Saturday, August 30, 2014

Day 2-289 nice (long) trip to Chicago

     The Admiral was busy during her early morning walk. She took a walking tour through the waterfront art park during part of the walk. Probably her favorite was this stainless steel piece that looks something like a tilted Greek letter pi. Anyway, the art park is a very nice feature of the waterfront in Kenosha.

     She also got a great view of the lighthouse during her walk. We are usually too busy to take lighthouse pictures as we enter or leave small harbors, thus this picture from land is a nice reminder for me of what I saw but was too busy to photograph. As you can probably see, this is another "near" sunrise picture. However, the really important things that you can see in the photo are the scattered clouds and the modest breeze. The forecast was for the wind to shift to the northeast and build up to 10 mph. The forecasts for the waves varied from 1 to 2 feet to up to 3 feet. All of those numbers are within our comfort range so we made the decision to depart for Chicago. We left the dock at 8:15 am in light wind and waves less than 1 foot. The trip was 53.3 miles and took a little over 6.5 hours. The winds did shift to the northeast and was probably never over 10 mph. Since we were headed more or less due south, the waves (1 to 2 feet) hit the stern at about a 45 degree angle. This meant that we "wallowed" most of the trip. By wallowing I mean that that waves knocked us off course while also causing some rocking and rolling. In big waves this would be really uncomfortable, but we managed quite well.
     When we were about 40 miles from Chicago, it was clear enough to see some of the skyline in the far distance. When we first saw New York City from the water, we came around the New Jersey Highlands, and then the skyline was already impressive since we were only 25 miles away. Today, we got to see the buildings continue to "grow" over the next 5 hours. It was kind of like very slow motion, but it just kept getting more impressive. The picture at the right is from about 20 miles away.
The picture at the left was taken about 4 miles off the shore, and it was as close as we could get and still get most of the skyline in one photo. For scale, the breakwater in the foreground was about what the skyline looked like from 40 miles out so watching it grow was really a fun experience.
We did not enter the outer harbor through the main entrance, but as we passed across the entrance, we got this great view (picture at right) of a 4-masted schooner (the Windy) and the Chicago Lighthouse. The schooner is a commercial tour boat, but it is a beautiful sight along the shore.

     Several miles off the coast there are three huge water intake structures spaced along the coast (one in picture at left). These water intakes seem to be very popular with the birds who seemed to be enjoying the sun.
     To get to the DuSable Marina we went around the south end of the outer harbor break wall. As we turned west to enter the outer harbor, we were headed straight at Grant Park, which is a symbol of the beauty of Chicago (picture at right). It also achieved fame during demonstrations held there during the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. We got to perhaps a half mile from the fountain before we turned north to enter our marina. It really is a beautiful sight.

     We had an early dinner at a waterfront restaurant that was about 100 feet from the end of the pier where Lucky Us is moored. Just after dinner, we saw this lovely sunset sky off to the north.The apartment building at the left is the Lake Point Tower, which is affectionately referred to as the "peanut" by locals. It sits at the landward end of Navy Pier, which has now been converted into a venue for restaurants, shops and even an amusement park with the large Ferris Wheel.
     The DuSable Marina is about 150 yards from Chicago River, which we will enter as we leave Chicago to head south along the river system to the Gulf of Mexico and ultimately back home to Texas. As part of a walk after dinner, we walked along a lake and riverfront walkway to get a view of both the river and some of the many tall buildings along the river (picture at right).
     To top off the excitement of our arrival in Chicago, there was a great fireworks display at about 9:15 pm that was just a mile or so off shore from Lucky Us. Thanks Chicago! You sure know how to make us feel welcome...

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Day 2-288 a day enjoying Kenosha, WI

     The Admiral took a picture of the sunrise during her early morning walk (and phone conversation with her sister). It really must have been a pretty sunrise, but I am glad that I was sleeping comfortably when it was taken...
     We left the marina at 10:15 am to walk about 200 yards to a senior center to pick up the bus. We caught the bus 10 minutes later and were at the shopping center near the theater at 11:00 am. The Admiral did some shopping, and we were in our seats ready to watch "The Giver" with popcorn in hand. The public transit system worked really well, and we were back aboard Lucky Us by 3:00 pm. 
      After a nap, I headed off to the swimming pool for some time in the whirlpool. The Admiral (wisely?) chose not to go since there had been a sewer leak in the pool complex earlier in the day. Indeed, the pool house and bathrooms were closed, but the whirlpool was hot and bubbling so I ventured forth. The picture at the left is of the kids splash park adjacent to the marina, and Lucky Us is barely visible in the distance just left of center.

     We had dinner on the boat to finish off a generally very quiet and relaxing day. Kenosha is to be our jumping off point for the final leg to Chicago, which will be a fairly long trip of just over 53 miles. One of the "Cardinal Rules" for the Great Loop is to never have an itinerary. We have been generally quite good at that (suggested) rule, but we do have some incentive to be in Chicago within 3 days... Today is Tuesday, and our Grandkids and oh yes, their parents will be arriving in Chicago on Friday evening for an all too short visit. As always, we are watching the weather closely, and tomorrow looks like a good day for the trip to Chicago.  The weather predictions for the following two days is very similar so we will be able to carefully pick a good day.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Day 2-287 short trip to Kenosha, WI

     We left Racine at 12:15 pm for a short 11.8 mile trip to Kenosha, Wisconsin. The big event of the morning was to ride the bikes about 0.7 miles across the bridge to another marina on the other side of the river. That marina was a Yanmar Marine Diesel repair shop, and I had called last week to see if they had a fuel pump for the Yanmar diesel engine on our generator. We have diesel fuel leaking into the crankcase on the engine, and the mechanical fuel lift pump is the first place to look for a leak. The pump is driven by an arm that pushes a rubber diaphragm to pump the fuel. If the diaphragm cracks, tears, etc., then diesel fuel will flow directly into the oil reservoir (pan). I took the old pump off, and when I blow into the fuel inlet, air comes out through the diaphragm. That is not a 100% guarantee that the diaphragm is bad since air (gas) is more "slippery" than (liquid) diesel fuel. They had a fuel pump with the right part number, but it was the wrong pump (?). So, I still do not have a new pump, but the parts manager was most helpful so I am almost positive that I can now order the correct pump.
    When we got back to Lucky Us, it was 11:30 am and time for lunch. There was a very nice waterside restaurant at the marina office so we headed over for a leisurely lunch. I specifically said "leisurely" because we had been watching two lines of storms on the weather radar, and it looked like the first line would pass about 1:30 pm.  Once we had ordered lunch, we looked at the radar again, and it was clear that the first line had missed Racine, and it was time to leave quickly before the second line arrived. We normally would not even consider leaving port between two lines of storms, but our travel time was only 1.5 hours so we had plenty of time.
     Once we had seen that the first line had missed us, I raced (would you believe walked quickly?) back to the boat to get ready to depart while the Admiral arranged for the order to be a take out. Kind of a hasty departure, but I had already done the engine check while the Admiral had set up the flybridge. The wind did pick up to about 15 mph for about 30 minutes, and it did rain for about 15 minutes during the trip. However, we stayed between the two fronts for the whole trip of about 1.5 hours. The picture at the right shows Lucky Us safely docked with glassy water after the second line of storms had passed.
     About 4:00 pm, we walked into town and looked around for a while before picking a restaurant for dinner. One of the neat things about Kenosha is that it has a new trolley system that has retro-style trolleys that run down the middle of a very wide boulevard. Most of the cars are brightly colored and make a pretty sight. There were signs and bumper stickers saying "Expand the Trolley" so it must be popular with the locals (?).
     For dinner we chose an Italian restaurant and ended up sharing a pizza for dinner. The veggie pizza was wonderful, but both of us ended up having "digestive" problems during the middle of the night so it might not have been such a good choice...
     We arrived back at Lucky Us a little too late to go to the pool/hot tub, but we were treated to this lovely sunset view. The view is toward the northwest over part of the marina and the city.

      Tomorrow we are looking forward to seeing some of the local sights and perhaps seeing a movie.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Day 2-286 in Racine, WI the Admiral's Birthday

     Let me see... Oh, yes it was the Admiral's birthday today. Sure, like I was going to forget that! It was kind of a lazy morning, and I even went up to the club house and used the whirlpool. They had two whirlpools so I had the choice of a cooler one that worked or a hot one with no water jets working. I chose the cooler one with working water jets mainly because it was empty, while the hot one was pretty full of people.
     Lunch at a restaurant was a given, and the Admiral got to choose. I knew that it would be "several" miles to the restaurant so that she could try out her birthday gift... The picture of her at the right shows her already to take off. The bike has 8 speeds with electric assist and even has hydraulic brakes. It also folds with the swivel point just beneath the seat so that the rear wheels fold forward but underneath. The handle bars also fold so that it is pretty compact in the boat or a car trunk.

     We headed out south along the waterfront and saw some beautiful homes. Then we headed west and went past part the S.C. Johnson company (the one that makes floor wax, etc.). Then we headed south again. You can probably tell where this is going... Yup, and then it turned out that we had gone too far.
     When we finally got to the restaurant, we decided that it was way to seedy looking (even for us). Then we headed back north past the boat to downtown and road along the riverside walk/ride trail. We found a really nice waterfront restaurant where the Admiral celebrated with fish tacos. Now, you do not need to feel too sorry for me suffering through all of this bike riding. I did get the Admiral's first electric bike so I was easily able to keep up. It is similar to her new one, but one big difference is that it is only one speed. I like to pedal, but the electric assist is really great going up hill.
     After my valiant effort at biking, I was granted a nap, and after that we planned to go see the new Sylvester Stallone movie "Expendables 3".  The Admiral called a cab company and they wanted $20.00 each way. Fortunately, when she called the marina office to explore other options, they have a driver on call at least on the weekends. He only wanted $10.00 for the round trip. He is retired and bought this small bus to take small groups on tours and to dinner as the marina and a resort/conference center here provide lots of business for him.
     On the way back to the marina after the movie, the driver asked if we would like to see a bit of the area around the marina. He then started into what was probably his regular monologue. We saw this 1857 brick building downtown. There had been two big fires downtown in the early twentieth century, and in one of the fires this was the only building in a total of 6 square blocks that did not burn to the ground. Since that fire, almost all of the downtown buildings were built of brick (or stone).

    Frank Lloyd Wright designed three structures in Racine. We saw one house and a tower on the main grounds of the Johnson Company. Sorry, but we were going fairly quickly so I did not get pictures. We did stop at this old Catholic monastery. We got out and walked through the arch in the middle of the picture at the left.  The grounds are absolutely gorgeous, as well as the old stone buildings.

     The complex includes a gymnasium, pool, dormitories and other rooms. Much of the complex was used for a long time by Racine College.

     The last picture shows the birthday girl on one of the many beautiful walkways. Toward the upper right in the picture, you can barely see our small bus waiting for us to finish our walk across the campus.

   Then it was time to head back to the marina. What a treat our driver was! Needless to say, he got a large but well deserved tip. Once back in the marina, we headed off to the hot tub to finish off a very nice day!

     Tomorrow we will be watching the weather radar and looking for a break that is long enough to travel 11.6 miles south to Kenosha, WI, which will be our last stop before Chicago.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Day 2-285 a foggy trip to Racine, WI

     The Admiral begins her morning on a "semi-irregular" basis with a walk with her sister, who lives in the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles. They walk and talk for a half hour before breakfast. As she was walking this morning, the Admiral spotted this fox lounging on the breakwater. The fox picked a cloudy and foggy morning to try to relax in the sun, and it was cooperative in having pictures taken.

     The waterfront park around the marina was busy this morning (Saturday). There were a number of boats, including these in the photo at the left, that were loading handicapped people for a morning boating trip as part of a non-profit program called Fishing Has No Boundaries. It was not the greatest day with patchy, heavy fog, but there are lots of protected areas inside the harbor as well as the Milwaukee River. So, hopefully they had a wonderful experience.
     At one point as we were preparing to leave the dock,  I looked up and saw hundreds of people walking along one of the many bridges and walkways around the marina. Then I noticed the aid and water stations (picture at right) that had been set up for a charity walk.
    Today we had an honor of sorts when a fellow Looper asked to buddy boat with us to Racine since he had very little experience in fog (photo at left). I didn't have the courage to tell him that we only had a couple of days more experience than he did.  We left Milwaukee at 8:45 am when the fog partially lifted for a few minutes. As we went out through the main entrance to the harbor, we got a great view of the Milwaukee Harbor Lighthouse (see photo below).
     The fog had lifted long enough for us to clear the outer harbor and head out into Lake Michigan, and then the fog closed back in around us. My "plan" was to go at about 6 mph for 2 miles until we got far enough offshore for the fog to be lighter and to get out beyond the fishing boats that were trying to stay close to land. The fog was indeed lighter offshore, but once again having really good electronic navigation aids was really the key. Our trip was 24.9 miles and once we got two miles out we were able to increase speed up to 8 mph, which is our normal cruising speed. An ocean going grain carrier left Milwaukee about 15 minutes after us, and we were able to see him as far as 5 miles from us as he passed us going toward Chicago (?). Almost all of the fishing and pleasure boats that we saw on radar were not visible to us since they were hugging the shore in what turned out to be the heaviest fog. When we got near Racine, we headed in toward the harbor mouth, and sure enough, the fog got heavier as we approached the entrance to the harbor. When we got about 200 yards out the breakwater popped right into view. I had to alter course a "few" degrees to hit the channel, but I was really relieved that it  all worked so well.
     The Reef Point Marina is really very nice and includes a pool and two (?) hot tubs. We were met at the dock by fellow Loopers and boaters who did a great job of tying the lines. They were also helpful in terms of local cruising and eateries. There were many people sitting in chairs on the docks. They were obviously here for a weekend of boating, but instead had decided to sit the fog out. Unfortunately for them, the fog never really burned off as it had yesterday. It was so damp when we walked into town for dinner that I had actually shrunk as a result of all of the moisture (photo at left).
     The downtown appears to be making a big time come back with new waterfront condos and lots of lofts. We had a wonderful dinner at a Thai restaurant. I love Thai food, but I cannot eat most of it since it can be very hot, and that does not agree with my system... After dinner, we walked two blocks to the river, and then we walked back to the marina along a beautiful waterfront walkway that was at least 12 feet wide.

     The last picture (on left) for today shows a few of the other nicely restored buildings in the downtown area.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Day 2-284 still enjoying Milwaukee (in the fog)

     The fog started last evening, and it didn't started to burn off until around 10:30 am today. The Admiral set off early to the Metro Market, but when she got to the Trolley stop, she found that it did not start running for another 40 minutes at 11:00 am. Undaunted, she set off on foot and was done with her shopping by 11:10 am. She was lucky because there was a Trolley stop right in front of the market. I was lucky also since she called me to meet her at the closest Trolley stop to Lucky Us. Good thing too. She had 4 heavy cloth bags of goodies. I was also lucky again since she "allowed" me to carry the 2 heaviest bags. So much "luck" even though most of mine was bad...
     The big event for today was to go to the Mexican Fiesta at the Summerfest Grounds just across the boat basin from Lucky Us. We would not normally have gone out of our way to go to a Mexican Fiesta in Milwaukee, but since it was so close and admission was free until 3:00 pm, we decided to go have Mexican food for lunch. The picture at the right shows my lunch of chicken fajitas with corn tortillas (instead of flour), rice and beans along with a diet coke. No, that big green thing in the lower left is not a cucumber but a jalapeno pepper. I do not like really hot peppers, but I did take two small bites. The first was very mild, but the second one was a real flame thrower...
     There was live entertainment on two different pavilions. We had lunch while watching various dance groups perform on the stage at the Harley-Davidson Roadhouse (pavilion).  Yes, Milwaukee has always been the home of Harley-Davidson Motorcycles.

     After lunch, we strolled briefly around the grounds to see some of the colorful sights. I took the picture on the right because it shows some of the vendors. There were both moveable food trucks and trailers as well as permanent food concession buildings. The building had changeable signs as the different festivals obviously have different ethnic foods. The picture also shows a tower with more motorcyles and the H-D sign. In the background is what appeared to be the only permanent ride, which is a aerial tram that runs the length of the park.
     The Admiral was anxious to leave since she was going to pick up an early (by 2 days) birthday gift. It was supposed to be ready at 2:00 pm, and she was not about to be late! You may (or may not) be wondering what the gift was? Well, you will just have to stay tuned to find out...

     Tomorrow, we plan on a short trip down the coast to Racine, Wisconsin. The fog never went completely away today, and it was back with a vengeance by 6:00 pm this evening. Since it is a short trip, we plan to wait until it has hopefully burned off be about mid-morning.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Day 2-283 enjoying Milwaukee, WI

     It should be no surprise that we both slept well and also slept in fairly late. Then about 10:00 am it was off walking to the Discovery World Science and Technology Center. It would have been a swim of only 100 yards, but we chose to walk about a half mile around the marina. The main building really had too many exhibits, which is probably an odd criticism. Many great examples of gears, pulleys, automation, etc.  Part of the overload for me was that there would be an exhibit showing the mechanical advantage of one pulley, then two, etc. up to 5 or 6. Then the same thing for different types of gears, etc. Then it was time for lunch at the cafeteria and a good chance to sit for a while. The second building featured a large aquarium with both fresh and salt water tanks. There was also a big 3-dimensional representation of the Great Lakes, which must have been 40 by 40 feet. It showed the elevation changes as the water flowed through the lakes and out the St. Lawrence River. With push buttons you could make it rain in the Georgian Bay and have fog over another part. As you walked around it, there were smaller tanks with different fresh water fish.
     The second (and final building had great views of the lake and the harbor. The picture at the left shows the State Marina with Lucky Us sitting all alone at her dock.

     The building also featured a life size replica of the schooner Challenge. The picture at the left shows the schooner sort of suspended in air in the middle of the building. The masts only went up about 15 feet to the ceiling, but you could walk completely underneath the boat and see the centerboard in the down position. The original ship worked in the local area transporting building material, like lumber, cedar shakes and nails, to the surrounding communities.

     The picture at the right shows the helm and a man coming up the ladder from the galley. The galley was pretty Spartan with a wood stove for cooking. The small house behind the wheel had a clear plastic panel in the roof so that you could see the gears turn as you turned the wheel.

     One of my favorites was the huge (at least I thought so) windlass that was used to raise and lower the anchor (picture at left). The windlass seemed almost over-sized for a ship that was only 87.5 feet long, but since she only made short cruises with lots of stops, I suppose that the windlass was used a lot (?). I enjoyed looking at many different splices and knots that were in use on the boat.

     Then it was time to return to Lucky Us and take a well deserved (my opinion) nap. Much to my surprise, the Admiral even joined me for one of her few naps. I guess that we are catching up from the 12 hour trip across Lake Michigan yesterday.

     We set off about 4:00 pm to walk to the historic 3rd Ward. This area is bordered by the Milwaukee River, downtown and Lake Michigan. Most of the factories and warehouses have been converted into lofts with stores and offices on the main floor (picture at right).

     We had an early dinner at the Water Buffalo Restaurant overlooking the Milwaukee River. We watched small tour boats and water taxis cruise the river while we had dinner. The restaurant is on the lower left, and there is a water taxi (blue canvas) stopped on the wall. There is a river walk that goes for a long distance along the river, and it is visible between the buildings and the water. The whole area was quite nice, and we had an enjoyable time walking around looking at the sights.

Before long it was time to return to Lucky Us, which by this time was at least a mile away, although I have occasionally been accused of exaggerating... Anyway, it is way past time to sign off for today. See ya!