Monday, November 24, 2008

[LIVE] Minneapolis

Hello, everyone, I have reached Minneapolis!

Actually, I have been here since Thursday. Why did I put off posting? Thursday was a little too cold to be on the water comfortably -- blocks of ice formed on all my stuff and even my clothes as I locked through the St Anthony dams in downtown Minneapolis. I staggered into the University of Minnesota campus gasping for warm air to thaw my hypothermic lungs, and spent my last dollar on a slice of pizza to heat my stomach.

In spite of that, I might have tried to continue on with my increasingly frozen adventure, except I have been committed to seeing family over Thanksgiving and the locks are shutting down for maintenance in December.

So I am now planning to winter in Minneapolis until May.

Here's my calendar at present:

Thursday, November 20: Last day of canoeing in 2008
Monday, November 24: Still in Minneapolis, staying with family friends
Tuesday, November 25: Flying to St Louis
Wednesday, November 26: Driving to Indianapolis
Thursday, November 27: Saff Thanksgiving
Saturday, November 29: Rupp Thanksgiving; driving back to St Louis
Monday, December 1: Locks 1-5 close; daily posts resume at the "Little Floating Adventure"
Sunday, December 7: Karen's recital
Monday, December 8: Locks 6-10 close; flying back to Minneapolis
January: Classes begin at the U of MN
May: Classes end at the U of MN; canoeing to New Orleans

It is all very confusing and nonlinear to me. All of a sudden I am looking for a place to stay and work in Minneapolis. Got any leads?

I doubt I will blog about all the individual days spent in Minneapolis, although this blog will at least be active as I throw all the old days up here. My muse has changed her tune and my journal has been accumulating sketches instead of paragraphs for the last couple of days. That may indicate a direction for blogging the long layover.

Friday, November 14, 2008

[LIVE] St Cloud

Hi everyone.

I'm just checking in to say I'm currently in St Cloud, Minnesota. The boat's holding in and I hope to be in Minneapolis within the week. After that I hope to have some time and opportunity for a bit more posting here -- I'm taking a break to Indianapolis for a Thanksgiving family reunion.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

[LIVE Day 140] Brainerd

Someone is waiting to use this computer, so I can only post this quick note.

I am in Brainerd, the boat is in critical but stable condition, it is cold, I am continuing with my trip tonight. I hope to be in Minneapolis in two weeks.

After that, I should be able to post more.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Day 85: The death of sand

If sand is a primal element in the creation of my universe then who am I without it?

It happened very slowly, as increasing amounts of mud began to infiltrate the sandy banks. There was not a particular point at which I could say, no, this is no longer sand, but mud. But perhaps there was a spiritual marker.

As I crossed under Highway 34 I noticed one of these cables, that seem to provide for crossing the river by means of a little box hung from it. It seems superfluous with the bridge right there, but someone must find these things tremendous because I had seen many of them, always a hundred yards or so after a bridge. I always wated to get a closer look to see if I could ride one of these things, but always had some reason preventing me. This one was "too close to that house, no good landing."

I would never get another chance because I would never see one again.

Instead I camped on the island just there, my feet filling with mud as I tried to clean my muddy clothes in the river and find some branch to hang them from. I wasn't sad, I just wasn't ecstatic anymore. The river is just a place where good or bad things can happen.

Day 85 ended: 49*41.590N, 098*53.103W

Monday, November 3, 2008

Day 84: Biking for books!

It was Saturday, and the Provincial Park gift shop was open! When I peeked inside I had seen many books! Being a natural sucker for any field guide that seems useful I had to go and see what books they were.

The first step was to get to a road. There was a "canoe campsite" nearby, but the low water made a nasty mud step rather than a gentle rise, and I succeeded in dunking myself and my bicycle into the dirty water before finding my way to the top.

The second obstacle, or rather obstacles, were all the friendly equestrians camped there. It was difficult, but somehow I got through all the scrambled eggs, pancakes, toast and bacon they threw at me. Fortunately my stomach is impossible to fill.

Despite the detailed directions and trail status reports from the horse riders, this bicycle rider soon became lost enough to resort to the GPS. I found the Transcanada Trail, which actually crosses all of Manitoba and was going my way. Me and my gimpy bike progressed west as I had to stop frequently and refill the rear tire with my broken hand pump.

And I saw a horsey and some families and a red van! They were all happy.

And I got to the heart of the developed park where the nice wood buildings were in the joyous rain showers and I looked at the books. I looked at them as though looking for a friend, but these books were not my books.
That was okay. I rode back a different way and in the sunset was pink! and the dark of my arrival was once again beset by equestrians bearing food.

Day 84 ended: 49*41.400N, 099*05.089W

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Day 83: Bliss

My life was becoming increasingly blissful. Going so quickly from those two wretched days of rain, to the welcoming city of Brandon, to the "cereal bowl" and the sands of Spruce Woods had lifted my spirits to immeasurable heights. Every night as my head hits the bag I think to myself how I never want the trip to end. When I discover that Spruce Woods has no riverside camping available for me, I take it in stride, happily chatting at the reservations desk for an hour. When the awesome-looking gift shop is found to be closed, I just decide that I may make the ride back there on the day when it will be open.

My voice becomes sweet and wistful, as though I've been smoking the weed, but this is a natural high. Everything and everyone is beautiful. I aimed for the canoe camping site near the east end of camp, but when I discover it is inhabited I calmly paddled upstream and made camp at the previous sandbank.

The natives in this area held sand to be one of the fundamental elements of nature involved in creation. Truly it is a gift of God - so clean, soft, and dry. It was the sand and clear sky that pleased me, and I began fantasizing about sand and clean water, of sailboats and ocean beaches.
Such intense peace is rare to find on this earth. I don't know that I've had it at such a level, or for so long, as during this point in the trip.

Day 83 ended: 49*41.605N, 099*05.001W

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Day 82: The Real Thing

A sign at river left had the words "Punch-Bowl" carved into its wood and painted yellow. This confused me because I had written in my journal the previous afternoon that I was certain I'd found the devil's punch-bowl written on my map. No small, thing, because I had been desperate to find it. I had recently spent much of a day bushwacking about the bank trying to catch a glimpse of Fort Assiniboine or Brandon House, only to later determine that the large clearing and building at river right had been at least one of these. My map had placed both at left. It isn't that the map is false or lying, it is probably simply aimed at placing these things in the right block of roads rather than on the correct side of the river. The map's truth may not be mine but it provides leads to finding interesting things, and I imagine some of the things I find are even better than the real thing.

Back to the present. Here there was a wood staircase leading up the bank -- it clearly could not lead back to the spectacle I had just left because I'd hiked around it in the morning, and those trails, more popular with moose than humans, had nearly trapped me in a blanket of plants bearing bright red leaves of three and white berries.

I walked up the stairs and down the dirt paths blinded by a book I was reading, "The Real Thing" by Tom Stoppard, a devilish clever playwright who here proves himself by making the leading characters actors as well. He weaves together scenes from the shows they're acting with the one you're watching to explore the nature of jealousy and fidelity, and so there are moments when the "reality" of the scene is uncertain.

I saw little but my bare feet were happy experiencing the different textures of boardwalks and beaten paths, until I had to open my eyes as we descended down by a couple of blue-green pools.
Now I found the devil's punch-bowl, the real one, though still at river left rather than the map's right. It was another blue-green pool nestled in a wooded valley.

I have since seen photos of the place 100 years ago, and here is a case where natural changes obsolesce man's names. Then, it was a huge sand crater, treeless, perfectly round, with strange waters. It deserved the name. The spring water is cyan and warm, it never freezes but supposedly moves "eerily" all year round. I did not notice any unusual movement, but it may have been being especially sneaky while I was present.

I liked mine better.

Day 82 ended: 49*41.897N, 099*14.227W