Elsea began a lifelong dream to canoe the entire length of the Mississippi River in early July. By the time he spoke at the Donaldsonville, Louisiana Rotary meeting he had spoken to over 50 Rotary Clubs along the way.

The Donaldsonville Rotary Club welcomed Erik Elsea Wednesday night September 26. He literally stepped out of a 17-foot Nova Craft canoe on the Mississippi River and into Rotarian Matt LeBlanc's truck.

"He smelled kind of ripe," LeBlanc said to the Rotary Club.

Elsea resembled the fictional character Forrest Gump in the part of the movie while he jogged around the United States. His skin was dark, and his beard was long. He told the club he was happy to take a night off from paddling the river to do laundry, eat a good meal and to relax before finishing his trip.

"The Mississippi River starts at Lake Itasca," Elsea said. "It is in the very northern part of Minnesota. The river topography has changed so many times. At the beginning there is a lot of wetlands with amazing water fowl. Then you get into rocky bluffs closer to Brainerd. And then the river starts to widen. At the time when it starts to widen the Army Corps. of Engineers has 27 locks and damns from Minneapolis to Alton Illinois. In St. Louis the current's going really fast, and you've got a lot of flat farmland on either side. Then the Ohio River dumps into it and the river slows back down again. It's almost like I've canoed ten different rivers."

Elsea began a lifelong dream to canoe the entire length of the Mississippi River in early July. By the time he spoke at the Donaldsonville, Louisiana Rotary meeting he had spoken to over 50 Rotary Clubs along the way.

"When you're done canoeing for ten hours in a day, you're tired," he said.

Many nights Elsea made camp along the river and on on some of its unassuming islands. He said that some islands in the middle of the river had sand that made him feel like he was in the Caribbean. Other nights he opted for a short hike off the river to a hotel.

"The whole trip is 90 days," he said. "I obviously don't canoe at night. The reason we picked 90 days is because scientists say that it takes a drop of rainwater 90 days to make it from Lake Itasca all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico."

He said he went fishing once with some guys along the way, but to carry fishing gear in the canoe would have been difficult. He could have made the trip in fewer days, but he took the time to speak at Rotary Clubs and to visit family in St. Louis. Currently, Elsea lives in Cape Coral Florida.

He said that while there are inherent dangers with a trip such as this, he wore a life vest, and he can swim. He also carried a marine radio to notify ship captains that he was in the area. He said he felt comfortable and that ship captains were very helpful and friendly.

"A marine radio is not like a trucker CB radio with people chatting on it," Elsea said. "You only use it when you have to. I'm paddling a lot. When the big tows come you're dealing with waves that are larger than your canoe."

"Basing the distance off the famous marker at the Headwaters, Elsea’s goal is to raise $100 per mile of the Mississippi, for a total of $255,200," reads the media release from ShelterBox USA. "To date he has raised nearly $20 dollars per mile, or $50,000. Donations are expected long after the trip ends as he continues to speak about his experience. He already has plans to publish a book about the communities along the river he visited, which included interacting nearly 50 Rotary clubs."

ShelterBox is an official Project Partner of Rotary International. Since 2000, ShelterBox has provided shelter, warmth, and dignity following more than 300 disasters in over 100 countries. ShelterBox responds urgently to earthquake, volcano, flood, hurricane, cyclone, tsunami, or conflict by delivering boxes of essential shelter aid and other life-saving supplies.

Elsea said he wanted to be sure to word this last part right, but that he spent much of the trip talking to God.

"I'm not a religious person," he said. "And it's whatever your conception of God is. It's like A.A. talks about whatever your conception of God is. I really like that program, so that's awesome."

For more information or to retrace his adventure visit www.mississippiexpedition.com or via his Facebook page, Instagram or Twitter. To support his fundraiser, donate at this link: www.shelterboxusa.org/expedition.