In May 2018 Scott Miller read an article about a team of three people attempting to set the world record for fastest paddle down the 2296 miles of the Mississippi River. (story continues below)
Scott was fascinated and followed their attempt as they posted updates and the media detailed their progress. Unfortunately they weren’t able to finish their journey, but KJ Millhone, one of the members of the team, made a video eloquently stating that the striving for something big was worthwhile in and of itself. Scott was inspired and impulsively sent KJ a message saying that if he ever thought about making another attempt he would be interested in being part of the team.
A few months later KJ responded and said he was in fact considering another attempt. The two met and found themselves enjoying each other’s company. KJ told Scott he had actually already set the world record for fastest paddle down the Mississippi—in 1980 with his friend Steve Eckelkamp (their record has been beaten a few times since then). He also told Scott that the 2018 attempt had been organized by Kevin Eckelkamp, Steve’s nephew. Originally conceived of as a two-man attempt, Kevin and his friend Nate Lastinger eventually asked KJ to join them as a third paddler, after KJ found an old plan he and Steve had created outlining how they thought a third paddler would give a strategic advantage over a two-person team by allowing one person to sleep while the other two paddled. KJ regaled Scott with hilarious and harrowing tales from those trips, and Scott told stories from his 2,000 mile canoe trip from Minneapolis to Hudson Bay in 2005.
KJ and Scott also couldn’t help but start excitedly talking about all the logistical details that would need to be figured out if we made an attempt. They met again, decided to paddle the river together, decided to paddle the river at night and finally agreed they wanted to put a team together to make an attempt. KJ said it filled his heart with joy to be “on a quest” and Scott agreed—for both of them the adventure of a quest includes all the planning and training as well as the quest itself. Then they realized they really needed to talk it over with their wives first. Fortunately they were supportive! There was so much training and planning to do they figured out they should plan on doing the trip a year and a half out, in May of 2020. Then they started talking about who else we might be able to get to join the team. KJ revealed someone had already indicated their interest—his eighteen year-old daughter Casey.
Casey had grown up hearing her Dad talk about his 1980 world record trip as well as a wild trip on the Amazon River and a kayak trip up the western coast of Canada to Alaska. She too had been inspired by her Dad’s 2018 attempt and listened intently as he said how fantastic he had felt being out on the river. She surprised her Dad by telling him that if he was to try it again she would want to be part of the team. KJ was thrilled at his daughter’s enthusiasm, and Casey immediately began training for a possible trip by working out and joining the rugby team at Colorado College, where she is a student.
Eventually the team decided to add a fourth person to the team. They spent a few months reaching out to everyone they knew, then decided they wanted to cast a wider net, so they turned to the internet and posted on various message boards about canoe races and paddling the Mississippi River. Many people reached out to them with interest and impressive experience and ability, and they interviewed many incredible candidates before choosing Oliver Simes as the fourth member of the team. Oliver is a kayak guide in Bayfield, WI who has extensive paddling experience, including having already completed a solo kayak journey down the entire Mississippi river.
Now the team is focused on planning, organizing and most of all, training over the next year to prepare for our attempt in the Spring of 2020.