Sunday, November 2, 2008

Missed Connection

I had a great nights sleep as the ground was soft and we were away from the train tracks. There was a barge or two that came through during the night shining their lights, but compared to train noise it was a treat.

In the morning I had to evict a number of spiders that had taken up residence on the outside of my tent. We got packed up and as we were getting ready to leave, it started raining. It wasn’t a hard rain, but it was enough to warrant rain gear and make life generally unpleasant.

Our morning began by paddling through an open lake that was a Wildlife Refuge. As we paddled through, the waterfowl kept flying just ahead of us. We had no intention of causing a stir, but there were thousands of ducks, gees, etc. in the refuge that took to the sky. At one point the sky was covered with water fowl. The only similar thing I had seen was a cave in Borneo, where in the evening millions of bats exit the cave to feed.

While I was thrilled it was warm, the warm air was brought by a heavy south wind that blew in our face, kicking up waves. We just weren’t having luck paddling on lakes. The wind was different than on Lake Pepin as this was in our face, blowing spindrift from the front of our kayaks as they rode over a wave and splashed back in the water. At least the rain came straight down and was repelled by raingear, whereas the spindrift would hit me in the face.

Kobie and I pulled into a cove after a few miles to take a breather and as we emerged, the wind had slowed, helping us out. It was only six miles to the next Lock and Dam but it was in our view all of those six miles and it just didn’t seem as if it was getting any closer. It took us an hour and a half to cover the six miles in the open water of the Wildlife Refuge.

We were going to be meeting my family friends, Robert & Ruth, at the end of the day and to delay that there was barge traffic going through Lock and Dam # 9. The barge going through the lock was also oversized so that it would have to be sent through in two sections. To do that the barge gets untied in the middle, or decoupled, so that each half can go through the lock separately. The front portion of the barge, without the tug usually gets winched through until the back half of the barge can come though, be lashed back together and be on its way.

There was a second barge that had to pass through the lock before we were bale to go through, but we weren’t sure exactly what was happening as I still didn’t have a marine radio to contact the lock. On a positive note, the rain had cleared with patches of blue sky dotted about.

The wind died as we passed though the lock and there were only a few boats on the back side of the dam fishing, at least for a Sunday anyway. It could be that the rain scared them off.

I got only the sparsest coverage on my cell phone, but just long enough to lob a call to Robert & Ruth. There idea of the plan to meet was somewhat dubious as they suggested they would se us paddling under the bridge that connects Wisconsin and Iowa and meet us at the next boat ramp. I couldn’t convince octogenarians that another plan might be better, but I made sure they had my cell phone number.

Kobie and I had an abbreviated lunch out of the wind and paddled on. When I had the designated bridge in view it was nearly two miles long, a little wider than I would have thought. Not only that, but it was 200 feet tall and separated by an island. I had my doubts as if we would be spotted as there was no place on the bridge to park a car or even stand and watch for us.

We paddled under the bridge and stopped at a boat ramp in Prairie du Chien, WI. As we pulled in a fishing boat came in behind us. I asked about possible place to store a couple of kayaks and mentioned a motel run by some nice folks that could help us out.

We walked into Prairie du Chien all the while keeping an ear out for a cell phone ring. We arrived at the motel we had the pleasure of meeting Donna and John who were the proprietors and also building a new Microtel on the property. They agreed to let us leave our kayaks in one of the rooms of the old motel for a couple of days. It was a motel that had external doors so that we were able to open the door and slide them right in. I was hoping for more motels like that. As I was waiting for my phone to ring we had the chance to speak to Donna. John was hard at work on the new motel.

My phone finally rang several hours later and learned that Robert & Ruth were on the other side of the river in Iowa. No biggie, they would have to drive immediately past us to on the way home so I explained where we were and waited on the side of the road.

Again, I waited. I stood on the side of the road…in the rain…for a couple of hours. I could only guess that we were either left behind or that something more dire had happened. I hoped it was the former. I was getting a little nervous in general standing there as there were snowplows on the road. I had to get my mom to mediate and sure enough, when she rang them at home, they were there, angry. I didn’t get it, as I was the one waiting in the rain.

Donna took care of us at the motel, so we grabbed some dinner and settled in for the night, undecided as to what we would do.

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