One of my most memorable experiences happened a few years back when I met a special couple at a Waterkeeper fundraiser in Kingston, Ontario at the Aykroyd compound. The Coles Notes of that weekend is that Darlene and Jeff, who I had met only days before, believed in my quest to rediscover the Mississippi River through an innocent conversation that started out by them asking me “So what do you do?” My response was “I want to build a boat and row the Mississippi River and document the story”. Not only did they think that was a solid idea but they backed up their enthusiasm with cutting me a hefty check after only meeting me once. That money enabled me to commission the building of ‘Annie’ the York Boat which we would later row down the length of the Mississippi River.
Fast forward a year after we met, we were rowing into St.Louis after three months on the Mississippi River, way behind schedule. We had just pushed through four weeks of rain, cold and wind, exhausted and discouraged a surprise visit by the the Anderson’s, treated my team and myself to brunch at the Four Season’s in St.Louis. We feasted on fine food and even better conversation, as we over looked the St.Louis skyline in our river rat clothing and white shrimping boots. I suppose it is no surprise that after our visit with the Anderson’s our luck changed for the better. We went on the row the final 2000 km of our 4000 km journey in only six weeks, making it all the way to the Gulf of Mexico.
After the expedition, Darlene, a long time supporter of the National Geographic Society, brought me to Washington to share my findings from the Mississippi expedition. The highlight of that trip was when Darlene arranged for me to have dinner with two men who I look up to with great admiration. The first night Darlene and myself dined with Wade Davis, the next evening, Mike Fay. Both men are National Geographic Explorers-in-Residence, and both saw the value of taking on and documenting expeditions. It was a trip I will never forget. And yes, there was some good conversation over those two evenings.
It has now been three years since I connected with Darlene and Jeff in Kingston, and almost two years since we set out for the headwaters of the Mississippi in northern Minnesota. While I am currently consumed with working as a camera operator on the show “Majumder Manor” (to be aired on ‘W’ in September 2012), an incredible experience all into itself, Max and Barry are editing away on Old Man River back in Ontario and in two months, Old Man River will be complete. Yes, these are exciting times.
And so, as I write this blog because I just wanted to acknowledge Darlene and Jeff for giving me the chance to take a dream and build it into a tangible reality that I believe will inspire countless people for years to come. One of my favourite quotes is by Victor Hugo who sums up the entire Mississippi project by saying… “There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come.” The dream of navigating and documenting the Mississippi has been such a powerful force it is hard to explain how it overtook my professional purpose for these past 3 years, and while the project is not done yet, the dream has in fact come and soon it will be shared, all of which could not be made possible without the support of Darlene and Jeff.
I just wanted to thank the both of you and hope to continue to make you proud.
See you on the water,