Thursday, March 16, 2017

When Turning Left is Right

You may remember last spring when Tourist pulled out of Fort Myers and headed north. Our intention was to work our way back over familiar waters to the Tennessee River and make a right turn with a final destination of Tellico Lake in mind for the summer. We had gone so far as to check out a few marinas on our drive to Florida the previous autumn. It looked like a beautiful area at the foot of the Smokies to explore for a summer.

As we made our way north something just didn't seem right in either one of our minds although for a good part of the journey we never openly admitted it to one another. Finally someplace north of Columbus, Mississippi we simultaneously came to the conclusion that we should shelf the idea of Tellico Lake and make a left turn on the Tennessee River and head home. Of course this meant battling the fast moving waters of the Mississippi for 580 miles. Our trip is documented in earlier posts if you missed it.

Looking at the Tennessee River. Right or Left?

Several factors played into our decision to change plans. For one we hadn't been home with Tourist since 2009. It would be fun to spend time cruising the home waters once again.
Another was grandkids. Pam was particularly concerned that she may be losing precious time in her efforts to turn Ellie into a "Priss" like her!
And of course there was our parents who were not getting any younger.

Our left turn decision turned out to be the right one for us as we were able to enjoy friends and family and have Tourist docked just a stones throw from our house.

We celebrated my Dad's 90th birthday last August. As it turned out it would be his last birthday with us here on earth. As fall progressed into winter his health deteriorated. We were fortunate to have him with us for one last Christmas. It's as if he knew it would be his last for shortly thereafter he began to go downhill getting weaker by the day. He spent his last days at the Galena nursing home being cared for by their excellent staff.

On February 12th we met with a Hospice nurse who asked if the family lived close by because she didn't think Dad would be with us much longer. Everyone does but my son Ryan who lives in Denver and was planning on coming back mid-week. Her advice was that he should get home A.S.A.P.
Ryan made it to the nursing home by 9:30 that night. It's as if Dad knew he was coming and waited for him.

At 10:03 pm Dad made the peaceful transition into his next life with us at his bedside.

Through the years my Dad wore many hats and was always determined to make whatever venture he was involved in work to it's fullest potential.
He was my hero and I'll miss him greatly.

Lew Hillard  1926-2017

The early years.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Merry Christmas!

Navigation has come to a close on our part of the Mississippi. The lock at Dubuque officially shut down on December 13th. Maybe they knew something when that date was scheduled because by late the following week there was ice on the river, snow in the air, and temperatures heading to below zero. It's comforting to know that Tourist while still cold, is escaping the harshness of the winter winds and snow tucked safely inside the building at Island City Harbor. 

Merry Christmas!!
Last tow of the season. M/V Wisconsin southbound in the snow.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Are We really Doing This!?!

So about this time in years past  Pam & I have been getting ready to return to Tourist for the winter months. This year we're preparing Tourist for a long winters nap instead of getting her ready for another season. WAIT! Did I just say that? I must have fallen and hit my head.

Well I checked with Pam and I didn't hit my head. We are putting Tourist up for the winter.

Fortunately I could still access some old files that contain 3 pages of winterization notes that I used for Tourist when this exercise used to take place each winter. In reading through them nothing jumped out at me as being too difficult. Just perform each step in a methodical manner and don't rush or cut corners.

The only thing I didn't consider is that I'm now 8 years older than when I last did this task. Add in that we also had to remove everything that would freeze from Tourist for the first time in 8 years!
Along with winterization, and liquid removal we also decided to go through every nook and cranny and take most of what we found off the boat. Amazingly we could see the waterline again after unloading. (I'm pretty sure removing all of Pam's shoes made a big difference!)

Well as you can guess the winterization didn't go quite as smoothly as planned but item by item it got done. Generator, water system, water heater, heads, washer/dryer, and the list goes on. Once in storage we open the under floor compartments, refrigerator and freezer, closets, and anywhere else that may trap stale air or moisture.

Well the day came for us to make the 45 mile trip to Sabula. (We had taken our car there a couple of days before so we would have a ride home.) The weather was a cool 45 degrees, windy, and overcast. Probably a reflection of my mood.

 Leaving Frentress Lake Marina and our slip.

As we entered the main channel I could see a southbound tow a few miles ahead of us negotiating one of the bends in the river. Trawler speed allowed us to catch the Joyce Hale where the channel straightened out.

 Leaving the Joyce Hale in our wake.

Once clear of the tow we put Tourist on plane to get some distance between us and the Hale and increase our chances of getting through Lock 12 without delay.

We went past "Hale's" one of our favorite anchorages now deserted for the winter.

We also slid by Chestnut Beach which too was deserted.

Chestnut Mt. ski resort waiting for snow.

 Chestnut again with a little color in the trees.

It was just past Chestnut that I picked up some chatter on the vhf. The towboat Wisconsin was just lining up for Lock 12. 
By now we were back at trawler speed and with the Wisconsin ahead of us only a couple of miles we put Tourist into float mode and let the current do the work.

Our slow pace allowed us plenty of time to view where we had stopped on our topless car ride. The Offshore Bar & Grill is the structure middle left flanked by a Baymont Inn on the right and a small reception hall on the left.

Even just drifting with the current we floated into the arrival zone of Lock 12 just as the Wisconsin was backing out from putting her first cut in the chamber. While waiting I called the lock to let them know our intentions. His response was polite as he told us we would be next but it would be an hour and a half.

L & D 12 with the Wisconsin waiting while her first cut of barges lock through.

The Wisconsin (2nd cut) now in the chamber. You can see that the Wisconsin has a telescoping pilothouse to allow it to negotiate the low bridges of the Illinois River more handily.

It took an unusually long time for the Wisconsin to get both cuts lashed together and push out of the lock. Once out she still had trouble getting positioned in the channel. So much so that the lock raised the water and locked us down. This is what we saw when they (the lock) blew the horn signaling it was ok for us to leave the chamber.

You can tell by looking at the bluffs in the distance which way the channel goes. Knowing that and knowing what the Wisconsin was trying to do prompted me to call the tow on the vhf  before we exited the chamber and ask him how we could best stay out of his way . His response was very courteous as he told us to sit tight for a few more minutes while he continued his flanking maneuver and that he would let me know when to come around him. He also gave us instructions to pass on his stern and then continue on his port side. He was concerned about his wheel wash and told us he would cut power when we went by his stern.
These guys know their stuff. All you have to do is contact them and be willing to cooperate with them.

I forgot to mention that before we entered the chamber the Joyce Hale caught up to us! The locks are the great equalizer on the rivers.

Back underway we soaked up the scenery as we paddled south.

Iowa bluffs.

Is that the sun brightening things up?

Once again we crossed paths with the Twilight on its voyage from LeClaire to Dubuque, Iowa.

Palisades Park where we had been on our car ride.

The Sabula RR Bridge. Our last obstacle before turning into Island City Harbor in Sabula, Iowa.

We cleared the bridge and after a brief wait for a houseboat to clear the fuel dock we pulled in for one last pump out. (Pam was on the boat!) Then it was on to the dock where we would leave Tourist in the hands of the marina staff.

Now the sun comes out!

 Tourist pointed out just in case I change my mind!

The last drink of the season.

I wasn't quite as happy as Pam.

We returned to Tourist the next week just to double check on her condition once inside the building. As I expected there was some water in the bilge from the winterization process that shook itself out as we made our way to Island City. Not much but for me 1 drop is too much.

We found Tourist covered in clear plastic from bow to stern. And no the Carver isn't touching Tourist although it's pretty close.

Assured that things were in good order we buttoned up the plastic and reluctantly headed home.

Don't worry Tourist. We'll visit a few times throughout the winter. (Plus it's a good excuse to go to Manny's Pizza just across the river in Savanna, Illinois!)

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Topless for a Day!

I'll bet that heading got your attention! Well it's true.....but not in the way you may have hoped. Not wanting to dive into the winterization of Tourist too quickly we jumped at the suggestion from Nancy to go topless touring for a day to check out the fall colors and maybe hit a few places we had never been.
To start the day we met at Dillon's in Galena for breakfast before dropping our tops and heading out of town. Our first stop was just off Blackjack Road at Horseshoe Mound for a terrific view of the tri state area.

Galena with Iowa in the far left and Wisconsin to the right.

Sorry. No one topless.

Backwaters of the Mississippi near where I grew up.

Goin topless past my old house.

My old house with a few changes since I lived there.

Although we hadn't travelled that far the crew was already parched and needed a break! We stopped at Chestnut Mt. Resort to quench our thirsts and enjoy the view. (

Looking over the ski runs.

View of the Mississippi and a south bound tow.

Looking south from one of the lookout points of Chestnut. (I used to lead trail rides to this point when I was in Junior HS.)

Looking north from that same point.

We enjoyed our time at Chestnut but it was soon time to move on.

Back country roads.

The Flanagan's showing their skill by driving with no hands on the wheel!

Since we were in the lead I decided to take them on a road that led down to the river.

West Diggin Hill Rd. One lane through the woods.

Passing through a tunnel under the BNSF RR tracks.

We made a stop at Blanding Landing. A public area with campground and launch ramp.
The sign is for those who didn't realize they were close to the river.

 Just in case you missed the first sign. Hello Mr. Obvious!

A few miles down the road from Blanding the terrain flattens out.

Our travels took us into Hanover, Il and onto Hwy 84 which we took south to Palisades State Park just north of Savanna. Palisades offers some spectacular views of the river valley from its lookouts.

Walkway to the lookout.


More tourists!

The view.

Looking south toward Savanna.

We've been out there!

Looking down on Hwy 84 and the BNSF RR tracks.

Another look at the southbound tow. We occasionally anchor in the cut just behind the tow.

A topless picture for your viewing pleasure!

Only God knows what's on her mind!

We rolled back down the hill to 84 and went into Savanna. It had been quite awhile since our thirst had been quenched so with that in mind we headed to Poopy's. (

Ok. So it's a biker bar.

You can tell it's a classy joint!

M & N picked up a hitchhiker back in the park. He looks quite happy to have found a new home.

Thirsts quenched we drove back through Savanna and took a left across the Hwy 52 bridge which is being replaced. It's easy to see why when you get on the bridge. It's narrow and the decking is a metal grate that you can see through.

No room for error.

A view from the bridge looking north.

Hwy 52 took us through the island town of Sabula, Iowa where Tourist will be stored for the winter. From Sabula we turned north and headed for Bellevue State Park for another breathtaking view of the Mississippi.

The path to the lookout.

Mike & I were rewarded with this lovely view!

We all enjoyed this view of Bellevue and Lock & Dam 12.

By now we were all getting hungry so we slid down the hill and through Bellevue to the Offshore Grill located on the north side of town. Offshore is a nice bar/restaurant located on the bank of the river with a nice view of the channel.
Offshore was our last stop. It was reluctantly the end of our topless outing as the tops went back up to keep us all warm on our journeys home. Guess Pam & I will have to focus in earnest now on getting Tourist ready for a cool rest. Uff Da!