Category Archives: Wanderlust

Book caps iReporter’s Mississippi journey

By David Williams, CNN iReport Community Manager

REPUBLISHED FROM THE CNN iREPORT BLOG

World traveler Neal Moore let us follow along with him on iReport when he made his solo canoe trip down the Mississippi River in 2009, so we were really excited when his new book about the journey arrived in the mail.

“Down the Mississippi: A Modern-Day Huck on America’s River Road” chronicles Moore’s five-month journey from its source at Lake Itasca in Minnesota to New Orleans, Louisiana. He made the trip because he wanted to find and tell positive stories about the people living along the river.

Mark Twain and his iconic character Huckleberry Finn were a big influence on the project — his co-author Dr. Cindy Lovell is the executive director of the Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum in Hannibal, Missouri.

Moore’s been living in Taiwan, but is back in the United States to promote the book. We were able to catch up with him by email to ask him about the project.

What are you doing now that your book is out? Are you doing book tours or anything like that?

Yes, my co-author, Dr. Cindy Lovell, and myself are currently out promoting the launch of the book here in the States (as a bit of a mini-tour). I did a book release in Oxford, Mississippi. We just launched the book in Hannibal, and we’ll be taping a segment for NPR/St. Louis Public Radio.

Where do you live these days?

I’m moving back to Cape Town, South Africa, this coming week, a gem of a city I’ve lived in, off and on, for the past twenty years.

How long did it take to write the book?

The book took two years to complete from the time my co-author and myself began, just following the completion of my Mississippi River canoe journey in late 2009. In the book, Dr. Lovell conjures up Twain’s words directly into the text. So you’ve got the physical journey, the stories of the towns, and Twain, who encourages, reprimands, and comments on the characters encountered all along the way.

Where did you write the book?

I wrote my portion of the book in some of my favorite locales along the Mississippi River journey: in Oxford, Mississippi, a literary-minded village; Hannibal, Missouri, Twain’s hometown; and northeast Iowa, on a rambling family farm. I then flew on to East Asia where I completed the writing of the final third of the book, late last year.

Where can people buy the book if they’re interested?

The eBook version is now available via Kindle. A print edition of the book is available at the Mark Twain Museum and will soon be available at leading independent bookstores nationwide – to be found on http://moderndayhuck.com/.

What’s your next big adventure?

I’m currently gearing up for the next big adventure to take place in South Asia. I’m intending to set it up as a rambling, roving report similar to the Mississippi River expedition, but with a different twist.

Congratulations Neal! We can’t wait to see your stories from South Africa and around the world.

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Filed under In the News, iReport, Literary Reverie, On CNN, Wanderlust

CNN.COM: A modern-day Huck Finn

ATLANTA, GEORGIA (CNN.COM) —

iReporter Neal Moore left the northern source of the Mississippi River in July and ended his trip in New Orleans in December, traversing the Mighty Mississippi the whole way by canoe. His mission was not only to document his canoe journey but also report on and participate in positive and uplifting stories of American communities along the way. To see the CNN.com expedition interview CLICK HERE and to view CNN.com’s “Down the Mississippi” retrospective CLICK HERE.

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Filed under In the News, On CNN, On the Mississippi, Wanderlust

Four months, Twenty-Two days later – New Orleans!

Fought severe weather to guide “The Andrea” safely into New Orleans. Wind and waves and rain and a plethora of barges and tankers as well as borderline hypothermia couldn’t keep me from this fine town.  Here’s some final thoughts on the journey of a lifetime.  My sincere thanks to everyone – could not have made it without your encouragement and support.  

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Filed under Status Update, Wanderlust

Neal Moore Canoes the Mississippi

MISSISSIPPI RIVER

I’ve been at this now for going on five months… my quest to canoe the Mississippi River from the source at Lake Itasca, Minnesota, to New Orleans.  Here we have some random video footage shot en route.  Am planning to make New Orleans Tuesday, December 1st, between 4pm and 5pm, if the weather cooperates.  If all goes well, the next blog should be from NOLA…  Once again, here’s to adventure!

Follow the journey…

CNN.com’s iReport: http://www.ireport.com/ir-topic-stories.jspa?topicId=321427

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/mooreneal

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Filed under Americana, On CNN, On the Mississippi, Wanderlust

Transcending sand dunes

I first met Sath Kandaswami at the Windsor Hotel in Cairo.  We had both just arrived into that city and immediately struck up a friendship over breakfast, identifying each other as fellow adventurers.  Sath had come in overland from Morocco and I had arrived via plane from Cape Town.  

Eager to experience the country, we booked ourselves onto a bus bound for Bahariyya Oasis, Western Egypt, where we heard rumors of a dusty frontier museum full of golden mummies.  From Bahariyya we continued onward, hiring a duo of Bedouin guides who took us out into the proper desert for a good handful of days. Here we experienced the Black Desert, Emerald Mountain, the Mummies of the Magic Spring, and the White Desert, camping out under the stars.  The sand dunes stretch forever.  Sath would climb one and I would climb up the next, sitting there at sunset, surveying a most glorious land.  You look and you look and at the exact moment when the sun disappears, there’s a magical puff of air.  You sit there on the dune and it blows directly into your face.  From the desert back into Cairo, we again joined forces for a trip down South – hopping on the Wagons Lit Sleeper coach.  I jumped off in Luxor while Sath continued on to the end of the line – Aswan.  

From Egypt, Sath travelled down into the Sudan, crossing the desert between the countries in a rented 4×4, later taking pictures on the streets – a practice that was banned and thus brave.

I met up with Sath again in Washington DC – a city we traversed in the odd down time between working actual jobs.  From here we shook hands and went our separate ways.  

The moment I realized I was going to canoe the Mississippi, one of the first people I contacted was Sath, who was now based in Dallas, Texas.  At that time he thought he’d either do the first half or second half of the river with me, but as I reached St. Louis, Sath said he might be game for Oxford, Mississippi.  I had given him the hard sell a couple of times and didn’t want to push him, so when I got to Oxford, I didn’t contact.  

Two days ago I got back on my canoe from Quapaw Landing, Mississippi, and paddled south.  From the river I found a sand dune, right out in the middle of the mighty Mississippi, and readily made for shore.  The dune was highlighted by the sun and even though it was an hour before sundown, I thought I’d stop here and make camp and enjoy the sunset.  My map said Island 67 and after setting up camp I checked my email and found a note from Sath’s sister, Chithra.  The sun was on its final descent when I read the news that Sath had died suddenly, in Texas, back on October 30th.  

I couldn’t sleep that night and I couldn’t contact anyone from where I was.  My phone had no reception and my email became spotty.  It was a hard night, full of memories, and as the sun rose the following morning, I shouted out, “You could have been here…  Look at this sunrise…  You should have been here!”  Which was when I realized that I was a fool.  Of course Sath was there. 

First light on Island 67, Mississippi River

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Life lessons of the dugout canoe

HELENA, ARKANSAS 

Canoe guru John Ruskey’s exploits along the Mississippi River have been featured in Southern Living, Outside Magazine, and National Geographic.  But it’s his work with the at-risk children of this region of America that intrigued me: the idea of using a canoe as education; of transforming a log into useable art; of the dugout canoe as a life-changing experience.

QaGaron, Fredrick, Brooklyn, and Veronica, four KIPP Charter School Middle School kids from downtown Helena, Arkansas smile as they walk the levee from their school to Mr. Ruskey’s Helena-based workshop.  This is their second class at Quapaw Canoes, and even though their friends are catching the bus for home, these kids walk with a stride in their step.

Helena has a rich and illustrious past.  As one of the few original bluff cities on the Mississippi River, the boomtown that once was is now an economically-depressed region, save – one of the only things going for it – the hope, promise and vision of the children. 

Mr. Ruskey has been volunteering his time with the local KIPP Charter School for over a year, so when the principal phoned and asked if it would be possible to transform a log into an original dugout canoe, comprised of KIPP-only students, the answer was, “We’d love to do that.”

QdMr. Ruskey does not speak in sound bytes. He speaks from his soul and he speaks with conviction.  When asked how art, education, and the Mississippi River come together, Mr. Ruskey explained, “They come together with each paddle stroke you take.  If you watch the way a paddle cuts thru the water – it creates a double spiral on either side of it – and if you look at the shape of a classic canoe, it’s almost the same shape you see created in the water as you’re stroking the paddle.  And that’s the wonderful thing about the Mississippi River and any moving water – but on the Mississippi you see it more than any other body of water I’ve ever experienced.  You see expressions of patterns, of life patterns – the very basic patterns that govern our life – you see them expressed, constantly being expressed and then re-created over and over again.  And so it’s actually there on the face of the water that you see all those things come together.  One of our mottos here is Qcthat the River brings us together, and in that sense it literally does bring together education and canoes and art – they all come together as you’re paddling the canoe.”

The KIPP Dugout Canoe Project, as it is officially known, is a twice-weekly after-school class that begins with a pad of paper and a pencil.  The students are asked to sit quietly and look at the log and visualize what it will one day become.  Some draw the log as they see it while others draw a dugout canoe with an animal head.  At some point, the kids, in coordination with their school, will vote democratically on what the final shape is to become.  For now, part of the fun is just that idea alone.  The idea that this cottonwood log can one day become anything and everything they hope and desire it to be.

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Filed under Americana, Community Project, Mississippi River Town, On CNN, Wanderlust

Hurricane Katrina Survivor and Mighty Quapaw, Shemiah Timberlake

HELENA, ARKANSAS

Video interview with “Mighty Quapaw” canoe apprentice Shemiah Timberlake.  Shemiah, age 15, a survivor of Hurricane Katrina, speaks of his family’s departure from Louisiana, of his time in Mississippi, and of his love for the Mississippi River.  Filmed at the Quapaw Canoe Company, Helena, Arkansas.

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Filed under Americana, Mississippi River Town, On CNN, Wanderlust