Three days in Peoria to refresh and restore for the trip to the Mississippi, since Peoria is a real city with all the requisite services.  Those included a Game Stop video game store since Badlands 2 released yesterday and John HAD to have it.  Most boats plan their itinerary around weather and tides, but to that we add video game releases.  No problem, John is a great and patient crew.

Rented a car from Enterprise, which I can’t recommend highly enough to boaters and vacationers, since their pick up and delivery service really makes things easy, and you get a lot of time with the local driver to get the lay of the land.  In addition to Gamestop we did Lowes for hardware, and a beautiful supermarket called Schnucks for food (I don’t know how two guys can spend $181 — perhaps it has to do with the fact that Illinois liquor laws allow booze to be sold much like Cheerios and Campbell’s Soup.)

We are staying at the very nice Illinois  Valley Yacht and Canoe Club, which is partially closed for the season, but a good, friendly facility nevertheless.  They were delighted to trade burgees for Guilford Yacht Club’s, since the Connecticut representation in the bar is a little sparse.

The Illinois River is very scenic once you get out of the oil refineries, gravel dumps and power plants of suburban Chicago.  But still pretty much trees to the right, trees to the left, water in between.  What makes it interesting — and scary — are the “tows,” extremely powerful tugs pushing 8 to 10 barges each up and down the river.  They are so long that passing one of them on a bend is tough, so we all monitor the radio very carefully and in any questionable situation call them up.  The range of answers  is reflective of humanity — some are really chatty, some are really crabby, all are really concerned about your safety and theirs.  The locks are different, too –  600 footers to handle the tows.  Not as many of them as the rest of the trip, since we’re in pretty flat country.

Lots of wildlife on the river — cranes, foxes, deer, and the crazy Asian carp.  Because Memsahib is low and slow we seem to scare them up and had two leap onto  the boat leaving blood and scales on the railings.  Jumped off before I could get a picture, but I am posting one from the net so you can get an idea of what it’s like going through a school.

Had one of those “why we’re doing this” moments the other night.  We were anchored in a beautiful, safe spot behind an island just off the river, but you could still see the tows through the trees.  They have huge searchlights on the tows that look eerily like eyes and navigation lights on the barges.  As the river mist came up, they looked like the dinosaur ancestors of today’s leviathans hunting up and down the river.

One saw our anchor light and swept 100,000 candlepower over Memsahib.  “Hey, what’s that, get a light on him.”  “Some kind of funny-looking Looper boat parked out back of Lower Henry, Cap.”  “Okay.”

Lockmaster John

Illinois River

Peru, IL. Just says little Huck Finn town, does’t it?

Tow with barges — this one was 845 feet long!

Towboat with Cap’n saying “What the hell is that thing doing out here?”

Thousands of cranes on an island in Peoria Lake

Carp — we don’t get this many, but sometimes 3 or 4. They are invasive and very tough on the native species

Lower Henry Island Anchorage

Illinois Valley Yacht Club — not too shabby