Andy and Lyndsey Mundell are storytellers. And the story of their 36-day canoe trip down the Mississippi River is one they love to tell.
Andy, 27, is a physics and math teacher at Bishop Chatard High School who calls himself a facts man. He is the guru of details, meticulous and organized. Lyndsey, 24, in school for social work, is the free spirit, full of energy, quick to love and trust. They laugh a lot and talk a lot, peppering their sentences with "likes" and "you knows."
I can tell they've become really good at telling this story. They were telling it even as they were living it - when they set up camp along the river, when they came ashore for food or water, when they reached their final destination of New Orleans. Each day was a new chapter, each night the end. As they posted their GPS coordinates to Twitter, they counted their records, their milestones, what they had done. We spent this many nights in a tent, they could say, we paddled this many miles, we saw this many sunrises. They think about how they will tell the story to their friends, their parents, their future children.
Lyndsey, joking one morning, calls behind her to Andy: "This is what memories are made of!" It makes them laugh, because it's so cheesy, but it's true too: they are just beginning a life together that will go on for a long time, and for all of it, they will have this story to tell.
They know the funny parts, the sad parts, the details that warm the listener's heart. They finish each other's sentences and interrupt each other. They're in sync as they tell their tale, in agreement about what happened to them and whether it was good or bad. Even when they tell me about arguments - "Things heat up really quickly and also dissipate really quickly on the river," Lyndsey says - neither of them claims to have won or lost. It's clear their relationship is about storytelling, too, explaining to each other how they feel, each of them settled on a way to be themselves that the other one loves.
It begins in the summer of 2011. Andy sits in the backyard of their home and watches a small creek burble past, wondering where it leads. He discovers that it flows into the White River, and that the White River connects with the Wabash, the Wabash to the Ohio, and the Ohio to the Mississippi. He is enchanted by the idea that his little stream is part of a huge national landmark - and just as quickly as those thoughts come together, another idea floats into his head: Is it navigable?
This is the kind of wild spontaneity normally reserved for Lyndsey - who picks up hitchhikers and joins roller derby teams on a whim - and it is her support that really makes the idea seem feasible.
"I wasn't expecting so much enthusiasm," Andy says of Lyndsey's reaction. "It was my idea, but it was she who made sure it wasn't something we just talked about."
Up, one of their favorite movies, was an inspirational and cautionary tale for them as they began to wrap their minds around the idea. "The whole theme of that movie is adventure and getting out there," Lyndsey explains.
"They're saving up to go to Paradise Falls, but they just get so caught up in life and everything goes by and finally they never get to go," Andy adds. "But we're at the beginning, we just got married, and we had those ambitions, too. This was the time to do something."
They buy a canoe off Craigslist and name it The Spirit of Adventure (inspired by Up), get some dried foods, a portable stove and a huge tank for water.
On May 27, 2012, before either of them can really believe it, they're off.
Slideshow: Spirit of Adventure
The Mundell's took a canoe trip to celebrate their honeymoon in New Orleans on the Fourth of July. Read the full story here.