Bob’s Excellent Adventure

Last Friday, I finally scratched one more “To-do” off of my bucket list. For years, I’ve wanted to paddle the Missouri River to Hermann. I had originally wanted to camp overnight on a gravel bar somewhere, but with all the rain this year that hasn’t been an option.

The first thing I noticed when I got to the boat ramp was a giant barge moving upstream. It was kicking up huge waves and making me nervous.

It's absolutely disgusting how small these waves look in the photo. Total bullshit

 I let the water calm down for a good ten minutes before shoving off into the “Old Muddy”.

 I couldn’t believe I was finally doing it, I’d been afraid of this river most of my adult life, but now I was out here by myself. No cell phone, no team-mates to drag me to shore if things went sour, and no way in hell my mom was gonna find out about it until the paddle was over.

The water was still a bit choppy from the barge, but after about 5 minutes soon I was far enough away that the waves were no longer a problem. The weather forecast was pretty grim, but for the moment it was sunny and pleasant.

View of the Capital while I was floating downstream

 I didnt take long to figure out that sand barges are the ruling force on this section of the river. Luck was on my side though, as all but one were resting peacefully along the bank.

I noticed right away that the MO river and the Katy Trail have a couple of things in common. Firstly, they’re both marked at each mile so you always know where you are. Secondly, everyone you encounter wants to know where you started from and where you’re going. People standing on ridgetops would call down to me, “Where did you start from?” It was crazy.

There must be a lot of money in sand. These guys are all over the place.

I dont know how far I had traveled when I saw a large red sign in the shape of a triangle. I figured it was a warning symbol of some kind, but didn’t see anything in the water. This wasn’t a mystery for very long..

For reasons still unknown to me, the water just beyond the sign erupted. There was a plume of water, lots of bubbles and a big-ass whirlpool. The sound alone was terrifying, it was like something straight out of a horror movie and it absolutely scared the shit out of me. It lasted about 3 seconds and then.. nothing. it was as though nothing had happened at all. Another few seconds went by and it all happened again.

 It was spooky, man..real spooky. Red triangles are not to be toiled with.

I’d say the hardest part of long distance paddling is being on your butt for extended perionds of time. I had a decent amount of pain in my hamstrings after a few hours, and tried to compensate by sitting cross-legged in the boat. This made the boat a bit unstable, but helped with the pain a LOT.

Mile marker

The closer I got to Hermann, the shittier the weather became. It was pretty obvious that I was gonna get rained on, but I decided to keep the ipod handy until things got ugly. Using the stopwatch on my ipod, I figured out that I was averaging (about) 9 minutes per mile. I dont know if that’s any good, but it seemed easy enough to hold that average and still be able to take in the sights and shoot some photos. I had forgotten my mileage map in the truck, but was fairly certain that Hermann was at the 100.8 mile mark. (This would later prove to be incorrect) 

The peacefulness of my surroundings made it easy to forget about work, bills and all of that everyday crap. I saw countless ducks, blue-heron cranes and even a young fawn grazing next to the water. I’ll admit that it got a bit monotonous at times, but it was definitely better than being at work.

Every now and then I’d catch a glimpse of the Katy Trail, which I found oddly comforting. One such time was as I was passing Portland.  The current kept turning the boat in odd directions, so this was the only (crappy) photo I could muster.

Obviously worried about dropping my ipod in the river

 I had to laugh out loud when I saw this thing right next to the water. This is the little shelter where Adam and I hid from the rain during our first Treloar trip. You know…the trip where he couldn’t hold his liquor and barfed up an $8 cheeseburger and fell through a giant hole in Luke’s hammock. It wasn’t even a double cheeseburger…what a pansy.

I've only got one thing to say to you, Adam..

I’d be lying if I told you I was keeping track of time out there. While the weather was nice, the miles flowed by and the world felt right. Before long I couldnt help but think my surroundings looked very familiar, as though I had been out here before. That’s when I realized I was at the confluence of the Osage River and the Missouri. I’ve fished in that spot dozens of times, but always from the safety of a much larger boat. I had never realized how turbulent the water gets when two rivers come together. I got a photo before I entering the riffled water ahead.

I'm pretty sure I caught my first spoonbill in this very spot.

 Just as the  rain was starting to fall, I made a mental note that there were still 10 miles to go til I got to the 100 mile mark. One last photo was taken, then the ipod went into a drybag.

I really need a waterproof camera..and a rainjacket

Those last 10 miles took an eternity. One thing I learned out there is that you can see for a long distance. At times I could see the next mile-marker even as I was passing the one right in front of me. This was a blessing and a curse, especially when the wind picked up and rain started soaking through my clothes. I paddled toward the same riverbend for at least 40 minutes, wondering if it wasn’t some kind of cruel mirage.

I passed the 101 mile mark, thinking that Hermann was at 100.8. Excitement poured through me, but was replaced with frustration when I passed the 100 mile marker 10 minutes later.

I was tired, hungry and ready to be done. I would periodically dip my hands in the warm river to fight the cold, then rub my legs to wake them up. The rain was letting up now, but had left behind a thick blanket of fog. I was still staring at that same damn riverbend, only now it was blanketed in fog. It was actually quite beautiful, but I wasnt in the mood for sightseeing anymore. The loud blast of a passing Amtrak startled me a bit, and when I looked back to the river I could see a bridge through the fog. It was the Hermann bridge.

I actually yelled out loud in joy, knowing I was nearly there. Of course, seeing the bridge still meant another 30 minutes of paddling. I didn’t care, all i had to do was paddle another mile or 2 and it was BEER THIRTY.  I paddled past the 99 mile marker, then the 98, then finally passed under the bridge and towards the boat ramp. Mission accomplished.

My brother was waiting for me at the end of the boat ramp. It was after 6, and I had told him I’d probably finish around 5. The first words out of his mouth: “You need to get a f**king cell phone.

And so we went to the local watering hole for victory beer and hotwings. It was a great day, I spent 45 miles on the Missouri River, then drank beer and ate hotwings with my little brother. Does it get any better than that?


About Bob Jenkins

Crusher of beers.

Posted on September 16, 2011, in Adam gets fired from the team, Missouri River Trip, MO RIver, Training. Bookmark the permalink. 16 Comments.

  1. Nice work Bob, looks like you had a blast! To bad we couldn’t make it out there with you. You were missed in Kansas, you gotta do the Wakarusa race next year. You just have to… it was so much fun!

  2. One moar blorg about a damn adventure and I don’t get an invite and I am going to unfriend Team Virtless!

    The Most Awesome Adventurer Ever TTM!

    • How bout we race to Hermann one weekend? I’ll start from JC and you can start from STL. Winner gets the other guy’s boat 🙂

      Actually, a pretty cool trip would be for us to ride to Hermann from our respective starting places, then float back to STL or something.

      I really want to go on one of these TTM trips I see on facebook with people jumping off of boulders and stuff. I’ve got a feeling they’re a helluva lot more fun than what I’ve been doing.

  3. What a cool day…especially if it’s replacing a work day. If I was going to be on the river that long, I’d need some drinks. And my husband paddling. And probably end up like Adam on your trip…who, by the way, was probably coming down with something and clearly endangered by a gear malfunction and thus shouldn’t be fired.

    There. I believe I’ve worked off both grips and can go back to the pick on Adam camp where I’m so comfortable. 🙂

  4. GREAT BLOG ! ! ! LOVE THE PICS ! ! !Am glad you enjoyed yourself but i don’t believe the bit about not thinking of work ! LOL ! ! ! We both know you just LOVE work ! LOL! ! !

  5. I gotta admit that I was pretty worried about you when your brother called and said you hadn’t arrived yet. But I knew you had enough Virtus in you to survive. Nice work, man! That’s about 20 miles farther than I’ve ever paddled at one time. I just wish I could’ve gone with you. Next year, though, you NEED to do Wakarusa!

  6. It’s a good thing I didn’t find out about your paddle trip on the MO river because I for sure would have ran over your boat at least three times with your brothers truck!!

  7. I agree with your brother you need to get a f-ing cell phone. Other than that, well done sir.

  8. Absolutely scarey even thinking about that trip! Incredible! I might have taken a turn at running over the kayak, also. Glad you took photos, it would be hard to believe otherwise. Thanks for the virtual adventure!

  9. Sounds like an absolute blast! I have never paddled that far, but not because I wouldn’t want to. I hope to get in on some of your adventures one of these days. Definetly some Katy Trail rides in prep for DK next year. I know its crazy but I am already looking forward to DK. I won’t even say anything about the cell phone, cause I am pretty sure I have said it before. =)

  10. Nice work Bob. Would have liked to have been there with you, definitely next time. Btw it was a double cheeseburger that I ordered but yeah it was definitely out of my league that night.
    Kate, I appreciate you sticking up for me since I am clearly outnumbered but I guess you have worked off both grips so if you want to return to the darkside then so be it. Maybe I will be able to bribe you again at the next race.

    • Adam, bribery is not part of the Virtus way. Therefore you are once again fired for conduct unbecoming of a Virtusan.

      • Right…gosh Adam, what were you thinking?? (btw, if you catch a pair of woman’s bike gloves with fingers….)

        • Don’t all gloves have fingers? I think you have to specify “fingerless” for gloves without fingers. If you just say gloves, fingers are assumed base dont he definition of gloves…

          glove   /glʌv/ Show Spelled [gluhv] Show IPA noun, verb, gloved, glov·ing.
          1. a covering for the hand made with a separate sheath for each finger and for the thumb.

          Just a thought.

          Oh yeah, nice report Bob. Sounds like a great paddle. I also agree you need to get a cell phone. My 4 year old has his own phone. It’s time to join the rest of the world and buy a phone.

          See everybody at the Berryman next weekend.

          • Good point, Casey. Full-fingered gloves. Is that better? Can’t wait to meet you in person. Really.

            …on that note, I need to make sure that my music-playing iPod is fully charged for the weekend. 🙂

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