CHICAGO (CBS) — A retired Chicago TV reporter and two of his friends finished the adventure of a lifetime on Tuesday when they completed a canoe trip the length of the Mississippi River.
Retired Channel 7 reporter Paul Meincke and his friends Tim Clark and Tom Lobaz let out whoops and hollers Tuesday when they reached the Gulf of Mexico by canoe – 70 days and 2,200 miles after starting their journey at Lake Itasca, Minnesota, where the Mississippi River begins.
“You can walk across the Mississippi there. There are some stones and you can walk it. It’s that narrow,” said Meincke.
The adventure actually began with four people but one of the four, Bill Baar, left the trip at Vicksburg, Mississippi, near the end of the trip.
The adventurers saw the harrowing side of the Mississippi River, especially with the heavy barge traffic that saw tow boats pushing 30 to 40 barges at a time, and then, on the last stretch of the journey on the Atchafalaya River, they dealt with alligators.
But, Meincke said, the biggest impression made on him and his friends was the generosity of the people they met everywhere. Meincke called them “River Angels.”
“Every stop we made, Bernie. We had people offering to help us,” he said.
“There are really great people out there. They’re just everywhere and they don’t ask anything in return other than a thank you which we were going to offer anyway.”
Meincke said the more than two month trip began a few years ago as talk among friends, but got more serious in the past year.
Meincke said he and his friends did a lot of preparation for the trip, including getting their hands on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers navigational maps and reading everything they could by others who’d taken the same trip.
And, just like fictional Tom Sawyer who had a love of the Mississippi River, when Paul Meincke returns home, part of the “honey-do” list that’s waiting for him is to paint the picket fence outside his home.