portfolio > gone on the river

day 34
day 34
July 02, 2022

Day 34, July 2.
Measurements: turbidity at Dubuque: 45cm. Miles today: 23 (so far).

I woke in a motel room, showered, ate what I could of their free breakfast (granola bars) and set out to make my way back to the river, knowing that the hills would be a problem again. I was right. I had to push the whole rig up a large hill just to get out of the motel parking area. Then Google Maps routed me down a hill that was too steep to safely ride down with the boat behind me. I am not exaggerating when I say that it looked like the moment in a roller coaster when you go over the first hill. I walked everything down, backwards, bracing myself against the boat to keep it from running away, taking many little breaks by deliberately running the right wheel into the curb.

The rest of the journey through Dubuque was much less eventful, but it took awhile. I didn't get out on the water until after 11am.

And then I noticed the dynamic that would define today. It seemed that everyone in a thirty-mile radius was out on a motorboat in the Mississippi. It's Saturday, it's the Fourth of July weekend, the weather's pretty nice, and everyone had the same idea: let's get out on the water! There were small, fast boats; pontoons full of people; boats pulling kids on inner tubes or these weird inflatable water chairs; huge v-keeled boats that produced substantial wakes; and much more - but only one fellow paddler, who was clearly right next to her home. I was tossed around on other people's wake most of the day. There's a large island beach above Bellvue, IA, (just down the hill from what appears to be a ski resort) and it was covered in motorboats.

For much of the morning and early afternoon, I felt a certain strange lassitude. It was hard for me to make myself really work. I finally broke through that feeling and made enough progress to get to Bellvue, and to Lock #12.

When I got there, it was very still, and had been all day. I'd noticed some clouds behind me, but it seemed like they were sweeping from right to left, and wouldn't impact me. I pulled the signal cord and the lock staff told me it would be ten minutes. Almost immediately, the wind came up, a tailwind. I had vowed, after Trempeleau, never to enter a lock with a tailwind, but here I was, stuck. At least I was already holding onto their ladder near the signal chain.

It took longer than ten minutes for the lock doors to open. In that time, the wind came up even more. When the doors did open, the wind pushed me into the lock, again, but at least this time the doors were already open, and I knew I would get some lee once they closed. But I did spend a fair bit of time paddling upstream, just to stay in one place. This was nowhere near as scary as my experience in Lock #6, but reinforced my already deep dislike of locks. I will be so, so happy once I see the last of them. Twelve down, thirteen to go.

Right now I'm in a cute little brewery in Bellvue, called River Ridge Brewing. It is literally right on the water, in a repurposed old building that seems like it must be one of the earliest buildings in town.

I will push on just a bit more tonight, maybe another mile or two, just far enough to find a good place to sleep.

Tomorrow, we'll see if I can reach the next lock.