Friday, July 8, 2011

Outlasting The Storm & The Final Paddle

Day 29
In the middle of the Mississippi, on a small sandbar, we made our camp. We were 100 miles away from St. Louis—so close we could practically smell the Gateway Arch. We were just zipping up our tents for the night, feeling very positive that were going to make it. You could say we were feeling rather home free. But what happened next took us completely by surprise.

A powerful wind suddenly swept in. In the space of an instant, everything was chaos. It was as though nature had decided to throw a rock concert on our camp site and forgot to tell us about it. We couldn’t hear over the thunder and wind. We couldn’t see through the crowd of rain. We were blinded by lightening pyrotechnics. Our tents were pulled out of the ground and blown across the sandbar. The water quickly began to rise and it was apparent that we were going to have to leave, and quick!

Don’t worry, we got to shore safely. No one was hurt, but it was definitely a dangerous situation. We found out later that the wind speeds reached nearly 85mph!

Nature had given us a whupin’ at exactly the moment we let our guard down and we suddenly remembered what Kenny had said. “Respect the river.” It wasn’t as though we were disrespecting the river, we simply weren’t keeping in mind all the things that the river is capable of, both great and terrible. Our minds were thinking about our friends, our homes, our subscriptions to Netflix, and the finish line.

Nature can appear to move really slow at times. But nature can also move swiftly—and how! That was a lesson I don’t think we will soon forget.

Day 30
We decided to paddle the last 70 miles of the trip all in one day.

Since we’ve been home, everyone has been asking us, “What is it like to canoe for 70 miles in one day?” First, we should tell you that we were able to go faster than normal. In fact, it was the fastest we had gone the entire trip. We had a slight tail wind the whole way, the water had risen from the rain and was moving swiftly, and of course, we had been paddling for a whole month—WE’RE SUPER STRONG NOW! BAMSKI!

Anyway, conversation gets strange over the course of 12 hours. It went from deep philosophizing to song-singing to argument to more singing then to just singing every sentence you say and finally to jokes (Justin’s doesn’t have very good jokes by the way). You could just say it’s a lot like riding in the car on a road trip, only it’s a lot more peaceful and watery. And instead of pushing the gas pedal you have to make the car (a.k.a. canoe) go forward with your muscles (big muscles) like the Flinstones.

But more memorable than the conversation we shared was the silence (which was also shared). We did a lot of reflection. You know, just thinking. The repetition of the paddling motion becomes hypnotizing and kinda comforting in a way. It felt a lot like distance running. It was easy to get swept up in the rhythm of your own breathing, the sound of moving through the water, the miniature whirl-pools left in the wake.

Where do those whirl-pools go? It’s one of those questions that pops in your head during a period of long silence. You have a lot of questions like that which you just keep in your head…or your blog.

Time drifts away and no longer matters. How many miles have we gone? That doesn’t matter either.

Before we know it, there’s St. Louis and her Gateway to the West. Even though seeing the city around the river bend was an absolutely euphoric moment as well as quite an accomplishment, there was something else. A tugging sensation. Like there’s a fishing string attached to some part of our brains and there’s a little fish nibbling on it. It makes us want to keep paddling. What’s the next city? What is the river like further down? Is there any reason why we can’t just keep going?

Oh yeah, we have shows to play.

But it’s like Forrest Gump once said, “Since I gone this far, I might as well just keep on goin’. I ran clear across Alabama. I ran clear to the ocean. And when I got there, I figured since I gone this far, I might as well just turn around and just keep on goin’. When I got to another ocean, I figured since I’d gone this far, I might as well just turn back and keep right on goin’.”

Maybe someday we’ll take another trip. And not because we want to get somewhere. With all trips like this, you realize that getting there wasn’t the point. It wasn’t the best part or even the reason for going. It was just a place to stop.

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