I got up, listened to some podcasts while packing up to head out. I've been listening to "Break Down", "Cover Up", and "Lore". All great podcasts if you're into listening to them. Getting on the water felt good as I knew this day I'd be hitting Hastings and off the water for a few days spending time with family. Passing through St. Paul, there was a lot of boat traffic out and about. Mostly yachts and barge traffic. Lining the edges of the river were parked barges, some were 3 or 4 deep on both sides and there was still more than enough room to paddle through. It was still a reminder though, that the river is not going to be easy going and causal like it was up north.
I came to a boat launch on the right bank around noon and the water level was up past the turn around a spot for vehicles. I landed half way up to the entry drive and got out to walk down where the parking spot signs were. Standing next to one of the signs, the water level was about mid-thigh on me! I hadn't realized just how high the water was until this point. No wonder I'm hitting 7-8 mph! I had a snack and got back on the river. A couple hours later, I made the lake that leads into Lock and Dam #2. When I called the lock master, he informed me that there were two boats waiting to lock through and it would be about 2 1/2 hours before I could go through. I looked at the map and saw that there was a trail leading up to a main road that should be easy access for my grandpa who was coming to pick me up. I called him and let him know the story and the new plan. He was on board and headed to pick me up. After an hour or so, we linked up and I was on my way to relaxation.
We got back to the house and in true grandparent fashion, I was immediately offered food and drinks and chairs and more food, but all I wanted at that moment was a shower. After getting clean and feeling like a new person, I stepped on the scale and saw that I lost 12 pounds on the water already! When I came upstairs, Karin (stepmom), Bridget (sister), and Cherie (aunt) were in the living room chatting and waiting for me to come up. It was SO good to see them and sit and hang out for awhile. After a little while, my aunt Jill, aunt Joanie and cousin Kate, and cousin Jolene all came by to see me and eat dinner together. I haven't seen some of them in almost 12 years! We socialized, ate, and hung out for a few hours. Laughs we're shared and pictures taken. After everyone left, I went down to my room, got in bed, and slept hard straight through to morning.
When I woke up and came upstairs, coffee was made and ready to pour. Grandpa made waffles while grandma made sausage, or sizzlers as she calls them. I ate 5 waffles and 12 sausage links. I was starving for some good grub. After a little bit, Karin, Bridget, Cherie, and I met Joanie and Kate at Panera Bread for a late lunch and then went to see Cherie and Todd's (her husband) new house. My other cousin, Lizzy was there to see it as well. She was in town for an interview that I really hope she gets cause it sounds like a great gig and something she really wants. Good luck Lizzy! It was a great little house in a really nice neighborhood. Leaving there, we drove over to my cousin Jolene and her husband, Peter's house. We all sat around visiting and chatting and had pizza. It was great to meet Peter for the first time and see Jolene after 12 years. When we got home, we played some cards and called it a night.
The next morning after breakfast, Karin, Bridget, and I went to Caribou Coffee and then they dropped me off at a Cabela's and Dicks so I could pick up some gear, while they went shopping. Meeting back up later, we went he and readied for dinner. There were 11 of us who went out to eat at Shamrock's downtown St. Paul. I had my first Juicy Lucy which is an incredibly delicious burger that is stuffed with cheese. It was delicious! I paired it with a couple of local IPAs. We got gelato after that and all went home, played cards, and called it a night. I tended to gear the next day and let it all dry and air out. Around 5pm we went to my aunt and uncle's for an engagement party for my cousin, Ellie and her finance, Jake. It was a nice gathering and I got to see more family I haven't seen in 12 or so years, and meet Jake and his family. It was nice.
The day to get back on the water finally came. I was ready for it but also a little sad to be leaving family and having to go back solo for a while. But the visit was great and I love that I got to see so much fill and just relax and turn my mind off from the stresses of the river life. I packed up, said goodbyes, and was off back down stream. I passed a couple of barges and a lot of small craft. All the wakes from the boats led to choppy waters which led to me bailing water out three different times. I finally made Lock and Dam 3 and went through with six boats. I was right behind a rather nice yacht and the guy was wearing a shirt that read, "I like big boats and I cannot lie." I thought it was great and told him so. He asked my size, went below, and came back up with one for me. So nice. His name was Tim and we chatted a while and he seemed pretty excited about my trip and mission. He snapped a pic of me holding up the shirt and said he'd spread the news. He wasn't lying, the next morning I had 4 Facebook notifications from people who were his contacts wanting to friend me or share my story on their feeds. This is what it's about. Randomly meeting good people who want to share your cause and get the word out. I can't even think of how many people are being reached regarding Mission 22 and my trip to raise awareness for them. It's an awesome thing.
Leaving the lock, I made my way into Red Wing and just south of town, I stopped at a little campground that was half flooded. A woman came by on a gold cart and asked if I needed help. I told her what I was doing and just needed a place to camp for the night, she linked me up with the owner of the campground who told me I could stay in a vacant spot and just through a few dollars in the pay box. As I was making dinner, the lady who helped me earlier (I am so sorry, but if you're reading this, I completely forgot your name, not even going to lie. Please email me and tell me again so I can edit this portion), came back from the bar with some chicken tenders and BBQ sauce. It was such a nice gesture. I truly appreciated it. The next morning I set off for Winona. I was making around 7.5 mph due to the current and feeling good about the day's paddling distance. Then I hit Lake Pepin and all current stopped. And that's when things got dicey.