Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | May 28, 2012

From Highways to Rivers

I was a bit sad after dropping off my Dad at his home at the end of our 3,300-mile road trip. We had an amazing and memorable adventure together as we traveled through Texas, New Mexico, and Colorado. This first part of my sabbatical exceeded my expectations in terms of refreshing me and giving me an opportunity to take lots of notes on more of my Dad’s stories about our family. The things Dad shared with me added additional detail to the canvas of my family’s history. I feel as though my connection with our past is stronger and I want to make sure that my kids hear the stories that encouraged me. Connecting our kids with the stories of our past can give them much-needed context for understanding more about where they fit into the bigger family picture.

By the time I arrived home I had logged more than 4,000 miles on my truck. Now the focus of my sabbatical turns from highways to rivers as I make final preparations to compete in the Texas Water Safari with my son. After arriving home, Jonathan and I packed our gear and headed to the lower portion of the Guadalupe River to do a much-needed training run for me. These last 32-miles of the 260-mile Texas Water Safari are among the most technical of the course. Jonathan wanted for me to see and practice the portages at the infamous log-jammed sections of the river. Getting through this congested section of the river requires three long and exhausting portages. By the time we reach this section of the river during the race, we will have already paddled over 200-miles and will be quite a bit more tired!

As we approached the first log jam I could not believe my eyes. It was one thing to hear Jonathan describe this section of the Guadalupe River but quite another to actually see it. The tangle of logs and debris is so thick that the river is creating new channels around it. When we turned our canoe toward shore to do this first and longest of the three log-jam portages, we hopped out and stepped into thick and gooey mud — the kind that creates so much suction you have to pull hard just to get your foot out to take the next step, and the kind that creates so much suction that it pulls your shoes off your feet! Once we got past the mud we dragged our canoe almost a half-mile until we found the spot where we could get back on the water. This was followed by two similar portages, although not as long as the first.

After the log jam portages we continued to paddle toward the mouth of the river, the place where the Guadalupe empties into San Antonio Bay. This is the final and one of the toughest sections of the course — paddling across the bay and the deep barge canal toward the finish line at Seadrift, Texas. Jonathan and I pulled to the shore and put the spray skirt on the canoe before heading into the bay. We battled a head-wind and swells that made these final miles seem like the two-hour version of an eight-second bull ride. But, we made it across. Mission accomplished. I now have a better understanding of what this section of the course looks like and what it will take to finish these final 32 of the 260 miles.

After all of our training runs along different sections of the race course, I now know why the Texas Water Safari is billed as the world’s toughest canoe race. And, I would be lying if I wrote that I am not concerned and a little bit anxious. I have a new respect and appreciation for those who have finished the course and certainly want to be listed among the finishers his year. Barring no unforeseen emergencies along the way, I am confident I can finish the course with Jonathan. My daughter Niki’s responsibilities will be no less taxing as she and Cheryl meet us at the various checkpoints along the way to officially check us in and to refresh our water supply (we have to carry all of our own food and gear).

Once we got past the log-jam yesterday and continued our journey toward the Gulf of Mexico, the chorus of one of my favorite songs — On Mountains High — kept playing through my head. These words sum up my feelings about my life and ministry. The only regret that I want to die with is that I only had one life with which to praise, serve, and seek after God.

On mountains high I’ll praise your name,
In valleys low I’ll do the same,
As the river runs to find the ocean blue
My heart will always run to find you.

Thanks for following my sabbatical journey. I will spend much of the next few days in study and writing as well as getting ready for the Texas Water Safari.


  1. Thanks for taking us all with you! I run through a series of events every morning when I sit down at my computer. Your blog sits right up top for me to click on every morning. They often give me encouragement, help me find new strength, make me laugh but a lot of times it just reminds me that we have impact on someone everyday with everything we do, even if we don’t realize it. You are very intentional in everything you do and always with His Glory leading the way. You are an inspiration for us all – thanks again for taking us with you! Good luck on your water safari – I’m sure you will do great as a family out there! Can’t wait to read all about it!

    • Thanks for your kind and encouraging words, Eva. Looking forward to the days ahead. I must confess that I do have a bit of anxiety as the water safari draws closer, but I am looking forward to the torture!

  2. Omar,
    I am glad you had so many days to spend with your father. I have not seen my Dad in over three years, so this makes me really, really miss him.

    May your own Dad be blessed with length of days!


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