Castaways: Flake, sons spend recess on deserted isle - Tucson News Now

Castaways: Flake, sons spend recess on deserted isle

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Arizona's Jeff Flake spent the Senate recess marooned on a deserted island with his sons, Tanner, 15, and Dallin, 13. Arizona's Jeff Flake spent the Senate recess marooned on a deserted island with his sons, Tanner, 15, and Dallin, 13.

They speared crabs in the surf, spear-fished off breathtaking reefs and subsisted on what they caught (plus coconuts) for four days.

They marooned themselves on a deserted Pacific island, and lived to make a most-excellent video out of it.

This wasn't Survivor, or Hollywood's latest summer blockbuster, either.

This was Jeff Flake, Republican senator from Arizona, on a survivalist trip with his two youngest sons, 15-year-old Tanner and 13-year-old Dallin, during the Senate's recess last week.

It wasn't the first time Flake played a Cast Away role a la Tom Hanks.

"Well, four years ago I took a similar trip, about 20 miles from here - just a different island, and stayed for seven days and seven nights," Flake told CNN's Brian Todd. "My first thought after getting off that island was, 'Where's a cheeseburger?' The next thought was, 'This would be a lot more fun with my kids.'"

Just getting there was ambitious: From Phoenix to Hawaii to Kwajalein Atoll to the tiny, 1,000-foot-wide island of Biggarenn was 10,400 miles round-trip.

"We brought no food and no water," Flake said. "We brought some desalinator pumps to pump sea water."

Plus, a lobster trap that was lost to a shark.

One of those apex predators also provided the Flakes with their most dramatic moment.

"I speared a grouper - a big one - and it wriggled off, wriggled the spear out of my hand and I had to dive down about 20 feet to retrieve the spear with the fish on the end of it," Flake said. "By that time, four sharks had closed in on the fish. And we were about 50 yards out and didn't want to lose our meal, so we grabbed the spear and Dallin and I high-tailed it for shore with the sharks in pursuit."

They made it back safely.

Sleeping under the palms and stars in hammocks might seem to most like the best part. It wasn't, Flake said.

"The best part was actually every night we had to pump water for about an hour. And both boys would sit down with a pump in their hand and a lead would be put in the ocean and we'd just watch the sun set. And there were no cell phones, obviously, no texting, no distractions."

Flake and his wife have five children. The two oldest are married; the middle one's in college. During the last campaign cycle, Flake wasn't around much and promised this trip to his two youngest boys.

"What does your wife think of all this and will this become a Flake family tradition from now on?

He said his wife, Cheryl, was obviously worried at the dangers.

"But she valued the time I would be able to spend with the boys more than the risks there," he said. "She was a good sport about it. She says, 'I'll go back to that island when there's a hotel on it.'"

In fact, Flake said that when he did this four years ago, he got some very good advice from his wife.

She suggested he keep a journal and share it with the media to quell any skepticism about the trip.

That's because that came just around the time then South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford was caught lying about a supposed hiking trip on the Appalachian Trail, when he was really in Argentina with his girlfriend.

Copyright 2013 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation), via CNN. All rights reserved.

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