Thank our lucky stars and the prayers from our followers, last night ALMOST proved to be our last. Rafting past mile 185 last night, we decided to camp on a bank just south of hundreds of parked barge containers. Pulling up to shore just after the rocky levee wall, we jumped out to anchor and found ourselves knee deep in river muck. The river has dropped elevation significantly, leaving the new banks fresh, wet, and dirty with few sandy shores. Anchored for the night, we went through our routine of closing up our cabin with the mesh doors and cooking dinner before calling it night. Suddenly at 12:30am a loud crashing thud awoke us. A 7-long barge had decided, of all the banks to choose, to park right on top of us! Less than 100 feet away the front of this vessel drove itself into the rocky levee shore we decided to avoid. Then a tugboat on the side, scanned the shore with a bright yellow spotlight and discovered our raft. Considering the amount of time he focused on this odd shaped boat, one can only assume he discovered the BarrelRaftBoys after parking!
We pushed from Baton Rouge late on Friday having skipped the LSU game, which turned out to be a blowout (56-0). Tanner found a BurgerSmith, devouring a custom burger and alligator bites dipped in spicy ranch, mmm..mmm. This unique city reminded both of us of Tampa, with the spanish moss in the trees, tropical heat and the afternoon downpours. Two guys from OMI Environmental Solutions, Daryl and Walter, were using the boat launch near us and began to chat about our journey. They were thrilled to hear about two guys and their dog that floated from Minnesota. Walter showed us some southern hospitality by driving us to the gas station. Thanks very much Walter!
The BarrelRaftBoys have been preparing for this 130 mile stretch of river since we began our 1,600+ mile journey. The most traffic we’ve seen to date ranging in all sizes and all types of wakes: barges, solo tugboats, ferry’s, a warship, casino boats, “worker-bee” boats, river dredgers, and even ocean liners. The river has no buoys, very little wildlife, steel docks and ports, and leveed on both sides. We are comfortable with pushing through as we know our raft can take the wake; we power all day staying within 100 feet from shoreline to give the industrial vessels more than enough room.
Although this section of the river has its challenges, all the traffic and activity on the shore can be pretty entertaining and it helps the days float right by. We pass men on tugboats or on docks every few minutes and they all cheer and clap and wave or give us the thumbs up as we pass. The cheering and applause we hear might just be in our heads, but we still pretend as though its real. The feeling might be similar to a runner finishing up a marathon as he/she runs the last 100 yards through crowds of people cheering them on. If only someone could drape a ribbon across the river for us to burst through upon our arrival in New Orleans!
An storm rolled through yesterday at 3:00pm and lasted for roughly 45 minutes, but dumped massive amounts of rain in that span. Huge wind gust followed by sideways rain sent us quickly to a nearby sandbar. Tossing us the tarp over the front door and stapling plastic on the interior side window was enough to keep some stuff dry. These storms in this region of the world are fast, hard and unrelenting; it was pouring so hard we could no longer see across the river to the other bank. Needless to say, Louisiana and rafting down its portion of the Mississippi River has been, and is proving to be our toughest challenge.
Today, with a newfound look on life (after almost being barge pancake last night) we are getting more and more excited about nearing the finish line. Skully is as restless as we are, not wanting to lay down or get back onto the raft after breaks. Luckily, to break the stretch of industrial river, a man out of Paulina, Louisiana emailed Rob asking if we needed any help as we passed by. We told him what time we’d be floating by, and even though we were an hour and a half late (so sorry 🙁 ) he was still out there waiting for us..along with about 30 of his friends and neighbors! We can’t even put into words how awesome it was to see friendly faces out on the river bank waiting for us to arrive. Charlie and some others had read about us through Big River Magazine and had been following us since we started building the raft! How cool is that? They were excited to see our raft and hear about our journey so far..even refilled our water and gave us some gas. Thanks so much!! They try and keep track of everyone doing trips similar to ours and welcome them as they pass through. It was a real honor to be welcomed like that after traveling hundreds of miles without seeing anyone living near the river and we can’t thank you enough!
A lot of our clothes are wet, all of them are dirty; I’m writing this post only wearing a towel, which is just as dirty. I can see our afternoon storm gaining on us in the distance, its time to end this post and get ready for New Orleans tomorrow and Tuesday.
Current River Mile: 148
Word of the day: Buoyantly
Alligators Seen: one, a 5-footer (his head barely above the surface in the photo)