My intentions for the day were to get into the river as I could so that I would be able to paddle into the Gulf of Mexico by Friday night and make my Saturday morning flight. What actually happened is a completely different story. Hulon woke me up at around 5:00 am and by 5:30 I was on the riverbank with a bag of doughnuts and a sack full of groceries to add to the little that I had left… granola bars. I had no choice but to leave the kayak on the side of the river in virtually the middle of the city. I half expected to get to the river side and see my kayak missing in action but sure enough as the Lord is good, my kayak was still there. The levy provided some cover for the kayak, but from the other side of the river, the red outline of the kayak could be seen with no problem at all. There was something inside of me that wanted the kayak to be gone to release me from the agony of even one more day of paddling, especially in this wretched heat. So after Hulon took me to get some fresh bakery goods and back to the river, he informs me that he will be deep sea fishing in Venice, LA this Sunday.If only I didnt have a saturday morning flight to catch, I would have loved to jump at the opportunity.
About ready to head off again, I realize that my phone still does not work properly and I have not heard from the CMA and their Video crew in about a week. My phone worked just long enough in order to inform my mother of my aliveness. She was most likely planning my funeral when I called being that I have not spoken to her in 3 days. I decide that I must get some things figured out before I rush off to the river again. The water under the touchscreen on my phone makes it virtually impossible to navigate so I try to find a phone to make some calls on but to no success. After about a half hour of looking for a phone I meet Danny.
Danny is one of the most kind-heated, soft spoken, and sincere people that I have ever met. Danny opened up to me very quickly and he took me under his wing for nearly the whole Day taking me around New Orleans to find a phone. After buying a track-phone Danny took me out to lunch and then to the French Market to buy a cross and a chain to hang around my neck as a reminder of God’s provision throughout this amazing trip. Danny and I had a blast. He rarely gets out of his house due to a medical condition, but because of the testimony of my life through this trip he was extremely encouraged and we spent the entire day together. I would not have been able to have this opportunity if I still had a partner. It would be a darn shame to forget someone like Danny! At the end of the day when we departed after literally seeing the entire city, he expressed to me how much of an impact I had made in his life. He told me that I need to tell my parents that they raised me well, and had so much to say about the entire journey! Danny is an irreplaceable human being. In all honesty, it was people like Danny who made this entire trip worth it! I thank God that nobody decided to steal the kayak. It sat there on the New Orleans river bank all night and all day and it was visible from the other side of the river. Then again I wouldn’t have minded throwing in the towel.
Thursday Night Paddling
So I left New Orleans that night around six. The sunset was very pretty over the city but the heat was still in the upper 90′s… Ohh what fun. Going through the rest of the New Orleans harbor was a bit nerve racking. Especially because if I tipped due to the waves of these astronomically large ships, I would be fighting Old man River himself. This particular portion of the river was over 200 Feet deep. The barges here were extra friendly, making sure to come as close as possible to hitting my kayak. I was just another bath toy!
So I paddled on into the night dodging barges and ocean liners, and in no time, i was being directed by the light of the moon. My motivation was fading fast, but if I was to make it 100 miles and get back to New Orleans by 11 on Saturday morning for my flight, I had no choice but to push on. To help motivate me, I put my headphones in and began listening to some music. This was a bad decision for a couple reasons. First off, if I cant hear anything, then I must rely on sight to see ships. The ships had four little lightbulbs on their 1/4 of a mile long bodies, but it was nearly impossible to know their direction and speed from those four little lights. And if i cant hear the ships, there is nothing keeping them from sneaking up behind me with their 30 mph cruising speed. Did I mention that they are completely blind to them? Anyways, the moon had been down for about an hour and I got into a pattern of after every song, taking off my headphones and looking around. If all was clear i would continue. Well after a few hours and half way through a song, I hear a voice out of no where resonate in my head. It was saying, “Gene, you should stop and check for ships”. I virtually stopped paddling and thought to myself, “But I am only half way through the song, this is just fear!” So I cast that fear down and continue paddling. For the next twenty seconds my insides were turning and this voice inside me kept getting more earnest and finally I was fed up with this anxious feeling inside of me, so I threw down my paddle and verbally yelled, “Fine! I will check for ships!” As I turn around, all I can see is the silhouette of an Ocean liner, blacker than the night sky and heading strait for me! My path was its path, and in a matter of 45 seconds or less, it would have been right on top of me! My heart didnt even bother to pace it self, but jumped from 60 bpm strait to ramming speed. I have never paddled so fast. Needless to say, I wouldnt have made it through the rest of the song. God spared me, and the prayers of safety of many people were answered that night. After 5 minutes of gaining my composure, i finally got back on the river. The nest thing that happened was a river boat captain warned me, “When you get to mile marker 70, dont stop. There is a grainery there and there are at least on average 50 alligators that live and feed by that grainery. I knew I was getting close based on the curves of the river. Next thing I know, I am turning a corner and there it stood right in front of me. All alone, paddling at night, and already scared out of my mind, I paddle as fast as I could with no intentions of looking back. It gets to be about 1 in the morning and I am starting to wind down for the night. So I start looking for a place to stay, but in pitch dark, this is not the easiest task. I was forced to paddle near the side of the river to get a better look, at the riverbank, and all I could think is, “Yep, if I were an alligator, this is about the type of pace you would find me” there are low trees hanging over the river, and the river edges were swamp or channels that any smart alligator would love to make its home. Well I finally found a sandbar… surrounded by a swamp that I swore was a haven for alligators. Needles to say, I took out my knife, flashlight, and tent and I was on guard at all times. I have never set up that tent so fast. I traveled somewhere around 40 miles, and the most frightening 40 miles of the trip by far!