Hello virtual crew members and fellow adventurers!
Grandad Bluff overlooking La Crosse
In honor of our elected officials in Washington, DC.
This past week the crew made way from Le Claire to La Crosse making the following stops:
Click here to read the day-to-day travel log. This includes weather report, sea conditions, captain’s log, a summary of the day’s experience, and a few pics of the route.
The voyage of discovery did answer the following questions this week:
To see past videos, click on the link to the Still Waters II Vimeo site. The library contains videos of Still Waters II cruising America’s Great Loop.
Today was a day that boating was trying to teach lessons on patience.
When the crew arrived at the Clinton RR Swing Bridge (mile 514), there were three trucks and several people out on the tracks working. The Bridge Tender said that there would be a 25 minute wait to open the bridge to allow a train to pass. When the train cleared the bridge the bridge tender said that it would be a few more minutes because the work crew had to move a truck off the bridge before the bridge could open. The bridge tender then started calling different tows in what seemed to be a delay effort in opening the bridge. After it was confirmed that no other tows were in the area and would need the bridge to open, the horn finally sounded signaling the bridge was about to open. Well that only took 40 minutes longer than it should have.
Then when the crew arrived at Lock 13 (mile 522), there was a tow just entering the Lock. There were two down bound tows waiting to lock through, and one additional tow waiting to step up. This looked as though it could be a long wait for the crew.
A little over an hour later when the tow in the Lock started to push out of the Lock, the lock master called the skipper on the radio and told him to move over to the lock because he was going to step Still Waters II up while the next down bound tow moved into position after the tow in the lock passed by. Count the crews lucky stars that they only had to wait an hour to get in the lock. It could have been much worse.
Along the river though, the crew did see a few interesting sights. The first was at mile 117 in the town of Port Byron. The skipper spotted a 30 foot tall bicycle statue.
Will B. Rollin
Will B. Rollin has a cousin, Big Ben Biking in Sparta, Wisconsin, some 300 miles away. Big Ben is 32 foot tall and is billed as the worlds largest bicycle statue. A Will2Ben bicycle tour is organized annually to make the trip between the two statues, sounds like a fun ride.
Big Ben Biking
Speaking of fun, how about a tug-of-war across the Mississippi River. Yes, this is a thing. Port Byron, Illinois and Le Clair, Iowa just completed the 32nd annual Tug Fest. Port Byron won the 2018 Tug Fest 8 to 3. They took home the Alabaster Eagle in Flight Trophy as well as another year of bragging rights. Port Byron leads the series 21 to 11.
The line is 2,700 feet long and ways 680 pounds. Twenty people (tuggers) are on each team on opposite sides of the Mississippi River.
A few Tug Fest Pics
Today the crew set out for Dubuque, IA. Along the way, they saw two White Flagged Looper boats that were down bound. That makes three Loopers that the crew has seen making way south to the normal looping route.
Along the bank at mile 577 there was a large structure over looking the river. The Gothic monument is in remembrance of Julien Dubuque, who in 1788 founded the first Euro-American settlement in Iowa. Dubuque was a French-Canadian fur trader. Dubuque learned from the local Mesquakie Indians that there were lead deposits in the bluffs along the river. Dubuque began a lead mining operation in the area. In 1796, the Spanish colonial governor granted the land to Dubuque. The governor also named the area the Mines of Spain.
The availability of lead, led to the building of a shot tower in Dubuque in 1856. The tower stands 120 feet above ground level. To make shot, lead was melted at the base of the tower and then hoisted to the top. The molten lead was then poured through screens of different gage wire. The molten lead would pass through the screen and tumble down to a water vat below. On its way to the water, the molten lead would solidify as a round ball. The tower could produce 6-8 tons of shot per day. Today, the Dubuque Shot Tower is the only existing shot tower west of the Mississippi River.
Dubuque Shot Tower
Another interesting building in town is the Star Brewery. The building was originally completed in 1899. The main product of the brewery was Dubuque Star Beer. However, because of prohibition, the brewery closed for many years. After prohibition, the Star Brewery was the only surviving small scale brewery in the state of Iowa. She reopened her doors in 1933. Local legend is that the first keg of beer brewed following prohibition was shipped to the Governor’s office.
Dubuque Star Brewery
Two different sources have told the crew that this weekend is Oktoberfest in La Crosse. The Fest starts on Thursday, so the crew has decided to try and make La Crosse on Friday and enjoy the full weekend. To make that happen they would need to put in a long day today and have good favor at two locks.
Mile 580, first signs of Wisconsin on Left Descending Bank (LDB)
As it turned out the Locks were no issue. There was a tow pushing out of each lock, down bound as the crew arrived. As soon as the tow cleared the lock, Still Waters II was given the green light and entered the lock. They spent just under 30 minutes waiting total time for both locks.
Mile 615, Waiting for tow to push out of Lock 10
This allowed the crew to make good time and distance. The only issue for the day was finding a place to dock. The crew arrived in McGregor just before 1900. The marina they planned to stay at had a cover that was too low for them to get under so they had to move on. There were no other good options in McGregor so the skipper started to look for a place to drop the anchor before dark. A few miles up river looked to be good for anchoring so they continued north.
Running out of daylight, McGregor in distance
Before they arrived at the anchor spot, another small town came into view. There was 100 foot of face dock available so the crew moved over and did a port side tie on the dock to bring the day to a close. To their surprise, the crew found a 50 amp power source that they could also plug into. What a deal. With the good run today, the crew should easily make La Crosse on Friday.
After the skipper woke up and spent some time reading his Bible, he went down the dock to see if anyone was in the office. He found two gentleman inside the office reading the morning paper. The skipper asked about paying for the over night dockage, and one of the guys looked up, thought a moment, and then said he would charge $20 for the night. Now that is a good deal.
Just north of McGregor as the crew left town
After taking care of the financial details, the crew slipped the lines and continued north up the Mississippi River. The goal today was to reach Lansing so that they could easily make La Crosse on Friday.
The Quimby’s Cruising Guide states that Lansing has a courtesy dock but does not give much information on the location other than ‘below the gas docks.’ The description raises more questions than it answers. The obvious question is ‘What gas dock?’
On a bluff overlooking the river out in the middle of nowhere
After idling along the shore the entire length of Lansing, the crew neither spotted a gas dock or the town courtesy dock. The municipal marina is situated about a mile north of town so the crew decided to head there for the night. As they approached the marina they noticed a gas dock and a long dock extending south. Could this be the town courtesy dock?
Darth Vader unloading a coal barge just south of Lansing
The skipper held off from calling the marina to ask for a slip for the night. When they arrived at the long dock south of the gas dock a mile north of town, they discovered that yes, this was the courtesy dock. However, there was a sign that said No Overnight Dockage. Guess the skipper will be calling the marina anyway.
Hershey Kiss along the banks of the Big Muddy
The marina had a spot for the crew just north of the gas dock so they took the slip and landed the boat to bring an end to the day’s cruise.
The crew set off to make the last push to La Crosse this morning. The big news of the day was that someone turned down the thermostat. Hi today was only 54 degrees. The overnight low was 34. These are not the temperatures that the crew likes to cruise in. Hopefully this is only a short duration cold snap and fall like weather will return by Monday.
Mile 670 found these two Bald Eagles
The cruise was pleasant enough though with the Bald Eagle sightings keeping the skipper occupied. He spotted 16 Bald Eagles today along the shore.
The trees continue to change colors from their dark greens to light green and yellows. There are a few orange and reds but not many yet. The locals say that the best color is usually October 8-15. This will be when the crew is headed back south thru this area so they are looking forward to the fall spectacular.
Mile 690, Dredge Operation in progress
The crew made the Boat Club in La Crosse so they are set to take in the Oktoberfest in La Crosse for the weekend.
Sharon P. took time out of her busy schedule to drive over and visit the crew in La Crosse. Sharon is one of the many good folks that belong to the OKC Softball Family.
Sharon and the skipper
Sharon took the crew on a tour of La Crosse and then up to the bluffs overlooking the valley and town below. It was a spectacular view looking down into the valley.
Still Waters II is docked down by the blue bridge
The group then took the river road to explore the river by car rather than by boat. The group then returned to the Boat Club and had a late lunch at the Boat Club Restaurant.
Caught this big fish while out exploring
Overall a great visit with Sharon. The best part of visits with Sharon is her generous heart and sharing her beloved Wisconsin. Sharing in the form of apples, candid apples, Wisconsin cheese, apple spice donuts, and the caramel dip. But most of sharing of her time to make another great memory for the crew as they cruise the Great Loop.
The crew will leave La Crosse on Monday and make their final push to the Twin Cities that are about 150 miles further up stream. The crew will probably arrive on Thursday and hope to visit with the crew of Tasteful Traveler.
The crew has also been extended a nice invitation to go up to Winnipeg and celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving on October 8th with the crew of On Business. While that sounds like a boat load of fun, the crew is mulling over the weather ramifications of said road trip to Winnipeg. Might make the trip back south a bit colder than the crew is comfortable with. And do not forget, the skipper is cruising with the Admiral who he has nicknamed Miss Comfort.