just how nice people are way down on the Suwannee River. Jo Dee loaned me her snorkel and mask so I could stare into a Manatee’s eyes. A group of folks outside Three Sisters Spring fed me key lime pie when they heard where I was headed.
Jarry and Chuck took me to eat Greek food in Tarpon Springs (home of Florida’s Greek spongers). Then they handed me the keys to their house in Big Pine so I’d have a place to stay there too. Mercedes, Larry, Warren, Cela, and Diego met me on a beach in Tampa and made sure I had a few terrifying talks with 4th and 7th graders and a soft bed to sleep in for a few nights. A podiatrist in Tampa sanded down my cracked and calloused feet. Margarete’s soup brought a community together on Valentine’s Day and she showed me the wonders and wonderful people of Gulfport. Owen, Doug, and the Industrial Arts Center in Gulfport taught me how to blow glass. Jo cooked the best Cuban food of the trip. Al and Cindy let me stay in their spare apartment.
Vicki lent me her sand sifting tray to look for shark teeth. Carey fixed my spirit with ice cream and taught me about Irish session music. Jeanette and Steve invited me into their house and showed me some of the amazing paintings of Florida’s wildlife she’s done. Tom Fair gave me a pair of sunglasses when mine broke that kept me from squinting in the Florida sun. Mark told me some of the history of the Ten Thousand Islands. John navigated me through the Everglades and said I was a rock solid waterman. Dan welcomed me to the Everglades and made sure I had a place to stay in Key West. Wanda’s family let me stay with them in Big Pine and take one last shower before the end. Glen and Kate opened their house to me in Key West and saved the end from turning into a disaster.
None of them will be there tomorrow when I paddle to Key West and land on a crowded beach a block a way from the Southernmost Point.
People will just see a single man in a yellow kayak and think I did it alone.