Book Review - 28,000 miles

I just got done reading the Verlen Kruger tome “The Ultimate Canoe Challenge - 28,000 miles through North America” or something like that. It is the story of Verlen’s trip with a partner that started in the heart of the US, went to the Gulf, up to Nova Scotia, down the Atlantic, up the Mississippi, to the Arctic Circle, across the Yukon and Alaska, down the Pacific, up the Gulf and Colorado River to return home in Lansing MI. The book was apparently a compilation of Verlen’s personal journals and some interviews performed by the author.

In concept the book had a lot of promise and I was really interested in the spirit of the men who would undertake something like this. I wanted to hear about the highs and lows, feeling of lonliness and isolation, the companionship found along the way in little towns. Unfortunately the book fell very short this regard and wound up reading like a trip tic. “This day we paddled 50 mile and it was sunny. This day it was cloudy and we paddle 50 miles.”

Bottom line, unless you happened to be one of the people that knew Verlen, or you happened to have contact with him during that trip and are hoping your name was mentioned, I would save your $19.95 and buy a bottle of bourbon. You’ll get better entertainment.


Baja section
I have been meaning to read “Keep It Moving: Baja by Canoe” by Valerie Fons. She paddled with him on the Baja section of his trip. It might be a little more interesting. Thus far I have only read the foreword.

My Mother is a schoolteacher here in Michigan and she came and talked at her school. I was something like 12 or 13 at the time and only vaguely remember it.

I enjoyed it
I’m not known for my sophisticated reading tastes (as my wife will vouch for), but I enjoyed the book thoroughly and bought a hardcopy for my father.

I bought the electronic version for $5.50 and read it on my Palm.

thanks for the tips. I guess i’ll be one of those guys that buys it anyway since I know verlen and have heard of so many of his stories. Its probably the only way we will ever hear about this journey unless steve landick writes his version.


interested in the Spirit
I thought the concept of a book like this was to give the ins and outs of 50 mile days stacked on 50 mile days stacked on 50 mile days stacked on 50 mile days. Learning the Spirit of two men such as Verlen and Steve in one short Trip Report would be tough even for those that read between the lines. Even if you only take away from this book a small realization of all they did, you will still be beter off for it. The book shows how two men, just like you and me, can have a dream and push past what is thought to be humanly possible to find that dream.

My advice for those that don’t read it is to spend the money on a tank of gas and go drive to one of the waterways the UCC passed near your house, put your boat in the water and paddle away from land, then imagine spending over 3 years doing it. The waterway I speak of is closer to you than you might think. In fact you should by the book first and see how close to your house it is.

Guess we’re looking for different things
in this type of book. And for those happy with a book on mileage this publication fits the bill. As I expressed in my original post though, so much more could have been done with it. Even the problems Verlen and Steve faced as partners are basically hurried through to talk about mileage. I would have preferred more depth about why the problems occurred and how they overcame them to be successful.

The section that interested me the most was the section in the Gulf during the storm that they had to turn around in. The courage of Valerie, Verlen’s leadership, Steve’s rescue (and eventual abandonment) came closest to what I wanted from this book, and it lasted all of 2 or 3 pages. This could have been a whole chapter!

I may have been a bit harsh in the initial review because there are folks that enjoy this kind of a read. I just don’t happen to be one of them.


I have all 3
"Incredible", “Ultimate”, and Fons’ “Moving”

I didn’t care for the Klein book (Incredible). Something about his conversational style turns me off.

I enjoyed the “Ultimate”. Sure, we can second guess Brands’ treatment but 28,000 miles and three years is alot to cover. I would like to hear more of the other paddlers insights. But then it’s about Kruger isn’t it?

Fon’s book is full of “artful” insight. I’d like to see her write the Two Continent expedition. Now that Verlen is gone she is the only one who really knows. I think she is still living in Lansing though now involved with photography and quilting.

If you haven’t read it yet…I think you would enjoy “Keep Australia on Your Left”…by Eric Stiller. It is a great tale of two friends attempting to circumnavigate Australia in a tandem kayak. I think it has all the elements you were looking for in the other book… :slight_smile:


I just finished this book last night. I think the authors did what they set out to do. That is show how two guy did what many thought was imposible. You can’t write about what was thought to be impossible by whining about being lonely, hungery, tired or broke. Which I’m sure at times they both were. You do it demostrating the perserverance required to overcome those obvious challenges within the challange. Sure they suffered, but it’s how you push on inspite of it all. Past the nay sayers, past the geography, past all the obstacles. They did it is all you can say. I feel the book clearly shows that a positive attitude is the most important thing you can possess.

I see what you are saying, you wanted more details, more soap opra drama type stuff. More blood and guts adventure that we can obviously see is deep within this Journey. Well, I would hope that this would be just the begining of a long line of publications on how two men, a women and a man, or even a man alone can travel in such a way. I was one of those that was lucky enough to have paddled with Verlen and you are right in saying the book might be a little more special for folks like me, after all we did know this man. I think this book will show anyone that has ever dreamed of living out of their boat for more than a week or two, an inspiration that is hard to find any place else. Even if all you learn from the book is about a waterway you never new was there it would still be worth the 20 bucks.

i think if you are looking for the
meaning of life within a paddling adventure story, Chris Duff is your man. He has a way of dramatizing things that are pretty repetitive, and he has a good instinct about what will catch the reader’s imagination. His emotional wanderings in the kayak are mirrored in the text, and you want him to follow him on his next trip through the next book even if you know you’ll never be able to paddle around new zealand or ireland.

Don’t know too much about verlen, or the book other than other people’s impressions of him from this board, so I won’t even comment on the rest of the boat.