After seeing the belly of the beast, it was time to get back on the river. Mr. Adams offered us a ride back to the raft and waited as we got our gear out of his car. “I’m gonna catch a fish real quick.” he stated, nonchalant. I wondered if that was the river version of “seeing a man about a horse.” He grabbed a fishing rod out of his pickup and walked out onto the dock. I clipped my pack around my waist and looked up to see he had already caught a fish quicker than I could open a can of sardines. I felt safer as we paddled away. Mr. Adams was obviously magic and would put in a good word for us with the river spirits.
After a hot afternoon on the lake before dam 4, we learned from another boat that we would have to wait to lock through. The current didn’t like that idea, but we were able to reach a decent spot to rest on the concrete-covered bank for a bit. At the sound of the horn, we headed towards the lock. This was our second experience with Hannah’s least favorite event: man made water hazards. I had paddled through lock 3 with no problems. However, this current required an experienced pilot. Hannah faced her fear with flying colors, but the amount of stress induced required that we take extra measures to avoid the drowning machine by stopping at the ice cream shop on the opposite bank in the river town of Alma, WI.
When we walked into the Hotel de Ville and its tiny ice cream shop, Fire and Ice, the plan of a quick snack break flew out the second-story sunroom windows. We booked a suite almost immediately. I was convinced after I saw signed Dalí prints decorating the rooms. After we finished our root beer floats – which were hard to consume while our heads were constantly tilted up towards the ornate tin ceiling – I went out to explore the nature trail and Hannah interviewed the owner Dan Kordiack. I called home and picked some wildflowers from the top of a rocky cliff where many lovers had carved their names. When I got back to the hotel, Dan insisted we visit Buena Vista Park. Watching the sunset filled me with something bittersweet and I sang “Angel From Montgomery” at the top of my lungs the whole trip back down the silent mountain road.
That night, I gaped and gandered through an encyclopedic volume of Leonardo da Vinci’s artworks and writings. In the morning, I drew an amateur tribute to Da Vinci’s clouds and put it in a thank you note to Dan. Hannah wanted to stay on land to finish writing a letter to her boyfriend back in North Carolina, so I took the extra time to draw a cartoon about the French garden.
We set off towards lock and dam 5 and I couldn’t stop thinking about how satisfied I was by the antique French sink in the Hotel de Ville. I have done a lot of dishes, but no sink stopper has ever let me feel so secure. It was custom fit to perfectly seal the drain. I could scrub safely, knowing that no sudsy water had ever prematurely escaped from the basin since it was built (what seemed like hundreds of years ago). Security for a soapy spoon floating in an old-fashioned French sink is one thing, but as our raft floated downriver with the mighty Mississippi, there was a storm brewing.