Paddler Log, Entire Trip
Mississippi River Challenge for Rett Syndrome and Leukodystrophy, 2003
Guinness Record Setting Event for 2 different rare diseases!
Bob Bradford wrote the River Log during the 2003 Challenge and shortly afterwards.
Clark Eid added most of his comments 17 DEC 2004;
Clark Eid made minor corrections/notes 09 NOV 2018
Memoirs of Paddlers Bob Bradford (BB) and Clark Eid (CE)
Clark Eid added most of his comments 17 DEC 2004;
Clark Eid made minor corrections/notes 09 NOV 2018
Memoirs of Paddlers Bob Bradford (BB) and Clark Eid (CE)
Friday May 9, 2003, Day before the Start
(BB) Bob and Janet Bradford were busy packing their van on Tuesday, May 10th 2003 while their house guest Clark Eid tried to recover from his all night drive from Boston. By midday, little room was left in the van for its occupants but there was enough space left in back so one person could sleep. Event decals were affixed to the two Kruger canoes before loading them on top of the van, and the three members of Team Hope began their all night drive from Michigan to Lake Itasca, MN. They arrived at the Mississippi River Headwaters on Wednesday May 11th 2003.
(BB) Later that same day, Team Hope members Captain Stan Hanson, Bill Pullen and Andrew Gribble arrived towing a travel trailer also packed full with gear. The final preparations began in earnest, knowing that a single miscalculation could mean losing our chance of setting a new world record, or increasing our chance for injury. They planned for all they could, and hoped that luck and perseverance would fill in the gaps over the next 2,348 miles.
(BB) On Thursday the May 8th, the team outfitted Bob's canoe for a 14-mile test run from the Headwaters to the County Road 40 Bridge. A waterproof video camera was strapped on the canoe's stern using Clark’s home-made camera mount to test how it would capture the action. The water levels were very low and the canoe often scrapped bottom. The Co. Rd. 38 culvert that Bob and Verlen passed through in 2001 had too little flow this year to make it cleanly through. Running it now would risk a damaged hull. Further downstream, the paddlers removed branches from several beaver dams and cut tree branches blocking our way. At one section, a large beaver dam blocked the river and the paddlers practiced slipping the canoe through a twisted water chute on river-right. Bob and Clark left the river knowing that the low water levels were going to be a challenge. Back at camp, the team continued to organize equipment when team member Tony Swenson arrived.
(BB) On Friday the May 9th, Angie Phelps arrived with her kids David, Jessica and Jacob. To everyone's surprise, Verlen and Jenny Kruger showed up soon after to lend their support. As a final act of solidarity, Stan shaved Clark's head so as to match Bob's streamlined features. The outfitted canoe, ready for action, was locked in a nearby shed that the park rangers kindly let us use for the night. The team then took a break and drove into Bemidji for a charity dinner sendoff at the Bonanza Steak House, organized by Tammy Hanson. Kent Spading and his nephew met us there along with the several local families, friends, and Clark's mother Lib.
(CE) The following is an account of the record-breaking canoe journey from paddlers Bob Bradford's (BB) and Clark Bid's (CE) perspective. Time/location information was drawn from their recollections, a ship log maintained by BB, an onboard GSP system, audio CD recordings, video footage, photographs and witness information.
Saturday, May 10th, 2003; Day 1, Starts at 6 AM
(BB) It had rained the day before and most of the night, but by dawn we had only a light drizzle. Clark and I rushed around to get things ready in order to get to the start by 6:00 a.m. The park rangers had let us lock our canoe, with its cover on, in their pump house the night before.
(CE) Bob and I had planned to get up before the others around 5 am. Given what we were facing, it wasn't too surprising that we woke at least an hour earlier than intended. It was going to be a very long day since we knew that we had to cross Lake Winnibigosish sometime during Saturday night, when it should be at its calmest, to maintain a world-record pace. To accomplish this, we both would need to go without sleep for at least 24 hours, followed by one of us electing to stay awake for about 30+ hours while the other grabbed a sleep cycle. It was going to be a long, tough push even under ideal conditions.
(CE) I changed into my fleece and pulled my dry suit halfway up around my waist. It was too early to become enclosed in the suit since we still needed to get our last minute gear together. We had a fast breakfast with the rest of the team, hauled the canoe up on the Bradford's van, and dashed off to the Headwaters. We were careful to tie the canoe securely so we wouldn't have a repeat of 2001’s Team Kruger's canoe-slipoff-the-van-at-the-start surprise!
(BB) We got to the start just in time. To my surprise, Donald Clark, a good snowshoeing buddy of mine, was at the headwaters waiting to see us start. A park ranger named Dale was also there and he gave me his park ranger hat. On the hat he had written "Bob-May the current be strong and the winds light" and had autographed it for me. Dale had also been there to see Verlen and I off in May of 2001. He also remembered when Verlen and Valerie had taken off in 1984.
(CE) We carted the canoe from the parking lot to the river, and placed the bow in the river next just below the small chair of rapids that mark the Headwaters. Several families we met the night before were there to see us off. Captain Stan, and Verlen and Jenny, were not there which was odd. We had our gear ready to go and put on our inflatable PFDs, which would stay on us night and day for the entire trip. We took time to chat with our friends and take pictures, but left quickly at 6:00 am. Right away, the canoe needed to be pulled from the initial section and portaged on river right around a log bridge. Bob carefully got in from the bank and I followed, stepping in from the water and being careful not to bring too much of the river in with me. We used our older (beater) paddles in this shallower section rather than sacrifice our best paddles to the rocks.
(BB) We barely got started at 6:00 am. Stan and Verlen did not show up at the beginning of the race and later we learned that Stan had car trouble. The culvert that just three days ago was not deep enough to go through now had just enough water in it to shoot through.
(CE) The culvert below Co Rd. 38 had been replaced since 2001 with a taller, but narrower one. The rain had helped raise the river a couple inches so we ran the culvert, scraping just a little on the bottom as the stern passed the exit. We ran aground on a small sandbar about 100 feet downstream in a narrow bend to the left, but were able to push off it using our paddles.
(BB) We went over three beaver dams, then arrived at the old wooded dam (Vicker's Dam) at mile 1339, which we portaged on the left.
(CE) Three days ago, there was a poorly kept beaver dam just below the walkway between the parking lot and the Headwaters. Now it was gone. Perhaps the higher water was just enough to sweep it aside. The 50 yd. portage at Vicker's Dam went well, although it was steep and slippery. We were careful to make sure we didn't twist an ankle so early in the trip. My dry-suit let me walk into the icy river to help position the canoe for us to get back in. Bob was a good sport and tolerated my amphibian ways, just so long as I keep the inside of the canoe dry!
(BB) We went over three more beaver dams and through the "spreads" (this is where the river splits up several times) before getting to County Road 40. It was raining lightly and our team had food for us.
(CE) During our test run, we encountered a beaver dam that we wiggled the canoe around on river right, going forward and backward in between some small trees that we could leverage against. We came to the same beaver dam and quickly shuffled our canoe through the puzzle, losing little time. Not too long after, we reached a fork in the river. Both Bob and I remembered this spot well because in 2001, we both took the larger channel to the left and spent a lot of time pulling our craft through brush and mud. We went right this time and followed the very narrow channel, walled with high stalks of reeds.
(BB) At Coffee Pot Landing, some friends, Bob and Tammy Hanson, and Chuck and Lisa Evert, had doughnuts and bananas hanging off the footbridge. They also hung banners off the bridge.
(CE) What a sight! I had been hoping that someone would attempt a “hanging-feed”, and there it was! It was so great to see everyone and hear them cheering us on! We grabbed the lines holding food and took turns paddling/eating the treats. I was hoping that we would have more of these kinds of food supplies, but it was our only one.
(CE) Before we arrived at Co. Rd. 5, we went through a narrow spruce valley with a lot of small rapids. Fortunately, the water was up just enough so that we could run these without bottoming out or hitting too many rocks. It was exciting and we worked the canoe through the rocks well.
(BB) We had another feed at County Road 5, River Level Gauge, at 11:15 a.m.
(BB) Rice Lake is a very tricky part of the Mississippi River, Clark and I knew this from before. Lucky for us the Headwaters Canoe Club had marked it for us with orange ribbons on poles to guide us through.
(CE) The river opened into a general flood plain, and this is where the orange ribbons helped a lot. It wasn't always clear where the next one was until we were about half way to it. Toward the end of the Rice Lake area, we reached a larger section of open water and couldn't see any more ribbons. We weren't sure if we should go left or right, so we went straight ahead. Sure enough, far off in the distance to the right was a little ribbon tied to a reed.
(BB) We made it to Iron Bridge by 2:00 pm. Again, there was a crowd cheering us on.
(CE) We were happy to see our speed increase during the last several miles as the water deepened. Iron Bridge was reached at 2:00 p.m., giving us an average speed of about 6 mph.
(BB) After Iron Bridge there is a farming area. I remembered that in 2001, Verlen and I had seen a dead cow down by the water by this old farmhouse. I told Clark that this looked like the same old farmhouse and sure enough, down by the water we saw a skeleton of a dead cow on river right.
(BB) A canoe-racing friend of mine, John Arenz, had planned on paddling with us for a stretch of the river, but was unable to be here today. John sent a friend of his, David Harrington, who met us at river mile 1289, which is the Silver Maples area. Dave was in his one-man canoe and had picked this spot to help us through the dead falls in the area. He showed us the best place to portage around the three big trees and a lot of brush that we could squeeze over. Dave guided us down to County Road 11, where he had parked his car. After Dave left us, we had to portage around one more fallen tree.
(CE) The Silver Maples area is known for its deadfalls. It was worse in 2001, with floodwaters going through the trees. My partner then, Kurt Zimmermann, had both his hat and paddle ripped away from him by the tree branches. This year, Bob and I only had to worry about pulling the canoe over several trees. There was one tight spot on river left where David was able to maneuver his solo canoe through that we ended up bottoming out on a tree trunk surrounded by branches, but we managed to force our way through. We also noticed that someone had used a chain saw to recently clear some trees from the river.
(BB) We arrived at Lake Bemidji at 4:50 p.m., where it was raining lightly. Our team replaced my compass, which I had shattered with my paddle blade. They also mounted the camera on the rear deck of our canoe using the jig that Clark had made.
(CE) We didn't rendezvous with our team at the Lake Irving Access since there was construction going on there. Instead, we made our way through a lot of fishing boats and passed under the 197 bridge. After the bridge, we veered left to a small lakeside park. Bill Pullen fitted another compass to replace the one that Bob had cracked, his second one of this style. It was a kayak compass kindly provided by Richie Compass and we thought this style, if any, would take some punishment. (Or maybe Bob was just stronger than your average paddler!) The video camera and universal PVC mount were secured on the stern deck. We had a one hour mini-DV tape ready to go and the camera was sealed inside of a EWA Marine waterproof bag. We didn't bother with the waterproofed remote audio system I had rigged since our earlier trials showed some occasional problems picking up the radio signal. (Later on, at the Atkin Diversion Channel, we switched over to my alternate audio system with hardwired microphones at the bow and stern and recorded onto a mini-CD secured in a waterproof box.) The video unit was activated when we left shore with a remote control unit, in a Zip-Lock bag, and left on until it ran out of tape.
(BB) Verlen Kruger and David wiped out the bottom of our canoe. They also put the two air mattresses in and the sleeping bags up under the top cover on the cargo net, which Clark had designed to hold some gear off the bottom of the canoe. David Harrington pointed out on the far bank's tree line where we should go to make the crossing of Lake Bemidji and we pushed off.
(BB) At the pre-race party that the Hanson family and the Evert family had for us the night before, a family showed up that I didn't know. It was the mother, father, and two sisters of Rod Davis, a friend who I had worked with for many years at the General Motors plant. Rod and all of his family had lived in Minnesota. He has sent his family to meet me at the dinner in Bemidji. After getting to know them, I found that one of the sisters and her family lived on Stump Lake and the other sister lived on Wolf Lake. After leaving Lake Bemidji, it twines into Stump Lake before you get to Stumpages Dam. Rod's sister and family were on a dock on river left with two bags of chocolate chip cookies. It was river mile 1280.
(CE) It took just over an hour of paddling before we met Rod's sister and family. Too bad we weren't faster so that they would have been captured on our one-hour tape! It sure was nice of them to come down to say hello and to give us some cookies.
(BB) David Harrington met us at river mile 1277 to paddle with us again to the next portage at the dam. Below the dam, we saw nine eagles all at one time. I think they were fishing. Below the dam there is a fish hatchery. This is where in 2001 Clark and Kurt had spent the night in a storm.
(CE) The portage on river right went smoothly even though the grass was wet and there were big ruts from the rain runoff. In 2001, our road crew was delayed in meeting Kurt and I, so we ended up sleeping in the Fisheries Building below the dam. Lodging was modest, with me losing a coin flip and having to sleep on some old smelly life jackets with a dog's blanket for warmth. I was happy to pass it by this time.
(BB) The river below the dam was very low and rocky. We hit bottom more than a few times and had to back up at one island and go the other ay around. The eagles followed us for several miles. We went in and out of the top side of Wolf Lake without any problems, but then, Dave Harrington was there to show us the way again.
(BB) We stopped briefly at County Road 8 to see our crew and got some food to go. Then we went on through the lower section of Lake Andrusia. There were lots of fishing boats near the bridge for County Road 33.
(BB) At County Road 33 we saw Rod Davis' other sister and her family waved to us. The sun was going down and it was getting windy and we had a light rain.
(BB) It got very dark going across Cass Lake. We went on the north side of Star Island, hoping that we didn't run into a repeat of what Verlen and I had on Cass Lake in 2001.
(CE) There were a lot of fishing boats upstream of the Co. Rd. 33 Bridge. As soon as we were past, we took some time to zip-up our spray skirts and get prepared for any rough conditions that might spring up. The weather held out and we made a straight-line crossing, about 7 1/2 miles, just to the north of Star Island, and arrived at the left side of Knutson Dam. It was now cold and raining, and our breath came out in large clouds that burst with light every time they collided with our headlamps beams.
(BB) We decided to go to the left side of Knutson Dam at the end of Cass Lake. Verlen and I had only a short portage on the left side in 2001. When we got there it was cold and raining hard. We checked the left side over and decided that it was next to impossible to portage left this year. The water level was a good three to four feel lower and nothing but jagged rock to drag the canoe over. We crossed to the right side of the dam and Clark went ashore to check the portage out. I stayed in the canoe and drank coffee and tried to keep warm. Clark met Art Blacklance and his son from Warren, Minnesota. They were fishermen and had camped there for the night. They showed Clark and I the shortest portage, which was a muddy ditch, difficult with no portage wheels. Art warned us about the dead falls in the river and how easy it was to get lost on the way to Lake Winnibigoshish. It was 11: 15 p.m. when we left the dam.
(CE) In 2001 we had record flooding so Kurt and I ran the spillway to the left of Knutson Dam. Now there was a bank to climb followed by a 6' drop into sharp rocks. After a short nature call, we paddled over to the right side and I got out to scout. The take-out on the right would be OK, but the put-in was also nasty. I walked down the road to see if there was another choice and was met by Art Blacklance and his son, who had come to check out a strange yellow person walking around in the middle of this stormy night. They showed us another portage route to the far right. To get there, Bob and I paddled back out into Cass Lake and went around a breakwater, then follow it back in. A short carry across a road put us back into a muddy ditch that lead to the river. Our hosts warned us of deadfalls nearby, but we didn't see any.
Sunday, May 11th, 2003; Day 2 starts at 6 AM
(BB) In the next section of river, we saw many fish in the shallow water swimming along with us that it was hard to believe. They were light in color and from 10-20 inches long. They were so close together that we hit them with our paddles and they would also run into our canoe. They seemed to be attracted by the light on our canoe. By river mile 1251, Clark and I had to stop several times in order to decide which way the river went. In 2001, it had been a little bit of a problem, too, but in 2001 it had been daylight. Now it was about 1:00 AM and windy with still a light rain. At several points, we checked the submerged weeds to see what way they were bending. We had to be careful about that though because the wind caused some to bend if they came above the water line and the wind hit them.
(CE) Our bright bow light attracted a large school of fish. We had them follow us along after we left the dam. They were so thick at times that you couldn't help hitting them, and once I flipped one out of the water with my paddle by accident. The rudder also kept kicking as it hit the fish. They left after a time, and we were delayed while trying to find the channel in a marshy section. It was cold, windy, and raining so it was hard to make out where the current was. We got delayed for about 20 minutes when we paddled south following what looked like a current, only to find a dead river end. We turned around and went back to where we started, pushed through the reeds and got back on the river again.
(BB) Near 2:00 am, we arrived at Reese landing on the river right just inside of Lake Winni. Lucky for that our crew had the Greatland laser signaling light. It made it easy to find them. It was a little difficult getting into the shore because the waves were breaking and it was raining. Our crew had hot stew in "Thermos Work" brand food bottles for us.
(CE) We changed into dry clothes as soon as we landed. I kept my Kokatat drysuit on and Bob put on.his Kokatat paddle jacket and paddle pants. We had hoped it would have been calmer and knew that we couldn't attempt a direct crossing. The best alternative would be to paddle in the shelter of the north shore and slowly work our way to the dam. We pushed off and quickly took turns eating our stew as soon as we were in the lee of the northeast running shoreline.
(BB) We decided to go to the North shore to gain shelter from the strong North/Northwest wind and the large waves it was making. Our maps had the warning "Caution high Winds and Boat Waves Might Cause hazardous Conditions" which we knew were true.
(BB) Our plan was to paddle mostly north till we got far enough north to be protected by the shore line at lease close enough so we could paddle to shore if we needed to. We also had planned to go east as soon as possible if the wind seemed to be letting up. We had to be careful not to paddle into Sugar Lake or the Third River Flowage, which are both north of Resse Landing.
(BB) Sometime after an hour or so it seemed to let up a little. We decided to go east with the idea that could turn north if it got too windy again. Well, it got windy again, but it seemed to come up fast with lots of rain and white caps. The White Spume (the white foam) was jumping across the white caps and it was bad to turn sideways of the wind. Our canoe would rise then bang down over the crest and every time the bow would go under enough to bury the two bow lights on our canoe. The spray would hit me in the face. Clark and I did not talk much, but we both paddled very hard into the wind. We both watched and hoped we would see a tree line soon. I have no idea what our route actually was, but we sure spent a lot of time in Lake Winninbigoshish that night. We blew out both our expensive Night Rider bow lights, because of the submersions, well before sunrise.
(CE) We had paddled NNW for about 40 minutes and thought it was calm enough to veer east. We thought we could always turn back to the NNW if it got rough, but that was a mistake. After about 40 minutes, we started getting hit broadside with ever increasing larger waves, and the wind picked up. There was no choice but to turn toward the NNW and head toward shore. No shelter came and we soon realized that the weather, and our situation, had changed from bad to worse. The canoe tossed violently enough to propel the rudder upward, jamming itself into a useless position out of the water. We needed steerage in these conditions, and so several times I had to risk not paddling in order to hack it down with my paddle. The wind was picking up and the foam was jumping from wave to wave. Sometimes Bob's paddle would exit the water just as the wind would gust, lofting a blinding spray of water into my face. If we lost control, no self-rescue would be possible and we’d be pushed into the center of the enormous lake.
(CE) The conditions deteriorated even more. Bob and I couldn't talk to each other over the wind, but we both knew wasn't good and we just had to keep paddling. I remember watching in disbelief as the canoe’s bow was swallowed under an oncoming wall of a wave. Bob went underwater, too, and as silhouetted by a greenish glow cast from the bow lights. This happened a couple times before the bow lights finally blew out, leaving us with our headlamps. I started calculating what our survival times in the ice-cold water would be. My full dry suit would help, maybe I could be blown across the lake; but Bob was only in his two-piece paddle outfit and wouldn’t last long. How long could this continue? It’s true that all the best equipment in the world cannot protect you from yourself, but at least you’d be a nicely dressed corpse. Morbid thoughts mixed with pure adrenalin is a terrifying motivator!
(CE) I had been counting my paddle strokes from crest to crest, hoping for a change to signal that we were getting out of this mess. After a couple of hours of counting from 3 to 5 strokes per crest, an unexpected change came. The spacing became slightly longer, and then erratic because of an occasional wave coming in from the NNE. Suddenly, we were hit by a crescendo of several series of big waves generated from the combined crests of the two different wave sets. The water again covered Bob, washed back across the deck, and hit me in the chest. We floundered, dazed, for several minutes before getting our momentum back. We turned NNE to address the new assault head on.
(CE) The wind and waves finally diminished around 6:30 am, just south of Stony Point, which marks the eastern shore of the entrance into Third River Flowage. We had pushed for almost 3 hours since aborting our crossing. We didn't talk much at first. Bob kept the canoe going while I bailed the water that had forced its way under the spray-deck. My thermos had been floating in the icy water, so my coffee was cool, but its caffeine still was welcome. We thought the shore team would be worried and tried calling with the satellite phone, but couldn't get in touch with anyone. It was still windy so we tracked along the north shore, keeping out enough from the shore in order to take advantage of a quartering tail wind with some small waves.
(BB) Sunrise found us somewhere near Pigeon Dam lake, I believe. I know Clark would have liked to go to shore and have a cup of coffee but he drank it in the canoe instead. The wind was still picking up pretty good out there, so we decided to stay close to shore.
(BB) When we came to our first cut to the left we both thought it was Plug Hat Point Campground, but after turning the corner and paddling into the huge waves for a ways, we realized it was Cutfoot Souix Lake. The wind was blowing hard from of the northeast and now we had to tum and run with the wind and waves. We did a good job of surfing, but it was tricky. Once out of the bay, we tried to stay along the shore and out of the really bad wind.
(BB) The last stretch to Plug Hat point was a southerly run and we had a real bad tail wind again. We were surfing again until we got to the left hand tum where the sandbar runs way out. Now we had to turn where the waves were the highest, risking a breach. I think we had people on shore betting if we would beach it or make a run for it. We landed at Winni dam around 9:30 am. This was three and a half hours behind my schedule, however it was ahead of the world record.
(CE) Surfing the canoe was very tricky in these big waves, especially since its center of mass was high because we were not heavily loaded. Complicating matters was that we had to run broadside into waves to make it around a large sandbar in order to reach the portage to the left of the dam. Bob couldn't see the waves as well as I could, so I called the "Huts!" to time with the mixture of broad-siding and rear quartering waves. Once I had my paddle on the left when a rogue wave came in from the rear right, and I improvised a high brace with my outstretched arm and torso. How we got to shore without tipping over still amazes me. We heard from the road crew that the local fishermen wouldn't have even considered going out on the lake in this weather, and were very concerned for our safety.
(BB) One of us had to sleep when we left the dam. It had been 27 1/2 hours since we started and neither of us had slept. Clark said he was too wired to sleep, so I did. I slept 16 miles, almost to Leech Lake River Access. It was 3:00 pm when we arrived.
(CE) Once we portaged the canoe around the dam to the parking lot, I went off to change out of my wet fleece and dry suit. My clothes were soaked from sweet and it felt great to get into dry gear. I switched to my paddle jacket now that we were past the open waters of Lake Winni. I was so tired, but so wired that I didn't feel much like resting, so I kept paddling while Bob took a well-deserved sleep. I noticed swirls in the mud along the shoreline as I started paddling and wondered if this had once been some lettering in the mud done by a fisherman, now distorted from the action of the waves. Little did I know that this marked the beginning of a long set of visual hallucinations that I would experience for the next day. A little later downstream, I had to paddle the canoe a short distance along the western shore of Ball Club Lake. It was still windy and I had to head into some waves, sharply tum around a small headland, and then run with the waves back into the sheltered river. It was a bouncy ride, but Bob said that he didn't wake up during it.
(BB) After a brief stop at Leech Lake River Access, we pushed off and it was Clark's turn to sleep. He had paddled 34 hours straight.
(CE) It was Mother's Day and I gave Mary a call when we stopped. It was nice to hear her voice. A friend of mine had delivered the flowers I had previously picked out.
(BB) Below the White Oaks Lake area, around river mile 1203, I met Neal Rietveld. He was fishing from a boat in front of his house at Rietveld Logan. He asked me some questions about what I was doing and then Clark popped up from his sleep. Neil signed my notebook and wished us well. Clark took a picture of us.
(CE) I had slept about 3 hours before I woke up to Bob talking with someone. I popped up and surprised Neal. He had mentioned that he had heard about the event on the radio and was real happy to have come across us. He left, but soon returned to offer us some money for the charity even. We thanked him for his offer, but suggested that he look at the website and send in his donation directly. The sun was out and I felt rested, so I stayed up to paddle. That may have been a mistake since my next rest would not come until we reached Jacobsen (mile 1143).
(BB) Blackwater Lake was not very windy. Clark and Kurt had found it very windy in the 2001 race. It seemed like we had traveled a long way before we finally found the turn. We had to go to the right and through the cattails in order to pass the power plant.
(CE) In 2001, Kurt and I had a nasty storm front while crossing Blackwater Lake, forcing us to seek shelter in the cattails. Bob and I passed the spot where Kurt and I had weathered the storm, and I could vividly remember the pain in my pulled the tendons in my right forearm, forcing me t bungee cord my paddle to my hand for the remainder of the day.
(BB) If was fairly dark when we arrived at Pokegama Dam. Tony Swenson was there to brief us on the next portage down and to give us our portage wheels.
(BB) We arrived a Blandin Paper Co. Dam and lucky for us, our crew had scouted out a better portage than we had planned to use. On the way out to the start, Clark, Janet and I had decided that we would have to portage at a steep takeout before we got to the barrier buoys. Our road crew had found one buoy gone and a sag in the cable on river left. All we had to do was to paddle across in front of the dam, turn back to the river right, and pull out on a low grassy bank in front of the dam. With their lights to guide us, it was easier than we had planned.
(CE) The takeout at Blandin Paper Co. Dam was a lot better than what we used in 2001, which was the usual route at river right, requiring an exit through a series of steel pipes sticking straight out of the water along a steep bank. The portage went smoothly and we departed around 11 :20 pm.
(BB) We portaged down the drive, across the bridge and down a hill to get back in the river. Once in the water, we had to quickly cross over to river left to take a small chute through some rapids. We ate while paddling, and then it was my turn to sleep. It got very cold that night. Al Rudquist and Fred Rayman were unable to meet us to paddle along with us like they had done in 2001 with Verlen and I. I found out in the morning that Clark had a lot of hallucinations during that night. He saw monsters and giant beavers in the mud banks.
Monday, May 12th, 2003; Day 3 starts at 6 AM
(CE) It was clear, calm, and cold that night on the river, causing water vapor condensed on everything. The canoe looked like it had been through a rainstorm. A nearly full moon lit up the exposed shoreline, making it look like a bright ribbon. I would often round a river bend and see what looked like a tree laying across the water, and take evasive action, only to find that it wasn't a tree at all ... just the moonlit shore of the next bend, mirrored above and below by the dark woods.
(CE) I paddled alone till daybreak, and noticed that the mud and grass along the exposed riverbanks started to resemble things. It was like a child's game of seeing shapes of things in the clouds. At first, I could see things like the profile of a black lab, then of a bearded old man, then a monkey's face, then a monkey's face wearing Harry Potter-like glasses, then the 10 foot wide, giant face of a beaver. All this was so-so at the time, until I looked forward along the shore and saw a gallery full of strange things. I had to look down ... something wasn't right. I looked up again to see that a burnt stump on gallery left had transformed into a black Imperial Storm Trooper from Star Wars. This clearly wasn't right. I knew these were supposed to be white, not black. It wasn't long after this that Bob got up and we paddled into Jacobson Campground to meet our crew. When we departed, it my turn to sleep, having slept only 3 hours in the last 52 1/2 hours of paddling.
(BB) In the morning, we met our road crew at the campground up river from Jacobsen (river mile 1143). We had pancakes, bacon, and hot coffee.
(BB) Our next feed was at Gene "The Artist" on river left. In 2001, Verlen and I paddled our canoe up into Gene's front yard but this time we met our crew just below his house. After grabbing a bite to eat, Janet and David put in the water to paddle along with us. They took off one or two minutes ahead of us. They planned to paddle with us 21 miles to Palisade. I remember Clark asking, "Should we just paddle along slow with them"? I said that I thought they would be fairly fast. It took us about twenty minutes to catch up with them. When we arrived at Palisade, our road crew was impressed with our average speed for the 21-mile stretch.
(BB) At Palisade, Tammy Hanson had a chicken dinner set up for us under the park pavilion. My friend Todd came down to see how Clark and I were doing and also to see Verlen. Todd had fed Verlen and me in the 2001 race.
(CE) We pulled into Palisade upstream of the bridge to meet our crew. It was a great surprise to see that the Hanson's had put together a great picnic under the pavilion. Rachael Hanson, Tammy's and Bob's little girl, was delighted to see us, and us her. She reminded me a lot of my Amanda, and I was a bit emotional ... joy at seeing her, sadness about being away from my family. I called Mary on the satellite phone and afterward had a really nice chat with Verlen. We left at 7:50 pm, with Bob sleeping until the 169 bridge. I then took a sleep cycle from there to just before the entrance to the Aiken Diversion Channel.
(BB) I slept until reaching the 169 bridge at river mile 1078. Our plan was for me to call our road crew on the satellite phone when I got up and they would let me know if we could take the diversion channel or not. I had called my friend Dan Cruiser from Palisade and he thought that even if there was low water, it would pay off to take the channel. Verlen had said that he and the road crew would drive down and check it out before dark. The road crew and Verlen walked approximately half a mile to check out the entrance of the Diversion Channel. When I called for a report, they already had everything planned out for us. There was a one and a half foot drop which we would have to maneuver through and then twenty feet down there was another drop of about three feet. Verlen and Stan had laid logs over rocks so that we could slide the canoe over without any major damage.
(CE) I woke to Bob talking on the satellite phone. We shortly after reached the entrance to the Diversion Channel, and was pleased to find the logs Verlen and Stan laid down for us to drag the canoe over. We also had to line the canoe for a short distance at the bottom of the last drop, and used the tether to pull her back into shore. The weather was holding clear and cool, and we turned on our mini-disk recorder as we paddled. The water had a little current, but remained glassy enough to reflect the stars overhead. We talked a lot and made good time through the length of the channel.
Tuesday, May 13th, 2003; Day 4 starts at 6 AM
(BB) We arrived at the diversion channel at 2:00 am. Clark had slept from the 169 bridge to a couple miles before the diversion channel. Everything was just as the crew had described it, right down to the logs. There was a fair amount of current in the channel and there were a couple of side feed streams that dumped in along the way. At least we did not have a head wind.
(BB) We met our road crew at County Road 6 early in the morning on river-left. Verlen and Jenny were still traveling with the crew. We had expected them to head home after the weekend and were sure glad that they had stayed longer. Verlen had saved us a lot of time in the flood diversion channel during the night.
(CE) I was getting cold and mentioned this to Bob. His answered by saying just eat something and paddle hard. I found some food bars, forced them down, and paddled like crazy till we reached the Co. Rd. 6 Bridge. Sure enough, I was warm when we landed.
(BB) Near river mile 1014, above Brainerd, we met paddling friend Pete Colas. He had paddled out to join us in his C-1 from the French Rapids Access. It was sunny and calm. We paddled on to Potlatch dam where our crew had locked up our portage wheels. Andrew had a combination lock on them along with a note reminding me that I had the combination in my watch memory. He also wrote that there was another note in the restroom along the portage. He knew I would have to use it! While using the restroom, Clark prepared the canoe for portage. Andrew's note told us that we were well ahead of the world record. None of the team members mentioned my schedule though. I later learned that my schedule was known as "Bob's crazy schedule". After all, we were now about four hours behind my schedule even though we were only two hours behind it after the flood diversion channel, and that was with no delays!
(CE) Bob's schedule was maddening. We never seemed to be able to advance on it. We talked about it and how he had put it together from estimates taken from his 2001 run. We figured the biggest difference between then and now were our low water conditions. The 2001 event was run during record-setting flood conditions on the upper Mississippi river. The flow rate was now far less, our hull speed was lower because of the lack of river depth, and we couldn't cut over river bends. We were both pushing as hard as we could and that was good enough.
(BB) Our crew met us a Kiwanis Park, river-left, in Brainerd. My grandkids, Jessica and Jacob Phelps, were waving orange flags for us so that we could spot the take out. They put the video camera on the bow while we had pasta salad and burgers from McDonald's. We pulled out just after noon.
(CE) The crew was teasing Janet about her running over a raccoon the night before. Then someone noticed my burned nose, and the jokes shifted to me. I should have been more careful, and now I had a badly burned, bleeding nose! Thick sunblock was promptly put on, and I hoped that I wouldn't get an infection. We found out that replacement NiteRider lights were being shipped to Minneapolis. In the meantime, I asked our crew to look into a way to fit our large waterproof dive light to the bow. Rain was in the forecast.
(CE) I had worked a long time to design a camera mount that could be used on either the bow or stem, and could be rotated to shoot from either the starboard or port side. I felt bad that I couldn't have designed it a little better to let Bob alternate sides easier. He was a good sport about it, and we captured some great shots of paddling the swift waters below the dam, and cruised in toward low hanging branched along the river bank to capture some dynamic effects. After 15 minutes of recording, Bob had had enough and went down for a sleep cycle. I turned the audio recorded off, but left on the video recorder.
(CE) At 1: 15 pm, we passed under the HWY 371 Bridge going just over 7 mph. Bob was up and he commented that in 2001, he and Verlen had seen a deer swimming in the river just downstream. All we had now were some ducks to keep us company.
(BB) At Fort Ripley, our crew took the camera off the bow. It was a great relief. I felt that my eyes were crossing from having it in front of me. We left Fort Ripley just after 4:00 pm.
(BB) We arrived in Little Falls at 7:30 pm. Danita Baker, a Rett mother, and her friend Denise Langner had brought us pizza, pop, and dissert bars. Clark and I enjoyed the treat. Danita has nine year old twin daughters, both with Rett Syndrome. Clark and I had decided to swap the front seat from our canoe with the front seat from Clark's canoe while we were there. His seat was easier and quicker to remove and replace from bedding down in the boat. Bill Pullen, David, Jacob, and Verlen went to work modifying the date to make it fit.
(CE) We had the opportunity to visit with Danita Baker and her family. Bob and I really enjoyed seeing them out enjoying the event. They had a good meal waiting for us half way along the portage, and our crew went to work modifying the bow seat with parts from my canoe. The resulting bow seat was easier for Bob to move while going down for a sleep cycle.
(BB) The portage at Blanchard Dam was every bit as steep and rough as I had remembered. It was raining and slippery and the water level was lower than it had been in 2001, so the last twenty feet were very rocky and tricky. The canoe bounced around from the waves created by the dam.
(CE) It was pitch black and the steep, rocky portage back to the river was slippery from the rain. A fall here couldn't be risked, so we tied a safety line to the canoe for the descent, wrapped it around a tree, and gave it to our crew to use in case either Bob or I lost our footing. We were careful and managed without their assistance. Even without a canoe it was a dangerous slope. Stan fell and slid several feet before catching a tree.
Wednesday, May 14th, 2003; approximately midnight to midnight, Day 5 starts at 6 AM
(BB) During the very early morning, the wind and rain kicked up pretty good. Clark had been sleeping and we had a little thunder and lighting, but nothing too close to us. By the time we arrived at Sartell, I was very wet and starting to get cold. Clark got up and realized that I was shivering when we pulled out for the portage over Champion Darn. He gave me his whole thermos of coffee, which he had saved. He insisted that I drank it all to warm up my body. Andrew had once again left a note attached to the locked portage wheels at the take out. He wrote that the crew was down on river left just above Sauk Rapids. Both Clark and I checked out the put in below the dam. It was loaded with slippery rocks. We were in a heavy downpour. At that, Clark and I both knew what we had to do. In 2001, we had both portaged three blocks to the bridge below and put in there. We did the same thing this time, but this year it was 4:00 am.
(CE) The night was stormy and cold. I didn't sleep because as I got soaked with rain as I started to get into my sleeping bag. I was cold so I got up around 3:30 am to help as we approached Champion Dam. We pulled out on river-right and spotted our portage wheels. Bob was shaking from the cold rain, and I wasn't going anywhere until he drank something to warm up. Fortunately, my coffee from Blanchard Dam was still hot. In a few minutes Bob looked better and we portaged down the street to the same put-in we both used in 2001. This was much better than the alternative, slippery rock laden spot upstream. We left at 4:48 am.
(BB) Our crew met us on river-left just above Sauk Rapids, as planned. We pulled the canoe on shore and I went to the van to change into dry clothes and to warm up. Clark changed his clothes outside and went with some of the crew to check out the best way to get through the rapids. It had stopped raining and the crew mounted the camera on the stern of our canoe. The passage was fast and we avoided the big rocks and back eddies.
(CE) I changed and scouted out the best route through Sauk Rapids. There was a nice chute that led into a big rock, but it looked easy enough to veer left around it. Soon we were ready to go and the video camera strapped on the stem. We managed the rapids without any problem and were soon downstream near some bridges, one of which had a train cross over while we passed underneath.
(BB) We arrived early at St. Cloud Dam at river mile 926 and portaged on the left around 7:15 am.
(BB) At the end of the portage, Kenn Ketter, Al Dubois, Lee Jarpey and Keith Canny were all waiting for us. They are paddling friends from the Minnesota area and had teamed up to paddle with us to Kenn's house on the Mississippi River just upstream from downtown Minneapolis.
(BB) Below the dam at St Cloud, Kenn and Al were paddling a pro-canoe and Keith and Lee were paddling a competition cruiser. Both canoes were fairly fast in design, but they also were very unstable in the high head wind that we had. These guys were real experts, so they didn't have any problems that they couldn't handle,
(BB) Near river mile 905, we all witnessed a hawk swoop down and grab a wood duck and attempt to fly away with it on river-right. After a couple hundred feet, the hawk dropped the wood duck and the duck fell to the water. The wood duck then flew off apparently unharmed.
(BB) Our road crew met us at the upper Montissippi County Park near Monticello at 12:05 pm. We ate on shore, river-right, then took off with the two other canoes still with us. The wind was still blowing in our face and it would continue all the way to Elk River where we turned south. It was bad enough that we were paddling about 5 feet off the shoreline trying to keep out of the wind.
(CE) It was blowing hard and it was tough paddling. I was long, long overdue for a sleep cycle, and tried to lay down for it. I just couldn't sleep thinking of Bob paddling solo in this wind, so I got back up. It was a good thing, too, because the wind increased. We tried to get some shelter paddling along the bank, close enough to hit the bushes, but we didn't have much luck. Somewhere in this section, I pulled a muscle in my left shoulder. It ached with every catch and pull of the paddle, so I took some "vitamin I" and kept on.
(BB) Paddling friend Ed Arinz joined us in his C-1 near river mile 874. Then a couple miles below that Tom Gardner and Chuck Ryan joined us in a pro-canoe.
(BB) We arrived at Kenn's house near 7:00 pm. We met Andrew Gribble's mother there and I had a chance to meet more of my paddling friends from Minnesota including Sara Kuetter, an excellent tri-athlete, who I had raced with in 2002, and Gene Jensen, the legendary canoe designer. It had been almost two years since I had talked to Gene. We also visited with my good friend Donald Clark and Bonnie Riley from the area who I snow shoe race with in Duluth every year. I took a shower and we ate lasagna, macaroni and cheese, and some pickled herring. Angie knew I liked pickled herring, so she had picked it up for me. I got an hour nap before leaving Kenn's place. Tony Swenson and his wife, Diane, joined our team again.
(CE) It was great to visit with so many friends, and to have some time to thank the folks who paddled all day with up. They did a great job paddling their canoes in high wind conditions. I'm sure I would have went swimming on more than once if l were in their canoes! I tried to lay down for a nap in a room off the living room, but it was too noisy and I couldn't fall asleep. I retreated to the trailer, where it was quieter, and had a short nap. Tony Swenson woke me up an hour later.
(BB) We left before dark, but not by much. On the very next bridge a few minutes down river, Sara Kuetter and my grandson David were banging on pots and pans, cheering us on.
(BB) We locked through the upper, then lower St. Anthony Falls locks. The Lockmaster said a TV crew had been there till about 9:00 pm, looking for us but gave up.
Thursday, May 15th, 2003, approximately midnight to midnight, Day 6 starts at 6 AM
(CE) We reached Upper St. Anthony L&D at midnight. None of our team was there, and we had a quiet passage through the tallest lock on the Mississippi River. It was cold and misty at the bottom of the lock, and we pushed out into turbulent water. It wasn't long after that we went through the Lower St. Anthony lock, and the Lockmaster kindly called ahead to L&D #1 to let them know we were on our way.
(BB) The Lock and Dam master at St. Anthony had called ahead to Lock and Dam #1 (L&D #1) to let them know that we were coming so we got through fast.
(BB) Al Dubois and Tom Gardner met us that night below Lock and Dam #1 just after Pike Island. They had attached a light on the front of Tom's competition cruiser. They traveled with us down to South St. Paul Access below the I-494 Bridge. Along the way, Tom showed us a way to slip by a tug with barges on river-left by Pig's Eye Island.
(CE) Tom had to leave us after soon after the I-494 Bridge at a boat ramp around 4 am. Bob went down for a sleep cycle. Unfortunately, I was still really short on sleep. Around 5 am, upstream of Upper Gray Cloud Island, I literally could not keep my eyes open and nodded off several times. The coffee had stopped working its magic, and I had to throw cold water on my head and down my back to startle myself awake. That was enough to keep me going so Bob could rest.
(BB) We locked through Lock and Dam #2 on river-right very early in the morning light.
(BB) At 11:07 am, we arrived at Diamond Bluff landing in Wisconsin. Chuck and Linda Evert had caught up with our road crew and Chuck had baked a rhubarb pie for us. It was great!
(CE) My feet were getting numb from the constant pressure from operating the rudder, even though I had foam taped to the removable bar that I had fabricated. I ran up the hill to the bathroom just to try and get some feeling back into my toes, but it didn't work. Chuck and Linda were cheerful and gave us both some fantastic rhubarb pie. Bob and I signed a couple race t-shirts for them before leaving.
(BB) Lock and Dam #3 came soon after. Next we came to Red Wing, MN. By now it was very hot with hardly any wind. While looking for an electrical outlet, Jessica, Angie's daughter, had noticed a "No Outlet" road sign. After finding the sign, she found an electrical outlet. To her thinking, the citizens of Redwing were not any too honest! While waiting for us to arrive, Angie had set it up for us to talk to some school kits and sign autographs. She had already given the kids our website and explained to them our mission.
(CE) It was around 1 pm when we pulled into Red Wing. The sun was out and it was getting hot. We ate our food standing up and then went over to a nearby riverboat to meet with school kids, all arranged by Angie. We left as soon as we stocked up on food and drinks.
(BB) It was very hot crossing Lake Pepin, but we still had no headwind. I was missing the last map of Lake Pepin in my map case. Clark and I both remembered that we needed to stay on the river right to exit the lake. We also noticed that the water level was up a little and that there were a lot of logs floating down stream.
(CE) We encountered some pleasure boats hogging the channel leading into Lake Pepin. We were lucky to have a calm day so we kept to the channel markers way out in the lake. There was a small sailboat that we passed off to our left that was content to just drift around. It was hot and we drank a lot of our supplies before seeing our crew in Wabasha, 6 hours and 30 miles later.
(BB) Our road crew met us on river-right under the bridge in Wabasha late in the afternoon. We had a real treat there. Chuck and Lisa have a friend named Annette Hedquist who runs the local Dairy Queen and she brought 18 buster bars for the crew to share.
Friday, May 16th, 2003; Day 7 starts at 6 AM
(BB) We arrived at Lock and Dam #5 in Fountain City at 12:30 am and the Lock Master said that we had about a 45 minute wait before locking through. Clark was asleep so I tied off to some rocks above the lock. I brushed my teeth, drank some coffee, and ate while a southbound tug locked its barges through.
(BB) We finally locked through L&D #5 on the right.
(CE) I was back up after L&D #5 and we made clean run to L&D #5A in Winona, arriving there at 3:14 am. We locked through and met our team at the Winona Boat Ramp about an hour later. We continued to make good time through L&D #6 in Trempealeau and #7 in La Cross.
(BB) L&D #7 portage was on river-right.
(BB) Next we arrived at L&D #8 in Genoa, WI. According to my schedule, we were 11 hours behind but according to the world record, we were still very much ahead of schedule. At the lock, we met Gareth Stevens and Janet Perry waiting on the deck with our crew. We pulled in below the lock at the boat ramp to fix up and bandage my thumbs, which were cracked from the weather. We had decided that the ''New Skin" that I had been using was not good enough and that I should clean them up and apply antibiotic ointment and new bandages. To my surprise, the Lockmaster-Ted Engeilen-had sent his attendant, Thomas Mattie, down with a first aid kit to fix me up. Not only did he fix up my thumbs, but he also sent a whole box of supplies with the road crew so that they could continue to keep me in clean bandages. Gareth and Janet said that they would meet us down river and paddle with us for a bit.
(CE) Bob's thumbs didn't look very good, and I was reminded of my 2001 partner Kurt's thumbs. Kurt's became so bad that we had to resort to soaking them in hot salt water to drain the pus from the infection. I had brought along a prescription antibiotic just for this occasion, and Bob started taking it.
(BB) We passed Lansing, Iowa, in the late afternoon. It was sunny and there was no wind.
(BB) At about river mile 658, five miles below Lansing, David (in Stan's Sea Wind) and Gareth and Janet (in their C-2) met up with us. They had paddled upstream from Lynxville Landing.
(CE) It was fun having company again, and very enjoyable company at that. The conditions were great and Bob was able to take a nap in route to Lynxville Landing. David was having a lot of fun racing ahead and waiting for us to catch up, then repeating this again and again.
(BB) We all paddled together until we got back down to Lynxville Landing. Well, Clark did, I was taking a nap. Once arriving at the landing, I took a shower behind Stan’s trailer and we ate.
(CE) Lynxville Landing was beside a railroad track, and while we were there a train rushed by making a huge amount of noise. I called Mary for the third time that day, and found out Amanda had an ear infection, and that was likely to have increased her seizures for the last few days. I felt terrible.
(CE) My nose was still badly burned from the sun and wind, so Angie kindly gave me a tube of sunblock and lip ointment, which I kept with me for the rest of the trip. We all talked on the satellite phone to Verlen, who had just arrived back to their home. Stan also gave us some fleece caps that he had picked up from the local REI. I moved the battery pack that hung from the center rib in front of me to behind the rear seat, giving me more sleeping room and preventing me from accidentally bumping the power plug. The crew would move downstream to L&D #10 because there was no access to L&D #9 because of construction going on there. The audio recorder was turned on and we left around 9 pm.
(CE) En route to the next L&D, Bob and I could feel the heat rolling off the hills onto the water. Bob also found out that there was a third, higher setting on the headlamps I had modified, which wasn't the easiest thing to figure out. We also talked about the need for sleep verses the need for us both staying up to paddle at night. In the end, we decided that we would just have to be careful and call it as it came. The road and railroad went followed the river in this section and it was noisy until we reached the L&D #9.
(BB) Just before we headed back out, some drunk came by and warned us that it was going to rain and that the landing would be flooded.
(BB) At L&D #9, the attendant that gave us the rope was a lady. She asked us our mission and when we told her, she asked us to hold on for a minute. She returned with a paper bag clipped to a pole which she held down to us. In it there were some treats. It looked like it may have been part of her lunch. Clark ate the sunflower seeds and liked them so much that he had Stan pick him up some more for the days that followed.
(CE) We were a little confused about where the entrance to the lock was located because of all the construction going on. It was 9:35 PM when we entered into the lock, and watched lots of bats flying around eating bugs. A lady employee named Chris Craig came over and asked what we were doing. We told her and she asked if she could donate some candy bars. How could we tum her down? She came back and handed us a snack bag using a pole. It had an assortment of goodies, and included a half opened bag of sunflower seeds, a zip-lock of red twist, and a couple of candy bars. Bob wasn't a fan of the sunflower seeds, so I ate them and promptly got addicted. The total drop was about a foot in the lock. There was no moon, making it very dark as we departed.
(CE) The water was calm and the temperature just right. We still were using Bob's replacement bow light instead of the NiteRider, which we planned to pick up the following day. We couldn't see an expected channel light but were able to search out the cans. The Poly Bay Light (red) finally came into view, and we were not sure why we couldn't see it earlier. We went close enough to it to hear the frogs, then veered left toward where the Gordon Bay Light should be, but never showed up. Then we searched for the Jackson Island Light on river right, and noted that we still didn't have any river traffic.
Saturday, May 17th, 2003; Day 8 starts at 6 AM
(BB) We arrived in the very early morning at the boat ramp below L&D #10 in Gutenberg, Iowa. Both Clark and I decided that we should take a three hour nap in the trailer and van before heading back out. At the dock below the lock our crew was waiting and we met kayaker Toni Bryant and his son-in-law Andrew Olsen. Their family had fed our road crew and let them take showers and naps the night before. They brought us some of the spaghetti that they had left.
(BB) The nap did us lots of good and after eating we took off once again. Some people were there with a fishing boat and they were taking their five dogs for a boat ride. The dogs were running wild around us and the kids.
(BB) We paddled through the pool above L&D #11 with some wind. We were trying to keep ahead of a couple of tug boats but we didn't quite succeed.
(BB) We arrived at L&D #11 in DeBuque, Iowa, at 3:30 pm. As we locked through, I looked up on the observation deck and saw my brother Don taking pictures of us. Is was a surprise to see him. Janet had called my friends Dave Timmerman and Dena Kurt to let them know that we were in town. They planned on joining us to paddle along for a spell.
(BB) We took off after fixing my thumbs and talking to my brother. During the next week, I needed my thumbs cleaned and re-bandaged 4 times a day. Usually while I was eating with one hand, someone was fixing the other.
(BB) As we were leaving L&D #11, Clark and I saw Dave Timmerman and Dena Kurt drive up while blowing their horn. We kept paddling knowing that they would catch up to us somewhere along the next stretch.
(BB) They caught up with us at about river mile 579. They were in a pro-canoe and with the pleasure boats and tugs in the area, the water was very rough for them. Dena and Dave took on some water but they kept the boat upright.
(BB) At L&D #12, we ate, took care of my thumbs, and said good-by to Dave and Dena. When we left, I was laying down and Clark was paddling. We had made good time while Dave and Dena were with us.
Sunday, May 18th; Day 9 starts at 6 AM
(BB) By L&D #13, Clark was sleeping and I didn't know where to lock through. I called the lockmaster on the marine radio and told him that I couldn't find the lock. He said he would tum the lock wall lights on and BINGO, I could see everything. That was the first time that I had come across a lock with its lights off.
(BB) Our crew met us at Comanche, Iowa, near sunrise on river right, at the 5th Ave. boat ramp. Our crew took some great pictures at this stop of the sun coming up behind the canoe. A lady on a bike, Jean Reid, signed our witness form. This was also where Angie left for home with the kids.
(BB) We met the road crew again at LeClair, Iowa, at river mile 497. Rich McHurven, a handicapped man, was down by the river in a golf cart. He was nice enough to give me a cart ride up to the restroom which was a block away. This was the last stop my brother Don made before heading home to Michigan.
(BB) At L&D #14, we went through the regular lock, not the auxiliary lock.
(BB) L&D #15, was on river left at Arsenal Island and we locked through there fairly fast.
(BB) At L&D #16, there was a backup in river traffic. The Lockmaster said that it would be about an hour and a half before we could lock through. Clark thought that maybe we should check out portage options so I walked up and talked to the Lockmaster. He said it was against the rules to portage across the lawn and that we would have to paddle across river and portage over there. Then, he asked some more questions about our journey and why we were attempting it. After telling him about our cause he said, "What the heck, you can pull your canoe across the lawn".
(CE) We were stuck waiting for river traffic at L&D #16 in Muscatine so decided to try pull the canoe alone in the grass. It was a long stretch with a slope across the parking lot. It would have been better if the grass were wet! It took a while, but at least it was an opportunity to stand up!
(BB) We met our road crew in Muscatine, Iowa, on river-right at 5:40 pm to eat.
(BB) At L&D #17, it was dark when we arrived. The Lockmaster said that it would take about one hour before he could lock us through because he had barges in the lock right then. He said we could move out to the auxiliary lock on the right and tie up to a maintenance barge that was anchored there and wait. We threw the bow and stem ropes around some rails, slid down in the canoe and tried to rest and eat. It wasn't a very good nap though because we had to listen to the radio in case the lockmaster called us to lock through. The tugboat that was in the system was the "Cornell".
(BB) At 11:50 pm, we pulled into New Boston on river-right to meet our road crew. Clark and I met Clint Miller on the shore. He was in a golf cart and Lived just a little ways from the landing. Clint gave us some deep fried Morrell mushrooms that his wife had cooked up. We had to pull straight out into the river when we left because on the left bank there was a lot of debris in the water and some barges were being loaded downstream.
Monday, May 19th, 2003; Day 10 starts at 6 AM
(BB) Below Keithburg, at river mile 423.7, I went in close to river left shore to make sure that the light there was the Cherokee light. It was the light, but by the time I had come close enough to read the river mile, I was too close to a red buoy just downstream. I paddled hard to get back out toward the middle of the river. My end of the canoe narrowly missed the red buoy but Clark’s end hit it. Clark had been sleeping in the stern but after hitting it, he was wide-awake!
(BB) At L&D #18 we got lucky. Stan had told the Lockmaster about our trip and that we were coming. They went ahead and quickly locked us through even though they had a tug to the north and one to the south already waiting.
(BB) At 5:30 am, we had breakfast just after the bridge in Burlington on river right, at the boat landing. When we pushed off, it was my tum to sleep.
(CE) We passes Burlington while Bob was sleeping. I could see the place on shore where both our teams were forced to shore by a storm in 2001. It was so dark and stormy then, but so bright and calm now. The contrast was sobering.
(BB) When I woke up it was very hazy and it looked like Clark was down in a hole. All that I could see was his hand on the upper part of the paddle and the strobe light behind him. (I was in the bottom of the boat looking up at him.) It took a few minutes for me wake up enough to know where I was and why Clark looked like he was down in a hole.
(BB) In the late morning just after 11 am, we stopped on river left at Inspiration Point in Nauvoo, Illinois. Stan had set up an interview with Channel 7 (from Keokuk, Iowa). We ate and then Carla Mathes drove up and interviewed us before getting back into the canoe. She was going to film us out on the dock but after seeing a snake along the shore, she decided that she would stay off the dock. It was very sunny and hot when Clark and I took off. There was hardly any wind at all. It was a lot different than being wind bound for three hours like we were in 200I.
(BB) We arrived at L&D # 19 in Keokuk, Iowa, at 2 pm. Our crew had our portage wheels ready and because the lick was backed up with northbound barges, we decided to portage. We did it the easy way like we did in 2001. The Lockmaster lifted our canoe, with us in it, on the front gate and we put the canoe on the portage cart and rolled off. We ate on the way down the road as we portaged.
(BB) At river mile 359.6, we saw our first submerged buoy. During 2001, we had encountered many of these but hadn't seen any yet this time because of the lower river levels. A buoy sometimes becomes submerged because of high water and a short anchor chain. The buoy will be just below the surface and can p
op up when least expected. At night, they can be very dangerous.
(BB) At L&D #20, just above Canton, Stan and our crew had made arrangements for a tug to wait for us to lock through. Months prior to our record attempt, Stan had written to the Coast Guard to let them know what we were attempting.
(BB) We pulled into the municipal boat ramp to get food from our road crew. The ramp was a little rocky so we actually pulled in above it in a little outlet. It was cloudy and we had a very light rain. I took a shower behind Stan's trailer and I was almost through, I noticed two cars parked in the lot about 70 feet away. The car on the left was a police officer. OOPS, oh well. After leaving Canton, we locked through on the left at L&D #21. It was about 9:35 pm.
Tuesday, May 20th, 2003; Day 11 starts at 6 AM
(BB) It was very dark above Hannibal and Clark was sleeping. Around river mile 314 a very strong tail wind came up out of nowhere. I was in the middle of the river following the main channel when my rudder control cable snapped. I had to wake Clark up so he could help me turn the canoe. It was bad enough that we chose to go to river right and pull up long enough to see what had happened to my foot control. The stainless steel cable had frayed and broke in two. Clark would have to stay up and help me get to the next feed point and get it repaired. When we pulled back into the river we decided to stay close to shore because of the wind. After about a half mile, we found a couple of trees that had snapped off and were in the river so we decided to move out from shore just far enough to keep from getting hit by falling limbs. The shore was lined with willow trees and they don't stand up well in high winds.
(CE) I could just hear Bob calling for me above the wind and rain. He said that something was wrong with his rudder controls. I was still in my paddle jacket so I sat up and started paddling. I didn't have time to pull off the sleeping bag but was still able to push against the rudder pegs to regain control of the canoe. The rudder control was stiff, but workable. We started to hug the right bank until we noticed some trees had been blown over into the river. The wind and rain continued from the rear, and soon we saw the rear of a southbound tug in front of us. It was the Star Fire and it was stopped along the right bank. We flew by it in the howling rain and tried to call it on the radio, but the radio stopped working. We continued on, hoping that the captain would stay put. I noticed on the GPS map that we were along a section called Monkey Run…how appropriate!
(BB) After passing Hannibal and making the slight turn to the southeast, we had a wind on our left side. Then it began raining pretty hard as well. By the Continental Cement light at river mile 305.7, we padded by a tug on our right called "The Star Fire". The tug was nosed into the right shore. He wasn't loading or unloading but just waiting out the storm there.
(BB) When we were a mile or two out from L&D #22, I tried to call the Lockmaster on our marine band radio only to find that the radio's batteries were dead. When we arrived at the wall along the lock, I pulled on the signal rope but I don't think it was even hooked up. Finally, a dockhand noticed us along the wall and asked if we wanted to lock through. It was starting to break dawn and it was still windy and raining.
(CE) I had a hard time keeping the canoe still while Bob pulled uselessly on the signal rope. We were lucky a dock hand noticed us and let us through. Soon we arrived at the boat launch below, and found our crew asleep. They were sure surprised to see us. The weather was poor, and both of us were really tired, so we elected to grab a couple hours of sleep. It was a good call.
(BB) Our road crew was just below the lock on river right at the boat launch. They were still sleeping when we arrived. They had their marine radio on but of course they never heard us call because ours was not working. Clark and I decided to crawl into the van and trailer to catch a couple hours of sleep ourselves. This would give Bill, our mechanic, time to repair the rudder cable and give us time to dry out. We were both tired and Clark had been woke up during his time to sleep so that he could steer.
(BB) We left L&D #22 after about three hours. It was light and it had stopped raining and the cable was repaired. We had eaten and were ready to go. At Cotton Wood Island light, mile 290.0, we overtook "The Star Fire". We stayed ahead through L&D # 24 (there is not L&D #23 on the Mississippi River.)
(BB) At L&D #24, we pulled into river right at Clarksville boat ramp. The people of Clarksville Boat Club wanted us to come in and eat at their club. It was just after 11 am. Julia and Alex O'Blein gave us hats from their boat club. According to my schedule, we were 20 hours behind although we were still very much ahead of the world record.
(BB) At 4:00 pm, we came to L&D #25. The Lockmaster knew that we would be coming because our road crew had talked to him. The Lockmaster said that the lock was backed up with a northbound tug but we could shoot through the third opening in the dam. He said it was about a 6 inch drop and that we should be fine. When we went through we found some turbulence and our speed got up to 10 mph. After we went through we had a bit of a problem getting to the right side of the river to meet our road crew. We had to pass below the northbound tug that had his engines revved up a little and then we had to paddle up into a bayou.
CE) L&D #25 was backed up with traffic, so the Lockmaster said we could go over the dam. “Over the dam.” That was a surprise to hear him say that! This area had been affected by localized flooding so the drop was only a few inches. I took some picture of us going under the "Danger" signs in front of the dam. Soon we were through, but now had to dig hard to get back to the river right. Worse yet was that we had to pass the rear wake of a northbound tug in order to access the little bayou where our road crew was waiting.
(CE) Somewhere after this pit stop, I was paddling alone in the dark, and someone on a bridge put a blinding spotlight on us. I called on the radio but just listened to static. The light went out and there was no further problem.
(BB) At dark, we stopped at Afton marine Boat Ramp on river left under the bridge just above Mel Price lock. This was our first meeting with the crew members Jon Young and Dana Hanson. They had both been on my 2001 road crew and it was great to have them join us. Under the bridge, we met "Riverman" Charles Smith. He had been fishing under the bridge before we came. He had given our crew $3 to benefit our cause. Our crew gave him hot dogs that they had left over. Charles said he had been working on the river and bridges for most of his life.
(CE) We spotted the laser signal light just below the bridge, and talked with Andrew on the radio. He said that we had to go back upstream to reach the boat ramp. We passed a little marina and found the ramp. I didn't recognize Dana until we were back at the trailer. There was pizza and hot dogs waiting for us, and I dug into the salty potato chips as well. We departed with the Stan's video camera on the stern, and the mini-CD recorder turned on.
Wednesday, May 21st, 2003; Day 12 starts at 6 AM
(BB) We locked through Mel Price dam shortly after leaving our crew. We had the camera mounted on the rear of our canoe. I remember Clark saying that it looked like we were in a Star Wars movie when we paddled into the lock. It was dark and kind of eerie, there was a blue heron standing on a floating log in the lock.
(BB) A kayaker from the St. Louis area, Michael Clark, had told Stan earlier that when we reached the Chain of Rocks that we should stay on river right to cross the low water dam #27. In the high water of 2001, both Clark and I had stayed river-left to go through the rapids and that was in the daylight. Now it was after 2 am and very dark. Michael had told Stan that it was a little bumpy but still doable. Although "Bumpy" could mean different things to different people, we decided we should go ahead like Michael has suggested. The water level was about 10 feet lower than in 2001. We could hear the roar of the water after going under the bridge but we found the chute OK and made it through without hitting any rocks.
(CE) The decision to run the Chain of Rocks during low water, at night, was difficult to make. The alternative was to take the long route through the stagnant cannel leading to the Granite City L&D, and face a long wait to get through. We went cautiously past the Warning Sign, full of adrenalin, going slowly, listening and searching with our lights for the chute. Somehow we found it and passed through without hitting anything. It was actually for stressful navigating the swift currents below the bridges leading into the city.
(BB) We arrived at the St .Louis Arch just after 3 am. We met Michael Clark there as well as two different TV news crews. Amy Chase did an interview for her station and we had a chance to thank Michael Clark for his directions on how to get through the Chain of Rocks. It was very chilly and we had hot stew to warm us during our interview with Amy. Dana had to leave our road crew at this point but Jon was staying with us to the end.
(BB) It was 8:30 am when we paddled into Platten Rock Boat Club on river-right. Janet was sitting in a chair with the satellite phone on her lap, sound asleep. Even though I called out to her she still did not wake up until I kissed her.
(BB) At 1 pm, river mile 123, we arrived at St. Genevieve harbor marine boat ramp and Clark got a real surprise. When we pulled into the slack water in the cove, a 9 inch fish jumped out of the water and hit min in the chest. There was a fisherman there on our left who hadn't had any luck at all. Clark didn't keep the fish but he sure kept the smell! We grabbed some food and ate in the canoe.
(CE) It must have been an Asian carp that got spooked as we pulled into the Genevieve harbor boat ramp. It hit me square in the chest and left me slimed with a stinky fish smell. Pulling into the ramp had to be carefully done since there was metal trash all along the bank, making quite an ugly scene.
(BB) Later that afternoon while Clark was asleep, the "Wind Gods" took their second hat of the trip from Clark. Now he wanted to borrow my spare hat.
(BB) At 7:30 pm, our road crew informed us that we were 319 miles ahead of the world record schedule. However, on my schedule, we were about 18 hours behind where I wanted to be at this point. We were at the Wittenburg Boat Club and it looked a lot different than in 2001. The water was about 6 feet lower. Clark took a shower behind the trailer to get rid of the fish smell and I took a shower out of my sunshower behind the van. Gary and Peggy Scholl drove up before we left and we autographed two shirts for them. They owned a bar in town and planned on hanging them up in the bar.
Thursday, May 22nd, 2003; Day 13 starts at 6 AM
(BB) At 12:00 midnight, we arrived at Caster Boat Ramp on river right. I recall when I woke up that I was staring at Clark's headlamp and thought that it was a tug boat coming at us.
(BB) We missed Brown's Chute at river mile 25. It was dark and best not to try it in case the water was too low.
(CE) We were considering taking Brown’s Chute to save some time, but we weren’t sure if there was a shallow wing dam crossing it. Somehow we missed the entrance in the dark so it became a non-issue.
(BB) At Fort Defiance State Park, Stan met us in his Seawind canoe. It was a good thing that he did because we would never have found our feed point. The park was flooded and the water was about 10 feet higher than in the 2001 race. Only the tops of picnic tables and grills were above the water. We had to paddle up the park road almost to where the Mississippi River bridge and the Ohio River bridge meet. We got our meal to go and decided that it would be faster to paddle out the Ohio River than to paddle back down to the Mississippi River. It was just after 9:45 am. The Ohio River was far more flooded than the Mississippi River. Even the pavilion in the park near the point had water standing in it. We were now at mile "O" from the countdown of the upper Mississippi River. The river count now would start at 954 and end at mile "O" in the Gulf of Mexico. We no longer had to do the math in our heads as to how many miles we had left.
(BB) It was sunny and hot and we did not have much wind below the Ohio River that day. Because of the flooded Ohio, we now had a flooded Mississippi.
(BB) Clark had to make some satellite phone calls to check on his hometown radio stations, employment, and to talk to his wife Mary.
(CE) The river was now moving quickly and there was more barge traffic. One tug blew its horn to alert us to move out of the way. I needed to take a break as Bob paddled to make a call to a company that I had interviewed with a couple weeks before. It was really surreal being on the phone, in a canoe, trying to land a new job. As it turned out, they had hired someone else and I ended up getting another position with another company a couple months later.
(BB) Our crew planned to meet us at Hickman Ferry but it was flooded out. They obtained permission to meet us at Bunge Grain Dock just down river at river mile 922. It was 12:50 pm when we arrived for our meal.
(BB) We caught a lot of head wind going around Winchester towhead where the river goes north for several miles, from river mile 900 to 892.
(CE) Just above New Madrid, on a huge hairpin of the river, a strong upstream wind combined with the downstream current to create a field of “hay stacks”. We had to work our way around these, much like a skier navigates moguls on a ski slope.
(BB) We skipped the feed at New Madrid. It was not only a hard one for our road crew to get to because of the ferry being closed, but it was also a bit of a stretch for us to get to river right and then back to the left in front of New Madrid Bar. Our road crew headed straight to Tiptonville.
(BB) At river mile 884, just after New Madrid bend, it was rough because of barge traffic. The river is over a mile wide by New Madrid's lower dock light.
(BB) It was 7:25 pm when we arrived at Tiptonville Ferry landing. The road was flooded so we had to go just below to a park on river-left. The cornfield that Angie had slept in during the 2001 race was flooded this time and there was actually water running out of the field and crossing the road.
(BB) It was dark corning out of Caruthersville. I didn't remember seeing the big casino on river right in 2001.
(BB) Our crew had planned on meeting us at river mile 840 boat ramp but when they arrived they found that they could only get to a point along the road by Booth's Point at least an eighth of a mile from the main river. We saw the laser light first through the trees and then a riverboat captain directed us to our crew. He told us that they were above the bridge on river left past the tree line in a field. We had a tough time getting through the tree line to the field. It was on an outside bend and the water was moving fast through the brush. We waited until we found an opening and then went left out of the riverbed. We were in an open field through and found that the current was so strong against us that we had to go more down river to a fence line of more trees for protection from the current. We made it OK along the tree line.
(BB) After the feed, Clark stayed up until we got back to the main river and a ways below highway 412 bridge (river mile 839). With all of the high water we were now only about 7 hours behind my crazy schedule. Now it once again seemed possible to not only beat the record but to do it within my 19 day, 15 hour schedule that I had made up prior to the race.
(BB) After the 412 bridge, at river mile 832, a riverboat captain told another captain that he should watch out for a guy on a raft going down river. Clark was asleep so I had the marine radio and I told the captains that I had a canoe and that we were trying to break a world record. During the nights, Clark and I would tune to Channel 13 on the marine band and talk to the tug captains or at least listen to them and see where they were in the river. They would usually give the name of their tug and say whether they were headed North or South and give their river mile. If any tugs were in the area, they would respond and give their info back. They would also note any tricky spots in the river or buoys that may have been out of their location. They also decided which side and where in the river they would pass each other. It was during their communications that they would mention a white canoe in the river with a bright white light on it. They would also mention that we had a marine radio on board if we had talked to them.
Friday, May 23rd, 2003; Day 14 starts at 6 AM
(BB) We had a feed at Ash Port Boat Ramp at 7:40 am on river left at mile 796. It was here that Angie rejoined us. My son Mike, his wife Denise, and my youngest Grandson Justin also came with her. By 10:50 am, we were at Ed Duvall boat ramp for another feed. Ed Duvall is at river mile 768 so we had averaged almost 10 mph in this stretch. The high water from the Ohio was beginning to pay off.
(BB) It was almost 3:00 pm when we got to Memphis, Tennessee. We had planned on meeting our road crew at river mile 728 at a park on the right like we had in 200I, but when our crew arrived at the park they found it closed due to flooding. Our crew then backtracked and came up river to Mud Island, which is river-left just above the US 40 bridge (river mile 738). Clark and I had not called on our satellite phone so we had no idea our road crew has relocated 10 miles upriver from the planned spot. As we approached Mud Island, there was a northbound tug that came to a standstill on our left. The captain had throttled back to an idle. The captain then came out on his deck and shouted to us. He told us that our road crew was on river-left on the other side of him. As soon as we got past the tug, we saw the crew frantically waving the orange flags at almost a 90 degree from our current path. We were probably a quarter of a mile off shore and had to paddle hard to make it to them.
(BB) I was at Mud Island stop that I learned of the problems that my wife Janet had with our van. Somewhere near the town of Millington, TN, she had straddled a large chunk of metal in the road and it took out the gas tank. She had a full tank of gas and it spilled all over the road. They called 911 to report and they dispatched the police, and fire departments and a wrecker. She had to have the van towed into the nearest town (Millington) and have a new tank installed. She had to stay at the site while the environmental people cleaned up the gas spill. Mike went with the van to the dealership and Janet called State Farm insurance to find out what to do. I called her on the cell phone to see how she was doing. The dealership rushed her through and got everything fixed quickly enough that she only missed the Mud Island feed.
(BB) At Mhoon Landing, we met four local people. Ether bright, Jr., Sanda Bright, Rick Mills, and Renee mills. It was about 9 pm and after eating and talking to them we planned our next stop. Ethel and Rick decided that the next feed was hard to find so they would lead the road crew there. The next stop was Friar's Point.
(BB) Going through Helena it was very dark and Clark was sleeping. Just after the US 49 bridge, I noticed a tug behind me. I contacted the captain and found it to be the "Sandy Ann". The captain was very helpful. At first he said that he could not see where I was. I was far enough ahead of him that he could not see the strobe light on our stern. I turned the canoe in a 360 degree circle so he could see our bow light. The captain said he could see the bright light ahead. He then said he had us on his radar. I then heard the captain tell the other northbound tugs about our location.
Saturday, May 24th, 2003; Day 15 starts at 6 AM
(BB) Friar's Point feed was difficult to find. It was on river-left at the Mississippi Limestone Corp. Lucky for us that Andrew was up river 400 yards with the laser light and the marine radio. He directed us past a couple parked barges and two tug boats and then left into a landing. Unlucky for me, as I started past the first tug, our bow light went off. The battery was dead and I had to swap batteries before going on. Janet had the night watchman Jimmy Shirley sign a witness form at 3:00 am.
(BB) A riverboat captain and a local person warned us about a dangerous giant whirlpool at mile 644. Clark was paddling and I was sleeping. Clark said he never came across a whirlpool that night.
(BB) During Clark's turn to paddle that night, he figured out what the captains meant when they said "I'll see you on the two" or "I'll see you on the one". On river left (going down river), the navigation lights blink once, then pause. Hence going down river, left bank is the "one" side. On river right (going down river), the navigation lights blink twice, then pause, so it is referred to as the "two" side. Saying you are going to pass a boat on the "one" then means that you are going to stay close to the left bank when going down-river, or the right bank if you are going up-river. Needless to say, Clark and I picked up on this jargon immediately. I believe sometimes the other captains at first thought we were tug captains when we came on channel 13 speaking their language.
(BB) Somewhere around river mile 640 while I was sleeping, Clark had a captain tell him that he'd better cut inside the red buoys because he was going to be crowding the buoys himself. The captain said in fact he may even run over some of them. Clark said that he would like to oblige the captain but that he wasn't even sure where the red buoys were. Clark decided that rather than wait for explanations he would just head for the tree line. Clark told me that it looked like the riverboat captain was actually coming through a flooded cornfield after him.
(BB) Clark had to call the radio station again at 7:30 am but they kept putting him on hold once again, and finally he had to hang up on them.
(BB) We passed Sunflower Cut at river mile 625. This time the Island was under water and there was nothing but a wide river.
(BB) We had a feed at Dennis landing, river mile 609, on river-left.
(BB) At Scrub Grass Bend, we had to cut to the inside of the left hand turn at river mile 600. In 2001, Verlen and I had done the same. During that race we actually hit the last wing dam around the bend. This time we had no such problem. The water level was a lot higher.
(BB) Just below Rosedale gauge, Janet and Mike paddled along with us for the 29-mile stretch to Uncle Joe's landing. They had brought us ice water and snacks.
(CE) This was a fast section of the river, and the weather was calm and hot. It was great to have Janet and Mike along, and to have a supply of ice to keep our jugs charged with. Mike also gave me a bag of homemade jerky that I quickly ate, quenching my lust for salt for a little while. Bob had got some suntan lotion on his paddle, making it sticky, so Mike swapped paddles with him. I suggested that he try rubbing some cooking oil on the shaft, followed by dish soap. (It was an old trick I've used to clean paintbrushes.) I think it worked for him, too. Bob went down for a nap in the heat, using the electric fan to keep the air moving under the deck.
(BB) It was very hot when we got to Uncle Joe's landing at 2:40 pm, at river mile 562. Stan had found a locked gate on the road going back to the landing but had talked the guard, Alvin Morris, into unlocking it and letting them drive back to the feed. The grass was high and the bugs were bad, too. Clark took a shower behind Stan's trailer and I took a solar shower behind the van. The guard Alvin came back to meet us and to sign a witness form.
(CE) Alvin Morris, the guard at uncle Joe’s landing, told us the history of the area, and the hunting club there the name of the hunting club, which I don’t recall, was in remembrance of a dyke breach there many years ago (27 Break Club) at mile 563). The grass was tall and there were a lot of prickly bushes to walk through.
(BB) Around 7 pm, we paddled into the landing at the Greenville Bridge. The city of Greenville is in Mississippi but we pulled in just above the bridge on the Arkansas side of the river. The landing was flooded and our crew could not drive back to the landing because other access road had a river flowing across it in two places. Each place was under knee-deep water. Mike, Denise, Angie, and Justin had walked back to the landing through the water and brought us our food. We met a man named Donnie McKinney there. He was fishing and let Justin hold up the fish that he had caught. Justin also found and caught a frog while waiting for us. He later took the frog all the way back to show his grandma before letting it go.
(BB) They were building a new bridge just below the one at Greenville. Once we left the bridge, Clark went down for his nap. I crossed the river over to the left side down by Walnut Point Light at mile 522.5.
(BB) It was really dark that night and the river was much wider than normal due to flooding. I think that all of Kentucky Bend Bar was under water at river miles 518 to 516. I stayed close to the left bank so that I would not get behind any sand bars. At or near river mile 507, Clark got up to give me a hand. I had one up-bound tug coming at me and two southbound tugs behind. At river mile 503, the river turns left and it narrows a lot. I talked to the tug captain behind me and asked if he could see me. He said yes and that we were not in a very good spot. Our road crew was waiting for us about 5 miles below at Mayersville Miller landing. Although they could not hear any of our transmission, they could hear the captain's response. Needless to say the crew was a little bit concerned.
(CE) I got up from by nap near Kentucky Bend, around 9 pm after a couple hours of sleep. The river was flowing fast as we passed through Cracraft Chute.
(BB) After the captain told us we were in a bad spot, we decided to stay all the way to the right shore. The captain had no idea that we could move so fast and told us that we were well out of his way. We found ourselves rather close to Oppossum Point Lower light at river mile 502.5. We were actually paddling up stream and trying to keep from being sucked down into an even narrower position of the river. I thought that we were doing rather well because I notice that we were passing lots of logs, but Clark found our otherwise. He had been keeping an eye out for Opossum Point Light. He also noticed that we were actually going down river instead of up. We paddled harder and got closer to the shore and into the edge of a back eddy. The tug passed and Clark and I turned around to follow him.
(BB) It was near there when the next river captain questioned us about what kind of a craft we were in. When I told him that we were in a canoe, he said we must have “sh** for brains”. I thought I had misunderstood him but when he repeated it for a second time I found that I had not. This captain was the only rude captain that we ran into during our entire trip.
(CE) We had the audio recorder on while we talked over the marine radio. The tug captain’s remarks were recorded, reminding me of a similar conversation in 2001 near New Orleans, when a tug captain asked if we “were the first drops in a flood of idiots”. I’d get angry, but at the same time think about their perspective, and that maybe they were right.
(BB) Our road crew met us at the Miller Landing Grain elevator, river mile 497. They had planned on meeting us below, at the tennis court, but it was flooded at Mayersville, MS. The grass was rather tall and the bugs were very bad. We couldn't tell that was us but something sure was. When we got back into the water it was my turn to sleep.
Sunday, May 25th, 2003; Day 16 starts at 6 AM
(BB) It was very dark and a little rainy. There was a lot of debris in the water. Somewhere near river mile 480, I was back up and paddling with Clark once again. I saw a large root system on the right side just ahead of us. What I didn't see until it was too late was that the root system was still connected to an 11 inch diameter tree that had fallen and was only about two inches under water. The bow went over the trunk but about half way back we were grounded on it. Clark and I paddled vigorously, trying to slide our canoe off of it. It seemed like a few minutes before we finally slid the rest of the canoe over the trunk.
(BB) Just after Cottonwood Bar, at river mile 469, we were starting to break down from exhaustion. Neither Clark nor I could keep our eyes opened. Both of us had gotten less that even two hours of sleep in the last 24-hour period. We pulled into the right bank and through the flooded tree line to some slack water. We through a rope around a couple of trees and both slid down under the tarp for some shut-eye. We zipped our spray skirts to keep the bugs out and slept hard for an hour.
(CE) I was way past my sleep cycle, and I had a terrible time keeping my eyes open. I'd toss water on my face, make grizzly faces, stare with one eye then the other, and I still kept nodding off. I just couldn't keep going. Bob was tired, too, and I could see him struggling to keep a proper paddle stroke. There were dark clouds to the north of us and we could hear thunder. We talked and thought it best to grab a nap before we did something stupid. The right bank was flooded and we thought we'd pull into the trees, tie the canoe up, and sleep in the canoe. We had thought this option through before and it worked out well. I just pulled my fleece coat over my head to keep the bugs out. Bob said he would set his watch for two hours, but the alarm went off only one hour later. Still, the rest was needed and we continued on.
(BB) It was just after that point when we had to use five of my old maps from the 2001 race. For some reason, we could not locate our maps from #91 through #95 and neither could the road crew. I had grown used to the nice laminated maps that Clark had made up so the change was very hard to accept.
(BB) We arrived at Vicksburg at 10:20 am. Our team was at Isle of Capri Casino on river-left. Stan had tried to get some food from the breakfast bar brought out to us but the casino wouldn't allow him to do that. Clark didn't want to go in but I didn't want to pass it up. Mike took me in and bought my breakfast. I was a little on the ripe side in a wet tank top and faded shorts and of course my red (by this time faded to pink) Helly Hanson ball cap. A lot of people were staring while I was eating and Mike had already ate so he just sat with me. I know that everyone was probable thinking how nice that this young man was buying an old homeless guy his breakfast!
(BB) Clark's nap was short, then I laid down around Togo Island Dikes. We did cut these bends partly to stay out of the head wind, but also it was rather deep.
(BB) At Grand Gulf lsland Light, Mike and Stan came out to meet us in the other canoe. Our team was to meet us at the landing, which was in a bay on river-left. Because of the heavy flooding, they came out to meet us and guide us back through the trees to the boat ramp. It was 3 pm and it looked like a storm was brewing.
(BB) I went down for a sleep again after we left the feed. The rain had also started to come down. Even though I had the spray cover zipped up it would drip on my head. Clark suggested that I zip myself up into his REI GoreTex bag and I could stay dry. It worked and I slept well.
(BB) At Natchez we met out team under the US 84/98 bridge at river mile 363. It was getting dark.
Monday, May 26th 2003; Day 17 start at 6 AM
(BB) In the early morning light, we arrived at Black Hawk Point, Knox Landing on the Louisiana side. You can hear the warning foghorns that alert you to stay clear of the three outflow channels on river right. It was just after 5 pm, so needless to say I was far left by river marker 315. After an up-bound tug got out of my way, I paddled across to the right shore. We grabbed some food and Tommy Eldridge, who signed our witness form, volunteered to drive back to his place and get a cooler full of ice for our crew. Two policemen, Blake and Cass Buttler, also signed witness forms at Knox Landing.
(BB) When we left Knox Landing, Andrew and Mike got in the extra canoe and paddled with us. Andrew had the movie camera and planned on getting some shots. The plan was that they would go with us 14 miles to the Angola Ferry, then we would meet our crew again so Mike and Andrew could get out and we could get some ice-water. After a few miles, Clark went down for a nap and I paddled alongside the other canoe. My head nodded more than once in that section. It was warm and very humid, and I was tired.
(CE) I was going to demonstrate to Andrew and Mike, on film, how I would lay back to nap while Bob took over steering. Just my luck, I fell asleep and started snoring, all captured on tape!
(BB) When we got to Angola Ferry, we did not find our crew waiting for us as we had expected. I tried the satellite phone with no answer. Finally, I called Angie's cell phone and got her. She said that when they arrived at the road to the Ferry it was flooded and that Stan had loaded his Sea Wind with ice and water and paddled down to meet us. I asked the river ferry captain, who was standing on his dock beside me, if his road was flooded. He answered no. One look at the map told us what had happened. At river mile 306 there is an old ferry crossing that is no longer used. It is just above Shreves Bar. Stan had tried to take the road back to this old landing and feed us. We were at river mile 300 waiting at the Angola Ferry Landing. I told Angie to drive down and pick up Mike and Andrew at Angola and we would paddle on down to the St. Francisville Ferry for our next feed. Mike and Andrew gave us all of the ice water and food that they had and we took off. I later found out that during their wait for Angie, Mike and Andrew saw an alligator.
(BB) By river mile 266, St. Francisville, we were more than 18 hours ahead of my schedule. Clark and I discussed that either one of us could paddle the next 266 miles alone while the other one was sleeping and still beat the world record. It was a good feeling. When we left the ferry landing at St. Francisville, I was sleeping. We decided to take turns sleeping whenever the going was easy. Pretty soon we would be corning into a very high traffic area and didn't know when we would be able to sleep again.
(BB) At Fancy Point Towehead, Clark cut to the left side. It had enough water behind it to create an island and it would save time.
(BB) Just after Fancy Point Towhead, it got very dark and windy. There was a head wind and it cooled us down. The temperature dropped 15 degrees. We saw lightning in the distance and it poured on us for about 15 minutes. We paddled close to the left shore just in case we had to beach it.
(BB) We decided not to cut on the left side of Profit Island because it shows a wing dam or dike going all the way across that side of the river.
(BB) At the 190 bridge, or actually a little above it, the Coast Guard decided that they wanted to escort us into town to the Highway 10 bridge, where our road crew was waiting for us on river left.
(BB) At 6:30 pm, we arrived at the nearby casino to meet our team. There was a big banner on shore and lots of friends were there to greet us. Among our friends were Don Keller and Desiree Loeb.
(CE) As I was walking up the shore at the casino, I noticed the toes on my left foot sticking straight up. I must have collided with something, but my numb feet felt nothing. I sat down and pulled them back into their sockets, and also removed some thorns from between a couple of toes. There was some water left in my jug that I poured on my foot to clean it up, good as new, kind of.
(BB) Around 10 pm, Clark and I saw an eerie sight on the right shore. We saw about 40 sets of eyes staring at us. It turned out to be cows. It must have been somewhere near W. Baton Rouge and perhaps on Austrailia Point, near river mile 215.
Tuesday, May 27th, 2003; Day 18 starts at 6 AM
(BB) We fed at White Castle Ferry early in the morning. Shortly after 6 am, we ran into a heavy fog. We were still on the right shoreline and decided to stay even closer. Because we were well out of the channel, our river speed slowed to 5 mph and sometimes less. Clark and I both had to paddle in order to keep track of obstacles such as parked barges, etc. I called Janet to let her know that we would be moving a lot slower than before and not to worry. If it got worse, we might even pull over to rest.
(CE) It was foggy just before dawn. We were upstream of the Sunshine Bridge at mile 167.5 and could hear the traffic crossing, but could see the bridge. Suddenly, we come upon what looked like an old sunken sailing ship on river-right! It was pointed up stream, with its masts and elaborately carved stem sticking out of the water. There was another structure nearby it, made of metal, but we weren't sure what that was. We passed it in confusion. Later, we learned that it was the Le Pelican, a replica of the 17th century warship Pierre le Mayne, Sieur d'lberville. Donaldsonville had purchased the vessel for a tourist attraction, but had not kept up repairs. It had slowly sunk into the mud.
(BB) We arrived at Donaldsonville boat ramp still ahead of schedule. At this point, Stan said we had to notify the Coast Guard when we reached river mile 103 to let them know we were coming through New Orleans. The contact should be made on Channel 12.
(BB) At river mile 127, we pulled into the left shore at Spillway boat Ramp in Norco. It was 12:40 pm. Karen Miller and a lot of helpers had fixed us dinner. We met more families and their kids that had Rett Syndrome and Leukodystrophy.
(BB) Below Norco, there are several places where people have planted gardens on the riverside of the levees. Near the cities, the levees are made of concrete. There were a few places along the left shore where people have built houses on stilts on the riverside of the levees. At this point, both the gardens and some of those houses were in trouble because of the high water.
(BB) When we arrived at the right hand turn above river mile 103, we were on the left shore and there was a lot of river traffic going both ways. We decided to stay on the left side even though there was a nasty back eddy on the left. When the tugs and ships turned the comer, they kicked up even more waves because we were on the outside bend.
(BB) When we turned the comer, we contacted the Coast Guard as instructed on Channel 12. They in tum told us to contact them again when we left town near mile 90.
(BB) We had a bit of a head wind most of that day. When I tried to sleep, Clark did what he could and mostly stayed on the left side of the river. At river mile 100, he went to river right but then decided to go back to the left. I got up to help him paddle.
(CE) I was having a tough time going solo into some very large waves. The concrete banks didn’t help, since they would reflect these waves back into the river, which would then combine to make larger ones. Finally, I had to call to Bob to be ready to pop up and paddle without resetting his seat. He did so, and we were soon out of danger.
(BB) Above the US90 Bridge, we were still on the left side of the river. Our next feed was on river right just one mile below the bridge. We had to cross now or miss the feed. The going was rough under the bridge. We had a head wind as well as some ship and tug waves. It was a good thing it was daylight and our bow lights were off, because they would have went under the water several times before we made it across.
(BB) Our crew was at Algiers Ferry on river right. Bill was on the deck flagging us into the shore through some trees and brush. There was another banner hanging on the rail and lots of people to greet us. Doug had cooked us up some delicious food. It was 6:45 pm.
(BB) A few hundred yards below Algiers Ferry, we saw Doug and Desiree on the right side standing on the levee waving at us.
(BB) Several city blocks later we saw the Coast Guard station on the right shore. Several of the guards were waving to us from their dock.
(BB) At river mile 90, Clark called the Coast Guard on Channel 12 and formally checked out of the city.
(BB) At Algiers Canal, it was dark enough to use lights. We were running down the right side of the channel when we noticed an ocean freighter in the middle of the channel heading down river alongside of us. The next thing we notices was a tug with some barges also going down the river and he was coming up between us and the ocean freighter! There was still enough room, but not as much as we would have liked. When we were all three abreast, Clark and I noticed yet another tug with barges coming up river just in front of us! I'm sure that the tug corning up river did not even know we were there. Clark and I turned right to get out of the channel asap. When we went right, the Algiers Canal back eddy caught our canoe and spun us around a little. Then the up-coming tug's waves kicked us around a little more. Lucky for us we had our spray skirts zipped up.
(BB) We did see one more odd thing, though. At river mile 86, I saw a tug with barges make a Utum in the middle of the river. He was going down river alongside of us when he started his turn almost in front of us. We went to the right shore and gave him lots of room. The only thing I can think of was that he missed the Algiers Canal and was going back to it. He sure took up a lot of river to tum around! Once out of the main river traffic, Clark slid down to take a nap.
(BB) It was good to get out of town and around the big left hand tum at river mile 82. The traffic and lights in New Orleans are just too much once it gets dark.
(BB) Stan told us that he thought near Belle Chase there would be an escort boat for us so I wasn't too surprised when a 60' craft turned around and started following me when I got to mile marker 79. The craft was the "Authority I" and its captain was a fellow named Clinton. He happened to be the son of the captain that escorted Verlen and I to mile "O" in 2001. Captain Clinton followed us to Belle Chase Ferry Landing on river-right.
1(BB) At Belle Chase, Captain Clinton parked his boat and came over to greet us. Our road crew gave us our food. Just before we left, Clark dropped his thermos bottle of coffee into the water. It was full and sank to the bottom. Desiree had joined our road crew back in New Orleans and planned on sticking it out to mile "O". When we left the ferry, I slid down to sleep and Clark paddled away from the dock. Captain Clinton radioed Clark and said he was having trouble trying to start his engines, so we left without our escort.
Wednesday, May 28th, 2003; Day 19 starts at 6 AM
(BB) At river mile 49, we had another feed at Point a LaHache Ferry.
(BB) The wind started to pick up a little so we stayed close to the right shore.
(BB) At Fort Jackson, it was 8 am and we only had 20 miles to go. Clark and I had the crew pull out the sleeping pads, sleeping bags, spare batteries and anything we thought we could do without. We stocked up on cans of Boost and other energy bars and took off.
(BB) Clark and I felt very good on this last stretch. We had both taken a good nap after leaving New Orleans and we were now 32 hours ahead of even my schedule at Fort Jackson. In no time, we were at river mile 10, which is Venice. The river captains all refer to this area as the "Jump". It's where the river splits up and the "Great Pass" goes right while the main river still goes southeast to "Head of Passes", also known as "Mile 0”. At river mile 10, the highway ends and our road crew had to board the "Authority II", which was to be our escort boat for the last 10 miles.
(CE) We were on the last leg of the journey and pushed our paddling rate to more than 60 strokes a minute. This was the time to burn out and we enjoyed the effort. The audio recorder was started but ran out as we approached the end, unfortunately. Mile 0 is actually in the channel, with the physical marker further downstream by a couple hundred yards. As we passed over the Mile 0 position, our team had the chase boat blow its horns in celebration. We continued onto the physical marker nevertheless, needing to lay hands upon it for a feeling of closure.
(BB) We called our road crew as we paddled past “The Jump”. They had just barely arrived and were motoring off the docks to join us. Just as we approached mile 10, we spotted our road crew on the escort boat. We were not on our way to the “Head of Passes” with an escort boat and all our road crew cheering for us.
(BB) The last 10 miles went by faster than either Clark or I could believe. We drank a couple Boost and some water on the way. Our escort captain did an excellent job of talking to the other boat captains and telling them to slow down or passed the other side so we could have a smooth of a ride as was possible. Our crew took a lot of video and my 5 year old grandson Justin got to drive the 62' boat a few miles. He even got to blow the siren. When Clark and I got near the Mile O marker, we had to paddle hard to the left of it. The current was very strong at the head of Passes and the mile O buoy is located between the south and southwest passes. On the left there is a pass called Loutre. If you are not careful, the current in the southwest pass will sweep your canoe right past the point where the O buoy is located.
(BB) We finished the trip at 11:51 am on May 28, 2003. It was a very happy moment for both Clark and me. We pulled our canoe up on the deck of Authority II for the 10-mile trip back to Venice.
(CE) Everyone on the boat was celebrating. The team had made a banner with our record time of 18 days, 4 hours, 51 minutes marked on it, and bottles of champagne were opened. The team was mostly focused on the record time at that moment and failed to mention either Rett Syndrome or Adrenoleukodystrophy on the banner. Bob was surrounded by his family while I tried to find a quiet spot to call Mary to tell her the news. We spoke briefly because she had to attend to Amanda who was having a seizure at the time. This also happened at the end of the 2001 event. I felt emotionally drained once more; feeling terrible for Amanda suffering, terrible for not being there with Mary and Noah. The event was successful, a world record set, and I could only hope that some hard-to-measure good for our sick kids would come from it.
(BB) My grandson Michael had been on part of my 2001 trip with his dad Mike. At that time he had told Mike that he wanted to do the Mississippi trip with him one day. During the 2003 trip, Mike and I had taped Michael’s picture on the bow of my canoe. Michael had gotten his wish. He went the whole trip with Clark and me. There wasn’t a day that went by that I didn’t think about Michael and I talked to him all along the way. Michael G. Bradford died from adrenoleukodystrophy on August 20, 2001.