This book is derived from journals kept by Allan and Dianne Roden as they paddled down the entire Mississippi River in their home-made cedar-strip canoe. Accompanied by their Australian Cattle Dog, Annie, they started at the source of the Mississippi at Lake Itasca in northern Minnesota where the river is a small stream. Most of the way they camped in a tent on the banks of the river, as they followed it 2,500 miles all the way to New Orleans. They experienced many adventures, like getting lost in a large swamp, battling 4-foot waves on a huge lake, getting stuck on wing dams, and dodging barges. They also saw an abundance of wildlife and met many interesting people that represented a cross-section of the United States. It was an opportunity to reconnect with each other and rediscover their inner selves.
Tuesday November 16
Mileage Today: 37 miles
I slept better last night than I have for a long time. We made great time this morning, covering 21 miles by 11:00 a.m. During lunch we discussed our progress and decided to use my cell phone to reserve a hotel in Baton Rouge for tomorrow night. We also set a date to end the trip and we reserved a rental car for us in New Orleans. It feels hard to believe that we only have five days left on this trip and we will have accomplished all we set out to do.
After lunch we passed the ferry that Andrew and I used to cross the Mississippi River during our bicycle ride across the country. It brought back lots of memories of that trip. I can remember thinking as we crossed the river on the ferry that I would not like to be in a canoe on the river because it was so big and wide; and yet here I am. I guess I have gradually become accustomed to the size. There are a lot of things in life like that. If you focus on all the potential problems, there are many things that you will not even try to begin. However, once you get involved in doing something, the problems are often not as bad as you first thought. The key is to just take each problem as it comes and do not be obsessed with the problems not yet here.
With the high water level, campsites were really hard to find again today. We finally found one that was on an island with a sign that said, “Posted DMPD”. Damn if I know what that means. We decided it meant “Dumb Morons Permitted if Desperate” and stopped to set up camp. So far we have had no problems.
Travel Day 96
Today was mostly sunny and very pleasant. Making breakfast and packing up have become standard routines that we just automatically do each morning without even thinking. Paddling the canoe is also mindless, but very enjoyable. I often repeat my mantra in my head, “I am the sun. I am the wind. I am the water. I am light. I am life. I am love.”
As we approach the Gulf, there seems to be more and more tows and traffic on the river. This afternoon we went by the Saint Francisville Ferry, which is the ferry Allan and Andrew used to cross the Mississippi on their bike ride across the US.
We covered a respectable 37 miles before stopping on Fancy Point Towhead to pitch our tent. We had spaghetti for dinner, which tasted great. It seems everything tastes delicious when it is flavored by hunger. I am feeling strong and healthy. I am also looking forward to reaching Baton Rouge and having a night in a hotel tomorrow.
Allan and Dianne Roden have been married for twenty-seven years and have two adult children. They have always enjoyed camping and outdoor activities. Allan’s fight with cancer interrupted his career as a chemical engineer. Dianne applied for a sabbatical from Indiana University to spend time with Allan during his last months. As a last resort, Allan signed up for a clinical trial testing a new immune therapy at the National Cancer Institute. His recovery, which was nothing short of miraculous, provided them with the opportunity to pursue a life-long dream of paddling the entire Mississippi River. It was a chance to reconnect with each other as they enjoyed each new day on the river as a special gift.