Before we left our spot, I gave Nick the food bag that always sits between my legs, so I could feel what it’s like not to have a food bag between my legs, and he could get a feel for what it’s like to paddle in the same way that I do. Toward the end of the day, he said, “I don’t know what’s in this thing, but it can’t be worth it. This is terrible!” I just laughed! For my part, it was nice to be able to scratch one leg with the other foot, but I found that I actually don’t mind the bag being there all that much. I’ve gotten used to it, and appreciate the stability and ballast it provides.
We arrived at Lock #1 right at 10:07, like the man told us to do last night. We were the only two to lock through, southbound. I could see uncle Brad and aunt Jenny up on the walkway, waving and taking pictures. The lock dropped us 42 feet! Impressive.
As we passed a motorboat later that morning, I commented that I liked their pirate flag. One of the men in the boat said, “I like your hat! How much for your hat? I want to buy it!” I clutched it and told him it wasn’t for sale, but it tickled me that he liked it so much. The landscape was much different than anything I’ve seen so far. The river seemed to be in a canyon, flanked by rocky bluffs topped with roadways. By the water there were many beaches. We passed by one spot that must have been a large dog park. I’ve never seen so many happy dogs. Labradors, a Bernese mountain dog, terriers, hounds, standard poodles, mutts, shepherds…there were about 50, and they were all so happy, jumping about the beach and swimming in the water. The Bernese was very interested in Nick and swam toward him a bit, then just followed him with his eyes, only half-obeying his owner’s calls to come.
Further down, we encountered a couple paddle-wheel tourist boats, one playing old-time jazz and some plunky banjo music.
Nick is a faster/stronger paddler than I, so he’d go on ahead awhile, then sit and patiently wait for me, absorbing his surroundings while I caught up. At lunchtime, we pulled up on the beach of a park in St. Paul. We re-filled our water bottles, took a bathroom break, ate our lunch, and took a lovely little siesta in the shade. There haven’t been spots like that where I could take rests, but I thought to myself that I must make a habit of taking such breaks if I find myself in places where I can—it really was reviving and interesting to see the land-side of what I paddled through.
Beyond St. Paul, we entered an industrial area with lots of barges alongside an airport.
That evening we opted to camp on an island near a bridge and under some electrical lines rather than continuing another 3 miles to the levee where we would meet Brad the next morning. We set up camp on some spongy ground amongst geese poop, and enjoyed the rest of the evening, watching bald eagles fly overhead, listening to the cars speed past. Nick built a fire as I made some food. And who should paddle up, but Jim Lewis and his friend Dave! We chatted and cajoled a little while—I was very glad Nick got to meet Jim and vice-versa. Jim had a great idea for an invention—something that could be deployed by your foot: an arm that pops up and waves to other boaters as you pass by, so you don’t have to quit paddling. Ha ha! Brilliant.
Another paddler, a man by the name of Jon Felker, flew by in his canoe—he is also going source to sea—and he started July 17th! I told him he was flying, and he said, “I’ve got places to be!” And, so, I am reminded, everyone’s experience of paddling the Mississippi is different.
Today felt quintessential: paddle boats, barges. It’s sort of what I expected to experience, but it’s strange that it was so different from everything else I’ve experienced so far. I wished Nick could stay longer and experience more with me, but I was glad, at least to share this.