October 8 -13, 2019 Hammond Marina

October 8th was “a good day for a boat ride,” so we left Michigan City, IN and headed towards Hammond – also in Indiana – which was a few miles south of Chicago. The “Looper Line” had been buzzing that the locks south of Chicago were to open on Oct 13 – a week later than originally scheduled.  We had received some communication from the AGLCA (America’s Great Loop Cruisers’ Association) that there were 70+ Looper boats positioned north of the locks.  In an attempt to facilitate all of us getting quickly thru the locks – in addition to the commercial traffic and other non-Looper boats – the Association was asking us to divide into 4 groups.  1- Those who wanted to get thru the first day, 2- Those who were wanting to wait a day or two to let the initial “flood” of traffic get on their way, 3- Those who wanted to wait about a week to let LOTS of boats go by, and 4 – Those who wanted to do their own thing.  The advantage of the first three groups was that the Executive Director of the Association – Kim – has a good working relationship with the Corps of Engineers and she could help coordinate with them (the Corps operates the locks) to get us through the locks in as timely a manner as possible. Doing it on your own meant that you were at the mercy of the Lock Masters, and a single boat could be waiting awhile.  We were headed to Hammond to join many other boats getting into position to go thru the locks. We had chosen to join Group 2 – we wanted out, but not in the initial crush of commercial traffic that had been backed up for three weeks!

Arriving in Hammond, we again met up with many of the boats we had traveled with down the coast of Michigan.  Great to see familiar faces!  Some were going into Chicago the next day (via Uber) and we were happy to go back to the big city. We went with Dave and Denise from Adagio, and decided to try the Aquarium again. WOW- NO lines.  It was on a Wednesday and a great day to be there.  No crowds at the exhibits and wonderful seats for the dolphin show.  We ended up spending all day there – such fun.  

So, back at Hammond Marina, what to do?  Remember, this was the place that the others had been told not to wander too far because of gangs?  Well, we found out there was a bike path – how many gangs hang out on bike paths?  We again went out with Dave and Denise and headed south along the shoreline towards the next town called Whiting.  It was a beautiful ride and what a surprise at the end of the trail. Mascot Hall of Fame!  Who knew??  This is where “mascots” can go to learn to be the best of the best. It’s not just about putting on a costume – there is so much more!  Now you know. 

We biked thru the rest of Whiting, specifically going to a drug store for Dave to pick up a prescription.  So how do Loopers get their “fix” of drugs on the Loop?  It’s easiest to have prescriptions sent to a national chain such as Walgreens or CVS.  By doing that, any store in the chain can pull up the prescription on their computer system and fill it.  It’s worked pretty well.  People just need to remember to get a long term supply before going to Canada.  On the other hand, I’ve talked with Canadians who have had to get an entire year’s supply before leaving home. Anyway, while we were at CVS, we remembered to get our flu shots.  Didn’t want to take the chance of getting sick en route.

The next day was still lovely – temp around 70.  Did some boat chores and laundry. Ed installed AIS on the boat (more about that on a later blog). Then a not so funny thing happened on the 12th.   The high temp was only 55 and a low of 36 – and future days didn’t look to be going back to 70.  When you are sitting in a boat surrounded by water, cold temps are not comfortable.  Sure, we have heaters on board, but we have to go outside of the boat periodically.  Get those locks open!

On Sunday morning – on a COOL Sunday morning – we rode our bikes back to Whiting to go to church. What had been a very pleasant ride on Thursday, was now a bitterly cold ride with winds coming at us from the lake.  Brrrr.  Late that afternoon, we gathered for docktails on one of the boats and discussed plans for our exit.  Steve from Valentine had been elected as leader of Group Two – hereafter known as the “Two-pers.” (Somebody came up with that after too many cocktails!)  Group 1 had already started thru today, and Kim had indicated that we could get started on the next day.  WooHoo!  

We were all ready to be moving again, but at the same time, many of us had a little trepidation about how it would be on the rivers.  We had heard about barges – very LARGE barges – and there would be a good bit of current on the water, especially the Mississippi.  It was comforting to know we would be traveling with a group. Some of the boaters had already traveled the lower rivers when they started their Loops.  ANY experience is better than none! For all the miles we had already traveled, we somehow knew this was going to be a little different.