Day 9 – August 17th


The best sleep, and I imagine the worst sleep, too, happens on a boat. Chelsea and I are enjoying deluxe accommodations on a beautiful ’64 wooden cabin cruiser that belongs to and is being restored by Dennis, one of our hosts at this oasis of a harbor here on the Mississippi. Joe, the dock master made us feel right at home at this most fantastic Grafton Harbor Marina; we wanted for nothing.
Other than the marinas we stayed in at Peoria and Havana, this is our third real harbor and so far it is the biggest. There’s everything here-showers, pool, brew pub across the street, a winery, gift shops that seem so enticing I’m glad I don’t have time to visit them, and a fantastic restaurant that doesn’t bank on its view to be successful-the food is awesome-I’d highly suggest the alligator cheesecake or whatever that was and the crawfish bisque. I think my mother would love this place.

About three miles out from here, as I was paddling down, I had a tow and barge coming downstream behind me and another heading upstream. I was sticking to the inside bend, as these guys take their turns super wide and generally use every inch of water. I could see a pleasure boat off in the distance, hanging out in the outer bend. From across the river I could here them as they realized they were in the path of the upstream tug pushing a mass of barges  with a downstream tug on its way-they’d be passing in the bend. It was kind of funny as curse words were bandied about and they scurried to throw their boat into full throttle to get the hell outta dodge in a big way.

I caught up to them at the next red buoy, where they were definitely better off and out of the channel. Rick, the captain of the boat and his wife, Nancy, offered me a beer. Once again, it was hot, I had passed some areas of truly stinky water, and the beer was cold. Of course I said, “yes!”

We chatted for awhile-Rick had some bawdy friends with him, great conversation, of course about water and things. They were sucking down Fireball which has some pretty scary ingredients. It’s basically, according to Chelsea, flavored petroleum. So when it was my turn to take a swig I just took baby sips. After all, I still had the scary Mississippi-Illinois River confluence to get through.

The confluence is truly beautiful, I did get some shots, but I really don’t think I did it justice. As far as rough water I’m sure in times of flood it can be a real mess, any water can be. You can go from flat to fluffy in no time, so how calm a body of water is at any given moment cannot ever be taken for granted. But yesterday’s venture where the rivers join was no more turbulent than the Harlem River at max tide.

So now Chelsea and I are on the Mississippi! On the way here I was passed by loopers Helen and Don and another couple, Jeff and his wife.  What a great way to see the country!

***Oh-yesterday Chelsea and I had a slightly late start-on 30 miles and no locks. And we got to meet the mayor of Kampsville, Redeye Schumann. He earned his nickname in a boxing bought where he woke up the morning after a high school boxing match and his eyes were red all around from the many punches his helmet and head took by his opponent. We also got some more of the history of the town, the flooding which is a recurring issue not just because of more rains, the last one being intense and unusual 4 inches last Friday, but because of how the river has been modified and how their stretch is experiencing a lot of silting in.

So onward ho and off I go!


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