SIOUX CITY | "Live from a pontoon boat in the middle of Missouri River" has a nice ring to it, doesn't it?
At least that seems to be the case with Justus McLarty, a film production manager for NBC's "Saturday Night Live," who is embarking on an 1,100-mile pontoon trip down the Missouri River from Yankton, S.D., to Memphis.
Joining McLarty is his girlfriend (or "first mate") Becca Landis, an actress who has appeared as an extra in several SNL skits.
The New York City couple made a stop in Sioux City on Wednesday, the fourth day of their six-week summer trip.
For McLarty, who works on pre-taped SNL segments like fake commercials and digital shorts, this is his third pontoon trip. Last year, he traveled the Yukon River for 1,110 miles and, in 2008, his trek was to travel 1,800 miles on the Mississippi River from Minneapolis to New Orleans.
However, this is first large-scale pontoon trip for Landis.
"This is something that Justus loves to do," she explained, "and I thought it would be an adventure for me."
"It's definitely a real, welcome change from the pace of Manhattan," she added.
A Lubbock, Texas native, McLarty said he inherited his love of life on the water from his parents.
"My parents and grandparents always took me whitewater rafting when I was a kid," he remembered. "Being on the water has been a passion for me even since."
McLarty even named the pontoon, using a family phrase.
"My great-great grandmother used to say, 'It's misery going through life as a great big wanter and a little bitty gitter,' meaning you need to live within your means," he explained.
Yet the couple insist they aren't "roughing it."
The small pontoon has a tent-like top. Inside, it has sleeping area for two and even a portable stove.
On the roof top, McLarty can operate the boat or he and Landis can sit back and enjoy the scenery.
"People were wondering about being in such close quarters for such a long time," Landis said. "But it's actually quite nice. If he's inside, I can be out on the top. If he's on top, I can go swimming."
"We've only been on the water for four days and Becca's already making escape routes," McLarty said, teasingly.
Still, McLarty is pleased with Landis' willingness to learn.
"I'm already making knots and learning all of the proper terminology for things," Landis said, proud of her achievement.
Yet many of McLarty's SNL friends don't understand his need to leave land in the summertime.
"No, they don't get it," he said, shaking his head. "If they experienced it personally, they'll understand how tranquil life can be on a pontoon."
Obviously, it's a much different life from the urgent one the couple lead in television.
In fact, McLarty's already thinking about where to go next.
"Maybe a road trip," he said, "or maybe shipping the pontoon parts to Scotland for a little European excursion."
Yet that's too far down the road for a mellow McLarty.
"That's the beauty of life on a pontoon," he said with smile. "You can let yourself drift and enjoy the beauty of nature."