Full Service Westside
 By Margaret Stadtwald
Many Muscatine residents see the Mississippi River every day, but how many can say they have seen all of it? Erik Elsea of Cape Coral, Florida, hopes to achieve that distinction. On a mission to support a good cause and fulfil personal dreams, Elsea set out on July 8th to complete a solo canoe trip from the origins of the Mississippi all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico. On the fortieth day of his expedition, Erik stopped in Muscatine and shared his reasons for undertaking the trip, as well as his experiences and impressions along the way.
A dedicated volunteer, Elsea dedicates much of his free time to the Rotary Club of Cape Coral and recently finished his term as their president. Through his service, Elsea learned about many worthy causes, including ShelterBox USA. He explains, “ShelterBox is Rotary’s global project partner for disaster relief. I found out about it through Rotary and it became a passion of mine. It’s my mission now to raise awareness and money for the organization.” With the desire to promote ShelterBox in mind, Elsea fused a lifelong dream of his with passion for volunteering to make both dreams realities. “I just turned forty years old, so I’m doing this as a fortieth birthday present to myself and to fulfill my childhood dream, and in addition to also raise awareness and money for ShelterBox USA”, related Elsea.

With these inspirations in mind, Elsea set fundraising goals for his trip and began planning his route. While various estimates exist, the rangers at Lake Itasca State Park state the Mississippi River runs 2,552 miles from its headwaters in Lake Itasca, Minnesota, to its delta in New Orleans, Louisiana. Elsea committed himself to earning $100 for each mile of the river he traversed, making his overall goal for his voyage $255,200. He also researched how long it would take him to complete his trip and how much time he should budget for giving presentations. In the end he came up with ninety days. In addition to practical concerns, taking a ninety-day trip holds some extra significance to him. “Scientists somehow figured out that it takes a drop of rainwater ninety days to travel from Lake Itasca to the Gulf of Mexico. I figure that would be a good time frame to use, and it’s actually going to be kind of fun because on October 5th, when I finish paddling, I’ll actually be finishing with some of the same water I started with,” Elsea elaborated.

On the fortieth day of his trip, Elsea made a stop in Muscatine. Due to an unexpectedly long delay at Lock and Dam Sixteen, about one-mile northeast of Muscatine, he decided to spend the night.  Elsea reflects, “I ended up staying at the Merrill Hotel and treating myself to a real shower and a real bed, so it was very pleasant. I ended up meeting a lot of local people [and ate] at the Mississippi Brew Company, because it ties into the Mississippi River and my trip. Everybody was so friendly. It’s really a lovely town and you have a beautiful riverfront.” Though he only stayed for a single night, Elsea thoroughly enjoyed his stay in Muscatine and got a good introduction to the friendly faces and beautiful spaces of Muscatine.

After leaving Muscatine, Elsea had fifty days of his trip ahead of him and $221,200 dollars to raise. To support Elsea, you may make a donation at his website www.mississippiexpedition.com. Additionally, you can continue following his progress by reading his blog and watching his real-time canoe tracker.

Full Service Westside