Sounds good. As long as I dont have to make my own canoe. Map displayed in the museum below the Gateway Arch. The ride: a 5,000-mile U.S. tour of the upper midwest and Pacific northwest, following the Missouri River from its confluence with the Kansas River to its headwaters in SW Montana, crossing the Continental Divide, then on to the Pacific, following the small rivers of the northern Rockies to the Columbia and on to the sea. The rider: midwestern river kid who grew up near the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers, 5th gen in the Missouri valley and St. Louis region, now in KS, on the banks of the Kaw. The ridden: 2000 BMW R1100RT. _________________________________________ Prologue My familys American roots run deep along the banks of the Missouri River. My 4th great-grandfather, a German wagonbuilder, moved from Germany to Leavenworth, KS, then back down the Missouri to St. Louis, where my family has lived ever since. My first car was a motorcycle, a brand new 1982 Ascot VT500. Of course, that doesn't count the various dirt bikes, scooters, minis of my pre-licensed yoot. Or the various pickup trucks and jeeps we drove up and down the valleys of the Black River as kids. My earliest travel memories are the mountains and rivers of the American west. My parents scoured the highways and backroads of the nation from the Mississippi to the Pacific, and they took me along. I remember the Squareback, the VW bus, the Galaxie 500, the Volvo wagon, the Econoline. The Rockies. Yosemite. The Yellowstone. The Colorado. The Gunnison. William Clark III, the explorers 5th great-grandson, lived in my house. Sacagaweas son, Jean-Baptiste Charbonneau, went to my high school. But I aint pulling no boats up the Missouri. I got 90 horses, 600 lbs of Bavarian steel and my eyes on the horizon. __________________________________________ Attached to the enterprise and anxious to proceed. Jonathan Carver's 1778 map of the unknown The Corps of Discovery spent 18 months reaching the Pacific. They were seeking a "direct & practicable water communication across this continent, for the purposes of commerce with Asia," as President Thomas Jefferson had directed them. Lewis and Clark led their expedition of 33 persons in a 55-foot keelboat and two 40-foot wooden pirogues, which they sailed, paddled, poled, and towed from Pittsburgh, PA, down the Ohio River, up the Mississippi and continuing up the Missouri to their camp with the Mandan villages in North Dakota. From there, they took the pirogues and made new canoes as needed, portaging the Great Falls and the Continental Divide and running the rapids of the then-wild Columbia to the Pacific ocean. Then they turned around and came back, a journey that lasted another 7 months. I plan to complete the trip in a little over two weeks via their route westward, then returning through UT and CO, picking up the Arkansas River at its headwaters in Leadville, and following it out of the Rockies, down to the prairie, finally returning home to Kansas on US 50. It's not as though the Corps didn't have roads to follow. Native Americans had inhabited these areas for over 10,000 years; French and British fur traders' routes criss-crossed the northern plains extensively in the last part of the 17th century; and news and information from lands far and near traveled up and down the busy river. Many of the Corps's routes of western Montana, including their crossing of the Continental Divide at Lemhi Pass, were already well-established highways of foot and horse traffic. Lewis described the Lemhi road, which linked the Blackfoot and Shoshone nations, as "a large and plain Indian road," which followed today's Trail Creek to the Missouri's spring source a few hundred meters above Lemhi Pass. (Side note: modern definitions place the utmost origins of the Missouri at an intermittent source almost exactly 100 miles to the ESE of Lemhi Pass, at the head of the south fork of Hell Roaring Creek, 3/4 mile SSE of Brower's Spring and 1.75 miles SW of Sawtell Observatory in eastern Idaho.) Extent of Euro-American routes in 1800, from emersonkent.com. I'm looking forward to seeing some parts of the Missouri that remain largely undeveloped, unchanneled, and undammed. The nation's reliance on the Missouri as a commercial highway in the middle of the 20th century led to massive dam and rechannelling projects to ensure shipping channels were kept open. However, since the 1960's, commercial traffic on the Mo has declined to the point that the tonnage of grains, oil, sand, and other commodities shipped on the Missouri each year is equal to the amount shipped on the Mississippi in a single day. Today, the 15 dams along the Missouri's length control flooding, generate electricity and provide irrigation and recreation. They have also created, instead of the roaring river that once crashed into the Mississippi near St. Louis, a series of large reservoirs totalling over 75 million acre/ft and stilling one-third of the river's length. Rechannelling has shortened the overall length of the river by 200 miles. For a river road traveler, reservoir lakes are less interesting because they tend to be bypassed by through routes as the blufftop and valley roads found along or near flowing rivers give way to roads which are often far from the water. In Montana, Lake Fort Peck, behind a five-mile long dam, is 130 miles long, and has more coastline than California, but there are few paved access points there are no stretches of lakeside roads except near the dam at the northeast end of the lake. Yes, we have no Lake Shore Drive. So "following" a modern river like the Missouri means making compromises: while many excellent views and interesting sites are on the shores of these lakes, I won't be making many detours from the pavement just for the sake of staying close to the water. I also won't be pulling any boats up the Missouri or hunting deer in order to eat. Not that I don't like dirt and canoes and barbecue--I do. And I'm certainly not in a hurry. My average daily mileage will be around 350, to leave time for some sightseeing, picture-taking and maybe even a few hours of camp lounging, but I will want to keep rolling. Besides, I'm meeting LadyFritz in Oregon, and I don't want to be late! __________________________________________ River Horses In 1999, William Least-Heat Moon published "River Horse," the logbook of his own journey, by boat and by portage, in the footsteps of Lewis and Clark. It was an excellent follow-up to "Blue Highways," his 1982 travelog in which he describes his circumnavigation of the United States by backroads. Bernard de Voto's edition of "The Journals of Lewis and Clark," and Stephen Ambrose's "Undaunted Courage," a fascinating examination of Meriwether Lewis's personal journey as leader of the Corps of Discovery, were both also among my early literary touchstones and inspirations for my journey. Lewis and Clark had three main vehicles: the 55-foot keelboat constructed in Pittsburgh, PA, and two wooden pirogues, flat-bottomed craft with a single mainsail and seating for oarsmen, one red 40-footer made in Wheeling, WV, and another, slightly smaller white one purchased in Kaskaskia, IL. They obtained additional canoes by trading and by making their own when suitable trees were available. Wait...what? Make my own vehicle ON THE WAY? Out of whatever material I have on hand out in the middle of nowhere? Ummmmm...no, thanks. Replicas of the keelboat and the white pirogue. The red pirogue was slightly larger than the white one. A replica of the keelboat is moved into the Camp River Dubois museum in Hartford, IL. On May 14, 1804, Lewis wrote, The mouth of the River Dubois is to be considered the point of departure. The keelboat on display in Hartford. This is a great exhibit just a few miles north of St. Louis. Imagine paddling, poling, or towing this craft upstream. William Least-Heat Moon began his trip in New York Harbor and journeyed farther than any river traveler had ever gone in the U.S. His boat was a v-bowed, flat-hulled C-dory he named "Nikawa," an Osage name meaning "River Horse." It was built in 1995 in Seattle, WA, and powered by two 45-hp motors. He also had a 17-foot aluminum canoe with a small motor. William Least-Heat Moon at the mouth of the Columbia aboard Nikawa. The Expedition was a military enterprise. It was also a scientific one. Lewis and Clark were soldiers, scientists, leaders of men, explorers, adventurers. Their expedition altered the course of American and world history. Having purchased the Louisiana Territory from Napoleon in 1803, Thomas Jefferson realized the need for the young United States to establish claim to the vast lands beyond the Rocky Mountains to which Louisiana extended, and which, under control of a weakening Spanish rule, were vulnerable to exploitation by the British and the French. The French problem took care of itself when Napoleon decided that discretion was the better part of valor, and agreed to sell Louisiana to the U.S. for $15 million, or 3 cents per acre. Jefferson wasted no time in setting a course for the immediate further expansion of the interests of the U.S. Obviously, this would require 600 pounds of grease, 50 kegs of pork, and 18 kegs of whiskey. I'll be traveling on the 2000 BMW R1100RT shown above, ready for the road. I've owned this bike for a little over three years, and I've done a few trips of 1000-2000 miles between the Mississippi and the Rockies and lots of backroad explorations that I've never been inclined to make in a car. It is one of seven bikes I've owned since 1982, and it is my favorite highway machine of them all. This boxer generates about 90 hp, gets over 40 mpg at 80 mph, and will travel 300 miles on a tank of gas. I just added a Cee Bailey windscreen for a few more inches of clean air at helmet level. The RT weighs just over 600 lbs, and I'll be adding another 85 lbs. of luggage and gear: each of the cases and the duffel weighs just a little over 20 lbs. loaded. I also have a small tank bag for water bottle, snacks, spare gloves, etc. I have my camp kit and food, all in the duffel: tent, sleeping bag and pad, stove/fuel, water filter and mess kit. I can bust out dinner and shelter without opening my cases. As for my gear, I use a Nolan N103 modular helmet so I can converse face-to-face, gas up or inspect myself or the bike with ease or comfort, or eat/drink on the go. Modular helmets are also very nice for glasses wearers like me--I can don and doff a modular without removing my glasses. Little things, but they add up when you like to talk and eat as much as I do. Jacket is a BMW Comfort Shell, pants Olympia Ranger 2, Santiago boots. I have a Gerbing heated jacket liner and gloves. I am prepared for the cold and rain of most typical early fall weather between the Plains and the Pacific, but I will detour around any storms having the possibility of anything more than light snow. Right now, there is a chance of snow in central Oregon and in northern Utah on my return, but I have alternate routes planned. Eats are my typical road/camp setup: some freeze-dried backpacker meals, ranging from bacon and eggs to jambalaya to spaghetti and meatballs, some Clif Bars and granola bars, quick oatmeal (my main breakfast item), a Camelbak, a collapsible gallon jug for more water. I pack enough clothing for two weeks with one visit to a west coast laundry figured in, tools and an air pump for most minor repairs or flat tires, books by de Voto and Ambrose, a large atlas (yeah, a big one), and a laptop. I carry a Spot for my girlfriend's peace of mind and entertaiment. I plan to buy lunches and a couple of dinners when I'm not camping. The weather looks pretty good all the way to Oregon for the next week. I will post up here as time and access permit. Now if I could just decide on shoes... Spoiler alert: I did not perish during this trip. Didn't even see a bear.