(Note: more photos to come. Internet is still a bit of a gamble. Thanks!)
Reporting in from just above Lock 19 in Keokuk, IA -- less than ten miles from the border with Missouri. We've logged 1,000 miles in the boat and are hot on the heels of halfway to our destination. And, thanks to the gracious efforts of a trio of friends and family, our morale is renewed in a big way as we approach Cairo.
After leaving Prairie du Chien we paddled through dusk and night into Bueno Vista, Iowa (pronounced "Beunah"). As usual, we had a welcoming party in the form of the friendliest of locals, Don. He'd been down at the edge of town to use his phone. We set up our tents, knowing that rain was coming, but unaware of just how bad it would get.
We woke up to our tents beating down into our faces and water running under us. The barge-shop permanently docked there was being battered by swells and winds as we sprinted out to the boat to secure it as best we could. After being thoroughly soaked, Don appeared and spirited us up to the Someplace Else, a bar run by Bob, a Korean War veteran. Bob gave us coffee and some wonderful company before we managed to dodge some more weather and roll out.
We managed to make it down to Dubuque without too much trouble, and set up our last camp in fair Wisconsin. The jobs of making and breaking camp have become a nice routine for us at this point, almost soothing (at least the making part). The next night was much the same, on an island in the middle of the channel. The islands make for excellent camping, with little fear of any sort of interloper, human or animal.
Next stop was Le Claire, where we were stymied by storms and a backed up lock once again. We couldn't have asked for a nicer place to get stuck, though (Aside from the mayflies. I have never in my life seen so many mayflies. The side wall of the Buffalo Bill museum was thick with them.) We spent the day working on letters, postcards, painting, and whatever else we could muster through the wait. Zach, an apprenticing river boat pilot, provided fine company as we wound down. We ended up staying the night and camping out.
We managed a lot of miles the next day, paddling almost sixty miles to Louisa Wildlife Refuge. There have been so many beautiful refuges all down the river, and this one did not fail to live up to the standard of the others. We had been held up by barges in the lock again, and heard them all night, pushing water aside to move upriver. One didn't quite navigate a bouy and collided with it, sounding like a cannonball hitting a gong.
Since we had company incoming (in the form of Shea's lovely lady Hayden and Forrest's father Scott, with his good friend Todd), the next day was short and easy. We made our way to Oquawka, IL, once again greeted by a local who shouted from a balcony to go ahead and use his private dock and campsite. It would seem that people are still all too friendly down here, even at long range.
The reinforcements from Ohio made for a wonderful morale boost as we neared the halfway mark. Not only did we resupply, sleep in beds, and eat much better overall, but Scott and Todd even jumped in the boat and helped us paddle thirty miles. Not only that, but we got our best ever mileage speed that morning.
No, really. They did. It was in the paper.
The week ended during the resupply, in Fort Madison, IA. At the hotel there (A hotel! With beds!) we met Neil, a man from Hannibal who was there supporting his son's baseball team, the Aces, in their Championship (They won, 4-0. Nice work, John and team.) Neil was kind enough to offer a place to stay and a bit of a tour of Hannibal when we arrived there. But that's a tale for next week...