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Judy Patsch 08-29-2009 09:53 AM

SPIRIT OF PEORIA trip report and pix
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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.
[B]I guess the first thing that has to be noted is the great passenger service owner/Captain Alex Grieves and his crew provided us.[/B] 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:


If you are interested in getting more details as they surface, please email me: [email][/email] 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.

Judy Patsch 08-29-2009 10:01 AM

at St. Louis
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The SPIRIT OF PEORIA is 160 x 38 x 4.5 ft. The top of her stacks is 47 ft. above the waterline. She is licensed to carry 428 passengers and was built in 1988 at Walker Shipyard in Paducah. She has wonderful sheer, as the pictures will show. D. James Jumer built her and just as with his CASINO ROCK ISLAND, he had her decorated very tastefully. Capt. Alex Grieves and his father are the fourth owners. The G on the spreader bar represents the G & G Packet Co. In the 3rd picture, that is deckhand Orlando in the boat getting ready to come back aboard. He had been painting the sign on the port side that morning. O has been with the SoP from the beginning, and through all four owners.

Judy Patsch 08-29-2009 10:08 AM

More landings
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Picture 1 is at Grafton as we walk through the Bikers' party at the Loading Dock. There was amazement on their faces as they saw our group of 'oldsters' (and Matt) arrive. Passengers did think that Matt was traveling with his grandmother - so Leonie, you've got a brother!
Picture 2 is at the landing in Florence. The red hat is atop Barb Hameister
Picture 3 at Florence, our last look as we boarded the van for the ride back to Peoria.

Another van took the wait staff back, and only the deck crew remained on board for the 120 mile deadhead trip back to Peoria, which included 2 locks. They were hoping to arrive at their landing by 9AM Thursday.

Judy Patsch 08-29-2009 10:24 AM

Interior views
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1) The main deck buffet line. During the 3 day trip, a buffet line was set up on both the Main and Boiler Decks. We were served on the Boiler Deck, but there is no assigned seating. So of course I took my meals out on deck. I really appreciated this aspect of the operation, as I can't stand to be inside when the weather is nice. The dark rectangles on the air conditioning are lighted scenes of Illinois River history. They are plastic but look to be stained glass.
2) The Boiler or Second deck looking astern. That is Tom, the volunteer bartender. His wife Bev is the entertainer extraordinaire, playing the piano and calliope. Other entertainment included: Barry, a guitar/banjo player with a lot of John Hartford repertoire; Brian, a storyteller and riverlorian. There was no lack of entertainment during any of the trip, and all three of these people have been with the company for years. As a narrator on the NATCHEZ, my only request would have been commentary on the river landmarks we were passing. Too often a performance was going on which was not interrupted to point something out. But I had printed out a listing of landmarks for our group, so they had a pretty good idea of what we were passing anyway.
3) The Boiler Deck looking forward. One of the best things regarding passenger service in my book on this trip was the FREE soda pop throughout. I am not a lemonade, iced tea or coffee drinker, which are the usual free staples.

Judy Patsch 08-29-2009 10:32 AM

Top deck
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1) Notice the great sheer. This was taken from my seat on the port stern, from which I didn't budge the first day.
2) looking astern from midship. That is Ralph Rhynders in the foreground. Jim Herron looks nervous and agitated as he is sitting in the portside corner on this day. Pat Traynor is sitting in the the middle, and Barb Hameister can be seen in the left of the picture. Some interlopers are sitting under the canopy and calliope whistles. Because the weather was so nice, most of the entertainment was held out here under the canopy.
3) A good view of the entertainment area under the stern canopy. That's Matt Dow on the calliope, a 43 whistle Tangley Calliaphone.

Judy Patsch 08-29-2009 11:24 AM

Continuing with the SPIRIT OF PEORIA thread
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Here we go cruising down the river on the SPIRIT:
1) the former Hiram Walker Distillery in Peoria, now an ethanol plant.
2) on display at the Peoria L&D, an old wicket from the dam.
3) must have been lunchtime, with the empty chairs. One of the few bridges on this stretch of the Illinois River which is not a liftspan. Note the nighthawk on the jackstaff.

Judy Patsch 08-29-2009 11:31 AM

continuing downriver
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1) One of the many lift bridges - most are railroad spans, but there are a few highway lift bridges.
2) Ralph and Ginny Rhynders contemplate the arrival at the end of the first day. This is at Meredosia, where you can see our 2 red and white charter busses and a white one for a tour group from Parkersburg, W.Va.
3) The Florence Highway Lift Bridge. Just beyond it you can see the concrete boat ramp which was to be our final destination on the upbound trip.

Judy Patsch 08-29-2009 11:37 AM

cruising down the river on a Sunday afternoon, really!
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Needless to say, that song was played several times on the calliope during this stretch.
1) Just looking for a unique photo as I lounged on the top deck bow...
2) The Kampsville Ferry, with a bunch of bikes parked at the bar/restaurant.
3) Nearing the end of the Illinois River, with Grafton in the distance.

Judy Patsch 08-29-2009 11:45 AM

the mixing of the waters...
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1) As we leave Grafton on the Illinois, you can look over to the Mississippi on the other side of the islands. Because there are gaps between islands for several miles above this, there isn't any obvious mingling of waters here.
2) The obligatory 'paddlewheel with bluffs in background' shot This is on the Mississippi, the Piasa Bluffs above Alton.
3) a portion of the new suspension bridge at Alton. This replaces the old US 67 bridge, which was just downstream from a railroad swingspan and old L&D 26, all of which are no longer there. That is the state flag of Illinois.

Judy Patsch 08-29-2009 11:53 AM

On the Mississippi
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Day 3 found us on 37 miles of the Mississippi and Chain of Rocks Canal.
1) In the lock at Melvin Price L&D 26. That is a Visitors Center on shore, where they have good exhibits and start a tour of the lock and dam. The big model of the Corps' snagboat HORATIO G. WRIGHT is on display there.
2) the confluence of the muddy Missouri River and the Mississippi. Because of the angle of the sun, it is difficult to see the difference in waters, but a careful look will show the brown of the Missouri on the top half of the pix.
3) The goal: St. Louis. Unfortunately there is plenty of room to land the boat on the old cobblestone levee. Only a helicopter landing barge and the two barge complex for the two Gateway excursion boats are on the levee these days, a far cry from even the 1980s.

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