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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.