Friday, December 30, 2011


Goal to New Orleans: 1865 miles
Paddled since last blog: 237 miles
Total paddled: 1059 miles
To go: 806 miles
Current location: Memphis, TN on the Mississippi River
Granola bars consumed since last blog: 18   Total: 104
Fun Size Snickers: 4 more bars  Total: 43
Days paddled: 40

Since our last blog post, we have been riding the current of the Mighty Mississippi River.  We continue to be astounded by how enormously huge this river is.  We were also surprised by the irregularities of the current that presumably are caused by features far below the surface.  The topography of the Mississippi River valley is notably flatter than that of the French Broad, the Tennessee, or the Ohio.  It's nucking futs how flat this region is!  In fact, according to John Barry in Rising Tide, our current book, the average slope of the river is, "3 inches to a mile." 

We have started filling large water jugs at municipal sources as opposed to filtering the river. We chose to do this because the river is brown and drains 41% of the continental United States! And as we all know, Americans are dirty and we don't want their wash water. Another interesting feature of the Mississippi is the mud. Although the bank often appears to be packed sand, it's usually mud. By topping her boots in the mud, Kara intimately learned

Paddling Lesson #79
The reason you've heard of Mississippi Mud is it sticks with you.

Not knowing what kind of mileage we would have, we were excited Christmas Day by our distance record of 40 miles. We felt so empowered by our feat that we decided to push the envelope and go for gold. The idea was beyond the pail, but we challenged ourselves to paddle 60 miles in one day. Our strategy involved 1) No hot breakfast, 2) Actually getting up with the alarm, 3) Skip lunch and opt for granola bars while on the water, 4) Paddle until dark. Though we did achieve our goal, we learned

Paddling Lesson #27
If you think paddling 60 miles and eating nothing but granola bars is a good idea, you're wrong.

Now we are in Memphis enjoying much needed showers and laundry.

PS We saw the Delta Mariner again, this time headed back down river.

Friday, December 23, 2011

There's No Such Thing as a Free Lunch?

Goal to New Orleans: 1865 miles
Paddled since last blog: 122 miles
Total paddled: 822 miles
To go: 1043 miles
Current location: Illinois on the Ohio River
Granola bars consumed since last blog: 12
Total: 86
Fun Size Snickers: 4 more bars
Total: 39
Days paddled: 34

We had a great visit with Annica with free hot showers, Super Walmart resupply, watching a multiple hour arrest go down, Ranger Justin, and hiking to the highest point in West Tennessee (669 feet). We learned

Paddling Lesson #112
If there's a warrant for your arrest, don't park where park rangers patrol.

We entered Kentucky and paddled next to Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area which has elk and bison! We saw a bunch of bald eagles. If anybody knows what an adolescent bald eagle looks like, let us know in a comment because we think we saw several... We also paddled up close to a large flock of white pelicans! That was cool.

There's been a lot of barges, a majority carrying coal. In Kentucky, barge captains wave back to us! As we were finishing locking through Kentucky Lock, a barge operator actually radioed us. The barges have been good neighbors to us on the river and extended their reach to shore....

We decided it was about time for a rainy lunch when we happened upon a gazebo. We happily paddled toward it and we noticed a man with a camo boat using the ramp. We were surprised by his cotton wearing in the rain and were confused what the fuck he was doing. We had a short interaction as we darted to the gazebo. He quickly sped off in his boat leaving his van on the ramp, and while we were eating lunch, we were commenting on how slowly the passing barge was going. While surveying the scene, we saw our boater man pull up and make an exchange with a person on board. Then the barge sped up and the man returned to the boat ramp. Upon returning, the man headed towards us with a crate and was disappointed to discover how quickly we had eaten our lunch. After some confusion, he explained that when he told the barge chef what we were doing, she packaged a warm lunch for us. It contained 2 CoolWhip containers of gumbo (duct taped with love to prevent spills), fried shrimp, fried catfish, French fries, 2 Sprites, and even spoons! Christmas came early and this has made 5 great meals for Liddell. Best barge exchange yet!

Today we celebrated three major milestones. We completed our through paddle of the 652 mile Tennessee River, we visited Paducah, Kentucky, and we arrived in Illinois.

Our current read aloud book "With A Southern Accent" written by Liddell's Great Aunt Viola provides

Paddling Lesson #12
If you can't sell corn on the ear, sell it on foot.

Merry Christmas to all! And remember during your holiday festivities

Paddling Lesson #84
If you choose to cool your beverage in the river, be sure to tie it up.
Duck blind with lots o' decoys
Coal from Kentucky
Abandoned grain silo that's actually 5 stories high, bottom 2 are flooded

Friday, December 16, 2011

We May or May Not be Hauling Rocket Parts

Goal to New Orleans: 1865 miles
Paddled since last blog: 161 miles
Total paddled: 700 miles
To go: 1165 miles
Current location: Nathan Bedford Forrest Tennessee State Park
Granola bars consumed since last blog: 8
Total: 74
Fun Size Snickers: 4 more bars
Total: 35
Days paddled: 29

We are having a tent day in the lovely state park about 120 miles west of Nashville, Tennessee. Still on the Tennessee River, we are just waiting for Kara's friend Annica's weekend to start so we can go hiking... Hopefully our legs will be able to handle that (and in rubber boots!). We are early because we have had current since Pickwick dam, about 100 miles. Wah hoo!

We've been having some great campfires. As y'all know, campfires are community builders and thought provokers. We've been pondering life's mysteries including, but not limited to, what these broads will do between adventures and rabies. Campfires have also facilitated:

Paddling Lesson # 57
Don't cut your palms with firewood because paddling requires healthy palms.

Another kayaker?! As we were leaving Florence, Grandma said, "Maybe you'll see another kayaker today!" We scoffed. Low and behold after 450 miles of no kayak sightings, we met Ed, a local out for a Saturday paddle. We excitedly paddled towards him to say hello. After a nice chat we parted ways, then he shouted back a lunch invitation, "Are you broads hungry?" We elected to keep paddling.

Many of our adoring fans have been asking what we think about all day. Here lately we've been dreaming about owning shit like islands, riverfront lots, peninsulas, house boats, duck blinds, and beer. We enjoy discussing not what these belongings will do for us but what we will do for them. During one of these musings, we were awakened from our daydreams by a big ass weird boat quickly coming around a corner. So curious was this boat that we looked it up on our Smart Phone and rejoiced in knowing the Delta Mariner carries rocket components for NASA! We also found out that it only takes it about 50 hours to get from New Orleans to Decatur, Alabama (takes us 1.5 months going downriver!). Dang!!

Special shout out to all those finishing semesters at school right now. And remember

Paddling Lesson #34
Try not to get Beggar's Lice in your underwear.
Kara with Grandma Hruby in Florence, Al
Delta Mariner!
House prospect
Excited about Ed, the only other kayaker we've seen

Friday, December 9, 2011

Home of Meow Mix

Goal to New Orleans: 1865 miles
Paddled since last blog: 119 miles
Total paddled: 539 miles
To go: 1326 miles
Current location: In Florence, Alabama
Granola bars consumed since last blog: 14
Total: 66
Fun Size Snickers: 4 more bars
Total: 31
Days of paddling: 23
We've made it to Florence, Alabama to Grandma's house again. Since we blogged last, we paddled across the biggest lake in Alabama, Lake Guntersville and interacted with some authentic Alabama homies. It started with some young people who proclaimed "Y'all ain't got no fishin poes!" Then an angler who stated "Y'all ar brayver than me." At lunch, an older gentleman heading out onto the water said, "Y'all er more of a man than Iyem!" Another old man talked to us out of his idling Chevy pickup while we were  having lunch. In the course of 20 minutes, he hit on a number of topics including, but not limited to; alligators, big cats, bears, pickles, diapers, and 56 years of marriage to a woman who still cooks for him. Yesterday at the Wheeler LocknDam, while waiting for barge traffic for two hours, we listened in on radio conversation between the lock master and barge driver.
         Lock Master: Once this upriver barge gets through, we need y'all to tie up 'cause we've got two kayaks locking down and we don't want them to meet chu and I'll just hold them in there 'til yer secured.
         Barge Captain: I'm sorry, did you say kayaks?
         Lock Master: Yes sir I did.
         Barge Captain: (through not so muffled laughter) Okay
Apparently, not that many people kayak here this time of year and on such a long trip..... We don't understand why because after our first experience of "wintery mix" (or, as Kara likes to say, snain), we still think this trip is a good idea.

-Lots of birds
-Two locks in one day
-Strong winds!
-Nautical band radio jargon
-Decatur Alabama: Home of Meow Mix
-Lots of barges

Welcome to Alabama

Goal to New Orleans: 1865 miles
Paddled since last blog: 95 miles
Total paddled: 420 miles
To go: 1445 miles
Current location: In Alabama on the Tennessee River
Granola bars consumed since last blog: 8
Total: 52
Fun Size Snickers: 4 more bars
Total: 27
Days of paddling: 18

Its been about 2 weeks since our last blog and boy has a lot happened! We had an awesome Thanksgiving with Team Shannon. Kara got to shoot a real gun for the first time. Then we went to Florence (Alabama not Italy) and had a visit with Grandma Hruby. Then on Wednesday we returned to the Chickamauga Dam to resume paddling.

Turns out, it had rained a lot in the Chattanooga area, some reports 5-7 inches, causing water to spill over the dam and creating waves at our put in. We attracted a crowd of on lookers while launching. First the police man who asked "Are you sure you can handle that water?" Then the Chattanooga Fire Department who were less doubtful and more curious. With a push from Katherine Becksvoort, we were on the quick moving water. The current was noteworthy, it only took us two hours to paddle 15 miles through Chattanooga to Wilson Island.

Highlights of the last several days:
-International Tortilla Awareness Day was December 1. We are very aware that we left our 30 tortillas in Liddell's car.
-Alabama Duck Season Awareness Day was today, December 3rd. We again are very aware as it is hard not to be with all the gun shots.

The question that we seem to be answering the most is about camping. We have generally had very good campsites. We aim to be on public land every night. Usually we're on islands but sometimes wildlife refuges or preserves. We have camped on private property due to lack of options and in that circumstance we choose ones that are well hidden from the property and don't seem to be frequented by the owners.

We have finished reading Huck Finn. In the words of Huck, "We said there warn't no home like a raft, after all. Other places do seem so cramped up and smothery, but a raft don't." (Liddell says this applies to a winter kayaking trip also.) Now we are reading Deep Water by Jacques Leslie. It's about the effects of dams on people and the environment.