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Paddling the Erie Canal from end to end Englishman and American guiding kayak on historic route make a stop in Lockport

Two men who travel the world seeking adventure found it last week on the Erie Canal.

Richard Harpman, a recovering English businessman, and Glenn Charles, his American friend, started paddling the entire length of the Erie Canal on Tuesday at Erie Canal Harbor in Buffalo.

On the first day, they made it to Lockport, although 90 minutes late, for a reception at Lockport Locks and Erie Canal Cruises.

The men may have been tired. On their blog post Wednesday morning, they referred to Lockport four times as "Littleport."

"I had a successful career, which is behind me now," said Harpman, 42, who once was a director of a water utility in England. "The last time I had a proper job was 2003."

Harpman now works as a consultant two days a week when he's home, but he devotes much of his life to adventure.

He met Charles, 49, a former Washington, D.C., photographer, three years ago while they were paddling in the Inside Passage from Seattle to Alaska.

"Richard was doing about 1,000 miles in a month, which tells you something about Richard. I was doing 1,800 miles in six months," Charles said.

Harpman has canoed the length of the Yukon River in the Canadian Arctic and bicycled and kayaked from London to Marrakech, Morocco, among other exploits.

Charles' adventure resume includes paddling from Key West, Fla., to Nova Scotia.

"Nothing is not achievable if you are motivated," Charles said.

"When you talk about your comfort zone, you try to work out, 'Is the juice worth the squeeze?' " Harpman said.

They focused on the Erie Canal because of its history and how hard it was for the original builders to hack their way through forests and rocks to create the waterway.

"We call it adventure now. They called it getting by," Harpman said.

"We're just in awe at the beauty and the hospitality and the chicken wings," Charles added.

"We're going to come back for sure," Harpman said. "It's amazing, the engineering, the heritage, the amazing people."

Harpman said that in fairness to his fiance back home in England, he has to dial back his adventures.

The couple recently walked the length of Hadrian's Wall along the border between England and Scotland, which was safer than previous Harpman schemes.

"I often look at pictures and say, 'What was I thinking?' " Harpman said.

However, he and Charles are still planning to cycle the length of the Yukon River -- when it's frozen.

"No person in their sane mind would want to do it except me -- and Richard," Charles said. "I think I've about talked him into it."

They trained with a ski trip in northern Norway. Charles had never skied before, but he said his attitude was, "How hard can it be?"

He explained, "I don't like to be afraid anymore. To grow, you have to dance on that line."

For the canal trip to New York City, the men are offering locals along the way a chance to ride in the kayak's spare seat. The trip is being chronicled on a website called www.thespareseat.com.

Tuesday, Niagara County fishing promotion coordinator Bill Hilts Jr. joined in with the paddling from Tonawanda to Lockport.

As the team headed from Lockport to Medina on Wednesday, Douglas Farley, director of the Erie Canal Discovery Center in Lockport, joined them to paddle as far as Gasport.

The team's 500-mile trip to New York City via Albany is sponsored by the state Division of Tourism. The paddle is scheduled to end at the Statue of Liberty on or about May 21.

email: tprohaska@buffnews.com