Cell service!

Well we finally did find a little bit of reception. Just about the time we hit the 900 mile mark on the Ohio River that means we have less than 81 miles to go to get to the Mississippi. First day on the river yesterday was amazing. We had lots of firsts including we paddled about 40 miles. That’s the most we’ve ever done in a day. We were also able to use our wind sale and that move this along though we realize not as fast is when we’re paddling strongly. Today we still have some tailwinds which were taking advantage of with the sale again but by this afternoon a storm will come in and we may be grounded. Locals are saying it may rain until Friday. But meanwhile it’s been amazing so far and we are grateful for all the people who have helped us along the way. Especially those who let us camp at their campground last night and shower and prepare our dinner in their air conditioned house a.k.a. bar. Here are a few pictures from today. A memorial to the florist spire minors and the quick stop at a local café

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No internet

Our apologies to our followers. We are in the Shawnee national Forest part of Illinois and there is essentially no Wi-Fi or Internet service. So you will only occasionally or never get updates from here on in. Took a break in rosiclare Illinois just now. Expecting rain for the rest of the trip!

First morning

On the river by 6 am and made good progress until we hit the lock and couldn’t get ahold of them. So we are waiting for this passing. Argh to lock in and get in touch them them on our behalf. This is a new challenge for us!

And we are off!

I am particularly grateful and amazed at life, and the family and friends which it bring to us if we are open to them. Yesterday, the Monroe Family celebrated a family wedding in Maryland. My niece, Hannah, is the fourth of five cousins on the Monroe side to be married. A wedding presents an opportunity for the confluence of lives, experiences, differences, hopes, challenges, and dreams.

Yesterday, John and I had breakfast with Sarah, my best friend of 51 years. To be able to celebrate that friendship year after year is beyond wonderful. It is sacred.

At the reception yesterday I was talking to my brother, father of the bride, about the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. He reminded me that the ancient people around the world celebrated the sacred reality of the confluence of great rivers. Those sites are considered sacred sites. I haven’t done the research into that but I suspect it is because the rivers are the conduit to connect us to other “tribes” and to resources that our tribes and future depend upon. The rivers are life.

And so Karen and I celebrate 25 years of friendship this year as we paddle the muddy waters, churned by decades of barges and paddled by centuries of Native people. It is sacred. Somewhere along the way our goal of acquired “getting there” (wherever there may be) turned in a sacred journey in which we celebrate the moment, every person we meet, every piece of ground on which we camp, every barge that creeps up on us peculiarly quiet until it is right next to us, every heron, every eagle, everything. Though we are not as enamored of the rain and wind, even those provoke gratitude.

Today I fly to Cincinnati where Karen will pick me up with our red canoe, Wonder, atop her car. From there we will drive to Uniontown, KY, and meet our new friend, Bryan, who will assist us in travel arrangements this year. And the last full week on the river begins. Sacred and full of life.

 

Dreaming of Summer

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.