Maple Sunset Special Release Update!!

I’m super excited to share the great news: our extremely limited edition RallyPoint Maple Sunset Rye Whiskey is now available at special locations around St. Louis for an extremely limited time!

It’s typically only available at the distillery or The Wine & Cheese Place, however, since we only have 26 bottles left, we wanted to do something fun and special with the remaining bottles.  Maple Sunset is the perfect whiskey for the holiday season, so for the next couple weekends, this rare whiskey will be available by the cocktail at one specific location per weekend!

Starting Friday, December 5th, Maple Sunset will be available at Three Flags Tavern!  So go check out a great place and get a glass and/or a cocktail while it lasts!  Each special location only has a four bottles total, so when they’re gone, they’re gone!

Giving Thanks

I’m a big fan of Thanksgiving because I love eating and drinking otherwise socially-unacceptable amounts.  When I was younger, it was an alright holiday, but far below Halloween and Christmas on my own scale.  But as I’ve gotten older and my own family has grown, so has my appreciation for this holiday.  I’ve stopped being as concerned with what I get for candy or presents and now I take much more enjoyment out of celebrating all the blessings in my life.

My life isn’t perfect.  In fact, I hope no one’s is.  Perfection sounds terribly boring.  There’s no hope for improvement in the future, only fear of things worsening.  Regardless, I feel immensely blessed by all the wonderful things in my life.

I have an incredible family that brightens my day no matter what has happened.  A loving partner who has agreed to tie her star to mine and share our dreams.  She’s a spectacular mother to our two little awesome dudes.  Neither of them can form a sentence, but together they own my heart.  And of course, Big Jake is always there to sneak a slobbery kiss on your face when you least suspect it!  I love you all!

I have a spectacular extended family, brothers & sisters, father, in-laws, grand parents, aunts & uncles and cousins!  A huge support network that genuinely and unselfishly wants the best for us and helps with the little guys whenever they can.  I love you all!

I am so fortunate to have an incredible group of friends and though they are scattered far and wide, I know I can call on any of them at any hour and they would be there for me.  I wish so badly that I saw you each more often, but regardless of whether it’s been a week or a year, I love you all!

I have a great helper in Adam Larkin, who selflessly does whatever is necessary to help the distillery grow.  Many of you have enjoyed a drink somewhere around town because Adam did whatever was needed to deliver that bottle.  Thank you, Adam.

I have the physical and mental capacity to pursue my dreams.  Thanks to the support and patronage of great people in and around St. Louis, StilL 630 continues to grow.  For that, I could not be more thankful.

I don’t mean to brag about everything I’m so fortunate to have; I want to burst with excitement.  I don’t deserve it all, but I try to do my best to.  And I’m sure going to make the most of all these blessings and, every day, be thankful for the wonderful things in my life.  But the flip side of that, I feel, is to yourself be a wonderful thing in someone else’s life.  And to know that there is someone out there who is thankful today to have me in there life… that is an incredibly humbling and exhilarating feeling.

And I want to say a special THANK YOU to each and every person who has ever had our spirits or helped our business.  Without you, it would not be possible.

To everyone, I hope that you and your loved ones are together today, and that you have realize how much you have to be thankful for.   God Bless.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Maximum Exposure

I finagled my way onto tv again!  Yesterday, Beth Heidrich (the driving force behind STL Culinary Tours!) and I went on FOX2 News to promote our upcoming Market St. Culinary Tour on Nov 22nd!

As expected, I couldn’t keep my mouth shut, but Beth was a good sport and let me talk.  I’m sure it had nothing to do with the shots we took before we went on air…  I don’t always drink in the morning, but when I do, I like to go on tv.

And I even got to make a cocktail I created on air!  Check it out here:

Motion At The Still

Film Fest Poster Film Fest Poster

My new big screen... My new big screen…

We hosted our first film fest (Motion At The Still) last night at the distillery and it was a huge success!!  My MR 340 buddy, Tony Rocca (of Mountain Hard Pair, etc) put it together, his dad manned the grill cooking brats, dogs, and chili, his brother Nick brought in an enormous big screen for the films (it was 16’x9’!), and Tony brought some huge fire pits, tables, and the movies.

Beamer Eisele of the new St. Louis establishment Modern Brewery brought delicious beers, including a stout that had been aged in one of our used sorghum whiskey barrels that was incredible!  And I made a huge batch of my Hearth & Home cocktail which was a big hit.

Awesomeness Awesomeness

The videos that Mountain Hard Pair put on were fantastic.  Huge whitewater from all over the country, incredible paddling skill, and the debut of “Colorado River: Sorry, We Party”, which is Tony’s documentary about the epic 21 day rafting trip he and his friends, organized, executed, and dominated down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. There are few things I love in life more than paddling through white water rapids (maybe whiskey) and these videos were awesome.  They perfectly captured that deep adventurous spirit that burns inside us all.

We had bonfires, beers, bbq, white water videos, and whiskey.  Add to that good friends old and new and you have yourself a recipe for a great time!  The fun went on into the wee hours of the night… it was badass.  Even though I was working the whole time, I still had a great time and it seemed like everyone else did too!  Who knows, maybe there’ll be another film fest in the future…  I, for one, would love to be part of making the videos for it!

Raise a glass to the indomitable spirit in all of us.

Four Horsemen (Tony, Beamer, MIMITW, David) Four Horsemen
(Tony, Beamer, MIMITW, David)

Art of Food

Last night was Slow Food Stl’s event: Art of Food at The Luminary on Cherokee St.  It was a great event featuring small bites from the best chefs around paired with delicious beverages made by local producers.  The Corn Bread Soup cocktail was especially phenomenal, especially when paired with the duck pate from Juniper‘s owner/head chef, John Perkins.  Another favorite was the cheese dumplings from the Scottish Arms.

IMG_2727Too many delicious things to list them all, but I want to highlight the dish that StilL 630 was paired with.  Jenny Cleveland, master chef and part of the duo behind the highly regarded Edwardsville, IL restaurant Cleveland-Heath, created a broach bean dish, think mexican stewed beans with braised pork belly and a whiskey float on top!  And that was paired with our RallyPoint, but not just regular RallyPoint.  This batch received an intimate fat-washing courtesy of Tom Halaska of ArtBar and it was wild.  I’ve never done anything like that before, though I’ve heard brief mentions of it before.  It’s definitely something I’ll have to play with at home…  The flavors were so rich and intermingled very nicely.  They both did a great job and I’m proud to have been a small part of the Art of Food!  It was a really nice evening and I hope to go again next year!

340 Miles to Immortality (Part V)

So if you count our total time at Cooper’s Landing, then we slept for another 4 hours, bringing my total sleep clock to 6.5 hours for the race.  Which we would finish in an elapsed time of 81 hours.  And I’m not even sure that does it justice, because it’s not like we were simply awake but resting any of that time.  We were physically paddling those other 74.5 hours!

The next day after Cooper’s Landing, the morning sun burnt off the fog and we pushed on. We paddled and paddled until night came again, this time we were nearing Hermann and we were planning to meet our ground crew there.  Tony’s buddy DJ was there with beers and so was our good friend John Pollihan, who had to work the next morning at 6am, but still met us out at the landing in Hermann at midnight to resupply us with food, water, and good cheer.  He even dragged us over to the local bar and bought us a round of shots!  Awesome idea, John.

MR340-JP3 Shots at Hermann Bar (l-to-r) John, Me, DJ, Josh, Tony

MR340-JP6 Josh, Me, Tony

After the shots, I stupidly tried to sleep on the ground, not 15 feet from the train tracks… which were used about every 15 minutes as huge freight trains rumbled by.  Needless to say that didn’t work at all.  So we got back on the river and paddled.  And paddled.

The last day was great because we finally made it to Washington, MO, which is where we’d started all our training runs.  We’d finally made it to our home turf and we plowed through the last 40 miles in record time for us.  And a couple minutes past 5pm on Friday, 340 miles and 81 hours after we started way back Kaw Point in Kansas, we reached the finish line and all three of our boats nosed up at the same time!  We did it.  We made it out of the pain box!  And with that, we became part of a sacred brotherhood, members of the indomitable tribe of people who have finished the MR 340, the worlds longest continuous paddling race!  Eat it, Will Smith, WE are Legend.


It’s humbling to know that a full third of the people who started the race back in Kansas on Tuesday morning dropped out for one reason or another.  But us, in our stupid, tiny little kayaks, paddling 3x as many strokes as most, managed to finish the race.  At times, it hurt; my back, my neck, my hands, my legs were aching, stiff, and sore; I was exhausted, hallucinating and falling asleep paddling; but with sheer willpower and determination we pushed through.  To me, that is what it means to be indomitable.  No matter the odds, never give up.

My Cheering Section My Cheering Section

IMG_1551I’ve told how we met Tony Rocca.  Over the next 250+ miles and 70 straight hours, we got to know him.  Out of a race full of amazing, incredible, and interesting people, Tony was in a different country.  Monikers abound and fall short.  Entrepreneur.  Alaskan raft guide.  Artisan.  Globe trotter.  Video producer.  Craftsman.  Movie/Commercial worker.  Expedition leader.  Busch lover.  All around great dude.

IMG_1544Josh Colbeck, the Clark to my Lewis, the magnificent savage who stood up and said that he would tackle this challenge with me, I am so thankful that he was there to plan with me, train with me, and push me.  Like Tony, Josh is a man of many talents, snow-boarder, Roganite, power lifter, mechanic, and he can build anything.  He’s an awesome guy whom I’m proud to call my friend.  Couldn’t have done it without you buddy.

Between Josh and Tony, I felt like I kept laughing for miles and nippin’ off that whiskey.  Our conversations and inside jokes got deeper and deeper.  We really enjoyed trying to talk other paddlers into having “a nip” any chance we could.  (I’ve since learned that we were called the “rye whiskey crew”… which is obviously awesome!)  I think we probably mentioned every single awesome movie I’ve ever seen or heard of.

IMMORTALS IMMORTALS       (Josh Colbeck, David Weglarz, Tony Rocca)

I’m so proud of myself.  Seriously.  This is a huge accomplishment that very few people ever can or will accomplish.  I wasn’t sure if I was up to the challenge.  Especially when I saw everyone else’s bigger, better boats.  I wasn’t sure my back could handle it (I had back surgery twelve years ago).  I’d been talking boldly about the race beforehand and I was terrified of failing.  But having succeeded, I feel incredibly emboldened, more proof to my belief that I can accomplish anything in this life that I set my mind to.  This is going on my life’s resume.

I am damn proud of myself.  And I feel the exact same way about these guys who finished with me.  We stood upon the mountain top together because we got there together.  And we got there because of each other.

Django, here’s a free man.

You can call me: “Mr. 340.”

340 Miles to Immortality (Part IV)

Almost two hours later, we awoke.  After 26 straight hours of hardcore paddling, you’d think that double digit minutes of sleep may not seem like much… and you’d be right.  But it completely rejuvenated us half-way.  Enough so that it seemed like a good idea to continue.  A gorgeous summer day, what better to do than paddle the great river?  Nothing.

And though paddling under the beautiful late summer sun was fantastic, the river was best after the sun went down.  Because that’s when the stars came out.  The river was most silent, gently flowing ever down stream with only the occasional wing dike or buoy to create an audible ripple.  Sitting there in the dark in a tiny kayak, floating with the current, you can literally feel the pull of the mighty river as it inexorably carries you down stream.  And not just that it’s pulling your boat along, but it feels like the river has an energy to it that’s magnetized and moving.

Paddling at night was incredible.  The stillness of the wind made the water, silently flowing, look like liquid glass.  So calm and peaceful.  The super moon, full on Monday, slowly waned throughout the week, but provided a nighttime guide light, casting dark shadows in the night.  (Incredible that the moon is actually a terribly poor reflective surface, similar to a iron skillet in that it reflects only about 5% of the sunlight that hits it!).  But for the first two hours of night before the moon came out was my favorite part of the trip.  It was cool and clear.  Showing some of the most incredible displays of stars I’ve ever seen.  And to top that off, it was the annual Perseid Meteor Shower.  So for those first few hours, we were treated to our very own laser light show.  It was incredible.

Moon rising over river (I stopped trying to take pictures after this one) Moon rising over river (I stopped trying to take pictures after this one)

They gave you plenty of light to paddle by, but when the full moon hit, it was blazing.  (Incredible that the moon is actually a terribly poor reflective surface, similar to a iron skillet in that it reflects only about 5% of the sunlight that hits it!).

But the best thing about paddling at night was the laser light show.  Because the race was postponed a month, it coincided perfectly with the Perseid Meteor shower, and that alone turned out to be worth the wait.  Starting right after dusk the sky was lit up with countless meteors all night.  Though they were a little harder to see with the full moon outshining all else, they were still flashing through the sky every couple minutes.  For hours on end.  When judged by duration, tail length, brightness, and sheer numbers, there’s no doubt we saw the best meteors I’ve ever seen!  It was incredible and it seemed like it was all just for us.  For extended periods of time we’d fall silent just staring up at the sky, broken only by someone’s exclamation of another sighting.  My neck developed a serious cramp from staring straight up while I paddled.

It was common practice to paddle in groups during the night, just safer and more fun than paddling alone in the night on a terrifyingly dark and sinister river.  We had several companions at night, but one in particular stuck out: Terika.  She was a badass girl who was paddling all by herself and at the point she was tagging along with us (or more appropriately: hanging back), she was 5th in the Women’s Solo division!  She was a real trooper and I give her immense credit also because she joined us at one of our lower points energy-wise.  That night she heroically kept the conversation going while we were essentially zombies mechanically paddling straight ahead trying not to roll over into the water.  It helped so much to talk and make the time go by faster.  Thank you, Terika!

But another night, when just Tony, Josh, and I were trying to grind out some miles, we ran into the proverbial wall.  That wall was made out of exhaustion and fog.  Fog on the river can be a very dangerous thing.  You can’t see potential obstacles on the river (which could potentially include barges bearing down on you) like uprooted trees, buoys, wing dikes, etc and it’s very easy to get disoriented.

We’d just pushed on past Katfish Katy’s and we’re running low on energy.  Trying to press on, I kept getting more and more tired.  Kept startling myself awake as adrenaline dumped into my system when I realized I’d just dozed off… still slowly paddling!  The adrenaline kept getting less and less as the dozing became more and more frequent.  I wasn’t talking.  I was sleepily aware that I should be keeping up with the other guys… and then I’d snap back awake again.  And again.  And again.

The fog was building around this time.  Terrible circumstances coming together.  When I’d come back to, I’d be alarmed by the tree floating a few feet in front of me with big branches sticking out above the water!  Then as alertness came back and my gaze focused, I’d see it was only fog.  I remember bits and pieces from this part of the race… the thickening fog around my kayak was illuminated by my faint nav lights and it began to look physically present, like a solid object.  I thought I saw uprooted trees, an actual wall, and even once I swear to God I saw a tiny little canoe with people about a foot tall paddling across the river in front of me.  I actually watched them travel a few feet before I realized it was a wisp of fog.

I was at the end of my reserves.  Sooner rather than later I was going to lean over in my sleep, roll the kayak, and awake in a terrifying position under water in the middle of this enormous river.  At night.  I told the other guys and they agreed they were exhausted too.  We tried to find a place along the bank to stop at, but when Josh paddled over to the shore, something large and unknown fell/jumped/dove out into the water with an enormous splash that echoed across the river.  We have no idea what it was, but it was plenty unnerving.  We paddled on.  We kept talking about awesome movies we’d seen and when we named actors, we tried thinking up any movies we’d ever seen them in and liked.  Believe it or not, that conversation kept our attention enough to keep us awake.  And we finally made it to Cooper’s Landing a few miles downstream.  We got out, greeted by some local drunk teenagers who were appropriately amazed at our ragged physical and mental state, and laid down on picnic benches to sleep.  I got maybe an hour’s worth of sleep but I was continually awoken by my shivering.  That was the coldest night of the race and I was sleeping outside, on a bench, in a tshirt, two long sleeve tshirts, and my pfd.  Wasn’t too warm.

So after about two hours, we dragged ourselves up and went down to the river to push on, nothing else to do.  When we saw the river, I gotta say I was a little excited.  The fog had gotten so thick, there was no way we could paddle anywhere on it safely.  No choice but to stay on shore and wait.  And at that exact moment (like 5am), we saw a car pull up and a woman unlock the store.  Like zombies we stumbled inside after her, just to soak up some of the warmth.  She recognized us for what we were and indulged our presence.  And my God, she turned on a tv in a side room that had a futon and some chairs!  I think I asked her if I could lay down for a minute, she said yes, and I went face first into the futon.  It was incredible!  I got two hours of deep sleep.  I think the other two guys slept in the chairs.  But that warm sleep changed everything.  Gave me the energy I needed to finish the race.  (we found out later that the lady had even fixed up a killer breakfast for the racers, but we’d slept right through it!)  I have no idea what her name is, but I thank her profusely…

340 Miles to Immortality (Part III)

We kicked off at 8am Tuesday, August 12th from Kaw Point in Kansas City, KS.  This was a famous Lewis & Clark site with corresponding monuments and statues.

IMG_1508 Looking for York…

The mayor was present, as were several re-enactors of the early 19th century life.  They fired cannons and muskets to start the race.  I paddled my ass off to the front, for a brief moment, I was leading the race.  Almost immediately I was way behind.

IMG_1525 At the start. Paddle or die.

Our plan was simple: paddle like savages the first day.  Bank enough time ahead of the Reaper (the boat that travels at the exact cut off speed, fall behind, you’re DQ’d) so that we could rest later.  So we did.  From 8am Tuesday (we’d gotten up at 5am), we paddled for 26 straight hours.  Twenty-six.  Hours.  We ticked off 142 miles before we stopped for our first nap.  Now, I’ve stayed up late before.  Gone whole nights without sleeping.  But most of the time I was taking it easy watching movies or playing games or partying.  Never before was I doing physical exercise for twenty-six straight hours.

IMG_1528 The Bridges of KC

A couple hours into the race, we passed a guy our age who said he was already “deep in the pain box.”  Not a great start to an 88 hour grueling endurance race.  Every year, for all sorts of reasons, roughly 30% of paddlers DNF.  Most people we passed or more accurately, who passed us, that first day were in high spirits.  It was finally go time.  We were all out here, lunatics trying to paddle across a state.  And hot damn, the weather was fantastic and we were ahead of the Reaper.

Leaving Lexington Leaving Lexington

Later, during the second stretch, we passed ‘mr. pain box’ again.  This time, he was up on the shore, arms around his knees, looking miserable.  We called to him, he assured us he was okay, so we continued on, feeling guilty we didn’t offer more encouragement to someone about to quit.

We left Kaw Point and passed Lexington, the first check point, 50 miles in.  Then passed Waverly, 23 miles later.  We stopped briefly at Miami, 105 miles down river, before forcing ourselves back in the boat and heading for Glasgow.  We arrived at 10am, 8 hours ahead of the Reaper.  Tired, triumphant, and hungry, we clamored ashore.  After some breakfast burritos, we stumbled over beneath a big shade tree, laid down on the grass, pulled our hats over our faces and shut down.

I gotta take a second and say a special thank you to the boy scout troops and other organizations that had food tents going at all hours of the night to fill us paddlers up with burgers, brats, and pulled pork.  And to all the volunteers who manned the safety boats and helped put on the race, we truly appreciate you!

340 Miles to Immortality (Part II)

We’d been defeated by mere wind.  Air moving too fast, too aggressively in direct opposition to us, had overcome our resolve.  Humbled as we surely were, in our minds, we’d merely lost a battle, the war was yet to be won.

The race had been delayed from mid July t0 mid August.  The rains had been too heavy, there was flooding around one of the early check points.  The organizers, in a decision I don’t envy one bit, choose correctly.  They decided to err on the side of safety.  But damn it, I was pissed.  I was READY TO GO.  We’d been preparing and counting down the days since we’d signed up.  The only real concerns we’d ever had were that the water would be so low as to be quite slow, and that in the middle of July in the middle of Missouri it would be over 100 degrees!  As the date rolled around, we were thrilled at the weather forecast, mild and rainy.  Ideal conditions when you’re on the river.  No sun mercilessly beating down on us and more water to raise the river and add free speed to our endeavor.  But when they told us there was too much of a good thing, we were incensed.  But we’d be damned if that was going to stop us.

So August rolled around.  It had been delayed a full month because the organizers, in their infitinite wisdom, mandate that the race is held to coincide with the full moon to give paddlers extra time at night.  And I can say without a doubt, that paddling on the wide, smoothly flowing MO River at night, with a beautiful full moon looming just over the horizon, is a fantastic sight that too few people are privileged to witness.

With the delay, my main concern was the weather.  I felt like we’d lucked out with the July weather and couldn’t possibly hope to get so lucky again.  Not in August.  Not in Missouri.  But as the next date crept closer, the weather started to cooperate.  Something was amiss.  Some error had inadvertently gone in our favor for it was not ungodly hot and humid.  In fact, we got sensationally lucky.  It was cold at night.  Mid 80s during the day and mid 50s at night.  Couldn’t ask for better weather.  There’s no doubt that we owe a lot of our finishing ability to the weather gods.  Had they been less merciful, even the beards might not have been enough.

Monday August 11th dawned.  Josh and I, and my brother-in-law Jeff, headed west with kayaks strapped precariously to the roof.  Hot damn it felt good to be finally embarking on our journey!  I know I was full of nervous energy as we rolled out the miles to KC.

Boulevard Brewing's RoofWe arrived early afternoon, check in quickly, and then high-tailed it over to Boulevard Brewing Co for their smokestack tour.  It was a great tour with even better beers at the end.  A really nice way to kick off the adventure.  And though we didn’t see much of KC up close, I’m excited to go back.  Seems like a cool town.

SuppliesOur supplies…

We staged our kayaks that afternoon.  And that was our first dose of reality: no other kayak was nearly as short as ours.  That had to mean something…  After the safety meeting, we rechecked our gear for the fifth time, rolled up all loose ends, and went to bed like kids on Dec 24th.

340 Miles to Immortality (Part I)

What an incredible adventure.

I learned of the MR340 for the first time back in the end of April.  Less than a week later I had signed up and stopped shaving.  I knew that an undertaking this herculean would require all my strength.  And there is nothing stronger than a magnificently fierce beard.  But my beard and I would not be alone.  To his ever lasting credit, my friend Josh Colbeck jumped at the chance to join me.  He stepped up to the challenge and proved himself worthy at every turn.  Josh Colbeck - Savage

                                                            Josh Colbeck – Savage

The MR 340 is firmly entrenched on my life’s highlight reel.

Oh, wait, what’s this blasphemy you speak?  You’re not familiar with the MR 340?  You’ve never heard of the longest, most-grueling, continuous kayak race on the planet?  Shave your face immediately while I enlighten you.  This is the longest, most-grueling, continuous kayak race on the planet Earth.  The “MR” stands for the Missouri River, one of the greatest rivers on this continent; the river that Lewis & Clark’s expedition (two truly indomitable spirits) followed upstream to start their journey into history.  The “340” stands for 340 miles.  That is the distance.  You must propel yourself three hundred and forty miles.  No motor.  No sail.  No tying up with other boats.  You have to paddle yourself down river.  In the words emblazoned on the tie-dye t-shirt I got paddling the Nolichucky River years ago: “Paddle or Die.”

This race starts at 8am on a Tuesday morning, timed to coincide with the full moon.  Appropriate considering only savages could complete such an undertaking.  The race time limit expires at midnight on Friday night.  You have exactly 88 hours to paddle 340 miles down the Missouri River from Kaw Point in Kansas City, KS to St. Charles, MO.  Sleep if you can.

Fear not, this race of maniacs is strictly voluntary.  Your average person doesn’t tackle a challenge like this.  Can’t handle it.   Though our beards were still growing and not yet fully developed, we thought we stood a chance.

Beard: < 1mo.                                           Handsome devil.  Beard: less than one month.

Josh and I were fully excited, but a little unsure of what paddling such distance would be like physically.  Having worked together for two years, we knew our personalities were extremely compatible, and I was thankful for that.  During times of extreme stress and discomfort, you need other people with positive attitudes, people who can find that gallows humor and help you make the best of a shitty situation.  Josh and I both have that adventurous spirit.  Which explains why we both jumped at this challenge.  And to us, this was a personal challenge.  Like this race was created specifically with the thought of calling us out in mind.  You can’t have Sam Jackson’s wallet from Pulp Fiction if you can’t back it up.  You know what his wallet says on it…

This isn’t some float trip where your drunk ass floats mindlessly on the river trying to untie bikini tops while dodging empty beer cans.  Every year, the AVERAGE is more than 30% of people fail to complete this race.  Oh, but you ran a marathon once?  Neat.  (Seriously though, good for you!)  That’s 26.2 long miles.  You probably did that in 4-6 hours.  How many people that started the race didn’t finish?  8?  Out of thousands?  If 300 people attempt the MR 340, you can count on 100 or more dropping out along the way.  Bit off more than they could chew.

So we did what every great explorer has done before us.  We gathered as much information as we could.  We read books, online forums, checked and rechecked our gear, and did several training paddles.  We focused on the last stretch of the race, which also happened to be the one nearest our home.  We were also very fortunate that this race was in our backyard.  It’s not like we were driving across country for our first look at the river on race day.  We were fortunate to get direct experience on the Missouri River ahead of time.  The last section of the race, from Washington, MO to St. Charles, MO, is 40 miles by river.  During our training runs we learned the importance of getting comfortable in the pain box, minimizing shore time, of river levels impacting overall speed, and on one paddle, just how much the elements are out of our control.Klondike Boat Ramp

We also knew that to complete the MR340 you need to paddle at night, so having never done that, we knew we needed to practice beforehand.  So, along with our buddy John Pollihan, we put in at Washington at 9pm, eventually finishing a little after 5am in St. Charles.  It was the best paddle we’d done yet.  The weather was phenomenal, low 70s, and a clear night with lots of stars and a super moon literally casting shadows on the river.  The tranquil river quietly flowed towards St. Charles and we paddled gently with it.  It was a glorious time on the river.

Emboldened by our successes and our growing, yet still immature beards(<1.5″), we decided to try a longer stretch, 77 miles, from the Gasconade River just West of Hermann, MO back to St. Charles.  We paddled the first mile or so and made it to the confluence of the MO.  As soon as we entered the bigger river, we were smacked in the face with gusting winds, 20-25+ miles per hour.  Being inches off the mighty river in a tiny floating kayak was not a fun place to be.  At least, not if you were planning on paddling 76 more miles.  The wind was so fierce that it created 2′ waves that crested into foaming whitecaps all over the river.  If you stopped paddling, you started floating backwards.  Quickly.  UP river.  Against the current (3mph).  It took us much cussing and effort just to make it 8 miles down river to Hermann in 3 hours.  This blew up our time table for the training run as we had obligations the next morning that we were now hopelessly behind schedule to meet.  Luckily we were able to call a friend to pick us up and aborted our paddling there.  Though our evening ended with BBQ and whiskey at Hendrix BBQ in St. Charles, the river defeated us that day.

And our beards grew longer, but that defeat lay heavy on our hearts as the race drew closer…

                   (To Be Continued…)

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