Peoria to Alton, IL


Our flight to Portland was out of Chicago giving us a chance to stay a few days in downtown Chicago to do and see a few places we had missed when we came through on Heartbeat. 

Trying to get the skyline in The Bean. 

he crowds of people made for some pretty cool reflections. 

We spent most of a day at The Field Museum. If it involves natural history, this museum has it. SUE the best preserved Tyrannosaurus rex specimens ever found. 

Buckingham Fountain. 

Enjoying a run along the lake – should be on every jogger/runner’s bucket list. 

Watching the day turn to night. 

When we got to Portland it was a whirl wind visit Between Dr and Dentist appointments and a few things that needed to be arranged with our rental house we tried to squeeze in seeing as many friends as possible. While The Great Loop has been an amazing adventure and we have met some wonderful new friends we absolutely miss our long time friends in the Portland area. 

Our return flight from Portland to Chicago was significantly delayed and at 10pm we ended up having to take an Uber the 2.5 hrs to Peoria. It of course was raining when we landed and we watched the Uber surge prices jump all over the place. We fortunately locked in on a decent price but our driver was not so fortunate. There were some nasty storms rolling through the area – thunder, lightening and torrential rain. There were several places on the highway where it looked as if we were driving through a raging river. He did a great job but I am sure it was quite stressful for him. 

The following day back on Heartbeat Kent was a kid at Christmas. He had ordered all new electronics before we left and they had arrived while we were gone. Naturally the next 2 days were spent pulling out the old electronics, fishing wires all over and putting in the new ones. We also had all of our window screens redone, they look great and we are hoping that they will keep fewer bugs from coming in now that there are not big holes to fly through. 

Kent was so excited to play with the new boat electronics. He just had to install everything first.

New electronics are in. Larger touchscreens are pretty nice. 

From Peoria we we headed (south, as everywhere we go at this point will be south) toward the Mississippi River. There had been a lot of rain the past week and the river level was very high so it took 2 sets of eyes to keep us away from all the floating branches, logs and debris. We looked like intoxicated boaters zigging and zagging through the "floating forest". 

Debris. A common site on this portion of the river with the recent rain. Some it is obvious like this but a lot is hard to see and we do not want to hit anything floating in the river. 

Downtown Peoria.

Outside of Peoria, just a touch of industry. 

With the extremely high water the bridges we might typically pass under now need to be raised for us. 

High water also meant we could simply go over the wickets next to 2 of the locks after Peoria. Not going through the locks felt really wrong but because the water was so high there was no risk and we could simply go around the locks and pass over the wickets that were lowered. This meant there was no waiting for a lock which was nice again despite the odd feeling that we were doing something wrong. 

Even through a few of the locks north of Peoria are closed for maintenance there is still plenty of commercial traffic on the river moving north and south. The rivers can be narrow at times, commercial traffic has right of way and so it is important for us as Pleasure Craft (PCs) to make sure we are in the right place, not the wrong place when near the massive tows (remember these guys can be moving sets of barges up to 2000 yards in length or longer!).

How do we know where to be in these narrow sections? We ask. We will call the tow on the VHF radio and ask where they would like us to be. They will respond that they will either see us on the "1 whistle" or "2 whistle" or more simply the “1” or the “2” . There is no use of starboard to starboard or port to port here. And when I write tows … we call them tugs in the Pacific NW but you certainly do not want to call them tugs here, it is very much a faux paux. 

Tows lined up on shore waiting to pick up barges. 

Barges sitting next to shore ready for tows to come pick them up.

(Heather’s) Cheat sheet to remember passing/overtaking tows on the 1 or 2 whistle. 

We had 2 stops from Peoria to Alton. First was after 87 miles where we dropped the hook behind Bar Island. It was a peaceful night after a long day. We then stopped in another 65 miles at the town of Hardin, specifically Mel's Dockside Restaurant dock. Mel's is known for great BBQ – Kent was quite excited to splurge on the brisket. I was happiest splurging on their fresh peach pie. These choices are no surprise to those who know us well. 

At Grafton, (~15 mi north of Alton) we moved into the Mississippi River.  This is the largest flying flag (40’x80′) on the Mississippi. Note the tree stump in the water, it has become normal to see these floating all over. Just as the Illinois River was running high with debris so was the Mississippi River. 

Welcome to the muddy waters of the Mississippi. 

Sediment washing over our swim platform. 

Not sure how the white pelicans stay looking so bright white in the muddy water but they do. 

The days since we have been back from Portland have been hot –  the 90F+ but it feels hotter sort of hot. Fall had not hit this part of the country yet. Unwise but I went for a short run one day and spent the next 24 hours trying desperately to re-hydrate. Penny did not like the heat either, she wished for less fur. 

Peaceful anchorage and a nice sunset at Bar Harbor after a long travel day. 

We spent 2 nights in Alton, renting a car for one of the days to explore St Louis. The Gateway Arch National Park visitor center was recently renovated in 2018 and it was done very well. We rode the train to the top of the arch, walked the interactive exhibits but the most interesting part was the movie which is comprised of original footage that shows and tells how the arch was built from start to finish. 

The Gateway Arch National Park (renamed in 2018). 

Small train cars hold 5 people and transport you to the top of the arch. These are the original cars and seats from when the arch opened to the public in 1967. They are tiny. 

View of the the Old Courthouse, Bush Stadium and downtown St Louis from 630 feet up. 

The Old Courthouse was the site of the local trials in the Dred Scott case. 

While in St Louis we had a chance to have lunch with John & Gina (Alysana). The St Louis area is home for them. We met at their favorite pizza place for lunch and then walked around the St Louis Zoo. Even though we had just seen John & Gina a couple weeks ago it was great to catch up. They were one of the first few friends we met when we started this trip and we've made sure to see each other when we both can. 

Lunch with John & Gina. 

Look at those teeth!

We left Alton with 2 other Looper boats but all 3 of us had different destinations for the day. The good thing was we traveled far enough together through 2 locks that were all together when we passed the arch and were able to snap pictures of each other. 

Our first lock leaving Alton we shared with 2 other Loopers and a floating forest. Needless to say maneuvering through this forest was not fun. There were some big tree trunks in this flotilla that could easily cause some damage. 

Passing by the arch. It was a great sunny blue sky day and pretty cool to see it from this perspective as we had just been up at the top the day prior. 

Heartbeat in front of the arch. 

The next week we will move through the Mississippi River turn up the Ohio River, then into the Tennessee River. We will stop at Green Turtle Bay Marina in Grand Rivers, KY. This will be where we "cross our wake" (completing The Great Loop by getting to the place where we started).