Boats have become lighter thanks to Kevlar and carbon, but it's hard to be brighter, literally and figuratively, than Frank the Tank, a 17-foot Alumacraft canoe. Linnea Goderstad, 29, and David Blomquist, 30, live and work in Minneapolis, Minnesota, as an event manager and in product development, respectively. Being Minnesotans, they'd done four- and five-day Boundary Waters trips, but even before they met, they'd independently eyed the mighty Mississippi and itched to float it. Realizing they shared that hankering sealed the deal and they married. Frank the Tank served them well on their three-month Misissippi source-to-sea trip and whereas aluminum might seem dated material, it's well suited to a river that tosses big, blustery northern lakes at you, the wakes of river tows longer and wider than Nimitz-class aircraft carriers, and wing dams comprised of jagged boulders.
C&K: So, did Frank the Tank perform as described?
At least a dozen times, Frank the Tank banged HARD into huge rocks and downed trees and I'm not sure he even took a dent. We never dumped, either. Most importantly, Frank stayed in one piece for the length of the Mississippi.
C&K: When did you realize that Frank would reach the sea?
Day one. Leaving Lake Itasca was one of the roughest days on the trip. We had high water levels, so the water was rushing through these hairpin turns, over boulders, and through winding marshes. We could barely keep up with the rapids, but Frank just bounced off the rocks we missed.
C&K: Any other times that Frank saved your skins?
We had a severe thunderstorm come through when we were in Wisconsin and NOAA's reports on our marine radio were talking about 60 mph winds and hail. We tied Frank to a tree and huddled under it until we could pin down what county we were in and that the severe alert was for a few miles away. Luckily we never actually had any hail hit, but Frank could've taken it. It was an advantage to having an aluminum canoe that we hadn't thought of.
C&K: Any drawbacks?
Frank got so hot in the Delta sun that we had to wear paddling gloves just to move him.
C&K: Nowadays, do you have a favorite place to paddle Frank?
It's still the Mississippi. After the trip, we ended up moving to Northeast Minneapolis, just blocks from the river. Frank has a space in the public Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board racks right here in the city, at Boom Island Regional Park on the river.
C&K: A big river trip produces big stories. Please share one.
When pulling into Natchez, Mississippi, we paddled by a fellow long distance paddler who was on shore near the town. We pulled over to say hello. John is an eccentric person, without a doubt. He shared with us some ideas he had about rivers (they should all be free flowing), dams (they should all be destroyed) and water usage (all toilets should contain a squirt gun, the purpose of which was unclear).He offered us cappuccinos from the cappuccino machine he'd brought, but it looked like he preferred making them with unfiltered river water, so we declined.
When we got to town, we asked about him at Natchez's paddler-friendly bar, the Under the Hill Saloon. Everyone was familiar with him. The bartender said he'd had a pet duck he'd taken on the trip with him. She'd flown off and he was waiting around town, hoping she'd come back.
We hung out at the saloon that night and left the next day. We got about a mile down the river when a Mallard hen flew seemingly out of nowhere, splashed into the water near us, swam up to our boat, and hopped from the water into our canoe. It just stood there, quietly quacking on top of our dry packs.
We both just stared at her for a minute, open-mouthed, before we realized we'd probably found John's duck. We pulled over to a boat ramp and called Under the Hill Saloon. They said John had gone to town with a river angel, but said they'd send him word. About a half hour of phone tag later, John showed up in the passenger seat of a Natchez river angel's pickup in a white linen suit. He didn't want to get his suit muddy, so I waded to the side of the canoe, grabbed his duck, and handed her to him. He thanked us and said he'd mention us in his book, although I never checked to see if he actually did.
C&K: Say, how did Frank the Tank get his handle?
We stayed for almost a week with a friend in St. Louis. Both of his roommates had just gotten kittens, and one of them was really tiny and named Frank. One night, at 5 a.m. at the end of a chaotic party, Kenny, the owner of Frank, was trying to round him up so he could put him in his room. Frank was crawling around behind the couch and Kenny was shouting, trying to get him to come out, yelling, "Frank the Tank! Frank the Tank!" Once we were back on the water, I remembered that moment and realized that was the name of our beat-up tank of a canoe, and it's stuck.
Do you have a hankering for any other big rivers?
Maybe the Missouri, although Frank might be too heavy for those lakes on the Missouri. A tank isn't the right vessel for every situation.
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