Start: Grafton Marina, Grafton, IL, 0902
End: Alton Marin, Alton, IL, 1102
Total Distance: 13.7 nm
Average Speed: 5.9 kts
Number of locks: 0
Rental Car miles: 335
We left Grafton, glad to escape the Chaos. It is hot. And will be hot for the next four days. Our plan is to get to Alton Marina, just 13 short miles down the river, and sit by the pool. Alton has a deal for loopers–buy three nights get three free so we are going to take advantage of ALL of those days.
We leave the marina and head out into the mighty Mississippi. The push from the river we though we were going to get didn’t appear–we were running at about six knots the entire way; not much more than the Illinois river. We assume that the push will be more when we hit the Missouri/Mississippi confluence. At least we hope so, other wise it will take forever to get to Alabama!
Alton was waiting and ready for us. When we checked in for slip assignment, we got the slip and directions (to the G Dock) and when we got in the fairway, there was another catamaran in our spot. We quickly back up, call to the marina and then docked on the other side. The catamaran that we almost smacked into was Chad and LeeAnn who we met in Crowley’s where we both got our mast unstepped.
The marina is good. Right next to a casino and in the small town of Alton. We spend two days working on the boat in the morning and sitting at the pool all afternoon in the hot sun.
We rent a car for the couple of days we are here so we can explore the area. Our recap from our time in St. Louis:
Top Activities or interesting factoids:
1. City Museum: Holy crap. This is our number one museum so far on the trip. More appropriately, it is a ‘museum.’ It is an old 10 story shoe store filled with architectural and industrial items repurposed into a play house. I’m pretty sure an architect, an artist and a sculptor were given the building, dropped some acid and came up with this thing. It was scary and fantastic. There were two planes up in the sky, held up by medieval towers and a fire truck. With wire tunnels connecting them together. There were caves inside. And a 10 story slide that used to be the way that shoes were delivered from upper floors to the lower level for shipping. It was only open until 5pm on the day we were there, but on Friday and Saturday nights it is open until midnight, I counted at least three bars and lord only knows the debauchery that goes on in that place late at night. Fantastic. Magical. Jan hated it.
2. St. Louis Cardinals game. Busch stadium is everything that Wrigley field is not. New(ish). Few (if any) blocked seats. Bathrooms all over the place. Modern. But like Wrigley field, it was filled with Cubbies fans cheering on their team to clinch their playoff berth, which they did while we watched. For the same money that we paid in Chicago for a crappy seat in nose bleed section in left field, we got a seat behind home plate, up on second level in the Red bird section. And I counted the number of pennants on their scoreboard that marked the number of world series that they have won. It is a lot. Great place to watch a game. Stadium was crowded on a Wednesday night. Families were everywhere.
3. St. Louis Zoo. We always say we hate zoos. But then we go and we have the best time. This one was my favorite. Mostly because it was free. And Forest Park, where it and a bunch of museums were located, seemed to be removed from the rest of the city. It was great and we should have spent more time looking at the museums. But they wouldn’t have been as much fun as the City Museum.
4. BBQ. See restaurants below.
5. St. Louis Arch. Much construction going on to improve the grounds and the museum was closed, but still very impressive.
6. Duke Bakery: Located in scenic Alton, it has been around since 1959. We stumbled upon it when we had missed a meal. We smelled the sweet smell of cookies, saw the sign that said “cinnamon buns” and stumbled through the door in a sugar depleted haze. It was heaven. Cinnamon buns as big as our heads. Three different flavors of coffee cakes. Sticky bunds for days. We all walked out with a bag o’ something horrid. And so, so good.
7. Hansen Meat Company: Weird to put a meat company in the top 10(ish) places, but this store was right across the street from the marina. We went over early in the week to get some meat to grill. Got marinaded chicken, steak kabobs and beef sticks. And cheeseburger bombs (cheese wedge encased in hamburger, wrapped in bacon). And a bacon wrapped, cheese stuffed jalapeño pepper. Good lord they were good. So we went back for more the night before we left so we could grill some protein for the long trip to Paducah, KY.
8. Miles Davis was born in Alton. Left when he was one for East St. Louis. But still pretty cool. Found the obligatory statue.
9. Hair cuts! Just kidding. Hair cut. Jan went to Fringe in Alton to get her hair adjusted. You can probably figure out what ‘adjusted’ means.
10. Not a highlight, but we did work on the boat. The major even was service of the engines, changing both upper and lower unit oil. It is an enormous pain in the rear end, but we are now down to about 4.5 hours from start to finish for both engines. And four motrin. For both of us, because it is definitely a two person effort. Everything looked good and we are set for the trip south. We also rigged up a better antenna for the boat to help extend the distance that we can talk to the tows and the locks.
11. And for you Jon–a trip to Sam’s store to get some more laundry bags for our rooty poot fenders. We had one laundry bag rip on a lock and almost lost our exercise ball; had to get a replacement!
1. Sugarfire. Downtown St. Louis BBQ place. We hit this after the arch and before the City Museum. It is cafeteria style; you walk up to a couple of scruffy dudes and tell them what you want. They pull out a metal cafeteria tray, put a piece of paper along the bottom and plop you protein of choice directly on the paper. Then you go next to sides, finally to drinks. Vanilla Shake for AJ, White Russian Shake for Jimmy and Jan got wine (natch). Jan got the turkey, AJ got ribs and I got the triple: Jalapeño/cheese sausage, brisket and pulled pork. It was all fantastic. My meat was good without any sauce. BUT they had 7 or 8 sauces on the table so I felt obligated to put a healthy portion of each on the tray (like an artist’s palette) and try them out. It took us an hour but we at all of the food and were ruined for the rest of the day.
2. Germania Brew Haus: Jan and I escaped to here while AJ played Xbox. It was a combination coffee house and beer haus with a unique kind of way to get beer. When you arrive and check in, they give you an RFID chip . You scan the chip on beer dispensers lined up along a wall and get as much (or little) beer as you want and you are charged by the ounce. The place was stared by a couple in the military and is part of an interesting trend we see on the loop. In multiple smaller towns there are young(ish) people starting businesses (mostly centered around beer/win) that use pretty unique ways to get you the beer/wine or provide you unique beer/wine. This one uses the RFID technology. In Sturgeon Bay they brewed micro batches of beer and when it ran out, it was done. Other towns have small vineyards. It was a good place to go and relax.
People: Had Annie B (Ann Bulmer for those of you who may not have gone to Ripon College) over on our boat. Yet another Ripon-ite and the first person I met at college. She and I were perspective students touring the college and we both ended up going there. 30+ years ago. Doesn’t seem possible.
And a ton of loopers. We are not in the middle of the pack of the loopers, or were when we arrived. On 28 Sep, 12 boats left and on 29 Sep, 8 more boats left. Hopefully we are now at the back of the pack!