Sunday, September 18, 2011

Days  384 – 386     Grafton Harbor
Grafton, IL
Tuesday, September 13 – Thursday, September 15, 2011

Loopers following Dream Catcher to Grafton
 Dream Catcher crosses her wake at Grafton, Illinois

            Our gold flag signifies completion of America's Great Loop

 A toast to our completion

Flying the gold flag
 Grafton Harbor Marina

Entrance to Grafton Harbor Marina
Lunch with Joe, Linda, Larry, Carrie at the Big Kahuna
 Bill drives away after dropping us off at Aerie's

 Enjoying the view at Aerie's

Beautiful view from the top

Mississippi Half Step Restaurant

Lunch at Mississippi Half Step

Saying goodbye to Carlton and Becky

 On Tuesday, September 13, 2011, at 12:12 p.m. in Grafton, Illinois, we “crossed our wake” on Dream Catcher.   We had started “America’s Great Loop” in Grafton on August 29, 2010.  The circle was complete.  We had been traveling for a total of 1 year and 19 days. 
Grafton was a good place to celebrate our completion since it is famous for its shops, restaurants, and wineries!   We went exploring with Jeff and Linda and stopped for lunch at The Big Kahuna.  We were joined by Joe, Linda, Larry, and Carrie whom we met in Hardin.  They live nearby and travel the rivers in their runabout boats. 
After lunch we decided to walk to the Aerie’s Riverview Winery which is located at the top of the bluff.  Oops.  No way.  The road was extremely steep and far too long for a walk.  So Jim flagged down a friendly motorist who actually turned his car around and gave us a ride up to the restaurant.  Thanks, Bill!   What a guy! 
As we were enjoying the amazing view from Aerie’s, we were joined by Carlton.  He and Becky had arrived in Grafton on the previous Friday, rented a car and driven home to Decatur, Alabama for a few days.  They had just returned to Grafton.  While Becky remained on the boat, Carlton went with us, Jeff, and Linda to the Ruebel Hotel for dinner.   The hotel was built in 1879 and features a solid oak bar shipped from Bavaria in 1904. 
On Wednesday we said goodbye to Becky and Carlton who moved Seamoore to Port Charles Marina for some minor repairs.   It was hard to say goodbye since we met them in Rogersville, Alabama and had traveled with them since Marathon, Florida.  We’ll stay in touch and hope to see them in our future travels. 
We worked around the boat during most of the day.  We had appetizers for dinner onboard Dream Catcher with Linda and Jeff.
On Thursday we enjoyed lunch with Jeff and Linda at Mississippi Half Step, a home that was built by Charles Brainerd in 1885 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  But the real treat for the day was dinner on Jeremiah.  Jeff fixed an Italian specialty dish which is a blend of tuna, anchovies, garlic, butter, and olive oil.   It was served as a dip with vegetables and French bread.  It was absolutely “the best we’ve ever had”!                
Total miles:  21      Total bridges:  0       Total locks:  0
Day 383     Illinois Riverdock Restaurant
Hardin, IL
Monday, September 12, 2011

 Jeremiah passes under the I-72 Bridge, the most Western point of the Loop

Illinois Riverdock Restaurant
 Home of the famous brisket

Loopers docked at Hardin
Augie Busch regularly flies in for brisket 

 Owner Mel (standing) greets Sigrid, Linda, Jeff, Brenda, Jim, and Fred

Looper dinner at Mel's Riverdock Restaurant

Dream Catcher, Jeremiah, Jumbo, and Godspeed left Beardstown in the early morning.   We were lucky to get right through the La Grange Lock which is the final lock on the Illinois River.   All 4 boats stopped at the Illinois Riverdock Restaurant due to Jim’s claim that it serves the world’s best brisket. 
The 4 boats filled all of the space on the small straight dock.   When other Looper boats arrived later, they rafted off of Godspeed and Jeremiah.   The Loopers gathered at the restaurant for that delicious brisket dinner.  Besides dinner leftovers, Dream Catcher stocked up with extra brisket and 2-inch-thick pork chops.    Yum!!            
Total miles: 62       Total bridges:  7       Total locks:  1
Day  382     Logsdon Tug Service
Beardstown, IL
Sunday, September 11, 2011

"Jumbo", shipped from Germany to Florida

 Jerimiah, Dream Catcher, and Godspeed tied to the barge at Beardstown

Jumbo tied to tow at Beardstown

“Dream Catcher” and “Jeremiah” left the IVY Club at first light along with “Jumbo” and “Godspeed”.  We had good luck at the Peoria Lock and all 4 boats arrived at Logsdon Tug Service about 4:00.   The Tug Service allows pleasure craft to tie to one of their barges docked on the river.  It’s not the prettiest dockage, but it’s secure.     
Along with Jeff and Linda we walked downtown, stopped at a Mexican Restaurant for dinner, and shopped for a few groceries.   The tough economy has definitely taken its toll on Beardstown.        
Total miles: 80       Total bridges:  12       Total locks:  1
Days  378 - 381       Illinois Valley Yacht Club
(IVY Club)
Peoria Heights, IL
Wednesday, September 7 – Saturday, September 10, 2011

 Migrating birds along the Illinois River

 "Grianan" docked at the IVY Club

Front entrance of the Illinois Valley Yacht and Canoe Club
 Kate, Linda (aka "Stunning"), Greg, and Brenda

 At the IVY Club

 Rainbow on the Illinois River

 With Betsy and Dave at the IVY Club

 With Patty at "Famous City Bistro"

Overlooking Peoria Lake on the Illinois River

 The Looper Train arrived at the IVY Club, and we were glad to see Greg and Kate from “Grianan” who had arrived the previous day.   It was great to get together again, and we all enjoyed dinner at the club.
Early Thursday morning “Seamoore” and “Grianan” left for an 80 mile ride to Beardstown.  “Dream Catcher” and “Jeremiah” opted for a shorter day to Havana.  But when we called the marina we found that the water was down, and the marina was too shallow for our boats.  Due to thunderstorms predicted for Friday and Saturday, we decided to wait until Sunday for traveling.  We were very happy to stay at the IVY Club which is a friendly, yet classic yacht club.
On Thursday evening we went with Jeff and Linda to the IVY Club for taco bar dinner.  We shared a lot of laughs with club members Patty Cirilli and Dave and Betsy Jones.   
On Friday evening Patty picked us up at the IVY Club and took us on a tour of the Grandview area of Peoria.  The homes and the views from the bluffs overlooking the river were spectacular.  She then took us to her new restaurant called “Famous Cities Bistro”.  The d├ęcor includes murals of New York City, Paris, and other well-known “famous cities”.  It was a fun restaurant for all ages with great food at reasonable prices.
On Saturday as we were working around the boat, we got a visit from loopers Fred and Sigrid who are traveling on “Jumbo”.  “Jumbo” is a 24-foot boat that was built in Sweden and shipped to Florida from Fred and Sigrid’s home of Germany.  Fred and Sigrid heard that Jim was familiar with this part of the loop and stopped by for some information.    They are an interesting couple who speak amazingly fluent English.  We enjoyed meeting them, and visited with them again at the IVY Club. 
Since the IVY Club restaurant was closed on Saturday, we walked with Jeff and Linda to the Firehouse Restaurant.  The 4 of us enjoyed dinner with loopers Ginny and Greg from “Brown Eyed Girl”.    
Total miles:  25      Total bridges:  2       Total locks:  0

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Day 377          Lower Henry Island Anchorage
Henry, IL
Tuesday, September 6, 2011

 Sunrise at our anchorage

 Jeremiah and Crossroads at anchor off our bow

 Shoreline from our anchorage

Seamoore anchored at our stern
It was a long day for the Looper Train.   We checked out several options for dockage or anchor, but had a difficult time finding a suitable place.  At dusk we finally anchored separately behind Lower Henry Island and called it a day.    
Total miles: 59       Total bridges:  12       Total locks:  2
Days 373 - 376       Spring Brook Marina
Seneca, IL
Friday, September 2 - Monday, September 5, 2011

 Spring Brook Marina office and boat showroom

 Spring Brook Marina courtesy van, our ride for 4 days

Fergy's in downtown Seneca
 Dream Catcher and Jeremiah docked at Spring Brook Marina

Again the temperatures were in the 90s, so we made it a short travel day.  We checked in at Spring Brook Marina, got the courtesy van, and were about to leave for downtown Seneca when we were surprised to see Dave, a friend we last saw in Key West.  We were introduced to Dave and his wife Becky by Bruce and Chris Bade.  We had a lot of fun together when Dave and Becky were on vacation in Key West while Dream Catcher was there with Bade Boomer.  Dave and Becky live close to Seneca, heard that we were in the area, and stopped by.   Dave drove his car, and we followed him to downtown Seneca in the courtesy car.  All of us had lunch together at Fergy’s while also doing laundry in the nearby laundromat. 
On Saturday morning Dave and Becky stopped by for a short visit.  We spent the day working around the boat and discovered that we needed a new sump pump.  Jeff went above and beyond to help with the installation.  What a guy!     
Sunday was a great day because Seamoore arrived.  Becky had been released from the hospital last Thursday, and they had been traveling long days since then to catch up.  The Looper Train was back together!  The 6 of us took the courtesy van downtown to Fergy’s for dinner. 
Monday was Labor Day, and all of us on the Looper Train celebrated with a huge dinner of ribs, corn on the cob, baked beans, and Caesar salad.  Yum!  Thanks to Linda for preparing the ribs and to Carlton for grilling.                                           
Total miles:  22      Total bridges:  3       Total locks:  1
Day 372        Harborside Marina
Wilmington, IL
Thursday, September 1, 2011

 Sunrise over the Chicago Lighthouse

 Jeremiah leaves DuSable Harbor

 Sunrise shines on the Chicago skyline

Our last look at Navy Pier

  Entering the Chicago Lock

 Trump International Tower

 Jeremiah leaving downtown Chicago

 Fish barrier intended to keep Asian Carp out of Lake Michigan

 Harborside Marina
It was a grueling 9-1/2 hour day with temperatures in the 90s and a heat index of over 100, but we began our journey through Illinois.  We traveled down the Chicago River, through downtown Chicago, past the barges in the Chicago Sanitary Canal, past Joliet on the Illinois River, through 3 locks, under 72 bridges and finally stopped at Harborside Marina at Wilmington, Illinois.  What a day.  After the beauty of downtown Chicago, we encountered the most industrial and unattractive part of the loop.   All of us were exhausted and glad to be at the marina.    
We checked out the restaurant, but had a quiet evening on board.                  
Total miles: 54       Total bridges:  72       Total locks:  3