Updates on Sponsorship, Funding, Promotion, & Preparation

I spent nearly all day on the computer yesterday.  I find that easy to do these days.  Writing a single letter of request for a donation takes a lot of time.  I try and carefully consider what I am writing to each company.   Much time is taken just to research company websites, find a product that best meets my needs, search out a place to apply for sponsorship/product donation for that company, and/or find a marketing manager’s name to address on a letter.  Then, a clear and concise letter of request is composed (and they are all different) to personally address that company and their product.

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These days gear companies are pretty organized with their online sponsorship request systems (sign of the times).  Some companies will let you know that if your purpose does not fall into their provided categories, don’t even bother to apply (like REI and North Face).  Others will let you know that they will try and respond within 48 hours, five to ten business days, or within four months.  I realize that it is important to apply to several companies, however, you have to plan for many hours in order to search for sponsorships.

I found out pretty early on that some companies won’t bother with you if you are not a “celebrity” athlete.  I understand that.  That is why the companies that have chosen to help me out are incredibly special and I hope to reward them with ample promotion.  I am determined that my partnership with them will be a win-win situation.  Thanks again to big company in-kind donations from Eddyline Kayaks/Swift Paddles, SPOT, title nine, and Patagonia for supporting my expedition.

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So, yesterday I requested donations from Katadyn Group (Optimus stove and freeze-dried/dehydrated foods), Sea to Summit (sleeping bag and dry sacks), GoPro (camera), and Smith Optics (sunglasses).  I spent quite a bit of time trying to find a Marketing Manager for Apple to request a Mac Book Pro.  I know, what are the chances?  But, if you don’t ask, you don’t even get a shot.  I will have to send them a snail mail letter, pretty sure, and that doesn’t mean it will get read.  I will also ask Sprint if they will give me six months of all-data service for an I-Phone that I can’t buy yet.  A long-shot but, again, it doesn’t hurt to ask. Think BIG!

Other companies I have sent requests to are Garmin (GPS), Marmot (sleeping bag), InReach (denied because I’m not a celebrity adventurer), Cascade Designs (tent, stove, Thermarest pad), PowerFilm, Inc. (solar-powered roll-up panel), Kokatat (paddling clothes), and KC Paddlers.  Still waiting for a response from these folks.  Others yet to contact are Seal Line (dry bags, PFD (life jacket)), Teva (sandals), other tent and sleeping bag companies, and a backpack company.  I will need to find more paddling companies to research for gear.

I have not asked any companies for money.  I think they like to see some successful accomplishments before they sponsor an expedition with cash.  Hopefully, someone will connect with what I am doing and jump on board…soon.

Even more special are some of my dear friends who have donated financially.  Thank you Bill and Anne Diehl, and Karen and Ric McCann – good friends from Bear Valley days.  Also,  my dear friend Deb Miller and best friend, Dave Bandy.  You are the first.  Thank you so much!!!

I am beginning to try some foods to bring along.  I have a few Knorr side dishes to try at $1 a pop, which include mashed potatoes, rice dishes, and pasta, of course.  I want to make sure I have plenty of comfort foods.  I will try and contact some companies for food donations.  Not sure who yet.

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So, this is the bulk of the work I have to do.  Hopefully, I will not have to purchase a tent and sleeping bag.  After five months of not working due to student teaching, and substituting part time for $70/day, I will soon need to take out a loan, or launch into a fundraising campaign, or both.  I’d like to avoid another loan.  My student loans are enough to keep me occupied.

My boat is all set except to remove the old keel protection strip and apply a new one, which Eddyline has provided.  I need to sand some scratches and fill them up.  And, I need to set up my rudder.  Oh, I have to rechristen the boat with the new name:  Blue Moon.

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I have ordered 200 more stickers after giving away the first 100.  The blog address will be larger on the new ones.

L-R, Dave Cornthwaite, Rod Wellington, Dale Sanders
L-R, Dave Cornthwaite, Rod Wellington, Dale Sanders

I  also designed a new business card last night because the first batch did not turn out visually as nice as it appeared on the computer screen.  No surprise.  You get what you pay for and they were cheap.  Here is a picture (a little fuzzy) of my new design I created with MOO.  They should arrive in about a week.

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The promo video will be ready in a week or so.  Thank you Jim Karpowicz and Tom Newcomb of Black Truck Pictures.  I hope to start an organized fundraising campaign then, perhaps with GoFundMe, or something of that nature.  You can visit my Donation Opportunities page, which I have set up with tier-level rewards for financial donations.  Please consider donating financially to help with the success of the expedition.

This sign points to Red Rock Mountain and Mount Jefferson, situated on the Continental Divide. This sign is visible here at the entrance to Alaska Basin in Montana. Looking east.
This sign points to Red Rock Mountain and Mount Jefferson, situated on the Continental Divide. Sawtelle Peak is behind and to the right and will be our entry into Brower’s Spring.

Norm Miller will be skiing into Brower’s Spring with me and has tracked down a pair of skis and boots from his friend who is loaning them to me.  I am thankful for that.  I may try and find a bike donation, or just bring my own.  It is nothing special, and pretty heavy, but it is a comfortable ride.  Someone may have to talk some sense into me to try and get a good bike to ride the sixty or more miles from the Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge to Clark Canyon Reservoir where I am planning to put in a boat.

Pronghorn and calf
Pronghorn and calf at wildlife refuge

The Red Rock River on that stretch is complicated by private land with barbed-wire fences crossing through the river, electrical fencing doing the same, corrugated sheet-metal dams, and snag piles forcing numerous portages and body submerges.  The road follows that stretch on which I will ride my bike.

Hell Roaring Canyon and Creek, exiting the mountains. (Nemesis Mt. to the left of canyon.)
Hell Roaring Canyon and Creek, exiting the mountains. (Nemesis Mt. to the left of canyon.)  This is where we will come out of the canyon.  Our route heads back and winds way up to the left.

Finally, I spend a fair amount of time on my blog posts.  I try to make them interesting with good visual accompaniments.  They take much longer, sometimes hours, than my more spontaneous updates on my Facebook page:  Love Your Big Muddy Expedition.  If you have not, please like my FB page.  Sponsors like to see lots of page “likes.”  Of course, I like to see the support.  You actually are supporting my expedition indirectly by liking and following my pages and blog.  THANK YOU!

Love Your Big Muddy Expedition
Love Your Big Muddy Expedition

So, if you are wondering when this epic adventure begins, it already has.  I will be leaving for Montana with my daughter and a friend on the morning of April 14, the day after my Science Teacher Certification Exam.  I hope to start the trek with my ski into Brower’s Spring on or near April 20th.  Maybe I will find myself at Three Forks on May 1st.  That would be ideal.   I cannot wait to see the mountains and begin the adventure of my lifetime.  Or, perhaps the first of many.  Cheers!

Winter view of the Centennials here. Wind blows frequently to obscure the road completely with snow in February.
Winter view of the Centennials here. Wind blows frequently to obscure the road completely with snow in February (hopefully, not April!).

A New Chapter Begins

I sold my 1982 diesel VW Vanagon pop-up camper today for much more than I could have wished for (eBay, where have you been all my life).  Thanks for all the good times, SloPoke!  Buyer and Seller both happy with the deal.  This money will help pay for the boat/gear and/or Rio’s surgery.  Who, by the way, is doing great, considering…

He loves the river, along with his sister, Sapphire…

It was a very good day.  The trek is coming into view more and more each day, especially now that I have a boat and much gear.   Special thanks to Michael Clark for allowing me to store the boat and gear at his place over the winter.  And, today is also the first official day of my early retirement from the University of Missouri.  Woo hoo!  Let the new chapter begin!!!

Boat…CHECK!

I am buying Bob Bellingham’s Shasta and all his gear for $1800.

“Thank you, Bob, if you ever read this, as I am grateful that you accepted (not without a fair amount of ribbing) my much-reduced-offer from your original request.  I will conduct a proper ceremony for the rechristening and name change of the Barbara May, per our discussion at Cooper’s.  And, you can count on me drinking a beer in your honor regularly along the way.  Although, probably not as frequently as you were given the opportunity to knock one back on your journey.”  😉  Cheers!

I have posted my 1982 diesel VW Camper Van on eBay to, hopefully, get enough money to pay for the boat and gear.  And, I posted my Prijon Seayak ($1500 (obo)) on CraigsList and eBay with the hope I can get Rio Oso’s ACL surgery scheduled.

Rio Oso, my river bear.

First Press About my Expedition

Bob demonstrating how the sail works.

Greetings!  Bob Bellingham from Australia, after 12 weeks paddling the Missouri River from the headwaters in Montana, stayed overnight at Cooper’s Landing last Wednesday, August 22.  He is only five or six days from St. Louis, his final destination.

While we were looking at his boat and gear on the boat ramp, Tom and Tyler paddled up.  They are two free-spirited 20 year-old men paddling in a canoe from Great Falls, Montana, all the way to the Gulf of Mexico.

The two, and Bob, have been leap-frogging down the river on their own individual journeys.  What a nice evening sharing river stories, eating Thai food, and listening to a couple from Guatemala play music!  I know, right? In Columbia, Missouri!

Earlier in the evening Tess and Zach from the Columbia Missourian, one of our local papers in town, came down to interview Bob and me.  This is a nice story about Bob and his journey, and my first local press regarding my expedition.  It’s pretty special.  (Thank you, John Schneller)

You can find the article from Friday, August 24, here:  Columbia Missourian.

L-R: Zac the photographer, Bob the paddler, Tess the writer.

A photo of me, and Bob, from the article.

Gear & Sponsorship Considerations

Dave Miller’s book, The Complete Paddler, offers detailed planning information, which relieves me of unnecessary anxiety.  I am currently absorbed in the section entitled:  Clothing, Gear, Hardware, Water, Food, and Shelter.  Yep, that about covers my interests right now because I need to know what I need in order to compose and mail off my sponsorship requests.

Although I just purchased a sea kayak recently, I have my heart set on the Eddyline Shasta.  Andy Bugh paddled a Shasta on his Expedition4Educationtrek of the same route (all the way to the Gulf), and loved it.  Bob Bellingham is currently on the river in the same boat, and likes it as well.  Sea kayaks have a smaller cockpit and are quite confining.

Andy Bugh & his Shasta kayak
Expedition4Education – 2011

The Shasta is a tandem kayak that can be adapted to a single seat, converting the boat into a more spacious craft for a three month solo journey.  Eddyline is a family run outfit in Seattle.  They recycle their scrap plastic!  I am hoping they respond to my request.  In the meantime, I will need to mail many more letters to kayak companies who offer a similar design.

Aside from the clothing, i.e., paddling jacket, pants, shorts, sandals, hats, shirts, and under wear, etc., Dave offers a list of gear that is extensive, but essential.  From his list I will be able to direct my letters to specific potential sponsors requesting needed items for the expedition.  The list is long, but kind of interesting to look at, at least for me.

Camp gear:

  • Tent
  • Plastic tarp for use as inside tent liner
  • Bivy bag (optional)
  • Extra nylon parachute cord and tent stakes
  • Small tube of seam sealer
  • Sleeping bag
  • Lightweight fleece bag (to be used as a liner or alone on warm nights)
  • Self-inflating pad with repair kit
  • Stove fuel
  • Fuel bottles
  • Cook kit: nesting pots
  • Large spoon
  • Large pocketknife
  • Biodegradable soap
  • Flashlight with extra batteries
  • Water purifier with extra filters
  • Small plastic shovel or toilet trowel
  • Small pruning shears or small machete
  • Clothespins and line
  • Water bags and bottles
  • Collapsible water bucket
  • Backpacker’s towel
  • Seasonings, pump-spray margarine, and small bottle of olive oil
  • Backpacker’s freeze-dried fare
  • Bag meats: tuna, chicken, salmon
  • Energy snacks, breakfast bars
  • Powdered drink mix coffee and/or tea, powdered milk/creamer/sweetener
  • Plastic tub of baby hand-wipes, toilet paper
  • Bathroom bags for areas where paddlers must manage their own waste

Miscellaneous Gear

  • Glasses (two pair), reading
  • Sunglasses (two pair)
  • Eyeglasses strap (
  • Map case for kayak deck
  • Waterproof watch with alarm
  • GPS unit with spare batteries
  • Marine band two-way radio with NOAA weather band (waterproof)
  • Dog tags with name, address, phone number, and blood type
  • Camera (water resistant/proof)
  • First-aid kit, snakebite kit
  • I am adding “bear spray”
  • Medications: antibiotics, ear drops, and eye drops
  • Cell phone in small dry box with charging equipment
  • I am adding “thin film solar panels”
  • Medium-sized dry box for odds and ends
  • Assortment of small and medium carabiner clips
  • Binoculars
  • Duct tape, tube of Goop, tube of marine hand-moldable epoxy, multipurpose tool
  • Dry bags for deck: light solid color, one with backpack straps
  • Small stainless steel thermos
  • Fishing pole and real, tackle including a small lure assortment, salt minnows
  • Extra lighters/fire starters
  • Life vest with compass, survival gear, small boat horn
  • Kayak with all the essentials: bilge pump, paddle float, sponge, bailer, throw line bag, flotation bags, and extra rope, bike cable and lock with extra keys.

Are you overwhelmed yet?  Yes, I will need a bigger boat.  🙂