The Trip: The Why

There will be ample opportunity and time to explain the How of this trip. Planning, logistics, preparation: I can (and will) write for hours about what I’ve already done and what I will continue to do leading up to departure in May. What’s more difficult to put down on paper are the reasons I’ve chosen to do this trip.

As I’ve had the opportunity to try to explain what I am planning on doing to curious friends and family over the recent holidays, I have a decent grasp on what my motivations for this trip are. First and foremost is the adventure and the challenge. I’ve tested myself on the MR340 a handful of times. Every time I finish that race, I tell myself that’s the hardest thing I have ever done and will likely ever do. By undertaking the MR2450, I am changing that realization. I believe this will be the hardest thing I have ever done, and will ever do (until my next idea, I suppose…) The planning that I’ve done has already been challenging and very educational, as I’m certain the next few months will be. And when my loaded up car pulls out of the driveway in mid-May, it will be time to test my planning skills, my ability to deal with challenges that arise and my day-to-day capacity to just survive. Physically and mentally, it will be totally different from anything I’ve done before and I expect to learn much more about myself and the world in the process.

My secondary motivation is not quite as selfish. I’ve learned that many people who’ve previously undertaken a Missouri River descent trip have done so in an effort to raise money for various noble causes. The attention and publicity a long distance paddler will inevitably receive from not only friends and family, but from local media along the way and of course the ever-expanding reach of social media is a wonderful opportunity to do something great. I’ve decided to raise money for an amazing organization, Missouri River Relief. The first line of their mission statement is something that has been on the forefront of my mind since before my first experience on the river and will certainly remain a focal point in my life for the foreseeable future:

Missouri River Relief is a community, volunteer and equipment-based not-for-profit organization dedicated to connecting people to the Missouri River through hands-on river clean-ups, education events and stewardship activities.

Certainly, I plan to expand on what this organization does and what they mean to me, and why I’ve chosen them as the source of any fundraising I am fortunate enough to undertake.

In my personal and professional life, I feel like I am in an ideal spot to take this trip this year. My ever-patient and understanding wife is up for this adventure as well. She’s helped me plan, work through ideas, acted as my reality check and will be my virtual ground crew during the trip. She will travel to Montana to push my boat into the water and will be my eyes and ears back in base camp here in St. Louis during the trip. And she might even come meet me somewhere along the way. My employer will know about my plans soon enough. I’ve been a loyal and effective employee for 13+ years, and I am crossing my fingers that my proposal for a sabbatical will encounter understanding, flexibility and encouragement from them. To be continued…

Thanks for taking a moment to read and hope you’ll continue with me on this adventure.


The Trip

The Missouri River: from the confluence at the Mississippi River in North St. Louis County, 2,341 miles upstream to Three Forks, Montana. The Jefferson, Madison and Gallatin Rivers come together within a half mile of eachother and create a clear, cool, calm flowing river.

My experience on the Missouri began in Cousin Hugo’s Bar in early 2010. Until the time, the Missouri was there. It was something to look at from the bridge, or to look out at from the safety of a wooded bank or levee. In Cousin Hugo’s that night, I learned that a fellow runner in our local group was going to participate in the Missouri River 340, a 340 mile paddle race from Kansas City, MO to St. Charles, MO – taking place that July. Charlie’s first attept at the race at a time he was 68 years old*, had his loyal friend Dan worrying about him surviving the race, much less finishing. Dan suggested I join Charlie for the race. A few beers deep after that day’s run, I was in!

8+ years and 4 MR340 finishes later, I’ve come to love the Missouri River and have set my sights on something bigger: to paddle the entirety of the river (plus a little more). I want to put my name on the relatively short list of those who have done it. I want to explore the bends, the coves, the rapids, the portages, the windswept lakes of the unfamiliar upper Missouri. I want to approach Kansas City from the upstream side, then finish with the now familiar 340 miles to St. Charles. Then I’ll paddle 26 more miles to the Confluence, then 9 more miles to the St. Louis Gateway Arch, the finish line. Oh, and I am going to start the trip on the Madison River, 100 miles upstream from Three Forks where it flows out of Yellowstone Park, a couple miles from Old Faithful. 2,450 miles.

The plan is to start in mid-May 2019 and finish sometime in September.

I always thought the MR340 was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and likely the hardest thing I will ever do. I no longer think that. Over the next few months, I hope to provide a peek into the planning and preparation I am undertaking, the amazing people and groups that are already helping me towards my goal. Then during the trip, I plan to share experiences, images, video and my progress towards the finish. I’d be honored if you would join me.

*Charlie is planning on participating in the 2019 MR340, at age 76, paddling with his son and grandsons!