Six miles or so was all that was in the cards for yesterday’s paddle, sorry to say. With visibility so limited, conditions promising to kick, and well, a better day the next day with less side wind and chop, I once again bailed. The swell was minimal and fun from Macatawa area to Saugatuck, but visibility was around 200 yards. I couldn’t believe how the breakwater suddenly appeared in front of me for this little harbor. The whole scene was reminiscent of Maine or the Washington coast, except with more wind, which is kind of unusual in such a sense fog. Usually fog settles things and brings a stillness.
Knowing conditions were going to kick and be more onshore as I approached South Haven and the land would take on a slightly westward bend, I figured I’d play it safe and pull out while the pulling out was possible. And of course we found our way back to Karen Holt’s home! So she has had the record of hosting us-well actually being present at her place and hosting us-for three nights!!! So it was another pajama party at Karen’s. We’ve become like sisters-with Stacie from afar, as well. I so do hope these amazing women stay in my life! Well, as Karen says, “don’t say “try,” don’t say “hope,” just “DO.”
Please enjoy Stacie Draher-Dimick’s blog below because she sums up perfectly the nature of outreach involving this paddle, plus how it becomes a thing, an entity all it’s own. And Eric E. Haas, if you are reading this, I will be including your blog in the coming days! I’m hoping it entices folks to paddle with me-heehee, no, I am NOT a speed demon! (Hence my handle “slowpaddler”)
“ALL THEY CAN SAY IS NO!”
On May 27th, my friend Ulli Sherer introduced me online to a canoeist that was on her way to Michigan. Gosh that seems like such a long time ago! Her name was Margo. Margo Pellegrino, to be exact!
You see, I am a kayaker. My interest was piqued when I learned this little bits of a woman was in the midst of a monumental journey all the way from New York City to Chicago! Knowing that she would soon be approaching Michigan and coming through our waterways, my curiousity grew.
Known amongst my circle of friends in my kayak group as “Bird Dog”, the hunt was on! I wanted to know more. Everything, actually! Why was she doing this? How far did she paddle every day? Where did she stay?
After popping a message to this stranger via Facebook, Margo somehow in the midst of her busy day had time to message me back and talk with me on the phone. After learning a typical day involves paddling 40 miles I could not fathom how there were enough hours in the day to take care of personal needs, let alone all the trip logistics.
My main concern was her rest. Where does she stay each night? I wanted to help. After sharing Margo’s story with Sara Garczynski of GLPS (Great Lakes Paddle Sports), our local Port Huron outfitter, they offered to host Margo and Lindsy Coon, her shoreline logistics manager. Enduring a grueling trip upbound the St. Clair River, they stayed a second day with fellow kayaker Randy Orchard’s family at their campground.
Prior to arriving in Port Huron, my Facebook friend Pam Thomas, referred me to Jim and Laura Neumann of Riverside Grocery on Harsens Island. Jim and Laura welcomed Margo and Lindsy with open arms to their home. Energized by enthusiasm from the excited spirit of these consecutive hosts, my eagerness to continue on this journey with Margo and Lindsy propelled my urgency to make just one more phone call.
You see, I am a volunteer…a woman with the desire to help another woman with a difficult journey. Margo is separated from her family, pushing herself physically and emotionally day after day, thirsting to draw attention to the issues impacting our waterways.
Knowing there were areas in Michigan that Margo and Lindsey would have difficulty with cell service, I asked if I could call ahead to arrange for hosts. I remember Margo being excited and telling me that nobody had ever done that for them before. I smiled and said “Margo, welcome to Michigan!” And, oh what a welcome my fellow Michiganders have given them!
A few days later Lindsy’s replacement for the second half of the trip arrived. But before I tell you about that, I must say Lindsy was quite a treat! Fun to talk to, efficient in her ways, she did an awesome job assisting Margo with her shoreline duties. I only wish I could have had more time to get to know her!
Further up the thumb, Margo’s husband Carl, arrived with their two kids and Jessica Besock, the new logistics manager. Not only did our Michigan hosts accept two guests, they also welcomed Margo’s family during their brief stay! Our Michiganders love their water and that shows through their graciousness extended to the NYC2CHI team.
For me, calling total strangers for every 40 miles around our lower peninsula coastline was easy. As I picked up the phone, I could hear my late mother’s voice “Honey, all they can say is no.” And she was right, that’s true! It was more than easy, it was fun! Not only would the individual I was speaking to agree to host, he or she would then ask what could they do to help. They reached out to media and water allies, organized welcome parties, dinners, and catered to their needs.
Keeping track of host details, I noticed a criss-crossing network began to cover our state. One call would lead to another. Hundreds of miles away, a prior host would reach out to their network and a new host would accommodate Margo and Jessica. Who would imagine my simple call to Rogers City for a local host back in June would zigzag through five more people placing Margo and Jessica in the home they are tonight? Karen Holt’s home in Holland!
Another aspect of helping Margo and Jessica that I enjoyed was being able to be a home base of sorts. With cell phone coverage or wi-fi sometimes becoming sketchy, Jessica had her hands full tracking Margo, fielding media calls, sending press releases, procuring landing spots, and taking care of other logistics working from the shoreline. A fine job she has done and continues to do. She is an amazing young lady! I’m sure, at times, trying to take care of business sometimes navigating through Michigan might almost feel like a foreign country when technology is failing her.
At times, I was able to intercede and act as a mediary. Working from home, I always had Internet and phone service. At one point, Jessica’s phone had no service. Margo was out on the water needing to change the take out. Amazingly enough, Margo’s boat phone was working and I was able to aid her with landmarks.
This morning I confirmed my last Michigan hosting. Rushing through my head were memories of all the landings I watched on the Spot tracker, many filled with tears. Tears of joy as another paddling day was completed drawing nearer to Chicago! Aware of the exhaustion these two must surely be experiencing, I am fond of these two brave women. Becoming friends along the way, knowing they will soon be leaving Michigan, my voice broke as I spoke with this final host. Fighting tears, I explained to him that they were like my babies leaving the nest. I could “hear” him smile with understanding through the phone line. My fellow Michigander, thank you for that!
But we’re not done yet! I say “we”, because we are a team. Margo, Jessica, and I. Margo and Jessica, after today’s paddle, there are only have three more to go! As I have jokingly quipped to Jessica over the course of the last few days: “Margo, shut up and paddle!” Jessica and I got this!
Chicago? Here she comes!