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.

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