Good gear is an investment. I bought my 15-foot Coleman Ram-X canoe before I set out on my 1980 Source-to-Sea voyage on the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico.
The canoe served me well, and it is still being used.
by Leon Pantenburg
My sister-in-law sent me these first two photos last week. I gave my canoe to my brother Mike several years ago, and it was used at Payette Lake in McCall, Idaho. Mike and his wife Julie took their kids out in the boat, and it was probably the kids’ first introduction to canoeing.
Several years later, Mike’s family got into kayaks, and the canoe wasn’t being used much. With my prior – and enthusiastic – permission, Mike gave the canoe to his nephew, Neal.
I am delighted to see how the canoe is being today. Neal recently took his sons out fishing in the old canoe at Lucky Peak Reservoir near Boise, Idaho. They are being raised right.
Here is the rest of the canoe’s story.
“I dub thee Dunderhead! (Read “Life on the Mississippi” by Mark Twain to get the full impact of that name!)“ said Andy Michalicek, as he threw a handful of sand into the canoe. It was June 7, 1980, and the boat was in the tiny creek that flowed out of Lake Itasca, Minnesota and that would later become the Father of Waters. I intended to paddle to the ocean. (You can read the story of that voyage here.)
Several Iowans were there. Andy, a roommate from Iowa State, had gone along to help shuttle vehicles. My sister Karla Pantenburg Moore and friend Alan Johnson had gone along to paddle with us for the first week. My brother Michael was going to go with me some 600 miles south to St, Paul, and the rest of trip would be a solo. I reached Venice, Louisiana on November 29 of that year.
I am very attached to Dunderhead. It was bought at J.C. Penny’s in Ames, Iowa, prior to the Mississippi trip. I wanted something other than aluminum in the boat, because of the summer heat on the big river. Dunderhead was made of this new material called Ram-X 2, a combination of Kevlar and fiberglass, and I figured the material would not reflect heat as badly as aluminum would.
I got the 15-footer, because I wanted something small enough to handle solo once Mike left the voyage. Dunderhead was assembled in my garage, and was used several times on Iowa rivers before heading for the big river. After the Mississippi River trip, the canoe was used extensively in Idaho, Oregon and the state of Mississippi.
Dunderhead has been in blazing hot heat on desert rivers, and in snow storms on the Upper Iowa River. It rolled down the Clarno Rapids on Oregon’s John Day River after my wife and I dumped it at the head of the rapids.
I slept under Dunderhead in a few rain storms, and weathered a tornado underneath it on the river below St. Paul. The canoe and a tarp made up many shelters while I was camping on big river sandbars. I rowed it through the port of New Orleans in the dark. (Yeah, that was against all advice and really, really stupid. If there had been a choice that would never have happened.)
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Here are some of Dunderhead’s archival photos from the Source-to-Sea voyage.