The radio cracked to life.
“Argo to Mel Price Lock.”
“Mel Price back.”
“Yea, I’m just coming up to the bridge here and there’s a kayaker headed your way, just wanted to let you know so you’d be ready for him.”
“Alright now, thanks, we’ll keep an eye out for him.”
I looked at the tug coming towards me from the Mel Price Lock and realized they were talking about me.
“This is the southbound kayaker,” I said, grabbing the radio. “I should be there in about ten minutes or so.”
“Alright then, kayaker, glad to hear you got a radio. Head on toward the main lock in the center of the channel and we’ll get her ready for you.”
I won’t miss the locks. They break the river into awkward segments. They cause long waits and drown sandbars. They make me feel like an intruder stuck in the teeth of a giant commercial enterprise.
Mel Price is the biggest of them all. Built to replace an ailing Lock 26, it’s the newest lock on the Upper Mississippi. Its giant cement towers and double lock chambers look modern and clean against the old locks stretching upstream.
I headed toward the main chamber until a southbound tug radioed in and they decided to move me over to the auxiliary lock. I listened as they finalized the plan.
“New Dawn to Mel Price.”
“Say, is it alright for me to come on down?”
“Oh yea, I thought I told you that.”
“Ok, here we come.”
“Ok, yea, you got the main chamber all to yourself.”
“Okey dokey, thank you.”
Then the radio cracked one last time.
“Just try not to run over my kayaker.”
I smiled. Maybe I will miss the locks a bit.
Twenty minutes later, the doors opened, and nothing but river stretched between me and New Orleans.