Only about 600 miles to go for a Lakewood man determined to take the same voyage down the Mississippi River that Marquette and Joliet took more than 300 years ago.
Ray Christie is doing so in a solar-powered boat and has tracked his progress at www.calypsol.com.
After being tested in Crystal Lake and leaving Chicago in June of last year, the boat is now docked in Memphis, Tenn., where it likely will remain until late May or June of next year. That's when Christie hopes to begin the final leg of the journey.
The goal is to reach New Orleans, just as Marquette and Joliet did in birch bark canoes during the 17th century, traveling down a route known in history as the "French Corridor."
"It's just been a beautiful adventure," said Christie, who has returned to his Lakewood home.
"We should arrive in New Orleans by the end of June next year," he said.
To create the boat and support the adventure, Christie co-founded the CalpySol Group with his friend, Larry Kozak of Algonquin. The Torqeedo motor support team in Crystal Lake served as their biggest sponsor.
The two named the boat they built, a high tech solar power 22-foot trimaran, the CalpySol.
While Christie journeyed down the river with various friends and co-navigators this past year, Kozak provided support back home as Christie checked in or encountered any troubles on the route.
Along the way, Christie and his co-navigators camped or stayed in hotels, docking the boat along the river.
His latest co-navigator, Jean Villard, had to return to his hometown of Switzerland this month. Others along the way have included John Lynn, Serge Kaslin and Max Johnson.
Christie hopes to firm up future co-navigators for the last leg of the journey.
"It's going to be longer than expected," he said. "The problem is not the boat. It's just I don't find people who can spend a few months with me on the river."
Still, he said, having already covered about 750 miles, he's bound to complete the adventure.
Along the way, he said, he encountered some scares in high, choppy waters. Stretches of the Mississippi were dotted with lumber and other elements left over from damage due to flooding, tornadoes and other storms, he said.
Some motor damage in Cairo, Illl, delayed the trip, as well, he said.
During the first part of the journey, which Christie undertook upon retiring, the nature and animals, such as birds, snakes and such really caught his attention.
"This year, it's been meeting the people, all the wonderful people," he said.
That includes many who helped him along the way, such as those in Cairo who helped him retrieve and fix the boat after the motor broke down.
"Those are real American people, people we don't know enough about in the media, the hard-working people, the farmers, the townspeople and how they dedicated themselves to helping us," Christie said.