Well it's been nearly six months since Amanda, Reggie and I completed the single most amazing, challenging and transformative journey of our lives. On Dec. 8th Gary and Debbie picked us up at the Lighthouse Inn at Venice Louisiana and there we were, traveling North for the first time in roughly three months. The "plan," (funny righy?!) was to spend three days in Nola then head to Natchez to spend a day with Margaux, whom had essentially saved our trip, which we did and it was great! We also saw Katie, Dub, and Margaux 's mom. We had a blast and we're so excited to head to Memphis to see Dale Sanders the gray bearded adventurer and river sage. Well as we made our way north through the Mississippi countryside all was well and we couldn't be happier. BOOOM! HISS! followed by a large plume o white steam suddenly erupted from the hood of our car. We immediately pulled over to see what had happened. Upon opening the hood of the car we came to realize that the top of the radiator had blow wide open splitting the plastic top from one side to the other. Now it is worth mentioning her that prior to our trip a loud, heated and slightly panicked argument would have ensued. However, Amanda and I exchanged a quick puzzled look and at the same time said something along the lines of "well that sucks! what the hell are we gonna do?" Taken aback we agreed that the likelihood of getting a tow at 3pm on a Sunday in rural Mississippi was unlikely. Just as we were about to call the insurance company a couple locals pulled up in their truck to ask if we were okay. Turns out we couldn't have possibly been in a better place at a better time, as one of the men in the truck had a relative (no surprise) who ran a wrecker. He called the man up and after threatening to get his kinfolk after him the man on the phone must have agreed to come because our approximate location was then laid out. We couldn't believe our luck! To add to the serendipitous event that had just occurred, another man pulled up in his truck and offered to tow our car to a hotel, indicating that he had tow straps and chains in the back. After thanking the man and considering how unsafe this could be we decided to wait for the man in the wrecker to come. Despite being done with our trip and several hundred miles from where we had left the muddy banks of the Mississippi, the river magic continues to manifest. So, we got the car loaded up, hopped into the cab of the wrecker and were on our way to the one hotel in the nearby town that allowed dogs. When we arrived at the hotel we assumed our trouble for the day had ended and now it was just a matter of off loading the car, getting some food and calling it a night. Well this would have been the case had I not locked his keys in the car and pulled the "E" brake after the car had been put on top of the wrecker! To make matters worse the kit the driver needed to open the car was at the shop. So off I went with the wrecker operator. When I arrived at the shop I gave our insurance information to the owner and casually explained that we had just finished paddling the length of the Mississippi River without serious incident and then this happened. With a bewildered look on his face the shop owner said, "Damn boy you should have kept your dumb ass in that canoe." It was said in such a matter of fact tone I was speechless, truly. I thanked the man and in about 30 min I was back at the hotel and out car was rolled into a parking spot in front of our hotel room. Over the next 24 hours I learned alot. I learned how to swap out the radiator in a parking lot, remove that radiator and replace the thermostat and then learn how Subaru's once they have started down the path of self destruction simply do not stop. I thought I had conquered the might beast and felt manlier than any other moment of my life. However as previously stated our trouble were still not over. The engine was still over heating and my limited automotive knowledge had reached its limit. As we limped the car a bit further down the road we pulled into the AutoZone where I had bought the radiator and thermostat. With luck and playing the best, "I'm a pathetic fool who needs help," performance of my life we met Mr. Johnny. As it turns out Mr. Johnny is a local mechanic/automotive savant who was friends with one of the guys that worked at auto zone. Mr. Johnny was great! Just by listening to the engine, and hearing my description of all the previous repairs he sussed out the problem and with the aid of my credit card had us on our way within a couple hours!
Once again we had overcome another automotive hurdle and we triumphantly drove off into the rain and the night headed for Dales house! Thirty minuets later however, the temp gauge jumped again into the red. We pulled over let it cool and checked the reservoir, added fluid and continued to drive. Four long hours and several gallons of coolant later we arrive at Dales home. The next morning we ate breakfast with Dale then headed to the near by Subaru dealership. Turned out that there was a cracked head gasket, and about a dozen other parts that were so rusted that if they attempted to remove them they would break causing a domino effect of parts needing to be replaced. In all they estimated 5,000 dollars in repairs! we didn't even owe much more than that on the damn car! Feeling my stomach drop I looked at Amanda with absolutely no idea what to do. In desperate need of advice we called Amanda's parents, the bank, our insurance company and Dale. The message was nearly one hundred percent unanimous, get rid of the car! As such we sold the car to the Subaru dealership which broke my heart. It was hard to see our little red Subaru go. Over the next 48 hours we visited nearly all the car dealerships in Memphis! In the end we were able to get a great deal on a 2014 Toyota Rav4 and all thanks to Pawpaw Richard Day who drove us around ( and was such a wonderful source of calm and encouragement), and a young intelligent and compassionate 21 year old named Ricardo. Ricardo worked at the Toyota dealership and after being told that we couldn't afford the Rav4, but that it was perfect he said, "Well what is it going to take to get you in this car?" We gave him our price and he delivered in such a big way! We now had wheels! That night we went to an amazing Memphis BBQ joint with Dale, his wonderful wife Marion along with Pawpaw and his wife, and the great Bill Neaderman. We are so grateful for the compassion, kindness and generosity of Dale and Pawpaw. I really dont know what we would have done had they not been there for us and will continue to try and pay it forward for the rest of my life.
The next day we headed out in our new ride and our canoe strapped to the top atop some sketchy foam pads. As we drove away from Dales place we felt that we had finally reached the top of this mountain we had been trying to climb. We pulled onto the busy highway and immediately became aware of a unpleasant cross wind which nearly shoved our canoe off the top of the car as a result of a foam block being blown out from under the canoe! Amanda screamed so loud it could have broken glass as the canoe nearly spun 180 degrees atop the car. I pulled over immediately as Memphis traffic whized by. Cautiously I got out of the car and quickly re-configured our set up using Reggie's blankets and 40ft of extra paracord I got the canoe secured to the top of the car. This was the point at which we decided that along with the lost time we needed to get back to Wisconsin ASAP! We drove straight to Springfield Illinois to Ryan Welchs' house for some much needed sleep and to allow our nerves to settle at least for the night! As always we were greeted with a smile, warm hug and a loving yet snarky comment. Ryan has always been a person we can rely on and know will welcome us any time. After a nice lunch together the next day we said our goodbyes and apologized for not being able to stay longer, then made our way back to Wausau! Both Amanda and I were happy to arrive in the state that we called home together for five years. At my moms house we regrouped and allowed ourselves to breathe for a week. We played with our niece, stored our canoe in their garage then made yet another long drive, but this time to New Hampshire to spend Christmas and a couple months with Amanda's family.
As we drove east a sense of excitement and purpose came over us. Debbie and Gary have always been a constant support in our lives and being able to spend time with them was so good. We hiked through the snowy forests of Canaan and spent many evening laughing and playing games with her family. It was wonderful. While there we both looked into finding a job on that side of the country and nearly did. After two months we decided it was time to head back to Wisconsin to spend some time with my family and meet our new nephew Aaron! It was so good to be with family. After a month of job searching and spending time with family and our Wisconsin friends Amanda accepted a job in Southern Utah! This was pretty exciting and we were looking forward to exploring a new part of the country. When we looked at the total amount of this we had to move, it would have been reasonable to get a small moving truck, maybe 14ft at the biggest. However we not only had to tow our car but there was no way we were going to leave our canoe, as such we went from a small moving truck to a big ass 21ft moving truck which stood nearly as tall, plus a 12ft trailer!
This truck was, well terrible! Once we finally got it unstuck from several snow banks we were on our way but got a flat tire on the trailer about 10min down the road from my moms house, things were not starting out good. After the tire was replaced it was a relatively uneventful drive until about 45miles outside of Omaha. We had driven about 18 hours and were both spent. As we drove with the trucks cruise control set at a comfortable 65mph, it suddenly began to slow down. Out of the corner of my eye I saw smoke! Immediately I pulled over and jumped out to find that the one of the trailer wheels had siezed up tearing the wheel and wheel hub off the axel! After stomping out the firery globs of buring rubber on the side of the trailer I got back in the truck. Frustration had set in then morphed into rage when I thought for a moment that I hadnt got trailer insurance despite Amanda telling me specifically to do so. Long story short, we arrived at our hotel around 3:30am. The next day we drove to Denver and ate some amazing wings at the bar her uncle tony owns, and enjoyed the company of her aunt, uncle, grandma and cousins. The following day we made a short drive throught the beautiful mountains of Colorado to visit our good friend Rachel and her husband. It was great to be with friends. The following day we made it to Cedar City Utah, spent a couple days in a hotel before finding a nice place to live.
Currently we are living in Cedar City Utah and although we miss the Northern Midwest we are enjoying the mountains! We know this wont be forever but while we are here we are very excited to explore Bryce Canyon, Zion National Park and the countless outdoor opportunities that have presented themselves and will continue to do so. Since moving here we have made two very good friends, Daryn and Brandon. Daryn works with Amanda and Dave (who recently took a position at the same RTC) and Brandon, her husband is an avid whitewater kayaker. Brandon and I spent a week in Idaho paddling some of the greatest whitewater in the country on the Payette River. When looking back at the past 6 months there is a lot that can be said and even more that can never be put into words. However the most exciting part of this next amazing chapter of our lives is the beautiful baby girl growing inside my beautiful wife. we cant wait to meet her and there is no doubt she will be an amazing adventure that we will get to enjoy for the rest of our lives. HOWEVER, what can be said is that our trip down the Mississippi River and the people we met redefined how we saw the world and the struggles, successes, fears,and joys and redefined what believed was possible. To all of you who have been a part of this amazing journey; we love you and are eternally grateful!