Angle to Key West: The Wrong Way (10/4)


Atikokan, Ontario – October 4, 2013

I stood by the highway off French Lake with my thumb in the air and a paddle laid out across my bags like a makeshift sign.

“Not crazy, just a paddler,” it said to anyone who could read it.

Trucks motored by, rumbling down the road toward Atikokan or Fort Frances. I thought of grocery shelves filled with fresh food as I watched them pass. The slow push up and over from the Kaministiquia, days where miles took hours, had left my supplies a bit thin, especially with winter knocking on the door.

A truck rolled to a stop.

“I’m not going all the way to Atikokan,” the driver said,”but I can drop you at a place a few miles up that would be easier to catch a ride from.”

I threw my bags in the back and we zipped along toward a roadside restaurant with a gravel parking lot.

“Sorry I can’t take you the whole way,” the driver said.

“That’s no problem,” I said. “I’ve got a friend in Atikokan who can come get me if I can’t find a ride.”

“Oh yea, who’s that?” he asked. “I might know them.”

“Sally Burns,” I said.

Friend was a stretch, since I’d never met Sally Burns in my life, but she knew Sally and Dan from Thunder Bay. They’d given me her number in case I ran into trouble.

“Oh yea!” he said. “I know Sally! Tell her Scotty says hi!”

“I will,” I promised, hopping out of the truck and grabbing my bags.

The man waved goodbye and disappeared down the road. I stood with my thumb out for another twenty minutes counting cars then gave up. Sally had told me she would just come get me from the start, but I thought I’d give hitching a chance first.

“Be there in an hour,” she said.

I stood by the road, waiting, nothing to do but think about the long connection that brought me there. It all led back to Isle Royale and the decision to go a hundred miles in the wrong direction because a smudge on the horizon looked interesting.

That smudge, that detour, it led to a houseboat in the Everglades and an apartment in Key West, to Dan and Wim in Thunder Bay and the crew of the Absolut-ly Knot in Two Harbors, to Rose and Ruth’s trading post on the Kam and to the side of a road thirty miles from Atikokan where Sally pulled up in the gravel parking lot and gave me a big hug.

Not bad for a wrong turn, if you believe in those things.

5 thoughts on “Angle to Key West: The Wrong Way (10/4)

  1. Amazing connections on an amazing journey. Thanks Sally for your great heart and continuing the Daniel’s journey tradition of teaching us the power and the beauty of strangers reaching out to help. In today’s cycle of “bad news sells,” we so often forget that the vast majority of us humans have an open and giving heart. Again, thank you Sally and Scotty (and the rest) for the gentle reminder and making this Monday even better.

    1. Happy Columbus Day to our southern neighbours.
      Here in Canada, it’s Thanksgiving Day. And Daniel is one of the many people we give thanks for, for having crossed our path.

  2. I thought of you today, Daniel, I had my ” River rats” over for the Thanksgiving feast. I hoped you found a welcoming place to be as well.

  3. Daniel, you are rounding third base heading for home plate and the last bite of the elephant. Call when you finish Lorry and I can pick you up Captain Gunner says Hi .

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