Tag Archives: shopping

immigrant squirrels

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My friend Cori was supposed to fly in to Moline last night, but her dog got sick and she couldn’t come, so I headed back to Bellevue where Lori (I know, I know, I didn’t do it on purpose!) arrived around dinnertime from Columbus, OH. She had read about the journey in the NYT and decided to come out and join on for a few days, very cool! Turns out we both were friends with Robert Hilferty, whose death in this summer of many sad deaths is one that truly breaks my heart, so perhaps these few days we spend together can honor his memory in some small way.

Lori helped me put in at Bellevue for my first real paddling day in a week, and it was great to get back down in the river the way only a kayak allows. The wildlife on the river remains amazing: I saw an eagle take off from about 15 feet away, the herons and egrets and pelicans and ducks and geese are everywhere, but the winner was this crazy squirrel I came across as he was swimming across the whole river. (click the photo for a slightly clearer view…) At first I thought it must be some other animal, but as I got close I realized it had to be a very nervous squirrel: he was making that scared clucking sound the whole time he was swimming, and I wanted to tell him to focus his energy just on the swimming (it looked to be hard work for him) — but eventually he made it to the other side and scampered away. What do you suppose that was about? He heard the nuts in Iowa are more plentiful?!

I pulled out at Savanna, where Lori was waiting for me with Jeff, who is aiming to walk down to NOLA pulling his stuff behind him in a little red wagon. We talked with him for a bit and he gave me a banana (thanks and good luck, Jeff!) and then we decided to head up to Galena, IL to check out the US Grant Museum. The museum was okay, but the town of Galena was sort of trippy: upscale tourist central in the middle of rural Illinois. I had never even heard of Galena, but clearly it is a destination for well-heeled tourists from all over. It’s hard to define the exact place where charming crosses over into precious, but for me Galena is definitely on the other side of the line. I suppose my complete lack of interest in buying stuff has a lot to do with my antipathy, but I also resent the way functionality is actually displaced by the Disneyfied similacrum of “town” in such places. There are real river towns right nearby, so why does anyone want to hang out in the overpriced fake version?

anything really worth doing is worth doing slowly

I figure it’s useful to follow Mae West’s advice whenever possible, even when it’s applied to shopping, which is one of my least favorite activities and induces a kind of anxious narcolepsy in me, if such a thing is possible. “Outfitting” is just a fancy word for shopping, after all, and getting outfitted for a sport at which I have pretty minimal experience is a competition between salesmen who have comparatively expert knowledge and foolish me whose only advantage is that I simply don’t have the budget to do what they would bid me to do. $3000 kayaks, anyone?!?! I don’t think so! (it IS a very sexy machine, I can tell that even without knowing anything about it!)

The interesting thing about our endless shopping day yesterday is that we revised the plan somewhat, in a way that I think will alter the trip in a very rich and useful way.

The original plan had been that we would get a tandem kayak and on any given day, two people would be kayaking down the river while the third of us would drive down and meet us. That way we would have the support of a car, each person would have a day off the river once every three days and could scope out interesting off-river stuff, find groceries and water and internet, and carry all the camping gear and ancillary stuff so the kayak wouldn’t have to. The idea was to procure a tandem kayak that could be adjusted to serve as a solo kayak for times when there are only two travelers instead of three.

It turns out that an adjustable tandem kayak is not a good choice for a long touring journey. So we agreed that the better choice is to buy a solo kayak, and then on any given day, one person will be paddling, one will be biking, and the third will be driving. I am totally LOVING this revised plan, partially because it means that each of us will in fact be taking parallel SOLO journeys down the river, gathering after each day’s travels to compare notes and hang out together. In general, I think a solo journey is a much more interesting way to travel. In my experience, you’re just much more OUT there, and strangers interact with you much more freely, and in every way it’s really preferable. But doing a parallel solo journey WITH other people prevents the loneliness and extremity that would be sort of unavoidable if I did a four-month solo trip down the river.

So rather than feeling like we’ve compromised the plan by changing to a solo kayak, I’m really feeling excited about the new balance between alone and together we’ve created for the journey.

But we still have to go back and actually BUY everything today, and I wish that part could just magically be finished! Hopefully by the end of the day today!!!!