Wednesday, February 18, 2015


Illus. Credit: Amazon
I had an immediate reaction to Jim Lewis’ story about his trip down the Mississippi, but when considering writing skill, it was a gross injustice to read his book immediately after reading Sigurd Olson.  By no measure can that be considered a level playing field.  The fact that the book was self-published is evident in the poor proofreading that missed the incorrect word usages, errors in punctuation, and questionable structure.  The negative aside, the book is still worth a read for what it offers for anyone interested in the river or making a similar trip.  The greater points are that he decided to paddle the length of the Mississippi, accomplished his mission, and succeeded in publishing a book about the adventure---all successes. 
While many plan and anguish for years over the decision to paddle the third greatest river in the world, few make it, while the author and his friends simply decided on the trip over cups of coffee.  They are the members of the Itasca Kayakers, a paddling club formed in 2003 in Grand Rapids, MN.  At times the book seems to have been published for the club.  A lot of time is spent on who did or didn’t paddle each leg, who missed some of the trips and had to make up the miles on their own, and how the shuttles were accomplished.  However, for anyone unable to commit to a non-stop, through-paddle, they offer a model for doing the river in stages.  They completed the trip down the Mississippi in 12 legs over four years (2005 through 2008), and with some incredible runs, the longest of 87 miles in a single day.
Buried in the text of nearly every page is a quotable quote.  Both the importance and value of the trip and book are revealed in three of them that I share here. 
From an unknown writer comes, “I heard somebody say the wealthiest places on earth are not Fort Knox or the oil fields of the Middle East.  Nor are they the gold and diamond mines of South Africa.  Ironically, the wealthiest places on earth are the cemeteries, because lying in those graves are all kinds of dreams and desires that will never be fulfilled.  Buried beneath the ground are books that will never be written, businesses that will never be started, and relationships that will never be formed.  Sadly, the incredible power of potential is lying in those graves.”
“A man is not old until his regrets take the place of dreams.” Yiddish proverb
Lastly, from Yoda, “Do or do not.  There is not try.”
There is no spoiler here on what the book’s title means.  I had to read the book to solve that mystery, and so will you.

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