As we approach the St. Louis riverfront at mile marker 179, I am pleased, as Lock #27 was the last major obstacle between home and us. We do have one more lock but it is on the Kaskaskia River and there is never a problem getting through. We pass by the Gateway Arch and I try to take a photo but I am shooting into the sun and the results are less than optimal.
Unlike many other river towns, St. Louis has no facilities for boaters. This is a shame as downtown area is in easy walking distance and offers all the amenities of a large city as well as access to the Arch. I am sure that part of the reason is that there are no locks on the Misissippi below St. Louis, which means that here the river runs wild. Swift and drastic changes in the water level can and do occur on a regular basis depending on the whim of Mother Nature. The city is fairly well protected from floods but trying to hold a marina with covered slips together in the heavy current and extreme level fluctuations would be a daunting task.
The current on the Mississippi is considerably stronger than the Illinois and the increase in our speed is noted on the GPS. At about 4800 rpm I had been cruising between 25 and 26 mph on the Illinois but now we are hitting almost 29 mph. Also, the size of the barges we encounter are much larger than those that travel the Illinois river.
At the 159 mile marker we come upon Hoppie's Marina at Kimmswick, Mo. This is an important landmark for a couple of reasons. The first is it is the last fuel available for at least 100 miles. I say at “least” because Kidd River Fuel is at the 51.9 mile marker. There you must call at least 24 hours in advance of arrival and they have a 50 gallon minimum. Other than that, on the Mississippi the next fuel is at Memphis, TN which is 378 miles away! The only other choice is to head up the Ohio River at Cairo, IL and from there up the Cumberland River to Kentucky Lake. Still this is about 230 miles. This is my home court so if there is any question as to why I wanted large tanks on Therapy this should offer the answer!
I need to point out that my 2000 addition of Quimby's states that there is fuel available on the Mississippi at Marina De Gabouri at 122 mile marker and up the Kaskaskia River at two locations. All of these entries are outdated. Marina De Gabouri did have gas until about 1999 but the channel to the marina is now silted in and cannot be accessed except during high water. On the Kaskaskia one location was taken out by the flood of 1997 and the other has not had fuel since the flood of 1993. If you are heading farther south plan accordingly!
The other reason Hoppie's is important is that it offers access to the small village of Kimmswick, MO. Kimmswick is somewhat of the local Mecca for those into shopping for handcrafted items. From the marina a pleasant walk of about 1/4 mile will place you in the heart of town. (PHOTO - Walking into Kimmswick on a previous trip. From right to left - My wife Vickie, Janet, Aldi and two other friends that were along -Bert and Brenda)
I will add that is a location of high contrast. This is an old river community and over time had been allowed to decay. But then a local woman opened a restaurant called the Blue Owl and offered a somewhat rustic setting and world-class food. After a few years food critics in St. Louis "discovered" it and prestigious awards followed. Suddenly it was THE place to eat.
With the influx of people (and money) some of the locals started to sell handcrafted items and before long many of the homes were converted to shops. On the weekends it is a flow with mostly females looking for a good lunch (the Blue Owl is only open until 3:00 pm - no evening meal served) and that perfect craft item to adorn their home.
But at the same time remnants of harder times still exist, as you will sometimes find rundown home with junk and abandon cars sitting in the yard right next to a nicely restored shop or home. Like I said, a place of contrast.
Personally the wares of most of the vendors are of no interest to me but my wife loves the place. This is a 60 mile river trip from our home ramp and a couple times a year we take the ride. Often we take along a few friends and sometimes use my 19’ runabout if we have more than two extra pasengers. We usually leave early Saturday morning and cruise up to Hoppie’s Marina. Although I am not sure if it is required we always top off the tanks there and in return they charge us nothing to moor to their dock while we visit town. We normally eat first and then the girls spend a few hours hitting the shops before we return. I will warn you that the meal isn't McDonald's prices. Usually for the two of us lunch, dessert and tip comes to about $35.
There is another restaurant in Kimmswick that does serve and evening meal and Hoppie's usually have space available for overnight stays. So if you are traveling down the Mississippi you might want to plan a stop. To be honest though, if I had my choice between the Blue Owl or Illinois Riverdock I would pick the Riverdock every time. My pallet may not be as discriminating as some but to me the meal is just as good - not to mention 1/2 the price.
(Photo from a previous trip - Janet and Vickie hitting the shops)
As we pass Hoppie's I have a small dilemma to deal with. We have made very good time today with the river helping our speed. I know that Hoppie's is exactly 60 miles from home. The plan is to have my wife meet us at the ramp with the trailer. I use the GPS to check what time sunset will occur and then run the numbers through the calculator What I find is if we continue on home and try to make it to the ramp it will involve running about 30 minutes in the dark. After Sunday night I really wasn't wild about doing that again on this trip.
If we decided to anchor out for the night I would either have to ask my wife to get up a couple of hours early before work to come get us or we would have to kill the day waiting for her to get off work at 5:00. I'm sure she would have agreed to roll out early but I just didn't want to ask her to do that. After all, she is at work running our business by herself while I'm out playing. Letting her get her sleep seemed the lest I could do.
But then the thought occurred to me if I had her to drive about 12 miles farther she could pick us up at a ramp 10 miles closer to the mouth of the Kaskaskia. With any luck we would still have a little light left to get there and if not the run in the dark would be very short. I stopped and gave her a call on the cell phone and made the arrangements – she was surprised we were back so soon but said she would meet us at the ramp about 8:00 pm.
With this done I brought Therapy up on plane again and headed for home. In a way I was sorry to get home sooner than expected but the prospect of a hot shower was overwhelming the slight disappointment.