Watching a towboat push its massive load of barges up or down river is a source of endless fascination to all. Watching it angle around a sharp bend or fit perfectly into a lock makes us marvel at the captain’s skill. Learning even a little about the tonnage that they carry, as we talked about in the post called “All Things to All Creatures” on September 23 (click here if you missed that) makes us marvel that’s it’s even possible. But, they are not accessible to us and we know very little about what it’s like out there.
In the six years leading up to this 90-day journey, I have traveled somewhere on the Mississippi Great River Road whenever there was an opening in my schedule. I have met towboat captains, deckhands, lock and dam personnel and others connected with the industry. I have hinted and asked outright about the possibility of getting onboard a towboat and the answer was always some version of, “Well, security has been tightened so much we just aren’t allowed to have anyone onboard anymore.” But, I always knew it would happen someday.
When my friend Ellis Kell and I were having coffee a few days ago, he mentioned that he and his wife had been given an opportunity to be on a towboat. “What a thrill that must have been!” said I, “I’ve been trying to make that happen for a long time.” He gave me that little twinkly smile and said, “I might be able to help make that happen.” I’ve been holding my breath ever since!
Ellis contacted his friend, Jeff Goldstein, CEO of Alter Barge Line, and Jeff has made it happen! Tomorrow morning a van will pick me up in Quincy, IL and deliver me to Clarksville, MO, where I will board “The Phyllis”, who is heading upriver. I will spend the night in the guest quarters on board and roughly 24 hours later be delivered back to Quincy!!! I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I am!
This is such an important part of the story of the Mississippi River and such a rare opportunity to experience it, photograph it and share it with you – I am thrilled and very, very thankful.
So, I am packed and ready. The forecast is perfect – mid 70-s. Such is the magic of our little raindrop!
See you soon! Gayle