Around the bend Memphis, Tenn., to Vicksburg, Miss. - Part V

Monday, February 7, 2011

Day seven -- Oct. 24, 2008

The alarm didn't wake either of us up at 0500. We were both awake already. I was trying to find a comfortable position for the umpteenth time and Danny was out "inspecting the trees." We quickly "layered down," taking off the extra layers of clothes, and walked back into Mayersville, Miss. The thought of hot biscuits and gravy waiting made the walk in the dark, cold morning go quickly. At the café, the first thing we saw behind the counter was a tray of saucer-sized homemade biscuits. I ordered two of them smothered in white gravy with a side of soft bacon, to which the cook replied, "We have no gravy." NO GRAVY! I couldn't believe it. A café in a town this far south that doesn't serve gravy for breakfast! Had we turned the wrong way at Memphis and gone north all this time? I had to settle for a sausage biscuit, eggs over hard and a big bowl of grits. Not exactly what I had anticipated, but very filling nonetheless.

The store/café was owned and operated by Red's grandparents, as he had told us the night before. She collected the money and he did the cooking. Red had told them we were coming in for breakfast, so they were expecting us. I guess he forgot to tell them about the gravy.

Danny visited with the other customers and the cook while I enjoyed my gravyless breakfast in my usual early morning sullen state. That is another good reason to have Danny along on this trip. He is much more outgoing than I am, so we get to learn more about the people we come in contact with than I would by myself. Now if I can just get him to remind me to take their pictures.

They told us Mayersville used to be on the other side of the levee, down at the river's edge. It was a busy river port town. The town was moved to the inside of a tall levee after being flooded out several times. Farming is the main occupation and the biggest business in town is the county prison farm, which is located just across the street from the café. Grandpa, the cook, used to be the county supervisor a position his oldest daughter now holds. She came in for breakfast, too, while we were there. County supervisor in Mississippi is the same as a county judge in Missouri.

Most of the talk was about floods, farming, bad places in the river and the COE attempts to control it. I asked about the dark black mud/rock we had been seeing along the river banks for days. I wondered if it was just the same dark, gumbo soil we have back home. They told me it was asphalt. The COE had tried that as one method of stabilizing the river banks. It didn't work, either. Where we were camped, the whole ramp had been swallowed by the river earlier this year and the COE had just put it all back in since.

Danny asked if they get many river travelers in town. They remembered one other fellow traveling in a canoe from Minnesota to New Orleans a few years back.

A heavy morning fog delayed our start this morning. At first we couldn't even see the other side of the river, but it gradually started to lift. We waited until we could see the far side of the bend ahead before pushing off for the day. Despite the delay, we still made 41.5 miles in plenty of time to set up camp and even build a fire to burn trash and try to dry out some wet clothes.

The coyotes just started their first chorus of the night.

Danny and I discussed plans for next year's trip from Vicksburg to Mile Zero, where the river ends. We decided we need to wear highly visible vests or t-shirts and put something on our kayaks to make them show up on radar. I said I could wear an old army helmet, but we decided aluminum tape might work better and not be as uncomfortable. We both agreed we need to become more familiar with the proper use of the marine radio I carry. We will need to know which channels to use, how to communicate with the barges and when. We also talked about getting home from Venice, La., the last town you can drive to on the Mississippi River. We have a lot to figure out before our next trip.

We are camped 19 miles above Vicksburg and should be there by noon tomorrow. Marla and Colleen are leaving Cape at 0600 tomorrow to pick us up.

I found about a gallon of the Mississippi in my rear hatch tonight. I had noticed TPll felt very sluggish today but I thought it just meant I was getting tired. I'll have to find the leak when I get home.

I was getting some clean clothes from the rear hatch when I found the water. Since this is our last night on the river, I tried to clean up as best I could to meet Marla tomorrow.

Forty-two degrees is the predicted low for tonight, so I have on all my clothes again. I have also made some extra foot warmers out of the foam rubber squares I had rolled into a lumbar pillow. They are working really well, a fact I keep reminding Danny of every so often. This early cold weather caught us unprepared on this trip, but we made do just fine by improvising as needed.

It is late now, so I will go out one last time to look at the stars and the Milky Way and inspect a tree before turning in.

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