RumpShaker Adventure 9/18-9/23/2012

09/23/2012 19:45


Tuesday, 9/18                                                                                                                                                                        

2 locks, 1 RR Swing Bridge and 52 Miles.

Hannibal Missouri is the home of Mark Twain and there is a main street in downtown Hannibal dedicated to his work with a lot of small shops to browse for memorabilia.  My mission this morning is to walk to the grocery store which is only 8 blocks away for those staples that don’t keep long, i.e. bread and eggs.  Rob is going to wait at the gas dock for the municipal employee to come and unlock the gas pump so we can fill up. 

There is a nice woman, Teri, who offers to give me a ride to the store.  I accept as the whole walk is uphill and it’s starting to get hot.  She points out various landmarks of the downtown area.  It is becoming quite depressed though as many of the small businesses have closed since Wal-Mart opened a store north of the downtown area and is taking a lot of the downtown business away from the locals. 

After I finish shopping, I head back to the boat…downhill all the way – whoo hoo!  I am approached by a man at a nearby park for any spare change I might have.  I’m sure he was harmless and a very nice person, but he was kind of scary with all of the small crosses tattooed across his forehead.

The boat is full again, 121 gallons = $480.  We estimate we are getting 1.3 MPG.  The groceries are unloaded an put away and here comes Mike & Cindy in their sailboat!  We get a chance to visit again before Rob and I are off.  Mike & Cindy are going to stay the night in Hannibal.

LDs 22 & 24 are easy peasy and we are making good time today.  Lock and Dam number 23 at Louisiana, Missouri, was never built.  Army engineers decided that they could build Lock and Dam 24 with a lift that was 15 feet instead of the planned 10 foot lift.  This plan needed a lot of dredging and diking, and by doing this they could get rid of Lock and Dam number 23 that was in the original plans.

 We also pass by the Louisiana Railroad Swing bridge which at a 16’ clearance has to swing open for us.

I phoned ahead and made a reservation at Timberlake Marina.  LD25 is closed for routine maintenance and not expected to lock through until midnight. 

We left Hannibal a bit later than we like, so it was twilight when we reached MM257.7 and Timberlake Marina.  Hmmm…is this a marina?  It looks like someone’s back yard.  There is no sign and our only clue that this is the place is that there is a disassembled gas pump on a dock and what looks like cleats on the dock.  Well, this is where we are going to stay, because it’s gotten too dark to do anything else.

We get the boat tied down and take the dogs up to shore.  We find the owner, Randy, working on a tractor.  He is surprised to see us come around from the back of his house.  His son had forgotten to tell him that we’d  called and “reserved a spot.”   Randy is a very nice guy and gives us instructions on how to hook up the electric and asks if we need anything.  We agree to meet up with him and settle up on the payment  after we’ve had time to get settled in. 

Okay, so Randy and his son are very nice and I don’t want to say bad things about their marina, but for those of you who may be traveling behind us the description of this marina in Quimby’s is outdated. 

There is NO gas available at this marina.  The pump has been disassembled.  There is only a gas dock to tie up on and it is only about 50 feet long.  The electric worked, but was a bit scary in its installation with no “on/off” switches or covers on the electrical plate. The dock itself needs repair as half of it is wood and half of it is metal and it’s kind of pushed together. 

It’s definitely nice to have a “place” to stop before LD25, but fill up your gas tanks before you get there!

Wednesday, 9/19

1 lock and 26.2 miles.

We are up and ready to leave at 7AM.  Hope to get some good mileage today.  The upper tack is giving us problems.  We thought maybe a loose wire, but wiring is good.  Starboard reading is good.  Port reading is jacked.  After trying to fix for an hour, with no success, we are underway. 

Sunny 75° day.  Wind is strong – 18-20MPH gusting to 30MPH from the South.

After 16 miles and 2 hours of travel, we reach LD25 only to find that it is under maintenance and won’t  be locking anyone through until 6PM.  What?!!  Well, we are going to find out how well the boat holds in deep water with strong winds. 

We get the boat anchored and settle in for the 7 hour wait.  It’s really a nice day and I get my book out.  We have phone service and are able to talk with Becky.  She tells us that Rylee asks to have our blog read to her every day.  HI RYLEE!!! 

While we are waiting to lock through, three men in a boat, “The Boat” from Elk River MN approach the lock and talked to us for a bit while we were waiting.  They had put in at Iowa City with no destination planned. 

At 3:30PM, we get a call from the lockmaster.  They’ve finished their maintenance early and we can lock through!

I phone ahead to “Riverbend Marina” in St Charles MO and make a reservation for the night.  They are at very low water level but felt that our 27” draft would just make it.  Well that’s a bit unsettling news, but we’ve had low water before (Burlington) so we know we can manage it.

We get to Riverbend Marina and navigate the narrow low water level channel only to find that “Tha Boat” has taken our slip.  Nice………………….

We motored to the next marina and tried to phone to see if we could spend the night.  No one answered the phone so we went ahead and entered the channel.  As we were going through the entrance more Asian Carp started to jump and bang themselves into the rock pilings at the channel entrance, but none of them jumped into PITA – thank God! 

No one was around or answering the phone, so we went ahead and slipped at their gas dock. 

We took the dogs up and discovered the most cement at a marina we’ve ever seen.  The whole marina area was covered with it!

There was a group of men having a beer in the picnic area and they told us that the cement was overage from the highway department and had been installed piece meal.  They couldn’t tell us any other way to reach the marine owners, but felt it would be okay for us to slip there for the night.

We spent a nice quite protected night at “John’s aka Riverbend Marina.”

Thursday, 9/20

No LD and 19.1 Miles

Another beautiful day.  Forecast is for sunny and 78°.  The river is “mirror” calm.  We don’t have far to travel today.  There are several available marinas for us to chose from and we can’t go further than LD26 because LD27 is still under repair.

Here’s part of the story:

Workers closed Lock 27 just north of St. Louis last Saturday after discovering that a protection cell - a vertical, rock-filled steel cylinder against which barges rub to help align them for proper entry into the lock - had split open, spilling into the channel tons of the rock that ultimately obstructed passage.

That damage was on an unarmored section of the protection cell that the barges don't typically make contact with because that portion often is 15 to 20 feet under water. But that part of the structure stands exposed because the river's level has been lowered dramatically by the nation's worst drought in decades, officials said.

The lingering drought also has narrowed the Mississippi - the nation's chief highway for barge traffic, leaving towboat pilots struggling to find a safe place to park their barges river as they wait out repairs. The repairs could be completed as early as Thursday, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spokesman Mike Petersen said.

As of Wednesday morning, the stranded vessels were carrying enough cargo to fill 2,400 railcars or 23,600 large tractor-trailers

We decided to put along at 6MPH and enjoy the day.  On our way south, we came upon “Fruitland Ferry” and watched it transport autos from Illinois to Missouri – very cool. 

Rob went to check the v-drives and found that the Port side packing around the bearings is running a bit hotter than the Starboard side, so he loosened the bolts so water runs more freely and cools them; just maintenance – no real issue.

We look through the Quimby’s and decide on “My River Home Harbor” as our next port.  We phone and reserve a spot and before long we are there!  This is a very nice marina.  It is family owned and well maintained.  We will have a covered slip, which is nice and the depth of the marina is a very comfortable 9 feet.

After we’ve walked and fed the dogs, we head over to Longshot Saloon for their Thursday 79 cent Taco night and a few beers.  On the way, we check out the restroom/showers and they are very nice. 

As we are relaxing over a beer, in walks Mike Gilbertson!  He and Cindy had just arrived and are planning to spend the night.  We had tacos, hot wings, and beers with them and they invited us down to their sailboat for sliced apples with caramel dip.

Very fun evening with Mike and Cindy. 

LD27 has opened up, but we think we will both stay one more night at My River Home Harbor to allow the barge traffic to thin out a bit before we try to lock through.

Friday, 9/21

Day 2 at My River Home Harbor.

We invite Mike & Cindy to our boat for a pancake breakfast.  After breakfast, we look through our Quimby’s to determine how we might navigate the longest stretch of the Loop with no gas docks between Kimmswick Mo and the Tennessee/Cumberland rivers.  We determine that we will definitely be stopping at Hoppie’s Marina in Kimmswick MO to gas up and visit with Fern Hopkins who has up to date information on river levels and the best way to navigate the 250 mile stretch.

Mike & Cindy have determined they will motor down tonight to Alton Marina to shave an additional 10 miles off their trip before entering LD26.  Rob and I like My River Home and will stay here one more night.  We say our goodbyes, knowing we may run into each other again.

We’ve met Cookie, a resident of the marina, who has traveled to the Tennessee/Cumberland river area many times and he has given us some insight on what to expect.

Rob and I pack a cooler and walk with the dogs up to the pavilion to watch the barge traffic and enjoy the late afternoon.  There is hardly a soul here so we pretty much have the place to ourselves. 

There is a boat on display that apparently was used by Cuban refugees to cross the Atlantic to Florida.  On each side of the boat there are 2 handles, one fore and one aft, where refugees would hang on while they took turns swimming, their kicks helping the old Russian diesel motor to power the boat.  Sobering to imagine the price they were willing to pay for the promise of freedom America offers.

Tonight is miserable with swarms of mosquitos so bad that it is like walking through spider webs when we take the dogs up.  I think we should have followed Mike & Cindy to Alton, but too late now.

Saturday, 9/22

We are up early and determine to make Hoppie’s Marine Service – a 2 lock and dam trip and 54 miles.  It is another beautiful day – how are we getting so lucky with the weather?

As we approach Alton and LD26, we phone Hoppie’s to reserve a spot for the night.  What?  They are full, but will have a spot for us tomorrow night.  We call Alton Marina, which has room for us and make a reservation.  It is the last marina before LDs 26 and 27 and Hoppie’s.  We phone Mike & Cindy to see if they are still there.  They are!  So we plan to meet up once we’ve settled ourselves into Pier H, Slip 20.

Alton Marina advertises itself as a “Five-Anchor Marina” and they are not exaggerating.  This place rocks!  They have:

Concierge level dock service, swimming pool, spa, private bathroom suites, deli, a courtesy shuttle to a gambling boat, shopping, restaurant, and amphitheater.  Best of all – NO MOSQUITOS!!!!!!

We are here early in the day and meet up with Mike & Cindy.  They tell us all about the amenities, show us around and we are encouraged to contact Patty and Robert Mitchell, the AGLCA Harbor Hosts. 

We check everything out – SUPER NICE – and we meet with Patty and Robert at the marina’s deli.  Robert and Patty own a ranch in Montana.  Robert is a consultant and Patty is a former commercial airline pilot for United Airlines.  They share some of their “Looper” experiences and offer good information on where to anchor out in the 250 mile stretch with no marinas.  They invite us to a memorial ceremony honoring the MIA, POW, and KIA soldiers.  Patty is going to play taps on her bugle as part of the ceremony.

The ceremony is very nice and we are happy to have attended.  Patty and Robert invite us and 5 additional “Looper” couples out to “Mac’s” for dinner.  They round up 3 vehicles to transport us all.

 Mac’s is a nice place!  It is HUGE and the food is excellent.  Well, most of the food.  Mike’s fries were stone cold and Rob’s medium rare steak was cold and raw.  We asked the waitress to warm up the fries and get Rob’s steak cooked, which she happily and apologetically did.  My Steak Mondigo was amazing!

Much to our surprise, the owner of Mac’s deferred charging for any of the meals that were served at our table because our “Mac’s experience” had been compromised.  Seriously?  We are not going to pay for 12 meals – 10 of which were perfectly fine the first time and 2 that were absolutely perfect the 2nd time served?  WOW. Well, the waitress got a fantastic tip!

When we got back to Alton Marina, several of us decided we’d like to have a nice soak in the hot tub.   Rob and I brought wine in one of our empty water jugs (no glass allowed in the pool area) and our plastic wine goblets.  Not very classy but we are so resourceful! 

Sunday, 9/23

We have reserved a spot at Hoppie’s and plan to leave Alton Marina by noon!  Excited to get back on the water!

Before we leave, we need to solve our internet dilemma.  There is so much available in the way of charts, lock and dam status, etc. if we only had service when we are on the water.  Everyone is recommending Verizon’s MiFi.  We are sold. 

Alton’s WiFi is not working properly – of course – and it takes me a LONG time to get connected and to Verizon’s website to order the MiFi service.  I discover that Verizon will not ship to an address different from the billing address.  Well, shipping the MiFi to Minnesota isn’t going to help now, is it? 

This takes me so long that it is 1PM before I am finished frustrating myself and Rob decides we will stay another night at Alton – hmmm – well, guess I’ll have to force myself into that hot tub one more time…LOL!!!

We phone Hoppie’s to change our reservation and discover they may not have room for us Monday night.  Two days at Alton may turn into three.  We will phone in the morning to see if Hoppie’s can accommodate us.

In the meanwhile, I’m cooking up some venison and will mix it up with BBQ for sandwiches.

No travel time again.  At this rate, we’ll be lucky to make Alabama by Christmas!