Monday, May 23, 2011

A perfect day and some great numbers!

Today I finally had the magical day on the river where everything came together perfectly. It was certainly a contrast to yesterday's events at the Lexington Landing. The river is two completely different personalities between the weekdays and the weekends. Now that the work week has begun and the party hounds are back to work (with a Monday hangover?) I have my simple pace of river life again.

When I pulled into Lexington yesterday the tornado sirens were going off. The bad weather actually was to the east of Lexington and hit the small town of Waverly, MO, my current location. I was told by a person in town that the storm tore up the public park to the south of town. It missed the town proper which is good because there's not much in this little hamlet.

Most of the drunks left the Lexington Landing last night by 6:00 p.m. but there was still quite a bit of traffic until around 11:00 p.m. with the locals coming and going. I thought things were done when the last of them pulled out but then a new crew came in and fished until after midnight. It's always fun hearing parents yell "I'm gonna whip your ass" over and over to a young four year old that's tired and cranky and should have been home in bed hours before. Like I said, it was a whole different jive happening along the river on the weekend.

This morning dawned warm and sunny. The overnight low was 62 degrees, a full 20 degrees warmer than my Nebraska camping just a week ago. I think spring is nearly over in this area and summer is soon to be in full force. As I mentioned yesterday, if you have a canoe and you're at a landing you're sure to get lots of questions from the locals. It was 8:30 a.m. and I was putting the finishing touches on packing my dry bags when a chap came up to talk to me. He has lived in Lexington his entire life and he proudly told me all about the Civil War history of the town, the riverboat history, and a lengthy description of the 1993 Flood. I've been hearing about that one a lot as I've come down river. It must have been a sight to behold.

By the time he finished chewing my ear off it was 9:15 a.m. when I got on the river. I didn't mind as I knew I had a very short day and I'd be to my destination shortly after noon. As I floated down river I officially passed the 250 miles traveled mark, the 50% trip completed mark, and "only" 300 miles left until St. Louis mark. A pretty good set of numbers!

I'm now in Waverly, MO, and it's a pretty sweet little river town. They have the best city campground that I've encountered since leaving Nebraska. There's water, electricity, and even a flush toilet here. I chose a site up high in the park that overlooks the railroad and the river. I figure that if I'm going to have trains keeping me away all night that I should have a great view to go with it.

Today is the first time I've actually walked into one of the river towns. I was going to do so yesterday at Lexington and visit the Civil War site but I was afraid my equipment would be gone when I returned. The atmosphere in Waverly is completely opposite of what I experienced in Lexington. It's a lazy little town on a glacial moraine overlooking the river that's seen its busiest days decades ago. After I set up camp and cabled my canoe to a tree I walked up to the old commercial district. Only the post office, a bank, the funeral home, and town hall are there now. The old highway that ran through town was moved south so all the traffic bypasses the old business center. I stopped in at the post office and asked directions to the hardware store; "there isn't one. General store? Nope, don't have one of those anymore. How about an auto parts store? Yes, we do have one of those. Just head east on this street the road swings to the right then you'll see it along the new highway." Fifteen minutes later I was in possession of a can of silicone lubricant (the Missouri river water is gunking up my rudder and keeping it from dropping like it should when I launch the canoe). Unfortunately, the watch that I broke today portaging the canoe to my campsite couldn't be replaced, at least not in this town.

As I was headed back to the river front park and my campsite when an elderly couple sitting on their front porch started conversing with me about their lives, the river, and the declining town. All in all, it was one of those kinds of days that I was hoping for and one I wish would occur more frequently. Unfortunately, with all the flooding over the last 20 years many of these towns have retreated from the river. That and the changing shopping habits of the citizens means that people now head to where the local Walmart is located, usually about 20 miles away, and shop there. I doubt any of these little burgs will ever come back to what they used to be. The old couple told me the status of the towns I'll come across in the next few days. It sounds like they're not doing much better than Waverly, MO.

Oh well, time to make dinner and maybe enjoy a sponge bath (the bathroom here has a sink and running water!). There's a private camp (Cooper's Landing) that I'll stop at in four days that has hot showers and a laundry facility. I guess Waverly is about the best accommodations I'll have until then.

I'm not sure if I've mentioned it but I feel like I'm in a bad episode of King of the Hill. Every person I've encountered in the last two days mumbles like Boomhauer on that show. It must be Missouri River thing but it really cracks me up!

Sent from Jerry Bricker's iPad. Oooooh!


  1. Jerry,

    Great updates of your trip! It's like going back in time.

  2. This is such a wonderful story, and makes me think about what it must have been like back in the day (before interstates and fast cars, when people seemed more connected to place and people cared more about each other and the land).