Mr. Moore began in the Columbia River in Oregon, crossed several northern states and traveled down to the Gulf Coast by last winter. By early 2021, he was headed back up to the Great Lakes and to New York State, where he followed the Erie Canal to the Hudson River and ultimately to the Statue of Liberty.
“I wanted to see the country up close and personal at this interesting time, with the pandemic and all the political strife, to find out what it actually means to be American today,” Mr. Moore said.
“I felt like I followed that light shining all the way across the country,” he said later. “My journey was one of illumination. So to finally see that beacon up close, that flame of liberty, after seeing it in so many people I met across this land, it was overwhelming.”
Traveling by river became metaphoric: Just as rivers connect towns and cities, Mr. Moore said, he began exploring connections between people often separated by race, class and political stripe.
I reached Memphis halfway, at 3,750 miles, on November 3 [election day]. The vast majority of the map I’m plying on this journey is solid red. Minus a few blue dots between Portland, Oregon, and NYC.
Funny, I just paddled past my very first Republican flag on a boat on the Ohio River the other day. It featured simply an elephant and the word “Republican”. It is the first Republican banner I’ve seen on this expedition that didn’t scream Trump. Or include a Confederate Flag on the same pole. Or shock with catchy expletives.
I think we are coming right as a nation. I took a ride over the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway Bridge, the longest continuous bridge over water in the world, as the inauguration played out live. As Amanda Gorman delivered her poem of hope, The Hill We Climb. And what I found on the streets of New Orleans later that day were kids of color in motion, laughing and pulling wheelies on their bikes along lower Bourbon Street. The city, the nation, I myself, could breathe.
Neal Moore »
Fourteen months ago in Astoria, Oregon, Neal Moore shoved off in his 16-foot Old Town canoe, bound for the Statue of Liberty, some two years and 7,500 miles ahead. The 49-year-old had come home after nearly 30 years abroad to rediscover America and share the stories of its people in a style of journalism all his own, “slow and low down from the view of a canoe.”
He’d charted a two-year journey on 22 major waterways through 22 states, but almost didn’t make it out of Oregon. He slipped across the state line in late March last year, just ahead of a shelter-in-place order that would have derailed his 22 Rivers project for a second time. (His first attempt in 2018 fell victim to historic high water and a nasty Cottonwood snag after 1,700 mostly upstream miles.)