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Minnesota to Louisiana trip frames documentary

Phillip Hullquist, in the bow, and Ryan Jeanes take a turn around Stump Lake in their 11VISIONS inflatable kayaks. The men are heading for the Gulf of Mexico and filming a documentary of their adventure as they travel. Pioneer Photo/Monte Draper

Ryan Jeanes and Phillip Hulquist have made a pact to experience the world in ways few have seen it.

And as documentary filmmakers, they want to share their adventures and the impromptu diversions of their journeys.

Their first film, "The Hitchhiking Movie," documented a seven-day trip they accomplished cadging rides from New York to Los Angeles.

Now, they are traversing the country from north to south - Lake Itasca to the Gulf of Mexico - pines to palms. The pair took off June 22 and passed through Bemidji the evening of June 24. They will title the documentary they make on this trip "The River is Life," a play on Jack Kerouac's phrase "The road is life."

"We want to capture a piece of Americana," Ryan said.

"We started talking about it seriously in February," Phillip said. "The planning aspects were here and there as we go along."

"We're going to let the universe show us the way," Ryan said.

The men met when they were working in Texas. Ryan is an actor and English as a Second Language teacher, and Phillip is a video editor.

They are traveling in inflated kayaks, the front paddle boat towing the supply boat. They flew from Nashville, Tenn., Phillip home's area, to St. Paul, where a friend drove them to Lake Itasca. The kayaks collapsed neatly to fit in the plane's cargo hold.

"It's real durable," Phillip said of the Explore brand kayak.

"And stable," added Ryan.

The kayaks are decaled with the 11VISIONS logo and their destination.

"People see that decal and they said 'To Louisiana?'" Ryan said. "Yeah, to Louisiana. They're conversation starters."

The kayaks weigh 42 pounds each and are equipped with a solar panel to keep gear, such as the radio, operational.

"We actually ran into a guy (Gregg Judge) in Bemidji - he paddled the river with his brother 30 years ago," Phillip said. "We did some video of him."

From Itasca to Bemidji, the men said they were averaging 5-20 miles per day, but they expected to pick up speed once they hit swifter current. They expect the trip to take between two and three months.

"We'll be blogging and keeping in touch with our fans through all 11 states," Ryan said.

Their site is