It’s been almost 20 years since Bill Nedderman “dropped out” of society. You’d be hard pressed to find a happier man.

Since age 31 Nedderman has bucked what has become the traditional American way in favor of a life consisting of ever changing scenery with a pack and a paddle.

It’s been almost 20 years since Bill Nedderman “dropped out” of society. You’d be hard pressed to find a happier man.
Since age 31 Nedderman has bucked what has become the traditional American way in favor of a life consisting of ever changing scenery with a pack and a paddle.
He has biked, hiked and kayaked much of the world over in North America, South America, Europe and Australia. This past week, 2,100 miles into a journey retracing an old fur trader route that begins in Edmonton and ends in Montreal, he passed through Granite Falls.
Nedderman arrived from Montevideo in a german made collapsible "Klepper" kayak that’s “been through hell and half of Georgia” in time for lunch. Intercepted by locals, he graciously accepted an offer of pepperoni from Jimmy’s Pizza. There, he ate and socialized heartily, until a phone call from Clean Up the River Environment Executive Director Patrick Moore hastened his pace.
Nedderman had spent the previous evening with Moore following a chance meeting at the CURE?office in Montevideo, when the canoe adorning the river advocacy non-profit’s exterior perked the kayaker’s interest. Upon entering the office, Nedderman recalled that Moore offered to provide him a bed for the evening  within five minutes of their introduction, and that the CURE director’s gregarious nature made it easy to abide.
Moore was trying to reach Nedderman at Jimmy’s on behalf of former Montevideo resident and WCCO reporter John Lauritsen, who wanted to travel from the cities to interview the man. He had heard about the kayaker through CURE’s vast network of contacts.
Nedderman intimated that he was neither excited nor affronted by the prospect of a television interview, but he did appear to weigh his time. He had hoped to reach the Skalbekken campgrounds by the day’s end, and this would invariably push it, but it seemed important to him to honor the request.
In order to make room for the Advocate Tribune, the interview with the traveler moved from land to river. Kayak-to-kayak from downtown Granite Falls to the Minnesota Falls dam, Nedderman shared a little of his story.
Having paddled from Rocky Mountain House near Edmonton, through Lake Winnipeg and up the Red River on his own for the past three-or-so months you’d expect Nedderman to be a little socially awkward. Discovering that he has not owned a car, television or health insurance for the past 19 years, only reinforces the presumption. In reality, Nedderman’s affable manner makes it easier to relate to him than most.
His upbringing was quite typical. Raised in Iowa, Nedderman recalls his earliest travels being with his family. Along with his two brothers and sister, he took road trips to see the likes of Niagara Falls, Washington D.C. and Disney World. He thinks it was there that he may have first gotten the travel bug, but he can’t explain why his siblings turned out “normal,” each with a pair of children and living happily in the “civilian world.”
Nedderman completed high school and went on to serve in the Iowa National Guard. The guard was a weekend gig where he worked with telephone systems. He turned his training with the outfit into 10 years of employment, installing business communication systems for an assortment of phone companies.
With some savings and a few trips under his belt, it was 1991 when his curiosity, the end of a long relationship and the banality of his job spurred him on to greater adventure. On a relative whim he chartered a plane to New Zealand and Australia where he spent six months apiece hiking and bicycling.
The plan was originally to travel for 10 straight years, but nineteen years later and fit as a fiddle at age fifty, he says he can’t say when he’ll stop.
“It was a ‘the more you see the more you want to see’ type thing, said Nedderman. “I try to make life interesting, have fun and I like to see things. I’m a very curious person.”
Over the years Nedderman has traversed the Appalachian, Pacific Crest and Continental Divide Trails, completing what is known as the Triple Crown in the hiking world. He is only one of two people known to have completed them three different times.
He has kayaked the Yukon passage 2,000 miles to the Bearing Sea, hiked through Patagonia of Argentina and Chile and bicycled from Germany all the way to North Cape Norway before turning around pedalling to the Straight of Gibraltar.
In sum he has bicycled 63,000 miles, hiked 32,000 and kayaked 24,902. Upon reaching Breckenridge Minnesota he said he had paddled the equivalent of the circumference of the earth.
At times he has been accompanied by a woman. For 12 years a tough german by the name of Ursula bore some of the roughest terrains and most stunning beauty by Nedderman’s side. The two spent the summers traveling together, and he gave credit to her for sticking it out as long as she did before finally opting for a traditional life.
There have been a few other women here and there, but whether alone or as a duo, Nedderman hasn’t slowed down. Eight to nine months of the year are spent travelling. In the winter months he returns to his home, a 12 x 16 log cabin in the 500-plus town of Lovilia, Iowa where 30 acres of timber keep the quarters warm and cozy.
Over those three or so months he visits family, enjoys carpentry work, reads and ponders over future trips. He says he often takes in material that inspires him. His biggest inspiration is  Verlen Krueger who paddled over 100,000 miles despite only beginning to kayak in his 40s.
“He travels twice as far as I do in a day and calls it fun,” he quipped.
Looking to the present, Nedderman is only about half-way to his  Montreal destination. He’s unsure whether he can complete the paddle down the Minnesota River, up the  the St. Croix River and over Lake Superior before the weather turns. While he prefers to meet the goal, he says he’s comfortable if he does not. He will simply start where he left off next year.
Standing in front of WCCO’s Lauritsen below the Minnesota Falls dam, Nedderman in the midst of his first television interview.
Lauritsen asks the hows and the whys, and is looking for a way to connect the kayaker to environmental issues. Nedderman says, of course he wants clean water, but admits that advocacy is not his thing.
In all his years his trip has never been about a message. Really he’s just a guy successfully doing what he loves to do in life, regardless of societal norms.
It may not provide the answer most of us expected, but he seems to have found the one most of us are looking for.
You can view the WCCO interview at: