Can You Spin Plates AND Dance? -Planning an Expedition

Change is Good
Change is Good [Logo design by Jonathan Lauten]

Expedition planning and spinning plates have a lot in common. Both are overwhelming, both require diligence and focus, and both will reward you with success and accomplishment, despite the intermingling with falls, drops and crashes. A plate spinner is persistent and does not ‘bag it’ when plates fall and shatter. An adventurer does not ‘bag it’ when planning confronts obstacles. Nope. They get back on the path called “onward” and forge ahead, come hell or high water! [idiom meaning “no matter what”]

Decision is the key! Decide to take a risk, and pursue an adventure. Decide to spin the plates, and keep picking them up, try again, spin ‘em, drop ‘em, try and try and try again. DECISION spawns DESIRE. This is the dynamic duo one needs to accomplish grandiose goals, pursue the unattainable, and conquer the impossible! Yes, spin plates and dance at the same time.

A gift from our Natchez River Family
A gift Tee from our Natchez, Mississippi River Family

Rarely does one embark upon an expedition without some hesitation at first. Do I have the time? Do I have the money? Do I have the strength? Do I have obligations? Do I have the courage? Some, perhaps, may have organized their life in such a way that everything is under control, including time and financial needs. That may take a lifetime of planning. Most of us river rats do not fall into that category. More often than not we feel the appeal, then become compelled to begin the pursuit. Granted, it takes time to actually say, “YES, I’m doing it!” But, once the urge becomes a “decision,” priorities begin to shift, creativity soars, goals appear, and your life transforms.

I was meant to do this. I was born to do this. Everything in my life, the experiences, the challenges, the stumbles, the victories, have led me to this project. The time is now, as I cannot pretend I am still a youth. Well, at heart of course. I did run a trail yesterday and felt just as good as when I WAS a youth. However, taking on two expeditions in planning, yes, both the Miss and Yukon as they cannot be separated, AND teaching 7th grade Science has its overwhelmingments (I just made up that word, ha!).

The Great Mississippi River-2016
The Great Mississippi River-2016
The Great Yukon River-2017
The Great Yukon River-2017
M&Ms Lab was a big hit

This idea to paddle the three longest rivers in North America blossomed early last fall. As I tossed it around for several months, thinking mostly about the Yukon River paddle, the more I wanted to do it, and believed I could do it. However, the logistical details of paddling the Yukon this summer spun around in my mind and led to more and more sleepless nights. I realized I could not plan a Yukon paddle and teach full time with peace of mind. So, I rearranged the rivers and placed the Mississippi River on this summer’s calendar and things began to fall into place. I am looking forward to connecting the upper Mississippi to the magical lower Mississippi with a ride down the river’s full length.

Since my February 1 official announcement, I have been busy, but mostly focused on teaching, which is my priority. This website was an early expedition priority, a ‘must have’ in order to make an announcement by February 1. I managed to get it started just in time (hurray, a plate was spinning) but, seriously, I had to wait two months until this 5-day Spring Break before I could make a new post. So, call me crazy. I am calling on all strengths and fortitudes to conquer this 1Woman3GreatRivers goal. 

While planning for the imminent Mississippi River plunge on May 25 at Lake Itasca, MN, which will be here before we know it, I am working diligently to craft my mission for the Yukon River. I want to help bring awareness to the Arctic indigenous Gwich’in Nation’s plight to acquire permanent wilderness designation for the Coastal Plains of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. This will help protect the birthing and nursing habitat of the Porcupine Caribou, a creature that is closely connected to the Gwich’in people’s culture, heritage, sustenance, and future survival. The Coastal Plains are still vulnerable to oil and gas industry drilling. I am currently awaiting contact from them before I forge ahead with this mission in mind. 

“The Arctic Refuge coastal plain encompasses approximately 1.2 million acres and serves as the biological heart of the entire refuge. Polar and brown bears, caribou, Dall sheep, wolves and muskox are just a few of the more than 250 animal species that depend on the coastal plain. Millions of birds, representing some 125 species, migrate to the coastal plain to nest, rear their young and feed. The coastal plain is not only one of the most significant onshore polar bear denning habitats in the United States but also the most important habitat for the Porcupine caribou herd.”  []

Photo Credit: Florian Schulz []
Photo Credit: Florian Schulz []

In the meantime I am currently spinning more and more plates, and learning how to dance at the same time.

Many adventurers and explorers have numerous preparations and planning tasks, but these are a few of mine:

Contacting companies for sponsorship or gear support

LoveYourBigMuddy Presentations

Establishing communication with the Gwich’in Steering Committee

Applying for a National Geographic Explorers Grant

Applying for a Timmissartok Foundation Grant

Preparing Blue Moon for expedition

Reserving an educational activity booth at the St. Louis Earth Day Event on April 24

Finding a reasonably priced rental vehicle to travel to the Mississippi source, Lake Itasca. 

Establishing my solar charging/storage system

Dehydrating vegetables and jerky

Developing a Curriculum Vitae (CV) for grants

Applying for a Passport

Getting my taxes done

Having bumper stickers made

Designing a 1Woman3GreatRivers Project poster

Checking airfare to and from Alaska and British Columbia

Developing a budget

Submitting photos for The Mississippi River Photo Shoot Out

Printing photos for signature and sending to LoveYourBigMuddy supporters 

Starting a physical fitness program: Trail running, bike riding, dog walking, and paddling 

Brainstorming a custom sprayskirt design for Blue Moon

Posting blog updates

Learning how to use Garmin GPS device

Learning how to use GoPro camera

Eat, sleep, planning for and going to work

Finding pink crocs! Help! 🙂

My new expedition cards with John Ruskey's Rivergator Map on the back. Rivergator is an online paddler's guide for the Middle/Lower Mississippi River. Visit at
My new expedition cards with John Ruskey’s Mississippi River Map on the back. Rivergator is an online paddler’s guide for the Middle/Lower Mississippi River. For more information and maps, visit

All THAT said, as river time approaches, my soul begins to be reminded of the peace of mind and joyful heart that comes with slipping away from the river shore, gently rocking on the water, contemplating life and its wonderments, making decisions only by me, anticipating what’s around the next bend, bonding with the good people of the river, living without excess, simply, with the stars and the moon and, yes, the mosquitos. Life is short. Find your pleasure. And, if you cannot seem to get the plates to spin, just dance, dance, dance.

Much love-


Peace out

The Great Missouri River near Columbia, MO, Cooper’s Landing, Plowboy Bend, Rivermile 170


“Nothing worthwhile was ever accomplished without the will to start, the enthusiasm to continue and, regardless of temporary obstacles, the persistence to complete.” – Waite Phillips