Done with the Illinois River. If anyone from Verizon reads this, please jam it into the company suggestion box. Or jam it somewhere else equally unsunny. Your Illinois game is terrible. No service at all between Peoria and St. Louis? Are you kidding? We needed to listen to football on Saturday and Sunday. Can you hear us now?
Anyway, Saturday morning up again with the sun and with a long day ahead. Leaving IVY (which was great) and the Peoria Carp Hunters behind, we set out toward the south. The lockmaster at Peoria Lock had told Compass Rose that our group of Looper boats could pass at 8:30 because a tour boat would be locking through at that time. Tour boat? Who would pay for a tour of the Illinois River at Peoria? On a Saturday? Do they know there’s no cell service? Do they know football is on tv? Apparently it’s really a thing, however, because the Spirit of Peoria—with smiling tourists lining the decks and taking pictures of the white Looper boats bobbing about above the lock—came steaming up from behind. The lockmaster told the captain that the PCs would be in the lock with him. The captain snarked that we all better be fast because he needed to get his passengers 100 miles down river by 4. More importantly, the lockmaster had a cute dog. Oscar and Benny woke up just long enough to bark.
The cruising for us became monotonous (and hot) fairly quickly. An Illinois River boater from Grafton who’s been reading the blog and chatting with us about Looping things described the Illinois as a “lazy river.” Pretty accurate description of things once we passed the Peoria Lock. We seemingly passed more cornfields and tubers than we saw tows and barges. Very nice.
Then we reached Beardstown. The romantic version of events is that tying up to a barge is different and cool. Although things were tight, five of us pulled in for the night. Doug popped the drone up to check things out. From 200 feet away it indeed looks different and cool.
The truth is that tying up to a barge in Beardstown, Illinois IS different and cool—and dangerous and dirty. There are two types of Looper experiences here. It really depends on the thing to which you’re tied. If you tie up to the permanent work area (like Crossroads), it’s a pretty easy walk into what passes as a town. The elevator restaurant food was pretty good. If you tie up on a working service barge that’s in place only temporarily (like Viridian), tetanus shots are a must. And a goodly supply of antibiotics is a wise idea. And one should wear a PFD every time going ashore. Pretty sure there are some major violations of whatever hospitality laws exist in Illinois here.
With no WiFi or other ability to access the outside world, the tug service activity kept us entertained until bedtime. We usually don’t get to see barges move at night. We even broke out the navigation rules on lights just to try to make sense of things we saw coming and going. Some of them we found challenging to remember. For example, a vessel approaching at night, under 50 meters long, with restricted maneuverability because of dredging, and wanting you to pass to port, is quite the jumble of lights. If we saw that coming towards us we’d turn and run. Or sing O Christmas Tree. Thank goodness for VHF and AIS.
In case anyone wonders, we survived the night and have cool videos to prove it. We carried the boys whenever they left the boat so they at least shouldn’t have any infections pop up.
With another long day ahead, we called the last of the Illinois locks before slipping the lines that chafed all night on rusting metal. The lock guy said be there by 8:30, so we all took off. Miss Utah, Mary’n Gale, Hayley Rose, Second Wave, and us.
Sunday was another great day for cruising, although the lock guy was off a bit. We arrived just before the appointed time only to see a tow getting ready to jam the first half of his split load into the chamber ahead of us. So we sat for an hour and a half. There was a touch of drama when—just as the lock radioed for us all to get ready—Allen on Free Spirit Too said he was two miles away but wanted in. We were pretty sure they wouldn’t make it in the race against time, but they slid in at the last second. Good for them, because they faced a several-hour wait otherwise.
Crank up the John Prine, Jimmy Buffett, and John Denver. We have a long way to go. Barges? Barely noteworthy. Lift bridges? Dime a dozen. Logs in the river? Seen hundreds of ‘em, and this ain’t nothing compared the Potomac when we left D.C. The highlight may have been passing the western-most point on the Loop. Wooo!
We finally saw some hills. Based on our experience Illinois isn’t really hill country, but at least they were something different. At Kempsville, the car ferry was blowing back and forth in our path. From the river it wasn’t apparent that anything on either side was worth taking the ferry. Probably just a bunch of folks in their cars wandering around in search of cell service. Can you hear us now?
The Illinois Riverdock Restaurant, aka Mel’s, has a dock that they sometimes allow overnighters to use if there’s space. We got lucky. Dinner was ok. Breakfast was delicious.
This morning Dana piloted Misty Pearl down to Grafton. Happy to be here. This was eight days of travel in a row. Over 280 nautical miles. Like ol’ Jimmy, we must confess we could use the rest. We can’t run at this pace very long. The local dude who’s followed the blog stopped by to visit. Jim Leffers. Very nice guy. We hope he gets to do the Loop someday. One of the great things about the Loop is meeting people. We’ve even spent some time with Steve and Jane, who’re on Sabbatical. They’re pretty nice for Gator fans despite the ugly flag. Of course, some might say that Ted Bundy was pretty nice for a serial killer. (Did we mention it’s Florida week for the Vols?)
We’ll hang at Grafton tomorrow before joining up with the Mississippi River just outside the marina and dropping down to Alton. Grafton claims to be the “Key West of the Midwest.” That’s kind of like the University of Florida boasting that it’s the Scottsdale Community College of West Gainesville, but we’ll check it out.