Miles Covered: 57 river miles, um 52- to lm 948 Wickliffe, Ky
Closest towns or landmark (chart): Cape Girardeau, Mo. to just below Cairo, Il
Original Post date: June 14
Thursday – It was a ‘Storm World’ night under the Cape (Girardeau) bridge. A weather-front rumbled through after we settled down rocking the little boat and sounding the ships bell like a telephone; all while Carl tried to sleep on shore in his tent.
It was two am when the storm came streaking through, possible to sense weather moving in from the West so I had prepared the bird by having her ‘battened down.’ When it arrived the sudden winds wrapped Carl up in his pup-tent like a burrito, and after standing n the darkness under the bridge a while he stumbled back onto the boat. The fast moving front (and lightning) ‘rocked’ us, yet with it all we have learned is that there’s simply a point where there is nothing further a person can do. I laid there as the sky flashed and after forty minutes it subsided – leaving the ‘peace of the river’ to return as if nothing had ever happened. Well, except to laugh at Carl’s tent adventure – I think he left it under the bridge….
Early the next morning all appeared clear so we began to move downriver, soon another weather front was approaching so we located the first sandbar possible and protected it from being struck by lightning!
This front passed also – just a quick moving micro-burst – and we were back on the river dodging barges and into our river routine….
As we drift down the Mississippi the scenery and view is worth every minute of it – we watch as the bluffs level a bit becoming a more level type of shore. Along this section of shoreline we also noticed different ‘natural’ industries (cement, rock quarry’s, etc) each utilizing the barge as a primary means of bulk transport.
In comparison to trucks or trains each barge can carry eighty times as much as a single truck, a massive amount of commerce. Then consider that one towboat is pushing up to 42 barges at one time, it says all the more for the skill of the river-pilots and how they maintain such a high standard of safe transport.
On several occasions we noticed traffic, so we simply stopped – taking a walk and simple break while letting the river ‘come back to us.’
Later in the day we made the Confluence of the Ohio River, around four in the afternoon – the difference in the gray and clearer water of the Ohio as compared to the Muddy Mississippi River is apparent far out into the channel.
Being in the afternoon we figured that we would try to find some ice and something to eat so we headed up the Ohio – against the current and through a barge ‘re-hook’ area, it took nearly an hour to make it above Fort Defiance past the bridge and near what appeared to be the city (per chart) landing.
As we crossed the wall into Cairo, Il what a different town we found than what I recalled of thirty five years earlier. I had driven a truck this way numerous times to get into Arkansas and this was a thriving part of the city – since that time they have rerouted traffic for the interstate, and now what is left in this part of the city is pretty close to a ghost town.
Old hotels grown over with weeds, businesses deserted, the only active stores immediately available were an old restaurant and a package store (for ice). We took a chance for a meal with the locals and the waitress pretty much told us not to talk to anyone and ‘run for the boat!’- we should have known something was up when Carl first noted a ‘blowup’ doll hanging in a window soon after landing….
I’m not saying never stop in Cairo, it will take a hand-truck to retrieve fuel – maybe leave someone with the boat.
From our experience and public service Carl and I were not completely uncomfortable with the surroundings, – at the same time saw no great reason to linger. Our vessel was fine on arrival and unmolested.
The trip back to the confluence seemed to go much easier with the current, once onto the Lower Mississippi we located an island and with it becoming late made a ‘bee-line’ over to it – over the small white water of a wing-dam……. scraped the bottom of one of the pontoons (dented it) but it doesn’t seem to be taking on water – dampened the evening for me – something that remained on my mind daily until day 25 in Vadalia, La. (when I was assured that it was ok). Lesson learned; would not intentionally cross the white water of a wing dam again, it wasn’t worth the worry..
It was a great nights rest with nothing but natural sounds (I won’t describe them all), but no trains, plains, or automobiles…… just wildlife and silence, exactly what I had made this venture for.
Noted ‘Tows’ for the Day;
The Gail S
The Chas E Peters
The Mary Evelyn
The Laurie Johnston
The Alois Luhr
The Francis Benedict