Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages, the poet Chaucer wrote in the century before Columbus bumped into the New World, and I know what he means. Not April, when his folk were longen, but August — the last slice of summer before Labor Day sets the work year rolling again — puts the longen in me.
So husband Bill Lambrecht and I joined a New World pilgrimage, 22 souls paddling 46 miles down the Missouri River, through the Wild West landscape of the Missouri Breaks, in the wake of Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery. (They, of course, paddled and mostly pulled upstream to discover America’s way west. Downstream, as on their 1806 return journey, is much easier, with a current of about three miles an hour pushing you.)
Off the grid, I’ve had my hands on no keyboard and my eyes on wondrous sights. My ears I couldn’t help but keep open. Nor could I suppress the journalist’s urge to ask questions.
The first question you ask a stranger is, Where are you from? From Maryland, only us. From Virginia, Richmond specifically, four. From Wisconsin, three. From North Carolina, two; Colorado, one; Montana, a half-dozen; Canada, one — but her Alberta home is only six hours away.
The second is likely What do you do? Which led me right back to the Bay Weekly in your hands. And confirmed our findings in all the years we’ve done this now annual issue: the work we do makes us who we are.
Coloradan Paul DeWitt couldn’t bear the confines of the cubicle. So he broke loose, transitioning through fine furniture making — “I’d never make a living at the prices I had to charge” — to making his hobby his living. A long-distance trail runner, DeWitt set and held, “briefly,” he says, the record for the Leadville Trail 100-mile ultra-marathon: 17 hours, 16 minutes, 19 seconds. Now DeWitt works as a coach for extreme-distance trail runners, coaching online and in elite on-trail settings, say up and down the Grand Canyon a couple of times. The work he does shows in his body. If our paddle had been a race, he would have won.
But right behind him would have been his mother and father. “We’re an athletic family,” said she, who’s run the Boston Marathon. An active marathoner, DeWitt senior went from football to boxing to coaching at North Carolina State University.
Then, perhaps, Ingrid Stenbjorn, the corporate exec turned yogi. Unless mathematician Steve figured and beat the odds.
Followed by the rest of us pilgrims, a psychiatric nurse practitioner; a party of five canvas suppliers and big tent manufacturers, one having just jumped the corporate ship of Cabela, the giant outdoors equipment seller; a development director for the Wisconsin State Youth Symphony with her engineer husband and aspiring journalist son; a city administrator; a corporate marketer and an IBM retiree, agile as a gymnast … and a couple of journalists.
All of us were led by the indefatigably resourceful Kevin O’Brien, an anthropological archaeologist who has followed the trail of the Missouri River natives — and of Lewis and Clark — from St. Louis up the 2,341-mile river.
To all of them and to you, from Missouri River country to Chesapeake Country, I tip my river hat. By what we do we make ourselves and make this wide, rich and amazing world. Happy Labor Day!
Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; email@example.com