Shuttling, Schlepping and Savoring the Journey



Many of us have driven or ridden along on those white-knuckle shuttle rides, where gnarly dirt roads, steep inclines, and zero-inch-margin-of-error switchbacks leave our engines wheezing, our kayak racks and straps straining, and our hearts pumping out half the day’s supply of adrenaline before we even get to the put-in. At the road’s end, we might embark on a sweaty, grueling hike in that exacts a parallel toll on our feet, shoulders and lungs. Somehow, we regard these harrowing escapades as normal and necessary parts of the kayaking process.

Most kayakers would agree that when the river calls, they do whatever it takes to answer. Sometimes it’s a matter of rearranging schedules, sacrificing sleep, or powering through a work assignment. We all have our own stories of how we ultimately land at the put-in. More often than not, we fail to acknowledge the process of simply getting there. We fail to honor the steps taken in order to slide our boats into that first eddy.

Other goals in life tend to work the same way. It’s easy to celebrate when we achieve a desired milestone. It’s easy to get down on ourselves when we fall short of our milestones. For some reason, we often forget that the journey itself, whether we make the mark or not, provides many moments to cherish. When you reach a goal, remember to reflect upon what got you there. When did you have to stop and think about where you were headed and how to make it happen…and how did these moments transform you?

Please enjoy my poem, “Ode to the 1995 Saturn,” a recollection of coaxing my kayak-laden, rattletrap Saturn sedan through the Appalachian Mountains.  Upon stopping to let the engine cool down (which happened hourly), I found some moments to truly reflect upon my path.


Ode to the 1995 Saturn

It’s time to ascend,

time to rev the engine high.

Clutch creaks, gas pants hard.

I grit my mind and my feet

against rolling back to start.


Face the first descent,

brace for the imminent jolt

from downshifting once.

Can’t hear my own thoughts, but at

least I’m not cooking the brakes.


The miles age us both.

Odometer spins too fast.

She chugs heavenward,

I consider my options:

I can run, climb, fly or stay.


Govern gravity,

manipulate momentum.

The goals are the same,

between a budding boater

and her antique car. Timeless.