2022 MR340 Race Recap

Missouri River 340, July 12 – 15, 2022


#4933 – Mark Fingerhut – Epic V7 Surfski

56:00:09, 51st place overall, 20th solo men’s kayak


Going into my 6th MR340, 2nd solo, I felt pretty good about what to expect. In 2021, I helped support Paddle Stop New Haven’s 10-person dragon boat and really appreciated seeing the race from a new perspective. As a racer in previous years, I normally don’t get a chance to see a ton of other boats or their setups, or interact with ground crews to get good ideas, or appreciate what it takes to actually put this race on. I feel like that support experience certainly helped in prep for this year. The biggest wild card going in was going to be weather…and the choice of a boat.

The plan all along was to use the Mostar, the gorgeous 20ft cedar strip kayak built by Shane at Paddle Stop that I used both in my 2019 descent of the Missouri River, as well as in my last MR340 in 2020, a 57.5 hour finish. Earlier in the spring, I happened upon a local posting of an Epic V7 for sale at a reasonable price. I’ve always been intrigued by surfskis, but never had the chance to paddle one. I hopped to it and bought it, which also included a nice Epic mid-wing paddle. The V7 model is rotomolded, so can be treated more roughly than the other delicate, more expensive models, and is slightly heavier, more stable and a quicker learning curve. That said, I didn’t consider paddling the boat in this year’s 340 until I had a lot more saddle time and felt more comfortable.

In preparation for the race, I paddled quite often: weekly Tuesday night 5k races with the local crew at Creve Coeur Lake, day/night trips of varying lengths on the Missouri between Hermann and the confluence, the Mississippi above St. Louis, short/higher intensity paddles upstream then back on the Meramec River, among others. I also participated in the inaugural MR140 in Minnesota back in June, which turned out to be a terrific tune up. I paddled my Current Designs Nomad in that race, mainly for added stability and comfort on an unknown river with unknown support and multiple portages. After the 140, I realized I could have easily done that race in my surfski, so why not consider the ski for the 340???

Wanting one more true test of this boat under my belt, a couple weeks ago, I did a 70 mile speed run from downtown St. Louis to Chester, IL on the Mississippi. This stretch would have everything the 340 would have in a condensed form: darkness, navigation challenges, barge wakes galore, fluid/gear management, technology setup, etc. The run was quite successful, departing St. Louis at 4pm, arriving in Chester at 2am in the wake of 4 consecutive big barges. I felt comfortable in the boat, quite stable, I was able to haul enough gear, and was pretty excited with the pace I was able to maintain. The Mostar was out; the V7 was in.

credit: Ron Sloan

The Race

After the traditional pre-race KC barbeque binge (this time at Slaps BBQ) and a pretty good night sleep, I was up with my wife/ground crew Sara, stuffing bladders with water and Gatorade, scarfing some breakfast and hitting the water at Kaw Point. I’ll forever be a fan of putting in at the confluence point vs. dealing with the lines at the ramp. Sara’s done support over the years for me and other paddler friends, but this was her first time seeing the spectacle of the starting line, so I was excited for her to take it all in. I paddled around the crowd leading up to the 7am start, greeting so many paddlers I’ve had the privilege to get to know over the years, either from the local St. Louis community, friends from KC, or just those I see at the 340 every time I do it. It’s a tangible uplifting feeling knowing you are setting off on this epic challenge with so many others you admire and respect, less of a singular competitive challenge, more of a bond that we’ll tackle this thing together one mile at a time.

After a tapping of paddles to boat to thank the race organizers and volunteers (shout out Dave Amelung), we were off. My modus at the start is to stick hard left on the Kaw and hit the confluence at the highest point, with 99.9% of the boats to my right. That way, I am out in the fast current of the Missouri before anyone else, and sure enough, I was sliding right by the large mass of boats still transitioning from the Kaw morass into the churn of the main channel. I picked up the parked construction barges of the Buck O’Neil bridge just as the picture in the email the night before indicated and set a 6:30/mile pace through the downtown KC speedway of the first few race miles.

The pack I was paddling with thinned pretty quickly, and I could tell I was in a faster boat than I’ve ever paddled this race in before. Instead of paddling with plastic boats and beginner kayaks, I was with the Stellars, the Surfskis, the wielders of wing paddles, the upper level of boats that tend towards the front of the pack. It was new to me. After the fast water of downtown KC, I settled into the low 7 minutes per mile. My technology is quite low-tech: an Amazfit fitness watch that tells me time, distance, and pace. My phone tucked away in my PFD (or later my dry bag) running Race Owl. I’m not a channel tracker/ProPaddler guy, as I’ve rarely found the benefit of it with paddlers usually in sight, as well as knowing the river quite well between KC and STL.

I told Sara I’d text her if for some reason I needed to stop at Napoleon, it would have been only to refill water and Gatorade, but with a 3-liter water bladder, and 1.5 of Gatorade, my supply was sufficient as I passed by before noon. I got to Lexington at 1:15pm and stayed for less than 5 minutes, just getting more water and Gatorade. It was a long hot slog to Waverly, but I am always motivated to get to Waverly Ramp #1 to see my good friend and river rat Rob Kalthoff, who coordinates all the volunteers at what I think is the best run ramp on the race. I was there for about 10 minutes, again refilling water and getting a photo with Rob.

I wasn’t eating a ton throughout the day, maybe a cliff bar here or there, and a quick protein drink at the ramps, but still felt strong and confident arriving at Miami around 8:30pm. I’m pretty sure it’s the earliest I’ve ever arrived there. I also realized how less crowded the ramps are when you are a little bit faster, go figure! I stayed in Miami for about 25 minutes, scarfing some cold Thai noodles Sara had brought from KC and getting the sweet caffeine from a Dr. Pepper. It was on to the 36 miles to Glasgow for a short rest. My race plan in 2020, and for this year was the same: get to Glasgow sometime in the middle of the night, sleep til close to sunrise, paddle all day, get to either Chamois or Hermann, sleep til close to sunrise, then finish the race.

There’s almost nothing I love as much as night paddling, so I enjoyed the 36 miles into Glasgow, talking with a few paddlers, but generally spending my time solo with my thoughts, a little music and a podcast or two that triggered the much-needed endorphins provided by laughter. In the last 5 miles getting into Glasgow, I blew past a pack of 6 to 8 kayaks and arrived just before the rush, 1:48am.

Sara had my rest setup all ready to go. I scarfed two corn dogs from the food truck, got out of wet clothes, then laid down, where Sara used our massage gun to really work out the soreness in my back and shoulders before I popped 2 Aleve and was off to dreamland. The massage gun is now an MVP level piece of gear that I will have along for every race from here on out! I woke up at 4:30am feeling surprisingly spry and fresh.

I got back on the water just as the morning light peeked over the horizon and fog was starting to lift. Lisbon Bottoms was no problem and I passed the still sleeping safety boat crew on Jameson Island. Luckily this notoriously windy stretch was not so this morning and I made good progress towards Franklin. I passed a few boats who had been paddling pretty much all night, commending them on the achievement and wishing them luck. But the fact that I felt fresh as I passed them by and seeing how tired they were, I was happy with my choices so far. I caught up with my good friend and partner in adventuring Dan Strieker on his Timber Longboard SUP right as we got into Franklin in the waves of a passing barge. I had to stop to sit in the shade, eat some food, and just gather my thoughts for about a half hour before heading out again. I was joined by local STL paddling friend Chris Mullee for this stretch.

We had great conversation for the next 25ish miles. Quite amazing how human interaction keeps your mind fresh and off the muscle pain or discomfort of the blazing heat. Chris also suggested I cover my exposed toes and feet with my frogg togg towel, which up to this point, although covered in sun block, were burning up. Thanks Chris! We caught up with Dan again and passed him getting into Cooper’s where Chris stopped for a break and I kept moving.

To deal with the heat during the race, I generally kept to dipping my hat and pouring water over me, draping my frogg togg around my neck here and there. On my way into Jeff City, it was getting pretty bad. I knew of a couple ramps coming up, and I opted to stop at the private ramp just upstream of Hartsburg to cool off. As I pulled in, I saw a couple guys at the top of the ramp and thinking they might have been owners, asked them if I could stop for a dip. They replied, “Sure, not our ramp!” and proceeded to offer me a couple varieties of beers or rum and coke. Under any other circumstances, even during the race, I would have taken them up on it. But with an overheating situation near, I told them no thanks. I fully submerged into the end of the muddy ramp and felt much better. Approaching Jeff City, I passed an upstream sand barge that kicked up some real nice rolling waves which I had a lot of fun crashing through in my ski. Some dread barges on the river, but to me it’s a chance to wake up, get the adrenaline up and put your mind to work navigating the waves!

In Jeff City, I had half a double cheeseburger, about as much as my body would allow me to get down, and a couple other small snacks, before I closed my eyes for a half hour nap. I’ve learned on this race that even these shortest of rests allows my mind to reboot. I close my eyes with scattered thoughts, frustration and worries about the coming stretch of river, and awake with a renewed sense of motivation and clearer thinking. I was back on the river in less than 1.5 hours, prepared to push on to Chamois or further.

The sunset from Jeff City to Chamois was nice, but my mood was soured by the fact I forgot my headlight at Jeff City, Sara forgot to give me a 5-hour energy, the damn bugs that kept flying into my mouth and eyes, as well as my phone really frustrating me by either stopping my podcasts every couple minutes, or continuing to play Rush on my seemingly randomized playlists. Rush – only in moderation, people! I got to Chamois before 10pm and soon learned about the brand new wing dyke that almost blocks the ramp, with the street light from the park shining straight into your eyes. I slightly scraped the wing dyke, then had to restrain myself from snapping at the ramp volunteer that perhaps better direction for paddlers landing here was in order. Hangriness had set in.

I had a good half hour rest in Chamois, ate some delicious sourdough with salami that our baker friend in KC had baked, and set out toward my evening sleep spot in Hermann. It was only in this stretch where I missed having a channel finder. A few times I found myself in slow water, realizing I had gotten out of the channel before making the correction. There were a few other boats far behind me, as well as a few ahead as I began to approach Hermann, arriving at the endlessly viewed bridge at 1am.

After some massage gun and Aleve, back to dreamland til 4am. If there were trains passing all night, that was news to me, I was out. I was back on the water before 5am, for the stretch from Hermann to New Haven. I was really in the home stretch, I know these waters from here to the finish in my sleep! I stopped for a quick 5 minutes in New Haven and said hey to my friend Melissa who was helping at the ramp. As I was pulling out, Shane came down from the Paddle Stop to bid me good luck as well. I booked it to Washington where I figured my good friend Pat Tenny would be waiting for me with breakfast biscuits from Hardee’s which he’s brought for pretty much each of my six 340s. Sure enough, there was Pat, snapping photos with a Hardees bag in his hand. I stopped for a half hour to enjoy a couple and get fluids for the long hot day ahead.

I really suffered in the heat in the short 8 miles from Washington to Klondike. The miles were slow and I struggled to stay cool with river water not quite doing the job. I finally got to Klondike at 11am, where some shade, some ice water, a little food and caffeine seemed to help. All that was left was Klondike to St. Charles, done it 1000 times. Fighting off the heat of the day with my rising adrenaline to finish the race, I powered through, passing the Boone bridge where a random dude stood up there looking at his phone. Hey, was that someone I know? After that I caught a glimpse of two paddle flashes up ahead. While not too competitive normally, at this point in the race, I always use whatever motivation I can find to finish strong and get a cold beer in my hands that much quicker. I picked up the pace as the specks of paddlers in front of me started to grow larger.

I passed the first guy just before the 364 bridge, not even giving him a glance. I just wanted to demoralize him by blowing by. There, standing under the bridge, I spotted the guy who’d been up on the Boone Bridge, oh hey that’s my buddy Keith, paddler from last year’s dragon boat and ringing a bell to bring me to the finish. The next paddler was moving fast and I didn’t know if I’d be able to get him, but I was up for the challenge. I changed my stroke from arm paddling to core paddling, and noticed my speed dropping once again to below 7 min/mile, not seen since the first couple miles of the race. The other paddler was sticking hard river right, which I’d normally do. But seeing as the finish was river left, I cheated a bit and stayed out more into the center of the river. I passed under the I-70 bridge still behind him, but with a direct path to the finish ramp, whereas he had to cross all the way over. I heard the yelling of the welcoming crowd and managed to out kick this guy, coming in 20 seconds before him, at 3pm exactly. I congratulated him, then apologized for the rather unnecessary show of competitiveness. He was luckily in good spirits and dismissed my apology. I soon learned that passing those two paddlers got me into a top 50 overall/top 20 division finish. Whatever it takes to get the beer in my hand faster, I say. Sara soon did just that and a 16oz PBR never tasted so good.


Overall, I consider this a very successful race. I was in a faster boat, but in slower water than previous years, but still managed a personal best by 1.5 hours. I did feel like I had to stop more often, mainly to reload fluids as my boat isn’t set up for hauling a lot. I opted not to do any after market modifications to the boat, no drilling through the deck for tubes or tanks or anything like that. However, my ramp stops were usually pretty brief, I had no issues getting back in the boat. I kind of like that style, as the body gets to get up and stretch more often. For my personal sleep needs, what I did here was about as good as I could expect. Minimum of two hours each night, with a hard reset during the second day. Anything less and I don’t think I’m getting the kind of brain activity that leads to good decisions. Plus, after getting back on the water after sleeping, I am immediately passing by paddlers that’ve been going for many more hours than I. I’ll take the tradeoff.

My nutrition absolutely needs work. I had a tough time getting solid food down throughout the race. I relied on liquid protein shakes mainly, a little bit of turkey jerky, an RX or Cliff Bar here or there, but my eating was reactive rather than proactive. If I do this race again, I’m going to focus a lot more of my prep and attention on a proper nutrition plan that will be more successful.

Once again, the people are what makes this race what it is. The friends and community I have from doing this race through the years, or friends I’ve made through paddling in general is really the spark that keeps me coming back. Yeah, finishing the race is cool, getting a time you can be proud of is ok, but my best moments of this race were Thursday afternoon after I’d finished, or when I came back Friday morning to watch my fellow racers finish – welcoming them in with a high five or a hug, seeing the looks on their faces, having accomplished something epic and something that will likely change their lives, as it has mine.

Huge thank you to my wife Sara for the amazing support, you knew exactly what I needed when I needed it. Thanks to Shane and Stacy at Paddle Stop for being great river friends and running with your dream to bring people to the river. Thanks Steve, Melanie, Kevin and everyone at MO River Relief for all the great work you do. Thanks to Scott, Christina and all the race organizers, I’ll love this event as long as I live. Volunteers, rampers, safety boaters – you are incredible. Thanks to the entire paddling community who continue to amaze me with your generosity, your good advice, your encouragement and support.


Mark Fingerhut, 2022

Through the Gates of the Mountains

When Lewis and Clark and their party reached the Rocky Mountains, they reached a point at which they did not see a way the river made its way through the mountains. The river makes a series of sharp turns around dramatic cliffs and mountains, hence the Gates of the Rocky Mountains. This was a place I was looking forward to experiencing since the very early planning stages of my trip. And although I’d be approaching the Gates from the opposite side that L&C did, the experience was no less awe-inspring.

I had the pleasure of paddling this stretch with Jim Emanuel, who had paddled the entire Missouri River, and kept on going to New Orleans, last summer. He was very familiar with this stretch of river and was an amazing guide. As an avid fisherman, he also made sure I was equipped with the best lures and bait for doing some real fishing on this stretch of the river.

Jim’s wife Vicki dropped us both off at Hauser Dam. We immediately had to load our gear in our boats and on our carts and roll them down a hill to the put in below the dam.

Hauser Dam

From there, Jim and I liesurely paddled and fished for the first 10 or 12 miles. I was only slightly alarmed when I heard the sirens going off at the dam, indicating an increase in water release. I learned they even sound the alarm if only releasing very small amounts of extra water, so it’s usually fine to ignore them. We fished for the better part of the day, me with absolutley no success and Jim with pretty decent results – a nice rainbow trout.

Eventually, we made our way into the wide open Hauser Lake and the upstream entrance to the Gates. Late afternoon light made for amazing sights as we entered the dramatic canyon.

I even got to safely check off an item I’d been wanting to experience on my list: to see a bear. As we entered the canyon, halfway up one of the hillsides was a black bear with its cub. I got a pretty good look with my binoculars. We paddled a few miles into the canyon before finding what’s probably the best campsite I’ve ever stayed at. Jim and I set up camp, built a fire, enjoyed a few beers and some nips of whiskey, shared good conversation and some warm dinner, and were in bed before it even got dark.

In the morning, we paddled about 3 miles down to Mann Gulch: another item I’d been looking forward to during the planning for my trip. In 1949, smokejumpers fighting a wildfire in Mann Gulch were overcome and raced to the top of a gulch to try to reach the ridge to escape the fire. 13 young men died in the fire, 11 not making out out of the gulch. Two more crested the ridge only to die from their injuries.

Jim and I made the 3 mile hike up the picturesque valley. Nearing the ridgeline, we began to see crosses and monuments that had been set up at each spot where a young man had died. We walked to each cross and paid respects, much more real for Jim as a life-long firefighter. We made our way to the top of the ridge and looked down on the other side to the incredible views below and the two crosses down below on the other side. As horrific as the tragedy was, being there in such an incedible place was quite a juxtapostion. The eternal resting place of these 13 men is beyond description in its beauty. It was a truly moving experience for all these reasons.

After we descended, Jim and I had a pretty long day of paddling ahead of us, through the rest of a serene and calm Holter Lake, yet another portage down below Holter Dam before setting up camp where the Missouri becomes a river again. A truly inspiring and unbelievable couple of days.


Day 1 – Hebgen Lake

It’s the end of the first day on the river. I’m tucked into a dirt beach next to the Kirkwood Marina on the lower end of Hebgen Lake. What a time to be alive when I can have cel service while camped at a mountain lake in between two large mountain ranges.I made it about 16.5 miles today, first mile or two on the Madison as it exited Yellowstone then the rest on the lake. Other than a brief pop up shower with some wind which forced me to the bank, the weather was excellent, mostly sunny and in the upper 60s and 70s. Sara dropped me just upriver from the rte 191 bridge near the town of West Yellowstone. A young fly fisherman was surprised to be witness to the start of the journey and obliged us by snapping a photo. My gear was mostly packed and organized, so I was fairly quickly able to get everything loaded. We said our goodbyes and soon enough, I was paddling.Some key takeaways and learnings today:

  • Gear storage and organization will be a work in progress. For example, I had to scramble to locate rain gear when it started raining so that process will need to be more efficient.
  • I got the feel for sticking to the sheltered side of the lake to stay out of strong winds and big waves. This will be an ongoing theme throughout the trip.
  • I managed a couple crossings of the lake, being quite far from shore, yet completely comfortable and in control. Timber Longboard’s boat was incredible and I am extremely happy with its performance on the first day. It really moves when I want it to.
  • I made 16.5 miles in about 5 hours, most of it on non-moving water. So I know I will be fully capable of cranking out high mileage days on this trip. I will have to continue to remind myself to take it easy, enjoy the ride, stop and explore. The MR340 racing mindset is going to have to go by the wayside.
  • I got my first experience navigating a braided channel, where a river dumps into a lake. It’s like a maze and you have to pick the correct channel or you end up stuck in sand or mud. I managed to do that twice today, but luckily was able to jump out of the boat and pull it a few feet over to deeper water.
  • The indescribable beauty of an alpine lake surrounded by snow covered peaks was just as amazing as it sounds. Pictures hardly do it justice, so I tried to just take it all in.

Tomorrow will be interesting. I’ll paddle the remaining mile on Hebgen to the dam, after which I’ll load the kayak on my cart and portage her about a mile along a two lane state highway to the put in on earthquake lake. I am somewhat disappointed, as I found or from a couple locals that the Earthquake Lake museum and visitor’s center doesn’t open until memorial day. I was really looking forward to learning more about the tragic 1959 quake that killed about 30 campers and accidentally created the lake through which i’ll be paddling tomorrow.Bonus funny story from today: I’ve been in touch with another long distance paddler, Ellen Falterman. She did the entire Missouri River two years ago and is doing the Mississippi this summer. On the drive up this morning, she messaged me a picture of the Mississippi headwaters and said, “where you at?” A little confused, I responded, Montana, on my way to the Madison river. Apparently we’re are starting our journeys on the same day, just a few thousand miles apart, to her surprise.mf

The Journey to Montana

Thursday morning I departed St. Louis fully loaded, the MOstar securely strapped on the roof, and tied down in both front and back. I promised to swing by my office on the way so that coworkers could check out the boat. My big boss with lots of outdoor and fishing experience laughed at my tacklebox that I packed for when I get the inclination to cast a line in. He promised to send me pictures of the bait and lures he recommends, and he’s actually floated and fished stretches of the Madison, which was coincidental.

Planning the 22+ hour route to Livingston, Montana, the main challenge is interstate 29 between Kansas City and Omaha. The entire route is closed due to Missouri River flooding, go figure. So my alternate route took me up through Hannibal, MO, into and diagonally across Iowa, through South Dakota, Wyoming and finally Montana.

It was a pretty grey and uneventful first day. As I approached Eldon, Iowa, I started seeing signs for the American Gothic House. With a big nice boat on the car and all my gear to live off of for 3 months in the car, I planned on sticking to the road with little or no detours or stops. Conveniently, the American Gothic House was only a mile off the road so I was able to pop in for a couple quick photos.

I grabbed a Jimmy Johns sandwich for the road and blasted through Iowa and into South Dakota. The ground in SD was obviously saturated with so much recent rain. Almost every farm field I passed had standing water, all the ditches were full, and the creeks and rivers I passed were out of their banks. All this water will eventually drain to the Missouri, ensuring flooding and high water levels well into the summer. Later afternoon brought out a welcome sight of the sun and I eventually made it to my day 1 goal, Chamberlain, SD – about 12 hours and 750 miles. The boat held steady the entire way.

A quick dinner of a South Dakota specialty, Chislic, and then I set up camp at a simple roadside spot. I woke up to frost on my tent and had to fish the gloves out of my bag in order to avoid finger numbness while I packed up. I loaded up on gas and coffee and was on the road by 6:30 for what promised to be a bright sunny day. A couple hours in, I decided to take a short detour and drive through Badlands National Park. It’s probably my favorite National Park, so I swung through and took some pretty good photos and videos with the boat and the Badlands as a backdrop. I knocked out the rest of SD, the Northeast corner of Wyoming and entered Montana before I saw my first flashing red cherries.

With a boat prone to being blown by the wind strapped to my car, I was doing close to the speed limit almost the entire trip. From South Dakota, through Wyoming and into Montana, the speed limit is a generous 75 or 80 mph. So I was kind if confused as the police SUV pulled in behind me. The polite officer informed me I had passed by a mandatory boat inpection station for invasive species. He had me double back to the station and a couple of guys looked over my boat, filled out a form and had me on my way. Just a warning for failing to stop at the inspection.

At Billings, MT, a rainstorm blew in and I really had to fight the wind from pulling my car and boat out of my lane. Out of 22 hours, that really was the only time I was a little concerned about the security of my tie down job. Soon enough I made it to Livingston, MT and the home of Norm Miller and his girlfriend Chris. Norm is the defacto Missouri River paddling community historian, expert, collector of information and artifacts, and an excellent host. in 2004, Norm paddled UP the Missouri River from St. Louis to Montana, then crossed over the Rockies then down the Columbia, retracing Lewis and Clark’s journey. He and Chris showed me a few cool sites around Livingston, including the nearby Yellowstone River and the only existing statue of Sacajawea riding a horse. Norm was part of the committee to erect the statue in 2016.

We had a fantastic meal at a local Florida themed restaurant, and I was able to exchange life stories with Norm and Chris and gather more information about the trip ahead of me. Sleep came quickly and I was ecstatic to be done with such a long drive.


Final Prep, the Christening and Some Goodbyes

Departure from St. Louis in about 85 hours. I am currently catching my breath, rooting for a Cardinals comeback against the Cubs and thinking about what I am still missing. It was a whirlwind weekend. Saturday morning, Shane of Timber Longboard Co. joined myself and another friend to paddle the flooded parks and greenways of lower Kirkwood and Valley Park. The Meramec River is running at about 24 feet after a week of heavy rain. The primary purpose of the trip was to get a first paddle in on my new kayak, with all the anticipated gear I’ll bring on the trip, as close to a dress rehearsal as I’ll get.

Before setting out into the flood waters, we christened the newly completed MOstar with a St. Louis appropriate beverage and one of my summer favorites, Busch Light. After weaving in and out of partially submerged pavilions, soccer goals, baseball backstops, mailboxes, electrical boxes (hmmm), and even the remote-control car track, we got into the main channel of the Meramec for some serious upstream paddling. The current was probably moving 3 – 4 mph so we really had to dig in to make progress. After a brief stop to take care of our barley and hops deficit, we surfed the rising river back downstream to the put-in.

Overall, the first real run on the MOstar was successful. My main takeaways and lessons learned:

  • Super comfortable cockpit. Lots of room for in-cockpit storage and ability to move. A few minor seat and kneepad adjustments and I should be good for 2,400 miles.
  • The rudder with which I’ll rely on to steer the boat in high winds or crazy currents works well when it’s in the water. We did have an issue with getting the rudder to fully deploy into the water so we’ll work on that. But the foot pedals and controls were perfectly place for my comfort and control.
  • I was absolutely delighted with the amount or storage space. It is a 20 ft kayak, but up until yesterday, I didn’t have a solid grasp on if what I was planning on packing would fit in the boat or not. It does, with lots of room to spare. This will allow me to pack a few more luxury-type items I normally would have left at home. I do have to keep an eye on my total weight though.
  • Overall, the yak is sleek, cuts through the water well, sits on the water at an ideal level when fully loaded, is able to be controlled (as long as the rudder is doing its thing).
  • It’s a fucking beautiful boat. You all need to get yourself a Timber Longboard boat.

The MOstar with my emergency backup boat – Current Designs Nomad, and a Timber Longboard stand-up racer

I spent the rest of Saturday reorganizing gear, classifying and packing all of my food and re-supply packages, as well as cleaning and storing my 6 other kayaks (my aforementioned problem). Sunday morning continued more gear optimization and packing based on the new space capacity. Spent the afternoon with my family, enjoying a birthday dinner about 3 months ahead of my actual birthday. It’s an afternoon I am certain I’ll think back on during my long river days, laughing with my mom and dad, siblings, nieces and nephews, shooting some hoops, hitting whiffle balls and generally enjoying the fantastic whether. I even taught my dad how he’ll be able to track me on the Garmin map site. Family goodbyes for a 3 or 4 month absence are certainly hard, but I feel incredibly blessed to have support and love from them.

The next three days will also be a whirlwind. Last minute prep, more goodbyes, all while working 8 hours a day. Tomorrow night, I am incredibly excited to head to the lovely river town of New Haven, MO. My friend and boat maker, Shane Camden and his wife Stacy will be presenting a plan to convert an older workshop/warehouse space to the new world headquarters for Timber Longboard Co. to the city council of New Haven. My new kayak will be there on display to show those in attendance the kind of work they do and plan to continue to do with an expanded space. I’ll lend my voice and plans for my trip with the group if I can. The proposed shop and Timber Longboard’s future plans will absolutely connect more people to the Missouri River, which is an essential objective and motivation for my trip. It’s a message I’ll take pride in spreading, highlighting the amazing resource that’s at the doorstep of all in attendance. I hope for the best for Shane and Stacy and hope to provide an update after the meeting.

It’s not looking good for those Redbirds, can’t win ‘em all, I suppose.


Tracking and Communicating During the Trip

One of the most common questions I’ve gotten from folks is tracking and communication during my trip. As I explain in a lot more detail in my technology-focused post, my primary link to the outside world will be my Garmin InReach Explorer+. A device of many uses for me, anyone with access to a specific web link will be able to track me at any point during the trip. Every 10 minutes or so, my location will be pinged via satellite to the map on my website to indicate my location.

Also, from the same website, anyone will be able to send me a text message. Just click the message button on the page, put in your phone # or email and send a message. The updates will begin when I put in on the river, projecting to be the morning of May 13th or 14th.

At any time, click the button over on the right side of my site – with the lounging Buffalo River turtles. The trip is long and I am certain I’ll be eager to hear from family and friends along the way.

Less than a week before departure, I’m focused on final preparation of gear, the boat, completing my professional duties, in-trip re-supply and a whole lot more. Very excited to hit the road!


Naming of a Work of Art

Over the years, I’ve probably owned around 10 or 12 canoes and kayaks. Currently, I have 6 (do I have a problem? Probably). I’ve never thought about giving any of my boats a name. I thought that was for old rich guys with sailboats or at least boats with motors and electronics and steering wheels and all that stuff.

As the boat I am planning to take on my journey this summer started to take shape, I could tell it was going to be beautiful. Less of a utilitarian watercraft to get me from point A to point B, more of a floating work of art. And that’s exactly how it’s turned out. Shane and Stacy at Timber Longboard Co. have built a wonderful business and kayak building is their next step in their evolution as a successful watercraft maker. I am absolutely honored to have them build me their first kayak and allow me to captain this incredible ship down the Missouri River.

TLC Shane

I felt giving this amazing boat a name is a necessary step to make my journey impactful and memorable for myself, friends, family and strangers alike. At my kickoff barbeque and fundraiser yesterday, I asked all in attendance to submit ideas for a boat name. I may not have been 100% transparent, as I had a name in mind, but would be totally willing to forego that name if someone came up with something better. As I read the submitted names last night, I laughed out loud several times and was also impressed by some significant and apt ideas (as well as some that shouldn’t be repeated). The full list of submitted names is below – I really had to think hard about Shark Fingerboat. Thanks to everyone who submitted ideas!

Alas, none of the names lived up to my original idea:


May 16, 2016 – One of all-around best days of my life. Sara and I were in the middle of an amazing two-week trip around Croatia, Slovenia, Italy, Montenegro and Bosnia-Herzegovina.  We started the day setting out from our Croatian seaside vacation rental. Not a cloud in the sky as we headed East over the mountains, crossing the border into Bosnia. Both the elevation and the potholes per mile increased significantly as we entered the country. Our destination for the day? Mostar, Bosnia. It may be the most well-known town for tourists in Bosnia, and for good reason. It’s a picturesque town on the Neretva River. It’s got a rich history, but also has obvious scars from the horrific war in the 90s. Walking down the streets of Mostar, you’ll pass an incredibly historic and architecturally beautiful building or church, and the very next building is a bombed out shell of a facade pock marked with artillery divots. There are historically Christian and Muslim parts of town separated by the river and connected by an incredibly beautiful bridge called the Stari Most. Sadly, the bridge was blown up by bombs during the war, but was rebuilt shortly thereafter.

Stari Most
The beauty of Mostar can make any old schlepper seem like a photographer.

As luck would have it (and based on some careful research), the Mostar Diving Club allows daring tourists to jump off the bridge into the waters 75 feet below. As a longtime jumper from tall heights into bodies of water, I immediately went for it.


(Sara…wasn’t operating the camera, it was like, somebody else, right Sara?)

My two weeks of posterior soreness notwithstanding, it was the exhilarating highlight of my trip to Bosnia. We then drove the couple hours back to Croatia and sat down for an amazing twilight seafood dinner on a patio overlooking the gorgeous waterfront and promenade in Makarska. Halfway through dinner, I knew today was the day. We sped back to our shack; I got a couple glasses of wine then proposed to Sara on the dock as the sun was setting over the Adriatic. I wonder if it was as perfect as I see it in my mind. Well, she said yes and we got hitched 16 months later.

Drašnice, Croatia

Our experience in Mostar was incredibly memorable, just for being there, but also for the significance of that day for me and Sara. As she’s been a huge part of my trip down the Missouri River so far and will continue to be, I wanted to choose something that’s significant for us. The name connects a wonderful memory for us with the state we call home and the life-giving river that cuts through the middle. It’s also appropriate in that my eventual destination and lifelong home of St. Louis has a large Bosnian community, so there’s that connection as well.

In 15 days, I’ll set out on the MOstar for a 2,450 mile trip.



List of submitted names by family and friends:

Big Woody MF
Booby Trap
C.B. 2341
Cap. Ship. & Crew
D.S.S. Mallort
Daddy’s Cough Syrup
Disco Chariot
Disco Comin’ Yo
Disco’s Ass
Dragon Fire
Drift Wood
El Camino
I Wood Do Anything for Love, But I Won’t Do That
K.R.E.A.M. (Kayaks Rule Everything Around Me)
Mayak (Mark + Kayak)
Much Ado About Muffing
Nest Egg
No Wake MF
Prather’s Paddle
S.S. Chuck Norris
S.S. A Disco
S.S. Disco
S.S. Ess Ess
Shark Fingerboat
Stroke on the Water
T-Bone Malone
The Belafontane
The Flying Wasp
The Sacagawea (The Sac Yak)
The True Trail
“Titties Galore”
Yayky Yak


Solo Adventuring: WTF?

A huge podcast listening friend referred me to a podcast a couple months ago called Dirtbag Diaries. She sent it my way because one episode was about a guy who paddled a lot of the Missouri River. I’ve been sort of listening to the podcast off and on when I can. Each episode typically is a story about a trip, and experience or event that happened to its subject in the outdoors. I popped on the most recent episode called Solo She Rides. Its focus is on two adventurers who undertook epic adventures solo.


The first 6 minutes or so is the introduction by the writer, Fitz Cahall and tells a short story about one of his early solo adventures. His masterful telling of a story from his youth highlights the challenge of undertaking an adventure solo, but also why people do it and why it is so rewarding. His explanation for the thoughts of a solo adventurer couldn’t describe my feelings about my upcoming river trip any more aptly.

One quote that really struck a chord with me. On a solo adventure, “it’s pretty hard to BS yourself, you define the parameters, you define the terms of success, and that’s a pretty rare thing in life.”

Leading up to my trip, I’ve had a lot of people ask my why I would do this alone, why not do it with others and it’s been tough to put an answer in to words. I’m of the school that someone has probably already said it better than myself, and Fitz certainly did just that in the first 6 minutes of this podcast. I highly recommend listening to the rest as well, it’s about some pretty rad women.

One more quote from this episode I thought was especially poignant: “You don’t have to be amazing at something to do it, you just gotta get out there and do it.”


Technology on the River – Striking a Balance

Facing 3+ months on the river, the question of technology is one I wrestled with early and often. How ‘connected’ should I be on the river? What kind of technology would I need to bring and for what purposes? Would my choices in what technology to bring be an impediment to disconnecting and achieving a meaningful and spiritual experience on the river? How do I balance the urge to disconnect with the absolute necessity of assuring the ones I love I am surviving on a daily basis? If I do bring technology, how can I leverage my experience to share lessons and bring attention to experiences and issues on the river?

As you can see, it is a lot to consider. Some of my predecessors who’ve undertaken this journey will insist on absolute disconnection in order to have the richest and most worthwhile experience. Travel as Lewis and Clark did over 200 years ago, with a map or two here and there, but that’s about it. It’s a tempting prospect, but there are other considerations:

  • I am travelling solo. I need to be able to keep in touch with loved ones, and to be able to call for emergency assistance under certain circumstances. This is non-negotiable to my parents and wife.
  • I am late Gen X, early Gen Y who grew up with the internet and cell phones.
  • I work for a technology company.
  • I love having some good music to listen to break up what will likely be 8 to 10 hours on the river each day.
  • I value the ability to share my journey with others. The journey is for myself, sure. But another major objective of my trip is to share my experience on the river and educate others on river related issues.

With these in mind, here is the technology I plan to bring on the trip:

  • Garmin InReach Explorer+ with a monthly data plan. With this device, I’ll be able to send and receive texts, plot my progress/plan my route on a map, look up weather forecasts, transmit my location via map to anyone on the internet, single-button SOS call to emergency services, all with satellite connection, no cell phone signal needed. I am also able to connect this device to my cell phone via Bluetooth, to do most of these capabilities on my much easier to use…
  • Samsung Galaxy S10. From what I have learned, cell phone coverage on the upper Missouri is pretty non-existent. However, I will still be able to use this phone to track navigation and trip progress on downloaded/offline google maps, send and receive text messages via connection to the Garmin InReach, take photos/videos, play music, and type out trip details and reflections for this blog to post when connectivity allows. Substantial element proof pouch to keep the phone and nature separated.
  • Travel/folding keyboard – bluetooth connectivity to my phone. Will make typing out blog posts much easier than using the phone’s keyboard.
  • GoPro Hero 6 Black, along with extra batteries and charger, several types of mounts for the camera. Bluetooth connectivity to my phone for uploading, managing and editing photos and videos.
  • Bluetooth waterproof portable speaker – nothing fancy, just something that will play music, survive a downpour or a dump, and that I won’t mind when it inevitably suffers a heroic death on the river.
  • Solar charger: BigBlue 5w 28v – to mount on the deck of the kayak and charge my batteries throughout the sunny days.
  • Power bank/battery: Anker PowerCore 20100 – definitely one, possible a second, still deciding.
  • I am on the fence about bringing a portable/waterproof AM/FM radio with weather bands – if I have room for this.
  • USB cables to charge the above devices.

Other than the Garmin, the GoPro and to an extent the speaker, nature does not mix well with the other devices. So I will have to have a pretty reliable system of drybags/boxes, pouches to keep things dry and relatively clean.

I am certain I will fine tune my technology setup as the trip progresses. I may find some of these items just aren’t worth the extra weight or space and may choose to discard or send back home, or I may need to supplement these items with some additional things that I can’t foresee right now. For better or worse, within a few clicks, I can order almost anything in the world off my phone and have it delivered to a location a couple days ahead of me on the river. Such is the world we live in; Lewis and Clark’s smirks of disapproval notwithstanding.


A Pulitzer for Tony!

Fantastic news today – Tony Messenger of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has won a Pulitzer Prize for commentary for his series on Missouri’s debtor’s prison scheme. He’s done an incredible job covering this corrupt and unjust system of incarceration of the poor in Missouri, so much so that some of the laws are starting to be changed.

The only thing better than him winning this prestigious prize is his promise to keep fighting:

Annotation 2019-04-15 202423


I’ve recently reached out to Tony to thank him for his coverage of critically important issues surrounding our local rivers and water resources. I highly recommend reading his most recent article if you haven’t yet:

Messenger: The Missouri River is a ‘mad elephant’ that won’t be tamed by ‘bigger and better’ levees

The article encapsulates much of what I’ve come to learn and know about the state of the Missouri River. Every day, I pass through Chesterfield Valley, the massive strip mall, retail and entertainment development built foolishly in the Missouri River floodplain. In the wake of the recent spring flooding, some state politicians have called for bigger and better levees to protect current and future floodplain development. It’s been proven countless times in 150+ years how bad of an idea this is and how this stance will continue to put people and property at risk.

It is my sincere hope that Tony continues coverage of river-related issues. If he is half as impactful as he was covering the debtor’s prison issues as he is covering the river, then we should expect to see positive change in how we manage our rivers and water resources. I’ll fight with you, Tony.