Finding Flow on the Mighty MO

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Published on: Jun. 17, 2013

I’ve been paddling for about 48 hours with some stops, and have covered 223 miles. team up with Dave Shook, from Aurora, Mo., to start pacing ourselves for the slog to the finish. Day 3 takes us to Hermann by 6:20 p.m.

The Final Push to St. Charles

Day 4 starts early with the alarm clock going off before dawn at the boat ramp in Washington. Snoozing paddlers are draped across picnic tables and on any available patch of grass. Not your typical cup of morning Joe. Despite being only 50 feet from the train tracks, we catch three hours of zzz’s, and continue to hit the snooze for another hour. What’s the rush? The heat has cooked us from the insides out. Our bodies are moving deliberately to conserve energy. “Slowly but slowly” becomes our new mantra.

Forty miles to go. Dave and I make early miles to beat the heat and to enjoy some placidly smooth river before the headwinds re-emerge by 8 a.m. I cringe as we pass several canoes being paddled solo with their bows high in the air — obvious signs that partners have dropped out of the race for reasons unknown. The headwinds send the canoes in a haphazard zigzag down the river.

We paddle past the Klondike boat ramp at 9:10 a.m., the final checkpoint before the finish. We stay in our boats, feeling strong after a few hours rest. With less than 30 miles to go, Dave and I find ourselves suddenly surrounded by the jovial River Ramblers flotilla, a touring group of 100 paddlers enjoying a leisurely multi-day float from Jefferson City to the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers. They are talkative, fresh, and paddling fast — exactly what we needed to make the final push into St. Charles. They treat us like rock stars and we do little to dispel that myth.

At 2:25 p.m., with overwhelming relief, we reach the finish line, the sandy beach in front of the Lewis and Clark Boathouse and Nature Center in St. Charles — 79 hours and 25 minutes since leaving Kaw Point. By the end of the week, more than 100 have dropped out. Those that make it to the finish line in St. Charles are changed, transformed. Many, still shaky with exhaustion, are already talking about next year as they eat a celebratory meal, held in bandaged, blistered hands.

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