What a pity we barely had time to do anything other than sleep in the Ameristar in St Charles. But boy did we sleep. Deeply and beautifully. Until our alarm reminded us that we had to get up (oh and it was Ben’s birthday). Sleeping in a bed makes you forget about the elements. And the Missouri River, our home for the past 56 days wasn’t going to let us leave quietly. Queue the worst weather we had on the whole trip.
Miles was waiting at the hotel like a star. Grant, a photographer who dresses like a Londoner who we met in Coopers landing jumped on a board in jeans just as we were leaving and Miguel was in the canoe with Ben. Not the best day for guests?! We had to get on the water as quickly as possible as Fox TV were sending a helicopter out to film us from above. So despite the lighting and thunder crashing around us we decided that if a helicopter was coming out, then we would be fine?! Well as the storm got closer, we realised there was no way the helicopter was coming. Which was annoying as it would have really shown people what we were doing. The beautiful views and happy photos cover the Facebook pages, but it’s the weather, the vomit and all that makes it an expedition not a holiday and the helicopter would have shown this.
Until Friday, day 57 of the trip, the penultimate day, I didn’t realise it was possible to vomit in your mouth and temporarily black out from the cold. Well that’s exactly what happened to me. And I wasn’t even in the water. At this point, we postponed Bens birthday until Saturday.
We got to the stage, after attempting to light a few fires, where we went to knock on some houses and ask for temporary shelter. But we had such time constraints and no one was home. This meant we had no choice but to carry on. Water was pouring off the bridges. We tried to eat calorie filled energy bars to keep us going (but could barely open the packet with our fingers). We had to make the 3.7 mile marker and despite the tiny pair of shorts, vest and waterproof jacket that wasn’t waterproof we ploughed on. And we made it. We all went ahead of Ness and Dave. And paddled in silence (not including chattering teeth). And as we approached the marker, we spotted Dales car. Boy I have never been so happy to see someone. He helped us load everything up to the van. Then Muddy Mile appeared. Told us to stop talking, put on proper clothes and he was taking over. I wanted to hug them at that point.
By the time Ness and Dave came we had just finished loading and got them up and into the van. The cold had made us all delirious and we just worked to get everything packed up and us back to Mikes canoe house.
Wow was it nice to get there. Four walls. Yummy food. Hot drinks. Big fleeces. An orange and green hat that Mike gave me. A hat from Mike found on the Big Muddy (which I’ve already decided will make every journey with me).After a break which seemed to go way too quickly, Mike had us dressed up in wetsuits, boots and all and we were back on the river with the sun going down. We had to reach the confluence where the Mississippi and the Missouri meet. And Dave knew this. He was sheet white and teeth were chattering and he just kept kicking. We were just shouting “you’re so close” etc and just kept going.
At the moment we passed the Mississippi and the Missouri confluence, we all jumped up and down. This was huge. And the following bridge marked the 1000 mile mark. There would be a victory lap to the arch but Dave had swum 1000 miles. And seeing the Mississippi flowing in was a big moment. With all the barges and clear water. It meets the big muddy. And the year before, Dave had seen it when he paddled the Mississippi. This is where the idea for the swim began. And now he had swum the 1000 miles.
This was it. We had reached the chain of rocks. In the pitch black. Piled the delirious ginger into the van and took him back to Mikes for supper and cupcakes for Bens birthday, bed and a mental preparation for the final 9 miles. He had already done something that everyone thought was impossible. And all for boobies.
Check out http://www.swim1000.tumblr.com for all of the blogs from the journey.