Five Sets of Clothes
While listening to Christmas CDs (and not John’s silly songs), we approach the skyline of Indianapolis, Indiana. As we travel on a relatively smooth and slightly curvy highway 70, my view today consists of a white Dodge pick-up truck to my left, maroon Chevy Silverado ahead, and a black Ford Expedition to my right. Further ahead, I see semi-trucks transferring their goods across the country – traveling east to west (instead of towboats pushing their cargo north and south). Although my destination today, Caruthersville, MO, is the same as May 24, my means of travel, view, and gear are widely different. Not necessarily better, but considerably different.
After our alarm chimed this morning at 5:30 instead of the 3:00 often used on our trip (I see 3:00 at the proper time of the day now – afternoon!), our day continued to differ from the day we traveled to Caruthersville last spring. We enjoyed a hot shower instead of a bath in the river. I also enjoyed the luxury of placing a pair of John’s pants in the washing machine and clothes dryer quickly before we left home. Then, instead of eating oatmeal for breakfast by headlamp light, we enjoyed a leftover, homemade, Christmas cinnamon roll warmed up in a microwave and eaten by electric lighting. Same destination, different beginning.
It was finally time to leave our home and travel in the same, not separate, vehicle, which is gas-powered not human-powered. Our mode of transportation of four wheels on the road with a steering wheel for navigation is faster and more stable than floating on the river using a paddle to guide us. We are using our cellular GPS on our phone to direct us instead of Army Corp. of Engineers charts, which provided information about the river. Today’s trip will take us a mere eight hours instead of 53 days. On the other hand, since we will rarely leave the coziness of our vehicle to venture into new territory, we will not meet new people or make new friends in the short amount of time we are traveling. There are advantages to leaving your comfort zone.
The stability of our craft will probably not come into question today. I remember the fear I felt as we maneuvered a 90-degree bend in the river upstream from Caruthersville early one Sunday morning in May. We encountered “washing machine” turbulent waters as a result of off shore dikes, wind, and towboats passing us from both directions. Navigating through waves bashing the sides of our boats in all directions, desperately moving our bodies to keep our kayaks balanced and upright, we attempted to avoid the path of the large towboats and barges as they glided passed us. Not only did we stay away from the large towboats in the center of the river, we also dodged the dikes, eddies, and drift along the banks, decreasing the width of navigable river. I believe I felt the effects of the waves for hours after placing my feet on solid land.
More differences between the two trips became obvious during a restroom break. Our decision to venture from the black top river to the banks of the rest stop required little conversation and effort compared to leaving the middle of the river for a restroom break. As we walked with what felt like a horde of people on the sidewalk path herding us to the stalls in the building, I remembered the event (it was an event) of stopping along the river for a restroom break. The first step was the location of an accessible bank. The next step was determining the degree of angle we needed to paddle upstream to compensate for the current in order to hit our target. Today, we saw the sign, and without much effort meandered on to the exit, parked in the parking lot, unbuckled our seat belts, and climbed out of the car. On our trip, once we landed, we didn’t merely open the door and step out of our kayaks, we had to perform the proper egressing technique so as not to take an unwanted swim. Once we landed at the rest stop, I didn’t need to remove my spray skirt or PFD, gather a “poop bag”, nor dig a hole. How quickly I have begun to take our modern conveniences for granted. Or are they really that convenient? I wonder at what point in our trip, restroom stops didn’t seem like an inconvenience, but just a way of life.
Although a plethora of advertisements on billboards and highway signs bombard us, we chose to eat a healthier, less expensive lunch, which is very similar to our lunches on the river. We partook of peanut butter wraps, using a real knife instead of a broken plastic knife to spread crunchy not creamy peanut butter on a tortilla. We are snobs about a few culinary items, two of which are coffee and peanut butter. We are loyal to Jiff crunchy peanut butter. Unfortunately, planning lunches prior to our trip indicated we should purchase 16 jars of peanut butter. A jar of Jiff peanut butter sells for $2.50. Do the math – 16 jars times 2.50 equals $40. Since we were on a tight budget, I found an off brand of creamy peanut butter for $1.50, saving us $16. At the time, the savings seemed worth unloyalty. However, not long into our trip, we realized our loyalty to Jiff crunchy was not unfounded. Some savings are not worth the cost.
In addition to the wraps, we enjoyed chunks of parmesan cheese accompanied by tortilla chips. In the beginning of the trip, we did enjoy some hard cheese, which didn’t require refrigeration and was stable in the cooler air of April. Tortilla chips, on the other hand, were never an option. The river trip taught me we can travel without the need of a cooler and headache of ice. Luckily, we still had a few nuts and dehydrated fruit packages from our trip and enjoyed those with our lunch as well. I also brought some granola bars I made using the same recipe I used for the granola bars we took on our trip. Memories.
We partook of all this, using a cloth napkin (or serviette, as our Canadian friends prefer to call them). A few years ago, I decided to quit purchasing paper napkins over and over and replace them with a one-time purchase of cloth. However, we didn’t use napkins at all on our trip. I guess wiping dirty hands on “cleanish” clothes is more acceptable than wiping your hands on clean clothes.
With the convenience of space and lack of excruciating heat, instead of dehydrated desserts, we will enjoy some treats not possible on our kayak trip. Our food bags include Chex mix, Crispix honey mix, Special K bars, Ritz crackers with peanut butter dipped in white chocolate, and clementines (Although we did enjoy a few oranges early in our trip supplied by our good friend Dawn Wanner.) Why does it seem so much revolves around the food we eat?
As we were enjoying our lunch, a few sprinkles appeared on our windshield. It wasn’t long before our windshield wipers were swiping at full speed and we observed a bolt of lightning. Luckily, we were safe in our weather-resistant vehicle and weren’t concerned with finding a safe place to hide from the storm. Some modern amenities provide safety as well as convenience.
Our luggage stowed in our backseat and trunk seems extravagant compared to our limited gear tucked in our holds and on top of our boats. We are traveling with five sets of clothes (not three), one suitcase (not a dry bag), a large cosmetics bag containing a hair dryer, hair straightener, make up and toiletries (not a small bag with the essentials), and a full-size guitar (not a Back Packer).
Many events on our trip today brought back fond memories. (Honestly, all my memories from our trip are fond – even our moments of sickness.) We cross the Wabash River on a bridge at least two or three times a week. Almost every time I cross it, I get very emotional – it is my river. Today we crossed the Wabash in Terra Haute, Indiana for the first time since our trip. As I looked at the river from the bridge, I had a hard time comprehending that we had approached the bridge and paddled under it earlier this year. From crossing the Wabash and Mississippi Rivers on bridges, to sitting in a McDonald’s dining room (but not using their Wi-Fi), to shopping at the Caruthersville Wal-Mart, to driving through Reynold’s Park by the boat dock (like the locals), to visiting our campsite under the best tree in the park (which now has a new picnic table), to John using the now upright port-a-john, to.., I am reliving the trip.
We knew that upon arriving in Caruthersville we had reservations at a hotel with a bed for the next two nights. Seven months ago, we left a sandy beach not knowing where we would pitch our tent and lay our heads that evening. Living on faith without detailed planning is a simple and relaxing way to live. Detailed plans can go wrong. Upon arriving at the hotel, our reservation was under Kendra Adnet instead of LaNae Abnet, with an incorrect phone number. After organizing our room, I settled at the desk with my laptop (a luxury on this trip) to finish writing about our trek today. It wasn’t long before I became frustrated as I tried to log on to the free Wi-Fi provided by the hotel. John soon voiced his frustration from the other side of the room because he was experiencing the same lack of connection. We decided to forgo the Wi-Fi and use our cellular service – still no luck. John surrendered and took his second shower of the day before going to dinner. I’m not sure why he thought it was necessary to take a shower before dinner since, in May, he went directly from the river to church after 12 days without a hot shower.
After John was clean (as if he was dirty before his shower), we walked across the street to a familiar building – the Casino – to enjoy a meal in the restaurant. Previously this year, we spent a considerable amount of time in this building using the restroom and free Wi-Fi. I remember the torture I felt sitting in the lobby salivating as the aromas from Otis and Henry’s wafted into the air surrounding me, knowing I would be eating a dehydrated meal upon returning to our tent. Today, we walked into the restaurant, dressed like ordinary people, and sat at a booth. Waiting on our waitress, I looked around at the room we had seen only from the door and took a deep breath of the cooking food. We were here! We were in the same building, but our experience today was going to be so different. Our time here will be special but ordinary.
Sitting in the booth, I felt guilty about the money we were about to spend. Soon our waitress asked for our drink order, which became quite an ordeal as she made four trips to the bar to verify the few available beer and wine options from those listed on the menu. Once we had determined our drink choice and asked for two glasses of water, we each received our second or third choice of beverage and one glass of water. Ordering our food from the menu wasn’t quite as painful, but as we waited for our fettuccine and fried catfish dinners, we began to reflect on the stress we were feeling since arriving. From the original confusion at check in to ordering drinks, we were feeling disappointment in our experience so far. We were here in Caruthersville, one of our favorite stops on our trip, staying down the street from where we camped. With all the modern conveniences, why were we disappointed today? That’s when I realized that the first time we were here, we didn’t have any expectations – we were living on faith. We had very little when we pulled up to the boat ramp and had enough. Today we started our day with so many conveniences and continued to follow our plans but were disappointed when events didn’t seem to meet our wants. That’s when I learned …
Expect nothing and you will always have enough.