Jeff Pearson’s journey down the Mississippi was interrupted in St. Cloud.
Hijacked kayak found; long Mississippi River trek to resume
- Article by: NICOLE NORFLEET
- Star Tribune
- May 29, 2011 - 11:58 PM
Californian Jeff Pearson got a double dose of Minnesota nice this weekend that will enable him to resume his kayaking voyage down the Mississippi River.
For a while, it looked like the 47-year-old would have to interrupt his two-month excursion when his kayak and supplies were stolen in St. Cloud.
But two lucky calls helped salvage his trip. One came Saturday evening from a recreations coordinator at St. Cloud State University willing to loan him equipment. Another came Sunday morning when a resident on the Elk River called police to report that a kayak had washed up in her backyard.
Pearson said the turn of events had little to do with luck. "I attribute it to the good nature of people," he said.
The trip started off as a personal odyssey for Pearson, who sold his pizza business last year. "I wanted to do something fun and different," he said. He also wanted to raise money for victims of river flooding. On May 11, he left Lake Itasca in his 16-foot red kayak, nicknamed Delta Serf. He hoped to reach New Orleans by late July.
On Friday night, Pearson arrived in St. Cloud as it was getting dark. There were no campsites within a reasonable paddling distance, so he called a St. Cloud couple he had met days before in Little Falls and arranged to stay with them.
He secured his kayak and most of his belongings with a bike cable to a guardrail near a fishing pier south of the St. Cloud dam. It was the first time he'd left them unattended overnight.
"In the morning, I woke with an uneasy feeling," he said. When he returned to the pier, his kayak and supplies were gone. "It was one of those 'I should have known better' moments," he said.
Pearson made plans to fly back home to Campbell, Calif., where he planned to get more equipment before flying to St. Louis, Mo., to meet up with his 9-year-old son for the other half of the voyage.
Late Saturday, he got a call from a campus recreations coordinator from nearby St. Cloud State, who said he would loan Pearson equipment.
Then on Sunday morning the kayak was found. Authorities suspect that the thief transported it to the Elk River, since the Elk and Mississippi rivers do not connect until about 40 miles south of the site where the kayak was stolen, said St. Cloud police Sgt. Lori Ellering.
Pearson said he should be back on the water Monday morning.
"I had one person or two people who stole my stuff, but I've had now five, six or more people who have done or are willing to do whatever it takes to help me," he said. "That's the true nature of the Midwest or the Minnesota people."
For more information about his trip and to read his travel blog, visit www.deltaserf.com.
Nicole Norfleet • 612-673-4495
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