Archive for January, 2009

Book Review: Floating Down the Country

Posted in Uncategorized on January 31, 2009 by huckleberryfinn09

 

Floating Down The Country by Matthew Mohlke

Floating Down The Country by Matthew Mohlke

There is a great deal of literature regarding the Mississippi River.  A great deal of it has to do with the historical significance of the river and its place in the narrative of our country as a whole, but there is also a great deal of writing in the genre of travel literature.  I’ve always been an avid reader of books like My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George, and Hatchet by Gary Paulson, and in some ways I think this trip is the fulfillment of my childhood dream of wandering off into the wilderness never to return.

Since I’ve got alot of time on my hands this semester, I figured I would dive head first into the travel literature surrounding the Mississippi.  As it turns out, just about every schmuck who finds their way down the river in whatever craft they choose feels it necessary to write a book about it.  

The first book I was directed to was Floating Down The River by Matthew Mohlke, who canoed solo from Itaska to New Orleans in 1999.  The summary on the back of the book says in part, “On Constant lookout for love and free meals days of peaceful solitude were broken by bouts of chaotic experiences as I strove to reach a moral plateau, but couldn’t avoid trouble along the way.”  In reading this book, I had the persistent feeling that Mohlke was paddling down this river in response to some troubling experience he had shortly before embarking on his trip.  In his writing he constantly hints at some sort of personal trouble at work or at home, and spends a great deal of his trip attempting to resist the temptations of weed, liquor, and other narcotics.  It seems that every town he comes by, he has to fight some sort of internal battle to resist going to the bar, which he rarely wins.  After a night of drinking like a fish, he wakes up the next morning swearing off booze and promising to live a more pure lifestly, only to be smitten by the next bar he comes across.

While this hinted at but never mentioned struggle does get tiresome to read about, the book is well suited for adventures like Phil and myself, who are planning a similar trip.  Mohlke states at the beggining of the book that he has very little canoing experience, and as a result he pays great attention to the details of how he goes about paddling and the various obstacles that he encounters on the river.  The mental tricks, such as stroke pyramids (1-2-1-2-3-2-1-2-3-4-3-2-1…etc), are ones that I personally have found very helpful when paddling in the past, and his advice for avoiding things like wing dams, submerged walls of rock that the Army Corps of Engineers placed in the river to control its depth, provide insight to the challenges that Phil and I will be facing this coming summer.  Mohlke’s detailed approach to describing his experience going down the river provided a large amount of helpful information.

While the book was helpful, I have to say that as a whole this book was disappointment.  The end of the book really seemed as if Mohlke chickened out before completing the true goal of paddling the entire Mississippi.  He reaches the city limits of New Orleans, decides he has done enough and proceeds to throw all of his camping gear into the nearest dumpster he can find.  He then hitches a ride into town and proceeds to get completely blasted and spends the rest of the night thinking about how much of a failure he is.  And thats how the book ends.  No philosophical message, no uplifting conclusion to the positive narrative he had gone to such great lengths to provide, just Mohlke getting wasted and feeling sorry for himself.  

It really made me wonder what the hell Mohlke thought he was doing going down the river in the first place.  Did he really expect to magically become a brand new person after this trip, that the reason for life the universe and everything would magically appear to him the moment he hit the city limits of New Orleans?  Did he really think that he would become a whole new person without putting any effort into this change at all?  I felt like Mohlke expecting to become a new person without putting any effort into this change at all is the equivelant of lying down in a canoe at Lake Itaska, taking a 3-month long nap, and expecting to arrive at New Orleans without any effort on the part of the canoist.  

Just like getting to New Orleans, personal change doesn’t come overnight, and it doesn’t come easy.  Its something you have to consciously work at every day, and that is something Mohlke failed to grasp.  At New Orleans, Mohlke is the same person he was when he left Itaska because he made no conscious effort to change, he just expected the change to happen.  His inability to come to terms with this reality leaves the this book feeling empty and superficial, ending with the incredibly negative scene of Mohlke by himself in a bar drinking himself into a stupor, which I’m sure was what he was running away from in the first place.  Floating Down the Country leaves the reader with the distinct feeling that Mohlke viewed his time on the river as nothing but a waste of time, and it left me feeling deflated and depressed about the journey ahead of me, which is really not what I was looking for.  

So upon completion, in honor of Matthew Mohlke I downed two Vodka Cranberries and spent the whole night trash-talking his book, Floating Down The Country.  Douche.

I read this book as well, and I believe we are in no position to judge the outcome of Mohlke’s trip. Granted, it is apparent throughout the book that he is an alcoholic, as well as a troubled soul. He was also inexperienced and made the trip with women clouding his mind, but I feel that he provided some valuble insight to life on the river. For example, myself and Rich have both agreed to not stop in Natchez Mississippi. The events that took place there, are what triggered a long discussion about bringing a pistol or not. 

I feel he is not telling us all there is to tell, possibly even covering up an event that happened on the river. For example, he wrote vivid details as to the conditions of the boating traffic and turbulent waters between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. From nearly every report I have read, south of Baton Rouge is the most dangerous section of the river for recreation boaters (that’s us). The end seems suspicious to me because, he talks very positively about the river and the wonderful experience that it is, only to have it end abruptly just inside of the city limits of New Orleans and talk so bitterly about all he has experienced. . 

Could this be coicidence? I think not! Throughout the book he maintains his arrogance and disregards much valuble advice provided to him by wise old sea rats. To go down such an unforgiveing water way and not heed to atleast some experienced advice is down right reckless and irresponsible. I am left wondering if he may have realized the inherent dangers and pulled off the river at the soonest point possible.

Once we complete this trip and exit the river into the Gulf of Mexico, then and only then, will we be in a position to bash Mohlke and the decisions he made. It just may turn out that the section of river is tempting fate, but there is only one way to find out. 

Overall, I feel it has some valueble insight, it just has to be dug for. 

 

Fuck that.  I maintain my right to rail this guy out to the full extent of my ability.

 

“Come, come, you talk greasily; your lips grow foul”

  -Shakespeare

 

Incase that was too complex for you to understand, I shall now use Mark Twain to silence your squalid tongue by saying: “Shut up” 

“Kiss my ass”

-George Carlin

Why Can’t the two of you just get along? You both know this is going to end with one of you throwing me out a window, followed by the two of you going out for a beer while I needlessly suffer in a snowdrift. You’re both satanists!

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Troublemakers Beware

Posted in Uncategorized on January 25, 2009 by huckleberryfinn09

 

Rob Palatchi

Test Subject: Rob Palatchi

While discussing this trip, a big subject is safety while going down the river.  Phil and I have had several discussions about whether or not we should bring some sort of firearm in case things should get out of hand.  We decided that bringing such an item would not be of much use, and would only escalate any situation we encountered, but we still feel that planning for the worst is still not such a bad idea.  We have had many discussions concerning what we would do if we got into a tangle with some troublemaker,  and we feel that we are prepared to subdue any trespasser that tries to give us grief.  Phil even figured out a way to prepare said trespasser for transportation.  In this position it will be impossible for our prisoner to move, and we will be able to safely and efficiently transport them to the nearest police station, thus saving the day.

Greetings.

Posted in Uncategorized on January 20, 2009 by huckleberryfinn09

magnanimous-adventure-195

Hello and welcome.  Phil and I shake you warmly by the hand and hope that you will enjoy reading about our future adventures.  As of right now, the plan is to canoe down the Mississippi River, starting at the headwaters of the St. Croix River in northern Wisconsin which joins with the Mississippi in Prescott, Minnesota.

Both Phil and myself (Rich) will be maintaining this blog throughout our journey, writing whatever we deem to be important or interesting information about the planning and execution of this journey.  My writing will be done in normal text, while Phil’s will all be done in big bold text to reflect his big bold stature and general demeanor.

 

So that’s the plan.  Our journey will begin on May 24th and we hope to be able to update this blog every couple of weeks or so on our journey down south.  

 

Until we meet again,

R & P