Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Mississippi River: Ohio River to Memphis

 The Ohio River was one big bad surprise: It is as big as the Mississippi and the two rivers combined create on big monster river that seems to be endlessly wide. And such a huge body of water is a real problem in wind as we already knew from earlier stretches. We were not happy! And I had even more cause for grief: I had pulled a muscle in my neck so badly that I could hardly turn my head anymore. Sleeping was almost impossible as I could hardly find a painfree position for my head at night. And of course paddling all day long did not help to heal my neck. Even during the day I was in pain and did not know how this would effect my paddling trip on the long run. I would not be able to paddle like this for 3 or 4 more weeks. I needed a break and therefore we decided to have a town stop in a place called New Madrid where we wanted to stay two nights.

Hide your kayak here
The whole adventure started very positively as we found a good place where to hide the boats and the walk into town was only about 20 minutes along the edge of a field. But what had looked like a decent sized town on the map was a pretty deserted place in reality. No super market, only a tiny general store that did not sell any fresh fruit or vegetables. And the only place to eat in town was a grotty gas station with a tiny AYCE buffet. But what looked like a disaster turned into a great town day. The gas station buffet looked horrible and people smoking inside did not improve that impression. The state of Missouri still allows smoking in restaurants! Everyone in that gas station looked like right out of a John Grisham novel and I could hardly understand what everyone was talking about because of their Southern drawl. But eventually I found out that the buffet was 6,99 $ and this being the only choice in town I resigned myself to it. After the first bite of chicken I could not believe what I tasted there: This was one of the most delicious pieces of chicken I had eaten in my entire life. Real Southern cooking! And the chops and ribs were equally good! The place looked horrible, but the food was incredibly good. Thus fortified I ventured into the local museum that displayed the usual hodge podge of things, but focused a lot on the big New Madrid earthquake in the early 1800's, one of the biggest earthquakes in the US. I spent a quiet entertaining hour in this little museum and ventured on into the local library with internet where I finally wanted to buy a flight back to Germany.

Nice campsite
I had done a lot of research on cheap flights back home and the cheapest solution seemed to be Iceland Air. Flying with a kayak makes the baggage allowance a big issue and Iceland Air still allows two bags for trans-Atlantic flights. But when I finalized the purchase on the internet the booking confirmation just stated 1 piece of luggage! I nearly freaked out and immediately called Iceland Air. What followed was one hour of intense discussion with Iceland Air customer service where I learned that international regulations have changed - although I could not confirm their statements on the internet. Now the first airline on a multi-leg flight determines the baggage allowance - before it used to be the airline with the longest distance of the whole flight. And unfortunately the first airline on my booked flight was American Airways, that allows only on bag. Luckily the customer service person was very patient and helpful and after moving the flight one day forward we found a flight combination that allowed two pieces of luggage - and no change or cancellation fees. Although all ended well the whole procedure was a nightmare.

Because we could not resupply in New Madrid we had to stop again only two days later in Carruthersville. Again we found a good place to hide our boats, had a 15 minute bushwhack and emerged into Carruthersville on Thanksgiving Day - only to find that almost everything was closed. We trudged to the super market and after some emergency breakfast decided to stay the night there. We found a really cheap motel for 38 $ per room that turned out to be one of the worst dumps I have ever stayed in. I was especially scared of bed bugs and was terrified when I found a huge black insect crawling out of the bed. I heroically caught it and brought it to reception demanding a new room. The Indian receptionist only stoically told me that this was not a bed bug, but a cock roach and proved it by showing me a picture on the insect spray that she kept handy for apparent reasons.... Although the place was still a dive, she was right. I survived the night un-bitten. In the evening we called the free casino shuttle service and got a ride to the casino restaurant, the only place in town that was open on Thanksgiving. We had a great 9,95 Thanksgiving dinner, did laundry in the adjacent RV park and retreated to our little dive with the free shuttle bus. The night in the motel did me a lot of good: My neck pain slowly subsided and two days later I am back to normal.

The next days were pretty warm but increasingly windy - with the wind coming from the South directly into our face. The last day before Memphis we just could not paddle any more - the wind was just to strong and the water too choppy. When coming out of a narrow bend I had apparently misjudged were the shipping channel was. Although I thought I was safely out of it an upstream barge thought differently and I was yelled from the barges loudspeaker. Alarmed I looked around and saw the barge behind me coming directly towards me. I paddled like crazy into the brutal head wind to get out of its way and finally it turned and angled away from me. You are never bored on the Mississippi...

Mississippi: St. Louis to Ohio River

Barge
We were both very much excited to start this new stage of the Mississippi, where the river is eventually free flowing again - and that meant that we would have a noticeable current for the first time. After a couple of minutes on the water I took out my GPS and checked. And for sure: Even without paddling we were going at almost 3 mph! Our new average speed from now on would be about 5 mph and despite the lack of daylight we would now average about 40 miles per day. Eventually we were making progress southward towards the warmer temperatures! Still leaving St. Louis was a bit stressful due to the amount of barge traffic. So far we had only encountered about 2 - 3 barges every day and now that has increased to 12 - 15 barges. Plus St. Louis is a busy port and tug boats were going ever which way. I was glad to leave frantic St. Louis behind.

The river had changed dramatically. Not only did we have current, the river was surprisingly small now. The Army Corps of Engineering has blocked off all the little side channels funneling the river into one relatively narrow river bed that is regulated by hundreds of wing dams on each side. The narrow river and the amount of barge traffic created a new problem for us: How can we avoid the huge wake of the barges? The wake had so far not been much of a problem. There had been few barges that all went at low speed with little wake and plenty of room to avoid them. But now the barges had become much bigger. Before St. Louis the biggest barges were pushing 15 containers, 3 wide and 5 long. Bigger barges were not possible due to the size of locks. But now, with no more locks to get through the barges were up to 35 containers big, 5 wide and 7 long. On top of all that the barges going upstream had to fight the current now which created an even bigger wake. In order to avoid the worst of the wake you want to be on the inside bend of the river or the one opposite the levy and all of a sudden we had to change sides all the time - always on the run from the barges. In the beginning I felt very uncomfortable and wondered what would happen if I got caught on the wrong side of the shipping channel in the wake. Luckily, the channel is relatively small in this section and therefore we could quickly change sides.

Morning fog
One morning we woke up and to our big surprise we could not see anything due to thick fog. The weather forecast had not predicted anything like it and the fog caught us completely by surprise. I retreated into my tent and decided to use the unexpected free time to call my paddling teacher Alan in Australia thanks to my T-mobile international flat rate. Again Alan was incredibly helpful and amongst other tips he assured me that my little folding kayak (or lump of canvas) can take a lot of waves. I started to calm down a bit and realized that the wake is usually not as bad as it seems. By now I have passed hundreds of barges and have gotten used to the wake.

Cape Girardeau from our campsite
Cape Girardeau was our town stop in this section. What to do with our boats during our town stay was the usual big question and we solved it by hiding the boats on the other side of the river, bushwhacking half a mile to a highway bridge, crossing the bridge and walking into town. Although our boats seemed pretty secure and we had a good camp site, the walk into town took an hour and was a horrible bushwhack back in the pitch dark night. We were delighted to find out that only a month ago a new casino had opened in Cape Girardeau - with an AYCE buffet. Locals assured us that the casino was only about 5 block away. These five blocks turned into a walk of more than a mile and proves that most Americans are not used to walking. But when we finally arrived at the casino completely exhausted we were rewarded with an incredible buffet where we spent most of the day stuffing ourselves and recharging our phones.

Unloading at camp
The stretch from St. Louis to the Ohio River turned out to be a mixed bag. It was nice and easy paddling in a protected narrow canal with a good current. Some stretches were actually quite pretty, especially the narrow bends. But on the other side we encountered a lot of industrial activity: Plants and quarries dot the river and the barge traffic is intense. Although still quite nice in places, this has been the most un-scenic stretch so far. At least the camping very good: The numerous wing dams create little sand bar that make for good beaching and great access to the elevated shore line with trees. You can camp almost anywhere - as long as you can get away from the industrial operations.


Monday, November 26, 2012

Mississippi: St. Louis

We were incredibly lucky in St Louis in a two fold way. Firstly the weather deteriorated after our already windy approach. The next day brought the biggest deluge we had seen on this entire trip and it was fantastic to be able to sit it out in a warm and dry house. After that the temps plummeted to freezing and again we were so glad not to have to paddle in that. And by the day we launched our boats again the sun was shining.

But most of all we were lucky with our warmshowers hosts Rich and Julie. Both are teachers and I asked them plenty of questions. Julie is a speech therapist and works with deaf kids using sign language. I had not known much about sign language before and her explanations opened a whole new language concept to me. I was intrigued! On top of all that our hosts had two little dogs called Mickey and Bailey whom I immediately fell in love with. Mickey could not be pet enough and I was happy to oblige. After a test run with Rich and Julie I took the two dogs for a walk on my own. This might not sound very exciting, but I had not walked a dog before in my entire life!

Our host Rich under the famous arch
Our hosts were so interesting and I had so much stuff to do on the internet that I did not do any sightseeing in St Louis - shame on me. At least we made it to one of the casino boats were we all had an AYCE buffet. But on the plus side I eventually figured out how to get back to Germany and how to walk a dog... Time passed way too quickly and after two happy days we were re-assembling our boats next to the famous arch and embarked on the third stage of the Mississippi.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

How to go through a lock on the Mississippi river as a paddler

Yellow bull noses
When you approach a lock you will notice two big yellow spots on the lock's bull nose - this is were you are shooting for. You have to get in between those two yellow marks. Usually the lock will have two lock basins and you are shooting for the land side one. The second basin is either not used at all or only used by big barges. You have to paddle past the yellow marker on the land side and halfway down before the lock doors you will find a ladder in the rock wall with a cord inside. On top of this ladder a sign will say "Pull cord in recess for lockage" and this is what you have to do. Approaching this cord in choppy conditions can be quite tricky.... Once you have pulled the cord you will hear a bell and soon the lock master will either appear on the lock wall or he will talk to you through an intercom. He will tell you then how long it will take to get through. Do not approach a lock when there is already a barge waiting outside. Never ever paddle between a barge and the levy/lock wall.

In the lock chamber
Once the lock is filled up the lock doors will open. Do not approach yet but wait till you hear the toot of a horn. Also the traffic light in front of the lock will now change from red to green. Do not get into the lock any earlier. Most locks require you to hold on to a rope during the lockage. The lock master will tell you were to go on the land side and will then throw you a rope. Do not tie your boat to the rope - just hold on to it. Some lock master are a bit lax and just let us sit inside the lock. As soon as the lock doors have been closed behind you the water level will start dropping. Stay away from the lock doors and you won't feel any turbulence - you will just be dropping smoothly.

When the final water level is reached the front lock doors will open slowly. Do not paddle out of the lock yet. Wait again for the toot of the horn and the change of the traffic light. If there is any barge waiting on the other side the lock master will inform you and usually radio ahead so that the barge captain is looking out for you. If the dam releases water when you are leaving the lock this will create huge waves. Be prepared to paddle fast to get out of the danger zone and don't get too close to the outside lock wall. The waves will calm down after a couple of hundred metres.

The most important piece of advice for paddlers regarding locks is to carry their phone numbers! You can find all the lock phone numbers here. If you don't have these phone numbers your only way of attracting the lock master's attention is by pulling the cord in the lock wall. But for various reasons you might not be able to get there. The water might be too choppy to reach or you might get stuck behind a barge. Also if in doubt about what to do always call the lock master and ask for instructions. For example you might approach the lock together with a barge. If in doubt do not proceed but call ahead. Commercial barge traffic always has priority over paddlers but usually the lock masters will try to squeeze you in - after radioing the barge for permission to do so.

If you arrive at a lock behind a barge you will be stuck. Single or short barges take only 20 minutes to get locked through, but the normal double barges have to be taken apart and the whole process takes two hours. The lock master will tell you where to wait and how long it will take. The lock masters and their assistants are usually very friendly towards paddlers - as long as you follow the rules.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Paddling the middle Mississippi: Conclusion and tips

The Mississippi River is usually divided into three very distinct and different parts: The upper Mississippi from the source to Minneapolis which I have already described in a separate post. Next is the "middle" Mississippi from Minneapolis to St. Louis and the lower Mississippi from St. Louis to New Orleans. This post will deal with the "middle" part which is dominated by about thirty locks and dams. These locks solve the low water problems that we had encountered on the upper Mississippi. From Minneapolis on you will not encounter any rocks or rapids any more as long as you stay in the main shipping canal. The main canal is marked with buoys - red on one and green on the other side. The rule to remember is "red on right upstream", meaning that going upstream the red buoys is on your right side and the green on your left.

The river is very wide in this section and provides plenty of very scenic side channels. In order to prevent to main channel from shifting over these side channels are blocked off by wing dams. Usually these wing dams are under water and pose no problem for paddlers. But this is a low water year and occasionally we ran into problems with those dams. The most dangerous scenario is that the wing dam is just barely covered with water and you get stuck while crossing it. This never happened to us but we had to drag our boat over a wing dam once. Usually you can tell where the wing dam is by observing the ripples in the water. They are also marked on the river maps. Sometimes the wing dams are so big that the are sticking out of the water. They don't pose a problem then because they are easily visible but they can block off otherwise interesting side channels. Various times we had decided to go down a nice side channel but could not get into it because it was blocked off by the wing dam and/or the sand bar these dams usually create.

Although camping was generally very easy in that section these side channels provide the most scenic camping options. Just look for a nice island or a shoreline with no roads or railways and you will usually find a pretty camp site there. You might have to paddle for a while to find a flat spot where to beach and "park" your boat but you'll find a suitable spot soon. Once you have climbed the little slope you will usually find gorgeous forest with great camping. As we are back in fall colors we had some very scenic camp spots. The river maps show public land and private property in different colors but they do not show the location of the numerous duck hides. With some bad luck you can end up next to one and that means you will probably be awakened by gun shots at 4 am. The bigger problem is to get away from the railway lines as the trains will blast their horn all night long while passing through. Choosing the opposite side of the river helps to reduce the noise, but keep in mind that sound carries very far on a river.

Clarksville
Resupply is easy, too. Several little towns dot the river with Nauvoo being a real highlight. Not only is it a very pretty historic little town, but all the sights are free! Most of the towns are relatively small though and you will not find a big supermarket but only a gas station. If you are only after water just stop a one of the many marinas. They are generally very friendly and will let you leave your boat while going into town, give you water or just advice on where to get food. I also used a marina as a shipping address for my replacement paddle. Some marinas offer camping or accommodation, too.

The barges turned out to be much less of a problem than expected. Usually we passed only 2 or 3 barges per day but this might be due to the fact that we are paddling late in the season. The barges transport a lot of corn and soy beans and therefore there might be more barge traffic in summer. But the river is so wide that passing a barge is not a big problem. Barges due not create a very big wake - but pleasure crafts do! So you have to much more careful with the big sport boats that can create waves so big they can swamp you. And not all boaters are very polite....

The biggest challenges in this section are the wind and the locks. The wind can create huge waves on such a big body of water and if the weather forecasts predicts winds higher than 15 mph you better don't plan on paddling much, especially if you cannot hide in a small side channel. The locks can be a big time obstacle. It takes 2 hours for a big barge to get through and if you are stuck behind one that can ruin your day. Also locks become a big danger in high winds as the waves reverberate from the lock walls and can create extremely choppy conditions. See for more information about the locks in the next blog post. And watch out for those duck hides!

Conclusion: This section has by far exceeded my expectations. I had expected a rather populated and industrialized river with a huge amount of barge traffic. Instead the river turned out to be almost as remote and pristine as the upper Mississippi north of Minneapolis. Most of the time you feel far away from civilisation and you will still see plenty of wildlife like pelicans, bald eagles and deer. The water is still very clear. And as an added bonus you can visit lots of charming little towns along the river. I can definitely recommend paddling this stretch.


Mississippi: Louisiana, MO to St. Louis, MO

Three other paddlers
The marinas turned out to be very friendly to kayakers. After our great stop at Two Rivers Marina in Louisiana we stopped at John's Boat Harbour to pick up my replacement paddle shaft. We were greeted very friendly with free sodas and lots of questions about our trip. The marina staff was already worried about us because we had arrived much later than expected due to bad weather. The new paddle shaft posed a bit of a problem as it would not fit first. Lendal had included some sand paper and after a phone call to Lendal customer service we started to sand down the new shaft until it would finally fit. It was about time as the spare paddle is much heavier than the Lendal one and had made my upper arms hurt a lot. By the way: We are not the only idiots out here. Right at Clarksville we ran into 3 other paddlers in one big aluminium canoe. These three young guys even use a sail and paddle at  night! So now we know of a Canadian couple and our friend Alex behind us, these three young guys and a couple with a dog around us and a thruhiker called Out of order in a kayak in front of us. The Mississippi is much more popular than expected - even in cold November.

The wind has become our biggest problem now. Although we are still relatively lucky we have had two days with gusts up to 30 mph - and that is no fun in a small kayak and a huge body of water like the Mississippi. The larger the water surface the higher the waves can get. Lock 25 therefore turned into a nightmare for us. The whole day we had enjoyed a strong tail wind that had pushed us forward. But it also pushed the waves directly into the walls of lock 25 where they reverberated into even bigger waves. We were both scared as we approached knowing that we not only had to get into the lock, but also get to the lock wall and pull the cord for lockage. Brian got in first and I saw him back paddling immediately! As I approached him he told me that he had feared for his life inside the lock walls. No way we could get in there and get to the cord without being smashed from the waves. The only way to inform the lockmaster now was to call him from our cell phone. In an almost acrobatic act Brian got his cell phone and the piece of paper with the lock phone numbers out. He had to keep everything in his mouth while re-arranging his sprayskirt and he clang on to it with his dear life.

The lock master was unimpressed by our sufferings and did not even come out to greet us. We had to wait ten more minutes outside while he filled up the lock and those ten minutes felt like 10 hours. My arms would hurt for several days from the physical effort of trying to stay in place and not capsize in that boiling pot. Eventually the lock doors opened and we paddled furiously to get in as fast as possible. For the first time in this trip I thought I would capsize so choppy was it. But as soon as you are inside the lock and the lock doors close behind you it is peace on earth - at least for the ten minutes the lockage process takes. Luckily things were much better on the other side!

Going into the canal
But the very worst lock experience was the very last lock on the Mississippi right before St. Louis. This stretch of river is called Chain of Rocks and due to the rapids there it is not passable by barges. The Army Corps has therefore constructed a narrow canal around it with a lock in the middle. My first concern was if the canal would be wide enough to accommodate a barge and a kayak. Keep in mind that barges throw off a wake that can be pretty dangerous for a small craft like a kayak. But the canal was much wider than expected and several boats passed us with no problem. The weather forecast had predicted a very strong head wind and under normal conditions we would not have paddled that day. But we were so close to St. Louis and our warmshowers hosts that we decided to give it a last push. The first stretch in the canal was as smooth as glass and we were already wondering about the forecast. But then the canal's direction turned only a slight angle - and we were suddenly facing an incredibly strong wind directly in our face! This was the worst wind we have had on this trip and it reduced my paddling speed to about 1 mile per hour. I even contemplated dragging the boat but the canal sides were too rocky for that. So at a snail's pace I approached the lock where we were immediately locked through.

Plant on the shore
But when we asked the lock master about the wind situation on the other side he gave a very disconcerting answer. "The wind is your least problem.", he said. "We have had to close the lock at night for dredging and therefore barges have piled up. There are several barges outside waiting for lockage and the canal is very narrow. All I can do for you is radio ahead and warn them that you are coming. I wish you good luck because you will need it!" We left the lock with these encouraging words and immediately faced a brutal head wind and 5 barges parked all over the canal! We had no clue how to get around them as we had learnt our lesson earlier: Don't get between a barge and a levy wall! Luckily the lock master must have radioed ahead as the barge captains came out and gave us directions on how to pass them - not an easy task in a 30 mph direct head wind. The wind created waves and the barges' engines added turbulence. I was scared to death and kept on paddling only to survive. Things did not get better once we got past the parked barges and out of the canal. On the wide river the waves were even higher and I feared for my life again. Unfortunately along the shore there were only plants and railway lines - no real place to beach. But I was desperate. As soon as I saw a bit of sand for beaching I had to get out. I was physically so exhausted I could not continue paddling much longer and I continued shaking for almost half an hour. The place was less than ideal for taking out our boats as we had to drag them up a rocky long slope. On top was a bike path - no road! How would we get out of there? When scouting out the area I luckily ran into a local in a car who confirmed that cars are actually allowed to drive here. He gave me directions for our hosts and 2 hours later we had disassembled our boats, dragged up all our stuff up the slope and were happily sitting in Rich's car on our way to another great warmshowers place.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Mississippi: Nauvoo to Louisiana, MO

Paddling in the folg
Although Brian who is still constantly complaining about the weather will see it differently, I think we have been very lucky with the weather since our skipping forward to Davenport. After we had sat out a stormy day there we have not had any wind issues expect on our approach to Nauvoo - and that was an extremely wide spot in the river with no side channels to hide behind. Other than that the wind has been minimal and the day time temperatures quite nice. Still no T-shirt paddling weather, but pleasant enough. We have encountered an interesting phenomenom: When the sun is shining and the winds low it is much warmer out on the river than on land because of the sun reflecting in the water. Some days I would be lost without sun glasses  - so intense is the sun. Unfortunately it cools down rather quickly once the sun sets but luckily we have had no more sub freezing temperatures at night. One night we even indulged in a nice camp fire in the evening and I can read in my tent at night without freezing my fingers off - at least for half an hour.... Only one day so far we have encountered a new serious weather problem: fog! One morning the fog was so thick that we did not know if we should actually paddle. Luckily we were in a side channel were no barge can go but we were still afraid of motor boats. It felt very eerie to paddle in the thick coat of fog that took till almost noon to lift completely.

Waiting outside the lock
Our main issue right now are the locks. Everything is fine when they are empty. We now know the routine on how to approach and what to do in the lock. But when there is a barge there already then things get complicated. Single (or small barges) take about as long as we to get locked through: about 20 to 30 minutes. But the huge double barges have to be taken apart for the lockage process and that takes about 2 hours! And of course barges always have priority over pleasure boats like us! There is one lock on the Mississippi River that can actually accommodate a double barge: The lock is 1,200 feet (about 400 metres long) and the drop is 36 feet (12 metres). Being locked through there I felt like a dwarf! Luckily the lockmasters are usually very friendly (as long as you obey the rules and do not pass between a barge and a levy wall!) and try to help kayakers. The most important trick is to have their phone numbers so that you can call them in case you do not know what to do. And we two amateurs usually don't.

In the lock
 So one day we approached a lock with two double barges already waiting outside. That translates into 4 hours waiting time for us! Brian quickly called the lockmaster and we were very lucky. He quickly radioed the barges and we were allowed to be locked through first. On the other side we another pleasant surprise was waiting for me. We had entered the state of Missouri and I had finally T-mobile cell phone reception again! (I have not had any T-mobile reception in the whole state of Iowa and having no internet on my smartphone for almost 2 weeks has been a torture for an internet junkie like me!)

In the showerhouse
We have less than a week and only 4 locks now to get to St. Louis, another big mile stone for us. The weather forecast today was horrible and we awoke to constant rain and a day high temperature of 8 Celsius. Luckily the town of Louisiana (not the state) was nearby and the local Two Lakes Marina offered camping. We paddled there in the morning through cold rain and hit gold: The marina was practically empty, camping was only 15$ per site and that included use of a nice warm shower house (where we we ended end up sleeping at night) and free use of a courtesy van with which we have been driving around all day long. So for once grocery shopping, going to the library and finding cheap AYCE buffets is not a problem. A horrible day has now turned into a great town stay!

Mississippi: Nauvoo

Nauvoo Temple
Ever since my bike trip across Southwest USA and my long stay in the Mormon capitol of Salt Lake City I have been very interested in the Mormon history. Therefore I got quite excited when I read in the Mississippi River Road guidebook that Nauvoo, the first big Mormon settlement in the US is right on the Mississippi River. So this would be a town stop that both Brian and I enjoy - although maybe for different reasons. Things got even better when Brian found us really nice warmshowers hosts in town. I was very excited about the upcoming town stay but the rather choppy approach with high waves put a bit of a damper on me. The waves were so high that we did not dare to make it directly to our hosts but beached our boats 4 miles before at a public boat ramp. Luckily this place was a bit out of town and we could easily hide our kayaks in the bushes there. It was only a bit more than a mile into town but the first car that passed us immediately offered us a lift into town.

Broken Lendal shaft
After this friendly introduction things continued in a positive way: The only lunch place in town had a great lunch buffet where we tried to solve my broken paddle problem. I had bought my paddle at Lendal in the UK, but they had an affiliate in the US. Although they were not handling warranty issues for their UK mother, they had a replacement shaft for me. Now I only had to figure out where to ship it to. Post offices were the most obvious solution but that would require a walk into town and maybe restricted office hours. Therefore I was hoping that I could use one of the marinas along the river as an shipping address and started to call around. All of them were really friendly and I soon found one that was open every day. I then placed my order at Lendal and I am now hoping to soon receive my new paddle shaft. Nauvoo is a cute little town and directly opposite of the lunch buffet was the public library where we could update our blogs and I even scored some crime thrillers in the used book sale. The little grocery store was just one block away and we quickly did our grocery shopping. Unfortunately all this did not leave much time for sightseeing in Nauvoo before our hosts picked us up in the evening.

Women's Memorial
Our hosts David and Ruth Ann turned out to be Mormon themselves though and that gave me the opportunity to ask five million questions to them. They have 8 children and currently have 23 grandchildren - so cooking for a bunch of hungry paddlers was easy for them. I enjoyed their company tremendously and could have asked questions the whole night! We had planned to leave early next morning but I could not bring myself to leave without any decent sightseeing. Our hosts were more than happy to accommodate us another night and so I dived into some serious Mormon sightseeing! Nauvoo was settled by the Mormons in the 1840's, but they were soon forced to relocate to Salt Lake City. The beautiful Mormon Temple and most of the buildings were destroyed back then, but 10 years ago the Mormon community had started to rebuild the Temple and restore the old building. Now Old Nauvoo is a bit of a museum town with a huge visitor centre and dozens of buildings staffed with volunteer guides. As usual in Mormon place all the sights are free!

I started my day with a movie about old Nauvoo followed by a waggon ride across town before I started visiting the different historic houses and indulging in hourlong discussions with the Mormon missionaries. The day passed too quickly and I could have stayed much longer and still not get bored. But I had promised to cook dinner which I thoroughly enjoyed doing in a huge kitchen instead of using my tiny petrol stove. Ruth Ann had even gone to Aldi's to get me the right ingredients. But our hosts did not only enlighten us about the Mormons they also taught me a lot about service dogs. As one of their sons is handicapped that had one of his retired service dogs living with them which showed us how a dog on open doors and pick up pencils and credit cards!

After two very comfortable nights in a nice bed we eventually left Nauvoo - and the river was like glass again!