Sitting here on the banks of the AuGres River with Ruth in the little camper/trailer I built. She arrived Thursday night, and we’ve been taking it easy for the past couple of days. It’s Saturday evening, and I’ve finally pulled the laptop out of its waterproof case after lugging it in and out of the canoe for three weeks. The reason, Denise, I’ve been so “reticent” about writing, is that paddling, setting up and breaking down camp, boiling water for breakfast and dinner, and spreading sardines on crackers for lunch, takes a surprising amount of time. But I’m gradually streamlining the process, and hopefully will be doing a better job of posting to the blog.

I’d been paddling at least a few miles every day until I met up with Ruth. Longest day so far was about 14 miles. At this pace, I should make it back to the Mac Bridge in time for Obama’s second inauguration (assuming he does something about healthcare, the war(s), etc.). Seems most of the time I’m heading into the wind, when I clock about 2 mph. With the wind, I crank it up to a bit over 3 mph. I’ve used the sail three or four times, during some downwind stretches, and it speeds us up to over 4 mph. I fear, though, at the high sailing speeds that I may be missing things. At any rate, I prefer paddling. The sail, although it has a clear vinyl window, blocks the forward view more than I like. Both hands are busy controlling the loop of line attached on the sail at the “10” and “2” locations, and (as when paddling) I steer with my feet using the rudder pedals. In short, under sail it feels too much like driving a car. Paddling engages my body much more harmoniously. Twist from the waist away from the paddle side, plant the paddle straight into the water, twist toward the paddle side, pulling the boat to the paddle, slicing it out just after it passes the hips, then rewinding for the next stroke, and the next, and the next, switching to the other side when this one tires. The whole process a synchronous movement, emanating from the abdomen. The first few days I felt a few aches in my arms and shoulders, but after a week or son, my muscles firmed up, and my love handles started melting.

I’ve been camping most nights. The first couple of weeks it was pretty easy to find a quiet beach and stand of woods in which to pitch the tent. South of Alpena, it’s been more of a challenge, with many more cottages and small resorts along the way. But still, I’ve had no problems finding a place. A thunderstorm in the distance led me to pull over early one afternoon, onto a beach lined with cottages. It wasn’t long after I landed that a friendly couple on a stroll, Jim and Marijane, told me the property I was on had been for sale for years, and no one would care if I set up camp there. They said they owned a resort a few cottages down, and welcomed me to use their shower, which I did. Not long after I set up the tent, Jim wandered down the beach and presented me with a plate of trout wrapped in grape leaves, with lemon and little onions, which he had just grilled. The day before, on the beach of what used to be booming timber town, Alcona, a family invited me in for a piece of strawberry rhubarb pie. That was on the Fourth of July, and I left their home on glassy waters under a bright moon, with fireworks bursting in the distant sky. Stayed that night on the beach at Sturgeon Point lighthouse. Another day I was treated to a wonderful grilled cheese sandwich and a beer at a lovely cottage perched on a bluff overlooking the lake.

So far I’ve spent two nights in the homes of friends old and new, three in motels with Ruth, and two nights in our camper. The rest have been spent on the ground, which feels surprisingly cushy after a day’s paddle.

Well, it’s the crack of noon, and time to get back in the boat and catch a wave. Thanks so much for everyone’s well wishes. Bay City, here I come!

8 Responses to “At last, a day off and words from Stephen”

  1. Roger D Paterson MD Says:

    Good start on your book, Steve.
    You are one up on me there, Buddy!
    Thanks to Ruth for supplying the URL.
    More later.
    Roger

  2. Kristin Pauly Says:

    Love the blog — feels like we’re there with you. And I especially love the accompanying photos. I’m prepared to be along for this voyage. Thanks for sharing it Steven & Ruth! ~ K.

  3. Tim Calloway Says:

    Hi Steve,
    I can’t believe it’s been a month since you launched under the Big Mac. Happy anniversary! I wondered what you’d do for camp spots as you headed south into more populated areas. It sounds like “adventure angels” are taking up the slack. I haven’t been able to paddle at all this summer, so I’m just as jealous as I can be. This “real job” stuff has its drawbacks. Oh, but you wouldn’t know, having abandoned your real job for a gypsy’s life. (Good for you….you’re an inspiration!)
    Keep the wind at your back.
    Tim

  4. Mary Johnson Says:

    Hi Stephen,
    Great blog! What gorgeous photos! So interesting to read – I will look forward to more, soon I hope. Kudos to you as you live your dream. You have covered a lot of ground (water 🙂 so far. I can only imagine the daily challenges and hope you continue to find joy in the journey.
    Mary

  5. maureen scott Says:

    Hey Steve, I look forward to reading all this stuff..it’s fun. I am jealous and proud of you. Maureen

  6. Stephanie Park and Jonathan Pratt Says:

    Hi Stephen!

    It’s a windbound day on Lake Ontario and I have just come across your website and blog! It’s always great to read about other explorers who are passionate about the Great Lakes. My husband and I have spent the last three summers canoeing the entire Canadian coastline of the Great Lakes from the Pigeon River on Lake Superior to Kingston on Lake Ontario and we only have a 250 kilometers left before we finish. We are very farmiliar with the Canadian coastine of Lake Huron and would happy to lend you a hand once we have completed our own journey. We could help you out with a food drop or provide you with information about campsites or places to stay. You can contact us through our website: freshwaterdreams.ca. Thank you for bringing greater awareness about the Great Lakes – they need spokespersons like you.
    Safe Journey and Happy Paddling,
    Stephanie Park and Jonathan Pratt

  7. John Porter Says:

    Stephen –

    Sorry that I didn’t know that you were headed this way. I live one mile from Presque Isle Harbor and would have offered a meal and warm lodging and even a dip in the association pool and very, very hot jacuzzi.

    Hope you can make it back for Orpheum Bell at Dhaseleer on August 13th.

    John Porter

  8. Jim & Marijane Says:

    Hi Stephen,

    Marijane and I have been checking on your travels and it seems like a great adventure. It was nice meeting you and when you become a land lover again don’t hesitate to stop by and share some stories with us. Good Luck and God bless you on this journey!

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