Helena, AR to Rosedale, MS

I won’t lie. I had an uneasy night thinking the trip might have finally lost its last luck. I knew that traveling 78 miles with only the kicker motor wasn’t going to work. Even at its best I could get the kicker to 8 or 9 miles an hour by itself. But, adding in having to deal with towboats and wind and anything other surprises that would mean we wouldn’t get to Rosedale Harbor until dark. The raft doesn’t go in the dark. Except when it did in Hickman. And, even then it was only for about 15 minutes and we still had enough navigable light. If I couldn’t get to Rosedale Harbor I wouldn’t be able to get to any of the other places we needed to get to

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Memphis, TN to Helena, AR

Karl and I enjoyed a couple days of nice weather in Memphis. Equally  important, Karl and I replaced the half of our roof that was ripped off somewhere between Cape Girardeau and Hickman! Because he is younger, and I am not, Karl opted to climb onto the roof of the raft to help secure the new material that Wendy Pajor and Paul Benick and ASI Signage Innovations were kind enough to have shipped to us in Memphis. Within a half-hour we were able to get the roof replaced without Karl falling off the raft and into the river! Karl then took off toe explore Memphis and I spent the next few hours on the raft tidying up, doing some videos for Sarah to use for marketing, some Happy Birthday Facebook

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Osceola, MO to Memphis, TN

Ending a three-day stay in Osceola to begin our trip to Memphis before we begin the final leg to Baton Rouge, I admit I felt a bit rusty. I was eager to get back on the S.S. Hail Mary and proceed the roughly 50 miles to Memphis but was also a bit anxious about what the river would look like after days of rain, and what remnants would remain of Hurricane Delta. Karl and I got picked up at 7:00 a.m. by a young man named Dalton who works for Wepfer Marine who have been our host for the time we have been at Osceola. I cannot begin to thank Wepfer, its employees or owners enough for their generosity or Lee Nelson of Upper River Services for the kindness and

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Caruthersville, MO to Osceola, MO

When morning came, Karl and I were awake way too early. Our plan had been to get up and be on the raft by 6:00 a.m. to be ready to go by first light. As it was we were both up around 4:00 a.m. and couldn’t get back to sleep. Finally at 5:30 we made a break for the raft quickly and quietly. In the dark we made our way down the rock shoreline even more carefully. As we climbed onto the raft it seemed none the worse for wear. I turned on the lights and we started to put things in place to be prepared to drain the pontoon and then at first light get under way. I made us some coffee and as we waited for daylight the

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Hickman, MO to Caruthersville, MO

The pace between the Upper Mississippi River and the Lower Mississippi River has clearly picked up. The current is faster. There are no locks and dams to create havoc with your travel schedule. And, because Gus Gaspardo and Bob Deck, with Padelford Riverboats, “fixed” the problem with the water coming into the pontoons, the raft is able to go much faster. Typically above the locks and dams I was limited to about 6 to 8 miles per hour lest I find myself looking desperately for a place to tie up before the end of the day so I could drain the pontoons. Generally speaking I would be only power up both motors if I needed to get into the lock to avoid being delayed by commercial traffic, get out of

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Cape Girardeau, MO to Hickman, MO

Karl and I woke up and the plan was to walk to the raft at 7:00 a.m. and depart at around 8:00 a.m. It was a crisp and cool, but clear, morning in Cape Girardeau. I grabbed some coffee and then we began to walk toward’ s Kidd’s Fuel Barge where the raft had been tied up the past two days. I had purchased a little canvas wagon in town and was now using it to bring my luggage and computer bag to the raft.  I figured that it might come in handy in future stops as we will be tied up in places where we may be a mile or two walk away from gas and food and being able to wheel things back and forth will beat having

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Kaskaskia, IL to Cape Girardeau, MO

About 5:30 I was up, and began to make us coffee and we began to prepare the raft for departure. As it got closer to daylight we were pretty much ready to go. However, I wanted to try to radio and see if there was any tow traffic that was entering the channel near the mouth of the Kaskaskia. Michael had suggested I do this given the fact that the channel was bracketed on both ends by pretty sharp bends making it nearly impossible to see approaching tows. Furthermore, if they were making turns in the bend it was going to have an impact on our ability to proceed safely forward. After several inquiries into the radio without any answer we slowly and cautiously go underway. As we peaked the nose

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Kimmswick, MO to Kaskaskia, IL

My brothers arrived Kimmswick around 11:30 at night after a marathon drive from the Twin Cities. Arriving tired, but safe, were Hans, Fred, Karl and my niece, Matilda. They were tired, and tomorrow was going to be a long day on the river, and I was anxious to get back to the raft. Gus and Bob had left earlier that morning and I wasn’t going to get to the raft all day. I had spent most of my day rearranging my gear for about the 50th time, running quick errands to the store, and trying to get caught up on work. When my brothers and niece arrived we chatted a bit about the plan for the next day which included meeting in the lobby at 7:30 and being ready to

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Kimmswick, MO

For decades Fern and Charles “Hoppie” Hopkins and their legendary “Hoppie’s Marina” were the “Last Gas” on the river destination for boats heading south down the Mississippi River. And, as I began planning my trip back in July, Gus Gaspardo, President of Padelford Riverboats, made it clear to me that “You have to stop at Hoppie’s!” At the time I simply nodded in the affirmative not quite sure what a Hoppie’s was or why I needed to go there. Over time I began to understand. Hoppie’s serves as literally the last fuel stop for boats between Kimmswick, Missouri and a 250 mile stretch of river to Memphis. There’s no easy way to get fuel, at least gasoline, along the shoreline until Memphis and if you haven’t come up with a plan

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St. Louis, MO to Kimmswick, MO

As we approached the Archway Tours Riverboat dock I could get a glimpse of the S.S. Hail Mary as she hid most of her cabin underneath the high railing of the walkway. It was approaching 8:15 and Gus, Bob and I were on our way to begin the next step of this journey down the river and, from all indications, would be a challenging journey along the river through some of the busiest tow and barge traffic north of Baton Rouge. Gus had reached out to me weeks ago and offered to join me on the raft in St. Louis. He has previously shared with me that he had concerns about the amount of traffic and me being able to manage through it on my own with the raft. I

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Grafton, IL to St. Louis, MO

The next morning I was up at 5:00 a.m. and quietly slipped out to take a shower and ready the raft and continue to try to catch up on my writing. Around 7:00 Bob and Gus appeared and we began to offload boxes and materials from the raft to offset Gus’s weight on the raft. With only fuel, and two other boxes and some odds and ends, it would be Gus and I providing the rest of the weight on the raft. Before leaving I had a radio interview to do, Gus and Bob exchanged final instructions on where we would meet Bob who would drive Gus’s truck to St. Louis and then Gus and I began to get underway. We had decided to use only the kicker motor on

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St. Charles, MO to Grafton, IL

I woke, collected my gear and as I began to head down the stairs to Al’s truck he appeared to say, “Good Morning.” He was kind enough to drive me over, and I made final preparations for the raft and thanked him again for his help. He signed on of my Spare Key House stickers that I put on the front of the raft to thank those who have helped me, I gave him some shirts for himself and those who helped me, and I drove over to the fuel dock and fueled up. Before I left I was reminded that one of the gas tanks I had lost its gas cap. How, I don’t know, and, to be honest, I don’t know if it is hiding somewhere in the

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Rockport, IL to St. Charles, MO

I was up early, again, in Rockport, and began to collect my belongings near the raft outside the cabin that the folks at Two River’s Marina were kind enough to provide to me for my trip. Randy would soon be calling me to come and meet me, return the raft to the water, and continue my journey to St. Charles. It would be a long trip, nearly 52 miles, and I would need to get through two locks and dams, #24 and #25, and I was anxious about whether or not the fix we applied to the tubes was going to work. There was only one way to find out and that was to get on the water and get going. I got a text from Randy at about 6:30

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Quincy, IL to Rockport, IL

My trip from Quincy Illinois to Rockport Illinois was one of adventure, discovery, and sheer terror. I just want to warn you in case you want to skip to the end of this post! The day before in Quincy I spent a great deal of time catching up on emails, blog writing and the like.  I also decided to rearrange the containers inside the raft to accommodate the addition of extra fuel on the front of the raft. Dedicated readers of this blog, or followers of my Livestream, are aware that the raft has a tendency to porpoise – that is, to nosedive up and down on the front as I hit, mostly, rolling waves. It is annoying, unnerving and, ultimately, if one porpoises too deeply into the river they

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Keokuk, IA to Quincy, IL

This day would be like no other so far on my journey! First, of course, I awoke in Keokuk! What a glorious morning! The sunrise was punctuated by the hazy smoke of wildfires half a country away. Deep, husky and brilliant it reminds me again that nature pushes back against that which man has made to reveal herself time and time again. Strong, resilient, brilliant and ultimately untamed. This would be a different day for another reason, too. Lock and Dam #19! Since my journey began I have locked through 17 dams.  The only one I did not was in St. Paul near the Ford Bridge as my journey began downriver on Harriet Island at the Padelford Riverboat Dock. Each of the 17 dams has had its own unique character,

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Oquawka, IL to Keokuk, IA

I awoke at 5:00 a.m. and made some coffee and gathered my belongings.  As soon as the light began to poke through I hurried down to the raft and got her ready to go. I started both motors – go the windows and screens and doors ready – made sure that my newly filled fuel tank was secured – and prepared to make way. The weather was perfect! Barely any wind, the water was nearly glass and it seemed like I had nothing in front of me except Keokuk which was an “easy” 50 miles ahead. I left the dock around 7:30 and around an hour later I came upon Lock and Dam 18. I radioed ahead and they told me to proceed forward and I did with purpose. Once

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Oquawka, IL

The upside of the busy eventful day was that I didn’t have anywhere to go the next day!  So, whether I slept in or didn’t the upside was I had a lazy morning and day to prepare for the next phase of this journey. The next morning I got a text from Rhonda apologizing for not being able to spend more time with me. Goodness gracious! Clearly no apology was necessary! She was so kind to allow me to be at this beautiful marina I could not thank her enough. I did text her back and ask if she had a wagon or wheelbarrow I could use.  I had an empty fuel tank I wanted to fill and if I could haul it into town I could take care of

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Muscatine, IA to Oquawka, IL

The glory of the morning in Muscatine was simply amazing.  I awoke early to prepare to be on the river at first strong light. I began my morning ritual. Make sure both motors start Make sure that all of my navigational tools, communications equipment and digital maps fully charged and are in working condition Re-trace my planned route for the day. I typically do this about a dozen times as I am quite sure the first 11 times I calculated something wrong. If I know I will be traveling through a Lock and Dam, I make sure that all acrylic windows are removed, and that the detachable screen windows on the back five windows are removed. I take a bungee cord and make sure that the port and starboard screen

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Andalusia, IL to Muscatine, IA

About 4:00 I woke up shivering like crazy.  It was COLD! I checked my phone and it said it was hovering at around 40 and I believed it! Not only that but the back windows leave a crack open of about four inches and I forgot to put anything in between there to block the breeze. I got up, threw on another coat and then crawled back into the sleeping bag.  It must have worked because I woke up about an hour later! It was still cold so I tried to plug in the space heater to the power pack.  I, of course, learned something else new. The power draw of the space heater is too much for the power pack so it would not stay going.  I only figured

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Bettendorf, IA to Andalusia, IL

I took off from Bettendorf early in the morning and was met by a gloriously sunny, if not breezy and chilly, morning. The Isle of Capri Marina has served us well and now it was time for a quick jaunt to Andalusia for the night, followed by an equally quick one to Muscatine, as we prepare for a long slog between Muscatine and St. Louis. The trip from Bettendorf to Andalusia was beautiful, quiet and serene. On this day I was going to have to journey through Lock and Dam 15 which was barely two miles from where I put back in the channel to continue my journey south. I made a point of calling before I left to check on the status of the lock and emphasized to the

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