As much as I love to paddle and work in the paddling industry I am not on the water all day every day. Sometimes I am just around it. Southern Missouri and Arkansas have their share of beautiful rivers, some along towering cliffs and some are through farm lands and along logging roads. But, one river is near and dear to me and it’s water will always flow through my veins, the MIssissippi River. I was lucky to have been brought up on and around the Mississippi river right in the middle of the Midwest where farmlands, historic towns and sand bars line the shores. Some people don’t see the appeal of a wide, muddy and sometimes stinky river. For river rats like me it was and still is a little piece of paradise filled with swimming off those sand bars and taking my Jon Boat to the few towns we had right up the river.
Nothing brings me back to my childhood like a weekend trip to Grandma and Grampa’s house. You see, they live within feet of the shore of the river and every morning I am there I get to wake up to the sounds of the barges rolling by or the all to familiar coal train on the backside of the house. To most people this would sound like a nightmare, all that noise and lack of sleep. This is not true, to me at least. When I go to bed after driving 5 hours to visit them I usually hear the first of many trains rolling by. When I am having trouble getting to sleep I sit very quiet and listen to the distant horns and try to guess what direction they are coming from. During all this the soothing sound “Yes, soothing” sound of a rumble is headed north or south will 1100 foot of badass in front of it … A Barge. There is something about a soft rumble or moan that stays constant for a few minutes then slowly starts to dissapear. You are usually well sleep by then. What little do some people know is this happends about 5 times a night and sometimes more. You get use to it very quick and then you just ignore it. Now that I have ruined the whole “Mississippi river is peacful thing for ya let me get to the meat and taters of this.
Once I get my fix on all the childhood toys in real life pass me by I get to walk inside to what is the most important thing to me. The minute I walk in the door I am loundy greeting by Barney the Labradoodle and shortly after that a laughing hug from Grandma. A hug from someone you love so much just automatically put’s you in your “Happy Place” The house always smells clean and of something delicious cooking, Whether it would be Grandpa’s caramel cord or Grandma’s pie’s it’s hard not to forget the smells from your childhood. After I give hugs to Grandma I hurry over to shake Grandpa’s hand, when he is in his chair. If you catch Grampa out of his chair and away from the Hawkeye’s game you might get the elusive grampa hug, I on armed wrap aound your shoulder and a how you doin kid. At that moment you can pretty much call it a day, your day had been overloaded with happiness and joy. But there is far more than that.
Nothing………… nothing is what you do at this little place on the river, and by nothing I mean EVERYTHING!. We come up to get away from our daily lives and be kids again. Four wheelers, golf carts, kayaking, paddle boarding and best of all, we grew up with all the neighbors. During the summer and fall you can hop on a golf cart or paddle a boat down to any house and there is a good chance someone is going to be having some kind of party. Be it a wine party, sports game party, or just a “Screw it, im off for the weekend let’s get hammered” party. All up and down Gram’s and Gramps are houses right on the river as well and most have docks and little beaches, garages and shops strictly for having parties and patios with an over abundance of lawn chairs to invite the neighbors. This is what makes this NOTHING into EVERYTHING, you get to let things go and just enjoy the good people you grew up with and knew, see your parents friends and seeing how they spend their days in this paradise and just enjoy the time and outdoors. Whats crazy about this area is, no one is richer than the other, there is no sprawling mansions or fancy grand doorways no, it is way better than that. It’s good old fashioned river cabins and river homes that focus more on being outside than inside. Everyone has gardens and they all share eachothers crops, some can those crops others help take docks in and out of the water depending on the weather. Deer season and Duck season starts and you can walk outside to John Kohler and his coffee buddies talkign about the mornings deer they caught. Out in the front you can watch the morning mist and shine of the river as the sun comes up. This place is truely heaven.
Now, the only bad part of this trip is the best part. THE FOOD!!!!. I think it is in your grandparents blood to feed kids and grandkids the best food every made. Its 3 days of non stop eating of the comfort foods you grew up with as a kid. This is not so good if your a guy on a diet, it tends to set you back a week or so and it is worth it. People say “well, you don’t have enough will power” or they say ” Eat in moderation” well I am here to tell you that, that is false. It is IMPOSSIBLE to control what is put in front of you when you have things at stake. 1. You do as your grandma says and you eat what she gives you. 2. The food put in front of you ranks higher then any 5 star hippster joint. 3. If you dont eat all your food you run the risk of upsetting grandma, and you really don’t what to upset grandma. 4. You do as your grandma says and you eat what she gives you. All these things make it impossible to stay on your diet. Now, gram’s and gramp’s cooking may have the same or more calories than a big mac but the cookign is made from the heart and scratch. None of that chemical crap or meat injected with steroids. Nope, they buy meats from a local meat shop with only local grass fed meat. They buy fresh produce if they don’t have garden picked produce and everything is cooked while having a conversation about meaningless stuff but important to life.
Just up the road “on the river” there is a river bar called Kinnick South, it’s named after the Hawkeyes Football stadium. Kinnick South use to be known as Smurfs back in the day. My brother and I stopped in to have a few drinks before heading back for dinner and ran into an old family friend. We all talked about the past and stupid things use to do and what we are doing now. Before we knew it we had spent the entire afternoon in the bar and needed to get back to Gram’s and Gramp’s. As we walk in the holy grail of home cooking was ready. Steak, baked tater, salad and homemade ice cream. My brother and I, feeling like we are ready to have some more drinks at a birthday party down the road sat down and ate and quickly reallized that ……. We are not going anywhere, nope, FOOD DRUNK set in and the last place we found ourselves was in the recliners.
We woke up the next day to a breakfast of Eggs, Candies Bacon, and bisquits and gravey……. I mean COME ON! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! how much more home cookin’ can you get than that. We all sat down and had our coffee with the view of the river in front of us and enjoyed our last day of being with the grandparents. A pretty cool way to end a relaxing weekend.
Here is some things I think everyone should know, this is just me and what has given me strength and happiness that past few months.
- Cherish ANY TIME that you get to spend with your loved ones, if your fighting , STOP IT. If you can’t afford to go visit them, sell somthing and go see them. But always try to find a way to see and spend time with your loved ones
- Grand Parents – They had and have a chance to see their children raise thier grandchildren and you get to see the traits and hard lessons at work.
- It’s your grandparents turn to go back to acting like children and spoil their grandchildren, it’s what keeps them around. If they are more active and can have a full heart seeing all the kids they raised around them smiling and playing and laughing they will live an even longer healthier life.
- Since my mom died my grandmother has taken back the roll of “MOM” and guides me when I need a question answered. She still teaches me about taxes and old school knowledge. Grampa teaches me jokes and tells funny and some times dirty stories of when he was young.
- Since my mom died I reallized that I need to spend more and more time with them because they are the reason I had such a great mom and everytime I get to see my grandparents I get to see a little of my mom.
- If your granparents cook for your EAT IT, like I said, it’s their job to deprogram their grandkids so we can go back and get reprogramed back into the real world.
I have had alot of up’s and downs in the past year and it had been an uphill battle to overcome some anger, depression and health issues. Losing my mom, my job and my baby make for a pretty crappy year. However, I do know one thing, those up hill battles are started to be won int he past couple monts. I was offered the job of my dreams, I have lost a ton of weight, and my paddleboard is finally finished and I should begin training for the MR 340 soon. All this means nothing without reallizing that I have THE most important thing in my life to help me through the ups and downs…… My Wife. How in the hell did I ever get so lucky to get a wife like I have. She is my strenght and sometime my pain in the arse but every minute spent with her is one more minute that is complete in my life.
I know this blog is supposed to be about Paddleboarding and the adventures of two friends makeing a life by spreading the love of paddling to the world but this blog is about more. This blog is meant to inspire people and hopefully change some lives. I don’t have any type of degree in psychology or any degree at all, hell I am a english teachers proof reading nightmare. But, I can at least open myself up to the world and hopefully the changes I make in my life will help others.
We will show you plenty of photos and blogs about our travels and adventures in the up coming months but for now I enjoy posting happy things that still involve water and stuff and crud………