Jeff Turner was looking for a little adventure in his life. Ever since Turner read John Eldredge's book Wild at Heart in 2002, the 48-year-old from Warrenton, Va., has felt an urge to try something different.
A particular passage stuck with him: Deep in his heart, every man longs for a battle to fight, an adventure to live, and a beauty to rescue.
Turner was determined to live an adventure, but the problem was finding the time. Then the death of a friend changed things.
In June 2008, Turner sat at the funeral of J.R. Davison, who ran Grace Ministries in his hometown of Manassas, Va., and who spoke often about the importance of relationships. Davison died of a heart attack, and Turner vowed he would honor his friend by finally taking an adventure he promised himself six years ago.
The idea came quickly. Turner and his son Taylor, a 17-year-old high school senior, would fish in all 50 states in 50 days. They would use the family recreational vehicle and plot a course around the lower 48 states. They would fly to Alaska and Hawaii at the end of the trip.
Adventure and relationship building, all in one trip.
"Somehow I talked my wife into it,'' Turner said. "I figured that our window of time together (he and Taylor's) was quickly closing. In a year or so, he'll be off at college, and we won't see each other as much. This gives us one more chance to be together."
With the idea in place, Turner started planning. He had to plot the trip, line up guides and secure fishing licenses. He said it took three months of time-consuming work to get the plan in place.
"The hardest part was connecting the dots,'' Turner said.
The adventure Turner always wanted started June 13 on the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania. They have since gone to Virginia, West Virginia, South Carolina and made their Florida stop in Crystal River on June 16. The Turners fished for tarpon with guide Earl Waters on the Homosassa River. While they were shut out, they did hook a few before the tarpon spit the hook.
After Florida, the twosome high-tailed it to Bainbridge, Ga., for a morning trip on Lake Seminole. On some occasions, such as Saturday (Tennessee and Kentucky) and Monday (Louisiana and Texas), the Turners will fish two states in one day. Today, they expect to be in Kansas fishing for wiper (a hybrid striped bass) and walleye.
If everything goes as planned, the Turners will finish the trip July 30 in Hawaii. Should there be any problems, such as weather issues, mechanical issues or illness, the plan is to make up the missed dates at the end of the trip.
They will fish for all types of species, including smallmouth bass, crappie, rainbow trout, musky and salmon. The trip will end with the pair attempting to catch blue marlin off Kona in Hawaii.
Turner, who is a defense contractor in Washington, figures they will put more than 15,000 miles on the RV. The total out-of-pocket cost for them, including fishing guides, licenses for each state, food, gas and plane fare, will be about $20,000. They do have about 20 sponsors helping with some of the other expenses.
"It really adds up,'' Turner said. "You're talking about 100 fishing licenses and then lining up all the captains."
Turner's hope is that people will hear about the trip and become inspired. On his Web site, fish5050.com, there is a way to track the duo as they ride from state to state. There are also video clips from each stop as well as a way to make contributions to one of three selected charities, Trout Unlimited, National Fatherhood Institute and Grace Ministries.
Turner insists he is not taking the trip for publicity. He is quick to point out that it isn't about raising money or making a profit. He is an outdoorsman who loves his son and wants to make a lifetime memory before it's too late.
"This isn't about fishing,'' Turner said. "It's about building relationships.''