Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Week Two Recap

Sorry for slacking on the blog in the last few days. We're still settling into our groove and searching for internet access. Here's our update:

We didn't spend a lot of time in the quad cities on Wednesday, but we did make a stop to get more supplies. I biked up through Davenport while Matt and Josh watched the Sea Monkey. On my way back, I was trying to hurry so we could cover some good distance that night. On top of that, the area that I was riding through was a rough looking neighborhood and I wasn't looking to spend a lot of time as a sitting duck. I felt something hit me in the back of the head and thought I was about to be mugged. I looked back to see a redwing-black bird hovering just out of arms reach behind my head. By the sound of his squawk he wasn't happy to see me and I felt the same way. I flailed and swatted to keep him off of my head and to shoe him away, but he stayed on my tail for nearly a block. Finally he gave up and I went on.

As I got closer to the river, Matt called me up and said that we had an hour wait for the lock and dam in Davenport. By then I was in a nicer area and I figured I'd take my time as long as we had the wait. I pulled up to a big black dog with dread locks that stretched from his back all the way to the ground. I asked his owner, Ron, if I could get a picture with the dog, Jazz. He was glad to take the photo and we got to chit chatting. Ron was just closing up his antique shop and invited me into his house, next door, for a beer. After biking in the hot weather, nothing sounded more satisfying than a cold one. Ron had a beautiful house and garden. We shared stories and almost lost track of time when I realized that we were on schedule to go through the lock in just a few minutes. Ron gave me the quickest rout to the sailors club where the guys were waiting for me and I shot out not long after. The guys had dropped me off up river from the sailors club, so I wasn't entirely sure where to find them. I hit the bike trail that runs along the river. There is a concrete wall that boarders the river and the water was low, so I stopped every couple of blocks to look over the wall and eventually found the Sea Monkey waiting for launch. Josh and Matt told me about a sail boat race that I missed out on while I was in town. I would have liked to see it, but I wasn't too bummed out.

We landed in Fairport that night. It's a small town that didn't stretch farther than a stone throw. We were hungry, but the marina/bar had already closed up so we chewed on some jerky and this and that for the night. I tried to start a fire but all the wood that I could find was too damp to catch a flame.

When we woke up at 6 am on Thursday, I lifted my head to see that the river was foggy as could be. Even the near by buoys were out of sight. We all said no way and napped until 8. With a late start we landed in Muscatine by mid-day. Right after we docked in the public harbor, we were greeted with compliments on the raft and of coarse a heap of curious questions from some folks at the Events Center by the Harbor. Still hungry, hot and sweaty, we headed into town hoping to find a grocery store, but instead, found an authentic Mexican buffet. I was sold as soon as the air conditioning hit my skin.

With full bellies, we headed back to the raft. Some of the workers at the events center flagged us down before we launched and asked if we were hungry. I can never say no to food so I told them that if they had leftovers to give out, we'll make sure that it gets eaten. They loaded us up with grilled chicken, burgers with all the fixings and ice to keep it for later. We gave our gracious thank-yous and set sail.

It was near sunset on Thursday when we were rushed by one local fisherman after another. None of them could believe their eyes. We get a lot of attention form other boats. It's almost like being in a parade. And by that time of day, all the boaters have been on the water for for a while and are more social. We'd been hearing about a few guys in a canoe that were also traveling the length of the river. Some of the fisherman mentioned that they had just seen them a few days earlier. One guy named Ethan flagged us down to say hi. He must have been about our age and his brother in the boat behind him looked like a young teen. We talked for a while and he sped off for just a couple minutes to return with a few beers. River folks sure know how to treat guests. He gave us some fishing tips and snails for bait too. Thanks Ethan! I hope you make the trip yourself soon!

We were planning to run all night but we found a nice spot with an uprooted tree on the Illinois bank. The tree was stripped of all the bark, leaving a white trunk perched above the shore. We were a little cautions around the hundreds of what looked like snake holes on the muddy bank. Josh and Matt threw some fishing lines out while I collected fire wood. We monkeyed around on the fallen tree for a while, I ended up in the drink once and then worked on the fire to dry out. The mini charcoal grill makes a great portable fire pit. We were all pretty beat from being on the river all day. It was fairly quiet. I was trying to take in all of the scenery, because pictures never do justice for landscapes. We watched as the sky turned from pink to orange, to red. A sunset only lasts so long, but a guy always has the stars to look forward to.

With some moderate headwinds, we motored for most of the day on Friday, and into the night as well. We went through a tornado watch and were almost guaranteed severe thunderstorms. We strapped everything down and prepared for a battle with mother nature, who can easily humble a few cocky rafters. Despite the headwinds, we ran south as fast as we could and dodged the storm. Luck was on our side.

We were hoping to go through Keokuk before setting up camp, but we would have had an hour and a half wait for the lock and dam. There is a yacht club just up river from the lock and dam where we tied up. There was a fancy bar holding a class of '85 reunion. Relative to the crowd, we were grungy and dirty, until two other gents in the same condition approached the Sea Monkey. Dan and Sam from Minneapolis. They're the canoers we've been hearing about! They were in a homemade canoe called the "Don't Fight It." We all shared stories over a few beers. They brought a banjo along and it sounded great along with Josh's washboard. Even though we weren't as clean shaven as the class of '85 in the bar, we did a alot of mingling in and out of the bar. The Sea monkey and the Don't Fight It bring a smile to everyone's face.

We spent the night on the raft, tied to the river side of the float dock. There was a light sprinkle and the sound of distant thunder. The waves and current were still tossing us around a bit. It sounds nerve-wracking but it's actually quite soothing to be rocked to sleep.

On saturday, we hooked up the Don't Fight It to the back of the Sea Monkey. Dan and Sam hopped on board the raft as we gave them a lift to them from Keokuk to Canton. We had another wait on Lock and Dam #19, so we hung out by the yacht club for an hour or so. Lock and Dam #19 is different from the others. First off, it's huge! I'm not sure of the dimensions, but for every foot that it drops, it dumps out 1.2 million gallons of water... and it dropped about 35 feet that day. The door on the up river side isn't a normal double opening door, but one peace of metal that drops below the surface. You drive over it and it pops back up behind after you get in. There door is wide enough for a walkway on top. When it emerged from the water, there were fish that got caught on top of it. The lock-keepers actually had to walk out on top of the door to shovel them off. It was a slow drop. There were 5 or 6 floating tie-ups for larger boats builed into the wall. As they dropped along with the water level, they all rubbed on the vertical steel runners. They squealed and echoed between the concrete walls and water surface; an eerie feeling.

The rainfall upriver made for some well appreciated current. We made a stop on a quiet beech to enjoy the weather before we dropped off the crew of the Don't Fight It.

The Sea Monkey landed on another beech later in the day. Hog-Back Island is a local social area for the people of Quincy. We've already strayed far from the northern accent so everyone in that area sounds southern to us. Right off the bat, we met Jim and his wife. Jim used to be an auctioneer and didn't seem to stray far from his auctioneer tone. He spoke at a mile a minute and hardly took a break to inhale. The people down here seem less regulated and a little more wild than back home: very easy to get along with too.

We left Hog-Back before dark and landed in Quency for the night. Some folks at Hog-Back recommended the bar Cutter's. Matt lost his hat on the way to the bar. Once there, we met Uncle Boomer. I took it with a grain of salt when he introduced himself by saying: "I'm Uncle Boomer. If you call me anything else I'll knock your teeth in." But he was envious of the trip and had nothing but good things to say about it. He even gave us 20 bucks out of the blue! Thanks Uncle Boomer! Matt asked some locals where he could find a cheap hat, only to find one offered to him for free. What a deal!

Sunday morning we met up with Brent from Premium Water in Quency. We got in contact with him earlier and they donated 4 cases of bottled water to the Sea Monkey. We had yet another hour long wait at the lock and dam in Quency but at least got a spot in line ahead of another barge.

I was pumped to visit Hannibal MO, home of Mark Twain. As we floated into town, the local tour boat, the "Mark Twain" gave us a welcoming honk. The Mark Twain was heading up river as we passed by them and swung around for a second look as we were pulling into the marina.

We went out to eat just across the street form the Museum and I saw Tom Sowyer and Becky Thatcher just outside the restaurant. I ran out to say to the people I've been reading about and they were glad to see someone making the same trip as their buddy Huck. Tom showed me his walking stick that tripled as a fishing rod and a sling-shot. He said that way he always ready if he sees a critter and never lets supper get away easy. I asked Tom where he got his straw hat because I've been looking for one of my own. He told me about a little shop up the street that may have them. I got a picture and chatted with the two of them and and Tom's mom. Tom gave me a nut that he called a hog's eye for good luck. My food was getting cold so I went back to eating up. After only a few minutes, Tom came back in and gave me a straw hat! Thanks a bunch Tom and Becky! After dinner we went through the museum and also the old Drug store, the boyhood home, the justice of peace office and Huck Fin's house. Lots of history too.

Some friends of ours from high school, Will and Kelly, drove in from the Chicago area. They gave us a few supplies and what not. We all toured the Hannibal a bit more before crossing the river to a large beach on the up-river side of another island. We met Chris, a local, who mentioned that he saw two canoers in a colorful homemade boat earlier.

We're in the city of Louisiana, MO and a thunder storm is approaching so I'll have to put the computer away. We have the three tarps strapped down and the fourth strapped out as an awning over most of the front deck. We just heard a close bolt of lightning hit so we should cleared after that one equalized the charge across the area. My camera battery is dead but I'll try to jiffy charge it and snap some photos of the storm. Rain is good and bad because if it's too heavy it keeps us from moving, but heavy rain also raises the water levels, thus giving us current when the Army Corps of Engineers opens the dams. I'll keep you posted as often as I can. Thanks for reading!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Matt's take on the rain

We left Dubuque at sunrise and took turns sleeping and driving so we could make up some mileage. It rained all day, everything got wet. I fell asleep in a light sprinkle to wake up soaked and shivering. It was a pretty miserable day for everyone. We went through a huge pool above a lock with areas of wide open water and areas of islands all over the place. The highlight of the day probably when we passed close by and island covered with birds. There were too many different kinds of birds to count, it was like a bird zoo on a single small island. The trees look as if they were filled to capicity with birds perched on them. The water was full of swimming birds around the island also. When we got close they started taking off and flying around the raft. It was like the Birds Alfred Hitchcock movie. We drove into the night and stopped and some overgrown abandoned looking docks in an old marina for the night.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Pictures from Dubuque

Us with Pete, Revy, and Jen:

Us with Pete, Lisa, and Tom:

Pete lost his bet with Revi:

Schumacher Beach:

Chuck let us ride his Jet Ski:

Brian (Skipper) and Chuck:

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Dubuque, Iowa

When we were going through the lock right before Dubuque we noticed Go Sea Monkey Go and was written on the wall inside the lock. We all thought that was pretty cool. We arrived in the evening and met up with Revy, Jen, Pete, and Lisa. We tied the Sea Monkey up in the marina beside Revy's houseboat. Pete and Revy had made a bet that if we make it to Dubuke Pete has to kiss Revy's butt. So Pete being a man of his word climbed aboard the Sea Monkey and did just that. Right beforehand Pete put tons of chap stick on to form a shield. We all had a good laugh. We hung out a Revy's houseboat for awhile, went to the Yard Arm bar on shore than went to bed.

The next day we headed out to Schumacher beach a couple miles out of town on Revy's boat at around noon. The beach filled up with other boats and had lots of fun ensued. Chuck let us ride his 1200cc jet ski, that was a blast. Some generous beach goers donated some food to the journey also, thanks again. The night before Lisa told us she was going to make us anything we wanted for dinner the next day. I requested Salmon and Josh asked for Lasagna, Ben said he'd eat anything she made. We left the beach at around 5 and headed for Pete and Lisa's houseboat for dinner. Their boat was pretty much the opposite of the Sea Monkey. 60' long, 2 bathrooms, and nicer than most houses on land. The meal was so good, we were all very thankful. After dinner T-Bone gave us some fresh vegetables from his Tri-State market in East Dubuque, IL and Tom gave us some fishing tackle. Everybody was so generous, it was great. We slept at Skippers house on dry land that night.

The next day we painted teeth on the splash guard on the Sea Monkey. They turned out pretty good, the Sea Monkey should stick out even more than it already does now. Tom stopped by the raft and showed Josh how to use some of the tackle he gave us. Josh got 3 fish within 5 minutes. After that Chuck welded our broken anchor back together and Skipper took us to a boat store so we could buy some oil. There was a 40' speedboat with dual supercharged 602ci engines that were so clean you could eat off of them. Being from lake country I'd never seen a boat like that before. We went to a couple bars headed back to raft and prepared for an early start.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Just a quick update.

We've been having a lot of fun the last couple days in Dubuque. We left at six this morning and hit some rough weather. It's too rainy to use the computer, I'm just making this quick note from the phone to keep everybody updated. We're going to shoot for Davenport by tomorrow. We'll post an update and pictures from the last few days soon.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Day 8 Pictures

Dan catching up with us to bring us some stuff we left at his house:

At the lock in Dubuque someone ahead of us had written a note for us on the wall:

Day 7 Pictures

Us with Don:

Ben cooking summer sausage and potatoes over a wood fire:

Day 6 Pictures

Matt and Ben on a day marker in the middle of the river.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

More River Buddies

Late Friday night, we pulled into a public landing in Cassville WI. We were just about to call it a night when a man pulled up in his pontoon. He insisted that he was just Dan but we still called him Dan The Man. He must have seen it from the river and just wanted a closer look. Dan The Man admired the trip too! After giving us each a few beers, he invited us back to his home to get cleaned up and what not. We followed him home and he showed us around his house... and what a house! It was like being in a museum. Lots of old marine gear, a few old Harleys and plenty of antique guns. We each showered up, drank some expensive liquor, and hopped in the hot tub. It was nice to be spoiled after a week on the river. We had been chilled through the core for a few days so a hot shower and hot tub were a gift from the heavens. Dan The Man even promised us breakfast but we had to take off as soon as we woke up.

Thanks Dan The Man!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

River Buddies

I typed this one up last night but didnt' have time to post it. Here it is:

We landed in Lacrosse, two nights ago, and made a few stops in town. We were only there for a short while before we set sail again. Josh was driving while Matt spotted buoys. I took a nap because it was getting too late. Josh woke me up around 4 am when we got close to an island to set up camp. We got beached on the sandbar about 100 feet from the island. We had to push off but the wind and the weeds were working against us. It took a few tries to push away from the shallows, AND avoid the weeds long enough to clear the area. The second one we tried worked out just fine. It must have been a public camp ground because there were fire pits and fire wood stacked up when we got there. It was a cold night/morning so we started up a fire. I laid down on the sand with my head on a log as we watched the sun rise and the stars fade.

After the late night travel, we got a late start. We had another tailwind and made some great time. The sun was out, the scenery of the bluffs and the slews was something I'd never seen before. Everything was going in our favor. We had to wait for a barge in lock #8, but afterward, things were flowing well again.

When we got to lock # 9 that night, the same barge was just going through, but there was another one coming up river that we had to wait for. We waited an hour and a half to find out that there was yet another barge waiting for passage up river. By then it was 10:30 pm and we just set up camp on the shore side of a lock. We tied up to a concrete loading dock but weren't sure if we were in the way. We were just killing time when we heard a nock on top of the cab. Two local fisherman Don and Brad from Prairie Du Chien, WI, were curiously standing outside the Sea Monkey. They mentioned that they always wanted to make the trip too. They even offered to pick up the raft when we were done with it. We told them that if they bring us back up north it's a deal. So we may already have a ride back! Well to southern Wisconsin anyway...

We chit chatted for a few hours. We told them about the trip so far and they told us more about the river and rough patches to look out for. They liked the Sea Monkey and the idea of the trip so much that Don offered to pick us up and take us wherever we needed to go in Prairie Du Chien as we passed through the next day (today). How could we refuse?

This morning, the lock-keeper woke us up and warned us that a barge was coming in, so we would have to run through or we would have another two hour wait. We hurried through without a second guess and were on our way to meet up with Don. On our way to Prairie Du Chien, we meat up with Brian from Pepin City. We had met him earlier on the southern tip of Lake Pepin and now again down river. It's a big river but still is a small world. Thanks for the fishing tackle Brian!

Don met us on the shoreline and directed us to a dock to tie onto. He was more than happy to help out any way he could. We met his girl friend Tara and they brought us back to their pad, fed us and showed us around. We didn't want to leave but we just didn't have much time to spare. All of the hospitality that we've been getting is something I've never seen before. Everything about the trip so far has been an amazing experience and the people along the way are the the best part of it.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Day 5 Pictures

Ben made the front tarp into a sail:

Ben set up a pulley system to steer from the roof:

Day 4 Pictures

We Stopped on the calm side of an island to get out of the wind:

Day 3 pictures

We added 2 more barrels at the Red Wing Marina:

Cooking jerky and potatoes:

More pictures and scenery:

Crossing lake Pepin at night:

Pictures from day 2

Ben and Matt got off the raft to climb on a piece of an old bridge in the middle of the river:

We found a big rope swing:

Our first lock:


We anchored on a sandy island the second night: