Retired reporter Paul Meincke paddles Mississippi River to Gulf of Mexico

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Retired ABC7 reporter Paul Meincke and two friends completed an epic adventure. (WLS)

Retired ABC7 reporter Paul Meincke and two friends completed an epic adventure.

After paddling more than 2,000 miles, the group arrived Tuesday in the Gulf of Mexico.

"The Gulf of Mexico over yonder. You are now free to let out appropriate war hoots of joy. Yeah hoo!" Meinckle exclaimed on a video he took of his arrival.

The group spent 70 days paddling on the Mississippi. Jubilation might just understate the feeling.

Meincke traveled with his neighbor Tim Clark and Tom Lobacz. Their odyssey began in June in Lake Itasca in Minnesota. The team traveled all the way down the Mississippi River.

"There wasn't a stop when we didn't run into somebody who offered a helping hand," Meincke said.

He calls them the "river angels." They provided things like a warm meal or a cold beer, just what they needed after a long day.

"You look for miles and it's never ending and you think, 'Oh my god, how are we going to make it today?'" he said.

There were storms, barges that created big rolling waves, and lots of wildlife - some more approachable than others.

But mostly, Meincke recalled, there were kind people.

"I just had a comment from a young lady who said that, at a time when we're so torn politically, the spirit of adventure binds us together," he said.

Paddling partner and Vietnam veteran Tom Lobacz had a goal.

"One of his missions on this trip had been to hand out 'Thank you for your service' stars. He's passed out shy of 200 of them," said Meincke.

Those moments preserved in time are now shared experiences for life.

"It's... It's been a great reward to see that people care. They do care. They want to help. It's fundamental human nature. This has been, for us, reaffirmation that there's really a lot of good people. Great goodness out there," he said.
Meincke said they are not paddling back.

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