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Mississippi River Dream Day Six

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Wake up around 6 a.m. and go down to breakfast area around 7 with my laptop, thinking internet access might be available. Immediately see why 200 kids were in swimming pool last night.

They must be having some sort of baseball tournament around here because there's at least 40 kids in baseball uniforms in the breakfast area.

Apparently they have been making their own waffles because batter is spilling out of waffle machine and puddles of it are from one end of counter to another. All the muffins and pastries are gone. No attendant to be seen; probably in a back room tearing her hair out.

I give up on finding anything to eat but get a plastic cup of orange juice and an empty messy table in far corner of room. Did I mention that my room had cigarette burns on the carpet and on edge of tub? (And I paid $80 to stay in this place).

Internet works but is very slow. I check and send couple e-mails plus put short post on Bass Fishing Home Page. Really proud that my account of Day Five had drawn almost 800 viewers and numerous messages of support.

Contributions to Children of Fallen Heros had grown to over $1,000. Bite my tongue when I check out, pack my stuff up and call A2Z Cab Company again. Taxi is an old Ford and driver is young guy with goatee, earrings, tattoos. He has a female passenger (probably in her 20s) in rear seat.

PHOTO GALLERY

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I stick my laptop and carry-on bag in back seat behind passenger seat and get in front. The cab driver asks if I mind if he drops woman off first and I agree.

We leave motel and pretty soon we are getting into a very seedy neighborhood and I'm seeing more and more thug looking guys walking around with pants hanging halfway down their butts. I'm getting uneasy and wondering how quick I can reach over back seat, unzip pocket and get my equalizer out of my bag.

About this time, the woman in back starts talking for first time and mentions she has been working as a telemarketer. She sounded reasonably intelligent plus cab driver started talking about a long trip he had just taken his girlfriend on, so I started feeling a whole better about who I had gotten in cab with.

It turned out OK. We passed through the worst part of area and he dropped her in a better looking area. Few minutes later he drops over a hill and I get out at Bluff Harbor Marina.

No one around on Sunday morning but I have a phone number and call. No answer so I leave voice message and resign myself to waiting because I don't have enough gas to go very far. Wait maybe 15 minutes and call the number again and this time owner answers and tells me he will there in a few minutes.

He apologizes for my delay when he gets there. I put 14.4 gallons in both tanks while I tell him a little about my trip. Couple of his buddies show up and I take their picture as I idle out at 8:35 a.m.

About 20 miles south I see an ugly black cloud with a lot of lightning. The river channel is a long way from the banks, which are all mud. I can barely see a bridge in the distance. I screw the throttle wide open and decide to run as far toward it as I can and hope there's some shelter near the bridge or possibly under it.

Rain is starting to pelt me in the face pretty good as I near the bridge and lightning is getting close. As I slow down under the bridge, I see a little bar/marina tucked back in a cove just downstream so I run in and tie up quick as I can and run (well, maybe a fast walk) up to an outdoor sheltered pavilion they have in front of marina.

As I'm headed up the little hill, two bass boats come running in behind me and quickly tie up. The sky is really black (see photo journals) and the storm hits with so much wind that it's blowing up under the large pavilion.

A lady cleaning up the bar unlocks the door and all of us go inside. A couple fishermen start shooting pool. The thought occurs to me that I've been fishing bass tournaments for almost 40 years under all sorts of circumstances and weather but I have never taken a break and shot pool during tournament hours.

I had to ask one of the fishermen where I was (Ft. Madison, Iowa). I text my brother and Mike (son) during the storm and tell them where I was riding out T-storm.

A few minutes later, both text back and tell me the storm is tracking east and should be out of area in about 30 minutes but more storms are building below me. It's really neat to have this weather advice literally at your fingertips.

I talk to the fishermen, who are fishing a club tournament and are from the Quincy, Ill., area. Lightning hits and knocks out the power, which shuts the pool game down. We swap a few fishing stories as the rain and wind die down.

At 11:15, I idle out as the rain lightens and thankfully the wind has died, but there are still a few dying waves from the storm. About an hour later I pass mile marker 365.2 on top of a concrete caisson with graffitti all over it. Never seen that before or since.

I hit lock 19 at 12:25 and the lockmaster tells me he has to fill lock but I'll be able to go right through. While I'm waiting, Gordon (my brother) texts me that storms are popping up further downriver but may be out of my path when I get there.

Locking makes me hungry, so with no boat traffic I let the boat idle along while I fix a sandwich. I'm drifiting along past Keokuk, Iowa, take a bite out of my sandwich and notice I'm going past sewage treatment plant. I didn't smell anything but I goosed the gas a little to get downstream faster. Wonder if guys that work there go off premises for lunch?

Hit lock 20 at 2:30 p.m. and as usual tell lockmaster, "This is Dumarse, southbound pleasure boat, requesting permission to lock through southbound." The lockmaster answers but there is a lot of static. There's a thunderstorm right below the lock and one crossing right above me.

I understand him to say there will a three-hour wait, so I pull into a cove above the lock prepared to ride out the storms if they come closer. I call the lockmaster again since I'm out of sight from his lockmaster tower.

He replies but I can't make out what he's saying. A little while later I happen to look back toward the lock and one of the lock employees (may have been the lockmaster) is motioning me to come over where he's standing at end of rock dyke above the lock.

Turns out he wanted me to get in the lock with a small towboat or it would be a three-hour wait. I am relieved to say the least, and grateful for them going out of their way to send someone 150 yards in the rain to make sure I got the message.

Now is a good time to give kudos to all the lockmasters I encountered. I was apprehensive about having to go through 41 locks on my trip after hearing a lot of stories from fishermen over the years about what jerks lockmasters can be.

I did not find one single solitary instance of that. In fact, it was just the opposite. Most actually went out of their way to help me. These 70-year-old ears ain't what they used to be and lot of times because of that and static, they had to repeat their message several times.

On the Tombigbee, they even would call ahead so to let the next lock know we were coming and they would have the lock open for us when we got there.

I'm also very fortunate to have known Jerry Rapp, whom I met through a fishing forum and in turn introduced me to Bill Grettin. Both work for the Corp of Engineers and were an invaluable source of information about the Mississippi River when I was planning my trip.

When I exit the lock, the T-storm has moved to the east so I idle along and call Art Keller Marina in Quincy, Ill., to make sure they have a slip available and will be open. I talk to Mike Beeson, who assures me they will be open and can arrange transportation to a motel. He cautions me to be careful because of storms in the area and gives me directions on how to find the marina.

A little over an hour later the bridges at Quincy come into view. I see a sign for marina and turn into a long curving slough that runs off the river a couple hundred yards. I can see boats parked behind a narrow strip of land and see an entrance with Art Keller sign.

I turn in and idle along row after row of boats. Many have people sitting on fantail having a drink or cooking on a grill. Midway up the rows of docks I hear loud music and laughter and as I near it I see 10-15 college age boys and girls standing around drinking beer on the dock and just enjoying themselves.

I might add this probably wasn't their first beer of the afternoon. I'm idling along and just as I near them there's a young girl in short black dress facing several of the guys with her back to me.

She didn't see me idling along right behind her and I don't know what prompted her to do it — maybe some of the guys told her to "moon the river" — but she flipped her dress up in the back as she bowed toward them.

Then they all started telling her "look behind you." She turned around, saw me and turned red and got this mortified look on her face. The guys were going crazy laughing at her. I was laughing and she was trying to hide her face.

As luck would have it, I idle all the way to the end and there's no marina office, so I asked the nearest guy on boat I saw and he directed me back out of this slough and go to next cut. As I idled back past the boys and girls, I held up my camera and all the guys were egging the black dress girl to moon me, but she kept shaking her head no and covering up her face.

She was leading the "best non-scenic view of the trip" until two days later when she got knocked back to a distant second place by something I saw above Alton, Ill.

I turn out of the cut and am idling further up the slough when there's a splash beside the boat and about a 2-pound Asian "jumping" carp lands in my boat right between rear seat and transom (see photo gallery).

The fish is wedged between battery box and side of boat so it can't flop around. When I get tied off for the night, I reach down with needlenose pliers and, grab it by lower jaw and drop it back in water.

Those things are prolific up here and not only do they decimate the fishery by eating all the plankton and cause other fish to starve, they pose a danger to boaters and several people have been hurt seriously by big ones jumping into boats when the are moving at higher speeds.

Mike Beeson proves to be an engaging guy and takes me on a little tour of the city owned marina facilities and park and then helps me carry my stuff up to marina entrance. He calls the Quincy City Center for me and they send out their shuttle, a new Range Rover driven by a really nice lady who I assume was the either the motel manager's wife or owner's wife (meant to ask and forgot).

What a change of taxis, from one that barely runs to a Range Rover. This is proving to be a trip of contrasts.

Quincy City Center is downtown with a huge atrium, swimming pool (that wasn't full of screaming kids) and restaurant right across the atrium courtyard. Not many guests but it was a Sunday night. The internet worked great.

I had already texted my family that I was off the water so I check my e-mails. No restaurants open nearby so I order a small pizza and salad from Pizza Hut, send a short e-mail with some pictures of today's trip and post. The pledges are up over $1,400 and 784 people were tracking my progress.

81.5 miles today and 3 locks. I've got 531 miles of river in rearview mirror, internet that works and a ton of folks cheering for me. My ordeal has done switched to adventure.

P.S. Got to tell this one. Wife calls three days ago in a panic; lost her car keys. She and daughter have turned house upside down looking for two days. I take my key to her car and have Lois at L&M motel mail it for me. A text this morning said keys had been found … in one of the zip-up "hidden" caverns in her purse where they, of course, had looked previously. I'm running down river today and see a red river buoy that had broken loose and washed up on the bank. I couldn't help texting Peggy and offering to bring it home so she could attach it to her key ring. Her reply was unprintable.