Mississipi Million

The Great River Rowed

Early reflections….

Early reflections….

Posted by on Oct 28, 2014

New Orleans, Louisiana. 28th October

I promised that I would write some reflections on our journey as soon as I was able to draw breath, and here they are.

I write to you from the hotel in NO, having finally managed to sleep through until 08.30 for the first time and enjoying a third day off the river. This last point is important as it marks the first time I have had three consecutive days of not rowing since August 2nd in northern Minnesota. After two days of true celebration (about which, more anon), I am finally able to take some time to cogitate on what we have done. First, my overwhelming sensation is of utter exhaustion. Even my fingernails are tired. If I could, I would go back to bed and try to sleep, sleep, sleep. The great healer.

Secondly, I feel curiously flat. I referred to this in an earlier blog, but it is a combination of weaning myself off the daily schedule – sleep 9 hours, eat, row 6/8 hours, eat, sleep, plus saying goodbyes to members of the core team (Graeme and Gillian left at 07.00 this morning to haul the boats and trailer to Houston, from where they can be shipped back to the UK), plus, of course, the dawning recognition that we achieved what we set out to achieve – always a peculiar feeling. We have not yet hit our $1m target though, so that work continues.

Thirdly, I feel strongly emotional. In part this is due to the farewells, but it is also because the effort involved in keeping the whole thing together felt enormous (even though a huge amount of any success was due to others). The realisation that I no longer need to worry about all that is truly peculiar and the feeling is one of emptiness. This will certainly lift in the days to come, especially when I am back at home and with Julie, who left yesterday.

Lastly, there is, I am happy to say, just the beginnings of some real happiness creeping in as we compute what we have done for the children of RTP. With all your help, so far we have raised sufficient funding to support around 50,000 children for a whole year. This is a truly staggering accomplishment and each and everyone of you should walk just a little taller today as a result. A huge thank you from me and the team.

Paddy and John

And now let me tell you what happened the day/evening/night of the celebration party on Sunday. We started at the Galvez restaurant in the french quarter, jazz band in the background, drinks in hand. I made a pathetic attempt to thank and welcome everyone, then Simon Holden encapsulated the trip and what we have done – not a dry eye in the house.  By 15.00, I remarked that what I really needed was a quick 30 minute nap to recharge the batteries for an evening out. At that precise point, a large bottle of Glenmorangie was secured and I found myself with Paddy and others, polishing off the whisky and suddenly the need for a nap disappeared.

We magically found ourselves in the Lafitte’s Blacksmith bar, which is untroubled by electricity, lit only by candles. I was drinking Hurricanes (look them up), interspersed by pints of beer as a balance. I was wearing Mardi Gras beads (look them up), whilst Paddy was wearing a pair of multi coloured angel wings. The drinks accelerated to long island iced teas (look them up) just as my great friend Chris Mahoney turned up – he flew in from Holland just for the evening. Unbelievable. The pace increased, food was required and the ladies (always the most sensible) secured some tables. I ate a steak with my hands, apparently, and we were gently asked to move on when we started dancing on the bar, the tables being insufficiently robust. Not sure what happened to the others, but Chris and I saw out the night in some style (I think).

The following morning (yesterday) I had a truly catastrophic hangover. I will spare you the more organic side effects, but suffice it to say that a) I could not drink fizzy water on the basis that it was too noisy and b) it took me 8 minutes to put on my underpants.

Now recovered and will wander the streets of this great city today, and very, very excited to see you all soon.



  1. We have had three months of amazing blogs , pictures and videos. We have been with you every ‘row’ of the way. We shall miss all of this. Thank you all, especially you and Patrick for the hard physical effort that you put into your challenge. Well done.

  2. Well done to the both of you i would imagine that you have both been running on adrenaline this past week so not surprised you feel a bit flat i am sure this will soon pass and a nice warm feeling will take its place (this time not due to a bottle of scotch)go safe G

    ps nice to see paddy found his razor blades

  3. Dear John,
    All of us at Cambridge have been following your progress with great interest. We’re all delighted that you’ve achieved your goal, and so proud to count you and Paddy as part of the Cambridge family.
    Holly Peterson and all those in the Development and Alumni Office at the University of Cambridge.

  4. John – an incredible achievement by you and the team. Massive congratulations…!! You should be incredibly proud that so many childrens’ lives will be profoundly changed for the better through Right To Play’s fantastic programmes and your vision and sheer will to succeed. I looked up ‘Hurricane’ as you advised and understand how a few of those could contribute to complications the following morning…

  5. So very very impressed with what you’ve done, your team, the whole organisation of everything- amazing!

    I don’t suppose Kyra had anything to do with the decision to go to Lafites….

  6. Congratulations on reaching New Orleans and the end of the physical journey. Great achievement for a great cause!

    The “fall color” you asked about was phenomenal this year in Alma, will send photos later.

    Should have warned you about partying in New Orleans. Not only are the drinks great they are potent, using grain alcohol … makes you forget things and the hangover is wicked.

  7. Many contrats on your and the team’s Herculean effort! We’ve been following blogs but been remiss in posting comments I’m afraid. Anyway, magnificent job all round. Looking forward to catching up when you’re in land of the living again.

  8. Hope you’re over your hangover by now! Congratulations on your accomplishment. It was great meeting you and the rest of the team. We will never forget you. Keep up the great work for Right to Play.

  9. Pritch and Paddy

    What an unbelievable achievement!

    Many many congratulations!

    The power of the mind and the will to succeed never cease to amaze.

    Hope to catch up, Pritch, when I’m next over in London July 2015?



  10. A remarkable trip, the completion of which is a superb achievement. Only a special sort of person could dream up such an idea, have the charisma to attract all the other supporters, helpers, rowers etc. and then complete it. Well done John and Paddy – a remarkable trip by a couple of mad but remarkable men (and their support crew).

  11. Happy that you’re there. Some of our fondest moments have been spent in New Orleans.
    Another fond moment was when I turned around and saw you 3 sneaking up behind our kayaks just north of Cape Girardeau.
    Talking to y’all was a memorable experience. Good work.

  12. Quite simply superb John. Huge congratulations to everyone involved. You are truly inspirational and I am proud to know you and count you as a friend. Pam x

  13. John and the team
    Huge congrats on completing this epic challenge. Must catch up when you are back to hear more. Justin

  14. John, I have read every update on this blog and have followed your adventures on Facebook. I am amazed and in awe of what you have achieved. I wish that I could have joined you for part of this trip… and I really wish I could have partied in NO with you (although I fear that I would not have been up to the task).

    Congratulations on your monumental effort. I look forward to hearing about it in person one day in the not too distant future.

    All the very best, Mike

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