Thursday, May 31, 2007

...ANNNNND We're Back

Happy belated Memorial Day America! We are officially on the Mississippi River! Apologies for not blogging sooner, but our wireless connection has been pretty bad all the way up here in Minnesota. As it stands, I am blogging from a DSL connection in the home of my new friend Keith, who is a resident of Palisades, MN. He has a black lab named Buck, and four kids. Last year, one of them shot a deer up north, showing up his old man! Apparently, Keith does about 3,000 internet posts a year on five different sites, including He's going to link us to his community, and the fisherman hits are going to fly! Thanks so much, Keith!

This is our fourth day on the river. We put in at Bemidji, MN on the 28th, after two long days of driving and outfitting, courtesy of Kevin's gracious mother, Mary. Bemidji is the first city on the Mississippi, and where we dropped off there is a huge plastic statue of Paul Bunyan and his Baby Blue Ox. According to the literature, Bunyan created Minnesota's 10,000 lakes with his footsteps. Danny thinks he also cut out the Grand Canyon, but we haven't yet had that confirmed. Does anyone know whether or not this is true? Either way, it's great to be a part of American history.

The first days on the river have been beautiful. We've seen several bald eagles, and great blue herons. At one bend in the river, a huge school of fish darted by to our right. The Mississippi is dirty by reputation, and it certainly will become much more so as we move further south, but at its headwaters, it is beautiful. There are birch and oak trees, and stands of wild rice. A thousand miles from now there will be factories pumping into a river a mile wide. Here, where the river is so shallow that you can wade across it without sinking below your knees, the water is clear. It looks like the land of plenty, and gives no hint as to what is to come.

At Cass Lake, the next town down, we decided we'd try to hitch a ride down Highway 2 in order to avoid Lake Winnibigoshish, a lake some fifteen miles across and wide. If the wind picked up with us halfway across, with the gear we have loading down the canoe, we'd be pretty much done for. So we stashed the canoe and our packs and walked into town. We pitched the idea to everyone we saw, but no one seemed particularly interested. The gas station attendant down the road didn't have any leads, and even though Kevin stuck out his thumb, we couldn't get anyone to stop. In one barbershop, the barber played with some gadget and avoided making eye contact. He laughed when I offered him some money. "I don't even drive," he said. Finally, in Dairy Queen, while Danny and I ate cheeseburgers and ice cream, Kevin got a tow guy on the phone who said he'd do it after work for $125. We tried to get him down to $100, but he wouldn't budge. We told him to pick us up at 5:00.

Dan the Tow Guy showed up with his wife Donna and a trailer that we hitched the canoe onto. He wore a cut-off black t-shirt, had a huge beard, and periodically spit from his chewing tobacco into a water bottle on the dashboard. He had several tattoos, including a tasmanian devil right out of the tattoo parlor book, and a howling wolf that we later learned his daughter had drawn. He asked how far we were going and we told him New Orleans. He laughed. "That's crazy," he said, "I'd be a dead duck just trying to go up Cass Lake."

He drove us all the way down to Jacobson, and we talked about all sorts of things. He told us about going to the motorcycle convention in Sturgess, South Dakota, and watching the Hell's Angels get into a shootout with the National Guard. He told us about his daughter, who was supposed to go to school for graphic design but won't get out of the house. He told us about the time Donna drove him and his friends to a dart tournament a couple towns over and then had a heart attack in the bar. They remembered it like they were remembering an obscure family Thanksgiving from several years back. "Oh yah," he said to her, "That was the time you had a heart attack." She laughed and nodded. "Yep," she said.

The next day, we paddled nearly 30 miles, aided by the river. We hardly saw anyone, and Kevin remarked that this is probably the last day of the entire trip where we won't pass through a town. Late in the day, Highway 10, the "Great River Road," came close to the river and I hopped out to take a look. Two farmers on 4-Wheelers came up to see if I needed help. One had a heavy, almost unintelligeble slur and told me, "Those mosquitos done eaten up your legs!" I asked if they knew anything about Palisades. "It's small," the other one said. "About 150 people." I asked if there was a liquor store. "Oh yah," they said. "There's two."

Now we're in Keith's house in Palisades and planning on eating at the local bar this evening, where they have a special on two dollar burgers. Keith watches TV and says they're not half bad either. Until then, we're hanging out at the park by the river, drinking beer and reading. Hopefully, we will pass back into service soon, and from there on out, our posts should be pretty regular. Thanks to everyone for all the comments so far - it's great to hear from you all! Hannah Jane, we'd love some contacts if you have them. Every little bit is appreciated. You can email Al about passing them along. Apologies about not having pictures this time, but hopefully you'll understand our situation. Soon, we'll have all sorts of pretty things for you to gawk at. Until then, stick with us! We promise to make it worth your while. Moms and Dads and family and friends, we love you and miss you. We hope you're all well, and we'll talk to you all soon.

Still living,


Jamie-Lee said...

Yo, is Keith your Don Ainsworth?

Did I just make that comment?

Happy early birthday! Keep it clean.

mikepam said...

Hi Gabe,
Great postings, and we're so glad to finally hear from you. As usual we were being anxious parents, sure that you were swamped in Lake Winnibigoshish.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!! Sumi sends a tail wag and lick since it is her birthday, too.

Put on your bug repellent and sunscreen, boy! Clearly, the natives can tell you aren't from around there.

Take care. Stay safe.
Mom & Dad

Justin Kai said...

Happy Birthday butthole. I hope your trip is going smoothly and although your maritime adventure has better scenary than mine does, I look forward to sharing stories at Thanksgiving. Take care little brother.

markie said...

Don't know you yet, but happy birthday Gabe! Really glad to see this posting. Was thinking of being a one girl search party. I'm both nervous and excited about your adventure!

don't know if Danny got my email, but you all watch for alligator snapping turtles...real big and will bite your hand off. Is it horribly hot and humid? Stay safe and Danny... all is fair with dog and dragon.

Alli said...

Gabe Crane, happy birthday to you! Twenty one and living the American dream. Now you legally have access to all the discount hamburger/beer joints. Don't drink and paddle.

Nice work using your resources to post. I'm enjoying the read from the big city. The Subway has nothing on the Mississippi River.

Keep it up, enjoy. Oh, and listen to your parents.

Al said...

This comment comes from Paul Hendrickson:

Gabe. How is it you never wrote this well in English 145 and 169? Ha. You've got me right on the edge of my canoe seat. Keep those cards and letters coming. I thought I'd just check in once and am now in fear I won't be able to live
without your dispatches from the stream.

Prof H

Mark said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nicole said...

Gabey-baby, you are so cool and inspiring! And it is such a pleasure to read your writing (but you already knew that).

Good luck, stay safe, and Happy 21st! I recently enjoyed a pretty exciting 21st year myself, you know, marrying your brother and whatnot, and am so excited to hear all about yours. Have fun, Huck Finn!

Greg said...


It's Life on the Mississippi all over again! Congratulations on your setting out. Your blogs are captivating, and I feel as though I'm traveling with you all. Wonderful stories.

Be safe,
Greg Djanikian

Drizzle said...

This is so much better than reading a book this summer! Keep it coming, bitches.

Roxanne and Michael said...

Dear Gabe,

We're glad you found the river! We were a little concerned when we spoke with you at Penn. We are enjoying your writing style and stories. John Kerouac has nothing on you! Happy birthday!

Our best,
Roxanne and Michael

Emily said...


Hi you don't know me--I'm going to be a freshman at Penn, and hoping (oddly enough) to be an urban studies/creative writing major.

Anyways, I don't know where you are on the Mississippi now, but I live in the Twin Cities (in Wayzata) and wanted to offer assistance (should you guys need any) as you travel on through. Just e-mail me if I can do anything.

Good luck with you journey--it's odd, yes. But also quite admirable (says the wide-eyed freshie).


Peter said...

Wow gabe you already have your first groupie, thats hotness right there.

Anyway, what I came to say is every blogger worth his salt posts once a day.

Oh, and Walker came back, Elements rebound will have to wait until next week.

Keep on Strokin,

Walker said...

Hey Gabe,

Good to talk to you and sorry about the comeback but I wish you luck in the remainder of your season.

Sounds as though your adventures are endless and spontaneous. Neat!

Make sure to be careful when your making your way south. I heard that canoes are pretty tippy.

Like Peter, I am impressed with the groupie. Keep living the dream. When you get back I'll by you an It's-It.

Marc said...

Gabriel Crane or Gabe Crane? One sounds like a pretentious country club beat reporter, the other a yellow journalist for the Daily News. But a travel writer? Please!

Question: does artificial cheese melt under Mississippi sun?

Follow-up: Are there any bears or elk where you camp?

Third question: Do bears or elk like artificial cheese?

I've never been canoing or camping, and I've never been to Mississippi, but I can tell you this. Either spit or urine is a good bug repellent (the other helps treat jellyfish stings); and I hear if you tell people you have a lot of Jewish friends, folks in the South will take really kindly to you.

Good luck homie.


dc said...


Happy 21st, brother! I'm excited to keep up with you guys as you live it up on the big river.

Also, I'm just as impressed as Peter and Walker at the groupie.

Little bro

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