Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Day 48 off to Peoria, IL

      We left the dock at Tall Timbers Marina this morning at 7:10 am and headed up the Illinois River to Peoria, Illinois.

      Today should be a relatively short day involving 42.3 miles, 1 lock, and 2 lift bridges, which are supposed to be in the up position, except when trains are coming.  The weather is another beautifully sunny day with the high at Peoria forecast to be 73F with scattered clouds. We plan on staying at the free municipal dock, which is in downtown Peoria within walking distance of several restaurants.  The lift bridge (photo at right) is in Pekin, Illinois. It is so similar to several of the last railroad bridges that I had to check to make sure that it had not been misfiled here. Luckily, both of the lift bridges today were in the up position so we had no waits for trains to cross.
      Pekin is a bustling little town, and it is also ideally situated in corn growing country. Thus, it was not surprising to find an ethanol plant. There were also grain shipping terminals. Towns like Pekin are ideally situated with road, rail and river transportation and have obviously benefitted from that. There were many towns in this country in the 1850s that died when a railroad chose to go through an adjacent town, and these same railroad towns continue to see the benefits of the transportation infrastructure.
      Our one lock for today is the Peoria Lock and Dam. Once again the water was high enough that the wickets were down, and as before, there is a Corps of Engineers barge and tow boat in the empty lock chamber. They seem to leave all the gates of the lock open when the wickets are up, but they leave the barge and tow boat inside to keep boaters from accidentally (?) using the lock to transit. Similar to the dam yesterday, the water was about 11 feet deep and flowing smoothly over the dam. With the generally low current and favorable bridges and lock we have been making excellent time up river today.
      Also, as we approached Peoria, we passed our second ethanol plant for the day. I understand the reasons for putting ethanol in the unleaded gasoline, but I really do not like how it effects the performance of small outboard engines in particular. However, I can also appreciate how important it has been to portions of the Midwest economy. Increased employment and better prices for corn are bound to be popular, especially with the politicians who can claim to have helped secure these benefits for their constituents...
     Once again, a sure sign that we are getting close to a larger city is a power plant where most of the power lines go in a single direction (i.e. toward the city). In the foreground on the left is a coal unloading dock, and the big covered structure appears to be for coal storage.
      We arrived this afternoon around 1:30 pm, and we are right downtown in front of Joe's Crab Shack. It is a nice floating dock and is free, including electric. What a bargain! When the Admiral called for permission to dock, they did say that one of the reasons that it was free was in the hope that we would visit local restaurants...  We have no problem with that since we had already planned on doing just that anyway. In fact in the photo at the left the Admiral has that "hurry up I'm hungry" look in her eyes.

     We did walk around downtown a bit before heading to a very nice Texas style B-B-Q restaurant for dinner. On the way to the restaurant one of the most spectacular sights was the art museum, which has a delightful outdoor gallery as well. We both shared a salad, and we each had a baked potato with pulled pork on it. A little touch of home every now and then is a good thing...

     On the way back to Lucky Us we passed the Spirit of Peoria back at her dock on the waterfront.  The area along the waterfront has a nice walkway, parking garages, restaurants, etc. It definitely was a nice spot to stay and to visit. While I was listing amenities I forgot to add that they also have a nice ice cream shop not that I would ever have anything so unhealthy as a double scoop cup of vanilla ice cream... We had not stopped in Peoria on our last Loop, but we definitely would stop here again. Well, once again it is time to do the engine room check and hit the sack "early", which in reality means before Jimmy Fallon has been on for too long.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Day 47 to Tall Timbers Marina in Havana, IL

      Unlike our previous experience at what is called a "tow head" (or abandoned river channel), we had no issues last night at the anchorage.  The current was just strong enough to keep us in one position, and we accumulated no debris on the anchor chain.  In fact, we were able to use the satellite TV, which is almost never a possibility at anchor due to the boat swinging in the wind and/or current.  This morning the Admiral took Lucky to shore for her morning constitutional, and then we stowed the kayak before departing at 6:15 am.  Today the sun was bright, which is shown in the sunrise photo at the right. We didn't see a cloud in the sky for most of the day.  What a pleasant change from a cold, rainy day yesterday to a near perfect day on the water today! 
      Our route today was 62.1 miles, and we are staying at the Tall Timbers Marina in Havana, IL.  Yesterday we averaged over 6 miles per hour due to the much slower current in the Illinois River, and we were often in the middle of the river instead of staying to the inside of the bends of the river. The photo at left shows the LaGrange Lock and Dam, which was our only lock for today. There is a USA Corps of Engineers barge and tow boat in the lock, which is nearly underwater. The wickets to the right of the moveable dam gates are down, and we were able to pass over the dam with 10.5 feet of water beneath the keel. We could actually see the dam on the depth finder. The depth was bouncing from 12 to 13.5 feet then it was steady at 10.5 feet for several seconds before getting deeper and uneven again.
      The scenery today was very good in spite of the higher water. The photo at right shows some of the extensive wild flowers along the river banks in this area. The touch of color was a nice addition to our day. The flood waters were once again a very muddy brown indicating the high sediment load that the river was carrying even though we are below a true flood stage. At a true flood stage the higher discharge would result in a higher velocity and more turbulence. At this point the river could carry more and larger partiicles of sediment.
      The photo at the left shows what amounts to a flooded back swamp behind a levee along the river. In this case the levee is probably man made during the dredging of the channel, but natural streams create their own levees. In flood the river overflows its banks, and the velocity of the water outside the main stream channel falls. When the velocity of the water falls, it can carry less sediment, and the coarser and largest volume of sediment is deposited first as the drop in velocity is greatest then. So, now you can have a greater appreciation for nature when you are "sittin on the levee waitin for the Robert E Lee"...
     We passed very few towns actually along the river, and when we did, they were busy shipping ports for grain. This is Beardstown, Illinois, which also had this very scenic lift bridge (photo at right). Once again we were lucky since the bridge is left in the open (or up) position, except when their is an approaching train. At normal water stage we could have passed under the bridge in the closed position, but with the higher water levels today we would have had to request an opening if the bridge had been down.
      As we approached our destination in Havana, Illinois, we passed these barges and a tow boat at a shipping terminal for grain and fertilizer. One barge was a tanker, but it was not red flagged as a hazardous cargo. I looked closely, and the sign on the barge indicated that it was carrying fertilizer liquids... I am not sure what that means, but it conjured up some weird images. For example, I remember driving one day years ago when I passed a tank truck carrying "chicken fluids". I am not sure what that meant either, and I am pretty sure that I do not want to know...
      We arrived at Tall Timbers at 4:00 pm. The timing was great because the owner has a full time job off site and could not be there before 3:00 pm. His wife works full time all Summer at the marina, but "Lucky Us" she does not start until next week...
     The marina is well protected and just off the Illinois River, and it is surrounded by (you guessed it) tall timbers. In the background is a nice city waterfront park with a RV campground. The downtown is further up hill just beyond the park. There is a wonderful, big Ace Hardware where unbelievably neither of us could find anything that we absolutely must have. Now that is rare. Before walking back to Lucky Us, we chose the Townhouse Restaurant and Lounge for dinner, and once inside we remembered that we had eaten lunch there on our previous trip. I had the broiled Whitefish special and it was absolutely wonderful as well as healthy with a (plain) baked potato and side salad.
     The owner of the marina has made a number of improvements since we were here on the last trip. The combination of a nice marina in a pretty setting, the good choice of restaurants and a great hardware store make this town a really memorable stop on our trips.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Day 46 Starting up the Illinois River

      Off we go up the Illinois River to Chicago and the Great Lakes! Whoop! When we were nearing Alton, Illinois on the Mississippi River, the Admiral leaned over and said "We are actually going to make this work!" Yes, it was a little premature, but we both had known all along that the Mississippi River portion of our trip up to the Great Lakes was our real potential deal breaker, but we finally had the end of that segment within reach... We had both been thinking the same thing, but neither of us had brought up the topic until the Admiral broke the ice. Well, we had a good laugh and then went back to the serious business of piloting.
      We left the dock at 6:45 am and are heading up the Illinois River. Our destination for today is an anchorage at mile marker 59. The 59 is not to be confused with the forecast high of maybe 60 for a minute.  It is cool and rainy (photo at right) and that is the forecast for the day.  The photo shows my view from the helm for most of the day. We were bundled up on the flying bridge with the generator running, and the space heater aimed at my window to act as a defroster. Personally, I had 4 layers of long sleeved clothing on, but even with all of the windows tightly closed, we needed the extra heat from the space heater.
      We also had high water with trees in the water at the edge of the river. We are in the "yellow" first stage alert level with several more feet to go before an official flood stage. At this point we are doing well as the levels have peaked and should fall over the next day or so. Once into a flood stage at some point the locks would begin to flood and would shut down their operations. We would then have to seek a marina or safe anchorage to wait it out. For example, the photo at the left shows the Florence Highway lift bridge, which normally has a high water clearance of 28 feet. Today when the Admiral called, they had 17 feet of clearance and had to go up for Lucky Us to pass.

      The photo at the right is of the tow boat Ralph E Plagge with a typical tow for the portions of the Upper Mississippi and Illinois  Rivers that we have travelled to date. It is 3 barges wide by 5 long, and the locks so far have been 110 by 1200 feet. These barges are 35 wide by 200 feet long for a total of 105 wide by 1,000 feet long plus the tow boat for a nice tight fit in the lock. As we go up the Illinois River, the locks will get shorter, but I believe that they will stay the same width.
     We had one fun moment as we passed the (replica) stern wheeler Spirit of Peoria on her way down river. We checked, and they do run 2 and 3 day cruises south or down river from Peoria. They usually only go as far as Pere Marquette State Park just north of Grafton. They do not have over night staterooms so they rely on hotels or cabins on the shore. Looks like fun!
     We plan to stay at the city dock in downtown Peoria in three days, and we will be next to her home dock so maybe we will see her again.
      We made it to the anchorage at 3:35 pm and 15 minutes later we were securely anchored. After securing the boat for the night, we launched the kayak to take Lucky to shore to do her business. We were about 300 feet into a quiet (abandoned?) channel with enough current to keep the boat steadily pointed into the current. Since there was very little flow in the channel, there was a corresponding lack of debris as well. We had 4.5 feet of water under the keel so in more normal water levels we might not have gotten into this nice anchorage. I paddled into the current back to the mouth of the channel. There was a nice point of land with a gently sloping bottom so it was easy to beach the kayak. The sediment at the surface consisted of freshwater clam shells and small coiled spirifers (cone shaped shells). We had to wind our way around some large logs (3 feet in diameter) to get inland to some grassy areas, but Lucky assured me that it was worth the effort. The photo above shows us returning from our successful trip. I still have on three layers of clothing plus my life jacket, and I was none too warm.
      Though the rain ebbed and flowed all day, it never seemed to completely quit spitting at us. It is hard to believe that tomorrow is supposed to be sunny.  The Admiral has declared that after dinner tonight a hot shower and/or a hot foot soaking is in order. My only comment was to add that we would also go to bed early. I have learned never to argue with an Admiral...
     Well, today was a good start, but we still have about 270 miles to reach Lake Michigan. So near and yet still pretty far.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Day 40-45 resting (?) in Grafton, IL

     While in Grafton we rented a car for several days and explored the area which included two ferry rides on the way back from a shopping trip to the north side of St Louis. The Golden Eagle was the first ferry from mainland Missouri across part of a complex of islands near the mouth of the Illinois River.  This ferry (photo above right) is a privately run operation so it cost $8.00 per car.
     There are at least 3 ferries across the main Illinois River to mainland Illinois. We chose one that happened to be a state run ferry that was used instead of building a bridge across the Illinois River (photo at left). Thus, it was a free ferry although since it is state run, someone's tax dollars are paying the freight for this service. Both ferries seemed to be on demand, and their turn around time was very fast.

      The rental car greatly extended our range, and since it was unlimited mileage with a pre-purchase on a full tank of gas, we certainly were only limited by not wanting to drive too much of the time. We did manage a couple of movies along with 2 separate visits to Home Depot and West Marine. We saw Mother's Day and Money Monster.  Julia Roberts was in both movies in very different roles. The first was a comedy but had some tear misting moments too. The second was suspenseful but had some laughs.  Personally, I liked both movies, but as is so often the case, the popcorn was also a big plus for me.
      Also, we made it to a community play in Alton called Skin Deep at the Alton Little Theater. We had been there on the previous Loop, and I was pleased to find them also running a play during this visit. Skin Deep was a comedy but very thought provoking since it addressed body image issues. It was another play with just four characters, but the casting was excellent for the diverse roles.
      We ate out once almost everyday, including the Loading Zone on the waterfront in downtown Grafton. It is in the factory for a former boat builder. The actual bar and restaurant with a large deck was directly on the water. The huge main shop was behind this and looked like they might use it more as a dance hall (?). On the deck they had this interesting wind driven art work. At least in a gentle breeze, it was quite fun to watch (for a few minutes). All of the different styles of vanes seemed to be purpose built rather than recycled items so a lot of labor probably went into making this piece. You can tell by all of the umbrellas being folded down that it was too cold to eat outside except for 2 hearty souls who found a sunny spot out of the breeze.
     Mac's Restaurant in Alton is another repeat from the Last time. It is about 4 blocks up from the Lincoln-Douglas Park at the waterfront. It occupies about three old street fronts. One is a large dance hall, another is a indoor garden plaza with a bar in the middle. and the third is a more conventional bar setting. We were in an area in between in one of two booths sandwiched between the bathrooms and the video "gambling" room where it is possible to bet on horse races of all sorts, including trotters (photo at right).
      Other interesting sights included the marina swimming pool, which is normally part of this floating dock. Guess what? If you empty a floating, fiberglass swimming pool, it will float on the surface... They were working on reconfiguring the floating dock, but of course, with our luck it remained empty for our whole stay here. Another feature of the marina is a new restaurant called the Oyster Bar. It is the first branch of this restaurant from St Louis, which bills itself as the best restaurant in St Louis. I do not know about that billing, but the food was so good that we ate here twice our stay. I had the same thing both times - a salad with grilled chicken and shrimp with a balsamic dressing that is absolutely great.
     The weather could have been better as the mornings all started in the mid 50s, and most days also had early morning fog with several rainy days thrown in for good measure. The photo at the right shows part of the floating dock complex around the office, store and restaurant. Lucky Us is moored at the end of the covered dock complex in the background, but even though she is only 500 feet away, she is only visible as a dark blob in the fog. It was definitely not a day to be travelling on the water until the fog burned off.
      Terry returned the rent car the day before we left, and while she was doing that she made one last super market run to re-provision mainly with perishables like salad makings, oranges and apples.
     Most of the reasons for the trips to West Marine involved working on the holding tank, which when we were finished, we had re-plumbed almost all of the pump out hose and fittings.  As the Admiral so eloquently put it, we made the best out of a crappy situation to say the least. We also replaced the float switch on a sump pump that collects all of the gray water from the shower and sink in the head.  
     Last but not least, we stayed an additional day where we finally had a laid back day to deal with paperwork and blogging.  This was hardly restful, but at least there was no physical labor involved.
      I will leave you with one final picture that shows an overview of the area around Grafton and the Illinois River. The photo was taken from the parking lot of the Aeries Restaurant and Resort that is high up on the side of the hill above Grafton. ...and yes indeed, it is a scenic location. This view reminded me very much of the Thousand Islands area on the St Lawrence River in very upstate New York.
     Well, we have ended up extending our original 6 day stay by one additional day, but tomorrow we will begin the trek up the Illinois River to Chicago. Hope that Spring arrives there soon (ha, ha).

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Day 39 to Grafton and the Illinois River

       We started the day waiting for a front to pass by, and when it cleared,  we moved Lucky Us to the fuel dock to fill her up and get the obligatory pump out.  Once we finished these deeds we headed north to Grafton Harbor in Grafton, IL, which is a short jaunt of only 15.8 miles.  The photo at the right shows the gray skies as we departed. The Alton Marina is behind the high stone breakwater. The breakwater provided excellent protection from current and debris, bit it blocked any view of the river from Lucky Us.

      We went close to downtown Alton as we headed up our last stretch of the Mississippi River. The photo at left shows part of the downtown area that starts at river edge and goes uphill. There are numerous restaurants and bars along with some old warehouses (or manufacturing plants). There is a treed park that has statues of Lincoln and Douglas and commemorates one of their historic debates here in Alton.

     Just to the left of the photo above is a casino with an old riverboat casino and other floating restaurants on barges(photo at right).
      In the background at the left of the above photo and in the photo at the left there is a large complex of silos and a grain milling operation. Grain and or flour is transported out via barge and truck. I think that the dark splotches on the silos are just damp spots from all of the recent rain.
     There is a very scenic road along the Illinois (east) side of the river. Part of the scenery is the river, but on Lucky Us we got a great view of these limestone cliffs that also tower over the road below. The water is deep right up to the road and tows take rest stops just feet away from the road, which would further enhance the scenic highway.
     Kind of in the middle of nowhere there is this shrine of "Our Lady of the Rivers" that is dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. It was erected after a flood failed to reach the town of Portage des Sioux, Missouri in 1951. Today the shrine is also used in the annual blessing of the fleet. It is quite a beautiful (and unexpected) sight right on the waters edge.
     As we got close to Grafton, we got a nice panoramic view of the area. There are condos on the waterfront at the right and in the hills above the town. The large waterfront structure in the middle is the Loading Zone Restaurant and Bar. I am pretty sure that the name (Loading Zone) refers more to the bar than the restaurant... On the far left the long roofs on the waterfront our the covered slips at out destination for today - Grafton Marina.
     We had several unsuccessful attempts at pumping out the holding tank before we left Alton, and we finally gave up and headed for Grafton.  When we arrived at the marina in Grafton, we tried again, but again we were unsuccessful. So...yuck!  We have to do some more serious trouble shooting because our normal "cure" snaking the hose did not solve the problem. In the meantime it will mean walking to the marina's restrooms - no big deal. That is harder to handle when we are underway so we hope to get this resolved while in Grafton!  We will be taking advantage of the marina's special rate of 6 nights for the price of 4. We have been pushing fairly hard for the last six days, and we need some time to rest. As mentioned above, we have some delayed maintenance issues to deal with. Fortunately, Grafton, as indicated by all of the condos in the last photo, has become quite a nice little resort town without all of the "plastic" chain restaurants and souvenir stores. So, we plan to work, eat and sleep very well.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Day 38 going past St Louis to Alton, IL

      We left Hoppies at 6:30 am.  The day was overcast with rain off and on as can be seen in the sky above Hoppies as we departed. The big white yacht is Lady Chateau. We last saw them about 7 days ago, and we had thought that they already were way ahead of us. However, they had a transmission problem (it is a boat after all) that had delayed them. The problem was fixed, but they still had a leak in the transmission that they were going to live with until they got home to Minneapolis.  
     In spite of the grey skies and some rain, we did see a nice sun rise over the Mississippi River just after we started. Our trip today is only 42.8 miles to Alton, Illinois. Alton is about 15 miles before Grafton, IL at the mouth of the Illinois River, which was our original destination. We checked the weather forecast and river levels before we made this decision. I wanted to "get off" the Mississippi River before we stopped again. However, The Admiral had called around to check fuel prices, and their price ($1.999/ gallon for diesel) was substantially less than our other option, which was Grafton. We liked Alton during a multi-day stop there on our last Loop so with positive weather/water level predictions we decided to not just stop for fuel but to stay a night also.

       Our next photo is yet another one of those ubiquitous power plants that we have passed on our journeys. However, this power plant comes with a unique twist...
     This one is unique in that at the outlet into the Mississippi River for cooling water there are these spectacular water jets. They look like the kind of intermittent water jets that you see in a kids splash park. However, these jets must be 6 inches in diameter and throw a huge plume of water over 50 feet into the air. They might serve some real purpose, like to cool the water, but they are really fun to watch. Like I have said many times. Everyday is the same and yet, every day is different.
     Just past the power plant, we passed this beautiful home (?) hidden back in the trees. I really like the architecture, and I can say that I have only fallen in love with maybe a half dozen houses that we have seen on either Loop, but for some reason I was really taken with this one even though it did not have large windows or glass walls to really take in their wonderful view...
     Then in short order we were in the St Louis metropolitan area. The city offers many sights from the water, but it is totally boater unfriendly. They do have some docks for tour boats, but there are not even any short term docks available. Not much of a tourist magnet???
     One of our first and certainly the most unusual was this "yard art" at a private residence (photo at right). We have seen some unusual sights, but this one certainly wins some sort of prize...  The owner must take some pride in this as it is nicely landscaped and prominently placed in their yard. Plus, I would think that the neighbors must really love this in their million dollar views of the river.
     Moving right along... There are two things that come to my mind first when I think of St Louis. They are Budweiser Beer and the gateway Arch. Their Chamber of Commerce would probably disagree, but...  Well, breweries are not generally beautiful to look at, but most of the buildings in the photo at the left appear to be part of the massive complex. They do have a very large neon (?) lighted Budweiser sign, but  it does not face the water. 
      The photo at the right is of the Gateway Arch, which really is spectacular when viewed from the water. I have been there on land, and it is impressive from there as well. However, on land I was more impressed with the size rather than the beauty of its graceful lines. Even on this gray, overcast day, the arch is quite spectacular. Also, you get some perspective of the beautiful setting with the long park extending up from it. We did get a much better view of the arch this time since we were going about 4 mph up river. On the previous Loop we flew past the arch going over 11 mph in the down stream direction.
     The last view of the city that I am going to include is once again a little off beat. Like any big city, St Louis has its share of abandoned factory buildings. In this case some individual or group has taken a large brick building and painted a rather nice mural on it. Of course, it now has some graffiti on it as well. If you don't have the money or ability to tear it down, then why not make it into something pretty to look at. I guess with my logic some cities, like Detroit, would be just one massive mural... Anyway, I liked this one since it was different.
       Once past St Louis the scenery quickly became pretty rural. I believe that present day St Louis was not the original site, but it was moved here to get higher ground to avoid the annual (or more often) floods. When Lewis and Clark started up the Missouri River in 1803, I think that the city was much nearer the junction of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers.
      As we continue up the Mississippi River, we have 2 locks to transit before our destination at Alton, Illinois. The first lock raised us about six feet and its purpose was mainly to provide passage around the Chain of Rocks, which are rapids in the river that are still there. The photo at the right shows a unique feature of today's locks that is a "lift" gate. All of the other locks that we have been through have swinging gates at both ends. On the upstream end of these locks the gate goes down vertically. The upstream end of a lock has a higher "bottom" or concrete sill. The lower gates have to have a top as high as the upstream end and a bottom as low as the bottom of the entry channel. These downward retracing gates seemed to work quickly and certainly did not collect debris coming down the river. The debris in the water collects at the gates. If a gate swings, it must retract into a recess in the lock wall, and this is not possible if there is debris caught on the gate.
      The second or Melvin Price Lock and Dam only had a lift of two feet today. In fact we didn't even have to tie on during the second locking.  The lock is 1200 feet long so we entered and went very slowly, and before we reached the other end, the gate lowered and the horn sounded so we just kept on going. In the hazy distance beyond the gate you can see twin towers for a bridge and part of the city of Alton beyond. It was kind of nice to see our destination before we had even left the lock.
     Neither of these dams has a reservoir with any storage capacity, but they do raise the water level to permit boat traffic, especially the deeper tows. It has not happened in a long time, but a number of lake freighters were actually built elsewhere and brought up the Mississippi and Illinois River to the Great Lakes. This was mainly before the St Lawrence Seaway was completed. Many of the modern large lake freighters, especially the "footers" that are about 1,000 feet long were built on the Great Lakes since they are about 300 feet too long to come up the seaway.. This is not entirely true since one of the footers came up this river system. Or, I should say that the bow and stern section were built elsewhere and welded together to come up the rivers as what must have been a very odd looking boat. Once on the Great Lakes, it was cut apart and some 800 feet of cargo hull was put in the middle.
     After the last lock we travelled an additional two miles to the Marina.  We made it to Alton Marina at 2:30 pm this afternoon. We were very interested to see exactly how much fuel we had burned in the approximately 300 miles since we left Green Turtle Bay Marina on the Cumberland Marina. We knew approximately how much fuel we had burned, but the answer was 208.8 gallons of diesel. That is just over 1/3 of our fuel capacity, which confirmed our planning that fuel was not going to be an issue. The actual fuel mileage is more difficult to calculate since about 100 mies were down river with a gain of about 2 mph, and about 200 miles were up river where we went about 9+ miles through the water for every 5 miles over the ground. Also we intentionally went a little faster than normal up river, which also reduces our fuel mileage. The bottom line is that we made it safely with no mechanical problems or damage from debris and on pretty much on schedule. We are pleased to say the least!
     The other news that we got was that the rain had finally stopped so that we can walk to a nearby restaurant. Nearby is something of an under statement since the marina is on a fairly wide part of the flood plain so we had to walk a circuitous path along curving roadway just to get to the base of the hill that the city is built up on. We returned to Lucky Us and after a second long walk for Lucky, we tumbled into bed for a much needed full nights sleep.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Day 37 onward to Hoppies Marina - a Looper "favorite"

     This morning we did another quick trip to shore at the boat launch ramp before stowing the Kayak and taking off.  We left the lock wall at 6:45 am, and we hope to arrive at Hoppies Marina mid to late afternoon. Since it is a short trip, we will be going at our normal cruising speed to enjoy the views as well as save fuel and wear and tear on the engines. After all, it is not a race even though we want to get off the Mississippi River in a timely fashion to avoid long wait for flood events.
     We started to see more power plants as well as some industry probably directly related to our approaching St. Louis, Missouri. I was impressed by the size of this cement plant although we really did not get a good view of the limestone quarry and much of the transportation for the aggregate. Once again, transport of the product is by barge, railroad and probably trucks as well.
      We arrived at Hoppies around 3:30 pm.  The marina was interesting, super friendly folks, and have a wonderful reputation with the Great Loopers. I met Fern and her daughter. We had not stopped here on our trip down river during our first Loop because we came past here in the early afternoon and decided to keep going so that we could do the Mississippi River in only 2 days. The photo at the left shows the dock at Hoppies that consists of barges anchored about 50 feet from shore. As you can see, the moorings are really stout, and as it turned out we had to contend with the current and some large debris.
     Lucky was pleased to be able to take walks on land finally and I promised her many miles this evening and tomorrow morning.  The Admiral figured that I was tired of sitting on my rear too. I did manage over 3 miles walking with Lucky, and the Admiral added another couple of miles. The skies did darken, but fortunately our efforts were not thwarted by rain. There was also a little town about a mile away, but I never made it that far in any of my walks. A very short distance up river from Hoppies is this rather pretty horse farm (photo at right). The Anheuser name is famous as the Anheuser-Busch Company that is the famous beer brewing company. The horse barns are adjacent to the right and prominently feature several programs for giving challenged children opportunities to ride horses as part of their therapy program.
     The photo at the left shows another view of the dock, but it also shows the shoreline. The fresh dirt is part of the sediment deposited during recent floods. Right behind me was a boat launch ramp, and according to Fern, they had something like 20 truckloads of dirt hauled out to re-expose the launch ramp. They have 3 dwellings on the property, and all of them sit directly on the bank so they were flooded as well. This is unfortunately probably a regular event (or normal cost of doing business here). With time the rains will wash this sediment on the bank back into the river, and the whole process will repeat itself again next time.
     I cannot resist one last picture, and it is of this classic Chris-Craft from the late 1950s (?). It is a classic woody with the downturned deck right at the bow, which was a design feature that I believe was exclusive to C-C. It looked to be in very good condition, except for needing a good paint job.
One change to our plans for tomorrow (Day 38) are to go to the Alton Marina, in Alton, IL instead of Grafton, IL at the start of the Illinois River.  We will stay there for only one night and then go on to Grafton. The reason for this stop is that their diesel fuel prices at $1.999/gallon are the lowest in the area so we will refuel before moving on. We have plenty of fuel left, but a really good price is hard to pass up... Besides, we stayed in Alton on the last Loop and enjoyed the city very much.