Category Archives: The River is Life

Are You Guys Ready? Cuz I Sure as Hell Am

One week y’all!  That’s it, and we’re on the river and out of this one-horse town.  Hey, at least it’s got a horse.

Here’s a question for ya:  What do you think will be our first image of the Mississippi River?  I mean, what do those first few billion water molecules actually look like?  Here’s one idea.

She's as narrow as a bible thumper's definition of day.
As narrow as a bible thumper's definition of day.

She’s narrow, ain’t she?  Yes, my friends, that is the Mississippi River.  Beautiful country!  Beautiful photo by Peter Card.

The River’s Destiny

The word for destiny and the word for destination in Spanish are the same.  Final Destiny – remember that movie?  It sounds so much cooler in Spanish:  Destino Final.  Especially when talking about where each of these people, who Death was after, were going to end up.  I don’t know if the billion or so water molecules that you see in this photo know they are going to end up like this – majestic, beautiful, massive – but they do.  Remember that old Obama speech where he was going on about, “What started as a whisper turned into a voice, and that voice turned into a shout, and that shout turned into a movement?”  Okay, you don’t, but I do because I was literally addicted to the campaign for 6 months.  Well, ain’t it interesting that that’s how life or nature turns out as well.  What starts as a trickle turns into something mighty.  Amazing, absolutely amazing.  If you’re still not getting where I’m going with this, pay special attention to minute 3:10.

Love that movie.

Our Destiny

What will we grow into?  What will this blog grow into, what our movies?  Well, as Oogway said, I don’t think it will grow into much of anything if we don’t nurture it.  Each day, each paddle stroke will be a nurturing, bringing us closer to our destino final.  Do those water molecules know they will end up in the Gulf of Mexico, and from and even crazier, more mystical perspecitve, become part of the Gulf of Mexico?  I don’t know.  I don’t think they do.  That may be one gift we humans have:  We know (well to an extent, rewatch the Kung Fu Panda video to grasp the precariousness of our so-called “control”) that we will, if we nurture each moment, end up at the Gulf of Mexico.  That is our intent.  It begins the first day of summer, June 21.  Come along with us.

Here’s some more pictures of things we may see those first few days on the Mississippi.  Otters!

One way or the otter.
One way or the otter.

Awesome!  I can’t wait.  Do they bite?  Will they guide us to food and shelter?  Again, control.  So let us be off.  Let us grow into whatever we grow into as we go down the Mississippi.  Let us be guided and nurtured by you, your viewership, your participation, and our participation in sharing this adventure with you.  We hope you find it interesting.

Just as the Mighty Mississippi is fed, is nurtured, by thousands and thousands of tributaries we are nurtured by you, by your comments, by your reading of our posts, watching of our movies, and perusing of our photos.  We don’t know where we’ll end up.  We have an idea, but we’re glad you’re along for the ride.

People walking across the Mississippi River - many.  People paddling it - uh, maybe 10 this year.  Destiny.
People walking across the Mississippi River - many. People paddling it - uh, maybe 10 this year. Destiny.

The Only People Really Going Green Nowadays Carry AK47’s

Mountain View, AR.  Your place in the mountains. 
Mountain View, AR. Your place in the mountains.

11 Visions is in the Natural State, Arkansas, preparing for their Mississippi River Adventure, which will begin the first day of summer, June 21, 2009.

Slack-jawed yokels and gun-toting Reagan Democrats, that’s all there is in Arkansas.  So I thought.  Turns out Arkansasians are some of the Greenest of the population to start.  While latte-sipping New York liberals philosophize about “going Green” and “oh if the destructive policies of George ‘Satan’s Little Helper’ Bush hadn’t been implemented we wouldn’t be in this mess…(slurp),” the Arkansasians we’re staying with here in Mountain View, AR are growing their own gardens, using solar panels liberally, and doing their best to become fully self-sustained.  Amazing 

Now, mind you, I highly doubt they’re doing it to further the wishes of Barack Hooooo-saaaaaayyyyynnnnnnn Obama, but (just by being themselves) I’ve seen some of the most environmentally friendly living… well… ever.

Phillip and I are in Arkansas to do a few things:

  1. Phillip used to live here.  To be specific, he MOVED here from his home in upstate New York.  Why would you move to Arkansas from… anywhere?  That’s what I’ve been asking him.  But after staying here a couple of days, I have to say, I can kinnnnndaaaa see why.  So he’s come back to visit some old friends.
  2. There’s a dude here who took a rowboat of sorts down the entire Mississippi.  He’s a character, and we’ll have an interview up for you shortly.  His home is also completely energy independent – I’ll ask him if he’s an Obama supporter.
  3. We needed a place to stay, and Phil’s friend is letting us camp on his land and bathe in his creek.  It’s awesome – fish bite your ass.  
  4. We needed a big flat lake to test out different kayak configurations.  Currently the big question is whether we’ll be taking one boat or two from Lake Itasca.  I am a huuuuge fan of one boat – less paddling.  But we may need two for the supplies.  We will also be showing our 2-boat adventure down the Cumberland shortly, and this much is clear:  Two boats blow in terms of the effort it takes to tow the second.  If we can get down to one, I’ll be all smiles.  
  5. And finally we might be able to interview a guy for our work in the works tentatively titled Go to Hell.  We want to make a doc exploring the concepts of hell, why people believe in such a crazy thing, and of course make a crrraaaaaaaazeeeee funny movie in the process.

There is a careful balance in this small town between nature and technology; and, though the majority prooooobably doesn’t feel too hot on liberals, they’re ten times more Green than the most ardent Al Gore fan.   

We’ll save the discussion on compulsive stockpiling of AK47’s and radical religiosity for another time.

Arkansas:  Politically, religiously and ideologically polarized.  Carbon neutral.

Slap it on a bumper sticker.

Ryan

A Highly Unscientific Test (Part 1) – A Short Run down the Cumberland River

In preparation for our SOON-SOON-SOON-to-be (we’ll have an update for you shortly but we’ll be on the Mississippi in roughly two weeks!) Mississippi River Adventure, 11 Visions paddled down a good chunk of the Cumberland River in Nashville, TN.  This will be part 1 of our Mississippi River equipment tests.  We want to work out as many technical kinks as possible before we get on the Great River, aaaaaannnnnnnd, of course, have some fun as well.  Rest assured, this video’s got all the fun parts… Enjoy!

For Part 2, we’ve got even more craziness to share with you:

  1. mysteriously placed campfires
  2. extremely slooooowww paddling (we tried it with two boats this time, argh)
  3. humorous complaining (isn’t there always?)
  4. about 7 too many references to the Edmund Fitzgerald by Phillip
  5. and of course quasi-scientific arguments degenerating into meaningless bickering (I still think I’m right, Phillip)

Hasta la proxima.  😉

Chinese Fire Sale!

To prepare for their upcoming Mississippi Float Trip, Phillip and Ryan are fengshui-ing their house, i.e. throwing out all the shit they don’t need.  I think that’s the direct Chinese translation.  

Yin Yang, the Tao, and the five elements of Feng Shui.
Yin Yang, the Tao, and the five elements of Feng Shui.

We are moving crap out of Phillip’s house at the moment (selling it, giving it and begging it away) so when he’s got his crap together… interesting, getting rid of crap and getting crap together, one crap – good, other crap – bad… there will be no attachments.

I believe the Mississippi Trip will be much like that – no attachments.  A union with nature.  Now I don’t want to turn into a tree-hugging, fancy boy here but I do believe there is something to union with nature.  There is a certain peace that can be found by having less and less attachment to things.  Perhaps (only speculating here) my constant moving around, refusal to take pictures or carry pictures, refusal to buy anything I don’t really really need (self-help books don’t count) might be a desire to simplify, might be a desire for some sort of peace.  

That desire, however, to let go of everything might also be fear.  It might be a fear of being attached.  Much like the priest who proselytizes that he has renounced sex and money and wealth but thinks of nothing else, a real desire for unattachment has to be honest.  It can’t be a pronouncement; it must be genuine.  As much as possible, I would like this trip to be an honest exploration of peace, of union with nature, of letting go and of being.  But I don’t want it to be fake.  Faux-spiritual people make my skin crawl.  “Have you met my new guru???”  “No.  Have you gone to hell???  You should try it sometime!”

From Wayne Dyer’s essay on the Tao Te Ching:  Here’s the message behind this seemingly paradoxical verse of the Tao Te Ching: Your nature is to be good because you came from the Tao, which is goodness. But when you’re trying to be good, your essential nature becomes inoperative. In your effort to be good, moral, or obedient, you lose touch with your Tao nature.

We do not want to try to be spiritual on this trip.  We can only be honest, and if we end up being spiritual, then so be it.  If we end up being total douchebags, then so be it.  But at least we will be honest.  (Note:  You can’t try to be honest either or put honesty up on a pedestal or make it a principle to follow.  If you do, you stop being honest.  Honesty – and this is the rub – has to happen on its own; because, it never went anywhere – your true nature, as goodness, is honesty.)  Gabriel Garcia Marquez wrote probably the greatest book in existence, rivaling even Great Expectations or A Christmas Carol.   William Kennedy  called it “the first piece of literature since the Book of Genesis that should be required reading for the entire human race.”  It’s called 100 Years of Solitude, and I found much of it boring, but still when you’re reading it you know it’s genius.  When I lived in Mexico I was watching an interview with Marquez.  This was after his book won a Nobel Prize for literature and was translated into 26 languages and pretty much the entire Latin world called him the greatest genius of all time.  Worldly trappings were his oyster.  He could fart on a couple of pages and they would have been published.  He said something that I remember to this day.  He was talking about all the “success” he’d had.  He had a subdued tone.  He was almost embarrassed to be being interviewed.  (Interesting for a Nobel Prize winner.)   “After my book won the Nobel prize, I had to write an Anti-100Years of Solitude,” he said.  “People were expecting me to write a sequel, so I wrote something completely different.  I wrote the complete opposite because trying to recreate 100 Years wouldn’t have been honest.”  The Tao, Nature, our essential goodness wouldn’t let him be dishonest.  That book was already written.  It was time for another.  

When Mississippi comes it will be time for… whatever is there.  I actually do not know what kind of movie we will make.  For the moment, I do know that fengshui-ing is not all hocus pocus.  With every desk, drawer, and crappy piece of clothing (ha!  you should see Phillip’s clothes, they’re hilarious) that Phillip throws out, we’re throwing out the non-useable from our lives.  With every day spent in nature we will be communing with the Divine.  This is not airy fairy foo foo, this is real.  At least, this is my intent.  

I think everyone finds their way back to Nature, or God, or the Divine, or Energy, or Zero Point Field or Tao or Essense or whatever you want to call it, in their own way.  Our way is choosing to float down a river… THE River in America, and make a film about it.  This is our way, and interestingly enough, the Tao means “the way.”  We won’t be extreme however.  Here, this guy’s way is interesting.  Check out minute 1:03:

So we’re not that unattached.  Uhhhh, at least I hope Phillip isn’t; that’s why I’m insisting on separate tents.  But this Trip is an exploration of letting go.  Of working with the River, not against it, not conquering it.  The Tao.  The Unspoken.  Just being, letting the River float us.

51w02sdys2l_sl160_pisitb-sticker-arrow-bigtopright35-73_ou01_

In an upcoming post, we will show you an interview we conducted with critically-acclaimed writer Eddy L. Harris, author of Mississippi Solo.  Click on the link in the right margin to check it out. 

We spoke of what it meant to be an African American traveler, Barack Obama, the Mississippi River, racism, France and French elections; but, the one theme that stuck with me the most was his description of his friendship with the river.  Eddy went down the River in 1985.  A black man, he went from Minnesota (where there are few black people) to the the Deep South (where, in 1985 at least, they still didn’t like them very much).  This was, by far, the best interview I’ve ever done.  Eddy was real and funny and opened my eyes to many things.  You know you’ve had a good interview when you come away from the experience changed.  

I hope the River changes me.  I hope I let it flow through me and that it moves some of my furniture around.  I hope it throws out the shit I don’t need.  And I can’t wait to share it with you.  When the time is right, we will be on the River and we will let you know what else gets thrown out.

Ryan

You Liars Aren’t Paddling 2,500 Miles!

Phil and Ryan of 11 Visions are about to depart on their Mississippi River Adventure, but first, some comments from the peanut gallery.

OK.  Some smart guy has said that we’re not really going 2500 miles.  His line of reasoning is the following…

We have decided to crow down the Mississippi, not row.
We have decided to row down the Mississippi, not crow.

If I look at a map, it doesn’t look like 2500 miles.  And I measured it out and it’s not even close.  It’s like not even 1,500.

All true.  We are total frauds and just wanted to get your panties in a bunch so you’d think we’re cool.

As Borat would say, “NAAAAAAT!”

It is roughly 1300 miles if you are a croowwwwwwww… 

But if you are a land-based mammal, or if you just really like mammary glands, you’re not going to be able to fly over the river.  Since we have opted to float, going where the river takes us is going to be the name of the game, and (when all is said and done) we will have paddled over 2500 miles.  OK, Mr. Doubty McDoubtypants?  

There will be times on the river where we’ll be traveling due east or west.  Check out this portion just west of the Quad Cities.  

Happens out in Vegas, Happens in Moline
Happens out in Vegas, Happens in Moline

And finalment there will be times when this bad boy is going due north.  It does so at New Orleans.  I think it’d be a pretty amazing feat even if we were going “only” 1300 miles; but alas, I guess anything under 1500 miles just doesn’t impress the MTV generation.  I’m still trying to figure out if I’m in Gen X or Y.  Is there one in between?  Okay, this trip will only be impressive for the Y Griega Generation.  Fair enough?

IDue North
Due North

Crackheads Have Problems, We’ve Got Issues

We’re very close to being on the Mississippi River.   But we’ve got problems, problems, problems.

Dirty criminals run this site.
Dirty criminals run this site.

“Crackheads got problems, you guys are smoked.”   – Vince Vaughn in Mr. and Mrs. Smith

I had always interpreted Vince Vaughn’s quote wrong.  The first time I watched Mr. and Mrs. Smith, I thought what Vince Vaughn had said was, “Crackheads got problems, you guys got issues.”  Whenever a friend of mine came to me with some big problem he was having, I would repeat this phrase with a coy smile:  “Crackheads got problems, Simon, you’ve got issues.”  I thought what I was doing was putting the problem in perspective.  If a crackhead was living in a rundown apartment, possibly abandoned, on the South Side of Chicago, with a hole in the wall that lets a frigid, wintery 25 degree air in, as he whiddles down the last of his last crack rock, hands shaking, promising “I’ll change, I’ll stop, please Lord, help me to stop,” crying… pleading… while you whine to me that your girlfriend is going to Texas without you and HOW MAD YOU ARE! then, I thought, all I’d have to do was bust out this magical Vincevaughnism and you’d go, “Gee, me feel dumb.”  

Fat chance.

Rarely did it have this effect with my friends.  Most of the time it just made them justify their position even more:  “What do you mean!  You’re so insensitive!  Don’t you understand the severity of my problemmmmmmm?”

The truth is that it is not a problemmmmmmmm or even a problem.  It is an issue.  It is a situation.  It is a happening and it is an event.  Elvis Presley had problems; we’ve got issues.

Our issues are listed below:

  1. Phillip is currently on probation.  (Ha ha, didn’t know criminals ran this site, did ya?)  His camera was stolen by a woman who emphatically denied that she did it.  The evidence was OVERWHELMINGLY for her guilt.  I mean Perry Mason could have just gone to sleep during the courtcase, set up a slide show of the evidence, and the jury would have deliberated for about all of .34 seconds and found her guilty.  If you’re curious about the story, click here.  If not, the basic gist is he went after this woman with INTERNET JUSTICE!  (Did someone just hear a whip crack?) posting her info online.  This is a no no.  Even if someone takes a crap on your lawn and you have video evidence, even if they have their Social Security card in their teeth when they do it and leave pictures of their next of kin along with copies of their dental records by the mess (I’m not posting an illustration of this.)  you can’t do it.  Phillip found out the hard way.  “What this means is that he, ideally, needs to be off probation before we go on the Mississippi trip. Siiiighhh.  “Crackheads got problems…”  Keep repeating it.  “Crackheads got problems…”
  2. Ryan is extremely depressed.  (Ha, ha, didn’t know manic-depressive criminals ran this site, did ya?)  Yeah, yeah, seeing doctors, doing the whole thing, therapies, therapies, self-help, you can save your miracle cures. I’m working on it.
  3. Ryan has major health issues.  Sigh……  “Crackheads…..”
  4. We have no money.  That’s nothing new.
  5. We are in debt.  This is new for me, not new for Phillip.

And blah, blah, blah, I’m a dirty tramp.  So we’ve got severe problems.  (Yes, we are now upgraded to problems.  You can comment below if you still consider these issues.)  Whatever the hell you call them! we’ve got stuff to sort out.  Namely…

The Solutions

So let’s focus on the solutions.

The Mississippi Trip is still on.  I see it.  It’s real.  Can you hold the vision even when your world is crumbling about you?  Well, survivors of the Holocaust did it, why can’t we?  Victor Frankl said that all of those who survived the Holocaust had a clear vision of the future.  He imagined himself giving lectures to people in a warm, wonderful place even while doctors performed experiments on him.  It will be tuff, but I think we can handle these problems.

I see us on the Mississippi River performing our normal antics, making videos, sharing them with you, and increasing our web viewership by 100 percent.  I see us doing interviews.  I see us successfully completing each day.  I see us successfully cooking and staying healthy, swimming, doing crazy stuff, meeting good, great, interesting people and making an amazing movie that people love.

Can’t get a better vision than that.

What’s Comin’ Up

What’s comin’ up is that we’re going to post a web video on our Cumberland River adventure.

Heeeerrreeee’s a map.
View Larger Map

So we’ve got that goin’ for us.  I’m not worried.  I do want this to all work out, but rain or shine, we’re going.  And rain or shine, everything will be fine.

What Can I Do?

You can send positive energy.  It worked for the Alacatraz trip.

Philosophical Conclusions

We can handle anything.  Anything can be handled.  No matter what happens with Phil’s probation, or my depression, or somone else’s -ion, everything will be fine.

Phil’s roommate (who you can watch in the Free Ride video)

was talking about what he will do if the entire financial system collapses.  “I mean, I’m goin’ to be totin’ a gun in the streets.”  Well maybe it will collapse and zombies will try to eat our brains, but I don’t see how that’s a cause for alarm.  Maybe I’m being a little too Zen here, but anything that comes up you have to handle in the moment anyway.  How is depression, probation, or the financial collapse and subsequent invasion of China (do you know how much freaking money we owe these people, it’s staggering) any different than if things are going peachy?  You still have to deal with it and you still have to…

Deal with It Now

What’s next for 11Visions’ Mississippi Adventure?  I don’t know, but I can tell you that, when it happens, it will be happening right now.

Vince Vaughn’s Mangled Quote

So I messed his quote up.  He seemed to indicate that Mr. and Mrs. Smith being hunted by their respective assassin organizations was worse than being a crackhead.  Don’t think so.  They weren’t smoked.  They just had problems.  And so do we and so does the rest of America at the moment.  Shall we say we’re smoked.  Fuck no.  We’re going to continue.  We’re going to create a positive vision of the future just like Victor Frankl would have done, and lead ourselves out of this not-even-close-to Holocaust.

We’re not in a Holocaust.  We can handle it.  And we are.

So let us… hold the vision.

Ryan

Free Ride Down the Mississippi River!

OK, so we have a wild and crazy idea.  Our first one!  We love our fans, and they love us (at least that’s what they tell us to our faces).

So for our upcoming Mississippi River Adventure, we’re going to do something a little bit different and a little bit wild in honor of you, dearest reader.  As you know, 11 Visions is floating down the entire length of the Mississippi River where we’ll be video blogging and making arses of ourselves as usual.

BUT THERE IS A BIG OL’ CATCH THIS TIME.  For this adventure, WE WILL BE TAKING ONE OF YOU WITH US!

“Who, meeeeeee?”

Yeah, you!

One lucky winner will win a 2 day/1 night cruise down the greatest river in America.

“Oh me, oh my, how ever will I be chosen?”

Easy peasy, my little lemon squeezy.  All you have to do is write us!

That’s it!

To be chosen as our honored guest on the Mississippi River for our Free Ride Challenge, email us at contest@11visions.com and tell us why we should give you a free ride down the Mississippi River.

“So like… what!!!???”

Yes.  We are going to tow you down the Mississippi River in a 2 day/1 night river cruise.  You will get a behind-the-scenes look at how 11 Visions makes its movie magic.  You will be treated to 3 full-course meals of, I don’t know, porridge probably and maybe some beans.  You will be treated to on-board entertainment (Phillip will do some hula hoop tricks and I’ll tell dirty jokes, maybe I can try hula-hooping while telling dirty jokes).  You will see the greatest river in America for 2 ful days!!!  If you haven’t already, WATCH THE VIDEO!  

To enter the contest, send a brief, 50 to 100 word response to this question:

Why should we put up with you… er… Why should you be chosen to ride down the Mississippi River with us?

That’s it.

Send your response to contest@11visions.com.

Contest winner will be chosen on creativity, humor and sincerity of response. If you really want to stand out from the crowd, send a creative pic or post a video response on youtube.

All entries may be and probably will be published on this site, so be proud, put your name on it, and win the MISSISSIPPI FREE RIDE ADVENTURE!

Skydiving into a Forest Fire and Rafting 3000 Miles, All in a Day’s Work

In preparation for our upcoming Mississippi Float Trip, we have chosen to speak with a select group of individuals who have successfully paddled down the entire length of North America’s mightiest river.  A general badass, I was thoroughly impressed with Buck Nelson and know you will be too.  This post is a fairly quick read and, if you have time, you may listen to the audio as well.  Enjoy.

 

bucksmokejumper
Buck Nelson, One of the Few Smokejumpers in the World and Outdoor Adventurer

His website is called Buck Track, and after talking with him, I became thoroughly convinced he could run down an actual buck and break its neck with his bare hands.  Looking online, there have been few people we’ve found who have actually paddled down the entire length of the Mississippi River.  For most people, the Mississippi River is “that thing those backwoods mofos from the Dark Ages used go down to hunt bears and shit.  I mean didn’t Napoleon or someone explore it?  I think it might have been Jean Baptist de la Salle – which of course means ‘of the Salle.'”  The Mississippi is iconic, a known entity, so much a part of our American culture, we accept it as we would the seasons, partisan bickering, and a new pair of shoes bought by J Lo.  For many of us, a missed question on a geography midterm or a drunken rendition of Tina and Ike’s Proud Mary is the closest we’ll ever come to actually experiencing it.  We have said it so many times:  “the Mississippi, the Mississippi River, biggest river in the United States, explored by La Salle – all lands drained by the River, I learned about that in a book one time…  I am in Illinois, it is 1983.  I am a young man – a young, young man of 6.  My teacher pulls down a strappy overhead map and it is a map of the United States.  On it she points to THE River with a long pen.  She has long fingers.  She is beautiful.”  Oh that memory.  Long gone.  The Mississippi River – a phantom, a mental construct, nothing but a cognitive placeholder in my mind.  Nothing more than that till I die.  That may have been true for me at one time, but for Phillip and me, THE River has become very, very real.

I am a man, a man now of 31 years.  I am going to paddle down this fuckin’ thing.  Holy shit!  I’m actually going to paddle down a map!  No, no, you can’t paddle down a map.  It’s not Ms. Hemmingson with her long fingers anymore, buddy, damn she had nice legs.  Hey!  Focus!  You need to get ready.  You’re actually goin’ down this thing and are making a movie about it.  You need to be prepared. For Phil and me, the Mississippi River has stopped being a neat mark on our cortical highways.  The fantasy, the passing fancy, the idea of actually going down it in our Sea Eagle kayaks is upon us.  In the summer of 2009, we’re paddling down it, and we need to talk to someone who has already paddled down it.

Enter Buck

Real man, is an understatement.  A smokejumper for 20 years, this man had seen his share of adventure… and danger.  One thing is to read about smokejumping, ah yes, isn’t that that thing they did in that movie with Richard Gere or something? NO!  It’s real! Buck knows.

When 11Visions makes enough money, Buck, I want you to take me smokejumping.  Of course it’d be a simulation, but what do you think, viewers???  Wouldn’t that be a badass story to cover?

Buck tells it best on his site, but one can gather that paddling down the Mississippi was something he was going to be able to handle.  You would think then that he would have been a bit cavalier about his preparations, perhaps even being a little cocky – I mean, come on, if you’ve jumped into a fire (can’t always get next to one), rope-landed from a tree, hacked down limbs with an axe, wielded a chainsaw, and are one of only 400 people in the world who can do this job, you’d call the Mississippi a piece of cake, right?

Wrong.

In fact, Buck’s first piece of advice to us was…

“Pay attention.  Always.”  More on this later, but this, he says, will save your life.  As we conducted this interview, I found his answers of real use.  The only people we had been talking to up to this point about our upcoming trip had been family members and well-meaning, but freaking annoying friends who said things like “you’ll die,” “you’ll drown,” “there are 5-foot waves,” “currents!” “bears!” and “lions!”  These are the sampe people that answered that geography question, “TRUE – Napoleon Bonaparte discovered the Mississippi,” but like I said, they meant well.

Buck was not one of those Mississippi “adventurers” who had gone down in a houseboat pulling into riverside bar and grills every hour and a half, slamming cocktails and playing grabass with the waitresses.  He went down in a canoe and camped on the riverbanks.  Real man.  So I asked him…

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

“Can anybody do this?”

“I think if somebody who is genuinely interested, with a little bit of preparation and by applying a little bit of common sense, I think an average person can do it.  I think it’s the type of thing a person never regrets so I would say, go for it.”

“During 9/11, most of us were in the ‘real world’ living our lives.  You happened to be out on a boat during the attacks.  How did being removed from the world affect your experience of that event differently than us?”

“I happened to be listening to National Public Radio, and it was a local program, and they were talking about some local dance troupe who was going to be giving a performance.  They broke in and said a plane had struck the second tower of the World Trade Center, and then they went right back to talking about a dance troupe, and I thought, ‘What in the world is going on?’  I was out there by myself and I had no one to talk to about it.  About the only way it changed my trip directly was I was going by The Rock Island Armory (they manufacture munitions) and the Coast Guard came out and told me to stop in case I was a terrorist.”

“What about your canoe?”

I don’t claim to be any expert on canoes.

Canoe on Lake Pepin
Canoe on Lake Pepin

It’s your standard 16-foot Alumacraft canoe.  It looked good enough to me so that’s what I went with.”

“How long did this trip take you?”

“I think 67 days.”

“I’m very curious:  If we have to go to the bathroom, what do we have to do?”

I think everyone handles it their own way, but when I was heading down the river, if there was no one around, I just peed over the edge.”

“What about #2?”

Land on shore, go into the bushes.

“Did you ever let yourself just drift, maybe falling asleep going down the bank?”

“Nope.  I think that’s one thing people kind of dream about:  getting out in the current, just kicking back and taking a snooze.  I think people tend to be afraid of the wrong things to a certain degree.  That would be really dangerous.  The current in a lot of places is really fast and even if it doesn’t seem fast when you’re flowing down with the river where everything is moving the same speed, if you came upon a buoy or something, you could hit it violently.  Or say you came to a wing dam, or

probably more dangerous than anything is a tugboat coming around the corner.  So you do have to pay attention.  Things can go from hunky-dory to ugly fast.”

“What is the scariest thing that happened to you?”

“One night I went to sleep like normal.  I was probably three feet above the level of the River and tied my boat off.  And I woke up and I heard water splashing and I thought, “Huh, a tugboat came by during the night and waves are lapping up towards my tent,” and I started falling asleep again and I thought, ‘Man, that water sounds so close.’  I unzipped the door of the tent and water was lapping right up against my tent.   The river had risen several feet in maybe four hours, and part of my tent was in the river.   I was thinking, ‘Is my canoe still there?’  I jumped out of my tent, yanked the stakes out of the sand and found a couple items floating in the shallows, threw them in the boat and drug it further up on the bank.  It was kind of a spooky feeling to have something so dramatic happen so quickly at night.”

“What is essential to bring?”

“Absolutely a life jacket.  A sleeping pad, good rain gear, sun hat, at least one long sleeve shirt, long pants to protect yourself from the sun and the cold, an insulating layer, sunscreen, and sunglasses.  You will spend a lot of weeks baking out in the sun.  Also, insect repellent and a reasonable amount of food and water to get you from point to point.”

“What kind of people did you meet?”

Sunset
Sunset

“I met a lot of people down on the river fishing, a lot of people down at the river to see the sunrise or sunset, and people on the big paddle wheel boats from time to time.  I just met two other guys in a canoe doing the whole River.  That was fun to be able to talk to somebody and compare notes.  A cross section of people.”

“What shouldn’t people be scared of?”

“I think people overrate the danger of the waves.  If you’re not paying attention and you let a big wave hit you sideways it can easily swamp you for sure.   But I just paid attention the whoooooole time, and I didn’t get too close to the boats and I didn’t get too close to the shore where the waves build up higher, and it wasn’t a serious problem.  People told me that there was gonna be six-foot waves that would swamp me for sure.  That turned out to be a myth.”

“What was the crappiest day you had – a day where you went ‘ah man I just want to go home?”

“The last night on the River I spent at Port Ives, a place where largely fishing boats and house boats gather, and the owner had told people what I had done, and a whole bunch of people where all excited and inviting me over for dinner, and it was really neat.  I felt kind of like a celebrity and some guy said, ‘You know what, tomorrow we’ll give you a ride up to New Orleans.’  And the next morning they gave me a ride partway to Venice and said, ‘You know what, we don’t have room for your boat,’ so I was stuck in Venice.  That was just a lousy feeling because I hadn’t asked them for their help, but they had insisted, and I was stuck – that really bummed me out.  But the way things happen… I was just sitting there and these other guys come along and say, ‘What’s up?  You know what, I’ll give you a ride.’  So my problems were immediately solved.”

“Can you paddle at night?”

“I wouldn’t recommend it.  One evening it was foggy, and I couldn’t see, and it was really creepy because all of a sudden I could hear water swirling violently, and it was a buoy with water swirling around it.  I thought, ‘You know what, I’m just gonna get to shore and I’m gonna stay there until the fog clears.’  Paddling at night is asking for trouble, and there’s enough hours in the day for the mileage you’d be covering.”

“Is the water polluted?”

“I talked to a tugboat captain

Towboat Captain
Towboat Captain

who had run into Jaques Cousteau twenty years ago.  He was doing a special on the River and said the Mississippi, for a major river running through a populated area, was one of the cleanest rivers in the western world.  I wouldn’t scoop up a glass of water and drink it, although that same tugboat pilot said he’d grown up doing exactly that.  The River is a lot cleaner than people think, so you can, and I did, swim in the River many times.”

“Do we have any chance of hooking up with girls on the River?” (Yeah, I asked him this!)

“Again, I think you make your own luck.  And if you want to make that happen you probably can.” (chuckle)

“You seem to subscribe to the philosophy that the Mississippi is a big, very complex, potentially dangerous system, but if you’re paying attention and you don’t push your luck and you’re not doing stupid things, there is no need to fear it.  Would you agree with that?”

“I would agree with it completely.  There’s a little risk the whole time; you don’t need to take extra risk, and if you’re smart about it, it’s not a very risky trip.  It’s a fairly safe trip if you play your cards wisely.”

“On that line, what should I tell my mom who’s freaking out about this?”

“I’d tell her the main reason she’s uncomfortable is she doesn’t know enough, and people tend to fear the unknown.  A lot of people have done the trip safely and if you are prepared you’ll make it in fine shape.”

“What new adventure are you on to now?”

Gulf of Mexico
Gulf of Mexico

“I’d like to do the Pacific Crest Trail.  I’ve got some irons in the fire for the summer – I wanna do some float trips, some hunting, and fishing, those types of things.”

“Buck, I appreciate your time.  I certainly learned a lot.  I can think of three specific things I was going to do on the river, and now I’ve totally changed my mind.”

“Great.  I hope you guys do it.”

END.

Well Crap!

Well crap!  Now, we’ve got to do it.  I’d feel like a complete tool if Buck found out we bailed our Mississippi trip which will begin from Lake Itasca this May.  Stay tuned by signing up for our newsletter on the right hand side of this screen

Buck was indeed the man.  After I hung up the phone with him, I felt instantly confident.  There is a real confidence that can be gleaned by talking to people who have actually done something as opposed to people who haven’t.  Friends, family, Romans, countrymen, I love you, but please read this interview.  This is a man who has done it.  He is a safety-minded individual who still believes complex systems like a giant river can be confronted if you prepare and keep your eyes peeled.  And that is what 11 Visions is all about – walking through that door with our eyes wide open.  Not being afraid of the danger but burning it up with the power of our attention.  Thank you, Buck.  We will pay attention.  And we invite you, dear readers, to come with us in May where we’ll be pushing 2553 miles towards New Orleans.  Let’s hope we don’t run into those douchebags at Port Ives.

I am a man, a man who has talked to a master – a master in the sense that he has accomplished something I wish to accomplish.  I am thinking.  I am thinking about my family, my fears and doubts.  I know I can do this if I, if we, keep our eyes open and PAY ATTENTION!

You can find out more about Buck’s adventures at bucktrack.com.


Adventure Movie to Feature Float Down Entire Mississippi River

Nashville, TN — February 16, 2009 — Their first film cataloged their attempt to hitchhike coast to coast, across the entire continental United States in under a week.  For their second adventure, they will cross the country again; only this time, it will be top to bottom.  “We’re gonna start in Minnesota and go all the way to the Gulf of Mexico,” Phillip Hullquist, co-creator of Eleven Visions says.  “We’ll go from black bears in the north to gators in the south.  Should be fun.”  “And no thumbing rides this time,” adds Ryan Jeanes, second creator of the production company which focuses on adventure films.  “We’re going to have to do all the work this time… paddling!  We hitchhiked across the U.S. in a week, but this is going to take us muuuuuuch longer.”

The filmmaking pair expects the voyage via inflatable kayak to take between 2 1/2 and 3 months.  As in their first feature, they will focus as much on the people they meet along the way as the obstacles they need to overcome to complete the journey.  “Our first film was a real eye-opener,” Jeanes says.  “We thought people would be really hyped on our attempt to finish the journey to Los Angeles from New York, but a lot of people commented on the people we interviewed.  They would say things like, ‘Oh, that psychiatrist guy was my favorite guy,’ or, “Oh, I wish I could have learned more about Fred; he was awesome!’  So we are definitely going to incorporate those types of exchanges when we’re on the river.”

Jeanes and Hullquist answer the claims that they are addicted to adventure.  “I don’t know if we’re addicted,” Jeanes explains, “but our films do tend to be about things people would love to do but are letting some reason, real or imaginary, hold them back.  Our movies are about facing fear to a certain extent, but really are more about doing the things your heart wants to do before your mind talks you out of it.”  “A lot of people poo-pooed our hitchhiking idea, but we’re not getting a lot of that this time,” Hullquist explains.  “I guess when you successfully complete one adventure, people expect that you’ll complete the second.  What a lot of people don’t know is that only 2 to 3 people paddle the entire river each year!  That’s less than the number of people who hike the Appalachian Trail or who swim the English Channel.  We’re ready.  Bring it on.”

The title, The River is Life, is a play on Jack Kerouac’s famous phrase, “The road is life.”  “We want to capture a piece of Americana,” Jeanes states.  “We’ll go through 11 states on this trip – from the Upper Midwest to the Deep South.  We’ll be interviewing scores of people from all walks of life.  The people we meet always add an invaluable dimension to our movies.”

What about the amount of effort it will take to paddle 2500 miles!  “It’s going to be hard work,” says Hullquist.  You have to pay attention at all times to avoid barges, pleasure boaters, changes in current, wildlife, and sometimes waterfalls (in Minnesota) and rapids (around St. Louis).  I hope we can complete the journey in 2 and a half months and get the movie out to our fans by January 2010.”

Phillip and Ryan plan to be on the River the first day of summer, June 21, 2009.  For more information visit their website at www.11visions.com or email info@11visions.com.