Jackson Dobies '14's raft, docked on the Mississippi River in Prescott, Wis. (Photo: Courtesy Jackson Dobies)

This is the first post in our summer series about Dale Award recipients.

Jackson Dobies '14's raft, docked on the Mississippi River in Prescott, Wis. (Photo: Courtesy Jackson Dobies)

Having grown up reading stories like Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Jackson Dobies ’14 always had wanted to raft on the Mississippi River with his brother, Justin. In March 2012, he received a Martin A. Dale ’53 Summer Award that would finally let him do it.

“To find out I was getting $4,000 to do something completely outrageous was so cool, and completely ridiculous,” he said.

Dobies’ summer adventure, which he describes as “a kind of Huckleberry Finn old American adventure where we get away from technology and live on the river, cook our own meals and totally support ourselves,” began June 22. Dobies and his brother spent three weeks before the start of the trip constructing a 24-by-8-foot raft from a pontoon boat built in the 1970s (purchased for $4,000). The raft is made up of “two huge 24-foot tubes with a flat deck on top,” according to Dobies.

To make it a safe vessel for the long trip, the pair modified it with a roof structure complete with a ceiling and walls. “We meet all Coast Guard approval requirements,” Dobies said. They also built beds out of hinge-top storage containers, and brought along sleeping bags and sleeping pads.

But the trip hasn’t been without hiccups: The raft’s motor caught fire five days into the trip, which has left Dobies and his brother stuck in Wisconsin for several days. The pair has contacted the University as well as family and friends for help with funding to deal with the issue.

“We exceeded budget a bit on the project,” Dobies explained, noting that the motor “was advertised as better quality than it ended up being.”

Dobies and his brother hope to continue their journey for between 40 and 60 days depending on their speed of travel. They have managed to raise sufficient money to continue.

“We’ve had troubles, but it’s been such a blast,” Dobies said. “We just wanted to get away from the media, Facebook and all that, and sit around, have time to talk and cook — depending on ourselves and each other. And we’ve been able to do that.”