We had a leisurely morning yesterday, which was a nice recovery
from earlier in the week. We werent complete couch potatoes,
though, and we got ourselves up and ready in time to meet Joe Campbell
for lunch. We ate at the Treasure Island Casino, which is on the
Prairie Island Reservation where Joe lives. The all-you-can-eat
buffet was a treat, and we all ate until we almost burst. Joe didnt
get a chance to finish his food, though, because he was too busy
telling us about his beliefs, traditions, and pursuits as an anti-nuclear
told us about his involvement in national committees, where he struggles
to ensure environmental safety. He repeated over and over again
that he does not think or act conventionally. My favorite story
in this regard was about one of the nuclear committees whose meetings
were usually in the form of conference telephone calls. He would
call up and not announce his presence, so that when the authorities
thought everyone had hung-up, he was still listening to their conversation.
By doing this he discovered what was really going on, and he was
able to argue his case effectively.
His cause is primarily to protect the people of the world and his
reservation from the devastation of nuclear harm. Currently the
Prairie Island Nuclear Power Plant is producing more nuclear waste
than it has space to store. Around the country nuclear waste is
compounding and often it is disposed of in Native American tribal
land. He hopes to teach people about the danger of nuclear reactors
and their waste, and about the reality of nuclear racism, as he
calls it. Were something serious to go wrong at the Prairie Island
Plant, he and all the tribal members on his reservation would have
no place to live. And if they do not live on their reservation for
more than six months, they legally lose their claim to the land.
They didnt ask for the plant to be their neighbor, he says.
We also learned a great deal about Native American tradition. Joe
gave us each a small pinch of tobacco. He explained that each morning
this is what he burns as he asks the spirits for permission to do
what he is going to do that day. This way, everything is right.
He said that before hunting for food, he asks that type of animal
for permission. Then when he goes out to hunt, an animal gives itself
over to him because he has asked.
We drove to a site that contained many burial mounds and he described
the burial process, He went on to tell us about the many forms of
evil that are buried beneath the ground that can be awoken by digging.
He called these the rainbow serpent. Anytime a person digs more
than two hands (the length of two hands) in the ground, he or she
awakens the rainbow serpent. This is why when you see water that
has fallen on oil, you can see a rainbow.
We talked in the woods for a couple hours as a storm was building
in the distance. When the thunder and lightning seemed to be aimed
directly towards us, we walked back to the car and left. Later,
when I was driving only with Joe and John, Joe told us that in the
woods he had been on the verge of telling us too much, and that
the storm had come to stop him from disclosing private tribal information.
I though this was cool to think about, until I remembered that we
were driving straight through a tornado warning. All I could do
was hope that he wouldnt tell us anything off-limits until
we were far away from the storm.
Back in Red Wing we headed over the YMCA to play. There was a Jacuzzi
and a big pool, so we relaxed and then practiced our water volleyball
technique. It was a lot of fun, and it was good to get clean.
Looking back on the whole day, all I can do is smile when I remember
that Im got school credit for hanging out with Joe Campbell
and swimming at the YMCA. I hope my classmates are having as much
fun as I am.
May 7, 2002
Yesterday morning we welcomed Peggy and Desmond to the boat. It
was über cool to see friends from the big city. Peggy had to
leave right away, but she gave us a care-package of cookies from
my parents and all of her best wishes. The rest of us jumped into
Johns Minivan and shuttled back to Wabasha to visit the National
Eagle Center. The past few days it seems like weve been backtracking
on land while were heading forward on the boat. Ike promises
that well make it to St. Paul by Friday.
The Eagle Center was really interesting. We learned a lot about
eagles, both bald and golden. It was quite the operationjust
check out the pictures. All of our international companions were
given a dose of traditional US patriotism. The eagles were very
majestic, and I thought they were nice until one of them hit me
in the face with its wing. After the eagle presentation we talked
with Mary, a representative from the center, about the effects that
damming the river has on the native animals. She then went on to
tell us about her hypotheses for the future of the river economy.
She was very concerned about the drilling that may or may not occur
in the arctic. Her theories about international manipulation made
me feel like I was in a James Bond movie
maybe I am.
From Wabasha we drove to the White Water River Valley where we met
Dave Palmquist. He taught us about the geological history of the
area. The southeastern corner of Minnesota is unique in history
and physical form. This area was not impacted by severe glaciation,
so instead of huge lakes, it is filled with high bluffs and low
flood planes. We had a beautiful view, but the wind and rain took
a little bit away from the moment. Most of us adjusted to the colder
weather, but Desmond never did. He stayed bundled up in sweatshirts,
a jacket, gloves and a hat, never acclimating to our cold spring
weather. I wish I lived in Jamaica
We drove to a short but steep bluff so we could look at and discuss
the biodiversity in the area. Our "hike" turned into a
scramble as we made our way up the bluff. It was slippery from the
rain and there were a couple of times that I didnt think Id
be able to make it up. We all did, though, and the view was spectacular.
We talked about the many types of plants and animals that thrive
in this unique bluff environment. Climbing back down the hill, though,
was harder than it looked. I found myself wishing for snow and a
pair of skis.
Before we left for Red Wing, we got to play with Daves Rattlesnake.
And by play, of course, I mean look at in terror while he held on
a long pole. It concerns me a little that there are rattlers in
Minnesota, but I think Ill be safe in St. Paul.
We made a stop at a grocery store before getting on the boat for
the evening. Grocery stores are some of my favorite places
filled with food! We just hung out on the boat all night because
it was too cold to go outside. John, our brave and fearless leader
set-up a tent on the barge and slept outside. He must be crazyhe
stayed out during the storm. But whatever floats his boat. (Ha Ha.)
May 6, 2002
Last night we made plans to wake up this morning in time to get
to Winona by 10:30 am. A change in the weather made Ike decide to
head out early this morningso we were up and out of the boat
by 6:30 am. It was pretty early, but it would have been okay, but
for the storm we had last night. Around midnight the wind picked
up, and the tornado sirens went-off. I was a little concerned because
usually I run to my basement when I hear the sirens, but the Lilly
Belles basement is the Mississippiand I didnt
want to weather out the storm underwater. Thankfully the sirens
stopped and the storm passed, but it was exciting while it lasted.
Winona was beautiful this morning, so it was worth losing a couple
hours of sleep. We walked through town to get some coffee and took
pictures as Ike pulled away from the dock. A fine mist covered the
surface of the river and the setting was almost surreal. We had
plenty of time in Winona so we headed to the YMCA for another shower,
and then for a hearty American breakfast at a local café.
We got a great tour of the We-no-nah canoe factory. I learned all
I ever wanted to know (and then some) about how to make a canoe.
The production was really interesting and the whole process required
a great deal of attention to detail and precision. I think the smell
inside would have gotten to me, but it didnt seem to phase
the workers. Im excited to share my new knowledge of canoe
design with my wilderness-bound friends when I get back home.
We spent an hour or so at the top of a Winonan bluff, overlooking
the city. The sun was shining and I was napping. It was wonderful.
We then headed to the Pickwick mill for a tour. The 1858 building
was six stories tall, and was built without using a single bolt
or nail. I was thoroughly impressed. The whole structure was fascinating
and the design was hand-built and incredibly complex. My physics
teacher could have covered at least three units in this historic
mill, and that made me smile.
After a quick pit stop at dairy queen, we drove towards Pepin, through
the land of cheese (Wisconsin) to our appointment with danger. We
strapped on our harnesses and climbed up into the trees for a high-ropes
course. I was very brave going into the adventure. All Ive
ever wanted to do is fly, and I figured this would help me on my
way towards defying gravity someday. It turns out I have a ways
to go. As youll probably see in the pictures, I spent a great
deal of time hugging the poles that were firmly attached to the
ground. I did venture out onto the ropes and wires, and though I
never fell, I was really glad that I was attached to the wires above
me. The best and scariest part was the way down. We slid, one by
one, down a zip-chord to the ground.
We met-up with Ike and the Lilly Belle in Redwing just in time for
dinner. We went into town and ate while I played with the jukebox.
Were back on the boat for the night, and tomorrow Desmond
is going to join us on the river. Im really excited to add
another member to our floating party.
May 5, 2002
I woke up this morning when we were already cruisin on the
river. We made good time heading towards Wabasha and the weather
was much better than yesterday. I got a chance to drive the boat,
which was a lot of fun. I steered on our way into the Alma lock
and dam. I was worried that Id have to do some intricate maneuvering,
but Ike gracefully took back the helm when we got up to the lock.
Driving the boat was definitely more peaceful than driving a car.
I had a lot more freedom on the water than the freeway.
Around lunchtime we docked in town here in Wabasha. We had some
trouble getting the boat centered at the dock and had a lot of pushing
and pulling to do before we finally settled. I have now perfectly
mastered the art of cleating the ropes on the boat. And Im
even more proud of my newly callused hands. My momll be happy
that Im well on my way to being a sailor.
We got a chance to explore the area around town this afternoon,
and took a trip to see the local sand dunes. Once we got into the
dry, grassy, rolling hills, I couldnt believe that I was still
in Minnesota. The area was beautiful, but seemed out of place along
the Mississippi River. We even saw a prickly pear cactus, and I
did my best not to sit on it. (I had an unfortunate encounter with
a cactus several years ago in Colorado.) I was really excited to
hike in the dunes, not only because it was an area Id never
seen before, but Id been itching for some exercise since we
got on the boat on Friday.
We ate out (outside) for the first time tonight, which was great.
We cooked burgers and onions on Ikes grill, and sat at the
table and watched a storm roll in from up-river. We had barely finished
eating when it began to rain. Its pouring now, but the lighting
is fantastic. The waves arent too big, but the boat is rocking
more than usual. The rain sounds really soothing on the boat and
the river. Im sure that itll be a good nights
May 4, 2002
I woke up yesterday morning to Ikes chiming clock and chirping
parrot. The sun was shimmering on the river and I imagined that
half the day had already passed me by. But I looked at my watch,
and it was only 6:30 am. Up early and down late at night sure makes
a girl tired. Im going to need a nap one of these days.
Our first adventure of the morning was a canoe trip into the backwaters
of Latch Island near Winona. The area is home to over 100 people
who live on the water. Their houses float on about 80 empty barrels
each on the Mississippi. These clever Minnesotans sacrifice electricity
and plumbing for waves and a lack of property tax. We met a couple
residents and they seemed just as eccentric as their floating houses.
I decided that when I finally get around to writing a book Im
going to move out to this floating town and write in peace.
We crossed back to Winona and went into town to find a small piece
of Minnesotas history for Alexs project. He, Hannah,
and I explored the local history museum. As the "resident documentary
maker" (or so John has labeled me) I got most of the museum
on film, and hopefully Alex will be able to put it to good use.
We went straight from the museum to the local YMCA for a shower.
For you, my friend, reading my account from your plumbing-equipped
home, a shower may not seem like such a big deal. I, however, am
sharing a small floating room with my two German companions; and
for us, the prospect of a shower was hard to resist.
When we finished our tour of the city, we set-off in the Lilly Belle
for a paddle up the river. I spent most of the trip talking with
Alex while we watched the scenery go by through the window. We played
on the acoustic guitar that John brought along for the trip. We
gave our boat-mates quite the performance of traditional German
songs and my favorite bass lines and jazz tunes.
It was much colder and windier yesterday than Friday had been, so
we all stayed inside until we needed to stop for the night. We pulled-up
next to an island but before we got close enough to tie-up, the
boat hit bottom. Alex and I pushed and pushed with poles against
the shore while Ike put the boat into reverse. Our trusty captain
was just about to jump into the river to lift the Lilly Belle off
the Mississippis floor, when Alex and I finally pushed us
free. We pulled up along the bank away from the island and spent
the night just yards away from the railway tracks. It was loud,
but aside from the occasional train, it was another peaceful night
on the river.
Now we're all sitting outside in Wabasha, (the home of Grumpy Old
Men), writing our journals. Every time we pull into port I feel
like I am in a zoo
but on display. Right now, Alex and I are
sitting on the swing while we write and the same five people have
been staring at the Lilly Belle and us for at least 20 minutes.
We seem to be on the coolest boat around. I mean hey, we have a
3/4-size Harley replica onboard.
May 3, 2002
Our first day on the Lilly Belle was incredible! We had a fantastic
send-off from Dakota. The students there sure knew their stuff about
the Mississippi. Plus, their musical performances were great. Peggy
was right; I felt like a rock-star. The best part of our afternoon
was our final descent from the park to the boat. We paraded through
a tunnel of cheers and high-fives, like movie stars going to the
Oscars. It was great!
On the boat we got ourselves settled, chose beds, and then hung-out.
As Alex said, "Life is sure hard
" I think Im
going to have to be pried-off the river when we get back to St.
Paul. The scenery is almost surreal. The overhanging bluffs are
covered with green, red, and orange-tinted trees. The stratified
rocks are so majestic that all I could do was sit on the swinging
chair and take it all in. I cant believe that Ive lived
in Minnesota all my life and I havent seen all of this until
We pulled into Winona for the night and took a walk around town.
The architecture here is gorgeous, and for one of the earliest communities
in Minnesota, it sure is still thriving. Alex, Hannah L. and I took
a nice walk before dinner. We had spaghetti with tomato sauce, which
I must say was delicious. (I was on cooking duty.) We turned-in
around midnight, after listening to music (Bob Marley, Crosby Stills
and Nash, and one of Alexs CDs from Germany.)
We havent been on the water for even 24 hours and already
I feel perfectly at home. Ive learned so much about Neuss,
and how similar to and different it is from St. Paul. Ive
gotten to meet some great people, some on board the Lilly Belle,
and some who just stopped by to say hello and look at our floating
home. This trip is going to be awesome!