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We did it!! We travelled 1700 miles from the top of America to the bottom of America. It has taken us over 3 months and has been one amazing journey, but the first leg of our trip is over. Being that we chose the Atchafalaya and not the Mississippi, Morgan City Louisiana (the last town before the Gulf of Mexico) is our New Orleans. We arrived yesterday afternoon after a very arduous day of rowing into 15mph winds, but 20 miles to our South is the Gulf of Mexico and we will be arriving there tomorrow!
Anyway, we rowed up to a town dock in Morgan City yesterday around 2:30pm. Traveling under one bridge and then finding the dock right in between it and another bridge, we found the dock is very loud and rather exposed to wakes, but hey at least it’s a safe place to stay in the city for a couple nights! As we rowed back and forth deciding where to pull up Solvi, a city electrical truck was driving by the dock. Two men got out of the truck and ended up helping us tie off Solvi and started asking all sorts of questions. They then called the person in charge of the city dock and got us permission to stay for two nights. Ten minutes later, Mark, one of the men, had offered to drive us to the grocery store and invited us to his home to shower, do laundry, meet his family, and then go out to dinner. The other man went to City Hall to get us a town map. As usual we were blown away by this kindness and took Mark up on his offer. We exchanged contact information as Mark went back to work and Kyle and I walked to the Post Office and to the grocery store. Once done shopping we called Mark and he came and picked us up and drove us back to the boat. The ride was so nice, not having to walk with 50lb of food is always a wonderful treat. He then showed us where his house was and said whenever we were ready to walk over and we’d go out to eat. Kyle and I spent an hour getting our groceries unpacked and organized and then headed over to our new friends house. We met Mark’s two kids and hopped in the car to go out for Sushi. The five of us had a wonderful dinner full of stories, jokes, laughter, and getting to know one another. The interaction between all of us was so easy and natural that I felt as though we had been friends for a long while. After dinner we hung out at Mark’s for a bit, chatting until we were all yawning and ready for bed. Kyle and I walked the half mile back to the boat (he offered for us to stay at the house but we worry about Solvi) and had a decent night sleeps thanks to some ear plugs to block out the bridge noise! But the extreme kindness and hospitality doesn’t stop there. Mark, himself, when he was our age also travelled around America- playing music and vagabonding from place to place. He said that during that time so many people provided him hospitality and kindness that he really wants to do the same for us. Therefore he told us that he would be at work and the kids would be at school, but that the front door is open and we are welcome to bathe, shower, do laundry, use Internet, eat his food, and make ourselves at home. He then invited us over for crabs and cold beer by the fire the following evening. So as I type this I am sitting at a kitchen table that was fully set for two people when we arrived. I am in a comfortable house, shoes off, laundry drying, and about to take my second hot shower in over 3 months. We made coffee, eggs, and toast in his kitchen while all our devices charged in the living room. I washed our clothes in an actual washing machine for the first time since we left (what a great invention a washing machine is!!). I quite literally feel as though I am at home right now, hanging out on a sunny Friday morning. Mark, we thank you with our hearts full of gratitude.
At the beginning of this journey I do not think I would have felt comfortable taking someone up on such a personal and exceptional offer. I would have felt as though I was being a burden or that I didn’t want to get in their way. But something has changed as we travel down this river. I am starting to view the world a bit differently. Instead of viewing us humans as independent and unconnected people, I have began to realize that we are all, as human, connected. That behind the white picket fence is a family, a person, a story that is worth sharing! There is no need to be so closed to others, in fact we should try to do just the opposite. To embrace our fellow human beings and to become a community full of friendship, connection, deep relationships, and good doings. I think that Mark said it best last night before we left and said our goodbyes. Kyle and I were thanking him for his generosity and he said something along the lines of: “Now that we are together, you are a part of my story and I’m a part of your story, and now we share those stories and they are forever connected.” That wasn’t verbatim, but the point is that due to Mark reaching out his hand and us taking it, we have written a part of each other’s stories and made an impact far beyond anything I would have ever expected. I have no doubt that Mark and his family will continue to be friends of Kyle and I’s and that we will see each other again, even after this journey ends. Time and time again I have been absolutely blown away by the acts of kindness by complete strangers. And it has been happening so often on this voyage that it is slowly changing my perspective on the world and the people in it. Now, I know there are deep lessons within these interactions that haven’t even surfaced fully, and I am not quite ready to write an in-depth reflection about the things I have learned, but I will say one thing: Let’s work together to be kind to one another, to open our hands, our hearts, and our minds to strangers and people we might not have talked to otherwise. Let’s begin to make all of our stories intertwine! How wonderful the world would be.
So as I smile and type, thinking about all the good there is in this world of what the media seems to sometimes make seem bad, I look forward to the rest of the day exploring Morgan City and then eating blue crabs (my first time trying them) over the fire with Mark and his girlfriend before we head to the Gulf in the morning. Which leads me to another thought- I also want to take a moment to thank all of you reading this right now. The support, encouragement, comments, emails, and connections that have come from me sharing this journey with you all has blown me away just as much as the River Angels. I had no idea I would reach people that I didn’t know, and that so many people would be so kind and thoughtful in their encouragement. So to those of you who are reading and following along, thank you. With all my heart, you guys are River Angels just as much as the people we meet along the way. This has been a tremendous endeavor and I am grateful for every moment and interaction it has brought. Cheers!