Where is the Crew?


Hey, Get Rhythm!

Well, this has been a trip! We haven’t had a moment to write a blog post, which is good for the trip and bad for the blog. Our newest friend Kevin (uncle of a friend from the Appalachian Trail) picked us up from the River about a week ago and took us to his home in New Orleans, Louisiana. We stayed in a house that he and his family are rehabbing. It was an awesome house with southern trees, a music amp with microphones, and fantastic neighbors wandering in and out of the house, cooking food and playing music. The first night, the music theory, which we’ve been learning from Brett, came into fruition and hit its climax. We played music with Kevin and his wife Tiffany until the early hours of the mid-hours of the moon while doing a good number on the kegerator beneath the stilted house. That was the same level of the house that three horses inhabited. We feasted throughout the night on the random grub that kept appearing on the countertop. As anyone would, we stayed for another three nights, ambling about the French Quarter, Frenchman Street, Bourbon Street, and whatever other streets we could find. That town had rhythm unlike any place we’ve been. The way people speak, the way they walk, the way they drive, dance, make music, drink, eat, and everything. We were directed to the cheap taverns, the best quarters, and everywhere had some new live music pumping through the souls of everyone. The streets were full of brass howling and calling us to dance, meet, and be. Kevin and Tiffany, along with their kids Mark and Tera, were some of the most hospitable people we’ve met yet. Their neighbors were all great, too. They cooked for us, advised us of the best places to be and introduced us to more and more people. They all taught us an incredible amount about misconceptions of the town, how the culture developed and how it remains as strong as it is. There is almost a tangible adhesive that brings the citizens together. We were blessed to have been a part of their home, family, culture, and lifestyle. If you get a chance to meet people from the crew, ask them individually about their experiences in New Orleans. You’ll be laughing and will stay engaged for over an hour.
One thing we all got to experience together was a Haiti festival, celebrating the Haitian culture. Music from Haitian bands danced, celebrated, and sang late into the night. We met the MC of the event. He was enthusiastic about our efforts and adventure. So, he invited us on stage to talk to the many people at the festival. Six of us got up there and talked about the charity and the trip. People screamed for us, clapped, and, afterwards, threw us money and bought shirts. What a success. We made more money, possibly, than we would have by hosting our own event. Timing was perfect. It was meant to be.
Although we were not happy to see our friends on the shore, waving as we paddled farther south, we knew our trip was close to the end and the River called to us like the music in the streets did for four nights before. So we went, but we’ll be back on another open invitation.
We can’t make as many miles down here as we could farther North. The current essentially stopped. We make between three and four miles per hour, but we only have a few miles left.  Tonight, we’re in some thick woods, cooking an eight pound red fish over hot coals. Robert Poche and Bruce Comeaux stopped by our site with beer and a fish they caught this evening. We’re nibbling off of it, toasting every few minutes to the trip and our last night in the woods.  We really have grown together. We’re closer, stronger, and have come to depend on each other more and more. It feels good for everyone. It will be sad to leave the River, but, like any long trip, the trip doesn’t stop at the terminus. We’ll keep raising money, passing the winter months together in Colorado.


Sore Muscles, Tasting Salt Water

Every night since the trout feast, we've been dining on Eric's venison. We made burgers, brats, and flank steak fajitas for the past few nights. After each, someone declares that that meal was the best yet. Our crew has teamed up regularly with the Boy Scout leaders from Camp Tomahawk (www.camptomahawk.com). They're a great group and we make up a fun, dynamic group of 12. We've camped with them for the past week, sharing meals, desserts, and stories around nightly fires. It ends up, after brats and cheese, like Blazing Saddles.
The wind has abated significantly but the nights have become brisk. The temperatures plummeted to the 20's a few nights ago. The morning fires are often larger than the evening fires. And we've come to build two separate fires. Not because we dislike each other, but because we can stay warm around one while we cook on the other. The days, after about an hour on the water, heat up and we shed layers quickly. The sun glares hard off the water. The stern person typically points the canoe directly at the sun in order to block the sun with the bow person.
People are starting to feel the effects of constant paddling. Muscles are sore and torn without much time to repair. We all try to get the Bending Branches paddles, but some have to use the heavy, water logged paddles. Ibuprofen has become as tasty as Skittles and breaks have become more necessary. We will probably have to figure out a system to keep muscles fresh for the last two weeks. We have 13 days left and would like to keep our bodies healthy for that stretch. The post-Halloween candy sales have helped, we like to believe.
But the fact is that we have 13 days left and most of the talk regards enthusiasm for the Gulf. Excitement abounds in every paddle stroke and flicker of the fire's flames. We entered Louisiana today, which makes us feel even more like we're in the final stretch. Less than 500 miles to go.


Trout Tonight

The pelicans flock together in the afternoons over the trees on the shore. They catch the thermals, floating high and slowly, then dropping quickly into another pattern, drifting in circles, but lazily going south. They turn to an angle that makes them seem invisible, then they turn again and we see their backs. somewhere in all that chaos, there is some natural order.

Our contacts in Baton Rouge have fallen through. We couldn't quite find the AJ we had in St. Paul or the Brett we had in St. Louis. And so, we worked hard for a few days in towns trying to organize something ourselves, seeking bands and venues, trying to combine them, and ultimately coming up with nothing. Instead of having a festival-type event like in St. Paul, we'll stop in Baton Rouge and dedicate a day to generating interest, possibly busking, and selling shirts. It should be LSU homecoming then (which is why many venues lacked interest) and many people will be in town for their alma mater's events. We also have a good friend in Milwaukee setting up an event for the week before Christmas. All of we who are moving out to Steamboat Springs after the River migration will also continue hosting events until we reach our ultimate goal of $50,000.

Tonight, after 35 miles through the mist, we have nine trout cooking over the fire. They're the same trout Eric gave us in Memphis. Tomorrow night, we'll cook up some of his venison. We have been eating well and it only gets better. Our mothers can rest easy, knowing that we have been soaking in all sorts of good nutrients.

The instruments are out again. Oscar is on ukulele, Brett on Mandolin, and Dave on guitar. Zach calculates the mileage for the next few days, which surely won't hold up more than an hour into tomorrow, due to our indecisive and capricious mentality. Amanda quietly prepares a side dish- something that will turn out to be one of the best things we've ever eaten, as usual. Louis listens attentively to the sizzle of the trout, checking them often and nibbling off the bellies. Dipper warms her feet next to the fire, careful not to burn through her Crocs, like she did last night. The sun will set soon, but we can't tell by the vibrant colors we've had for the past three weeks. Instead, the grey just becomes darker grey. Soon enough, our hunger will be satisfied and we'll be warm again in our sleeping bags.

Not Too Bad For a Bunch of Huck Finns

On Halloween morning, we left camp a few minutes before sunrise. The sun looked like a pumpkin. The morning was unusually warm as we said goodbye to the four Boy Scout leaders we’ve been traveling with. They were boiling a pot of diced apples with cinnamon. As tradition demanded, I (Michael) bobbed for one successfully. Memphis was our goal. 54 miles. That’s a big day for us, especially since we had to arrive by 5:30 to meet our ride. We were happy to see the Memphis bridge by about 4 pm. With achy muscles, we tossed all our gear in the back of Eric’s truck and loaded his trailer with the Grummans on the bottom and the Mohawks on top. He drove us downtown to his neighbor’s business. She was in the process of moving locations to a store one block away and offered that we spend the night in her store. The old store was full of great artwork. The artist, Madison, paints vibrant chickens. Madison and her friend stuck around for a while and chatted with us about the must-sees of Memphis. Apparently, we were right in the thick of things. Everything she mentioned was within walking distance, including Beale Street, the happening Halloween spot.

It didn’t take long to understand that we were about to have a great night in Memphis. We all dressed up in our best River gear, met with the Boy Scout group again, and went to dinner as a giant group of Huckleberry Finns. It was a great group costume. We went to one of the best Barbeque joints on Beale, thanks to Eric. There, a Johnny Cash tribute band sang rock, country, ballads, and blues. Dave had a great surprise waiting for him at the restaurant. His parents made the trip from Georgia to surprise him the day before his birthday. The night led to various shenanigans, including the Boy Scouts singing some embarrassing karaoke tune in their costumes. We also saw a dueling piano show full of ribald lyrics to dance and laugh to.

We took the next day off to ease the muscles and relax our minds. The entire previous week, we’d been averaging over 50 miles per day, much of which was fighting the wind. It ended up being worth it for a day off in a fun town. Monday night, we headed over to the house of the parents of Dave’s friend. They were possibly the most hospitable people we’ve met along the River. Our crew was incredibly happy to be in their company and they seemed to be beaming to have us in their house. We feasted on a huge meal of chicken, pasta, biscuits, and salad, all topped off with a creamy key lime pie. We dined outside by their fire and later smoked excellent cigars and sipped on our drinks of choice. We stayed the night there, going to bed after fun, engaging conversation and a dip in the hot tub. We headed out (although we could have spent a week with them) early in the morning to grab the last of our groceries and hit the River. We ended up with venison and trout, harvested from the Tennessee wilderness by Eric.

We will be back to Memphis in May. Pete and Karen (the gracious homeowners) gave us an official invitation to join them for a famous barbeque festival. It can’t be missed and we are all eager to maintain a relationship with our new friends.

Now, I sit under Mega-tarp with rain funneling down its creases. Everyone has gone to bed but the fire warms my still-wet back. We managed to cook some great pizzas over the fire tonight- onion, pepper, mushroom, cheese. Sure, we spent some of the best days so far in Memphis, Tennessee, but it’s always good to get back into a tent with the tap of the rain, and sleep like we earned it. Then again, one more night with Pete, Karen, and Eric couldn’t hurt.