NEW ORLEANS — There’s no longer flowing water under the three Mississippi River travelers. Their hands are no longer clinched from paddling their canoe for days and days on end.
For Forrest Schoessow, 25, of Sidney, Shea Selsor, 25, of Piqua, and Alex Ross, 26, of Sidney/New Orleans, a journey that began May May 20 in Lake Itasca, Minnesota, ended July 27 in the Gulf of Mexico. The trio paddled the length of the great Mississippi River — 2,340 miles — and have now rejoined civilization.
Their entry into the Gulf of Mexico left the trio wondering what to do next.
“Arriving in the Gulf was one of the more strange moments of the entire journey,” said Ross during his final Sunday interview. “Our families had all followed us down into the fingers of land that make up the end of the Mississippi, and when we ducked off into a canal that shot us out into the Bay of Adam, we were already surrounded by the faces that we’d missed for 10 weeks.
“I think they were a little confused by our apparent lack of excitement. It’s not that we weren’t excited to be done (of course we were), but after 10 weeks of getting a rhythm specifically to get this far, it just felt odd. When we actually get out in it, we were quiet. We just sort of paddled around in this big blue nothing and didn’t say much. Later, when we were all back in New Orleans with all of our family and friends, it seemed to finally hit us and we collectively freaked out with joy.”
The party was at Ross’s home after they arrived in New Orleans.
“It was so much fun to see the people that I had been thinking about for 10 weeks. They were all in one place,” said Ross. “I had never had a party like that before.”
Ross said never reaching their goal of the Gulf of Mexico was never an option for him.
“There was some real fear at a couple of points,” said Ross.
But the trio, he said, were focused on the goal — the Gulf — during each paddle of their trip.
“We’d talk about how many miles we had to go each day,” he said. “Then we’d talk about what are we going to do after we reach a certain point.
“We’d say ‘If we’re going to make Cairo by Friday, then we have to do this many miles,’” said Ross.
Their goal was to reach the Gulf of Mexico by Aug. 1. The beat that goal by five days, allowing Selsor and Schoessow to return to Ohio before Aug. 1.
Ross said he “dived right back into work” after Selsor and Schoessow left New Orleans.
“I had a lot of work to do the first couple of days,” said Ross.
But getting back into the swing of work and not having Schoessow and Selsor with him took some adjusting for Ross.
“I was in rhythm with the other two guys,” said Ross. “We’d wake up at the same time every morning. We had a single purpose. The first couple of days, my head wasn’t having any part of it (working).”
Ross said it took him several days to get back into his work routine.
“The past two days I’ve snapped back to have a regular work day,” said Ross.
As Ross reflects on the trip, he said everything was a unique experience.
“The start and the end of the trip, we had our potential energy of the trip,” said Ross. “The inside part of the trip — it”s bizarre to think about it now. There’s a memory that’s a separate part of the trip which makes it almost a dream. I find it hard to remember sometimes how we got there.
“As a whole, the trip was great,” said Ross. “It was so satisfying to have all the people following our story. We are very grateful to our hometown newspaper for telling our story.”
Ross said they were “completely done in” at the end of their journey.
“It was hard the last couple of days,” said Ross. “We were trying to get enough water while we were paddling. After the last day and when we arrived by in New Orleans, I was completely done in. The good company I had certainly helped me.”
Ross said it was wonderful sleeping in his own bed after spending so many nights on a riverbank falling asleep.
“I think I slept like the dead,” said Ross. “I was knocked out. I had slept well on the trip.
“I wok up the next morning and my body and limbs were so relaxed that I left like I was dead. There were no aches, no pains. My body felt so heavy when I woke up the first couple of days.”
Ross again expressed his appreciation to all who followed their journey.
“Thank you to everyone, everywhere who made it possible for us to do the trip,” said Ross. “Thanks to all who were reading along with us. It was an incredible trip to do and you made it possible for us. I can’t express what that means to me.
“It’s been weird, wonderful, enlightening and educational, and we couldn’t have done it without all of the support of the folks back home. Thank you, thank you, thank you,” said Ross.
Schoessow wasn’t available Sunday morning due to a family emergency. His reflections of the trip will be published at a later date.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4822; follow her on Twitter @MelSpeicherSDN. Follow the SDN on Facebook, www.facebook.com/SidneyDailyNews.