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Part 2 Jan. 9th - Day 20 - Sea Kayak Florida Circumnavigation

Updated: Jan 29

Georgia - St George - Sectional Kayak - Rockpool Taran Kayak

My phone rang me awake. People were calling me. They saw that I deviated from the planned route through the swamp and wanted to know what happened. I told them the issue, but that all was fine, it’s all part of the story. What will be, will be.

At 7am the temperature was down to freezing, the night is always coldest until just before dawn. Everything inside the tent was cold to the touch, especially the water bottles, and the condensation under the rainfly from my breath and body heat was dripping. When I broke some water off to the side of the tent, so much steam rose up that it reminded me of the morning fog over the St Marys River three nights ago.

Yesterday’s long walk gave me some pause for thought. The base of my toes developed some thick calluses where they grab around sandal straps. These sandals are comfortable padded flip flops, but they are not made for walking 25 miles, never mind more. I concluded that some way or another, I was not going to walk to Fargo.

I contemplated my first option, to call an Uber or Lift. Unfortunately, no drivers were willing to do a drive from no place to nowhere all the way from Jacksonville, only to have a long unbillable empty ride back. St George is just too out of the way.

My second, and I suppose only remaining option, was to ask around if anyone with a pickup truck would drive me and my kayak to Fargo. Surely in this town, pickup trucks and people with nothing to do must be like hand and glove. I prayed that given there was not one, but two churches in town, at least one of the ministers must have sermoned about the Good Samaritan.

I first went to the dollar store, but the clerk said she didn’t know anyone. I then went by the gas station where I again met with Michael the cashier, who seemed happy to see me, but said he couldn’t leave the store. I supposed he’d already done his part. I asked a guy filling up at the station with what was the perfect empty pickup truck, but he said he couldn’t though I think he just didn’t want to. I was more than aware that I was asking for a big favor.

With no one else around this early, I was running out of people to ask, so I decided to try a more sweetened approach. There was one small pub in town across from the gas station open for breakfast. I walked in and saw one table with 4 elderly gentlemen drinking coffee and eating toast. “Good Morning friends! Lovely day isn’t it? I’m the guy who was camped just out front. I need to get to Fargo with my kayak so I can continue my journey. I’m going around Florida. Would anyone be willing to drive me and my kayak there? I’ll pay $100.” I said in my most friendly voice I could infatuate.

It was Mr. Benjamin, however, who had the desired effect. “Oh, one of us can get you there for sure. I have a van, and my brother Wayne here has a truck. Either one of us can take you. I’m Bud by the way.”

And so, I got my ride to Fargo. Bud and Wayne got up and soon reappeared with a big bright white van that only had the front seats. They fitted a hair with some rickety metal legs for me to sit on. I broke up the boat into the 3 pieces, got everything loaded, and we were on our way.

Bud and Wayne had a southern accent so thick it was a bit hard for me to understand them, but over the ride they told me a bit of their story. Both were born in Jacksonville and had lived in St George all their lives. Bud sometimes goes down to Jacksonville, and he’s been to Tampa once. Wayne has been as far as Atlanta. None of them, they said, had ever gone to Fargo Georgia. That’s the extent of their world. I was not surprised. Some 13 years ago I was in a little town called Lagunas in the Peruvian jungle where I talked to a local who said he had never been farther than Iquitos a half a day’s boat ride downriver and had never seen the ocean. I suppose that if all your basic needs are taken care of, there may not be a need to go farther; not being bored with the sameness of everyday life is a skill which I do not have. I was once told that you have success when you get what you want, and happiness when you want what you get. Perhaps I might get success in life, but happiness, probably not, at least not for a long time...

We arrived at the Fargo boat ramp at 10am. Bud and Wayne dropped me off and were soon on their way after filling up with gas. They gave a honk and a hand wave as they passed me on the road and disappeared. I was glad to be here but also a bit disappointed. If I complete the journey around Florida, there will be a small asterix to note that I didn’t quite go “all” the around. I would have liked to have crossed the swamp. I wondered if I should have risked doing it, but I’ll never know.

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I took the time to do two things. One was to eat a hot meal at the gas station pub where I got a thick double patty cheeseburger with bacon and fries. The second was to go by the post office and pick up the new wetsuit pants I ordered on Amazon, to replace the one with the hole. When I was in St Marys, I took the time to order a few other things as well; a new spare pair of paddling gloves as the one I’m using is worn thin, and a huge supply of sour jellybeans. These jelly beans are special. They come in 100 calorie serving packages and supposedly are like chewable Gatorade to give me an energy boost. I’m not sure if they work based on the placebo effect, but they work wonders for me. They are my magic beans.

While reassembling the boat I noticed that one of my stern hinges became loose. I tightened it as far as I could by hand, but still it wouldn’t hold closed. I don’t have a pair of pliers with me, that’s an item to remember to bring next time. I covered it with flex tape until I can find a place to buy one. Hopefully 5 good hinges are enough to hold my boat together.

I started down the Suwannee River in the early afternoon. The water here is even darker and redder than the St Marys River. The river seems quite high, there are sturdy cypress trees in the middle of the channel, and their wide buttressed trunks look like castles surrounded by a dark moat. The trees and the submerged logs make the path through the river like skiing between pole gates. I have to be careful; my kayak is long enough that If I get pinned sideways the force of the water will throw me out the seat and hold the boat as I float downstream. I didn’t see anyone else on the river, so there would be no one to ask for help. After some 6 hours walking, I began to wonder if I had been arrogant with my fate when I turned down help from people who offered to give me a ride into St George. Perhaps I could have sat on the back of an open trunk held tightly to the kayak, and they could have driven slowly into town. I doubt it would have been much faster than walking, but at least I wouldn’t be walking and dogging lumber trucks. If right now someone stopped in front of me on a pickup truck with an empty bed to give me a lift, I most definitely would have said yes.

I finally arrived in St George after walking some 10 hours. St George is a tiny hamlet. There is a gas station and a dollar store, two churches, and not much else. I walked into the gas station with my kayak in tow feeling a sense of accomplishment, but also a sense of dread. Fargo is an even longer walk. I asked the cashier at the gas station if there was anywhere to stay in town. “In St George? No.” he said in a sort of “are you kidding me, this is St George” voice. He could see that his words had demoralized me, and I indeed must have had the helpless look of someone who was lost and no idea what to do. “Here’s what you can do. The field across the road is right in front of my brother-in-law’s house. You camp there in between the trees, and if someone bothers you, you tell them that Michael said you can camp there. Damn, you walked from the Cabins to here, you’ve suffered enough.” I thanked him and did exactly that.

Sea Kayak Florida Circumnavigation


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