In 1985, the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving hadn’t been easy. I’d been rowing my sneakbox LUNA from Pittsburgh down the Ohio River and the days had been either wet, cold, or both. The rowing warmed me up but several nights just before had been especially cold and I slid into my sleeping bag fully dressed with my rowing pogies over my socks to warm my toes. Rowing day after day had inflamed the tendons in my right wrist, so I taped that hand to the oar handle so I could pull without taking the strain on my fingers. And my heart was acting up—every time I looked over my left shoulder it would take a hard, late beat. I stopped in the town of Cloverport, Kentucky, found a grocery store not far from the river, and bought a bottle of Gatorade, hoping the electrolytes would get my heart settled into a less worrying rhythm. Back on the river, I kept myself company by singing “Poor Wandering One” from Gilbert and Sullivan’s Pirates of Penzance, though I remembered only a few verses of the song and improvised the rest.On Thanksgiving Day, I rowed some 15 meandering miles from an unnamed hollow at river mile 705 to the Cannelton Locks. LUNA was the only boat locking through. That was usually the case, as recreational boating had come to an end with the approach of winter. In the chamber I slowly dropped about 40′ and the dark, dripping concrete walls pinched off the sky above me. A middle-aged couple peered over the railing as I descended beneath them and asked where I was going. I told them that I had rowed about 500 miles from Pittsburgh and was bound for Florida. They said they’d like to hear all about it and asked me to join them for a Thanksgiving dinner at a restaurant not far away.I found a safe place for LUNA just below the locks and the couple, Rosemary and Chauncy, drove me a few miles along the river to Tell City where a family restaurant was serving an all-you-can-eat Thanksgiving buffet. I washed my hands and face in the restroom; there wasn’t anything I could do about the rest of me. I’d been wearing my clothes night and day for almost a week, and the thighs of my wool pants were spotted with mustard stains where I’d made cheese-and-tomato sandwiches while descending in the shelter of the many Ohio River locks. It was midafternoon and Rosemary and Chauncey were between lunch and Thanksgiving dinner, so they didn’t order anything. I worked my way through a plateful of turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes with gravy, and a square of cornbread and returned to the buffet. In between refills, I answered questions about the boat and my experience on the river, a small price to pay for some company and a hot meal. When I had eaten all I could, I thanked Rosemary and Chauncey for their kindness and they drove me back to LUNA. As I set to rowing again, my stomach ached. I wasn’t at all used to big meals—to fuel my rowing I snacked my way through the days.

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