When Lewis and Clark reached North Dakota this month 200 years ago, the icy Missouri River forced them to set up camp for five months. They built wooden huts, nearly ran out of meat, and Clark lined his gloves with lynx fur to guard against the cold.
A crew re-creating the explorers' 1803-1806 expedition will spend this winter, however, at home.
"I'm looking forward to some sushi," said the crew's captain, Scott Mandrell, 39, of Alton. "That's one thing I've missed desperately, being able to run to Schnucks and buy some sushi."
The re-enactors - called the Discovery Expedition of St. Charles, Mo. - have their keelboat and two smaller pirogues hooked up to trailers and are heading back to St. Louis with the help of the South Dakota National Guard. They will arrive downtown Sunday after their three-day road trip.
The boats will be on Seventh Street between Chestnut and Market streets from 1 to 3 p.m. for viewing, and the crew will be in Kiener Plaza to answer questions.
From there, they will head to the Lewis and Clark Museum and Boathouse on Riverside Drive in St. Charles, where they will also show off their boats and talk about their journey. They expect to arrive at 4 p.m.
The real Lewis and Clark didn't see St. Charles, Mo., again until September 1806. And they certainly couldn't eat Imo's pizza and enjoy a Budweiser, a first on the to-do list for many crew members.
"The original expedition didn't have the luxury of going home, but we do," Mandrell said. "And we're going to take advantage of it."
No one can call them wimps, though. A core of about eight men from across the Midwest have spent the past six months on the river, having left Camp Wood in Illinois on May 14. About 200 others have joined them at some time or another along the trip.
They made all the original stops, went on some of same hikes (as long as 20 miles) and hunted buffalo. They slept on the keelboat's wooden trunks and ate meals cooked over a fire.
"The most troubling thing were the ticks," Mandrell said.
Worst, they were away from their families. Mandrell returned to Alton for a few days in August so he could take his 6-year-old daughter to her first day of kindergarten. He also has a son, 3. This winter they plan to take a vacation to his wife's family home in Vermont.
"We're going to take some time away in a place Lewis and Clark never went," he said.
In April, the crew picks up the re-enactment where they left off in Washburn, N.D. In the meantime, they will repair their boats and share their appreciation of the explorers' experience.
"The purpose of our exercise is the journey, not so much the time spent stationary," Mandrell said. "We are not Lewis and Clark. We are the Discovery Expedition. Our mission is to complete the journey. We want to focus on that and make that successful."