Steve Rhoades will soon be on his way to Alaska. On June 14, he will leave his home on Bainbridge Island with nothing but survival supplies, a twenty-foot paddelboard and his hands — his motor of choice for a more than 750-mile naval journey.
The 64-year-old veteran and cycling coach hopes the first-of-its-kind feat will shed light on the work he's doing for homeless people around Puget Sound.
"You know they ask me once in a while, 'How the hell did you get off the streets?'" Rhoades said. "Boom. Then I have them. I say, well, I got on my knees and asked God for help because my way does not work."
That way was laced with homelessness and addiction. Rhoades lived on the streets for 15 years after being discharged from the Marines sometime in the 70s. In 1993, he got back on his feet as a bike messenger in downtown Seattle. Now he operates his own ministry helping homeless people suffering from addiction and mental health issues.
Traversing the Pacific Ocean by paddelboard first popped into Rhoade's about eight months ago. That's when he learned about the Race to Alaska, an event which starts in Port Townsend and ends in Ketchikan. It's like the Iditarod, the event's webpage describes, only on a boat, with the chance of drowning. The rules are simple: no motors, no support.
By taking those stipulations to the extreme, Rhoades says he hopes to raise enough money to purchase a food truck to give out hot meals in the winter.