We left Hammond Harbor Marina on our final real push west before making the BIG LEFT and heading south and the completion of our loop.
Still many hundreds of miles to go, but left into the river means we’re on the home stretch. In the meantime, we had to get our “city on” with a stop in Chicago.
We stopped in DuSable Harbor right downtown next to Navy Pier and the Chicago River. Normal hotel cost down there? At least $300/night. Bayliner luxury? Oh, about $80! And we’re right in the loop! Wow, a double entendre… downtown Chicago’s “Loop” and our own larger “Loop” trail.
We’d visited Chicago not too long ago on another trip so this stop was all about “saying we did it” and meeting up with one of N’s original work chums from N’s very first ever job out of college. B is not a real “urban scene” fan so although the city has done a great job creating beautiful walking parks along the lakeshore, it just wasn’t the same as some of the quieter places we’ve been. Of course, N complained of exhaustion just watching all the joggers go dashing by each morning.
In the meantime, we went out to dinner with Dennis and Nancy (B had to suffer through “remember that time…….?” conversations, but it wasn’t too bad(!) according to N), walked around town and went to a Cubs game.
N also played golf on one of the first golf courses he ever played all those years ago. It was Chicago where he bought his first set of golf clubs way back when.
Our Chicago stay was nice, but we were itching to get into the Chicago River and have the experience of boating right through downtown, so after two nights we were off! You can tour the river on a river cruise boat, but very cool to pass through that steel and glass canyon on your own little vessel. Even B had to admit it was pretty cool, urban landscape and all. We took way too many pictures!
Once through downtown, it was back to river life. No more worries about big waves and winds.
First stop out of Chicago was Joliet, Illinois where we spent the night on a wall along the river with many other Loopers (pic in header). As you might imagine, this passage off Lake Michigan and into the river is like a giant funnel. After months of passing time across the expanse of the Great Lakes and Canadian points north, ALL Loopers head back to the river heading for points south. As a result, we’re seeing a lot of Looping boats; catching up with (and passing!) boats we’ve seen somewhere over the last 12 months and meeting up with people just getting started (we feel like such old salts around the newbies). Despite our speed, we’re currently at the same marina with the very FIRST boat we ever saw on this journey 7,500 miles ago and way up the Ohio River! Obviously, we had some mechanical issues and went home a few times and they haven’t traveled the same extended route, but it’s still interesting a 25mph and a 6mph boat find themselves together after all that time with no planning.
After spending months passing through “cute” little Canadian locks whose raison d’etre is servicing recreational boaters, we’re back to the grim reality of traversing HUGE locks which are focused on commercial traffic. ANY pleasure craft (let alone a 29’ Bayliner) is basically treated like whale dung (No, there aren’t whales in rivers, but you get the point) and left to hang in the channel waiting for a break in the tow traffic…. and those tows aren’t fast!
We spent over 3 hours waiting for passage through one lock and we were lucky! A group we passed ended up waiting over 6 hours to get through another lock we snuck into earlier after waiting over an hour. In total, it took us 10 hours to travel about 40 miles…. And we were going 25mph whenever we could!
OK, the waiting is a pain in the rear, but there are worse things we could be doing than floating on the river on a sunny weekday afternoon. Of course, some crew members use the VHF radio to monitor what’s going on in the locks and occasionally remind the lockmasters we’re still freaking here! UUuuhhhmmmmmm!
It’s an interesting transition back as we are now beginning to see scenery like that when we started and hear the same sorts of bug noises one comes to associate with cornfields and countryside in the Midwest. Let’s not get to poetic though as there is still plenty of hulking industry, locks, and the Mighty Mississippi ahead of us to navigate around and through. Not to mention our upcoming 225-mile passage without a fuel stop on our 150-mile cruise range boat (we’ve lost range with these smaller props). Should be interesting…..cruise On!