Friday, June 5, 2015
High – 88
Low – 69
Skies – sunny
Winds – light and variable
Nine hundred miles – woohoo!!, Depending on the weather, (as always) we should reach a thousand miles this week. I just can’t get my head around this – that’s a long way even by car.
This morning seems like nine hundred miles ago and I’m exhausted. We started our morning before the sun rose and ate breakfast by the light of our headlamps. (See Instagram @ separateboats.com) I’m pretty sure we woke the birds up. As I got out of the tent and zipped up the zipper, I’m sure I heard a bird yell at me! However, by 10:00 I was very glad we had already paddled 3 1/2 hours and only had about an hour left until Helena, when we took a break on a sand bar with seven trees. (See Instagram @ separateboats.com) As we were sitting on the beach in the shade, a thought occurred to me (I know you are surprised!) – we may be the only people to leave our footprints in the sand on this sand bar or any other place we have walked on the Mississippi banks. Quite an exciting revelation.
As we entered Helena Harbor, we found barge freighting on our left and two boat ramps, one on the left and one on the right. We chose the nicer one in the right. John had corresponded with the Quapaw Canoe Company regarding pitching a tent at their facility. They had offered to pick us up and transport us to their property. (Here is another interesting “coincidence”. A year ago, when we had just started planning our journey, John discovered a website www.rivergator.org, written by John Ruskey, which contains detailed descriptions by section of the Mississippi. Through correspondence with the Quapaw Canoe Company this week, he learned that John Ruskey owns the company!) John knew we needed to enter the harbor but didn’t know what to do after that, so he texted Mad Dog, his connection.
While we were waiting to hear back from Mad Dog, John looked at Goggle Earth to see where the Helena post office is located. (What would we do without technology? I guess we would do things the old-fashioned way and ask someone for directions. You know, talk to someone!) From Google Earth, he concluded we should have chosen the other boat ramp – of course. So back to the boats and across the harbor. (Don’t feel too sorry for us, the harbor isn’t that big.) Once we landed again, I set up a stool under a tree, gathered my water and snacks, and set up my little waiting area, while John walked to the post office to pick up box number ten. (See Instagram @ separateboats.com)
While John was gone, Mad Dog and Oscar arrived with a long flat-bed trailer. I called John to tell him to meet us back at Quapaw, since it is located a couple if blocks from the post office. The guys loaded the boats and transported me and the boats. John actually beat us back and was sitting under a shade tree with our box of goodies. John and Oscar unloaded the boats while I talked with Mad Dog. (See Instagram @ separateboats.com) Once the boats were unloaded, Mad Dog showed us the accommodations in the back of the building and gave us a choice of camping out in the heat or staying in the air conditions. Hmmm… Decisions….. We chose the air conditioning! They offer this to all river travelers. River Angels!
Timing is everything – certain events on dry land in civilization are an inconvenience which would be a catastrophe on the river. John’s lense from his glasses fell out at lunch today after we had reached Helena. We asked Mad Dog if there was an eye clinic in town. Luckily, there was one just a couple of blocks from where we were. You have to realize, Helena’s downtown area has a lot of empty buildings, like many other river towns. So the fact that there is an eye clinic downtown is amazing – I do not remember seeing one in other river towns. We entered the clinic and were greeted by a couple of very nice young ladies, one of which took John’s glasses and replaced both screws and cleaned his glasses – at no charge! Blessings.
After fixing John’s glasses, we returned here to Quapaw to shower. We put on our bathing suits and took a shower outside with their solar heated outdoor shower. A first for us! Once the water was hooked up, it took only five minutes for the water to get warm. It feels so good to be clean. Maybe tomorrow we will be able to do laundry since we are staying a couple of days.
After we were clean, we went with Mad Dog and Oscar to pick up a church group and John Ruskey as they returned from a day trip. (See Instagram @ separateboats.com) John Ruskey thought the group may be interested in hearing our story. Mad Dog, my John, Oscar and I sat on a look out waiting to see the canoes coming down the river. Once the group paddled closer, Mad Dog beat a drum he got from the Bear People. (See Instagram @ separateboats.com for video) The Quapaw team had told the church group about us and had us give a short talk to them about our goals and experiences. We talked with the group for a few minutes before they headed home.
Once the group, John Ruskey, Mad Dog and Oscar left, John and I made a dehydrated meal in a kitchen on our stove. A little bit of camping indoors, complete with nature murals of the Mississippi on the walls painted by Mad Dog. Other art work – Mississippi map paintings on the walls were provided by John Ruskey. (See Instagram @ separateboats.com)
Time to sleep in a bed – the third time since in nine hundred miles!
A commentary by John:
Can I call someone stupid? Is that ok? In “The Message” version of the Bible, they use the word stupid as part of Jesus’s teaching. So is it alright for me to refer to someone as stupid? Ok then. I’m going to assume you said “sure, go ahead John”, and vent.
If you’ve been following our “daily journal”, then you know that almost everyone we have met on this trip has been off the charts kind, courteous, selfless, and thoughtful. Today, however, I met a really stupid person. Allow me to describe the situation…
LaNae and I were rounding a right hand bend in the river as we approached Helena Arkansas. We were towards the center of the river but biased towards the right bank descending. Suddenly up ahead approximately two miles towards the left bank descending I saw something we almost never see on the Mississippi – a recreational boat. No big deal, I simply called out “boat up” and LaNae acknowledged with an “ok”.(We’ve got our methods.) Remember, this guy is two miles below us and a mile across the river – approx three long miles away. No big deal. We continue on with no more consideration on the subject, when I notice the boat begin to angle across the river in our direction. Again, no big deal….he’s only a speck in the distance. However, the speck continues to draw closer until, even though he’s still about a mile away, he’s on a head-on collision course with us. Still no big deal – I know the rules. When two boats are headed at each other each boat simply moves over and passes to the right – you know – just like driving a car. So, we change course slightly to the right, when the idiot (did I just say that out-loud? ), also changes direction in order to maintain a collision course. Ok, so we alter course even more to the right and, you guessed it, that idiot changes direction again to match us. Alright, plan “B”. Now it’s 11:00am on a bright clear day, however, maybe this dude has eyes full of cataracts and can’t see us. You know, I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. So our paddles have white blades…very visible. I’ll simply hold my paddle over my head and wave the blades. Surely then he’ll notice us and veer away. No luck…collusion course maintained. Fine, plan “C”. Use the international sign for “get out of my way”! So, I raise both hands in the air and use sweeping motions to indicate “go away”. Aha!, about 200 yards away (yeah, LaNae’s freaking out by now), his boat slows and squats in the water. But for only a moment when, you guessed it, he heads at us again. Finally as he approaches he swings wide of us and slows as if he wants to talk (oh yeah, now I REALLY want to talk). So I began, not so calmly, telling him the proper protocol for boats approaching head on. His response? “Where you guys going?” Seriously? He had just driven three miles across the river, directly at us, simply to inquire as to where we were going?
I was not amused. 900 miles of raging river, freezing cold, mud, massive barges, etc….and a guy in a pontoon nearly does us in. Yes, he was a stupid person.
O.k. I feel better now…..
Thanks for following our adventure. For photos and videos of the events mentioned in this daily journal, check us out on Instagram @ separateboats.
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