Saturday AM 9/3/2016
As I write I am sitting in my camp chair with my feet in the sand. We are on an island about 23 miles South of Prairie du Chien. We were initially planning on leaving yesterday morning to head south, but after a night full of new friends, laughter, and an awesome little community we decided to stay in Prairie du Chien a day longer. Therefore, yesterday we took a zero day in town. It was a bit of a challenge for us because the entire day the wind was perfect for sailing south, and we hadn’t “planned” on the zero day, but that is part of the reason we decided to do it. We wanted to challenge ourselves to really make sure we weren’t rushing or trying to be on a schedule.
On Thursday night after resupplying and using the Internet in town, we found a nice place in some trees to tie the boat up. Even though we were floating, the water was only about 2 feet deep and only 5 feet from shore. After setting up our boom tent and making some PB & J for dinner we decided to head into town for a beer. We ended up at Jim’s Bar. There we met really nice people, Terry and another nice couple. Thanks Terry!! He also suggested that we headed over to the Tavern down the street and meet the owner who had canoed the Mississippi 10 years ago. We took his suggestion and before heading back to the boat around 9 we stopped in at the Tavern. Long story short, we ended up meeting Patrick and Ryan who canoed the river together in 2006. Ryan just happened to be in town from California for Patrick’s wedding- so we got lucky and had the opportunity to spend the night with them at the Tavern listening to awesome live music and meeting new friends. Clearly we had a good time because we didn’t make it home until after 3am. The next morning we rowed over to Patrick’s dock where he and his fiancé live on a Shanty Boat on top of a pontoon. It is the coolest little floating home- Kyle and I decided we will try the Shanty boat thing one day. There we spent the beautiful day, hanging out, relaxing, reading, and then taking random walks in to explore town. The day was really quite wonderful. Because it was an impromptu decision and made solely because some new friends suggested we stay for jam night on Thursday, we went about the day rather relaxed. When we’d walk into town or into a park we had no intentions. We didn’t know where we would end up or what the plan was. Because of that mind set we met all sorts of nice people. We found a park with huge xylophones and drums that were set up just for play. When I was laying on the foredeck reading my book, it was just a freeing feeling because I literally had nothing else I needed to be doing. That was it, and I am very grateful for having the opportunity to live so simply.
On Thursday night we headed back to the Tavern for jam night. Anyone who wants to can come in and play music or sing. There were lots of good musicians and positive energy that night. Thank you to the people who provided us hospitality in town. Jason from the railroad, and the man who sat next to us who rode his bike in. Ryan and Patrick of course for the endless laughter and entertainment. Erika who owns Driftless Edibles who sent us with the most wonderful care package of granola and beef jerky. My parents, who sent us the initial package to Praire du Chien, are the whole reason we even went there. Cookies, food, wine, etc. All of you guys are the greatest and we appreciate it more than we can ever explain.
On Friday morning we woke up in Patrick’s yard in our tent. He greeted us with hot cups of steaming coffee in blue camp cups that reminded me of camping as a kid. We had very graciously been invited to his wedding on Saturday, but decided that we had already had such an awesome time with everyone and in town that it was time to continue on. Thanks for the hospitality, the coffee, and the invite. We really enjoyed our time in Praire du Chien and feel fortunate to have met Patrick and Ryan and shared river stories.
We left yesterday morning after waving our goodbyes to our new found friends of Praire du Chien. We then traveled 22 miles south, 12 of which were under sailing, directly into the wind. But hey, that’s okay, at least it was 12 miles of not rowing! After exploring an island that one of our readers suggested we check out, we headed through lock and dam 10. We then found a nice sandy spot to camp a couple miles after that. But the generosity we had experienced for the past 2 days didn’t stop once we arrived at our camp site…
Kyle and I had just gotten Solvi situated on her rollers on shore when we saw a deck boat heading our way. They pulled up a couple yards down the beach from us and said they were coming to check out our boat. Well, one thing led to another and they ended up staying for hours. We drank beer and ate snacks like cheese curds and pumpkin bread that they generously provided us. We told stories, asked questions, laughed, and enjoyed each other’s company. I didn’t even realize how long it had been until the sun starting setting and we hadn’t even set up camp yet. That to me, is how clear it is that we all became fast friends. The conversation flowed so easily that time was irrelevant. Sandy and Dwayne, thank you guys so much for stopping by. We spent the 20 minutes after you left talking about how great you two are and how amazing it is that when someone takes the time to say hello to a random stranger, quick friendships can be made.
In fact, that is sort of the lesson I learned these past couple days. As much as I try not to, I often have initial judgements of a person or a place. I am quick to label, define, and attempt to understand a person or situation before I even really experience them. It is something I pay attention to which thankfully allows me to keep an open mind and heart, even with the assumptions in the back of my mind. For example, when we first arrived at Prairie du Chien, my initial impression was a bit negative. We arrived at a marina that for some reason gave me strange vibes. We then pulled up on a grassy spot near a park and it was covered in algae, geese poop, and I was feeling a bit anxious about leaving the boat. But even with all the trepidations in my mind and stress and displacement I was experiencing, I continued on. We hiked into town, and within minutes were pleasantly surprised about how kind everyone was, how cute the Main Street was, and the hospitality we received. Of course, as I mentioned above we ended up staying an entire day longer than planned. Anyway, my point is that all my initial feelings and judgments were completely incorrect. Now often times it is important to pay attention to the vibes and gut feelings you get, but it is also important to remember that displacement can cause discomfort that will soon pass. Therefore, I am going to remember to keep an open mind, to continue on when I feel a bit uncomfortable, because at the end of the day, most people are good. Places are beautiful, and fear can cause one to miss out on opportunities that can be life changing.
So as I sit in my camp chair and look out over the river and observe the clouds changing shapes in the reflection of the calm water I thank the universe for not only providing us the opportunity to meet all the beautiful people along the way, but also for reminding me to be open to the world around 🙂
Saturday PM 9/3/2016
What a day today was! The day started under sail and up until the last 3 miles, ended that way too. We covered 24 miles, 21 of which were under sail- directly into the wind and waves. It was an exhausting, exhilarating, and rewarding day. The wind was so strong that rowing into wasn’t really an option so we set the sail and prepared to have to tack back and forth all day. Here is an entry from my journal that I managed to write in the midst of all the excitement:
I have currently taken a short break to apply copious amounts of Caladryl to the poison ivy that has spread in various areas on my legs. I apply the clear goop to my leg and wait in anticipation of the relief I know it will soon bring. Kyle and I both have had poison ivy on our legs and areas of our arms. We seem to keep spreading it- on ourselves and each other. It is becoming rather tedious and because of it, Caladryl is becoming a fast friend. I look around me and have to take a minute to breathe it all in. The white puffy clouds which seem to sit relaxed yet proudly above the tall bluffs surrounding the river. Despite the high wind they aren’t moving much, maybe they feel like being lazy today. Kyle is on the tiller and also has the main sheet in his hand. The sailing has been so involved today that neither of us really seem to get many breaks. But that’s okay, because we have been having so much fun. I am truly, deeply, beginning to let go. And when I say let go, I mean my whole being. I haven’t quite figured out how to articulate it, but it is slowly making each moment, regardless of how unpleasant or difficult, seem really quite small. Today for example has been trying. The wind is at our nose and in order to make headway we sometimes have to sail what seems to be backwards. It can be frustrating and I have found myself angry with the wind a couple times. Why can’t you just cooperate and for once be behind us? Must you be coming from where we are going, pretty much every day? And then a big gust comes and cools one side of my face as though to remind me that there is a reason. There is a reason we have been beating into the wind for days. Maybe because it’s making us better sailors, or maybe because it is teaching me patience. Whatever it is, I smile because I know it will pass. I know deep down that, regardless of how rare they are, there will be at least a couple days where the wind will be from behind and we will sail along happily. In the meantime, I will remember my patience. Remember to let go. That all things pass and this will too. I hear Kyle singing to the music we have playing, and I giggle as he dances with his head and hands, carefully as to not lose control of the boat. He looks so handsome sitting on the tiller with his hat, sunglasses, and big smile. I feel so fortunate to be on this little boat with my best friend. We have been having a blast today, singing, dancing, laughing, and a couple times were feeling a bit frisky and took a chug of some boxed wine. The sun is shining, the clouds are standing by, and the bluffs all around are green, but not the deep green I see in the summer. The green seems to be lightening a bit, reminding me that fall is just around the corner.
The rest of the afternoon was spent the same way as the morning, beating into the wind. But around 5pm when we were just beginning to look for a spot to stop for the night, we received quite the surprise. Our friends from the night before, Sandy and Dwayne, pulled up on their power boat behind us. We were quite surprised to see them, and were even more intrigued by their offer. They were with Dwayne’s sister and brother-in-law and they wanted to take us to dinner three miles down river at a marina. They then said that not only do they want to take us out, but they want to try to tow us there. Kyle and I must have looked rather goofy with our huge grins and nodding heads. After dropping the rig and getting the boat ready to attempt to be towed for the first time, Sandy handed us some beers. Kyle then grabbed the rope from their boat and tied to the mast step and to the bow stem. We started slowly, but then made our way up to about 6 knots. Kyle and I sat on each side of Solvi, cold beer in hand, and giggled and smiled until our cheeks hurt at the situation we were in. Not only did these extremely kind folks provide us company and food last night, they then came and found us today, towed us 3 miles, and while under tow provided more cold drinks. We arrived at HawkEye Marina and Restaurant about 45 minutes later. We dropped the tow line and rowed up to the dock. The 6 of us then enjoyed a fabulous dinner on the patio overlooking the river below. The food was amazing, whether it really was or not, Kyle and I thought it was the greatest thing ever. But the company and conversation was even better. Kyle and I both feel so incredibly blessed to have met Sandy and Dwayne and their family. The hospitality and kindness they provided was magical. On the Appalachian Trail we call it Trail Magic and the people who provide it are Trail Angels. On the river we are calling it River Magic and River Angels. And I must say, the amount of magic we have received in these first 3 weeks has been life changing. The fact that complete strangers can become such quick friends, really has me viewing life differently. The fact that we can meet someone and within 10 minutes be the discussing heated topics, life goals, dreams that never came true, and dreams that will, shows me that if we try hard enough, as a community we can break down the barriers that seem to keep us isolated from one another. We are all in this life together, let us enjoy each other’s company!