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It’s 6,000 Miles And Counting For Husband And Wife Canoe Team

February 3, 1987

MOUNT VERNON, Ind. (AP) _ A 21,000-mile canoe trip across two continents isn’t exactly what Valerie Kruger had in mind for a honeymoon, but she and her husband are already about 6,000 miles into the voyage.

″It’s too much work to be a honeymoon,″ she said while camped along the Wabash River, near the Ohio River.

Valerie and Verlen Kruger started paddling near the Arctic Ocean on June 8, two months after their wedding. They hope to reach Cape Horn at the tip of South America in early 1989.

The Lansing, Mich., couple call it the Two Continent Canoe Expedition and are conducting an acid rain study along the way for General Motors Research Laboratories, the Michigan State University Water Institute and the U.S. Geological Survey.

The trip began inside the Arctic Circle at the mouth of the Mackenzie River in Canada’s Northwest Territories.

They took historic fur trade routes through Canada, and followed the shores of Lake Superior, Lake Michigan and Lake Huron into Lake Erie to Toledo, Ohio, then up the Maumee River to Fort Wayne, Ind., overland to the Wabash and across Indiana to the Ohio River.

They met when Kruger, 64, was in the middle of a canoe trip around North America five years ago. Valerie Fons joined him for the Baja Peninsula leg when his partner temporarily dropped out.

″He called me and I had three weeks,″ Mrs. Kruger, a former geological laboratory assistant who turns 36 on Valentine’s Day, said Sunday. ″I quit my job, rented my house, stored my furniture, got a sponsor, sold my car, my dog. It just felt like I had to go, I felt something very strong.″

They later paddled down the Mississippi, racing the 2,348-mile river in 23 days.

Mrs. Kruger wasn’t sure she was ready for the two-continent voyage.

″And then as time went by I realized I had to go,″ she said.

They’re traveling in separate 17-foot, partially enclosed canoes that Kruger designed, and making 25 to 30 miles a day.

But Mrs. Kruger’s stamina gave out in Lafayette, on the Wabash, at the end of the year and they returned to Lansing for two weeks to rest and pack for the next leg of the journey.

They put back in the Wabash Jan. 16 but returned to Michigan eight days later for a dinner in honor of the state’s 150th birthday, since they were still seeking an expected $50,000 from the Michigan Sesquicentennial Commission.

The money hadn’t arrived by Feb. 1 and the Krugers said they would reach a turning point in April, when they expect to reach Miami by way of the Ohio and Tennessee rivers, the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway and the Gulf of Mexico.

″It would be kind of foolish to leave Miami without something pretty definite (in sponsorship money),″ said Kruger, adding the couple had raised about $45,000 of the $185,000 budgeted for the trip. ″We might get halfway across the Caribbean and run out.″

Kruger estimated the couple had put over $20,000 of their own money into the project.

They hope to recoup some of that by writing and lecturing later.

″I’ve learned to take one day at a time,″ Mrs. Kruger said. ″Things don’t turn out as bad as you think they’re going to. I’d heard people tell me this, but now I know it first hand.″

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