Archive for September, 2007


Okay here it is, the ultimate update to date, so grab a glass a water or just skim to the good parts. Alton. We hunkered down and prepared for the coast guard test. We never found a good docking spot and spent our stay on a crappy rock wall on the other side of the oh-so-shee-shee Alton marina. Doesn’t mean we didn’t have fun though, or that we didn’t meet awesome people.
John Becker introduced us to great folks, Carla and Sandy who both gave us showers and home grown vegetables. Spent a night at ‘Bubby’s and Sissy’s’, where Mike jumped onstage and did a number with one of the Queens.
A few went to the discovery garden and picked tasty tomatoes. Ayen and Porter scouted the chain of rocks canal and decided its a piece a cake, but the upstream jaunt is lookin’ hairy. (they were right.)
There was an awesome article in the Alton paper, thank you! Then a condescending one in the St.Louis dispatch which called us hippies about eight times. Its scary isn’t it , that we’re something else that you don’t have a name for!
Bob Metzger threw us a BBQ and Island Dave threw us a pizza party. (is it that obvious that food is the way to our hearts? Thank you guys!)
We had a show, but it was rained out, we performed the next night to a small crowd. A small but surprisingly un-dysfunctional show! (I realized it was also our most hippied-out show to date. Ha!)
Charlie and Christine continued to paint cute nasty things about each other on the Giraft. Last but not least we owe a big shout out to….Glenn! yes Glenn, of Glenn Motors, volkswagen genius, helped us out so much. Alexis and Ellery brought him home cooked meals all the time, and he gave us amazing advice and hope. So with a bit of hard work, the secret mind of our Babalouie boy genius on the job, and our fabulous Nick Binbinboyytal we were ready to go.
A real saint, John, volunteered to tow us if things got crazy, and showed up bright and early as well as the coast guard.
We pulled out and did maneuvers to show that we know how to run these boats, and weren’t as unwieldy as the flood in Clarksville had made us look.
We did tight turns and went upstream well holding position fine.
Yes!!! We got the go ahead, proceeded through lock 26 Mel-Price, no problems.
The chain of rocks canal was also fine, I imagine it could be hectic if your motors went out just as a barge passed, but it was smooth sailing for us. Lock 27!
We called and they said ‘come on in’, we went all the way up and the door was still closed. Confused we stopped on the wall just before the door, still waiting. Then, behind us, the wall raised up out of the water, closed and we locked through in no time! A surprise ending was a nice treat for our last lock, the final one on the Mississippi, the Rockaway having been through them all.
John attached his johnboat to tow us just before the end of the canal where it meets the rest of the river. His boat started pulling and right away it was obvious that we were not going to be able to do this. Happily the coast guard was right there, waiting, having anticipated hairiness. We were already losing ground against the strong current, then the tow line snapped, we were going backwards fast, steering in reverse. Props to our brave drivers, Tracy and Alexis!
The coast guard tied to our boat and attempted towing us. We were making way against the current now, but with the boat in voltron it was awkward. The Giraft’s nose being pushed under water and a bunch of us standing on its stern to counteract! It was kind of working, but we decided we couldn’t get far like this.
The coast guard helped us get to shore. They told us to let them know when we planned to move next so they could be backup again. Coast guard rocks!!!
Where we docked was less than ideal, muddy, and half a mile from a road.
Somehow our rudder apparatus got totally bent so we drove the twisted system into St.Louis. Our friend Dave hooked us up with welding em back to good at his incredible work studio. Thanks Dave! Also we made a date for our next attempt and found new folks with boats who could help. It was a nice night, Santiago, Anna and Andre returned and some folks from St.Louis came too. We roasted hot dogs and told stories.
Our plan was to tow the boats separate, so Sunday morning the Rockaway went out first. We got a little ways, quickly obvious we were gonna have problems with the johnboat towing us, so the coast guard stepped in. They attached a tow line and one coast guard member rode with us. Just past the bridge the hecticness began, water started coming over the bow of the ship, fast. A wave swept a bunch of things overboard, shoes, amps and most of the contents of Ellery Neon’s cubby. As this happened on the bow of the ship, in the stern the rockaway’s motors were being started again. Just while the ship’s starboard side motor, Mortimer, was being revved an amp and a pair of heels floated into the propeller, somehow lodging in it, and causing the drive shaft to bend wildly and rip itself off the swing arm in under one second. The cold-rolled steel shaft looked like a noodle.
To the bow again, Santiago is in the skiff as another wave floods in it, pushing it under. As its sinking he jumps off and we cut it free. Bob one of our tows, had tied to the other side of our bow, and his propeller had gotten totally jammed with items swept overboard. He decided to use anchors to get to shore.
We almost drift into a bridge pylon, and at least a few members think their death is at hand.
We decided to get to shore too, cause if things keep going wrong at the rate they have been we’ll be in splinters in twenty minutes!
We dock on an unmanned barge and the Coast Guard pull the skiff out and bring it back to the Rockaway. The motor has been underwater for ten minutes and its still running, good sign.
Bob’s got his prop untangled and drives to our ship. The coast guard says they’ll tow us back to where we left from this morning, but first their going to refuel.
We all breathe deep and are ecstatic that no one even got hurt.
All shaken up and joyous we dance on the piles of coal on the barge.
When the coast guard gets back we were all surprised to hear their enthusiasm.
Lets try it again!
The bow line had been tied over the the raking, pushing the bow down, it should have been tied under. Plus the skiff and johnboat on the sides created drag, and we can move all the stuff on the Rockaway to the back of each raft. scary to run back into the same situation you barely made it out of, but our last chance to get to that secret video game level heaven, Cementland. Lets do it.
We pull off the barge smoothly and cross into the confluence smoothly, and things just… keep going smoothly…( I was sweating bullets for the first hour, but after that just excited.) It took two hours to go four miles, but…we…got…to…CEMENTLAND!!!
The Rockaway docked without a hitch.
This is a lot of catching up to do.
If you need a break, i feel you.
Now the adventure of the Garden of Bling.
The Coast Guard returned from Cementland around dusk all geared up to move the rest of the boats. We tied the tow line up to the Bling and all piled on. Once again the tow line was tied over the bow. Oops. Even the weight of seven people and an 800 lb. organ at the stern wasn’t enough to keep the bow from dipping under. As the current increased so did the water in the studio. Harrison grabbed a broom and began to sweep water off the bow while the rest of us sat in the costume shop thinking heavy thoughts.
We took turns informing the Coast Guard of the condition of our crap raft on the walkie-talkie they had loaned us. We decided to turn back when the boat was halfway under water. We returned the boat to the same spot feeling rather defeated.
Since then we have taken much weight off the boat and continue to look for a way up to Cementland.
Anyone know where we can get a tow?
Now we are more in the present…
Kirksville, the Giraft and Bling sit on a secluded beach as their fates are decided…
Cementland is amazing..
It looks like an abandoned cement factory growing into a castle.
Its a Bob Cassily project, and he’s been encouraging us to run around it like the playground it is. He also let us spend the night in the City Museum, his other project, we ran around laughing and screaming our heads off till daybreak.
My butt still hurts from going down so many slides.
Also, Siena caught a baseball at a cardinals game.
The Coast guard says we can’t go any further without a major overhaul to our propulsion. Don’t worry Coast Guard, we’re not planning on it. The Garden of Bling might keep going, but only if we get rocket boosters on it.
There was a interview with a Coast Guard member on NPR about how he saved our ass, but that guy wasn’t even there! He’s the boss of the Coast Guarders who helped us out. And we thank you guys immensely.
The boats aren’t going further for a bunch of reasons.
It gets colder faster than we move is a big one…one of the Rockaway’s motors has kicked the bucket…almost out of money…tired of not having good cappuccino…Okay, that’s a joke, but a bunch of things do add up, and really most of this crew is tired. Whatever else we’ve got to do is out there, and finding a safe way to do the lower Mississippi seems unlikely. Cementland is the perfect place for these rafts, and we can build something totally new out of them that has the potential to stay there indefinitely.
St.Louis has offered us some wild opportunities and its hella exciting.
We made it over 700 miles on these junk crafts and this feels like the reward. We’re going to do several shows here, to share our river mutant perspective with people and raise some money for our deconstruction and building something outta it, and for if the Bling decides to go further down river.
We’ll keep the website updated with our continued drama, glory, performances and events. When we do shows in St.Louis, hope to see some of the awesome folks we’ve met on our journey. All of you are why we do this and why we have made it this far. Aww, sounds so cheesy but its goddamn true, there are some amazing wonderful beautiful people on this river. Thanks again.


The boats are all tied together and we call it Voltron. (yeah after the cartoon with robot tigers that fuse together to become a big honkin robo-dude) Voltron is awesome, we look like a floating junk city, plus we save gas.

Anyway, we spent a few days outside of Louisiana, MO practicing our new show.

Pulled into town and docked just after the designated waterfront area in a scrappy stand of trees. Built an exceedingly wobbly bridge out of completely uneven driftwood to get on the boats. Somebody saw our shotty work, lent us his aluminum construction scaffold, and then went home and built us our own super-swank-mega functional plank! It folds in half! Thank you!! Guys from Thomas motors, you rock, brought us water and helped us cart it over our original super-crappy walkway. And that old man with the cake, i love ya. He even brought us cookies later and i wanted to marry him.

We rocked out hard at La Salles to their antique radio jukebox.

When John did Axl Rose and the disco ball started spinning, it was like prom all over again.

Louisiana was sweet to us, and daybreak donuts kept us stuffed with sugar. We were going to do a show next to the shop in an empty lot. Instead, the forecast foreboded rain, so we cleared it with the blue heron cafe and did the show there. Big turnout, and a fun time. We did a shadow puppet show and a bunch of our crew played songs. A classic rockaway performance.

Next day the river was fast and full of wood due to some big storms upstream. An embarrassing ‘exit’ as the town waved goodbye to us from shore, we couldn’t drop the motors cause of all the debris, and the speedy current swooshed back to land. We went about

500 ft. that day.

No wonder its taking so long to get to New Orleans.

An angel bailed us out the next morning, or rather towed us out with his boat.

Pulled out our floating city of Voltron, and we were let go into a gushing river of lumber.

When the Mississippi is angry it lets you know, and we spent the day fending off the huge logs from crashing into us. (we call this procedure “log show”:)

A log jammed our rudders and broke the steering cables just as we entered the lock. Spinning around in the lock we were a dysfunctional circus, and received a (at least half sarcastic) round of applause when we finally got our boat cinched to the wall. Clarksville was immediately after the lock, and with our rudders still craptastic we performed a hasty crash landing.


Peoples hospitality is amazing and we were welcomed with a BBQ (thanks Ray!), showers and access to a pool! Some crew who had been ahead to visit St.Louis came back with exciting stories and a crazy adorable kitten! Raft Cat!! With nothing but word of mouth advertising we again drew a big turnout. Things went fairly hitchless (thanks for the mike) until just as we were wrapping up the show with a slow heartfelt tune- yelling, anger and drama, a fight breaks out in the back of the crowd! Nothing to do with us, so i wont dwell on its terribleness any longer, but it was quite a finale.

We spent another day in Clarksville and someone brought us these giant cookies.

Whoever you are, i love you.

The current still racing got us quite a ways fast, and also slammed us into another bunch of trees. No land to walk on, the flood was a t least 10 ft. above usual. we all agreed we couldn’t keep traveling with the river like this,so we waited a day. And a day. And a day. And a day. On the fourth day of just being on the rafts, no land, the stir craziness was getting thick and we were definitely out of whiskey. Playing scrabble was just getting annoying.

So, we pushed off and luckily found the river much calmer. Even went through the next lock with not too much trouble. We docked in a gorgeous spot with bluffs, trees, and- land!

A few of us did jigs.

Another day of travel, this time with a visit from the coast guard. I think we had to convince them that we are trying hard to not end up a bloody schmear they have to clean up from the bottom of a barge. They were nice, had good advice and warned us intensely about the “chain of rocks canal”. This is the very ominous sounding and deadly dangerous stretch of river above St.Louis. It is level ten of a video game where you have to fight the big boss who has thirty arms and shoots fireballs from his eyes. Except (duh.)) in this video game you can die. Its not a big deal for regular boaters, but we are huge and not always reliably maneuverable. Another junk rafter lost his boat and nearly his life last year in this canal.

So we gotta dial in our systems and have a super tight plan.

Maybe we can have someone tow us through?

We will see.

We docked just outside Alton, pretty much on the side of the road.

Cars were pulling over all the time to check us out, and i thought we might cause a wreck.

On a skiff run to scope other docking spot, an Asian carp jumped into the boat!

Wendel clubbed it, and Gabe made it into great soup for lunch. This brings us to the present,

we moved the boat to a muddy rocky wall on the other side of the Alton Marina, kinda sucks, there’s absolutely no road access. We will probably try and move to a better spot soon. Got another visit from the Coast Guard today, and to make sure we aren’t headed for being that bloody schmear, they are asking us to do some maneuverability test before the next lock. Alexis and Tracy who have been driving recently are excited to show off their skills.

We are going to do a show here in Alton, but we’ve gotta figure out where we will do it, and where to park our boats. Thanks to all the wonderful people we’ve met here so far, your kindness and stories are really appreciated.



Clarksville was a truly lovely, as was the great time we had in Louisiana (despite our small green boat being vandalized) and we are moving onward to St. Louis. We’ve had no internet access for a long time becauise of the 6 foot floodwaters on the river, but we’ll be hitting civilization soon with photos and updates to prove it.