September 10, 2019
Dear Family & Friends:
Here’s my catch-up report.
September 7-Fort Madison, Iowa to Keokuk, Iowa
The journey was 21 miles. I rounded a bend in the River and heard rock and roll music blaring from a riverside restaurant and bar. I paddled in and set up my tent between the River and bar. Carver, a local resident, sat next to me and gave me lots of great information about the River. Carver lives a short distance away in Alexandria. One of his homes in Missouri was ripped off its foundation and tuned sideways by River flooding. It rained and thundered for a long time in the night. In the morning, Carver drove up and brought me coffee, biscuits and gravy. What a great start for the day.
September 8-Keokuk to Le Grange, Missouri
This was a day of firsts. First, and foremost, I achieved a major milestone by passing the 1,000 mile mark. I have now paddled over 1,000 miles on the Big Muddy! My next milestone is 1,200 miles, at which time I will have completed 50% of my journey. Second, I exited Iowa and entered my fifth state, Missouri. Third, I encountered my first Asian Carp. The Asian Carp is an unwelcome and invasive species of fish in the River. When startled, this fish will leap out of the water. When this first happened to me, I nearly replicated its behavior in reverse. It was quite a shock and surprise. Fourth, I locked through Lock No. 19, the largest lock on the River with the longest drop of 36 feet. Fifth, I met my first fellow through-paddler on the River. Steve is quite an interesting fellow. He claims he is homeless. He survives on $1,500/month Social Security. He sold all of his belongings and bought an inflatable kayak and all of the gear he felt he needed to paddle the River. On July 7, he began his journey at Lake Itasca and somehow left a lot of his gear at the Lake. Then, his kayak was stolen at a campsite in Minnesota. So, he flagged a ride into town and purchased a 10 foot kayak at Walmart for $200. Then, while trying to submerge his kayak to test it’s durability, he lost his wallet. There is much more to his story, but I need to move on.
As I watched Steve sit in his 10 foot Walmart kayak, loaded with all his earthly belongings, I thought there is no way I would attempt this trip with that kind of gear. But, I admire his determination snd tenacity. On reflection, his story made me felt so blessed to have hearth, home, family and friends to return to at the end of this adventure.
I passed through Lock No. 20. I pulled off the River as it was getting dark and stealth camped in a large grassy area near some abandoned, flooded homes along the River. I walked across the railroad tracks and had dinner at the Mark Twain Casino. I was serenaded to sweet slumber by the now familiar rhythm of the wheels on the rail.
September 8 was a 28-mile day.
September 9-Le Grange to Hannibal, Missouri
I paddled 28 miles to Hannibal, Missouri, home of Mark Twain, aka Samuel Clemens. I passed through my 21st Lock, so now only 7 to go. I stayed at a Best Western motel.
I was planning to take a zero day in Hannibal and explore, but I think I’ll move on. My favorite Mark Twain quotation can be found in the photo below. Danny lived by those words.
In just a couple of days, I will be in St. Louis. I have been repeatedly warned about the Port of St. Louis. The river traffic is said to be absolutely insane.
I want to take this opportunity to say Happy Birthday to my friend Kenny. He turns 90 today. He is a Korean War Veteran. We sit on his front porch in Newport Beach, smoke cigars and talk sports and politics, in that order. If only the politicians would listen to us. I love you Kenny, l and thank you for your service to our great country.