Little Joy slipped away from the dock and with a couple of easy strokes slide out into the middle of the Mississippi River. With one stroke of the left oar she turned with ease and was pointed South. We were off!
The river is not wide, maybe 150 yards across, with little current, here in between the twin cities of Minneapolis and St Paul Minnesota. Lijun sits in the back with life jacket on, our gear is stowed forward from the bow to my seat and I sit in the middle manning the oars. A light rain is falling as we begin our voyage down the Mississippi River.
Within a few miles we reach St. Paul. The downtown is right on the river front. We also see barges tied up on both side of the narrow river. A tow boat, the boat that pushes the barges is fired up and moving or is it? Men are moving around on deck as we go by. Okay not bad. There are two bridges on a bend in the river. Which way to go? I look at the map and choose right. Then after we pass the tow boat we saw comes through the narrow opening of the other channel. Good choice. Just past the city are long rows of barges tied on either side and a set of them with two tow boats are assembling a string of barges and angled across the river. We wait a little and scoot by. It Sunday morning Labor Day weekend, we’ve only gone about 4 miles, what is going on? I hope we are up for this.
The wind picks up a little as we leave the barges behind and head towards a more natural part of the river. The wind is strong and slows us a bit but we move on. Then a new threat comes at us. Pleasure boats. A lot of them. Apparently its a popular thing around here. We see them come down the channel some slow, some fast, it doesn’t matter to me. I move closer to the shore and let them pass. They are everything from 15 feet to 40 feet plus and they all leave a wake behind. Some wakes are kind of big and I have to turn the boat square with the wave and we bob and bounce over them, while Lijun hangs on tight with her life vest on, then turn and head down south again. I do this all afternoon. The worst are the cigarette boats at least three of them flying, 60 miles an hour maybe, right down the middle of the channel slowing for nothing. You hear them a mile away and get the hell out of the way then ride the wake. Douche Bags. Actually I’m writing this the next day. I had a much more unkind view of them yesterday. Lijun says I should just be content knowing they are unhappy people. Maybe so but…
Finally we look for a place to camp. Every suitable place seems to be occupied by pleasure boats spending the night. Desperate we find a small point a few feet above the river. We pat down the tall grass set up out tent and eat some Ramen noodles and salmon. We are in between seven boats anchored in a side channel and two on a point on an island. I crawl into bed exhausted at 8:15 and lie down. Boom! Fireworks! The guys down the point are setting them off and Lijun watches from the tent as I roll over listening to the boats behind us play bad music loudly. Its all over by 9 pm, this is Minnesota after all. I try to get some sleep.
Don’t worry not ever post will be this long. Just an exciting first day.