Mississipi Million

The Great River Rowed

A shaft of light

A shaft of light

Posted by on Sep 20, 2014

St Louis, 20th September.

First of all, I want to extend my heartfelt thanks to all who have contacted me, directly or indirectly, following my last blog. I know that it stirred some concerns about my state of health and psychological well-being. I received dozens of supportive emails, all of which counted and two or three were pivotal. I was feeling especially low at that point, but I woke the following day in the knowledge that if I could get through one last effort, I would have two rest days to recover.

Some of the team: Stephen, Olivia, John, Melinda, James and Paddy

Some of the team: Stephen, Olivia, John, Melinda, James and Paddy

We completed the day in bright warm sunshine, our progress only slowed by the final two locks on the river. From now on, helped by the mighty Missouri river pouring in, we should have unchecked river flow to help us. We docked, loaded the boats on the trailer in a truly industrial wharf in St Louis, grinned for the camera and then Paddy and I had a big old man hug, appreciating that we had passed first 1,000 miles, then halfway and now made it to the gateway to the south. The fatigue and concerns of the last couple of days ebbed and the team – Alex, Graeme, Gillian, Paddy and Mel, plus the boat team James Whitworth and Stephen Gillespie and the coxes Maeve and Olivia, prepared for a long awaited evening out. Stephen (four days and 130 miles!) bought us all dinner at a french brasserie (Brasserie by niche) and it was an absolute delight. I will not list the menu but suffice to say that the quality of the bread alone made Alex, our french physio and general star, weep…. When the Hermitage arrived, I thought he would kiss Stephen (not an image I wish to carry with me…)

Yesterday, the glorious rest day, I went to a laundromat in an area called Soulard. It reminded me architecturally of Beacon Hill in Boston, but it was much grittier, with a farmers’ market and some great blues bars. The sun shone and my spirits soared. I was listening to a playlist I had put together, inspired by Niall Murphy, who continues to suggest appropriate tracks for the Mississippi. So, listening to “Walking in Memphis”, the mis-perceived load I had felt began to properly evaporate. If you are ever in St Louis, go to Soulard and visit the 1860 saloon. You would need a heart of stone not to feel at home.

That evening we visited a St Louis Cardinals game as guests of the Cardinals organisation. The scene was wonderful. 45,000 ticket holders and probably a similar number at the many bars surrounding Busch stadium, enjoying (believe me, enjoying!) the local equivalent of the Craic. Everyone in our group in great heart and I realised I was surrounded, helped, buoyed and protected by a truly great group of people. I felt slightly embarrassed at my complaining at my own weakness. We are four square in this together and will triumph.

And then, just as I thought this could get no better, it did. To my utter shock, amazement and delirious delight, into our bar walked Julie. She had flown 13 hours via JFK, to St Louis, then taxi to be with me for two precious days before scurrying back on Sunday. For once, I was without words – certainly adequate words. As appropriate, everyone else knew except me. To say that it rounded off a perfect day does a disservice to perfection. We enjoyed an evening of laughter, beer, hot dogs and local “characters”. Graeme showed his undivided interest by sleeping through a large portion, woken only by fireworks.

Today, glorious sunshine and 85 degrees of heat. Dan Adams joins us for a day from Minneapolis. We are at a local jazz and blues festival this afternoon before the best barbecue in St Louis – Big Pappy’s. This, my friends, is a great city and I am privileged to be here.

Tomorrow, screaming tailwind and a huge stream. Hardly worth putting on rowing kit.

Onwards to Memphis is the cry and the true South.


  1. Ah ha! The river and weather gods anticipate my arrival to help my brothers in their days of need.

  2. So glad Julie is there and you are enjoying some of St Louis. I am sending my aunt and uncle to see you (hopefully) in Memphis!! Love and joy to all of you!!

  3. I was hoping Julie would fly over. She is very concerned about you and your health. You WILL make it….you are doing a wonderful thing for the children. Please be save..and strong.

  4. Hi John, It warmed my heart to read your “A Shaft of Light” blog post How marvelous that Julie was able to give you a surprise visit. Also, since I read the post I can’t seem to get the song “Walking in Memphis” out of my mind. A listen to a personal playlist can do wonders! Be safe and carry on and hello to Julie and the team.

  5. Dear John

    So glad you are back on form and that Julie made it out again to see you. Am still trying to look at your route and see some likely associated songs. Bumper crop (almost – depending on geographical precision):

    Union City Blue – Blondie
    Born on The Bayou – Creedence Clearwater Revival
    The House of the Rising Sun – The Animals

    Well done and keep it all going. I’ll try and think of some more that aren’t necessarily just blues / country…


  6. It was delightful to see you back blogging again this morning. We missed you. Your honesty is humbling. Easy for us to say “You can do it!” But we are not there (although with your wonderful narrative, sometimes we feel we are). Your wise words got me through the Adelaide City to Bay this morning……..”I have the right to go slow but I do not have the right to stop” thank you! The fundraising will take care of itself, what with the book, the film, the mini series etc. How fabulous is Julie??? Lots of love and support, as alway,s from down under. Xxxxxxxx Phil Angela and Tom xxxxxxxxx

  7. Hang in there Pritch. And well done for being open – I’ve found through some tough times that it’s definitely the best way – then your family and friends can and will help. And things usually look a lot better after a good nights sleep

  8. A big hello from your very worried (or was) sister.I was very concerned for you John,but have to say not that surprised.With all that you have done these past months is it any wonder something had to give.So very glad that all seems to be
    back on track now.How fantastic that Julie was able to come out and be with you Angie had told me and we were all thrilled.No need to ask if a good time was had by all.Love all you are doing little brother I am indeed very lucky to have you in my life. In a perfect world i would be there with you.
    By the way Angie did so well in the Bay to City run we are so proud of her !

    Stay well
    Love from Tom & me xxxxxx

  9. Hi mate Glad we’ve got our JP back “screaming tail wind and huge stream ” sounds like just what the doctor ordered.Unfortunately same can’t be said for FFC spirited performance by the lads on saturday but a rather rash tackle resulting in his (shaun hutchinson) being sent off (the only decision the ref got right)made it very difficult but as i said very spirited and never gave up so hopefully starting to head in the right direction.Actually looking forward to doncaster on tuesday i will keep you posted G

  10. Have you ever found that when you get half way through something (a journey or a holiday), the second half never seems to be as long as the first? You’re much more than half way now, and what a star Julie is.

  11. John – I am really glad to read that Julie provided you the uplift needed. Whilst she is a star I am in awe at what you are doing and I am sure the second half will be quicker than you think. A tryly great effort – think of all the kids that will benefit!! Well done

  12. Amazing how things do turn around when you think it can never get better! Love to all. x

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>