Since I started kayaking I have met some of the greatest people in the world. It started when I would work out at Ariel-Foundation Park, doing my laps. I would run across other paddlers, some new to kayaking some old salts. Sometimes I would not get my work out in because we would talk and talk and talk. I recall times sitting on the lake till the bugs started biting and the sun was long gone. We all had one thing in common, we loved being out on the water.
Then one evening while getting my boat out of the water at the ADA Accessible Dock at the park, I met Stephen Fleming from Paddle for Heroes. They were the ones who raised the money to install the dock so it was great to be able to thank him personally for it. I had been using it all Summer to put my boat in and take it out, and it sure made it easier for a old fart like me. At that point, I had lost 70 pounds dieting and paddling all Summer. Stephen invited me to assist Paddle for Heroes on a river clean up the next day, but I could not make it due to it being so cold. I did make it the next year. He also invited me to go on the upcoming paddle to Marietta and this really excited me, because it had always been my dream to put a boat on the river near my house and go to New Orleans.
Through my association with Paddle for Heroes I have met great people on the river, doing clean ups, pulling tires out of the mud, attempting to paddle to Marietta and being saved from drowning by several other paddlers from Paddle for Heroes. I met one of my best paddle buddies Irv Oslin through my paddling mishap and then my success in paddling to Marietta last June. On that trip I met wonderful people who helped me so much with campsites, food, and good talks around the campfire. We did fireworks by kayak at the park on the 4th that was fun. We met in Cincinnati for Paddlefest, camping and then paddling on the Ohio River 9 miles. The ultimate experience was a trip to Mio Michigan for a three day trip down the Au Sable river. On that trip I met by far the toughest woman on the river, my paddling buddy, Sonya Bollin. I rode with her up to Michigan and we had such a good time. We laughed, we cried, we argued, and just had a great time.
It seems at least monthly I am going on a two or three day paddle down one of Ohio’s beautiful rivers. I have seen eagles, hawks, ducks, geese, a beaver, deer, and many many other of nature’s beautiful wildlife. I have slowed down, so that I don’t paddle right past these things. I have learned how to carry on a conversation in between video shoots so that my voice is not on the video. I have pushed myself physically beyond anything I ever thought possible. Portaging Mohawk Dam was the most extreme thing I have ever done. Portaging my equipment past Philo lock was no cake walk, and taking my boat and equipment over Beverly Island through the woods was not as bad as I thought it would be but was still more than I had ever done in my lifetime.
The people that I have met along this journey are the inspiration for me sticking with this journey. Had I not met Joey Butts and his son Joseph Butts, or Jeff and Gina Moser, I don’t know if I could have done any of this. There are many many more people, to many to name here, I thank you all for the great ride, and we have many many more miles left to go!