Here I go again.
For some unknown reason I have not been able to get over the Mississippi River. If you follow my adventures at all - you know that I travelled the river by canoe once before - and got more than I bargained for. It was four years ago when I bought a couple cheap canoes, paddles, and PFDs online for less than $300, rented a truck, and drove to the headwaters of the Mississippi River. I spent 53 of the hardest days of my life traveling in that worn-out fiberglass boat - and I got humbled.
I was physically up to it, but not mentally. There were so many headaches, hiccups, and hard lessons learned - I’ve just not been able to put it behind me. For just under the four years it’s been since getting off river, my friends and co-workers have patiently listened to me rant and plan out-loud about my grand plans go back, do it right, and maybe, set a new speed record. I don’t fully understand my own reasoning for this improbable urge - but it won’t go away. Part of me feels that the river beat me last time - and how then do I go back and set a world speed record? Well, simply put - by trying.
Currently, Guinness World Records has given me the only documented solo time to travel the river - and it's very vague. They have a 42-day time of traveling the river on record. No name was given or how they “traveled” it. But I’ve crosschecked this time with numerous paddling communities and have found zero evidence of faster solo times. So that’s the time to beat. I invite anyone, with real evidence of a faster time, to email details to Info@TheMountainFolk.com.
I want this record to last and have gathered a team of experienced paddlers to be my shoreline crew and assist with the logistics involved. First up, my friend and Crew Chief, Abby Kaeser. I met Abby while working at an outfitter. She was gearing up for her paddle with Warrior Expeditions and we became friends as she prepared for her trip. She’s a fantastic photographer, and I’m thrilled to have her along. Traci Kroupa was recruited from an online paddling community - and has also paddled large portions of the Mississippi River. Traci is retired from the Navy and currently works as an EMT - but for the Race to the Gulf Expedition - she’s whom I’ll depend on as a logistics coordinator and overall fixer of problems! I’m so thankful for both of these ladies - and I’m honored that they’ve put their trust in me to set a new record! Moreover, I’ve been working hard on my paddling skills with my paddling coach, Michael Bowersox. He works as the Program Manager for a paddle sports company in Portland - but has raced and taught paddling for many years. Michael - thanks for your patience - I know I’m not the best student!
Lastly, I want to take a moment to thank all of my sponsors for the Race To The Gulf Expedition. I work very hard to gather the skills, knowledge, and money it takes for such an undertaking - but without these sponsors, it still wouldn’t happen. I owe a massive thanks to the team at Epic Kayaks - they have literally given me the right tools for the job. I’ll be paddling two of their kayaks - the Epic GPX in the headwaters, and their 18X Sport expedition boat for the waterway below the Twin Cities. Another big thanks to Kokatat, Garmont Boots, Ugo Bars, Epic Bars, Motionize, Sawyer Outdoor Products, Sea To Summit, and Wigwam Socks. These companies have all come forward to help make this expedition possible - and we’ll be sharing more about how they’ve helped in the coming months. When you need gear - support them as they have supported Team Race To The Gulf!
Also, I want to set the record plans straight. There are lots of opinions, theories, and strategies for undertaking a record-breaking expedition. The following are my plans to minimize questions: There are a total of 2,552 miles of the Mississippi River. I will travel every mile by kayak and every portage will be made on foot. The project will officially begin when I paddle out of Lake Itasca, Minnesota - and will finish at Mile Zero, at the Head of Passes, south of New Orleans. Every moment between spent paddling, sleeping, eating, or walking will be included in the official time.
I invite everyone to follow our expedition at www.RaceToTheGulf.com, www.CanoeKayak.com, and at www.LimestonePostMagazine.com. I’ll have live tracking via the race website and invite all paddlers to join me on the river as I pass through your neighborhood.
So here I go again - down the Mississippi River. This time will likely be the most difficult physical challenge of my life - and I am so excited for it!