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