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CONQUERING THE MIGHTY MISSISSIPPI: Day 13 -- Biscuits, boat rides and two things money can't buy

Photo by Daniel Kay

Photo by Daniel Kay

Day 13

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-year-old 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...

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