Day 10

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I've seen 4 eagles and 400 barges. Still haven't seen 1 single kayak or canoe on the river. 

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300 miles down the River of Life. When I was going through cancer, I only tried to conquer one day at a time. Otherwise, I would have been overwhelmed. Watching my Dad go through treatment was so much harder on me. I felt helpless. I would have switched him places in a heartbeat but I couldn't. He wouldn't have let me even if that were an option. Need to remember - Conquer one day at a time.

Matthew 6: 34 “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

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My luck finally ran out with heavy rain. Here it comes. 

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I could see a white curtain squeezing through the valley. 

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The wind overpowered my kayak so paddled to the bank for safety. I grabbed a tree and closed my eyes. Sometimes it helps when you don't make eye contact with the bully.  It's was so intense that I couldn't see the Ohio side let alone five feet in front of me. 

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Just around the bend was my reward. My family greeted me at Huntington, West Virginia. 

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We stayed in a Holiday Inn, tucked inside Marshall University campus. 

 

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I took Haddie back to the hotel as the rest of the crew went on an adventure. Haddie found Nana's glasses;) 

Day 9

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Eric offered a cup of coffee and breakfast before I shoved off. Just as I finished my coffee, Eric asked me if the swing moved last night. He told me he wakes up most mornings and it's twisted. He's even caught it swinging by itself before. "Check please!" 

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Eric, Rick and Craig took great care of me. I appreciated the hospitality they provided. Eric helped me carry my kayak down to the river and they all waved goodbye. My shoulders have felt sore for days and I've been waking up with a sore throat. For the first 15 miles it was gone. I paddled away feeling like I had day 1 strength. 

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Before I left, Craig insisted that I look at the weather radar with him. He said I might have heavy thunderstorms today but looks like it could barley miss me. It did, which was a bit of a miracle.

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I always loved my Dad's handwriting. This is a note he had on his desk. He was the master of note taking. His desk, work files and Bible were heavy from ink. Not only did he take incredible notes throughout life, he applied them. He started on the wide road like everyone else but was faithful to the lonely narrow roads too. My Dad and the River of Life are teaching me how to navigate the narrow stretches. The first 20 miles feels like a major accomplishment. The last 10 to 15 render me exposed. My highest aim is to finish this adventure to honor my Father and to keep the same tenacity with life when I return home - More than a Conqueror with a thicker shield. 

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Today I had extra incentive to finish the day strong. I was going to reunite with my family. They were meeting me at Gallipolis, Ohio. I couldn't wait to see them. They also brought along a special guest. One that would make this trip complete, my Mom. 

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Later that night, we all went to get dinner near the downtown of Gallipolis. My Mom asked me what the best part of my adventure was so far. The answer boiled to the top faster than she could finish the question. It was family! By far, the best part of each day is seeing my family. This is something my Dad taught me. God tells us to delight in him and he will give us the desires of our heart.

A few days ago, I had a flashback to 3rd grade. I was asked the question that is over asked of kids, "what do you want to be when you grow up?" They should ask, "what gives you your greatest joy in life?" I finally remembered my answer after all these years. The real answer wasn't a major league baseball player. It was something much deeper. It was an adventure guide. I remember feeling bad for writing it down. It felt too outlandish and too unknown. 

Fast forward later in life, I had long forgotten my purest joy - adventure. I went through the conveyor belt of life, mindlessly eyeing the "prize" that others deemed valuable. After graduating college, I went out West with a friend and fell in love with the Rocky mountains. I felt like a fish that someone accidentally dropped in water for the first time. I didn't want to come out. I had made up my mind, I was leaving the flat and boring Midwest for a "real adventure".

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The mind-opening trip out West occurred when I was dating Sarah. Shortly after getting back to Cincinnati, Sarah and I went on a movie date night. The movie, "Into the Wild" just came out into theaters. I was enthralled with the adventure playing out on the big screen. My escape plan from the boring Midwest was closer than ever until a part in the film that forever changed my life. "Into the Wild" was a movie based off Christopher McCandless's journey to true happiness that was cemented by making it to Alaska.  Here's what changed me, Christopher journaled in his diary, as he met his demise in an old lonely school bus. He wrote, “Happiness only real when shared.” I did a complete 180 next to Sarah, without her hearing the Tectonic shift happening in my soul. I started to see that my greatest adventure in life was family. Sure, the Rockies definitely get my blood going more than Sharon Woods, but my peaks in life became Sarah and my family. My Dad's greatest joy and desire, outside of his faith, was the adventure of family. So is mine. I love you Dad! 

  

Day 8

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As soon as morning came, I left. That place gave me a weird feeling from the start so I didn't stick around for breakfast. Every so often, there would be a mile marker along the bank. As I paddled away the next morning, I located one and realized that I went 40 miles yesterday. I'm thankful I got in that many miles but that's 10 more than my body wanted me to do. 

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As I approached Racine Lock & Dam, I realized that I was out of water. My first objective switched from hitting 30 miles, to getting resupplied. On my map, I saw a place called Lock 42. It was an old Lock house that was converted to a campground/RV park. I eventually found it. 

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I walked by the RV's on my way up to the old Lock House. A few people were outside so I nodded and smiled as I walked by. I could tell not many paddlers stop in. I don't blame them for doing a double take. I probably looked like walking river debris that washed ashore. I climbed up the steps to the Lock House and walked in.  The screen door shut behind me and I startled a man who was sitting to my right. He popped out of his chair and welcomed me like he was expecting me. We went from 0 to 213 miles per hour. He told me about his adventures in life and how he got to Lock 42 which is now called, Lock 24 RV Park. His father passed away from cancer when he was 16 and battled cancer himself. 

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He too had the searing pain of losing his father. He turned his pain into passion. Instead of grabbing life by the horns, Eric grabbed anything with handlebars and 2 wheels attached. I've never met anyone like Eric. His passion for people and racing bikes was contagious. He loved nothing more than turning impossible into possible as he adventured across America and into Europe. With little to zero support, he went pro in mountain bike racing. He then went pro in Superbike, motocross and everything in between. If someone said, you can't do it, he would break his legs and back trying. He never had insurance, never had plan B, he only had a vacuum that was filled when he pushed the limits. I asked him what was the fastest he's ever gone on a bike, he said, "213 but it was never fast enough". He was so passionate about racing that his eyes watered up when he detailed how beat the competition in the corners. He was a friend you'd want on your side unless you were racing against him. Both friend and foe called him the "Crow". Maybe because he was the master of observation and out smarted you. He was highly intelligent. He could talk hours about strategy and how to win without all the fancy and expensive parts the other racers had. 

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The prime of his career was cut short after a bad car accident. He told me he was driving home one night and uttered this for the first and last time of his life, "I'll take the safe way". I couldn't help but to wallow in the irony. He pushed the envelope his entire life. He broke his leg four times while racing but that never stopped him. An old lady going through an intersection did. His back was ruined for years and it's a miracle he can still walk today. He told me, "I never picked my paths in life, they picked me and I just rode them out as hard as I could" 

I asked him, how much to stay for the night and he told me, "$18 for an RV and $10 for a tent." They didn't take card but he assured me it was no big deal. He asked if I wanted to eat chicken or steak for dinner. I was now staying for free so I politely turned him down. He said, "nonsense, get in the truck. We have have to go into town to get a few things from the grocery store." I hopped in his truck and we sped down a windy gravel path that led to town. I couldn't buy my stay so I enhanced the new friendship by buying two growlers of "local gold". 

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Eric asked if I wanted sleep inside the Lock House or in my hammock. When I accepted the bed, he disappeared. He came back with a leaf blower to clean my bed. That was probably more thorough than the Hampton Inn we stayed in last week. 

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My bed was next to the swing. Eric stayed in the Lock house but his quarters was behind the brown wall. 

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Eric making his famous chicken sauce. 

The chicken was incredible! Probably the best I've ever had. Certainly nothing better. 

The chicken was incredible! Probably the best I've ever had. Certainly nothing better. 

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Eric introduced me to Craig who owned the RV park. Eric was the RV park manager. I was invited to sat down and Craig shared some history of the Ohio River. Craig told me about how much George Washington loved this area, especially up around the Marietta area. He even owned Blennerhasett Island at one point. I got chills thinking about how George Washington paddling down the same river 230 years ago. 

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My view from bed. I slept like a log that night. I thought of my Dad. Since I can remember, I called my Dad several times each day. He was always so gracious to me. Even if he was busy, he would stop what he was doing to hear about my last meeting or most recent random thought. He would have loved to have heard about today but I have a feeling he's cheering on the two broken vessels that are adventuring down the River of Life.

Day 7

The sounds of birds woke me up around 6am. The only noise heard before that was the sound of deer blowing last night. It's an unusual sound but, never started me. My bother, Jon, encouraged me to get to bow hunting several years ago. I'm a lover of the wild so it took me a long time. Ever since I started, I've learned more about nature by observing it from a deer stand. I thought of my time with my brother in the woods as I soaked in my last minutes over looking a fog covered field. As I was getting ready to push off, Tom pulled up in his truck. I thanked him again and told him I would be back soon. 

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Day 3

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Sarah and the kids dropped me back off where I ended yesterday. Harper took a quick shot of Sarah and I before I paddled toward Wheeling West Virginia. Harrison (Bubby) photo bombed us:) This trip has been a good measure of our family. Not only does it feel strong, it feels like we're deepening our identity - More than Conquerors. I watched my Dad lead our family so I'm thankful to continue that legacy.  He modeled the way not only by being strong and reliable like a train. He was equaly selfless and supportive.  My Dad engineered a strong family design with a foundation cemented in unshakable faith. His iron beams was his how he treated my mom. He was married to my incredible mother for 40 years.  Sarah and my Mom have a lot in common so it was natural for my Dad to encourage me to, "put a ring on it" when I was dating Sarah. His advice always aligned with my original design. I knew Sarah was the one the second I ran into her at 45 East in Oxford Ohio 14 years ago. 

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I was paddling by this power plant and a guy in a hard hat waved at me from the very top. Short after this, I noticed a massive nest on top of a tree. I then noticed a large bird with a white head. I heard Bald Eagles were making a comeback on the Ohio. One of the best wildlife encounters so far. 

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Water level is still high but not nearly as rough as yesterday.  

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Coming up on Pike Island Lock & Dam. Although the first Lock wasn't bad at all, I still dont enjoy the process. 

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The Lock master was nice. He told me to wait for the sound of the horn and a green light. 

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I entered into the chamber which feels like a giant water coffin. The gates behind me closed and the Lock Master told me to tie up myself so I held on for dear life. The water dropped 18 feet! 

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I was flying today! I made it to Wheeling around 2:30pm which shocked Sarah when I called her. I paddled beneath the 27O bridge, I remembered driving over it a few days prior. I eagerly looked out the window trying to take as many mental notes as I could with a short glance. I noticed it was very choppy. Well, it was even choppier up close. It felt like I was on the ocean. A few waves where high enough to partially crash into the cockpit. There were a ton of barges in this area and that's probably the reason for the high swells. I decided to just get through it so I powered down river another 7 miles so I had smoother water to start tomorrow. 

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It gets lonely out there. Sarah and the kids broke the loneliness when  they met me 35 miles from where we started the day. We Conquer!