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.
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.
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".
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).