- Posted September 6, 2012 by
Bonita Springs, Florida
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Impact Your World
The Feeling Of Accomplishment
I began kayaking the Mississippi River on May 20, 2012. It was a cold and rainy morning in Northern Minnesota. About 35 degrees to be honest... I had spent my last comfortable night outside of Itasca where the river begins. I thought about how awesome it was going to be. I love the cool weather, so that was not going to be the problem. With the nature smell of Canada nearby, I took off.
Did I mention I have no legs. Yep... I lost them in 2001. Both of them. I fell into a fire during an earthquake in my country (El Salvador). I was 11. An american family who was doing earthquake relief work found me in a hospital and decided to adopt me and gave me a new chance at life
11 years later, I am in Northern Minnesota following this crazy idea I had about two years ago. Freezing but the warmth of the excitement kept me going. My parents are on board and so is my college roommate (we just graduated) 2nd Lt. Michael Weber.
The Mississippi River is 10ft wide where it starts. It is also about a foot deep. Within the first hour we are dodging tree branches and ducking under culvers. It's amazing! The fresh air, the scenery and the beginning of the greatest adventure of my life.
The first couple of days where very hard. Every muscle in the body was hurting and I had three months to go. Sleeping in a small pop-up camper was actually very comfortable. Being very tired everyday helped a great deal. So far though everything was going well. I had within a week seen more eagles than I had previously seen my whole life.
In three weeks we made it to Minneapolis where our boat was waiting. It was heaven to see Mi Casa II. It was here that we saw the first bar on the mississippi and had to stop. Psycho Suzi's its called. The locals where great and bought me some drinks.
I found out what a Minnesota hot dish was...her name is Joy Nakrim a reporter in twin cities. Wow! I liked my stay in the twin cities. From Minneapolis to St. Louis, the scenery slowly began to become less attractive. Small cities along the way have the kindest people I've ever met. From Bemidji MN to Davenport IA and all the way south, it was the best part of the trip.
LaCrosse WI was where my roommate left the journey, as he had to report to his base camp in GA.
Somewhere in IA, a nice lady passed a jar around in a bar and collected $70 bucks for my cause.
Paddling For A Purpose became the official name of my journey about a year before I started. Kealy McNeal, who is awesome, came up with the name. And it stuck. The whole journey was for two charities. The Wounded Warrior Project and Wheelchair Foundation. I raised over $35K for the two of them.
In St. Louis I went inside the big arch...In Memphis, I walked Beale St...In New Orleans, I walked Bourbon St and somewhere between those places, the going got TOUGH.
Arkansas recorded the third highest temperature in history while I kayaked there. 112 degrees. Pretty hot! I would have loved that 35 degrees. In St. Louis, it was 105 degrees for 4th of July celebrations. In Mississippi, it was over 100 degrees for 10 days consecutive.
Giving up was never an option, and was repulsed by a chubby reporter who suggested it. When the going gets tough, the tough get going right. I could never disapoint anyone. Sponsor and family and friends and an entire country of El Salvador.
In Iowa, I kayaked 64 miles in one day. Its a personal record. I am sure I could break it though. Also in Iowa I ate at one of the best restaurants ever!!! The Iowa Machine Shed. If you live anywhere in the world...you need to visit this place...Oh and the worlds largest truck stop too. It is nearby.
Illinois was HOT! It was here that I first encounter 100 degree weather. I did not care for it at all. Quincy was a good stop. Again a restaurant staff at The Pier did not charge me for my meal. They also gave me a nice donation.
Hanibal MO was very Mark Twain-ish. Everything from barbershops to music records and pastry dishes carry his name. he has his own festival. Boat tours and calliope band. In fact, I quickly grew tired of his name.
My grandpa visited me in Iowa and a few other friends along the way. St. Louis was too big and busy and hot for me to enjoy. Across the river however, Alton Illinois had the best marina on the entire river. A Floating swimming pool...how awesome.
Along the way I saw two headed monsters, large dinosour-like reptiles, I saw big foot...twice in Arkansas. Jelly fish and flying fish too. I like my imagination. it kept me busy.
I rehearsed my speech, if I ever become a president of my country, I have the speech ready. I thought my book which I am currently writing. And all the cool stories that will go into it.
I saw Elvis in Memphis. I also grew tired of Elvis in Memphis. I swear Graceland has to be one of the top grossing businesses in Tennessee and all of the south. He seemed like a great person, but I have never been a fan. Forrest Gump did a great job teaching him the hip-swing move, because all his picture carry the pose.
From Memphis to Greenville MS, my dad and I camped for 7 days to get there. The temperature was HOT everyday. I had never fantasized about ICE before until it became the only hope driving me forward. Everyday was over 100 degrees and my body was getting weaker and weaker everyday. Drinking the water from the river did not help. We purified it but it was a cool 90 degrees still.
Greenville had nice people. They never charged me for lunch at the clubhouse of the YACHT CLUB. It was like no other yacht club I had previously seen before. I would called it a boat junk yard but that would be mean.
Does Eat Place was the best part of Greenville MS. One of the best steak houses in the country. Again a nice person who over heard my story bought my dinner.
Arkansas has few good memories. The list includes.........
thats it. Big Foot was awesome though...It was 112 degrees when I saw him. He looked friendly. I think I saw the flying fish a few minutes after that.
Louisiana was awesome. Nothing to see until you get to Baton Rouge. There had been no rain in months in the south and the drought had become the worse in 50 years.
The US Coast Guard recommended I get off the river in Baton Rouge because it was too dangerous. So I did. Took the Amite River to Pontchartrain and into the gulf.
New Orleans was good, but not my kind of city.
I finished three months after I started. August 22, 2012 will be a day I never forget. At 1:30ct I crossed an imaginary line. That was it.
The feeling of accomplishment is hard for me to describe. You have to experience it for yourself.
I encourage you to set goals. Daily goals are good to begin with. Think short term goals that make a difference in your life. Give up soda for a month or a fattening food. Try something that involves risk. I've done skydiving and scuba diving...with sharks. It's fun.
I had the biggest smile on my face when I finished. I became the first amputee to kayak the entire river. Over 2400 miles in 90 days. Over $35 thousand for charities.
Visit www.paddlingforapurpose.org to get the whole story.
Remember to DREAM BIG