We left the island in the morning and drove to Louisiana, Missouri and tied up to a small dock at the boat club. Now we can say we made it to Louisiana no matter what happens. We asked a local guy named Averon where the nearest gas station was and he offered us a ride. That saved us a lot of trips on foot carrying gas cans and such. With the raft fully stocked we were planning on leaving but a big storm hit so we dropped the tarps and put up the awning. Everything stayed dry and nobody got struck by lightning. When the storm started to clear a bunch of trucks pulled up to the boat club and they invited us in for a beer. Clark and the others told us a bunch of stories and jokes. It was a lot of fun but we had to get back on the river. We motored into the night until we hit Clarksville. We explored the town a bit and looked deserted until we found a cool bar with stone pillars inside. We were telling the bartender about our journey when a guy leans over and asks "Did yall vote for Al Franken?" Josh being a big Franken fan replies yes. We talked to Mark for a bit and showed him the raft. He invited us to stay at his place and we are in no position to refuse a night on dry land. We played a little basketball, hit some softballs, and he even let me drive his tractor around.
The next morning Mark made us breakfast and drove us back to the raft in his convertible. We headed back down the river and discovered an old deserted barge so Ben and I climbed around on it. Farther down stream we stopped at a restaurant right on the river and ate catfish and lasagna. It was delicious. We met Al, Rick, and Glen who had done a similar journey when they were younger on a much larger raft. They even had a model of it. It floated on 40 barrels, ours floats on 12. Al invited us to stop at his house which was just down river when we passed by it later. When we were on the way there we ran in to Sam and Dan yet again. We invited them aboard and towed their canoe to Al's house. Al's yard was a big concrete wall right on the river. He gave us a ride in this cool 1972 boat with 3 keels, an icebreaker, and a new 200 horse motor. Me and Ben leaned off the bow when we were going fast, quite a contrast from the raft. Because Al lives on a concrete wall he lowers his boats in and out of the water with a big Jib crane. A 150 hp jon boat was parked nearby also. After a tour of his house he showed us a machine he invented that fuses sheet metal together with a 7000 psi punch powered by compressed air. It was much faster than spot welding or riveting. After that we hung out with Sam and Dan for a bit before we went to bed on the raft.
We left Al's and drove to Grafton which had a really nice marina. They had a swimming pool that was floating on the river, I found that ironic. Ben and Josh walked to the grocery store and when they were about to leave the cashier asked if they were going to carry all of the groceries. After they replied yes Cindy handed over the keys to her car and let them borrow it. The kindness of people along river never ceases to amaze me. A friendly local invited us over to his boat for a beer. We took showers, filled up with water and fuel, and just as we were leaving we ran into Sam and Dan again. There were huge cliffs on the side of the river, a very scenic area. While we werae just trucking down the the river and boat with 2 guys pulls up and asks if we've got time to hang out. So we tie our boat up to Matt and Brian's boat and Ben sees that they have a wake skate. So we untie from the raft and Ben goes wake skating for a bit. When we got back to the raft Ben was climbing from boat to boat when his sunglasses fell in the water, Matt immediately hands him a pair of almost the same glasses. He said he has a whole crate of them. Brian had an appointment so he gave us a bottle of whiskey and took off. Down river we were waiting on a barge when a cop pulls up to us and basically says were all going to die if we try to go through St Louis. It seems that all river cops want to do is scare you into giving up when the coast guard are the ones who know what they are talking about. We figured we should probably wait until the next morning to go into St Louis so we tied up to a boat landing in Alton. Some local fisherman Bruce and David hung out with us for a bit and gave us some fishing gear. We made a fire on the roof and cooked some brats Al had given us the night before before going to sleep on the raft.
The day started by waiting for a barge and the Mel Price lock. Quite an impressive lock, it has a huge control tower and looks way newer than the rest of the locks. They made us put on life jackets in the lock which was a first. After that everything was industrial, barges and tugs everywhere. There is a really long man made canal leading up to the final lock. When we were driving down it a flying carp jumped into our boat, we fried it right away and just as it was getting done cooking another carp skimmed my leg and landed in the boat so we ate that one too. We went through the final lock and were on our way into St Louis. After a cop and Al told us to have a gun onboard we stopped and picked up rocks so we could build primitive weapons for hobo defense. St Louis doesn't have any docks so we just pulled up to the brick levee under the arch. The arch was an awesome sight, I recommend visiting it. There were helicopter tours flying right overhead and riverboats driving by all day. The computer wasn't working so Josh took a taxi to the Apple store to get it figured out. Thanks the Eric at the Apple store for the help. A cool guy named Bob hung out with us for a bit before we walked around the arch and checked out the surrounding area. There was free live music and fireworks under the arch that night. Since we were right on the water you could see the barge that the fireworks were being launched from, it was an impressive display. All kinds of locals stopped and checked out the raft throughout the day. Bob stopped by later and gave us some white castle, thanks Bob. Because of the event going on under the arch it turned out to good spot to park the raft. We slept in the raft without any problems that night.