JUNE 9 —Moods were upbeat as people made their Monday morning commute by ferry. By 9 a.m., more than 1,000 people had already been moved across the Mississippi River.
The Island Girl and Mississippi Explorer took turns crossing the river. The trip took about three minutes with about five minutes for docking.
Kinks on the first morning included lack of parking. The Centerville Curling Club’s lot in Centerville, Wis., was full by 6:30 a.m. Many mentioned carpooling to the drop off sites or having someone pick them up to ease the congestion. Others talked about leaving a car on whichever side of the river they worked so they could use it during the week.
Most people were happy the ferry saved them gas, even if it didn’t save time.
“It was awesome,” said Lisa Abertowski, who lives in between Trempealeau and Centerville.
She made the trip with her 4-year-old twins, Cole and Claire. Abertowski works as a private caretaker in Homer. Since the bridge closed last Tuesday, she had been driving through La Crosse which took her an hour and 10 minutes.
“This whole experience is hilarious,” one commuter said as she exited the boat.
If this becomes a long-term solution, it may not seem so funny. Getting to work was still a challenge for those who didn’t work along a bus route.
“It will go quicker once we get situated,” said Winona County Sheriff Dave Brand.
The ferry rides started at 5:45 a.m. and were scheduled to continue until 11 p.m. The Explorer is based in Prairie du Chien, Wis., and usually gives site-seeing tours.
“There are not many times we give a three-minute cruise,” said Explorer Captain Eric Dykman, as people took pictures of the river with their cellphones.
“Cheers, everyone,” one lady said as she raised her coffee thermos. “To our maiden voyage.” Passengers laughed as one of the Explorer’s crew asked how many people had purchased a day pass. Not one hand went up.
“We’re in this whole situation together,” Barb Laufenberg said.
She lives in Trempealeau, Wis., and works as the office manager for the Winona Agency in downtown Winona.
“It’s an adventure. Who gets to take a boat to work?” Laufenberg said.
She added: “Two years from now, I might feel different.”