Alton, IL

30 September 2014

Scott from Bloch’s service department came back this morning with cleaned transmission filters. He installed them and we loaded up with fluids and everything checked out 100%. So that’s taken care of for another 450 hours. That means that I still need to check the levels, but it’s not due to be changed until after I get home. Hard to believe that we’ve done 300 hours of time since we left home.

We reloaded the boat and I did last minute blogging. I’m now caught up as far as Grafton, IL. I had gotten behind with all the touring in Chicago and it snowballed. So if you are reading the blog, you can start with Chicago and move forward in time.

Lunch was leftover Pappy’s Smokehouse meats. Very good, really love the chicken.

We waited until UPS with my replacement nuts for the wipers, of course they were the wrong size. So I put an order in with McMaster on multiple sizes and hope that one of them fits. It’s annoying since on single parts price, they are $2.45 – $6.00 each.

On the way out of the marina we saw Toba They were the first loopers we met, our first time was in Cape May and then briefly in NYC. We will catch up with them in Alton.

The river ride down was calm, we just puttered along since we had lots of time to get there.

On the dock we were visited by the crew of Corkscrew. They started from Michigan, but they really live in Nashville. They will start on the loop full time next year. The Captain has lots of experience on the Tennesee Rivers and has done some here on the Mississippi. We will be traveling with them as far as Hoppies (our next stop) and do planning from there.

We went to a late dinner at “Gentelin’s on Broadway” with the crew of Toba. The food was very good, lots of interesting dinner and dessert choices. As always with Loopers great dinner conversation.

Part of the conversation about both our positive experiences with Bloch Marine Services. Both crews will make an effort to post gold starts in Active Captain.

It was fun, back home after Looper Midnight. The ride on Wednesday should be easy, two locks and 40 miles of river to Hoppies. A chance for me to meet the river sage, Fern, I’m excited.


Grafton,IL day 4

29 September 2014

Monday in Grafton. We are recovering from our St. Louis visit. Even with us cutting the places to see and go down quite a bit, we didn’t get into the boat until around 9 PM.

We got up early and Susan took the car back to Enterprise. Our goal was to be off the dock about 9AM to head upriver on the Mississippi side to get the boat serviced.

(Tech stuff to follow)
The Quo Vadimus has a transmission that goes forward and reverse, but it needs some level of maintenance. It needs to have the fluid replaced every three hundred hours. You need to suck the fluid out, there is no drain underneath. This will be the first time on the trip that it’s been done.

It’s also time for an oil change. I’m running Amsoil, a top of the line synthetic oil. Normally the oil would be replaced every 150 hours. What I’m doing is replacing the filter (and adding oil) at 150 hours and then replacing the oil and new filter at 300 hours. With an expected run of 600-700 hours for the trip it means only one oil change and multiple filter changes. I’ve also drawn a sample of the oil to send out for testing. I sent one out with 10 hours on it as a baseline. The one that came back at 145 hours was very close to those numbers. We changed the oil today (300 hours), and I’ll send that sample out. If the oil numbers are good then I’ll do filter changes at 450 and 600 hours and a change at 750 hours. This is one longer cycle than I did this time, a total of 450 hours on the oil.

For trucks this has been the Amsoil suggestion. Filters at 5K, 10K, 15K, 20K and replace oil at 25K miles. So in theory I could do the entire loop on one set of oil and multiple oil changes. One of the problems I have is that the suction system does not pull that last amount of crud from the oil pan (about a quart). In theory if it circulates then the filter will catch it, so we will see.

Oil burn has been very low, about 1 quart per engine per 50 hours, so I’m happy with that.

(End tech stuff)

I called the service people at 8:45 AM to make sure we are good for us to come to their marina. They decided that Scott was coming here, he could ‘easily’ do our job at the same time. Bonus me, I can stay in my free slip and use the great wi-fi.

We met the crew of Potest Fieri (It can be done) They came over to say hi, they are from Canada. They didn’t have butter tarts, but liked that we had spent a great deal of time in Canada. They are Gold Loopers moving their boat down to transship it to the Northwest to start their Alaskan adventures. They had read my AGLCA blog posts, I said try the regular ones, I’m much nicer.

Scott arrived at the boat next to us around 10 and said, no problem on our boat at 1PM. About 12:30 Susan grabbed laundry and her swim suit to play in the pool, maybe bike, but have a relaxing day.

Scott came over at 2 PM and said he was jammed up, we would need to postpone. We talked about that I was a looper I had places to be. I had been here on Friday, and waited until Monday. IF I was off the dock by 11 on Tuesday, I’d be OK with that.

At 3 PM Scott came back and said he had a cancel, he could work on my boat until 4:30. Yay! So we rocked as much as we could. We got oil samples taken, old oil removed, new filters on and oil refilled. Transmissions were a little harder, two of the measurement knobs were stuck, but Scott soon wrangle them off, fluid pulled. He also sucked the fluid out of the one fuel filter that has about 2/3 of a cup of crap floating into the bottom.

The filters in the Hurth 630A are stainless coils formed into a mesh, so they needed to go back to get cleaned. Scott would take them back, clean them and be back at our dock by 9AM to put us back together. At 4:29 PM, I pushed Scott’s work boat off our dock and he headed away. I’m pleased, we got lots done in 1.5 hours and should be only an hour more on Tuesday and we can be off.

I’ll order new filters so I can swap the new for the old and then be able to send the old out to be cleaned for the next cycle.

Very pleased with Scott, he knew what he was doing and the process went very quickly.

Susan was back at 4. Part of her adventure day was going to the top of the bluff to the winery. The views were amazing and she wanted to go back for dinner.

I showered and changed and at 5:30 we were at the “Aerie Wineyard”. It is “230 feet above flood stage of the 1993 flood” overlooking a very pretty Mississippi and Illinois river. Dinner was very good, we had two small plates of appetizers, a sausage pizza and a mushroom pizza. All is right with the world, I’m back in the land of thin and crispy pizza. They also had a good beer selection, so it was a great night.

We had been taken up in a 4 seat Ute, we came back the same way. It was fun to be in an outdoor car skimming the landscape. They are building a tramway to take people up the mountain. I think we will pencil in a trip in 2016 to ride up again. Grafton is a place I would like to come back to again.

Off to bed about 8:30, I want to finish the St. Louis post and then help Scott do his last little bit. Then it’s down the river for another 9 day, 300 mile adventure!


Grafton IL / St. Louis MO

28 September 2014

Grafton is nice, we’ve really enjoyed our stay here. One great thing is the wi-fi, we’ve both been able to catch up on our internet surfing.

On Sunday we got up and out the door at 8 AM to head to St. Louis. Traffic was light and it was a pretty easy drive. I was unable to find Spray 9 cleaner yesterday, so we would try again today. It turns out that car guys like it, and the first auto parts place that we stopped had it.

We also stopped at a local doughnut stop for a quick breakfast snack. I really like cinnamon rolls, and they had a doughnut that was layers of dough and cinnamon rather than a spiral. I think this has become my new favorite.

First stop in St. Louis was the Botanical Gardens. It’s a huge place, bigger than Longwood Gardens. We picked out the places we wanted to see. We both wanted to see the Japanese and Chinese gardens, and of course they were at the farthest corner. Two tram tickets later and we were on our way!

The Japanese garden is around a small lake that has a stream with a three level waterfall filling it. Around the edges are planting with the white sands that have been raked into designs and patterns. It is very tranquil, we both sat on a bench for a few moments taking it all in.

At the far end is a bridge that has feed for the koi. It was fun to feed them and to watch the ducks zoom in to grab the feed. Some of the fish are fat and lazy, they come to the surface and open their mouths so you can toss the food into it. Sometimes it works, but I watched one duck stick their beak into the mouth and snatch the food away. We circumnavigated the pond, stopping often to get great pictures.

The Chinese garden is set in the woods and has a winding path through it. It was also very tranquil and it was nice to be in the shade for awhile. Lots of pretty sculptures in little nooks of the landscape. There were also a number of benches that you could sit and admire.

Next door was a boxwood garden like you would find in England. Perfectly trimmed boxwood around a stone path. There is a gazebo at one end, I can imagine sitting there enjoying a meal with friends.

We took the tram to the next stop, Henry Shaw’s restored County Residence. Shaw was the founder and creator of the gardens in the mid 1800′s. We toured the house and the Victorian style gardens around it. One of them is a maze, the hedges are about 5′ tall, high enough for a parent to see over, but still blocking the view of children. There was one family playing chase in the maze, it reminded me of a time the kids and I did a corn maze and got totally lost.

There is an observation tower in the corner where we could watch the maze activities and also see the designs in the other gardens. One of my favorites was the Pincushion Gardens. About 4 feet across they were intricate designs all done with succulent plants. Very pretty and very ornate, I’m hoping Susan’s pictures come out.

We walked over to the “Climatron”. It is the first geodesic dome to be used as a conservatory. It was designed using Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic system. It houses all of their tropical plants and we wound our way through it admiring the collection. Outside of the dome is a long reflecting pool that has glass sculptures by Chihuly. They are long flame like globes, that reflect in the water.

In our wanderings we also pass through two rose gardens. Not a lot was in bloom since it was late in the season, but Susan was thrilled with the ones that were. I can imagine in the spring it is a pretty stunning display.

We passed through the Linnean House on the way out. It’s the oldest orangery, a building to overwinter citrus plants, west of the Mississippi. It has high arched ceilings with glass panels on the roof to be able to collect massive amounts of sunlight.

We hopped back in our car and drove cross town to Pappy’s Smokehouse, one of the top BBQ places in St. Louis. We got in line about 12:30 at the back entrance of the door. Pretty soon we were inside the building in another line that snaked down a back hallway. Then we got to a doorway that led into the restaurant, and yet another line. It’s clear that Pappy’s has taken a page from the Disney crowd control playbook. But, like Disney, the lines did keep moving.

At the counter we ordered our lunches and a full slab of ribs to go for later on. We easily found seats and within minutes a waitress was bringing our food out to us. The entire time from car to food was about an hour.

But the food was great. Susan had the beef brisket and burnt ends. The brisket was tender and had the great smoked flavor we were looking for. The burnt ends were juicy and crispy, the caramelized sauces were wonderful. I also had the ends but my other side was smoked chicken. I had a combination of white and dark meat, the smoke flavor was all through the meat. The sides were great, it was a wonderful lunch (and dinners to come!)

Back to the car to go to the famous St. Louis Arch. It was good that we had a GPS, because there was a ton of construction work along the east side of St. Louis. They are in the process of revamping and rebuilding the entire park area. After lots of twists and turns and a four block ride down a cobblestone street we arrived at the Arch.

I had been to the Arch before, but time had eroded the memories of how tall it really was. It’s simple design soaring into the sky is truly amazing. With almost no crowd, we were soon lined up to take the ride up. This part I did remember, small cramped cages/pods that barely held 5 people. The ride feels like a Ferris wheel, you sweep up and around from below the base up into the legs and then into the top. We got out and took the last 3 dozen steps to the observation area.

We stared out the tiny windows on both the East and West sides taking in the vistas. From the top you can see 40 miles on a clear day. We took pictures and one of the Park Rangers was nice enough to take a picture of both of us.

Down in the base we watched a movie about Lewis and Clark and their expedition up the Mississippi and Missouri rivers and across the Rockies to the west coast. Time had again eroded memories from High School History class. Since it was an Imax movie, the scenery was breathtaking. I can’t imagine making a trip like that. While the Loop is pretty cool, we are never more than a mile away from civilization.

The other movie was about the construction of the Arch in the 1960′s. What an engineering feat! They had limited computers back then (early mainframe days) and the drawings were hand done. They showed the construction of the “slices” that were bolted together and then filled with concrete to add extra stiffness. It was impressive that the legs could support themselves up to the 500′ level when they were able to put a bridge across to help with the loads. At the top the two ends met exactly on line, remember this is a time well before laser sights and distance measurements. The movie shows the use of transits and 100′ measurement tapes.

There is also a museum in the base that talks about Lewis and Clark and life of the early explorers and settlers.

Back to the car to the second most important place of the day, “Ted Drewes Frozen Custard”, to get a “concrete”. A concrete is frozen custard that has some additional item (like Oreo Cookies) mixed in. But unlike ice cream the resulting concoction is hard, you can turn it upside down and it will stay in the cup.

Back across town to Ted’s. To find it closed for the season. Oh Noes!! Susan to the rescue, she knew there was more than one. A call to the second one to find that they were open until 11.

A 20 minute drive later (actually 40 minutes since we did a quick grocery stop) we were there. It’s about twice the size of our local Brewster’s with a huge crowd of people outside. I lucked out and found a spot. Unlike Brewster’s they had 8 lines going and we soon were back in the car with our concretes. I drove while Susan dived into her “Turtle” a concrete with hot fudge, caramel, and pecans. About 10 minutes later we stopped for gas and switched drivers, and I ate my simpler chocolate with fudge and Oreo cookies. They were very good and made the perfect end to the day.

We boarded the Quo Vadimus at 8:30 PM. A longer day that we had planned but one of the best sightseeing days we’ve had, but we both had fun.


Day 150 Status

27 September 2014 – Day 150 on the Loop

Just a quick monthly update of where we are and how its going.

To date 2117 nautical miles (2434 statute miles), so we are about 1/3 of the way through the trip. We’ve completed month 5, so we’ve been gone almost ½ of our estimated time. We’ve traveled 81 of those days, for a total of 318 hours. So travel days are about 55% of the time, we were targeting 60% so that’s close. Our miles per travel day was predicted at 30 per day, it’s now 26 miles per travel day. It’s taken a big jump in since last month, we did long leaps around Lake Michigan and in going down the Illinois. For example we averaged 35 miles a day for the last 9 days.

We’ve burned 1,478 gallons of fuel, with an over all economy of 1.4 miles per gallon. We gotten some great mileages the last few days with a 3 knot current pushing us. The next 350 miles won’t be as good since the current on the Mississippi is less and we will be facing a current on the Ohio. Average cost for fuel is now $4.45 a gallon and has been dropping since we left Canada. We budgeted $36,000 for fuel ($6 per gallon for 6,000 miles) so we are under budget for fuel costs.

Dock cost are averaging $1.50 per foot per night. We paid $3.50 a foot (including electric and taxes) in Chicago, that’s been the highest in the last 30 days (really in the entire trip).

So much for facts and figures.

Belle is still doing OK. As an elderly cat, she has her issues, but is still hanging in there. She has kept up her routine of getting us up in the morning. Wasn’t a big deal in the Eastern Time Zones, but it’s now 5:30 AM in CST and it’s annoying. We’ll be back in EST pretty soon, so that should help. She still naps around the boat while we move, but she’s been thrown a few times by the long lock waits. She has assumed that we were done for the day and would come up. We’d then start the motors and she would climb back down and head to the V-berth.

Susan has been keeping up with the pictures and the videos pretty well. Lack of decent internet connections has made it hard to uploads. During the longer days she has been splitting the driving with me and that’s helped both of us.

She is still making great dinners. Not as often since we’ve had great places to eat in Milwaukee, Chicago, etc. But there is lots of anchorage time coming, so expect to see more posts about her great food.

Foster is still doing OK. My shoulder pain has come and gone, some due to backing down on the exertion and I got a resupply of my Chinese Herbs. There is lots of planning to do as we go down the rivers, so I’ve been more in the future than in the present moment. But my September memories of horse poop, walleye fishing, fish boils, Maker and science Fun, Sputnik and the cool Chicago buildings are very good, still super happy that I’m on the trip.

Both Susan and I are tired, the last month has been a whirlwind of places with lots of heavy duty touring and sightseeing. We have been doing so much at each place it’s been hard to keep the blog up to day. (Presently I’m 3 days behind). I’ve tried writing on the rivers, but it almost needs both of us looking for the barges, fish boats and markers.

We will be in a little calmer location in about 10 days at Green Turtle Bay in Kentucky, I’m planning a few extra days there to recharge.

The boat is doing well it gets an oil change and a transmission fluid change on Monday. I’m still working of the algae in the fuel, but changing the filter every 75 gallons seems to have that under control.

We both still miss you guys back home and are looking forward to real face time in December.


Grafton,IL day 2

27 September 2014

We are taking a day break here in Grafton and then a day trip to St. Louis on Sunday via a rental car. So step one was getting the rental.

The Enterprise agent picked us up and we got Alton around noon. We were on the hunt for lunch, transmission fluid and Spray 9 cleaner.

Quo Vadimus is 21 years old so it has older technology in it. Trying to find transmission fluid was hard. Our fourth place, Car Quest had it, and more importantly had it in 5 quart containers. Each side holds just under 4 quarts and the transmission cooler holds another quart. So I picked up 3 containers (so I have some to top off with) and we were off….

To WHITE CASTLE!!! Yay us! It’s been quite a while since either one of us have had “Belly Bombs”. Since there was one only a mile away, we were there in a flash. Susan stuck with the more traditional sack of 5. Since I was last there White Castle has branched off to have two kinds of cheese, bacon, plain chicken and an Italian chicken with sauce. Being adventuresome, I tried all 5. Not sure what I was thinking. Chicken sandwich is a chicken sandwich, you go to White Castle for the steamed burgers and the onions. Kudos to the Castle for trying to branch out, but on my next visit I’ll stick with the classics. In any case, lunch was good and it was a pleasant surprise.

At the next table there was discussion about a combined Car and Air show at the St. Louis Regional Airport. We talked it over and agreed to go for a short time. Neither one of us had thought to bring hats and Susan had flip flops on, not the best thing to walk long distances in. Luck for us, to get to the air planes you needed to walk through the fire station. It was cool inside and Susan opted to stay there in the shade rather than walk the hot tarmac.

Lots of plane, most of them private. Lots and lots of experimental / home built aircraft. Only a few military and they were of the training style. There was one called the “Teeny Two” that was 10 feet long and had a 16 foot wingspan and sat just 24” off the runway. The owner / builder called it “a sky go-cart”. It took him just over a year to build in his two car garage.

There was also section with about 50 model planes. They were flying a few at a time. As we were leaving the airfield, one of the larger ones started doing stunt flying.

The grass for the auto show was a little easier to manage, but it was super hot out. We managed about three rows before we called it a day. Older cars was the norm, but some really nice chopped hot-rods and 3 DeLorians! My favorite was an open wheel touring car, it had the most amazing paint job.

We got back and decided to do a load of laundry while we waited for the “Parking Lot Party” to start. We were walking up when Susan got a call from the Admiral of Pier Pressure. Yay! We have been trying to meet up since we were in the Delaware Bay. We’ve traded emails back and forth for months. She was HERE!

We met up with her and had an amazing time, it’s like we have know each other for years. She was very gracious, ignoring our manners faux pas while we moved laundry around and folded things. We talked about a huge amount of stuff it was a great three hours. We hope to see her and the Captain farther down the loop.

After dinner and conversation we headed back to the boat. We paused briefly to listen to the band at “The Parking Lot Party”. They were good, but we were tired, so it was off to bed.

Sunday is our big day doing St. Louis.


Grafton,IL day 1

26 September 2014

On our way to breakfast we said goodbye to the crew of Saylors Delight, they were off to make some big jumps of over a 100 miles a day. We wished them well on their voyage.

At the “Riverdock” we had a huge hot breakfast. With our last five days of getting up pre-dawn and heading out it was very relaxing to eat breakfast at 7:30AM

Keeping an eye out for Asian carp we pushed off into the Illinois River. There was still a pretty decent current going so we made good time. We didn’t see much traffic either way, but we did see lots of barges waiting to be filled at the grain silos. I continue to hope that we are in the window before the harvest on the Illinois and Mississippi and after the harvest on the Tennessee.

The Brussels car ferry was interesting, it’s on a call basis and their appears to be two of them shuttling back and forth. It looks like the small push tug swivels on the side so it is always pushing the boat forward.

We got into the Grafton marina after what had been a pretty short day, just over two hours. We did the hour long fuel dock thing of 192 gallons of diesel and a pump out. Pretty excited, we did the 360 miles from Chicago to Grafton in 9 days, an average of 40 miles a day. But we are pretty tired here, looking forward to some time off the water.

Home is under a covered dock! We have one at Bohemia Bay Yacht Harbor and it will nice to be under one here with the temps going into the mid 80′s. The difference between this dock and home is that the dock and roof are tied together and they float. So as the river rises, so does the roof. A pretty clever design.

But we soon learned there is a flaw. The Asian Carp that leap out of the water sometimes leap and get caught between the floats and the deck. They get trapped inside the space and die. And rot. And start smelling really bad. The dock mate pulled 5 fish from the finger piers next to us. Uggg.

Taking advantage of the shade we cleaned the boat inside and outside. Between the spiders and general dirt the Quo Vadimus was a mess. We unloaded the cockpit of the bikes and rack to allow the deck to be scrubbed down. About 2 hours later we were done and everything looked much better.

I knew that the Chesapeake and the Andiamo had docked a few hours after us. I wandered over to see how their trip went and what their plans were. They were out in the far corner of the marina in and they were only staying the one night and then heading down to Alton.

When I got back to our dock we helped the crew of Fiddlin’ Around dock. It’s a boat with 4 musician friends cruising around from Chicago. Once they got settled in, they played a few songs on the dock. They were going to play at the marina bar later that evening. They were very good, we will make an effort to see them later.

We went to the “Piasa Winery and Pub”. They had a great selection of beers to choose from and Susan was happy with her choice. Their special was either a “Batman” (beef patty) or “Robin” (chicken patty) served between two grilled cheese sandwiches. Which in theory sounds really good, in practice there are four pieces of bread. Maybe if it had been only three pieces (a patty served on top of a grilled cheese?) it would have been better.

On the weekends it appears that Grafton is the place to be. There was live music in the two places across the street. As we walked towards the marina we passed another singer playing folk songs.

We went to the marina’s bar to see if the crew from Fiddlin’ Around had shown up yet. We had a drink while we waited, but it started to become close to Looper Midnight so we headed back to the boat.

Our trip on the Illinois didn’t start off well, but the last 6 days were good. Very tired from the combo of the trip and cleaning, it’s nice that we don’t need to go anyplace on Saturday.



25 September 2014

Our stay on the Logston barge was good. We woke to a wake once about 1:30AM but soon fell back to sleep.

When I got the tour of the tug Pin Oak they had said they work a 5 PM – 5AM shift. (Thanks for the tour!) But right at 5 AM, after crew change, they started working. We watched as they moved a barge that had pilings on it around us and back two barges. Then they grabbed the barge with the crane and moved that. It was impressive how they moved, how smooth the movements were and the general lack of crashing and crunching sounds. We had their VHF channel on and it was short commands and responses. It was great to watch professionals at work. By 6 AM they were back in their berth and shut down.

But we were now up and watching the Sun. Once it was up enough for us to be able to see trash in the river we headed out. (That would be 6:45 AM local time)

Once again the Illinois was calm. We had a good current that helped us move along, but the early morning was a very pretty time to be on the water. One of the Captains at Logston had said “Hours of boredom around minutes of terror”. With the river like this, I can see why he loves his job.

We slid by the LeGrange lock at 7:30 local time. The wickets were down and we had ripple free water to slide through. We listened to Cicadas going down the river, it’s amazing how they can overcome the drone of our engines. I can’t imagine how loud it is on shore.

Around 8 AM we passed the Spirt of Peoria one of the few authentic paddlewheel-driven boat that offers passage up and down the river. They take 3 days from Peoria to St. Louis and another 3 back. It made the morning better, and brought back what we both thought the river should be. It almost made me want to put on a white suit and a black bow tie.

The day warmed up, by 11 AM it was up to 71F from our starting point of 65F. We could not ask for better weather for this trip down the river. The blue skies, the lack of wind, the thump of the Asian Carp, what could be better?

Like yesterday the Captains and the bridge operators have been very nice. I call and ask what they want us to do, and they are willing to help. One Captain said they needed to make the corner and we fell in behind them and waited until they gave the go ahead. When they did, it looked like they had slowed some to get us by. Thanks!

Around 1 PM local time we pulled into Hardin, IL. About 6.5 hours and 58.8 miles since we left Beardsville. We could have kept going, but the trip is about fun.

We docked and moments later Compromise the Looper boat that we had met in Trenton Ontario about 10 decades ago pulled in behind us. (Actually it was 1 June) We had lunch with the crew at the “Riverdock” and exchanged our adventures. They wanted to get to Grafton for dinner and then head south, so they took off after eating. Compromise is from North Carolina, so we will meet up with them again.

Dinner (after naps) was back at the “Riverdock”. Wonderful smoked chicken and a brisket that had blackened ends that remided me of when I met Susan. A great dinner.

I know that we all look for bargains. So I asked at dinner “If you eat Lunch, Dinner and Breakfast here and leave a great tip is the dock is free?” The waitress came back and said, “Overnight is $15, but the tips need to be really good!” Alrighty we are in for that!

On the way out we met the crew of Saylors Delight. They started in Southern Virginia, so another crew we will met later on. We recommended what we had just eaten, but we gave them insider info that the thing to do is order pie first and dinner later. Or maybe pie followed by pie.

There is a pretty steep ramp that connects the dock to the shore. I was first and made it to the dock. Behind me I heard a splash and a thump and I thought “Susan has fallen”. I turned quickly to see an Asian Carp sliding across the dock inches away from my feet. It slid the entire width and splashed into the water at the other side. Pretty amazing!

The river is still calm and harvest is still a few days away, so we are hoping for a quiet ride to Grafton.



24 September 2014

So it turns out I like the Illinois River after all.

But, like Alice, lets begin at the beginning.

The last two locks on the Illinois River have wicket gates. There is a lock at one end, and across the river are giant panels they can put into place to stop the flow of water. When the wickets are in the water level rises. In flood conditions, like 3 weeks ago, they pull the wickets out to allow water (and debris) to flow down river. River management is hard, as we found out on the Trent-Severn and Erie Canal systems.

Because the water level has dropped the last two weeks they are ready to put the wickets back in. Which means that boaters will not be able to pass over the dam that supports the wickets, but we will need to use the lock. At Peoria Lock, they would start putting the wickets in on Wednesday (today) morning. I really didn’t want to use the lock, so I wanted to be past the Peoria Lock by 8 AM.

We said goodbyes to the Captain of the Chesapeake at 6:30 AM CST (yes, just after sunrise) and headed south. Much to my surprise (and fuel budget delight) there was a 2-3 knot current running with us. Yay! So we were able to cruise at 10.5 knots on our regular RPM’s. We passed the Peoria Lock at 7:35AM, well before 8.

The river below Peoria is a little busy with tows for about 2 miles. Then it becomes mostly county. With no winds blowing, the river was like glass with us coasting down the middle of it. Mile after mile of pretty countryside, calm waters, and the occasional thump from the Asian Carp.

Around 11AM we crossed the 2,000 mile mark! So we’ve gone the first third of our trip in 5 months time. Which on paper doesn’t bode well for being home in May, but we are making some long jumps in the next 10 travel days.

With the current we kept up our 10+ knot speed and made some great progress. I slowed to No Wake speed for the few fishermen we ran into. We had two up-bound tows and the Captains were great about telling me where to go and we had great passes. From 10 miles south of Peoria, we didn’t see another moving boat.

Until Mile 107, where we saw a kayak heading South. I slowed to 5 knots and glided by. “Where did you come from?” “Joliet.” (mile 287) “Where are you going?” “New Orleans”. Wow. He had gone through 80 miles of the Illinois already. Very cool. I waved and we kept the 5 knots going for another mile so we wouldn’t swamp him and then put the Quo Vadimus back up to speed.

More flat calm river, some high banks to keep the Illinois in its course, lots of birds, and of course the carp. Very peaceful, very nice. Reminded us both of the parts of the Hudson that we really liked.

Seven hours after leaving Peoria, we swung around and tied off to the Logston Workbarge. Off of their wall they have a work barge that has a crane and parts along with crane items like scoops and claws, etc. I paid our fee of $1 a foot. I got a map of town. I asked about haircuts and got directed to Tyson’s Barber shop about 4 blocks away. So I headed over.

Mr Tyson is 86, has kids and grand kids and is the leader of a French-Indian War reactionary group that goes out and does recreations with about 30 other people. Knows all about the history of the area. Very cool guy to talk to. He seemed to like me, I got a free haircut and beard trim. And I look nice!! Go figure!

Being fully coiffed, I headed across to the Lincoln Museum it covers two floors in the old court-house / city hall. There was a big trial over a resident of Beardstown that was killed and the defendants’ Mom had asked Abraham Lincon to represent her son. There was an eye witness during the trial that said they had seen the murder in the light of a full moon. Our hero, Abraham Lincoln pulled out the Almanac that proved it was the first quarter, not that it was a full moon. Case closed! Yay Lincoln!. They have a room dedicated to Lincon, but none of the artifacts were his. The curator said all the good stuff is either in Springfield or at the Smithsonian.

The museum is full of other artifacts from the town history. They have the full dish set that the founder of Beardstown brought with him from England. Towns people have also donated their collections ranging from 1000′s of antique buttons to Mr. Blacks gun collection of 100+ long rifles and 50+ pistols from the French-Indian war to the 1950′s. It was well worth the hour that I spent there.

Two blocks away is the 88 Pub (named for being Mile 88 on the Illinois River). It was pretty nice with 20′ high stamped tin ceilings and a long polished bar. The food special for the evening was a basket of fried chicken livers and gizzards. The drink special was shots of Moonshine for $1.50. This pretty much confirms we are not in Canada any more.

I had a beer and a moonshine. They had flavored ones (cherry, pineapple, etc), but I opted for “White Lightning” which is plain. Super strong and a nasty taste (I sipped it rather than tossing it down). The barmaid was nice, she told me about the town and things to see an do. This coming weekend is their Fall Fest.

She said I should come back in August, that’s when the “Red Neck Fishing Tournament” is. They have a contest to see who can catch the most Asian Carp. At the end of the two days they had filled a tractor trailer with 1000′s of carp. She said the fish are “nasty, slimey and bloody”, but that everybody had a good time, but “there was lots of drinking involved.” Which made her happy since she works at a bar.

She said I should check out the “River Look”, the walk along the river. I had seen it coming into town. When I got there, a guy was walking up the staircase from the river, it was the guy in the kayak that we had passed hours ago.

His name is Scott and he’s going from Joliet, IL to New Orleans. He left Joliet on Tuesday the 16th hopes to be in NOLA by Thanksgiving. Today was his longest run, with the current it was easy, he was doing 5 miles an hour. We talked about why he was doing this. He said he was involved in an accident that messed up his right leg and pelvis. They put some bolts and screws in to hold it all together. Since he couldn’t walk well, he turned to kayaking as physical therapy. He’s build up his strength and decided to take this trip. The first set of locks he locked through with Coast Guard work boats but was happy to paddle past the next few.

He was on his way to dinner at the Dairy Queen a few blocks away. I offered my map, but he said he was using his car GPS, it was working out fine. I saw him about an hour later paddling past where we had tied up, he was on his way south to find some place safe to camp.

When I got back to the boat Susan was hard at work making dinner. One of the tow hands came over and asked if we could move the boat. I said sure, could we give Susan 10 minutes to finish cooking and then we could move. He said no problem. I then had an ispiration, I asked if I could see the inside of his tug boat. “Sure”. I grabbed my camera and headed with him. The tug Pin Oak is a short work tug for moving tow (the barges around).

It has a short front deck with to massive bumpers to push against the tow, and a set if stairs that go up ’20 to alllow access to empty tows. Inside is a small crew room with a refrigerator and microwave. They spend 12 hour shifts on the boat. They work 7 days and have 4 off. Just past the crews room and down is the engine room with two Caterpillar diesel engines that drive the boat. On either side of the crews room are two John Deere generators that power all of the lights and winches. From the front you go up three fights of stairs into the Pilot House.

I asked the Captain if I could come in and take some pictures. The area is pretty small (about 10′ square) and very spartan. There is a long bench along the back wall that would double as a bunk. His chair is pretty nice, lots of padding. The instrument panel is just the general information. He does have a nice Chartplotter / radar / AIS tracking system.

The controls are very different. On both sides of the wheel there are two vertical poles. At three levels there are three arms that come out towards the center. The top bar runs the motor direction and speed. The next two run the forward and backing rudders. The Captain said there were two rudders behind the propeller for direction when the boat is moving forward. There are two in front of the propeller that give direction when the boat is backing down. By using them in combination is how they are able to crab sideways an move the tow’s around. Very cool!!

I headed back down to move our boat. They wanted to use the crane barge early in the morning and rather than wake us, they wanted us to move tonight. No problem, 15 mins later we were tied one barge down.

Dinner of sausages, bolognese sauce with pork and zucchini noodles. I really love the zucchini noodles and the bolognese sauce made with the uncured bacon was really good.

There is no power while tied to a barge, so we ran the generator so Susan could cook dinner and run the AC. This is the first time since Canada (on July 2) that we’ve had to run it. Pretty amazing that we’ve had cool days for most of our trip.

I want to say thanks to the people at Logston Tug Services. We felt very welcome, got good tips on places to see, and for allowing me to see one of their boats. And I want to say good luck to Scott! If you read this, let us know how you made out.

And I miss you Dad.


Peoria, IL

23 September 2014

Another colder night with temps in the upper 40′s, but a great clear dawn morning. Since we were only going 24 miles today, and no locks we had a chance to leave the dock later.

I got off the boat to go into downtown Henry about 20 after 7 to hit the hardware store. I’ve lost the nut from the port wipers and I’ve been trying to find a replacement. Hardware store was great and I got a sample of nuts to try and some other odds and ends. Hardware stores are like boat stores, if I can get outside for less than $50 I’m having a good day.

We did a video call with the grand baby! She has really grown in the last 5 months. She is now standing and cruising around the house. Pretty soon she will be walking and running. We got kisses over the video and that was really nice.

After trying the nuts (none worked), fixing the helm with a new screw (that worked) and spraying spiders (die, spiders, die) we pushed off the dock and watched the carp splash behind us.

Another pretty day on the Illinois River. Lots of quiet shore line. We passed two tows coming upbound. Only one was big – 3 wide – six long, and the Captain was good about talking about what he wanted me to do.

We pulled into the Illinois Valley Yacht Club (known as the IVY Club) at lunch time. We found our slip and there were two people to help us dock. We talked over the Army Corps of Engineers plan to put the wickets back in on Wednesday. I called the Peoria Lock, they will start at 8, so we need to be off the dock about 6:30 to get past them. No problem. (When the water level is low, they put big boards into the dam to slow the flow and raise the water level. With the high levels three weeks ago, they had pulled the boards to reduce the level. Now that it’s back down, the boards go back in again)

The Ivy Club is home to the Gold Loopers on Adagio. We had met them in Killarney at Sportsman’s the same day we met the Canadian Coast Guard. They had finished the loop in Lake Michigan, and then traveled down the east coast of the lake. I’ve been following their blog on our trip.

The Captain was nice enough to run me into Peoria. I’m down to the last 15 Canadian brews and I’ve been hording them. He took me to a local store, and I was able to stock up on 22 new beers from Illinois and Wisconsin that I’ve not had. I really should get another tasting list started. We also stopped at a drug store so I could pick up some odds and ends.

About 5PM the Andiamo and the Chesapeake came into port. They had followed our plan A from two days ago, they had a much shorter wait at the lock.

I got good news on the wiper repair, the company will send me replacement nuts. I’m having them sent to Grafton, so I’ll have them for the weekend. Next rain forecast is next Tuesday so that will work out well.

Around 5:45 PM I heard a tow horn sound “Wooo” Ok, passing on port side. “Wooo” Sorry, Starboard side. “Wooo” ?!? Backing up?!? Wait, that sounded close!! I went out to see what was going on. No problem, it was the Captain of the Chesapeake announcing that Docktails were being served with his conch shell horn. Alrighty then, Docktails!

We all chatted about where we sarted from, places we had been, how our trips had been, things we were looking forward to and so on. We’ve grown to love Docktails! Turns out that the Chesapeake home port is on the Sassafras River, the river south of us on the Chesapeake Bay. It is indeed a small world. We continue to meet the nicest people

Dinner was at the Peoria Hofbrau. Fine German beer, fine German sausages, fine Spaetzle, all in all a great dinner. It was a recommendation from Adagio. I always jump on the local recommendations, so far, other than the dive pub in Canada that was only open because they were the only pub in town, they have been great recommendations. So 146 nights of recommendations from total strangers continues to pay off.

Tomorrow will be an early start. I’d like to get through before I need to lock through, so we will try to be off the dock by 6:30 AM CST. But I’ll call at 6 to see what the locks plan really is. Then a easy 40 mile ride down the river. One lock on Wednesday and one on Friday then we are in Grafton for a break. Can you tell that I can’t wait to get there?



22 September 2014

“Foster learns how to be patient”

Today is my grand daughter’s first birthday!!! We can’t be there in person, but we will do a video call with her.

We got off to a good start. We had spent the night at Starved Rock Marina, only a mile north of the Starved Rock Lock. I called at 6:30 and asked about going down. They said 2 ½ to 3 hours and we were to call them at 9. So I called at 9 and they said 2 ½ hours, but they may be able to fit us in. We should come get on one of the “cells” at 10. (A cell is a 20′ diameter pile that the tow’s use to teather to while they wait to lock. So we went the mile and got to the lock at 10 AM

There was a tow there that would need to do a split. That’s where they shove the first two to three barges in the lock, send them down, pull them out, refill the lock and then put the rest of the tow in and send it down.

We sat on the cell until until 12:30 PM and got into the lock with the tow. (So far we’ve been able to share thanks to the Captains.) The tow was going to do a crew change in the lock, but their van was late, so we sat with them in the lock until 1:40. So we had traveled 3 miles of our planned 60.

We reset our plan, new plan was to go as far as Henry, another 30 miles down river. Not a big deal, we have lots of good weather coming up. We will split the 60 mile trip into two much easier 30 mile ones.

This section of the river from mile 231 to mile 196 was very pretty. There were not a lot of barge loading and unloading areas, lots and lots of open river. Two places were loading some kind of grain, another was loading gravel. There is a coal fired power plant, they had a claw picking coal and dumping it into a conveyer belt to feed the plant.

The water was very flat, it was a very nice ride. There were a few thumps from the Asian Carp as we went. We met two up bound tugs, and just before Henry passed the down-bound tug that had gone through the lock before our tow.

Henry marina has two parts, the 100 year old abandoned lock, and a marina with slips. We opted to try to get into one of the slips. With no wind it was easy, but we did find that the water was only 5 feet deep in spots, so we churned a lot of mud up. In the process we also spooked the carp which came flying out around us. We tied to a 40′ dock, there were only 6 other boats so we didn’t think it would make any difference. 5PM, we were docked.

I went to plug in the power and found that there were bee’s nests under the cover. Susan sprayed them and then we got us powered up.

Our dinner plans were for steaks that Susan picked up in Chicago. I paid for the slip at The Landings, if you get a chance you should go. The full rack of ribs is the entire rack, so it overflows the plate on both ends. They looked very good. I got a few beers to go and headed back to the boat.

One of our new dock neighbors came over to talk. He said that most Loopers stay out on the old lock with the 11 feet of water. He said that there were plans next year to do some repairs on it since the top was coming apart in bigger section. He said it was a popular fuel stop with the Loopers.

Dinner was perfectly cooked up two one pound boneless rib-eye steaks, grilled bok choi with soy glaze and rice. So it turns out the best and cheapest way to get good Chicago steaks is to cook them at home. Most of the places we looked at in Chicago, steaks started at $45 and went up. These had lots of marbled fat in them, they were super tender on the plate.

After dinner we went up to the bar for a beer. They had a “Disco Bowling” video game. You slide the plastic puck along the wood surface about 4′. The screen then shows a computer animation of the “ball” rolling the rest of the way down the lane. With her superior video game skills Susan crushed me in the three games we played.

Tuesday will be an easy 30 mile day, so I’ll hit the hardware store and we will Facetime with the birthday girl in the morning.



21 September 2014

Happy Equinox Day! Today is the last offical day of Summer and the start of Fall. Lucky for us we still have days with 12 hours of Sun. We are still going west, another 200 miles before we turn back east and South. Hopefully we will keep the Sun for our race to Florida.

Today was a dash to beat the wind. The forecast from yesterday was that it would be very windy this morning (gusts to 25) and tapering off this afternoon. Plan A was to wait for the taper. On getting up this morning I saw the front was delayed, gusts would get here about noon. I made a quick call to the lock to find that there were two tows coming South, it would be a 3-4 hour wait unless I could be at the lock in 45-50 minutes.

We did the fastest pack up and undock in our history. 10 minutes after the call I was in the channel and we were steaming towards the lock. 48 minutes later we heard the horn blast saying the lock was open and we entered in! Just in time.

The Captain of the Reunion had told us about the Loopers Loop. You feed a line through some 1.5” plastic tube and make a 2′ circle. The tube holds the loop open to make it easy to get on and off the floating pins. Today was the second test and it worked really well. Susan tossed the loop to the lock hand and he dropped it over the pin. This will make it easy for us to put them on when we are in the bottom of the locks heading up.

We shared the 25′ drop with two small fishing boats. 30 mins later we were at the bottom of the lock and heading down to the Starved Rock Marina in Ottawa. The ride was very pretty, we saw some good scenery. Susan got some great pictures of pelicans that were floating along the shore. We only saw two “upbound” tows, and they were pretty small at 6 and 2 barges each.

We passed the town of Ottawa, it looks very picturesque, but I wanted to get as far down river as I could. The marina I had chosen is close to the next lock, so we will have a short ride to get to it. I’m going to hope that we have good lock Karma and we can get through before traffic gets heavy.

We got to the marina as they opened at 10 AM and headed back to our slip. The owner and another boat owner helped us dock. Yay!

At the end of the dock is one of those mongo houseboats you see pictures of on the lakes in Kentucky and Tennessee. The crew of the Joshua were having breakfast on the aft cockpit (more like a huge deck) with Mimosa’s and Bloody Mary’s. They invited us down, so we did our shutdown sequence and went over. The boat is 105′ by 20′ and is just like a house inside. Our hosts were very gracious and told us about the area. There was a huge wine fest going on, but we were too beat to ride our bikes over.

For lunch we had the leftover Chicago Pizza. While pizza in Chicago was very good, I think I’m sticking with the thin crispy kind (sorry NYC, you didn’t win either).

As predicted the winds started really gusting at noon and blew pretty hard for the afternoon. And it was nice to sit and relax some.

Dinner was at the “Captain’s Cove” the on property restaurant. I had some pretty good ribs, Susan had a huge piece of potato chip crunchy fish. It’s a nice place and we had a great view of the tow going by with 15 barges. We had a discussion on if the center tower lifted. It sounds like a good idea, down for the low bridges up 45 feet to see the front of the tow.

Big day on Monday, hope to do 60+ miles. Starting to feel like my sister trying to plan stages out in her Florida bike adventure.



20 September 2014

“Attitude is the difference between an ordeal and an adventure” – Reunion – Looper Class of 2014.

Yesterday was a hard day. While we had boat karma going on (thank you to the unnamed tow that let us tie to your barges, and to the to tow that let us come through the lock with them), it was long and pretty stressful. We talked across dinner (I had a PB&J since I wasn’t interested in food) about what we were doing. Had the “Boat Transport Fairy” shown up, we would have shipped the Quo Vadimis to Florida and done a trip reset.

Saturday dawned a beautiful day. We were able to check the boat out and where we thought we had crunched, there were no marks, so yay! us. The marina we were in is very nice, it has lots of those little house – houseboats. They stay in the water year round, they bubble them to keep them from freezing in. Most of them have pontoon boats to go out on the river.

We got a load of fuel (they were $4.24 a gallon, which looks like the cheapest until we get to the Tenn-Tom, saving $90 in fuel costs is great!). We had seen a tow go down about 7AM, when we called they were almost done and we were good to head down. We pushed off at (9:50 CT, 10:50ET) (We are keeping Eastern Time on the Quo Vadimus since the GPS for some reason does not want to switch over. )

The Dresden lock was ready for us, they do a lot of “Pleasure Craft” boats, so they were happy to lock us through. It went pretty smoothly and Susan was able to fit out a Loopers Loop, the lock line goes through a plastic tube to make a big 18” circle so it fit over the floating pins.

The prior post didn’t say it, but like yesterday there were some really pretty parts of the river. The bird life (mud duck, regular duck, herons, etc) are in full abundance. Lots of nice things to see, not all barges hanging by the waterfront.

The section of the river “down bound” of Dresden was full of “Pleasure Craft”. There was over a dozen boats running up and down. We saw a group of 8 wave runners working the wakes. Along the way is a sand bar and it had 10 boats pulled up on the beach. So fun boating on this section of the Illinois is alive and well.

We pulled into Spring Brook Marina about 3.5 hours after we left the dock. About 6 people showed up to help us dock. We did our normal bow in, but ¼ of the boat was hanging out. So we backed out, spun around and backed in. (People ask, why bow in? Since most marinas are piers out, if you back in we look from out salon, across the dock to the other boat. Bow in we normally have a great view of the river) We were tied up and power on, good to go!

Matt from the next boat over asked if we needed to go to town. YES! So he zipped me to the ACE Hardware and the marina across town where I picked up what I needed. Meanwhile, it had started to pour, so the decision to stay here was validated as a good one. (And as I type this a second wave of the storm is coming in)

During our trip I asked Matt about the boats in the area. He talked that this was one of the larger “pools” between locks. Seneca is a small town, but there is a nice grocery, hardware store and the Spring Brook Marina is known for their service department. Locks on either side are “Pleasure Craft” friendly, so it’s easy to get up or down to the next pool. (Pool is a river term for the river between two locks) So we continue our “we meet the nicest people”

Susan also fixed the “ship oil to the marina and not get it problem”, we got them a new label and will get it in Grafton in about 10 days.

Zack from the marina office came down to check us in (the second time this has happened, yay! Spring Brook Customer Service! (Zack also came up with what I was looking for, so Spring Brooks is a fully stocked center. I just need to learn how to wait better)) With a rest afternoon underway and Sunday looking like an OK day to do our next lock, we are feeling much better. We will both nap and get caught up on some relax time.

Napping went well. For dinner Susan made salmon stuffed with seafood, rice and asparagus. It was good and made a great end to a much better day.

“Attitude is the difference between an ordeal and an adventure” – We are back on an adventure!



19 September 2014

Important to have boat karma on the Illinois River.

We are ready to tackle the hardest part of the great loop, the 1900 miles from Chicago. We thought that we would leave early and see how it was going to go our first day.

We pulled out of Hammonds Marina in Hammond IN, smiles in our faces, song of the ocean and rivers in our hearts.

The first four miles from Hammonds Marian were a little rollypolly with the south wind supplying the waves. But we were in to our first bridge (already open) and one that had just closed and broke. Since we are 19’6” we slid under and we had “boat karma” working with us.

There was a freighter with two tugs so we sailed along behind them going through the bridges with them. Once we cleared the last, we got the wave around and we headed downbound. We went past a ton of tows that were being assembled and set up, but mostly the water was empty of large tows moving around.

We checked in with the first lock, the “Thomas O’Brien”. We were able to lock through without any other traffic. It was weird, the first time they said, just hang out in the middle.

We got to the “electro shock fish barrier” about 12:10 which was closed for maintenance with “intermittent openings”. We pulled over and tied to a wall with the assistance of a very nice fireman to wait out the expected 4 hours til opening. But wait, our karma came though and at 12:15 they pulled a diver out for lunch and we had a chance to motor through. We were past by 12:30. More karma.

We dodged a few tugboats (tows) setting up their tows and we ducked around them pretty well. At the next lock, the Lockport lock, we waited 10 minutes for it to finish it’s lift cycle and we were in and down. The lock master was very nice to us and told us about things to see.

We were able to follow a tow through Joliet, IL (think Blues Brothers) and were soon at the free town dock. Elapsed time 7 hours!! Yay us.

Except that we tied off on the rough wall and the combination of the wind, waves / wakes from the tows and the rough wall made it an non starter with the boat constantly trying to bang into the wall at an angle. So we caught up with our bridge buddies and headed for the Brandon Road lock.

There were two long tows and us to go through. The first tow shoved their first two rows of barges (6 of them) into the lock and sent them down. Refilled the lock with the tow and the next 6 barges. There was another boat that needed to do the same thing so we were looking at a 4 hour wait.

First Karma came when a tow said we could tie off on their barges for awhile. Not allowed but they could see us doing loops out there. So we waited on “the wall” for 2 hours.

Second Karma came when the first tow made room for us on their way down.. So our wait went from 4 hours to 2.5 hours. Yay.

We got put in the back corner, away from the tow and very close to the sill in the lock. We made it down in one chunk. We waited until the tow collected the first six barges and then moved out of the lock and into the river. We followed and were on our way. Four locks and a ton of bridges, Karma is on our side.

We had about 1 hour to go 11 miles to the marina. So I cranked up the Quo Vadimus and we flew. But I had forgotten the cardinal rule “Don’t Wake the Tow’s” I waked one and he was quick to (rightly) snap back at me. I apologized and for the rest of the trip I slowed for the tows. Sorry, and there went my Karma.

We found “Harbor Side Marina” in the dark and got tied up to the fuel dock for the evening.

Tired and out of boat Karma we racked up 56.2 nm, slightly under the Lake Ontario Crossing, and a crushing 12.5 hour day. Burned 26.2 gallons of fuel for a record 2.14 MPG. And a lowly 4.4 average miles per day. Happy about the gas burn, sad about the 12 hours.

Not sure I’m up for another 1900 miles of this….


Hammond, IN

18 September 2014

On Thursday we went to a really nice grocery store about 8 blocks from the marina. It’s in a complex of hi-rise condos and apartments. It covers two floors and all over is about ½ of the size of our local SuperFresh. Lots of good vegies and the prices were about the same as home. Which was suprising since it’s in the middle of Chicago.

It was 11 o’clock when we got back. So we ordered pizza from Lou Malnati’s. I walked up, since it would take 40 mins to cook. When I got there, they had messed up the order, but swapped our small for a medium, so it was all good. I took a taxi back and the driver kept talking about how good it smelled, I think he wanted me to give him a slice.

After eating a slice (it’s very filling pizza) we move forward a dock to the pump-out dock, got a quick pump-out and then headed down the 15 miles to Hammond, IN. Because we are too tall to make it through the city, we need to head up the Calamut Sag Channel. It’s a few miles longer but we can make it under the bridges.

It was a pretty uneventful trip, the water was calm and we found the marina pretty easily. The Hammond marina is very nice, and as a bonus had hi-speed internet (unlike Chicago) and was only a $1 a foot, unlike $3+.

I took advantage of the W-fi to be able to update all my charts on the iPad and some of the applications I didn’t go to iOS 8, I’ll stick on 7 until I get home. Susan loaded Milwaukee and Southern Lake Michigan. Make sure to check out the Milwaukee pictures!

I changed the fuel filters. I have something gunky in the tanks, so I’ve been changing the filters about every 300 miles. It takes about 20 mins to do both sides, I’ve gotten better with practice.

For dinner we went to the “Horseshoe” casino for the buffet. The casino is actually on a floating barge and there is about a 50′ long walkway to get to it. I guess it meets the “Riverboat Gambling” laws, but the place is still 4 stories tall and looks to be a city block square. It would be interesting to see if it does move in some of the famous Lake Michigan storms.

We had taken advantage of the laundry facilities so we both have clean clothing for the next few weeks. It’s an early bed night, we want to be off the dock at first light.


Chicago,IL day 3

17 September 2014

Today is our last full day in Chicago. Places we are going today are closer, so we will bike along the waterfront.

Our first stop is the Field Museum. It’s more like your classical museum, but they are doing lots to make it kid friendly. It is home to “Sue” is the largest, best-preserved, and most complete Tyrannosaurus Rex ever found. Sue measures 42 feet long from snout to tail. She has the end of the hall right a the entrance. Very cool!! We watched a movie about Sue and how they dig fossils out of the ground and preserve them. Later in the day we saw museum staff doing the preservation process.

We went downstairs to an exhibit called “Underground Adventure”. You walk down a hallway that puts you through a “shrinking ray” (leftover disco lights) and you become half an inch tall. You then go through a tunnel system portraying what is going on underground in the soil. It was cute, well until we got to the 3′ spider. It was very icky and menacing.

From there we did a tour of their Egyptian artifacts. They have a mocked up tomb that you can go inside and see what it was like. In the same area they have a number of other mummies and things that you would normally find in a tomb. They also have a good display on what Egypt in the time of the Pharaohs would have been like.

On the upper level were their gem collection, broken down by the types of stones. For example, Jade is popular in China, not only did they have jewelry, but also plates and cups. In the area with fossils is “Sue’s” real skull, the one on the main floor is a replica. The real skull weighs around 400 pounds, it is too heavy to hang.

Our last exhibit was called “The Machine Inside”. It’s a great display of how we (people, animals, plants) work inside. Like how a giraffe heart is different from ours to be able to pump blood up the long neck. Or how cooling / heating systems work for different animals depending on the climates. I thought it was a fascinating spin on how to look at things around us.

From the Field Museum we went to the Adler Planetarium. It is your classic planetarium, with lots of great exhibits on telescopes, how early cultures viewed and tracked the stars, etc. They have a good section of space flight artifacts. The big movie there was “Discover the Solar System”. It was in their dome, you get on a rocket ship in 2097 and visit the Sun, Venus, Mars, the asteroids, etc. Back when it was made in 2007 it was most likely cutting edge, but with the new Cosmos TV show and the stunning pictures we’ve gotten, it looked a little dated.

We also got to see the original sky show. It is literally a 15′ metal sphere that has holes of the right size and location to represent the stars. You sit inside of it and the sphere spins around you. A very simple solution.

We biked home to rest for an hour. We are finding that all of this running around is pretty hard work we are both sore from all the walking.

The Navy Pier is a few blocks north of the Marina and has pretty good security so we felt safe taking our bikes there. We walked the length of the pier, there are about a dozen places to eat in the center section and a ton of places offering tours, dinner cruises, etc. along the dock walls.

The Smith Museum of Stained Glass Windows is a permanent exhibition which opened in February 2000 on the Navy Pier. There are over a hundred different windows on display, lots and lots of Tiffany windows. They are set up with lights that go on and off behind them, so you can see the differences.

We stopped for a drink at the “Billy Goat Tavern”, for our older readers it’s the source of the old Saturday Night Live skits about “Cheeseburger, Cheeseburger, no Coke Pepsi, No Fries Chips” There is one downtown that I’ve been to, this is a spin off to attract the tourists that don’t want to go to Lower Wacker Ave. It’s serving as our Chicago dive bar.

Dinner was at “Bubba Gump’s”. Yes it’s a chain, but it was there and it had seafood. We had a good time, the food was good and the beer was cold.

From dinner we walked into the shopping arcade and up into the glass atrium. It’s full of palm trees and has lots of fountains. A few are the smooth water fountains that arc overhead. A few more are the ones that send a chunk of water up and over.

Next to the atrium is a huge sky wheel. From the top you get a great view of the city and along the waterfront in both directions. It moved very slowly and there is a good narration on what you are looking at and some of the history of Chicago. We decided that the night time view was a much better choice.

After our ride we collected our bikes and when home. This makes the third night in a row that we are coming in after Looper Midnight (9PM)

Tomorrow starts our trip to Hammond Indiana and our 9 day trek down the Illinois river.


Chicago,IL Day 2

16 September 2014

Tuesday got us off to a slow start getting off the boat to go on our next set of adventures. We walked a few blocks to Eggy’s. It was a great breakfast and for being in the middle of Chicago it was very reasonably priced.

We then walked 4 blocks to the “El” and took a train 50 blocks south. Our destination was the “Museum of Science and Industry”. We got a little lost walking, and ended up walking through the campus of the “University of Chicago”. It’s a very pretty campus and I loved the medieval styled buildings.

We got to the Museum of Science and Industry and found that it is huge. You could easily spend two or three days here looking at everything. So we focused on things we really wanted to see and their special exhibits.

First was the Disney “D23” collection. They have the history of Disney from his very early days of cartooning (age 16), through his first cartoons, the Mickey years and then all of the amazing pictures and TV shows. They have a mock up of the “multi-plane camera” that they designed to allow them to zoom into the cartoon and make it look realistic. We also saw how they did some of the special effects for movies like Mary Poppins (spoiler alert, they used green screens and she moved around on wires that they edited out)

There is a giant model train outside the Disney area. It shows the area in and around Chicago, but also as an area that is Seattle Washington to show the long freight trains in action. It was very fun to watch, there were over a dozen trains moving a one time.

From there it was off to the technology section with a giant Tesla coil that put out 300,000 volts. It was mounted up inside the ceiling, so only the main electrode an the 40′ grounding ring was outside. It threw off amazing bolts of “lightning” and made a huge crackeling sound.

We looked at some exhibits and then it was time to head over to the Imax movie about the Monarch Butterfly Migration. It was the story of the lepidopterist that spent most of his life around the Monarch and their migration patterns. Since it was Imax, the video was about following them both on the ground and in the air. It was really well done.

(If you don’t know the story, all the Monarchs in North America spend the winter in a 10 square mile area in Mexico. In the spring they hop north laying eggs in Milkweed plants. There are 3 generations of Monarchs across the summer. The third generation is special, it has the ability to fly back from as far as Canada back to the spot in Mexico. And of course we are killing them off in the US by reducing the amount of milkweed plants. At least Mexico has it’s act together, they have protected the winter area from any cutting, building, etc.

From the Musuem it was off to the Chicago river for our “River Architecture Tour”. The Quo is too tall to make it under one of the bridges in Chicago, so we opted to get a tour. Susan booked us on a longer 90 minute tour. Our guide was great, he talked about almost every building we went past. He described the architecture, who designed it, when it was built, etc. Just a great job.

We were lucky to score seats along the bow on the upper level so we were able to get millions of pictures. There are some amazing buildings and there were some great stories. Some of the buildings don’t have windows so the employees can’t look out and be distracted by all the activity on the water. The Mayor of Chicago asked Donald Trump to take the giant TRUMP off the building and “The Donald” told him no. A set of 50 condos on the waterfront sold in 4 weekends in a set of lotteries. If you are in Chicago, you should really do the boat tour!

From the tour dock we got a taxi to the pharmacy. We needed a reload on Belle’s meds and the vets in town don’t stock it. Susan via the magic of Google was able to find a compounding pharmecy that had Belle’s meds in stock.

Since we are urban tourists, we grabbed the next bus going to the city. Transfering to the train 10 blocks later we were soon at our food destination, “The Purple Pig”. We had about a 55 minute wait, but they served beer and wine on the deck so waiting worked out. “The Purple Pig” is a small plates place with most Mediterranean style dishes.

We had fried olives, calamari salad, gryos, deep fried deviled egg, meat balls, and chicken thighs bbq on a skewer. It was all very good. It came a few dishes at a time which was very fun.

By the time we finished and it was dark out. While only an 8 block back to the boat, we opted to get a taxi home to the boat.


Chicago,IL Day 1

15 September 2014

We got out of the marina at Waukegan at a few mins to 7AM. There was rain in the forecast for after 10AM so I wanted to try to make it to Chicago before it really rained.

The water was pretty flat for Lake Michigan standards so we had a pretty easy ride. As we pulled into the harbor there was a fire boat spraying water everywhere. I’m not sure what they were doing, but I’m going to go with “Welcome Quo Vadimus to Chicago!”

Susan had made roasted cauliflower soup from the veggies the night before, we had it for lunch today. It had a great taste and warmed us both up.

We trekked across town to the DuSable bridge. This is the second bridge we would have come to on our trip up the Chicago river. But it’s fixed into position and has a 17′ clearance. We need 17’2 inches to make it under and the water levels are up some due to the rain. We will use the Calumet waterway to the south.

You can tour the Northwest tower. We walked to the ground level with the motor (50HP) and the gears that lift the bridge. My roboteers would have been impressed at the 8 levels of gearing that are used to allow such a small motor open the bridge. Well there is a huge counterweight so it really only needs to lift just over 2000 pounds.

The tower has a history of the river from the bottom up. Back in the 1800′s and early 1900′s the river was a mess. It was full of trash, fecal material, rotting animals, etc. At one point it caught fire and badly burned two bridges. They decided to fix the problem by digging a canal from Chicago to the Mississippi river. This would allow water to flow from Lake Michigan (where they got their drinking water) downstream and flush all the “effluent” down the Mississippi. They started work on the canal and pretty soon the State of Missouri figured out what was about to happen.

A lawsuit happened, but Chicago kept digging. Their theory was that once the canal was open and the water flowing there was no way that the government would be able to close it. Turns out they were right.

As we climbed higher we learned that Chicago tried to become better stewards of the river and have implemented a sophisticated storm water runoff system to keep the sewer system from over flowing. At this point in time the river is as clear as it was before the settlers came.

From the tower we walked down Michigan avenue to the Art Museum. We got there about 3:30 and they close at 5PM. We looked at the guide and the place is huge, there was no way that we could see it all (or even most of it) in 90 minutes. We decided to postpone for another day when we would have more time.

We walked back to Millennium Park that has some pretty amazing outdoor sculptures. My favorite is “Cloud Gate” the giant silver bean shaped mirror. WOW. I had seen pictures of it but it’s much more impressive in person. We got lots of pictures of both of us with it. When you look at it, it appears to be seamless. Later on in the park are two interior views and I could see that it’s made up of panels. I’ll need to try to remember to Google it later on.

There is a set of four heads that are very thin, but have been sculpted to show the face and the back of the head. When viewed at the right angle they look like full heads. A pretty good example on how perspective works in art.

Along the front of the park are two four story tall blocks that face each other across a reflecting pool. The blocks show faces that look, smile and then purse their lips and spit. When they do that a giant firehose sized stream comes shooting out. It’s fun to watch and I’d guess that in the summer time it’s a great place for little kids to get soaked and play.

We had stuffed pizza at Giordano’s. Susan remembered it from when she worked here years and years ago. It was very good, the crust is more of a pastry like crust with layers, vs pizza at home that is more bread like. It was very filling, we got the small pizza and still brought home two slices.

We got back to the boat early. Because neither of us slept well and the early start we were both in bed by 8PM.



14 September 2014

We were off the McKinley dock at 7:30 AM CDT. Which is 8:30 EDT, not really early for us. Harbor was calm and I did the first hour. I turned it over to Susan so I could put stuff away that had been dug out in the last few days. My next drive shift, Susan started pulling to gether some of the stop motion videos. When my shift ended, I went back to writing. I got most of the Milwaukee story done and was able to post the Racine story. From here on, I’m doing a post a day, otherwise they take too long to write and get stacked up. I’m going to experiment with a “state tagging system” that will work for the US. I need to figure out how to tag Canada’s vast spaces.

Using the 5 hour cruise time helped, we both got lots done on the way here. The arrival in to Waukegan was pretty uneventful. Lots of sailboats out having fun, but we stayed to shore and were able to skirt most of the issues.

Waukegan is pretty cool, but the marina is far away from town (2 MI walk). Things that are local and close are not open on Sundays in September or are serving limited menus. For example we wanted to go to “The Terrace at Silvi Point” since it was within walking distance. But Sunday is brunch (eggs and stuff) not their normal taco selection or their amazing pizza offerings.

So Susan whipped up Sausages and grilled Brussels Sprouts and Cauliflower with baked garlic cloves. WOW. The sausage was great and the veggies had the garlic flavor all over them. One of the best that she’s done in awhile.

We watched GRAVITY on Netflix. A great movie, good acting and lots of cool space references. It was very nice to have a down day, not doing lots of rush here and rush there.

Chicago will be different. So much to see so much to do. Susan has booked a river tour down the middle of Chicago so we can see all the buildings. Lets hope that we get the four days in the forecast of sunny weather.

Did a quick visit with the crew from Sandpiper. They left Brewerton NY (we were there in May 2014) and are on their way south. We will see them again, since they are on the same river cycle we are.


Racine, WI

13 September

We had planned to go today via boat to Racine WI. The weather forecast was for 1-3 foot waves and strong winds from the South. It would make it a rough ride. Weather for Sunday the 14th was for no waves. Our decision was to bypass Racine and go right to Waukegan, IL on Sunday. A longer boat ride on calm water beats a short ride on rough water.

We had the rental car, so could still go to Racine, we’ll just go by car! Our first stop was for a huge breakfast at the Simple Cafe. Susan had eggs Benedict with cajun hollandaise over spinach and artichokes, I went with the Corned Beef Hash. It was very pretty since they had put fine diced red, yellow and green peppers in it. It came with homemade whole wheat bread, a nice start to the day.

We then tried to drive to Racine, but spent 30 minutes trying to drive out of Milwaukee. There was a huge Run/Walk and they had most of the downtown and waterfront areas blocked off. They even had an entrance ramp to the Interstate blocked so we were down to plan C before we made it.  Fortunately Susan had replaced our defunct GPS the day before.

We are surprised how much we walk between the boat and sightseeing. I had packed new shoes that I recently switched over to and Susan decided that hers were shot and needed to get replaced. On the way to Racine we stopped at DSW so Susan could get new walking shoes.

We then went to one of the Johnson family homes (of SC Johnson company). Wingspread is a Frank Lloyd Wright designed home that was built in 1939. I have always been a fan of his work, I love the built in furniture that he builds in each house. Fallingwater is the famous house in Pennsylvania, about a 3.5 hour drive from Exton.

Wingspread is now used as a conference center, so parts of it have been renovated. Most of the bathrooms have been removed and we were not able to see the kitchen or staff quarters, but the rest of the house with it’s hundreds of windows and multiple fireplaces was very cool.

Wingspread has a spiral pinwheel layout with the central part being a family living area. One of the features you can see in the main room is the“The Crow’s Nest”. It was built at the request of the sons. From the second story along the chimney is a tight, spiral staircase that climbs into a glass enclosed room at the central peak of the building. It has a great view of the entire property.

We both liked the building, but were a little unhappy that we couldn’t see how the house worked with people (bathrooms, kitchen, etc.) For example the dining table rolled into the kitchen so it could be set with dinner and then pushed out to the dinning area so that the servants didn’t need to come out.  We could see the dining area, but not the kitchen area that it could be pulled in to.

From Wingspread we headed into downtown to meet up with the crew of Reunion, Carol and Dennis. They had offered to take us around Racine. We ended up on a shortened schedule since the car needed to be back before 5PM. We got to see the downtown area, the brand new marina, and the other Frank Lloyd Wright buildings in town. We also stopped at a hardware store to pick up new space heaters for the boat. (The low last night was 45).

Then it was Kringle time!!! Kringle is a Danish Pastry that is multiple layers of dough interspersed with butter and is baked with an almond or a fruit filling. The most famous Kringle bakery is O & H Bakery in Racine. We picked up two of them. (Later we had some and it is much better than the store factory ones. We bid farewell to Carol and Dennis at their marina and headed back to Milwaukee.

After swinging by the boat to drop off all of our purchases, we got the car back to the rental place at 4:59 PM! Yay! From the rental place we walked down the “Riverfront” Milwaukee. It’s a boardwalk that runs the length of the river. There are a ton of places to eat and there were lots of boats tied up along both sides. There are drawbridges, so we could have gotten the Quo Vadimus up there, but most of the boats we saw were much smaller 20-30 foot boats that could scoot under the bridges.

Our dinner was at a waterfront restaurant called Water Buffalo. It’s a reconditioned factory with a great view of the water from their decks. We ate inside since it was still a little chilly out and appreciated their beautiful decor. We did our appetizer for dinner orders: we had crab cakes, ceviche tuna with avocado, and mussels in a cream sauce with sides of roasted brussel sprouts and roasted cauliflower. It was delicious – a nice way to end our day “in” Racine.

Well actually we left dinner and ended up two doors down at the Milwaukee Brewing Company. I had one of their beer flights of 7 beers before heading home. My two favorites were the “Booyah” and “Sheepshead” beers.

So our five days in Milwaukee and “Racine” come to a close. Our time on Lake Michigan is winding down, we will be in Waukegan on Sunday and Chicago on Monday. There are a stack (about 30) of Loopers about a week ahead of us. We are planning to spend 4 days in Chicago and 2 in St Louis to let them get spread out and ahead of us. The heavy rains that came on our first day in Milwaukee have caused flooding on the Missouri and Mississippi rivers. Some of the Loopers have been in Grafton, IL for 12 days, they will be there another 5 days.


Milwaukee, WI

9,10,11,12 September 2014

Sorry about the too long post about Milwaukee. We got here before some bad weather set in. We had planned only to do three days, but the lake was a mess and we decided to wait for calmer weather. After this post, I’m going to switch over to daily posts to make it a little easier for me to manage.

The trip from Port Washington was pretty uneventful, but it was bouncy. I could see the bad weather in the forecast and wanted to get to Milwaukee. We left very early in the morning to get there before the winds got too bad. Exactly 3 hours after we left we pulled into McKinley Marina. We got the holding tank pumped out while I checked us in.

We had packages waiting (new binoculars!) and some other stuff. We got it stowed away, pulled the bikes off and headed into town. The marina is at the foot of Brady Ave, an area of town with lots of good places to eat.

We chose “The Ethiopian Cottage” for lunch. We both like Ethiopian food and it’s fun to pick it up and eat it with the Injera Bread. The spongy texture is fun to eat and all the little holes are great for holding the spicy sauces. We were happy with the smaller portions, but it was a pretty big lunch. We didn’t have a good way to carry the leftovers on our bikes.

On the other end of Brady and across the river is the Lakefront Brewery. We signed up for the tour ($7 for the tour, four 6oz beers and free pint glass!). The tour was good, it’s one of the few tours that I’ve been on that lets you onto the brewing floor. Most of the time it’s all behind glass walls.

A cool thing they do is a series of beers called “My Way”. Every quarter they let an employee create a beer that they bottle and sell. The current beer is called “Andy” a very nice light ale. I think it’s cool that they let the staff do that. At the end of our tour I got the pint glass and Susan got a very cool shirt of their “Fixed Gear” beer. I also picked up a bottle of the rootbeer that they make.

We were outside on the street when we overheard a guy saying “No baby, I’m not really sure where I am” Since we were armed with a map, we knew where we were and Susan said “We have a map.”
We then got sucked into a huge story by “Charles” about how he and his girlfriend were supposed to pick up his kids, but had a problem so his friend was going to pick them up, but the friend backed into a cop car and got arrested on back child support and …. On and on for about 5 minutes. It ended up with “… so I could use some money, I just asked a woman in a car for some and she tossed me a quarter and drove away laughing.” We were both impressed with the story and I said “I’d love to help you out, but we just used our last money on a brewery tour, sorry.” Charles said, “Nothing??” and I said “Well I can give you this rootbeer, at least you’ll have something to drink.” Since it was better than nothing, he grabbed the bottle and headed off.

We biked about 2 miles to an Irish Pub. They had the best pot-roast sliders! It was a nice looking place with all sorts of knickknacks on the walls. It looked like it would be a cosy place in the long Milwaukee winters.

10 September – Wednesday

The next morning we did some cleaning around the boat and sorted out some of the junk.
We walked into town and found a place that Cuban sandwiches. They were good, but could have used more pickle in them.

A short walk later we were at the Milwaukee Discovery Center. This is a great science center, it has things that adults and children would enjoy. We did the section on machines first, they had cutaway models of car engines, outboards, steam engines, etc. They move and you can see all the internal parts interact.

Next up was a movie about the construction of the wooden schooner that the center had built. They created plans from early boats in the Milwaukee area. They use it now as a teaching platform and evening cruises. Would have liked to go on a trip, but the winds were 20+knots the days we were there.

We then went to the 3D map of the Great Lakes, It’s about 100′ square and you can walk around it (it’s waist high) It’s pretty detailed, it was neat to be able to see all the places we had been from Rochester to Milwaukee. It was also a boost, since it showed how far we had really come.

Downstairs was a huge suprise, there is a really nice aquarium. They have fish from Lake Michigan by area. On part of the aquarium is clear floor tiles, you can see the fish below you. You spiral down a ramp and then go under a section of the tank. Very cool, it’s like you are swimming with the fish.

On the top floor is a very good display of how they manage waste and storm water. A number of years ago they built a super-tunnel that holds millions of gallons of storm water. All of the storm water from the area dumps into this tank. They can then process it and put it out into Lake Michigan. It’s important they do this, since they also get their drinking water from Lake Michigan!! They also show how much water we use compared to other countries and how much freshwater we really waste.

Across the hall is a smaller schooner, also built from plans. It held a crew of 10 in very tight quarters. Neither Susan or I thought we would last long aboard, even though it was twice the size of the Quo Vadimus.

It the other wing of the building were some more hands on exhibits and a design lab that is open on the weekends for people to play with 3D printers, doing Computer Aided Design. Also in the wing is “Les Paul’s House of Sound”. Les Paul was a great musician that also made huge advances in the way music was recorded. They also have a huge collection of his guitars that he designed and played. If you are a guitar fan, put this place on your bucket list.

One of the hands on exhibits is a race car simulator. You sit in a motion chair that tilts you as you go around the track. I got my car up to 100!! Susan of course did a lot better than I did. I wished that Mike could be here, he would have aced the driving part.

On the way out we both tried the “Bed of Nails”. We both had shorts on that day and ended up with little red marks on the back of our legs, but it was still fun.

We took a taxi across town to the Harley Davidson Museum. It is the largest complete collection of Harley Bikes in the world. It was very neat to walk through the entire history of the bikes. They also have some bikes that were customized by their owners. One is a bike made of two end to end bikes. Another is one that was driven by the owner 230,000 miles.

Since the local plant makes the power trains for most of the bikes, they had all the engines they have built across the years on display. You can highlight each engine on a display pad and get the specs, an inside view, and of course it plays a sound of the engine firing up.

Last was a display about their new electric bike “Project Livewire”. They have 3D printed mockups of the bike on display. There is also a big section on how they use Computer Aided Design to help build the bike. They also note that one of the big drawbacks to the bike is it won’t have the distintive “potato-potato” sound that is the hallmark of Harley bikes.

We then walked five blocks to the nearby Casino and the RuYi Chinese Restaurant for dinner. Finally great Chinese food!! We were very pleased with our choices, the hot and sour soup was some of the best that I’ve had. The suprising thing was how inexpensive it was for such a fancy looking place.

On our way out we passed the line for the buffet. There must have been over 250 people in line. We checked to see why and it was King Crab night for $24 a person. It was after 7, so I can’t imagine how much crab they had already served and how much more they would serve that evening.

We took a taxi back to the Quo Vadimus and collapsed, it had been a very busy, busy day.

11 September – Thursday

We got a late start since we were both tired. All of this touring is really hard. But there is so much to see and such a short time, we cram things in.

The Art Museum is about a 10 minute bike ride along the water front from the marina. The musum is housed in a giant egg shaped building that has a pair of 215 foot long wings that open up during the day and fold up at night or when the wind is over 25 miles an hour. We had a very nice lunch there and then spent the next two hours looking at all the exhibits. They have a good kids display on how artists work with perspective, we were able to play with the exhibits since there were not any kids around.

Next to the Art Musem is a War Memorial. It has plaques for Milwaukee residents and display with pictures of service people presently in the war areas in the Middle East.

Next to the marina is a kite store, the park next door is where they hold the Annual Milwaukee Kite Fly. We missed it by a few days, but I’ve been to kite fests before, so doing Sputnikfest instead was a good trade. They have lots of kites, but nothing that I really needed.

At 5 PM we picked up our rental car to take us to Jake’s for dinner. Jake’s was named the number one burger in Milwaukee, so we had to go. It was a pretty short drive, but with the cost of taxi’s it was cheaper to rent the car for a day (we could also use it for shopping on Friday).

The burgers were very, very good. The burgers are a mixture of Brisket-Short Rib-Sirloin, so you get lots of beef flavor, but they are very tender. The fries and onion straws were also crisp and crunchy! Yum!

From Jake’s we headed south and through town to the Milwaukee Makerspace ( Thursday was open house night. I had also gotten a computer kit as a Kickstarter reward and I wanted to assemble it. I had all the tools I need, but it needed some fine solder work, and doing that on a moving boat was going to be hard.

The space is great!! They have an electronics area with lots of standard components, full metal and wood shops, 3D printers, Laser cutters, sewing and craft room, etc. Each Maker can also rent a pallet to store their projects on, they have room for ~250 pallets. We got the full tour of the place, they were very nice.

I then assembled my kit, it took me about 2 hours to get it built and tested out and it WORKED! We got some good pictures of the space, and there is one of First Mate Pig playing with the Robot from “Lost in Space”. A very fun evening.

12 September 2014 – Friday

Harley Davidson Steel Toe Tour was my big event for the day. Harley Davidson Milwaukee makes most of the powetrains that are used at the York PA assembly plant. The tour is a 30 minute ride to the plant, a two hour walk through the plant (it’s huge!) and a ride back. They require you to wear steeltoe shoes since you will be on the plant floor. If you don’t have them, they supply toecaps on a elastic band that you can put over your street shoes. It makes the shoes look like Ronald’s Clown Shoes, but safety first.

I was a little bummed that you can’t take pictures, but I know why they don’t want you too. The plant is very very clean, but very noisy. We had a headset that we could hear the tour guide, but had those foam plugs for the other ear. Most of the plant is automated with one or two people running a number of machines that are machining parts. All of the cast parts are made by an outside vendor and then milled to the correct sizes and tolerances.

I did learn that the transmission cases are two parts, and each half is mated early in the process. The half’s are machined together. If one half does not past QA, the other half is also scrapped. It does not appear to happen often, the bins were empty. They did say that they recover over a million pounds of scrap from the machining process that goes back to make new raw parts. They try to recycle as much as possible, a very small amount goes into landfills.

Because it’s high speed milling, the tool heads are inside shields, so all that you really see is raw parts going in, a window with cooling fluid splashing around and completed parts coming out. They are good about stopping and showing the steps since some parts go through two or three milling processes in different machines.

Final assembly is handled by people. Each engine block comes down with a card on what it’s supposed to get. The block comes down and at each station a bin lights up showing the parts that go on the engine. It’s added then the block moves on. There are a number of QA steps as things go down the line. Each station has a little song that plays for each type of error (Homer’s Duh, the Jetson space car noise, etc.) The engines are pulled, a repair person comes, gets it, fixes it and puts it back on the line.

They lube it up and put it into a test harness to test it out. But rather than firing the engine, the test harness shoots high pressure compressed air through the sparkplug hole into the cylinder. This simulates the fire sequence. Pretty cool, a lot simplier, and much safer for the test stand.

Last part is to pull off the test harness, put the plugs into the block and put it into the shipping container.

It was a cool trip, I’m glad that I had a chance to see the process.

Meanwhile Susan had a shopping day trying to find some things at Target and new walking shoes. She said she had an OK lunch. The stores were more spread out than she had expected and there is a TON of construction going on in the areas she had to drive around.

Susan picked up from the tour and we headed across town to the Brenner Brewery. It’s a new brewery that had opened up about 3 months ago. The owner gave us a great tour of the brewing floor. Unlike all other breweries we have been to, this one opened up with all brand new, custom made equipment. We’ve heard stories from others on how they got used bits a pieces and slowly built their systems.

Not that buying all new didn’t have its problems. He used a builder out in California and had to make a number of trips out. For example, he needed the prints so they could build the foundation supports. He had to go out and get them and even then it was a pain. It sounded like he also had lots of start-up money behind him. I asked and he said the key was he had a good, detailed business plan written down that he could show people. He said when getting funding people said that most breweries show up and say “Our plan is to make beer and sell it.”

Dinner was at a huge Mexican place La Fuente about a block away. The food was amazing, it was the best Chile Relleno that I’ve ever had. Susans dinner was equally as good. It made a nice end to our four day visit to Milwaukee. We are taking the car to Racine since it will take less time and we can spend more time seeing things.


Port Washington, WI

8 September 2014

We had the alternator on the port engine go out on our way to Manitowoc. I was able to look at it on Sunday, it had a broken wire. But the stud was super corroded and I started spraying with WD40 and wiggling the nut back and forth. Problem was that the stud was moving and that creates a problem if I break the stud or it completely unscrews. So in between activities I’d spray and wiggle and let it set.

This morning it was still pretty stuck, so I got a mechanic to come and fiddle with it. He was able to get the stud to back out almost enough space to get a wrench on the locking nut. I suggested cutting the old ring connection off would give him some extra space. With that he was able to tighen the lock nut and force the end nut off. Then it was just a matter of putting a new ring crimp on (I had spares) and heatshrinking them tight. All done in about 20 minuts. (Secret was he had 2 – 10mm wrenches, I only have one. So I need to go get some small sockets to go with the metric set. ) While he was there he also tightened the belts that were on the list for next week. All in all a great job and I have an alternator that now works. Yay Me

We got onto the lake about 9:45 and headed south. They predicted 1-2 for waves early and the 2-4 in the afternoon. At 12:15 PM we were at Sheboygan and since the waves were not bad we would keep going. By 1:30 they were starting to build and by 3PM they were strong 2-4+ waves. But we decided to batter our way through. Plowing the bow of the boat does not bother me. With the waves from the south, there was a point that we would have needed to turn West. This would have brough the waves to the side, “rolling” the boat side to side. So what I did was I went past my destination and then turned so the waves would be at my stern and they would push me not roll me.

That made the ride in much much nicer for the three of us.

Into the harbor was easy and docking was a snap. We are berthed next to a Bayliner 4788, the younger sister to my boat. I hope to meet up with them before we leave.

Dinner was at nice place just off the marina wall. We had a great window see the harbor. Food was good. Dessert for both of us was “Moms Strawberry Schaum Torte” It’s like a Pavlova, but with icecream on top and then covered with Strawberry preserves and whipped cream. Very ummy.

We are off in the morning to go to Milwaukee. The winds are to be light in the morning, so if we get out again by 8 we should be docked before the afternoon winds start.


Manitowoc, WI

Other reasons to come to Wisconsin when you do the loop: Sputnikfest in Manitowoc! But first things first: We met the crew of Reunion for Docktails on Wednesday at Sturgeon Bay. They are days away from becoming Gold Loopers! We told them that we would also be heading for Manitowoc on Friday or Saturday depending on the weather.

I called on Friday to see what slip availability was. It was good, and if we were there on Saturday we could come for the Manitowoc Marina Annual Customer Appreciation day, with a FISH BOIL FOR DINNER!!! We were in and with very little coaxing Reunion had a reservation made.

We were off the dock in time to make the 7:30 AM bridge opening (not a real big deal since we haven’t switched our bodies over to Central time. We slid across a calm Lake Michigan, a 6.5 hour run of just over 50 miles. When I checked in at the Marina, I asked the #1 question that I ask, “What is the one thing I should do here?” “Sputnikfest!” was the answer.

On September 5, 1962, Sputnik IV reentered the earths atmosphere and a fragment crashed into downtown Manitowoc. (Corner of Park and 8th!) They have a festival that day to celebrate this event. There are costume contests, “Ms. Space Debris Pageant”, food, games, a push cart race, just a ton of stuff to celebrate 5kg of the finest Russian space materials to hit the US. (read all about it here :

Every ready for new adventures, the crews of Reunion and Quo Vadimus headed to the scene of the crash. There we found aliens and a replica of the Sputnik IV part. (Being ever so polite Wisconsinites, they had returned the original “lost parts” to the Russians). I got a Sputnikfest Tee Shirt and a can cozy in Alien Green that says Sputnik Fest.

After watching the “Ms. Space Debris Pageant” crown Ms Algae-Luna the winner, we headed back to the marina. “She” really was the best, she had a good costume and really stayed in character. For the talent part she sang a song in her native language, lots of blubs and weird sounds.

At the marina it was a special treat watching two fish boils happen at the same time. (It was our second fish boil in a week!) The food was great, my first sour cherry pie! We met up with the crew of Limelight (They finished the loop on Tuesday!)

After dinner we walked down to the local candy store and then ate ice cream as we watched a container boat and a barge go through the tight corners of the downtown area.

Sunday morning I did some checking on the port side alternator that had failed on the trip. The main 12 V wire had corroded away. I started soaking it in WD40 in hopes that I can get the fastener off. If I can’t the marina’s mechanics start at 7:30. I’m worried about stripping the stud out of the alternator.

I had been able to do laundry Saturday night around the Fish Boil. Susan got up and did hers and then we headed over to the Manitowoc Maritime Museum. There is a WWII submarine there that has been refurbished and is open for tours. One of our tour guides served on a sister ship in the mid-60′s. He knew lots about the ship and was great in answering questions.

Much to our surprise at the ground floor is a huge 15′ wide display about The Great Loop!. Very cool to see a giant map with all the routes and details about the loop. There was a couple that was reading it and said it sounded cool. Susan leaped in saying“We are doing that now” and we had a nice chat with them.

After the museum we walked across the river to check out the End of Summer Street festival held by “The Courthouse Pub” (a place the crew of Reunion recommended). So we sat outside and listened to the great band (full horn section!). It was a very nice, sunny day out, so it made for a great afternoon!

After so much fun, music and food we went back to the boat and crashed. It had been a busy weekend and we were exhausted.


Sturgeon Bay,WI

3-4-5 September 2014

We left Fish Creek early in the morning and headed to Egg Harbor MI. Egg Harbor is known for the lowest price for Diesel fuel in Door County. They had bought an option of over 100,000 gallons of fuel at $3.64 in the spring. They were a few cents more at the start, but by now with fuel in the $4.10 range they are a deal. We pulled into harbor and got 125 gallons and a pump out. So we are good until we get to Chicago. It also helped reduce our overall cost of fuel down to $4.61 a gallon. Getting burned for $5 a gallon in Rochester (since it was $3.80 in Oswego and we decided to wait) and the high cost of fuel in Canada didn’t help. But my average fuel cost on the way back down is the good point.

We got in to the Stone Harbor Marina just after lunch. It is a nice marina, very close to the downtown area, pretty pleased with the choice. It had been a recommendation from people we met at Fayette. As we were docking a giant gold and black boat came past. The dock rumors are it’s headed for the Mediterranean, its being built for a wealthy Russian and there are a number of lawsuits over it already since it’s late being finished. It’s sister ship left a few weeks ago.

Susan wasn’t feeling well so I headed off to get Belle’s food refilled. On the way back I stopped at the Sturgeon Bay Maritime Museum. A good place, they had 5 big rooms: History of boats and ship building in Sturgeon Bay, Power boats and engines, Pirates, Ship Models, and Light Houses. There was also a smaller room that had Coast Guard displays. It was very nice and took me about 90 minutes to go through it.

We had been invited to “Docktails” by the crew of Reunion. They are very nice people, we learned a lot about the next 900 miles of loop. They shared with us the “Looper Loop”, a 40” length of clear plastic pipe that you thread your line through and tie into a loop. It won’t collapse when you are trying to put it over the floating bollards in the commercial locks.

For dinner we headed into town and had a great meal at a small cafe. There was a used bookstore that we stopped in. Lots of “ephemeral books” as the sign said, but nothing we really wanted to read.

The next morning we rented a car and went to Green Bay. We had a great breakfast at “The Pancake House” and we toured Lambeau field.

Our next stop was the National Train Museum. They had three buildings full of trains and cars, it was about three times the size of the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania. Lots of great engines, including the Union Pacific “Big Boy” #4017. It is one of the largest steam / coal fired engines ever built. It’s huge!

They also have one of the Ultra Dome Dining cars that were used on the western railroads. These are a bi-level dining car, where the upper seating level has a dome roof over it and the kitchen level is below. I remember seeing ads for this in my 20′s and thought it would be cool to ride one.

After all the touring we went back to three different used book stores. We picked up another stack of books for the next part of the trip.

Dinner was at the “Titletown Brewing Company”. It’s a small brewpub located in the old train station. We could really tell it was Game Day, since about 50% of the patrons and all the waitstaff had their Packers Jerseys on. I had a really great Jambolya that was made with their beer. Susan had a bison burger that was also very good.

On the way home we hit some more storms. But by the time we got back to the boat, it was clear and their were stars in the sky. The forecast was for a windy day, so we would be spending the next day waiting for the winds to drop so we could go south.

Friday the winds kept up most of the day, so we did odds and ends around the boat. The Loopers from Prime Time came over to chat. They are gold Loopers they got done last year. They live in this area, they spent this summer just doing things in Lake Michigan. They think next year they will go back to the North Channel. Nice people.

For dinner, Susan made NY strip steaks and kohlrabi. I can’t remember having kohlrabi before, it was good with a little butter and salt on it.

The title picture is the “weed munchy” that comes to clean the weeds that grow in the marina. It has a cutter bar on the front and the sides of the conveyer belt. As the weeds get cut, the belt lifts them up and into the boat. There is a second one that moves them to the back of the boat. It’s driven by paddle wheels rather than props. Props could get tangled in the weeds. There are three of these, two that do the marinas in the town and one big one that does the main channel.

The weather forecast for Saturday is good, so we will take off in the morning to go the 50 miles to Manitowoc.


Visit to Lambeau Field

4 September 2014

Today is Green Bay day!! We are off to see Lambeau Field, home of the Green Bay Packer. I grew up in a Green Bay house. Dad was a huge Packers fan, and my brother’s family are also Packer backers. Dad never had a chance to go to Green Bay, so I thought it would be cool to stop in and see Lambeau field.

A little side story: The Packers are a publicly held team. At certain times in their history they have sold shares of “stock” to pay for improvements. The first stadium was built on donations. In 1997-1997 they needed money to build the Atrium, so they issued more stock. The stock has no value, and can’t be sold except back to the Packers. I bought my Dad and nephew shares during that offering. But because they are public, there isn’t a single owner, and it would be very difficult to move the team out of Green Bay.

We started out renting a car in the morning and doing the 45 minute drive to Green Bay. Our first stop was breakfast at “The Pancake Place”. The place was packed at 9:30 AM. We asked the host what to get since it was our first time and he suggested either the pancakes or the Stuffed Hash Browns. Susan ordered the Eggs Benedict Stuffed Hash Browns, I got the Southern Sausage and Gravy Stuffed Hash Browns. What these things are is about a pound of hash brown potatoes, they cook it flat, then take your two eggs and meat and put it on top. They then fold the hash browns over covering the eggs and meat and cover that with cheese and gravy. Or in Susan’s case, a Hollandaise Sauce. And of course I ordered a single pancake since this is “The Pancake Place”! Needless to say we only ate about ½ of our servings. When I paid I mentioned to the host that they should explain better about the sizes. He said it was a common rookie mistake to not order the ½ sizes order. Sigh.

Next stop was Lambeau field that was the looming green giant on the horizon. We walked through the Packer Pro Shop (think Macy’s with everything Green and Gold) and went into the new Atrium.

Our first stop on the tour was the Packers Marketing Suite on the top level. It has great views of the field. The windows open, but the tour guide said they are seldom opened during the regular season.

Next was the roof! We were directly under the scoreboard and you can see that each individual LED light is actually the size of a light bulb. It towers over one end of the field.

Our third stop was the club level seating just below the boxes. This was a new area opened up last season to add another 7,000 seats to the stadium. While there is a great place inside to sit and watch the game, there are seats outside. We went outside and I was impressed on how well we could see people down on the field. Our guide said that the shape of the stadium helped keep the crowd noise in. We broke into two groups and on a count of three yelled the “Go Pack GO!” cheer into the other side. Less than a second later our echo of “Go PACK GO!” came back to us. I had a flashback to Sundays long ago with Dad yelling that same cheer to the TV as he watched the game.

Next up was the upper level of the bleacher style seating. Fan’s have asked to have the bleachers replaced with real seats. This is a problem since most of the 56,000 bleacher seats are season ticket holders, pass down through family members. The seats are 18” wide, and to put real seats in would need about 24” per seat. That would leave about 5 people per section without seats. They asked for 7,000 people to give up their seasons tickets and the response came back that 18” was fine. (In the Pro Shop you can get a seat and back that is 17 ½”, just the right size for your space. )

The guide talked about snow, since they get some in Green Bay. They have crews of people that come and shovel snow by hand down to the field. One of the people in our tour had done that as a teenager. The new club level seats have heated floors, so they brush the snow out of the seats and it melts into drains. I’m not sure how that works on the sub-sub-zero days. Oh and there are no outside water fountains since they are concerned about ice on the floors. Burrrrr.

Next was the ground floor. We stopped outside the locker rooms and there is a huge picture of the inside. There is a giant G in a football shaped rug. They take a smaller version of the rug with them on away games to help the locker room seem more like home.

Then it was gameday! We stood in the tunnel and they played a tape of the announcer saying “Here are your 2014 Green Bay PACKERS!!!” We came out onto the field (well not on the grass, just the player area). The first thing I realized is this place is HUGE!. Then I realized how windy it was on the field. Even with the high walls, the wind was whipping through. A group down from us did the “Go Pack GO!” cheer and you could hear the echoes again. I can not imagine what the sounds and colors would be like with 80,000 people.

We climbed up the first set a bleacher seating. I sat on the end and again imagined the sounds that would come from a sell out crowd.

In the parking lot we got pictures with the huge statues of Curly Lambeau and Vince Lombardi, the two coaches with the biggest win records at Green Bay. We looked up and saw the huge swirling clouds above us. I figured it was Dad trying to grab my attention. Yep, Lambeau field was great, you would have loved it.

Go Pack GO!


Fish Creek, WI

2 September 2014

(Pictures coming soon!)

We got out of Sister Bay early to make the run to Fish Creek. Goats don’t come out until after 9:30, but I did get a picture of First Mate Pig with the trolls that they have outside.

The 9 mile ride was easy, the Quo Vadimis was docked by 10AM. In the slip across the way was the “Quo Vadis”, the tour boat for the Fish Creek Boat Tours. (Quo Vadis is “Where are you going?” vs Quo Vadimus “Where are we going?” )

We headed into town for brunch and ended up at “The Cookery” for eggs and Bloody Mary’s. We then split up to do some shopping.

There is a huge kite shop outside of town so I did the 40 minute walk to see what they had. I got to see a wide variety of kites, but nothing that really struck me as a must own purchase. I did get some back issues of “Kiting” the magazine that is part of the American Kiteflyers organization. Both Dad I used to belong, we even went to the national conventions when they were some place close like Ocean City.

Susan meanwhile hit the shops in the main part of town. Mostly clothing and gift places. She got a great tee shirt to wear that has all the places in Door County listed.

Back at the boat I got caught up on some internet stuff while she took a nap. About 4 PM we headed back into town so I could see some of the shops I had missed. We went to a store that sold flavored olive oil and vinegars, wine, salsa and dips and fudge. We were there for over half an hour and we did get a bottle of wine for and a small box of fudge.

Part of our Looper experience is to do things that are different from what we normally would do and in lots of cases different from what we planned. “Hey, we are going here, wanna go!?!” is most always met with a “Why sure, we’d love to do that.” We are often putty in the hands of others.

We decided to sail the north shore and then down the western shore of Lake Michigan. As we headed across, we asked people, “What should we do in this area?” “Door County Fish Boil!” was the answer.

So tonight we were in Fish Creek and went to Pelletier’s Restaurant & Fish Boil for dinner. Over a wood fire they heat a cauldron with 30 gallons of water to a boil, add 10 lbs of salt, 20 lbs of potatoes and ten minutes later add 10 pounds of onions. That comes to a boil and cooks for about 20 mins. They then add 20 lbs of white fish steaks and bring that to a boil. (The whitefish are caught about 20 miles north of Fish Creek, so they are very fresh fish)

At the 28 minute mark of boiling, they throw 2 cups of kerosene onto the fire (not into the fish!). Huge giant flames bursts around the pot and about 5 feet into the sky. The extra heat brings the cauldron to a rolling boil and then an over boil of the water. The over boil takes all the nasty fish oils over the edge of the cauldron and puts a damper on the fire. Using long poles they then pull the pots of potatoes, onions and fish. In moments its served with coleslaw and fresh bread.

It’s better than Chinese steamed fish. It’s firm but tender, and has a mild fish flavor. All of the fat and oils came off in the boil. The fish shakes right off the bones. Potatoes and onions are perfectly cooked.

After fish dinner you get cherry pie with vanilla ice cream (and coffee if you want).

This made the trip to Door County worth while for us.. The place is pretty, lots of shops ,things to see, things to do. Plus “Boiled Over Fish”. They do ~1,200 pots a year (some days two at a time). The boil-master has been doing this for the last 30 years since he was 17.

And thanks Ben, a guy I met on the dock at Beaver Island for suggesting this. You rock.

On the way home we had a new dock neighbor. The 109′ Sea Quell was at the end of the pier, filling the entire end. The mast had a great set of lights on it, it looked like a sculpture. We did some research, you can charter her for about $40,000 a week. No idea why she was in Fish Creek. Susan was highly amused that while she was out spraying our 45′ for spiders, the Sea Quell crew was also out spraying. Seems there ARE things money can’t buy, and a spider free boat is one of them.

Wednesday it’s off to Sturgeon Bay for a few days. I’ll rent a car to go to Green Bay to see the Packer Hall of fame and the Stadium. On the weekend we will be heading down the west shore to Chicago. But for that we need some nicer weather.


Sister Bay,WI

31 August – 1 September 2014

We got a very early start and headed out of Escanaba marina. I headed the boat down towards Washington Island, Susan had heard there was good trolling for Salmon in the area.

We did two 30 minute passes in two different locations and not a nibble. So we headed the rest of the way to Sister Bay and got docked after a 5.5 hour ride (we don’t go very far at 3 knots while we are trolling. I then spent an hour hosing off the boat to rid us of spider nests (well past webs here) and all of the bugs they had collected.

We were moored in the section of the marina for larger boats. Tucked into the corner was the Lady KK flying a platinum looper flag (showing that they had been around the loop more than once). I spent some time talking to the Captain, he explained they had not completed the loop yet, but it was taking them so long that the flag had faded from blue to platinum. They started in 2012 and expect to complete it in 2015.

Sister Bay is a cute little town, heavy on the tourists. Susan found a brew pub that had a pretty extensive menu of beers and wines and lighter fare. As we arrived the skys opened up, not to rain but a bright blue sky day!!! We spent the rest of the afternoon there, relaxing and enjoying our first afternoon out in many days. Welcome to Wisconsin!

On the way back we checked out Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant. It’s famous for good food and their grass roof that has goats on it. You can check them out with Goat Cam. We decided we would come back for breakfast.

Because it had rained on Saturday, the fireworks were postponed until Sunday night. So we pulled our chairs up onto the dock. First we got a great sun set and then when it got dark watched a great fireworks show! For once, being a day late paid off.

In the night the rain came to help wash the bugs away. Monday we awoke to fog. I had wanted to head down 8 miles to Fish Creek, it may be on hold.

We walked the four blocks to Al Johnson’s and had a great breakfast of Swedish pancakes and Swedish meatballs. After breakfast the fog was thick as ever. But about 11AM the fog was gone, it had been blown off by the ever increasing winds. Wave estimates in the Bay were 2-4 feet and even just going out 90 minutes I was having visions of the Manistique crossing. So I decided that we would stay and headed down for a nap.

Turned out to be a good move, since the moment I hit the berth, it started to rain again.

The rest of the day was spent napping and reading books for both of us. (Belle opted for an extra nap instead of reading her book) It was a nice day, except for the 25 mile winds moving the boat around.

For dinner we headed back to Al’s. I brought First Mate Pig to see if we could get a Pig to Goat shot, sadly the goats were inside their pens because of the rain. I’ll try Tuesday before we leave. Dinner was OK and we waked farther through town. Most shops were closed because of the Labor Day Holiday.

On Tuesday we are off to Fish Creek for the day and hopefully we will be able to see and eat a Fish Boil!


Canadian Beers Wrap Up

When we got into Canada I asked “What should we eat”. “Ontario wines and beers are the best in the world.” was the prompt answer. So I set out on a quest to try as many different beers from Canada as I could manage. I made a huge effort to not drink the standard Canadian beers from big factories like Molsen, but stay with more of the smaller places and craft beers. The Liquor Control Board Ontario (LCBO) was helpful since they sell beers as singles. Most came from the LCBO or their spin off The Beer Store or “TBS”. You can buy a 16 oz / 473 ml can for between $2-2.75 each. I have purchased some at $1.65 to $1.85 per can on sale.

Buying bottled beer was harder since they don’t like to sell single bottles. Some breweries (like Cameron’s) help out by making 4 or 6 pack samplers. I grabbed these whenever possible.

It was interesting that some of the brewers are “silver bullet” cans. They use generic cans and put paper labels on them to cut down on the cost of having custom printed cans made. This has allowed more brewers to offer cans. Cans are also cheaper than bottles, so they can save a few cents that way.

A number of beers on the list came from doing tastings. When we went to Bar Volo in Toronto we tried 10 beers, in a taster 3 oz pour. “Just for the Halibut” had 4 at a time tasters. Some restaurants had different kinds of beers I wanted to try. It really throws the waiter when you switch beers on them. Very few waiters were beer savvy, the waitress at the Embers in Sault Ste Marie was a help as was the waiter at Monique’s in Blind River. The best was Bob at Loplops in Sault Ste Marie. With 3 coolers full of beer I could have stayed a few days tasting.

I was pleased that the new beers kept coming as we moved across Canada, I was able to have a new beer every day while we were there.

The glass at the top of the page has a turtle and a line to show where the 1 pint pour line is.  The glasses come from the brewers to help advertise their beer.  When I would get a second beer, if it was from a different brewery the glass would change to theirs.   The glass shown above would be a bad pour, since the beer does not get to the line.  I was trying to show the turtle, so I poured to get a bigger head.

The beers are listed below in alphabetical order by Brewery.

You may note that Churchkey has three in the top ten. This was the first brew pub and it set the benchmark for the rest of the trip. I was able to get some to take with me, so I’ve re-sampled them across the trip. — last update 21 August 2014 – 82 different beers (plus two that I spazzed on the labels)

Churchkey – Northumberland (#1)
Dieu du Ciel Brewery – Aphrodisiaque Stout(#2)
Churchkey Holy Smoke (#3)
Lake of Bays Brewing – Spark House Red Ale: (#4)
Left Field Brewery – Eepus: An Oatmeal Brown Ale (#5)
Churchkey – Red Pail Ale (Fire company brew)(#6)
Trafalgar Ales and Meads – Irish Ale (#7)
Great Lakes Brewery – Devil’s Pale Ale (#8)
Wellington County Brewery – Imperial Russian Stout (#9)
Grandville Island Brewing – Lion’s Winter Ale (#10)
Cameron’s Brewing – Rye Pale Ale (#11)
Waterloo – Dark (#12)

Alexander Keith’s – Cascade Hop Ale
I’m not a big hoppy beer fan, but this has just enough extra of the Cascade hops to give it a distinctive flavor. I’d drink this again.
Alexander Keith’s – Galaxy Hop Ale
Another of Alexander Keith’s special hop beers. Galaxy hops are from Australia, the have a fruit like flavor and aroma. That carries over to the beer. There is a mild citrus favor that I can just taste. It was good, but given a choice between the three hop ales, I’ll go with the Cascade Hop Ale.
Alexander Keith’s – Hallertauer Hop Ale
Hallertauer hops are from Bavaria, and they have a different flavor from the Cascade Hops used in the beer above. The hops are less pronounced in this beer, but there still is a distinctive hop flavor. It was good, but given a choice between the three hop ales, I’ll go with the Cascade Hop Ale. But this one gets the nod over the Galaxy Hop Ale.
Alexander Keith’s – Honey Brown
I like the Dundee’s Honey Brown (a Genesee Brewery product) and this is very close to that. It has slightly more hops and a touch more bitterness that would give it a nod over the Dundee’s.
Alexander Keith’s – Red Amber Ale
A big red beer fan, this is on my list. Good dark red color, great flavors, good finish.
Alexander Keith’s IPA
Not IPA fan, but I had this with some spicy Thai food and it went very well. It was very mild, bordering on almost a lite beer flavor. Not any bitter taste to the finish.
Amsterdam Brewing Company – Great Lakes X Ale
They say this is a farmhouse ale aged in cider barrels. I could taste the cider / fruit flavors. And since I don’t like fruit beers, it makes the taste seem off.
Arch Brewing – Dinner Jacket O’ Red IPA
Deep red color and a firm head sets this aside from other IPA’s. Very good flavor, I could tell that it was an IPA. But there was lots of complex flavors. Very strong finish, would go great with spicy foods.
Barley Days Brewery – Wind and Sail Ale
Nice crisp ale, not heavy, one of my top 5 in Canada. It had a good rich color and a very nice finish.
Brava Brewery – Brava Premium Lager
Good simple lager, not bitter, just the right level of hops, good finish. With the low price point of less than $2 per can it’s a very good value.
Brick Brewing – Laker Lager
A nice simple lager I had it with fried fish and it was good. It was also on sale for $1.85 a can.
Cameron’s Brewing – Auburn Ale
A west coast style ale. Dark color, hoppy smell. Has a slight fruity flavor and has a defined fruit finish. I’d like to try it again, but sadly there was only one in the sample pack.
Cameron’s Brewing – Deviator Doppelbock
From the bottle Aging six months in Kentucky bourbon barrels creates a smooth, toasted vanilla notes layered upon a complex malty body. Dopplelbocks were Teutonic inspired dark lagers with Germanic malt, and were served by the Bavarian monks during time of fasting as liquid bread. Indeed, this is a very chewy beer. I can taste the slight bourbon flavors. It was very good, but not something I’d drink on a regular basis. I’m thinking it would be better on a cold evening in winter, not a hot summer day in August. ABV is 8.6%
Cameron’s Brewing – Cameron’s Lager
Brewed by a connoisseur not an accountant is on the label. A nice lager, good color, a pale gold, not the normal yellow color for a lager. Great crisp flavor. I’ve only seen it in one place (Parry Sound) and hope that I can find more.
Cameron’s Brewing – Cream Ale
Not sure I’d call this a cream ale from the flavor. Medium amber color, not much of a head. The bottle says UK hops, but I can’t really tell.
Cameron’s Brewing – Rye Pale Ale (#11)
This is an unfiltered brew made with rye rather than barley. The bottle says five malts and seven different hops. The rye taste comes through and to the nose it smells sweet, between a fruit and a flower. Interesting finish with a sweet hop flavor. Another strong ale at 6.6% ABV
Churchkey – Northumberland (#1)
Full body ale without being annoying over hopped. Rich amber color, nice head when you pour. This is Churchkey’s signature brew. This is number one on my list.
Churchkey Small Beer
They take what is left from a Northumberland run and add water and get a second cook out of it. You would think “a lite beer” and you would be 1/2 right, it only has less than 3% alcohol content. Where you would be wrong is on the flavor side. Less than the Northumberland, but much more of the full beer taste.
Churchkey Holy Smoke (#3)
They say it’s made with grains smoked with peat. It has a smokey taste, imagine drinking your favorite porter next to a fire or BBQ smoker. It’s that light smoke taste that adds to the body. This isn’t a beer I could drink lots of, but with a meal it would be great.
Churchkey Red Pail Ale (Fire company brew)(#6)
A fine red ale, great color, very nice ale taste, with the right set of complex favors. I was surprised by it, I’m used to American reds, this was much better.
Collective Arts Brewing – Rhyme and Reason
This is an American Pale Ale beer with a great hoppy smell, but not a heavy hop flavor. No bitterness that I sometimes taste in American Pale Ale styles.
County Durham Brewing Company – Black Katt Stout
Deep full stout flavor, but not the heaviness or sweet flavors of a stout. I would class it more of a porter, but it’s very good.
Creemore Springs Lager
Very nice lager, really reminds me of Victory Lager in Downingtown. Nice flavor profile, not over hopped. A little on the bubbly side.
Creemore Springs Kellerbier
This is an unfiltered German Lager. It’s a little cloudy, but not as much as other unfiltered beers I’ve had (like the Steamwhistle Lager). Light hoppy flavor, not as many bubbles as their Lager.
Dieu du Ciel Brewery – Aphrodisiaque Stout(#2)
A cocoa and vanilla stout, it is very creamy and has a distinct chocolate flavor. Really loved the flavor combinations and the mouth feel. This was number 1 in my Bar Volo experience.
Double Trouble Brewing – Hops and Robbers
A hopped up IPA that I enjoyed. It has a nice golden dark color and a little bit of foam. I can taste the extra hops, they did a good job of managing them during the brewing process.
Double Trouble Brewing – Prison Break Breakout Pilsner
I enjoyed this beer very much. I liked the smooth flavor and the lack of bitterness. This could easily become one of my go to beers if it was made 900 miles closer to home.
Granite Brewery – Peculiar
Strong English Ale with not much up front taste but a great dry finish.
Granville Island (BC)- English Bay Pale Ale
Ugg. I tried two, since I thought the first one had gone off. It has a weird taste that I can’t really place.
Granville Island (BC) – Lions Winter Ale (#10)
A darker ale, color is almost bordering on a red ale. Pronounced wheat nose, with chocolate overtones. You can taste the wheat and barley flavors mixing together, not bitter and not hoppy. A huge happy surprise over the prior Granville Island beer.
Granville Island (BC) Robson Street Hefeweizen
This is an unfiltered wheat ale. It’s an interesting yellow/orange color. The unfiltered adds a depth of color. Nice head. Nice flavor, not really wheatey to me, but it does have an orange fruit finish. The can says to add a lemon wedge, but both the brewmaster and I scoff. It says it’s a breakfast beer, but I had it with Italian sausages and it was a good match.
Great Lakes Brewery – Devil’s Pale Ale (#8)
Really dark pale ale, with a great flavor. It pours with a nice head and has a hoppy smell, but not really an over hopped flavor.
Grolsch Non-Alcoholic
It’s the best NA beer I’ve had, flavor profile is much better than most light beers. I’ve not seen it in the US, so I’m marking it as a Canada Beer.
Hogsback – Vintage Lager
An OK lager, not anything special going on with it. Good balance of flavors, not over hopped. It’s mid priced, and the can looks cool so maybe that is the added value.
Hop City Brewing – Barking Squirrel Lager
Hop City claims “serious attitude” and this beer has it. It boarders on the line between a lager and ale. They did a great job of dialing down the hops and letting the grains come through.
Hop City Brewing – Lawn Chair Classic Weisse
A lightly cloudy gold colored beer. Good head, lots of small bubbles. Wheat flavor with some over tones of fruit. Nice crisp finish.
James Ready Lager
Good to go beer, nothing really special. I’d describe it as the “Budwiser of Canada” but they make Budwiser in Canada.
King Brewery – King Vienna Lager
It is a Vienna Lager style beer, so it has a slightly sweet taste.
Lake of Bays Brewing – Crosswind Pale Ale
Very light color, good ale taste, not too bitter. Again a great summertime sipper. It has a pale color with lots of bubbles.
Lake of Bays Brewing – Top Shelf Classic Lager
A good lager, nice flavors with not any heavy hop bitterness. If I had to pick, I’d drink the Baysville Lager shown below. The can says “Offical Beer of the NHL Alumni Association”, and says purchase of the beer goes to the HHLAA.
Lake of Bays Brewing – Rock Cut Baysville Lager
Very nice lager. Big flavors with a nice color. I’ve been impressed with all the Lake of Bays beers, this is no exception.
Lake of Bays Brewing – Spark House Red Ale
(#4) Wow, this is a great red ale! Nice toasted flavor, deep color, great taste.
Lakeport Brewing – Lakeport Pilsner
Nice taste, pale gold color, not very heavy on the hops. This was also an inexpensive brew, so would make it a good choice as a party beer.
Lakeport Brewing – Lakeport Honey
Golden brown color, with a light head. Not as rich a flavor as some of the honey browns I’ve had. Some bitter, not a lot of hop flavor, an indifferent finish. I’d put this one mid pack with the other honey browns.
Left Field Brewery – Eepus
An Oatmeal Brown Ale (#5) – This was from our side to side tasting and it was Susan and my #1 beer, putting it #4 on my Canada list. Rich brown color, full flavors, almost to the level of being a porter flavor.
Left Field Brewery – Maris* Pale Ale
Roger Maris made history when he beat Babe Ruth’s home run record in 1961. (The star is for the footnote that when Maris played it was a longer season). This is a nice American Pale Ale, lots of hops, but not the bitterness that comes with an IPA.
Left Field Brewery – Sunlight Park Saison
A Belgian style beer. It has fruit undertones in it (and from reading their web site it’s grapefruit zest. I’m not a big Belgian fan, but this beer represents the style well.
McAuslan Brewery – Cream Ale
Very creamy, nice full head, no bitterness. From their web site St-Ambroise Cream Ale boasts a luxurious, thick head thanks to the nitrogen injected into every pint, a mist fine bubbles taking the edge off the harsh carbonation found in many North American draft beers. That silky, long-lasting head caps an irresistibly smooth yet muscular ale. Careful, it’ll give you a telltale moustache! And it did.
Midland Beer Works – Georgian Bay Beer
A light flavor lager, missing some of the deeper beer flavors that I’d expect in a lager. It would be good with light flavor food like fish.
Mill Street Organic Lager
I’ve eating pesticide laced food for so long I’m not sure what Organic really is supposed to taste like. This beer has a good lager flavor, but not really remarkable in any other way.
Mill Street Cobblestone Stout
Rich dark color, creamy head, great mouth feel. It has the full roasted flavor that I like to see in a Stout. Only a few stouts on this list, this is one of the better ones.
Molsen – Carling
Tastes to me a lot like regular Molsen. Good color, nice lager taste. A good middle of the beer list beer. As I recall it was about 25 cents a can cheaper than the other beers on this list. I also recall as a child seeing / hearing “Carling Black Label”. Molsen also is the Canadian Brewer of Coors, maybe this is a recipe from years ago.
Molsen – Old Style Pilsner
Trying to stay away from factory beer, but I got caught up in the can’s artwork. Glad I did, this is a very nice pilsner style. Bitterness and hops were spot on for the style. Now I’m craving schnitzel to go with it.
Moosehead Brewery – Boundary Ale
A very good ale, surprised that it comes from Moosehead. One of the first cans with the full ingredient list and the bitterness (39 IBU) printed. Nice flavor, can taste the cascade hops.
Moosehead Brewery – Cracked Canoe
Mooseheads light beer entry. Pale color, with a pretty decent head and good aroma. Tastes a little like the regular Moosehead beer, but I think it’s light on flavor. On the other hand, it’s one of the better light beers that I’ve had.
Muskoka Brewery – Craft Lager
Nice lager, it’s in the middle of the pack for the lagers I’ve had here.
Muskoka Brewery – Cream Ale
I’ve had this with food (fish tacos) and just as an evening beer hanging out with friends. Both times I though “this is really nice”. It has just that right level of hops to add flavor to the food, but not enough that you think you are chewing them.
Muskoka Brewery – Detour
IPA Session Ale. I can taste the added bitterness of the extra hops they put into it. This was another beer that started me on the road to really liking IPA.
Railway City – Canada Southern Draft
Crisp lager, with a very good flavor. Would be a good go to lager for the summer. Not a big head but has a very nice golden color.
Railway City – Dead Elephant IPA
Tried this as part of a 4 beer taster (3 ales, lager and IPA), and while I’m not a big IPA fan, I did like this one. It’s not as carbonated as others and that may have been a selling point. It was also not as bitter as I’ve found with other IPA’s. If I became an IPA fan, this would be it. – Update, I had it again and I’m starting to drift this one into the top 5 in Canada. Who knows, maybe I’m an IPA fan after all.
Rickard’s – Blond
A light pilsner, with an even flavor. Would be a good beer on a hot day or with light foods.
Rickard’s – Red
Irish Style Ale: I love the flavor in this red, it has bold taste and a great color. Sadly, it does not like me. I ended up giving the other cans away.
Rickard’s – White
Belgian-style wheat ale with lots of complex flavors. I’ve had a few wheat beers that I’ve liked, and I’m adding this one to the list.
Rickard’s Dark
Very nice dark. Border between a dark ale and a porter. Good creamy taste.
Rock Cut Baysville Lager
A nice lager with a slightly sweet taste. Very light hops. One of my best finds on the trip.
Sawdust City Brewery – Lone Pine IPA
American style IPA that is very hoppy, but without the bitterness of an IPA. If you like hopped up beers then this is your best bet.
Sidelaunch Brewing – Wheat
Traditional Wheat Beer, nice flavor a light color. It’s not over hopped so the wheat flavor comes through.
Sleeman Dark
This is a little darker than the honey brown. Nice flavor, the roasted flavor is noticeable. Not hoppy. I had this with roasted chicken, it made a very good counterpoint. Not seeing in the stores which makes me sad.
Sleeman Original Draught
It’s hard to describe this one. It’s very plain, nothing sticks out while I’m drinking it.
Sleeman Honey Brown Lager
One of the nicest Honey Brown’s that I’ve had. On par with the Dundee Honey Brown which is one of my “go to beers”.
Sleeman MacLays
Its from Scotland, but brewed in Ontario, so I’m calling it Canadian. It’s a Pale Ale with a very nice color and flavor.
Sleeman 2.0
Their entry into the low-cal / low alcohol beer. I did this side by side with the “Original Draught” and it has the same family of flavors. If you are going for a light beer, this may make good choice.
Square Nail Pale Ale
Nice IPA, after trying a number of new ones, I’m beginning to not dislike them so much. This one was very crisp. I had it with a cheeseburger and mushrooms and it was able to cut through the thicker taste. I only bought one, and since it’s a Peterborough Brewery, I may not get a chance at another one.
Steamwhistle Pilsner
I’ve had this a few times and in a hot afternoon it’s a great beer. It does not stand up well to the spicy food that I eat. But the smooth taste and that it goes down easy makes it a popular brew.
Trafalgar Ales and Meads – Irish Ale (#7)
A great brown ale, very dark in color with almost a chewy taste. It tastes like they really roasted the grains, but escaped the bitterness that sometimes creeps in.
Waterloo Amber
Love this beer, it would fall in the top five if it was not for the bigger flavored Dark below. This is a great dinner beer, it’s been a good partner with all the meals I’ve had it with.
Waterloo – Dark (#12)
I’m a dark beer drinker, this beer tastes a little heavier than the Waterloo Amber, almost bordering on a porter. For some reason it’s hard to find at the “Beer Store” in cans.
Waterloo – Traditional IPA
Nice IPA, good bitterness, nice hop flavor, good finish. It has a pretty color and a good head. Sadly in the crop of all the other IPA’s it really does not stand out.
Wellington County Brewery – Arkell Best Bitter
This is a session ale and it shows with the light hops flavors. It does taste like a traditional English bitter. It’s 4% ABV moves it towards the light beer category.
Wellington County Brewery – Dark Ale
Deep dark red color, subtile aromas. Very good flavors and a slight chocolate finish. If the Imperial Russian Stout is too much, this is just back a step in richness.
Wellington County Brewery – Imperial Russian Stout (#9)
I love stouts. This one pours into a dark thick head, tiny little bubbles. Rich full taste, chocolate and coffee flavors are very pronounced. Just a slight bitterness to let you know this is a stout. It’s at 8% ABV so one to a customer.

Not really Canadian beers, I got caught by the dual English/French label

Red Strip Brewery Dragon Stout
What a nice creamy stout with nice chocolate and coffee flavors. Just a little fizz to build a small head. I’ll be on the lookout to get more of this: Warning, it comes in a smaller 300ml/10oz bottle, but weighs in at 7.5% ABV.

Another English / French label confusion was Crest Super Lager. This is a dark gold lager with a very nice flavor. Not too hoppy, and a mouth feel that makes it almost seem chewy. It weighs in at 10%ABV so it’s another of those 1 per customer deals.