Huck Finn
In April 2023, Mike is tracing the raft journey of Huckleberry Finn, using the effort to raise money for cancer research at Dana-Farber as a supplement to his regular Pan-Mass Challenge (PMC) fundraising.  Donations, large and small, are welcomed and can be made via this link.

Mike's route will take him from Hannibal, MO (Mark Twain's hometown) 900 miles through seven states, finishing in Vicksburg, MS.  A 10-day trip down "Old Man River", taking in the sights and the history along the way.
Kentucky and Tennessee  87 miles + 85 miles

"First one hound and then another got up and went for me.  In a quarter of a minute I was a kind of hub of a wheel -- spokes made out of dogs -- packed together around me, a-barking and howling, and more a-coming."
"Mornings before daylight I slipped into cornfields and borrowed a watermelon, or a punkin, or some new corn.  Pap always said it warn't no harm to borrow things if you was meaning to pay them back some time."
-Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Dogs hate cyclists.  Maybe even more than cats.  Barking I can take.  Being chased down the street -- annoying.  I set a record today -- four dogs leapt off the front porch and chased me down the road several hundred yards barking all the way.  My experience is that these are all bark and no bite (I hope my experience stays that way).

Kentucky began with an adrenaline rush -- a dash over the bridge spanning the Ohio.  This video shows you the width of the span and the lack of shoulder.  There's not a lot of traffic, but enough.  A big smile at the Welcome to Kentucky sign.

Sarah and I talked in Missouri "do we feel like we are in the South yet?" -- we concluded no.  Most assuredly -- Kentucky begins the South.  We won't dwell on the stereotypes (like being served at the BBQ by the woman missing a front tooth).  Here's the positive -- people are friendly and curious.  I got waved down by a farmer "hey, I passed you on the road a few miles back, was wondering where you are from and where you are going?".  We had a great chat.  Same with the very helpful staff at Harvest Kitchen in Hickman, KY -- I showed up 5 minutes past closing time, they found some extra meatloaf and mashed potatoes for me and filled my bottles with sweet tea (sugar high to carry me through the afternoon!).

Sarah went home this morning, so I've converted Tammi into a beast of burden, carrying 20 pounds in two panniers (see the picture).  It is weird carrying your life for the next week, it reinforces how little you actually need (I do need the laptop, can't blog without it!)

I visited the Civil War battlefield of Columbus (notable because it was the first engagement for a new Union general you may have heard of:  U.S. Grant), the next several hours were alone time in empty countryside.  Different than Illinois or Missouri -- mix of fields, pasture, woodland, swamps.  I enjoyed the diversity and was again overwhelmed by the emptiness. 

The day ended at Reelfoot Lake, TN, a popular recreation spot.  In 1811-12, several 8 point earthquakes devastated this area.  The earth opened creating whirlpools as the river water sunk.  Old islands sunk, new islands were formed.  The land rose and fell up to 15 feet, drowning some settlements, leaving riverboats stranded miles from water in others.  And Reelfoot Lake was formed because its former outlet to the Mississippi was blocked by new high ground.  PS -- this fault line is very active, and a similar event could reoccur at any time.  Just a reminder that for all the efforts the Corps of Engineers put into "managing the river" -- Mother Nature has a mind of her own.

I chose a power breakfast at Dorthy's, a local diner.  Several locals were chatting while I took my seat.  It only took a few minutes for their questions to start -- curiosity, pleasant conversation.  Then -- I was off to cotton country -- looks just like Illinois bottom land, just a different crop.  Flat as a pancake, and no stores for 45 miles.  The challenge is water -- I carry three bottles totalling 80 ounces and was well hydrated -- but little margin for error.

I had 15 miles and one bottle left when my planned route dead ended into rough gravel.  I had passed a grain elevator a mile back, so backtracked, hoping to get a tip.  I met a work crew at the gate, they redirected me.  I then asked "could I possibly get some water?" -- they took me into the offices, gave me several cold waters and left me in the break room to refill.  I noticed a bag full of apples -- I was going to be very late for lunch, and like Huck, borrowed one. 

Last stop for the day was at the Alex Haley Museum in his hometown of Henning.  For those of you not old enough to remember "Roots", Haley told the story of his ancestry back to an enslaved African.  The book won a Pulitzer, the mini-series broke all viewership records.  It made tangible the legacy of slavery and enslavement for middle America in a way that nothing ever had before.

I arrived late in the day and enjoyed a long discussion with the director, a black man roughly my age.  He landed in Henning after a long career in education to help care for his mother.  When I told him I was headed to Vicksburg, he shared that he had been there, but got so angry he had to leave.  "The signs all said 'they fought for what they believed in', but what they believed in was that I am only one-fifth of a person."  I look forward to seeing that for myself and appreciated that he felt comfortable sharing with me.

PS -- I intend to send the boys at the Cargill plant a thank you note and some money to replenish their break room when I get home.

500 miles down, 375 to Vicksburg!

Definitely happy to have made it!
Mostly riding with my shadow
Columbus Battlefield
Loaded Tammi
Cotton Field
John Deere always has right of way!
Haley House
Previous Post
Next Post