Volume One Special Coverage: Pulling Together While Staying Apart


Unknown Territory

journeying from Boyd Park to New Orleans by kayak

Briana Bryant

THE RIVER ROAD SOUTH. Above: Photos from Jonathon and Kris Leuthe’s trip to New Orleans last summer. The brothers dumped in at Boyd Park in Eau Claire and were on the water for 75 days.
from Jonathon and Kris Leuthe’s trip to New Orleans last summer. The brothers dumped
in at Boyd Park in Eau Claire and were on the water for 75 days.

Jonathan Leuthe, an Eau Claire native, has a tale to tell.  At the age of 30, he ventured from Eau Claire to New Orleans, traveling along the Mississippi in a kayak, with his brother Kris beside him in a canoe.  They traveled a length of approximately 1800 miles of river, leaving on August 13 and arriving in New Orleans on October 29, 2011.  Jonathan says they could have done it faster, but the whole point was to enjoy themselves and take a break from routine.  Seventy five days straight of kayaking toward a far-away goal, and surprisingly only five of those days were rainy.  He experienced things unknown, such as traveling through the Mississippi River locks in his kayak, which he describes as being like a rubber duck in a bathtub as the water lowers.  Jonathan now owns his own business, Spin Vision, LLC.  It is based in Eau Claire and helps promote local businesses and local real estate with high-end virtual tours.  They are also open for business in the Twin Cities and Wausau, Wisconsin, and will soon be expanding into Lacrosse, as well as St. Cloud and Duluth in Minnesota. 

Did you do a lot of kayaking before the big trip to New Orleans?

Not really. I had bought a kayak two years prior, and it was very leisure. I would take it out into Dells Pond and just kind of paddle around a little bit. I had kayaked from Augusta all the way to Eau Claire on the Eau Claire River when I first got it, and that was like a day and a half.  But other than that, I had never really done anything quite like [the trip to New Orleans].

What made you go all the way to New Orleans?

I was at the point where after ten years of working hard, I was ready to kind of chase my dream of owning my own business. So I left a really good job, and kind of needed to take a break before I took on an even bigger endeavor…. I wanted to take kind of a mini retirement, so for three months I did the trip and the other three I tried to rest up.

Before leaving, were you nervous?

Kind of, yeah, you don’t wanna watch certain movies…not knowing what to expect, it was kind of intimidating. We thought there would be hillbillies. But what we came to realize is when you’re on the Mississippi River in kayaks, you’re the ones that people think are crazy.

Did you talk to your family and friends before leaving on the trip?

I didn’t really tell anybody that I was taking the trip. My brother and I just kind of vanished, planned for about a week, week and a half, just jumped in our boats and left.

What was a normal day like on the Mississippi?

Mother Nature kind of takes control of your day. You wake up when the sun’s hitting your tent and it starts to get so hot that you don’t wanna be in your tent anymore. We would sleep ‘till like 9 or 10 in the morning, and by then it was time to get up.  It took us an hour every morning just to tear down the camp, have a quick breakfast … make a pot of camp coffee, which is a little rough around the edges. So it would take us at least an hour to just get everything packed up and situated and ready to go down the river, and then we would spend pretty much the entire day paddling.

What was the journey itself like?

At the beginning, we thought that at the pace we were going, it was going to take us forever because it was so slow, north of St. Louis, because of all the locks and dams. They’re basically lakes, so there was no current, and so for a while there, we were paddling like we thought we would never make it because it was going so slow. But then we realized the faster we rushed through it, the quicker the trip would be done and it would be all over.  So we decided to just kinda kick back towards halfway through, and that’s when we really started to have a lot of fun.”

How did the journey impact you afterwards?

I guess when it’s all said and done, you just have that huge sense of accomplishment, like, we made it. You take a lot of pride in that. It’s quite the accomplishment that not many people do, and then just to recollect and think back. It really shows you that you can, if you put your mind to it, really do anything you want. That has empowered me to take on challenges elsewhere in life.

Would you suggest a trip like this for other kayakers?

Yeah, I would. I would just say, don’t ever do it alone.

Lasker Jewelers
Lasker Jewelers

Pulling Together Partners

The following organizations are currently supporting Volume One’s work in the community during the pandemic:

Lasker Jewelers

L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library, Eau Claire

Downtown Eau Claire Inc DECI

University of Wisconsin Eau Claire

Pablo Group

Wisconsin Independent Network

Middle West Management

Bon Iver

Royal Credit Union

Silver Spring

Evergreen Surgical

Charter Bank

The Murty Henriksen Family

The Larry and Marie Past Family

The Dan and Kerry Kincaid Family

Anton and Rae Schilling-Smets

Brady and Jeanne Foust

If your organization is interested in supporting Volume One during this difficult time, nick@volumeone.orgcontact us.