Deciding how to title this post was not easy. I may have toyed with the idea of labeling my friends crazy. It’s possible I tried to make you jealous, through bragging about my adventurous friends. In the end however, I would rather inspire than negate. So let these adventures push you over the edge, out of your comfort level, to get out and do something. Take a little time off, quit that job you don’t really like, and see some of the world. ‘Cause Murica. And YOLO. And Jazz Hands.
Often I’ve had individuals ask me about my travels. How did you get there, how can you afford it, how do you pick where to go? I won’t answer all of those, but I will shed a little light on how I have often chosen destinations. My secret has ultimately been to be open to the suggestion of others. A friend of mine who shall remain known only as Dom, suggested a 9 day canoe trip earlier this year. On 9 day canoe trips you have a lot of time to talk. We talked mostly of future travels and adventures. Such as the canoe trip he would take later on this year.
Our canoeing adventure was but just enough to whet his whistle. We finished it by spewing out into the Mississippi, by Reads Landing and Wabasha. Our daily discussions had often come around to his desire to start at the headwaters of the Mississippi at Lake Itasca. I questioned my ability and sanity for such a trip, but never Dom’s. In the end I knew I couldn’t, not having the time to leave during wedding season. That excuse was also a great rationalization to skip paddling every day for two months . When we parted ways our seasonal summers of work began. The idea slipped from my mind, but Dom made plans.
October rolled around and one day I awoke to a message from Dom. “We’re about to go through the lock – how long?” He was at the Upper St. Anthony Falls Lock & Dam. I jumped out of bed, knowing that if I missed this short window of opportunity, I wouldn’t get to see him at least until the end of the year. He and his partner were racing against the cold so they weren’t stopping if they didn’t have to. Once through that lock, I’d be lucky to catch them for a quick waive as they floated away.
It’s amazing how ironic it is to get into a lock & dam. You can put into the river just upstream of it and float through on your own power. Nobody cares. However trying to walk in is another story. It requires a badge to unlock the gate, permission from employees to pass through the building, and tourist status as you look down into the lock itself. However I pleaded my case that I couldn’t miss a friend paddling through. Good fortune and kind people made it possible to come inside and greet Dom. Due to an electrical update and barges they had been forced to wait an hour or so. We got to chat and explore the history of the river from the visitor’s center.
Turns out the history of this lock and dam system is quite interesting. I tried to picture many times how this area of Minneapolis could have looked hundreds of years ago as it developed into the metropolis it is today. Also imagining how the construction of such things without modern technology seemed unfathomable as well. Of course if you want the details (which I’m certain you do) then I suggest you take a trip down to the river and get on a tour. We had time to read all the literature on the walls, and study the pictures from days gone by. Dom shared his beef jerky and timeline for the rest of the trip. They expected to reach the Gulf of Mexico by the last week of November or the first week of December. There was a lot of ground to cover yet.
Their turn finally came to go through the lock. We said our goodbye’s, and I took pictures as they lined up alongside the barge in the lock. Water was drawn out through hidden holes, I grinned as they got smaller and smaller right before my eyes. The gates opened and they floated away. I’ve heard from Dom since then and so far it’s so good. Have they completed their quest? That I don’t know. I can only begin to imagine the adventures they had on the big river in the last couple of months. That’s what you can do, with a little free time.