WEBERS HEAD OUT FOR 300 MILE HOVER CRUISE!
Verdon and Vernon Weber had been playing around with the idea of a weekend cruise on the Mississippi and a few tributaries for about 2 months, planning on packing enough goods and the overnight roll and encompassing all of 300 miles before returning home with their StarCruisers. The plans were laid out each weekend, just waiting for the right weather and the moment when they could get away for a short weekend to themselves. A few 50 mile trips up the Guttenburg Dam in the weekends prior made them feel pretty confident they could maneuver the StarCruisers over the dam, in the event locking through was not an option...and plans were pretty much leaning toward walking over the dam and sliding the crafts down the other side and lowering into the water. But this should really be done when the water was high so as to lessen the height they would be walking the crafts over and sliding them down the rocky slope.
Vernon on the Platte River surveying the Arrowheads for logs and other fun problems!
It seemed the right weekend was approaching on June 13, 1998, and the cruise was set. Double checking fuel, food provisions, camping gear, first aid equipment and general hovercraft emergency fix-em ups!, the cruise set out. The plans were to put in at the Platte River Banfield Bridge boat landing and cruise about 1 ½ mi. to the Mississippi and enter the grand ole river from beneath a railroad bridge crossing the Platte. Remember, I said the water had to be high to pull this adventure off comfortably. Well, it was too high for the StarCruisers to fit under the railroad bridge, even by standing up and pushing up on the bridge under beams and thus forcing the craft lower into the river wouldn't have let the cruise begin at this point. So the men traversed back upstream to the boat landing, reloaded their crafts and launched at the Potosi boat landing, about 6 miles away.
Power Plant at Cassville on Mississippi River--major coal user of the area!
From Potosi, a beautiful cruise began. As the two crafts hovered in synchronized flight up river to the Guttenburg dam about 20 miles, I'm sure a bit of apprehension was coursing through the drivers' veins. Always looking for adventure, just the anticipation of crossing the dam after much deliberation sent adrenaline to its highest peak!
At the Guttenburg dam, the barge traffic was heavy--unforunately too heavy to wait to lock through the dams. Burning daylight was not an option at this point and asking a barge operator to let them through first was certainly out of the question! Therefore, they started looking over the dam for the preplanned spot to lower the crafts. However, as fate would have it, fishermen lined the shores of the dam. The Webers thought it over, and rather than put on a grand show for this sporty bunch of fishermen, they decided to do the dam another less busy day, and turned for the Turkey River..
The Turkey River winds wide and long into Iowa.
Heading downstream approximately 7 miles, they came to the mouth of the beautiful Turkey River. While this river is very winding, you can still cruise it comfortably and do its wide curves at anywhere from 30 to 40 mph. A deer swam across the river (in a hurry!) in front of Vernon and another deer kept pace with Verdon along the shore! The usual feathered beings of Great Blue Herons, Mississippi Egrets, and Eagles were always watching them from the shores and trees.
Eagle Nest on Mississippi.
Up the Turkey River, about 40 miles, is the Elkader Dam. This was also a part of their planned itinerary and put up at the park along the river. Just to be sure of their whereabouts the men asked a local person sitting at the park where they were, and he said, why you're in Elkader, looking at the crafts in total disbelief! Obviously, hovers aren't too often seen in this area!
Lunch time and they headed back down the Turkey into the Mississippi and on to Dubuque, IA and to that dam, approximately another 66 miles of cruising. There the two men decided to explore the backwaters of the Mississippi they weren't really familiar with, knowing full well, their journey would be cut at about 200 miles and they would return the same evening they left, leaving the longer cruise for another weekend!
Disappointed? Not in the least...that's the fun of hovering in southern Wisconsin, for sure. There are enough rivers to always give you an alternative, and you can camp overnight just about anywhere you wish, anytime you wish, knowing your transportation is parked just outside your tent doorway!
(Why didn't the author go on the trip, too? My youngest daughter had begged me to come and see the 95th reunion of the Harley Davidsons in Milwaukee, WI. Watching 47,000 motorcycles strong parade down the I-94 for miles and miles, my heart was still soaring back to the Mississippi and the grand adventure Verdon and Vernon were having, and I was envying them!)