The Miller family is continuing to raise more than $5,000 for the Disabled American Veterans after mother nature called an end to their trip just 66 river miles short of Cairo, Ill.
The family set out on July 18 with the goal of skiing the entire length of the Ohio River in one week and used the trip as an opportunity to raise funds and awareness for the DAV.
Much of the trip the three skiers, Mark Miller and his two sons Mark Anthony, 18, and Brandon, 15, faced choppy waves turned up by wind and 88 passing barges. Mark’s wife Linda drove the boat and help out as a spotter.
The skiers were delayed in arriving in New Richmond when severe weather whipped through the area and a tornado was spotted south of New Richmond in Kentucky. The last 12 miles before Mendhal Dam Brandon skied through the storm on smooth water. Once they spotted lighting he was pulled from the water and they waited out the storm.
Mark said the reception in New Richmond was the biggest they had gotten so far and the family was pleased to see so many people wait through the storm.
"This is awesome," Mark said while getting off the boat. "It's nice to see so many people come out and cheer us on."
Brandon said getting tired was not much of an issue because they were determined to help the DAV.
"We know we're doing it for a good cause," Brandon said.
Mark said all three of the skiers had trained hard and never really were sore from the long trip.
"We were ready to complete the trip," Mark said. "Our hands got sore within the first couple of miles and stayed sore the entire trip but that was it."
He said over the entire 915 miles there were only two wipeouts. One was coming through Cincinnati when Mark was driving the boat and he had to swerve to miss a log in the 10 mile drift field caused by the Wednesday night storm. The rope went slack and Brandon fell. Further down the river Mark Anthony was pointing out a Bald Eagle circling above him and missed an on coming wave that tripped him up.
Mark said one of the best parts of the trip was all of the people the family met along the way.
"The people we met were phenomenal," Mark said.
As they drew ever closer to the Mississippi River and their goal, the Ohio River widened and Mark said their were fewer and fewer hills. They tried to ski near the shoreline to avoid the rising waves and Asian Carp began jumping at the sound of the boat. Mark said he was worried one would hit him in the chest and Mark Anthony narrowly avoided one landing on his ski.
The water began to get so choppy around Cave-In-Rock, Ill. that Mark could no longer plane the boat or pull a skier.
The Miller family pulled out of the water and drove the rest of the way to Cairo, Ill. for dinner with a gathering of Veterans. The next morning they tried to ski 10 more miles heading up river but faced three to four foot white cap waves again.
"The boat would shake when we hit a wave," Mark said. "We didn't want to damage the boat or hurt anybody skiing or riding in the boat."
While their trip is complete, donations can still be made by visiting the marathon ski website at www.dav.org/MarathonSki.