Where is the Crew?


Barges Need Locks. Canoeists Are Small.

We ate lunch at Alex's restaurant in La Crosse, then Eric and Danno saw us off. Out of the marina where we had hesitantly left our gear for two days, then into the Big Muddy. Three folks joined us. We were going to sleep on their floor in La Crosse, but plans changed. We still met up and traveled 20 miles with us. It was a tired day. Oktoberfest got the best of most of us the night before, leaving us drained of energy and eager to sleep. We made it to Lock #8. Dusk had passed and the stars were not bright enough to light our way down any more miles. The lockmaster jogged down to the end of the lock to suggest that we camp behind the lock on some flat ground. It was a generous suggestion and sounded a lot better than finding an island that was not flooded out after all the Midwest rain. So we set up some tents, got a $2 burger from a pub down the street, and moseyed back to find our makeshift pillows. Within a few minutes of the last tent zippers, a train came charging, barreling, and screaming down the tracks, no more than twenty feet from our tents. And it was not the last one. Some claim that over a dozen trains rolled by. Some claim five. The trains are fun to see on the side of the River. They roll north and south all day long. It's American industry hard at work. It's what Whitman wrote about- the hum and ding of a hardworking population. I think we all appreciate it, but when it scares the living hell out of you at 3 a.m., we're willing to see it take a rest.

We left this morning by 11 a.m. I guess we needed the sleep. With such a late start, we still managed to put on 31 miles. Oscar took his first stab at being being in stern. I thought we were going to take 40 miles to do 31 miles after hitting every bank 25 times. But he picked it up like a champ. We told him to point to a fixed spot and don't get off track or we wouldn't give him dinner. He's motivated by food and he impressed us all.

Today we said bye to Minnesota. We are n9ow on the border of Iowa and Wisconsin. and still, the Wisconsin bluffs stand taller, the colors are more vibrant, and the people have that extra sparkle in their eye. Maybe I'm biased. Go Pack, Go.

The end of the day was a race. We saw a barge to our left, going three time as fast as we were. With Oscar at one of the helms, we pushed hard past the 450-foot barge and got to the lock before it. With torn muscles, we were denied by the lockmaster. Barges apparently take precedent over scruffy canoeists. We asked a few carefully worded questions to the lockmaster and decided we wouldn't get fined if we ran the dam. The River's so flooded, there was no drop at all. We saved ourselves the two-hour wait and got to see the belly of a Mississippi dam. We camped soon after and saw the big ugly barge drift by in the dark. The small guy won that one. We may meet with the wonderful Wisconsin River tomorrow.

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