Monday, November 3, 2008

Hard Labor

It was a beautiful day and one that would have been most pleasant to spend paddling. Regardless of what was going on with my family, Kobie and I were taking the day off for errands.

I only heard one train throughout the night, so slept rather well considering the stir this missed connection would cause within my family. I made the call to Robert and Ruth to see what happened and apparently they can’t see well at night, less so in the rain.

Considering I had sent our new set of river maps to Robert & Ruth, I tried to rent a car so that I could make the run to say hello and pick up the maps. They only hitch in that plan was that there is no place to rent a car in the entire Priarie du Chien area. There was no bus and the only taxi company in town wouldn’t drive the 80 miles even if I wanted to do so. With no other choice I asked Robert & Ruth if they would send the maps downriver for me to collect. I had the help of a marina that would accept the package for me and I could paddle on by and pick it up.

The town of Priarie du Chien is decentralized and of course the Wal-Mart was all the way at the south end with the sporting goods store at the north. We would have to either keep a taxi on retainer or spend all day walking to get our chores done. Or perhaps not.

As Kobie and I were going out to start our day, John and Donna, our hosts, were outside. We spoke a bit about their big project and how much work it was to build a new motel. John joked that he could use a couple of guys like us and as the words lingered in the air, he phrased his thought into a serious question. We worked it out that we would spend an hour or two doing some manual labor and they in turn would lend us a car for the afternoon to run our errands. The deal also included a Polish sausage for breakfast.

It was long since I had done manual labor, other than in the form of biking, hiking or kayaking, but I got right back into the swing of things. The vinyl siding on the building had just been finished so our first task was to clean up the remnants. Little did John know I had experience. It brought me back to my days of youth, working with my father. Outside of being a tool & die maker and playing the sax in a band, my dad used to do residential construction which included hanging vinyl siding; so I was on it. In cleaning up it got a laugh for some unknown reason seeing Kobie driving a pickup truck, heaped with trash in the back.

We did a few other odd jobs and upon finishing work we set about running our errands…in a Cadillac. Having a car in Prairie du Chien is mandatory to get anything done in a reasonable amount of time. To make our lives more difficult the roads in the center of town were blocked off so that I had to park the car and walk anyway. I missed New York. While I did have a car in New York City, it isn’t necessary with everything so close at hand.

We ran our errands, including going to a printer to have a 125 mile section of our map printed from disk, picking up groceries, mailing things off at the post office, hitting the outfitter for a new marine radio, doing laundry and feeding ourselves.

Before turning in for the night I took a look at the map to see where we were overall. I grew somewhat concerned when I noticed that we were still at a latitude that was 80 miles north of Chicago. My theory of how Chicago was founded was that a bunch of people were sitting around in New York thinking, “You know, I like the crime and poverty, but it’s just not cold enough”. Viola, Chicago was born. OK, perhaps not.

I enjoyed my stay in Prairie du Chien. And if you happen to find yourself in the Prairie du Chien area, stop at the Microtel and tell them Kevin sent you.

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