Thursday, November 5, 2009

October 30th - day 28 - 90 miles from New Orleans TO New Orleans!

I had the honor of being the last person to start off a shift. I had planed to be up by 6:30, but I forgot to turn on my alarm. I still woke up by 6:45 on my own though, and waited to move untill 7 because it was just as dark at 6:45 as it had been when I looked out the window at 4 a.m.

At 7 I untied the front of the boat, and started pulling up anchors. One came fairly easy, but the other one was stuck fast! I fought with it for a few minutes, before I finally got the motor involved. I gave the rope about 10 feet of slack, and tied it to a cleat. Then I shifted into reverse and floored it. The boat accelerated for ten feet, and stopped dead. These are my dads anchors so there would be no giving up. I gave the rope all but 3 feet of slack, turned about, and got a run at it. We where free! I dragged the anchor into the boat, installed the rudder, and we where off!.

Almost imediatly the barges where upon us. The first hour of the day pretty much consisted of me dodging barges and fighting waves. I'm pretty used to barges by now, or atleast I thought I was untill I rounded a particular corner. Off in the distance I could see an ocean worthy ship being turned around by a tug. To the right of that where two barges almost side by side coming toward us, and in front was one barge traveling in the same direction, and ofcourse a little more slowly than us, and also in front was a barge traveling from right to left very slowly. The banks where conpletly lined with ships and barges, and to top it all off, the ship that had been turning around, fired up its engines, and took off ahead of us, further complicating the puzzle. I zigged and zagged, and finally found a hole through the mess. Each time we'd pass a boat, the people on board would stop what they where doing, and stare as we passed, and untill we got out of sight. I was beginning to feel like a lepper.

The traffic continued untill the girls woke up. Jenny took over, and Karla declared that she was going to make pancakes. I'm not really sure how she planned to do it though. In addition to the traffic, we where experiencing the worst winds of the trip. This was resulting in five foot waves, some of which broke over the front of the boat, and ran through the plexiglassed portal, and into the girls bed (maybe my table bed's not so bad after all).

After switching with Jeny I climbed down below to try and learn some about the canal we'd have to take from the Mississippi to lake Pontchartrain in New Orleans. The charts we'd downloaded and printed before the trip showed only the opening, and little detail afterwards. There was however, meantion of a lock. I planned to search the internet for radio frequencys and other details while Karla cooked. "The porta potty's full." Karla declared. "If we use it again it'll overflow." I figured we had another 8 hours to travel before we arrived anywhere. "Well then I guess that means we have to get there!" Just then I looked down and noticed a thin trail of liquid flowing from the porta potty and toward my shoe. "Karla, I think it might already be overflowing." I said. She looked down without expression. "You don't have to stay down here for this. You should go back up." I did as I was told, and was very happy that I'd avoided using the portapotty at all costs, and therefor avoided responsibility. (there was one time I was forced to use it mostly for the girls amusement, and because they didn't feel like going down below. It was an awkward experience that I don't care to discuss or repeat.) I at up top with Jenny, and we discussed how to get around the bursts of commercial boat traffic. It was getting complicated, and kind of threatening. At one point Jenny's turned arround, gone "oops!" and veered for shore. I'd turned around and found that an enormous red ocean liner (pictured above) was in the process of sneaking up on us!
Two hours later Karla had the the boat floor cleaned and sanitized, and the portapotty tied to the front deck, but I stayed up top with Jenny. This was without a doubt the most stressful day of the trip, and at the time, I'd announced that had I known the last day had been like it was, I'd have taken the Kentucky river instead. I don't really feel that way now, days later, but I would warn anyone else looking to do the same trip, about that last little stretch.

The wind picked up again, and waves where consistantly breaking over the front of the boat. There where even a few times when the trough we where entering was so steep, that the motor was completly out of the water for a few seconds at a time. The motor was doing well, but it wasn't quite right. Right before I'd left my friend, and the head mechanic of the carlstromexpedition,Adam Hicock, had replaced the waterpump and done a few other things to prep the engine. It had run better then than it did now. The water pump had ceased to pump at an idle, which was fine, since the motor didn't really like to idle for very long without stalling anyway. Jenny decided that she'd had enough of the traffic and the waves, and asked for me to switch back with her. I did, and just as I took my seat in the middle of barge hell, the motor stopped. I was disgusted with the timing, and pretty much threw the 7 gallon water bottle that we'd been using as a backrest out of my way. I searched for the problem and finally spotted that the gas line had been disconnected from the tank. I fumbled with that for what felt like about a day, and finally got the motor restarted and looked up to see how doomed we where. The wind had blown us away from traffic and toward shore. I was happy about that, but thoroughly sick of the day.

We motored on and Karla made pancakes while I ate the last mre (sloppy joe). We rounded a bend in the river, and the wind died down some. The barge traffic had let up as well, and there was only one barge in sight. I really wanted to know what we where getting into with that canal. We'd only learned of its existance a few days before. Karla had looked it up on the internet on a whim after we found out that there where no marinas in New Orleans on the river. She'd searched for marinas in Lake Ponchartrain, and after finding two she'd done some kind of search for a canal between the river and lake, and she'd come up with the inter coastal navigation canal. That's really all we had to go on. I wasn't even sure they'd let none commercial traffic through. Jenny took over again, and I went back below to do some more research. Karla went up top with Jenny to help if things got tense again. I scoured the internet for over an hour, and found virtually nothing besides a blurry satelite photo. I had my car gps on in the cabin with me, and noted that we where only about a half mile from the canal. I yelled that fact out the door but the girls where already well aware. I poked my head out to see what the mouth of the canal would like like, and spotted the steam boat "Mississippi Queen." You know that song? Pretty sure this boat was involved some how!

We arrived at the canal as clueless as ever and turned in. Almost immediatly we where at a huge wooden pier with an antiquated lock atached to it. We scanned the signs as we approached and learned that they used channel 14. I tryed calling them about four times, but got no reply so I switched seats with Jenny, and brought us up to the pier. The girls did this amazing tie up job, and I'm still not sure where they learned it. They used one bumper and tentioned the ropes so perfectly that no amount of wind seemed to move us. And it was still windy! I noticed that the waves where hitting the back of the boat hard enought to splash into the cockpit. That's probobly a good two feet. But it was nothing compared to what had predicted. We where over due for some t-storms, and I wanted nothing to do with them. A 30 foot aluminum pole is not a good t-storm accessory.

We'd been tied up for maybe 5 minutes, and no one had talked to us, so Karla asked me if she should climb up and talk to someone. I was hesitant to do this because every lock we'd gone through (24 of them) had featured a very official looking sign ordering boaters to stay in their boats and off the lock. At the same time if someone was going to get yelled at I'd rather it be me. I'm not really sure why. Anyway, I climbed the pier, and walked up to the tug boat that was tied up between us and the lock. There was a guy loading pipes there, and he told me that he didn't think the lock would be opened untill 6, but it might change for private traffic, but he had no idea how to call the lock. It was maybe 1:30 in the afternoon, and we could see the storms rolling in. The last thing I wanted to do was motor into a strange lake (the second largest salt water lake in America no less. 500000 acres) In the dark in a t-storm, with the wind blowing toward us, which was what it felt to me was what it would do. I climbed back down to the boat again, and filled the girls in. I tryed the radio again, and this time someone answered back! I told them who we where and that we wanted through, and he informed me that they didn't open untill 6 pm, or if the weather went bad. It was very obvious to me that these people where used to having an enclosed cabin, and that there boats didn't feature a shiny lightning rod. There was nothing I could do though, so I layed back and started a movie on my Ipod, while Karla Played Jewel quest, and I think Jenny was journaling in her bed. Something in her bed anyway. A short time later we heard whistling, and the same guy I'd talked too was looking down off the pier and into our open hatch. "Hey the weathers gonna go bad so they're letting us through at 3:00." We thanked him for taking to time to let us know this, and we continued on as we where untill 3. Finally the lock opened, and we where called on the radio and told to go to the port wall. We did so, and a guy who looked to be samoan threw us a couple of ropes, and finally, on the very last lock that we would deal with on the trip, showed us that it was better to wrap the ropes around a cleat on the far side of the boat and then let it slip through your fingers as the boat descended. (maybe we should have started in New Oleans). As we waited two more boats entered the lock with us. This was another first. Up untill now, we'd never shared a lock with anything larger than a kayak. In fact it was a kayak, and only once. The last boat to enter was a smaller tug called Mr. Chips. I heard them call the lock and say something about never expecting to see a sailboat, or something like that. We all tied up, and the water dropped slowly for about a half an hour. Then the samoan looking gentleman came back, and collected our ropes and wished us luck just a little sooner than we would have liked. We drifted about the lock for a little while, and where very pleased when the prop wash from all the larger boats leaving the lock didn't smash us against the back wall.

We motored out of the lock and almost immediatly came to a bridge. It looked low. The tug ahead of us invited us to go ahead of him, and I radioed back wondering if he knew the bridge specs but there was no reply. We motored up to the bridge as we'd done at the very first draw bridge we'd come too, before we knew that we'd have to have bridges open for us, and then I threw it into reverse, and just barely creeped up too and under the bridge with a few feet to spare. I was thrilled untill one of the girls pointed out that there was another bridge about five minutes down the canal and this one definitly was too low for us, or any other boat for that matter because it was touching the water. I called the lock again, and asked than what the frequency was. I'm pretty sure the lock hated us by then, but he courtiously told me channel 13. I tryed the channel once, and someone replied. I asked them too open, and they answered that the bridge didn't open untill 5:45. It was 3:30. He then informed me that he wasn't the bridge, but Mr. Chips, the tug boat who'd entered last. He'd exited the lock ahead of us, and gone on to tie up to a large concrete post that was protruding from the water. He recognized that this was an easy manouver for a tug surouded by rubber bumpers (tires) and steel, but not so easy for a little fiber glass boat with 3 bumpers total. He invited us to come tie up along side them for the duration. We accepted, and rough looking man in his late 40's tied cots up when we arrived. He offered us Cokes, and his nephew joined us, and they started telling storys. Apparently they where down there on that boat durring Katrina, and they'd served as a mobile morgue. (they wern't too thrilled by that) They'd also ridden out hurricanes on the boat on several occations. We learned all about the tugg boat life, and also one other useful piece of information. There was a marina 1/4 mile away from us in the canal! Karla went to work looking it up on the internet. She anounced that it had everything but laundry, and the descision was made. We wouldn't have to drive through 8 foot waves in the dark after all!

5:45 rolled around, and we bid the crew of Mr. Chips farewell, and headed for the slowly opening bridge. We slipped under it, and then it started to rain. I ignored it for as long as I could, and then asked for my rain coat. Then it started to pour. We took a left and Mr. Chips went right toward some kind of Nasa construction factory. We motored for about1/4 mile before coming to the next bridge. I was soaked by now, and sick of the river, I think we all where. We called the bridge assuming it was channel 13 but got no reply all 3 times, so I tryed 14 with similar results. We saw people so I motored up next to the bridge, but saw that it was just a man and his son, so we fell back, and finally in an act of frustration we landed in a gravel pit near the bridge. The shore and bottom where sandy though and the anchors failed in the strong current. I tried it again, hitting the shore harder this time and Jenny fought with the front anchor while I threw one out on the up current side on the back. Meanwhile Karla was calling the lock to learn more about this bridge we where stuck at. The lock was very helpful yet again, and gave us the bridge name and frequency... channel 13. I tried 13 atleast 3 more times, and got no reply each time. We where drifting away from shore again, and I was more than a bit irritated with the whole situation. Karla said if we landed again she'd go to the bridge and see if there was even enyone there. I brought us back to land and jenny jumped out and held the boat on shore. Then Karla and I trudged soaking through the rain and up to the bridge. We went through a chainlink gate, and up a stairway, and pounded on a door. The window was dark and we almost left before an older man opened the door. He had been in there watching tv in the dark. He said the bridge would be up in about 3 minutes. I asked him what frequency he monitored. He said 13. I was not happy. We ran back to the boat, and the bridge was up by the time we where all on board. We motored through it and continued on, hoping that that would be the last draw bridge before the marina. The rain picked up again and The girls got out the spot light just in case. The banks where lined with building and sunken boats and debris, but most of it was lit up enough to be fairly visible. Nothing ahead was though. The pouring rain obscured my vision, and I had to constantly monitor my distanced between to two banks and try and stay even. Eventually we spotted a million dollar yacht, and then another and finally some docks materialized. We made a beeline for the first one, and I managed to crash us fairly gently into it. We walked the boat around a submerged pallet, tied up, and prepared to call a cab for a hotel! While the girls packed I called home, and then I packed and hiked up to the marina office. It was about 8:00 now, and both the office and bathrooms where closed. No matter! Hotels have bathrooms. the girls informed me that there attempts to call cabs had all failed. I used 800 free 411 and learned that there where 15 cab compays in the New Orleans phone book. And hour later I learned that all but two of them had been destryed by the hurricane, and those two where insanely busy on a Friday night. I probobly called those two cab companys 40 times combined before finally giving up, and being content sleeping in wet clothes in a wett boat and ordering a pizza. Well guess what. Most of the pizza places where destroyed by Katrina too! Finally after way too many phone calls, Karla made tuna helper, and we went to bed. This was not how I pictured our arrival to be at all!
Where really sorry that the blog is taking so long to finish. We should have it completly wrapped up in a day or two now. The rest is about our time in New Orleans and how much better things got. And also how smelly Brourbon street is.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Oct. 29 - Day 27 - Baton Rouge, LA to about 90 miles from New Orleans

Last night was a hot night - I didn't sleep well and neither did Karla. We all woke up at some point in the night throwing off our covers because it was so hot. We were on our way again by about 8 o'clock - Karla started us off. She drove until we go to Plaquemine.

We arrived there about 10ish. We got off the boat with 3 gas cans and headed into town. Karla and I have little faith in Wade's Garmin (GSP) for it has failed us many times. lol I thought his Garmin was crazy when it told us that a gas station was just 0.4 miles away from where we had anchored. We got off the boat and were walking through some trees and saw cow hoof prints. We were in a pasture? It looked like we were in the middle of no where! But Wade was like, "Garmin says it's just over this way, on the other side of that hill." And sure enough, after climbing a steep, nasty hill - we could see the town. It was much hotter now than during the evening (as you can imagine) ... so humid! It got up to 85 degrees! But in town we were able to grab a bite to eat, get some snacks, and fill up the gas cans. It was Wade's turn to buy this time! The walk back to the boat was miserable. We each took a gas can and lugged it along... it was SO hot! We had to take about 30 breaks... lol well at least Karla and I did! Anyways, it took forever to get back! At one point Wade was carrying all 3 gas cans. lol But for a very short time, but he did take like 2 half the way - Karla and I switched off carrying the grocery bags and the gas can.

Finally we got back to the boat all gross and sweaty! Right away Karla and I changed into shorts and a t-shirt while Wade got us started and on our way again! It's quite a challenge to get changed on such a small area - especially having to share that small area with another person while struggling to get changed! lol In the course of changing Wade managed to hit some waves which made things twice as diffecult! Trying to keep my balance, on the wet slippery floor, (still in the midst of changing) I was having a hard time staying on my 2 feet. But then Wade hit an exceptionally big wave that resulted in me toppling over and falling, as Karla laughed on.

After we were changed into cooler clothes Karla and I sat out in the cock-pit and drove for a couple hours. The wind had really picked up, making the water really choppy and sending occasional sprays of icy water on us. However, it was really nice laying in the hot sun - soaking it up on our last few days of our trip! We've had so much rain and cold weather, hot sun wasn't so bad! Karla drove for about an hour and then I took over for her. Wade was inside blogging and applying for jobs. Karla sat out with me reading for a long time, but got sick of the more frequent splashes of water and went in the cabin. As I kept driving the waves just got worse and worse! It was harder to stir because the water was like swirly and wanted to spin you! It was weird. Then I arrived to another "barge city" - making the waves so massive! Like the biggest I've seen on the whole trip so far! They weren't like nice waves you just ride over the top and enjoy it, they came in every which way and the front of the boat would go over them and make some air and slam back down to the water - it was like Very wet and unpleasent for the riders. So along with having trouble stirring, and huge waves, I had to try and avoid all the traffic. There was a ship anchored from shore, just sitting like a 1/4 of the way into the river, there was a barge coming at me, and barge gaining up behind me, plus a tug boat to the left of the ship and another tug boat to the right! I didn't feel comfortable trying to out run the barge coming from behind me... but there were no bouys so I didn't know how far over I could go on the other side of the ship. So I called the problem solver of all time and captain (Wade) to get his advice on what should do. He didn't really quite know what to do with the situation himslef - just then the tiller came off! I kept a grip on it and was trying to pull it into to boat! But with the current and the position I was in, I couldn't. (It could hve been I was just too weak also! lol) Wade took hold of the handle and struggled to get it in and he hollered at me to stir the boat with the motor because we were going out of control and heading towards the side of a barge! Now, driving the boat with just the motor and not the tiller is SO hard - for me anyways! I did my best - I tried stirring us towards shore to get ou of the way but I was just making us go back and forth, I couldn't make us just go straight! I dealt with it for a few minutes and lost my patience and snapped at Wade to take over. (The things he puts up with!) We got out of the way, put the tiller back on, which wasn't easy with the waves and current, and waited for some barges to pass by so we could continue on our way. It was almost Wades turn to take over anyways so he just stayed outside and endured the waves.

I got inside and Karla was sitting at the computer with a goofy frown. I laughed at her expression and asked her what was wrong, she went off on this rampage, "I'm sick of this. I want to go home. I'm sick of the waves, the wind, being dirty, being smelly, and sick of being on this dang boat!" Then I tried cheering her up and said, "Why don't you play Jewel Quest?" (That's the game that she's been obsessed about and loves!) And she replied, "I tried. But that's when the tiller fell off and I lost 2 lives." lol So I the real problem was that she was losing at the game she was conquering. haha! But it was so funny coming in and finding her pouting over this game! Just like a kid!

As long as I am on the subject of Karla I will tell you another story much funnier! The waves didn't seem to settle down and Karla was standing right outside of the cabin because she was getting something then Wade warned, "Watch out! Big waves!" Karla didn't want to get wet, she was sick of getting wet. So she hurried back into the cabin! She beat the splash, but lost her balance trying to get inside and ended up doing a belly flop onto the berth (like a bench in the cabin) So it was soft landing... sort of... lol and hilarious to watch! ;)

I don't want to get carried away with stories about Karla but.... I was driving the other day and Karla and Wade were inside the cabin. I got a little bored driving and I noticed Karla was standing in the cabin, so I turned the tiller and when I turned it, it got Karla off balance! I'd stop for a while then turn it again and watch her catch her balance again! It finally got too funny and I started laughing when I did it - Karla finally caught on that I was swerving intentionally! he didnt find it as funny as I did. =D

There wasn't really and ideal spot we could stop for the night - no little streams or islands we could get away from the barge traffic and heavy current, so we ended up just tying to a tree by shore and anchoring off the back. Where we stopped the birds were simply swarming the sky! It was crazy! We don't know or sure why there were so many and flying around in such disarray, but Wade mentioned that it could be because a storm is coming? We have been told that we are supposed to get loads of rain, about 8in worth actually. Hopefully that's not the case and we won't have a stormy night. But just in case there were strom winds and such with the storm, we anchored really good and made sure to tie up extra well!

We were getting settled in the cabin and there were a lot of mosquitos flying in the cabin so we closed the hatch and the doors so we wouldn't get eatten all night. It was Karla's night to cook so she went out to get food for cooking - she came back inside slamming the doors behind her, "The bugs are horrible out there! Look!" - and she put the head lamp to the window and you could see the swarm of mosquitos! No one wanted to go out in that...or let all those bugs in... and we didn't want to use the oven if we couldn't even open the doors! Normally when we cook we leave the doors open not only because it makes the entire cabin an oven, but it's not an alcohol stove, it uses wet gas so it produces fumes, which without ventilation could sufficate us. We didn't have much of a choice, so we didn't cook a supper. :( Karla let me finish her cearal, Wade had the last MRE, and Karla finished her subway she bought earlier.

The mosquitos continued to sneak into the cabin and they were driving us mad! So we went to drastic measures and duct taped any cracks up! Wade also had brought a screen so he tacked up the screen to the entry way, so we could have the doors open for the night and not get eatten alive and die of heat! Wade also brought a little fan which he jigged up to the ceiling to help keep us cool! Wade put a lot of work into trying to make our night a comfortable one! The screen kept the mosquitos out and helped the cabin not get so muggy!

We did however have a colony of mosquitos locked insie the cabinwith us though. We squished as many as we could so they wouldn't snack off us all night! There were dead mosquito corpses all over the ceiling of the boat! Poor COTS....

We are going to be in New Orleans tomorrow -we are all determined! lol We want showers again badly! Bathroom facilities are convienant as well - we are sick of having to prepare the porta potty everytime we have to go! It's such an ordeal to get it set up; it's under our bed so you have to more the pillows, move the cushin, move the board, nove the bag of winter clothes, move the heater, move the lantern, and finally get to the porta potty so you can get that set up! We are incredibly sick of it! So marina will be wonderful! I can't wait!

By Jenny

October 28th. Day 26th. Random bayou near New Roads to Baton Rouge, LO

We woke up to the fun splashing of river otters at play. We decided to sleep in because we now knew that we would make it to New Orleans on schedule and with time to spare, so why rush? Wade continued to sleep though and Jenny and I got the boat ready to take off and then Jenny drove.

The weather was a little chilly, by the end of two hours Jenny was cold and wanted a change. Since the wind is sheilded at certain areas by the trees as the river snakes its way south, it is quite common to go from choppy water that soaks you as you crest each wave to calm waters with nary a breeze and back again at every bend in the river. At least it wasn't raining. Wade took over and lasted a good four hours long while Jenny and I watched a movie entirely in French. Obviously, we are in dire need of some constructive entertainment . . .
I took over for the rest of the day and I would have to say that what stood out for me the most was the smell. In my opinion, I think it was switching between the smell of a sewer and sometimes it was the refreshing smell of saltwater. However, Wade described each and every smell on the river the same way - smelling like "burnt toast". Evidently burnt toast has various aromas. Halfway through my shift I came upon the capital city of Lousiana -Baton Rouge.
Baton Rouge is at the head of the deep water channel that leads to the Gulf of Mexico. This stretch of the river is highly industrialized, with large chemical plants, grain elevators, and petroleum refineries (all of which smell disgusting). Baton Rouge is the nations seventh largest port, and the river between this point and the Gulf we were told is crowded with ocean going vessels and towboats on top of the barges. Our sources turned out true as we came upon our first ocean liner on our Mississippi journey. MUCH bigger than the barges that daunted us once upon a time.

The river certainly was crowded, though. We arrived near town a few hours before dark and the thought crossed our minds to camp before Baton Rouge so we wouldn't have to rush through the city, but the ever constant hope that we can find a dock in these big cities compelled us to attempt it. Alas, it was not to be - big cities dominate the river with their industry and there was not one dock to tie up to and every bit of the shore was parked with barges waiting to be moved. Wade called the city of commerce to see if they could lead us in the right direction and we were told of a dock through a lock that we could stay at.

We made it to the lock just as the sun was setting and a quick radio call told us that if we wanted to get through it there would be a three hour wait as two barges were in line ahead of us. As we were debating what to do and trying to stay out of 4 different barges's way, another barge called us on the radio and told us to get out of his road. Immediately, we moved on and our chances at stopping at Baton Rouge disappeared with us down the river.

We went another 20 mintues and by this time the sun was almost down. We DID NOT want another spotlight excursion in the dark. With all the barges surging around us and as the buoys are so much farther apart now it would have been extremely difficult. The GPS didn't have any signs of niches or streams that we could get off the river, so we hung close to the shore and thankfully got lucky. The flooding created little islands that were not normally present and we were able to tuck behind one of these with just enough light left to tie off to a tree and toss anchor for the night. We could see the city from a distance but couldn't get to it and had to settle for chicken and rice yet again.

Slightly disheartened that we were stuck on the boat yet again we watched a movie and went to sleep with hopes for a chance to stretch our legs on the morrow.

October 27th - Day 25 - Natchez to a loop of river off of the Mississippi an hour north of New Roads.

Karlas alarm went off at 7:30, and by 7:32 she was out putting oil in the gas cans in the beginnings of a rain storm by 7:32. I have no idea how she can pull herself togeather that fast on the rainy day. I usually need a full five minutes to remember my name. At any rate, we got up and moving, and tied the boat up at the shore, which I hate to do because there's really no way to prevent it from rubbing on the rocks there when there's no one on the boat to toss an anchor out the back and pull it away from shore. But the waves had been mild, and I figured if we where quick it wouldn't be too bad. We hiked back up the hill and went to see if the postcard store that we'd walked past the night before was open. Natchez is a clean town with old brick buildings, and not much going on. The night before, the streets had been nearly vacant as we searched for a resaurant, and I'd wondered if it was out of fear of crime, or just lack of citizens. Many of the stores seem to be in operation, but never open. the post card store seemed to fit into that category. We'd walked away from the gas station to check on the store, and as we'd been walking one of the girls joked that if someone saw us walking they'd probobly stop and warn us that there where no stores this way, and we'd look like stupid tourists. We laughed about this for maybe ten seconds before a city owned pickup truck occupied to two gentlemen in there 30s or 40s. The first thing the said to the girls was that we where walking the wrong way. We just accepted the fact that we looked stupid, and admitted that we didnt' really know the town. The men offered us a ride. Normally I only accept rides from older men or women, but this time I figured the fact that they where both city employees probobly made them safe bets. They turned out to be very nice people, and they explained that the city was actually a very safe place, and that the reason that the streets had been vacant the night before had nothing to do with crime, and everything to do with Monday night football. They took us to a shell station, and waited patiently as we did our thing. As usual we where feeling rushed, and didn't want to keep them waiting for long since they where technically working. So we hurried, and I didn't buy anything as far as beverages or food goes. I just planned on stocking up at the other gas station after we dropped the gas off at the boat. Jenny payed, and we loaded back into the truck, and discussed the citys restaurant situation with the men on our way back to the boat. On the way down the hill we passed aboutfour city trucks, and I hope we didn't get them into any trouble. they dropped us off with a simple goodbye and way less enthusiasm than we're accustomed too, and took off up the hill. We set the gas on Cots, and headed up the hill the the post card store. (I would like to say something about postcards. Aparently postcards and coffee are like nicotine for women! That's almost all they talk about when we're in a town. When I get home I'm planning on developing a beverage that's a combination of coffee and ground up post cards. Hopefully I'll be able to pay off my school loans in a few weeks... No not really) The store was still closed, so we made for the gas station I'd originally found in my Garmin. We headed that way, and the rain pretty much doubled as we went. that's when we found another gift shop. This one was open, and the girls flocked to the postcard stand and picked it clean in minutes... Ok they bought one or two each, but I like the other image better. :) . While they shopped I visited with thestore manager, and she was just thrilled when she learned about what we where doing. She asked me to show her our route on two different maps (gift shops on the Mississippi always have maps) and described our trip to everyone who called the gift shop while we where there. (the first was the store owner, and the other was her son the cop, who advised us to never go out after dark in New Orleans. And we will listen!) We chatted with her for atleast a half an hour, and just before we left she advised us to write and article and send it to her so that she could have it published in the Natchez paper. "The can do that?" I asked. "Sh**, I can do anything!" was her responce. I have her email and address, and we might just take her up on it. Either way, she was probobly one of the nicest people we've met on the trip.

We trudged along biel street, ignoring the rain like I've seen Seattle natives do, untill we came to the final street Garmin said we needed to take. It looked like the ghetto. We took it anyway, and we where astonished to see a shell gasoline symbol on a rickety old shed in a dirt lot. We circled it cautiously, and I was actually kind of relieved when we found it had no door. (I don't like shady businesses.) I gave up the quest for a gas station right then, but wasn't ready to go back to the boat just yet. As we walked I asked a local where a good place to get breakfast was. He directed us to a 5 story hotel a few blocks away that featured two cafes, a restaurant, and a bar inside. We picked out a cafe, and ordered our food. What we got was mushy old hashbrowns, and flavorless doughy pancakes. I ate mine anyway, Jenny ate only the sausage, and Karla ate everything but the grits. Still not quite sure what grits are. They looked like Maltomeal, but Karla reported that it's similaritys ended there, and that she was quite dissatisfied with it's foot like aftertaste.

We finished up, and ventured out into the rain again. It seemed to be letting up now, which was good because I was first shift! We where back on the boat and moving by noon. I put in my two and a half hours, and Karla relieved me while Jenny took the day off since it was a short one anyway. At the end of Karlas shift she'd located two camping options, both side by side, and both in bayou. What exactly is bayou you might ask. Well gimme a second. A bayou, according to Wickipedia, is a body of water in a low lying area. It can be either a slow moving stretch of river (our situation) or a stagnant boggy swamp. Louisana is packed with bayou. Bayous are known for there gator population. We pulled into a little loop off the main river, and tied up to a log sticking up out of the water. Then, while I anchored us out the back, the girls attached some sandwhich meat to a string, and hung it off the front of Cots. I can only imagine the screaming I would have had to endure if the plan had worked. But we didn't even get a nibble. Later that night Jenny cooked, and Karla bloged across from her. I crawled into the bed in the nose of the boat and read. No one was really hungery, so Jenny cooked 2 cans of ravioli, and dinner was over in an hour an a half for a change. Then we assembled my bed, and watched the second half of Lost in Translation. My laptop was able to play it scratched or no. Jenny and I liked it, and Karla... not so much. It was still early, so we started and watched half of dances with wolves before bed.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Oct. 26th - Day 24 - Transylvania, LO to Natchez, MI

Karla started us out pretty early - we were on the move by 7am! Wade and I slept in -when I woke up again Karla's shift was over and Wade was driving. It was about 10:15 when I got out of bed - it was another sunny day! I was so envious of Wade driving, just sitting there soaking up all that sun! I asked Karla when it would be my turn to take over for Wade, and she told me he had only been out there an hour. So I had another hour before I could take over, so I got changed out of my PJ's and wrote in my journal for the rest of the hour until finally it was noon and it was my turn to take over driving! It was still sunny! yay! I got to sit outside in my capris and t-shirt! It was so great! No rain and the river was calm!! It got chilly after about an hour, but I continued to stay dry which was unbelievably nice! I drove until 4:30 - Karla and Wade were playing Jewel Quest like the whole time I drove. (Karla's obsessed! lol) They couldn't blog because the service is so bad out here - we have to basically be in a town to blog. It's kinda lame.

Wade set up the shower at about 1pm and came to find out that the shower wouln't work while we were moving so fast. So in order for it to work we'd have to stop the boat. We didn't want to stop at 1pm and shower and take the chances of not getting to town until after dark, so we just kept the shower set up until we were closer to town. We must have looked so funny to all the barges! Our shower consisted of Wades dad's camo hunting tent, you know those ones that fold up? So it sat all set up on the front of the boat the whole day! lol Odd sight I'm sure. haha!

We got to Natchez, Mississippi at about 4:30 or 5 and went to the side of the river and turned the motor off and just floated a bit while we could shower. The portable shower was pretty neat, it takes the water from the river and filterizes it and heats it with porpane tanks, so we had warm, sorta clean water! lol I'm not too sure how I got voted to be the first to try out the shower, (maybe I needed it the most? haha! jk) but I changed into my swim suit and was set. (no way was I gonna take a shower without my swim suit on, in that tent, in the front of the boat.. lol) I don't really know why none of my shower experiences can't go smoothly, but this time can also be added my not so wonderful experienes. I had just washed my hair, got it all rinsed - I had just gotten all soapy when the water stopped working. "Wade!" (he always has to fix all the problems. poor guy.) He had to climb over and try and fix it - they were also having problems with the current running us into the trees, so I was sitting in the shower freezing - the soap was drying to my body, while they got us all situated. Wade tied us to a little tree so we didn't have the current problem - now the shower issue.... Karla and Wade found it "so" funny that I was stuck with half a shower, freezing, and were telling me I'd have to rinse of in the river - ew! But about 15min later Wade had figured it out and got it working again! Thank goodness!

This was kind of fun - I see barges as semi's but on the river! They are a pain to pass and they intimnidate me. lol But on road trips semi's are always fun when they honk for you, so Karla and I tried it on a barge... TOOT!!! lol It was pretty fun!

We went our longest yet today - drove 114miles!

We drove up to the town and parked the boat by the boat landing - it wasn't the most inviting place for a boat to achore, but we had to make do with what we had. No docks. :( We got COTS all tied to shore and headed into town to grab a bite to eat! There we're a lot of options... everything was closed! And it wasn't even that late, it was like 7pm. We kept walking and came across a Thialand restaurant that looked really exotic, why not try something new? We ate at that restaurant and it was decorated so cool! Felt like we weren't in Mississippi anymore! lol I ordered a desert called "Heart on Fire" It was a bowl of ice cream surrounded by flames and came with 2 fried banana's! lol By the time we got our cameras out the flame was basically gone, but it was still cool! Kind of piontless having fire surrounding ice cream... lol but the effect was still fun! Plus, fried banana's were super yummy!

Once we got back to the boat, Wade blogged and I made a couple phone calls while I was still with reception! lol It started raining that night, thank goodness it's not my shift in the morning! lol Karla fell asleep while Wade blogged and I sat outside talking. It got too late for a movie, so we just got ready for bed when Wade was done. We were all situated in our beds when a barge drove by and the boat started grinding against the rocks on the shore with the waves.... so Wade had to get out of bed and rethrow the anchores... it's annoying when you were just about to fall alseep to have to get up and redo what you hastled with earlier. Poor wadeaboo... Karla got out and helped him reposition - it didn't take long and we were settled for bed again! =D

By Jenny!

Monday, October 26, 2009

October 25th - Day 23 -Slough north of Greenville, MI to Transylvania, LO

No sign of aligators as I poked my head out of the cabin at 7am - just the ugly rodent we saw last night. Looked it up and turns out to be a mammal called a nutria. Not even comparable to the cute beavers and muskrats of MN. And, no, I did not take this picture - I found it on google and added it for your benefit. Really wished it was an aligator. That would have been so cool! Anyway, Wade thought we were capable of taking off in the morning without him so he slept in and Jenny and I pulled anchor, motored out of the little stream we were in, and put the tiller on. Since it was Jenny's shift, she took over and I went back to bed. She was surprisingly happy, which is odd for Jennifer at such an early hour. (Evidentally, she sat up really fast in bed last night and knocked her noggin. It woke Wade up because he thought the bottom of the boat was hitting rocks, as it was hard enough to make the fiberglass make a cracking sound. I think this event contributed to Jenny's unnaturally good mood - she temporarily was jarred from her normal train of thought and perhaps didn't know how early it really was.)

When I woke up, it was 8:30 and we were almost to Greenville. Wade was up and helping Jenny pick a spot to dock. They considered the marina there but if you dock there we're obligated to buy their overpriced gas, too, so we chose a spot downriver a ways. We noticed the water must be extremely high, for as we pulled in left of the boat launch (no docks, just pavement that was steep enough that boaters could take off from the shore) right onto the front lawn among a flock of Black Scoter and Northern Pintail ducks. We couldn't see very far down into the water, so we couldn't be certain how high the water really was but all along the banks we have seen small trees and shrubs submerged.

We gathered our gas cans and made for town. As is the norm for us now, we had barely gone two blocks when we met up with a super nice man in a pickup that had pulled over to offer us a ride. Gene was a fellow in his 80's, I'm guessing, and was on his way to church in his Sunday best. The picture perfect little old gentleman took us to the gas station wanting to know all about our adventures. We gased up and he waited as we grabbed what snacks we wanted from inside the store, and took us back to the city boat launch bidding us farewell with a friendly, "May God bless you."

Back on the river, with barely an hour spent in town we made good time the rest of the day covering a total of 85 miles. Wade spent most of the day on the computer working, Jenny resumed driving for the majority of the day, and I pulled all the cushions out of the boat and strapped them to the deck. It has been getting progressively smellier in our cabin and something had to be done. Every morning the inside walls of the boat are coated in wet condensation and with little air flow in the cabin (especially in the front where Jenny and I sleep) it started to smell like a combination of mildew, the porti-potty stored under our bed, and unshowered people stuck in a small space for 24 days - something HAD to be done! So while the cushioned aired out, I scrubbed the walls down and cleaned and sprayed as much air freshener that I think Wade could stand. With that done, and it being a beautiful day I took advantage of the beautiful sunny day and cushions strewn on the deck to lay out in the sun and read. That is, until Jenny realized that she could be doing that too! She asked for a change and since she had been driving for a steady 5 hours, I couldn't exactly say no even though I wanted to stay on my makeshift cushion throne. She went through at least a dozen music cd's as she drove those 5 hours - singing all the time. It's really refreshing actually and if I know the song I sing along! I asked Wade earlier in the day if maybe I should relieve her, he replied, "if she's singing, she's happy..." but whatever else he said was drowned out as Jenny attempted to strike the high note on a Hilary Duff song.

When Wade was finally done with his frustrating work on a computer that refused to keep internet connection, he took over for me at 4:00ish. Shortly after we found a reasonable place to stay for the night and threw out our anchors. We had a minor gas leak from one of our containers, so the cabin smelled awful and Wade found the leak and cleaned it out as I made supper and we aired out the cabin. Chicken and rice once again, the beginning of a movie of Wade's (Lost in Translation) that was so scratched up that it froze and we couldn't finish it, and then bed!


Sunday, October 25, 2009

October 24 - Day 22 - A little stream in Mississippi to another river that looks a lot like bayou and hour north of Greenville Mississippi

The night we spend at Hoppies Marine service a day and a half north of Cairo Illinoise was a stressfull one for me. We'd docked near a pair of million dollar motor yachts, populated by what I have to presume where millionaires. People who've amassed great fortunes seem to develope know it all personalitys. Ofcourse these guys had already done what we where about to do in the past, but now that we're 3/4 of the way through the lower Mississippi, I have to say that I think their description of the lower as being "the wild west with killer currents to suck you in front of barges, and no one to help you if you get in trouble. Your on your own out there and you have to start looking for a place to spend the night at noon because if you don't have it your in trouble." Well as far as I can tell the lower Mississippi is just the upper Mississippi without docks.
The river we'd pulled into last minute the night before turned out to be the nicest anchoring spot so far. We've been steadily improving out anchoring skills since we started and we're getting good! Likewise, the lack of Marinas hasn't hampered our gas getting abilitys one bit. It seems like there's almost always someone wanting to help out when they see river rats with gas cans. Anyway, everything so far is way better than all the nay sayer, which is virtually everyone, predicted. I guess my point is, don't listen to anyone! Or if you do, give the positive people first dibs on your decision and maybe add the nay sayers in later if there's time. I hope you learned something here today. Now, onward!
The girls stayed in bed, and I started us south. It was a pretty morning, and I actually had my camera this time. I put in my two and a half hour shift before Karla took over. It was a mostly uneventful day besides a state change over to Mississippi, and knowing that we where in gator territory. I attempted to make french toast, and now believe that breakfast is about chemistry. Eggs, scrambled or fried, along with pancakes, undergo amazing chemical transformations from mush to delicious. French toast doesn't do anything magical. It begins as bread, and ends as bread, and that's why it's only ok in my book... that and I can't seem to make it very well for some reason. How dare it?! Breakfast takes about 3 hours from start to finish, so that took a good chunk out of the day. Jenny suprises me in that she probobly drives more than any of us. It's not at all unusual for her to put in a four or even and ocational five hour shift. She's hardcore! I'm usually ready to be done after 2 and a half. She seems to enjoy it though. She's usually out there singing and texting while steering with a foot. She did a shift like that today.
We traded off untill evening, and Karla took us up another river that she'd found on the gps. This one was actually pretty wide, and there where trees jutting up out of the water on either side. As we motored in I heard sticks cracking just out of sight in the trees, and some king of strange shrill buzzing that almost sounded like an alarm. It was a creepy and extremely cool place to camp. We motored in, and attempted to tie up to a tree, but the current was pretty strong so I switched spots with Karla and attempted to get us close to a tree while Jenny ran the cam corder. The current was just too much for me, so I pulled the plug, and motored up river further looking for an easier spot. We found a downed tree right off lang and it was perfect. We did the anchoring thing, and I installed the new spark plugs that I'd picked up a few citys ago. The old plugs had nearly 2000 miles on them, and I'm pretty certain not too many 8 horse johnsons get this kind of work out. Then it was back to the kitchen. It was my night to cook while Karla bloged. I made better cheddar bratworsts, and rice a roni. The brats are fool proof, but the the rice a roni requires a lid, and we just arn't that prepared, so it came out crunchy. I'm not much of a cook without a George Foreman Grill and a microwave I'm afraid... Or at all. I cleaned up and tryed to blog myself, but the signal was too weak to save my work so I lost it all. Maybe I was wrong. It's not the docks that are the biggest change from upper to lower Mississippi river, it's the lack of cell towers. People must not keep in touch down here, or get flat tires, etc. As I was cleaning up after dinner we heard a splash. I'd fixed the spot light a few days earlier, so Karla took it out and shined it around. We saw green eyes submerged 100 feet down river! Our first gator. That's what we thought anyway, untill we went back out to brush out teeth, and caught the source of the splashes in the bean of the spotlight. They where caused by these little muskrat looking rotents called neutrenos doing jumps and flips. If the rodents are playing there probobly arn't many gators around. We went to bed dissapointed, and watched A movie who's name escapes me because it took me so long to get done with this blog. It was a sunny days with a state change and over 100 miles of progress. Not too bad.