New Years Day of 2018 we pulled the trigger. I signed us up for the 13th annual MR340 while Courtney sweet talked Mindy into being our ground crew.
We had really great intentions of getting out and paddling alot and training and taking the kids on adventures and all the fun stuff that comes along with the race. We both wanted it to kickstart a more active period in our lives, for ourselves and with the kids, but that just did not really happen. We did get out and paddle the river once, 15 miles and we did go to some area lakes with the boys and paddle around which was fun but not really training. July came quickly and we were as prepared as we were going to be.
It was about two weeks before the race and I wasn’t so sure we should even do it. The Sawyer is not what I would call a comfy recreational boat, it is fun to paddle but I struggled to relax in it. All I could think of was trying to paddle late at night with the water up and capsizing that thing and how much not fun that would be.
I got with Sam and he let us borrow his Minnesota III which is a very nice and stable vessel. That solved that. We paddled it about 3 miles on Lonestar lake, the Saturday before the race, and declared we were ready!
For the race we had a plan similar to the first and second years Sam and I did it. Similar stops and schedule and with the water a good five feet higher at Kansas City it seemed doable. The ground crew schedule was significantly different. Mindy was going to meet us before dark and we would haul our sleep gear in the canoe, then crash out on our own. I was pretty proud of myself for packing a decent sleep kit into one bin, with proper twin size air mattresses, an electric pump and sleeping bags, pillows and a tarp in case of rain. I have never setup a tarp shelter but I watched some youtube vids and figured in the heat of the moment I could make it happen. This worked out better than I expected really.
We got all the stuff packed, got the kids dropped off at Nanny’s house, attended the Safety Meeting, packed the food, got the jeep loaded and dropped off at Mindy’s house and we were ready to hit the river.
Andy was kind enough to drop us off at Kaw point Tuesday morning. The water was up and no sand bars were available on the Kaw so instead of putting in early and paddling across we lingered near the ramp and put in after the Solo start. It wasn’t as crazy as I expected it to be, we got in line and put in and shoved off without incident. Courtney was right, no need to sit in the boat an extra hour. Most of the day went well, the river was a little hard to read and it seemed like we spent alot of the day trying to find decent water and a decent rhythm between the two of us. I didn’t bring any navigation stuff besides my phone. (.pdf on my phone was not a great technique) There were alot of boils and eddies and whatever else but it wasn’t horrible. We cruised our pace past the first checkpoint, met up with Mindy and got our sleep supplies and food. This was different for us, Mindy was staying in hotels and we were carrying our sleep stuff. We, of course, had way too much food and water. A little overloaded but we managed. Stopped at Waverly which was the greatest boat ramp stop on the river. Volunteers moving boats, kids had cold rags for your face, boy scout food tent, it was all good!
I have said both previous times that I wish we had gone past Miami on night one, so we made it a goal to go past Miami. We were doing good on time and got to Miami around midnight. The night was catching up to us and we were fading so we thought we would get a power nap and get going again. The power nap was not restful and we ended up tossing around for a good hour and a half, so it’s 1:40 ish and we get back on the river and by this time it was getting chilly. I had planned for cool temps but I had not really prepared for wet and chilly.
We tried to make it to Dalton Bottoms but we struggled. Courtney was cold and getting delirious and was nervous about straight up falling out of the boat, I was whooped too. We encountered another kayaker, women’s solo from Iowa, she was having a bit of a time after almost getting swallowed up by a eddie/whirlpool thing and we paddled together for a bit. We started to see first light and mucho fog, not far from Dalton Bottoms we had to pull over. I felt bad leaving the Iowa paddler but we really needed to stop for a few minutes. There were a few other boats around at this point so the Iowa paddler wasn’t alone. After a little rest on the rocks we got our bearings again and got on down to Dalton Bottoms, by this time the sun was coming up. We set up our sleep stuff and tried to get some rest. We got maybe an hour and a half of shut eye, milled around and got going again.
The last two Mr340’s day two was the worst at some point, this time day two was bad all day long. We were stopping alot, it felt really hot and humid and we were generally pretty miserable. I didn't get enough ice from Mindy and we had about three more gallons of water than we needed. We were struggling, we just kept making short goals- get to the bend, get to the next mile marker and so on. I don't remember many details from that day other than being generally miserable. We just slogged our way to Franklin Island. I’ll be honest, it was looking bleak at this point. Courtney was having some doubts and I tried to stay positive but I was miserable too. We decided to stop at Franklin Island and take a healthy break and re-assess things. Mindy was there (armed with a few tidbits of history on the area!) and some much needed ice/ different snacks and general support. Courtney was worried we wouldn’t be able to finish and I was going over schedule options which was my plan-b but trying to remember it was not easy. Another reason to have your backup plan on paper, trying to figure it out and recall it from memory while exhausted is not cool. Our ultimate goal was to get to the finish line, we were at Franklin Island in the afternoon, we would hit the I70 bridge at sunset so we were in ok shape to get it done. After an extended break we felt better (mentally) and we decided to get to Coopers Landing and stop for the night.
It was better when we got back in the boat and the evening was pretty nice, I made it till about 5 miles from Cooper’s and I started to fade hard. I was falling asleep while paddling, and was having a hard time staying upright. There wasn’t really anywhere to stop so I did the best I could, luckily Courtney had a second wind and she saved the day keeping us moving! Three cheers for teamwork, we make a good team and I was grateful for that when we got to Coopers! We had Thai noodles and a beer and after dinner we crashed hard, it was after midnight at this point.
There was a tent nearby that had a guy sawing logs in it and Mindy made the funniest comment about envisioning the tent expanding and collapsing like a cartoon while he snoozed. We laughed but I knew as soon as I was out I would be sawwing away as well.
We slept for 6 hrs which was pretty luxurious but it also felt necessary. The day before, at Franklin Island, we had committed to finishing the race and along with that we were committed to enjoying it - so we did. Thursday was spectacular! We were enjoying ourselves, we laughed, we joked, we had great conversations. We got chased by a thunderstorm then paddled in the rain for a few miles. We checked a few more firsts off the list. Paddle in the rain- check. Number 2 in the trees- check, have a good time- check!
We got into Jefferson City around noon, it was still raining and looked like it would be raining for a fair bit so Mindy took us downtown for a bbq sammich and fries. We got back on the river and had a really lovely day. The only hiccup was the Barge threat/ confusion right outside of Hermann.
The safety boat (which was the Reaper! But it was done reaping and just doing regular safety boat stuff) came up and told us there was a barge coming down stream. We were still 10 miles or so out of Hermann and by our calculations we were on track to stay ahead of it at our current pace. The water was smooth, temp was nice, spectacular sunset and the moon was awesome. Our plan was to stop in Hermann for a minute and get on down to New Haven. I believe it was 2 miles from Hermann the safety boat came back up and pointed to a light in the distance and said that is the barge and if you paddle hard you’ll get to Hermann before it. Courtney and I dug in and paddled our asses off! We kept looking over our shoulders, I wasn’t seeing anything but we were hearing a train coming that sounded like it could have been a barge. Either way, friggin top speed into Hermann. We were completely spent and come to find out the barge had stopped for the night probably right after we started our heroic sprint. Oh well. Exhausted, we reluctantly spent the night in Hermann, which I was trying to avoid but I don’t know that New Haven would have been any better. In hindsight we should have toned it down and either got out of the channel or just kept our pace. In the moment the only choice seemed to be paddle our butts off.
That left us with a pretty long day Friday, not ideal but it was what it was. We did pretty good, it was somewhere in between a Tuesday and Wednesday, wasn’t totally miserable but not as funny as Thursday. I made the comment that I could spend a few more days doing this and was met with a “don’t stop paddling to chit chat anymore cause I am ready to get this thing done” kinda look. We made some new friends and had an ok day of paddling. We had a great ramp experience again at Klondike. Lots of encouragement and general helpfulness. It got windy and hot and we had alot of stuff in the boat and I could almost taste the beer at St Charles. We got to the Bridge of False Hope and I knew better than to think we were getting close but I felt it anyway and spent next couple of hours very aware that each mile was going by so slow... We rolled in at 79:33, pretty beat but glad to have made it to the end.
Mindy was there with glitter and everything! We had a nice overnight in St. Charles, and a very nice drive home.
I couldn’t be more proud of Courtney, she tackled the challenges head on. She was up when I was down. She had never slept outside without a tent, had never pooped in the trees and had never paddled more that 15miles at one time till this race. She is a wonderful partner in everything that we do. The boys are fortunate to have her as their mom and I am fortunate to be your husband.
A big Thank you to Mindy!!! Ground Crew-ing is no joke and you were wonderful! Thanks Ray for picking up the slack at home!
Things I would do different/things that worked:
- Train more (duh)
- fine tune our food supplies- pre-mix gatorade , superfood smoothies from WholeFoods were good!
- shoot for 50- 60 hrs next time
- spray skirt- if for no other reason than for a place to hide my feet in the shade
- laminate maps/ backup plan
- better spotlight, we were a bit underpowered on the spotlight
- don't even consider sleep at miami
- wool socks and another warm layer
|Courtney and Andy watching the Solo Start.|
|This is how much we should have had in the boat the whole time. Getting launched @ 7:15 AM Tuesday.|
|Definitely the best contraption on the river! Seemed like alot more home brew stuff this year.|
|Bobbing in the Kaw, waiting.|
|Sunset, Night #1.|
|This is Dalton Bottoms, and an example of our sleep arrangements, Courtney is all rolled up in her sleeping bag. It was probably 62 degrees at this point which doesn't seem chilly but it sure felt chilly! Wool socks are a must.|
|trying to get motivated to get going.|
|It looked like this for a few hours, just lurking back there.|
|We spun around to watch it for a moment. You can almost make out the safety boat in the upper right of the pic. They were impressed by our cheery disposition (I think?)|
|And then it rained, but we were close to Jefferson City.|
|It rained on both of us.|
|It didn't phase our good time!|
|An apple a day...|
|I've got 1020 miles on the Missouri River in these shoes and almost have permanent tan lines from those windows.|
|Cooper's Landing- noodles and a Stag.|
|No Stag for you.|
|Sunrise, and the fog.|
|Day 4 Sunrise, just outside of Hermann. Shaky attempt at a panoramic.|
|Good times! I think this was Waverly- Day 1.|
|We did it!|
We made it!