“Long before Wes Modes began planning a journey down the Mississippi, he started building a traditional barge-bottom houseboat in a California backyard out of rustic reclaimed materials (e.g. old fences and chicken coops). Once his shantyboat was complete he hatched a plan to transport it across the country from Santa Cruz to Minnesota to begin a “Huck-Finn style” journey down the iconic American river.
Following in the footsteps of Harlan and Anna Hubbard, whose eight-year journey down the Mississippi and Ohio rivers was chronicled in Harlan’s book “Shantytown”, Modes launched his own float 70 years later. His “Secret History of American River People” is part personal adventure and part research project, collecting stories of “river people” along the banks.
Complete with lofted bed, compost toilet and full-kitchen (propane-powered camp stove and plumbed sink), his 10-by-8-foot houseboat cabin serves as both floating home and mobile office for his summertime sojourns.”