Our first stop was Two Rivers Marina in Rockport, IL. Heavy rain the next morning kept us at the dock so Joe took advantage of the stop to change the oil - and found the transmission oil in one engine cloudy. Not a good thing, but at this point we're not sure how bad a thing it is. It will be watched.
We had a leisurely morning the next day because fog kept us from an early start. Once we got going, though, we went through two locks without too much waiting and made it to Quincy, IL.
After a few more days we stopped at Marquis Harbor in Moline, IL. Gene, Linda's brother who lives nearby came for lunch. We enjoyed meeting him and hearing some of the family stories. Linda was disappointed that her mail, being sent to the restaurant next to the marina office had not yet arrived. The next morning brought an impressive thunderstorm. We had planned to wait for the mail anyway, but the storm delayed Gene who had offered to take us to a grocery store. Once the storm passed, Linda and I decided to walk the 2+ miles to the store. Along the way Gene called and said he was at the boat to take us shopping. Once we figured out where we were, he picked us up and off we went. That was the really good news because it was hot - and the store may have been way more than 2 miles after all. Linda's mail didn't come, again.
The next morning, strong thunderstorms again kept us from leaving. As we waited, Mike the dock guy called Linda and said he'd flagged down the mail truck and asked if they had any mail for the marina. They did - the restaurant had refused delivery. Mike brought it to the boat, the storms had passed and we were off - shortly before noon. (People often ask about our mail. Joe and I use a mail handling service in Florida for ours and don't really get very much - most of the important stuff is online. Every month or so I'll have it sent somewhere we plan to stop. It can be a little tricky sometimes, as Linda found out with the restaurant fiasco, but overall we've had pretty good luck with it.)
In our attempt to move north quickly we had long days and lots of locks. It's all a blur. We got so when someone asked where we'd stopped the night before, none of us could remember.
Generally, the railroads run up both sides of the river, like on the Hudson, and small towns - often only one street wide - have grown up between the railroad/river and the high hills. We made a brief stop at one - Alma, WI.
During the day, the bars slid - like a pocket door - into the window casing. Then there was a decorative wooden door that closed over the slot so it just looked like a window with a nice carved casing around it.
When we left the house we were right across the street from the St. Paul Cathedral, so we took a look inside. No weekend or holiday tours there, but Joe decided to attend Saturday evening mass. Since mass wasn't until seven, we decided to find a place for an early dinner. The first place we found - with a free parking space right in front - was Moscow on the Hill. We'd not eaten at a Russian restaurant before, Yelpers seemed to like it, so we gave it a try. We had Svekolnick (a cold beet soup) that was fantastic and a plate of pelmeni (dumplings) served with sour cream and vinegar that were great. We weren't so impressed with the borscht and cabbage rolls, but they were okay.
The next day, since Joe had gone to mass on Saturday, we arrived at the St. Mary Basilica in Minneapolis just after mass for a tour. The tour started with a fairly large group - and the organist still playing. After about five or ten minutes, of what was supposed to be a 15 minute tour, the organist had quit and most of our group had departed. They were in town for a wedding and had a tight schedule. That left a mother and daughter and Joe and me along with our docent, Jim. Jim, a seventh grade history teacher, gave us a great tour - way more than 15 minutes - and then Joe and I joined him for coffee and had a nice visit. That blew our schedule for the day, but it was well worth it.
We visited the Mill City Museum next. Minneapolis produced a large percentage of our country's flour, using the St. Anthony Falls on the Mississippi for power. The museum is built in the ruins of an old mill and has a unique presentation called the Flour Tower. You sit in a large freight elevator equipped with seats and it goes from floor to floor showing different aspects of the mill operations. The elevator ride ends on the top floor where you can walk out and see the river below - the falls and the last lock on the river. The falls are not impressive and would have completely disappeared had they not been reinforced with concrete.
Tuesday before we turned in the car, we took a tour of the state capitol building in St. Paul. Of interest to us was that it was the same architect that designed the capitol building in Charlston, WV, which we had visited on our trip up the Ohio River. Before we turned in the car, we made the obligatory trip to Costco and Sams, although we didn't really need anything.
Thunderstorms Wednesday morning kept us at the marina. We ended up staying all day and doing pretty much nothing. Gotta have those slug days occasionally.
Thursday we were back on the water - heading north. First we had a 38 foot lift at lock number 1. About six miles later the Lower St. Anthony Falls lock took us up 25 feet. Less than half a mile farther on was the Upper St. Anthony Falls lock and its 50 foot lift. This is the last year that the Upper lock will be open so we were glad we decided to come this year.
So, on that note, we started back the way we came.
We moved along pretty quickly for several days. Actually it was quickly compared to our usual speed of 8 mph. I think we got up to about 13 mph! Some days that was counteracted by long waits at locks, but that's the way it goes.
As a young man Alex Jordan liked to picnic on a rock in a field. He decided he wanted to have it to himself and leased the rock from the farmer who owned the land around it. Eventually, his parents bought the whole farm.
After dinner in Spring Green in what was an old bank - we unfortunately did not get the table in the vault - we went to a hotel for the night.
Then we went into the bar area to see the spring flowing beneath the floor and have our beers. Joe had a Snake Hollow that he said was the best IPA he'd ever had. We even saw growing hops as we left.
When we were in Port Charles, before starting up the Mississippi, we met Mark and Becky who live in Iowa and were getting ready to start cruising. Mark seemed to have friends in every town we could stop in and we ended up meeting a couple of them in Dubuque.
John and Pam are looking for a boat to do the loop in, so after a tour of Carolyn Ann we went to dinner and talked boats and cruising in general. They're a great couple and we hope to cross wakes in the future.
When we got to the next lock we were told we'd have to wait for one to two hours for a double. That's what they call it when the tow is pushing too many barges to fit in the lock at once. They push the first nine barges into the lock and disconnect them from the rest. The barges are locked down and flushed - using the lock fill valves - out of the lock. They're secured on the wall outside the lock; the lock is filled again; the tow pushes in the rest of the load and locks down. Then the tow pushes out, reconnects the first bunch of barges and is on his way. So we'd have to wait. Sometimes we can tie up somewhere while we wait, but the current was strong and the wind was blowing so much that we didn't think that would be possible. So Joe worked at keeping Carolyn Ann under control and out of the way. Just as we were about to be let into the lock an excursion boat called the lock and said he was about 20 minutes away. We could lock down with him, but we had to wait for him to go in first. So, about 20 minutes later we could finally see him coming. Eventually we both were in and secured. Then the lock tender came and handed Joe a box of brownies that he said were from the excursion boat captain to thank us for waiting. So we felt a little better about it - until Joe called the captain to thank him for the brownies and found out that he had actually given them to the lock staff!
So we made it back to Port Charles Harbor, MO and will take care of some boat chores and re-provisioning before heading farther south and back to the east coast.
More pictures on picasa http://picasaweb.google.com/joseph.pica