The Ultimate Florida Challenge: 1200 miles by small craft in 30 days or less. No motors, no cars, no outside help. This is the race for those who are looking for more of a challenge than the Everglades Challenge, a tough as nails 300 mile race from Ft. Desoto in Clearwater, to Key Largo. As Susan and I are entering our first Everglades Challenge in March 2011, I made sure to both read this book, and meet Warren at a book signing. Both were eminently worthwhile.
It’s taken me over a week to really digest this work and discuss it. It’s really deep, and yet elegantly simple in the way it’s written, and you really feel like you’ve just had a long conversation with the author when it’s over. And, although I’m not going to give away the ending, I will tell you that I understand why certain things took the amount of time that they did.
This is a story of a man, his life, a crazy trip, and what brought them all together in what seems like an inevitable part of his existence. Lulled into domestic complacency while somehow unconsciously knowing there were problems, he, like many others, was thrown into the miasma of a divorce with no real warning, just the signs we all ignore.
In recovery mode, Warren discovers kayaking. With a vengeance. As many of us have done, he walked into the kayak (substitute store of choice here) store with no intention of doing anything more than sampling a kayak, and walked out with more than he bargained for. And not just with the boat.
Warren leads us forward through getting ready for the race, while simultaneously leading us through his life and what got him to where and who he was at the beginning of the book. We discover that Warren is simply a man, and that being simply a man is enormously complex. Warren offers insights into himself that are seldom voiced, and even thinking similar introspective thoughts scares many of us away from ourselves. Warren embraced himself instead, sometimes reluctantly, sometimes full speed ahead, and the results show him to be far deeper than you expect. In fact, the most memorable line in the book, for me, had nothing at all to do with the trip. Rather, Warren was reminiscing about raising his son, and he wrote that “it’s a mother’s job to teach a child how to live,while it’s a father’s job to teach a child how not to die”.
I’ve written this much without even discussing the race, so let me tell you, Warren describes it fantastically. You will feel the adventure inside as you follow the narrative, especially knowing that, as you start the book, somewhere in the chapters ahead is the part about the 40 mile portage, where the entrants have to race across LAND with their boats!
Until I read Warren’s book, I thought my adventure during the 1989 La Carrera Panamericana Rally in Mexico http://claritysailingadventures.wordpress.com/other-than-sailing-stuff/ was pretty heady stuff. I still think it was a great, grueling adventure, but Warren, a simple man with a unique depth of character, strength, and spirit, has helped me put myself in perspective.