This marks the second year of the infamous #Ride2Release adventure down to the Florida coast in releasing our Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles. This year due to the Kempocalypse of >1200 turtle strandings, we packed the IFAW van to the brim with our Kemp’s – a total of 14 healthy sea animals. A great thanks to International Fund for Animal Welfare for stepping up to help us through a last minute transport crisis and lending us their ten passenger van. In the midst of a snow storm approaching, the NMLC team decided to expedite the trip by bumping the time up a few hours – but still got caught in the storm’s madness which made the whole rehab and release story a true Kempocalypse.
Being the only male presence on the trip with 4 women, I wanted to assume the “leadership role” of taking on the toughest endeavor by driving into the heart of the snow down past the New York City chaos. Tough move Kev. The first leg of Massachusetts down through Jersey was easily the most daunting driving task I have endured, even more so then the intimidating act of learning to drive stick shift for the first time at 16. The snow was blinding as it started to accumulate on the roads and also on the windshield, and since the fate of all the precious cargo was in my hands, I had to play a crazy game of staying between the lines.
As I couldn’t see, my face was almost completely pressed up against the window defrosting the ice with my anxious heavy breaths – pulling every trick out of the book. Our first stop was in Connecticut to my parents neighborhood, just west of Mystic Aquarium, to have dinner and regroup; which was all I needed to keep the drive going. We ended up switching out at a service station in New Jersey, and for me that couldn’t have come any faster as I was anxiously waiting to get off of those treacherous roads. The girls took it from there as we moved down the Atlantic to the sunshine state, 27 hours later. The turtle livery van wasn’t a conducive environment for luxury, the turtles were piled high and encroached on our foot space, their strict warm temperature incubated the van with all their pleasant smells of being out of water, and obviously these great creatures inhibited the transport crew’s sleeping schedule by allowing me a collective amount of 2 hours of sleep on the ride.
As we pulled up to Flager Beach the weather conditions were far from favorable as the wind and rain whipped, but that didn’t stop the brave supporters from being in attendance. The release was quite the experience, I was graciously able to release three turtles: Don Miguel, Sarah Olivia, and one that was near and dear to my heart – Mac. I was given the opportunity of naming number 50 Mac, who is after a fallen best friend. Seeing the process of admitting and rehabilitating to the release of the elegant reptile was a gratifying experience, and being the last one there to send the big guy home provided a sense of liberation.
The 27 hours of driving were taxing on all the members of the crew, so it was quite enjoyable to stay an extra day down in Florida to recover in Jacksonville, where we obviously had to explore a beach to keep our sanity through this horrendous winter and also checked out the local environment. That sunny day quickly fleeted and back to the asphalt maze up to NMLC it was, but this time with extra leg room. All and all it slowly took us over 50 hours round trip, a genuine turtle race.