Chicago to Peoria, IL


 If you read our previous post you already know we spent less time in Chicago than we had wanted. We basically woke up the next day to learn some new information on the locks along the Illinois River. In an attempt to make a long story short we have known for a few months that there would be a few locks closing for maintenance at the end of September. 

This required Loopers to make a decision – 1. Get through those locks before the closure or 2. Go through those locks after the closure. For the longest time we had been choosing option 2 as we did not want to rush through Canada and Michigan.  Option 2 had some downsides because pleasure craft (PCs) traffic would be able to move after the commercial traffic back up is cleared. If there is a delay to the published maintenance schedule that could mean that PCs might be traveling south on the rivers when marinas are getting ready to winterize (limiting water and fuel options). 

When we realized we could see what we wanted to see in lower Michigan and still make it to Chicago with time to get through the locks that would be closing we jumped to the other team and joined Option 1 – just get through the locks. Do not get stuck between locks. Do not stop and dawdle. Just get through the locks. That became our only goal. 

What do we mean when we say get through the locks? We needed to get through 5 locks / 60 miles – Lockport > Brandon > Dresden > Marseilles > Starved Rock all before 9/19. 

If we could get through Starved Rock then our travel through the rest of the Illinois River and even the Mississippi River should not include lock closures. "Should not" means there are no planned closures we know of at this time. But anything can happen – for example right now there is a lock in Tennessee closed for several weeks as they work to clean up a fuel spill. This obviously impacts commercial traffic and PCs in that area. 

So here was the situation – PCs were not the only boats making the mad dash to get either up or down river before the scheduled closures along the Illinois. Tows were pushing (pun intended) to get their loads to where they needed to be. This meant that locks were busy/backed up, both commercial and PCs were having to wait hours and possibly days. Some locks were only moving northbound traffic on one day and then southbound the next, timing was critical but information was changing from hour to hour for everyone. I imagine someone behind a green curtain like in The Wizard of Oz controlling it all and doing a wonderful job but nobody really giving them the credit they deserve. 

Our experience traveling during this very heavy time was fantastic and it was due to those around us. Loopers grouped together and designated a point person to talk to the Lockmasters about when our options were to lock, how many boats could lock at one time time and the arrangement of the boats in the lock. Once out of one lock the lead PC on the river would talk with northbound tows and communicate to the PCs behind them which side the tow wanted us to pass on etc until we all arrived at the next lock. We all wanted to get through the locks in time and with so many boats it could be at times a little exhausting (we had a couple 12 hr days in the boat moving/waiting/moving waiting) but the overall experience highlighted teamwork among Loopers and flexibility of the Lockmasters to help move us PCs through with their primary traffic – the tows. It could have been far worse, we had timed our trip very well. 

20 or so Loopers tied up at the free wall in Joliet waiting at sunrise for the go ahead to move toward the Lockport L&D. 

That is a lot of Loopers in one lock! 
Video – Passing a 3×5 tow on the Illinois. This is a tow pushing barges 3 wide by 5 deep. Fairly common but this means it is 105' wide by 200 yards long (or two football fields long). These captains move day and night. It is simply impressive as the rivers are not very wide. 

After we cleared the Starved Rock lock we felt like we had "broken out of jail and were free". Credit for this perfect analogy to Gina on Alysanna. We were not trapped above the locks with nowhere to go, we were not trapped in between locks, we were now south of the locks that would close for maintenance and we could do whatever the heck we wanted to do! Huge sign of relief. 

Just because we were through the locks we wanted to get through did not mean the excitement was over. There is still a lot of tow traffic – I swear we could reach out our door and touch this one coming by us. 

After starved rock we anchored one night with The Blessing, Forever Friday and Scaliwag enjoying a peaceful evening where no alarm was set to get up early to go through a lock. 

Anchorage for the night. Tucked away behind an island out of the way of tow traffic. 

We then moved to Illinois Valley Yacht (IVY) Club. Here we took in a few sights and will leave the boat for a quick visit back to Portland, OR for boring things such as Dr. and Dentist appointments and to check on our house which is currently rented. We know we will not be able to see all of our friends but we hope to catch as many as we can in our quick visit. 

 Peoria has a restaurant/brewery which makes you feel like you in one of the many McMenamins in Oregon/Washington. Here there were similar thoughts on taking a historic location and revitalizing it. This pic is from inside an old church in downtown Peoria, which now serves beer and food. 

We’ve been to a lot of museums on this trip. This one was a bit different – Caterpillar has their headquarters in Peoria and the have a pretty cool visitor center/museum. 

Kent remembering his old construction days on the excavator simulator. 

 Heather next to one of the 14′ tires on the Cat 797F, the largest truck in the world. 

When we get back from Portland we will move from Peoria down the rest of the Illinois River towards the Mississippi. We are closing in on our 1 year mark of being on The Great Loop, time is flying by. 

Last but not least we've recently moved through a few new states  so more random facts! 

Random Facts: Indiana

1. The state’s name means “Land of the Indians”, or simply “Indian Land.”

2. “America’s oldest magazine,” The Saturday Evening Post, is headquartered in Indianapolis

3. Indiana produces more than 20% of the United States’ popcorn supply. In a typical year, almost half of all cropland in Indiana is planted in corn.

Random Facts: Illinois

1. Illinois was the first state to ratify the 13th amendment to abolish slavery.

2. Illinois generates more nuclear power than any other state. Also, 80% of Illinois land is actually farmland with corn being the largest crop. (Ok, so that may have been more than just one fun fact). 

3. The Chicago River is the only river in the world that flows backwards.The river was actually manually reversed back in the early 1900s. Reason? To reduce the prevalence of waterborne diseases that were running rampant at that time.