My oldest son is celebrating his birthday today on the Missouri River.
David Ganey, and his wife, Gina, are among the hundreds of paddlers in canoes and kayaks who are making their way along the river’s 340 miles from Kansas City to St. Charles, Missouri. They are participating in the Missouri River 340, a paddling endurance race that attracts people from all over the country.
The event began Tuesday morning just above Kansas City, at Kaw Point, where the Kansas River joins the Missouri. The competitors are divided into two groups–solo paddlers and those with partners or in teams.
It’s possible to keep track of the participants because there are checkpoints along the river, and at each checkpoint those registered are required to notify the race organizers. The progress of the various teams can be tracked on a computer. David and Gina made it to Lexington around 4 p.m. and then Waverly at about 7:30 p.m.
The boats must reach each check point before a certain time, and those who can’t keep pace are out of the race. There is a pacing boat, known as “the grim reaper,” and many get the DNF (did not finish) designation if they fall behind.
Even for those who do not complete the race, the MR 340 is a chance to experience a water resource that is often overlooked. The bank-caving Missouri River once writhed across the continent like a brown serpent, playing a crucial role in the early development of the United States.
Trappers and fur traders used it as a highway to riches to be exploited, and later explorers traveled the river to map the national landscape. The Army Corps of Engineers has constricted the river with dams, rock revetments and levees to the extent that its former character is all but lost. In some places, however, the Corps has relaxed the straitjacket on the river in an attempt to restore wildlife habitat.
The start of the MR 340 in Kansas City was a welcomed diversion from the publicity surrounding the fact that Donald Trump had come to town Tuesday to speak at a VFW convention.
There, Trump talked about “fake news” and pointed fingers at the hard-working journalists who accurately document his bizarre behavior. It’s hard to believe that “veterans of foreign wars” would applaud a man whose divisive rhetoric undermines the First Amendment principles for which they fought.
The MR 340 ends late Friday, but for the most competitive, it will be over long before that. Shortly after 5 a.m. today, a 5-member team known as “River Fitness” had already checked in at Jefferson City. At that rate, they will be done Wednesday night. In 2015, David Ganey, Nathan Redcay and Tod Wilson won the men’s team division, completing the race in 41 hours and 10 minutes. This year, David and Gina are simply trying to avoid showing up in the DNF category.
(Update: David and Gina successfully completed the 340 miles at 7:50 p.m. Thursday, July 26, completing the race in just under 60 hours.)