Saturday, August 11, 2012

Missouri River Rumble-Day 2

I had gotten no sleep, but we were all awakened at 5:30. A staff member would walk through the camp with a battery-powered CD player announcing the new day. The music selection was actually enjoyable in spite of the hour. My favorite was the morning they chose Indian flute music. That was the signal to break camp, get our gear to the truck, and be ready for breakfast, usually by 6 a.m. Breakfast and dinner were catered most days, and packed lunches could be ordered the night before to be delivered in the morning along with orders for bagged ice. The first shuttle to the boat ramp would leave at 6:30.

Getting boats to and from the water could be a good test of endurance most days. When we arrived at the boats, they were a good 150 yd. carry to the water’s edge. Of course you had to pair off with someone, so helping carry his or her boat down made that 600 yds round-trip, and then carrying the gear for the boat down added up to 900 yds. Before you were done, you would also generally help move two or three more boats just to get everyone to the shore. This, of course, is after the earlier 900 yds making three trips to the truck with gear. All together, you would have carried heavy gear a bit over a mile before the sun climbed above the trees, to be followed by a relaxing 16.5 mile paddle on this first day. Dang! But, don’t let a little morning exercise put you off. They say what doesn’t break you, makes you stronger. LOL!

How do you know this is the start?
Ibi is clean.

Once everyone was set to go, Rex Klein, the Rumble Chairman, would call a paddlers’ meeting to outline the day’s paddle and have the landing chairperson for the day’s destination give a report on what to expect when we arrived there. Then we’d hear Rex’s call that would become second nature by week’s end, “Okay, load’em up!” Once everyone was on the water, an airhorn would signal the start. The estimates I heard during the week were that our group included about 125 people in 95 boats. That was an impressive sight as we flailed the water and headed down river. Our first destination was at Bonnots Mill, a 2-mile paddle off the Missouri and up the Osage River, or 16.5 miles for the day.

If the group got too spread out after a few miles, Rex would stop to give the rear of the fleet a chance to catch up. It was a rest and watering break---for the leaders. Unfortunately, as soon as the sweep boat began to close, they would take off again, meaning the back of the fleet never got a break. Fortunately, once in the morning, at lunch, and usually in mid-afternoon, Rex would find a sandbar for a snack break. Everyone pulled ashore, got a chance to get out and stretch their legs, and grab a drink and granola bar. With the intense heat, several people slogged back through the mud to get in the river to cool off. There were only a few in this Rumble swim club the first day, but with the triple digit heat, the numbers increased rapidly over the course of the week.

A small portion of the fleet stretching across the river
and ready to go.

We landed and staged our boats at the Bonnots Mill access ramp, and were then shuttled 6/10 mile to a private home where we were permitted to pitch camp in the owner’s back yard. The railroad tracks went through his front yard, the train traffic was frequent and close, but his grass was green and plush. It was really a very nice setting. Oh, did I mention that the trains were frequent and close? But man, I sure would love one of those train whistles for my truck.

We had people sleeping with our boats again for security. I volunteered to go down to the ramp and relieve them while they ate dinner at the St. Louis Parish School in Bonnots Mill. By the time I got there, most of the food items were gone, but there was still plenty to eat, and best of all, the meal had been dropped from $11 to $5. There’s always a silver lining. The catering throughout the week was done by civic groups as fund raising activities, whether it was the Boy Scouts doing breakfast, or the Community Betterment Assoc., kids raising money for playground equipment, or a church ladies’ club. They got to support their communities, and we got to avoid cooking and cleaning up.

The Jefferson City capitol building from the Missouri River.

Bonnots Mill was originally a French settlement called Dauphine, and still has the Dauphine Hotel, where tradesmen would stay after arriving by river steamboat. The town was later renamed for the owner of a local mill, Felix Bonnot. The town, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, is called a French island in a sea of Germans. It remains as one of two small towns in Missouri able to preserve its French heritage.

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