Boat & Talk: Virtual Mississippi River Tour

Time for something a little different. For those of you who’ve read the post on my Dad’s Chris Craft, this should look familiar. Now that the weather is getting nice, we’ll take the boat out most every weekend. It finally occurred to me that there might be some interest in a virtual cruise. For those of you so inclined, step aboard and let’s head downriver…

This is my favorite spot on the boat – the bridge. The weather was perfect, and the wind was mild – ideal. The funny thing is that since both the bridge and cabin steering wheel are connected, I can sit up there and watch the unused wheel steer itself, while Dad is driving down below.

Here is downtown Hampton, such as it is. The red and white pillared building left of center is the village hall. About a quarter of a mile to the right is a slough where many boats anchor out in the summer. Nearby Empire Park has a boat ramp too. Please note that you can click on any of the photos for a much larger version.

We’re now looking at East Moline, with the huge John Deere factory dominating the scene. They build combines here, huge monsters that run well over a hundred grand. If you’re ever in the area, the factory tour is great! They take you right through the factory, including the paint booth, welding and fabrication, and the final assembly line.

You might not expect to see pelicans in the Midwest, but they have been coming here regularly for the last five years or so. It was quite a shock when they first started showing up. I believe they are American White Pelicans. They look all white except in flight, when their black wingtips show.

We are now passing Marquis Harbor (no not Grand Marquis, you Mercury lovers) and the Captain’s Table restaurant. We go here a lot in the summer with the neighbors. It’s a nice place with good food. But it is not our destination today.

We are heading for Lindsay Park Yacht Club in Davenport, to refill the Chris’s ample tanks. I am glad I get to live vicariously through Dad’s boat. Filling the tanks on one of these can be hard on your wallet.

Now we are approaching downtown Moline. The Queen of Hearts is on the left, and the Celebration Belle is on the right. The CB does evening dinner cruises on a regular basis. We had a couple of company outings on it when I worked for my Dad’s insurance company, and it was a lot of fun.

And here we have the I-74 bridge, the “Golden Gate” of the Midwest. It has linked Moline to Bettendorf since the 1930s. You can also see the boat’s running light on the left, which has always looked like a little flying saucer to me.

Approaching downtown Bettendorf, the riverfront is dominated by the Isle of Capri casino boat, although it’s a “boat” only in the narrowest of terms. It’s basically a casino barge. I believe it is self-propelled, but is permanently anchored for all intents and purposes.

Here’s a couple of tow boats sitting on the Moline side, about a quarter mile to the right of the Celebration Belle.

And here’s the hotel portion of the casino, famous for its giant lighted parrot sign. When driving over I-74 to Iowa, it is impossible to miss. It’s hard to see in the photo, but those “windows” on the boat are fake, painted onto the solid metal sides. After all, you wouldn’t want to distract the gamblers with a cool river view.

We are now passing under the bridge. Plans are afoot to build a new I-74 bridge, and some businesses have already relocated. But folks have been talking about a new bridge for twenty years, so I am a bit skeptical.

A great deal of work has been done to the guardrails and pavement on the bridge and its approaches in the last two years, which makes me further skeptical of a new bridge coming soon. Why spend all that money on it if a new one is coming in a few years? But I digress…

I think the current bridge is pretty cool looking, and I like seeing it from the boat. These are not bridge views a motorist will see!

With the Twin Bridges behind us, we are rapidly approaching LPYC.

Davenport is an old river town, the biggest of the four Quad Cities by far. As a result, there are some pretty cool “river baron” mansions along the river, like these two. I bet the views are great.

We finally arrived at Lindsay Park. While heading for the gas dock, I saw a very familiar boat. This Chris Craft 38′ Commander is almost identical to the one my parents had from 1988-96. This one is well-known to area boaters, and the owner keeps it in wonderful shape.

The main difference between this one and our old boat is ours was a Sedan Bridge, with an enclosed upper cabin. This one is an Express Bridge, where the upper cabin is open to the elements. I really like the ring of varnished mahogany along the gunwales. Dad’s current ’68 35′ Commander doesn’t have it.

We stayed long enough to shoot the breeze with some friends and watch the Kentucky Derby, then it was time to head back. Pulling out of LPYC, Arsenal Island is prominent on the Illinois side. The house shown here is one of several that serve as officer lodgings. The golf course also runs right past them, as can be seen by the golf cart cruising by.

Here is Quarters One, which is the second largest federal residence after the White House. It used to be reserved for the Commander of the Arsenal, but has been empty for some time. Restoration and refurbishment has started fairly recently, and tours are given from time to time.

With full tanks, we are now heading back toward the I-74 bridge.

I just had to take a couple more photos of it. It is now late afternoon, and it looked pretty cool with the afternoon light hitting it.

If you turn to the right just before going under the bridge, you can see the new KONE (formerly Montgomery Elevator) headquarters going up. Their current offices are in the line of the new I-74 bridge to-be, so they decided to move out of the way. Just to its right, you can see the John Deere Commons, which has a large John Deere museum with past and present products on display. The upper levels are home to United Healthcare, which was John Deere Health when the building was built in 1996.

Here we are under the spans again. You can see the KONE tower just to the left. I had an interview at KONE in 2004, and the interviewer was nice enough to take me up to the tower. It has an awesome view! The tower was used to test elevators, and every Christmas they placed a tree atop it, on the roof – not a job I would want! 2011 was the last time they put up the Christmas tree, as by this December they will be moved out of their old offices.

A final parting shot of the Twin Bridges, as evening approaches. It was originally a single-span toll bridge. The second span was built later on, and in the 1970s it was integrated into Interstate 74.

Here’s a shot of downtown Moline, with the KONE tower out front and the LeClaire Hotel in the background. Until 1985 or so it was a hotel with a ballroom (the Sky High Ballroom) and restaurant on the top floor. Built in 1915, the LeClaire was a luxury hotel and two presidents, John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan, stayed there. The lower level also had a restaurant, the Prime Rib Room. It was an empty shell between about 1985 and 1994, but was slowly restored and reopened as an apartment complex in 1996. The cool lobby was completely restored to its original appearance. It is notable for being the only really tall building in downtown Moline and was the tallest building in the Quad Cities for years. It can also be seen in my 1992 Olds Touring Sedan and 1996-97 Thunderbird posts.

I couldn’t resist taking another photo of the tow boats as we passed them again. These are much more frequently seen attached to barges loaded with coal and grain. They are obviously owned by the sand and gravel company they are docked in front of.

Huge river-weathered trees and limbs are commonly seen on the banks of the small islands and islets on the river. Birds love them.

Just as we were almost home, a barge finally went by. We usually see a lot of them on our excursions, but not today. It must have just come out of Lock & Dam 14, located just a bit upriver in LeClaire, IA.

Well, thanks for coming along. Hope you enjoyed seeing the river and some of the sights around here. Mind the step!