Joe Reidhead's parents and a wind chill of 19 degrees greeted him when he glided his canoe into the Nebraska City boat dock Monday morning.
The 27-year-old book publisher began his 1,000-mile trip at the Missouri River in Omaha the prior morning. He made it 36 miles against a stiff breeze.
"It was one of those winds that when you stopped paddling you started going upstream," he said.
He returned to the water this morning off a shore near Lake Waconda and traveled 14 miles to his Nebraska City stop.
This morning's wind was mostly at his back, but it was still a problem as it tried to steer his canoe.
"It's a problem whichever direction it blows. It tries to 'weathervane' you," he said.
"Its really about perseverance, you just have to keep paddling," he said.
Reidheid, who has a niece and nephew with autism, has already raised $1,700 toward his goal of $5,000 for Austism Speaks.
He said he chose the winter for the 1,000-mile canoe trip to Memphis, Tenn., because of the weather challenges.
"It's just that much harder," he said.
"I kind of like it, the way the conditions are, when the elements are out to make you fail," he said.
He compared it to families struggling with autism.
"It's a constant challenge for them and and this trip is a symbol of their struggle," he said.
His only encounter with ice on the first day was where the Platte and Missouri rivers meet. He said there was slush in the water, but it was not detectable by the time he passed Plattsmouth.
The water was still dangerously cold.
Reidhead wears a "short" cold suit that he hopes will buy him some time if the canoe capsizes.
Generally you would have about 10 minutes before the cold causes muscle function to stop and another 50 minutes before you die.
Reidhead said he hopes the cold suit would buy him a few more minutes to get himself and his gear to shore, so he can pull a set of clothes out of a dry sack and climb into a sleeping bag.
An outdoorsman, whose publishing businesses focuses on adventure and exploration, Reidhead has past experience canoeing and climbing.
He expects to make it 40 miles on day 2 to raise autism awareness.
He nephew Vincent had difficulty interacting with other people, but loves to play in the creek and see the horses when he comes to visit.
He said his nephew's harmony with the natural world inspired his trip.
"This journey is dedicated to autism awareness and the importance of the environment in the lives of children with autism spectrum disorders," he said.
"The voices of autistic people are often hidden behind layers of social inabilities. This makes it difficult for those of us not living with autism to see that autistic people too need a clean natural world to bring balance to their lives," he said.