Max was easy to spot in terminal one at the Minnesota airport. He looked like a guy who has paddled 25,000 km on various parts of the world. Broad shouldered, tan, and carrying some well-used camping equipment that stood out among the carryons and roller bags. At a venerable age he could have been our father and would at first appear to be an odd man out. He wore a grey shirt from his last expedition, the Capitol to Capitol trip in a huge canoe from Ottawa to Washington DC, sponsored by the Canadian Wildlife Federation (CWF) to raise awareness for water quality. This trip was made shortly before our transatlantic trip, the CWF Africa to the Americas Expedition. Those folks like getting people outside to see the wildlife, and while I can’t say much about the wildlife in our capitols (insert your brand of political humor here) we did get to see some whales and flying squid.
Pat, Markus, Adam Kreek and I, along with Greg on shore (Greg to join us
shortly in Minneapolis) were all part of the CWF Africa to the Americas Expedition. The short answer of how we met was through rowing. Greg, Pat and I rowed at university together. Markus wanted to get involved with ocean rowing and found us on the ol’ google machine, and Adam we met at a regatta. CWF got involved and we had our Africa to the Americas expedition.
Moving on to this row. I was talking with Randy, the education director at CWF (if you do one of our webinars you will meet him) and told him that Greg would be unable to join us for the first few weeks of the trip from the headwaters to Minneapolis. He told us this guy Max liked a long canoe trip (and although this is a rowing trip, we are in canoes for this shallow twisty bit) and that they would love to send him along to help us out, and also emphasize a bit about the importance of waterways to wildlife, because wildlife don’t need passports to cross the boarder. It was good way to bring up the fact that the Mississippi and the riparian zones of wetlands and marshes that surround it are habitat and a north-south flyway zone for birds that are enjoyed by everyone no matter what nation’s flag they salute. I also liked the fact that Max is basically a modern day Voyager. Back when there were no roads people got around this part of the world on the waterways. The voyageurs paddled all over North America before it was the USA and Canada, and this is a reason why there are a lot of French place names between here and Louisiana.
So it seemed a perfect fit. After so many miles in a canoe, his is always the one that is in front no matter the combination of rowers. Max even makes bannock (a fry bread-type thing) every night on the fire and this makes the beating we take from him alright. Look for him during our webinar about the voyageurs.