Day 70: Barge camping, tug seeing, people helping, and the Arch.
This was a day that I was looking forward to on the whole trip. I woke up at 6:00am to the sounds of construction workers at the site in which I had comfortably slept last night. My boat was still there, but I needed to move and get out of where I was staying. It was foggy and cloudy this early morning. I moved any visible stuff behind the rock pile in a better way as I packed my things up. I snapped a few images and got things into my boat. I heard 2 crew members on a barge with I was connected. I hope that they did not come over my way. I was ready to get into my boat and push off if needed. I didn’t stick around too long to find out. The threat of getting caught made for a rush that I often seek out. It was fun. I am a little bit of a travel adrenaline junkie. I pushed off and made my way out on the river.
I saw the same fishing company, Showmecatfishing.com, out on the water. Ryan was throwing a fishing cast net to get bait for the day. He was the guide to some guest on his boat. He said he saw me get to the barge. He said he was thinking I would not be able to get the Arch shot I was seeking today because of the clouds. It was still early and the day was filled with possibilities. I shot some images of him working. I told him I would get him to him as soon as I could.
I paddled downstream towards the Arch. I was now on the Missouri side of the river. I saw this tug with a guy outside on the back deck. I pulled up and said hi. I asked the guy if he knew of any breakfast joints right on the river. He did not know of any. He asked another crew member arriving on a flat boat. He did not know any. They he suggested the first guy whip me up a breakfast. This guy was named Todd. He was the boats Chief of Engineering and the cook. He told me to pull up to the port side of the boat and he would tie my boat up. I got out of the boat and onto the tug where I introduced myself. He was surprised that I could fit into the boat. I told him it has a lot more room than it looked. He brought me onto the boat. I was happy and honored to be on a tug boat. They did not require a TWIC card (government issued id for boat workers). He showed me the back end of the boat, where they had a full kitchen. before he made me breakfast. He asked me how many eggs I wanted. I told him 6. He looked at me like that was a lot. I told him I would use the protein and I would burn it off by lunch time. He added some cheese in them for me and made bacon on an old case iron skillet. I was happy to be having a quality breakfast.
I sat down and began to tell him about my adventure. He told me he always wanted to do something like I was doing. He worked on a salvage tug that worked the whole river. They were like a tow company for downed ships, barges, and boats. They had all their own gear, divers, and crew to run the operation. He had worked for them for the last 15 years. After breakfast, he took me on a tour of the boat. I had my camera and was snapping images along the way. He showed me the engine that ran the boat, where the sleeping quarters were upstairs and then the wheel house. I was excited to be able to see one of them. He showed me how the boat operated and how they steered it. It was a lot of information, but a quality experience. He had some things to take care of so he let me go around and photograph the boat. I got some shots I was looking for my book. He offered me a company hat and calendar showing their operation at work. He told me he would mail it as he realized how little room I have to give in my boat. WE talked at length about his career and his life off the boat. He was a honest working man that was happy doing what he did. He had some interesting stories and perspectives. I was happy to have met him. He helped me as I loaded back into my boat. He untied the boat and also refilled my water bottle. The fog and clouds appeared to be lifting this morning. My Arch shot may be possible. I said my farewells and pushed off. As I did, I turned the boat around to talk with these two guys fishing on the bank. I told them where I was going as I watched what they were doing regarding their fishing. They were cool guys just trying to catch a meal. I said good bye to them too and was off to the Arch.
I past the riverfront eateries that were working to recover from the flood. The next thing I saw was the St. Louis Arch. I have seen it many times in my travels, but never from the water. I was taking in each moment. I paddled up to the cobblestone slope below the Arch. I found an area that was directly in the middle where I would be able to watch my boat. I pulled up and some people immediately came over to say hi and see where I had started. I told this small group and they were excited to hear my stories. They had a lot of questions and I had a lot of the answers for them. I was telling them about my adventures. I told them I wanted to get a photo up by the Arch with my boat but there was no way I was going to carry it up there to get the shot. One of the members of the group I was talking with, Bill Hoover, began to gather others to help make that happen. He, along with Francy Mirkazemi, Chloe Bigwood, Olivia Hoover, Scott, Kyle and Andy Fehr and some others all picked up my loaded boat and began carrying it up the stairs to the base of the Arch. I was blown away and all smiles at the kindness of strangers will to help make a dream image possible. This was one of the very few shots I wanted for myself on this adventure.
We got to the top and a park cop asked me what we were doing. Bill told the cop that I had just paddled 1300 miles and I wanted to get a picture with my boat at the base of the Arch. I went up to the cop and let him know that Bill was correct and that they all just kind of picked up my boat to make this happen. He said to have fun. I could not believe that this was actually happening. When I am 80 years young, I will look back on this specific day and the people that helped make this happen for me. I got the shots I was seeking. Then, they and a few others all helped carry my boat back down to the water. I was overjoyed and happy that something like this was able to happen. That crew helped make my adventure.
I hung out for a bit appreciating where I was at and what I have done so far on this adventure. I could not have been happier. I refilled my water and got a soda before I was back to the adventure. I left the Arch capturing a few more shots. I was off to the southern end of St. Louis. I knew that this portion of the St. Louis ‘bay’ would be inundated with barge traffic. It was everything I had heard about and expected. It is like the Grand Central Station of the river. The barges were getting much larger and throwing heavy wakes. I saw a lot of dry dock companies. I was watching for traffic, but slowing down even more to capture this heartbeat of the river. I made my lunch halfway through this section. I parked on a rock dike in the middle of the river. It was nice to be eating lunch right on the river with my feet in the current. This river was becoming part of me. This adventure was changing me and how I looked at life. I was grateful for that. I made it past the last brig of the ‘bay’. I was back onto the river.
The current was a little stronger from the Missouri river joining in. The traffic let up and the river was quiet again. Just like that, I was back to my goals. I paddled throughout the afternoon hanging out on both sides of the river. I saw this deck that shot out over the river. There was a set up that looked like a wedding. I got closer and I was right. There was a wedding happening now or that evening. I saw this guy, Ray House, fishing on the sand bar below the dock. I pulled up to him and opened a conversation. He was a good guy out trying to catch some catfish. The sun was beginning to settle. He offered me a place on the beach as it was private land. He told me I would be good to camp there that evening, if I wanted. I figured I would to have more conversations with this guy.
We sat there while he was watching his 2 lines. He offered to go into town to get any necessary supplies. He had a drink in him, so he said I would have to drive. I was cool with that. We drove into the town of Windsor. We stopped by a Subway and I bought his sandwich. We stopped by another store to get some drinks for the day tomorrow. We went back to the beach and he continued to talk as the sun had set and the super moon was rising. He took off after a bit and I enjoyed watching the moon through my tent. Life was amazing today!!
This is adventure.