We packed up and head out under the stars. Venus, the morning star, was so bright it left a trail of soft reflected white light on the river. We paddled in silence, listening to the morning crickets and owls, grateful for the lack of wind in our face. The small town of Hamburg, IL was just a few miles south, and we stopped to find a trash can and some water, as we both had run out of water the night before. On the way in, hugging the shore, we scared up some carp, some of them landing on our boats and wriggling away, some flying through the air just in front of our faces. It was like popcorn!
As the day wore on, the wind grew stronger (in our faces) and we opted to duck out of the main channel to enjoy less wind resistance. We found a long slough that was more like a thin canal—clearly it had been created at some point for recreational purposes. It was like paddling in the headwaters again—just a few tens of feet wide, lots more turtles and several snakes, and the quiet that goes with small waterways. I saw several plastic tarps washed ashore today--it was strange because I hadn't seen one before, and I saw 3 today. At one point it got noisier as we came upon a tractor working the land right up to the river bank. A little further, we saw a veritable showcase of tractor brands—six or seven tractors idling on the riverbank, waiting for their drivers to get in and start working the land.
This morning Leanne dropped her lightning cable to charge her phone in the water, and when we exited the canal, we stopped at a landing so she could try to find her extra cable. She was unable to find it. Since my phone died last night, and she was out of batteries, we were really annoyed that we had lost all phone contact temporarily. We knew we were only days from St. Louis where we could remedy these issues, but in the meantime, it was up to her Delorme satellite text-messenger to let people know where we were. At the landing, a couple older fishermen stopped by and offered a beer to Leanne, lots of opinions on labor issues in the area, and the advice, "don't let them rednecks bother ya, a'right?". Just after they left, we saw Jake and Julie paddling way far away on the other side of the river, just two blue dots moving at the edge, toward the next lock, 4 miles ahead. I waved and waved, but they didn't see me. We didn't want them to lock through without us, because it might take us a long time to wait for the next lock, so I opted to paddle my butt off and try to catch up to them while Leanne repacked all her stuff and caught up. I never did catch up, but I paddled SO HARD, and Leanne had a really hard time catching up to me. She had sent them a message on the Delorme, letting them know we were without our cellphones, and the confusion that started up (she had inadvertantly used the word "emergency" in her text, which had Jake and the Lockmaster getting ready to send out a boat after us), slowed the locking through down enough so that when they looked back, there we were, catching up and setting the record straight. It wasn't an "emergency" so much as an "urgent" message. (Leanne learned an important lesson in wording).
The lockmaster let us know of a place to eat on the far side of the river just a couple miles down, so we made our way there. I was absolutely beat, and did what I like to call "butterfly strokes" there (where my paddle very gently, like a butterfly's wing, barely touches the water). It's a slower stroke, but it lets me heal my aching joints/muscles while still moving forward! When I arrived to the 'restaurant,' it turned out to be Cedar Hill Resort Restaurant and Bar, owned by a man named Jay who, despite being closed, insisted on frying up some delicious Asian appetizers for us in the kitchen and sharing some cold Gatorades with us. He owns the land, his house nearby, and a sweet guest house on the property, as well as the restaurant which, I imagine, does incredible business with the recreational boaters during the summer. Jay chatted with us, offered us a shower at his house and let us camp on his dock overnight. All in all, it had been a 25 mile day with some crazy winds, and we were grateful for the rest.