Writer and weekend outdoorsman Avrel Seale had always dreamed of boating down a river to the sea, but he had never found the right boat, the right river, or the right opportunity. Then, at age fifty, he suffered a massive brain hemorrhage, depriving him of the use of one arm.
But, as he writes, “dreams are stubborn things,” and less than two years after his stroke, he was again mulling such a trip. With the recruitment of a lifelong friend and the purchase of a two-person pedal kayak, he set out to journey down the Nueces River in South Texas to the Gulf of Mexico.
The resulting memoir is a study in perseverance and problem solving, set against the backdrop of an underappreciated river. Seale must overcome numerous physical, mechanical, and logistical challenges even to get to the launch. Then he and Wade Walker set out to descend the Nueces, once considered by Mexico to be its border with the United States. Today, the Nueces (Spanish for nuts) is a twisting ribbon of prehistoric beauty, lush and wild, secretly flowing just out of view of the cotton towns, truck stops, and wind farms that line the highways of Texas’s coastal plains.
Avrel Seale is the author of ten books, including memoir, humor,
history, religion, and unsolved mystery. Much of his career has been
at the University of Texas at Austin, as editor of its alumni magazine,
speechwriter for its president, and a writer for its news, marketing, and
development offices. He and his wife, Kirstin, have three sons.
“I can’t decide what impressed me the most about Avrel Seale’s wonderfully engaging The River Nuts, the engineering feat of retrofitting a tandem pedal kayak to accommodate his body impaired by a stroke, or the journey itself through the harsh Texas elements of rain, heat, alligators, and rabid wolf spiders. Seale chronicles his experience with grace and laugh-aloud humor, but as in every great river journey from Huckleberry Finn to Goodbye to a River, the author discovers more about himself as he dives into a deep reservoir of courage and perseverance and friendship with fellow kayaker Wade Walker. Can anything match the beauty of seeing wild swans on a muddy river? I couldn’t put this book down.”
—Thomas Zigal, award-winning author of Many Rivers to Cross
The pages of The River Nuts are infused with elegant writing, humor, and humanity. They also contain insightful musings on the natural world of South Texas and the pliability of the human spirit. Avrel Seale is stubborn, obstinate, and possibly insane. But his exuberant account of watery travel is irresistibly uplifting. There are tales of sailors battling the elements, stories that end in nautical calamity, and those that record maritime triumph. The humble Nueces River manages to serve up portions of all three. By the time his curious vessel reaches the coast, I was ready to start singing a sea shanty.
—Geoffrey Leavenworth, author of Isle of Misfortune