It all remains just a thought away…..

Well this was great too with Doobie Brothers ‘o’ Black Water music – but they took that soundtrack away…. doesen’t change a thing about how great it all was….. we just played what we were dealt…. like now.

‘doggone people !


Tom Haynie

Minnesota to New Orleans

река миссисипи

After several months of planning and improvising a craft from an old pontoon the reality was that we were actually riding the current of the mighty Mississippi River.

For a week in May and the full month of June we lived aboard our raft-like craft (below) ‘Freebird.’  It was a simplistic voyage covering 1700 + miles of The Mississippi River from Minnesota to New Orleans; our trusty kayaktraveller‘ in tow.

The links to our daily log is the right column of this page –



The scenery and activity surrounding the Mississippi River was an interesting change from the ‘normal’ setting of the Carolina’s.  The 32 days onboard were spent walking the deck, observing, and standing rather than sitting while simply ‘absorbing’ the features as we drifted by – a ‘throw-back’ of early American adventure. It helped to read-up on the river before the trip.

Beyond the perpetual motion beneath us, ‘towboats’ were the most predominant feature and # 1) topic of conversation along the river.  Other conversation points with the folks that we met along the river seemed to be unanimous at # 2) their personal desire to ‘go down the river,’ and # 3) catching and eating catfish from the river.

We took alot of pictures and learned firsthand the remarkable nature of those folks along her banks.  I can attest to the fact that the Mississippi is indeed an “interstate of waterways” –  truly the ‘backbone’ within our country in moving bulk commerce on a massive scale – in a safe manner.


From this tiny vantage point, the unexpected bonus was in surpassing New Orleans and weathering a couple of days along the Gulf’s Intercoastal Waterway.  I loved it, New Orleans to Biloxi, was an added horizon.  I did not want to get off of the water nor the trip to end – but in the end the little ‘raft’ (Freebird) was no match for the ‘rolling swells’ of the Gulf.

A tired bird in Biloxy

Of course with any adventure such as this it takes the support/words and effort of friends, family, and folks along the way to make it ‘full-circle,’ thank you – you folks know who you are.

In working back through the notes I will elaborate a little more where I couldn’t while on the river.  On the lower Mississippi cell towers were few and reception was spotty – plus there was just too much for me to take-in.  I really wanted to look around, it was time away from this computer… and it was time well spent.

For the most part the camera held our notes, as for the video’s – be reminded that my broadcast voice sucks (plus with some of those drink concoctions it really didn’t matter) what I did do was to push the button; and make a note; we did it!

Within the effort we could’ve been living a hundred years ago, on the river and floatin downstream – for those 32 days of June – that was all in the world that mattered…

My Mom riding before decommishoning the 'bird'

Mom (Marie Hilliard Haynie) a last ride in ‘Freebird’ before ‘scuttle’

The boat made it home and once back in the Carolina’s I really hated to pluck the bird’s feathers – but it had to be done.  Check the ‘Ghost of Freebird’ link over there to your right.  The simple practicality of the vessel worked well.

The complete trip was an outstanding ride on one of mother nature’s continental tear ducts;  hopefully this blog and the notes within may provide some perspective for those with a similar interest.  Check out the questions section of for more detailed answers surrounding the logistic’s of such a ride – a post for each day

lifes2short                                                                                         .                                                                          river cruise

Canoe/kayak info

Water clarity- 4 upper, 2 lower

Natural Quality – 5 (Upper Mississippi)

Difficulty – moderate, you will become advanced with time

Best thing about the water – it’s temperature

(this is a commercial waterway)

“Traveller’s” updated adventures

1000 Miles to Rivers Edge




We began this trek in Asheville, NC – and soon found that all this modern technology is not a bit of good without power…….. before traveling I had prepared everything on the truck except the lighter socket (for power), so while traveling our computer, telephones, and someone’s “Tom-Tom” died –  but not a big deal, we just couldn’t communicate while traveling (and even though it was pretty neat gadget – I’d never used a “tom-tom’ before).

So we had to make conversation and they had to trust I knew where we were going – and without the technology we still made it riverside – La Crosse, Wi (La Cresent, Minn).  This was originally a hasty post as we found a electrical receptical, waited for our rooms to get into after 16+ hours driving, and began preparing the ‘bird.



It was a busy day after traveling  so many hours, but we remained pretty much non stop until 6pm –  ‘Freebird’ slowly came together.  Jason Worley and Brian Lawrence (fellow firefighter’s) were invaluable with their assistance – their quality work would prove solid against the elements over time and the next 1700 miles of the river.

When I did put it in the water my excitement was tempered with possible motor trouble (unknown at the time it was a developing self-oiler issue), as things seemed to straighten out (the buzzer went off) all seemed fine, weight then became our concerning factor. I made a final ‘culling’ of items that I wanted and needed to take.

It was a really long day and we were tired, so we put the computer down and got ready to check out the town – at the same time we had tractor’s surrounding us at the hotel, neat.


even one old ford 8N with a flat-head ford V8 in it……..


The folks in Wisconsin were as nice and friendly as they were serious about their tractors –  as strangers it was all a refreshing sense of kindness, and on the weather side of it all the nights were cool – a sign of good things to come…



It was a long but very important day where to the largest degree planning and preparation paid-off, and left a little time for fun……..


What are you going to do with that chicken Jason?

Day 1; Eagles, Trains, and Towboats

Miles Covered:  um 700 to um 647 (53 river miles)  French Island, Wi.

Closest towns or landmark (chart): La Crescent, Mn to near Gordon’s Bay landing

Original Post date: May 28


Our first day on the river, 1800 river miles ahead – initial thoughts and hopes were for a ‘ clean’ river run with no major weather issues or delays – primary objectives for the first day was to simply get a feel of the current, a ‘taste’ the Mississippi, and to understand our fuel mileage.  A day to “earn” some river miles while acclimating to the boat and scenery.


This ride wasn’t going to be about being in a hurry.

The first of thirty-two days turned out to be a beautiful spring day; the morning breeze was at our back – the air was clear, and the river’s ‘bluffs’ stood tall and vivid on each side of the river.  As for wildlife we had sightings of about nine eagles during the day – several in the act of catching and then devouring fish near our odd vessel.


We soon found our river pace – pretty much an idle-speed with the current and gently nudged by the breeze at our backs – yet there was still a soft movement of air in our face.

The first towboats that we encountered were impressive, moving steadily against the current while pushing fifteen barges.  The vessels seemed huge at the time – later on the lower Mississippi and away from the constraints of the dams and locks, the tows regularly pushed 42 of the same large barges up the river.  The wakes from the barges were of little consequence, during the trip we found that the waves radiating from the shore line were only inconvenient.

With just a little time on the tricky current it was easy to understand the skill of the river-pilots; they showed a great deal of professionalism and a high degree of consideration with others sharing their river – the towboat pilots were great to us.


We passed through two locks on this date, no delay at # 8 and then an hour and a half wait at # 9.


Communication requesting ‘lock-through’ was friendly (vhf channel 14) – once inside the lock the attendants would drop us a couple of ropes to maintain our position.  The lock attendants on the other end of the ropes would continue to chat as the river dropped below us – an average of seven feet in just a few short minutes, neat experience.  It seemed most everyone we met had a desire to or interest in ‘going down the river’ themselves. 


For the most part railroad tracks line the ‘upper Mississippi’s eastern shore, the trains that rattled the rails were long and frequent.  On many occasions as one long train came through, an opposing train would follow 15-20 minutes later from the opposite direction (I’m sure that’s a good thing). We never really tired of the trains for they are a part of the character of the river – what we were reminded of though experience was that the closer to a city that we tied-off (for the night) the more often trains would blow their horns (at all the crossings!) “doggone trains!”


We noticed the small communities that ‘popped-up’ around the bends, also with that were fishermen.  Along with the fishermen were their families holding their poles in one hand and a friendly wave from the other – leaving us to think and remark that there must be more than catfish in the Upper Mississippi’s water.



On a ‘side-bar;’ our passenger Patrick (see Crew) arrived in LaCrosse is now accompanying us.  Over Patrick’s lifetime the river and weather thwarted his attempts to paddle the river’s distance; he lived out his life longing to complete the journey.  This effort was from his family’s desire to see his spirit succeed – Patrick had earned the Captains chair so for a while this morning it was his.


Our first day on the Mississippi was a ‘play-it by ear’ day with simple plans to cruise until about four and then locate a place early to ‘lite’ for the evening – but after a 1.5 hour wait at lock nine – our first ‘tie-off’ ended up being an 8pm stop a mile or so after the lock.  Time to figure out our ‘camping’ routine for the many nights ahead.


This day on began an ongoing trend, no major hurtles – perfect.  We settled down for the evening and spent our first night on the river listening to the trains and hearing what sounded like an occasional coconut falling into the water – ker-plunk! (beavers?).

It was the simplest of things about the river that entertained us the most.


Noted ‘Tows’ for the day;

The Neil N Diehl

The Coral Dawn

The Richard Waugh

Next day, Day 2 – To Dubuque..

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