Zombie Wasps and Dog Poop Island

Some things defy comprehension. Like old men in shorts with black knee high socks and sandals, fragrance ads, and the popularity of the Macarena in its heyday. But those are all things that don’t affect you personally. You just observe from the sidelines, throw up your hands, and exchange perplexed expressions with your partner. Some things, though, you can’t ignore.

Last week, we were working on a cover for the bench seat on the foredeck. A wasp kept hanging around. We realized it was making its nest in one of the vent covers near our work area. Wasps are erratic little buggers; difficult to swat and kinda pissy about your attempt if you miss. We had no spray. At one point, it flew off to gather things to accessorize it’s nest. Seizing the opportunity, Rick sealed the vent with painter’s blue tape. I got a momentary sense of satisfaction when the wasp came back three or four times, obviously confused. Periodically throughout the week the wasp appeared, saw his home was barricaded, and flew away.

The wasp was back yesterday as we prepped for departure. He one upped us though; he had gotten inside the boat. I called to Rick. While he grabbed the spray we had purchased, I kept an eagle eye on  the wasp. He gleefully buzzed my head multiple times and I swear one of his little legs was flipping me off while he whizzed by. Rick appeared with the spray can. Shot after shot hit the wasp full on. He’d go down but mightily sputter back up. Eventually he laid down on a hatch cover and stayed there. Rick carried out the cover and shook it off. Mr. Wasp flopped to the ground, dead as can be.

Fast forward to afternoon. The first night out on the last leg of our Great Loop experience was an anchorage at Buffalo Rock. Absolutely gorgeous scenery and perfectly quiet.

Nautical Dreamer at our Buffalo Rock anchorage.
Nautical Dreamer at our Buffalo Rock anchorage.

No time to enjoy, though; we needed to get Banjo to shore to do his business. He still treats his grass plot like a party boat. He eats and plays on it. Although I have not caught him smoking or drinking yet, he is in a rebellious phase, refusing to use it as intended to piddle and poop.

Getting Banjo to the dingy is all arms and legs, herky jerky stops and starts. I hand the dog down to Rick on the swim platform and get down myself. Rick steadies the boat while holding the dog while I get in the dingy. He hands off the dog. I hang onto the dog while he attempts to climb out. I also hold the dingy to the boat while Rick climbs in. Everything is made more clumsy because we all have life vests on. Eventually we had success; no one fell in and the engine started. Hurrah!

We headed out in search of a sandy beach in an area mostly comprised of massive craggy rock. We had a lovely breeze while traveling to Buffalo Rock, but our anchorage was surrounded on three sides by sky high rock that allowed little air movement. I was sweating my ass off. Still, I tried to enjoy the vistas while noting a spike in the pup’s antsy-ness.

“Is that sand over there?” Rick questioned.

I squinted in the sun reflecting off the river. Sure enough, there it was. Our beacon of hope. As we turned toward the beach, I could see it was dotted with large pools of water feeding into each other with another “island” nearby holding some tall grass. As the water became shallower Rick pulled up the engine and began paddling. When we hit bottom, he jumped out to pull us closer to shore.

Banjo was flailing around to get out, but I was hoping he’d stay fairly dry. I got out first, then scooped up the mutt. I walked up on the beach and plunked him down, prompting “go pee.” Of course he didn’t. Even in desperation he had to be in charge. He started sniffing while I got my bearings. I snatched him back, commanding “leave it” just before he buried his nose in a pile of fly-infested dog poop. We shimmied past. I looked up to gauge the best route with the least pools of water. Stretched before me was mound after mound after mound of dog poop. Big piles. Little piles. In the water pools and out. Every color of the brown rainbow; every spectrum of consistency. There I am, holding my poop bags wondering why? Why? Why, why, why wouldn’t you pick up after your dog? Especially on a beach. Why? I’m here to tell you, IF Banjo had chosen to grace us with some poop, I would have PICKED IT UP surrounded by all the other crap, and taken it back to the boat. *Quietly steps off the soapbox.*

A little slice of Poop Island.
A little slice of Poop Island.

We wandered around the area threading the needle between shit piles and attempting to go around the water pools. Eventually I realized I had to pick one or the other and we all just walked through the water. This avoided the poop but filled our water shoes with muddy sand. Banjo did not add a poop contribution that day. However, wandering over to the grassy island did give him the inspiration to piddle. Back by the dingy I splashed water on the pup’s legs and belly and climbed in after him. Unfortunately, our shoes spat out more muddy water onto the dingy floor, which Banjo promptly laid in. We brought a towel, but now he and the towel were muddy. He needed a shower.

Back at the boat we reversed our struggle and climbed from the dingy to the boat. The plan was to take the dog directly to the shower. The plan was waylaid by the wasp. Yes. THAT wasp. I swear it was the same one. The zombie wasp was following us!

I screamed, “Wasp! Wasp! The wasp is back!” Rick, still on the swim platform monotoned, “Sigh. Ok. Give me a minute.” By the time he reaches me I have lost sight of the wasp. With Banjo squirming in my arms I head down to the shower.

When I handed Banjo off to get toweled off, Rick said he found and eliminated the wasp. Pfsh. I’ve heard that before. We shall see what we shall see. I only wish I had watched a few episodes of the Walking Dead so I could have prepared myself for battle because some things you can’t ignore.

Chugging Down the Illinois River

No, we have not dropped off the face of the earth. We have, however been in a state of limbo thanks to torrential rains.

My last post, gosh months ago, had us stopping in Illinois to help my mother-in-law after hip surgery. Nautical Dreamer was pulled out and stored for the winter. My mother-in-law  is healthy again and the boat was pulled out of storage in late April. We made it to Ottawa, IL, before the rains. Once they started, they didn’t stop. For weeks. Time was not on our side since the locks on the Illinois River were closing down for repairs.

Unfortunately, the rain raised the river system above flood stage through the Mississippi and kept it there. For weeks river water was above or WAY above flood stage. The boats were safe in the marina, but daily life became interesting. Blocks were placed on walkways so we could get ashore and we were instructed eventually we would need to use our dingy or call for a boat ride to shore. (Fortunately a side trip had us out of town for the worst of it.) Locks on the upper Mississippi were closed due to the flooding. We were going nowhere for a long time.

We learned that the locks on the Illinois River were allowing commercial traffic at night and pleasure craft could go through on the last lock through before shutting down for the day. So, we could travel on the Illinois, but down river still had nowhere safe to go. Several marinas we intended to stay were flooded out including their fuel stations.

Two weeks ago, the tap slowed to a trickle. We’re sitting in sweltering heat and humidity now with only an occasional afternoon pop-up shower, that does not prohibit the water on the rivers to recede. The Mississippi locks are open, the marinas have cleaned up, and the days are filled with sunshine. Much like a barometer tells of impending weather, my bowels are confirming what I knew was coming. We are on the move once more.

Despite the belly distress over worry of the unknown, I’m quite excited. Ottawa is a lovely town but we’re antsy. This afternoon we will head to an anchorage about a mile from the next lock at Starved Rock. Tomorrow we plan to lock down at six a.m. and stop in Peoria, IL.

We are moving slowly to give the Mississippi waters a chance to reach a “better” flood stage. It’s currently six feet above flood stage, which is a far cry from its peak of almost 20 feet above flood stage, but still, the lower it gets the safer I feel. Plus, a fellow traveler is passing through next week and we’ve decided to be Mississippi River buddies for safety.

The foreseeable future is:

Tonight: anchor by Starved Rock Lock

Tuesday/Wednesday: Peoria, IL

Thursday-Sunday: Grafton, IL (The Key West of the Midwest!)

Monday: travel to Alton, IL to await our travel partner