The day was spent trying to put myself and this trip back on track. The town of New Madrid (largely through the efforts of Cheryl and David White) has rallied to help me get re-equipped and back on the water.
After years of working as a school teacher, and now by running a string of community health clinics in the area, as well as coordinating charitable organizations, Cheryl is connected. You might say she has her finger on the pulse of the town, I believe she is the source of the pulse of the town. It is in one of her (free to the community, funded by grants) health clubs that I am now catching up on my e-mails and blog posts. It is also here that I stayed Friday night after all the excitement, and where I’m keeping my boat and gear.
JJ is an interesting gentleman. About 5’-9” lanky, dark hair, scruffy goatee, high strung, completely likeable, and a little on the talkative side. Actually the only time I needed to speak was when he paused long enough to light a cigarette. JJ is the sort that knows everybody in town and, by his stories, seems to have done enough living in his 39 years to fill the lives of two men. He worked for a long time in the restaurant industry cooking and managing different establishments, then moved into the insurance billing field, and now into (self taught) computer technician duties. As much as I could ascertain, JJ seems now to be working for a few different people simultaneously, for his aunt’s catering business as a cook, Cheryl as a computer technician, and yesterday as my personal driver.
I learned that the local economy is buoyed up mostly by farming (cotton, beans, and rice) as well as a large aluminum plant and power plant right outside of town. The river, the original source of the towns existence, growth, and prosperity, (now hidden on the back side of the levee) seems to have moved out of the average person’s consciousness. It’s twists and turns, boils, floods, and temperament a thing of low lying fear. The big muddy river that once went to New Madrid now just goes by.
One very important piece of my new kit came by way of a suggestion from Mike Boren at Aqua Adventures. It’s a wire mesh expandable and lockable bag that is designed to go around a backpacking pack then lock to a pole or tree. Mike suggested that when I get to a town I simply place my things in the duffel bags I already carry then secure those within one of these wire mesh cages. Mike is lucky he wasn’t right here because I my have kissed him full on the lips. That is the solution!
Next we were back on the highway with a brief stop at a truck stop for dinner on our way back to New Madrid. While I listened to JJ talk I struggled to keep up with my half of the conversation while I watched tail lights blur and the effects of too little sleep the night before worked me over. Once back in town we met up with David White who had a box for me that contained a replacement sleeping bag and jacket from North Face that my friend Haley had on its way within minutes of my desperate call Friday night.
David escorted me to an apartment on main street where it was another call from Cheryl that put me in the spare bedroom of Gary Harris to stay until I can move on. Gary is the town’s one and only dentist who actually lives about five hours away and keeps the apartment here. In this very poor community it’s Cheryl and her clinic that have convinced Gary to travel so far from his family to provide one of the services this town needs. Gary took it upon himself to go out and round up breakfast food so I would feel at home. Upon his return we chatted for a bit as I totally lost the fight to fatigue and finally turned in for the night.
On the technical side - All things considered the trip is coming back together very quickly. Which is good because winter is still nipping at my heals and I need to get south. My mom is sending down a box from Wisconsin containing my backpacking tent, spray skirt, and paddling jacket that will enable me to resume the trip. The paddling jacket a Kokatat TecTour is what I had planned on using once the ice-water winter leg of this trip was over. I’m making the carefully calculated decision to forgo a replacement dry suit and just switch over to the Tec Tour and paddling pants a bit sooner than planned. The tent will be a bit of a squeeze on the cold nights that still lie ahead but it will work in the short term until a replacement can be sent ahead of me from North Face. I must say that of all the assistance that I’ve gotten with gear (after Aqua Adventures) Haley and North Face have gone above and beyond whle helping me out. The skirt is a full neoprene Snap Dragon which is replacing the “Glacier Breathable” tube version I’d been using up to this point. With the long hours in the cockpit (day after day) a breathable tunnel is important to allow the wicking layers I’m wearing to move moisture away from my body. I’m going to go with the neoprene tunnel and look for a replacement if I have any trouble with discomfort along the way. With holiday shipping volume things may be slow to come but if all goes well I should be back on the water by Tuesday or Wednesday at the latest.