Closing In On the Gulf

Homeplace, Louisiana
November 17, 2019

Dear Family & Friends:

Yesterday was a great day on the River.

But, it didn’t start out well. I woke up in freezing temperatures. Frost covered everything, including my tent and gear. I did not want to get out of my warm sleeping bag. Once I got out, I had to put on my wet clothes from the previous day. This was pure torture.

But, the sun was out, and once I got out on the River, I warmed up quickly. The current was swift and the River was like glass. No wind. I made great time in my eight hours on the River, covering over 40 miles. Only one close call when I almost collided with the bow of a parked tanker.

The ocean-going ships present a special challenge for those paddling in a canoe or kayak. The tow boats pushing barges do not throw off a large wake. As previously explained, they roil the water, like a washing machine, for miles behind them, and this makes paddling difficult. By way of contrast, the ships throw off 5-7 foot waves that crash up on the shore. A paddler needs to skillfully ride these waves, like a surfer, to avoid being thrown up on the rocks. It isn’t always easy.

I camped just 27 miles north of Venice, the last city before the Gulf. After making dinner, I sat in the dark, shivering in the frigid cold weather. That’s when a large barge, pushed by a tug boat and carrying heavy equipment, pulled up right in front of my campsite and within feet of my canoe. The front of the barge was lowered and a pickup truck drove off. The driver stopped to talk to me. He said they were going into town to buy supplies and asked if I need anything. I told him I would love a cup of coffee to warm up.

When Charlie and Mike returned, they gave me a thermos they bought for me and invited me to board the ship and warm up in the kitchen with a cup of coffee. I ended up having a second dinner of homemade spaghetti, along with garlic toast and my coffee.

They invited me to breakfast this morning and offered to let me use their shower. That was an offer I could not refuse. This morning, I had biscuits, gravy, sausage, bacon and eggs “over easy.” After breakfast, I took a shower which was so refreshing. What a great way to end yesterday and begin my last day on the River. Thanks Mike and Charlie for your kindness.

I learned something from Mike and Charlie about alligators. They are active all the way up the River as far as Memphis. They are also protected. When they encounter a gator in front of their barge, protecting its territory, they are required to stop, constrain the gater and call Fish & Game to remove it. I asked how they can constrain a gater. They replied “jump on its back and tape its mouth shut.” Yikes!

This morning, I will paddle 27 miles to Venice. When I arrive in Venice, I will call Larry Hooper who will meet me with his boat at the mouth of the Mississippi, 12 miles south of Venice, to bring my beloved “Ollie Power”/“livelikedan” canoe and me back to Venice. At that point, my “Source to Gulf” trip will be over. I’ll travel back to New Orleans to fly home, and KAS Trucking will pick up my canoe next week and ship it home.

I have mixed emotions, as you can imagine. This has been the adventure of a lifetime, but I want so bad to be home with my family.

Love and blessings to all,


Charlie, Bill & Mike


21 thoughts on “Closing In On the Gulf

  1. Bill,
    You’re quite a guy. You have done so many great things that many men wished they had. You remind me of words from my favorite poem, in a sad way.

    Of all sad words,
    of tongue or pen,
    The Saddest are these,
    It MIGHT have been.

    You haven’t had to think of those words with regret.
    You did most everything you thought of doing.

  2. Hey Bill ,
    Congratulations I’ve been following you since day one and haven’t commented until now since I knew you had other tasks at hand on your journey. What a fantastic voyage and what beautiful memories you must have. I’m sure you will be enjoying all of the creature comforts back in California.

  3. I don’t want your adventure to end! I’ve enjoyed reading about your trip, the kind people you’ve met along the way, the beauty and dangers of the trip, all of it! Congratulations on completing this journey!! I’m happy you will be able to be back with your family and sleep in your bed … for awhile anyway while you plan your next adventure. I look forward to your motorcycle trip with Ollie. Thank you for sharing this experience. It inspires me to want to explore ❤️

  4. Congratulations Bill. You are an inspiration. Would you be interested in a 500 mile PILGRAMAGE?? From France through Spain to Santiago de Compostela. Lots of walking but at our age I.still think it’s doable (for me I think, for you, for sure). John

  5. Bill:

    It has been a blast reading your posts and following along on this trip. Boy you sure have met some wonderful folks along the way.
    BTW the trip John mentioned above the Camino Frances, Cathy and I will be attempting starting in April 2020. (My knee is a wreck so hoping I can make it). I know it would be a piece of cake for you! Maybe we will see you and John along the way!

  6. The final leg of another exciting adventure……thanks for taking us along. Sharing your dangerous and scary moments and so sweet encounters with beautiful people. Hate to see it end……but…….Home Sweet Home beckons, …………at least for awhile I’m sure. Congratulations & Well Done

  7. Bill,
    Congratulations! What a wonderful saga, filled with lots of excitement and beautiful Southerner you met along the way.
    You are a man of endurance, courage and a true inspiration.
    Thanks for taking us all on your wonderful journey.
    Bud Swanson

  8. Our adventure ends now Bill, yours and mine, but the feelings and descriptions your wonderful writings provided will continue to be brought to my memory. The generous spirit of the people God put you with and the reason HE did…you are a special man Bill and I am proud to know you.

  9. I’ve so enjoyed traveling down the Mississippi with you. A fabulous accomplishment. The angels were definitely with you throughout this journey. Enjoy reuniting with your family. Gods peace, Carol Evans

  10. Well, Bill, your Canadian follower is back again..Congratulations and I can see from all the other posts that we all feel the same…we are so grateful that you pulled off another successful journey, and you came through it with persistance, determination and a terrific sense of humour. I feel that I can rest easy now that you have reached the end. God speed ahead back to travels by air.

  11. Bill so happy for you and so glad your adventure has come to the end of a very long trip. I can not believe how many wonderful caring people you have met along the river There are some good people still around and you were lucky enough to meet them Can wait to see all your pictures and hear your stories hurry home for a wonderful Thanksgiving with your family ❤️

  12. Bill,
    Melissa and I have enjoyed your journey. It’s gave me a new perspective on the Mississippi. I’ve always looked at it as route for industrial use. After your adventure I am amazed at the recreational side of it. We are also amazed at the wonderful people you have met.

  13. Bill, Thank you for sharing your fascinating journey. What an adventure. I still hope to meet you and Ollie someday at United Cerebral Palsy in Hanford California.
    All the best on your last day on the water.

  14. Simply said, AMAZING……Bill Burke, we can’t thank you enough for allowing us into this incredible journey!!!
    Wow wow wow and wow!
    Safe and loving thoughts as you travel home to your family!

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