Thursday, December 14, 2017

Paradise is a Tough Place to Leave

The eternal gaze of the Snowy Range, part of the larger Medicine Bow Mountains, keep a watchful eye over Saratoga, Wyoming. It's gold medal trout streams draw fly fisherman, novice and expert alike from around the globe. The year round healing waters of it's natural hot springs extend an open arms to all. Many a weary cowpoke or adventurer have found the largest of exhaling "Ahhhhhh" moments slowly lowering themselves into these soulful pools. 1690 folks who still appreciate and cling to the simple pleasures of life live here. And, for my money, this is also where you will find the finest hotel on earth. The Saratoga Hot Springs Resort.

I had been on the road for 4 days now. Or was it 5? The further west I continued on, the more intense the recurring dilemma of each morning became. There was not enough sand in my hourglass, or perhaps i just didn't like the pace at which it was passing from orb to orb. No matter. Beyond my control. The snow and ice covered roads of the Yukon Territory, and beyond that, Alaska, that lay ahead allowed no time to stop long and smell the roses or more appropriately, to dance with the tumbleweeds. The 29th of November was a hard deadline. This left me 7 days to knock down 2500 miles. Final destination, Fairbanks, Alaska.

The small wooden desk in my room at The Saratoga Inn, sat just at the bed's end. It’s front left leg just a bit shorter than the other three, created a bit of a wobble. All pieces perfectly weathered, it seemed the ideal place to sit and write...forever. The perfect cup of coffee, as is any ground and poured by one’s own hand, begged me to stay. It’s scented plume, the perfect mix of chocolate and floral notes put me under their spell. Even I, a novice author, so new to the wordsmithing trade, could pencil out something worthy of the parchment to which I was sharing my thoughts. Just outside my door, fire already ablaze in the library's massive stone fireplace, it seemed at any moment, great authors from days past or perhaps a half dozen cowboys, tired from the “drive” might saunter in.

I imagined my welcoming them and offering a bribe. Fresh coffee in exchange for me being allowed to sit in their midst. Not so long ago, years for me, a second, less than a second in the time span of the mountains looking down into this valley, I had ridden my two wheeled “horse” over Snowy Range pass from Centennial, Wyoming. A couple Moose, mamma and calf, (the first I had ever seen), slowed our progress off the back side of the mountain that day. Eventually into the valley, the view stretched endlessly in every direction. I may as well have been the first to ever lay eyes on it. Awestruck was a word properly used to describe the moment. Not easy to tears, I could feel them welling up. Such a place I had dreamt of and now it was before me. No homes, power lines, nor any other signs of man other than the stretch of road I stood, one leg down, the other still clipped into the left side pedal. It was a view that had been enjoyed, just as it was now, just as it was then. 

I can’t be sure if it was 2 or 30 miles from the base of the mountains to Saratoga, doesn’t really matter other than to give you some scope of it all. The miles passed with ease. Time was less relevant in this wild, yet untamed place.  One got the sense that it existed in a more natural space, marked by snows and thaws more-so than days and nights. 

Natural hot springs, a Main Street that still seemed more suited to hard pack dirt versus asphalt and an old west style kindness awaited us. Truth told, I was in love with the place before I ever laid eyes on her. 

Checking out of the Saratoga Inn came much too soon. Returning to the place had so quickly rekindled our love affair. It seemed a shame having to put her in the rear view mirror again so soon, our romance once again set ablaze.

Swinging the large wooden doors open, the over sized wrought iron handles a bit cold from the sharp winter winds that blew on the other side, a crisp “good morning from the “Snowies” welcomed me to the upcoming day. If so blessed, I would return again, ideally sooner than later, but most certainly, not soon enough. 

Next stop, Missoula, Montana

To your dreams, to ALL our dreams,

Enjoy? - Hit Subscribe to continue to follow along on the journey...eventually becoming a book. Shhhhh it's a secret.

Hope y'all our enjoying the journey. If you are enjoying the writing you can download my first book "40 DAYS" FREE. Maybe a Christmas gift for the adventurer or two in your tribe. It also puts you on the shortlist as the first to get a shot at my upcoming book "Upside Down in the Yukon River". Happy Holidays to you all.

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Sunday, December 3, 2017

A Free Pancake and a Robe (Denver to Saratoga Wyoming)

Recently, I have rededicated to my spiritual practice. A three month adventure to Alaska seemed the perfect opportunity to, in the words of  Will Smith, "Get zenny with it." There are many I follow to get my fix  and education in this area. Sadhguru, Jim Carrey (yeah, that's right, the comedian. Dude knows things), Ram Daas, Mooji, to name a few. Recently, lending my man Sadhguru an ear, as he began to lay what I figured to be some deep "Guru" kinda stuff on me, he goes all short and sweet and throws a dart right into the middle of my third eye.

"You want to be a happier person? Would you like to make the world a happier place?" To which I responded, metaphysically of course, "Hell yeah I would", waiting for the wisdom of the ages to be dropped....."Smile more", he says. And that was it. So endeth the lessen. "Smile more?!?!?! That's it?!?!?! As I looked to the YouTube recording time along the bottom of my I phone, my question found it's answer in the 0:00. Yep, that was it.

My brain found no joy in this. In fact, it revolted. I believe my ego also found this to be a HUGE disappointment. Both wanted some snow covered peak in the distance type advice. They needed this to be a colossal undertaking, one that only the most dedicated and diligent could lay claim to have mastered. "Smile more?!?!" Setting the mind and ego aside for a moment, not an easy thing for me to do. More and more I find the two of them steering the boat as I sit unaware of our final destination. A work in progress, I am,  for sure. Anyway, the two would not sit quietly for long so I looked inward to consider if it could all be just that simple. Was this great secret so obvious that it eluded us all this time? Is it possible it is the greatest of karmic jokes? Had I been sitting cross legged, legs falling asleep, and all this time I could have just 'smiled more?" About that time ego and mind jumped back in and a deal was struck. I'd agree not to believe this simple silliness, but the two of them would have to at least agree to a trial run. Begrudgingly, they accepted. Today I'd be headed through from Denver  to Boulder and eventually to Saratoga, Wyoming as I continued my 10 day or so road trip to Alaska.

First stop after leaving great friend Bill Dabney's place in Denver would be to see another great friend Jo Ann Toman. Jo and I first met long ago during my second stint living in Colorado. She was a server at The Walnut Brewery in Boulder and she was kind enough to help learn me the ropes as I took a swing at waiting tables to support my local adventuring. Her quick snarky wit found a home in my heart real quick. We've remained pals ever since and every time I get near Boulder she is a must see. Much laughter and tomfoolery ensue. My guess is that some wold find our carrying on annoying...although I'm always to busy laughing and trying to keep pace with Jo's wit to notice. After some wonderful banter Jo sent me down the street to local legendary breakfast eatery "Snooze".
Today was day one of the "Smile more" experiment. After the morning's leg falling asleep, cross legged meditation, the day's experiment was set to begin. I was gonna put Sadhguru's ridiculously simple advice to the test. As much as able, as I was sure to drift in and out of "present-ness" throughout the day, I'd go all "whistle while you work" on the world. With smile once again firmly in place, I set off down the street to satisfy the belly.

It was immediately obvious from the first smile of the day, that some sort of chemical release thingamajig was taking place within. It reminded me of a clip from "The Book of Joy" - conversations between His Holiness The Dalai Lama and The Archbishop Desmond Tutu just a day earlier, where it was discussed that indeed, smiling produces a release of this and that in the brain that creates a happy, healthy response. "Hmmmmm, could it be that there is something to this smiling?"

Entering "Snooze", smile on hi-beam, I was immediately met by a dude that did this kick of the heels, welcome to my place, greeting. "Sorry man, I might be a bit over caffeinated." But before he could get the words out completely, as best I could I returned the move and a hi-five followed. "Dude, that was an awesome greeting! No need to apologize". I asked his name, he did the same and just like that, a new friend. Smile still intact, perhaps even a bit stronger I set off for the bar. It was, I kid you not, the only seat in the place. 20 minutes before, there had been a line of a dozen or so waiting to get in. As I arrived, there was no longer a line and after sitting down, maybe 5 minutes later, glancing over my shoulder, again, a line of many. Coincidence? Perhaps. Was there something a bit deeper, some sort of cosmic dance taking place?

The gal behind the bar, probably as she always does, greeted me with a smile to which I was already armed with a return smile. Our conversation was playful and we chatted for what seemed like more than what should have been any one customer's allotted time, but hey we were having fun. once I had ordered, glancing to my left, I noticed a food masterpiece. Inquiring of the fella next to me "What the hell is that you are eating?" To which he smilingly, (I'm sure because of what he was eating and not due to my smiling), responded, "The pancake of the day" - A Pineapple Upside Down Pancake
Buttermilk pancakes with caramelized pineapple chunks, housemade vanilla crème anglaise and cinnamon butter. It appeared to me something straight out of Willy Wonka. Pure breakfast genius.
I chose The Snooze Breakfast Burrito - A Burrito Filled with scrambled eggs, hash browns, house black beans, cheddar & jack cheese, topped with pico de gallo and choice of green chili or ranchero.
Nearly finished, and smiling ear to ear, not out of duty but from a place of belly bliss, my thoughts were interrupted as "The Pancake of the Day" was slid in front of me. Before I was able to inquire, "How, Why?", I was told the happy go lucky dude that had greeted me at the door had sent it my way with a message of "thanks for being fun". I looked around to give a hands up as a sign of gratitude but apparently his shift had ended and he was nowhere to be found.
The drive to Saratoga, a place I had bike toured to and through a few times a decade ago provided plenty of time for continued smiling and reflection on the events of the morning. There was no denying, walking around with a smile had spawned many return smiles....a favorite saying came to mind..."wherever two smiles meet, God is awoken."  The whole free pancake thing was, pun intended, icing on the cake.

Saratoga,Wyoming is home to The Saratoga Inn and tee-pee covered natural hot springs out back. For the first time of the trip I stepped out of the truck and onto snow, which I loved. A recent storm had dropped several inches, some of which had melted, but still the landscape was magnificent covered all in white. As I swung open the old western, heavy oak design door to the place, I made sure I was properly armed, smile locked and loaded. Again, perhaps as was her habit, I was greeted with what seemed a most genuine smile and after asking the ladies name and inquiring a bit about her story and how she ended up in this amazing place, maybe 10 minutes or so passed and jokingly she said "Well, I guess we better get you your keys before we just chat the night away." to which we both laughed. "Would you like a couple home made chocolate chip cookies I brought in to work today to take to the room?" My nice radar fully tuned in I wondered "I wonder if every guest today has gotten such generosity? Probably." "As I prepared to head for my room, still warm cookies in hand she chimed in again..."Wait, we normally charge for these but if your gonna head for the hot springs out back, these big fluffy robes are the best. Here, take one. Shhhhh, our secret."

"WHAT THE WHAT?!?!" Belly laughing on the inside, walking back to what I knew would be an amazing old west comfort of a room, warm chocolate chip cookies and robe in hand, I couldn't dismiss the events of the day and laugh along with the powers at work behind this thing we call life.
After a good long soak in the naturally occurring, stone encased, teepee covered 102 degree waters of Saratoga, I threw my giant puffy robe on and walked across the courtyard, stars above and near freezing, cool crisp night time air filling my lungs.

Relaxing into the heavy wood beam framed bed, portraits of buffalo hunts and cattle drives decorating the walls, I began to reflect on the day. The crackling of the fire, in the library room just outside the door was a sweet lullaby. The trophy Mule Deer, Elk and Moose that hung from the walls, keeping watch over all who passed by made one feel as if they were truly at home in this small Wyoming town.

There could be no denying the wonderfulness of the day. The mind and Ego would have me believe it all just coincidence. I however, choose to consider the fact that perhaps it really is just that easy. Smiling, I drifted away. Tomorrow I'd head for Montana, Big Sky Country.

To all your dreams,

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Come Along For the Ride? Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Canada, Not Canada, Idaho, Washington, Alaska

Let's Roadtrip!

4 Years ago, I threw my leg over a Fatbike for the first time.  We had just gotten a few inches of snow back home in Iowa and at the urging of our local bike shop, out for a spin we went. And that as they say "was all she wrote"
That seemingly innocent little ride led to a love affair that continues now as I head to Alaska to attempt the Iditarod Trail Invitational in February.
If you'd like to see the amazing sights between Iowa and Fairbanks, Alaska, follow every breathtaking and at times ZANY stop HERE on YouTube.
The above video is from the road ... one of the most amazing places I have ever experienced. (If you enjoy it, subscribe and you'll be a part of every moment)

A few pics from the first leg thru Nebraska. 6 States to go.

The rig is loaded and ready...
Ole's Big Game Steakhouse...

The Sand Hills of Kearney...

The sweetest lady on all of I-80. Lucy. Owner of Lucy's Place Sedgwick, Colorado...

And finally...the road leading to my dream, Fairbanks, Alaska...

To your dreams,

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Leaving it all behind...Alaska bound (Day 1)

The mess of it all. For weeks, setting in different piles, occasionally a piece would be moved in order to grab the necessary item for the day's training ride. Fall was giving way, reluctantly to winner and my strong, very strong dislike for being cold warranted a buff around the neck and at least one extra layer than was really necessary. Leaving piles here and there, each nearest the plastic tub that would be there home for the trip to Alaska. Bike gear in this one, camping stuff in that one and the "daddy sized bin would get all the clothing, less the "oh shit" parka I am still deciding on.

Surprisingly, the loading of the truck went easily and without incident. Organization (see above photo) is not my strong suit. To look at it (see below photo) you may have thought differently.

For weeks, the anticipation of the depart to Fairbanks filled me with a "why the heck am I the only one awake, it's Christmas morning" kind of excitement. The moment could not arrive soon enough. I'd been fortunate, month's earlier to be accepted, as a rookie, into the Iditarod Trail Invitational. A 350 Mile race by foot, ski or fat bike (my weapon of choice), once the confirmation email had been received I'd decided to go all in. Fairbanks was advised as the place to train. Located in the "interior" of the state, temperatures get well below zero, an environment I would need to get comfortable with. No better way I figured than to move there. Train there.

With the help of friend's friends...a sort of six degrees from Kevin Bacon sorta thing my digs were set and a couple of what I think will be new friendships have begun. So much to learn. So much to see. The race is February 25th. In nearly the same instant it can seem so far in the distance and close enough to touch.

The cabin that will be home...
To know one's place, to call it home with no sense of "I wish I lived here or perhaps if we had lived there" is such a blessing. I love Des Moines, Iowa and it's people. My writing skills would not do justice, not even close, to how wonderful the place and those who live there are. You either know, cause you've been there or ya don't. I hope someday you get to experience both, fully.

It is said, and I believe it to be true, that no growth happens without challenge, discomfort ... That no goal worthy of it's salt is obtained without stepping outside one's comfort zone. Putting the 515 in the rear view mirror for a land more wild than I have ever known, some 2800 miles away filled me with as many emotions as the northern lights of my dreams have colors.

To your dreams. To all of our dreams.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Chapter 10 - "Upside Down in the Yukon River"

Just one quick question.....BUT....let it sink in nice and slow, down to your roots.

"If you knew without exception that failure was not an option, would the size and scope of your dreams change?"

Chapter 10

“The size of your dreams must always exceed your current capacity to achieve them.”
    Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Nobel Peace Prize Winner
I was well over my skis on this one. Seven hundred fifteen kilometers, 444 miles. That was the distance from Whitehorse to Dawson City, Yukon. My longest paddle to date? Perhaps fifty miles. Unknowingly, I had enlisted the assistance of the heavens. Rules of the Universe, of which I was then just vaguely aware, were now being put to the test. Now, some twelve years later as I write this, I can attest to a simple truth: the Universe lines up behind all who dare. It matters not whether you are qualified to take on the test or not. I’d suggest, as the quote from Ellen Johnson Sirleaf exhorts, if we are already qualified, it’s not much of a dream in the first place. I like imagining the secretary to the Universe as he or she looks over the constant stream of dreams passing by, occasionally exclaiming “Yes! Finally something worthy of our powers. Get Luck, Fate, and Coincidence on the line; we got us a real kindred spirit here to help!” The point is that we are capable of so much more than we imagine. We can see looking back that most dreams, once accomplished, were only a small test of what we can achieve. The beauty, however, is that with each accomplishment we gain confidence in the universal laws and begin to trust that we are only limited by our own imagination. The Universe excites in the endless possibility of all things. Armed with the knowledge that impossible exists only within our own minds, the world becomes our playground. If you knew without exception that failure was not an option, would the size and scope of your dreams change?

Hope you all are enjoying the early parts of the soon to release "Upside Down in the Yukon River". 
also, BIG thanks to everyone that is tuning in to our new show every Tuesday night at 7 PM on Facebook live. We are having a great time interviewing and sharing with you some amazing folks.

Until next week, or perhaps sooner,

Tuesday, October 17, 2017


Chapter 9 of the soon to release, Upside Down in the Yukon River. It is my hope that somewhere in these pages you find exactly the thing that you most need. In the words of tonight's guest for "A Chapter and a Chat", David Baruthio, "Live YOUR dream".

CHAPTER 9 - Upside Down in the Yukon River

Excitement gave way to fear and questioning. I felt a real joy and sense of anticipation when considering a new challenge. When that challenge involved breaking in one’s passport for the first time, I felt those feelings more strongly. When it involved taking on a race where things going sideways meant I would be on my own, perhaps for twenty-four hours in a land where grizzly bear are as abundant as humans, all feelings were magnified. A lot. Finding this race, or it finding me, created a sense of romance as I sat mesmerized and quite comfy in front of the computer. The thoughts and images of the frigid, potentially deadly Yukon River,  still mostly untouched by man’s advances, captivated me. They touched something primal: a desire to test myself and to disappear into this wild land.
“I want to see the frontier...before it’s gone,” Kevin Costner’s character in Dances with Wolves had said when queried as to why he would volunteer to a post so deep in Indian territory. It was very much the same for me. The pilot light of adventure had been re-lit in me a few years prior, and I planned to supply it with an abundance of fuel, assuring it would never extinguish again.
I wondered if perhaps the gold rushers had felt the same pull? Clearly, there was an aspect of need, financial gain, an ability to provide for one’s family, perhaps even “strike it rich!” that did not exist in my attraction to this wild place. However, even with these outside factors in play, there had to have been a sense of adventure pulling these gold rushers west. The allure of gold must have combined with an opportunity to experience this untamed land. The realities would prove to be far less romantic. The gold I was pursuing was intended to feed the soul, not the bank account. Hopefully, like those miners from so long ago, it would not be a fool’s gold. It was entirely possible I was in over my head and didn’t realize it. Opening up my email, reading the confirmation that they had actually accepted my application into the world’s longest kayak race, I was hit by that very thought with the matter of factness of a cold northern wind. Romance suddenly took a backseat to reality.
Palms getting clammy, stomach souring, and armpits moistening, my mind began to chirp in. The battle was on. Devil on my left shoulder, angel on my right. If you are to date the unknown, to attempt to tame elephants, be prepared for a similar eventuality. If able, embrace it, for it is a sure sign of the undertaking’s credibility. Too often, we retreat. All too commonplace are phrases like “If I had only done this when I had the chance,” “I’m not a runner, I couldn’t do that,” and “Who starts a business at my age?” So quick to encourage the dreamers in our lives, so slow to embrace the dreamer within. Fear, trepidation, a suddenly elevated heart rate, all are signs that we are taking on a worthy challenge. Do not be paused into inaction. It is the mission of the angel on your right shoulder to cheer you on, see you through. The devil on the left seeks to derail, eliminate momentum, knowing that once you are able to gather momentum, much like a snowball headed down the mountain, you eventually will become a force unstoppable. Those that have accomplished much are of no more talent than you or I, they simply have become better at recognizing all of these things and moving through them quicker and more proficiently with each success. No one is immune from fear, doubt and the like; some are just better at dealing with it. I was a rookie, and this race was a big stretch. Staring at the acceptance email in front of me, I was struggling with the devil’s incessant chant of, “Now what the hell ya gonna do, Mr. Big-time wannabe adventurer?!”
There is an old story, which I remember only the gist of. I hope you’ll forgive me as I butcher it, but the message is what’s really important. An invading conqueror, upon reaching shore and unloading all his forces, ordered the ship to sail away, giving strict orders not to return. His troops, dismayed and confused at their only means of safety now gone, inquired of the captain what he had done.
“It is quite simple. We win or we die. There will be no retreat.” The story continues that given no easy way out,  outnumbered, on foreign ground, and unsure of what lay ahead, the troops’ victory was assured because they had no option of retreat nor failure.
While filling out my application weeks prior and reading the race description, feelings of doubt had nagged me, but filling in the credit card info and hitting “send” was my version of the captain sending the boat away. If the race director deemed me worthy and accepted my application, than I was committed. No retreat.
“There’s a difference between interest and commitment. When you’re interested in doing something, you do it only when it’s convenient. When you’re committed to something, you accept no excuses; only results.” –Unknown
I am sure that many before me and countless others after have visited the Yukon River Quest website, interested in the information and stories found there. I was not interested, I was committed; devil on my left shoulder be damned. Yukon, here I come.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

CHAPTER 8 of the soon to release "UPSIDE DOWN IN THE YUKON RIVER"




What an amazing journey life can be. Jason Walsmith suggests giving away a chapter a week so people can decide if my writing is worthy of their time and a few bucks once the book releases. GREAT IDEA! This leads to a couple Facebook lives where I share a bit about myself, the book and a few ideas that hopefully inspired someone. And that lead towards a revelation that people maybe (probably) are tired of hearing me blah, blah, blah every Tuesday night so why not let some very cool cats share THEIR stories. AND THAT is leading towards an official Facebook live show launching in the next month or so called "The Elephant Tamers - Ordinary People Doing Extraordinary Things."

Like all things, this all began with one step, just one, and anyone can take one step. 



There was no reason to believe that the Yukon River Quest was a possibility for me. Reading the qualifications, I was a long shot to even get in. This was not like signing up for a 5K to meet chicks. This was the “longest canoe/kayak race in the world.” Self-proclaimed or not, 715 km, 444 miles, Whitehorse to Dawson City, Yukon was a damn long way.   Sitting in front of the computer perched atop Grandpa’s gifted TV, I was again a boy filled with wonder and a bit of dread. This was no vacation paddle to the Boundary Waters. The distance was nearly beyond comprehension. To be honest, it was entirely beyond comprehension. Were it not for the history of the race and documented finishes from years prior, I might not have believed it possible. But, I thought, if they can do it, then I can do it. Now, if I could just get in.
The race waiver confirmed this adventure should be taken seriously:
“The Yukon River Quest is a long-distance race that takes you through very rugged and isolated territory, where roads and people do not exist, and where dangers, including death or injury from hypothermia, drowning, bear mauling, forest fire or other acts of nature, do exist.”
It continued on to say, and I’m paraphrasing here, “If the shit does hit the fan, you damn well better be able to save yourself, because it may be many, many hours until we can get to you.”
My adventure resumé was on the weak end of the criteria to get in. It would take some crafty wordsmithing and, hopefully, a race director who could sense the desire to take on this monumental challenge in my words. A handful of marathons, a couple of twenty-four-hour-plus adventure races, and a few ultras paled in comparison to most all of the racer bios I read. I may have exaggerated the length of some of my training paddles.
The most recent edition of the Race to the Midnight Sun featured ninety-four teams with 236 paddlers from all around the world. Fourteen countries would be represented, including Australia, Austria, sixteen Canadian provinces/territories, fifteen different states from the USA, and even South Africa.  Reading through the bios was interesting and, in some cases, intimidating stuff, such as the 1972 Munich Olympian and race legend Heinz Rodinger, known simply as “the Austrian,” who competed and completed the Yukon River Quest while in his sixties (and still does today in his seventies). What was as intimidating as anything was how many of those athletes, much more qualified than me, had DNF’d the previous year.
Summer months in the Yukon offered the unique opportunity to play beneath the sun until the wee hours of the morning. Darkness never totally falls over the rugged landscape during the summer solstice. The race description, including its warnings, the incredible accomplishments of so many who had raced in the past, and the picture it painted of the wildness of the venue, was intoxicating. Drunk on the possibilities of what could be, I felt time vanish. Was I worthy of a spot in the race? In resumé, no. In spirit, yes.

If You are enjoying Steve's new book, take a glance to the right where you can download his first book FREE!

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

CHAPTER 7 IS HERE!!!! From the soon to release "Upside Down in the Yukon River"

CHAPTER 7 - Upside Down in the Yukon River


Paddling had started for me quite by happenstance, so many years ago crossing that lake in Iowa to explore a seemingly very distant island with my cousin Brian. A few summers later, Brian’s father, my Uncle Bob, perhaps sensing a flicker of adventure in me, invited me to join him and Brian on a canoe trip to the Boundary Waters.
“Can I Mom? Can I?” I pleaded.
To which she responded, “How are the grades gonna be this year? If they’re good, you’re good.”
This presented a bit of a problem. When it came to school, motivation had always been a problem. Since my parents’ divorce a few years earlier, even more so. Motivation in much of anything seemed a struggle. The invite by Uncle Bob, surprisingly, as I was far from adventurous in anything at the time, lit me up a bit. Ah, but what about Mom’s inquiry into the state of my studies? That posed a bit of a dilemma. I was flunking biology—and not by just a little bit—and we were deep into the semester. There was no salvaging it. That would most likely be a deal killer for the Boundary Waters. I was at least above water in my other classes, but a true report of what would most likely be four Cs and an F, would not cut it. I made a decision then that I am now not proud of. I chose “beg for forgiveness later” over “tell the truth and hope for the best.”
Memories of that trip, nearly forty years ago, remain with me still. Crystal clear waters. The kind of clarity that would allow an awestruck twelve-year-old from the city to recover a pair of RayBan sunglasses in four feet of water, lost presumably by a paddler that preceded us in this wild place. Uncle Bob taught me how to handle a fishing pole. Young northern pike, abundant in numbers and as naive as this young caster, were all too eager to take the bait offered. Each strike sent waves of excitement through me, and I could sense Uncle Bob’s delight in it. Later in life, Uncle Bob shared with me that he had thought of me as a “punk kid” who would never amount to much. But on that trip, the punk kid had a look in his eyes that perhaps Uncle Bob recognized from time spent with his son Brian or even as a kid himself. Perhaps it took him back to a time that he saw these same Boundary Waters for the first time. I’m eternally grateful he took a chance on me. You never know what may be sleeping inside a kid’s soul.
Returning home, I was certain payment would be due. While I was gone, Mom surely would have received my grades in the mail. Whatever the punishment, I was at peace with it. No amount of punishment could undo or erase the memories of the trip. Returning to Fort Dodge, the family reunion was in full swing at Aunt Barbara’s family farm. Maybe Mom had enjoyed a drink or two or maybe she saw the glimmer in my eye and was just so happy to see her son genuinely happy.
Whatever the case, she said with a bit of a mischievous smile after a few stories, “So glad you had a wonderful trip... We’ll discuss the report card a bit later.”
Moms are the best. It would be some time until my next big adventure, and many more poor decisions would be made in my young life. However, a seed had been watered that would never go entirely dormant.
Decades later, I’d return to the water, clumsily attempting to keep pace with much more seasoned paddlers during our first adventure race. The goal at that time was simple: become a better paddler so as not to be left in our fellow racers’ wakes. Eventually, doing so allowed me to see the possibility of becoming more than just a proficient paddler. What I could be was being revealed one step, or in this case, one kayak stroke, at a time. I wanted to go further and see what was out there, both physically and adventurously. I began spending more and more of my available training hours alone on the lakes and rivers of Iowa. Each stroke, unknowingly, was leading me north, to a land far, far away. I was in the flow, adrift, being pulled by a river current yet unknown.

Enjoying the new book so far??? Would you like to read Steve's 1st Book "40 DAYS - Life, Love, Loss and a Historic 1037 Mile Run Around One of the World's Largest Lakes?" Where can we send it? Click HERE and it's all yours.