There's something about a current flowing over rocks and finding its way downstream that inspires me and sets my mind to dreaming. That's what happened the year we went camping on Lake Itasca at the headwaters of the Mississippi River.
The mighty Mississippi begins as a gentle, babbling stream. But it takes on a whole different flavor as it winds its way through middle America to the Gulf of Mexico. Small towns dotting the river bank where everyone comes out for the annual 4th of July parade and competes to see who made the best blueberry pie that year. White picket fences and porch swings. Lemonade stands and children playing in the front yard.
It was this idyllic life that my mind craved—a Huck Finn dream of meandering through small towns and floating on a gentle current—a dream of a less demanding life, one where you could enjoy simple pleasures instead of driving hard toward the next big goal.
With this fantasy in mind, I unthinkingly blurted out, "Wouldn't it be fun to take a boat down the Mississippi River? From Lock & Dam No. 1 to the Gulf of Mexico. It'd be like a Mark Twain adventure."
Dan and I were sitting at the edge of the Mississippi at its narrow starting point, and when I looked in his eyes, I could see a vision forming. He dreamed about a simpler life every bit as much as I did.
But how could we make a dream like this come true? Should we take the summer off and rent a boat? Would we sell our sandwich shops and leave this life behind? We conspired by the campfire that night about how to make this crazy dream a reality, and it was becoming more and more vivid in our minds as the night went on.
After we returned from our camping trip at Lake Itasca, Dan started looking at boats and researching a river trip. As he talked with more seasoned boaters, he learned that the Americana trip we had envisioned down the Mississippi wasn't as ideal as we had imagined. While there would be stretches of quaint scenery, we would also be competing with commercial barge traffic. Factories would dot the river banks instead of community gazebos where swing bands play on Friday nights.
We revised our plans, abandoning the Mississippi River cruise for an East Coast adventure that would take us down the Intercoastal Waterway. We'd trade clapboard cottages and tire swings for stucco homes.