Well bloggers, what a week it has been!
After the several days of celebration in New Orleans with my brother Jared, parents, grandparents, Mark, Cody, Rick(the designer of the website, eGeeks.com) and his wife Erin, I have finally arrived back in Colorado. Even though the sunburns and soreness have started fading, my mind still is caught by the river. I wake up at night confused about where I am, thinking that I need to paddle another 60 miles tomorrow! With time I know that these dreams will pass, but for now they remain a part of me. That being said it is time to thank all of the folks that made this trip a success. This will be long, so hold on tight. I am going to do a general thanks first followed by my corporate sponsors, followed by blog divided by sections of the river.
First I would like to thank my parents, Joe and Bonnie. They have been my greatest "sponsor" on the trip and without their financial support this trip would not have been possible. More importantly though they are the ones responsible for instilling in me the stubbornness that allowed me to push as hard as I did. Their love, support and guidance kept me strong when I was tired and I am eternally indebted to them for their support of such an "adventurous child". I know that it must be very difficult to see your son do such things, and I thank them for trusting me and giving me the chance to see what I can accomplish.
Next I would like to thank my brother, Jared Forrester. Jared is single-handedly responsible for the extremely high quality blogging that allowed everyone following along to enjoy the trip. Not only was he working full-time and applying to medical school, but he also found the time to put together the blogs you all came to know and love. In addition, I became closer to my brother than ever before on this trip. We talked every night, and when the going got tough he provided the motivation to keep pushing on when I was too hot/cold/tired to continue on. Jared, thank you for all you have helped me with.
I would like to thank my grandfather, Joe Forrester, for allowing me to tell so many people about such a personal issue. Not everyone would allow their life to be broadcast over the internet, let alone the disease that they face on a daily basis. Thank you for all your support.
Finally, I would like to thank everyone who donated to the National Parkinson Foundation on behalf of Paddling for Parkinson's. Without your generous support we would never have raised $20,000! Way to go team! We did it!
Now I would like to take the time to thank my Corporate sponsors:
Rick White, the owner of eGeeks.com, was the mastermind behind the website which allowed everyone to follow along with the journey. When I originally contacted Rick in January 2009, I threw out some ideas for the website and Rick just took them and ran with them. Rick not only created the website, designing the map tracking function and integrating it seamlessly, but he also put up with my relative lack of computer knowledge, helping guide me through the site construction. Rick was incredibly easy to work with and always found a way to get information in a coherent fashion so that you all could follow along. Without Rick and eGeeks.com, the trip would not have been what it was for everyone following along. If you liked the website, kick Rick an email and let him know. He truly is a computer stud!
Without the support of Mike Cichanowski and Jake Greseth of Current Designs, this trip would never even have gotten off the ground. When I first called Mr. Cichanowski and discussed my trip with him he immediately agreed to help me out with a reduced price boat and Jake Greseth helped make that happen. My Storm GT "The Mary Agnes" was the perfect boat for this trip. She had enough room to allow me to carry enough supplies for the journey, but was sleek enough to make paddling a relative breeze. What I was most impressed with was her durability. While I tried to be as kind as possible to her, scree, rip-rap, and concrete are a part of life on the river. She withstood a ton of stress and is still kickin! If you are interested in a boat I would highly recommend you check out http://www.cdkayak.com/. Current Designs really make a great product and the staff is awesome.
Thank you to Jim Miller and Werner Paddles. When I first contacted Jim Miller the response I got was where do you need the bent shaft Camano sent to and when does it need to get there. Jim Miller at Werner Paddles was very supportive of the trip. My bent shaft Camano was a lifesaver. I have had two shoulder reconstructions and too many dislocations to count and I was apprehensive before the trip about how my shoulders would hold up to such repeated abuse. While I was tired at the end, my shoulders, elbows and hands felt better than I expected. Even with my vigilance about stretching, I attribute this absence of chronic injury to paddling with a superior paddle. The bent-shaft Camano was awesome, and I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in paddling longer distances.
A special thanks to Blake Longworth and Casey Worzella of NRS. These guys rock! They provided almost all of my soft good gear I needed for the trip. When I needed a new PFD sent out upon arriving in Washington, MO, Blake sent out the Clearwater PFD right away. Switching to that PFD made paddling much cooler and helped allowed my body to paddle better. The FullZip SeaTour Jacket was essential to my survival when I was snowed on up in Montana and kept me dry in the deluges I experienced in Nebraska. This jacket rocks, check it out! NRS also provided me the NRS deckbag which became like a second piece of clothing to me. I was able to keep all my deck gear organized in one place which was critical in allowing me to paddle the distances I did each day. NRS Neo Tour spray skirt kept me dry and warm in the cold weather up in Montana as did the Mamba mits. NRS was so supportive of my trip and I am very thankful for all that they have done for the trip. Make sure to check out their website!
Thanks to Jason Kennedy at Standard Horizon. Like Jim Miller, when I contacted Jason Kennedy, I received the reply, where do you need it send and when does it need to get there! The HX471S was a superior product and directly contributed to my safety and success on my 3,461 mile river odyssey. There are two occasions in particular that highlight the necessity of having such a dependable VHF radio. While I was crossing Lake Sakakawea in North Dakota, I was hit by several large storms, some producing very high winds (75-85 mph) frequent lightning and heavy rain. I depended on the ability of the HX471S to provide reliable access to the NOAA weather reports in order to stay on top of the weather. This reliance became most poignant when a tornado touched down 2 miles from my camp.
The second example of when the HX471S was an essential piece of gear was during my passage through the lower Mississippi in New Orleans, Louisiana. New Orleans is an incredibly busy port with significant tow, barge and super-freighter activity. Being a 17-foot kayak passing through these waters is akin to an ant attempting to cross Times Square. My safety directly depended on my HX471S because this was my only way I could communicate with the tow and super-freighter captains. Without the dependability of the HX471S I have doubts as to whether or not I would have made it through New Orleans safely. Thanks to Standard Horizon and Jason Kennedy!
The Medical Center of Aurora
Thank you to John Hill, Bill Voloch and Jennifer Barry of the Medical Center of Aurora. I approached Mr. Hill and Mr. Voloch about the trip, discussed what I was planning and they asked how they could help. Not only did they provide a significant financial donation to the National Parkinson Foundation on behalf of my trip, but they also sent me a soft-shell jacket and quick-wick tee shirt which I wore all the time. Mr. John Hill also provided a recommendation, suggesting I contact Hilleberg Tents about a potential sponsorship. Thank you to John Hill, Bill Voloch and Jennifer Barry for their support!
After talking with John Hill of the Medical Center of Aurora, I contacted Petra Hilleberg of Hilleberg. She agreed to provide me a Nallo 2 GT tent at a reduced cost. On an expedition as long as this trip, the quality of a tent is put to the test. I was not disappointed at all. Not only did the tent repeatedly withstand 50+ mph winds, but also made it through a tornado. I was a little concerned before the trip about how the tent would handle repeated sandbar camps, but once again I was proved wrong. I did not have a problem with any of the poles and had only one zipper get stuck which is pretty amazing. I was very happy with the Nallo 2 GT.
A special thanks to Conway Shipping for helping me get the Mary Agnes back from New Orleans, LA to Denver, CO. They made the whole issue of shipping a 17 foot boat a breeze and I am very thankful for their help.
Stay tuned to the next blog for section by section thanks.