Day 7 – August 15th

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The barge traffic is increasing now the further south I go. This is good practice for the Mississippi, which is running very fast and has, from what I heard, insane barge traffic. It will be watch and wait for sure before crossing channels.

Chelsea has been all over this place and thanks to the bridge constructions’ contracted guys with Halverson Construction Co., Inc here and one very passionate nature enthusiast/superintendent of the team, Jon DeCroix, we were given a room and shower of our own at Meridosia’s only motel, the guys here referred to it as Meridosia’s Marriott (which is not your typical toilet scrubbed kind of place any more). Despite Meridosia’s current conditions, in which screams “Help my town is dying here!” with the sore sight of what remains of many permanently closed businesses, including the towns last standing grocery store, everyone here is extremely kind, full of smiles, and, like everywhere else we’ve been along this journey, concerned about their waterways. In times of tremendous rain, the river can flood right up to the new Meridosia Bridge which is just one year into construction and results in months of no work! Even with rising waters and the threat of more hold ups Jon and his crew made sure we had lunch and a safe place to stay and put a compassionate guy named Rondey, whose stature and demeanor reminded Chelsea of Teddy Roosevelt, in charge of our safe keepings for the night.

Shawn O’Brian, the owner of the motel, showed concerned for our waterways and safe passage as well. He gave us the scoop and all the ins and outs of the next few towns, giving us much confidence as we continue on. He insisted that we get a good night’s meal and took care of our bill at the 104 Grill (1 or 2 restaurants/bars still open both served very large portions). So the guys have fed us multiple times over. Am taking leftovers for lunch, if I can slow down to eat it.

Despite the wait at the lock, I made the 50 miles in record time. Think I mushy have been averaging about 8 miles an hour, if not more. Truly insane speed and also a bit concerning because I like to really slow down to figure the vessel traffic.

I have a little technique of crossings channels to avoid being where the barges want to be. But it’s not always fail proof. Yesterday when I started out-fellow “loopers” Helen and Don opted to sit out yesterday’s rain and yuck, the rain and mist cut down visibility dramatically. I could barely make out the tug and one barge coming upstream. I hugged the right side of the shoreline, by the parked barges. Too late I realized, yikes, he’s gotta single barge, he’s hugging the barges, too, he’s probably gonna park. At that point I deemed it too dicey to cut across his bow-line so I ducked in between some parked barges, where there was thankfully enough space and water for me to continue to paddle downriver. I cut through again just as the tug steamed by, the captain looking for me. I waved to him and he waved back. I tried to call him prior to ducking in to see if he was gonna park on multiple channels before using the duck out option. Very glad I did because that could have been a close call.

Later in the day there was an upriver tug clearly outside of the channel. I couldn’t tell what his plan was but fortunately I had time to shoot across to the other side of the river. And then there was a really nice tug operator who slowed his engines to ensure I had enough time to get out of his way-fortunately he didn’t idle but a second as he could see I was moving fast to get out of his way. This busy part of the river demands constant paying attention to the channel as well as also realizing when the occasional maker is misplaced or has moved (it does make a difference where they stick those things-“red right return” is the rule on this river heading north. And tugs with barges take their turns wide.

Despite the hold up at the lock, I made amazing time, getting in to Meridosia sometime between 5&6. While hanging at the lock I went through emails, ate lunch, and watched a flock of pelicans fly in formation overhead, a perfect “V” and with plenty of glide. They are the most graceful of all flyers, I think. They’re loud splashy divers tho, absolutely no grace there!

So while I’m paddling on a fast river I’m hearing about the flooding in Louisiana. I wonder what it will be like when I paddle through. And I thought I’d picked a dryer time to paddle! Too much water or not enough, how we manage our water will be, heck it IS, crucial to our survival.

I had an interesting chat about the new clean water rules with Rodney, the gentleman who took good care of us. He has some cows and 34 acres at home in Kentucky, and was frustrated with the rules that would include small streams on his property that only connect to navigable waterways during floods. I pointed out that this is happening more and more frequently, as we are experiencing right now. I also pointed out, when he asked about how I felt about cows, that the really big issues from cows were the massive feedlots and the huge corporate operations, not the guy with ten-20 head, although it all does add up.

People really do understand when you show them the facts during a calm discussion. I wish we could have more of that than the crazy insanity we see in politics these days. No one’s talking, everyone’s yelling. Who wants to listen to yelling?

Guess I’ll be thinking about that as I paddle today in more rain.

For the ocean!!

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