Getting Started

Betty Jane on the Ohio River above Markland Dam, Warsaw, Kentucky.

That blue iridescence that typifies a northern exposure fills the bedroom. Rain has made the outdoors that green that is almost blue. I am standing at the foot of the bed.

"Well, here we go," I say to myself.

I said the same thing at Cedar Mills Marina on Lake Texoma. It was Memorial Day a decade ago when Alon Carpenter and Kenn Ferrari came, almost in the middle of the night, to haul Betty Jane to the Arkansas River where our journey began. By the time they were loaded and ready to go, the sun was gilding the indigo horizon. Betty Jane trailed behind Alon's big rig like a puppy on a string. And I said to Dale, "Well, here we go."

It was the culmination of lots of talk and conjecture. Our friends had long grown tired of hearing about when we were going to run away from home, sail away. And when we did, it happened so quietly that no one noticed. No one was there to see us off or shed a tear or wave a hanky. We knew we would not be back. We are not ones to wonder "What if?" for the rest of our lives.

Similarly, alone and in the cold of the wee hours, the website for River Queens: An American Journey glows. Dale and I have spent the day getting ready for this moment. It is a moment that culminates ten years of procrastination, excuses, and frustration--ten years of perspective on the emails we took as we sailed the great American rivers from Texas to Ohio. It is a moment that ends a day of credit card contracts, bank accounts, vendor licenses, affidavits, and dbas; the creativity of two years of intensive work to get a publishable manuscript crammed into the form digestible to computers. It is the moment that the safety that shelters the world from seeing prematurely what we've created slides into the off position. A simple pop-up displays, "Live" before fading away like the Cheshire Cat in Alice's Wonderland.

Dale is in the kitchen, making coffee from the sound of his prattle which always accompanies its brewing. The computer on my desk is making promises in advance that I will, in a few months, deliver River Queens: An American Journey, a finished hard-bound book. I stand alone at the foot of the bed and say to no one, "Well, here we go."