Since I am not actually paddling the river this time, I find everything Mike says to be very comical. I remember how much I cursed the wind, cursed the rapids, cursed my boat, cursed everything that made paddling the Mississippi River so hard. And now that I see Mike going through the same things, it is hard not to laugh. One because I am not on the river, two because I know exactly how he feels. Today, it was the wind.
Whenever we are looking at the days ahead, the first thing we look at is how fast the wind is and which direction it is coming from. Today it was up to 18 mph with 21 mph wind gusts from the North. Mike had a tail wind all day. Most assume that a tailwind is ideal and that he should be flying down the river. For paddlers, it is an argument on which we prefer, tail wind or head wind? Head winds are tough because you are constantly pushing to keep up mileage while being pushed back. It is exhausting and frustrating to have that wind crashing into your face while you deal with everything else going on on the water. However, tail winds can be just as tough, especially when they are as fast as they have been these last few days. Usually the back of the boat is heavier than the front. When you have wind coming from behind, especially at an angle, it tries to spin the boat around so you are constantly trying to keep your boat straight instead of using that energy to move forward. Another thing is when these winds cause waves. When the waves are coming towards you, you can take them on straight and see them coming. When the winds are at your tail, you can’t see them coming and they like to sneak up on you. The argument continues. How about we keep the winds below 10 mph and we call it a day, okay nature?
We left Blanchard Landing early this morning to try and get quick miles in before the wind picked up. For future river paddlers, do not camp at that landing. Just don’t. Don’t ask, just don’t do it! Traci and I made it to our first stop and waiting in the cold, windy misty rain for Mike to show. Traci boiled him some hot coffee and prepared his warm breakfast. He surprised us when he came around the corner and paddled into the landing. He has been averaging 5-6 mph since we left. Today he is pushing around 7-8 mph. The tail winds are in his favor but they are still causing some discomfort. We took the time to warm up in the car and eat our breakfast together. This is usually when I sit down with Mike and go over mileage plan and things going on for the day. Today the plan was to get around three portages as fast as possible. Sartell, Sauk Rapids, and St. Cloud are not short portages but they are nicely paved for easy access.
Mike pushed through all three quickly and we enjoyed the time walking with him and trailing him in the van. I think he benefited from a little face time and enjoyed talking about everything but the river. He is alone in a boat for 17 hours a day and only sees us for about 10-20 min periods throughout the day. By the time he gets done at night we are all too tired to do really anything and even sometimes too tired to eat dinner. We just want to crawl into our sleeping bags and get as much sleep as possible.
After the portages we pushed Mike another 42 miles. Time on the river goes by so slow, it is hard to convince Mike that he is paddling faster today. We just have to keep time for him and tell him to paddle South and which bank to stay on.
Traci’s wife, Deb, reminded us that her sister lives in Elk River. Becky and Harry were more than happy to host us for the night and it worked out perfect since they were only a few miles from the landing where we planned to stop! While Mike was making his last push, we stopped at their house to set up our tent and relax on the back porch. Traci and I laugh when we get to do things like this because we are having so much fun off the river while Mike is working hard towards a world record. Don’t get me wrong, we bust our ass off the river, but sometimes we get to have a little fun!
We pulled Mike off the river that evening and surprised him with Little Caesars Pizza! One week in and a little junk food was very much needed! Hopefully it will help him carb up for another big mile day! He ended with 73 miles! Hitting 70 the first time was sweet, but it will just continue to get better from here!
Thank you Becky and Harry for hosting us for the night! You have had your official initiation into river angelness!