Embrace America's Rivers

From Minneapolis, MN to Albany, GA...

Travel to Minneapolis 


One of my closest friends, Scott Gatlin needed a break from running a bank and agreed to drive to Minneapolis with me and bring my truck and trailer back. He arrives at my house Sunday morning June 6 at 10:30 a.m and we begin the 1,400-mile trip to Minneapolis/St.Paul. We stop at Phils Barbeque in Eufaula, Ala., for lunch for what will be our last BBQ for awhile. Late afternoon, we stop for gas in middle Tennessee and I do my usual walk around inspection of the boat and our first crisis arrives. The hydraulic jack plate/motor trim plate has broken; apparently it was not designed for trailering without an engine brace. I look closely and determine I'm not going to be able to run the engine unless I can get this unit fixed or get it off the boat and run without power trim. 

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As we travel north, we discuss our options but can't come up with a firm plan. We stop overnight in Paducah, Ky., and I look for boat dealers in the phone book. I find three, with Sportsman's Edge located just down the road from the motel. Most marine dealers in the summer are extremely busy and I fully expected them to tell me "they couldn't even look at it for a week.” My back up plan was to borrow the necessary tools and see if Scott and I could get off ourselves.


At 7:30 a.m. we are waiting for the marina to open. A young guy, Adam Butterbaugh, came out to meet us and I explained our predicament and he went back inside and came out with Larry Bailey, the service manager. I was flabbergasted to hear them say “back your boat over here and we'll get started.” 


Later, Mark — the owner — came out and we told him about our trip. Two hours later, we paid a very reasonable charge for their work (I insisted making a little extra donation to buy Adam and Larry's lunch) and we left with two T-shirts and three new friends. We progress northward through Illinois with corn fields stretching as far as the eye can see on either side of the highway. We did notice the corn becomes shorter and shorter the further north we go. When we cross the Mississippi River in the Quad cities area, I tell Scott to slow down so I can take a picture from the top of the bridge because sometime in next week I’m gonna take a picture of that bridge as I come back down the river. We begin to encounter heavy rain so we stop in Waterloo, Iowa, for the night

Day 1 


Next morning we head north toward Minneapolis through more heavy rain.My original plan to was to launch early Wednesday morning but we are 5-6 hours ahead of schedule traveling north so I think it's possible I could launch mid afternoon and give Scott a head start on driving back home. Scott checks weather radar on his phone and prediction is for heavy storms all day...Maybe the gloomy weather is affecting my mood but I started to have some real doubts about the wisdom of taking this trip...there's a lot of things that can go wrong and can I handle them at my age and somewhat limited physical abilities...Scott seems to be reading my thoughts and tells me "you can go back home and no one will think the less of you....For an hour I waffle back and forth in my thoughts..go or no go..I know my family is very concerned about me taking this trip especially this next week when I'll be by myself...am I being selfish for pursuing a dream without regard for my family....as we near Minneapolis, I tell Scott to stop at a gas station so I can put fuel in the boat. I put 12 gallons in the front tank and 6 gallons in the rear tank..We check the weather report and radar on Scott's phone again and it shows the storms moving eastward out of the area. Right up the street is a Super Target so we pull in and I buy ham, cheese, rye bread, Pringles BBQ chips, spicy mustard and a bag of ice..I had made two half gallons of unsweetened ice tea at motel and was armed with a large container of (my wife) Peggy's homemade cookies.....Maybe it was the weather report or getting out of that truck and getting my mind on something else that helped but whatever it was,when I walked out of that store, the doubts ceased and I was committed to go...I had punched in Watergate marina's address on my GPS and actually knew where it was from the countless times I had looked at the river using Google Earth. The Gps keeps telling us to turn off long before we cross the river....If we had followed the GPS, we might still be wandering around in Minneapolis but as soon as we crossed the Miss River on I-35, we turned north and a few miles up the river we turn in Watergate marina located at mile 845 on Miss River,,,Mile 845 means it is 845 miles north (upriver) of where the Ohio River joins the Mississippi at Cairo,Ill. As we go south the miles will be descending. 

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We pull up to the marina, pay $10 to launch and drive out near the launch ramp to go over my check list.... Before we launch the boat, let me tell you a little about what we are traveling in and what we carrying with us....(see photo gallery for boat and river pictures)... The boat is a 2001 Xpress aluminum duck boat in camo color...The engine is a 2010 Yamaha, electric start 25 hp 4 stroke engine which means i don't have to mix oil with the gas...it has a Bimini top made by Attwood and we've got small tools, all the required safety equipment(fire extinguisher, whistle, throw cushion), a Q-beam light, flashlight..I have a 74lb thrust Minn-Kota 24 volt trolling motor that I can drop in the water if the gas engine fails and it will yank us out out of harms way in a hurry or take us several miles under electric power if needed. I"ve got a Cabelas Guidewear rainsuit and a spare rainsuit top,collapsible anchor,plentyof light rope,emergency rations (granola bars,breakfast cookies) and three life jackets (two are inflatable)...I've got two waterproof VHF radios for communicating with locks and my cell phone is in an Aquapac which i hang around my neck..every account i read by river travelers mentioned at one point or another they dropped their cellphone in the river...I have a Humminbird model 788 ci GPS/Chartplotter/depthfinder unit loaded with navionics chips. It will show us the depth, speed, bottom contours, a map of the water we are on and show our position with a boat symbol moving across a map of the water....I've got my laptop in one of my lockable gun boxes/lockers that run down each side of the boat interior.My overnight bag with wheels is in a waterproof bag on front deck and my camera bag is on floor in front of my seat. My seat and the passenger side locker cushion is covered with waterproof camo cloth that a friend Sam Moody of Awnings Plus in Albany made for me (waterproof seats are a must)...I've got two 12 gallon gas tanks that gives me an approx. 240-mile range if I fill both of them up. 

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I've got a typed 6 page river guide that I composed from many sources..I also had the pages laminated for waterproofing...it shows every lock and their phone number and VHF channel they monitor, marina and what's available there (gas, taxi, food, lodging and repairs).Each is identified by mile marker so I know what is available all along my route, all the way to Albany. Each item is also identified as rdb or ldb which means it is right or left descending bank....I've got a back up copy plus a Quimby River guide and a Corp of Engineers guide to river facilities in plastic bags in the locker..Jerry Rapp from Missouri and Bill Grettin from Illinois both work for the Corp of Engineers and helped me immensely with information about what i could expect on the river and were able to provide answers to questions I had. 

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A light rain is falling so I put on my rainsuit and we put up the Bimini top and cinch down the straps to make it as taut as possible..I've got a long sleeve light shirt and light weight long pants on and I'm wearing my unholey crocs (as opposed to my holey crocs with holes in them)...Shortly before 2:00 p.m. Scott launches me for a test run, engine cranks easily and I run upstream a short distance then come back to the launch ramp while Scott watches and takes pictures. We exchange a firm handshake and wish each other a safe trip. 

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At 2:20 pm June 9th, I idle away from the ramp, ease boat up on plane and head south...there's no turning back now and I head downriver with some real mixed emotions... I'm running downstream through a large city but the rain and mist is only giving me small glimpses of the tall buildings.The river isn't very wide so I'm having to pay attention to where I'm going, I try taking a few pictures and manage to get a few but not what I had hoped for. Within 30 minutes I'm out of sight of the metro area..possibly on a clear day I could have seen the skyline behind me but today I missed the views..the rivers narrows and the current is noticeable. I open the engine up and my top speed is 28 mph and I easily cruise at 24-25 mph..I had checked Yamaha's test data for similar size boats with this engine and invariably the best gas mileage was about 500 rpms below top speed so I back off the throttle a little and try to keep my speed at 24-25 mph.The river is narrow and the water is smooth as a millpond but the day is dark and gloomy.The rain changes from light to moderate then back to light several times. It's surprisingly snug under the bimini top and it provides a lot of shelter from the rain but if it's anything but a very light rain, there's enough rain drops blowing under the top to get you wet unless you're wearing a rainsuit... It's cool probaly in low 60s but fortunately I'm dressed just right to be comfortable..Watergate marina had warned me to be careful going through "The Graveyard" and stay in the channel.. little over 20 miles downstream, the river widens into an open pool and the channel snaked back and forth across a flat littered with fallen trees and stumps ... the wind has picked up and I have to adjust to find the right speed that produces the least pounding from the waves....Perhaps pounding is too strong a word, probaly hull slapping is a better choice. 

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Right before 4 p.m. I approach lock 2...my first lock and I'm a little nervous, I hail the lock on channel 14 "this is southbound pleasure boat Dumarse, request permission to lock through south bound"...long pause and they answer....it will be about an hour, please get out of channel to allow northbound towboat to proceed....I'm off to the side and not in the channel but what appears to be a homemade raft is right in front of the lock in the channel..it moves over to a shallow slack water area and drops an anchor. Obviously the lockmaster thought it was me in the channel...I'm fairly close to the raft and the wind pushes me nearer...when I get closer, one of the young guys pokes his head out from under a blue tarp they had hanging off the front and I ask where they are headed....he tells me they have been on the river two days and are going "as far as they can go." I ask if that means New Orleans and they say yes if we can make it....we talk for a while and they turn out to be Tim Wilson from Chicago and Ben Lesko from Boston....they built the raft themselves (see photo gallery), put a 25 hp engine on it and decided to go down the river "just for hell of it"...I told them "I could relate to that"....we chat a little while, the north bound towboat "Clyde Butcher" emerges and heads north and I idle into the lock and stop up near the front..Ben and Tim idle in behind me ... a lock employee throws a rope down and I hold on..there's almost no turbulence and although I can see the water level is dropping, there is little sensation of being lowered....20 minutes later the gate opens. I wave goodbye to Tim and Ben, hail the lockmaster on my radio, thank him and announce "Dumarse southbound".......Sky is brightening a little, water is glassy and few miles south, pass the town of Hastings Min on the right...I slow to take a couple of pictures and keep going. My depthfinder shows a consistent 17 ft of depth in the channel. 

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First day is probably a good time to explain how locks work....The upper Mississippi river river has 27 locks in the 672 mile stretch from St. Louis to Minneapolis/St Paul...each lock is also a dam that creates about a 30 mile pool (or lake) of water and the purpose is to be able to raise or lower you from from one pools elevation to another..Prior to building the locks the this stretch of river wasn't navigable except during periods of very high water or floods because it was a river running downhill with a lot of falls and rapids. Think of locks and dams as a water staircase ... if you are coming upstream, the lock and dam raises the water enough so that you can run to the upper end of the pool,enter a lock, they pump it full of water which floats your boat up as the water rises. When you are up to the level of the pool above you, they open the gate and you run the entire lenght of the pool to next lock and they repeat the process into the next pool...Since I'm going downstream,they lower me from one pool into the next...some pools only lowered me 10- 12 feet, others dropped me 18-20 feet. 

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Nineteen miles downstream I approach lock 3 and they have the green light on and lock gate is open. I hail the lockmaster and he immediately tells me to enter the lock...idle in,rope is thrown down and 20 minutes later the gate opens and I idle out....so far so good, I had looked at my river guide yesterday and knew Ole Miss marina was 5 miles downstream and planned to stop there for the night...the only unknown was how long it would take to get through the locks...the sun comes out, my spirits and confidence are soaring. 

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At mile marker 791.5, I spot Ole Miss marina and turn in...there's no one there but they had told me in an e-mail a month previously (when i was checking on taxi availablity) there would be no charge for tieing up overnight..I pick a slot near the marina office, tie off bow and stern. I've got a taxi company number on my river guide. I call and ten minutes later a cab pulls up to the marina. I've got my laptop over one shoulder, my camera bag over another and am pulling my overnight bag. I put my rainsuit, lifejacket and depthfinder in my lockers and I had installed heavy duty lock and hasps on each previously..I text family and a few close friends that I'm off the water as I had promised I would each day and told them I was in Red Wing, Minn.....The first night I felt a little nervous about leaving Dumarse (but soon got used to it)....Tell the cab that I need to go to a motel with a restaurant within easy walking distance for an old man.....Lady cab driver tells me the Super 8 is right across the street from a bowling alley with a restaurant and it turned out to be perfect choice....As I would the rest of trip, when i got to motel, I tell cab driver to wait while I check to see if they have rooms available and internet access, they do and I pay the cab driver $13..probaly highest fare I'd pay the entire trip (couple of cab fares were $3.25)...Motel is little above a typical Super 8..clean and wi-fi is fast....Get my stuff in the room, call Peggy so after freshening up it's getting a little late so I walk across the street to the bowling alley and they have a neat little restaurant tucked into the corner..I scan the menu and see bratworst (which I love but can't get in south Georgia)...I figured it had to be good this close to Wisconsin and it was.... Go back to room and e-mail family and several close friends a brief description of my trip down the river and miles covered..Also post the same description on Bass Fishing Home page, a bass fishing interactive website that I have read and contributed to for several years..I have done several journals of fishing tournaments/trips over the years and had posted yesterday that I was embarking on this trip today....I thought it might attract 30-40 viewers, most of whom would comment i was crazy for ever starting down the river in a tin boat....Check forecast on Weather Underground and it's not good for crossing Lake Pepin tomorrow. also typed my notes for the day up and e-mailed a copy to Peggy in case my laptop crashed(or I sunk it) I was tired but had a hard time going to sleep...my mind kept jumping from from one worry about the trip to another...finally I drift off to asleep about midnight... First day...we've traveled 54.9 miles and gone through two locks....

Day 2 


Alarm is set for 6:00 a.m., but I wake up at 5:30 and the sun is shining already...Remember that I'm in the northernmost part of of the USA and the days are longer, so it's possible to get earlier starts....I hurriedly check the weather and forecast is for 10-15 mph north-northwest winds by noon and building to 20 mph in afternoon....When planning the trip, I had five areas of concern: Picking up my son in the busy river with all the towboat traffic in St Louis, Kentucky Lake, Mobile, Pensacola, Ft Walton, Pensacola Bays and Lake Pepin because of the wide open water and wind....I know that I'm going to have to travel the entire length of Pepin this Morning. The Indians called this "Lake of Tears" because so many of them sunk their canoes — and I assume lost their lives — trying to cross it....I've looked at the lake several times on Google Earth and I think I've got enough depth near the bank to hug the western shore and be sheltered from the full force of 20-25 mph winds and the waves they can generate...Worst case scenario, I'll put it on the bank rocks or no rocks.... I check out of motel and grab couple muffins and orange juice while waiting on taxi to arrive. 

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Arrive at the marina and there's still no one around.. breathe little sigh of relief when I see Dumarse looks same as I left her the night before. I had pulled kill switch - did this every night - and stuck it in my pocket to keep someone from just jumping in boat and driving it off... Had wanted to buy some gas to repay marina for letting me dock overnite free but I've still got 11 gallons of gas left (good for approx 110 miles) and I'm anxious to get through Pepin before the wind gets really high. 

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Idle out at 7:15 and head south....few miles downriver, the pool widens and I enter the upper end of Lake Pepin...The huge expanse of open water stretching south is a little intimidating...Beautiful clear water and I pass several boats fishing for probaly walleyes..They all are semi Vee boats with pointed bows and high sides, the kind of boat you use and need in rough water...I can feel the wind building and as the lake starts bending westward, I spot the masts of tall sailboats tucked back into a harbor 2-3 miles down lake. My river guide indicates Lake City marina is located about where the mast are, so I veer toward it. Enter what appears to be the harbor and idle up and down three long rows of boats moored but can't find the gas dock...I'm getting impatient because every minute I'm wasting, the wind is building. I finally give up and idle back out, then spot small cut through the rip rap north of the sailboat moorings. Idle through and to my left is a gas dock. As soon as I tie off, a pretty young girl comes down the steps and and hands me the gas hose. The front tank takes seven gallons and I put another two gallons in rear tank as a reserve because I'm beginning to suspect that I can't depend on these marinas up here to be open...Hand her my credit card, she brings a bag of ice which I quickly drop in the cooler and I'm out and running ... As soon as I exit the harbour, I see whitecaps on main lake - whitecaps start when wind reaches 12 mph - and about a mile downlake, the waves have started to build and soon I'm having to surf the waves and be very careful not to come over a wave, drop into the trough too fast and stick the nose into the next wave...Had I been going against the wind, I would have had to put the boat on the bank...I'm gaining more confidence in Dumarses and my ability to handle large waves but these waves are getting bigger than I feel comfortable in..I see a small cove and duck into it....I sit there maybe 10 minutes watching the waves roll by and I think,I can ride those waves better if I will just quarter out slightly, even if I end up a little further out in the lake for a while, then I can quarter back toward the bank... GPS is telling me I've only got another 5-6 miles til I reach calmer water...worst case scenario would be to swamp the boat and have to let the wind and waves push me to shore...Might end the trip, but I wouldn't drown...I move my overnight bag and fuel tank back to give me more bow lift and headed back out again...and it worked.....Where I thought the waves would be the worst at end of the lake, the wind actually started to lose a little momentum and the waves were smaller the last 2-3 miles..when I entered calm water, I moved things back where they belonged and gave the man upstairs a little silent thanks for helping me get through those waves. 

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Pools three through nine were an absolutely beautiful stretch of river...High bluffs and small mountains with small towns nestled alongside the river seemingly at every bend of the river...Railroad tracks run on each side side of the river and I meet numerous trains riding along just above the edge of the river. I got a little too obsessed with making time down the river, but the photo gallery is going to do a much better job than I ever could in showing the how pretty this stretch of the river was... After Lake Pepin, the wind continued to blow hard but fortunately the pools in this stretch of the river were comparatively small, 10-20 mile, mostly riverine stretches with no big open expanses of water except near the dams...Lock 6 did cause me a little concern, the wind was blowing hard quartering across the face of the lock and there were a lot waves building up at mouth of lock and hitting the seawall...This caused a "washing machine" stretch of water right above the lock and inside the lock...The lockmaster instructed me to go as far into the locks as I could because there was a southbound houseboat coming downriver to lock through with me...I went to the far end and had to turn the boat back upstream. I stayed in middle of the lock and used the motor to keep from being banged against the lock walls... Looked upstream and see a large houseboat about 200 yards above the lock and struggling to keep his bow pointed toward the lock gate but the wind is shoving him toward the rocks above the seawall....There's a lot of houseboat rental places along the river and it's obvious this operator is struggling to control the boat and I'm getting real nervous about that boat coming inside the lock with me.....That thing could crush Dumarse if this guy makes a wrong move...I don't hear anything on the radio but the gate starts to close with the houseboat still 200 yards upstream. Apparently the lockmaster saw a dangerous situation developing and decided to just put the houseboat in the lock by himself Obviously I'm glad he did... 

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This was a day when I seemed to hit every lock empty and with the gate open waiting for me. Typically, I would text family and friends each time i went through a lock but today I just did it every other lock....Mid-afternoon I looked at my river guide and realize I would probably be able to reach Winniesheik marine in Prairie du Chien,Wisconsin. My river guide indicates the marina is located at mile marker 636 and has gas,motel and taxi availability. The river splits at mile marker 636 and there's no marina in sight when i arrive a little after 6:00...I take the right split run down a short way and can see what appears to be a marina downriver...Halfway there, I pull over near a fisherman and ask where Winnieseik marine is and he directs me back to the river and tells me to take first large slough northward on the left...I turn into slough,run maybe 1/2 mile back and I'm still not seeing anything that resembles a marina....Spot another fisherman and he tells me to run toward an island, that I can barely see in the distance, then turn between PVC pipes sticking up in the mud...there's a little channel that I have to stay in..... I'm a little bit apprehensive about where I'm running because it's only 4-6 ft deep but it's too far to idle so I put it up on plane...Don't see any rocks anywhere so if I hit something, it's probably gonna be mud...Sure enough, when I near the island,I see a trail of white pvc pipes leading across a mud flat and a marina up against the bank.... Typical of marinas on the upper river,this is really a bar with a marina attached to it....Tie Dumarse off,walk up gangplank and give the barmaid $10.00 for tieing off overnight...I ask about motels with restaurants nearby and she recommends the Brisboie Motel in Prairie du Chien and calls a cab for me....she adds "tell them Melissa sent you"....I scramble around get my stuff out of boat and things locked up and get back up the gangplank about the time the cab arrived...Thanks to Melissa, the motel was fine,the internet worked, and the hamburger steak next door was good.On way to motel,I text family and friends that I'm off the water..... I didn't describe how rough the water was on lake Pepin in my e-mail to that night to family/friends nor in my post on Bass Fishing Home Page...My wife was convinced I wasn't gonna make it past the city limits of Minneapolis without drowning so I downplayed it a little but did mention that I needed one of those "pointy nosed boats" a time or two today... As I mentioned earlier, I realized that it's "the ride, not the destination" that's important on this trip and I lost sight of that today...I know I've got to pick Mike up in St Louis next Wednesday and I don't want him to have to wait on me. Things were just going so good, I got carried away with making time.I resolved to do better the rest of the trip and I did with varying success... Today was 11.2 hours in the boat, passed through 7 locks and covered 165 miles.

Day 3 


Decide to sleep in this morning, yet wake up around 6:00 a.m. after another night of difficulty going to sleep...Lock 13, 120 miles south of where I am, is scheduled to be closed today and tomorrow for repairs so I know I'm going to have a layover day tomorrow. The sun is shining when I leave motel but the weather forecast calls for rain and t-storms. Dumarse is waiting for me at end of gang-plank. Winniesheik Marina and Bar is closed and not a soul in sight. 

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7:30 a.m. I idle out through the PVC sticks and head across river. My immediate concern is finding more gas. River guide shows an Isle of Capri Marina and Casino across river in Marquette, Iowa and I think surely it will be open...Wrong, there's no one in sight at gas pump. Fisherman is launching his boat and he tells me that there are two marinas just down river and one of them should be open. He adds if I want him to he'll take me in his truck to get gas at a convenience store. I thank him and add it would be a lot of trouble to get these tanks out plus I've got enough to run another 30-40 miles. We agree that I should be able to find gas with that much left...It's a long idle zone and first marina gas dock downstream is closed but see a young man coming out of the gas pump office at the second and I wave to him...Pull in and was lucky to catch him because he was leaving...We put in 14.4 gallons and I'm back up to having 180 miles range...Turns out he's a mechanic and tells me he is going to prop a 3 hull pontoon boat with a 225 Hinda 4-stroke today... 

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Almost as soon as I reach end of idle zone below Marquette, a light rain starts falling....I get up on plane and it gets get darker and gloomier ...For some reason I've kinda got the "blues" this morning and there's no good reason for it...It's kind of a feeling that I read one time when a guy was embarking on a river trip like mine and he described it as "I'm up on the high diving board now and I've got to at least jump"...Then I think, river is calm, my engine is running smooth as silk and I'm doing something I always wanted to do...The blues soon pass and I'm back to enjoying the ride.

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When I approach Lock 10, they tell me it's going to be an hour wait because they have divers working on lock gates...I text my family/friends where I am and inform them of the wait...My brother calls to chat and tells me they have started a fund drive drive for "Children of Fallen Heros" on Bass Fishing Home Page. People are pledging contributions based on many miles I'm able to complete...They also have a large map of my route posted and a track showing how many miles I have completed (I'm really up on high diving board now)...Then my phone starts lighting up with text messages mostly about the fund drive...I noticed this morning before I left the motel that my day 1 post had drawn 700 viewers. I never thought this trip would attract this much attention. I expected family/friends and 30-40 guys on BFHP might be interested in an old codger's trip down a river...I feel honored, humbled, flattered and apprehensive all at the same time...Little while later my brother calls and asks me where I'm going to spend my layover day and I tell him probably Savanna, Ill., because they have a marina and taxi service. He says let me do a little research and I'll get back with you.

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I had passed a couple paddling downriver in a canoe a few miles up and noticed they had a couple of fishing poles sticking up in rear of canoe so didn't figure they were going a long ways down river. While waiting for lock, they came paddling up and stopped a short distance away... Tom and Judy Johnson had launched at Prairie du Sat on the Wisconsin River and along with their dog "Harley" were paddling and camping down to Galena, Ill. (about 170 miles)...Their canoe drifted up beside my boat and our conversation soon turned to dogs while I scratched Harleys ears...Dogs know good ear scratchers when they see them and Harley already had his head raised up and leaning over the side when the canoe got close enough for me to reach him...Tom related that he went through a really tough period in his life some years back and he credited Harley with helping him survive. Consequently Harley goes everywhere with them...I have an especially close relationship (my wife says obsession) with my English Cocker retriever (Blue) and I seriously debated whether to bring her on this trip...She would have been great company and would have thoroughly enjoyed it but two things made me decide against it...She would have been a major distraction while I was running the boat because she has to bounce from one side of the boat to another looking for ducks or birds of any kind to retrieve (whether they've been shot or not). Also I had limited ability to find pet friendly motels on this trip...Me and dog sleeping in boat because no motel in area would take dogs didn't appeal to me at all... ...The lock opens and I wish Tom and Judy a safe trip and they do same...I idle out of lock at same speed they are paddling and my GPS is indicating 4 mph...I hold up four fingers and point to my GPS when they look over.

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About 6 miles below Lock 10, I slow to take pictures of a ferry carrying a car across the river from Cassville, Ill., to the Iowa side...Rain has mostly stopped but it's still a dark, gray day....Pool widens above Lock 11 and channel makes a long sweeping bend to the east bank then curves back across once more before it finally turns to toward Lock 11 on the Iowa side of the river (right descending bank in river parlance)... Lockmaster informs me it's going to be a two-hour wait so I text family/friends...My brother calls back and tells me they now have a progress report on Bass Fishing Homepage that he is updating every time I text him and he is posting a picture of the lock I'm sitting at...And at midday it already has 200 viewers...He also tells me that it looks like I've got two options in Savanna, Ill...Super 8 motel or L & M motel, which was recommended by the local sports editor who, by the way, has set up an interview for me on my layover day...We debate whether to call the Super 8, which I feel has the best chance of having internet access or L&M...For some reason, I decide to call L&M and ask if they have internet and available rooms...One of my best choices of the trip. They not only have internet but they will come pick me up at the marina...I find a small cove above the lock out of the current, fix my ham sandwich lunch and settle in to wait. 

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Tow finally emerges and I head downstream...Dubuque, Iowa emerges on the right bank and I slow to take picture...It's a very pretty town with homes and brick buildings on hills overlooking the river, but I can't seem to find a view that doesn't have either ugly warehouses or a barge loading tower in the picture...I take a few pictures and resume the 27-mile run to Lock 12 

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A few miles above Lock 12, I spot what appears to be a ski resort on some steep hills on the eastern bank of the river... I'm in Illinois by now, which isn't exactly the snow belt so I start looking for some gigantic snow machines that I know must have around there someplace...I'm far enough away that I can't really tell what it was but it appears beside the ski lifts there is a mowed path running down the hill...I'm guessing these are either bobsled runs that they freeze during the winter or they have something they are using to ride down the hills in the summer... Arrive at Lock 12 and lockmaster tells me it's going to be a two-hour wait...Going through all those locks yesterday was too easy. Today the lock waiting is catching up with me...There is just a lot of barge traffic on upper Miss. and I'm meeting or passing 2-3 tows in each pool. I find a cove above the lock and swap texts and calls with a couple of my buddies plus text family/friends and tell them where I'm sitting and how long I expect to be here...Have to admit it, there are periods of boredom on trip like this and waiting on locks brought it out in me...Thanks to my cell phone, I was able to entertain myself by calling my hunting/fishing buddies and telling them what a great time I was having sitting in the rain and waiting for a lock to open.

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Good time to give Kudos to Verizon (they gouge people with bogus charges designed to look like taxes on their bill and treat customers coming to their stores like cattle) but their phone coverage is very good everywhere, and I've been all over North America in last few years...I was in some remote areas on this trip and seldom not able to use my cell phone and always could send a text message...Sometimes sending a text would be slow because of a weak signal but if I held the phone out from under the Bimini top, it would almost always go through.

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I was sheltered from the south wind by the lock but I could tell the wind was picking up up probaly because there was a T-storm passing north of me and these storms often will suck air toward them and create a lot of wind... It's late afternoon now and when the lock finally opens to let me out the rain has increased and wind is blowing directly into the lock...The channel is narrow and bends to the left right below the lock. Where the channel bends there is a lot of current and the combination of wind and current is creating a several hundred-yard stretch of rough water...Outside the the channel (and behind the bouy marker) it is much calmer so I decide to cheat and run outside the channel...I had done this several times already and gotten away with it...If you spend enough time running rivers, 95 percent of the time you can tell how deep the water is by looking at it...This time I was wrong. No sooner had I gottten up on plane than I hit a submerged rock wing dam inches below the surface hard enough to stop the boat instantly, lock the prop up and kill the engine...I thought I had at least mangled the prop up or at worst torn up the lower unit or bent the prop shaft...Wind spins front of boat around, prop is hung in rocks and waves are trying to break over back of boat...This engine is heavy enough that I have to put my foot against the transom and use both hands to raise motor...I manage to get motor up enough to lock it in shallow water drive which (edited) it up a little...Take paddle and by rocking the boat and pushing boat comes loose and floats off the rocks...Waves are high enough that one could break over the back (transom of boat is much lower than front of boat) of the boat so I need to get engine running and boat turned into waves as quickly as I could...I got engine running and swung nose around hoping my mangled prop would still have enough thrust to let me idle to the bank someplace and change props...There doesn't seem to be any vibration at idle speed so when I get downstream and out of the waves a little, I drop engine to to it's normal setting and ease up on plane...When I raised the engine to get off the rocks, I could only see one side of the prop but I didn't see any major damage so I'm hoping the damage is minimal enough to allow me to run the remaining 20 miles to the marina without having to change the prop...I slowly increase speed even lay my hand on top of motor to feel vibration but there seems to be none...When I get to marina,there's no one around so I tie off couple of slips down from gas pump..(edit) engine up and check prop for damage and can't see any...Dodged a big bullet there and resolve to not cut anymore corners on upper Miss...Based on how close that wing dam was to the buoy, probaly lucky I hadn't hit one before now.

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Talked back and forth to Lazy River marina just north of Savanna trying to get directions to their marina and second guy I talked to,told me to just go to Savanna marina it was easier to find - Lazy may be appropriate name for that place...Don't know what was going on with that deal but Savana marine was easy to find...Right behind grain elevator in middle of town...Call L&M Motel and lady tells me they will there to pick me up shortly...Text family/friends that I'm off the water in Savana,Il....Nice older guy named Gary in a Ford van shows up a few minutes later...We chat a few minutes as we drive back and I make a comment on what a neat little town this is on side of river so he says,let me show show you a little of it on way to motel...We turn off mainstreet and drive up a big hill that overlooks the town...There are side streets leading off road up the hill and the houses look as if they haven't been changed since the 30's and 40's....Big shady trees,nice lawns and well maintained....Looked like just neighborhoods I remember growing up..really a neat sight to see older homes and no sign of decay in the neighborhood..We get to motel and I check in...I mention my need for internet and the owner, Lois Hunsaker tells me she will put me in the "Chevy Room" next to the office and I'll be close to the wi-fi router. When was last time you checked into a motel and met an native born owner?...Motel was probably built in late 40's or 50's and she has restored it to nicer than it was back them.....Chevy room turns out to be a large room with small refrigerator,microwave,king sized bed and large bathroom.It's decorated with small and large pictures of 55,56 and 57 Chevrolets. The car you would die for if you grew up in the 50"s)..even has a chenille type rug hung on wall of a 57 Chevy and strip of 55-57 Chevy's wallpaper running around wall of room.....From my description, you would think it was tacky...It was the most tasteful "tacky" decor I've ever seen...They have several other similar rooms with other themes Harleys, John Deere tractors, etc... Gary, the van driver, had mentioned to let him know when was ready to go eat and he would take me to best restaurant in town...Gary and Lois were sitting out on sidewalk in front of office when I walk over and tell them I'm ready to go eat and invite them to be my guest but they have other plans and thank me...Gary says before we go, let me show you a car we restored...We go to a garage behind the motel and he shows a 1932 Ford street rod...Just a beautiful car and he shows me Lois's yellow Mustang convertible...Gary mentions that working on cars and restoring cars is his livelihood and his hobby.

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We get in van and head for "Poopy's," the most popular biker destination in the midwest..On the way over, Gary explains that the motel caters to bikers and fishermen and provides the van pick - up and delivery around town so their customers can drink and not have to drive....Poopy's is a large combination bar,restaurant,souvenir shop with an outdoor pavilion/picnic area..the focal point of the huge restaurant and bar is a $65,000. custom built chopper bike hung from ceiling in middle of the building...you don't have to be biker to appreciate it's beauty and the statement it makes...Gary takes me on a little tour of Poopys and the souvenir shop is huge...Apparently Poopy shirts are big deal to bikers in midwest...I see a shirt that says "It's the ride,not the destination" and I regret not buying it...Gary leaves me in the dining area and tells me to call when I'm ready to be picked up....The food selection was good...Seafood, steak and everything in between. I order a patty melt and it was great but so big i could only eat about 2/3's of it....Prices were very reasonable...I ate there two nights and bill was less than $10.00 both nights.... When I finish, I call Gary and in a few minutes and he shows up in the van....When we get back to motel, I ask Lois if she would mind taking me back to marina sometime tomorrow to check on my boat and pick up a few things including some ice to put in my boat cooler so my lunch supplies would stay cold...She says no problem, just let me know when you want to go.

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Back in room, I e-mail family/friends a brief description of today trip and post same desciption of my day on Bass fishing Home Page.... Notice next day it had 496 viewers..also there had been several questions asked about various aspect of the trip and I answer those. Three locks and a lot of waiting but we put 109 miles behind us....Since we started at mile marker 845, we are 308 miles downriver...only 1,700 more to go...are you up for it?

Day 4

Savanna, Illinois.....Great place to spend a layover day.


Lock 13 is undergoing repairs today and will re-open tomorrow so I've got a day to recharge my batteries...I could not have picked a better place than L&M Motel...Lois the owner had told me the evening before that she had some errands to run and she'd be glad to take me by the marina and any other place I needed to go....I still can't sleep over 6-7 hours even though I'm tired at night.... just too much to worry about...my latest worry is how much towboat traffic will be backed up by the lock repairs. Am I going to get to St Louis by the time Mike gets there? ... and I'm seeing that the river at St Louis is nearing flood stage...Will they close the river to pleasure boat traffic?...Seems I can always find something to worry about....mid-morning I see Lois outside and tell her I'm ready anytime she is...she said I'm almost ready and in a few minutes, we get in her really nice Ford pickup...we stop at convenience store and grab two bags of ice, which I put in cooler when i get to marina...this time there's a young guy in the office and I pay him $27.00 for two nights mooring...Lois told me later that she knew the young man and had already called him earlier this morning, told my boat was at the marina and for him to keep an eye on it.... Lois tells me she has to go by a winery out in the country and it would be a chance for me to see some of the surrounding countryside..I regret not having my camera ... Area around Savanna, Ill. is small, neatly kept farms with big red barns...Peaceful, lush and green....it looks like rural America looked like 50-60 years ago and I mean that as a compliment in every sense of the word. 

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We stop at a little winery. Lois goes inside while I walk out on a deck overlooking a little valley with pastures and cornfields...I could kick myself for not bringing my camera...you just don't get those views from the interstate....When we get back to Savanna, it's time for lunch and we stop at little restaurant called the Kettle....I'm not real hungry and get a chef's salad and Lois got whatever it is that women eat (chicken salad or tuna fish sandwich or something similar). I did win the battle for the check but she gave it a good try..During lunch, she told me she was raised on a farm in this area and returned 16 years ago when her husband died... They started catering to bikers and fishermen several years ago and now have a regional reputation that brings them repeat business over and over...She says the responsibility, however, is starting to wear on her and she is thinking seriously about selling the motel....Lois, if you sell this motel, please sell it to someone just like yourself....if heaven has motels, yours will be the model.

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Back at motel, I take a much appreciated nap.....mid-afternoon the phone rings and Mike Nestor from the Savanna Times-Journal called and asked if he could come over and interview me about the trip (my brother had alerted him I was coming through)...Called lockmaster and he says lock will be open tomorrow and he doesn't have a lot of traffic backed up. 

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Mike arrives and somehow duck hunting gets mentioned...if you get two avid duck hunters together, they can't carry on a 20-word conversation without one of them mentioning ducks, (even in middle of summer)...we talk ten minutes (maybe) about my trip and 2 hours about duck hunting, game wardens,the DNR's general mismanagement of our wildlife resources and both agree the tree huggers are gonna push us out of hunting and fishing....Mike wants to take pictures of me leaving in morning so we agree to meet at marina at 7:30 in morning. Mike leaves and soon it's time to ask Gary to carry me back to the best restaurant in town....it's Friday night and several bikers and wives/girlfriends are under the little carport type shelter along the curb at motel....I chat briefly with several of them and they want to know all about my trip and we discuss some of the trips they have taken...Poopys is starting to fill up when I get there. Probably a few more bikers than others but there are families, young people, older couples, just about every age group is represented...notice waitress delivering what appeared to be biggest BLT sandwich I'd ever seen to another table and it looked so good I had to have one...and it was good..every last bit of it.

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Back at motel ... end short description of my day to family/friends and post something similar on BFHP...note that Day 3 description of trip generated 499 viewers and progress report during the day had attracted 507 viewers....this trip has grown far beyond my expectations...I e-mail a buddy that I had brought three hats with me and all are too small now. Weather report for tomorrow predicts more rain and T-storms..so what else is new?

Lois Hunsaker...owner of L&M Motel....maybe best motel in USA..(Canada too)

Day 5

Wind Gods smiled but motel and rain Gods frowned 


Interesting day...lot happened good today and some not so good....wake up at 6 a.m and hear thunder ... not a good sign....get my stuff together and Gary takes me to marina...load my stuff in boat and skies open up accompanied by thunder and lightning..Mike Nestor pulls up and tells me to hop in his car and ride out the storm...I've already thanked Gary profusely for everything so I hop in....next hour and half we resume our conversations about hunting and about 9 a.m. the rain lets up. I push off and idle out as Mike takes pictures......turn south into light rain but thankfully no wind. 

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9:40 a.m reach lock 13 and ockmaster tells me it will be two hour wait which I had expected...see my first bass boat, a Gambler heading north up on the pad (for the non-fisherman, that's a man and his toy, i.e. fisherman in a bass boat running over 60 mph throwing a roostertail of water behind the boat).... sky starts to brighten and rainsuit comes off. ... Had passed a kayak a few miles upstream and he comes into view and pulls into same cove above the lock that I'm floating in....We introduce ourselves and he turns out to be Hans Hlawaty from Corvallis, Ore...a bright young man probaly in his late 20's. He's on his way to New Orleans in a "pedal type" kayak...Hans said he started at Lake Ixtaxca, headwaters of the river on May 15....He said in the real world, he worked in the movie industry "casting characters" but decided to "quit his job, piss away his savings and go on a big adventure"......he added that he hiked the Pacific trail from Canada to Mexico leading a pack mule last year and tries to call his wife each night.. (Mrs. Hlawaty, wherever you are, you win "Understanding Wife of the Trip" by a landslide).. he is camping out along the river this year and makes me feel a little guilty for finding a motel each night but Hans has a lot less birthdays and body fat than me.....get call several days later from Hans, he asked how my trip was going and said he was stuck in St. Louis because they had closed the river to pleasure boats right after I had gone through there...He asked about strength of current in Ohio river and was considering hiring someone to take him below the closed zone on Miss. River and possibly try going up Ohio, Tenn. rivers and down the Tombigbee. 

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Amusing thing happened when we finally got in lock....I was first in the lock, followed by Hans, then a small cabin cruiser....We were holding on to the lock wall ropes and woman was standing on front deck of the cabin cruiser, all within earshot of each other...Hans and I were talking about size of our boats and Hans mentioned he would like to have a bigger boat like mine and I replied that I'd like to have a bigger boat like the cabin cruiser and the woman laughed and said, we'd like to have a bigger boat, too.... all agreed, boat owners are never satisfied with the size of their boats. 

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11:40 a.m. lock opens, I wave goodbye to Hans and head south.... 12:10 p.m. pass Albany, Ill at mile marker 513.5 and slow to take a picture...rain returns and I put rainsuit back on...1:10 lock 14..lockmaster directs me to go back upriver and use auxiliary lock...I idle back 200 yards and go down a long idle zone then have to thread my way through numerous Corp of Engineer barges, towboats and dredge boats to find entrance of lock....right ahead of me, a small cabin cruiser tries to cross behind a towboat that is pushing a barge into position..the prop wash almost slams him into another barge but he is alert enough to give his boat full throttle and his stern misses being slammed into a barge by inches....the towboat operator sees me approaching and radios for me to hold up and he will back off so I can cross his wake....I thank him but I wasn't about to cross until he shut his engine down. My boat Dumarse ain't got enough horses to try that.....rain is getting harder as I enter lock....the boater stops right in front of me in the lock, and when he comes out on rear deck, I tell him he did a great job missing that barge.....he's an older guy and says "that one almost caught me sleeping at the wheel." 

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2:20 p.m approach Quad cities area..I had taken a picture of the river as Scott and I had crossed on interstate 80 bridge so I slowed to take a picture from water level (see photo gallery)...switch tanks after 115 miles with probably two gallons left in front tank...Locks 15 and 16 go quickly, I'm in and out in less than 30 minutes at each...river still calm and able to run almost top speed...sun starts to peek through and off comes rain suit. 

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4:30 p.m. approach Muscatine, Iowa, and call Holiday Inn to send shuttle to Marina at municipal harbour....I had called a month previously and lady at Holiday Inn had told me "no problem, they would send shuttle to pick me up"...this time Holiday Inn doesn't know what I'm talking about..they don't have a shuttle, the motel is eight miles from the harbor and there is no taxi service in Muscatine...I check my river guide for options and it's 50 miles downstream and two locks away...it's 5 p.m. and I'm not real sure i can make it before dark....I've got enough gas but not a lot to spare. 

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I shave every buoy downstream (taking the shortest route possible) and get through the lock 17 quickly. 

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lock 18...I approach the lock and see a towboat just upstream from the lock waiting to go through and another tow emerging headed upstream....hadn't done this before but I ask the lockmaster if I could go ahead of the tow or I'm gonna be stuck out here after dark...the lockmaster radios the captain of the Sierra Don and asked him, and the captain said go ahead ... thank the Captain...and if we ever meet off the river...the beer is on me....8:10 p.m... pull into Bluff harbor marina, no one around but I tie off and call A2Z cab company. 

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By the time I get my stuff loaded and up the gangplank to parking lot, a nice older lady shows up in a cab that has seen better days. It's about a 20-year-old small Buick that spit and sputtered when she gave it gas and the front end shimmied so much we couldn't go over 40 mph but it got us to the Howard Johnson Motel, which the cab driver had assured me was the most convenient for having restaurants nearby....As always, the desk clerk tells me they have rooms and the Internet worked...this was one of those motels with a huge indoor swimming pool and there must have been 200 kids in that pool screaming and yelling..I find out why in the morning....they assign me a room way down at far end of motel on outside..I look across the parking lot and a whole wing of the motel was boarded up...Check Internet connection and it was so weak, I couldn't log on..call desk and asked to be moved..they move me up nearer the office and Internet still doesn't work...call the office and ask them to reboot the system and they tell me, as cheap motels always do..."you can use the Internet in the lobby"..and my reply was, "If my shower doesn't work in the morning, do I get to use the swimming pool.?" ....had it been earlier, I would have checked out and walked across the highway to a Holiday Inn Express but I was tired and decided not to...had texted family/friends earlier that I was off water...walk across street to Mexican restaurant even though I don't particularly want Mexican food...order a taco and burrito, which either wasn't bad or I was hungrier than I thought....decide then and there to award Howard Johnson in Burlington, Iowa, the dump motel award of the trip....and that was before I tried to eat breakfast there the next morning...text my brother to put something on Bass fishing home page that I didn't have Internet access and turn lights off at 11 p.m. 

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140 miles today and went through 6 locks.. from the best motel of the trip to the worst in one day.....trying to keep in mind, "the difference between ordeal and adventure is attitude"...my attitude is pretty crappy tonight.

You can rent a horse and buggy in Muscatine, IA. but not a taxi.

Day 6 


Wake up around 6 a.m. and go down to breakfast area around 7 with my laptop thinking Internet access might be available ....immediately see why 200 kids were in swimming pool last night ... they must be having some sort of baseball tournament around here because there's at least 40 kids in baseball uniforms in breakfast area....apparently they have been making their own waffles because batter is spilling out of waffle machine and puddles of it rom one end of counter to another...all the muffins and pastries are gone...no attendant to be seen, probably in a back room tearing her hair out....I give up on finding anything to eat but get a plastic cup of orange juice and an empty messy table in far corner of room....did I mention that my room had cigarette burns on carpet and on edge of tub....(and I paid $80 to stay in this place). Internet works but is very slow..check and send couple e-mails plus put short post on Bass fishing home page....really proud that my account of Day 5 had drawn almost 800 viewers and numerous messages of support... Contributions to Children of Fallen Heros had grown to over $1,000. ....Bite my tongue when I check out, pack my stuff up and call A2Z cab company again.

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Taxi is an old Ford and driver is young guy with goatee, ear-rings, tattoos and has a black female passenger (probably in her 20's) in rear seat....I stick my laptop and carry-on bag in back seat behind passenger seat and get in front...cab driver asks if I mind if he drops woman off first and I agree....we leave motel and pretty soon we are getting into a very "seedy" neighborhood ....I'm getting uneasy and wondering how quick I can reach over back seat, unzip pocket and get my equalizer out of my bag. About this time, the woman in back starts talking for first time and mentions she has been working as a telemarketer and she sounded reasonably intelligent, plus cab driver started talking about a long trip he had just taken his girlfriend on so I started feeling a whole better about who I had gotten in cab with...it turned out OK. ...we passed through the worst part of area and he dropped her in a better looking area. Few minutes later he drops over a hill and I get out at Bluff Harbor Marina. 

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No one around on Sunday morning but I have a phone number and call, no answer so I leave voice message and resign myself to waiting because I don't have enough gas to go very far.....wait maybe 15 minutes and call the number again and this time owner answers and tells me he will be there in a few minutes....he apologizes for my delay when he gets there ... I put 14.4 gallons in both tanks while I tell him a little about my trip ... Couple of his buddies show up and I take their picture as I idle out at 8:35 a.m. and head downriver. 

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Twenty miles south, I see a ugly black cloud with a lot of lightning coming across the river... River channel is a long way from the river banks and I don't see anything but mud banks along the river... but I can barely see a bridge in the distance ... I screw the throttle wide open and decide to run as far toward it as I can and hope there's some shelter near the bridge or possibly under it.....rain is starting to pelt me in face pretty good as I near the bridge and lightning is getting close...As I slow down under the bridge, I see a little bar/marina tucked back in a cove just downstream so I run in and tie up quick as I can and run (well maybe a fast walk) up to an outdoor sheltered pavilion they have in front of marina...As I'm headed up the little hill, two bassboats come running in behind me and quickly tie up...sky is really black (see photo journal) and the storm hits with so much wind that it's blowing up under the large pavilion...A lady cleaning up the bar unlocks the door and all of us go inside...Couple of the fishermen start shooting pool...thought occurs to me that I've been fishing bass tournaments for almost 40 years under all sorts of circumstances and weather but I have never taken a break and shot pool during tournament hours.....had to ask one of the fishermen where I was (Fort Madison, Iowa) ...I text my brother and Mike (son) during the storm and tell them where I was and was riding out Tstorm...few minutes later, both text back and tell me the storm is tracking east and should be out of area in about 30 minutes but more storms are building below me...really neat to have this weather advice literally at your fingertips..talk to the fishermen and they are fishing a club tournament and are from the Quincy, Ill .,area...lightning hits and knocks out the power, which shuts the pool game down....we swap a few fishing stories and rain and wind is starting to die down. 

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11:15 a.m. .... idle out and turn downriver, rain is light and thankfully wind has died but still a few dying waves from the storm. 

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12:20 p.m. ... pass mile marker 365.2 on top of concrete caisson near river channel...with graffitti all over it, never seen that before or since. 

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12.25 p.m. ... approach Lock 19..lockmaster tells me he has to fill lock but I'll be able to go right through...While I'm waiting, Gordon (my brother) texts me that storms are popping up further downriver but may be out of my path when I get there...exit lock and I'm getting hungry...no boat traffic in either direction so I let boat idle along while I fix a sandwich....I'm drifting along past Keokuk, Iowa..take a bite out of my sandwich and notice I'm going past sewage treatment plant....didn't smell anything but I goosed the gas a little to get downstream faster........Wonder if guys that work there go off premises for lunch? 

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 2:30 p.m ...approach lock 20 and, as usual, tell lockmaster "this is Dumarse, southbound pleasure boat, requesting permission to lock through south bound"....lockmaster answers but there is a lot of static ...there's a t-storm right below the lock and one crossing right above me..I understand him to say there will a thre- hour wait so I pull into a cove above the lock prepared to ride out the storms if they come closer...I call the lockmaster again since I'm out of sight from his lockmaster tower..he replies but can't make out what he's saying...a little while later I happen to look back toward the lock and one of the lock employees (may have been the lockmaster) is motioning me to come over where he's standing at end of rock (edit) above the lock...turns out he wanted me to get in the lock with with a small towboat or it would be a three-hour wait...I am relieved to say the least....and grateful for them going out of their way to send someone 150 yards in the rain to make sure I got the message. 

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Now is a good time to give kudos to all the lockmasters I encountered.....I was apprehensive about having to go through 41 locks on my trip because of hearing a lot of stories from fishermen over the years about what jerks lockmasters can be....I did not find one single solitary instance of that and I went through 41 locks...In fact, it was just the opposite ... they went out of their way to help me....these 70-year-old ears ain't what they used to be and lot of times because of that and static, they had to repeat their message several times....On the Tombigbee, they even would call ahead so to let the next lock know we were coming and they would have the lock open for us when we got there.....also very fortunate to have known Jerry Rapp, whom I met through a fishing forum, who in turn introduced me to Bill Grettin ... Both worked for Corp of Engineers...They were an invaluable source of information and knowledge about the Miss. River when I was planning my trip. 

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When I exit lock, the T-storm has moved to the east so idle along and call Art Keller Marina in Quincy, Ill., to make sure they have a slip available and will be open..Talk to Mike Beeson, who assures me they will be open and can arrange transportation to a motel in Quincy, he cautions me to be careful because of storms in the area and gives me directions on how to find the marina. 

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Little over an hour later, the bridges at Quincy come into view. I see a sign for marina and turn into a long curving slough that runs off the river ... couple hundred yards back in slough, I can see boats parked behind a narrow strip of land that runs along the slough and see an entrance with Art Keller sign,,,..I turn in and idle along row after row of boats. Many have people sitting on fantail having a drink or cooking on a grill....midway up the rows of docks I hear loud music and laughter and as I near it I see 10-15 probaly college age boys and girls standing around drinking beer on the dock and just enjoying themselves..I might add this probably wasn't their first beer of the afternoon...I'm idling along and just as I near them there's a young girl in short black dress facing several of the guys with her back to me...she didn't see me idling along right behind her and I don't know what prompted her to do it....maybe some of the guys told her to "moon the river" but she flipped her dress up in the back as she bowed toward them...then they all started telling her "look behind you" ... she turned around, saw me and turned red and got this mortified look on her face....the guys were going crazy laughing at her, I was laughing and she was trying to hide her face....as luck would have it, I idle all the way to the end and there's no marina office so asked nearest guy on boat I saw and he directed me back out of this slough and go to next cut.....as I idled back past the boys and girls, I held up my camera and all the guys were egging the black dress girl to moon me again but she kept shaking her no and covering up her face... she was leading the "best non-scenic view of the trip" until two days later when she got knocked back to a distant second place by something I saw above Alton, Ill. 

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Turn out of the cut and am idling further up the slough when there's a splash beside the boat and about a 2 lb Asian "jumping" carp jumps out of the water and lands in my boat right between rear seat and transom(see photo gallery).....fish is wedged between battery box and side of boat so it can't flop around. When I get tied off for the night, I reach down with needlenose pliers and grab it by lower jaw and drop it back in water...those things are prolific up here and not only do they decimate the fishery by eating all the plankton and cause other fish to starve, they pose a danger to boaters and several people have been hurt seriously by big ones jumping into boats when the are moving at higher speeds. 

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Mike Beeson proves to be an engaging guy, takes me on a little tour of the city owned marina facilities and park then helps me carry my stuff up to marina entrance. He calls the Quincy City Center for me and they send out their "shuttle"...a new Range Rover driven by a really nice lady who I assume was the either the motel manager's wife or owner's wife (meant to ask and forgot)....What a change from taxis that will barely run to a Range Rover ... this is proving to be a trip of ontrastsc ... Quincy City Center is downtown, with a huge atrium, swimming pool (that wasn't full of screaming kids) and restaurant right across the atrium courtyard...not many guests but it was a Sunday night and Internet worked great.....had already texted my family that i was off the water so I check my emails.....no restaurants open nearby so I order a small pizza and salad from Pizza Hut... send a short e-mail with some pictures of todays trip to family/friends and post something similar on fishing forum...note that pledges for Children's charity is up over $1,400 and 784 people were tracking my progress down the river today... 81.5 miles today and 3 locks...got 531 miles of river in rear view mirror, Internet that works and a ton of folks cheering for me.......ordeal has done switched to adventure. p.s. ...got to tell this...wife calls 3 days ago in a panic, lost her car keys, she and daughter have turned house upside down looking for two days....I take my key to her car, Lois at L&M motel finds me an envelope and promises to mail it for me the day I left Savanna, I get text this morning that keys had been found ... in one of the zip up "hidden" caverns in her purse where they, of course, had looked previously...I'm running down river today and see a red river buoy that had broken loose and washed up on the bank...I couldn't help texting Peggy and offering to bring it home so she could attach it to her key ring...reply was unprintable.

Day 7


A place I always wanted to see...from the river Woke up at 5:00 a.m and hear thunder outside so decide to sleep another hour.....Wake up and it's 8:00 a.m...Not a big deal because I'm running a day ahead on my schedule to pick Mike up in St. Louis Wednesday...Had looked at my river guide and it's really too far to make it through all the locks and get to Alton, Ill., so I had planned a short day and to stop in Louisiana, Missouri about 50 miles downstream...They have sausage gravy and biscuits in the free breakfast so I eat and go back to room to catch up on e-mails.

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Range Rover takes me back to marina and I pay for mooring Dumarse overnight and refuel: 81 miles took 8.1 gallons of gas....10 mpg ...Highest dock fee of the trip, really nice marina but $35.00 for one night is a little pricey for a 16 ft. boat. I rationalize it by not having to pay cab fees.

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10:00 a.m, I idle out and start south..Three miles south, Lock 21 tells me I've got a two hour wait...Text family/friends that I'm waiting on Lock 21 and Gordon calls me and tells me a contributor had come with a parody on the old Jerry Reed song "Westbound and Down" song on Bass Fishing Home Page...Now it's Dumarse and "Southbound and Down"....Also tells me the pledges to Childrens charity is over $1,500 and climbing...I'm a little embarrassed by all the attention, but I'm honored and proud to be a part of it.

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Current is strong right above the dam and as usual I have to find an eddy or cove to pull into...Tried pushing nose on bank but if there's bushes nearby the mosquito's come after you...While floating in the eddy saw something I'd never noticed before...Lot of big logs floating downstream with current and small black looking birds (either blackbirds or sparrows) would fly out from the bank, light on the logs and walk up and down the logs pecking at insects. They would ride the logs maybe 100 yards downstream, walking up and down then fly back to the trees along the bank...Another log would come down river and they'd repeat the process...I suppose these are fresh logs that have been washed or floated into the water and being freshly half submerged has forced the insects to the top of the log...Amazing how wildlife figures out how to feed itself.

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Light rain stops and I'm little warm so I take rainsuit off...I'm getting farther south and it's definitely warmer than earlier in trip...Lockmaster radios me to enter lock and 15 minutes later I'm on my way "southbound"...Hannibal, Missouri is about 15 miles south of the lock and I'm anxious to see it.

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1:00 p.m... I approach bridge right above Hannibal and I slowed down and almost had to idle as I approached...The current is really strong and full of drifting logs/debris...I manage to get close enough to take pictures of the Mark Twain statue and sign then cut back across the river to get out of the current and channel...When I get safely out of the channel I cut the engine, fix myself a sandwich and just drift downsteam past Hannibal...My little tribute to Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn...I wonder how many people Samuel Clemmons has inspired to travel down this river...I know of one...Before cranking up, I text my family that I'm passing a place I always wanted to see...from the river. 

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Eight miles downsteam I approach Lock 22, notice the towboat "Penny Eckstein" moored to piling right above the lock...I've passed this towboat at least twice already on this trip...They run 24 hours a day and pass me at night while I'm sleeping in motel some place and I pass them again the next day...Talked to captain on radio and asked him if he knew old duck hunting buddy (and towboat captain) Vick Couey, who passed away last year...He does and we chat a minute...They wish me a safe trip...I hear him radio lockmaster to let me go ahead of him...I thank him and he replies, "no need for for you to wait two hours on us"...captain, you are added to the "beer is on me list" if we meet off the river.

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Hadn't mentioned it before but river started rising rapidly yesterday, apparently from all the rain and there's a lot of logs and debris floating...The current will usually push this stuff to the outside bends, and you can run alongside the "drift lines" but some places it's just all over the river...You have to watch in front of boat constantly...And intently.

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I've hit several sticks and limbs but so far no big logs...The terrain along the river is changing back to hills and bluffs after a long stretch of mostly flat land...River is changing too...It's becoming a big, strong river and it's wider, but I don't have the big lakes at bottom of the pools that were susceptible to wind...Water is much more stained than upriver...Towboats are pushing bigger tows and they tend to stir the river up for a few miles below them if they are pushing barges upstream...To stay out of the worse part of that turbulence and waves you have to read the river and visualize the route that towboat took before you passed him and either go inside or outside the path he took...For instance, if he had to make a left hand bend, you stay inside the bend because his stern was pushing toward the outside of the bend as he came around it....Someone e-mailed me and asked if my arm or hand got tired holding the tiller handle all day...The answer is no if I'm in calm water and not having to adjust the speed constantly...I have the steering and throttle tension tightened down so that all I have to do is rest my hand on the tiller...My hand and shoulder does get tired if I'm in rough water because I have to constantly adjust the speed and continually turn the boat slightly to avoid "pancake-ing" Waves...Difficult to explain but a flat bottom boat will run over some pretty good size waves on plane but you have to adjust your speed constantly depending on size of waves and quickly if trough between even one wave changes...The boat also runs much smoother and you can run faster with waves than against them...I try not to be doing other things when boat is steering itself such as fooling with camera, radio, cellphone etc.

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When I get out of Lock 22, I call Two Rivers Marina and they tell me they will be open until 6:00...Only have 19 miles to go so I'm in good shape... 3:45 p.m., idle into marina and tie off...Text family I'm off water...I'm in Rockport, Ill., and there's no motels here but Rivers Edge Motel is right across river in Lousiana, Missouri...I have to pay $20.00 deposit for card key to get in marina gate before 8;00 the next morning... For first time it's hot and resolve to wear my "holey" crocs and shorts next day...Taxi picks me up and 5 minutes later I'm across river checking into the Rivers Edge Motel...Lady at counter asks me if i want up on the hill or near the office...Tell her that I need a ground floor if possible and don't have car so I don't want to lug my stuff up the hill...She signs me in and gives me room key and tells me it's just to the right of the office...I walk down sidewalk and come to flight of stairs that head down...I walk down the steps to next level and don't see my room...Next set of stairs is steep and goes way down the hill...I'm getting more than a little irritated by this but head on down the stairs...Turn the corner and my room isn't down there...Nothing to do but climb, and I mean climb, back up those stairs and find out what the heck is going on...With about three rest stops I finally make it back to the top and I'm standing there catching my breath and happen to glance to the right and there's my room...I'd walked right past it...Now I'm really irritated...at me.

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Rest up and happened to look out the window and can see the marina across the river and actually see Dumarse's top sticking up out of the slip...Later that evening I walk outside and quickly go back inside and grab my camera...Take some pictures of the beautiful view of the river from the motel.

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Catch up on reading e-mails and send brief description of days trip to family/friends and post same thing on fishing forum...No restaurants nearby so it's Pizza Hut again...Great pizza and salad but much as I love pizza, two nights in a row is enough...Wish I was a better photographer...Right before dark I walked out of room and river was absolutely beautiful in the last rays of light...Tried to photograph it but pictures were blurred...Probaly needed a tri-pod... 48.5 miles today and two locks...Should be easy run to Alton tomorrow...

Hannibal, Missouri

Day 8


A very interesting day...And that may be an understatement. 5:45 a.m., Wake up early...Had tough time going to sleep last night...Miss. River is nearing flood stage and I'm concerned, plus just being pumped for trip is probably causing it...Rivers Edge is really nice motel with great view of river, but no free breakfast... Walk across street to convenience store, no breakfast bar there either so buy couple granola bars and small orange juice...Get my stuff packed and check out...While I"m standing outside the lady who owns the motel comes out can we talk about my trip...While we are standing there,a couple of rabbits hop across a little stretch of grass from the woods and start nibbling on some grass springing up between small rocks at edge of parking lot...Take a picture and comment to the lady that I couldn't remember the last time I saw rabbits hopping around in the wild when I used to see it all the time as a kid...Cab drops me off at marina and water has risen so much overnight that gangplank to fuel dock is under water and attendant can't get out to pump gas...End up idling over in my boat...They turn pump on from inside and I pump my own. 

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Idle out at 8:00 a.m... 30 minutes downstream see rain stretching all the way across the river in front of me...Stop, put on rainsuit and run through light rain for couple miles then it just quits...Cabelas Guidewear rainsuit not only kept me dry the whole trip, I think it makes anything but a serious storm go someplace else...All fishermen agree that if you want it to rain, just forget your rainsuit one time. 

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A few more miles and I come to Lock 24...Don't see any tows either above or below the lock and when I call lockmaster, he says give me a few minutes to fill the lock and he will put me through...Barely had time to text family/friends that I was at lock before gate opened...thank lockmaster as I leave and comment that "this is faster than a McDonalds drive thru"... Not far below the lock I met a big towboat and it was throwing a big muddy water propwash so slowed down to an idle to get a picture...Twisted around to take a couple pictures and happened to look back around and probaly 10 ft or less there was a red buoy right in front of boat and current carrying me straight into it...Engine was idling in gear and I was able to goose the throttle and swing boat just enough to miss it...Probably wouldn't have done any real damage except make a big bang but it would have given the guys on towboat something to laugh about...Resolve to not stop upstream from any more buoys. 

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10:30, the sun is shining and just a beautiful day to be on the river...I take a cellphone picture of the river stretching out ahead of me and send to family and friends...The only negative is that I'm running in and out of areas with a lot of floating trees/logs and debris...Doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason to it...I'll go 5 miles in a relatively clean river then have to weave, even idle, through some stretches...Obvious the river is rising fast and when channel carries me near the bank, I can see water spreading out through the trees. 

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When I approach Lock 25, the lockmaster tells me it's going to be 1 1/2 hour wait because he's already committed to a southbound tow in front of lock...Get some great news from brother about Cape Girardeau...Shawn King (King Marine) has offered to meet me at river with empty trailer, take us to motel and put us back in river next morning...Major load off my mind because there are no marinas on that stretch of river and very limited places you can tie off...I never ever expected this kind of support....I call Hoppies Marina south of St. Louis and lady tells me it's likely they will close the river to pleasure boat traffic in next few days...So one problem gets resolved and another crops up...While waiting on lock, I can see thunderstorms building up downriver...Almost a steady stream of logs and trees drifting by pocket where I'm waiting and going over the spillway at dam. 

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 12:40, exit lock and begin 40 mile run to Alton,Ill., where I plan to spend night...This is pretty remote area with few houses along the bank...Up ahead I see what appears to be small cabin cruiser stopped in mid channel...Mid channel is not a good place to stop in a busy river with towboats so my first thought was they may have hit a log or were having engine problems... I veer over to pass nearer to them and as I get closer I see a man and woman up on front leaning back against windshield of boat each holding a bottle of beer....Both have bathing suits on and the woman is topless.....And very good looking...As I slowly pass she pushes her chest out in a provocative manner....I'm still not real sure why I did this, probably the amateur photographer, dirty old man and smart aleck came out in me at same time. I make a little circle, hold my camera up and tell them that I've traveled 600 miles down this river and this is the best view I've had and do they mind if I took a picture....The man ignored me and turned other way (he was lot older than her and you can draw your own conclusions about that couple) but she turns and poses so I snap a couple pictures and away I go. 

----------------------------------- Head back down river and I'm having a hard time believing what I just saw... Been running up and down rivers and lakes all my life and never seen anything like that. I bet Tom Sawyer didn't either....I do know my hunting and fishing buddies are gonna get a large kick out of the e-mail they're fixing to get from me tonight...Might also add the blonde (and her plastic surgeon) won the "non scenic view" award of the trip. 

----------------------------------- Time to get back in a serious mood because I can see a very big and wicked looking storm headed toward the river a few miles downstream...It's already due west of me and there's not going to be any stopping and letting it pass below me...The channel swings over to the western bank up ahead and I'm hoping there will be a cove I can get out of the current (river has risen so much, the current is from bank to bank now)...I see what appears to be a small RV park up ahead and a tiny cut right below it...The storm is almost on me and as I get nearer the little cut, I see a big freestanding "double carport type" shelter with 8-10 guys standing under it...They are are waving and motioning me to come up there so I stick the nose of the boat in this tiny cut...One of the guys wades out in the water, grabs nose of boat and helps me tie it off just as storm hits...I get under the carport with these guys, we're all kinda huddled in middle of it because rain is blowing around the edges...I introduce myself to each of the "Chipleyville Bunch" as they call themselves and thank them for inviting me in out of the storm...You could easily take this whole group, put them in the middle of a deer camp in Georgia and except for their accents, they'd fit right in...Of course, they ask what I'm doing coming down the river in a boat like mine with Georgia registration...I tell them about my trip and like my fishing and hunting buddies back home, 80% of them thought I was crazy but a couple confided they wished they could go with me...Turns out most of them are retired and have small RV's that they keep parked nearby. They drink beer and burn wood in a fire pit under this shelter in the winter and in the summer they don't bother with the wood...As evidenced by the barrels of empty beer cans lining edge of shelter, these boys take beer drinking seriously...In fact, I was still shaking rain off me when I stepped inside the shelter and one of them shook my hand with one hand and handed me a beer with the other...And if I hadn't been forced to quit drinking 30 years ago, I'd took it...We swapped a few stories, hunting and fishing of course, and I told them about what had just happened up the river with the man and woman on the cabin cruiser...I could sense couple of them maybe had a few doubts about my story, so I said hold on just a minute, the rain had let up just little and walked down to my boat and brought my camera back...I rolled the camera back to the pictures I'd just taken and passed it around...ThenI had to copy down about six e-mail addresses to forward copies of the pictures to...Rain lets up after about an hour, I thank the "Chipleyville Bunch" for allowing me to ride out the storm and the opportunity to get to know them even if it was just for a little while. 

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Head south in light rain that stops after a few miles. As I near Alton some high and really scenic bluffs appear on the eastern bank of the river...I take a few pictures but it's still real cloudy and the pictures are not an indication of how pretty these hills and bluffs would be if the sun was shining on them...Lot of bigger boats including couple of casino boats are moored along the bank in Alton... I find entrance to marina, tie off and walk into the office...Alton Marina is a big and really nice marina, and an equally nice lady named Fran told me where to moor my boat for the night and called the Holiday Inn and asked them to send their shuttle to pick me up...I get my stuff out of boat and up the gangplank to edge of parking lot...(When you leave a marina you always have to tote stuff uphill to where you can meet a taxi)...Probaly been standing out there ten minutes...Fran sees me still there and calls the Holiday Inn again then comes up to where I am and tells me it will be just a little longer...They had to drop somebody off someplace else first...Nice little gesture that she didn't have to do...We talk a little about my trip until the shuttle shows up...Louis Wardlow, who is about my age, shows up in the Holiday Inn minivan. He asks where I'm headed by boat and where I started...I comment this is my first trip to Alton but I was impressed with the marina and the scenery on river above the town...Louis asks if I would like a little tour of Alton and I tell him yes if the motel has plenty of rooms and isn't apt to rent the last one while I'm out touring...Louis tells me that's not gonna be a problem...He asked me since I was from Georgia, did I know Alton had a big prison for Confederate soldiers here and added we didn't treat them very well...I comment there's Confederate prison near my hometown too (Andersonville) and we didn't treat prisoners very well either...We both agree that it was more due to terrible economic conditions more than anything else...We stop by the Confederate Cemetery and it was a very pretty place nestled in the trees and immaculately kept...Louis then takes me out near the river where the "Legend of Piaso" originated...Piaso or "Stormbird" according to Indian legend, was a half fish-half bird with a man's head and big talons who lived in cave near river and caught and killed many Indians until one Chief devised a plan to kill him...The chief, using himself as bait, lured the monster into an area where he had positioned several braves with poisoned arrows and when he grabbed the chief they shot him with enough arrows to kill the monster...The Chief was almost killed but recovered his health....On a bluff right outside town there's a picture of the "Monster" painted on the bluffs and a small park with a plaque describing the legend (see photo gallery). 

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We resume our trip back to motel and Louis tells me his only claim to fame was that his first cousin Robert Wadlow, was tallest man (8ft, 11 inches) ever recorded in the United States. Louis related that Robert had died at age 22 from blood poisoning...Doctors had prescribed braces for his knees and one of them caused a blister, blood poisoning developed and caused his death...We went by the little park where his life size statue is located and he truly is the "Alton Giant"...Louis and I managed to get a lot of talking in on our little tour...He worked for many years for Winchester shotgun shell factory and I told him he had likely made some of the thousands of AA Winchester shells that I have shot and reloaded for years....Louis drops me at motel and I comment to lady at check-in counter that Louis is definitely an asset to to this motel and asked her to convey that to the management...Really nice motel with another large glass enclosed atrium...Probably the cold weather up north is reason for many of the motels having these atriums with swimmings pools inside...As a retired mall manager, I can tell you unequivocally, if you have skylights, swimming pools or fountains, you have never ending maintenance problems...Nice little restaurant tucked in corner of the lobby area and after calling wife and freshening up, I walk over to eat...Kind of upscale place but "Sliders" on the menu catches my attention...I had heard of them but for some reason had never eaten any so that's what I order...I think typically "sliders" are little hamburgers but these were sliced prime beef with peppers on some sort of roll that's been sliced in half....While I'm waiting for my food my daughter, Anna, calls and we lament the fact she's not with me...She's the adventurous type and planned to come with me from Minneapolis to St. Louis but had just taken a new job and didn't feel comfortable asking for a week off so soon...Sliders are pretty good and when I asked the waitress for a "to go cup" for my ice tea, she brings me a cup that if it was any bigger, I would have needed wheels to roll it back to the room....Back in room I send brief emails to family/friends...and include one of the topless photos and brief description of how that came about..This, of course, triggers some funny responses and several asking when they could join me...I sent one of the photos to my brother and asked him to "photoshop" some clothes on the girl (no more than absolutely necessary) and e-mail back to me ASAP...When I get it back, I put a post on Bass Fishing home Page and titled it "Day 8: Boys I got a story and a picture that will make you put your boat in the water and follow me" ... a day later this picture and story had drawn over 900 viewers...Note that the Children of Fallen Heroes fund was now over $1,700 and climbing.

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Check weather and it's looking good for St. Louis...The river forecast is not good... It's right at flood stage and I'm concerned they will close the river to small boats and I'm concerned about how safe it will be to try to pick Mike up with the extra weight that's going to add to the boat...The Missouri River joins the Mississippi right above St. Louis and doubles the size of the river...I"m also getting reports the Missouri is also at flood stage and is dumping a lot of logs and trash on top of stuff already in the Miss...Resolve to check the river out as much as I can before Mike gets in boat...Always worry when my children fly so I ask the Man Upstairs for lot of help tomorrow...And I don't sleep well at all... 85 miles and two locks today...664 miles behind us.

Winner-best non scenic view of trip

The Chipleyville bunch

Day 9 


8.00 a.m... Idle out of marina and head south toward lock 26, which is is only two miles downriver...Short wait and lockmaster tells me to enter. Logs/debris in front of lock is so thick I literally have to push a hole through about half of it, back up, clear the prop and push rest of way in....When I get tied up on lockwall, one of lock employees (could have been lockmaster) leans over wall and asks if I'm a duck hunter and asks about my trip so far...We talk about duck hunting until I have to exit the lock and he tells me that there is some really good hunting north of Alton in sloughs along the river.

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When I exit lock 26, I know to watch for Chain of Rocks canal on left side of river six miles downstream...If you don't turn left into this canal, there's a waterfall on main river south. I would like to see this set of falls sometime, but not from the upstream side...The Missouri river joins the Mississippi just above the canal, but I really can't see much from water level, except a big expanse of water. Mike later told me he could see it plainly flying in and there was a definite mixing of the water and the Missouri was muddier...Chain of Rocks canal fits the name...A ninemile-long ditch with rock rip-rap on each side...Arrive at lock worried that the river might be closed, but lockmaster tells me he has a northbound pleasure boat and tow coming through, so that means the river is open.

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9:30a.m ... Receive a text from Mike and he has just landed... More good news... I had worn my lightweight long pants, but it's really getting warm, so I unzip the lower legs and convert them to shorts... I'm still worried about what I'm gonna see when I hit the main river...Towboat and pleasure boat finally start to move out of lock at 10:15 a.m. and I enter.....Exit lock and half mile downstream and I enter the Mississippi...I run 5-6 miles south, see the arch coming up, even slow to take pictures of it and don't see anything that worries me...The river is high, but I've been on the river many times when it was high and I just don't see anything that concerns me, other than current is strong...That would change quickly.

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I run past the arch and find the fuel barge Mike and I had agreed to meet at...I look for Mike and don't see him, so I call him on his cell phone while I hold boat in place against the current with the engine...He answers and tells me he's walking under the arch and doesn't see any reason why he can't just step off seawall and into the boat...I head back upstream and there he is, right under the arch.....A very welcome sight...Wish I could have taken a picture, but I'm busy handling the boat....Current is strong, but I hold boat with engine against seawall and Mike throws his bag in and steps down into boat...I've got his life jacket already out and I hurriedly look at gunnels of boat and we don't seem to be overloaded....I swing out into the channel and head south...The river makes a gentle right-hand turn and about 1/2 mile downstream, there are big strings of barges anchored side-by-side and extending out almost to the middle of the river on both sides...The current is ripping underneath and lot of logs and trees are caught up underneath them...These barges force you to have to get out in the channel or risk being swept under them by the current... There are numerous small towboats running back and forth across the river and coming out from behind those anchored barges, plus big tows coming and going in middle of river... It was like being a giant washing machine in a small boat...The danger is that you might get swamped by a wave breaking into your boat and get swept under the anchored barges....The bow of the boat was slow in lifting, so I tell Mike to move back and move the gas tank and our overnight bags back to the middle of boat and that helped some...I don't know low long it took to travel those 10 miles or so, but things were happening so fast I didn't have time to be scared... In fact, I didn't really get scared until later, when I thought about what we had gone through....There is no doubt in my mind that the man upstairs helped guide that boat through waves that seemed to come from every direction at times....Mike is a veteran blue water sailor and he has been in some very dangerous situations on the water before and he told me later that he "wondered what I had gotten myself into"...Got two things to say about that situation and I'll put it behind us: I would never, ever put myself and my son in that kind of situation again if I've got a choice about it, and, The Coast guard regulates all those barges out in middle of that river and they have allowed a dangerous situation to exist especially at flood stage, even for boats much larger than mine...There is no good reason for those barges to out there and no reason why St. Louis can't have a towboat basin south of the city where those barges can be put and tows made up.

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A few miles south of St. Louis, the waves subside and we get over to edge of river and just idle along for awhile... Both of us calm down a little and get things rearranged in boat... Send text to family/friends:"St. Louis in rearview mirror...mike on board..two happy guys southbound"....We fix some iced tea in our insulated mugs and begin a much more enjoyable part of our trip down the big river... It is a very big river... I've been told and read many times that the Mississippi from St. Louis to Cairo, Ill. (where the Ohio joins it) is the wildest stretch of navigable river in the U.S.A... I think during low water periods, that is probably more true...I would much rather run the Miss. when water is high, simply because you don't have to stay in the channel with the towboats....The channel can be pretty narrow, especially when towboats are meeting, and these towboats are huge... 30-50 barges and they look like aircraft carriers... Also been told by my corps of engineers friend (Jerry Rapp) that if river stage is over 20 feet, the rock wing dams are all going to be far underwater and you can run over top of them...River was approaching 30-foot level, so I didn't have any worries about that...Mainly just wanted to avoid the worst of the turbulence the dams underwater create and that was pretty easy to spot, even coming downstream... I had also heard the Missouri, being at flood stage, was dumping a lot of logs/trees and I expected the worst, but was pleasantly surprised that the debris wasn't a problem... The river is so big and wide that the drift gets spread out over a much bigger area... My mood and confidence really improved, and, with Mike in the boat, my worries just seemed to go away... They stayed away the rest of the trip... It was a great day to ride down the river.

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Next stop, 27 miles downstream in Kimmswick, Mo., Hoppies is an institution among river travelers for over 50 years...It is also the last fuel stop south of St Louis until you reach Memphis.

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12:15 p.m. ... We spot Hoppies on the right bank and swing below the docks then pull up to outside edge by the fuel pump... Current is strong running alongside the dock, so I hold the boat with the engine while Mike ties us off... What a pleasure to have a deckhand, co-pilot and somebody to talk to, and somebody to help you if you need it... Hoppies is really a string of barges strung together and moored on side of river, and well-worn from years of use and foot traffic... There's a shaded shelter with a table and one of the guys working on a nearby boat and his wife are eating a wrap sandwich that looked delicious... I ask if that is available at the store and he tells me only way to get one of those sandwiches is to be married to this woman... Mike had brought fresh sandwich supplies, so we decide to fix us some sandwiches while we wait for "Hoppie" himself to come down and fuel our boat. I had called King Marine in Cape Girardeau to see if his offer to meet us at river with trailer was still good... Shawn was at lunch, but lady at dealership said she would track him down and get him to call us....Cape is 109 miles south of us, so we are a little anxious to get confirmation of the trailer, so we can make it before dark... Only other option is to stay in Kimmswick and get early start in morning... Hoppie shows up, we refuel the boat and get him to talk to us a little while we eat... He tells us that all the wing dams south will be under 15 feet of water and we ought to be able to run anywhere we want to between the banks... Hoppie (whose real name is Charles Hopkins) told us his father would row out in the river many years ago and light the kerosene lamps that guided riverboats at night up and down the river... Meant to ask Hoppie when the marina was first opened here, but forgot and there's surprisingly little info on Hoppies on internet, other than a mention as a fuel stop. I believe I remember in one of the many river books I've read that Hoppies has been in existence since the 1930's.

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Shawn King calls back, tells us where to meet him and asks that we call when we are near Cape...I estimate the running time about 5 hours.

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1:00 p.m. and we head downstream...Current is really strong in places and we are able to run 23- 25 mph at times.....Few miles downstream, Mike and I swap places and he runs the boat... I remind him of a few things like using the current and cutting corners, all of which he knew already... Lot of scenic bluffs and hills on Missouri side. Unfortunately there is a lot of mining going on and they are leveling those bluffs and leaving some ugly scars for whatever it is they are digging out of there.

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2:25 p.m. ... We pass a small ferry carrying a couple of cars across the river...The river is big here and the ferry seems tiny....I imagine our boat looks even smaller to those people on the ferry. I didn't have the opportunity to get one taken, but wish I had a picture by someone else of our boat running out in the river... The river is smooth as glass, current on the straight stretches push us up to 24-25 mph and the miles quickly drop behind us... I tell Mike we are probably going to get to the Cape ahead of schedule.

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Cape Girardeau has been described by river travelers as a city who has turned its back on the river... When you travel from St. Louis south to the Tombigbee (via Ohio-Tenn. rivers) it's 250 miles from Hoppies (27 miles south of of St Louis) to nearest marina at Kentucky Lake dam..That's really too far to travel in one day, so you almost have to stop at Cape Girardeau... I talked to people, researched river journals, everything I could think of, even visiting Cape and looking for tie off places on a trip to North Dakota last year.....There's only two options at Cape: a launch ramp just north of town and a diversion canal south of town... I was told neither place is safe to leave your boat overnight and even riskier with river at flood stage.

--------------------- The river from a distance looks slow and lazy and you need to be in a boat a few feet from the surface or stand on the river bank to appreciate how immense and powerful this river is... Wing dams are 10-20 feet high, dams built with huge rocks, and they extend from the bank out almost to the river channel... Their purpose is to channel the water out to the main channel, which creates more current and depth to keep main channel clean of sand and mud... At flood stage these dikes are 15-30 feet underwater and what you have are underwater waterfall as the river surges up and over these underwater humps... When you pass over the wing dam, the water actually runs downhill for 20-30 yards and at bottom of the hill you have all sorts of turbulence... Giant whirlpools, boils and rip currents that shoot off in any direction...I was able to take pictures of some of the rip currents and whirlpools but never could seem to get right angle to show the downhill ride...It's a little unnerving to have one of the whirlpools open right in front of your boat and feel it twist the boat as you ride over it..I don't think the whirlpools would suck a boat of any size under but I believe they would take a human down and no telling where it would spit the body back out.

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4:20 p.m ... Mile marker shows we are 30 miles from Cape, so I text Shawn that we are 30 miles and little over an hour upstream.

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5:35 p.m. ... We round bend above Cape and when bridge comes into sight, I see a pickup at launch ramp in the distance. As we get closer, he flashes his lights at us...By time we reach the ramp, the trailer is in the water and I run Dumarse up on trailer and hold it with the engine while Shawn quickly hooks up the winch strap and Dumarse is out of the water for first time in eight days....Shawn has brought his young son, Tanner, with him... We introduce ourselves and both Mike and I thank him profusely for helping us over a difficult situation....Shawn asks where we would like to spend the night and I suggest a motel near the interstate where I'd stayed this past fall and knew there were several restaurants within walking distance... Shawn offers to take our boat to dealership and lock it up, but we prefer to have it at motel so we can check it over and perform some maintenance later tonight... We offer to take both to dinner, but Tanner has a baseball game tonight... On way back to motel, Tanner tells us about a baseball tournament he is looking forward to this weekend in Southhaven, Tenn. (near Memphis)... Shawn tells us his dad is going to pick us up in morning and take us back to river...We wish Tanner good luck in his game tonight and the tournament this weekend...Text family/friends that we are off water.

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I had the oil and filter changed on my engine before starting and routine maintenance calls for it to be changed every 100 hours....We figure we've got about 80 hours or so on the engine for this trip and since changing oil is much easier when boat is on trailer, we decide to change it now... I had brought couple quarts of oil and filter with me, plus a one of the small plastic pumps to siphon oil out through the dipstick hole... Surprisingly, the oil looks almost brand new, but we change it anyhow.... It takes a while, but we finally get all the oil out and task completed... Something really aggravating happened that shouldn't have, though. I was leaning over the boat with my prescription Costa Del Mar sunglasses hanging down on my chest, brushed against the cooler and the sunglass frame broke right over the eyepiece... Some of the equipment or things I used on this trip worked really well and some did not... I will not be bashful in telling you what worked, and what didn't...When I get a little space further on in the journal, I'll tell what I really think of Costa Del Mar... We shower quickly and head across the parking lot to Texas Star for a steak... Everything about this trip got better in a hurry today (once we got past the situation at St Louis)... My appetite is better, I sleep better and easier, and look forward to each day with anticipation rather than apprehension.

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Get back to room and e-mail short description and pictures to family/friends and post same on Bass Fishing Home Page... Mike and I are amazed that over 900 people read yesterdays description of the trip and 600 followed our progress down the river today... Contribution pledges now over $1,700 to Children of Fallen Heroes fund...

The Arch at St. Louis

The river is big

The river is powerful

Day 10 

Waltzing to the Tennessee River 


7:30 a.m. Leo King (Shawn's father) arrives at motel. We introduce ourselves and I knew already that Leo was about my age and had been in the outboard engine business all his life. I knew we were gonna have some stories to swap on way to river this morning. He has a collection of old motors that I would love to see when I have time...We stop at convenience store to re-fuel the boat and get ice...Mike (my son) is pumping the gas and I get the ice..When I start toward the cash register, Leo tells me "King Marine has already bought the gas today"...When we get to the ramp, Mike takes my picture with Leo. Right before he backs us into the water, Leo tells me "you've got my cell number, if you have problems, call and we will come help or get you"...just another example of the wonderful people we encountered on this trip. 

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 Shortly after 8 a.m we run out to middle of river to clear bridge columns then slow a little to take pictures of Cape as we go by. 

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8:35 a.m. we pass mile marker 39 .... text family and friends to let them know we are under way and our progress..hills along river are starting to flatten out and river starts making wide sweeping bends back and forth....GPS shows a cut off at bottom of one of the bends and we decide to take it since we will shorten our route by 2-3 miles.. right before we turn into the cut, we hit a submerged log ..big crash, motor flies up and 8-10 ft log rolls up to surface behind the boat that neither of us had seen.. we check prop but there's no damage...they say the one that gets you is the one you can't see and this one apparently was submerged right under the surface..half way down the cut off there was a mud/sand bank and I noticed hundreds of birds fluttering in and out of small holes in the bank...we slow to take pictures, apparently they are some sort of swallow, perhaps purple martins ... We pop out of the cut, the waves have different rhythm and I tell Mike there's a towboat around here someplace...and there it was a couple of bends ahead of us... River is running strong through this area and a lot of turbulence near the wing dams. I take pictures but can't capture the river "running downhill"..You can see it and feel it but probably only way to get a picture of it, is to turn boat upstream, hold it in place with motor and lower your camera down right above water. 

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9:50 a.m. we pass mile marker 12.2 which means we are only 12.2 miles to the Ohio River. 

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10:10 a.m GPS indicates another cut off and with river at flood stage we are confident there will plenty of depth(see photo gallery for GPS images) didn't save much distance but we take it, more for the change in scenery than anything else. 

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10:25 a.m. a milestone..we turn into the Ohio River and put 845 miles on Mississippi River in rear view mirror..It was a unique experience to see the river gradually change in little over a week from a small, scenic (and clear) river running between hills to a wide expanse of muddy water moving powerfully downstream....we stop to take pictures and text family and friends....in a few minutes, both our phones light up with congratulations...we let the boat idle just a few minutes taking pictures and the current quickly carries us a far downstream. The river is big above where the Ohio joins it.Below the mouth of the Ohio it is simply awesome. Drifting along I'm reminded of the old mariners saying "the ocean is so big and my boat is so small"...We take pictures but a camera at water level can never capture the immensity of this river. ... Words are inadequate, you just have to drift downstream in a small boat and experience it.  

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There's an observation tower right on the point where the rivers meet and we thought about climbing it to get some pictures but decide the tower is not very tall and sun was shining right up the river and wouldn't let get us shoot good pictures in the direction we wanted to... Turn into Ohio River and head for right bank since there's a lot of tow traffic on left side plus wind is sweeping down the river and making for a bumpy ride.......I hug right side to get in wind shadow and notice my GPS is indicating I'm running on dry land...the river is so high that there's 15 feet of water on what would normally be dry land....Mike and I notice dark clouds buiding up on north side of river and spreading to the east...the sky is clear in front of us so I'm hoping we can outrun the storm..since we traveling upstream against the current we're running 20-21 mph instead of the 24-25 mph when we coming down the Mississippi...Mike comments,we gonna lose this race. 

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11:00 a.m. loud bang underneath boat (like someone hit it with hammer) and at same time 3-4 lb asian carp jumps 3 feet in air beside boat...we think the bang was caused by another fish jumping underneath and hitting bottom of boat as we passed over him. 

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11:55 GPS indicates we have covered 75 miles and storm is sweeping up river behind us.....we start looking for place to put nose on bank...I see a casino on left but there's no good place to tie off plus we would have had a muddy bank to climb up....probably not many customers show up in small boats....mile or so above casino there's a launch ramp and small cove beside it that gets us out of current....Heavy rain is 200 yards below and we scramble to get rainsuits on. 

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Mike fixes us sandwiches and we eat lunch as rain pours down, some thunder and lightning but not real close.....Text family /friends and soon get weather reports from Scott and my brother telling us the storm is spreading southward but we probably will skirt edge of it on our way to Kentucky Dam....Rain lets up and before we leave I need to answer call of nature...it is no easy task to accomplish this with parka jacket and bib type rainsuit on but finally get everything unzipped, hop on locker at front of boat and was just fixing to raise water level in river when I notice a police car that had pulled up to top of ramp looking straight at me....he/she had to know what I was getting ready to do so they put car in gear and left quickly..and I continued to do what I had set out to do. 

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Pass Paducah, Ky., in light rain and at 2 p.m. we stop and text family/friends that we have just"waltzed into the Tennessee River"...we continue the 22 mile mile run up river to the lock and hail lockmaster at 3:10..there's a southbound tow almost ready to come through..when it clears, the JV Vesco northbound already at the lock before us, allows us to enter lock ahead of him and lock through... we add this captain to "the beer is on me list". 

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5:05 exit lock..short run across Kentucky lake Dam and we pull into Kentucky lake Marina....we tie off Dumarse and call Kentucky Dam Resort for shuttle to pick us up.....text family/friends that are off water.... usual routine is to open our laptops and read/answer e-mails...I had made a comment in one of my e-mails that my next big adventure that I was going to try to rig up a web cam on my boat...My wife reminded me that this was going to be my last big adventure of this type married to her..and I put that in my description of the day.....I look at fishing forum and they have a U.S. map showing our progress as a red line down the river from Minnesota and realize we have come almost halfway from near Canada to the Gulf. Weather report is for light winds..our plan tomorrow to start early and run as long as the wind lets us..Kentucky Lake is a very big lake and can get extremely rough if wind blows out of south or north..I was very concerned when I planned this trip about the wind and was fully prepared to take to take 2-3 days to catch favorable wind conditions....I have heard of a secondary channel that runs near the western shore and asked for information yesterday from any of the guys who monitor the fishing forum...Phone rings, and it's Bobby Kilzer whom I had met several years at the All American (fishing tournament)..Bobby lives near the lake and was able to tell me where the channel started and advised me to follow it all the way to Paris landing (45 miles) plus he gave me his cell phone number and offered to help in any way if we needed it..He also advised that lake is at summer pool (full) and we could really run almost anywhere with no danger of hitting anything...Very important in an aluminum boat when waves get up....Jon Hardin, a fishing guide who lives near Pickwick also e-mailed me with same offer when we come through his area....It is nice to know that if you have problems, there is help out there.... The offer to top all offers was made by David Parks who lives in the Decatur, Al., area...he was going to pick up some barbeque from Big Bobs(a fine BBQ place) in Decatur and bring it 90 miles across north Alabama and meet us on the Tombigbee....we couldn't make the timing work but when you got folks willing to haul you out of the lake and/or bring barbeque..you are rich in friends. 123 miles today...1002 total so far..... 10:30 p.m. Mike's asleep and I'm not far behind

Turbulence caused by underwater rock dikes

river twists,turns and runs north in places...depth 40ft,speed 24.8mph

Miss river to the left..Ohio river to the right

Important milestone..845 miles of Miss River in rear view mirror...

Couldn't outrun this storm

Day 11

'Dumarse' stretches her legs 


7.25 a.m we idle out of Kentucky Dam marina and head uplake..We can see the small buoys identifying the secondary channel and we follow them up the western bank of the lake....Running against a morning breeze that slows us down and makes the ride bumpy and aggravating but not unbearable..Several times we have to back off throttle because waves are just too high to run over...First hour we cover 19.7 miles. 

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9:40 engine starts to sputter and die....quick panic until we discover the cause...I had moved our paddle over and didn't notice it was laying across gas line running from front tank...when I put my my foot on it, it was just enough to cut the gas off..remove paddle and the "Yamabunny" purred on her way...Mike and I named the engine "Yamabunny" after the Energizer bunny because all day, every day, she just kept going and going. 

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9:45a.m we pass under Paris landing bridge which is halfway up the main body of Kentucky lake....Mike is running the boat and I take a cellphone picture showing Mike and the bridge receding into the distance.Text this to family and friends and it ends up on the daily progress report for the fishing forum. 

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11:30 a.m. pass our first towboat of the day and there's no stirred up river or waves to contend with .... GPS indicates we've come 67 miles .... lake is starting to narrow and waves now down to small ripple. 

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11:55 we pass and wave at the JV Vesco, the towboat that let us ahead of them in the lock last night. Dumarse seems slow at times but it has taken that towboat 16 hours to cover 67 miles. 

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12:25 we slow to an idle and take a lunch break...86.7 miles in 5 hours but we are in the river now and shouldn't have to slow down for waves anymore today. 

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1:05 we pass the 118 mile marker....... the halfway point between Minneapolis and Albany... Sun is bright and it's warm but comfortable under the shade of our Bimini top especially if we are moving.....that top is one of the things that worked great the entire trip whether keeping rain off us or providing shade.....There were some things that didn't work well .... I'm wearing an old pair of Hobie sunglasses over the top of my prescription glasses and held together with a wire wrap off a loaf of bread..... let me tell you exactly how my Costa Del Mar sunglasses performed and what you can expect if the frames break in case you are thinking of purchasing some...I'll make this story short as I can... had two pairs of Costa del mars with regular lenses in them and simple black frames, decided to put prescription lenses in each 6 months ago...about 3 months ago, one pair broke for no apparent reason and I let optometrist send them back for repair...Costa said they couldn't be repaired and threw them away (I could have fixed them myself) Optometrist said for $90 they would sell me a new set of frames (I suspect Costas cost is less than $5 and I know the optometrists cost is $39.00) and I told them for $90, they just lost two very customers, my wife and I.... I try another optometrist and they want $125.00 and another wanted $150.00 I can't get a buddy at a tackle shop to get them for me because Costa won't sell frames to anybody but a licensed optometrist and I'm almost certain they dictate to the eye doctors what they have to sell frames for...so Costa wins lousy product award for the trip and I'll throw in a gold star for customer gouging. 

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2:10 we pull in Perryville marina and re-fuel...try to call Pickwick State park and can't get cell phone signal so lady at marina calls them for me..I'm trying to give the reservations clerk my name and credit card number and she keeps me putting me on hold and I'm tying up the marina phone. Finally when the girl comes back on, I speak a little harshly to her and tell her ..do not put me on hold again...take my name and credit card number..you don't need anything but that to hold the room and I will give you my life history and address when I get there. 

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Mike and I head back out and the Tenn. river is pretty along this stretch. Miles and miles of bluffs and high hills along the bank and virtually no boat traffic..I'm surprised how few towboats we saw in 182 miles ... I think I counted five and two of them were small one barge loaded with gravel....swap a couple of text messages with David Parks who has offered to bring some Big Bobs barbeque 90 miles from Decatur, Al. and meet us on Tombigbee tomorrow...David can't make it tonight and I love BBQ but not for breakfast so it looks like we gonna miss some good food and an opportunity to see David again. 

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5:45 p.m and Pickwick Dam appears at top of GPS screen. 

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5:55 p.m. arrive at lock and lockmaster says it's going to be a 30 minute wait...warm and muggy below the dam with no breeze..temp gauge on boat says 90 degrees. 

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6:55 p.m. exit lock, run around corner to Pickwick State park... 7:02 pull kill switch on engine....182 miles... most miles in one day so far..text fam/friends that we are off water. 

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Tie off boat at dock and walk up hill to bottom level of lodge...did I mention, Mike is a very good pack mule? ...he carries most of the heavy stuff and I struggle up hill with much lighter load..thankfully there's an elevator we can take up to lobby on 3rd floor...Pickwick State resort is a really nice facility and I'm told the golf course is first rate.. I ask the desk clerk is Internet working and she said "we are having problems with the routers but you can come down to the lobby" ..resist asking "can we use swimming pool if showers don't work"....Internet in room didn't work, fortunately Mike has a cell phone card that allows both of us to access the Internet but it was slow due to a weak signal in the area....we go down to the restaurant and they had a reasonably priced seafood buffet and great salad bar...shrimp and catfish were pretty good. 

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We traveled across the end of western Kentucky and crossed the entire state of Tennessee from top to bottom today. The wind Gods smiled on us and we took advantage of a rare opportunity on Kentucky Lake...Back in room, we send and answer e-mails. Check Bass Fishing Home Page and note that putting some miles behind us is moving the needle up on the Childrens charity..almost $2,100 through today... we decide to sleep until one of us wakes up in morning.

Paris Landing bridge is halfway up Kentucky Lake

Tenn River also twists and turns

Mile after mile of bluffs

Pickwick lock empties prior to us locking thru

Floating tie off bits rise with water level and Mike holds us off wall as lock fills

Day 12

Some bridges you go under are more important than others 


Sleep well, but wake up at 5:15....I can sleep eight hours at home but six-seven hours is about all I can manage on this trip. Before Mike got onboard, I blamed it on worry, now I attribute it to being pumped about the trip... Mike manages another hour with pillow over his head and I catch up reading all comments on Bass fishing home page and e-mails... I never expected this trip would generate the interest and the encouraging messages it has... I suppose a person like an athlete would get used to all this applause but I'm not not accustomed to it yet and I'd be a liar if I said I didn't enjoy it.

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We get our stuff all packed up and go down to lobby... It's 6:45 a.m. and we drop our luggage at edge of lobby and start to enter the restaurant. ... A not-too-friendly woman at the rope across the entrance stops us, points to sign and says the restaurant does not open until 7 a.m. ... We ask if we can go in, sit at one of the tables and possibly get some orange juice... This time she says, in no uncertain tone, the restaurant does not open until 7... This, along with no internet service — and rooms weren't cheap — irritated the hell out of me —don't take much to irritate ornery old men — and I thought it was an opportune time for me to check out and tell them how to improve this place. 

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Basic problem with Pickwick (and Mobile Delta Marina) is that it is run by state employees and pleasing customers is not their highest priority like it would be if a "for profit" company was in charge... The state has invested a lot of money here to attract businessmen as a corporate retreat, plus golfers and boaters ... The restaurant should be open earlier to accommodate golfers with early tee times and travelers who need to leave early. ... Obviously, you have to have reliable Internet if you want to attract businessmen... There are exceptions, but if Internet doesn't work at a motel, it's because you have a cheap system and really don't care if it works or not... All of which I explained in a later e-mail to the resort hospitality manager... Never received a response, either.

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7:40 a.m. ... Idle out of resort and head up Pickwick Lake to our turn down the Tombigbee. Lower end of Pickwick is really pretty, clear, deep water, high bluffs with some really nice — and expensive — homes on them. Unlike some areas, the homes are not obtrusive and don't ruin the beauty of the bluffs. We stop at Bay Springs marina to re-fuel and get ice. While we are refueling, we get to talking with fishermen/women in two bass boats who are also at the dock trying to fix a trolling motor problem... They ask where we are headed and then want to know all about our trip... I make my comment that about 80 percent of people think you're crazy and 20 percent want to go with you... One of the guys said, "I'd give anything to go with you" and his wife said, "You're not going without me"... When we leave marina, we are in the Tombigbee, and first few miles it's a pretty, winding waterway. Then we enter, in effect, a long, mostly straight, ditch lined with rocks... It has trees and some greenery on the banks... It's not ugly, but it's still a long wide ditch. When Corp of Engineers built the Tenn.-Tombigbee system back in late 1970s/early 80s, they had to connect the upper end of the Tombigbee River with the Tennessee River and there is really no other way to do it except with a ditch... This was true pretty much entire length of this river. It's prettier in some sections, but compared to the other rivers, it's just not a river you travel for the scenery.

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9:40 a.m. ... Pass mile marker 420 — 30 miles downstream from mouth of river — and enter Bay Springs Lake... This is probably the most scenic lake along the Tombigbee. No high hills or bluffs, but clear blue/green water, tree-lined banks and coves extending off the lake.

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10:10 a.m. ... Slow down and approach Whitten Lock... Lockmaster tells us he has two pleasure boats inside and will be about 20 minutes... Text family/friends progress report... About three hours is all I can go without sending a progress report, otherwise my phone is going to light up with "Where are you? You OK?" messages... When we get in lock, LM asks where we are going, then comes over and leans over lock wall and asks about our trip... Tells us he will call the next lock and tell them we are on our way... Mike and I had been concerned that we would spend more time waiting on the 13 locks we had to go through on the 450 mile length of the Tombigbee... Towboat traffic turned out to be very light on the river and lockmasters could give lessons to the fast food operators on how to get customers through quickly.

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11 a.m. ... We approach Montgomery Lock, gate is open and green light on... We tell lockmaster on radio that we are entering... Gates close and we see the little golf cart they use coming around to the side of the wall we are tied to... Right behind the golf cart is a large — looks like German shepherd — puppy running along behind him... Lock employee — or lockmaster, never knew which — stops to check couple things on way and dog stops and sits obediently beside the cart... When he gets to wall over us, puppy sits beside cart... He asks about our trip, then tells us he is a turkey/deer hunting addict. He is a fisherman too, and is going to have to replace his engine soon, so he's real interested in a four-stroke like ours... We tell him we've been really pleased and I ask him if he has ever heard one of these engines run... I punchstart button and he's amazed at how quiet the engine is when idling... Mike and I can carry on conversations running wide open ... As gate opens, he tells us he will call next lock and ask them to have gate open for us... As we are idling out, the golf cart is traveling up other side of lock with puppy doing his best to keep up with that "awkward puppy lope." 

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10:40 a.m. ... We meet our first "sno-bird:"a trawler — a 35-60 ft fishing boat that a lot of people convert to a cruising/travel type boat....Many people who have these boats take them south for the winter and live on them, then cruise back north for the summer... Probably the boat of choice for people making the "great loop," which is up the east coast via intra coastal waterway, across the St. Laurence Seaway/Great Lakes and down the Mississippi/Tombigbee to Florida. We met numerous "sno birds," all headed north in next two days.

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11:55 a.m. ... Arrive at Rankin Lock and LM advises it will be a few minutes until lock fills.

------------------------- 12:20 p.m. ... Idle out and thank LM on radio, who replies he is calling next lock for us... Meet first tow of the day just downstream... Only seven miles until next lock and we decide to run there before taking lunch break.

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12:45 p.m. ... Arrive arrive at Fulton lock... We have few minutes to wait while a northbound pleasure boat locks through, so we break out the sandwich supplies... I am the designated "cheese peeler"... Somehow, the swiss cheeese slices had almost melted together, and while Mike does everything else, I separate two slices from the block with a knife and less-than-sanitary fingernail... Neat conversation ensues while we eat lunch... When Mike and his younger brother were kids, I took them on duck hunting/camping trip on slough, just off the Mississippi River. The river rose so much during the night that the water was lapping at edge of the little pup tent we sleeping in, when we woke up, the campfire was already drowned out and we had to scramble and move everything and build another fire before we could cook breakfast... We talked about that and several other camping and duck hunting trips we had taken... Special times then, and a special time now — for an old guy — to relive those experiences with his son the day before Father's day.

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1:25 p.m. ... We pass under Highway 78 bridge... An important bridge because last fall, a duck hunting buddy, his brother and I were on our way to a North Dakota hunting trip... I told them to slow down because I wanted to look at a river that I would be coming down next summer... I'm not sure if he believed I'd actually do it, and I'm not sure I believed I'd actually do it either... I get Mike to take a cell phone picture showing me and the bridge disappearing in Dumarse's wake... Send it and text message that we had just passed under that bridge I had made him slow down for... Few minutes later, I get a text message that he remembered and some words of encouragement.

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2:10 p.m. ... Exit Smithville Marina after refueling (7 gallons) ... Temps in 90s and it's hot when we aren't moving. 

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2:15 p.m. ... Enter Wilkins lock and exit 20 minutes later. 

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2:55 p.m. ... Approach Amory lock... There's an old cabin crusier just above lock with two adults, several 12-15-year-old boys and an aluminum boat tied to it with a rope... Mike thinks it might be a troop of Sea Scouts in a boat that had been donated to them... They are waiting to lock through also, but seem to be having trouble with their engine... We call ahead to Waverly Marina in Columbus, Ms., to make sure they will be open and we have room to tie up for night .... Nice lady I talked to said if we are not open, come to the first houseboat where she and her husband live... Also tells me I can catch cab into Columbus... Lockmaster tells us to enter lock and cruiser pulls in behind us... We use one rope to tie off, they use several.

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3:20 p.m ... Exit lock and lockmaster advises us there is dredge at mile marker 366 that may have river blocked.

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3:30 p.m. ... We approach dredge and hail him on channel 16 (emergency channel) asking permission to pass through southbound...He advises us he will swing the dredge boom over and to pass on his starboard (right) side... A few minutes later, the boom swings out of the way and we idle by.

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4:00 p.m. ... Radio Aberdeen lock as we approach, and he advises us 10 minutes and we can enter... We are right above lock where he can see us and asks where we are heading... We tell him Albany, there's a slight pause, then he asks, "Where did you come from?" ... He's a real personable guy, asks several questions about our travels while we are in the lock and wishes us a safe trip remainder of way.

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4:25 p.m. ... We exit lock and head down river where a T-storm is building to the southwest where we are heading.

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5:25 p.m. ... Tie off to Waverly Marina and hit kill switch... Suggest to Mike that we refuel, so we don't have to deal with it in morning, so he climbs up steps to marina to have them turn gas pump on and find out where they want us to tie off overnight... I text family/friends that we are off water and in Columbus, Ms. ... It's sprinkling rain, but not enough to put rainsuit on... Actually, it feels pretty good because it's hot... I hear gas pump come on, and while I'm putting gas in boat, two older couples and a young couple come down steps from the little marina restaurant... They ask where we are headed and I tell them a little about our trip then they start asking questions about everything... It develops into a conversation about Columbus, and although I haven't been there, except to pass through, in many years, I remember all the great beer joints that used to exist out on east Highway 82 from my years traveling in the state... The older guys remember them too, and we swap a few remembrances, careful not to incriminate ourselves in front of the wives... Mike comes back and I ask him if he has called a taxi, and he says, "No need" ... marina owner (Cliff Yarbrough) has offered use of his truck, just put some gas in it and bring it back in morning." ... The couples I had been talking to tell us the marina has the best hamburger in town, but when we get our stuff loaded and get back upstairs, they've just closed the kitchen. ... Hard to believe someone would just hand his truck keys to two perfect strangers, but we put our stuff in back of truck and head to Columbus, 10-12 miles away.

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Marina is about 10-12 miles north of Columbus, and soon as we enter town, we find a Best Western with several restaurants in vicinity... As usual, we open our laptops and check e-mails, and I get one of the neatest e-mails I will receive on whole trip... I've got an old friend that I've traveled all over the country with — fishing trips and vacation trips with our wives — and tried to talk him into going on this trip and he flat refused, telling me I was crazy — not once, but several times... He's on my list of family/friends that I've been sending progress e-mails to, and today I get an e-mail from him that said, simply,"you are dumbest (expletive) I know, but I wish I was there with you"... I've been watching the oil spill with growing concern, afraid they may close off the intracoastal to pleasure boats... I had asked for information on Bass Fishing Home Page, and couple guys who live in the area tell me it is still open, so I feel little better about that... Mike and I get back in truck and find a Chili's restaurant right down street... Don't remember what I ate, but it wasn't really good or really bad. We talked about our day and both of were pleased that we had traveled so many miles and gone through so many locks today so easily... One of guys on BFHP had told us that weekend traffic was light on this river and we should be able to go through each lock with minimum delays, because there's just not much barge traffic....I had estimated it would take four days to travel 450-mile length of the Tombigbee, because of having to go through 13 locks, but we think if we can make it to Demopolis tomorrow, we possibly can make to Mobile Bay on third day... Lights out pretty early.

Dumarse tied up at Pickwick Resort dock
Highway 78 bridge on Tombigbee river
Lock dog runs to keep up at Montgomery Lock on Tombigbee river
Typical scenery on upper Tombigbee river

Day 13 

Biscuits,boat rides and two things money can't buy 


6:00 a.m... For the first time this trip, the alarm goes off and I'm sound asleep... On way back to marina, we pull into a McDonald's and when I order a sausage biscuit, Mike tells me "Happy Father's Day, let me buy you a sausage biscuit" and my reply was, "Thank you, and let me take you for a boat ride today"... Both of us get a good laugh out of that... Little further down highway, we stop at convenience store to buy ice and fill Cliff's truck up.... While we are loading our stuff into the boat, Cliff comes out of the houseboat he and his wife live on. We talk a little about our trip and thank him again for the use of his truck... Cliff mentions that many of his customers are river travelers and they stop at his marina each year, coming and going if they're "sno-birds." ... Cliff takes a couple pictures for us and, right before we leave, he steps back onto his boat and picks us four fresh tomatoes off a plant growing on his front deck... I think I understand why river travelers make this a regular stop.

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7:40 a.m. ... We idle out and it's warm already.

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8:00 a.m ... Approach Stennis lock and gate opens a few minutes later... Text family and friends that we are underway... While we are sitting in lock, phone beeps and I get a "Happy Father's Day" text from my daughter Anna. ... Later in morning, she calls to wish me a Happy Father's Day again. ... Made several trips to Arkansas with guys I duck hunt with last year and always made the comment when I crossed these bridges that I hoped to come under these same bridges when I make my river trip next year... We pass under Highway 82 bridge and I send another cell phone picture/text message to two different guys.

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8:25 a.m. ... Pass houseboat with unusual name of "Alligator Hilton." 

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8:55 a.m. ... Spot a young beaver swimming across river in front of us that dives as we get near.

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9:15 a.m. ... Pass guy in Skeeter bass boat fishing a large blow down — tree that had fallen into water at banks edge ... I give him "thumbs up/thumbs down" signal and he holds up five fingers, meaning he has a limit of fish.

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9:25 a.m. ... GPS indicates we have crossed state line into Alabama... Riding down a glassy calm river on a beautiful morning with your son is just a great way to spend Father's Day.

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9:30 a.m. ... Bevill lock advises there will be a 40-minute wait, due to a pleasure boat locking upriver. ... Interesting lock —there is a big Corp of Engineers paddle wheel snag boat they have moved up on bank of river and made a a national historic landmark... There is also a museum further up on bank, but it wasn't open this morning... The snagboat "Montgomery" has big boom and grappling hook on front of it and was used to remove trees and snags from the Black Warrior, Tombigbee, Apalachicola, Chattahoochee and Flint Rivers from the 1920s until 1982 when she was retired... While we are waiting, Mike takes his camera and goes up hill to look around and take pictures. I let boat drift back against dock and text update to family/friends... The sun is really bearing down and the distinctive smell of creosote from the dock is pretty strong.

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10:22 a.m. ... Exit lock, Mike reaches in cooler and grabs an orange, peels it and gives part of it to me... Never had carried oranges in boat before, but icy orange slices when it's hot is an excellent snack... I have problems with late morning or afternoon "sugar crashes," and Mike too, to a lesser extent, so we drink lot of tea and eat trail mix or granola bars between meals.

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10:35 a.m. ... Pass sno-bird trawler "Southern Lady" from Chattanooga, second boat from Chattanooga we've met in last two days.

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10:40 a.m. ... Start seeing tall, white, chalky bluffs and river becomes a lot more scenic... A friend later e-mailed me that these bluffs are "Selma Clay" left from deposits millions of years ago when this was an inland sea.

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10:50 a.m. ... Pass mile marker 297 and meet first towboat of the day.

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11:10 a.m. ... Meet large three barge wide tow coming under bridge, only have a about a 25-yard slot to get between barges and bridge column, but decide to squeeze through, since there's no current or wake... Towboat is pushing hard, but there's little stirred up river.

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11:25 a.m. ... GPS starts showing backwaters and slough off the river and clay banks look much like the Chattahoochee river below Columbus, Ga.

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11:45 a.m. ... Meet "Bailiwick," another northbound trawler from Germantown, Tenn. 

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12:15 a.m. ... Slow for Heflin lock... Going to be 15 minute wait, so we fix sandwiches and Mike slices the first of our tomatoes... Fresh-sliced tomato makes this the best sandwich of the trip... Thanks to Cliff Yarbrough... I'm reminded of the old saying: "Two things that money can't buy are true love and homegrown tomatoes".

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2:20 p.m. ... Bathroom stop and we break out ice tea and trail mix... Text progress report and ask my brother to call and see if Smoky Jack's BBQ in Demopolis is open on Sundays... Great BBQ that I've been telling Mike about... Unfortunately, they are closed today, but we hit the BBQ jackpot the next night... Had fished several Redman tournaments in this area from mid-80s through mid-90s and started seeing several areas that I had fished before.

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Little after 3:00 p.m. ... We pass mouth of Black Warrior river and mile downstream pull into the Demopolis yacht basin... When we slow down, it gets hot, we find marina office/gas pump and refuel to save time next morning... It's a long walk from our slip to motel at rear of yacht basin, so Mike locates a push cart to to load our bags/luggage in. Walking back along the dock, a wasp comes out of nowhere and stings him on the side of his forehead... We sit in a boat a little while and he holds ice on the sting.

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We register and when I fill out the form, a really nice lady named Betty who runs the motel sees I'm from Albany. ... She tells me she lived near me in Eufaula, Ala., up until a few years ago. Turned out we had several mutual acquaintances... This is a unique motel in that it's built on pilings in case river floods. ... All of the rooms are on second floor, except for motel office at ground level... An expensive way to build a motel, but probably was only way for them to get financing... We intend to leave real early in morning and marina isn't going to be open that early, so ask Betty where we can get ice. She says, "Just knock on my door in morning and I'll get you a bag out of freezer." 

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We get our stuff in room and turn a/c wide open... Temperatures outside are in upper 90s, so it takes a while to for it cool down... We do our usual open and answer e-mail routine... Betty had told us there's not much open on Sunday nights except fast food places, but there was one place, Mr. G's, which had good salads and decent lasagna... Mike goes to down to check on the marina courtesy car and it's being used right now, but will be back in a little while... He gives our name to the security guard and the security guard tells Mike that he remembers my fishing tournaments here years ago and that I gave him some fish one time... I didn't get the opportunity to talk to him while we were there, but I vaguely remember practicing one day in a backwater slough just up the river and catching a fish deep in the throat that I knew was going to die, and giving it to a guy fishing for bream right up the bank from me... He tells Mike he will hold keys for car for us when it gets back, so nobody else gets it.

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Phone rings and long-time friend — and duck hunting buddy — Leroy Mcentire from Montgomery, Ala., calls and wants to meet us in Mobile tomorrow night and bring his 14-yearold son, Hudson... It's 165 miles from Montgomery to Mobile, and I try to talk him out of it, but he insists he's coming, and where am I gonna be so he can meet me... One of guys on Bass Fishing Home page has suggested we stop at Mobile Delta Marina just north of Mobile Bay, so I tell Leroy that's where we plan to overnight... We agree that I'll include him in progress reports the next day. It's going to be a 200-mile run for us and we've got two locks to go through. There's only one place to overnight or buy fuel in that 200 miles so if we get delayed at either lock, we may have to overnight at Bobby's fish camp in Coffeeville, Ala., 100 miles south of Demopolis. 

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We see a courtesy car come back at 6:30 and three guys are unloading groceries and carrying them to large boat in one of the slips. We talk briefly with them and learn they are headed upriver to Huntsville Ala. ... Courtesy car is a 3-5-year-old Mercury similar to the Ford Taurus. It needs a wash job inside and out. but it's free transportation.We find Mr. G's out on highway 80 and order the lasagna. Salad is great and lasagna is probably about as good as you can get in Demopolis, Ala. Put another another way, don't go to Demopolis expecting great Italian cooking.

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Back in room, I check responses on BFHP and several readers have chimed in with weather reports and advice on Mobile bay and the intracoastal, where to stay in the area, along with information about the oil spill... We expect a long day tomorrow, so set the alarm for 4:30 a.m., and by 10:00 p.m. lights are out... It has been a memorable Father's Day.

-------------------------- 122 miles and three locks today... 1,630 miles total.

Author and son (Mike) prepare to leave Waverly Marina,Columbus, MS.
"Momtgomery"...an old paddlewheel snagboat near Bevill lock on Tombigbee river
Best lunch of the trip..thanks to Cliff Yarbrough of Waverly Marine
Selma clay bluffs above Demopolis, AL.

Day 14

When you leave Minnesota and smell salt water 


5:35 a.m. idle out of Demopolis yacht basin, there's a snag poking above the water on the left hand point ... As we pass there's a large boil in the water and a shad skips out of the water followed by a wake as a big bass chases it...I'll remember this if I ever fish another tournament over here....I might not remember what I had for dinner last night but I can remember important things like where I might catch a fish...two miles downstream we come to Demopolis Lock and Dam, which incidentally is a very dangerous place for boaters coming down this river and not familiar with the river...For some not very good reason the Corp of Engineers has never placed an elevated sign above the spillway to warn boaters like they have at locks/dams all way down the river...there's couple warning signs set way back on distant banks but it would be very easy to go over this spillway and fall 15 feet to the rocks below..I personally know of one boat that did it and I'm sure there have been many over the years... we hail lockmaster and he says it's going to an hour before we can lock through.I'm thinking so much for trying to get an early start then 15 minutes later the gate opens and he tells us to enter and we will wait for a southbound pleasure boat to enter...We wait another 15 minutes and finally a fisherman in an Xpress boat (larger than ours) idles in apologizing for taking so long to get here... gate closes at 6:20 and 6:30 we idle out.....as soon as we get up on plane we start running through alternating stretches of cool air then warm air and our glasses fog then clear as air changes. 

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7:00a.m. pass under the "Rooster Bridge" this time I sent a picture and text message to a fishing buddy with whom I had crossed this bridge earlier this year...."Rooster Bridge" is an unusual name and derives from a fund raising effort to build a bridge over the river on the U.S.Overland highway(later to become U.S.highway 80).A fundraiser was held where people bought roosters for $50.00 including President Wilson and several foreign heads of state back in early 1900's.The bridge was delayed when several people defaulted on their pledges and didn't open until 1925 (and every highway and bridge ever built in Alabama has suffered the same delay fate since 1925). 

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7:30 a.m pass mile marker 183 and riverbank is changing to mud and sand and begins to meander east and west in sweeping bends.This will be really pronounced when we get further south. 

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8:20 a.m. slow down and idle for a bathroom,tea and granola bar break. We pass under a raised railroad bridge. I comment that the middle span is raised much higher than any towboat I've ever seen and Mike explains that is for the mast of motorized sailboats to clear....The corps requires railroads to have bridges that either swing open or capability of raising the bottom of the span to 55 ft. Obviously if you have a sailing boat with mast higher than 55 ft. you can't go up inland rivers.... Mike had e-mailed one of his friends who has traveled extensively by boat about the marina owner giving us the keys to his truck and the tomatoes. His phone beeps and it's a text message from that friend who said: "wonderful people live in real places".....a simple statement with a lot of depth. 

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9:20 a.m. we see our first Spanish moss hanging from trees and little further on pass the towboat Eva Kelley pushing coal barges. 

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9:50 see our first gator swimming across river...big one too. 

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 10:45 a.m. Mike was driving and I had cut my cell phone off. We had been passing through areas where the phone was constantly searching for a signal which really uses your battery up. I had a cell phone jack which I could plugged into a power receptacle in boat but it was hassle to get it out of locker. Turn phone on and get good signal so I text a progress report. We pass south bound towboat right above Bobby's Fish camp. We have to stop and refuel and I know it's gonna be a race to get to lock ahead ofvtowboat. We refuel as quickly as possible, jump back in boat and I run wide open and Dumarse wins by about 2 towboat lengths. We are getting shameless now and radio lockmaster and towboat if we could lock through first because we are trying to get to Mobile before dark.....Thanks to a kind lockmaster and towboat Captain, they let us lock through first. First time on the trip, we are asked the name of our boat (and we have to spell it but don't get any comments) and our registration number..I have it written on top of locker with felt pen because I expected to have to read it at every lock..as we exit lock we thank the lockmaster and towboat captain and comment on what a pleasure it has been locking through all way down the Tombigbee..we get a really nice thank you and safe trip wishes in return...text my friend Leroy with estimated time of arrival in Mobile and ask him if he knows how far it is to Dreamland ribs in Mobile from where we are staying...also call Mobile Delta marine and make reservations for a 2 person cabin for the night.... 1:55 p.m. meet another sno-bird trawler northbound and enter one of more scenic stretches of Tombigbee.long straight stretches bordered by almost white sand and then gentle bends that you have to look at the GPS to determine which direction you are traveling .Some bends are so long that you are almost pointing due north before the river bends back south again. 

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2:10 p.m. Mike points out first seagulls on a sand bar. 

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2:30 p,m. thunderstorms begin building ahead of us...Banks of the river are starting to change.Hills and long stretches of sand bars are slowly changing to low strips of land and we can see bayous leading back into swampy areas. ----------------------------------- 

3:15 slow and put rainsuit tops on then quickly the storm is on top of us...we start looking for a place to pull in. 

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3:25 nose on bank riding out thunderstorm... heavy rain for about 20 minutes but no real close lightning. 

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3:50 we head downriver and run in and out of light rain for next 30 minutes..Mike pulls up Google Earth on his cell phone and between it and our GPS, we figure out which fork of the river to take to lead us down west side of Mobile Delta to marina. We turn into a twisting bayou that we believe marina is located in...1/2 mile or so up bayou we see two young guys in bass boat and ask them to make sure..they confirm we are headed in right direction. 

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5:00 p.m. tie off at Mobile Delta marina. 

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Marina and check in station close at 4:00 p.m. (more on that later) but we've been told to find a security guard and pay him our $30 cash for renting our cabin .... Mike takes care of that while I load our stuff on the dock and send our off water text "crocs on dry land-Mobile" to family/friends.....when he gets back,we back boat out further on pier to get it away from the launch ramp which runs right beside the pier. I grab a load (much lighter than Mikes) and head for our cabin couple hundred yards away around the end of a small lake...This might be the smallest cabin I've ever stayed in...it had a twin size bed and two bunks beds, a tiny table,one light and a very important A/C unit stuck in the wall...no sheets, no pillows, no bathroom and no internet....it did however have a sign out front telling you not to feed the alligators...for $30 a night you can't expect many luxuries and we actually enjoyed staying there. 

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I call Leroy and he is 4 exits north on I-65.Mike and I get out our laptops, Mike cranks up his cellphone internet signal getter and we do our e-mail opening and answering sitting at a wood table on front porch.... This place prior to being taken over by city of Mobile was called Dead Lakes marina...they have campsites and number of RV sites, most occupied, a marina store with limited supplies and 4 small cabins with a bathhouse about 100 yards from from our cabin... Phone rings and Leroy says he is here but he can't find us,I tell him to look across parking lot where I'm waving at him from our front porch...We walk down to the dock and Mike takes Hudson for a ride in Dumarse..Hudson is a really neat young man but as his dad says, may be the most unfocused and fishing obsessed young man in Alabama....He comes by the unfocused part genetically and I may be guilty of feeding the fishing obsession part...Lot of the tournaments I fish, they give away sample packs of lures and I save them for Hudson. Over the years my fishing room has accumulated more fishing lures than I'll ever use in my lifetime so couple times a year I gather up some of it and either take it by to Hudson or mail it to him....and we swap e-mails of fish either of us catch...It doesn't help that they live surrounded by several good fishing ponds which interferes with Hudson's after school home work.. Mike and Hudson return and we load up for trip to Dreamland about 15 miles down the interstate (which runs right by the Marina)....Leroy wants to stop and buy us some sheets for our beds but we convince him that sheets are not necessary at all....a bed with some rolled up dirty clothes for a pillow is a luxury compared to all those nights we had spent in a pup tent on Miss river duck hunting trips.....forgive me for digressing a minute but Mike when he was young, loved to hunt and fish so much he would never complain no matter how cold or miserable he got..One night we were camping during duck season and it was really cold.. He let our labrador retriever get in sleeping bag with him,lab was wet and he catches pneumonia and missed school for a week. Both of us had to beg his mother for permission to go next time. 

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Marina doesn't sell gas so Mike and Leroy grab almost empty 12 gallon tank out of boat and we put it in trunk of car for filling up at convenience store on way back from Dreamland...7 p.m. we pull in Dreamland and enter restaurant...For those not familiar with Dreamland, it opened back in 50's by a black man who started selling ribs only in a little shack in Tuscaloosa, Ala., and over the years gained a reputation as probably the best ribs in America. They have several locations now including the one in Mobile and the ribs are very, very good. Mike and I split a slab and they bring out the traditional plate of sliced bread that you dip in the sauce and eat while you wait for your ribs..I've noticed for several nights that I have a little more pronounced case of "sea legs" while I'm sitting in the booth....I catch myself rocking back and forth involuntarily which is caused by being in a boat all day. Mike says he's going through same thing.... We have a really enjoyable meal...takes a special friend to make a 300 mile round trip, take you to great barbeque place then not let you pay for it.In fact we had to fight over who was going to pay for our gas....Leroy and I worked together for several years until the mid 80's and he tells me that he is forwarding my daily e-mail descriptions of our trip to people we both know and our trip has generated quite a following...He says it's kind of cool to get a first hand description of our trip same day instead of rushing to the office each morning to read about our trip...Hudson chimes in that he could access his e-mail with his cell phone at night but he doesn't know how....that is so true of many of us older folks...not only is Mike a good pack mule and co-pilot but computers, cell phones and GPS units are child's play for him and all of those are proving invaluable on this trip.......Later, I ask Mike if he thought if Hudson enjoyed his ride in Dumarse and he said "he was looking, talking and smiling a mile a minute." 

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Leroy drops us off and we thank them profusely for coming to see us..after quick shower in bath house.I do brief description of our day and e-mail family and friends plus put similar post on BFHP......I look at responses to our progress report and they already have a route showing our progress from Minnesota and now the red line extends all the way from Minnesota to Mobile...which brings me to the reason for the title of today's journal. "When you leave Minnesota....and smell salt water,you have crossed the United States from top to bottom" When I planned this trip, one of my major concerns was crossing 35 miles of open and wind swept waters of Mobile Bay...weather calls for light winds and thunderstorms so we want to get an early start and get across before sea breeze kicks in. 202 miles today...longest distance covered for the trip in one day

Early morning departure from Demoplis, AL.
Birds look for trapped minnows on shelf below lock gate
Dangerous and inadequately marked falls beside Demopolis lock
River winds around and runs north in places
Smallest cabin I've stayed in (but a/c worked good)
Best meal of trip..ribs at Dreamland..Mobile,Al.
Dumarse track from Minneapolis to Mobile

Day 15 

Today was a good day...Today was a bad day 


While Mike carries load of stuff to boat, I detour by marina office/store to get bag of ice and our $20 key deposit. Guy at desk says we have to wait a few minutes while someone goes to check room to make sure you didn't steal any of the furniture (all three pieces of it) or damage anything...He's smiling when he says it...and I smile, and tell him "it is highly unlikely that anyone would ever be hard up enough to steal anything out of those rooms except possibly as firewood....I had noticed the night before big sign on restrooms/showers that "this facility will be closed from 6:30-7:00 a.m. for cleaning." While I'm waiting, ask guy at desk if he was going to pick a time for bathroom closing, most inconvenient for his customers,what time would it be? He doesn't know so I help him out by saying 6:30-7 a.m. (and that might be why there's so many brown spots in the grass around the cabins)...also add that losing office/store at 4 p.m. and not having a gas pump at at a marina makes no sense whatsoever. Obvious they are running this place for convenience of the employees instead of the customers. Nice people and convenient place for us to stop but just another example of why resorts and marinas should not be operated by any govt. entity. Idle out of marina at 6:30 a.m. and run about half speed down the bayou until we hit the Tensaw river. Weather is looking more unsettled as we run down the last 16 miles where it opens into the bay. 

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6:55a.m. light rain starts and we slow down and put rainsuits on. Shortly after, we run under the old Highway 90 bridge then under the I-10 bridge and we can see the open bay ahead and Mobile skyline off to our right. The bay looks calm but about 10 miles out the wind starts quartering across the bay from the southwest and waves are starting to build....wind is getting stronger and waves higher as we near Point Clear. We are only able to run about half speed and we are going to have to veer out and around this long point. About halfway out, all this bouncing around causes us to slow down and take a bathroom stop. While we're idling along,both of us notice the wind dying.We get back up on plane and the waves are starting lay down a little. Had the wind continued, we would have to tie off someplace halfway down the bay because it was just getting too rough to continue. For whatever reason, the waves seem to build much quicker and die much quicker in salt water than in fresh water....Wind lays down but some ominous clouds are forming on the eastern bank out toward the mouth of the bay where we are headed. 

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9 a.m. wall of rain just ahead coming toward us,we are running about 100 yards outside the docks extending out from eastern shore and I see one that is empty and offers shelter so I turn toward it.Manage to idle under it just as downpour hits. Mike comments "Good call Dad....enough thunder and lightning to make us glad we are under this boat house we try to pick wooden docks instead of ones with metal pilings or roofs)..after 20 minutes or so the thunder and lightning move off. Rain is still coming down pretty good but we decide to idle out and run slow toward the intracoastal.We are both anxious to turn that corner in case wind comes back up. 

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10:02 a.m. and we turn eastward into the Intracoastal waterway....a important milestone to me because I had worried about crossing Mobile Bay since I started planning this trip...I text family/friends "Mobile Bay in rearview mirror...big,big concern behind us...Dumarse east bound in the rain." 10:15 a.m. meet a west bond towboat pushing several barges sort of welcome sight....lot of docks and nice homes along this stretch of intracoastal but very little boat traffic. Notice thunderstorms building north and straight ahead of us. 

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11:06 a.m. cross Perdido Key pass and enter Perdido Bay. This bay looks small on map but there's enough open water to make the ride pretty bumpy....soon as we enter the I/C at east end of bay, we enter a long idle zone about the same time a heavy rain storm hits us...we idle along for couple miles sometimes with both bilge pumps running to keep up with rain falling in the boat. 

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11:36 Mike points out State of Florida welcome sign and DNR officer in boat patrolling the idle zone. Little further up the canal we see piles of oil spill booms piled on bank and several guys in rainsuits stacking it in piles. --------------------------------------------- 

12:30 we cross Pensacola pass. Mike is driving and I can see huge ocean swells and waves at mouth of pass about 250 yards to our right...Tide must be going out because there is strong current flowing out of the pass...We angle to our right after we cross the pass and head straight toward the bridge connecting Gulf Breeze with Pensacola. Mike has a friend (Kirk Newkirk) who owns a business near the bridge plus there's a motel where he intends to spend the night prior to catching a plane back to Atlanta tomorrow...In retrospect we should have veered much more to the right and got much nearer the island but the circuitous route would have added several miles to reach the bridge. 

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For first couple of miles we were fine running straight up the bay then the whole sky seemed to turn black on north side of bay. A big thunderstorm had suddenly formed and typical of these storms, this one started sucking air across the bay into it. The wind went from 5 mph to 20-30 mph in minutes and waves started building immediately. I told Mike to turn as far right as he could toward land and still keep the boat quartering into the waves. We turned the bilge pump on and for next 30 minutes we fought our way over and through waves until we finally got in the wind shadow of the island..One time the wind was really blowing hard and when I looked at GPS, we were running 10-12 mph. Told Mike to give it more gas and he said "motor is wide open". It wasn't a life-threatening situation, worst-case scenario would be for wave to break over front and boat to fill up with water. We would of had to pull emergency beacon and have somebody come fish us out of the water and drag our boat in. Resolved right then and there, when this trip is over, no more salt water for Dumarse...Also learned these bays look small and protected on maps and Google earth. The reality is they are much bigger than I thought, especially looking at them over the front of a 16ft jonboat...Also I have no concerns about Mikes ability to drive a boat through rough water now. 

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We find a marina at the bridge who tells us we can tie up for couple hours only, all of their slips are rented to boats engaged in the oil spill circus going on...more on that later...we walk across the causeway and spot Kirk coming out of his business (pontoon boat/tour boat/jet ski rentals). He is headed someplace to meet someone so we tell him we will get with him after lunch and we head for the Surf burger restaurant/bar upstairs over his business..Mike had grabbed his laptop out of boat and he confirms his seat on flight next day while we wait on our food....a really good cheeseburger after 14 days of ham sandwiches for lunch...We also pull up the weather and radar indicates the T-storms are dissipating. Lunch over, we go downstairs and visit with Kirk. Mike has known and competed with Kirk for years in catamaran sailing races all over the country..Kirk wants to know all about the trip and thinks we are a liitle crazy for doing it...We point out, this is coming from a man who routinely competes (as does Mike) in 500-mile ocean races in a small catamaran often finishing late at night with nothing but a handheld GPS to guide them to the finish line...I'm still a little concerned about being caught in the wind out in the bay but Kirk assures me there is plenty of depth to run along the shore all the way up Penscola Bay and most of Ft. Walton Bay that I'll be crossing in the morning. 

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Mike and I go back to boat and we run under bridge and around to a small motel he knows right down the street..we tie off at motel pier and he checks in..we go to his room and pull up weather again and looks like storms are over with today ..Debated whether to just spend night and start in morning but I really need to go on another 35-40 miles to Ft Walton so I won't have so far to travel to Apalachicola the next day... 4:00 p.m. Mike and I hug each other and I reluctantly idle away from the pier and head east...I talked to Mike after I got to Ft. Walton and he told me, "when you idled out, I felt just like iIdid as a kid when I'd see you leave and wanted to call out, 'Don't leave me Dad!. Take me with you!" 

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Wind was light and I was able to run up middle of bay all the way to Ft. Walton. Right before I got to end of bay, I noticed two helicopters in distance hovering above the water and looked like a man dropping into the water. As I got nearer a power boat with what looked like commandos in it would circle the area where the man dropped out of the copter...I think the powerboat was there to keep other boats from running through the area and possibly hitting one of the divers if he popped to the surface . I veer over to far edge of channel and gave them a wide berth. 

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Get almost to Ft. Walton bay and spot a marina, restaurant and motel right before the I/C opens into the bay..Tie off and go into the Crab Shack marina/restaurant and ask about leaving my boat overnite. Head bartender lady says marina owner isn't here and she will have to call him. I go next door to motel to make sure they have rooms. When I get back to restaurant, the lady tells me it will be $60 per night ... I tell her that's far too much for a 16 ft boat that doesn't need electricity or water..She tells me to try a marina 200 yards further down the I/C. Idle around to the Boat marina and tie off..Go inside and owner (James Tucker) has seen my boat and asked where I was going..tell him a little about my trip and he said "I could tell you were on a long trip"...We talk for a little while and I ask him what his charge for overnight mooring is and he tells me, there's no charge ... turns out he's from Columbus, Ms,. and I tell him about my great experience with the folks at Waverly marina in Columbus, Ms. Carry my stuff down street to motel and check in....Motel owner comments because of oil spill worries, tourists have quit coming to Ft. Walton.. He has ten rooms out of 70 rented and usually is full with waiting list. He charges me $49 a night and tells me his rate normally is $109. 

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Boat marina doesn't have ice so have to fill up a waste basket from the ice machine and carry it back to my boat. Before trip ends, I'll give you my opinion of my Coleman "5 day" cooler that requires 2 bags of ice a day.While I'm draining water out of my cooler and putting more ice in, a lady walks out on deck of a houseboat next to me...I speak to her and we talk a minute or so about my trip. Wasn't real happy with the way I had to tie my boat off at this slip so before I leave, ask her if she would mind if I gave her my cell number to call me with if a storm came up during the night and my boat needed re-tying or was in any danger of getting full of water...My automatic bilge pump that I bought to pump water out of the boat in case it rains when it's moored overnight hasn't worked entire trip. I'll discuss it when I tell you about my cooler..... Didn't really want to eat at the Crab Shack next door because of what they wanted to charge me for mooring my boat but don't have another choice nearby. Not real hungry after the late lunch so I order a cup of gumbo.It was the thick kind, full of rice, shrimp and sausage and very good.... Back in room, I catch up on e-mails and send brief description of the day to family/friends plus post it on fishing forum...note that the long miles we've put in last few days has pushed childrens fund to over $2,500. Today was a good day in that we got across Mobile Bay and Pensacola Bay safely...Today was a bad day in that I had to leave Mike in Pensacola....I'm thankful and blessed to have had him with me for a great week... but still,.me and the room are a little empty tonite. 128 miles today...1,758 in rear view mirror.

Winding bayou leads from fish camp out to Tensaw river
Open water of Mobile bay is intimidating in a small boat
Ominous clouds building on eastern shore of bay
Time to get under a dock
Another rainstorm..this time on the intracoastal
Really rough water is behind us

Actual GPS track...google image does not do justice to how big this bay is...note sharp turn toward shore and track next to bank rest of day

Day 16

It's a long ways to the bank in this lake 


Idle out of marina at 5:55 a.m. Break out into Ft. Walton Bay in a few minutes. Cross the pass with no difficulty, but morning breeze starts picking up. It's out of the east, the worst possible direction, and waves start building. Pretty soon, I'm running half speed and still bouncing and banging pretty bad... This bay is big, 30 miles long and 4-5 miles wide, and I've got to travel entire length to get back into the Intracoastal... Fortunately, there are several long points jutting out into the bay on southern edge that block the east wind... The negative part is that the water is shallow and there are a lot of sandbars at low tide... Too shallow to run over, as I soon found out... Forgot to mention, yesterday afternoon, the depthfinder part of my GPS/chartplotter unit quit working when I was up on plane... Worked fine at slow speeds and thought the transducer had gotten kicked up, but I pushed it back into what I thought was right position and it just wouldn't work. Hook up my back up flasher but it kept losing contact with the bottom, also. 

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In spite of that, I was not going to get caught out in middle of one of those bays again, and would just take my chances on running aground a few times... I turn right and angle toward the shore... You're not apt to hurt anything running over a sandbar and worst-case scenario was that I'd have get out and push boat off... Also, willing to take twice as long to follow the shoreline as it would running straight down the bay. I've had all the rough water I want to put up with on this trip... Water is clear and I manage to dodge several shallow bars, but skeg started bumping as I went over one and I let off the gas. Had to raise motor up, put it in shallow water drive and ease off... Probably had I not let off the gas, it would have bumped a couple times and made it over. This boat will run in about 16 inches of water when it's on plane, and several times I felt the boat rise a little, which is caused by the hull compressing water against the bottom. If you are lucky, you can ride that bubble under the boat across a short shallow stretch, but not a long stretch. I'm guessing about 20 yards is the limit, and then you're gonna be pushing or poling to deeper water. Had one more sandbar little later in morning that I had to idle off after I grounded the boat. Makes me a little nervous at first running 18-20 mph in mostly 2-3 ft deep water, but I got used to it... Sun was shining brightly and wind was blowing just enough to help me see the water rippling across the really shallow bars.

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7:00 am. ... Only covered 14 miles in the first hour, but shoreline straightens out and by 7:27 a.m., I've traveled 27 miles and far enough up the bay to where it narrows. Wind has slacked off and I can get out toward channel and run in straight line toward I/C entrance. 

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9:20a.m. ... Enter I/C, slow down, text family/friends with progress report and call Mike. He tells me he got up this morning "and felt like he needed to be on boat, something was definitely missing." ... He was getting ready to go the airport for his 1 p.m. flight. 

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9:00 a.m. ... See a drift line in middle with several small logs and limbs and what appears to be patches of grass. As I run alongside it, realize it is floating pine needles, apparently blown into the water by yesterday's storms... This part of I/C is really pretty, ha very little development and almost no boat traffic. I had been warned that that some of the sportfishermen, small yachts and even towboat threw off monstrous waves in this waterway, but I didn't have a problem all the way across.

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9:20 a.m. ... GPS indicates 51 miles traveled. 

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9:30 a.m. .. Pass "Wild Thang," a big airboat converted to tour boat with several people sitting in seats, on a large deck, in front of the operator... They are running right along shoreline and as usual it's making heck of racket.

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9:40 a.m. ... Right before entering western-most bay at Panama City, the engine changes pitch slightly and I slow down and see some grass caught on front of lower unit... When you have listened to an engine for 1600 miles, you detect the slightest change in sound or RPMs... While I'm idling, call friend of mine who promised to help me run last 80 miles up through rapids/rocks on Flint River. He is one of more knowledgeable boaters on Flint and I know my chances of making it are better with him in boat... Also , I know his sister is critically ill and he may not be able go with me.. Get some real disheartening news... According to him, the river is really at low stage and they are not releasing enough water upstream. He feels our chances are pretty slim that we will be able to make it. He promises to look at river, talk to another guy we know, get his opinion and call back.

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9:55 a.m. ... Intracoastal buoys extend couple miles out into the bay, then just stop... There's a series of large connected bays around Panama City and I know the I/C exits east out of one of them.. I zoom out on GPS chart, but not sure where the exit is. I'm sitting out in this big bay and barely see the far shoreline... I see a sport fishing boat headed toward me, so I flag these guys down and ask them... They point toward a radio tower on far shoreline and tell me to run to that and then go under the bridge... I tell them I'm headed to Apalachicola and ask if there's a marina along this route... One of them comments "that's a small boat to go that far."... Wish I could have captured the look on their face when I replied "It's not that far when you've come from Minneapolis."... Then I had to tell them a little about my trip... They leave, I'm sure shaking their heads.

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It's several miles across that bay, thankfully the wind was light and when I get closer there are several radio towers scattered up and down the shoreline... There's a bridge a few miles to my left and one equal distance to my right... Zoom out the GPS and there's a bay behind both bridges and still can't figure out where I/C entrance might be and there's no buoys to follow... I turn left and run up to the next bridge, zoom my GPS out again and it's not showing the intracoastal leading out of this bay... There's a small cabin cruiser coming by and I flag him down. A really nice guy named Bill Mayhugh stops, agrees the Intracoastal is poorly marked and tells me to follow him,he is going in that direction and when we get below the bridge he will point me in exactly the right direction... We stop below the bridge and talk a few minutes, I tell them about my trip. He has several, I assume, grandkids and kids' friends on board, from 8-14 years old, and they think my trip is "really cool."... I take a picture of yet another good Samaritan and am on my way in the right direction.

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10:55 a.m. ... Refuel at St. Andrews marina... When I walk in marina to pay, I spot a small glass dolphin and buy it on the premise that a glass dolphin, no matter how cheap and tacky, is a far better souvenir for your wife than a bag of dirty laundry.

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11:30 a.m. ... Am in last large bay and see T-storm building ahead and start veering toward bank. Lightning starts flashing and I head directly toward bank. 

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12:02 ... Shove nose on bank and barely able to get rainsuit top on as typical Florida torrential rain falls... Lot of lightning all around me and twice it hits uncomfortably close... Everything gets wet, including me from waist down, because I didn't bother to put rainsuit bottom on... Rain lets up a little and I use rainsuit bottom as tablecloth over back seat to make sandwich on... Text family/friends progress report. Get a call from Hans Hlawaty, the young kayaker who I met on upper Mississippi, he asks about my progress, then tells me he's stuck in St. Louis. Seems they closed the river at St. Louis to a 100 miles south to pleasure boats a few days after I went through... He asked about the current in the Ohio and if I thought he could pedal upstream against it for the 40-plus miles to the Tenn. Told him I thought the current was about 2-4 mph, but river was high and he could hug the bank and get out of a lot of it. He mentioned he was going to get on Craigslist and see if he could find someone to carry him south to Ohio river. ... Thought about it later and wish I had suggested for him to get somebody to carry him about 20 miles south of St. Louis and put him back in river. If he stayed near the bank, no one would have ever seen him going downriver.

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12:50 p.m. ... Idle out to channel in light rain. 

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12:55 p.m. ... Intracoastal buoys resume, and 1/2 mile later, enter mouth of I/C.

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1:15 p.m. large T-storm passing across in front of me... Lightning strikes downward from left side of storm so I slow to an idle to give it more time to pass over... Light rain falling that quits as storm passes.

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1:35 p.m. ... GPS indicates we've come 107 miles from Ft. Walton... Pass several "No Wake" zones, posted by dock owners, but no boats are tied up to docks, so I stay on plane... Not real sympathetic to lakeside home or dock owners... This is lot like building your house on busy highway and putting speed limit sign in your front yard. If there is boat or people at a dock in narrow waterway, I will slow down but feel like they are encroaching on public water and need to put a boat lift and get their boat up so that wakes won't disturb it.

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1:50 p.m. ... Continue to be surprised at how pretty this stretch of Intracoastal is... Expected a narrow ditch and if it wasn't for some of its long straight stretches, you would think this is a natural waterway. Huge long leaf pines and cypress trees along the bank with scattered stretches of white sandy bank and sand dunes. Maybe the prettiest waterway you never heard of... Pass two cabin cruiser type boats sunken within a mile of each other. 

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2:25 p.m. ... Pass sign pointing to St. Joe marina. GPS indicates 5-mile canal leading all the way to Port St. Joe Fl. and the Gulf. Realize that I haven't seen a boat or fisherman for 40 miles. 

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2:50 p.m. .... Enter Wimico, a 5-mile long natural lake that the I/C runs through... Wind and waves starting to build from south and thought I might have some problems crossing the open water, but about mile out into the lake, the wind is blowing as hard as ever but the waves change to wind-blown ripples... Really pretty cypress lined lake with submerged grass in middle. Looks like bass fishing heaven... Notice my depthfinder is working perfectly now.

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3:30 p.m. ... Intracoastal empties into Apalachicola River and I can see bridge leading into town.Wind is blowing up river and creating really rough water in river, but I am able to hug the bank and avoid most of it for the 5-6 mile run. 

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4:00 p.m. ... Pull into marina, refuel and tie Dumarse off for the night. Walk next door to motel to get a room and they are booked solid... Media and everybody else who has figured out how to make a dollar off the oil spill circus is in town. Lady at desk tells me I might be able to get a room at a restored Inn up town... Walk back and there's CNN bus in parking lot, and people start piling out, headed into motel....Walking down sidewalk wondering what to do and see couple young guys standing beside older pick-up... Ask the driver if he wants to make easy $5 by taking me to a motel. He agrees and he suggests Water Street Inn just up the street. I grab my stuff out of boat and we head to motel. I ask him to wait while I check to see if they have rooms.They do but are $209 per night. Decide to take my chances and see if Best Western on edge of town or motel across street from it has rooms at better price. Ask young guy if will take me out there and he says no problem... On the way out to edge of town, he tells me the oyster houses are really having problems... They have no oysters because all the oyster men are riding around looking for oil and getting paid more money each day than they ever made digging up oysters... As far as he knows, nobody has seen any oil. Both motels are sold out and it becomes apparent it's pay $209 a night, or sleep in the boat... Back to first motel and I'm hoping they still got that $209.00 room I turned down, they do and give me the $199 rate. Walk back out and give my my taxi man $5.00 and a $15.00 tip... He tells me to try "Up the Creek" oyster bar and restaurant right down the street for dinner.

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Soon as I get settled into my very nice room, I text family and friends that I'm off water...Call Peggy and tell her where I am and she immediately informs me that's where she and our daughter wanted to stay last summer on a trip here, but it was too expensive... Also tell her trip is probably over tomorrow night and she might want to ride down to Seminole. Couple of my friends are down there fishing and want to take me to eat at restaurant where I'll be taking my boat out...Haven't heard from friend who was going to to ride up Flint with me, so I call him and he reiterates that he has checked and he feels the river is just too low... Another friend had checked the operating hours of the Lake Seminole Lock and Dam for me and lockmaster had told him I had to get to Seminole before 3:30 p.m. to be able to lock through and he had heard Flint River was low also.

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Walk down to restaurant and order a blackened grouper sandwich... Very good and great view watching the sun go down over the river, but I really can't enjoy it... Just too disappointed in not being able to finish my trip all the way to Albany. 

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When i get back to room, I send e-mail to family/friends with brief description of the day plus put a post on fishing forum about having to terminate the trip... Fortunately, a young guy I know read the post and came to my aid the next day.

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Butch Tucker calls and we confirm plans to meet and eat dinner next night at Big Jim's on Lake Seminole... Few minutes later, Scott Gatlin calls and wants be at Seminole when I get there... Tell him mid-afternoon is good estimate of arrival time. We have a small RV trailer that we keep at Spring Creek resort and he says he will have A/C unit wide open when I get there.

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143 miles today...1,901 total for trip.

Intracoastal waterway between Ft. Walton beach and Panama City
Panama City Bay....long ways to bank in this lake
Thunderstorm at east end of Panama City Bay
Nose on bank...a little safer than open water during t-storm
Intracoastal Waterway between Panama City and Apalachicola, FL
Cypress trees line stretches of the Intracoastal
GPS track of day 16...note Dumarse staying close to the bank after rough water yesterday

Day 17 

It ain't over til it's over 


6:30 a.m. ... Wake up and walk into living room and see this most beautiful sunrise coming up over the marsh and small fishing boat idling down river... Hurry back to bedroom and grab camera,step out on patio and realize the patio is screened from top to bottom and camera is picking up the screen and blurring the picture. Once in lifetime photo opportunity and I missed it. Back in room packing up my stuff and cell phone rings... It's a call from Iraq... One of our miltary support staff has been following my trip and calls to congratulate and wish me well on the final leg of my trip... He is from north Florida, we chat briefly and agree to meet when he is back in the states and in my area. That call I didn't expect.... When I opened my laptop, I've got a bunch of e-mails wishing me well, as did a number of people on the fishing forum.

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Go downstairs a little after 7:30 and ask if their golf cart shuttle is available to take me back to the marina. Nice lady at the desk named Nedra tells me if I can wait just a little while until her relief gets here, she will drop me off at marina on her way to her second job. She shows me her car and tells me to load my stuff and she will be there shortly. It's a new Chrysler 300 and when I open the door, there's a Bible on front seat. What a contrast to some of the cars I've climbed into on this trip. On way to marina, Nedra asks about my trip and tells she works for the city in the court house and is ready to retire. She says she has worked at two jobs most of her life and now wants to spend her remaining years traveling... I thank her when she drops me off and tell her, "I hope you enjoy your retirement as much as I have mine." ---------------------------- 

8:05 a.m. ... Idle out of marina and head north...Most days I'm anxious to put some miles behind me early, today I'm not... Call Peggy a few miles up the river and tell her about the call from Iraq and had little trouble getting the words out... She asked me if I was crying and I told her that grouchy old codgers don't cry, but my eyes were misting pretty bad.

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8:45 a.m. ... Start to see shantyboats on each side of the river... First boats of these type I've seen on entire trip... These look like either hunting or fishing camps, and I see only one or two all way up river with anybody on them... These boats are anchored both to trees and with bottom anchors facing the river and located in small cuts out of the main current. 

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9:20 a.m. ... Text family and friends progress report and enter area with much stronger current and water flooding out into the trees... Further up river, current slackens and water is low... Possibly high water and current is water they let through the dam for power generation yesterday and is just now reaching this far downriver.

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9:45 a.m. ... Eat last breakfast cookie... Peggy bought me a sack of Quaker Breakfast cookies and granola bars prior to my trip. They really worked out well as mid-morning/afternoon snack or as breakfast when I didn't have anything else.

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9:50 a.m. See medium-size rattlesnake swimming across river right in front of boat. I try to run over it but nothing bumped under boat so it must have dived. I circle around with camera thinking it would surface but it never did... Look cautiously over the transom to make sure it wasn't wrapped around motor.

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Phone rings while I'm idling and it's Butch Tucker telling me he had just talked to Jim Murray and he says he has checked water level on the Flint and is certain he can guide me upriver... Soon as I hang up, get a text message from Jim saying same thing... I immediately call him and he tells me we shouldn't have problem... Jim is a former BASS elite tournament fisherman and has fished and guided on Flint River for years. I have no doubt if he says we can make it up the river, we can do it... Besides I've got a spare prop and good insurance....I call Peggy and tell her to hold up on coming to Seminole tonite..Look at my watch and realize I need to get going. I'm still a long ways downriver and I've got to get to the lock before 3:30 p.m... First time since yesterday ,I'm anxious to get to Seminole.

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10:15 a.m. ... Pass shanty boat with small house floating below it on long rope... I slow down and take pictures. It's a dog kennel floating downstream. There's a chainlink wire cage around a kennel big enough to hold six dogs... Probably coon or deer dogs... I'm not sure if I understand the reasoning behind this, possibly to keep the smell downriver and the dogs away from the mosquitos and snakes on the bank... If rope breaks, it's going to give new meaning to the word "doggone".

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11:25 a.m ... Notice for first time, plastic head on my trolling motor is missing... Apparently I didn't tie Dumarse tight enough and a wave during the night slammed it against a piling... Lot of the marinas were designed for much bigger boats with pilings and docks were so high I literally had to climb up out of the boat.

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11:50 a.m.... Pass halfway point, am still little worried about getting to Seminole, but I'm hungry and quickly make a sandwich and dump all the remaining ham and cheese over the side to feed the turtles... I'm also sort of irritated at the Corp for not maintaining this river. Buoys have shallow bars running past them out into the channel and I also don't understand why they close the Seminole lock at 3:30 p.m. I eat my sandwich running on plane and I lose about as many potato chips as I get in my mouth. 

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12:10 p.m... Running up a pretty stretch of river but I have to be real careful. The channel swings from side to side and sandbars off the points extend almost across the river in places... Also realize you can't trust any of the buoys, at least half of them haven't been moved in years. Generally speaking, when running rivers, the deeper water is going to be on outside bends against the bank and on the straight stretches you run the middle and take your chances. Odds of hitting something are much higher on the straight stretches... Some of the straight stretches on the this river only had 2-3 feet of water. Lighter color water generally indicates shallower water so you try to run the darker water. Shouldn't be any stumps out there, but there can be logs caught on the bottom. 

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1:50 p.m. ... Meet six southbound ski-type boats with couples and children headed south...Hope they have motel reservations in Apalachicola and know how to run the river.

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2:10 p.m. ... Cross under I-10 bridge and call lockmaster on telephone... Tell him name of my boat, request permission to lock through northbound and that I expect to be at lock in 15-20 minutes. He immediately asks what time I want to lock back through. I tell him I won't be coming back through.

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2:25 p.m. ... Round bend, expecting lock gate to be open, but it wasn't... I stop just downstream of the lock and radio lockmaster on the channel... They are supposed to be monitoring. No answer, so I switch to channel 16, the emergency channel and hail lockmaster again requesting permission to lock through northbound.... Wait a few minutes and finally lockmaster comes back. "Where are you?" I tell him, right below the lock (not my first thought)... another few minutes and gate opens. L/M tells to tie off at front of lock..I idle up to next to last tie off bit and lockmaster comes out, walks halfway across the gate and yells down, "I told you to tie at front of lock." I had learned not to use the very last tie off bit, because the gates leak in the corners and water pours down and splashes several feet out into the lock. And into your boat if you're close enough... Resist the temptation to tell him "I'm the only boat in this lock and it don't make a difference where I'm tied off, just fill the lock with water and let me get the hell out of here." ... But I don't say it... If the other 40 locks I went through hadn't been so nice to me, I might have shown my true nature... I thank him when I exit and get no response, which I somehow expected.... Call Scott and tell him I'm leaving the dam and have to go by Wingates to re-fuel first. Get almost to Wingates and decide to refuel in morning so cut through Silver lake run and turn south on I-75 (boaters nickname for boat run through flooded timber in Spring creek). 

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3:30 p.m. ... Run through cut into Spring Creek resort and see Scott and another friend, Joe Bostick, standing on Spring Creek Resort dock taking pictures. Slow to an idle and turn into one of the covered slips at dock... Joe and Scott help me tie off and grab my stuff when I put it on dock... We walk off end of dock and I see kids running around everywhere. Remember they are filming a kid's movie here (Show Kidz).

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It's really hot outside and feels good to get inside in the air conditioning... Talk to Joe and Scott about the trip for little while, then they have to leave and go to a bank board meeting. Scott says just keep him posted tomorrow on my progress and he will have my truck and trailer waiting at the ramp for me... He hints the media might be there also.

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Butch Tucker and my fishing partner (in area tournaments) Allen Burkhalter will be here about 6:30 a.m., and Jim Murray plans to be here at between 6:00 and 6:30 in morning. Text friends and family that I'm off water, clean up a little and walk down to the store to see if they have Internet yet ... I had heard they were getting it for the movie people... They tell me they have Internet in the restaurant now, so I grab my laptop and head to the "Internet Cafe"... Picture, if you will, a large shed with chicken wire sides, dollar bills stapled all over the walls, and on the rafters, the air conditioning systems is a garden sprinkler on top of a tin roof... They probably have the best seafood (and atmosphere) in south Georgia... One of the cameramen for movie is sitting at a booth near a fan with his laptop open ... He sees me looking for a booth with an electrical outlet and invites me to sit across the booth from him... Piicture this, a college kid with several earrings, including one in his lip, and a ponytail, and a 70-year-old man sitting across from each other in a booth with open laptops... Wish I had thought to have a picture taken.

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Send brief e-mail to friends and family describing my day and the place I'm e-mailing from..do similar description on fishing forum.... Ask everyone to keep their fingers crossed for my prop and lower unit... Read my "fan mail" on fishing forum and note that Childrens Fund is up to $2,884.00.

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Head back to trailer and phone rings little after 6:00 p.m. It's Allen and they are pulling up to restaurant... I head back over and we spend next couple of hours eating and talking about my trip. What a difference between last night and tonight in my mood, and the grouper I had again tonight was delicious too.

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We talk briefly to the waitress about the kids here making the movie and she tells us many of them are child actors and here from all over the country with their mothers... Quite a change to come from New York of California to small fishing camp with a no frills motel in rural south Georgia... We comment this had to be a culture shock for them. Waitress said the kids love it and we did have some issues with the the mothers at first, but got all that resolved.

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Butch is taking my place in a tournament on Seminole scheduled for Saturday. This is the last of six tournaments and Allen and I are far enough up in the standings so that all they have to do is catch a few fish and we qualify for the classic this fall... They believe they can do a little better than that, and they do, but not quite enough to finish in the money... They don't have a motel room yet and I invite them to stay in trailer with me... Allen sleeps on couch, Butch takes cushions from the dinette set that's supposed to make into bed (we couldn't figure out how)... Puts them on floor and I get the bed in deference to my age, and ownership of the trailer... 10:30 p.m. and it's lights out. 

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127 miles today ... 2,011 total for trip

 
Shantyboat with dog kennel tied off downstream(riopes breaks-gives new meaning to word doggone)
Apalachicola River midway to Lake Seminole
Approaching Lake Seminole dam
Last of 41 locks closes behind me
I idle into Spring Creek resort on next to last day

Day 18

Dream lived Journey complete 


5:30 a.m. Allen raps on door. Know that there will people at ramp when I finish today so I rummage around in overnight bag and like the Johnny Cash song (Sunday Morning Coming Down) I pick out "my cleanest dirty shirt." 

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While I'm getting ready to go, I hear "little" Jim Murray drive up..He's called "little Jim" because his Dad is a great big fellow that everyone calls "Big Jim"....I've known and fished against his dad for years and watched little Jim grow up to be fine fisherman (and person).....Allen shows up with a bacon/egg sandwich for me from the little restaurant(and it was a very good breakfast). 

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Jim and I throw our stuff in Dumarse at 6:30 a.m. and head out into the lake with Allen and Butch follow us for a little ways taking pictures in his boat. We run up Spring Creek and take Silver lake run over to Wingates on Flint River...Jim goes inside to tell them to turn gas pump on and I fill the front tank plus put two more gallons in rear tank. We don't know exactly what the mileage is to Albany but estimate it at somewhere around 120 miles...I'm out of sandwich supplies so I buy couple packs cheese crackers and closest thing they have to granola bars is Payday candy bars..I buy a couple and think,how many years has it been since I've eaten one of those. 

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Jack Wingate is sitting in his customary rocking chair and asks if we are catching any fish. I tell I'm just passing through today on my way from Minneapolis to Albany, Ga. and get this blank look and he says "Say what"...I tell him a little about my trip, he walks out and looks at my boat and just shakes his head....Later in the week, he mentions it in his weekly newspaper column and adds "I hope he makes it"...also misspelled my name but that's nothing new, I've been fishing tournaments out of Wingates for years and Jack never has spelled my name right when I did well. In fact, I think Jack invented phonetic spelling,he just never sold it on TV. 

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7:05 a.m. We idle of the cut at Wingates and turn upriver, Jim has already cautioned me "when we get in the shallow. rocky part of the river,the worse thing you can do is let off the gas"....Reason being when boat is running up on plane, the tip of the skeg under the propeller is about 15 inches below the boat,when you slow down, it sinks another 12-18 inches deeper. Not good if you are running in 2 ft of water and we frequently were...Sun is directly in our face the first hour making difficult to see but the river twists and turns enough that we are not always looking directly into it. 

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8:00a.m. pass under the bridge at Bainbridge, Ga. 

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8:50a.m. we slow down just before entering the shallow rocks and rapids part of the river...I text family/friends "30 miles upstream ... rocks, rapids ahead..fun part begins"...Jim's instructions were simple.."I'll point,you steer where I'm pointing and don't let off the gas" And for the next 60 miles we did just that ... The photo gallery will give you a far better picture of what the Flint river is like to run up than I ever could with words. 

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9:20 a.m. we cross Hell's Gate"...one of the more notorious (for tearing up boats) rapids on entire river. The water pours over rocks that extend all the way across the river. There's about a 4 ft. wide gap in the rapids in middle of river that has just enough depth to allow you to run through it then you have to take a hard left, follow a narrow trough just above the rocks almost to the left bank then hard right upstream. .. too tense a moment to take pictures...and there are many more "Hells Gates" in the next 50 miles. 

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9:55 a.m. we slow down take a break and I text a progress report "56 miles upstream...half way...what a ride"...phone starts lighting up with "Go" messages. 

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10:45 a.m. another needed break, it's been a continuous white knuckle ride (for me) for a solid hour. The depth changes constantly, we rode over a hole in the river and the depth went to 50 feet and 100 yards upstream were in 2-3 feet of water. River narrows between islands and there are 200-400 yard stretches where the current rips through narrow chutes then widens and our path leads us over rocky or sand shoals. ....Jim takes pictures with one hand and points with the other. I steer with one hand and keep firm grip on side of boat with the other......The time and miles are flying by ... Before getting back on plane, I text "passing under bridge at Newton, Ga., 65 miles upstream, 37 to go." 

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11:40 a.m. another tense stretch but rapids and really bad shoals are farther apart now....I call Scott and tell him we think we will be at ramp around 1 p.m. We eat a pack of crackers and Jim tells me the most dangerous part of running the Flint is not the rapids...He explains further that most of us can see bulges in the water ahead and we know there's a rock underneath pushing the water up so we steer to one side or another of the bulges. ...The dangerous part is the flat shallow water between rapids that may have rocks inches under the surface with a flat tops that don't cause a ripple or bulge...you absolutely have to know where those places are... Jim apparently knows every one of them because in 96 miles I felt one tiny bump that Jim later said, probably was a sunken tree limb with a branch sticking up......Thunderstorm is forming just ahead of us and before we resume, rain starts pouring, we idle another mile upstream and rain lets up. 

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12:50 p.m. neither of us know exactly where the ramp is but we have passed the Ft. Michell power plant some 5 miles south of Albany then Radium Springs (old casino/resort) just inside city limits of Albany so we know we're close. I look up ahead and see three guys standing on point of tiny cut looking downstream and know that has got to be the ramp...Turns out to be all close friends, my neighbor Jack Thompson, his son Jessie and Marvin Waddell. 

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Shove nose up on bank and shake hands, I sit back down and text family and friends "Dream Lived..Journy Complete..my heartfelt thanks to all"....in few minutes my wife,daughter and grandson arrive with hand held "welcome home signs" ... minute or so later, I look up and Scott is backing trailer down the long ramp..I run boat up on trailer and Scott pulls me short way up ramp...Phone is continually beeping wth text messages and I'm trying to talk to everybody at once when phone rings and I see it's Mike...Had to tell everybody, this is a call I have to answer....Mike tells me congratulations and how much he regrets not being there with me. 

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Jim had asked me a few miles downstream "what do you feel".. and I didn't really have an answer and still don't...Mixed emotions is probably best description... excitement at completing the trip and seeing my family and friends, a little sadness that it's over and a little amazement that I was able to do it...The entire trip I had this fear that something was going to happen to end the trip....a lot of things happened that could have ended the trip but the Man Upstairs guided me safely and a lot of people by their words or actions helped push me along when I needed it. 

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96 miles today...2107 miles total for the trip....$3,000 donated to Children of Fallen Heros charity. "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." -- Mark Twain

Spring creek run-Lake Seminole
Flint river below Hells Gate
18 days and 2107 miles later,I'm ready to put it on the trailer
GPS track...Minneapolis, MN to Albany, GA by water