Heading into the City
Heading out on the river now after having Clear Waters Outfitting check the boat and make some tweaks to it, I feel better. I think this will do the trick and I'll be able to continue on without too much trouble. I paddled down to Coon Rapids Dam where I had organically planned to spend the night. After talking with a couple of people who worked there however, they informed me it's illegal to do so and that most people camp on an island just past the dam. So I set off for an island and found a great little patch of dry land just past the dam, right where they said it'd be. I set up camp facing downstream and started some dinner as I mapped out how long it would take to get to Hastings. I still didn't feel 100% confident with the taking on water issue, so I broke it up a bit and decided I'd at least get through the cities and to the St. Paul Yacht Club for the night and continue to Hastings the following day. I went to sleep excited cause I was so close to spending time with family and taking a break from the river for a few days.
When I woke up, I grabbed a chair that had been left by someone, most likely from a party or someone fishing, and set up facing the morning traffic on the bridge as I made breakfast. It was bustling with traffic. Cars and busses and delivery trucks sped by in both directions. Sipping my coffee I realized I had a unique opportunity to witness the morning routine of so many lives from a completely different vantage point. Nobody knew I was there. I was a "fly on the wall", so to speak. I couldn't help by wonder where all those lives were going for the day and what their agendas were. Were they going to work? On their way home from working a night shift? Starting or ending a road trip or vacation? Were they yelling and screaming at the brake lights in front of them? Having a 1-person dance party/jam session? Maybe a little karaoke session singing along to "Tubthumping" by Chumbawamba, or "I Want You" by Savage Garden, ooohhhh or "Man in the Mirror" by Michael Jackson... ok maybe those are just my go to karaoke jams. I'm an outside observer on countless lives I'll probably never get the chance to meet. I wondered if any veterans who were quietly suffering from an internal battle, waiting and wanting someone to just say, "I'm here brother. I got your 6." I hoped that if this were the case, they'd glance over the bridge to the North and see a guy in a lime green shirt standing next to a kayak waving Ol Glory. I was suddenly bombarded with a wave of emotion and drive and renewed spirit to finish this trip for them.
Heading downstream, I passed refinery after mill after factory lining both sides of the river. Definitely not the northern Minnesota wildlife I had been paddling through. I turned a bend and got a beautiful glimpse of the Minneapolis skyline up close and personal. Reaching the portage site to get around St. Anthony's Dams, I got out and readied the boat for a mile and a half walk through downtown. Before setting off, a passer-by stopped to inquire about my trip. Her name was Brigid and we chatted for a few minutes before I set off with my kayak. I reached Bohemian Flats and put back in. About 3 miles later, I hailed the lock master to Lock and Dam 1. He said the lock was open and to paddle on. I reached the Lock, pulled the signal cord by the staircase and a few minutes later the doors started to open. It kind of felt like I was entering an unknown world, which I kind of was. I paddled through and caught a mooring line thrown over the side wall of the lock. A voice came out of a tube next to me on the wall and asked if I was set to go. I about fell out of the boat. I answered yes and said this was my first lock through, did he have any tips or words of advice. He answered, yeah, don't fall in. I cracked up laughing and almost did fall in a second time. I gave a thumbs up to the tower, and the rear doors began to close behind me. I wondered if the guy was trying to be funny or was legit being serious. The water level started lowering and about 10 minutes later, the front doors began to open. A loud horn blast indicated I could start paddling out. That was one of the coolest things I've ever experienced. Next time I'll get a video or some pics, now that I know what to expect.
A few miles downstream, I passed a tour boat being pushed by a tugboat and it generated some massive wake. I'm talking eye to forehead level. That was a little scary. I made the Yacht Club where the manager let me camp for the night near the boat yard. It was a peaceful night and I slept hard. Tomorrow, I'll be arriving in Hudson.