November 30

Life is all about timing. And that was the case today. I had about 17 miles planned through the beaches of Tampa.  I had looked up different gas stations and restaurants to stop at to get some snacks before I get off tomorrow to meet friends for the weekend. I figured I would just paddle for a bit then see where I should stop. I made it about 5 miles to Clearwater and decided I could stop at a Walgreens for snacks and hit a water side restaurant later in the day. I had been to Clearwater several times. One of the most memorable non-memorable times was my epic spring break road trip my second senior year of college. I don’t think this town has ever recovered. I tried to find a place to dock to run up to Walgreens for 5 minutes. I asked at a jet ski rental place and the guy rudely told me the only place was a restaurant dock. I paddled back and tied up. The dock had a gate that wouldn’t let me in unless it was unlocked electronically. The signs posted everywhere said that you needed to have a time stamped receipt from the restaurant to get back to your boat. I was a little worried and confused about how this was going to work. While I was standing there 2 tattooed guys came up on a boat and one of them called the number to open the gate. We made small talk about my trip and the gate still hadn’t open. A yacht pulled up with about 6 people on it. We had 9 people and a dog standing there looking at this gate. The guy called again and they buzzed us in. We all walked towards the restaurant and I figured I should probably buy something to get back to my boat. Since I haven’t used a washing machine in a month or showered in a week I decided I should probably sit outside. The two guys with the dog were outside too and one of them told me to join them. That was the last thing I wanted to do. I thought about politely declining and lying saying I had some online work to do or something but I agreed to join them. They were asking more questions about my trip and then one of them asked why I would do something like this. I told him I had been wrapped up in drugs and alcohol and finally got my life back and decided to do it. Then the guy said he had been sober for 22 years. My jaw dropped. The conversation and everything about the whole situation changed. It was like I was back in Columbus hanging with friends except for a lot better weather. We were done eating and I realized I needed to get back on the water to make some miles. Our waitress hadn’t been back in a while and one of the guys said he had taken care of the check. We left and it was like parting ways with old friends. I hit the store and got back on the water. I checked my phone and had gotten a Facebook message from the one guy saying it was nice meeting me and to keep it up. A little bit later I got a text from the sober guy saying he was sorry he didn’t think of it earlier but if I wanted I could stop at his place that I was passing in a few miles to shower, do laundry, sleep in a bed. I thought about it but wanted to get in a few more miles and with getting all that tomorrow I respectfully declined but was very appreciative. I made it to my island campsite at sunset and was still amazed about my day. If one little thing had changed, I would have never have met those guys. If the hurricane hadn’t have pushed me off the water for so long. If I had started my trip in Montana instead of Ohio. If I had not taken a day off a few weeks ago. If I had camped on one island further last night. If I would have left camp 5 minutes earlier or one minute later this morning. If that idiot in the big boat would have slowed down and didn’t cause me to stop as he threw wake at me. If the jet ski guy would have let me dock there. If I would have decided to sit inside instead of outside. So many things could have changed the opportunity to meet those guys but they didn’t. And now I have an amazing experience and new friends that I didn’t have when I started the day. The adventure gods work in mysterious ways that I don’t understand but when things like this happen I definitely don’t question them.