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SPIRIT OF PEORIA trip report and pix

 
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Old 08-29-2009, 08:53 AM
 
Join Date: Apr 2006
Location: Rock Island, Illinois mile 480 UMR
Posts: 3,859
Default SPIRIT OF PEORIA trip report and pix

It is so hard to know where to start - it was just a fantastic experience. The weather couldn't have been better even though all around us storms were happening. My apology to Illinois River fan Pete Sisak, for the scenery was indeed interesting and pretty - not my UMR, but much more picturesque than I had imagined. And if you like bridges, especially lift bridges, this is the river for you! And of course we traversed about 37 miles of the Mighty Mississippi and the Chain of Rocks Canal too, so the rivers themselves were interesting.
I guess the first thing that has to be noted is the great passenger service owner/Captain Alex Grieves and his crew provided us. They went above and beyond, especially for those 11 of us who were doing the makeshift return trip. The ground support crew took care of our luggage and hauled us to the hotels even though that wasn't part of the fare. The chef made certain that there was a different menu for each of the five days, and the entertainers didn't duplicate the programs from the 3 day segment. All this wasn't necessary, as anyone who has repeated DQ trips knows there is repetition -(do you want to hear about the Mishawaka Indiana Senior Prom 39 times)? Everyone on the boat: captains, deckhands, waitstaff, cook, gift shop, volunteer bartender, entertainers; on shore support enroute; in the office before and during the trip - everyone made sure we passengers were satisfied in every respect. And that is Number One in the people business. The 32 in our 3 day group were very satisfied and gratified with the graciousness of the crew.They will have our business again next year - more on that later.
The basic trip was 3 days: Peoria to Meredosia and bussed to a Jacksonville motel. That river segment was 91 miles. Day 2 took us 71 miles to Grafton at the confluence of the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers, where a bikers' weekend was in full swing when we arrived at the landing. That evening was spent in the Pere Marquette State Park Lodge. We had the whole place to ourselves. (129 pax and a few crew) Day 3 took us from Grafton on the UMR and the Chain of Rocks Canal into St. Louis. After our 2PM arrival there was about a 2 hour period for people to check out the Arch or other sites nearby. When we landed, a familiar sight was there on the levee: J. Thomas Dunn, the General Manager of the Gateway Riverboat Company. It was good to talk to him, no matter how briefly. At 4 PM sharp, the 2 charter busses pulled away and delivered the 3 dayers back to Peoria.
Our intrepid group of 11 roundtrippers got checked into our hotels and then went various ways for the evening. After meeting up with Capt. Jim Blum for a visit to the Crown Candy Kitchen, a near northside ice cream parlor, I chose to walk the block from our hotel to the empty Busch Stadium, where I walked around the plaza reliving great Cardinal moments and paying homage to Stan Musial at his statue. It was hard to believe we were in St. Louis in August - not a bead of sweat.
Day 4 Tuesday was a trip from St. Louis to Grafton with a couple of busloads of tour groups. We 11 had the outer decks pretty much to ourselves as these people huddled up inside and hung together rather than enjoying the scenery and beautiful weather. That evening we 11 stayed at the Ruebel Hotel in Grafton, a delightful old rivermen's hotel that has been renovated. Of course we visited the 1904 Worlds Fair Bar in the dining room, and the ice cream place across the street got a lot of business too.
Day 5 Wednesday was another day trip from Grafton to Florence Illinois(really just to the concrete boat ramp upriver from this metropolis). This was a different type of passenger - they came individually and did spend time on deck and wandering around the boat. There were 78 passengers on this trip. Immediately upon arrival, we boarded a van rented for us and Alice drove us back to Peoria, and even took the group to their hotels.
How could I almost have forgotten: the calliope! There is a Tangley air calliaphone aboard.Piano player/entertainer Bev Wolfe played it quite frequently and was gracious to allow our two calliopists, Matt Dow and Barb Hameister, to play it several times also. It was a joyous feeling to hear that music as we passed towns, under bridges, or campsites.
The trip couldn't have played out better - the weather, the scenery, the accomodating crew, the camaraderie of our group - just perfect. It was so great that we have reserved spaces for next year's trip:

JULY 24, 2010 A 5 DAY ROUND TRIP PEORIA/ST. LOUIS.

If you are interested in getting more details as they surface, please email me: wzc8491@aol.com If you need any testimonials, I'm sure any of our 32/11 groups would be glad to fill you in!
Following are some pictures, with more to come as the weekend progresses.
These pictures were taken at Meredosia Illinois Mile 71.
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