Day 53 July 21
Measurements: turbidity at Jones Towhead, 27cm. Miles today: 46!
Woke up to more hot sun on Jones Towhead, in my tilted tent. Breakfast was okay, except that I'd forgotten the soymilk powder in the overnight oats, and I noticed its absence - they were just sort of thin, somehow.
I was perfectly happy to see the last of that site, and got out on the water before 9am. The morning's paddle was pretty uneventful: good current, no real wind, several barges to navigate around.
After a big bend in the river, to the south, I could see a large bridge-like structure. But it wasn't marked as a bridge on the map, and that's because it's not: it's some sort of pipeline, but going far over the water instead of along the riverbed, as most of them do. Why is it like that? I don't know.
I stopped in at Grand Tower in my perpetual search for something cold to drink, and maybe some ice to put in my thermos again. No such luck. It's a tiny town, with only a post office, a drab community center from sometime in the middle of the 20th Century, a bank, and a closed museum slash antique store. With two soda vending machines out front! One of which worked. It was a Dr. Pepper-branded machine, and took 75 cents for a can. I happened to have three quarters in my pocket, exactly, and put them in. I pressed all of the several Dr. Pepper buttons, and none of them did anything. One of the Mountain Dew buttons did, however, so that's what I got. I typically really dislike Mountain Dew, but this one was delicious. (I had to call Sam and tell her, because it's her favorite soda, and we know we disagree about it, strongly.)
There are several very interesting rock formations right across the river from Grand Tower, including one that seems to be called the Sugar Loaf, and one called Tower Rock. At the town boat landing, on top of the levee, looking across at these rocks, there's a plaque stating that Lewis and Clark camped there, and that they sketched those rocks. Pretty neat. There's also a life-size two-dimensional cutout of the two of them peering at something, wering their full dress uniforms. If they were still wearing those uniforms when they made it as far as Grand Tower, I would be very surprised.
There's a big island right after Grand Tower, and the current was very fast going around it. I had to navigate that area with not one but two tows with full barge loads, coming at each other. As I usually do, I got out of the channel entirely, which robbed me of that nice strong current. It's frustrating, but at least it's safe.
Across the river, I saw the confluence with a river actually named "Big Muddy River." It didn't look that big, compared to the colloquial Big Muddy it was joining.
As I said in a previous post, this date was the anniversary of my dad's death, so I was thinking of him even more than usual, and crying a fair amount. I noted a railroad bridge at mile 72, and took a picture, because that's how old dad would be now. Right after that, on the same side of the river, I saw the wreck of an old tow or some sort of working river boat.
I also noticed "teatable" light, which I'm sure they meant as "tea table" but which I can't help but read as "teat able."
From there it was just a lot of pushing, even with the nice strong current. The wind came up - a headwind, of course. I listened to Deltron 3030, the Joy Formidable, the Beatles White Album (whose Rocky Raccoon made me cry, see previous post), Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition, see above. I really like this speaker I bought in St. Louis.
A bit after five, I pulled into Cape Girardeau, not knowing what to expect. Something with having lost internet signal and the other mobile phone fuckups of the last day made the phone not recognize internet service, so I could only look for interesting things in town once I restarted it on shore.
Turns out Cape Girardeau is a very hip little town. Not one but three or even four breweries, lots of restaurants, including one that I didn't try but that is entirely plant based. I went to a cute little brewery called [name] that was very much into the "funky" side of beers, and had a couple of very interesting things I've never had before, including one that was flavored with a flower that grows there on their property. They also served me a very nice hummus and crunchy chickpea pita, with roasted potatoes.
The town still has its historic downtown, full of old brick buildings with old advertising on them. A plaque I read told me that US Grant had his first command there, reinforcing the town. The town is now reinforced differently, by a giant concrete flood wall a story high, on top of the maybe two story high levee. There's a river walk outside it, but only one door into town (that I found, anyway). When I paddled by, I noticed that they've painted a very nice mural with the town's name on the flood wall.
I walked back to the boat - it was quite a hike from the boat ramp into town and back, actually - a bit after 7. On the way, i called my friend Jesse, who had reached out earlier in the day to check in, as he usually does on this date, because he's a sweetheart. I talked with him as I paddled under the Hwy 146 bridge, and decided to stay on the sandbar upstream of and part of Marquette Island. We had a good conversation, and afterwords I also chatted with Sam for a bit.
The idea for tomorrow is to get to Cairo, or as close as possible.