Former Anna Maria Commissioner Tom Skoloda got a very unusual gift from his wife, Alice Newlon, for his 75th birthday. It wasn’t anything to wear, eat or play with.
Instead, she agreed to be his backup for a canoe paddle down the Ohio River. While he plotted out his route, she made sure he had a place to stay, whether a motel or a campground.
Skoloda, who moved off the Island to a northwest Bradenton address after he served at city hall, has stayed active since the move. He and his wife bicycled cross country from May to August in 2010.
While he had a lofty goal, he made sure he didn’t overdo it. He set a goal of five to seven hours and 25 miles per day. He began his paddle in Connellsville, Pennsylvania, on the Youghiogheny River and it took him 42 days to cover 1,043 miles ending just short of the Mississippi River. Along the way, he saw a paddlewheel boat, the Queen of the Mississippi.
“Most of the time, I was alone on the river,” he said. “The big boats didn’t scare me, it was the small power boats that scared me. I wore glasses that had a rear view mirror.”
Along the way, he made some interesting stops. He saw some casinos and a huge mural on a one-mile-long flood wall. He also visited Portsmouth, Ohio, where they celebrate television and movie cowboy star Roy Rogers.
The trip was a learning experience. He made a list of things he learned:
- 25 miles on moving water is faster than 25 miles on still water
- Not all locks are created equal
- It can take up to three hours to get through a lock, but most have been less than 30 minutes
- Cloudy days are better than sunny days
- Pain comes in many forms and in many different places
- I have gained weight while shedding inches
- Tug boats and barges are not a problem, pleasure power boaters are!
- Not all boat ramps and launches are easy to find, even when you know where they are
- A kayak can launch itself from a car parked on a steep incline
- Every good stopping place has 100 or more Canada geese with all their poop
- I can actually paddle for seven hours without requiring hospitalization, that is if you don’t include psychiatric ones
- It’s good to have a rudder on a boat if you’re going to do a lot of distance paddling