Our first lock out of Alton (The Melvin Price Lock) was within sight of the marina so we called the lock master to see if the lock would be accessible on our arrival. They said “come on”. As we approached, we were joined by looper boat, “Miss Daisy”. Once inside the lock there were issues with the rear door not securing. They opened it – and closed it – and opened it – and closed it – and opened it – well, you get the picture. We were in the lock for over an hour until it finally secured and we were allowed to lock through.
We would pass through the last two locks on the Mississippi today. They are the largest – with two chambers each – one for commercial boats and one for recreational boaters.
We followed Miss Daisy further down to the “Chain of Rocks” canal entrance, where the Missouri River meets the Mississippi River. The Chain of Rocks canal is not very scenic, although we did have eagle sightings, and the lock is at the end of the nearly 10 mile canal and commercial mooring ground.
As we exited the lock and approached the Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge, we knew we were very close to St. Louis. One must appreciate the beauty of the architect of the Stan Musial Bridge.
St. Louis’ waterfront is not a compliment to the city, with its rugged bridges and industrial rust on the river’s banks. The river around St. Louis was congested with barge traffic which kept our pace down a bit. In the distance we could see the “Gateway to the West”. The Gateway Arch is another architectural wonder and an amazing sight from the water’s perspective.
We were soon past St. Louis and its commercial activity and into the fury and the current and the flotsam of the raw uncontrolled river. The swift current of the Mississippi gave us several extra miles per hour and great fuel economy! Too bad we didn’t have that the first 6,000 miles! After the final two locks on the Mississippi, without the control of the locks, it turns into a wild and raging river! There are no more locks (on the Mississippi) from here to the Gulf of Mexico.
Hoppies is a must stop for loopers as it is the last stop for fuel for the next 200 miles. It also provides all you need – fuel, electric, water, a safe tie-up, and nearby Kimmswick for shopping and dining. Hoppies is not actually a dock, but rather several old rusty barges tied together – with a rather eclectic collection of junk and stuff all over the place. It has been described as “rustic docking conditions”, but is an iconic slice of Americana!
Hoppies is half the size as it was when we were through here a couple of years ago due to sunken barges – that are still underwater about a hundred yards down river. They are still uncertain as to why they sank and unfortunately, much of that neat junk is now at the bottom of the Mississippi.
It was a scenic quarter-mile walk to Kimmswick….
Our first stop was at “The Blue Owl”. You must have lunch at The Blue Owl, a restaurant and bakery – best known for their homemade desserts! And check out their display! We ordered white chili, hamburger soup, a tossed salad, shrimp and asparagus quiche, a reuben sandwich and a smoked turkey sandwich (each person gets to pick three items). We left with full tummies for a walk around the fun little town of Kimmswick.
The roads in town are not paved and it was another walk back in time. With lots of unique boutiques and stores, we did a bit of shopping.
The Anheuser Estate, of the Budweiser, Anheuser-Bush fame in St. Louis, was right here in Kimmswick. It was the weekend home of Fred and Mabel. From the water’s view, the Anheuser Estate, now a museum, was magnificent, but from the street side on Windsor Harbor Lane, it was even more so with its abounding landscape and horses and stables.
Last stop was at Smokee Robinson’s for some take-out barbecue – didn’t want to go hungry today!
The knowledge and legend of Fern and Hoppie is another looper must. At the end of each day Fern and Hoppie (and their family) hold a briefing on the dock, sharing with us loopers all of the river and weather information needed for the next few travel days. When we got back to the dock four more looper boats had arrived. There’s only room for five boats at Hoppies so you have to make reservations early! We huddled around the homemade bar table and listened and took notes.
RANDOM: Yes, I have a side by side washer and dryer on the boat, and yes I did use them numerous time on our trip! And our headsets are often commented on. Otherwise called “Marriage Savers”, they allow us to communicate with each other when not in sight and without a lot of screaming!
We are marina hopping for a few days now, a night here, a night there…..and it is with mixed emotions that we enter the final few weeks of our trip. We miss the kids and grand-kids but are not quite ready to end this adventure…