Ollie & Papa’s Grand Motorcycle Trip and Through-Paddling the Big Muddy

Costa Mesa, Ca.

May 7, 2019

Dear Family & Friends:

Ollie & Papa’s Grand Motorcycle Trip

You may recall I had planned a 15-day, 3,217 mile motorcycle trip with my special needs grandson, Ollie, in August of 2018. My plan was to visit seven national parks in six states. Along the way, we scheduled visits with eight special needs families so their stories could be told. Several motorcycle clubs were riding with us as we entered and exited major cities along the route of travel. The entire journey was going to be professionally filmed as part of a project to create a documentary motion picture featuring “Life with Ollie.” Regrettably, the trip had to be postponed because of the smoke and fires in the Southwestern United States. I hope to reprise the trip this Summer or Fall. Stay tuned.

Through-Paddling the Big Muddy

I am planning a solo canoe trip the entire length of the Mississippi River, starting at the headwaters at Lake Itasca, Minnesota and ending in the Gulf of Mexico. The trip will span over 2,400 miles and pass through ten states. I will begin the journey on August 1, and it will take about 80-days from start to finish. Each night, I will camp along the River. I will be posting trip reports on my blog, with lots of photos and video, including overhead photos and video using my drone.

This will not be a leisurely tube ride down the Big Muddy. Those who have completed this journey report that it is extremely difficult and often dangerous because of hurricanes, tornadoes, storms, gale force winds, rain, hail, lightening, searing heat and humidity, turbulent water, giant waves, whirlpools, rapids, navigational challenges, natural obstacles (submerged rocks, tree stumps and wingdams), river traffic (freighters, tugs, tankers and power boats), lengthy portaging around impassable potions of the River, ticks, leeches, mosquitos, alligators, bears, bobcats, wild dogs, deadly water moccasins, and, most fearsome of all, attacks by marauding schools of Asian Silver Carp. Doesn’t this sound like so much fun? I think so. I am as excited, anxious, nervous and uncertain about this adventure as I was on my first Mt. Everest expedition in the Spring of 2007.

The Mississippi River is longest river in the United States and the fourth longest river in the world, ranking behind the Nile, Amazon and Yangtze Rivers. The Mississippi River is one of the world’s major river systems in size, habitat, diversity and biological productivity. It is also one of the world’s most important commercial waterways and one of North America’s great migration routes for both birds and fish.

If I successfully complete my journey at age 77, I will be the oldest person to complete a solo canoe trip the entire length of the Mississippi River.

I will post more information as my plans develop.

Bill Burke

Mississippi River Facts:

The River is 2,340 miles long

The source of the River is Lake Itasca in northern Minnesota, and the terminus is the Gulf of Mexico

The River drains an area of about 1.2 million square miles, including all or parts of 32 states and two Canadian provinces

The River runs through 10 states: Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana

It takes 90 days for a drop of water to travel the length of the River from its source to the Gulf

From its source to the Gulf, the River drops 1,475 feet

The speed of the River current varies from 0 to 5 miles per hour

The shallowest place on the River is 1 foot at its source, and the deepest place on the River is 200 feet near New Orleans

Near its source, the river is less than 5 feet wide; and the widest part of the River is over 11 miles at Lake Winnibigoshish, Minnesota

The Upper Mississippi River has 29 locks and dams

The River is home to 360 species of fish, 326 species of birds, 145 species of amphibians and 50 species of mammals




Attack of the Killer Carp
My hybrid canoe/kayak


23 thoughts on “Ollie & Papa’s Grand Motorcycle Trip and Through-Paddling the Big Muddy

  1. Hi Bill,

    Your inspiration to create challenging adventures for yourself never fails to amaze and inspire me.
    The “marauding carp” should be worried about YOU!
    Best of luck on your newest Odyssian journey,

  2. Bill, I wish I could join you — it sounds like a lot of fun. I’m sure Sharon is excited about have some piece and quiet around the house for a while!!! I’d like to figure out how we could meet-up for a nice bottle of wine — is Sharon plannin to meet-up with you at some point? Best wishes and looking forward to this new adventure, John

  3. Wow to both upcoming trips! The proximity to Sharon’s home state is really neat for those of us still living in North Dakota. Perhaps some of her ND and MN relatives can be there to see you off. I know Leo and I would bring our grandchildren to see an event this memorable and remarkable. You are amazing.

  4. Growing up on the banks of the Mississippi in Memphis, I saw how violent the waters can be. Best of luck Bill. Stay safe as I know you will.


  5. Hello Bill,
    You are wished a safe and successful journey along with traveling mercies every minute of each day. And may your family be protected and blessed as you achieve another remarkable milestone.

  6. Super Bill at it again!
    You know they can treat ADD quite successfully w pills these days.
    Will u kayak or canoe? And where and how do you get in shape for this adventure.
    Good on ya’!

  7. Look forward to your Mississippi adventure updates, Bill. Having lived on both sides of the river, in St. Louis and Belleville, IL, I’ve crossed it hundreds of times. The Gateway Arch from your kayak should be a great scene. Wishing you a great trip!
    All best,

  8. Bill another adventure for us to enjoy with us on dry land you will be in our daily prayers for a safe trip. Hope everything and all conditions are great for you and we look forward to hearing and seeing all of the exciting adventures you will have

  9. If there were NO challenges, it would not be a Bill Burke adventure……looking forward to enjoying the trip vicariously through your posts..Vaya con Dios mi amigo

  10. Bill, Sir David Attenborough* would be envious! He might want to narrate your videos. Your adventure is inspirational, and for you (and us) it will be insightful.



    *”Our future depends on the natural world.”

  11. You are amazing! My 2 sisters and I are planning a trip along the Mississippi too. Oldest is 80, youngest is 72 and I’m in the middle. But we are going on a cruise. It’s an on and off cruise ship with lots of comforts. You make us look like wimps. It would be great if we conected with you along the way. I am looking forward to following your adventure. Travel safe!

  12. Bill..oh..Bill…. it is one of your Canadian followers here again…I was just exhausted from reading your blog and then, I realized that it is YOU that is doing this…so I offer up my congratulations on yet, another exciting and challenging trip. Safe travels, and I will be thoroughly entertained this summer following your posts.

  13. May God ride with you Bill as I know HE does. You follow the edge of life’s envelope and allow the rest of us to see it through your eyes and skills. Thank you and enjoy, absorb, live.

  14. Phil and I will be praying and thinking of you, during this adventure. I guess we can live through you, always such an inspire able and motivator human. We love your adventurist spirit. Please be safe, and return to those who love you.

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