Mississippi River Quest - Page 7
Brian and his girlfriend, Salina, came to visit me in La Grange, Missouri today. I am truly
lucky to have such wonderful people in my life. Kent drove me to Itasca; Alan and Gina
are keeping my website running smoothly; Dave and Donna came to visit me in
Dubuque; and Brian and Salina came to Missouri for me, not to mention everyone else
that has helped along the way. There are some wonderful people in this world.
Brian, Salina, and I met in the city park in La Grange. From there we drove to the casino
for an all you can eat buffet. I got my money's worth out of that. After dinner, we tried our
hand at gambling. Brian won three dollars and I lost one. From there it was back to the
We sat at the picnic table and talked about cars we had ruined and things we had blown
up. We also dreamed of future projects after I return from my journey. We spent the
better part of the afternoon talking and I'm glad we did. I haven't spent nearly enough
time with my friends recently as I've been too obsessed with my trip. Hopefully, I can
make up for that when I return. I've been through hell and my friends have always been
there for me.
For a while after high school, I worked third shift at the truck repair shop. One night at
about 3:00 am I was paged for a phone call. I knew it was probably bad. I believe it was
my dad's girlfriend who called saying my dad had had a massive heart attack and was
en route to Des Moines.
At the time, I drove a '78 Dodge Power Wagon that should have been junked about 15
years ago. I never knew it could go that fast as I drove 90 mph through down town Des
Moines. If he were to die I wanted to see him first.
I beat the ambulance to the hospital. When my dad arrived, he looked awful, and I was
told there was a good chance he wouldn't make it through surgery. I held his hand and
told him I loved him before he was wheeled off. There were several uncomfortable
hours in a small waiting room with his girlfriend and my two aunts. The situation was
made much more uncomfortable by the fact that I don't really care for any of these
My father made a full recovery, but didn't quit smoking. This incident was very important
for two reasons. 1. I realized my father wouldn't always be around, and 2. his girlfriend
blamed the heart attack on me because of the stress I was putting him through. It was
my fault and not the two packs of Marlboros he smoked every day or his poor eating
habits and lack of exercise.
I woke up this morning and it was cold and windy out. In Minnesota I had heat indexes
of 100 degrees and in Missouri the high today was 69 degrees. I made it five miles into
a brutal headwind before deciding to give up for the day. The forecast calls for severe
thunderstorms this afternoon although they haven't begun yet. I sat and listened to the
radio for a while this morning before becoming bored off my ass and walking up the
railroad tracks to Hannibal. I came to some sort of third rate amusement park and
decided to check it out as they didn't charge admission. It sucked. There were a few
stores selling overpriced crap and bumper car rides. The only thing I found of interest
was the café which looked pricey, so I returned to my boat for dinner.
I found a plastic duck decoy and decided it should go to New Orleans with me. I tied
him to the deck of my boat and named him Sparky. Without paddling I'm stuck with a lot
of time on my hands.
I am far enough south to have run into a new species of tick. I had one crawling on me
today that looked like a regular tick, but with a yellow dot in the middle of its back. That
pretty well covers the excitement I've had for the day. I think I'll fish for a while before it
starts raining if I can manage to cast in this wind. If nothing else, I'll catch up on sleep.
There is a tourist boat that goes by every hour with circus music blaring on the loud
speaker. I haven't a clue why anyone would pay to listen to that crap. It's a shame the
wind doesn't stop them like it does me.
When I bought the shop I knew I couldn't afford it and live in my house at the same time,
and decided to move into the back office of the shop and rent out my house. The only
renter I could find was a lowlife named Tommy. He had tattoos and a pit bull. The first
of every month I would have to go over and hit him up for rent.
At first business went fairly well and I still had my full time job. It wasn't long before work
found out what I was doing and fired me for conflict of interests. It was quite a bit
tougher making ends meet without a steady source of income. I was either so busy I
had to turn people away or there wouldn't be a truck in the shop for a week.
I very much enjoyed the idea of being self employed although the reality was
overwhelming. I never had any money or free time. Still, things went relatively smooth
for almost a year. Then Tommy called me from jail. He had beat up his girlfriend and
gotten into a high speed pursuit on the interstate. He informed me he would be going
away for a while.
I took all his stuff from the house and put it in the garage where some relative of his
came to pick it up. I ended up with his dog for three months before he hot out of jail.
The sudden loss of a tenant left me with two mortgage payments to make every month
when I could barely afford one. After two months I found new tenants, but the wolves
were at my door. I owed more than my stuff was worth and couldn't seem to catch up. I
made it six months before it all came crashing down.
I sat in my tent last night listening to A Prairie Home Companion on NPR as a
thunderstorm raged outside. I couldn't help but think of all the times I'd listened to that
very same program riding around in the old blue pickup with my dad. These are the
memories I try very hard to keep in the front of my mind, not his horrible illness.
I awoke to the sounds of thunder this morning and looked out of my tent at horizontal
rain and whitecaps on the river. I really wasn't looking forward to another day of rest, but
I made breakfast and picked up where I had left off on the book I was reading last night.
About noon the rain stopped and the wind let up a bit. Although it was still cold, I could
see my breath this morning. I decided to pack up and head out into the gloom.
By the time I reached Louisiana, Missouri about twenty miles down stream, the
headwind and overcast skies were really getting me down, so I walked into town to find
something to eat. I found some surprisingly good gas station pizza, and called Donna
and Gina back home. I didn't get hold of Gina, but left a message and was able to talk
I returned to the river with a full stomach and a load off my mind and was pleased to find
that the wind had almost stopped. I paddled another 10 miles downstream and found a
beautiful sandbar to spend the night on.
Life out here has its hardships -- the wind, rain, and cold, not to mention the bugs, but
there is peace and beauty in being on my own. I have absolute freedom out here. No
schedules, time clocks, or bosses. I begin every day with the wide-eyed wonder of a
child. Everything tomorrow holds in store is brand new. I've never seen it before, and I'll
never see it again. I missed out on a great deal of my childhood. Perhaps this is my
chance to get back some of what I've lost.