Header 2

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. 

Friday, July 4, 2014

New families

As we finished up a Tellico lake, we drifted into Fort Loudon Marina in Lenoir City, home of the famous Calhouns restaurant. We hadn't even sat down and the owner came up and snapped our picture. Apparently they knew who we were. 

They entire day was spent talking and sharing stories with all the boaters and workers. What amazed Nolan and I the most was everyone's generosity and accomodations. It was made sure we were well fed, put up for the night, and driven into town to resupply our food. 

The TV stations showed up and crowded around, it was certainly a new experience and I kept telling myself to remain humble. Humility has been such a valuable asset on this adventure. So many people have taken their time and kindness to let us know they believe in what we are doing. 

And it is a reminder to take the time. Take the time to chew your food, to take a breath of fresh air, to look someone in the eyes and say hello, and thank you, and see how their day is. Take the time to laugh, and cry, and to enjoy your life. Take the time to hold the door, give someone a hand, go out if your way, change someone's day, even their life. If you don't take the time you will only look back and wonder where it went.

Thank you Kyle for the ride into town, thank you Nicole and Calhouns staff and owner for taking care of us, thank you Edwin and Jean for letting us sleep on your captains deck, and thank you everyone at Calhouns for making us feel like family.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Both ABC and CBS covered Pete and Nolan on the news last night and this morning. Here are the links to check them out. Awesome coverage from WATE and Local 8Now.



Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The universe works in obvious ways

After a few wrenching days, everything we owned wet, intense storms, pletheras of chiggers and ticks, heat exhaustin, and no clean clothes - things were getting tough, but things can change in an instant. Our spirits have been revived. 

Today we arrived at the Sequoyah Lake Tellico Resort and Marina and were graciously welcomed by so many great people. The owner of the restaurant made sure we were well accommodated and hosed down with sufficent suds. 

One kind miss, Porsche, gave us a lucky 4 leaf clover she found, and another man in retirement overheard me looking for cheap sunglasses, and came out looking for us 3 miles up river to give me a spare pair that belonged to his wife whom passed last year. If that ain't love I don't know what is. So many wishes and blessings by the locals. We are truly grateful.....and camping on an island :) 

Just when you think no one is there, someone steps in. Everything we need is always taken care of, we just have to trust that power will be there for us. And it always shows up. Today was a great example of that. 

Most manly moments

Apparently the portages around the 4 dams in the first part of our trip were never meant to be humanly possible. Some company wrote "portage spot" and put a dock leading out of the lakes as a public relations brownie point. They forgot to mention calderwood dam was a 2000 foot climb up a mountain, and the. 5 miles down a 2 lane no shoulder mountain highway - with a canoe on your head and 200 lbs of gear! The portage is there, just not possible. Luckily we had some friends Jeff Wadley and Charlie Wimmer meet us at the top and drive us down to the other side. But the 2000 ft climb with the gear almost left us buried in the hills. 

The tiny white dot on the right is the dock we pulled out of. Picture was taken from the end of the trailhead.

Our next portage around Chilhowee dam was only a quarter mile.... Of Not maintained rainforest bush! We had to blaze the entire trail with a machete to reach the bottom. We persevered with sweat and tear, all to leave us bursting in laughter at the insanity of the entirety. 

Spirits are high, clothes are certainly not dry, and we are simply loving the adventure. We are apparently the first ones to consecutively canoe and portage all 5 lakes to make the little tennessee river as far as anyone knows. Pretty manly I suppose. I need to go put nail polish all over Nolan's chigger bites now. Until next time