Day two – the launch
Our last morning at home began with splitting the last item in our fridge – a hot dog. The last of the milk was placed in the freezer. Getting ready to be gone an extended amount of time and closing up a house takes more planning and takes longer than we realized, causing us to leave later than planned. Our departure was scheduled for 9:00, and we knew there would be a few people there to see us off. We felt a little rushed but realized there would be few time schedules for the next four months. Yahoo!
Since half a hot dog isn’t enough substance and nutrition for a full day of paddling, we decided to eat one last un-dehydrated meal at Northend bar and Grill in Ft. Recovery, Ohio. As we were finishing our meal Ralph approached our table eager to meet us because he read the article about two crazy people paddling to the Gulf if Mexico in Portland,Indiana’s Commercial Review. I guess he guessed it was us because he couldn’t miss the yellow truck equipped with two yellow kayaks parked on the street.
After a delicious breakfast, we arrived at Ambassador Park at 8:30 and were surprised that within minutes people started to arrive. Many were eager to help load the boats, but John had a map where everything was to go. He had packed an unpacked several times over the last three weeks to be sure everything fit. Unfortunately, he forgot to put my pillow into the plan. So when I asked where my pillow was to go, he said I couldn’t take it. I honestly thought he was joking, but he was very serious. Finally, my hero, Bud Heare, found the perfect place to stuff it.
While John packed the boats, my son Travis and his wife , Katie, arrived with a plate of marvelous goodness for us and other bystanders to partake in. My last sinful treat! John, the “I really don’t care for sweets” man, even ate one.
We were surprised and touched by all who came to see us off. The support they gave brought tears to our eyes. In addition to those we knew, there were three other gentleman from the Ft. recovery area (Bob, Oscar, and Dean) we did not know, who took time on a sunny, chilly, spring, Saturday morning to watch the launch.
After a prayer, many hugs and a few tears (four months is a long time to be away), we set “sail” at 10:00 – an hour later than planned. I guess one hour really doesn’t make much difference on a four-month journey.
The first three miles were curvy and we were surprised to encounter some near class 1 rapids. John refers to them as fun – I refer to them as scary! I hadn’t paddled in six months and wasn’t comfortable with my kayaking techniques, when suddenly, I had to recall how to paddle correctly. I did a lot of praying, “keep me upright and safe – keep me upright and safe”. Oddly enough, I began to thank God for the rapids. If the water level would have been lower, there wouldn’t be rapids. If there wouldn’t have been rapids, we would have had to pull our boats. That really wasn’t a better option.
We approached what we thought was an obstacle. John got out of his boat to check it out. He came back reporting – no problem. We were not as fortunate as we approached the Ohio town of Wabash. This time John reported back there was a problem – a fallen, impassable tree, a “strainer ” as it is known. We got out of our boats. John attached a rope to my boat and pulled it through to the other side of the fallen tree. On the other side, he placed my boat between a rock and the shore. Then he helped me down a 60 degree, muddy bank to my boat – placed me in and sent me on my way, while he performed the same routine on his both. I found a place down stream and waited, and waited, and waited….. Finally, I saw his white paddles rotating in the air. I cried with relief.
Our next challenge was to pull off the water and set up camp for the night. Bill Knapke had offered to let us say on his property, but with the fallen tree adventure, we didn’t make it that far. The banks of the Wabash River close it’s origin are straight up and muddy, making finding a place to get out and camp for the night a nightmare! Alas, we finally found a “perfect” place – a rocky outcropping with a ten foot high back and 45 degree incline. At the top of the hill there was a nice flat weedy area. This campsite was even more “perfect” with what seemed like 70 mph wind. Setting up the tent was an experience.
We ate our first dehydrated meal and were in bed by 8:00, while a farmer nearby was having target practice. I guess no one alerted him of our arrival.
Day two – exhausted and cold! Weather tonight is supposed to be brisk and breezy – in the 30’s. We may have frozen socks that were left on a stick overnight to dry. For breakfast – frozen socks on a stick.