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CONQUERING THE MIGHTY MISSISSIPPI: Day 7 -- Today is 'pay attention' day

Photo by Daniel Kay

Photo by Daniel Kay

Day 7

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...

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....

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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..

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...

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...

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...