It has been a wild, wild past five days. We have not gotten much sleep at all and have been going at full speed. And again, we haven't found a minute to sit down and write about the happenings of the River life. So, here's a not-too-detailed synopsis.
On Wednesday, we became seven as Dave wandered into Keokuk, IA. He caught a bus to St. Louis, where he flew out of to Georgia for a wedding. We requested that he bring back some fancy hors d'oeuvres from the reception. The rest of the crew made it to Alexandria, MO (the first town in the state). A friend from La Crosse suggested that we keep a sharp eye out for a purple building on stilts when we come up to town. We found it and gave a holler into the bar. They came out and pointed a hundred yards down stream to an island. with a cabin on it. "It's yours for the night," they said. We beached the canoes and cleaned the cabin up a bit. It had eight bunks, a great radio station, and boxes of pictures of the guys who use the cabin for hunting. They leave it open for all the River travelers, so long as they're not looking to use the butcher block. We spent the evening with a few of the locals who were playing classic country jukebox songs and drinking Stag and Budweiser. They told to come by at 11 a.m. for a free fish fry cooked up by Duck, a volunteer bartender. That night led to a ride in the back of a pickup to the bar owner's beautiful house. On the way to the fish fry, we spotted two canoes headed south. A strange enthusiasm came over us. They were kin. We never see canoeists on the River. "How far?" Louis yelled. "All the way," they yelled back. They came over to shore after we told them we were headed to the Gulf too. They said they knew we were good folks because all they could see from the other bank was our pants rolled up to our knees and a few full-brimmed hats. We dined together at the Purple Cow (the bar) and decided the best thing to do would be to pass the day together at the cabin. So, that's exactly what we did. A couple hours later, three of us were walking down the street and spotted a kayak with gear stack all over it. He was relieved to meet the two groups. He didn't think he'd meet other crazy people doing the River. So, we were then 13 at the cabin, all paddling down the River. And, we hear about a traveling theatrical group ahead of us. We intend to meet with them in the next week.
The following day, we tried to reach Quincy, IL, to meet with Bev, Jack, and Dorothy. We couldn't do it in time, but ended up meeting in La Grange, MO. We stashed our canoes in the woods with our gear, hopped into the parents' cars, and headed to St. Louis after a pit stop at the Golden Corral buffet. Our event was that night at the Atomic Cowboy. Quite an event it was. Our good friend Brett Arndt pieced together several awesome bands (Palace, Dear Vincent, John Hardy & The Public) with DJ Mauf inside. All the music had a lot of energy and talent behind it. Thank you to everyone who helped make that event a success. We raised a good chunk of money for the Lambi Fund.
As we've traveled along, we become more passionate about the cause. We've become more adamant about selling shirts and doing everything we can to raise awareness and keep Haiti on the front of people's minds. We can't express enough how much help people in Haiti need. The Lambi Fund is very grassroots-based and is effective in their strategies to help develop the nation and its people into a sustainable, self-sufficient country.
On Saturday, the crew, along with Bev, Jack, Pam, and Jerry, toured the zoo and the rest of the city's Central Park-sized green area. It was great to get the legs moving and not use our upper bodies. The cities are a really different experience for us. It's more complex to figure out how to get around, plan a day, and meet with people. The lifestyle is much different than that of the River. Brandy, Brett's wife, made a comment about how much more slowly paced our lives are than those of the city dwellers. It's true and it becomes a culture shock to throw ourselves into it. We plan a rest day in a city, but we end up getting three to five hours of sleep because we try to fit everything in and try to meet everyone we see. We're happy to do so, but we also strongly appreciate the River lifestyles we've adopted.
That day led into a wild night. We met some awesome people who ended up being our night's tour guides. We went to the City Museum at 10 p.m. We didn't go to study the history or to contemplate artistic influences of the 18th century. No, we went to climb all over statues, ride a Ferris wheel on a roof, and take a slide ten stories down into gem caves. This was the coolest adult playground we could have possibly thought to have visited. It was stories and stories of funky artwork, swings, slides, mazes, skateboard ramps, fun people, and cave rooms made of concrete animals. I (Michael) was fortunate enough to celebrate the first hour of my birthday there. One hell of a birthday party.
Exhausted in the morning (some stayed up until 5:30 a.m. wandering around the city), we made our way back to La Grange. We have to give a SERIOUSLY HUGE thanks to Bev, Jack, Dorothy, Pam, and Jerry. They have been an amazing group of Team Parents. We would not have the opportunity to enjoy all these towns, people, and the River without their flexibility and enthusiasm. We are sad to leave them after each event, but are so grateful to have them on our side.
Today, after two days on the River, we're in Hannibal, MO. It's the hometown of the humorous author and national hero Mark Twain. Everything here is based around him and his literature. It's a fun place, though many vacant buildings stand unpainted and deteriorating. Locals we've met say that there is an effort to bring in more tourism to make blossom the high potential for fruitful business. We're waiting here for Dave to get back from Georgia. We've missed him more than we anticipated. Some have wanted to set his tent up at camp just to create a fraction of his presence. We assumed the time would pass quickly (and it did), but when we mention Dave, it seems like a lot longer than it was. Hopefully, he had as much fun as we did this past week.
Oscar just came back to the coffee shop with a bright pink ukulele with tabs for six love songs. Should be funny to hear Oscar singing "Love Me Tender" around the campfire tonight. Now that we're back on the River, we'll try to get more posts on the site. we said that last time, but clearly we've had a wild series of sleepless nights. We're doing this whole thing the way it should be done. We wanted to see the artery of this huge country. And here we are, ambling through every town, raising awareness and money, meeting the real people who make up these great states, and learning more than any classroom could ever teach us. The River, for us, is not made of water and mud. It's made of towns, changing leaves, coffee shops, people, stories, sandbars, and the River travelers we come to learn about and love. Again, thank you to everyone who has helped us and even more thanks to those who've supported the cause to help Haiti.