Dear Reader, When I last left you, John and I were surrounded by family, new friends and a recently made new decision.
It was April 7, 2018, Day 53 of our Florida Circumnavigational Saltwater paddle.
We were in Homosassa Springs, Florida, Mile almost-500 of the Florida Circumnavigational Saltwater Paddling Trail, visiting my sister at her friend’s awesome Southern Plantation-style home at the McRae Fish Camp.
After a few days of getting ourselves turned around in the labyrinth of swamp rivers just north of Homosassa, back tracking and then turning around yet again, and then not being able to access our camp due to low tide and having to make due with a littered and mosquito-y site, we finally paddled up to Kathy Faulk’s gorgeous house, grumpy and tired, where we were greeted by Civilization. Food. Drink. Companionship. Merriment. Music. A bed. A bathroom. And Rain.
At our previous night’s camp (yes, the makeshift, littered and mosquito-y one) John and I had decided to end the first leg of our Florida Circumnavigational Paddling Trip in Homosassa. Instead of in another two weeks like we’d thought. And about 500 miles short of where we’d (way back when) originally planned to be by quitting time, although we had of course since adjusted our destination first to Naples and later to Tampa after we saw how slow we were moving.
But that was before our son put an offer in on his first home purchase, got his offer accepted, put his financing together and invited us to be at his Closing. In Colorado. In two weeks time.
And it was also before the logistical ease of getting off the water while we had Tania’s assistance stared us in the face and said hello. We said hello back.
Then we just had to tell her.
So…Suddenly, just like that it was quitting time. It was Goodbye Miss Pink. Goodbye Baby Blue. Goodbye swamps and marshes. See you later alligator. And goodbye wind-driven daily life paddling and living on the sea.
There really is no other way to put it. After a routine of quiet -save for the sound of the sea and the birds and the sway of the trees – the human world is noisy and busy and just outright overly stimulating.
Of course, creating our own whirlwind the following day didn’t help anything. Tania was leaving the next day so it was suddenly vroom vroom, we were on the go: unpack boats, scrub them down, find them a home, drop off at a marina, pick up resupply box from post office (which we wouldn’t be using), say goodbye to Kathy and then jump into Tania’s car to go to the Orlando airport to pick up our one-way rental car, kiss Tania goodbye, and then drive off into the proverbial sunset at a whopping, speed-of-sound breaking 65 mph.
We drove in that first day (Homosassa, Florida, to Orange Beach, Alabama) what it took us 53 days to paddle.
Time doesn’t always move at a constant speed. And distances expand and contract even while you’re looking.
For 53 days in a row we’d moved at an average of 3.8 nautical miles per hour while paddling, slower while puttering about at camp and even much much slower while laying in our tent for the twelve hours of Florida winter darkness every night.
But once back in a car and on the road and through cities…
Let me put it this way…There is no middle gear in your standard American life.
You are either off grid and self-propelled and slow, like we were while paddling the almost 500 miles we’d just paddled along the Florida coast. Or you are full-force moving fast. Like we became.
We went from a first-gear life to a fifth-gear life in seconds flat.
From a single speed bike to a Corvette.
While our heads spun from the time warp (and actually our rental car was a nice little Toyota, not a Corvette, incase you were wondering), we drove from Florida to Alabama to pick up our truck camper and say hi to Sara and Dad.
Next, Alabama, past Houston (see black and white photo above) to glorious Big Bend National Park, Texas, where we pulled out our still-wet paddling gear to dry.
And reengaged the muscles of our sea kayak legs with an 11-mile round trip climb.
Onward we drove, from Big Bend to Guadalupe National Park where Texas meets New Mexico and a wind so strong it scared us out of our camper and into our tent and coated us with dirt as we struggled to sleep and then sent us packing out of the Park before daylight. (Yes, our dear friend the wind – I’ll admit I was pissed).
And then on to a piece of Utah paradise known as the Needles District, Canyonlands National Park, where we could finally exhale, shift down to first gear, hike on our beloved slick rock and hide out for a few days.
Till we got the text that our son’s Closing was moved up three days, and could we be there tomorrow?
We are alive.
We are healthy.
We are adventurers.