Wondering where we've been, eh? Cruising the lower west side of Wisconsin by bus and floating down the Mississippi River by houseboat, disconnected from the rest of the world, for the most part since last Thursday afternoon, when we arrived in McGregor Iowa, a quaint little river town that was established in 1839. Here we switched from bus to houseboat along with 5 other families who we've known for many years (we all grew up in Waukegan, Illinois, just north of Chicago).
What inspired this trip was a similar houseboat trip that several of us took as kids over 30 years ago, from the same exact place, Boatels. In fact, the same guy has been running Boatels since the 50s!
Without a doubt, we had all the right ingredients for a memorable adventure: 18 kids from ages 4 to 21, 4 dogs, including two, tireless 8 month old Lab pups, and 3 houseboats, two of which appeared to have survived many years in the hands of novice river captains, learning to navigate the Mississippi with 10 minutes of dock-side training under their belts before shoving off. And piloting a houseboat is no simple feat. Basically, you have the equivalent of a rather large RV on pontoons, with a wimpy little outboard motor that can barely get the thing going in a direction other than downstream. Seems like it should be easy enough to point it in one direction and go, but we quickly found even the simplest driving quite a challenge.
So off we went, up river, on a wonderfully sunny morning, to look for a nice beach, with nary a barge to get in our way. An hour into our trip, 2 of the 3 boats had conked out. One managed to anchor in mid river, while the other drifted downstream a ways, until it found some trees to tangle with at the river bank, since virtually all low lying land was still under water with the river being so high from recent rains. The anchored boat was unable to get their motor started, but that didn't stop them creating a wonderful Italian luncheon consisting of lumpy pizza (pan fried in oil, not baked) and breaking out the wine. So we headed over, docked along side and joined the feast while we waited for help to come. Meanwhile, the other boat radioed distress signals, having not stocked up quite as heavily on food and wondering when lunch and perhaps some mechanical help would arrive. Once satiated, we cruised over with pizza and wine and everyone was happy.
Help would arrive and make two return trips (to get more parts and another outboard motor expert), but by that time we were so enjoying the company and the river as it flowed by, so who cares if we stopped a bit unexpectedly for lunch mid-river? Eventually, our mechanics got the boats running and we made our way about 15 miles up river to what appeared to be one of the only little sandy beaches that was high enough to stick out of the water. Although we managed to beach our yatch quite nicely, the others caused some panic amongst our neighbors on the beach with their D-Day like docking maneuvers. No one got hurt and everyone had a good laugh, except the neighbors, I guess, since they regularly glanced our way, maybe wondering what all that wine would do to us now. I think we all slept well.
More to come!
A little stop at A&W for some all american food on the first leg of the trip to the Wisconsin Lake House to pick up the rest of the fam, now its Thursday and we gotta get going to Iowa to get on the house boats! I'll post more later as soon as more exciting stuff happens! Look forward to it!
Bleah! First leg of the trip and, what's this? All of Minneapolis seems to be taking the same highway that we're using for our vacation. "Get outta the way! We're in a hurry to go on vacation here, can't you see?"
Niklas and I headed to Dutch Hollow Lake, near the Dells in Wisconsin to pick up the rest of the family, who arrived there by train a few days ago. Nik even took a turn at the wheel while I took a nap. We arrived after midnight to an excited bunch of kids who had been waiting all day and night for us to arrive. Apparently, they could hear the bus coming from several miles away... I didn't realize how noisy this thing was!
Tomorrow, we're heading down to McGregor Iowa to take a weekend trip up the Mississippi River on houseboats with a bunch of old family friends, then we'll be back on the road, Sunday night. With luck, we'll get a WiFi or GPRS connection on the Mississippi, but if not, you may not hear from us for a few days...
Finally, the deck is done! Mike the welder gave the wood a good coat of stain and added a couple more screws to make sure nothing decides to take flight at 55mph.
Gary, Nathan & Niklas gave it the standing around test and approved it for sleeping, packing, standing, sitting, maybe a little dancing. People 5 feet and under will even clear most bridges without ducking.
Too much driving and not enough walking today.
And every little job is having it's share of screw-ups. OK, maybe 2 or 3 screw-ups is OK... well, you know, as long as they're minor. I can live with that, and, actually, come to think of it, that's the interesting part. Trying to figure out how to recover and deal and improvise my way through all the little screw-ups... it means living in the present, dealing with the situation and deciding to enjoy the moment, the idea and thinking part, especially when it's actually starting to piss me off and frustration is forcing it's way into the mess. Not easy, but if I can, if I can get back to the here and now, I'm on vacation even when I'm preparing for the vacation. Good place to be.
Enough vacation philosophy. Reality: kick butt now, kick back later.
Nik, fresh outa Berkeley High, hanging with his pop (as uncle Eric demonstrates advanced flash photo techniques.) On our way out to Minneapolis last night, on the red eye from SFO, the sleep deprived evening started with me trying to board Sun Country with a bag full of sharp, pointy, heavy metal bike tools... what on earth was I thinking?
A 3 hour flight got us to Minneapolis at 5am, and with nothing else to do but take advantage of the morning light, Eric and I drove around the city shooting photos here and there while Nik caught a few much needed z's in the back seat. Minneapolis is a great city with some impressive buildings downtown, but a small town, neighborhoody feel almost everywhere you go. Back to Eric's for a nap.
This afternoon we stopped at REI to pick up all the bikes and racks and gear I bought on the Memorial Day weekend sale, but nothing seemed to be in storage and they had no record of me or my wallet's blood-letting of a couple weeks ago. I stayed calm, got out my Mac (gotta fight fire with fire) and showed 'em MY computer record of the sale. Manager types appeared, hunted and unearthed the goods. On to the next battle.
This evening we went off to see the bus and inspect the newly constructed roof deck and found few rough edges that need grinding and a wimpy grade of plywood that's not good for bus decks, ugh! But hey, that's why we got here a few days early... and what could be a nicer way to spend father's day than with his first newly minted high school graduate?