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the photo album
Mississippi River Quest - Page 3
The rise and fall of the eight dollar Walkman
I came into the town of St. Cloud today and was greeted with a 300 yard portage.
International Paper Company's dam and portage are dangerous. I can't believe they
can get away with having such a thing. The take out is 200 yards up from the dam for no
apparent reason, but the danger is the put in. The dam spills out on a bend in the river.
The water recirculates into the dam at the put in. At least they were considerate enough
to line the bank with jagged boulders. I was not at all comfortable with the situation as
the current was pushing into the boulders and back up to the dam. After a few tense
minutes I was safely down stream where I spied a gas station on the right bank. I
decided to go up for a pop and a sandwich. There was a family dollar store across the
street and I thought it might be nice to have some tunes to go down the river with.
I found a nice Walkman for eight dollars and headed back down to the river. After some
channel surfing I found Patsy Cline on the AM dial. Let me tell you, I was cruising in
style! A mile down the river I came to Sauk Rapids. My map said Caution! Class III
Rapids. Scout before proceeding.
They didn't look that bad so I headed in with Buck Owens singing Streets of Bakersfield.
I didn't make it 100 feet before I hit a rock and was upside down. Scared of more rocks,
I decided to swim rather than roll up.
I gathered up my things and dumped out the boat. The radio was a goner. A little
farther down river I met another paddler. He turned out to be a real nice guy. He was
originally from Alaska, but was spending a year in Minnesota. He gave me some advice
on the next few miles of river and wished me luck.
After that it was another 300 yard portage and five miles down river to my campsite. In
six miles of river I had two 300 yard portages and dumped my boat, not to mention the
fact I spent eight dollars to listen to four songs on the radio.
I decided not to try to make it through the cities today. I came up short on miles
yesterday after all of the festivities and the last thing I need is to be stuck in Minneapolis
at night. I am about ten miles up from the Coon Rapids dam and my last portage. That
will leave me plenty of time to breeze through the Cities tomorrow.
The river has been moving at about 3 mph all day and the push has definitely made it
easier to make miles. I think if I tried in current like this I would have no trouble making
70 miles a day.
I paddled past an RV park today. The bank was lined with old people in lawn chairs
doing whatever it is old people do all day. As I paddled past several of them clapped
and shouted encouragements to me. Its cool to have groupies.
As I said, school was tough for me. I remember my first day of seventh grade. I walked
into the classroom and someone said, "You're in the wrong room, retard!" In seventh
grade I was still bored, still a smart ass. Public schools are geared to the lowest
common denominator. Training kids was a lot like training a dog, reward good
behavior enough times and even the dumbest mutt will learn.
I didn't have many friends in school, but the ones I had then I still have now.
I lost my mother in the eighth grade. Joyce Matters, the school counselor did a great
deal to help me through my loss. She also came to my dad's funeral, which I thought
was very nice. Joyce allowed me time out of class to work with special ed students. I
enjoyed this very much and did it all through high school. They were great kids and I
would like to do some volunteer work along those lines when I get home.
After my mother's death is also when I started having real problems with my dad's
girlfriend. Some background information: at the time she was in her forties and still
living with her parents. To this day, she still lives with her parents. She only came over
on weekends. She would spend Friday and Saturday night at our house and go home
on Sunday morning to do her mom's hair. On Wednesday nights my dad would go out
drinking. Often he wouldn't come home until five in the morning. There were other
I think she was abused as a child as she was extremely emotionally immature and
acted very childish around my father. She was also very possessive and wanted me
out of the picture. She was the picture of motherly love when other people were around.
"Oh, I try so hard but Adam just does such terrible things."
When no one was around she would tell me to go to hell. She would call me evil. She
slapped me, hit me, pushed me, and hit me with a fly swatter. I wish I had turned her in.
She would come bursting into my room without knocking and would search through my
things every time I was away. She would lie to my father and tell him I had done things I
hadn't, just to get me in trouble. This went on for eighteen years until my dad died.
They never got married or even lived together and she never liked me.
The cities are a crazy place. I portaged the Coon Rapids dam at 9:00 this morning. It
was a surprisingly easy portage 50 yards up and over a sidewalk and plop back in on
the other side. I set off paddling towards distant skyscrapers looming on the horizon.
About 6 miles downstream I reached the St. Anthony lock. This is a set of two
consecutive locks that drop over 100 feet. I have paddled over five hundred miles and
have seen only a handful of canoes, but there were three canoes waiting to lock
through. They were really nice folks, six people in all, two in each canoe. I was
especially surprised to see canoes, given the strong head wind. They were just
paddling through the locks for something to do. It definitely boosted my spirits to chat
with some other paddlers.
At the next lock I met yet another group of paddlers. They had quite the armada. Two
canoes complete with pirate flags, two kayaks, and one rowboat type thing with two
dogs in it. I could tell by the looks of those college warriors that it wouldn't be long
before someone was swimming. It wasn't. As they were waiting for the locks, two of
the paddlers in a canoe got in a water fight and went over. They were righting their
boat as the lock gates opened. I talked with them in the lock. They said the canoe
thing just sounded like a good way to waste time. I wished them luck and paddled
away. I'm sure someone swam again.
Paddling through St. Paul was pretty neat, giant sky scrapers on my left and river boats
on my right. The cities don't have a run down section of town near the river like I
expected. I was pleased to see that some cities do take care of their river front.
After leaving the downtown area the shoreline is mostly wooded. It was in this
wooded area that I spied a woman sunbathing naked right next to the river for all to
see. Unfortunately, she was in her sixties. I snapped a picture anyway.
From then on it turned into ugly industrialized shores with moored barges and loud
foul smelling factories.
I finally got out of town and found a nice island to camp on. I caught a channel cat and
fried it up for dinner. Now I'm ready for bed and some jackass has started setting off
fireworks on shore. I hope they lose a finger.