July 26, 2007


Doin' Ground Crew
text & photos by Vicki Richmond

Missouri River Relief has, as a central part of its mission, the desire to simply bring people to the wonderful river that connects us all. If you’ve had a shower, a glass of water or some ice, you’ve probably been a user of the river today.

I am always intrigued by other ways to get people to the river that don’t involve trash! A boat ride, sunset on a ramp, a swim, a bit of sandbar archeology serve the purpose. In Kansas City this Tuesday morning, 75 adventurers found a great way to meet the Missouri- by competitively canoeing 340 miles of her from Kaw Point, Ks to St. Charles, MO.

This race, called the MR 340 is billed as the longest flat water race in the country. Last year, the inaugural race attracted 15 competitors, 1/3 of which did not complete the race. Paddlers must check in at 9 points along the way and complete the journey to St. Charles in 100 hours. It is a test of endurance. Many paddlers compete just to complete the trip.

Paddlers began arriving at Kaw Point Park at the confluence of the Kansas and Missouri Rivers about 5 am. By 7, the ramp was jammed with canoes and kayaks of all types. Ground crews and paddlers worked on strategy, locating re-supply points and packed coolers, readying for the race gun. The calm waters of the Kaw began to show slicing wakes as paddlers took to their boats and warmed up.

Jeff Barrow, MRR coordinator, avid paddler, river rat, esteemed author and buddy of mine had planned his strategy for weeks. He would be paddling for Missouri River Relief and our crew was on deck to be ground support. I had the enjoyable task of being on hand at the start and his first re-supply stop. We met on the ramp amid the mayhem that precedes a race.

At 7:55, the strains of the National Anthem rang out as paddlers and supporters turned to face the flag flying at the Point. Kansas City, Ks Mayor Joe Reardon made brief remarks and Pro Bowl Lineman Will Shields began the countdown as the gathered crowd counted along.

5,4,3,2,1 CRACK-

With a splash of paddles and yells of encouragement, they were off. I’ll not soon forget the sight of 75 boats, all headed straight for the beautiful downtown skyline. It didn’t take a fine piece of camera equipment to capture the scene.

As soon as they all got into the channel, we headed fast for Berkeley Park. everyone was still in a group and 75 boats are impressive when they are all headed in one direction. That was something Kansas Citians never see. We stood on the levee and watched as the boats passed by, yelling encouragement to our friends.

I headed for home to pick up supplies for Jeff’s first stop. He started the race off light and we had a secret spot to re-supply. After picking up frozen water bottles, sports drinks, fruit and sandwiches, we headed off to La Benite Park in Sugar Creek.

Jeff called in as he passed La Benite without stopping. He was making good time and we would rendezvous 10 miles down river at Alligator Cove, home of Captain Brey and Beanie the dog. I did stop at La Benite in time to see the last half of the pack pass by. More shouts of support from shore rang out as lawn chaired cohorts encouraged their racers. After a check in to see how other friends were faring, I hopped in the truck and headed for our re-supply point.

I arrived at Alligator Cove in plenty of time to have a swim with my dog before the first of the paddlers passed by. First came the hot tandem rigs with performance attired paddlers never missing their rhythm, then the solo kayaks, followed by the less professional duos, then the pack in the middle- where Jeff was solidly placed. I went for a swim after filling Jeff's cooler and was paying attention again as the last few came by- the Old Towns with summer paddlers. Folks seemed pleased to hear my clapping and shouts of support from shore. Surprisingly, at only 25 miles into the race, about 2 hours separated the leaders from the back of the pack.

Jeff called from Boonville Wed. evening about 7. He was sticking to his plan of paddling at night and sleeping in the heat of the day. He was about half way there and sounded good. Slave and Skylar had re-supplied him during the day. I handed him off to Nancy, who promised a pizza and more cold drinks at the next stop.

Next year I’ll be there in some form or fashion. I am a summer paddler and don’t have the endurance or fortitude required to make the trip by paddle alone. But, MRR has boats, willing to be pressed into service as a support boat.

I’ll do that 340. I just might resort to a motor!

July 24, 2007

Post-flood clean-up

“Black Star”Clean-up at Alligator Cove
June 23, 2007
text by Steve Schnarr, photos by Melanie Cheney
Bouncing Back
Many of the news stories of the Flood of 07 focused on the bursting of agricultural levees in Western Missouri and Eastern Kansas. For those that live right on the Missouri River, without levees, it was one long river of heartbreak. But floods are a part of life on the river, and these tough people cry when they need to but get right back up and rebuild.

Of course no one deserves the overwhelming work and loss that a flood brings, but river folks do know that eventually it’s going to happen. It takes vision, strength and community for folks to go through it and come back to the river. But they know that they have to get back, and the only way to do it is through a lot of hard work and calling in your friends to help get it done.

When floodwaters reshape your world, it becomes an opportunity to start a new vision, to clean up and make things even better.

At Alligator Cove (Rivermile 343), John Breyfogle had built a perfect riverside haven. Beneath towering cottonwoods was a cabin on pontoons, a two-tiered deck made from an decommissioned pontoon boat overlooking the river, and a music stage built on the flatbed of an old two-ton truck.

These things all got destroyed in the flood, which filled up and coursed through the whole place. John’s house was covered in mud, and all the carpet had to be ripped out. With the help of friends and family, and countless hours of after-work effort, the place was cleaned out, mud was scraped, utilities gotten up and running, the barn reorganized, the salsa garden replanted, John’s tiller dismantled and worked back into shape.

Demolition Derby
John figured his friends in River Relief would be good for doing some of the big teardown work. He put together a work day and invited us all out. Vicki arranged for a scrap dumpster and Michael cooked up some food. Racin’ Dave and John Jansen brought cutting torches and everyone showed up with a smattering of hand tools. Folks left Columbia around six, and everyone convened at the cove. Nick Recker, Stephanie Williams and her partner Ken surprised us all and showed up with tools.

It was a long day of destruction.

As we tore the rotting stage off the back of the truck, Racin Dave busted out his tools and started dismantling the cab, gas tank first. He shook his head and said, “This is one of those things where you just take off a week and go after it.” And then, with Lindsay’s help, he proceeded to reduce the truck to an engine block, a pile of plastic and upholstery and countless chunks of steel cut into three-foot pieces for scrapping. All in one non-stop day, before dinner.

Jeff Barrow, Michael and the John B’s focused on the “floating” cabin. The beautiful little cabin on pontoons did float, but was toppled by the force of the current, smashing the building and loosening the structure. The windows and any good lumber or siding was salvaged, but everything else went to the burn pile or dumpster. Nails were pulled, and the John B’s (Brady and Breyfogle) went at the pontoons with dueling chop saws.

Here's the cabin as they started working on it...

This is what was left when they were done...

During the flood, the deck overlook collapsed when the bank underneath slid into the river. Nick, Stephanie, Ken and Melanie worked it all day, pulling nails and stacking the joists and decking up on the remaining deck. All together, we probably filled a five gallon bucket with nails pulled from salvaged lumber. John Jansen came after work with his torch, and worked on an old piece of a dredge.

Anthony, Jeanie, Janie and Steve moved from project to project, helping the teardown when needed, picking up trash between stages of the destruction, preparing food.

Dinner was fantastic, and we gathered, exhausted around the campfire at night. John thanked everyone for helping, and, laughing, passed out black star pins as a reminder of the day.

It’ll be a while before John can move back in, but he’s excited that now he has a reason to build a home up on stilts. The vision of this place has definitely not been washed away, but it’s a fresh new beginning and we are all excited to see it blossom again.