At this moment it is about 11:30am. Kyle is rowing while I rest for an hour. The sun is out full force in the sky, causing us both to sweat quite a bit while rowing. Music is playing out of our black speaker and there are tugs and barges traveling in all directions. The river’s shore is completely undeveloped and full of luscious green trees. The leaves don’t seem to be changing colors anymore. I wonder if we are too far south? I guess we shall see. The water’s surface is serenely calm, not even a ripple except for when Kyle’s oars slice through the water causing a swirling ripple effect. I love watching as the water is disturbed by each stroke, yet 60 seconds later no evidence of our boat passing through the water is to be seen.
I just found myself giggling like a young child with a new toy. My mom sent bubbles in a package and I have found them to be very entertaining. I imagine Kyle, Solvi, and I from an aerial viewpoint. An open winding river, calm water with a small boat traveling on its surface. In the boat two adults- one rowing and the other blowing bubbles and watching them as they land ever so gently on the river, resting for a moment before popping into nothingness. Such a temporary and simple but pure form of play.
The rest of our day was spent rowing and then sailing into the wind. We found a nice spot to pull off and stop for the day. Kyle had seen a car with people sitting in lounge chairs down the beach a bit and decided to go over and say hello. I wasn’t feeling very social so decided to stay back and set up camp. He came back a couple minutes later and suggested we grab our chairs and go hang out with the nice local folks down the beach. I declined, but encouraged Kyle to take his chair and go enjoy himself- I was looking forward to some me time and I know he loves social interactions so it worked perfect. I put my headphones on full blast and went about setting up camp, collecting firewood, breaking it into small pieces by slamming individual logs on a bigger log (it’s actually quite fun), and lounged on my big beautiful cotton sheet. An hour or so later I heard a woman’s voice hollering at me from the direction Kyle had headed. I yanked my ear buds out and there was Barbara with cold drinks and snacks. She wanted us to take them with us. Barbara and Rick and some of their friends were who Kyle was hanging out with. Barbara and I hung out by Solvi and our camp for a bit before walking down to find Kyle and the others. In the end I am thankful that Barbara came to find me. She and Rick and everyone else were so kind, fun, and giving. River Angels providing River Magic and friendship. We all hung out until it started to get dark and Kyle and I headed back to camp. There we enjoyed the star filled sky, yummy food, and the sound of water lapping on the shore.
This morning we awoke to wind and a rain cloud filled sky. The sun was still shining, but through the rain clouds which created a spectacular sight. The sky was awash in dark colors, but the area near the sun was lighter and there was a small break in the clouds. In this break sun beams shot from the sky in all directions causing the water to be lit in certain areas. Sun beams are pretty amazing forms of art. Soon, with the beams still shooting down, the rain started. I was able to quickly grab my small backpacking stove, some pop tarts, and coffee before the rain got too intense. There, surrounded by blankets, books, and journals we sat in our tent in the sunshiny rain. I boiled water for coffee and we munched on pop tarts. It was the laziest, coziness, most comfortable morning I have ever had. The morning slowly turned into afternoon and we couldn’t have been more relaxed. The sun came blasting through the clouds around 12pm, but with the strong south wind and an awesome sandy beach we have decided to stay put. So now I find myself sitting in my green camp chair, my feet resting on a large piece of driftwood, writing on the back of used chart pages cause I have filled my 100+ page journal. The wind is strong and whenever I lift my pen to move to the next line, the paper lifts tempted to fly off. The sun is shining, the water is lapping loudly, and I find my mind captured by the pure raw beauty of the environment around me. Taking this journey required us to take a courageous leap of faith, but I feel as though because we took the leap, we are soaring, utterly free, towards tremendous inner personal growth.
The rest of our zero day yesterday was quite relaxing. We read, played games, listened to music, and went exploring. Before I delve into what we found while exploring, I will give a little background to why I was so thrilled with our find. I have a slight obsession with Johnny Cash’s music, particularly the song “Cotton Fields.” I am always singing it- it is my go to song whenever I get one stuck in my head. Most often I wake up with it in my head and I’d say 5 out of the 7 mornings a week I bounce around in the tent singing the song and driving Kyle absolutely crazy. Some mornings, just to drive him crazy, I’ll turn it on the speaker so it’s the first thing he hears in the morning 🙂 It has become a fun joke and because I am always singing it, we often talk about cotton fields. I had never seen a cotton field before, so Kyle has taken the time to try to explain what they consist of; even though he is really good at explaining, I still just couldn’t picture it. Well, when we went exploring yesterday we found a cotton field!! I thought it was huge, but I guess it was a smaller one. Either way, it was what looked like endless rows of cotton. I had no idea that cotton balls, like the ones you buy at the store, literally grow right out of the plant. It was awesome! I was so thrilled that I found myself running around checking them all out. I took one little cotton ball to send to Florida but mostly just enjoyed seeing what my clothes are made of! It was definitely the highlight of my day, and I feel fortunate to have had the experience to see one in person.
This morning I found myself wide away around 6:15am. I think since we took a zero day and I really had time to rest and step away from the boat for a while, I woke up revitalized and ready to go. I sat up in the sleeping bag and looked out of Kyle’s open vestibule which was facing the river. I was greeted with the most marvelous view. It was pre-dawn so the sun hadn’t risen yet, but her colors were already emitting over the other side of the river. The sky was a light blue and the horizon was a deep orange that faded into pink. The water was so calm and everything around was still and serene. I quickly hopped over Kyle and went and sat in my camp chair. I let myself sit there for a while and absorb the tranquility of the pre-dawn. I could hear just a few birds chirping, but other than that, it was silent. When was the last time you found yourself sitting outside during pre-dawn? If it’s been a while I highly suggest you give it a try. Waking up with the sunshine is really rewarding and can be a wonderful start to the day 🙂 Soon the sun began to rise behind the tree line across the river and the intentions of the day began to crystallize: calm, beautiful, and sunny. Kyle got up soon after me and after making a yummy breakfast of cheesy eggs in a tortilla with hummus and cabbage we got under way around 8am. Much earlier than usual, and the day went fairly quickly. We are heading into town tomorrow to find water and Internet, so planned on doing about 25 miles and stopping right before town. The day started by rowing into the wind, but after rounding a corner we were able to sail the rest of the way. At one point we were rowing around yet another bend in the river and there were 3 north bound tugs, all pushing at least 30 barges; the wind was against us and thus the wavelets were also against us. This made rowing difficult as it was and then add in the barge wake and we definitely had our work cut out. But we had a good time through it all, complaining and singing songs about how “fun” it is to row into the wind and confused sea. We came around this bend and to our left was a steep sand bank that seemed to lead to a sand bar. I had a sudden urge to climb up the bank and see what was there. Kyle agreed and we pulled off. I quickly ran up the bank and was greeted by the largest sand bar I have ever seen. It was so incredibly vast. I instantly just started running around, amazed by how large it was. I ran all the way to the far end and was exhausted by the time I got there. We played around a bit and enjoyed the vastness it provided before continuing on with our day.
We found another nice sand bar around 1pm outside of Caruthersville, MO, which is where we will go into town tomorrow to resupply and to enjoy a late b-day drink on Lynne and Dan- thank you so much you guys, so thoughtful 🙂 So we are currently in Tennessee (Missouri is right across the river) on a big sandy beach sitting in the sun shade that Kyle set up for us using our boom tent. Today is a hot day and I made a discovery that made the day more enjoyable: 2” thermarest sleeping pads make a wonderful float! I blew my sleeping pad up real full and then took it out to the water to test it. The Army Corps has put in wing dams (a bunch of rock and rubble) all along the river and where we are camping is surrounded by wind dams, therefore creating a little cove with no current aways from the actual river. I wasn’t sure if it was going to float, but sure enough I jumped on and found myself floating real nicely next to shore. After seeing how much I was enjoying myself Kyle went and got his and we spent an hour floating in the sunshine. It was really quite fun 🙂 So far we are both really enjoying the lower Mississippi and are looking forward to the next 850 miles. Onward!