Saturday, July 29, 2006

July 29 - Little Sioux to Bellevue

Feeling good this morning! Last night I was not looking forward to today, but now I feel great.

I got on the water by 6:00 and had a great morning of paddling. The wind is not as bad as yesterday and the humidity is a lot better which made for a delightful morning's paddle. Plus I saw my first turkey this morning. I had a flock of about 8 turkeys walking along the river's edge. Also, saw a couple of deer and a number of geese.

At about noon I started to get a lot of speedboat traffic. I was getting close to the Dodge Park boat landing which is just outside of Omaha. The closer I got the more boats, jet skis and water skiers I met. Pretty much bobbing around like a cork. As I turned a corner in the river I could see the landing and quickly understood why there was so much traffic. Dodge Park has a huge boat landing area. In fact there is so much traffic they have three ramps. Boats everywhere.

I pulled into one of the ramps wondering what the best strategy would be to continue on.

As luck has it my question was quickly answered. Dodge Park also was the right on the Riverfront Bike trail that goes through Omaha. So, after a bite to eat I set up for the bike portage. Now this was some bike trail. It was all concrete and 10 feet wide. After a mile or two I came upon bike information sign that had bike trail maps. Turns out the trail is not totally finished but gave the route to take on roads where need be. It also should cut off the two big loops that I would have had to paddle! So, what would have taken probably six hours of paddling turned into two hours of bike portaging to a nice motel on the south side of Omaha. Oh life is good today! Nice shower, nice cool room, good meal. I wonder if I'll get so lucky that tomorrow brings less heat and less wind! Probably asking too much.
Oh well , I will deal with that tomorrow and enjoy the evening. (Wonder why I did not see anyone else biking today. Maybe it had something to do with the 101 degree heat posted on a bank I passed!)

Shucks,,, just saw on TV that it's going to be over 100 the next two days!

July 28 - Sioux City to Little Sioux

Woke up feeling great and was on the water by 6:00AM. By the way, I did have a great steak last night. Rob Gaston from Minneapolis is the Marina Inn resturant manager and said they serve the best steaks around. He was right.

The first part of the day went well. Miles were flying by until about noon. Then the wind picked up and the heat kicked in. The wind was coming straight from the south and along with the heat made for a miserable afternoon of paddling. Proabably the worst day I've had so far. By day's end I could hardly move and was feeling very lightheaded.

Tomorrow is supposed to be much of the same. Wind from the south and even hotter. I'll need to stop more and drink more water. I think that was my mistake today.

Need to get to bed.

July 27 - Below the Gavins Dam to Sioux City

Back on the water. Jim dropped me off at around 6:00AM at my entry point and I was on my way with mixed feelings - glad I was back on the water but sad I had to leave my friend. Like I said in my last entry, Jim is a very special friend and I can not thank him enough . Like my friend, Bob Maxwell back in Grand Rivers, KY, Jim also knows I will always be there for him. Thanks my friend!

What a surprise today. On our drive up here I thought this would be a boring stretch of paddling, but it is the opposite. It's beautiful. Lots of trees along the river banks mixed in with beautiful homes and numerous places to camp.

The river is wider than it was on the stretch from K.C. to St Charles. Especially from Vermillion to Sioux City with lots of sandbars which show evidence that they are used for camping. Most likely locals spending weekends on the river camping.

I got to Sioux City around 6:00PM and pulled in to the Marina Inn on the Nebraska side, which is a beautiful motel on the river. I was able to get a room for a reasonable rate and decided to take it. Real reason to stay here is that all I had to do was pull my canoe up on some rock, climb over a railing and I was at the motel. Which means in the morning I will be able to get back on the water quickly after a nice rest in an air conditioned room! It was in the 90's today!!!

Time for a shower and maybe a nice steak!

DAYS OFF: July 25th and 26th

On our ride back yesterday it struck me how hard this must be for people who have not done long distance adventures to comprehend doing such mileage. Even for me it was difficult to imagine as we drove back the 300 miles from St. Charles that I just paddled this distance. Yet, while out doing the actual paddle it just did not seem that difficult. Tough to explain, I guess one just has to try it sometime! In fact for those back home, look up the Superior Hiking Trail. Tnis is one of the highest rated trails in the USA. It runs from Duluth to Grand Portage along Lake Superior. My PCT friend, Commodore did this a couple of years ago and really enjoyed it. Heck, if you're interested, maybe this old guy would go with you someday, or at least I could give you some suggestions.

Got a little off track there!

Just a couple of notes on my two days off.

On the 25th I just lollygagged! Lay around all day resting my stiff neck, sore back and blistered hands. Never really noticed this while I was paddling. Must be the adrenline wearing off!

Also went to the Kansas City and Baltimore baseball game that evening.

On the 26th Jim and I drove up to the South Dakota spot where I will put in tomorrow below the Gavins Dam. As we drove two things were on my mind. First - this looks like this is going to be a very boring strectch of the river to paddle. Just not much scenery - everything is flat. Second is that tomorrow I will be saying goodbye to Jim. He is special for a number of reasons. He and Ken McGrath were my first two friends and we've been friends ever since that kindergarden experience! Who but a real friend would follow some crazy old guy paddling for a week! I just do not know how to thank him. I do know I will miss him. Good thing is I will see him in two weeks at our son Ryan's memorial golf tournament.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

July 24 - Gasconade to St. Charles, MO

Great night's sleep and I did not hear any snoring! Jim got me back to Gasconade and I pushed off at 6:00AM.

We made plans to meet in Washington, MO, which was about 30 miles for me to paddle.

Made it to Washington around 10:30 and had lunch with Jim at a very nice waterfront park. Everything along the Missouri has some reference to Lewis and Clark and here was no different except it also noted that Daniel Boone was buried close by. In fact, on Jim's way to Washington he stopped at the site. This was Daniel Boone's initial burial site, but later his remains were sent back to Kentucky for his final resting place. He was 85 when he died. Heck, and I thought I wasn't going to learn a thing today!

Well, the end is near! Plans were to go all the way back to the arch in St. Louis, but decided to end where I left my gear and had biked to in St. Charles. It would take another day to get to St. Louis and to have Jim get me back to Kansas City and up to the first dam in South Dakota was asking too much of him. Plus he would have had to spend another day by himself. Besides, I've connected the dots as to where I left off. My only reason to go back to the arch was seeing the confluence of the Missouri and the Mississippi. That I would have done if my journey was following the entire Lewis and Clark adventure. Mine is to get from one ocean to the other non- motorized by paddle and bike portaging.

So, I finished the day with an easy paddle to St. Charles and we loaded up and headed back to Kansas City.

This section went quick and was fun. I met many nice people and having Jim helping me made it special.

Now it's time for more stories as we head back to Kansas City. We will go to the Kansas City Baltimore game tomorrow and then head to Gavins Point Dam in SD on Wednesday.

July 23 - East of Boonville to Gasconade, MO

Off and paddling at about 6:00AM. Tough, tough morning. I started out thinking I will be making this a short day. The heated started early and by 9:00 I needed to pull over for a break. I stopped just short of Jefferson City and took about a 30 minute break. (Can not remember the name of the town that was a mile away, but a couple said it was the pumpkin capitol of MO)

Felt better after the break and continued on toward Jefferson only to stop again at the boat ramp in Jefferson for another break. Did not start up again until 1:00 after having something to eat and a lot of water I was feeling a whole lot better. I also called Jim and he was on his way to Columbia from Kansas City. We decided we would try and hook up downstream and spend the night at Herman, MO if I could make it at least somewhere close to it.

So off I went, still needing to make a good 40 to 50 miles if I had any chance to meet Jim.

At the mouth of the Osage river that entered into the Missouri I came upon a large group of people gathered on a huge sandbar. There must have been over 50 people all having a great time swimming, playing volleyball, barbequeing. I left with a huge hunk of homemade deer sausage and 4 beers! Dear sausage was great, beer will keep for another time! Water will be the key to keeping me going.

As I continued, finding Jim was going to be tough for my cell phone went dead. There were two boat landings that I was possibly going to meet him at but he was at neither. At the last one I pulled in to a little town called Portland. At the landing were two guys, one in a raft and the other in a canoe. They had started at the Osage River and were slowly working their way to St. Louis.
Just taking their time and enjoying each day. (Wish I could do that, but not in my make-up!)

I was able to get a bite to eat and charge my phone a little before I pushed off from Portland. About a mile down the river I was able get hold of Jim. He said he'd left Portland about an hour earlier and was now at a motel in Portland. Told me he'd come and get me, but I said no that I'd try and make it to Gasconade which was about 7 miles from Herman. (Real reason I had to continue to try and make Gasconade was it is tough for me to go backwards!)

Well, now I had to still make over 18 miles to get there and it was after 7:00PM. To make a long story shorter, I made it at 10:00, but only by luck. I almost went right by it because Gasconade was in a bay to the south and just before I was passing the bay I turned around for some reason and saw a light about a mile or so down the bay. This time I did turn around! Took forever to paddle back upstream to the bay but did find Jim waiting for me.

We stuffed my canoe and gear into the woods and headed for the motel in Herman.

Another long day was over, but a good one. Plus, a bed tonight, although I will have to put up with some snoring,,, it will not faze me tonight

July 22 - Waverly to Boonville

Last night was interesting. Just after I settled in for the night a boat came up next to my camp and shined a huge light over towards me. Then it continued downstream for about 100 yards and anchored. A few minutes later another boat anchored about 100 yards downstream of me. They had me surrounded! What they were doing was fishing for catfish. So, until about 1:00AM I had two beams of light coming towards me.

When I did finally got to sleep I was awakened about 2:00AM by dogs. Just above me someone was out coon hunting. Needless to say it was a short night of sleep.

Tough day today. It was very warm,, I mean hot! I did come out of the water at around 8:00AM and portage around a loop thinking I was saving a little time and distance. Turns out I'd been just as well served staying on the water. I think the time spent loading and unloading did not save me any time.

One thing for sure, the decision to go downstream back to St. Louis was a wise one. I experimented a couple of times to go upstream and found it almost impossible. If you do not have your paddle constantly moving you go nowhere and even backwards at times. At Waverly I met a pastor walking his dog by the boat ramp and he told me the current stays strong because to keep the water level up they continually release water from the dams upstream. Another gentleman who has spent a lot of time canoeing the Missouri said basically the only time you can go upstream is when they stop the release of water from the dams in the late fall and winter. So, it eases my mind that I'm doing this section in reverse and also will now go up to the first dam near Yankton, SD and back to Kansas City when I finish this section. Once that is done I will need to find a way to get back up to Yankton and continue on to the Pacific. (I will worry about that later)

To put things in perspective about going with the current, I made close to 100 miles today. Although that was starting at 6:00AM and paddling past 9:00PM. If I was going the other way it would have been an average speed of about 1 mile an hour.

The last few hours of paddling have been very enjoyable, not much heat and beautiful sandstone bluffs along the north side of the river, plus numerous sandbars that a number of people are camping along this weekend.

I made camp just on the east end of a long sandbar that a couple was camping on, making sure I was far enough away to give them privacy.

Just after setting up camp and taking a swim to clean up, the couple camping upstream came for a visit. Erik Feather and Deirdre Lester brought some drinks and food for me. We visited for over an hour. Very nice couple and I hope to stay in touch with them as I continue. By the way Erik, the food you cooked up was great!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

July 21 - Kansas City to Waverly MO

Up at 5:00AM and down to the river at 6:00 and back to the motel by 6:30! It's raining and lightning.

Wasn't able to get started until noon today because of a front coming through.

Finally at around noon there was a break in the sky and Jim and I headed back to the river and I was able to push off a little before 12:30. The current was strong and I was feeling a whole lot better about going downstream. I said goodbye to Jim and off I was once more.

Jim plans to go to the Kansas City Royals game this evening and tomorrow and will meet me in St. Louis in 3 or 4 days. Sounded like he had good plans for that time, so off I went to do my thing.

Oh, was I moving! Along with the current and my paddling, I figure I was moving at 7 or 8 miles an hour. This current was different than what I experienced on the Mississippi. Not sure why but even along the shore there seemed to be much more current. I was able to go up the Mississippi because the current along the shore on it was not bad, but here it was different. Later on I will experiment with going the other direction, but right now because of the late start, I want to get in as many miles as I can. (Some things never change,,, push push push!)

Good first day. Did get a little rain, but by 2:00 the sun was out and only in the 70's which made for comfortable paddling. Plans were to take it easy today and set up camp around 7:00, but like most other days, at 9:00 and turning dark I was still looking for a place to camp! Of course between 7:00 and 9:00 there were many great sand bars I could have camped on, but I needed to go around the next bend and find a better one! Finally at about 9:15 (now getting dark) I found a small sand bar that had one flat spot about the size of my tent that would work.

First day is history and it felt good to be back on the river. Oh, and tomorrow I will set up camp earlier!

July 20 - Car Ride from St.Charles to Kansas City

Jim and I left for Kansas City at around 10:00 in the morning. Just an enjoyable time reminiscing about old times. As I said in yesterday's blog, we go way back to actually kindergarden. First story I reminded him of was the story my mother tells of our first day of kindergarden when Jim took my rug that we all had to have for our mid-morning nap. I wonder if they still do that in kindergarden. Anyway, when it was time for my nap I could not find my rug and spotted this other boy resting on it. I went over to get my rug and then next thing I knew, the teacher sent me home. Jim wouldn't give me my rug so I guess I punched him in the nose and out the door I went.

Mom says when she got back home from doing errands after walking me to school I was sitting on the steps. Needless to say she was not very proud of me. (Hopefully that has changed since. She's still going strong at age 94!) Not sure if I'm the only one ever to get expelled from kindergarden, but I think I'm the only one from Barron, WI! Anyway all turned out okay and from that day on Jim and I have been great friends. He along with Ken McGrath from grade school have been very close for all these years. Lots of memories!

During the drive to Kansas City I also was thinking about my decision to do this stretch of the river in reverse order. In researching the internet I could find only one other person that attempted canoeing the Lewis and Clark journey by starting in St. Louis and going upstream. He had to do the same - go up to Yankton, SD and return downstream to St. Louis. Then go back to Yankton where they first dam on the Missouri is and continue on westward where the river becomes lakes and one is able to navigate again.

In any case I will find out tomorrow.

Back to stories. "Jim, remember when you loaned me your brand new bike and I rode it into that big oak tree.............."

July 19 - St. Louis

Time to get going again. It's been great to take this break and spend time with family and friends. At first it was hard to adjust, but as time went by I was right back into my normal daily life activities. Even had a chance to play golf with high school friends, Chuck Dorn, Jim Umland and Bob Catron in Minneapolis yesterday. Now one would think good friends would give me strokes for not playing all summer. Instead they just took my money and wished me well on my journey! I guess I'd have done the same if the roles were reversed. (When you've got someone down, step on them!)

This morning my daughter, Heidi took me to the airport in Duluth. Tough to say goodbye to everyone, but at the same time I needed to get back paddling. Also, knowing it would not be long and I'd be back on the 7th of August for Ryan's golf tournment will help with missing family and home.

Heidi dropped me off at 5:30 in the morning and after a layover in Minneapolis, I arrived in St. Louis at 1:00 P.M. My friend, Jim McIntyre, from way back in grade school was there to pick me up. Jim loves baseball and each summer takes a trip to various ballparks around the country. So he offered to help me out on this part of trip which involves shuttling me to Kansas City and then to Yankton, S.D.

I've decided to do this Missouri River section downstream. I've talked to many people that have Missouri River experience and all said there's no way I can make it going upstream. Hate to do this, but for one of the few times I'll listen and follow the advice!

From the airport Jim and I headed over to Bass Pro to get my gear. Asst. Manager, Wendy Jennings was there to help me. I'd met Wendy when I dropped my gear off and she was the person in charge today. Bob Brownlee, the store manager, and Matt Prost who arranged for me to store my gear at Bass Pro were off today. Sorry I missed them, but I will stay in touch with all here at Bass Pro as I continue my journey. They have really been nice and gone out of their way to help me in any way they can. In fact, Jenny said she had a little care package that everyone put together for me. It included a dry bag with two top of the line hiking shirts and hiking pants in it. Nice surprise! I really needed the dry bag and also the long sleeve hiking shirt for I had nothing other than a light wind breaker for cool days. That is if we every get cool days again!

I said goodbye to Wendy and Jim and I went back to the motel to relax for awhile before we headed to the ball park and watched the St. Louis and Atlanta Braves game. What an evening we had at the ball game!

Just before game time we could see a severe storm aproaching, which turned out to be close to a tornado. Unbelievable wind and rain came down for about an hour. Everyone headed for the best shelter they could find in the stadium, which for us turned out to be under the stands above us which only provided some cover from the rain, but little from the wind. All I could think about was my canoe, which was locked to a tree back at the motel, wondering if it would be in one piece. The way this storm was I figured there's a good chance it could be damaged.

Long story short - the storm finally let up and they even played the game, which St. Louis won.

This storm, as I'm sure all know, made national news. Lots of damage in the St. Louis area and as I write this blog days later, over 200,000 people are still without power. Even found out there were a number of people injured at the game that evening. Good thing was when we got back to the motel my canoe was okay. It was sitting right in the same place I'd left it - only now filled with water. What a relief, sure didn't want to swim the rest of the way to the Pacific!

Off to bed and then Jim and I will head to Kansas City tomorrow.

Thanks again everyone at Bass Pro, not only for your help but more important, your friendship.

Monday, July 10, 2006

The Yellow Lab - July 10th

I mentioned in an earlier journal entry that I would tell you about the picture I've posted of the yellow lab sitting next to my canoe.

The picture was taken at the campground I stayed at in Grand Tower, IL. I was having one of those days, wondering why I was doing this, doubting whether I could paddle upstream against the Mississippi current, etc. In short, just down in the dumps, which happens on these kind of adventures and one must work their way through them. Some of these times are tougher than others and this was one of the tougher. I'd said my goodbyes to my friend Bob Maxwell and now again I was by myself so that played a little into it. Also, I'd been thinking about our son Ryan a lot today. Not sure why, but I was just missing him a lot today.

Anyway, I went to bed that evening a little down, wondering if I could really do this, whether I should pedal the highway paralleling the Mississippi to St. Louis because of the current or even just quit and go home.

Well, that evening I was awakened by a dog wandering around next to my tent. In this camp ground I'm way off from the rest of the trailer campers all by myself so I just thought it was a dog that wandered over from one of the trailers and really did not pay much attention to it at first.

Then at about 1:00AM I was awakened again. This time the dog was lying down right next to my tent and sort of crowding towards me. It was doing no harm so I fell back asleep and when I awoke at first light the dog was still there. I noticed it was a yellow lab. I opened my tent and in came the lab like it had known me forever. I played and petted it for awhile and then started to get my gear together to prepare for the day's paddle. The yellow lab stayed right with me the whole time, following me everywhere.

As I was leaving the campgrounds to go down to the boat ramp the person in charge of the campgound stopped to wish me well. I thanked him and told him I'd found a new friend. He said others had talked about the dog last night and had wondered if it was mine. He'd told them he didn't think so because I was in a canoe. I asked him if he knew who the dog belonged to. He said no-one in the campground and that no one had ever seen it before. Strange! Anyway, I said goodbye to the campground host and I and my new friend started off for the boat ramp.

At the boat ramp I was thinking it sure would be nice to take the lab with me. He'd make the down times a lot more bearable, but knew it was impossible. So, we just played a little more before I pushed off. The yellow lab followed me along side the river bank until it was blocked by a bluff. I turned one more time and said, "Thanks, Scout. Thanks for letting me know you and Ryan are okay. Thanks for lifting my spirits, I'll make it now!"

Yellow Lab next to my canoe; Ryan & Scout. Sadly, we had to put Scout down about a year after we lost Ryan.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

HOME - July 8th

Well, I arrived at home on Monday, July 3rd. Good to see family and friends again. LuAnn and I spent the 4th of July with friends and family at a small lake outside Superior, WI. Our friends, Charlie and JoAnn Wright and Jim and Sandy Waletzko each have a lot on the lake and for the last 8 or so years have spent the 4th of July holiday camping out with friends and family. Lots of fun swimming, boating, fishing, water skiing, shooting off fireworks, etc.

Our daughter, Heidi Samarzia and her husband Nate and children, Devin, Drake and Ryah were there as were the families of both the Wrights and Waletzko and others. Everyone had a great time. The children had a blast. Norm, Charlie and JoAnn's son-in-law, took the twins, Devin and Drake fishing and they did well. They told their mom that they had to kiss each fish they caught before they released it so it would bite their hook again. Needless to say, Norm got a little dirty look from Heidi.

As much as I'm glad to be home it also is tough to adjust at first. Same thing was true when I came home for short breaks on my bike and hiking trips. Tough to explain but it takes a few days to get back into the swing of "one's normal daily life routine" so you don't feel like an outsider. It's getting better, but now I'm already anxious to get back to paddling. Before I do go back I hope to play some golf and I need to make sure everything is on track for the Ryan Hoff Memorial Golf Scramble. We had a meeting on Thursday with the committee and everything seems to be falling in place. They do a great job in making the tournament a success, and LuAnn and I are very thankful. The key for me before I leave is to know that LuAnn is comfortable that all is okay in the preparation for it. The tournament is August 12th and I will be returning on August 8th for it. Sometime in one of my later journal entries I will give more details.

Plans are to fly back to St. Louis on July 19th and continue my journey. I will need to make a big decision once I get back. I've been able to find very little information on people that have attempted such a journey as I'm doing. I know of only two that have attempted an Atlantic to Pacific journey and they were not able to complete it back in the 80's. As for doing the Lewis and Clark trip from St. Louis to the Pacific I've come across one such expedition by a young man, Norm Miller, who completed it in 2004. Norm had to go up river to Yankton, SD and come down stream because of river current and the danger of going around the wing dams. In fact he flipped his canoe at least once in his attempt to go upstream.

You can read about Norm's struggle with the lower Missouri River at: At Yankton, SD the Missouri starts the first of I believe 5 lake reservoirs which continue through the Dakotas and Montana and make paddling upstream doable and safe. So when I get back the first day will be experimenting with my ability to continue upstream or do as Norm did and move up to Yankton and come back down.

On the Mississippi I did have a couple of challenging times dealing with wing dams, but nothing that I was not able to get around. What I hear is that the current is tougher on the Missouri and the water swirls a lot more around the wing dams. In any case, my decision will be based on safety, which I promised LuAnn and my family I would do. Another first for me!

Time for some golf.

Tomorrow I will write one more entry about the yellow lab that visited my campsite at Grand Tower.

Monday, July 03, 2006

To the ARCH and St. Charles, MO - July 2nd

Up at 5:00AM and down to the river. I wanted to get by the arch and out of the water as quick as possible.

Doing this today is going to work out for the best, for it is Sunday and I should have less traffic on my bike portage over to St. Charles.

Got in the water around 6:00 and worked my way towards the arch. Just a beautiful morning. What a sight when I first saw the arch glistening in the sun. Snapped a couple of pictures and continued to work my way to the front of the arch. This is something to see and hopefully my pictures do it some justice.

Well, the first chapter is history. It went a whole lot better than I expected. When I first started out, like I've said before, I was hoping to get as far as Paducah, but once I got a handle on what one could do in a day, the goal became St. Louis.

Now I must get over to St. Charles and find a place to store my gear before I leave for home tomorrow. I'm going to St. Charles because it's close to the airport and it gives me a chance to scout out the Missouri River. The plan is to take 180 through St. Louis to the 370 Missouri bridge and onto the KATY Bike Trail which is part of the Lewis and Clark Bike Trail and runs from St. Charles to Kansas City.

Got to St. Charles with little trouble. Again, being Sunday, there was little traffic. As I came down off the370 bridge, signs directed me to the KATY Trail. The trail had an excellent dirt hard pan surface and was very easy to ride on. A lot better than the C&O trail along the Potomac River. As I approached town I ran into Erv Ermeling who was part of what I assumed was a large 4th of July volunteer group preparing for the day's events along the waterfront.

Once Erv understood what I was doing he introduced me to Linda Roche, T.S. Slattery and Larry Muench. Larry was a City Council member and after pictures he took off in a golf cart and came back with a city pin, which I wore proudly all day and will on my way home to Superior.

St. Charles is a neat town. So far my favorite. The above people and I'm sure many others have done a fantastic job in organizing this 4th of July event which goes on for three days. It's easy to tell they are very proud of their community and rightly so. Along with the nice waterfront it has a neat historic district and for the gamblers, a huge riverboat casino.

It also has the perfect place for the storing of my gear! Bob Maxwell has been real concerned about what I was going to do and I'm sure wondering why I wasn't. Over the years I've learned not to bother worrying about such things. For some reason everything seems to work out. If not, back to re-adjusting! In this case it worked out again, for I found a motel right next door to a Bass Pro Store! Yep, they greeted me with open arms and said they'ed be honored to store my gear until I got back.

Over the years I've bought a lot of hunting gear from Bass Pro. My wife LuAnn and our good friends, Charlie and JoAnn Wright go to Branson, MO every spring and always make the stop in Springfield, MO at the orginal Bass Pro Store. Anyone who's a hunter or fisherman or just plain outdoors person must at least once go to Springfield and visit Bass Pro. If not Springfield then to St. Charles. This is an awfully nice store. (Good thing I'm traveling lite) Thanks to Matt Prost for making this possible, and also to Bret Donaldson, Brian Belter, Matt Beckman and Rich Dalton.

As much as I look forward to going home, I also look forward to my return to St. Charles. I plan on spending a day here before I start out and I hope I get to see Erv, Linda, T.S. Larry and the Bass Pro people again. Maybe even make a dollar or two at the casino!

Time to get to the motel and rest up, enjoy the evening and head home in the morning.

I will be at home for three weeks and returning to St. Charles on July 23. In the next day or so I will post some of my reflections about this first segment of the trip.

Again, thanks to all of you who I've met along the way. I will not forget you.


Sand bar campsite to St. Louis Arch (ALMOST) - July 1st

Up and at 'em at 5:30. I will try not to push, but St. Louis is in my sights. Good day today. More wind is at my back and it seems like I'm moving faster. I should be in St. Louis around 6:00.

About three I saw some fishermen fishing from a wing dam and decided to go over to see if they could give me some information on getting out of the water in St. Louis. One of the guys said there was a good place just north of the arch next to a casino boat, except for one problem. It was 4th of July and St. Louis closes the waterfront down so I could not get out. NICE! My first thought was if I'd pushed I'd have been here yesterday and not have had a problem. Next thought was I must re-adjust and react according to the situation. (I do very little planning, but a whole lot of re-adjusting!)

Well, they told of a place I could get out just short of downtown so that was going to be the plan. Get out there and find a motel and go check out the fireworks.

I found the place to get out and got my bike and trailer set up and started out to find a motel. Which I figured couldn't be too far since I was pretty much in downtown St. Louis. I did find a few motels fairly soon, but even at my standards I passed on them and pedaled a few miles farther, until I found an area without iron bars on each business window!

Settled in for the evening and decided not to go out just to see fireworks since I'd have to retrace my steps through the iron bar district at night. Instead I spent a very relaxing evening thinking about all that's happened and looking forward to taking some time off after tomorrow.

One Sandbar to the next! - June 29th

Slept in this morning (Working on this slower pace) until 7:00AM. River is calm except for the current moving in the wrong direction. Very peaceful setting as I ate my morning oatmeal breakfast. Good thoughts.

The Mississippi River water quality seems very much like the Ohio River to me. What is different is the Mississippi banks are not as steep, especially on the IL side. There are many sand bars, which work great for camping and there is little trash along the banks. On the Ohio it looked more like a city dumping site. Also, on the Mississippi there are many more fishermen and just as many barges as the Ohio.

The day was much like yesterday. Did not push hard and even took two breaks in the morning and a nap around 1:00PM. At day's end I figured I was about 25 or maybe less miles from St. Louis.

Chester, Il to a sandbar approx. 25 miles north

Biked my way back to the river from my motel at about 6:30AM. The day before, after fighting the Mississippi River, I came out of the water at Chester thinking the day was over, but it wasn't. I had a 2 mile climb up to Chester on a road that seemed as steep as the Ohio River banks. Today I get to go down that hill, with the hope that I stop before I get to the river! Made it!

The "goal" now is to take 3 days to go approx. 7o some miles to St. Louis. I do not fly home until July 3rd so there is no reason to get there before then. So, I'm looking to go approx. 25 miles each of the next three days.

Today I did that. I took numerous breaks. Well, at least one in the morning and 2 in the afternoon, plus camping on a sandbar at about 6:30PM.

The current is tough at times, especially going around the wing dams. Close to shore away from the wing dams I can make pretty good time. I figure on the average I'm doing maybe 3 or probably less miles per hour upstream.

By the way, that is how I figure a day's work. Up until now I've averaged over 50 miles a day not by my great super strength, paddling skill, etc., but just putting in the time to get it done. Whether that is good or bad, I figure a day is 15 hours and in that 15 hours I will be on the go for at least 12 or 13 hours. (Sometimes all 15). So, even at a 4 mile pace fast walking pace I can get 50 miles in.

Maybe in these three days I will be able to break that will of always having to push forward. It worked today, although it seems I'm just twiddling my thumbs on this sandbar when I see the sun still high in the sky!