An Epic Voyage by Robert Meyer is the true story of a 63 day journey down the Mississippi River. But it is more than that. In fact, it is almost a life story of a man's kayaking history, from boyhood to maturity.
Robert's tale actually begins his incredible journey in the prologue describing a first attempt at a self-made kayak when just a boy in the 1940s.
Made from used box car wood and 2nd hand materials, it sunk on its maiden voyage. Left underwater after the sinking, Robert found upon salvage, that the wood swelled and the kayak no longer leaked. His 1st boat, therefore is counted as a boyish success and a passion for paddling was born.
He soon purchased a 2nd kayak, used and in very bad shape. Robert repaired it, paddle it on the Mississippi, but eventually ended up on the wrong side of a dam, leaving him without a kayak for 30 some odd years, as he developed into adulthood and maturity.
The notion of the river, and a kayak, were always with him throughout his schooling and career. The life skills learned along the way supported the final push to paddle 2,550 miles down the Mississippi from Minnesota to New Orleans. This is when the real story of the Epic Voyage begins.
Robert built his own kayak, named Venture, in his mid-50s. This was back in the late 1980s, before kayaking became as popular as it is now. Information and equipment was scarce and not at all sophisticated back then.
In his book, Robert sets a very good example for would-be-adventures, much like Audrey Sutherland does in her books. His account of his meticulous planning go far to underscore the need and reasoning for preparation. The route, maps, food and gear are all in a particular order. You learn why while reading his account.
Like any undertaking, things do not go as planned. This is part of the experience and learning, not only for oneself but for others as well. Robert's day by day accounts help us understand what we may be up against when we take on a similar challenge. As an example, in the first part of the trip the main course of the Mississippi is not clearly defined in a vast sea of reeds. Getting lost and following dead ends leads him to better awareness of the flow of the water and to more careful decision making.
Robert's book reads somewhat like a journal. One can imagine that the book was created by editing the terse prose from Robert's diary, his notes, and observations along the way, into a narrative. This is what makes the book of so much interest to a paddling adventurer. It is a way to gain extra wisdom learned from others experiences. Good examples abound, on what worked for camping, how to and where, seamanship on the Mississippi, and how to handle the ins and outs at locks and parks.
Along the way Robert meets "river people" who share a common interest in the Mississippi. His happy dealings with these generous folk, and his regular encounters with "providence" give the books an almost spiritual outlook on paddling and its Karma.
Remember, this is 1989, and feats of long distance paddling are not as common place as they are today. Robert's voyage garnered some considerable media coverage, significant back then. His story was followed by TV and radio, from the get go, building along the way to a grand finally at the end.
Robert's book is rare and hard to find, I am sorry to say.
It is well worth searching for one and reading it, particularly if you have an interest in long distance paddling expeditions, or wish to plan a trip yourself. Even those with much more modest goals can benefit from the wisdom and entertainment value you will discover in the book An Epic Voyage, by Robert Meyer (Amazon link to purchase).
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