After a hiatus from paddling, Phillip is rejoining Ryan on the Mississippi River in St. Louis. He will resume video duties and complete the rest of the trip to the Gulf of Mexico.
Remember the critical scene in every superhero movie where the hero decides to come out of retirement? We see him slowly pick up his costume and hold it up as if to check and ensure it will still fit. That’s just how I felt this evening as I began to pack various things in preparation for my return to the river. My blue paddling shirt ain’t no hero costume, but it’ll have to do for the next month or two. The thin shirt still smells like the fresh clear water of the upper Mississippi River, but I envision a very different odor will begin to permeate it’s fabric as I continue down the much larger, muddier, and mightier river.
Ryan tells me the water is fast today as he looks out over the water rushing past the St. Louis Arch. I’ll be standing there too sometime tomorrow (hopefully before dark!), and observing that wonderful current. We need as much help from the river as we can get right now, and there is a very good reason to try and complete the journey by our new deadline of October 6.
Making good time for the rest of the journey is going to be a real challenge and I am ready for it. We’re going to have to put out a lot more effort than in the past legs of the trip. Our boats are slow on this river. Very slow. I think Ryan is tired too at this point as his solo speed is barely 60% of what we were achieving earlier. It’s a good thing I’m rested up because I’m going to push for a grueling pace on the final stretch. The word grueling itself brings back images of the old Oregon Trail computer game where you could select the speed you wanted your party to travel. Grueling mode tended to kill off the weaker members of the family pretty quickly (good thing I don’t have cholera!). For the betting folks out there, here are our past and future paddling averages:
- Upper Mississippi – Ryan & Phillip: 21.3 miles per day
- Middle Mississippi – Ryan solo: 13.9 miles per day
- Lower Mississippi – St Louis to New Orleans: 35.1 miles per day (goal)
A Promise Kept
When I broke from the trip back in Brainerd, it was uncertain exactly when and where I would rejoin the expedition. I told Ryan at the time that St. Louis would be the meeting place, but as he walked back inside the Red Roof Inn I’m sure there was a healthy bit of unspoken doubt. The plan for me to leave the river at that point was made very suddenly as I realized that the logistics to get back to Nashville were unlikely to be more perfect in the following week. It’s pretty tough to line up a bus ride and flight that doesn’t involve dragging my 100+ lbs of gear any distance.
I’m now faced with getting all that stuff back to St. Louis and I can’t say the logistics were easy this time either. This journey (like any worth making) is a series of challenges. Paddling the final 1160 miles will be difficult, but I’m ready for the final challenge.