Monthly Archives: July 2010

The good, the bad, and the fun (news that is)

First the good news. As I write this we’re up to $4,252.00 in pledges. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – thanks to all of you. Those who’ve pledged, everyone who’s taken the time to email their encouragement, the folks who’ve taken time to post a comment on the blog, and all of you who have said a prayer for this adventure.

Next the fun news. A few weeks ago I was interviewed by Channel 6 News, KTAL, here in Shreveport. A few days ago they aired the piece. Take a look at it at:

I think they did a great job of it – thanks to Jenna Zibton – the reporter who was interested enough to make it all happen! And they didn’t even have any shots of me falling over while I try to get in or out of the thing.

Now the bad news. It’s now 32 days, 13 hours until the race. Yes, you read that right. The organizers have notified everyone  that they’re postponing the event until August 24 because of flooding up and down the Missouri River. If you’re from that area you’ll know what that means. If you’ve never seen the Missouri or Mississippi at full flood you can’t imagine what 200,000 cubic feet of water per second looks like as it flows past. This is a big river during normal flows and right now it’s a monster.

I’m sure this was a difficult decision for them to make, given that many of the people who have trained so hard won’t be able to make this new date. But the river is just too unsafe right now. There has been more rain up-river and the Army Corps of Engineers is releasing water from the lakes in the Dakotas. So, several of the check-points will be under water, the racers would be landing their boats in the trees instead of on the sand bars, and a lot of debris is floating down the Missouri. 

Waiting another month when everything was ready is a bitter pill to swallow. I had everything packed, the boat was washed and waxed, my mind and body were ready to go. But, better safe than drowned, I guess.

So, it’s back to working out and getting ready for another few weeks. I’ve waited for this since last summer so I can wait just a little more. Meanwhile, if you’d help me spread the word by sending the link to this blog out to your friends I’d appreciate it. The more the merrier. Ask them to take a look and send me an email if I can include them in updates.

OK, time to get out on the lake.



Parakeet man

8 days, 14 hours until the race. 

$4,112.00 dollars pledged for Haiti! 

I spent the weekend out on Cross Lake. Two long days on the water to find out how everything will work. Saturday morning I got up and hauled just about everything I’ll need over to the boat. 

Will it fit?

It’s a lot of stuff, and I won’t need most of it all the time on the river. But I wanted to make sure the boat would handle it. And paddling all that weight would be a good work out. 

All in the boat!

So I took off and had a great morning blasting around – until the thunderstorm hit. High winds, really heavy rain, lightening, and thunder. The waves were two to three feet high, coming over the front of the boat, rolling back to me, and slamming into my chest. It was NOT what I had in mind. But after about a half hour of struggling against the storm I found shelter under a dock. Unfortunately the dock was too high off the water for me to get out of the boat. So I spent about an hour sitting there waiting for things to calm down. Pretty scary but it proved that the boat can handle tough conditions. I feel a lot better about barge wakes on the Missouri now. 

After that I spent the rest of the day cruising around the lake in a light rain (nice and cool), set up my tent for the night, and put my weary bones to bed. Sunday was a beautiful sunny day and I was out until about four. So, I covered about sixty-five miles over the sixteen hours and figure that on the river, with a 4 mph current, I’d have covered 130. I think I’m ready for it next week. 

The game plan is for us (Sharon, the ground crew guys, and me) to call Elisabeth from time to time and let her know what’s going on. She’ll then update the blog with the latest news. You won’t get any e-mails to let you know things have been updated. You’ll just need to check back between Wednesday and Friday to see how it’s going. 

There are some terms we’ll be using to describe the race that might be unfamiliar. Here’s a short outline of some of them: 

  • Barges. Ok, you know what these are, but let me tell you about them anyway.  They come in a couple of flavors – moving and stopped. The moving barges are easy to see at night because of their lights. But, they’re moving. The stopped barges stationary, so that’s good. But they aren’t always lighted at night, so that’s bad. Either way, the river can easily suck a small boat under them. There is nothing I want to see under these so, I’ll try to stay clear!
  • Wing dams. Piles of rock extending out into the river to direct the current out into the channel. Normally I’d be able to swing in behind them for rest and to avoid the barges. This year the river is high and it’s running over the tops. I’ll need to stay away from them. If I run over one I run the risk of flipping the boat or tearing the bottom out of it. There are also some wicked currents around the ends – whirlpools and such.
  • Bouys. The Army Corps of Engineers puts these in the river to show where the channel is. They’re anchored to the river bottom by huge chains and when the water’s moving fast they tend to submerge and then pop out of the water. Nothing like a ten foot long steel missile flying out of the water to wake you up. They also collect a lot of debris. Again, I’ll stay away from these when I see them.
  • Boils. The hydraulics of the river are such that you sometimes have flows of water moving straight up. So, instead of a whirlpool pulling you down, these want to pop the boat up and over. The trick here is to hit them head on and power through.
  • Whirlpools. You know what these are. Fortunately they’re really not as big as you’ve heard. They can’t swallow a boat but they can flip it over. As with boils the trick is to just gun through them.
  • Lisbon Bottoms. This is an area just past Glasgow where the river has cut through a bend. There’s a picture of it in an earlier post. The cutoff, while shorter, it’s full of snags (underwater trees that you can’t see), strainers (above water trees that you CAN see but are difficult to get past), and sawyers (trees that are partially submerged – and bob in and out of the water), rocks, mud flats, and other interesting things. I’ll stay out of that cut-off but the main channel flows past some huge wing dams. These are big enough that they’ve had people get lost in them at night and paddle the wrong direction. My ground crew has instructions to take my paddles away from me if I want to run this stretch after dark! 

That’s about it for the week. One more regular post next week from the hotel, then it’s show time! Oh, yes, parakeet man. Here’s the deal. Sharon’s worried about my comfort out on the river and bought me some shirts and pants to wear. Very comfortable. They protect me from the sun and keep me cool. She also wanted something that would make me visible to the barges. So………. she got a few outfits that will probably make those crews remark on my sartorial splendor………………….. as they run over me. 

It's ..... PARAKEET MAN!

Go on. You know you want to click that button and leave a comment. I can handle it. I’m tough….

The Muddy Missouri, and mud pies in Haiti

Thinking about the Missouri I can’t help but thinking about mud. And thinking about Haiti brings to mind mud pies. So, here’s the blog entry for the week.

The Muddy Missouri…..

The Muddy Missouri flows eastward from Kansas City and, just west of St. Louis, makes a curve north then east where it meets the Mighty Mississippi. At the confluence of these two great rivers the Missouri is actually carrying more water than the Mississippi. At 175,000 cubic feet per second there will be over ten million pounds of water under my little kayak. And that doesn’t count the weight of the mud this thing carries. Mark Twain said it was “too thick to drink and too thin to plow” and, while he was a riverboat captain on the Mississippi, he considered the Missouri too dangerous to navigate.

To a large extent the river has been tamed since his day. Dams and channelization by the Army Corps of Engineers have changed this once wild river into something much more navigable. But it’s still big river and a huge piece of our history.

 When we put our boats in the river at Kaw Point, in Kansas City, we’ll be stepping off a site where Lewis and Clark camped as they headed west. 300 canoes and kayaks will head east to experience 340 miles of this great river. We’ll see it in the quiet of early morning, when the fog is lifting. We’ll grind down it during mid-day in late July heat. We’ll have a chance to see the plains to the north and the bluffs of the south, marking the boundary where the glaciers stopped and where the Ozark Plateau begins. And, if the river isn’t too fast and high, we all hope to experience the Missouri at night, under the stars and the full moon.

I grew up in St. Louis and drove over it many times. But I’ve never seen this side of the river. The plans are set, the boat is almost ready, and I’m about as “in shape” as I can get. Now it’s just a matter of waiting. Hoping for a fast – safe river. 15 days and counting down.


When we were in Port au Prince, Haiti, we noticed women forming what looked like mudpies and drying them in the sun. We asked our Haitian guide what this was all about and, to our horror, he explained that people make these out of dirt, salt, sugar, and a little oil. They’re salty and maybe taste buttery, so you don’t know you’re eating dirt. And when you’re hungry they’re something to make your stomach quiet.


We didn’t see any of this in Boileau. There’s still a lot of poverty, and most people there are living on the edge. But they at least have clean drinking water, very basic medical care, and a school. And the results of the micro-credit program and the agronomy project are beginning to be felt. As I said in an earlier post, the efforts of the Haitian Pilgrims have allowed Boileau to absorb earthquake refugees from Port au Prince without breaking down completely.

As I write this, the total pledges are at $3,053.00. That’s $8.98 a mile as I paddle down the Muddy Missouri. Hey, a few bucks more and we can make it an even TEN dollars a mile! If you’re thinking about it, just shoot me an email – Don’t send any money in until (unless) I finish the race – it will give me a goal to shoot for. Five cents a mile is only $17.00. A dime a mile is just $34.00. And, as always – your prayers are priceless.


7/12: An update to this post. Since putting the picture of the mud pies in here I’ve discovered a couple of things. The mud these things are made from isn’t regular mud. It won’t hurt you to eat it (unless you eat too much, I guess) and pregnant women have been nibbling these for years to get minerals that their regular diet doesn’t provide. Since the earthquake, though, the price of food has skyrocketed and more and more people are turning to these because they’re so cheap. They don’t provide much nutrition but they quiet a hungry stomach, for a while.

Back to Haiti

The last few posts have been about the preparations for the race. And I think I’m pretty well set. So I thought I’d take this one to talk about what it’s doing for the Haitian Pilgrims and their work in Haiti.

I’ve been asking for prayers for me, the Pilgrims, and our friends in Haiti and there’s no way to put a value on those. At the same time many of you have challenged me by pledging some cash per mile. It will be a great incentive for me to keep paddling in a few weeks. So, where are we and what’s it mean?

Well, the total is $2,367.00. That’s $6.96 a mile. I’m told that I can expect to dip my paddle in the water about 180,000 times before the race is over. That’s $.0237 per paddle stroke. The race, for me, will be much like the Haitian Pilgrims’ efforts in Haiti. They knew they couldn’t change the fourth poorest country in the world but they believed they could make a difference in one small village there. And over the years, with help from people like you, they have.

So, what are these pledges buying? Just like a lot of paddle strokes it all adds up.

  • $10.00 buys school supplies (pencils, paper, etc.) for one kid for an entire year. Amazing what the cost of two Starbuck’s Caramel Frappuccinos will do.
  • $35.00 buys school books for that child. 
  • $35.00 buys a blood test at the clinic there.
  • $55.00 buys all the medical supplies at the clinic in Boileau for a day.
  • $100.00 buys lunch for 20 kids for a month. This may be the only meal they get. So, it’s important.
  • $20.00 buys medical care for five sick people in Boileau. Keep in mind that people die from diseases that have been wiped out here – and from very treatable illnesses – for lack of basic care.
  • $500.00 pays for a doctor for a month, at the clinic the Pilgrims built.

$4,500.00 puts in a well to provide clean water, something we take for granted, but the Pilgrims have already taken care of that. A lot of kids that never made it to school in the first place are now in class because they didn’t get sick from polluted river water. For a few dollars more they can receive the school supplies, books, and basic medical care that will allow them to finish at least a high school education. And that’s the key to getting Boileau on its feet. With your help and prayers it’s happening.

If you’ve pledged, thank  you. If you’re thinking about pledging, five cents a mile will feed a kid lunch at school for over three months – and time is getting short. Just send me an email, at, and let me know how many cents per mile and I’ll put your name on the list. But, if you can’t pledge anything I certainly understand. I’ve been in the same boat off and on for the last few years. Just say a few prayers for them, they’re praying for you, and it will do more good than you can know.

Oh, and by the way, the Haitian Pilgrims is a 501c3 non-profit charity. Every penny they get is spent doing great things for the people in Haiti. There is no overhead, no costs for advertising, no payroll to worry about. Everyone involved is a volunteer. Your contributions couldn’t go to a better place. And, it’s tax deductible.



22 days, 23 hours to go. Next week – the final preparations.