Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Over and out!

And so the river adventure of Jay and Falldown comes to an end. It's been fun serving as their blogger and I look forward to helping out in future adventures. But until that time, it's over and out from Carol!

Motorcycle street party and end of the adventure

One of the bikes at Shawneetown biker fest

One of the bikes at Shawneetown biker fest

Motorcycles at Shawneetown biker fest

Shawneetown biker street festival

The adventure came to an abrupt end as Jay and Falldown arrived at Shawneetown and its motorcycle street party. It's sad that the adventure ended prematurely, but the celebration ended the expedition in fine form!

Bridges along the waterways

At the confluence of the Wabash River, Roger found the need to bear his chest in celebration. And at one point during the trip, we ferried two floating rafts full of Keystone Light. -- Jay

Falldown paddling under covered bridge

Jay and covered bridge

Many of America's iron and wooden bridges are in a state of decay and disrepair. And by our observations, most of them are closed along with the roads and train tracks that once fed them. -- Jay

The covered bridge is a newly built covered bridge of all wood construction near Greenup, Illinois. -- Jay

As many of these images weren't mentioned in previous journal entries, I found the need for some explanation. Bridges were a daily conversation topic. We spoke often about the demise of the classic American iron and covered bridge. The former is a wood planked single lane iron core bridge near St. Francisville, Illinois. It really captured our imaginations watching old trucks slowly creep and creak across the old bridge. -- Jay

Surrounded by breathtakingly beautiful scenery, Jay and Falldown paddled downriver

Launch day, dam and early days

The fresh fish Falldown caught made for some tasty dinners on the river

A typical camp along the river

Roger with the damn dam behind him that almost ended the expedition just as it got underway

Jay on launch day

Roger -- a.k.a. Falldown -- on launch day

Roger's story

Received a call from Roger (via Diane). It seems that Roger's view of events differs somewhat from Jay's. I urged him to submit his side of the expedition tale. We each live our own reality; that's what keeps it interesting!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Days 7-9, July 15-17

Lawrenceville, Illinois side note

Jay’s Report:

Roger momentarily lost control of his mind. Unable to think or even consider how he was feeling, he bought a pack of cigarettes. After smoking one and getting terribly dizzy he told me to remind him never to let him buy cigarettes again.

Day 7

Jay’s Report:

After 6 days of fair weather, we took on some serious wind and rain. Roger wore bluejeans for this event, sparing his sun-ravaged bottom half for the day. His feet blistered today and one of his toes is showing brilliant color after falling out of the hammock the night before. He thinks it’s broken. So much for leaving the river unscathed ; it has struck first blood

One of the great advantages of life on the river are the feelings you get from each night’s camp. Tonight we’re in the jungle, maybe Aftica. I asked Roger if it reminded him of Nam; he said it wasn’t hot enough for Nam. Last night at a broad bend with a long beach I’m sure I was looking across the river at Montana with its big skies and tall standing pines.

We stopped in New Harmony late in the day for some dry food. We acquired some new friends and fans there for the long journey to New Orleans. Mike Axton presented us with his afternoon catch after hearing about our loss the day before; he even put them on a stringer for us and tied them to the canoe.
That’s New Harmony…

Day 8

Jay’s Report:

Day 8 was a good one. We saw good running waters, had good weather and some of the most picturesque scenery yet.

We camped on a large sandbar, possibly part of the confluence of the Ohio and Wabash Rivers. It’s the biggest island of pure sand that I’ve ever seen on a river.

Roger made a good fire, pitched his tent and then his switch got flipped. He said, “I’ m going to bed and I think tomorrow I’m gonna get out and head back north when I get to the dam.” Then we got the shit…pounded on for hours by excessively high winds, rain and lightening . It was quite a show and made living on a sandbar between two giant rivers less than ideal. Roger even went so far as to say, “it’s stupid.”

By morning Roger had changed his tune and said he’d like to continue on and try to make it to New Orleans. It seems he’s having less than a fun time and often overwhelmed which leaves me with somewhat of a moral dilemma. I’ll keep you posted.

Day 9

Jay’s Report:

Good morning, sports fans. I said I’d keep you posted on the thing and like all good things, the river expedition has come to its end as well. We arrived in old Shawneetown, Illinois, after a long uphill paddle with Roger on the Ohio River. But as our party was ending, the Shawneetown street and biker party was just getting started.

We got some stuffed cabbage and fried green tomatoes upon entering town, then we hit the party. In Shawneetown you can drink outside and smoke inside. The party also features communal showers, casual stripper poles, and no cops. It seems the promoter of the event told Illinois Law enforcement to stay the fuck out…and they did!

It’s a little piece of lost Americana right here in the middle of southern Illinois just like those rivers we ran in. Words haven’t been easy to write today, but I’ll let you know if there’s something you need to hear.

Over and out….this is Jay Greaves.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Days 5 & 6 -- July 13-14, 2009

Day 5 – July 13th, 2009

Jay’s Report:

We encountered rapids in the early hours today near Lawrenceville, Illinois. There were three sets of them all between Class 1 and 2 (??) They were large enough, however, to take on a considerable amount of water over the bow.

After the short morning paddle, we stopped at the Highway 1 Bridge in downtown Lawrenceville. While there’s something about the parade into town, after being strung out for 5 days on the river, you expect signage spelling out your kind as you reach the bridge. You feel that kindred connection for your traveling brethren – the gypsies, the carnies… you’re one of them now.

We took on provisions there and ate lunch at the old IGA grocery store. After another short paddle, we had reached the confluence of the Wabash River. We took pictures and celebrated our first river conquest. Soon thereafter we reached the small burg of St. Francisville.

In St. Francisville we met the mayor’s father, an 81-year-old, upon arrival at the dock… J. Paul Gitay (sp??). Soon thereafter we had our water jugs full, enjoyed a smiling welcome by the chief of police and got a handful of catfish and new bait to get us down the river. We camped on Eagle Island 5 miles south of town. Mr. Gitay scribbled his address for us to write to when he hit New Orleans.

Day 6 – July 14th, 2009

Jay's Report:

We woke up on Eagle Island. Roger caught a 6.2 pound catfish that night. We had guests for morning beers and discussed a side adventure. There’s a sall canyon 3 miles down river with a cold running stream and waterfall. Roger and I took the hike and we had a photo shoot of the event.
We put our time in on the river that day – 30 miles to the next beachhead in the river as the river starts to bend along the Illinois-Indiana border. Somewhere within a mile of our take out, we lost our catfish and all the steam I had left for the night. We went to sleep with heavy hearts and empty stomachs. That was the end of Day 6, July 14th.

Jay playing whiffleball in uniform

This is Roger, a.k.a. "Falldown"

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Embarras River Facts

The Embarras River (pronounced "EM-brah" or "AM-brah") is a tributary of the Wabash River, 185 mi (298 km) long, in southeastern Illinois in the United States. The waters of the Embarras reach the Gulf of Mexico via the Wabash, Ohio, and Mississippi Rivers. The river drains a watershed of approximately 1,566,450 acres (2,440 sq mi/6,320 km²) in an agricultural region. The name comes from French explorers, who used the term embarras for river obstacles, blockages, and difficulties relating to logjams and the like.

The Embarras River rises in Champaign County. The upper reaches of the Embarras include: the detention ponds near the intersection of Windsor Road with U.S. Route 45 in southeastern Champaign; the southern portion of the University of Illinois campus, including the small creek near the Vet Med Building; and Meadowbrook Park in south Urbana.

The Embarras flows generally southward through Douglas, Coles, Cumberland and Jasper Counties. In Jasper County it turns southeastwardly for the remainder of its course through Richland, Crawford and Lawrence Counties. Portions of the river's lower course have been straightened and channelized. It joins the Wabash River 6 mi (9.7 km) southwest of Vincennes, Indiana.
Along its course the Embarras passes the towns of Villa Grove, Camargo, Charleston, Greenup, Newton, Ste. Marie and Lawrenceville.

Day 4 -- July 12, 2009

Jay's Report

It was another beautiful day on the river. It feels so solitary and remote on the Embarras and just perfect that you almost expect a mechanical hippo to rise up out of the water just to tell you it’s not real.

We had another catfish today – 4 or 5 pounder – but it wasn’t enough to raise Roger’s spirits as he ran out of cigarettes today and since we have no river map or speedo, time and space go undetermined.

We saw several bald eagles today, deer and beaver, but the highlight that sticks out is the big river bird that took a huge shit as we passed by. On that note, Roger says, “Good night.”

Day 3 -- July 11, 2009

Jay's Repot

Early wake-up call by Mother Nature promptly at 6:30 a.m. and the Bitch started to shower. That was it… no more sleep for me. Roger didn’t give a shit, however, as he’d been up for hours listening to me snore… hmmmmm

We finally made it to the MVP and took on much needed provisions – fresh water, new tent poles and college breakfasts (pizza and OJ).

After nearly riding the lightening in the dually outhouse provided by the fellow at the Happy Holler, the rain subsided and we were back on the river for the day. Wildlife has been sparse today and so has been the human activity… most of the time it’s just me, Roger and the water. The Embarras feels very remote for a river in the middle of America, surrounded by trees and hills, but it sure is nice pulling up to a perfectly uninhabited sandy beach at the end of the day.

We named tonight’s Roger’s Beach and yesterday we found a new toy so named the beach Frisbee Beach… and so it goes.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

River Report Days 1-3, July 9-11, 2009

Jay’s Report:

We were down the river at 12:30 pm after loading the canoe. Roger – more commonly known as Falldown -- had to activate a new cell phone at Verizon after falling in the river the day before. Today was familiar and so were the stories we had to tell as we passed such beaches and old party spots such as Hookah Island and Turtle Beach
The highlight of the day, however, was navigating “the spillway” at Charleston Lake. I would have preferred to portage the canoe around the obstacle, but Roger had thought too long and too hard about what the outcome might be if we lowered the canoe by rope in hand down the dam. I’ve never been one to deny someone their long hard-fought dreams so I quickly got on board with this idea.

It was a train wreck and just a plain bad idea. We almost lost the entire voyage in the first hour and a half on the river. As we lowered the canoe, it was quickly apparent that we were no match for the strength of the river or its courses. The spillway quickly sucked the canoe down its face without any fuss or muss as we let go of the hot rope. There was nothing left to do to but watch and see what was to happen with all at stake.

Within seconds, I found myself diving into the chase. Luckily, the rope that was still tied to the canoe for purposes of lowering said craft under control and safety into calm waters was erected toward the landing of our original aim.
In the end, all was saved and nothing hurt… besides if you came here to be a pussy... Falldown

River Expedition Beginning Inventory:
One canoe
Jay: dry bag with clothes – 4 shirts, 4 pants (polyester or wool for warmth)
Roger: 2 pairs of cutoffs, 2 t-shirts, 2 flannel shirts
One tent (now in need of repair as a pole fastener is broken and the rain fly has given up… “We’re at half mast with the tent”
10 gallons of water
Backpack with cooking items including a stove, pots, pans, utensils, plates, grate for cooking fish … “The first night Roger caught a 2-1/2 pound catfish. Perfect for two.
Food bag that contains “a lot” of ramen noodles, peanut butter, chili, baked beans, tortillas, apples, oranges, and raisins.

River Notes Days 1-3 (July 9-11)

We were hoping to reach the MVP Happy Holler – an “all American bar” on the Embarras River – by the end of the second day, but after 12 hours of paddling we camped on a sand bar at around 10 o’clock at night. Roger was a bit cranky so we didn’t make it to the bar and found out the next morning that we had been just a couple miles away.

It’s hard to describe the MVP Happy Holler bar…. Lets just say its “always ready for a party”… outside bar with balcony, big pro outdoor stage, horseshoe pits, self-hydrated stripper pole and trampoline. “It just opened in 2001 but it has an old soul.” It’s on the Embarras River between Greenup and Newton, Illinois.

We don’t really have a good idea of the speed we’re going or the number of miles to New Orleans, but I’d guess we’re going around 25 to 30 river miles a day… We’ve put in some long days – the first day we were on the river from noon till 7 or 8 pm and yesterday, the second day, we put in 12 hours trying to make it to the bar.

On day three we ate “an all American breakfast” – coffee, pizza and OJ –at the MVP Happy Holler Bar while listening to vintage vinyl and checking on the weather report. It’s supposed to be a wet one for the next several days so we’re anxious to head south.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Jay & Roger

This is Jay

Launch Day -- July 9, 2009

We've got a road atlas, a digital camera, a canoe, and some time... it's July, it's hot, and the river looks mighty cool and welcoming... we're standing on the bank of the Embarras River in Charleston, Illinois and the land of jazz is a thousand or two miles from here. Why WOULDN'T we want to start paddling toward New Orleans??

No reason. Today is the launch of our two-man canoe river expedition from Illinois to New Orleans via the Embarras, Wabash, Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. We figure it'll take about a month and a half, but we're not sure since we've only got the road atlas so far (a river map is one of our top purchasing priorities).

The WE in this canoe expedition are Jay -- a semi-pro baseball player recently back from an off-season playing ball in Mexico -- and Roger, a jack-of-all trades master-of-none.... we're both are a little crazy and overdue for an adventure!