Usually it is January when I write a post about the frozen Connecticut River and my dreams of paddling the Ohio River in the summer. Winter thaws and abnormally warm temperatures have given way to two Nor’easters in the last two weeks. Now, March 18th, we are in the grip of an Arctic blast that took the temperatures below 0 F. Tonight it is due to be even colder but they have called off the storm for next week. I don’t know who “they” are but the internet no longer shows three days of snow as it did last week. “They” play with us.
I am among those who do not mind the snow, overall. I don’t like to drive in it but if people are safe, I can enjoy it’s beauty. I don’t like the ups and downs of recents winters, however. But it is the latter part of March and it will all be gone soon enough. In just over two months, Karen and I will be out on the Ohio once again…and for our last week long trip before we hit the Mississippi River. 17 or 18 years ago…we are never sure…we first talked about paddling from Western New York to New Orleans. Time and age have made us wise, and we have decided that this big adventure will end this year. In May we will paddle another 130 miles or so and then in October we will complete the last leg to Cairo, Illinois.
We both have a sense of melancholy about this year. We are not ready to give up our adventures together but we will likely stick closer to home as we find other adventures. The Susquehanna River, the Hudson River, and the Connecticut River are all nearer and easier to access. They should keep us busy for some time to come.
For now, the Ohio River is the focus. I continue to marvel at how the people along its banks have watched out for these two strangers paddling through their homes. Only once have we really felt in danger and that was from the weather. Father Dan took us into his church. Countless other times we have received the grace and kindness of strangers. Cookies, bottles of water, ice on a boiling hot day, dinner, a place to camp, anti-itch lotion, conversation, a swimming pool, an air conditioned cabin, a hot tub, a ride. When we needed something, it was there.
Today as I reflect on the river, I think about Facebook posts from those we have met along the way. I realize how very different my views of the world are from some of those whom we have met. Facebook is a place where those differences are strong. Yet, I am interested to read what others believe. I repost, like, or simply try to absorb with an open mind those posts representing another angle on life. And I know that, if my life were in danger, anyone of our new friends on the river would seek to protect me regardless of our political views. I wish everyone could have a riverside view of our nation. I think it would help us overcome our differences, not fight about them. We would eat each other’s food, listen to each other’s stories, question our own perspectives, and perhaps each of us might change a little bit because we respect the other one.
One of the most common questions we are asked about our trips is: “Are you ever afraid?” Well, yes, there was another time. It was the wild animal night that got our hearts racing. We were afraid that night. But overall we have not been afraid. Over 1,000 miles of paddling and 17 years, we have met the best of what humanity has to offer on that river. I look forward, once again, to what new friends may come into our lives this year.