(I have no idea why, but the post Into the Waves – The Scary Kind seemed to cut off abruptly at when Nelson carries our bags up to the cabin. If you were scratching your heads wondering, “What the hell happened at the cabin?” uh, I was too. I wrote a bunch more about Peter telling me how to make headcheese, Janice claiming I had voices in my head, and Amber insulting me into fits of laughter. So, I grabbed an old save; here is the post as it was intended. Skip down to The Mobergs if you just want to know what happened after we went up to the cabin. Photo from Aitkin, MN: Thanks to Shelly and Jack for teaching me how to fish and forgiving my mangling of their smallmouth bass while applying my lackluster gutting skills. Love you guys. Shelly, will be calling you on your B-day. What are you? Like 36 or something?
I will tell you in an upcomming post about our crossing of Cass Lake at 11 pm at night, about being blown to the far north shore when we needed to be far, far east. I will tell you about our brush with death as 4-foot waves blew us precariously towards the rushing dam. I will tell you about Phil screaming for us to push towards the portage point with no light to guide us, about his shaking with cold, about my moment of compassion where I took off my sweatshirt to give it to him as his teeth chattered on the rocks. I will tell you about our subsequent crossing of Lake Winibigoshish. 5-foot waves this time. Striving to reach the far north shore, failure, desperation, hurt muscles and an inability to stop for fear of stranding or swamping or worse. I will tell you about our arguments over GPS interpretations, over trivial details, my string of profanities leveled at the night, Phil’s angry silence, my angry silence and breaking thereof. I will tell you about our easy coast with a beautiful tailwind, the meeting of a Chippewa woman who pushed a wooden canoe filled with posessions of her dead daughter into the water and asked us to guide it along the river. I will tell you about the quick building of fires, the envy of other paddlers, the hate of haters, the love of lovers, the pulling of 4-wheelers on top of drunken human bodies in a gleeful Minnesota redneck celebration, free beer on the 4th of July, free chicken, free hamburgers, free games of Bocce Balls with the 9-year-old kid, free sticks thrown to the dogs who picked up the scent to our campsite, lonely walks in the woods, lovely sunsets, and our beautiful, beautiful experience in Aitkin, Minnesota.
This will all come. You will know all that has happened between our departure from the heaven which was the Mobergs, our hell which was Lake Winnibigoshish, and our purgatory (though I think I like purgatory best) which, recently, was Aitkin.
For now, however, I would like to do something very important: give thanks.
As I type this, I am at a Red Roof Inn in Brainerd, MN. Phillip threw down for a room. It is heaven. I know I have said this several times. When we were cold and hungry and couldn’t find the campsite at Coffee Pot Landing at Lake Itasca, beans cooked on a fire were heaven. When it was about to rain and shelter was elusive, the Moberg cabin and their warm foam beds were heaven. A ride in Nelson’s dirty (Ha, ha, sorry Nelson; it was! No sweat though, my cars have looked far worse!) Pontiac as he wailed on about Ted Nugent, fat Indian women hitting on him, douchy frat boys and his fears about seeming too much like them… all of this was heaven. Now the Red Roof Inn in Brainerd is heaven. Phillip using the last juice of my cell phone to track down a cab to bring us here (as opposed to powering through the 30 mph headwinds – swear to God we had our first south wind of the trip today and it was brutal! – into town) was heaven. The hot tub after 2.5 weeks of gunk stuck to our skin is, well, you know. Jumping into the cold pool… (A man plays with his 3 beautiful kids.) …jumping back into the hot tub, back into the cold pool, a run to the sauna, into the pool… hot to cold, to hot to cold (my muscles are grateful) is all heaven.
I am appreciating the little things. Can you not see?
For most people, a hotel is a for granted.
If you go somewhere that is not your home and you do not stay with a friend, you stay in a what? Of course. Duh. You go to a Courtyard Marriot, or a La Quinta… somewhere with Wi-Fi internet, somewhere with HBO surely, somewhere that can remind me of home, home, home. Creature comforts, they are beautiful.
Our home for 2.5 weeks now has been floor, ground, cold, water, boat, living, nature, beauty, harsh, live, mellow, distant, weeds, grass, ground again, power lines, may-I-please-camp-on-your-land, may-you-not-bite-me-mosquito-for-the-love-of-God, elements, outside, not inside, wind, rain, hot, lovely… life. We have been thrust into all that is real. It has been cold and hard and wonderful all at the same time. It has made me crave Skor bars (I confess I ate 3 of them at the gas station in Pallisade.), it has made me appreciate rice and beans, it has made me love and crave salt, pepper, olive oil, instant potatoes that I had always thought were gross. I love those things now. How hokey to say that going on this trip has made me more appreciative of the simple things! Well, my friend, hokey it must be – I appreciate the little things after being on this trip for only a week and a half.
I appreciate the article that was done on us in the Minneapolis St. Paul Star Tribune. Paul Walsh called me out of the blue. I had no bars on my phone, only a T. I can barely hear his voice. He’s crackly. “(Crrrrrrrraaaccccckkkkkk.) I’m from the Star Tribune…..(crrrraaaacccckkkk.)” Holy CRAP! TTTTHE Star Tibune, I think, the same one I used to follow the Al Franken Norm Coleman saga a year ago. I mean, dude! that’s a maaaay-jor paper! “Errrrrr, ahem (clears throat), yes I’m Ryan Jeanes and I would love to speak with you. How may I be of assistance?” Dude, you sound like a storm trooper; be natural! “I mean, what up dog! I mean, Mr. Walsh.” Shit!
That last paragraph made me smile, and I am smiling. I love injecting humor into my posts. I love injecting humor into my life, into others lives. 2 nights ago, Phil and I were invited over from the river to dine and drink with a family camping on the banks in Aitkin, MN. We were treated to fish fries, to good Natural Ice, to camraderie, to laughs and laughs and more laughs. We were treated to an interview by Lakeland Public Television (I’m warning you – you’ll have to wait to the very end to see us; it’s almost not worth it because the buffer is all screwy but if you really want to see my mad interviewing skills, wait till the very end; it’s the last segment.) Josh, the reporter, was asking us about the river, about the bugs, about the effort required. He had finished taping when Shelly, the woman who had enticed us from the river with catcalls of free beer, turned to him and said, “Hey Josh, you need to go get us smokes and beer after this. You’re probably the only sober one left. And also I want you to get me and my family on camera. You can start with me. My name is Shelly, and I’m a pedophile.” She laughed and laughed and laughed. Josh looked scared and nervous. I was rolling on the floor.
For What Else am I Grateful?
After leaving Aitkin, I called up the Aitkin Independent Age, the local newspaper. I convinced the editor to meet us on a dirt, country road. She accepted. Phil and I climbed the bank and popped our heads up nearly scaring her half to death. “I thought you guys were hay farmers,” she said. “Then I realized, ‘Why the hell would a hay farmer be climbing the banks of the river?'” I filmed Phil fielding questions like a pro and felt very, very grateful. “I need to get a shot of you guys in the boats,” the reporter said as she pulled out her camera. “Well ma’am,” I said tongue in cheek, “I’d love to climb all this way up this bank to say goodbye to you after the photo, but the chances of that happening are slim to none. So let me say my goodbyes and thankyous here and you can get the shot as we leave.” She laughed and we got in and left. I haven’t seen the photo yet but I feel that must have been the coolest photo she’s taken in her life. It sure felt like the coolest photo I’ve ever had taken of me. Dirty, sweaty, grimy, on camera – what other way is there to be?
I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but this post is brimming with optimism. I feel good. For the first time in a long while, I feel really really good. The work we’re doing is… bringing the country together. Is that conceited? To think that creating a documentary that unites the people of the northern river with the southern river, a documentary that shows all people of all walks of life united by a common body of water. We’ve met rednecks, Indians, blue collars, light blue collars, rich folks, news reporters, carpenters, dogs of all types, fishermen, backwoods hippies, transients; the number of people we’ve met already, only 300+ miles in is staggering. We’re not even out of Minnesota yet; and, if we had to, we could make a movie out of what we’ve shot. I’m happy, very happy.
Not for Distance, Not for Speed
This trip will break no records. Realistically, if we were out to break records, we would not be carrying this much gear. We would have hard-shell kayaks or canoes, we would have special paddles, etc. etc. In the comments section of the Paul Wash piece, you’ll see a lot of haters: Jeez, these guys are going to take three months??????? What a couple of douches! or I met these jokers; they’re gay; f— them, etc. etc. etc. What’s funny about the guy who says he met us is that he says our trip was slated to leave on May 15. The only people who knew that was our original date were people who were reading the blog early on, which consisted of my mom, my dad, my dog and hampster and maybe 10 other unidentifieds. So I have no idea how this dude claims he met us, presumably on the river, and says our departure date was in May. For over a month the departure date was the first day of summer, June 21. Anywho, haters, haters, haters.
They’re not Prepared!
That was the gist of several other comments. Oh, you guys, aren’t using the right boats; You guys are gay whores; Your feet smell; Yadda Yadda Yadda… I’m a dirty tramp. For the hatemeister-B’s out there who cain’t understand the logic behind the inflatable boat, I’m going to give you the short version: They were given to us!!! Sea Eagle is our sponsor!!! Sea Eagle is a reputable company that, dollar for dollar, makes some of the best boats in the business. You use what you have, not what you don’t have. We’re going down in inflatables; end of story. You don’t like it? Go down the river in a rocket ship or whatever you feel is best. Hell, ride a g-damn sea turtle for all I care; but tone down the hatin’, y’all. We’re on the river. It’s too slow for your tatstes??? WE’RE MAKING A MOVIE!!! That’s the whole point of this! We’re not breaking speed records. We spend 5-10 hours at a time with people we meet on the river. We film them. We find out all their dirty, little secrets and air them on Fox News. We’re muckrakers, not paddlerakers. Jeeeeez. Oh, if you want the nice, technical reason for why we’re using inflatables, read Phillip’s post; it’s top notch.
We’re Not Supposed to be Prepared
We’re city boys, y’all! We’re doing this by the seat of our inflatable boats. Of course we have no idea what we’re doing! We never said we did. The first time I hitchhiked, I went out to the side of the road outside my parents house, stuck my thumb out and hoped like all heck someone would stop. I didn’t really think anyone would, but lo and behold a red jeep flipped a U-ey and picked me up. Then Phil and I did The Hitchhiking Movie, and the rest is history. Now people would consider us seasoned hitchhikers. I would consider myself a seasoned hitchhiker. I sure as hell didn’t know what I was doing the first time I tried it. Those first few paddle strokes out of Lake Itasca were, uh, fledgling, to put it lightly. I didn’t know what the hell I was doing. Where in the living Bejesus did you ever get the impression that you need to know how to do something before you do it???? I mean is that even logical. You need to know how to paddle before you paddle.
Uh, how the heck to I learn to paddle before I paddle. Don’t I paddle to learn how to paddle?
Don’t you sass me, boy. (Slap.)
Obviously the only way to learn is to learn by doing. Right now I can tell you that I can start a fire fairly quickly. Before it took me 30 minutes. I was a city boy, remember? Right now I can tell you what kind of clothes to wear to keep the bugs off, the exact moment to strike to kill a deer fly, the best spots to take advantage of the current. How to cut the wind’s force in half. How to tie the supply boat so it tracks better. How to say hello in such a way that people want to offer you a beer or ask you where you’re going and why. How to do an interview. How to handle sore muscles. When to take Ibuprofen. When to lay off the pain-killers. When to take a break. When I don’t need to take a break and when I’m just being a whiner. How to shield myself from headwinds with jutting banks. How to use the reeds to break the waves. How to keep the boat from swamping. How to use the supply boat as a sail. How to hook up solar panels. How to use the slo mo function on the camera. What point to climb to to get cell service. What kind of boat I’d take if I ever did a trip like this again.
I mean, dude!!! how the hell do you learn all this stuff before you go???
The answer? Ta dah! YOU DON’T
I’m Grateful for Haters
At the risk of sounding like Alanis Morisette’s “Thank you India…” song, I am grateful for even the people that have poo poohed the journey because, in part, they’re right. All of their perspectives have a place and are welcome. Though they be inartful in thier expression, or perhaps even crass, (Though how can I fault someone for crass expression, have you read some of my posts??? I think I got the whole crass bit down.) many of their points of views I already share. It’s just that, the details are unimportant. What’s important is that I’m on the river. I’m moving. I’m doing it. No this is not a perfect situation. Yes, I need a hard-shell canoe, but I don’t have one, and everyone! asks questions about the Sea Eagle boats. They’re like, “Whoa! What are those!” The point of this trip is to attract attention, make people ask questions, not burn down the highway like Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner.
I’m Grateful for…
- Shelly and Jack for giving me beer two nights ago.
- This hotel, this hot tub, recuperated muscles, the ablility to type online unfettered and share this adventure with you.
- Paul Walsh and the readers of the Star Tribune who went to our site and increased our traffic by 800% (no joke, thank you!)
- Of course, Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner who taught me how to entertain, and that the journey is best enjoyed… slow.