Monday, May 21, 2012
Plano man kayaked entire length of Missouri and Mississippi rivers
Andy Bugh said his experience proved to him that there is more good than evil in this world.
Andy Bugh realized a lifelong dream in Morgan City, La. on Saturday, when the retired Plano resident reunited with his family after concluding a six-month solo kayaking adventure.
During that time, the 52-year-old navigated the entire length of both the Missouri and the Mississippi rivers, the longest river system in the United States.
Beginning in Brower's Spring, Mont. on July 1 of last year, Bugh's "Expedition 4 Education" allowed him to take his stories through the heartland of America, striking up conversations with fellow kayakers, boaters, and anyone who came across his path.
"It's two feelings," said Bugh about how he felt on Thursday as he neared his destination. "I'm really excited that I've come almost 4,000 miles and it's been an incredible time, but at the same time it's a little depressing knowing it's coming to an end. I've had such a great time on the water. I've met so many great people and it's just been an awesome trip."
In late November, severe weather forced Bugh to put the expedition on hold. He picked up where he left off in mid-April to complete his journey.
Although it had been his dream to float down the river like a modern-day Tom Sawyer, Bugh's journey took on a much higher purpose thanks to his years raising funds and awareness for New Life Deaf Ministry in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Having served on the board of directors and spending nearly two years as a full time missionary with the ministry, Bugh comes from a background in construction and has been personally leading the construction of the only academically accredited school for the deaf in Honduras, one of the poorest countries in the western hemisphere that is home to approximately 300,000 deaf residents.
Since 2003, Bugh and his wife have been missionaries for the ministry, whose school for the deaf, called Manos Felices, or Happy Hands, currently has students up to seventh grade. The goal is to enable it to school up to 12th grade and eventually offer college courses, Bugh said.
"The first year we opened the school there were six little kids, all of them about 5 years old, and they had never seen a North American before," he said. "They had no language skills, and they were so shy and reserved. Today, those kids are in the seventh grade and they are so full of energy, they're active, outgoing, and when someone comes into the ministry whom they've never met before, they're not afraid of anybody or anything and have a language that they can speak and understand each other with."
While the purpose of Bugh's journey was to give to the school through raising awareness and funds, it ended up paying out priceless dividends to Bugh by exposing the untraveled man to majestic wilderness and wildlife. The experience also gave Bugh a better understanding of the relationship between modern man and the great waterway through 13 states.
Thanks to modern technology, Bugh managed to stay in touch with his family throughout his journey, mailing back photo discs and having regular video chats through his laptop.
"My dad always wanted to do this river trip but he never thought he'd be able to because he is a grown up and has grown up responsibilities," said Adri lea Lindsey, Bugh's daughter. "He has always been the adventurous type. He grew up with seven siblings, six of which were boys. It's in his blood."
Bugh met fishermen to farmers on the water and while making stops in nearby towns, and said he has enjoyed meeting every one of them, as each experience has been one full of smiles and hospitality.
While heading down the Missouri last year, Bugh had a chance to meet a lot of people whose homes had been flooded and actually paddled through one home. Talking to people who had survived the flooding, Bugh said looking at the aftermath after the water receded was a tragedy he used as an opportunity to trade stories with others.
"I've been so blessed in so many ways, it's been a blessing to see so many things the average person probably doesn't get to see, from the landscape and the wildlife to so many people who have gone out of their way to help me," Bugh said. "You name it, and people have gone out of their way to give me a hand and encourage me."
One set of paddlers spent about 30 minutes visiting with Bugh while cruising along the river and, after departing, went home and prepared Bugh a steak dinner, which they personally delivered to him further down the bank.
Despite what people see in the news, Bugh said his experience proved to him that there is more good than evil in this world.
"People told me I should carry a gun but I said I don't need one," Bugh said. "People have different perceptions but haven't experienced it firsthand. I've gotten to see a whole country that is full of wonderful people. That is the representative of our country, our country is full of people that really care about each other and care about a stranger paddling through."
To read about Bugh's kayaking adventure, visit his blog at www.expedition4education.org.
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