Saturday, April 30, 2011

Another day, another few miles

Jim is in for the night in a sheltered site.  He actually turned back for a couple of miles today to find a suitable place to wait out the winds which seem determined to test his mettle.  Last night he had trouble finding a place where he could safely pull IBI out of the water and set up camp.  Most of Choctawhatchee Bay has heavy rip/rap along at least the western shore where Jim was travelling.  That does not lend itself to ease of safely getting out of the water with a small craft, especially when the wind is kicking up a chop.  He finally spied a man in a small kayak who pointed out a decent place to get out safely.  Jim set up camp last night and went to sleep, to be awakened at about midnight by two alligators, about 50 yards from his tent, who were disputing between them the rights to that same beach property.  To say that the rest of his night was peaceful would not contain much truth.  Today, when he determined that it was time to put in for a decent nights' rest, it was difficult to find any place to stop.  Most of the shoreline where he was is all swampy and very wild, with no place in sight to go ashore.  He then backtracked to a site he had seen earlier.  It is at the end of a dirt road on private property.  Jim walked up to the nearby house to get permission to stay for the night at the waters edge.  The lady of the house, we'll call her Mrs. Dan since Jim didn't think to get permission to use her name in the blog, called her husband on the phone.  She gave Jim a drink of water and graciously accepted his ID card with the blog address on it.  She and her husband gave Jim permission to set up camp and he went back to do so.  A little later on she came down to the camp site, bringing Jim an apple and a banana and told him that she had checked out the blog.  We both wish to thank that couple very much for their gracious hospitality and kindness.  Jim was very touched by their thoughtfulness and acceptance of his presence in that very rural setting.  I thank them both for being so kind to my husband!  Another person soon showed up at Jim's campsite then.  Mr. Fred Borg, of Panama City (we did get permission to use his name in the blog) arrived to meet Jim.  He had decided earlier in the day to try to catch up with Jim somewhere on his way into the canal at Pt. Washington.  When Jim didn't arrive there, Fred called another friend who looked up Jim's SPOT position and directed Fred right to Jim's campsite.  Bless the SPOT.  Also, bless people like the Dans(sic) and Fred Borg, who care enough about Jim's efforts to support Save the Children that they go out of their way to help in any way they can.  Fred even offered to have Jim stay with him when he gets down to the Panama City area, with the enticement of a cold drink, a hot shower, a real bed and the company of his cat.  Some of our friends in Oklahoma know that Jim has a little part-Siamese kitty who thinks the sun rises and sets in Jim.  If it wasn't for the possibility of her running away from the boat or campsite or being eaten by an alligator, I think Jim would have taken Piper with him.  So, Fred, the offer of feline company would also be most welcome for Jim, as would all of your other most generous offers.  Thank all of you so much, from me and from Jim.  Don't know if any of you are aware that Jim also plays the highland bagpipes too, but there sure wasn't room in IBI for them, so no one is going to be awakened at dawn by his piping.  Too bad in a way, he could have given those two gators something to think about last night!  Hopefully tomorrow will bring more good progress.  Jim's planning on starting out at dawn, after getting up at 4 AM, hoping to beat the wind.  OK everybody, lets give a concerted effort to wishing for good wind.  Thanks, and good night to all for now, and don't forget to support Save the Children. 

Friday, April 29, 2011

Hogtown Bayou

Jim is camped for the night just down the inside of the west point of Hogtown Bayou.  He got underway at about 9:30 AM.  We did a bit of truck portage and took him down to a National Wildlife refuge just east of Fort Walton Beach.  That avoided his having to worry about the restricted space near Eglin AFB at Ft. Walton.  While he was on a couple of days off he managed to get a minor repair done to IBI where a small fiberglass upright for a stowage space had given way.  It was no big matter, but the space is a matter of convenience when underway.  The repair with epoxy took all of about 5 minutes and was completely set up in 4 hours.  Jim has apparently not eaten enough when underway, burning about 3000-5000 calories per day, especially while battling headwinds during the past week.  As a consequence, he got kind of run down.  A good friend on the net suggested that he needs to be eating at least 5 times per day to keep up with the output.  To that end, Jim is adding flat-bread slathered with peanut butter, with a good trail mix topping.  The flat bread is then rolled for stowage and eaten like a taquito.  He's also adding a power bar or two to his daily intake.  In order to make some mileage he hates to stop long enough to make meals, so he had been doing without a noon meal and not taking in any other fuel except Gator Aid added to his drinking water.  His friend suggested that he needed to add fuel to the furnace, so that is now being done.  Jim remains in good spirits and is paddling away.  We both extend our thoughts and prayers of condolence to all those who have been caught in the savage storms of the past week here in the southeastern United States.  The fish camp here suffered a bit from the windstorm with a greenhouse being totally blown out.  It is an aluminum frame affair, and all the panels and clips blew into the pig pens just in back of where the greenhouse was situated.  A frantic gathering of those materials was necessary before the big sows took a notion to eat them.  It is now being reconstructed with some difficulty.  At least they have the materials - which is more than many people in this region have been left with.  Jim will attempt to reach Pt. Washington tomorrow, with 15-25 knot headwinds being forecast, and about a 12 mile distance to run.  If he can get into the canal he should be pretty well sheltered from the wind.  The only thing he'll have to worry about then will be the commercial traffic that transits that same canal.  We've been assured that there are plenty of camping places available on the banks of the "ditch" where he can spend the nights as he transits the canal down to Apalachicola.  Let's hope the weather holds long enough for him to make the run down to the more sheltered area of the canal.  Please let everyone know about the venture and what Jim is hoping to accomplish for Save the Children.  Thanks to each of you for your support as Jim travels this watery trail. Happy Paddling!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

A Change of Focus

The question keeps coming up as to why I’m doing this.  It’s not about me. The Paddle-to-the-Sea is merely the vehicle for raising funds for Save The Children.  Right now I’m paddling for Beck’s Fish Camp, of Cantonment, for in-kind support for the expedition, and for the Fairview, Oklahoma, Lion’s Club for their sponsorship for the first miles of the trip.  There’s an old saying that goes, ‘It takes a community to raise a child.’  That’s profoundly truer when the children are severely at risk.  The reason for doing this is to rally the community together for a common end---supporting the work of Save The Children to rescue and support children threatened by the effects of war, famine, disease, and natural disaster.  I’ll keep paddling as long as I’m working for anyone willing to join me in this worthy cause.  I’m occasionally asked if there’s anything I need.  While a shower and laundry are always great, especially in saltwater, but what I really need are sponsors for miles.  If a paddling club wants to join me, it would be great if they would also have members pass the hat at work, church, or among club members.  Being able to sponsor miles to benefit Save The Children gives me the impetus to keep moving.  Other Lion’s Clubs, Rotary, Kiwanis, businesses, churches, or individuals that can appreciate the importance of our goal can give a hand.

People get involved in things that impact them personally.  The greatest advocates for finding cures for disease, for example, are generally those who have lost family, especially children, to these ailments.  Likewise, people get involved if the project relates to them, such as a paddling project making most sense for those who love nature, the environment, and being on the water
For me, the thing that struck home was the unearthing of the four-month-old girl that had been buried alive in rubble for four days following the tsunami in Japan, where Save The Children is hard at work.  The realization was not just how narrowly she had escaped death, but that she had undoubtedly also lost her siblings, parents, perhaps grandparents---all the people that would normally see to getting her started in life. That’s where the community really needs to step in.  So, what I really need is for you to be part of that supporting community.  Donate $5 or more per mile to Save The Children, and I’ll keep paddling and helping kids in your name.  Just give Jean a call and tell her how many miles you’re sponsoring, and follow the instructions at the top-right of the blog page for submitting funds directly to Save The Children.  You CAN make a difference.  Thanks.  Jim


I got into a predicament that forced me off the water.  After paddling to Navarre Bridge with Jim Parker, I found there was no place ahead that I could get to, and needed a place to stop.  I was up against miles of restricted area of Eglin Air Force Base, and a county park area where camping is not allowed.   The only option was going backwards five miles---not about to happen.  I was given a chance to stay on the fence line between the county and federal properties for the night after the beach closed.  Storms today and tomorrow with 35 mph winds forecast  meant I had to get somewhere.  Staying wasn’t possible, and moving wasn’t possible.  Then I had a boat breakage.  I have a stowage compartment next to the seat, and it let go.  It’s nothing that affects performance or safety, but I’ll see if I can do something with it.  Also, I have 17 festered fire ant bites on the right foot and a couple on the left that need tending to.  So, long story-short, Jean picked me up for R&R, laundry, gear cleaning and repacking.   
This was at the start.  I had been advised to fly a flag to keep from being run down by bass boats.  After pushing the mast and flag through the wind for a day, that was the first thing to go.

We made a run into Fort Walton Beach in search of wicking shirts.  I had read never to carry anything in cotton---it’s impossible to dry, promotes hypothermia in colder water, and accumulates its own weight in salt.   I didn’t understand that never meant NEVER, NEVER, EVER, EVER, EVER,  so I carried a couple cotton long-sleeved shirts.  I was absolutely rotting in them.  One I rinsed in some of my valuable fresh water and spent the next three days trying to dry.  It never did.  I took the cotton not out of ignorance, I knew better, but I had them and couldn’t see the expense of pricey synthetic wicking shirts.  I now consider them an investment.  While shopping we stopped at Fokkers Sports Pub at 196 Miracle Strip Pkwy, D-1.  Fantastic sandwiches and iced tea, and not lessened by being without real food for nearly a week.
 First night's camp.

The tug 'Good Shepherd'.
Sun., Day 2 –  A grueling day.  I departed at 8 a.m., with the wind 15-18 on the nose and 1-2 ft. breaking whitecaps.  I got to use the spray skirt for the first time.  It was a good day in that I got the chance to get into a much better and more comfortable rhythm with the boat.  The greatest concern was the riprap covered shore that runs half the length of Escambia Bay.  The huge stone and concrete waste that covers the shore would have given anyone little chance to make it off the water in rough conditions.  Being sore or tired didn’t matter; there was no choice but to grit and keep going.  I crossed Escambia Bay next to the Gulf Breeze bridge, and finally found a camping spot on Dead Man Island, Old Navy Cover, west of the  bridge.
Dead Man's Island (local name) near Gulf Breeze.
Mon., Day 3 – I got the chance to turn southeast, and who could guess.  The wind was a solid 15, occasional 20 mph, square on the nose as I paid hell getting across Santa Rosa Sound.  The bow was frequently dipping water as I worked to maintain a knot to weather.  Once in the lee of Santa Rose Island, smooth water and an occasional bit of a lee from the wind helped me keep moving.  I’ve had a couple experienced paddlers say it is all a learning experience, and no matter how far I go, I’ll find I’m still learning.  The first thing I learned was that bringing a book was a waste.  By the time I get in, set camp, prepare dinner, eat and clean up, and look over charts and the paddling guide for the next day, it’s time to hit the sack.

Big Sabine Point, alias The Ant Hill
I spent the night at Big Sabine Point on Santa Rose.  That was where the fire ants got me.  It is a “leave no trace” primitive camp site, with a big bag of trash right in front of the leave no trace sign.  At least it was bagged.  Food had obviously been left in the fire pit, and ants had burrowed in and set up a huge colony.  There was no avoiding them.  They were everywhere.  You can’t blame the ants.  If food and trash is left, whether it is ants, mice, raccoons, or bears, something will come for it.  The fault lies with lazy and thoughtless campers that preceded me and didn’t care enough about the environment to preserve it.  That’s my soapbox for the day.

Tues., Day 4 – The wind was 15-20 southeast, occasional east, and that was of course because I was now heading east.  On the bright side, I can feel my conditioning improving, and as long as I worked close to the beach, I was able to keep Ibi moving at around 2.3 kts.  After about three miles, what should appear to my sun-dazzled eyes, but a kayaker.  It was Jim Parker, again.  What a great guy.  He had launched at Navarre and paddled downwind to meet me so we could paddle back in company, and the company was great.  He’s a strong paddler.   While I was following every dent in the shore looking for any lee, he’d follow a straight track and laugh about how the wind was kicking his butt out there.  By late afternoon, we were back at Navarre, and that brings me to where I started the commentary.  So far I’ve paddled an even 50 miles---not a dent in the total, but a start.
Okay, don't ask how day 1 ended up at the bottom, but friends I've been at this for four hours, and you got it all.  Enough is enough for details.
Sat., Day 1 – I got a late start, but started down the Escambia River.  I saw a kayak coming and slide over to say ‘hello’, only to find to my surprise that Jim Parker there from West Florida Canoe and Kayak Club to meet up with me.  We went downstream together, but I just couldn’t keep pace.  I apologized for looking like an Oklahoma paddler, but that’s what I ‘are’, with little opportunity for on-the-water paddling time and conditioning. The wind was on the nose, and there was no lee.  The wind funneled up the river.  The channel course could turn 40-deg., and the wind just stayed on the nose.  By 3 pm, I’d had enough, and stopped at a spoil bar across from the power plant, where the tug Good Shepherd kept me company through dinner. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


They say that experience is the best teacher and that you're never too old to learn.  I'm not so sure about that last part, but can attest that the first part is correct.  Jim and I are both getting help from people with lots more experience in some areas than we've had and the help is great.  We received invaluable advice from several sources today about the possibility of taking the inland canal route from Destin down to Apalachicola.  Those more sheltered waters, although used by commercial traffic, should give a good break from the prevailing southerlies.  Two fellow boaters, who Jim met on the web, provided excellent notes on that route.  The owner of Kayak Experience outfitter shop located in Destin also gave us lots of good information.  Another new friend, who is a Facebook follower, launched from Navarre Bridge earlier today, paddled west to meet Jim and then paddled back to the bridge with him.  He's returning Jim's canoe cart to me tomorrow, along with some other small gear that Jim figured he wouldn't need.  That kind of friendship and effort is a real blessing.  We've met some really nice people so far on this trip.  One couple met Jim at the north point of Beck's Fish Camp on his first day and gave him two cold Gator Aid drinks.  While that might not seem remarkable, one has to consider that the husband of that couple, an ex-Marine, amputee, hobbled several hundred yards to his truck to get the drinks.  His wife, who had just finished chemo and radiation treatments, cared enough about Jim to see that he needed those drinks.  When told about Jim's reason for making this venture, they said they would donate to Save the Children in his name.  May blessings cover them as well as the wonderful staff here at Beck's Fish Camp who have been more than kind.  We also received a message from a woman in Nipigon, the town where the journey of Paddle-To-The-Sea began in the book of that name.  The town is on the upper reaches of Lake Superior.  Jim will be sure to visit there when he reaches that point - quite a few miles up the creek yet!  Several people have expressed concern about the canoe in the picture that heads this blog.  It is not the Superior Expedition canoe that Jim is paddling.  Rather, it is a cedar-wood strip-plank canoe which Jim and a good friend built many years ago while we were still living in Delaware.  That canoe carried our family on many a good venture.  A picture of IBI arriving at Beck's Fish Camp last week is shown in an earlier posting on the blog.  In answer to another question about IBI, the canoe Jim is using on this venture, Jim does have a canoe skirt, much like the ones used by kayakers. He has been using it when going into the headwinds and bow splashers here.  Ibi is an 18' fiberglass canoe that was built specially for him by Superior Canoes in Lyons, Michigan.  Jim had her topsides done in bright yellow as a visibility tool.  She shows up well on the water.  He and Ibi should be at Ft. Walton Beach sometime tomorrow.  The local newspaper there, the Northwest Florida Daily News is going to try to meet up with him to do a piece on his venture.  For the night, Jim is near the Navarre Bridge.  Please keep him and this great venture in your thoughts and prayers. As members of the Seven Seas Cruising Association we always adhered to the maxim, "Leave a clean wake."  That meant leaving no trash - figuratively, spiritually or literally, behind us.  Paddle easy everybody and remember to support Save the Children as you can. 

Monday, April 25, 2011

Wind and more friends

It will seem funny to our friends in Oklahoma that we're complaining about the wind.  Out there the wind seemingly never stops. Fence chains standing straight out in the wind are a standard joke there.  On the opposite side of that story, in many years of  blue-water sailing Jim and I have encountered many periods of absolute calm and complained then about the inactivity.  Jim is now in a totally different mode - in a tiny craft on open water, trying to make headway against determined headwinds.  He's persevering, though, and got in 14.7 miles before stopping.  He's tucked in at Santa Rosa Island for the night, and even found a small tree with some high branches on which to tie his garbage bag.  We've had experiences before with night-time marauders wanting garbage goodies and I have to worry about that here at the fish camp too.  Jim has quite a camp-following, with me, our two Siamese kitties and four of my birds along as the cheering section.  It looks like Jim is in for more of the same weather tomorrow, with a slight possibility of thunder storms.  We did make some new friends today.  A group of paddlers from the Panama City Kayakers Club contacted us and are planning on joining Jim for a couple of days when he gets down that way.  We also welcome Trailridgetom, of the Florida Paddling Trails Association,  as a new follower.  Yvonne Hill, Editor-in-Chief of the United States Power Squadrons (of which Jim is a lifetime member) also contacted us today to say that the story of Jim's Paddle-To-The-Sea venture is going to be in the organization's magazine, THE ENSIGN.  All in all, a very good day.  Peaceful paddling to everyone.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter addition

Jim did phone in after all.  He said he was "whupped."  Wind was about 15 dead on the nose all day and he had to dig deep to get the distance.  He'd been given some info to stay on the west shore but that wasn't the best situation.  The RR runs along there with heavy concrete rip/rap everywhere for a fair distance off the bank.  Said if anyone had to get ashore and they were lucky enough to make it alive that their boat sure wouldn't.  He's hoping for better winds tomorrow.  Asked if I had seen a blue tarp with tent pegs.  When the answer was no on my end he said he knew he was carrying too much gear - can't find everything.  Guess it'll take awhile to shake out all the kinks.  He'll probably lighten the load when we make our first rendezvous.   Good-night and God-speed!

Happy Easter

Jim's run today finished up at Gulf Breeze.  Check out Ibi's Spot location.  He made a good run despite what must have been some serious headwinds out of the SE.  He didn't phone in today - had to talk me through a canopy take-down operation on the RV.  I made a serious omission yesterday when an wonderful article about Jim's Paddle To The Sea venture on wasn't mentioned.  The hardworking staff person there deserves a lot of credit for a good job well done.  A sincere, although belated, thanks!  Check it out!  Jim would welcome company afloat if anyone is inclined to join him for any part of this trip.  It's for a good cause!  A Happy and Blessed Easter to each of you.

Saturday, April 23, 2011


Jim and Ibi took off today at 11:05 AM without too much fuss.  A bit of repacking was necessary to accomodate the canoe cart.  Even with the cart completely disassembled it was bulky but Jim finally got the job done.  It will probably take a few days to work out all the kinks (in the systems and in Jim's muscles) and for him to get going smoothly.  Several people were at the ramp at Beck's Fish Camp to wish Jim and Ibi god-speed and some donations were promised (and given) to the Save the Children organization in the name of Paddle-To-The-Sea.  Our gracious thanks for every good wish and for the donations to Save the Children.  Our thanks also to Mr. Jim Parker of the West Florida Canoe and Kayak Club who paddled north from an inlet near Rt 90 north of Pensacola to paddle down-bayou with Jim throughout the afternoon.  Jim says his company was a most welcome addition to the afternoon.  For the night Jim is encamped on a spoil bank close to the Pensacola Power Plant.  The weather is supposed to hold nice, if a bit windy (and wouldn't you know it - right on the nose) until Tuesday when there is a possibility of thunderstorms.  In the words of an Irish prayer, Jim, I wish the wind would be always at your back.  Stay strong and persevere.

Friday, April 22, 2011

T-Minus Twelve Hours

Today we finished up as much as possible to make sure we are ready – grocery run, post office, re-organizing packs for the canoe, and doing an interview with the Pensacola News Journal newspaper.   We’re now sitting here listening to Cat Country radio, 98.7 on the FM dial which is doing a story on Paddle-to-the-Sea during drive time tomorrow morning.  By 5 PM we were as ready as possible and put Ibi into the Escambia for a 4-mile paddle.  Any other media expected to arrive should be here in time for the 9AM departure from Beck’s Fish Camp tomorrow.  Yahoo – it’s almost time to take off on this great adventure. 
Navy Blue Angel at Florida Welcome Center
Ibi's arrival at Beck's Fish Camp
Fish Camp Office and Store
Launch Ramp.  Straight out through the arched trees takes you down the bayou to the Escambia River.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Beck's Fish Camp

With Florida now being known for coast-to-coast steel, concrete, and asphalt, even those old enough to remember “Old Florida” can now only reminisce what the state was like when it was natural, when wildlife  abounded, with rivers and freshwater springs that were not littered.
There are restaurants with d├ęcor to give you an “Old Florida” ambiance, but if you want the real thing, Beck’s Fish Camp will surprise you.  It is 400 acres of unspoiled fields, forests, and waterway.  The land was used by the Beck brothers in the late 1800’s to build a sawmill and ship lumber around the world.  The bayou, known by the Spanish as the Little Escambia River, was dammed to create a 50-acre lake for the milling operation.  With the dam gone, the spring-fed fresh water flows again to the Escambia River, and a fish camp was started in the 1940’s.  The Florida Fresh Water and Fish Comm. reports  that the Escambia is the best fishing river in Florida, with bluegill, bass, sunfish, gar, shell-cracker, crappie, and some sturgeon.
The grounds are believed to be where Gen. Andrew Jackson encamped his 15,000 troops in 1821.  The nearby town of Cantonment derives its name from its meaning as a “military encampment.”

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Arriving in Florida

We arrived in Florida at 1630 today, and got set up at Beck’s Fish Camp at Cantonment, FL, just north of Pensacola.  The plan is to get cleaned up and have everything ready for Saturday morning at 0900.  Ted Brown, of Beck’s Fish Camp, is having local media here to see me off. We sincerely thank them for their support and cordial welcome.  They are providing sponsorship.  More on their facility later, but if you wish to enjoy a taste of Old Florida, check their site at
That’s the current info, but to back up to our departure, we got underway Sunday, the 17th.  We got underway at 1415, but ran into 40 mph winds that almost stopped the RV.  Fuel mileage dropped to 9.2 mpg, and after fighting that for 41 miles, we found a place to stop for the night.
On Monday, the 18th, we started at 0715 with a light breeze, but as the sun returned, so did the winds.  However, they remained in the 25-30 mph range, and we maintained 11 mpg.  We were going to end up in Dallas right at rush hour, so we took 380 west from Denton, TX, to Greenville, TX, and US 69 south to Mineola, for a run of 340.9 mi.
On Tues, 19th, we were underway with 25-37 mph winds, but make out okay because I-20 was lined with high forested banks.  Once we got through Monroe, LA, however, the road became exposed to the wind, and I had my hands full staying in my lane, so we found a spot at Rayville, and stopped for a run of 236.9 miles.  As we drove along, we got a call from Steve Retz, who had been hard at work for us.  He had made contact with Jake Stachovak, who had done the Portage to Portage Project last year, and asked Jake if he could offer any assistance.  I called Jake, and he was most cordial and anxious to “pay it forward”, as he put it.  He has already given me a couple suggestions, and says he remains ready to help at any point in the trip.  Thanks to both of you.  I’m beginning to see the “community” in paddling already.
Today saw us off at 0740, and while the wind had turned southeast to remain right in our faces, it was a mild 20-25, and we maintained a respectable 11.9 mpg until we arrive at Beck’s Fish Camp after 345.7 miles.  That make a total run of 959.6 miles from NW Oklahoma to a Pensacola.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Keeping in Touch

I should add a note on the logistics of maintaining contact with those that have expressed an interest in following the trip. I will not be carrying a laptop, solar panel, batteries and all that baggage in the canoe. On a daily basis (as long as I have cell phone contact) I’ll let either my wife or son know how things are going, and they are graciously posting short reports on Facebook. (Click Jim’s Facebook in right column.) With that and the SPOT track, you’ll have a pretty good idea of what is happening and where I am. When I get in after a leg, I’ll post the meat of the story along with the pictures here on the blog. To save on batteries, I won’t run the SPOT all the time unless I’m in adverse conditions.  The rest of the time I’ll ping an OK position check-in a couple times a day, primarily mid-day and when I stop of a night.

I’ll echo a couple things Steve Retz passed along. “I understand. I've been unemployed or underemployed for more than 2 years myself so I know what it's like to be tapped out. I would be frank with your followers about your financial situation. You might be amazed how many people want to help in any way they can. Just let them know about any needs you may have. People want to help other people if they can.”

Jim - It’s unlikely I’d have been comfortable bringing this up, but since Steve did, thanks Steve. I had hoped to get sponsorship from an oil company, but had no luck. The two biggest things that I feel will jeopardize the trip are RV parking for the shore support, and gasoline to keep moving. Since RV parks are privately owned, there isn’t much I can do there, but if anyone has a gas outlet or dealership that would be willing to sponsor a gas card, that would be HUGE support. If anyone along the coast has enough space for a 25-ft. trailer and a bit of shade, that would also be a great help. If a power outlet is within reach of a power cord, we’ll pay for power. Also, I have charts from New Orleans up the East Coast to Delaware Bay. If anyone has used charts for sale or loan for the rest of the route, that would also be a big help. I’ve planned for this year. When we take the winter break, I’ll plan the next legs. If you have any ideas here, give Jean a call. Thanks to everyone.

Steve again: “Also I would put the word out that you are looking for paddlers along the way to meet up with on your journey. You'll find the best part about traveling is the people you meet along the way. There's nothing like a local to guide you through an area and tell you local stories. True or not.”

Jim - Absolutely. You’ll know where I am, so the more the merrier.

“And ask your regular followers to recommend to their friend they follow your trip. Many of us want-to-be really do enjoy your writings and Photos.”

Jim - Yes, definitely pass the word about both the blog and Facebook page. Thanks to all, and I hope you will enjoy the trip as much as I hope to. Okay, we’re out the door. Best wishes to all, and don’t forget to support Save The Children. Thanks

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Who Was Sacagawea?

Credit: Google images

We have some illness in the family, and will hang here a couple days to make sure everything is okay before we jump off.  Perhaps you'll find this interesting.  I know I’ve done an earlier story on the Lewis and Clark Expedition, and if I follow my interest in the Missouri River and their three-year exploit, I will probably do others. One of the things that jumped out at me was the story of Sacagawea and how she became part of history. Perhaps another thing that draws me to her is my shame in not knowing who she was when the Sacagawea dollar coin was minted. This may give you a taste of how a hapless teenager would play an important part in our nation’s history.

In the story of the Lewis and Clark expedition, Sacagawea was a valuable and pivotal personality. She and another girl were Shoshone Indian children captured and taken as slaves by a Hidatsa raiding party near Three Forks, Montana, at the headwaters of the Missouri. She was twelve years old at the time. Both girls became the “wives” of Toussaint Charbonneau, a forty-five year old French Canadian trapper, who won them in a bet with the warriors that had captured them. By the time they met Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, Sacagawea was sixteen and pregnant. Lewis hired her and Charbonneau as interpreters to communicate with the tribes they encountered. Lewis actually intended to hire Sacagawea as interpreter, but since Charbonneau “owned” her, he had to take the manipulative and demanding Frenchman in the bargain. Charbonneau had lived with the Hidatsas so also knew a bit of native dialect. To unravel their communications, when speaking with the Sioux, for example, Sacagawea would translate in Hidatsa to Charbonneau. Charbonneau would translate into French for two French-speaking members of the expedition, Drouillard and Jessaume. They would translate into English for Lewis and/or Clark. If that wasn’t complicated enough, Drouillard and Jessaume would prolong the process by getting into frequent arguments over how certain French words should be translated. Responses would travel the same torturous route.

During their first winter camped over in the Mandan villages (near present Washburn, North Dakota), the expedition built Fort Mandan. As Sacagawea prepared to deliver her baby, Lewis had a separate hut built for her, Charbonneau, and the infant son, Jean Baptiste.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Fairview Lions Backing Expedition

Our son, also James, is editor of the local Fairview Republican Newspaper. We had sent him a press release on Paddle-to-the-Sea, and he came by to interview us further for next Wednesday’s newspaper article. During our trip, he will try to spearhead publicity efforts along the way by contacting local media outlets along our route. He’s really being great in supporting our efforts.

We’re all packed and ready to shove off, but we’re getting 50-60 mph winds today. Trying to pull the RV in that is a waste of time---and gas. James is setting up a Facebook page for us to keep you up to date. Until I get used to it, just ignore anything that appears strange. I’m being thrown into the technology pool head first.

I had done a program for the Fairview Lions Club a couple weeks ago on Paddle-to-the-Sea. Linda Klinger, club president, called me yesterday morning following their board meeting to say that the club had decided to sponsor Save The Children for the first two hundred miles of my paddle. My approach to the Lions Club was for them to get me started, and then have local clubs along my route support Save The Children in turn. Each club on their own would decide how much per mile they would be willing to contribute and for how many miles. It’s hard work, and while I’ll paddle for a dollar/mile of Save The Children donations, I’m hoping we can raise more donations per mile as more people get involved. While the Fairview Lions Club has me underway, they will also be trying to get the Lions district, national, and international organizations to take up the challenge to keep me going. Other groups can contribute as well, and we can really support Save The Children if more than one club is willing to sponsor the same miles, or join other groups in sponsoring miles. We can support a great cause and have some fun all at the same time. So, I’d like to sincerely thank Fairview Lions Club for their support and confidence in getting me started. We’re underway.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Ibi's Maiden Paddle

It’s Oklahoma, so we had to sit through two days of up to 50 mph winds. It wasn’t wasted time as we had other projects to keep us busy. Today we got out for a test paddle and got Ibi wet for her first time. I went for a short paddle with the empty boat, and then met Jean at another ramp where we unloaded all the gear from the truck and into Ibi. Including fresh water, that came to 196 pounds. The first thing that impressed me was her speed, but then her maneuverability with the rudder was equally impressive and worked great…no more losing paddle strokes to steering maneuvers. With all the weight loaded aboard, I was much impressed with how much speed it retained, and how it was still easily worked against the wind. The weight, rather than having a detrimental effect, actually improved stability. Ibi’s a beautiful boat, and meant for serious mileage, so I’ll do my best to do her justice.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Ibi Delivery, Day 5

We had anticipated being home by 2300, but didn’t arrive until 0130 this morning. Numb and totally exhausted, we crashed and found it difficult to move about while recuperating the next day. Age does matter. We got into a pocket of severe thunderstorms and tornados that spawned between Wichita, KS, and Blackwell to Anthony, OK. We had 60-70 mile per hour winds, driving rain, and hail. We personally encountered hail of ping pong ball size, but another car in the same area and a police car had their windshields taken out by baseball-size chunks of flying ice. The man we saw later at the rest area had two baseball-size chunks hit his hood leaving large dents. He looked up in the direction they had come from to actually see another headed right for his face. He cringed, having no time to do anything else, as the ice left a grapefruit-sized hole in his windshield literally before his eyes, even if they were clinched shut. The tornado advisories would run until 2130, then be extended to 2230, then 2330. They were all blowing up in the same area before moving east. It was obvious we would spend the entire night there if we didn’t move south of the area of disturbance. Every time it eased, we would start south and then head for the next gas station canopy when the ice started again. When we got just a couple miles south of Blackwell, the moon was visible and the road was dry and remained dry the rest of the way home. We were lucky. Except for a tiny dimple in the hood, both Ibi and the pickup came through fine.

Yesterday's post got a bit lengthy, so here's a picture I didn't include.  The second floor of the corner building is where Sam Clemens started as a printer's apprentice for the Hannibal Courier.

Click picture to enlarge.  This is from the hill at the north end of Hannibal, looking down Main Street.  The statue of Huck and Tom is in the foreground.  At the first intersection, the white building on the right is Dr. Grant's, and the red brick building to the left is the Hannibal Courier.  It is mind boggling, at least to me, that a career that would span the world would have its start in such a small area....just a few buildings around a single intersection.

On Sunday, we started preparing for departure for the Paddle-to-the-Sea. I repacked everything, making a list and checking it twice. Every item was weighed and totaled 155 pounds including three weeks provisions. That weight will drop some as I determine my actual consumption rates. I’m carrying some extra spares now that I may not need then. However, I am insisting on some comfort items, like a comfortable sleeping mattress, electric camp light, and folding camp chair, and the five-pound autobiography of Mark Twain. My next reading selections will be much lighter. I’m hoping as I go along the largest weight savings will be in me. If I can lose what I need to, I should be able to get the canoe on a plane.
Please support Save The Children. Thanks, Jim

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Ibi Delivery, Day 4

We got the call from Scott Smith last night, and went to pick up Ibi. He attached the logo decals, and fitted the spray cover, which has four aluminum battens that slip into eye-straps on the cockpit coaming to hold the cover in an arch to shed water.

Underway at 0715 with Ibi taking her first ride on the roof of the pickup, we headed back to Hannibal. We arrived at 1830 for the night. It rained all night, and we had poor prospects for walking about town in the morning, but the last of the rain cleared through as we ate breakfast.
Samuel Clemens’ life is an amazing story all its own, and as Mark Twain, he brought his childhood and friends to life through the tales of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn.
The bronze statue of Tom and Huck at the north end of town.

While the stories were based on fact, they were embellished for the benefit of the reader. As Mark Twain said (paraphrased, because I didn’t record the exact words), nothing goes further to ruin a good story than too much truth. He was born in Florida, Missouri, just west of Hannibal, but the family moved to a modest house on Hill Street in Hannibal in 1846.
The white house on Hill Street was visited by Mark Twain several times during his adult life.  His father was Justice of the Peace, a position with more title than pay, and the family was always in dire financial straits. Of the buildings central to his young life, only his father’s law office was moved to be included in the museum, and it was only moved one block.
His father's law office, moved from one block further down the hill.

In March, 1847, Samuel’s father was caught in a sleet storm while riding horseback to conduct business at the county seat, Palmyra, about twelve miles away. He contracted pneumonia, and was taken across the street to the home of Dr. Orville Grant, and died in an upstairs bedroom at age 49. Samuel’s mother could no longer afford to keep their house, so the family moved in with the Grants. Then, unable to afford the 25-cents a week for Samuel’s schooling, she informed him he’d have to get a job to support the family. He started at the second floor print shop of the Hannibal Courier across the town’s main street from the Grants’ home, becoming employed at age eleven as a printer’s apprentice.
Dr. Grant's drug store. He, his wife, mother-in-law, and the Clemens'
lived on the second floor.

He left Hannibal in 1853, and it would be twenty years before he started the Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Many of the childhood acquaintances found their way into Twain’s books. His mother was Aunt Polly. Laura Hawkins, his childhood sweetheart, lived across the street from the Clemens home, and would be the model for Becky Thatcher.
Becky Thatcher's home. 

In the stories, the real-life Tom Blankenship would become Huck Finn, who lived behind them in a log cabin. He was arrested for stealing turkeys in Hannibal, but would later in life reform to become a Justice of the Peace himself in Montana.
Huck Finn lived in a log cabin only a couple hundred feet behind the young Samuel.  This is the only building that is a reconstruction.  There were plenty of pictures and personal accounts available about the home's construction, so it was recreated using salvaged beams and other materials from area log cabins.

Just before he died, Mark Twain wrote and dictated his autobiography with the stipulation that it could not be published for 100 years. His reasoning was he could be painfully honest about the facts, and anyone who might be offended would be dead before the book came out. He passed away in 1910, and the book was just released last year. Knowing my deep interest in this man, his humor and work, Jean got me a copy of this impressive tome. It is secured in a dry bag, so it can go paddling with me.
The stern-wheeler "Mark Twain."
A large tug and tow pushing up river against a Mississippi
nearing flood stage.

Please support Save The Children. Thanks, Jim

Monday, April 11, 2011

Ibi Delivery, Day 3

We stopped by Scott Smith’s shop to see the finishing touches being added to Ibi. On the way, we passed an abandoned one-room school house that was in Orange School District #5, dated 1894. We both have fond memories of such schools. I attended one when I was younger, and Jean taught in a one-room Amish school for a number of years.

Scott would need today to finish the details, so we continued into Portland. It drizzled rain all day, so I’ll apologize for some hazy, foggy pictures, but I had to work with what I had. Portland is a beautiful little town filled with friendly people. You shouldn’t be surprised to see it as a movie set. We looked for a small diner or coffee shop to get in out of the chill and wet, and found the Cheeky Monkey. The cheeky monkeys were apparently the town’s toddlers, whose pictures adorned most vertical surfaces from walls, blackboard, to refrigerator front. There was an assortment of coffee’s, and we carried a mug of our choice to the counter, and then selected a pastry to go with it. The one I pointed to, I was told, was the Happy Crappy, a large, fruit-filled, high-fiber muffin. We both started laughing and were told, with some glee, that the name of the muffin was chosen to see who did or did not have a sense of humor.

Jean’s arthritis was acting up (This is just one of several hundred reasons for not waiting for retirement or old age to start enjoying life. I can enumerate them one-by-one if you wish.). She decided to rest in the motel while I went for a walk. Portland enjoys the benefit of one of the Rails-to-Trails projects, so has a beautiful trail running through the length of the town along the Looking Glass River, with benches, parks, and gazebos scattered along at convenient distances.

Portland is nicknamed the “City of Two Rivers”, the Grand and the Looking Glass. I walked about 8 ½ miles from the motel, through town to Verlen Kruger’s Memorial and back. In 1850 the Looking Glass was dammed. The dam had innovative holes in its face into which were inserted turbines. The turbines provided mechanical power to the flour mill on one side of the river, which is still there, and a wool mill and furniture factory on the other. When the river level was down, the furniture factory also used steam power to fill the absence of natural power. In 1890 the turbines were converted to provide the town with its first electricity. It was later decided to allow the river to return to its natural flow, and the dam was breached, but its remains are still visible.

Beyond the flour mill you come to the confluence of the Looking Glass and Grand Rivers at a park that was once the site of an Indian village. There is now a memorial to those lost in the 9-11 attacks, complete with a section of girder from one of the World Trade towers.

Being a town of rivers, besides pedestrian bridges, there are about five original vehicle bridges, this one from 1891, which have been lovingly preserved in pristine condition to help add to the Victorian taste of the town. Even the ornate street lights are works of beauty.

Crossing the Grand and walking the river trail along the west bank, you eventually come to the Kruger Memorial. You can click the picture to enlarge the photo for reading. It took family and friends from around the country six years to raise the funds for the construction of the memorial and casting of the life-sized bronze statue. The base for the monument has a compass rose done in colored brick with dedication bricks making up the balance of the platform. On the picnic pavilion in the background is a Monarch butterfly, the symbol for the Kruger Canoes. Verlen still rests his arms on his favorite paddle, the Black Bart graphite.
Please support Save The Children. Thanks, Jim


Sunday, April 10, 2011

Ibi Delivery, Day 2

By 1945 last night, we had settled into a motel in Hannibal, Missouri, the childhood home of Mark Twain on the banks of the Mississippi River. We had no time on the way north, but I promised myself we would visit Hannibal on the way back when our schedule could be more flexible.

We were underway by 0700 and planned to push on to Ionia, Michigan, east of Grand Rapids, to spend the night. Jean had never seen Lake Michigan, so we detoured into Van Buren State Park. It wasn’t open for the season, but we were able to walk on the beach and snap a couple pictures. The northwest wind was still rolling a pretty good surf onto the beach. It was definitely not a good paddling day for open water.

The county fairgrounds was across the road from the motel, so we had a chance to get our first glimpse of Verlen Kruger’s home waters, the Grand River, which was swollen and running fast. Not too comforting was the telephone pole in the middle of the grounds painted in red and white numbered bands that go up to about ten feet to help identify the level of flooding.

We saw a few interesting signs…for us one of the pleasures of travel. My favorite was “O’Kelly’s Genuine Mexican Cuisine.” What can be more natural than a taco stuffed with corned beef and cabbage…maybe with a tall, cold, green-dyed beer?

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Ibi Delivery, Day 1

To tell you about our trip to Lyons, Michigan, to pick up Ibi, our new Superior Expedition solo decked canoe, what better place to start than with Day 1. We can share some of our sights and experiences along the way. We got underway at 0725 into the teeth of 45-50 mph north winds, drizzle, and slate-gray skies. The wind was so unrelenting that our mileage in the Dodge Ram 1500 dropped to 15.7 mpg from the normal 22-24 mpg. Our first interesting sight was the Bules Round Barn on Rt. 81, north of Pond Creek, OK. ( As an aside, I should mention that Rt. 81 was laid down over the Chisholm Trail, the cattle drive trail laid out by Jesse Chisholm, and used in the 1800’s to drive over 5 million longhorn Texas cattle through Oklahoma to railheads in Kansas and Missouri. Drives of over 2,000 head of cattle at a time were moved across the prairie to markets further north. )

Anyhow, the sight of the round brick barn jumped out at me. It is, as you see, a beauty. I saw a man walking across the farmyard, so drove in to find him climbing into his pickup. I introduced myself to Marvin, and asked if he would mind if I took a picture. He reached across the dashboard of the truck and pulled out a color information flyer and handed it to me, making it obvious that we weren’t the first to be attracted by the barn. Marvin invited us to stay as long as we wanted, and insisted we go in and check out the inside, which has served for a number of weddings and receptions, and houses his collection of antique cars, wagons, and farm machinery. Marvin took the notion to build the barn in 2004, and just started off without any plans, just figuring it out as he went along, as he put it. He figured just fine. It is both an engineering and construction wonder.

The barn is 68 feet in diameter, has 18-ft. high walls, is 53-ft high, and includes 52,000 bricks. It has a 40-ft. intermediate ring of supporting posts and beams for the 107 joists that are set into pockets in the brick walls, and end around a spiral staircase in the center.  While statistics can be interesting, even more is imagining hand trimming each cedar roofing shingle to conform to a circle, or soaking the 1 X 4 boards they are nailed to until they were supple enough to conform to the round concentric circles of the roof. Then, rather than having a floor plank run uninterrupted for 20 feet as in most buildings, having to cut it between each joist and trimming both ends to fit like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. It is a work of art, and nothing short. Besides all this, it is only the third round barn in all of Oklahoma, preceded by an 1898 barn in Arcadia and another in Sallisaw.

I found this one almost too cool for words.  It is a horse-drawn mail truck for Rural Route  No. 5.  For winter mail delivery, there is a pot-belly coal stove in the carriage, with the smoke stack coming out the left side and rising above the roof height.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Ibi Is Done

Headed for Michigan.  We'll tell you all about it when we get back, and we'll even have some pictures.

The Worst Job Is Done

Credit: Google images

Jean came running in the back door yelling, “Come here. Come here, quick.” (That usually means there’s a snake in the yard, or she’s found panther footprints in the yard. The latter was awhile ago. The ground is so hard now an M-1 tank wouldn’t leave a print in the dirt.) I went outside, in my stocking feet, and she was pointing toward the treetop. There it was. I would assume this wouldn’t be an unusual sight to people in the bird’s habitat, but this isn’t its natural habitat, and I have never seen one before. I went back in for the binoculars, and she went in for the National Geographic bird guide for “Birds of North America, “ which identified it as a yellow-headed blackbird. Larger than a normal blackbird, it is quite spectacular with its brilliant yellow head plumage.

Besides the last minute things you need to do before starting an expedition, there are the last minute jobs to complete to care for the house left behind. My design was to procrastinate as long as possible, and do this task just before leaving to get Ibi. Crawling around under the house on my belly while treating the soil for subterranean termites has to be my most despised house maintenance jobs. While dragging myself through mold and mildew, trying to suck air through a thick mask, smacking spiders into oblivion, and dragging a light and extension cord, hose and spray applicator, spray concentrate, and an assortment of tools, I hate it, but I got it done.

It looks like Darrin will be doing most of his updating on the Facebook link to his blog(Canoe Across America). He got in 21 miles on his first day, but was windbound yesterday. I looked up the Astoria, Oregon, weather to see what he’s looking at. Man! It’s gruesome. The whole week, at least until Thursday, looks like this.

Friday, April 1, 2011


If you haven't checked out the link to Canoe Across America yet, please do.  Darrin Kimbler and his sidekick, Mike, are supposed to be pushing off this morning at the very moment that I'm writing this.  We wish him a good time and the best of luck on his 5,200 mile trip.

I heard from Scott Smith yesterday.  He had to wait for some rudder parts, so Ibi should be finished Monday rather than today.  The trip up to Michigan and back with the boat will take four or five days, but eventhough I haven't run any water miles under her hull yet, I feel we're finally moving forward and close to push off.