Rollin’ on the River

Charlotte Guedry
Dave Cornthwaite is nearing the end of his journey, paddling the length of the Mississippi River. He has been travelling since June 19, and is expected to finish on Friday.

We said there warn't no home like a raft, after all. Other places do seem so cramped up and smothery, but a raft don't. You feel mighty free and easy and comfortable on a raft.

- The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Living day to day on a raft, floating along slowly, with not a care in the world, to most is a dream of yesteryear.

The lazy trips along the mighty Mississippi take us back to thoughts of Huck and Jim, as they travelled at their own pace.

Well Huck, meet Dave.

Dave Cornthwaite has taken the meandering river trip one step further, and is raising awareness in the process.

Cornthwaite, a 31-year-old adventurer from?London, England, was in the parish recently for an unscheduled stop of sorts.

He has been using a stand up paddle board since June 20, as he makes his way to the Gulf from the beginning of the river in Minnesota. He is travelling the river from “source to sea,” he said.

Cornthwaite’s journey has been raising awareness and enjoyment for the earth’s waterways, while also raising funds for a breast cancer awareness group and The AV Foundation.?They work in East African schools and communities developing water system infrastructure to ensure the availability of electricity and safe, potable water.

“I love it,” said Cornthwaite. “It’s wonderful to be out there, alone with my own thoughts. It really gives me a sense of who I am.”

Cornthwaite’s adventurous nature has seen him begin a program he calls ‘Expedition 1000.”

“I want to raise over one million pounds (1.6 million dollars) for various charities by completing 25 expeditions of at least 1,000 miles each,” he said. “There will be no motorized transportation in any of them, and they will take place on every continent.”

Some of those journeys include traveling by wheelchair  across Europe, cycling across North America, paragliding along the Himalayas, horseback riding through Mongolia, and rowing across the Indian Ocean.

“There is just so much I want to do,” he said. “There’s so much all of us can do to highlight our world.”

Cornthwaite had hoped to finish his paddling journey at the beginning of this week, but Tropical Storm Lee set him back a bit.

I was on my way to interview him in White Castle, when the heavens opened up, and he found himself stuck.

Cornthwaite has been spending his nights since he began his journey camping alongside the river, and the storm turned into a big problem for someone roughing it in the great outdoors.

I arrived with Michael Tortorich, my Sports Editor, to pick up Cornthwaite. It was clear that he couldn’t stay along the banks in our neck of the woods, so we quickly came up with a plan.

The Robert family at the Clarion?Hotel on Hwy. 30 were called, and they quickly jumped in to help the situation by allowing Dave a room until the storm passed.

“The time to rest up has been fantastic,” said Cornthwaite. “I can’t believe the generosity of the Robert family. It’s been unbelievable.”

The break in the journey meant that three days were spent meeting with this adventurous man, and enjoying the stories that make him so passionate about what he is undertaking.

“People have asked me why I do this, and all I can say is that I couldn’t work behind a desk all day,” he said. “There’s a big world out there that people aren’t aware of. If I can add to their awareness, then I’m doing something positive.”

As Cornthwaite spent time in?Ascension?Parish, he became aware of the area, and the impact that the Mississippi River has on our community.

“There are so many barges that I pass along the way,” he said. “It shows how alive and important the river is as a source of getting goods into towns and cities.”

Cornthwaite’s time in Gonzales was relaxing, and  a well deserved break from the nights spent bankside.

“I’ve seen snakes, alligators, bears, you name it,” he said. “It’s been nice to have a pillow for a few days.”

Cornthwaite has a book coming out next year about his journey, and has been asked to appear on the David Letterman show to tell his tale.

His life spent as an advocate for all things earth conscious may soon spiral him into a global phenomenon, and I’m privileged to have been given the chance to meet him. He changed my perception in some small way, which is what he is aiming to do for the world.

“I love what I do,” he said. “I can raise awareness and see so much of the world. I’m very lucky.”

As Cornthwaite headed off into the great wide open on Tuesday morning, Michael and I wondered what was next for this wanderer with a purpose. Whatever it was, we wished him well.

We stood on the banks of the river as he paddled away, and we were a bit overcome by this powerhouse of global conscience that we had met.

“It’s pretty amazing, isn’t it?”?Michael said.

“Yes,”?I replied. “It really is pretty amazing.”

You can follow Cornthwaite's adventures by visiting www.davecornthwaite.com.