Thursday, May 14, 2015
High – 75
Low – 61
Last night we laid in the tent wondering if a vulture was going to break a branch as it landed in the trees above us, settling in for the evening. As each black creature landed, twigs and branches crackled and broke and their wings flapped. It was an ominous sound.
We slept in again till 4:30. (Remember when I complained about 4:30 – now that is sleeping in. It’s all a matter of perspective.) We had dinner for breakfast – Mexican rice meal. As we were eating breakfast, we witnessed the vultures leaving for the day – 13 total. I’m not surprised they hang out here to eat all the dead fish on the banks, it’s a vulture smorgasboard!
Our first goal of the day was to make it through our second lock. John had radioed last night and was told they would transport them around the lock. Wow! Our boats weigh between 150 and 200 pounds a piece, and everything we own (2 spoons, 2 cups, 3 sets of clothes, 1 pillow,……) is in those yellow tubes of plastic. We are a little overprotective of our boats.
John radioed the lock operator again this morning, raising a different operator and was told to approach the locks carefully (very close to some barges), radio when we arrive, and enter the seaside chamber. Yeh! Our boats will be protected. Wrong! When we arrived, John radioed the operator again, reaching someone different. This time he was told to enter a small area next to the lock – away from the barge going through – and someone meet us with a tow motor to transport the boats to the other side of the lock. Not what we wanted to hear.
We pulled off into this little “waiting area” and exited our boats next to an extremely large, smelly, dead fish. Ooh! John and David drug and carried the boats up the stone hill and placed them on the ledge by the lock. Susanna arrived – she was today’s operator who instructed us to paddle our boats to the “holding area” for transport. She stated the decision to portage instead of passing through the lock was for our safety. (John wasn’t convinced.) Then another John arrived with a side-by-side to haul the kayaks to the tow motor. My John helped put his boat on the carrier portion of the side-by-side and about fell in the lock. (He put on his life jacket before loading the second boat.) Army Corp. of Engineers, John, drove the first kayak to the tow motor, and between the three men, they transferred the boat from the side-by-side to the tow motor. The same sequence was performed with my boat. I’m watching my possessions balance precariously on two prongs as the tow motor bounces on the rough drive and down a hill. Prayers said. Thankfully,the rest of the story is boring since all arrived safely on the other side.
Once our boats were safely lowered to the ground, we had the privilege of watching a tug and barge enter the channel and the gate close behind. John was standing right beside it as it went in. We were amazed to see what controlled the gate – it was Susana pushing two levers. Not only did she have to push the red handled levers, she had to continue holding them until the gates were closed. Hmmm……
Once the gates closed, we were on our way to meet our next goal – visit Fort Massac. This is Illinois’ first state park with a replica of the fort Lewis and Clark visited on their famous expedition west.
Next goal, paddle nine more miles and find a place to camp. (We experienced a few sprinkles on the way.) For dinner we chose bbq beef stew with cornbread croutons and banana nut bread from our bag of nutrition. We are now sitting on the beach watching the traffic, as John plays his guitar. (It’s a rough life. Maybe a walk on the beach is in our future.) John and I have decided river traffic is like highway traffic. The tugs/barges are the semis, the coast guard is the state police, the Army Corp. of Engineers (mappers, dredgers, lock operators, etc.) are the highway department, the locks are bridges, the sail lane is the interstate, outside the buoys is the berm, the banks are the rest stops, and the boat ramp is the exit ramp. I love my life!
Tomorrow we have a short day – five miles to Grand Chain Campground. No dead fish = no vultures = hopefully no cracking branches over our tent tonight.