C'mon...hop in and let's take a river trip.....re-run C'mon...hop in and let's take a river trip.....re-run
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    C'mon...hop in and let's take a river trip.....re-run
from Beartrap  
7/19/2012 12:35:11 PM


  Two things I've always wanted to do, drive the Trans-Canada and Alaskan highways and travel
the entire length of the Mississippi river by boat. I did the Trans-Canada/Alaskan Highway trip
three years ago and now it's time to take a river trip.
From Minneapolis, Minn., to Albany, it is 2,107 miles by water. This is roughly the same
distance as Albany to Billings, Mont., by highway. Traveling from Minneapolis to Albany by
water requires coming down the Mississippi, up the Ohio and Tennessee Rivers, down the
Tombigbee, across the intracoastal waterway and up the Apalachicola and Flint Rivers. The
2,107 miles by auto is a three-day trip. The same distance in a 16-foot aluminum boat with a 25
horsepower engine turned out to be an 18-day trip, and probably should not be taken by the sane
of mind.
The Mississippi River may not be my first love but it ranks high in the top ten. I spent almost 14
years hunting and fishing on the river and shared some wonderful experiences with my sons. I
often wondered what it would be like to travel the entire length of the Mississippi River and
wanted to do it while I lived there but didn't have the funds or time off to do it all at one time.
In 1978, my son (age 16 at the time) and I launched our 14-foot aluminum boat in the
Mississippi River at New Orleans and traveled 447 miles upriver to Greenville, Miss, where we
lived at the time. It was a great trip not only to see the scenery and experience a long trip by river
but it was a memorable addition to that I-did-this-one-time" list that everyone has. My plan the
next year was to travel from Minneapolis to Greenville, Miss., and complete the entire length of
the river.

Before I could do it, a career change led me away from Greenville. For the next 30 years, I
pursued a shopping center management path and the addictive hobby of tournament bass fishing.
The years and the memories of fishing and duck hunting on the Mississippi River really never
left me and a couple years ago, I bought a duck boat. When I started back hunting, some of my
old haunts on the Mississippi river, I realized I still had a dream I really wanted to fulfill and
time is running out on my being able to complete a trip of this nature. I wish I could turn the
calender back 30 years but I can't, so I've got to do the next best thing and ignore my age (70)
and physical limitations and realize a dream before that rocking chair claims me.

For the past year, I've been working on my boat and gathering information on what it requires to
travel down the River in a small boat. The "Bible" for river travel is the Quimby Cruising Guide
and I researched it and the Internet thoroughly, planning fuel and overnight stops. I finally came
to the conclusion that the lower Mississippi from St. Louis south is just not "small-boat friendly"
simply because of gas availability. From St. Louis to New Orleans, it's 1,041 miles and gas is
available at only two places (Memphis and Greenville, Miss.) Possibly I could have probably
gotten over this by arranging for someone to bring gas to a pre-arranged spot on the river and
carried camping gear for overnight stops.
In talking to people about this trip, several mentioned that most river travelers are now using the
Tennessee and Tombigbee rivers traveling north and south because marinas are much more
frequent on this route. I did some quick research and determined that I could actually travel from
Minneapolis to Albany by river It will require using the intracoastal waterway to travel from
Mobile. Ala., to Apalachicola and should have minimal exposure to open water in the gulf until I
turned north up the Apalachicola River. This would extend my travel time by at least a week but
the trip was doable and the more I thought about it, the more appealing this route became. That
will still leave 417 miles of the Mississippi River (Cairo, Ill. to Greenville, Miss.) that I haven't
traveled. But hey, us old folks always need something to look forward to and that's a good
project for 2011.

When you approach locks, they ask you the name of your boat so I had to come up with one for
mine. Most of my family friends thought "DUMARSE" was perfect choice. If you tell people
you're planning a trip like this, you tend to get to get two reactions: most people think you're
crazy for doing it, but a few say "wish I could go along"
So, hop in and let's take a river trip.
Travel to Minneapolis
One of my closest friends, Scott Gatlin needed a break from running a bank and agreed to drive
to Minneapolis with me and bring my truck and trailer back. He arrives at my house Sunday
morning June 6 at 10:30 a.m and we begin the 1,400-mile trip to Minneapolis/St.Paul. We stop at
Phils Barbeque in Eufaula, Ala., for lunch for what will be our last BBQ for awhile. Late
afternoon, we stop for gas in middle Tennessee and I do my usual walk around inspection of the
boat and our first crisis arrives. The hydraulic jack plate/motor trim plate has broken; apparently
it was not designed for trailering without an engine brace. I look closely and determine I'm not
going to be able to run the engine unless I can get this unit fixed or get it off the boat and run
without power trim.

As we travel north, we discuss our options but can't come up with a firm plan. We stop overnight
in Paducah, Ky., and I look for boat dealers in the phone book. I find three, with Sportsman's
Edge located just down the road from the motel. Most marine dealers in the summer are
extremely busy and I fully expected them to tell me "they couldn't even look at it for a week.
My back up plan was to borrow the necessary tools and see if Scott and I could get off

At 7:30 a.m. we are waiting for the marina to open. A young guy, Adam Butterbaugh, came out
to meet us and I explained our predicament and he went back inside and came out with Larry
Bailey, the service manager. I was flabbergasted to hear them say back your boat over here and
we'll get started.
Later, Mark the owner came out and we told him about our trip. Two hours later, we paid a
very reasonable charge for their work (I insisted making a little extra donation to buy Adam and
Larry's lunch) and we left with two T-shirts and three new friends.

We progress northward through Illinois with corn fields stretching as far as the eye can see on
either side of the highway. We did notice the corn becomes shorter and shorter the further north
we go. When we cross the Mississippi River in the Quad cities area, I tell Scott to slow down so I
can take a picture from the top of the bridge because sometime in next week Im gonna take a
picture of that bridge as I come back down the river.
We begin to encounter heavy rain so we stop in Waterloo, Iowa, for the night.


Edited 7/19/2012 12:36:22 PM

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