My husband left yesterday for a 5 day kayaking trip….by himself. Now, I say 5 days - but it could actually be 4 days or it could be 10. He really has no idea. Did I mention that he is 71? Did I mention that I did not want him to go on this solo trip that seemed fraught with peril? But did he go anyway? Did I say ‘no’? And even if I did say no, would he have listened? No way!
The retired husband…..
This is what happened…..my husband, Willy, retired last May. He wasn’t ready to retire (he loved his job) but he had some physical issues including complications from a botched hip replacement surgery, and it was getting too difficult for him to do his job (he travelled a lot). Because of all the travel he did, when the weekends came around, he stayed home with his family. He went to the baseball games, dance recitals and just hung out and rested. As a result, he did not have an opportunity to do the things that he really loved to do – judo, golf, hunting, fishing, hiking and kayaking – just to name a few. Only NOW his body wasn’t ready for any of this either. He felt like his body failed him….and his age.
Half full or half empty?
After sitting at home for a few months lamenting what wasn’t….he had a change of heart (mind) and decided to focus on what was. Or as I like to say – he decided his glass was half full and not half empty. He became as active as he could with his physical limitations (sometimes way too active - did I mention boxing?!). And one thing he wanted to do this spring was go kayaking.
He has done this float before. With a friend…about 20 years ago…in a canoe. So, he was a tad familiar with the process and the Ohoopee River. He cleaned the kayak (got rid of all the ants that decided to move in) and gathered his gear. We have a Hobie Kayak – the kind with the pedals – which is prefect for a man with a bad shoulder. Did I mention he has physical limitations?
He told our kids what he was doing and they all tried to talk him out of it. What about his back. What about his hip. How was he even going to camp out and then get up (at home he sits with the heating pad for an hour before he can even move). What was he going to eat. What if he missed his car at the take out. What if the alligators got him. Or the snakes. What about the weirdos. But, Willy is a stubborn man, and he was going to do what he was going to do.
He spent 1 day last week scouting out the river. He found a good take out. And then, up river, he found a good put in. (Put in meaning – put the kayak in the water. Take out meaning – take the kayak out of the water). The drive between the 2 points was an hour.
We figured out the food. I cooked and froze hamburgers and I made hardboiled eggs. He had tuna in packages. Plus water, snacks, and fruit. We packed up his gear. Eliminated what would not fit in dry bags. Made sure that he had his gun and ammo. An emergency number in his wallet. His cellphone (even tho there isn’t coverage in the boonies). His axe and knife. First aid kit. Snake bite kit. Sunscreen and bug spray. Long sleeve shirt and fishing pants. And of course, his fishing pole and gear. Cause a man has gotta catch a fish!
We loaded all the gear on the kayak before we left – just to make sure it all fit. But we still weren’t sure if the kayak would float with all that weight!!
Kayaks and a Lexus…..not a good match.
We were supposed to leave at 7AM but we left at 8. It took us an hour to figure out how to attach a kayak to the roof of a Lexus (not a typical sport utility vehicle). And then we had to stop on the way to eat and let the dog go potty (wife stuff). Willy was in his Jeep. I was driving the Lexus with the kayak on top. 4 hours later we left his car at the take out. I made him tie pink ribbons to all the trees he could reach at the waters edge – even tho the jeep was close to the water’s edge. Because what if he was looking the other way and missed it…..since he had NO idea how far down river the jeep was - and how many days it would take him to get to the jeep.
We then drove the hour to the put in. We packed up all the gear and he d.r.a.g.g.e.d. that kayak to the water. Oh man was it heavy! He pushed it in the water and it floated…..so far so good. He got in….and it did not sink. Whew!
How to communicate?
I asked him to leave his phone off and only turn it on at night when he stopped to camp in order to save the battery. If he had service, he was to drop a pin in his maps app, text that to me and let me know he was ok. And to also text me in the morning – just so I knew he made it thru the night. You know….safe from those lions, tigers and bears - oh my!
I heard from his last night. So far so good. He did have to portage around a dead tree (meaning, take everything off the kayak and get it around the tree by land - sheesh!). He was at campsite #1 and he dropped a pin in is location. And then I heard from him about 3 PM today because he had service. But only 68% battery left.
Update - I literally just heard from him as I was typing this tonight - campsite #2 and a pin in the map. check!
Am I worried?
As a wife, one of my jobs is to support (and point out the perils). It was not my place to say no (in this situation anyway). Am I worried about him? Well, yes and no. I am not necessarily a worrier. Worry does not add anything to my day (or my life) but it sure can take away my joy. So, I choose instead to pray for God to keep him safe and to prevent Willy from doing stupid things (as he tends to do at times….acutally a lot of time :) I have thought about him all day and hope he is having fun. Enjoying the float and the quiet. Enjoying his retirement. Enjoying what he loves to do. I hope he catches a fish cause he brought his flint and tampons (did you know that tampons are the most flammable thing out there and they come in their own protective plastic wrapper? I learned that on a ‘Girls Gone Wild’ weekend – a blog post for another day). Did I want him to go….no. I did think, at one point today that I should have gone with him - it might have been fun….but then I remembered the camping and going to the bathroom part….I am glad I stayed home and wrote this blog instead.
I will send an email when he is home and safe.
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Update - if you are reading this after the fact - he spent 3 nights out. His trip was fraught with peril. There were so many fallen trees that he had to portage about ever 2/3 miles (unpack the kayak and move everything on land). There were snakes, alligators and bugs. When the water did get deeper he had hydraulics where trees had fallen. He got caught in one tree and almost drown when he was trying to go under it rather than around it. And to top off this fun fun trip, the last 2 hours he paddled in a thunder and lightening storm. When he thought he was just d.o.n.e. he saw the pink ribbons tied to the trees. This is why I blog - cause I know stuff. He has rested for 4 days now. He arthritic body is killing him. But, he is home safe and sound. And, he did learn a thing or two about himself along the way. A post for another day.