Angle to Key West: Believe (4/3)


Florida – April 3, 2013

There’s some warmth to the boat. The plastic covers my legs, the neoprene skirt and a life jacket wrap around my torso, blood pumps into my muscles with each stroke. Falling rain soaks into me. Water pools across my shoulders and slides down my back. I can fight cold to a standstill, keep it just off my skin, if I paddle.

But I can’t paddle forever.

The sun disappears into clouds then sets. The world looks dark and gray. Drained. Colorless.

The rain has to stop sometime, I think. It has to.

But it doesn’t, I know it doesn’t. I stare at the gray clouds in the east, the cold, monochrome sky. I see the top of a picnic pavilion on the far bank, raindrops beating on the roof. It’s almost dark. I feel soaked through and begin to shiver.

I want to go on. I want to paddle into the night, to outlast the rain, to cheat more miles out of the storm, but somehow I know, I see myself replaying this moment again and again, staring at that roof, shivering and cold, hating the decision to turn away. I see myself wishing for a second chance even before I’ve missed the first.

There are more miles tomorrow, I tell myself.

I drag the boat up and under the roof to a square of dry concrete eight-feet wide. The wind snatches away my warmth. There isn’t much time. I’m cold, numb, shivering, peeling off wet clothes, prying open hatches, rushing for my sleeping bag.

I feel thin and brittle. I wonder why I’m here, why I do things like this. It could be over now. These could be raindrops on a window.

It takes a minute for me to feel right again. To think straight. To wonder where I am.

The lights of a pickup flash across me and stop. I wave and a ranger gets out. It’s a park at night, I know I’m not supposed to be there so I apologize and offer to leave.

“Just let me rest for a few more minutes,” I say.

I dig for will. I want to be good to my words. I feel hollow.

He looks at me and understands. He talks it over with his supervisor and tells me not to worry about it, that I can stay.

I tell him I’ll disappear in the morning. He nods. The rain begins falling hard and he shouts over the roar.

“Where are you coming from anyway?” he says.

I smile.

“You’re never going to believe this,” I say. “I came from the northern tip of Minnesota and went to Key West.”

The words hang in the night. The metal roof rattles. I stare at him through the rain.

“Now I’m going back.”

35 thoughts on “Angle to Key West: Believe (4/3)

  1. HAPPY BDAY! Please stay warm and hydrated for us! We love you and will have a cold one ready for you again whenever you’re ready. 😉

  2. Going Back? Are you flipping? News to me… I need details (you crazy son of a gun)…

  3. Alright then. I would like to reserve my paddle partner spot from Duluth to Two Harbors,please.

  4. Wow! … sure didn’t see this coming! You continue to inspire us, Mr. Alverez!!! Take care and be safe…

  5. Thank you so very much for including me in your “Predictably Lost” Emails. I have enjoyed reading each of them and look forward to purchasing your book. Don’t forget, if you are ever in the Memphis area, stop by for a visit.

  6. Wow! … sure didn’t see this coming! You continue to inspire us, Mr. Alvarez!!! Take care and be safe…

  7. I can’t wait to hear what Wally has to say about this! I look forward to the chance to meet you when you head through St. Paul on round number two!

    1. I imagine Wally will have a few unpublishable words! I won’t end up paddling through St Paul, but I will be up in the twin cities to present at the Midwest Mountaineering Expo. I will post more info on the blog soon!

  8. Your as crazy as your mom!!!!!!! Good luck D and I love this blog on your birthday!!!!!! Happiest of birthdays and look forward to this next totally unexpected journey. I love Caleb’s take on Wally and what he will say — mutiny is in the air.

  9. Holy Cow! I’m absolutely thrilled for you. Hope your day is awesome…Happy Birthday! Be safe.

  10. Daniel our long lost Son .Back to What ! The door is always open here in Two Harbors. Keep us in the loop still lots of snow and floating ice. Happy Birthday. Kenny

  11. DO WHAT?!? Ahhhh, a late April Fool’s joke? You could come out here and paddle from the headwaters of the Columbia to the mouth, or from the mouth into Puget Sound. Plenty of great local ice cream here. Probably the same numbers of freighters as barges on the Mississippi. OR, you could go up the Inland Waterway to NYC, then take the Hudson and the Erie Canal into the Great Lakes and the Mississippi. That way you’d circumnavigate the eastern third of the country. Poor Wally!

  12. I did not see a consult with Wally anywhere…. You crazy adventurer!!! LOVE IT! Shocked me too – and oh the grin on my face, knowing this story wasn’t over.

  13. Happy B-day. You’re awesome! I started kayaking about the same time you began your trip (about a year after qualifying for the senior menu at Denny’s) and have enjoyed reading your posts. I’m looking forward to more reading and inspiration! Keep warm.

  14. Wow! I’m stunned!
    I thought perhaps a quick paddle to Cuba but I didn’t think you’d come back north! Is that even possible? I suppose you could hook onto a barge…

    You never cease to amaze us!!!

    Oh, and Happy Birthday too!!!

  15. BTW – Don’t paddle too fast…the Twin Cities is supposed to get 8-12 inches of snow by Thursday…

  16. WAHOOOOOO, Daniel!!!!! Happy Birthday and what a way to celebrate! Love these blogs!!!

  17. Yesterday was really your birthday? Mine’s today. Did I miss a post somewhere are have you really decided to paddle back to MN? Upstream? That is something.

      1. Will I meet you this summer in my paddle of the St. Lawrence from Kingston Ontario to Perce, Quebec? I’d love to talk with you live somehow (gear, navigating, diaper rash) when you’re next at a stopping point.

  18. Daniel, You completed your journey. I was slowly accepting the sad fact that the story had ended and that I had read the last blog. Then this message appears. At first I thought that it was a late or lost entry from the trip south. It was a bit mysterious, with some drama (night falling, rain and a storm, headlights in the dark, will the ranger let me stay). And then, BAM!! You hit us with “And now I’m going back.” I almost fell out of my chair. The set up, the scene, the reveal. It was brilliant, pure genius. It was like watching a blockbuster Hollywood movie. Daniel, I’m hooked again. Thank you!!

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