One Year Later.

Posted in Uncategorized on June 12, 2010 by huckleberryfinn09

It is hard to believe it has been just over a year since myself(Phil) and Rich canoed down the Mississippi. I figured that it is about time I update all of our loyal fans of the passed year as well as a list of lessons learned for those who are thinking about attempting a similar adventure.

Upon our arrival New Orleans. We were greeted by my father who housed us up in a hotel for the night and then drove us to Scottsborrow Alabama where we boarded his 40′ sailboat which was in a state of disarray to say the least. We assembled a motley crew of our good friend Rob and My Brother and began making our way down the TomBigbee Waterway on a jury rigged outboard motor. My father was unable to accompany us due to prior arrangements. With the intent to make  it to New Orleans, our journey was met with disaster of a lightning which resulted in a minor burn to myself and our jury-rigged outboard taking a swim in the inter-coastal waterway of the gulf. Our plan to live aboard the boat in New Orleans was quickly abandoned and Replaced by us renting an apartment in the Garden District of New Orleans.

Since then. Myself and Rich both worked and received our National Registry EMT License’s. I quickly got a job working Private law enforcement in the French Quarter. While doing this I have sent two people to jail, been in a large street fight and personally met Tom Hanks and Dr John. Rich got a job working at the Roosevelt Hotel as a Valet and spent a lot of time parking other peoples cars.

I will have to say that I don’t think would could have lived in New Orleans at a better time. We were here to witness the city’s spirit first hand as the Saints led them to a Superbowl and also witness the worse ecological disaster of our lifetime(Deep Water Horizon). I am probably not supposed to mention it, but for a couple of days I was working witness protection for a few members of BP and their family’s while they attended conferences.

As for what we are doing now. Rich has already Moved out of New Orleans and landed a job as a Deck Hand aboard the HMS Bounty.

I guess this is Rich’s way of making his way back up north given that the ship will be traveling to Duluth Minnesota this summer which is only 90 miles or so from where we first departed on lake Namekagon a year ago.

I for one have found an alternative method to make my way back up North. I have decided to follow my childhood dreams and honor the family tradition by joining the military. I recently enlisted in the U.S Navy and signed on a Corpsman. I will be attending training at Great Lakes IL. which is only 15 miles from where I grew up.

That said and done, I realized that the information provided for people interested in doing a trip like this on their own is difficult to find with in this site.  So I figured I should go ahead and share what we have learned to help those who may be wanting to complete a similar trip:
Bring Butt Pads: This hands down was the biggest factor of how much miles we did in a day. we started out with a small thin strip of foam and with that we were good for about 40 miles a day. Halfway through the trip we stopped and got some pads meant for patio furniture and we were instantly able to make 55-65 miles a day because we no longer needed breaks.

“Watch out for them Tows” This was the phrase that we associated with people who didn’t know what they were talking about. The tow boats are about as dangerous as a freight train, so long as you stay alert you can see them from a mile away, you know exactly where they are going and you have ample time to get out of their way. That’s they key “GET OUT OF THEIR WAY”. Technically speaking you have right of way but you are in a nimble more maneuverable craft and it is much easier for you to just get twenty feet outside of the channel. They will not hesitate to run you over. That said the most dangerous thing on the river besides the elements is Recreation Boaters. Most of the time these people are nice and well intentioned but their are a few who are downright reckless and it is enough of them to add to the dangers of the river. Often times they do not know on how much of a risk they pose to you. Know your own abilities and be prepared to turn sharply into or away from their wake to prevent from swamping. When in areas that have a high boater traffic it is best to stay close to the shore or simply get off the river. Often times you can find people more than willing to give you burgers and beer in exchange for your stories.

Looks are deceiving: I say this with regards to campsites. Especially in the south. Once you get passed St. Louis you will find that there are miles upon miles of sandbars. My advice to anyone camping out on them is to either have an accurate weather report or stay within the tree line. There were several times when we decided to camp in the middle of a sandbar only to have a thunderstorm roll in at 2:00 in the morning. In one instance the lightning was so intense that we broke camp and loaded the canoe and crossed the river to get into the tree line. Another time we found ourselves dragging our tent a quarter of a mile over sand to get inside the tree line. For the sake of comfort it is sometimes best to travel an extra mile or two just to find that perfect site than to risk the stress of knowing you are the tallest standing object for a mile in all directions with metal poles sticking up in the air.

Stop in Baton Rouge: This is our humble advice to anyone attempting the river. Frankly there is nothing special between their and New Orleans and it seems like one shitty place to die. The fact of the matter is, the area is entirely industrial. it is walled on all sides making the water nothing but chop with some very strange currents. On top of that the water is in no way clean. It seems to be more than just a coincidence but the varnish on our paddles started peeling off at the same time just before we reached New Orleans. I don’t even want to know what is being dumped in the water that can cause this. There is also no place to pull of the river and camp. We were stuck traveling 14 miles in the dark with no safe areas to camp. Frankly the arbitrary goal making it to New Orleans or the Gulf Proper, is not worth the risks you take with your life.

Take the “Chain of Rocks” Route: Just above St Louis after the Missouri river confluence; there is a big sign that say’s “ALL BOATS ENTER HERE”. Don’t do it, it’s a trap! As mentioned, the biggest danger on the river is the recreational boaters. If you follow this sign you will be entering a walled in canal that is just wide enough to have two barges go through side by side. When we first saw it, we saw a large yacht zooming out of it. as you can imagine since there is no shore, the wake just bonces off of the wall and creates all sorts of eddies, whirl pools and chop. It is no place for a canoe. The alternative is a series of two rock dams that are about ten feet tall and have approximately a 45 degrees incline. if you hug the shore you can safely portage around them, We were cocky enough to just jump them and managed to stay upright. Granted we did take about eighty gallons of water each time but it was worth it. There are also plenty of places to camp along this stretch before you reach St. Louis.

Bring a radio: Enough Said.

Wear your life jacket: It is 90 degrees out, you are pouring sweat and your life vest is getting itchy. Don’t think about taking it off. I myself am a very strong swimmer and am able to swim a mile or two non-stop but the currents on this river are crazy. It was the weirdest thing when I was fishing. There was a five mile an our current going down river but when I put my line in the water it shot upriver at an alarming rate. I have no idea of the forces that cause this but my point is this current can kill you in some spots and it is just not worth the risk. So suck it up and wear your life vest.

Have fun, know your limits: When asked why you did a trip like this, you can give all sorts of theological reasons, but the fact of the matter is you are doing it for the fun of it. there is no need to push yourself beyond your abilities. Just go at your own pace and enjoy it.

Know when to quit: I may be the wrong person to get this advice from because that word is hardly in my vocabulary, but there may be a time when you have already invested time, money and dreams into the trip, but if you do not have the physical ability or find that you can’t cooperate with your partner or for whatever reason have severe doubts in your abilities to complete this trip safely. Do not hesitate to surrender the dream and give up.

That is pretty much all the advice I can think of. The rest of the trip will fall into place if you just put your mind to it. I wish anyone crazy enough to attempt this adventure the best of luck/ If by chance you would like to get in contact with myself or Rich feel free to contact me at the information provided at the bottom of this page. I guess that’s it, take care everybody!

Phil Middleton’s Contact:

Email: Middletonp01@gmail.com

Phone: 847-648-1986

So…haven’t seen you around for awhile.

Posted in Uncategorized on November 30, 2009 by huckleberryfinn09

So the original plan was to do a whole bunch of analysis about our trip, stuff that went well, stuff we could’ve done better, that sort of thing.  We haven’t really gotten around to that, and I don’t think it’s gonna happen anytime soon, so I thought I’d swing in and provide my closing thoughts for this trip and let you folks know that we’re doing good in New Orleans.

The plan with living on the boat didn’t work out so well (long story short, we broke the boat), but Phil and I managed to pull through and grab a pretty nice apartment in New Orleans in the Garden District uptown.  Our EMT class is going great, we’ve both done our practice rides and now we’re just studying for our exams which will be in January sometime.  We also managed to get jobs pretty easily.  Phil is working most nights as a security guard and I’m working as a valet at the Roosevelt Hotel.

Looking back on things, the whole Mississippi trip feels like a dream.  It’s hard to imagine that we actually did it, we actually paddled from northern Wisconsin no New Orleans.  Every single mile of that extraordinary 1,905 mile trip was a new adventure, with new problems to be solved and new friends to be made.  This trip, and everything about it, will be cherished in my mind for the rest of my life.

Of course, the most enjoyable part of the trip was the people we met and the lives we observed while traveling.  We couldn’t possible thank all of you that we met coming down individually, but know that each and every one of you played a huge part in our lives, even if we only knew you for a short time.

For anyone who is interested, I’m writing the trip down, day by day.  If anyone is interested in receiving a copy of the story of the trip when everything is all said and done, feel free to shoot me a message at my email (richard@haven2.com) or just leave a comment on the website and I’ll get back to you.  The whole project should be done in a month or so, maybe…hopefully…eventually.

And so that’s it.  Done now.  The whole trip.  I’ve enjoyed working on this site since I started it up in February, and I’m so glad you’ve all enjoyed reading it.  I’ll check back periodically in the future, so you can always get a hold of me or Phil by dropping us a line here.

Thanks everyone!  Good luck!

Oh, and if anyone wants to know what if feels like to complete a trip like this, it feels a little something like this…

New Orleans: No Bust

Posted in Uncategorized on July 29, 2009 by huckleberryfinn09

Hear ye hear ye!  Let it be known that, on July 28th this year of Our Lord 2009, Philip Middleton and Richard O’Connor completed their 1,896 mile journey from Lake Nameakagen, Wisconsin to New Orleans Louisiana.  Their trip took them 66 days.

So there we are then, we made it.  We left our final campsite at 5:30 yesterday morning and pulled into New Orleans at Moon Landing right next to the French Quarter at 10:20pm.  During the course of our final day we were blown off the river four times, weathered two thunderstorms, cut ourselves up on a concrete mat, and dodged countless towboats and ocean liners, both with sunlight and in the dark.  This last day was truly a test of all the skills this river has beaten into us over the last two months, and we feel we passed its tests with flying colors.

We have met so many wonderful people over the course of this trip, and received help from so many different individuals that it would be impossible to thank them all at this time, so we extend this BOOSH of gratitude to all the old friends that helped us make this trip possible and all the new friends we made along the way.

BOOSH!

We’re going to end the narrative of our journey here, but keep an eye on the blog, as we’ll be working on post-trip analysis stuff to put up here in a week or so.  Stay tuned!

R & P

Donaldsonville: The Home Stretch

Posted in Uncategorized on July 27, 2009 by huckleberryfinn09

So here we are in Donaldsonville, LA.  We’ve had a little trouble making our intended milage the last couple of days due to storms, sun, and wonderful people that we’ve met.  We intend to make it to La Place, LA at the end of today which will put us within striking distance of the marina we intend to stop at tomorrow afternoon.

We met some wonderful people in St. Francisville just a couple of days ago thanks to the kindness of KW, who gave us a lift into town and let us take showers at his B&B, the Shadetree Inn .  KW was also kind enough to drive us to a grocery store, where we loaded up on bread, jelly, and lots of fresh fruit.  We have devoured 6 peaches, 8 apples, and 2 plums in just one and a half days.  Our mothers are so proud.

A massive amount of wind, rain, and lightning blew us off the river yesterday, but we expect to make our target mileage today.  We will be in New Orleans tomorrow at noon, and a mighty “BOOSH” will rise to the heavens.

R.

“We’re Not Yankees We’re Mid-Westerner’s”

Posted in Uncategorized on July 20, 2009 by huckleberryfinn09

This has become Rich’s new smart a$$ phrase to say for every person who says “so you two are Yankees huh?” We are not sure what people mean by this, but it comes up a lot and responding in this fashion seems to confuse them, which is funny to watch. So far, every stereo type about the south has been incorrect:  people with southern accents are smart,  the temperature is tolerable and the mosquitoes are weak-sauce compared to those of the north woods. On that note, the bugs down here most certainly are bigger than those of up north, but they are easier to deal with because you can see and hear them coming from a mile a way, which is something that I personally have come to appreciate. The Swarms are like little airplanes attacking; I just go into King Kong mode and slap them little buggers out of the sky, sure beats inhaling those clouds of them in Wisconsin. My point…I will take the bugs of the south any day of the week over the bugs up north!

As for news about the river conditions, so far it seems that we have arrived in the south a couple of weeks too late, we are working with a two – three mile current most days except on the outside curve of narrow bends where the speed reaches eight miles an hour. It was quite funny last night because we camped near one of these stretches and the bigger tow boats had to gun their engines to even match the speed of the river, it took one tug almost an hour to make it 1/4 of a mile around one of these curves.

Our diet has also changed, we have made the switch from eating gourmet cooking to bare bones peanut butter and jelly for breakfast lunch and dinner. Moral is still high and we are both starting to have mixed feelings about nearing the end of our trip. We are in Vicksburg at the moment and should be in New Orleans in just over a week.

-P

Dead Man Floating

Posted in Uncategorized on July 14, 2009 by huckleberryfinn09

This post is not intended to scare our folks or make those who care  worry more, but it is rather to show that we need to pay attention and watch our backs! On Sunday July 5th, the day we left St Louis, a body was discovered by fishermen quite literally in the same area we camped. We camped on the east side of the river about a quarter of a mile past the “Casino Queen” separated from East St Louis by a maze of railroad in all directions; Anyways it has recently come to our attention that a decomposing body was discovered in that immediate area. kind of nerve racking huh?

Anyways we are in memphis and the adventures keep on coming.

Fast times in Memphis, Tennessee

Posted in Uncategorized on July 14, 2009 by huckleberryfinn09

     Ah, so many adventures since we last communicated in St. Louis.  We spent the weekend of the 4th of July camping in East St. Louis, we were busted by a friendly railroad cop named Chris who helped us find our way through the yard, we ran into our friend Katie Musick who used to go to Northland, and we’ve been rockin’ up the miles ever since.  However, we hve found that since St. Louis the towns are getting farther away from the river, so finding internet (among other things) has gotten much more difficult.

We had an encounter two days ago that we’re still analysing.  We had our first encounter with real southern hospitality, when a bunch of friendly Tennesseeans invited us to their beach where we partied it up, drank beer, and grilled burgers.  Although we could see alittle lightning way to the north, Phil and I chose to disregard it and set our tent up in the middle of a sandbar.  Well wouldn’t you know it, that night a big storm rolled right on top of us, forcing us to break camp around 2:00am and paddle across the river to find shelter from the lightning which ended up striking the beach we had just left several times.  We managed to set our tent back up without getting wet, but we didn’t get any sleep and were scared out of our minds for most of the night.  Now, if we hadn’t been invited to eat with the nice Tennesseans we never would have set up camp there and would’ve gotten a full nights rest, but because of the food they gave us we were able to do 55 miles the next day, even with a late start and a long lightning stop.

Conclusion:  Southern Hospitality…totally worth it!

So now we’re in Memphis trying to figure out how we’re going to keep going without towns on the river.  Looks like the Hucksters are going to get used to more walking!

R.