MANITOWOC, Wis. — A Wisconsin couple planning to kayak the 2,500-mile length of the Mississippi River plans to embark on the next leg of their journey Wednesday.
Janet and Greg Gottsacker of Manitowoc are on a three-year mission to paddle the whole river in stages. Last spring they paddled 500 miles from the river's origin to the Minneapolis area, and this week they'll start in the Twin Cities and paddle 270 miles to Dubuque, Iowa, HTR Media reported (http://htrne.ws/10R4c8M ).
Janet, 54, and Greg, 57, then plan to take a few weeks off before resuming in August to paddle another 300 miles to St. Louis.
They said their friends sometimes wonder why a pair of real estate agents would take on such an arduous challenge.
"When they find out we sleep in a tent on the ground, we eat food that's not very appetizing at times, they think it doesn't sound like fun ... doesn't sound like a vacation," Janet Gottsacker said. "But for us it is."
The Mississippi River originates at Lake Itasca in western Minnesota and ends at the Gulf of Mexico. The Gottsackers expect to reach the gulf, about 30 miles past New Orleans, sometime next year.
The couple admits the next leg might be a bit more difficult because of commercial traffic. Greg Gottsacker said tugboats can push dozens of barges, and he's worried about the wake barges can create. Janet Gottsacker added that they'll have to navigate through locks, something they've never done before.
They carry flares and a whistle, and said they might get an air horn as well as an orange warning flag to affix to their kayak.
They generally camp out at night wherever they can, and then kayak from 9 a.m. to about 4 p.m. They have a crank-up/solar radio that plays in 10-minute stretches before it has to be wound up again. At night they read books and play cribbage.
"We talk about food a lot while kayaking," Janet Gottsacker said.
Greg Gottsacker said he came up with the kayaking idea after visiting a website called Buck Tracks that gives tips to adventurous people, "probably after I had a couple cocktails." He said the idea of paddling 2,500 miles didn't seem realistic at first, but now that they've done 500 miles the final aim seems more attainable.
"The further we get down the river, you feel like you are getting closer to that goal," he said.