The News!!

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

About Gayle Harper

Travel Photographer and Writer
This entry was posted in Alter Barge, IL - Quincy and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to The News!!

  1. Vickey Henson says:

    Oh Gayle, I am so happy for you. I know this is your dream come true. How do you make such things happen? You are such a little a wizard! Congratulations!

  2. Jaretta Beard says:

    You are awesome. Have fun and don’t jump overboard for a quick swim.

  3. Joseph Francois says:

    Bon voyage !

  4. I truly know how happy, excited, thrilled you are for this opportunity. I can only imagine it. I do remember as a young bride taking a trip with your dad and his parents to Keokuk and surrounding area. An uncle was employed at the dam and security was not what it is today and he was able to take us way inside and we spent hours watching the boats and barges pass thru the locks. It amazed me then how those men could manuver those huge barges into such small spaces. As a few of the smaller boats went thru the locks…I enveyed them their experiences. I know you will have a lot of interesting things to tell us and some beautiful pictures to document the trip. I know this trip is a lot of hard work, carrying lots of heavy equipment and rising at the crack of dawn but also know how much you are enjoying it. I am enjoying every mile with you.

  5. Pat Dagnon says:

    I just caught up to you. Thanks for the return phone call. Phil’s mom used to tell his dad, when she was mad at him, that she was going to cook on a towboat. Because we have enjoyed the river for so many years we are paying attention to all that you write and it brings us home to the river again.

    Pat and Phil

  6. Vickey Henson says:

    I woke up in the middle of the night and thought of how you must feel sleeping on the barge. I know you are having the time of your life. Enjoy and take LOTS of pictures.

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