Neal Moore is traveling 7,500 miles from Oregon to New York City — in a canoe.
He will cross 22 bodies of water, two of those in Pittsburgh — the Ohio and the Allegheny rivers.
As of Thursday, he had traveled 6,600 miles to date. His goal is to document America from the water.
Moore paddled 890 miles on the Ohio, averaging two miles an hour. He arrived Wednesday and plans to leave here on Monday and travel the Allegheny.
“Yes, it’s a little bit crazy,” said Moore on Thursday as he stood under the Roberto Clemente Bridge on Pittsburgh’s North Shore. “The view here is spectacular from this vantage point.”
He said Pittsburgh’s rivers appear to be cleaner than they used to be.
“I want to experience my home country and experience it by seeing so many parts of it up close and personal,” he said.
He said exploring the waterways will give him the opportunity to connect with the people across the country in a unique way.
“Your body adapts to the river,” said Moore who will turn 50 on the trip by the time he finishes at the Statue of Liberty. “I feel like I am in the best shape of my life.”
Moore was raised in Los Angeles but moved to Africa as a teenager where he lived for three decades before returning to the states. People can follow his journey on Instagram.
He has packages sent to various parts of the country to people he has connected with –called River Angels. Items he made need such as a wet suit will be waiting in Buffalo, N.Y. when he gets there.
He eats freeze dried food and drinks lots of water. He said there have been times other boaters have offered him an ice cold beer or pop and “it’s wonderful.”
He doesn’t own a home and sells African art to make money. He has a cell phone and marine radio. He doesn’t have any family. His brother died when Moore was 13. His mom died when he was 19. He said he didn’t have a relationship with his father who died in 2012.
Moore began the journey on Feb. 9, 2020. Moore barely made it out of Oregon 30 minutes before the governor locked down the state because of the coronavirus. There was a nine-day stretch where he didn’t see anyone.
“It was surreal,” he said. “I could have sheltered in place because of the pandemic but for me sheltering in place was canoeing on the water.”
The plan is to dock by mid-December where he hopes to paddle around the Statue of Liberty. Along the way, he has stayed in hotels, camped and with others such as Trish Howison of McCandless, an avid kayaker who heard of Moore’s travels when she was on a trip from the Ohio River to Louisville. She invited him to stay with her.
“Complete strangers will help you out,” she said. “It’s about paying it forward. I love being on the water and I will follow his journey the rest of the way. This is in his blood.”
A kayak would travel faster but Moore likes the analogy of the open canoe. He said it was an early mode of water transportation. He paid $650 for his canoe which weighs 60 pounds and is 16 feet long. He uses paper navigation charts as well as Google maps.
Moore wears muck boots, shorts, a T-shirt, baseball cap and a personal flotation device.
People he meets along the way write messages in the vessel.
“Canoeing I have to endure everything that nature throws at me,” Moore said. “And I have been through hell and high water in it. When it turns the river can become wicked you have to be cautious and know how to read the water. I respect the water.”
New York seemed like the perfect place to end the journey.
“I chose to end at the Statue of Liberty because her hand is extended to every American,” Moore said. “We as Americans know if we fall we have the strength to get back up. I want to find what unites us. Because we all know what divides us. “