June 10, 1998
San Diego, California, USA
Its 9:11pm and I am sitting in a cheap Mexican restaurant on the board walk in Mission Bay. I expect to be sleeping under a tree in the park tonight.
Im stuffed to the point that my stomach hurts. I just ate a chicken burrito even through I wasnt hungry. I didnt think the dude would let me sit here and type unless I bought something. A little boy and his mother are beating on an arcade game behind me. It is very distracting.
I arrived in San Diego three days ago. The paddle here from La Jolla was about ten miles. The wind and the swell were both mild. As I approached the Mission Bay break-water, 20 out-rigger canoes passed me, with six paddlers in each. On the horizon were thirteen large sail boats. Behind me were 7 small sail boats. Thats what I like best about San Diego - many active people live here. I took my kayak out of the water at Southwest Kayaks, were I had called ahead and asked to store it.
The YMCA was hosting their annual BAY 2 BAY regatta the following day. There was several different boat categories and two distances: 5 miles and 20 miles. I entered the 20 mile traditional kayak category. The entrance fee to the race was twenty dollars. I didnt like the idea of paying to paddle, but the race was a charity fund raiser for the YMCA and I thought it would be pretty cool if I ended my tour of the US west coast with a first place finish in the race. Diane was in the area looking at houses, so I stayed in her hotel room and we spent the evening on the couch watching Men In Black on the boob.
The next morning, on our way to the start of the race, a brilliant rainbow appeared over the ocean. As much as I wanted to believe it was a symbol of good luck, I knew it was going to take a miracle for me to win the race. I was still tired from the day before and I had not eaten any breakfast. I had spent a bunch of time taking photos of the rainbow, so I had very little time to prepare at the start of the race. I was still standing on the beach 45 seconds before the race began while everyone else was on the water ready to sprint.
There were approximately 35 other paddlers in my category. After the first mile, I realized that I didnt have a chance at winning, and resigned to a moderate pace for the rest of the race.
A quarter mile before the finish line, I passed a old dude on a paddle board(a long and narrow surfboard propelled with just bare hands) and I told him how impressed I was by his accomplishment. He also had traveled the entire 20 miles.
"Hey, youre MAX... right?!", he responded. "I read an article about you in California Surfer Magazine."
The article he read was written by my friend Henry, who I met at Jalama. I have to send Henry a follow-up article tomorrow for his next magazine, to up-date his readers on my progress. I have not written it yet. I hate writing, but I know it is necessary.
Five months ago, I came upon a web site with a few stories that I found fascinating, so I emailed the author and told him that I liked his stories. Patrick emailed me back and said that I was welcome to come visit him when I got to San Diego. After the race, Diane took me out to eat at a Mexican restaurant, then dropped me off at Patricks house.
Patrick, and his girl friend, Deanna, are both motivational speakers. Patrick is 32 years young and has written a book called "Major in Success", which teaches university students how to make the most of their educational experience and how to get a great job afterward. Deanna is 27 years young and teaches nutrition. Together, they form The Good Thinking Company and tour college campuses, businesses and various organizations across the USA.
I found them truly inspiring. They have a nice apartment, a nice car, several computers and they have accomplished more in their short careers than many people twice their age. I enjoyed listening to the enthusiasm in their voice as they conducted business over the phone. Patrick is trying hard to get on the Oprah Show. He says that authors who appear on Oprah sell an average of 30,000 books directly as a result of the show. We spent the evening discussing our plans for the future and playing video games, mostly James Bond, on their Nintendo.
Patrick and Deanna are both Vegan, which means they dont eat any animal products: no meat, milk or eggs. Deanna insists that almost all cancers and heart attacks are totally preventable through nutrition. Both her father and mother were brought back from their death beds with proper nutrition. Her mother had breast cancer, but after changing her diet, the cancer disintegrated and never returned. I forget her fathers story, but it was amazing as well. Deanna reminded me a lot of my mother, Diana, who is also a nutritional consultant. After leaving Patrick and Deannas home, I went for a hike through Balboa Park, then headed back to Mission Bay on a trolley.
It is now June 11th. I was too tired to finish this journal entry last night, so I quit at around 1am, and headed off to find a place to lay my head. I walked along the beach and through a resort, until I came upon a spot I thought was suitable - between a fence and a row of palm trees in front of a hotel. Just as I was about to pull out my sleeping bag, I was summoned by two flash-light toting security guards.
"I dont want to make your lives difficult." I said to the two men. "I am just looking for is a quiet place to lay my head. Where would you suggest?"
A half hour later, I was asleep under a palm tree in a city park on the edge of the bay. A homeless man slept just a few feet away from me. My camera bag and laptop were tucked safely away inside my Gore-Tex bivi bag. I didn't feel threatened. I am now back at the Mexican Restaurant, chowing down on a breakfast burrito.
Commuting back to Mission Bay on a trolley, I noticed a large amount of homeless people sleeping on the street and asked a guy sitting in the seat across from me if he knew why they were there.
"I dont know." He replied, "Im not from around here."
"Where ya from?", I inquired.
"New York City"
"How long have you been in San Diego?"
"Almost a week now." he answered.
"What have you seen?"
"Not much..." he responded. "Im just heading to check out Old Town now."
To catch my connecting bus, I also had to get off at Old Town, so we spent the following 45 minutes together telling each other our lifes stories as we walking around Old Town.
Old Town is the location of San Diegos original town square, dating back to the early 1800s. The California parks system has restored a bunch of the buildings: the general store, the bank, the black smith shop, etc. Before departing on the bus, Jon and I made plans to hook-up again that evening for dinner and a movie.
At 6pm, Jon picked me up in a rent-a-car, then we picked up his traveling buddy, Herald, and we all went out to dinner. Jon is in his late 30s, and Herald is sixty-something. We ate at a nice restaurant. Herald insisted on paying for my dinner. I didnt argue. Herald was tired, so we dropped him off at the Hilton and continued to the movie theater.
We saw a great flick. I thought it was brilliant. The Truman Show is about a man named Truman Burbank, who lives in a world totally contrived by a television producer. Trumans life is played out on television screens around the world, and he is the only person who doesnt know it. Thousands of hidden video cameras record his every move and all of his friends and family are actors.
Early in the film, without even a hint of the big picture, Truman begins to question his freedom to choose his lifes course and progressively comes to perceive his life as a prison. I dont want to say more... because I dont want to ruin it for those who havent seen the film yet, but Ill say this: Truman was living in a virtual prison. Like Truman, many people have prison guards (family, friends and co-workers) holding them back with discouraging words. But, unlike Truman, who was willing to risk his life in order to break free of society's shackles, they'd rather slowly rot in their cell in order to please others... instead of seeking their purpose and experiencing unrestrained freedom. This film is abundant with profound metaphors.
After getting back to the Hilton, Jon and I walked to a local bar. I am still under legal drinking age, so I couldnt have ordered alcohol even if I wanted to. We had great conversation. I find it easier to meet people while traveling. At home, it would be rare to meet someone on the bus, then go to the movies with them that very same evening. The advantage of making friends while traveling is that you dont have to worry about them harassing you if they turn out to be a geek or a freak. Chances are... you will never see them again if you dont want to.
June 11, 1998
San Diego, California, USA
This morning, while typing in the Mexican restaurant, I met a woman in her mid-thirties who had been out jogging to celebrate being fired from the law firm where she was an attorney. She approached me and asked what I was writing. After my short explanation, she responded by saying that she had a nanny who once lived in Saint John, New Brunswick.
"To think about her brings tears to my eyes.", she said. Immediately, a tear formed in the corner of her eye and began slowly dripping down her cheek, until she wiped it away and said, "You must think Im pretty silly..."
Curious to hear her story, I asked, "Would you like to go for a walk?"
I packed up my belongings and we set off in the direction of her apartment. After a half mile, I told Julie that I would either have to head back to the Mexican restaurant to resume my typing or she would have to invite me to her place and I could do it there. "Sure..." she said, and we continued our conversation as we walked on.
"Lets try this..." Julie announced. "Well take turns making a sentence starting with: 'I feel comfortable.' Ill go first."
Julie told me that she felt thoroughly comfortable in my company... even though she usually doesnt enjoy being around heterosexual men. Julie told me she even bought a pair of ugly wrap-around glasses so that she could ride the bus without men starring at her.
After several rounds of that "exercise", Julie suggested, "Okay... now lets try using: 'I am surprised...' at the start of a sentence."
That got old quick. Julie went on to tell me her life story - which was a rather sad tale. It made me feel very fortunate to be raised in the loving and supportive family that I have.
Julies father was a monk and had spent a great deal of time under a vow of silence. After meeting Julies mother, he became a psychologist and has since written five books. When Julies mother found out that he was sleeping with one of his students, she had a nervous break-down, went nuts, and all of her five kids ran away from home. Some of the kids stayed with friends, others joined a Christian cult and Julie went to a mental institution. None of Julies family knows where she lives or has her phone number.
Back at the Mexican restaurant, when I asked Julie how far away she lived, I thought she told me 2 miles. After walking at least 5 miles, I asked her again and she told me "Two hours.". Twelve miles later, most of which up hill, we arrived here at her place. Julie is in the shower. Sean, her gay room mate, is standing in the kitchen preparing a salad. I dont know what is going to happen next.
August 25, 1998
Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada
Ive been home now exactly two months, today. The time has gone by quickly. It has been a great summer - jam packed with adventures. Before I tell you about all the latest happenings, let me take you back to the morning of June 9th, at San Diego Hilton, where I slept on the floor in Jon and Harold's room.
Harold treated me to a stack of pancakes in the Hotel restaurant, then he and Jon dropped me off at Southwest kayaks on their way to the air port. I spent most of the day in the shop arranging the purchase of my plane ticket home and catching up on email. When the shop closed and I didnt have any place else to go, I asked Brad, one of the shop employees, if he would mind dropping me off at a coffee house on his way home, so I would have a place to plug-in and resume my typing.
On the way, Brad invited me to stay at his house for the night. Shortly after arriving at his home, his wife showed up and the three of us went out to eat at The Soup Plantation - a buffet style restaurant. I stuffed myself until it hurt. Brads son was at his mothers house, so I slept in his bed.
As planned, Brad woke me up at 4am, we headed off to a small lake a half hour north of San Diego and met up with a few of his friends for an early morning paddle. The wind was perfectly calm and the water was glassy smooth. It was a good time.
We arrived back at Southwest Kayaks at 9am - in time for Brad to open shop. Ed, the owners husband, arrived and I offered to help him with a charity paddle for physically challenged people that was to take place later that afternoon. I didnt have anything else to do, so I just sat in a chair in the shop with my computer on my lap and resumed typing.
Because I had gotten up so early that morning, I was very tired and my eyes closed and head nodded forward involuntarily. I was terribly uncomfortable and I didnt stay asleep for long - only a few minutes, but long enough for Ed to see me. After shaking off my drowsiness and once again resumed typing, Ed asked me to step outside to speak with him.
"Youre totally freaking me out!" He exclaimed. "I thought you are supposed the be on a kayaking expedition...!?!"
"Im actually going to be flying home in a few days and resuming my journey in October." I replied. "Im just here because I need a place to type. If Im annoying you... I apologize and Ill leave."
"When are you going to have your boat out of here?" Ed questioned.
"Hopefully tomorrow..." I answer. "The guy who is allowing me to store it in his warehouse for the summer has been busy lately, and I havent been able to get a hold of him. Would you mind if I used your phone to give him another try?"
"Yeah... go ahead." he responded.
There was still no answer at Johns plant, so there was still nothing I could do about moving the boat. I had a bunch of emails ready to send, so I asked Ed if he would mind me using the phone again. "Sure..." He replied. Ed left the shop, and Katie, his wife and the store owner, entered just as I was plugging into the phone line.
"What are you doing?" she inquired sarcastically.
"Im just sending a few emails." I returned. "It will take less than a minute. Ed said it was okay."
"I want you out of here now!" Katie responded harshly.
I taken back by her reaction, immediately left the shop and went into the storage area where my kayak and other belongings were being stored. As I packed up my gear, the paddlers with disabilities began to arrive. By the time I was finished, they were in their kayaks and ready to head out. The group had already been kayaking on several other occasions and the hour long paddle around the bay went without incident. I was glad to joined them. I met some nice folks.
Afterward, when Ed was putting away the kayaks, I offered to help him and he replied by telling me that I am the biggest jerk he has ever met. "Where were you when the disabled people needed help getting into their kayaks...?!!" He asked rhetorically. I still needed my kayak and other belongings to be stored in his building for at least another day, so I just told him what he wanted to hear and I apologized.
I knew I would be sleeping outside in the park that night, so I grabbed my sleeping bag, laptop, a few other things and quickly shoved them in my back pack. Before leaving, I went back in the shop to apologize and make peace with Katie. That was wishful thinking. Katie bitched me out for five more minutes. "I have people coming in here all the time asking me for sponsorship. Ed and I have traveled all over the world, and weve never done that. I feel like I have been sponsoring you even though I dont want to. "
As I walked away, I reflected on her comments. I felt hurt at first, but the more I thought about what she said, the more incredibly petty it sounded. A year from now, what difference will it make that my kayak was stored in her shop for a few days and I used her phone ten times? I asked every time I needed to use the phone, they had three different lines and every call I made was to a 1-800 number or was local.
A few days later, my friend Mike, from Oregon, called the shop looking for me and Katie ragged him out for calling there looking for me. All my gear was out of her shop long before then, so I have no idea what she had to complain about.
I was warned by several people that Ed can be an eccentric character at times. He is somewhat of a celebrity in the paddling community. Ed has paddled the east coast of South America and from San Francisco to Hawaii - alone and unassisted. That is without question an awesome display of human will and determination. I think he is amazing! I never told him that. He started cutn me down from the second we met. When I told him that I would be paddling down the inside of the Baja, he replied by suggesting that if I was a real adventurer... I would be going down the outside. When he asked, "What do you need a satellite phone for?", and I replied "I need it to up date my website when Im in remote locations... but its also great to have in case of emergency situations.", he retorted sarcastically, "Yeah... Whatever...!", as he turned away and ended the conversation. Whats up with that? Does he want me to kill myself!?! Very strange...
Upon reaching the board walk district of Mission Bay, I went into a tattoo shop and convinced the owner to let me get my email. I spent the rest of the evening writing my journal in the Mexican restaurant. When I got too tired to write any longer, I walked to the park and slept under a palm tree on the edge of the bay. The next morning, I walked back to the restaurant, ordered a breakfast burrito and resumed my journal writing. Thats when I met the lawyer chick.