27 Days 5 Hours 48 Minutes

Bill and Rod were met at Ft. Desoto with quite the welcoming committee today.  Bill said they could hear the whistles (thank you Phil Barringer!) before they could even see anyone on the beach.  Then it all started coming into focus…  something red, someone jumping around in a bright yellow shirt (thank you again, Phil!).    Bill’s TECO family had rolled out the “red carpet” for the guys and it was awesome!!  To EVERYONE who was there, Watertribers, family, friends, you will never know how much it meant.  The guys told some stories and answered some questions and Chief handed out their awards.  There were a lot of pictures and video taken today, and I am sure they will get posted soon.  Here are just a few.

After returning home, sheer and utter exhaustion totally overcame Bill.  I think his brain told his body, “It’s over.”  He made it in the house, ate the two PB&J’s I had waiting for him, and then said, “I think I am going to lay down for just a little while.  Don’t let me sleep too long.”  He was mumbling something about how good the bed felt and in mid-sentence was OUT!!  Two hours later he was up and ready for dinner.  Half way through dessert, we were taking bets as to whether or not he was going to fall asleep with the fork in his mouth.  He is doing a lot of dreaming and all he sees is water when he closes his eyes.  (I think I will leave a light on tonight in case he wakes up and is a little disoriented.  Sure don’t want him to think he is still in the woods!!!)

And now, it is time for me to step down and turn the computer over to Bill and let him tell his story.  (Once his fingers and brain start working again.)  It has certainly helped me these past 27 days having this “outlet.”  It has meant so much knowing so many people were along for the ride with Bill.  What are we all going to do with our spare time now?!?  Keep checking back as I know there will be more to come from Bill.  I thank you all who have read and tolerated my ramblings and left such encouraging words.  I hope I made you smile.   I do have a parting picture that I believe I am forever grateful to Bob Waselewski for…

BRAVO ZULU CAPTAIN, you did it baby!!!

It’s Almost Over!!!

Doesn’t it seem like it was just yesterday I posted my first blog regarding Bill leaving on his great adventure?  Nope, not really!!  In fact, at the time I am typing this it has been 26 days, 11 hours and 30 minutes — but I’m not counting.

I just got a message from RiverslayersGirl who received a call from Rod.  He stated they were in Dunedin, about 30 miles from the finish.  They were getting something to eat, going to camp for the night, then expected to arrive tomorrow between 1:00pm and 2:00pm.  The finish line is at the boat ramp at Ft. Desoto.  If you can, please come out and welcome him home.

The “Sprint” Home

Not sure why it is referred to as a “sprint.”  I don’t consider 120 miles a sprint by any calculation.  Nonetheless, Bill is on his way home!!  He and Rod left Cedar Key this morning around 7:00am.  VERY disappointed in the wind conditions.  He really wanted to put the sails up and help get home fast.  They are going to attempt 55 miles Wednesday and Thursday and then put in a “leisure” 10 mile paddle to Ft. Desoto.  We shall see.  He was thrilled to have a hot shower and not have to put his tent up for at least one night.  He looked in the mirror and said, “What do you think of the beard?”  I said, “It is very white.”  He said, “Yea, I think I will shave it when I get home.”  Oh yes, he will.  It is day 26 of this adventure and the end is near.  Woo-hoo!!!!  More details on Ft. Desoto to come.


Finally — A Call

Received a phone call tonight at 6:30.  I heard Bill say, “Hey, can you hear me?”  I replied yes and then heard, “[horrible static and noise] …dead.”  Hmmmmm.  I decided sometimes it is better to not get a call at all.  About 20 minutes later, I received a call and it was Bill, loud and clear, on some really nice person’s borrowed phone.  They were stopped at Fanning Springs to try and make a call to let me know the plans.  Going to paddle a few more hours tonight then camp.  Getting up early and heading to Cedar Key checkpoint anticipating getting there in the late afternoon or evening.  They will most likely stay in Cedar Key for the night to rest up for the final 120 mile “sprint” home.

Closer Every Day

What is the second best thing to getting a phone call from Bill?  Getting a phone call from someone who saw and talked to him, of course!!!   A friend and fellow Watertriber, Jarhead, aka Bill Fite, called to say he had seen and talked to Bill and Rod.  He said they both looked great, all things considered, and their mood was upbeat.  Looks like he got off to an early start today, hopefully will put in around 50 miles (easy for me to say), and arrive at Cedar Key mid-day tomorrow.  Only 120 miles (give or take) from Cedar Key to Ft. Desoto, so he could possibly make it by Thursday, but so many variables and too early to say.  Today is day 24 — what’s a couple of more?

Just a little info…

I don’t know if any of you following this blog have gone to the Watertribe website.  For those who haven’t, there are a couple of interesting items.  One, they have a “tracking map.”  Somewhat similar to the SPOT, this tracking map has the pictures of the racers and their locations.  When you put your cursor over the picture, it will tell you, amongst other things, their speed.  The boxes with green check marks are the checkpoints and this tells you distance between checkpoints.  Two, there is a tab labeled “Discussion.”  LOTS of discussions going on about various things race and racer related.  That being said, feel free to check it out if you wish.  However, whether you go to the website or not, I had to copy the following discussion entry from Chief, the race director.  He always does a phenomenal job of keeping everything running smoothly (at least from my perspective) and when we shore contacts and team members can’t be there, gives us priceless information….

The 40-mile portage continues to wreck feet.

I found MosquitoMagnet about 4 miles from Fargo limping along. We sat together for a couple of hours while he let is sox and shoes dry out and rebandaged his feet. When I first saw his feet I was a bit concerned. They were extremely wrinkled and very white. Almost all toes were bandaged along with heals and soles. Some of the white color was from powder, but not on the bottom.

His feet looked much better after drying out. New bandages were applied and by then his sox and shoes where dry enough to continue. But when he arrived at Fargo, I could tell he was in a lot of pain. But no complaints or whining. He just went about his business of getting ready for the next section.

The next day I found Whale towing both his Kruger and RiverSlayer’s boat. RiverSlayer was limping along a bit further back. He had “blisters on top of blisters.”  When I asked him if he wanted a ride into Fargo, he said, “Hell no! I’d crawl into Fargo before taking a ride.”

It turns out that Whale had towed two fully loaded boats 11 miles. He said he was returning the favor since he had drafted RiverSlayer in the paddling sections.

There are two lessons to be learned here. Take real good care of your feet and if that doesn’t work have a great paddling partner.

I have not had any communication with Bill since yesterday morning.  He is quickly approaching Big Shoals and this is where the rapids are.  I don’t know if he will portage around them.  I don’t know if his boat could handle them.  What I do know is that just when I thought I couldn’t be more proud of my husband, I was proven wrong.

Race Day 21

Yep, it’s been 21 days since Bill started this “race.”  The last two days have made it seem even longer but  I finally got a call from Bill this morning around 10:15.  He and Rod made it to Fargo.  As worried as we were for Bill not having his running shoes for the portage, he said his feet were great.  Whew!!  Finding places to camp along the portage were interesting and Bill just kept repeating that the last couple of days have been “a little difficult.”  Well that’s probably the understatement of the century.  They were preparing to get in the Suwannee River and get back to paddling.  My words of encouragement for Bill were, “You are doing awesome!  I’m so proud of what you have accomplished!  You are one day closer to Ft. Desoto and seeing the new vehicle I’m buying today, LOVE YOU!!!!”  That will get him home.  🙂

And the portage begins…

Got a call from Bill this morning.  His cell phone has died (won’t even charge) so he borrowed someone’s to call me.  Not much to say other than last couple of days have been interesting.  Downed trees and various obstacles in the river to navigate around or pull the boat over.   While resupplying at Ft. Clinch, we sadly discovered that his running shoes had not been packed.  I mean, the man packed his neon yellow safety vest to wear during the portage!!  How did the running shoes not make it to the container?!?!?  The nearest open store was a Wal-Mart and it didn’t take long to decide it was probably just better to do the portage in his paddling shoes.  Nonetheless, the portage has begun.  Forty miles on a two lane road with no sidewalks, not even a shoulder from the stories I have heard,  hauling kayak and all gear — in his kayak shoes.  Jiminy Christmas!!

Over half way done!!!!

Bill and Riverslayer left Monday morning and were roughly 30 miles from the Ft. Clinch checkpoint.   They enjoyed a nice dinner on the ICW knowing that was probably the last meal they were going to get that didn’t require putting boiled water in a bag.  Not so many restaurants along the St. Mary’s river.  They expected to arrive around 4:30pm and weren’t too far off from that.  I stated in past blogs how looking at the SPOT tracking map is deceiving — how such a short distance can take so long to arrive at.  I experienced that first hand at Ft. Clinch.  I could see Bill and Rod in the distance paddling up the St. Johns so I quickly made sure my camera was at the ready.  And then, I watched.  And watched.  And watched some more.  From the time I first spotted them, to the time they were close enough to hear my claps and “woo-hoo’s,” felt like an eternity, and was almost an hour!!  Bill said he felt the same way on the water.  When he would see a bridge or other landmark in the distance he would think he was never going to get to it.

First thing on their minds?  FOOD!!  Then, just like at Sebastian, time to resupply.  A little easier this time since the boat was in good shape and the repairs were holding.  After doing the math, they figured they needed to carry 8 DAYS worth of food.  Neither were happy about that due to the weight it will add to the boats.  Not to mention the weight of Bill’s sailing gear.  (He mentioned more than once how much he was “enjoying” hauling it around the state of Florida and not being able to use it.)  Other than his weight, physically he is doing pretty well considering he has gone over 710 miles in a kayak.  Mentally, well that was questionable back when he signed up for this race but, all things considered, he is in good shape.  I think he is at that stage that marathoners and triathletes commonly refer to as “hitting the wall.”  I am hopeful that getting out of the salt water and into some different scenery will be just what he needs to get over that wall.

At this stage, it is not so much about the wind as it is tides and currents.  Departure time for this morning was important and based solely on the tide and they left at approx. 6:00am.  Hopefully there will be some cell phone coverage and he can check in along the way.  I am looking forward to some good material for the blog during this stage of the race.  Do you hear that?  Sounds like banjo music in the distance.  Paddle faster!!  🙂