March 26, 2017 (Why is it Called a Coaster? It Just Lies There.)

March 26, 2017 (Sunday)

Weather conditions:
High – 64
Low – 49
Skies: AM clouds/PM sun 10% rain
Winds : SW 5-10 mph

Miles traveled: 15 miles
Total miles: 96 miles
Where we are: Rockwood Island MMRM103 LBD

My river view this morning:

This morning’s skies are laced with many hues of clouds—light blue, light gray, dark gray, light blue, and white.

The lock and dam at the mouth of the Kaskaskia lost its romantic beauty once daylight replaced the artificial light, revealing the man-made industrial structure. Lights, even when they are artificial, shine with beauty at night. How many times do we look at an artificially lit structure and say, “Wow”? How about the skyline of a city? Or the nightly lit tows? The breath-taking view changes as soon as the natural sun makes an appearance and we can see the view for what it really is. Artificial lights create an artificially beautiful view. Natural light exposes the natural view. Interesting.

Today’s breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon crumbles, and pancakes was put on hold as the threat of rain chased us all to tear down our tents. Thankfully, the rain never materialized.

By the way, John is almost back to normal. Well, at least he has emerged from the tent and is adding to the conversation.

Time to load the Grasshopper and Junebug I—more later


I have just tearfully said goodbye to two of our crew, Janet and Tony at Chester, Illinois. I am not good at goodbyes.

I will miss sharing stories of living on the water with Janet. She was one of the inspirations for our first trip when we heard her speak at the Quiet Water Symposium in Lansing, Michigan about her solo trip from the headwaters of the Missouri River to the Gulf. She then paddled the entire Mississippi, making her the only person to paddle the entire length of both rivers. Who was once merely an inspiration, has become a friend.

I will miss the ring of Tony’s British accents as he relays some of his adventures and work of his past life. What an interesting and accomplished gentleman. Now retired, he established and directed the World Wildlife Fund’s Brussels office. Wow, we know people! Having completed his planned portion of the Mississippi River expedition, he is heading back to Belgium to begin preparations for his next adventure—pedaling his vintage English touring bike, a Claude Butler, along the Russian border. Godspeed friend.

One other member leaving us is Junebug I. Our crew is dwindling so we don’t need two boats.

Driftwood Johnnie needs to leave us for a few days and will rejoin the crew in Caruthersville, where we will be pulling out. The driftwood “horsehead” is leaving with him, to no doubt be crafted into a piece of art at a later date. I will miss waking up to his paintings each morning.

Just as some will be leaving, we are adding another member, 73-year-old Dennis Van Norman, from Minnesota, will be joining the crew in his sleek orange 17’ P&H sea kayak from here to Memphis. He is traveling portions of the Mississippi a piece at a time until he finally has paddled the entire 2320 miles.

Since Chester really is on the river, (Many people don’t realize that if you can’t see the river from the town, the town isn’t really on the river.) the crew took advantage of this to resupply. Lena and Magique made the trip to the local market. Many had a list of items needed—our needs were, batteries (to replace tent light batteries), Advil migraine medicine (to provide John more headache relief), and pens (to replace my leaking one).

Okay—side note—I have to pee. We are sitting at a busy boat dock near a well-used train track with not a business or restroom in sight. I hate being a girl.


My early evening river view:

We are now at Rockwood Island for the night. This is the most remote spot yet—no industry, no lock and dam, no dynamiting of the nearby bluffs, no power plant. I am sitting on a beach looking at the trees on the opposite bank silhouetted against a pink sky created by the slipping sun. Upstream, the ends of the bluffs provide dimension to the horizon. The sporadic gray, blue, and white wispy clouds float across the blue sky. Water boils over the wing dam, masking the roar of the tow traveling upstream. A huge eagle’s nest overlooks our camping area. We are keeping away from the vicinity of the eagle’s nest in order to avoid disturbing this grand creature. Views from the river.

By the way, I never did find a place to pee at Chester.

Our dinner tonight was rice, stew, two large meatballs each, and toast. This will be the first expedition on which I will actually gain weight!

With the leaving of Driftwood, the leader, the crew dynamics changed. Mike and River are sharing the responsibility. They have strong personalities and different focuses. Mike is familiar with the Middle Mississippi, while River has responsibilities based on his roles at Rivergator, Quapaw Canoe Company, and 1Mississippi.

Before leaving our afternoon break spot, River expressed his need to finish paddling by 4:00 p.m. in order to take care of some business for 1Mississippi and prepare the evening meal. Mike suggested a stopping place that would meet that need. However, when we reached the agreed-upon spot, Mike didn’t maneuver Grasshopper to dry land. Once River realized the change in plans and he may miss his 4:00 deadline, he was furious. Tensions mounted. His strokes became quicker and more powerful. Several miles down the river and at 3:58 p.m., we pulled onto Rockwood Island. Will the next week be full of tension? This mix of personalities makes an impact on the atmosphere of the group. Even though Mike and River were both on the trip this morning, they were not in the same canoe and Driftwood was in the leadership position. Without Driftwood to set the tone, set a clear agenda, and buffer the clash, the previously seamless operations of the trip has been disturbed.

Two chiefs. I doubt this will end well!