Donna Pribyl says,
David and I met Adam in
Dubuque on Saturday morning.
He was hungry enough to eat 7
cookies right away and then
several more before the pizza
we'd ordered showed up. Adam
even stashed extra cookies in the
kayak when we left.
Mississippi River Quest - Page 5
I didn't sleep well last night. I kept thinking about that drunken idiot in his pool toy. Sure,
it turned out funny, but if I hadn't seen him, I probably would have found his body today.
I'm not sure I could continue if something like that happened.
I made it into Iowa today. 700 miles and I'm finally out of Minnesota. I have been on this
stretch of river before, and it's nice having something familiar.
The weather today was calm and very hot. I have a hard time staying focused and
paddling in the heat. It would be all too easy to pull over and fish the rest of the day.
Still, I made 50 miles and will just have to get used to the heat. I'm sure it won't cool
down as I move south.
My first and only love was in high school. I've been with other girls since then, but never
Casey was my best friend's sister. She was always around as I was growing up, but I
never paid much attention to her. That is, until she left a note under the windshield of
my '49 Chevy pickup. That's what I drove in high school. I learned a lot from that truck
and from Casey.
Being in love was wonderful, but as all high school flings do, this one ended. She
dumped me. In hindsight, I can see that it never would have worked out and I am still
friends with her and her brother. The only reason I mention this is because I have never
been able to allow myself to get emotionally close to a girl since then.
Casey is getting married in December and I will go to her wedding.
Another scorcher of a day. Luckily, there are plenty of nice beaches along the way for a
sweaty paddler to cool off. Down south I won't have that luxury. If nothing else, the water
will be too nasty.
For the first time, people are doubting that I will make New Orleans. In Minnesota every
one thought it was great and wished me luck. In Iowa, the response seems to be You
better get a motor! or You won't make it before the sun goes down! I want to tell them
I've already paddled over 750 miles and not everyone's a fat lazy slob like them, but I
don't. I just smile and paddle on.
I am just above Dubuque and the Pribyls are coming to meet me in the morning. I am
really looking forward to this because in many ways, I have been closer to them than I
have my own family. I could never confide anything with my dad because his girlfriend
would find out and everything I said could and would be used against me. This is why
I've always been secretive about my personal life. When I needed help all I got was her
Without their support and my paddling to relieve my aggression, I would either be in jail
or dead right now. I'm sure of that. There were many times throughout my dad's illness
and especially after his death that, had it not been for kayaking to vent my rage, I would
have done some very destructive things. I'm over that rage now, but I'll never forget how
I was treated.
Today Dave and Donna Pribyl came to visit me in Dubuque. It was nice seeing
someone I know after so long on the river. They brought my maps of the lower
Mississippi and food to stock up my boat.
I can't adequately express how much their kindness has meant to me over the years.
When everyone expected and wanted me to fail, they were there rooting for me. When
others showed me kindness only when there was some personal gain for them, the
Pribyl's love was unconditional.
We had pizza and cookies and talked for a good long time. I was hoping they could
watch me lock through, but the observation deck was closed. Still, it brightened my
spirits to see them.
They brought me a new Walkman radio, and once on the river I found a good oldies
station. It brought back memories of riding around country roads in the Dodge Dart with
Casey. We had some good times in that car. I really enjoyed being in love. I wish I
could trust someone enough to let myself fall in love again. My problem is that I have to
know someone for several years before I can begin to trust them. I've had too many
people turn on me. I also don't want to end up like my dad, stuck in an unhealthy
relationship because I'm not strong enough to leave.
After years of abuse at the hands of my dad's girlfriend, and occasionally by my own
father, my brain seems to be stuck in defense mode. I find it easier to avoid new
people than risk being hurt or made fun of by them. Even on the river I won't initiate a
conversation. I wish I could fix this, but it seems to be hard wired into my psyche.
I was told my website is going beautifully. Thank you, Gina and Alan Spohnheimer for
being amongst my Mississippi angles.
I have a feeling I won't sleep well tonight. There are times when the demons from my
past rise from the dark corners of my mind where I try to keep them at bay and torment
me through the evening. All this thinking about the past has caused them to stir quite a
bit lately. Perhaps it's time to finally set them free. If nothing else, I will expose them for
what they are. Tonight would be a good night to drink, but I have done too much of that
in the past and am trying to avoid it, at least in excess, on my trip. It's beautiful out here
and I'm doing what I love. There are a lot of people back home who care about me and
still I feel as though the world has shit on me.
I don't understand how my brain works, only that it's not quite right. If it were a car I
could fix it. I should be lonely, but I'm glad for the solitude. I should grow weary of the
hardship. Instead, I embrace the struggle. It's late and I must try to sleep.
I woke up late this morning and didn't get on the water until 9:00 am. I'm usually up and
going by 7:30. Throughout the morning I had to push into a strong south wind.
Thankfully, it tapered off in the afternoon.
The tall bluffs that I have spent so many hours staring at are beginning to taper off and
the landscape is becoming much more open. This makes my process feel much
slower as I can see for miles.
Tonight I have chosen a campsite on an island in Clinton, Iowa. I think I have made a
poor decision as there is a swinging train bridge very near by. The tracks are quite
busy and every train that passes blows its whistle at the guy who opens the bridge to let
the barges through. He honks his horn in return. What a fun thing to do all night!
My best friend all through high school was Brian. Brian and I both had a lot of creative
energy coupled with way too much free time. We were always coming up with projects
to keep us entertained. One of our favorite pastimes was playing cat and mouse
games with the cops in the little town of Story City.
The beauty of small town cops is that they don't really have anything to do and will
devote entirely too much time and effort to trying to solve very stupid crimes. I think one
of our very first missions was going to the city park at night and turning on the
floodlights at the outdoor riding arena in the city park. All we did was flip a switch, but
you would think someone had robbed a bank. We would either hide in the woods and
watch the action or sneak back home and drive by. They knew it was us, but were
always unable to catch us.
This went on for the better part of a year. Every weekend we would turn on the stupid
lights and every weekend the cops would search everywhere for us. Finally, they took
out the meter and we had to switch to road flares. This also produced the desired
Later our interests turned to cars. We would find old junkers that still ran, the kind of car
you can pick up for fifty bucks, and destroy them. It was an incredible waste of time
when I look back on it. We would spend all day working on whatever treasure we had at
the time just so we could spend a few hours tearing it to pieces in various ditches and
dirt roads throughout the county.
Winter time was always the hardest on equipment. That was the time of year when
there were car hoods to be sledded on and snow piles to be bashed into. There were
many residents of Story City who must have been terribly pissed to come out in the
morning to find their freshly scooped driveway blasted back shut by a Chrysler Imperial.
Once we decided to shorten a Dodge van to the point that it had a wheelbase of about
four feet and could pull a wheelie. We made a Ford pickup steer at both ends with both
the driver and the passenger having a steering wheel. We caught a Chrysler LeBaron
on fire at least ten times. We figured out how to make a microwave explode. We figured
out how to make lots of things explode.
It's a wonder either of us are still alive, but we had a great time with our projects and
still aren't smart enough to leave things alone.