A black SUV rolls down a Missouri road. Its Minnesota license plate displays a small canoe just under the state name.
It’s a small reminder to the driver and co-pilot of this ground support crew for the Missouri River 340 Race that somewhere out on the muddy water are two men from the Twin Cities trying to make good time in their tandem canoe.
“In Minnesota, we have canoes on our license plate, so we at least have to be confident,” Dave Daho said.
At 6:02 p.m. Wednesday, Daho, 58, and his paddling partner Doug Berg, 64, rowed into Cooper’s Landing. Located south of Columbia on the Missouri River, it is the fifth checkpoint in the race that takes canoeists and kayakers nonstop across the state in five days.
Within 18 minutes, Berg’s wife, Marlene, and their friend Rebecca Pohlman orchestrated an efficient pit stop. Each section of a red waterproof tarp on the canoe was uncovered and repacked with enough fruit and Gatorade to get them to their next stop.
Daho and Berg were planning to make camp 26 miles down river in Jefferson City. The two were eager for the chance to sleep after getting no rest the night before. Daho, who works as a registered nurse and firefighter, said he didn’t want to be completely exhausted at the end of the race.
“We’ve gotta sleep tonight,” Daho said. “I have to be functional next week to go to work, fight fires and things like that.”
While Daho took a few minutes between rehydrating to review the first half of the race, Berg attended to a few errands. He made a quick trip up the boat ramp to the mini-mart and restroom before returning to pick up a back massage tool Pohlman had left out. As he moved the green hook-like Theracane from shoulder to shoulder, the group started talking about the time they were making. Berg chimed in to explain the difference between their strategy and that of the younger tandem teams.
“We paddle faster then they do, but we get out of the boat more than they do,” Berg said.
As the pit stop was taking place, three school teachers from Silex restocked their john boats. Kevin Foster and his two friends had decided, unaware of the race, this would be a good time to make a week-long trip on the river before classes start in a month. The night before, they found they had front row seats for the race. As they fished and made camp in the middle of the night, Foster said they could hear racers paddling past them.
“I just have a lot of respect for them,” Foster said. “That’s a lot of work. They have to meet the current and get all their angles.”
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service checked in a handful of boats in the few hours after Daho and Berg arrived and expected more to come. Only nine racers had dropped out at that point. When Columbian Bryan Hopkins reached Cooper’s Landing just after 2 p.m. Wednesday, he was in third place in the men’s solo division.