Surprise, We’re in Missouri!

We decided to make a 170 mile portage from the Quad Cities to Hannibal, MO. It was a really hard decision. We could have paid for a hotel for a week waiting and hoping for the marginally improved conditions NOAA claimed are coming. And we could have just pressed onward, portaging up and down rock levees around closed locks and trying to find dry land in flooded woods to sleep on. Instead, since we have awesome friends who were free the last two days, we skipped part of the river.

We really had the worst timing possible and seem to be riding, essentially, the crest of the flood. The purple dots in this screenshot from the 2nd?


Davenport is right at the beginning of them. And in Davenport, where the flooding was only moderate, the brewpub we wanted to go to for dinner was closed because its street looked like this…


The floodgates are closed in Hannibal…


and Clarksville, MO, where we spent Independence Day, is sandbagged.


And these are towns with “moderate” flooding, not “major.”

But as we said, it was a really hard decision. It’s deeply dissatisfying to set out to canoe a whole river and then not. We still feel somewhat conflicted. What it ultimately was was a matter of how much we wanted to put ourselves through. I was feeling crappy about our decision when I read the blog post of another thru-paddling group who are on about the same schedule we are and who continued through the flood. About the past few days they said, “The past couple days the sun has finally come out. Yesterday we tied our canoes together and set up a sail with a tarp and paddles. We cruised, it was epic. Then we all jumped in the water and later that night enjoyed some stellar Mac and cheese.” Which made me feel like maybe we just should have been braver and should have continued.

Then I read this:

“Molly had to stop at the doctor and get a steroid shot for her chiggers, which have unfortunately taken a turn for the worse. Leif’s pink eye seems to be improving and Hurrikane’s cuts are pretty much healed though so things are looking up.”

Some people are just more determined than others, I guess. So instead of following suit, we roadtripped along the river, stopping at all the landmarks we planned to hit along the way.


Like the elephant memorial of Oquawka, IL, the gravesite of the late Norma Jean Elephant, who died in Oquakwa from a lightning strike when her circus was in town.


And Snake Alley (the world’s windiest alley!) In Burlington, IA


And the early Mormon settlement of Nauvoo, IL, not pictured here because there was a lot more in the way of demonstrations of pioneer life and really eatnest volunteers eager to engage all tourists than great photo opportunities.

We really owe Dana and Jay quite a lot. Not only have driven down to meet us on the river twice, they quite possibly saved our trip. And Jay, who happens to be an editor for the Twin Cities Daily Planet, wrote a dispatch from the river about our predicament. They truly live the words of Wade Meloan, creator and builder of the Oquakwa elephant memorial: “If you can’t go through life helping people — even if it’s an old dead elephant — then there’s no use being here.” Here’s us partying at the Isle of Capri casino hotel.




Hotel party + roadtrip beats major flooding, easy.

13 thoughts on “Surprise, We’re in Missouri!

  1. 170miles/2500miles=0.068=6.8%. That’s a pretty small number. Means a 93.2% chance for fun and adventure. I’d take those odds if I were planning a trip. I’d also throw out the part of the trip that involved a 6.8% chance of getting seriously hurt, sick, or being miserable if I could. Good choice.

  2. Good decision; it’s just water under the bridge……..

    Grief can take care of itself, but to get the full value of a joy you must have somebody to divide it with. (Mark Twain)

  3. Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.


    This is all about YOUR trip, no one elses. With todays technology, we get to live thru you! I don’t believe anyone thinks any less of you two for the drive ahead. I was able to spend a day on Pool 7 on Friday, the river is CRAZY right now and I still think of you two when weather (storms) roll thru. This is YOUR trip, follow your heart and remember, this is a trip that you TWO are doing together. The best plan must be able to be changed to complete the overall task. Keep safe my friends……

    Fellow Paddler,

  4. 1) Linnea: At least a break from paddling will give your already comically large shoulders a break! Also I consider you to be the modern-day Sacagawea.
    2)DDDDBB: You’re the only person I’ve seen pull off a hat like that. Way to go!
    3) Dana and Jay: I feel like Minnesota and its peoples are made of granite and dipped in a candy coating. If you all don’t stop letting the word out, your state will soon be overrun with transplants.
    4) I had always considered my fear of chiggers to be irrational until this moment. The fact that you’re continuing with this trip despite the dangers is stupid-cool.

  5. Where are your pictures of the City Museum? You don’t understand; I live to read this blog.

    Jill: I’m not even that into Minnesota-praising, but that was such a lovely description!

  6. I guess this is the Mark Twain comment-filled post. So, apropos of that,

    “If I could have been deaf, dumb, and blind I also might have arrived at something.” And also, “It is a wonder they do not have more crime here, but it is increasing as adoption of clean shirts spreads among the social democrats.” And of course, “A river without islands is like a woman without hair. She may be good and pure, but one doesn’t fall in love with her very often.”

  7. I hate to hear that you missed my stomping grounds(I live 10mi. from oquawka),but conditions what they were, understandable. If ya get a notion to fill that section in next year, let me know and maybe my wife and I will be able to join you, or at least offer some local aide….
    Keep paddlin,

    • I was disappointed about that area in particular too because one of the volunteers I work with boats there every summer and we were going to try and meet up. If we come back to finish that section we’ll definitely get in touch!

  8. Just got your postcard from New Orleans! What a nice surprise – I have wondered several times if you made it! I’m glad you reached your goal! Good luck with all your future endeavors!

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