This idea of paddling the whole length of the Mississippi River in record time — it’s addictive.
It’s not for everyone: The obsession only seems to affect a very small set within the already pretty small subculture of endurance canoe racers. But for those few people, it’s all-consuming.
Every year or two, someone gets a group of paddlers together and they make a run — maybe to raise money for a charity, or for more personal reasons — and they usually fail. Pretty much always. Somebody gets hurt or sick, or there’s bad weather, or exhaustion overwhelms their motivation and they throw in the towel.
It’s a brutally long river. More than 2,300 miles. It breaks people. It breaks their wills.
That’s part of the draw. At least, it was for K.J. Millhone. Last month, he piled into a 23-foot canoe with his daughter, Casey, and two other world-class paddlers.
“We will all be in the worst place we have ever been in our lives,” he said. “And we are choosing to be in that place together. We will not stop. We will finish this race come hell or high water.”