by Alan McArthur
Canoeing down the Missouri River is not exactly something a lot of people would consider as enjoyment, not to mention going the distance from Kansas City to St. Louis in under 100 hours.
But that is exactly what Platte City resident Kenneth Brown is doing this week along with longtime friend and fellow Platte County R-3 graduate Scott Schieber.
The trip from Kaw Point--where the Kansas River meets the Missouri River in Kansas City--to St. Charles, just outside of St. Louis, is 340 miles filled with snags, strong currents, motorboats, and barges.
The race started on Tuesday morning at 8 a.m. with the end of the race 100 hours away, at noon on Saturday.
Throughout the race, there are checkpoints the racers have to pass before certain times to continue to qualify in the race.
What made the men decide to take part?
“I don't know the reason why, it just sounded like a fun adventure,” said Brown. “We've paddled just about every river in the state.”
This isn’t the first time Brown and Schieber have been on the Missouri River, just the first time for such a long race. According to Brown, in order to practice for the race the two have been on the river three times, including one trip from Atchison, Kan. to Parkville.
“There's nothing like the current of the Missouri. It is its own animal for sure; there are wing dikes and navigation traffic with barges. It's not a concern, but we are prepared for it,” said Brown, who is a former Platte City alderman.
Even though he is not worried about the obstacles they might face, Brown said his mother is a little concerned.
“It's got my mom worried, but that's what mom's are supposed to do,” said Brown, the son of Bill and JoKaren Brown of Platte City.
According to Brown, the two have a lot of experience floating on other rivers in Missouri. Some of the other rivers the two have been on are the Current, Eleven Point, and North Fork.
The two got their early canoeing experience on a river much closer to Platte City. Brown said he and Schieber, who now lives in Columbia, got their start on the Platte River while in school in Platte City.
“Scott and I floated on the Platte,” said Brown. “We'd run bank lines and fish along the river.”
While Brown and Schieber hope to finish the race in less than 100 hours, some of the top competitors in four or six person canoes will finish in a little over 40 hours.
“I'm not planning on contending, I just want to finish,” said Brown. “The winners won't sleep and they'll finish in the 40 hour range.”
Last year, the fastest canoe finished in 44 hours and 27 minutes. That four man team finished at 4:27 a.m. on the second day of the race.
All of the canoes in the race were required to get a number for identification and the number the two chose indicates their goal of finishing in less than 100 hours.
“We chose the number 9959 because it is one minute less than 100 hours,” said Brown.
Canoe teams are also required to have a name which they put on the canoe. Brown and Schieber chose the name The Outlaws for their team. Some of the other names for teams in this year’s race include Soggy Bottom Boys, Snowball's Chance, Unclaimed Idiots, Bad Decision, and Aquaholics.
The maximum number of canoes allowed on the river by the U.S. Coast Guard is 150 and the race is full. There is even a waiting list to be able to participate.
After the beginning of the race Brown expects they will find people who have a similar pace and mostly stay together through the rest of the race.
“With 150 vessels on the river we'll get to know some folks real well,” Brown.
The competitors are allowed to stop along the course to rest as long as they finish within 100 hours. According to Brown, the two will stop to sleep when they get tired.
“We just plan on pulling off to rest and get more supplies,” said Brown. “We have hammocks in the canoe to put up between trees along the river and we'll get back on as soon as we can.”
To help them re-supply along the route will be Roy Schieber, Scott Schieber's father, and a family friend.
“We'll get provisions of food and they'll haul our night gear with them,” said Brown. “We'll probably stop with them once or twice a day.”
Brown hopes that by keeping a steady pace the two can finish in under the 100 hours.
“If we can average 4.5 mph then we can finish in 98 hours,” said Brown. “That's the worst case scenario; I hope to finish earlier than that. I think 4.5 mph is a conservative speed.”
The race will also be physically exhausting and may cause some pain for the racers, but Brown said he expects to be back at work on Monday.
“I don't expect anything less than our hands being blistered,” said Brown. “I plan to be back to work on Monday. I intend to finish by 12 on Saturday and then get in a car and sleep for 12 hours.”
As for anyone who might be interested in participating in the race next year, Brown says:
“Right now I say go for it, but ask me again when we get back. When we make it to St. Charles, it will be a personal best for me.”