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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

From Dan

I would like to share a wonderful email sent to us from a kind friend we had met on our trip on Dauphin Island on the final days of our journey. Never underestimate your ability to help someone by being yourself, you never know how you can affect someones life:

I find myself traveling home to Georgia from business meetings in Baton Rouge. My sister and I are transported Islanders, grew up in Austin, Sis Cindy lives on a small bit of sand (I too have a place) on Dauphin Island, Alabama and decided to stop by for a day.I went for a 5am swim in the warm waters of the Gulf, and had plans to do absolutely nothing but veg with my sister.

Later that morning, I look out to see two young men in a canoe, challenging the Gulf waves.
I watched as they triumphed several adventures only to be capsized the next.
As I sat on my sister's deck overlooking their battles with the waves, I found myself routing for them, armchair coaching, an occasional "lookout" as a wave hit them from the side as I watched them bail before the canoe and the two of them went upside down.

It was not until much later that day, I went to say hello.

One day.
Not knowing just how much a hello can do........
Being a much older (50+), "well to do" seeing two young men, long hair and beards, I could have very easily went the day avoiding any contact with these guys.

One day.
Moments after saying hey, I realized, the canvas holds much more than the picture.
One day, I met Peter, Nolan and their kitten companion Tombigbee. Two of the most genuine, wonderful young men I have ever had the privilege to meet, and their kitten was really cool. It took no time, my sis and I had new friends. As we talked, I learned of their 69 day saga that landed them on the sand at Dauphin Island, off the deck of my sister's house. We spent hours, Cindy and I on bended ear.

One day.
I learned quickly of their adventure, canoeing from North Carolina to the Gulf. Their motivation, to help fund a great cause, a personal issue, to cure diabetes. The great character of these guys came out in each story they shared.

One day.
Sometimes you just get lucky enough to meet someone that reminds you about the important things in life. If you are really lucky, they will have a cool kitten (TB) along as well.
Thank you for that one day.


Sunday, September 7, 2014

Acts of Kindness

These are all real instances, committed mostly by complete strangers:

A woman called us (my number was relayed by someone we met on the river) to make sure we had supplies and good gear. She also wanted to bring us breakfast and deliver us any other supplies we might need.

3 boaters invited us over to their house, gave us a jeep for the day, gave us a camper, fed us, granted full access to a salt water pool. Simply let us right into their lives! 

Many people at the end of their docks invited us to use their yard for camp and facilities to clean up.

A news reporter made calls to his personal friends to check up on us along our route.

A kayaker and his family gave us a fishing rod, soda pops, flint, seat pads, some Indian artifacts for good blessings, and told us of some great local camp spots.

A family on the river took us into town for supplies, gave us a cabin to ourselves for the night, and took us out to eat. 

Two great guys helped us carry our canoe and 200 lbs of gear up a 2000 foot mountain and 6 miles down the road to portage a dam. Gave us a ride to town for supplies. 

All the lock masters were extremely helpful locking us through and offered us supplies.

A couple let us sleep on the aft galley of their boat.

Passing kayaker turned around to chat and show us an amazing place to camp. 

Countless offers for rides, supplies, tows, water, ice, and any possible way to help us.

Countless gifts of cash for extra food and supplies. 

A Native American family gave us Job's Tears (Indian corn blessed with prayers) to protect us on our journey. The children made us cards that said, "be safe and have fun, I hope you don't get bit." They also made sure we had food.

The marinas that gave us accommodations at the level of yacht club members.

A man who chased us down the river to give me a pair of sunglasses.

Many meals "on the house" from the managers, many meals bought by new friends.

The conservation police whom stop to make sure we are safe.

Given a ride from Chicago to North Carolina to begin our adventure. (12 hr drive)

Getting picked up in Mobile, Alabama for a ride home. (18 hr drive)

Given a beach house on Dauphin Island upon our journeys completion.

Put up in a Bed and Breakfast.

Given a house to recover in Chattanooga and a ride to a bluegrass show.

Picked up and taken to Lynchburg for rest and recovery. 

Columbus Veterinary gave Tombigbee the cat free medical care.

Set up at exclusive campsites by the USACE. 

Help around 3 closed dams on the Tombigbee waterway.

Care packages awaited us at various destinations.

People who saw us on the news and came out looking for us to lend us a helping hand in any way we needed.

Calls ahead down river to give the next town a heads up we were coming.

Woke up to coffee delivered to hammock!!!

Frozen water jugs delivered to us on the hottest of days (valuable stuff!) 

Nolan's cousin picked up the crew and took care of them in Birminghham when Pete was ill.

Locals that took us under their wing to show us the best spots in town and on the river.

Passing boaters that stopped to hear about our cause, share their appreciation, and keep us company on the rivers.

Marina owners let us store our boat free of charge.

Allowed to camp on folks private docks and land.

Friends, family, conversations, stories, laughs, tears, dreams and fears. Hugs and handshakes, good will and good faith. 

So many countless acts beyond our wildest dreams, this list can go on for days. 

All those who have stop to talk to us, encourage us, help and support us; you have warmed our hearts - This is the fuel that moved our canoe down the river.

Monday, September 1, 2014

The Great Mystery

Every muscle burned in unison as we sweated through the final strokes into the gulf. If I could have paddled faster or smiled wider I would have as we spilled into the sweet blue sea. Excitement fueled each paddle stroke with wonder and the salt water scent flew in the wind. The tip of the canoe pointed straight into the abyss of the gulf as we paddled like mad men. We praised in passion and awe of 1000 miles passed in what seemed like an instant and a millenia.

We turned around heading ashore to conclude the final pages of our adventure. As we paddled back I reflected back on those first few strokes of the entire journey, 69 days earlier.

The canoe was loaded up and we pushed out the starting point ramp. Waving our chauffeur goodbye we sang in anticipation of the adventure to come. The canoe wobbled and tracked straight as a tree branch - 2 amateurs taking on the world.

I looked about just as we peeled around the first bend. Surrounded by 6000 foot mountains and water in every direction. It was so vast. I glanced down at the map; Fontana Lake, a thousand finger lakes jetting from the main pool. It was as natural as planning your European backpacking trip with a model globe. The landscape doesn't look much like the map when your that tiny dot in a page of real wilderness.

We pushed onward, miles of water running straight into mountain foothills. I was slowing drifting into a void - stepping into blank space. For a moment there I was cold with fear. Silence struck and it was just us and the wild. I asked myself, "what in the world am I doing out here."

150 pages of maps with squiggles in every direction. And here I am, on page one. I took a drag of mountain air and mentally set forth into what I call "The Great Mystery."

You can always plan it out more. Dig up more details and etch your plans in stone. What you can't plan is the spontaneous essence of Mother Nature. You can't plan it out or control it. And if you try you will quickly find yourself licked and ready to retreat. The only method I found to work is to trust The Great Mystery and use the clues and opportunities it gives.

The cues given by The Great Mystery are what's used to know which moves to make next. Anything from where to set up camp to who to talk to. There is a sign for every turn on the path to keep you on The Way. There is no way to beat nature's happening. Its game is unique to each man and his adventure. He must learn to play the game of the unknown and adapt. Things are always changing and conventional thinking doesn't always apply.

The things that saved you life yesterday can kill you today and those things that didn't work before are your new found solutions. Always stay open to your leads in life - even if they don't agree with your logic. Succumbing to stubbornness will only limit your potential. This helps you move beyond pure linear rationalization and teaches you to "feel" your way through life. How many times has your logic lead you to fail when really you knew the right answer deep down before you even began speculating. This is the key of life.

The feeling of living in accordance with The Great Mystery is one every person needs to find themselves. It is so pure and clean, yet words cannot deliver its lightness. You must experience this on your own. Believe in yourself and allow it to reside with you. The more you release the clutches of control on the world the more harmonious you become. It is what every soul searches for - to be complete.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014


There are many assets that make a good person. Being a good person is not about perfection, but a display of dignity and giving of respect. Numbers, dollars, status, and processions are insignificant in terms of value. Using such symbols is like measuring a liquid in inches. What really makes a true human being is his or her ability to live with themselves and their fellow man. 

It's apparent the less self-absorbed we are the more worldly we become - someone who can coexist with anyone, not just someone like them, stands out admirably. Having an eloquent presentation can be initially impressive. Although this has no longevity for friendship or real kindess. Instead of showing how great yourself is, try helping someone see how great they are themselves. The key is to remove our obstructions (egotism & impressions) so the true good can shine through.

I've met many people who claim their religious dedication and superiority. God bless all those with strong convictions and if it works for you to become a better person that is beautiful. Things begin to lose their merit when there is condemnation. Whether you follow Christ, Buddha, Muhammad, Krishna, or any other Deity, you have that right without ridicule. Patriotism is stong in the south and freedom is the cornerstone which our country was founded. The true Christain or spiritual seeker is one who strives to be Christ-like, not inform people they are going to hell because they don't think the same thoughts. Christ hung with all the lepers, atheists, crooks, and homeless - maybe we have some lifestyle adjusting to do. There needs to be less talking of dogma and more living out of the teachings. 

All these qualities are assets I've seen in people on this trip. To be kind without conviction. To be tolerant and accepting when it's not the norm. To be inviting and hospitable. To live out the qualities of the saints and not stuff them down peoples throats. In my perception it is significantly more effective to teach someone by showing them rather than forcing or giving ultimatums. It's human nature to resist what is forced. If you really want change for a better world just plant the seed. The most important thing is to  step back and let it grow. You won't make the plant grow faster by pulling on its leaves.

It's better to be kind than it is to be right.
The friends you keep will save your life.

And those who know it all have no room to learn,
for their mind is closed like old cellar doors. 

It's better to listen than to do all the talking, 
it's harder to hear when your jabbering all the time.

And wise are those who question all the time, 
for their mind is open like like summer garden gates.

Sometimes we don't know it all. 
And Sometimes that's all we know. 

Monday, August 25, 2014

Compassion on the Bayou

There is always the other side of the coin. Without pain we would never know pleasure, life cannot exist without death, and happiness without sadness. All adventures in life, on the way to work or across the world, offer blessings of warmth and tears. Misfortune and hardship is not a shame, but a part of life. We need this friction in order to be grateful, otherwise the world is just a child's careless stomping ground. If life is dependent on how many positives you can try to hoard you will be plagued by the truth of life. Experiences of pain typically cause suffering because our inability to to forgive and let them go - to amend our wrongs and show compassion to the wrongs of others.

If there is one thing that stands out to me about people down south is that most will look you in the eyes when you talk. When they look into you eyes they put themselves in your shoes for a moment and listen. Feel what it's like to be someone else. Respect them as a human of emotion that differs from yours. Some how people have gotten a bad wrap; Cons, deceivers, and mischiefs. It's quoted that "it is not like it used to be, you just can't trust anyone anymore." The number of people that cannot trust other people for suspicion make up a greater number than all the ill-intentioned. Often someone is relying on your trust, and you may want to give it because one day you may need it too.

For a portion of the route the amount of garbage littered about was noticeably increasing. A few people littered right before my eyes throwing beer cans into the river during mid conversation. It did not phase them. 4 refrigerators, a toilet, suitcase, car bumper, an entire car, dozens of tire, hundreds of beer cans, and thousands of wrappers were counted within our first week southbound. We were told by a riverboat owner he had left a marina, in which I am keeping anonymous, because they decided to pump over 100 gallons of gasoline right into the Tombigbee Waterway because is went stale in a houseboat tank! And unfortunately racism and segregation became more prevalent.

Just as we crossed over the Mississippi border I started becoming ill. As days paddled by my symptoms came in waves. At the peak of my affliction we were far out from any towns or resources. My body was sending signs or urgent medical care. The only thing for miles was one private boat dock leading up to a residential home. We didn't even have the opportunity to trespass to ask for help getting to a hospital. As we neared the shoreline, not even touching the dock, a gun fired. The bushes not 10 feet from our heads rustled and the bank directly behind us took the bullet. One day your famous and then next thing you know your dodging fire arms. All coins have 2 sides. 

You know what they say, "shoot first, ask questions later."  I took my only option and got back in the canoe and began long paddle back up stream to find a hospital. 

These occurrences are not a criticism of people, but they are very real. All parts of the world are equally guilty for various faults, but this is the other side we have seen on our trip. It's not glamorous, but it serves no integrity to stuff things under the bed. Many parts of the world are more violent, unsanitary, and unwelcoming, but it is no excuse for us to not improve ourselves. Maybe I cannot change these people, but I can offer them my compassion. And just because things are not right does not mean they are unworthy. Things can be improved and repaired, but they have to be uncovered and accepted first. For that, you can have mercy in your words on people. We all have shortcomings and room to grow.

It will only dig us deeper to hate those that are different from us, no matter how wrong they may seem. People have reasons for behaving they way they do, and if I can't put myself in their position even for a moment, I have no right to blame. Even the marksman who wizzed a bullet by my head; he was shooting at his own fear, not a guy on a canoe. There was a point in my life when I couldn't look the world in the eyes and was plagued by loneliness. I don't want to have coffee with the happy-trigger but I can relate to his fear. Empathy is a gateway to understanding and if you understood your so called enemy you could not hate. Look those in the eyes that you oppose like you would someone you admire. Not to condone, but to accept and forgive. Only through openness can we see and hear enough to help make a change. By cutting off the guilty you only cut off their solution. And by forgiving others you set yourself free. 

*** As an addition after this was written: this series of behaviors and common personalities fizzled out as we continued further south. Showing that it is not necessarily a "southern thing", but merely a pocket of society that was not as enthusiastic of life. The southern hospitality continues to grow on our journey, as we continue to give it back. 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Zen of Canoeing

You are going plenty fast.

The miles you make for the day is perfect.

Goals are only good if they cannot be measured in stress.

You will always find somewhere to sleep.

If you spot something interesting, pull over and investigate. There is always enough time.

Take a nap.

There are rainy days and there are sunny days. Both are canoeing days.

Never hurry up to relax.

If you stare at the map too long you will miss the scenery.

Reflect on your life because the water is reflecting on you.

You can get there in an hour or you can try really hard til you turn red and get there in 59 minutes. 

Listen closely to the voice of the universe, he speaks in silence. 

Going downstream is easier than going up. Don't fight it.

Talking is not as good as listening.

Get on the river early, if you feel like it.

Just breathe.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Legend of Tombigbee the Cat

Mile marker 424 read the post as Nolan checked his watch that flashed 4:24 on the dot. Sometimes you are in the right place at the right time. We had a pick up later that evening 5 more miles down river. For the first time in weeks pure silence swept over the water and it laid flat like a soldier's bed sheet. We could hear our breath and feel the beat of our hearts as each paddle stoke glided through the water. We were the only thing moving within a beautiful picture of stillness.

The sound of a moaning toad belched off the banks as we drifted along a straight away. As we approached closer the sound resembled quite that of a deranged cat. And that it was. Short high pitched groans with barely a second between each. He finally became visible poached upon a rock bank about 15 feet up - his tiny orange head and ears barely poking over the jagged stones. 

Implications of hunger were strong in the screeching calls of our wild friend. Nolan dug through our food bag for some pepperoni, surely cats like pepperoni. Drifting along the banks edge we tossed shniplets of spiced meat to the feline, but it might as well been invisible pepperoni. He raced down the banks to the shoreline and trotted along side our canoe, yelping for mercy. We threw more useless pepperoni, but to no avail.

Then the unthinkable happen. Maybe a half breed of a flying squirrel, the tomcat leaped from the edge, arms extended out like superman landing perfectly in the belly flop position on top the water. His legs turned like motors as he cut right over swimming up to the boat side. Nolan scooped the kitten up with his paddle and placed him back ashore. I couldn't paddle much, for imagining leaving the little guy was a heart-pierce. Surely he dove again and swam up and I called to Nolan to bring him aboard. "Embark little kitty for you now sail with us!" I hailed.

The furred sack of bones stood nimble in the bow of the canoe, lavishly devouring 11 pieces of the roni. A proper introduction was in store for Nolan as he sunk those razor sharp wildcat teeth into Nolan's hand. My wonder seized as laughter filled the stern of the boat. Nolan jumped up posted upon his seat like a gargoyle. "He drew blood," Nolan exclaimed as he tucked his knees to his chest and cover his feet. The comical nature was too much as a 135 pound man trembled at the pale 2 pound furry skeleton with oversized ears and a nub tail. Rabies was a concern, but my hysteria preceded. In Nolan's shoes I would've been shaking too. I tossed Nolan the medical kit to clear his battle wound.

The wet wad climbed his way back by me in the stern, purring his little motor, meowing like a veteran. Taking the appropriate cautions to my companion being viciously bit I prodded the cat and he rolled over to be pet! I had already been sick for a few days at this point and now Nolan is a contagion of rabies. We were the diseased ship floating off into the abyss. After the wounds were clean, it wasn't a question of do we keep him, but rather what do we name him. We looked up and down the desolate stretches of river, with not a soul to be seen. Tombigbee, appropriately so.

Tombigbee was a fixer-upper. We spent the next day picking over 150 ticks off him, hitching rides to the nearest faraway town for vaccines, getting him food and accommodating him to our lifestyle. Some hours later we hopped back into the canoe and away we went. The rest is history. Tombigbee is a proud canoe chap. When we pull over for camp he wanders not beyond a 100 foot radius. He sleeps in the hammock, alternating Nolan and I each night, and prefers to slumber on top our heads. On the canoe he runs a sequence of nap, eat, litter box, roll around, and repeat.    

Some things were meant to be. Surely we were not searching for an aquatic hitchhiking cat, he found us. And many things in life will find you, they don't always have to be sought out. The spice of life is in they mystery; saying yes to things out of your element. I never canoed before this trip and never started a charity event. This entirety has been the greatest challenge I've ever took on and in the most extreme conditions I've faced for such an extended period. And to make the stakes a little higher, I'm agreeing to teach and care for a kitten on the river. (certainly with Nolan's help). You don't need to know how to do something to be able and the only way you will know is if you try. Even if I fail, at least I can say I've tried something new. The greatest skills are learned "on the job training." Half of my plans for this trip were out the window on day 2. Life is a learn as you go kind of deal. Anyone who says they know whats going on is blowing smoke - we have no idea about anything! And that I promise you, is all the fun. 


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Holy Water at Lover's Leap

I could feel the rain pelting down on the tarp through the night like a handful of pennies being dropped from the sky. I was dry in my hammock, breathing in the cool misted air. The sounds of the wind blowing across the lake was the only noise over a sheet of dead silence.

We had camped the night at another friend of ours, Angie B, in Waterloo, Alabama. The "B-Spot" as it's coined, is a beautiful camp and RV park right on the shoreline of a small bay just off Pickwick Lake. 

Angie B emphatically expressed the necessity of traveling out to Second Creek to receive our Baptism - to help keep us light for our journey. Symbolically, Angie had made a ritual of this place to wash her worries and sorrows away in the ice cold creek, now called "The Holy Water." Piled in the minivan we weaved through the Alabama hills and trees to a road no one living would know. 
These are not places you can find on any map or in any book. Only as one immerses himself in these back-corners of America does he find such arcane pockets of unsulliedness. 

The Holy Water is located in the center of an old Native American legend, Lover's Leap. The tale tells that 2 lovers, whom broke from the shackles of an arranged marriage, head for the hills to be together at last. Heading along the Second Creek, the women's arranged husband stand waiting up then cliff around a bend. As the couple landed below the spiteful husband he cast a boulder from the bluffs edge to crush the lovers forever in the creek bed. Their spirits converged and tucked themselves back into the caves at the footing of the cliffs, indefinitely to protect and keep love pure in the land nearby. 

Upon arrival the site was just as the story told; a big oxbow bend in the creek which opened up to a rock cliff. An enormous boulder sat in the center of the pool. Another larger shard had broken off a few years back during an earthquake exposing deposits of crystal formations. The sight was breath taking. The water was a deep blue green that shone like the sun through stained glass. It ran up to a smooth peddle beach that eventually broke to lush grass flexing gently in the breeze. 

My feet broke the surface of the holy water sending chills up the back of my legs and hiking my shoulders up. Gradually I submerged down the sloped creek bed to my waist, and the low temperatures hugged my muscles to the bones for warmth. One deep breath in and I exhaled it all out lunging towards the center. 

The pool was deep and my body sunk towards the floor. As the water shocked all around my body I could feel my lungs contract and hear my heart thump hard and slow. My body was electric and still; slowly my eyes opened and thin beams of the sun cut through the crystal clear cobalt pool. Each little bubble of air reflected the light like glittering diamonds. Everything slowed down, sadness died and the world became still. My limbs were numb and I could sense neither good nor bad. My mind spoke no thoughts, it was just calm; at peace. It felt as though I was floating in that pool for a millennia. A feeling of compassion embraced my body as it surrendered into the void. 

I'll never forget the moments spent at second creek, and I thank Angie B for taking me to such a sacred place known to such few. There is something special about that water beyond bathing canoe hippies. I may never return to Angie's Holy Water, but I know where to find the spiritual source that freely resides there. That same power can be either everywhere or nowhere. In every grain of sand and closer than your hands. It's up to each individual to find their own "Holy Water." A place on earth or a space inside where you can let go. It's too easy to carry around extra "baggage" and pain, and this extra weight serves us no justice. Rather than suffocating life by clutching, trying to claim new things; unclasp life and give it room to breathe. It will certainly give you more room as well.  

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

A Day In the Life

The sun shines through your hammock like wax paper; just enough light to ease you awake. The insects are still performing their symphonies from the night before, and the birds bring new life into the air.

It takes a moment to remember where you are or what your even up to in the first place; but it feels good. It's the opposite of jolting up and flipping over the clock wondering if you slept in for work. 

As you swing you feet over the edge of the hammock, seeing an early-bird sailboat pass by, your mind looks to start planning the day - it's always a better day when you watch out over the river and allow the plans to float down stream. Since the vessel only travels 3 mph, the key is to slow your mind down to the same speed. Sometimes you set some goals, but making them should never be measurable in stress. 

It feels like you could sit along the waters edge forever, but the sun would surely lick you, so inevitably you roll on. Grab your shorts off the clothes line - when you slide them on they feel like wet paper towels. The consistent morning dew keeps everything feeling damp. Like it wants the land to still be part of the water in some way. 

Your bug bites surely have flared up by now, so you grab the jar of Vicks Vapor Rub mixed with salt and rub that into the bumps. It'll sooth the chiggers itch enough to let you get your coffee started. Just another day in the life. 

Saturday, July 26, 2014


An explorer's life entails enduring storms, hydrating through long days in the heat, protecting your skin from the sun and poisonous plants, preventing the bugs from devouring your soul, the list goes on. All these things can take you down for the count if your not cautious and attentive to your body. The next hurdle on the pilgrimage is mold. We noticed all sorts of new and exciting bugs all around the boat and putrid stenches coming off our rope and gear. The perpetual sequence of dirty river water and hot humid air can strike disaster. Virtually all our processions reeked like dead hell, quickly reaching an unsanitary level of toxicity. Keeping everything dry while living on the river and being rained on constantly with 99% humidity is like blowing at the wind to slow it down. It was time for us to completely tear apart all our gear, throw much of it out, re-outfit, and bleach the rest - or we would be in store for mold illness.

We finished up Wheeler and Wilson Lakes, locked through into Pickwick and pulled into the Harbor at McFarland Park, Florence, Alabama. We scouted out the campground and found an employee washer at the marina, but this couldn't suffice; we needed something to the equivalence of an autoclave. On our long walk back we noticed a chap and his 2 friends having a little trouble pulling their boat out of the water so we gave them a hand. The owner of the boat, Eric wouldn't except us camping at McFarland and threw us and our gear in his Jeep and homebound to Eric's we went.

A saving grace would be a light way to put it. "Come on in, here's the washer, cleaning supplies, shower, pool, house. I have a camper you guys can sleep in as long as you want and here are the keys to the Jeep." Welcome to Rorieland! I don't know anyone else in the world who asks if I want a warm fluffed towel ready when I get out of the shower. The accommodations were unbelievable. Eric is accompanied by many wonderful close friends and family, Robbie, Gerry, Stacy, Angie B, Corey, Kathy, Kristin, the list goes on! The whole crew made us a poster with awesome quotes on it, then they all signed the back - such a heart-felt gift. Eric's home reminds me of my own growing up; people constantly coming in and out, laughter and friendship, the central hub of friends and companionship.


Eric and friends met us again 2 days down river in Waterloo, and is meeting us again in Burnsville, MS at his parents home to help us resupply again. He is almost making it too easy on us. 

As Eric put it, he felt a nudge of instinct to invite us over and become our friends. Friendships of a lifetime can happen in an instant, you only need to give someone a chance. You never know who your going to meet. 

In the words of Eric " As you know there are bigs ships and there are small ships, but the best ships of all are friendships."  

Loose Ends

As we approached the train bridge running through the heart of the industrial hub, Decatur, a man named Jack and his family pulled along side us in their boat. They gave us the invite to come by their river cabin to camp and wash up. Naturally we weaseled our way inside as we always do through conversation and eccentric presentation. We spent the evening with the Stone family, hearing stories of their long linage within the neighborhood. From tales of business to legends on the waterways, they gave us the authentic experience of an old town laced with family history.

Old Porcelain Bath 
Bill and Stacey (jacks parents) owned a cabin on the river, which they graciously handed over to us for the evening. Jack treated us to dinner and took the liberty of showing us his toy house, fully equipped with a Ford Model T, 13 boats, toys for the kids, camping gear; the outdoors-mans dream. He expressed the importance of passing on the lifestyle of his parents to his children - unplugging from the matrix and spending time outside, living life, and taking a risk. Compile you dreams and most importantly live them.

Model T

The following day, Nolan and I paddled on like ducks. A local TV station wanted an interview so we pulled off to shore for the account. The newsman, Al W. was very accommodating and wanted to make sure we had the things we needed. He was on the scene for more than a story, he wanted to join the adventure. He passed my phone number off to a friend down river knowing she would reach out.

I received a call the next day by Al's friend, Susanne B. We got to talking, and she had been riding the river on the lookout for us just to say hello and give us some food. She also wanted to know where we would be the following day so she could bring us breakfast. Al had informed her of our torment by chiggers and fleas tearing our sweet northern flesh into road rash chicken skin. She made the offer to come drive out to wherever we may be to buy us new sleeping bags and help us eradicate the parasites. Only on the river can you meet people of such generosity. There is this romance for the Tennessee River and everyone on it thrives and shares this warmth. Its a fellowship based not around money or things, but on the freedom and companionship of the water and it's people.

The Stone Cabin

Jack, Mr and Mrs Stone
Not 24 hours after talking to Susanne I received a surprising email from her; A letter filled with exclamation points and the words "oh my god" popping off the page. Susanne had seen a post I made on Facebook with pictures of Nolan and I with the Stones. She enlightened me to the fact that the Stones and her are long lost friends. Memories flashed before her eyes as she saw pictures of the very same Ford Model T she rode in the Homecoming Parade 30 years ago. She vividly painted reflections of her long lost high school comrade to me in her letter. Susanne hadn't talked to the Stone family in over 10 years when they lived down in Florida. By the bends of the river they only live 15 miles apart now.

It is quite staggering to imagine the odds (if they even exist) of this conjunction. Each person is a tiny link connecting the 7 billion independents into one interdependent. Distance and separation do not stop the thread of life from weaving us all together in an incomprehensible way. No matter how small or how far, everyone is a piece of the puzzle making the totality of life. Allow The Great Mystery to guide the brush as we paint the canvas of our lives.  

Thursday, July 24, 2014


Why canoe 1000 miles?
- Freedom

But why a canoe? 
- The great lesson in patience, acceptance and tolerance. It's slow and at the mercy of Mother Nature. You move 3 mph, so yous forced into the present.

How long have you guys been canoeing? 
- About a month now

I'm sorry, I meant in your life.
- Yeah, about one month. We never canoed before this trip. We learn as we go.

Are you insane?
- Just enough. 

What will you do when you get to Mobile Bay? 
- Well, stop canoeing and eat some BBQ at Dreamland! 

How long will this trip take you? 
- 70 days, one day at a time. 

How many miles per day?
- 25 on a good one. No rush.

Your arms must be sore?
- It took our bodies about a week to acclimate. The rest is a psychological game. 

What do you guys talk about on the boat? 
- food, canoes, new trip ideas, birds, fish, wildlife, past, present, future, dreams, failures, jokes, stories, people we met, and where we are going to sleep tonight. What do you talk about on a boat? 

Any run-ins with bad people? 
- Nope, we are running this trip on good karma. 

What do you guys eat?
- yes. 

So do you stay in hotels?
- Never. Only hammocks on the banks. Or nice peoples homes. 

Favorite part of the trip?
- The solitude and amazing people we meet in between. Also the slender egrets.
And The Great Mystery

Least favorite? 
- Bugs. Headwinds. Boats with big wakes. 

Most valuable item?
- A giant sponge.

If you have any questions for the river gypsy pirates, please email. We would love to entertain your wonders.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

The Rooster's Crow

As the tiny pellets of rain sprayed our face like buckshot in the wind, the only thing we could see was an abandoned dock across the lake. We pulled in - this pirates dock even had a roof. With some tarps strung up to block the diagonal rain and creep out the well-to-do-neighbors, we landed into yet another little paradise. And it was dry. 

The rain, lightning, and wind had ceased for time being and it was a toss up whether or not to proceed. Our zest and valor told us to voyage through, despite the day's spontaneous ability to create instant stroms. The horizon looked clear, the skies held an erie promise. 

There was a constant crow of a rooster in the distance, and I couldn't help but give it a great piece of my attention. We really didn't have much to base our decision to continue so we used the rooster - The rooster symbolizes making cautious and careful decisions. So that was that. 

Sure enough the blanket of Black Death rolled over the sky and heaved with a blast. Safe in our new abode, eating little Debbie's, the sound of the rain buzzed, and the rooster still crowed. 

Some folks might find this unfortunate. When you live on the river, and you come across a dock with overhead protection, somewhere to park your vessel and stay dry, well that's like front row parking at some professional sports event. 

And you can't put a price on "dry" when living on the river. Everything you own is now a sponge, and when the moss starts to grow on your skin, and a tree can grow in thin air, dry land and cover are invaluable

As if it couldn't get any better, two of our followers, Chuck (left) and Walt, used the GPS on our website to find us, and brought us hammock-side breakfast the next morning right up to the dock.

Answers are not always so clear. Sometimes they are right on front of your face. Other times there may be no right or wrong, just a decision to be made. Should we have paddled through, Did the rooster crow as a sign? The skies looked clear and the water looked tempting, but my gut had a buzz to it; an intuitive nudge. Many cases call for us to use our senses beyond logic - so reach beyond the voice of reason and feel life through your heart rather than strain it through your mind. 


Cars brushed by us as we trekked along the shoulder of a US highway into town to resupply on food and water. Not much luck on hitching a ride there, and it was comical how many cars passed us without even giving us a glance. Maybe it was the amalgamation of Chuck Taylors, pineapple swim trunks, a travelers life vest, and a wide brimmed hat with a feather. 

The thermostat read 100 degrees but laughter was still in the air. Sweat and sunscreen concoct on our skin, our brains pickled, yet we still have the energy to muse on the foods we could eat if we had a fridge in the boat. 

"No more bars, no nuts, oh god no cliff bars!" - Nolan

"I would have a big salad, all greens," I said. 

The grocery store has some food for us, not too heavy in the produce department. Rice and vending machine pastries it is again. The universe always looks to balance; we did manage to hitch a ride back to our boat. 

The gas station next to the boat ramp would suffice to fill our usual 10 gallon jugs. We drink a gallon of water a day. I'm still only 80% water though. A conversation sprung up with the kind lady filling our containers and she turned out to be a diabtetic. And she spontaneously offered us fresh garden-picked cucumbers. Those greens I needed almost showed up too quick.

2 days earlier I told Nolan we should find goji berries (an uncommon Himalayan super fruit) when we hit civilization to keep our immune systems boosted and digestion regulated. The day after we ran into an older man at a camp ground who was concerned of our nutrition and energy levels on our trip. His demands were that we wait for him to run home and grab us some canoe sustenance. He came back with a pound of goji berries and a vial of chia seeds. As if he heard my invocation; the odds of some stranger having goji berries in the sticks of south eastern Tennessee is, well, zero. 

As you loosen the grip of control on life, the universe's synchronicity begins to grip you. The vast supply provides you with the things you need- sometimes before you even realize you need them. It's not so much the point of receiving things, but a demonstration you needn't worry so often about the unfulfilled. 

Too much valuable time is spent plotting out the completion and fulfillment of our needs when the trend of life shows they naturally drift into you. Don't steal the world of its spontaneousness, or it will steal your zest for life. And this is where the meditation begins; the myriad things come and go, and you become part of the rhythm of life. 

Energy is no longer wasted scrambling for what already is, but is carefully spent walking along your spiritual path -Learning and enjoying the life you have been given, watching the miracle and knowing you are part of it.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Wilderness Wisdom

Outdoor goods stores sell these nice little trinkets called "bear bells." Bear bells are marketed as loud clanky bells you wear to let bears know you are present so they can retreat back into the bush. The locals out here call them "dinner bells." They essentially let the bears know supper has arrived and dinner will be served soon. 

Another expendable purchase was the "bear mace" or pepper spray intended to defend off a bear attack. A local asked us
"Do you know the difference between bear poop made of a tourist and bear poop made of a local?"
"The tourist bear poop has little bells in it and smells like pepper."

It is okay to urinate in most places in the wilderness. But doing so into the wind is still not a bright idea.

Canned food is still not good. 

Always accept a free meal.

You can never have too much sunscreen. 

Don't take your shoes off in your friends tent or hammock. It's just plain cruel. 

Before you leave on a trip split your gear into a primary and secondary pile. Leave the second pile behind. 

Falcons hate their picture taken.

Stretch it out! 

"Stay calm, paddle on" - Jeff Wadley

Trust the universe and your gut instinct.

Monday, July 7, 2014


2 days of insane 4th of July week boat traffic, gusting head winds, and waves toppling over our bow - we were getting licked again by our enviornment. The sun ran high and hot, our skin pulled tight like leather, and no amount of water cooled us down. 

Hope was still high, but our bodies ached with exhaustion. As we drifted around a bend, just about on empty, we heard the sounds of salvation. Blasting AC/DC, laughing voices, barbecues, port-a-johns, the real deal. A small crowd came to shore to great us. 

When the first question your asked is, "so where do you guys take a crap?" You know they are some laid back people. They had noticed us from the newspaper and TV and pulled us right onto shore, putting us in chairs and placing big Ol' cheeseburgers on our laps. 

Dannyland is 5 lots connected together, compiled of campers, tents, houses, docks, canopies, BBQ, loud music, corn hole, good food, and even better people. Families of blood and fellowship, it was the archetype of southern kin.

They treated us so kindly, brought us right into their family. It was made sure we were rolling on the ground laughing within minutes. We were immediately made part of their family of 50. Us not staying the night was not an option. We danced and sang into the night. The hospitalities were unbelievably gracious. It gave me a warmth of being home; I diddnt feel like a river drifter for the night thanks to Dannyland. 

I'm still taken back by people's capacity to love and share. It's something to never take for granted. The night was not about jobs or things, but was about people, and treating each other good. They loved our stories, and encouraged our cause. Sharing was the cornerstone of their community, and it was made certain we were a part of that. Never underestimate someone's ability of be kind, and never underestimate yours. 

Thank you Dannyland. John Trip, you the man.