Cairo to the Gulf (click on picture to enlarge)

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Thursday, July 22, 2010

A Father's Perspective

We are looking forward to the Open House/Celebration on August 21st.  Again, everyone and anyone is welcome to attend.  We may extend the time frame that Aaron and Jake will speak to the crowd ... stay tuned.

As we made the 15 hour drive home yesterday I had time to reflect on the last 50 some days.  My original intent was to update the map and post a short blog about the trip once a week.  This changed when I got Aaron and Jake's first text on May 29 that said, "Made 25 miles, camping at Stumphges Rapids."  I knew Aaron said they were hoping to go 15 miles the first day but he wasn't sure if they could make it that far.  I looked at the Minnesota maps to see where Stumphges Rapids were and read about that section of the river.  I felt this needed to be shared with everyone.  It was apparent that this was not going to be a leisure stroll down the river.  The feedback I got from friends and family was overwhelming so I decided to post everyday. 

The past few days have been very stressful and emotional for me as a parent.  I was well aware of just how difficult the last section of the river was.  On Saturday, my wife Carol and I drove over 200 miles on a reconnaissance mission to find a place to pick them up on the river so they could get a night's rest in a hotel for the final push to the Gulf.  Actually I had to convince both Aaron and Jake that they would benefit from a good meal, shower and bed, neither wanted to stop.  This section of the river is all industrial, it is also under the control of the New Orleans Port Authority.  This means 90% of the shoreline is not accessible because of fencing and guard stations.  After we spoke to a Port Authority security guard and after a visit to the 2nd ward Police station, we found a park on the water's edge at mile marker 101. I had spoken to Aaron earlier in the day and told him we could get them at the "steps" in downtown New Orleans which is mile 94.  Aaron said they were not making good time, it was very hot, the ship traffic was non stop and the current was slowing down. "I don't think we can make mile 94 Dad", said Aaron. The park at 101 would be perfect.  We drove to the park and tried to call Aaron to tell them where to stop, but there was no answer.  As I called I could see this little canoe on the opposite side of the river from the park!  Carol and I yelled and waved trying to get their attention.  This had no affect because the river is wide and the guys were focused on each stroke of the paddle as ocean going ships and huge barges passed them by.  Even if they did see us there was no way for them to cross the river at that point without being run over.  Helplessly watching them plod along filled me with every emotion imaginable.  I was so relieved to see them, I was so proud that I teared up, I was so mad that they couldn't see me, I was so scared for their safety, I was so concerned that they now would have another 7 miles to paddle and it was already close to 6:00 p.m.  We drove the seven miles through crowded streets to the "steps" and waited anxiously.  If they didn't see us at the steps there would not be another spot to pick them up for the next 50 miles.   Luckily I got a  hold of Jake on the phone and explained that the city of New Orleans was going to be on their port side "O.K. I better hang up then because we have a small window to cross the river right now", said Jake.  The rest of this story was explained on the post titled "Who Dat?"

Two days later I was in Venice, Louisiana once again trying to find a place to get Aaron and Jake.  As we drove to the end of any roads we were confronted with a "military type war zone".  Because of the BP oil leak this entire area was now under BP/government control.  I went to one of the two marinas in Venice and walked around with my canoe for the cure shirt on hoping to find a boat to pick Aaron and Jake up.  You see, mile 0 is 12 miles beyond Venice.  I spoke to a man that was obviously a local fishing guide.  He said, BP has every single boat under contract. "I would like to help ya but I can't, BP has everyone of us contracted 24/7".  The marina was filled with 100s of people walking around in Coast Guard uniforms, there was not a smile on any one's face.  The whole scene really was eerie. Finally we spoke to a police officer who told us there is not a chance of us getting a boat.  He also said "You better let them know that if they go to mile 0 there will be no rides back and they will have to paddle upstream to get back to Venice."  A few minutes later I drove up on the levee (illegally) and saw Aaron and Jake paddling down the river. I snapped a few shots as the Coast Guard gave Aaron and Jake the same information I learned from the police.  1/2 mile later I drove to an old boat ramp where Aaron and Jake's trip came to a quiet end. 

There was no fanfare, no fireworks, no bands playing.  Perhaps this is fitting,  both Aaron and Jake are very humble and they never did this with the intent to gain recognition.  Instead they did this for a cause.  I handed Aaron a cheap bottle of champagne they purchased Saturday night in New Orleans.  The trip was over.

Extreme pride and relief poured over me as I snapped over 100 photographs of the finish.

Aaron's dad's last post.

5 comments:

  1. Linnaea ButterfieldJuly 22, 2010 at 10:29 AM

    Brian, this last post had me crying. I have enjoyed this blog so much and am going to miss your very informative updates, however I know you are glad they are done and safe. See you on Aug. 21st.

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  2. Please do not let this be the last post...please keep us updated as far as the party...the final contribution amount and the next steps in the lives of these two great guys.

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  3. It is hard to read this without tears welling up. What a great accomplishment, and a great job you did to keep us all informed!

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  4. Congrats guys! Fantastic effort. I'd like to interview you both for our podcast Contribuventure Radio. www.contribuventure.org. Please get in touch via jake@contribuventure.org.

    Jake Allen

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  5. I am completely agree with your all the points and we get a lot of information from this blog.
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