THE RIVER KNOWS YOU KNOW BETTER
So I ain't dead. . . yet. Still on the Mississippi, slugging along. Piloting a 100 ft. long craft with spotty engines is an adventure, no joke. Here's a run down of what I can remember:
- The raft is a four-section main craft (front section = personal item storage/large fish shape; middle section = galley/common area/second story stage/windmill for power; engine section = twin diesel VW Rabbit engines running on biodiesel/large fish shape; throne section = pilot/navigator seats above the toilet) followed by three towed un-powered rafts (bicycle ferris wheel/sound system speaker sculpture; isolation raft = a single hammock suspended above the water, no floor at all; bicycle powered raft).
- Engines tend to overheat or break in some way an average of four times a day, almost always in the middle of the river, and once right in front of an oncoming barge.
- Two crew members have become seriously ill and needed hospitalization at different times. It's kind of funny when you're trying to hitch a ride to the hospital in a small town and the driver won't let anyone in the car till she feels the ill person's forehead, just to make sure.
- One crew person "rescued" a white duck with a broken leg, it's been traveling with us since.
- I stepped on a large piece of broken glass underwater, taking about an inch and a half of it in the bottom of my foot. I've been limping like a gimp ever since (and have to stay out of the water).
- There was some obligatory nude/costumed mud wrestling at our first stop with the knee-deep sludge.
- The Coast Guard was tipped off to us and came to inspect. We passed with flying colors, although it cost us a day of waiting around.
- We've appeared in the NY Times, the Village Voice, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and most local papers where we've stopped.
- We've made a tradition of blasting music on our sound system every time we go through a lock on the river.
- Rope swings are awesome.
- Did I mention that the engines break down, a lot?
- And yes, that second story deck does get used for dance parties.
- Spiders on the Mississippi are freakin' huge.
- People we've met on the river have been very friendly, very encouraging, and very mystified as to why people would do this. A good quote from one member of the Coast Guard, "I wouldn't be caught dead on that thing. . . that doesn't mean it wouldn't be a lot of fun."
- The bicycle I brought with me has had a perpetually flat back tire. No amount of patching, replacing tubes, or close inspection of the wheel/tire seems to be able to solve the problem. Anyone got friends in Winona, MN with some spare bike parts?
- Sleeping on the beach without a tent is a great idea. . . if mosquitoes didn't exist.
- We dumpstered a huge bag of panties. You can imagine what happened when they were dumped out in the middle of the boat.
- We also dumpstered the holy grail of dumpstering. . . unmelted ice cream.
- A lot of energy has been devoted to the sewing of custom hot-pants for the crew.
- Our skiff boat was taken for a drunken joyride before it was ready, and cost us the use of one of the three cylinders. So our rescue boat is now a limping shadow of it's former self. But we're making do.
- Our launch party got busted by the Minneapolis PD. They headlocked, shoved to the ground, and cuffed a totally sedate and sober bystander, boarded our vessel illegally more than once against our protests, struck one of our crew in the head, threatened us with many things outside their jurisdiction, or that were not actually against the law, and evetually stomped off without giving a single ticket. My favorite was the one cop that hung back on the shore making fun of how worked-up his coworkers were.
- People who meet us in boats on the river seem to like to make donations, of beer.
- There is grape-flavored beer. Yes.
- While dumpstering junk food at a gas station we got threatened with a call to the cops. Moments later a gold muscle car pulled over to ask us if we were from the junk boat, and then offered us a ride. The driver had heard about us on a local talk radio station.
- One member of the crew got bit on the eyelid by some insect and it swelled up so much he could barely open his eye, and his eyebrow was actually recessed.
- We ran out of lumber, so we've been building shelving out of tree branches and driftwood.
- Tang makes crappy hose water taste okay.
- Long hard dangerous exhausting trips in foreign lands can make you miss your mom.
*Also apparently the local St. Paul conservative talk radio show has been following our progress, you can listen to one show (when we were boarded by the Coast Guard) here.
We've blasted this at night on the river. It's pretty surreal to hear A Silver Mt. Zion (members of Godspeed You! Black Emporer) coming out of four mini-towers of speakers and drifting across the inky water. A sort of Apocalypse Now in middle America.
• A Silver Mt. Zion - 13 Angels Standing Guard Round The Side Of Your Bed
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