Byline: Beth Reese Cravey
Fal de Saint Phalle wants to get away from the noise.
So the Ponte Vedra Beach resident is celebrating his recent retirement by loading up a kayak named Katie and heading out on a 1,000-mile journey to visit Mother Nature, converse with God and figure out what to do with the rest of his life.
As he and Katie paddle from Chesapeake City, Md., home to Florida, down the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, he plans to keep the rest of the world accessible - via iPhone, iPad and emergency radio - but at bay.
"I enjoy being out in nature," de Saint Phalle said. "We are surrounded by a lot of noise. To find quiet time is rare these days. I find a lot of fulfillment by having quiet time while actually doing something. I feel the need to move and see new things."
The trip begins Sunday and is expected to take nine to 10 weeks, hopefully bringing him home in time for Thanksgiving.
The man who returns, he said, will be a rejuvenated version of the man who left.
"This voyage will challenge me physically, mentally, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually, but I am looking forward to managing the obvious risks," he said.
The kayak voyage will be the second major adventure for de Saint Phalle, 65, who 17 years ago completed a 4,000-mile walk from West Chester, Pa., to Seattle.
The notion of another long trip came to him about 20 months ago. He was pondering his planned summer 2012 retirement from De Lage Landen, a Dutch equipment-leasing company whose principal U.S. office is in Wayne, Pa., near Philadelphia.
"I didn't want to just fade off into the distance," he said.
He has worked for De Lage Landen almost 17 years. For the past 30 months, he commuted weekly from Wayne to the Sawgrass home he shares with fiancee Grace Krachuk, whom he met when they both lived in Pennsylvania. She moved to Florida and he ultimately followed.
De Saint Phalle decided to take another journey, one that incorporated the Pennsylvania-Maryland area he was leaving, the Florida area to which he was retiring and two of his outdoor passions - flat water kayaking and primitive camping.
He's not the sort to just celebrate retirement by slowing down, taking to the golf course or going on a cruise and letting somebody else steer the boat, Krachuk said.
"He has an adventurer's spirit," she said.
Even so, when de Saint Phalle first broached the subject of a 1,000-mile kayak trip, she thought he was kidding.
"As time went on, he kept talking about the list of what he needed, the spreadsheet, all the possible things that could happen," Krachuk said. "I got a sinking feeling in my stomach."
She takes comfort in his experience on the water.
"He has kayaked for a long time," she said.
KAYAKER FOR LIFE
De Saint Phalle was 8 when he took his first kayak trip, in the Adirondacks. That led to a lifelong love of kayaking.
Since moving to Ponte Vedra Beach, he has spent many hours with Katie out in the St. Johns River and the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway. Sometimes he kayaks alone, sometimes with Krachuk, sometimes with other people, such as members of the Jacksonville-based Seminole Canoe and Kayak Club. …