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.
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.
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.
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.
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".
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.
My bed was next to the swing. Eric stayed in the Lock house but his quarters was behind the brown wall.
Eric making his famous chicken sauce.
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.
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.