Sunday, July 4, 2010

And the rockets' red glare

Old glory near the Marquette-Joliet bridge.

We are parked at the Lady Luck casino in Marquette, Iowa (map), across the river from Prairie du Chien. We arrived Friday afternoon after a lovely drive that encompassed both sides of the river. The western Great River Road departs the river between Reno and Lansing and again between Lansing and Harpers Ferry, and consists primarily of county roads. So we crossed the river at La Crosse, Wisconsin and then back again right here, and enjoyed Wisconsin 35, closer to the river and having better alignment. Now that we're in Iowa the situation reverses, and we'll stay on this side all the way to the Quad Cities.

This is actually a very small casino, on a riverboat named the Miss Marquette. A shore-side building houses a buffet restaurant and a bar, with an enclosed walkway connecting to the boat. Our guide said there were three marked RV spaces here and that there might be some power. It is owned and operated by Isle of Capri casinos, for whom we have a special fondness.

Ever since we first stayed at their property in Fort Lauderdale, one of the corporate marketing people there has been following our blog, I think via my Twitter feed. We always get a hearty welcome from her when we land at one of their casinos, and someone from the marketing department has posted RV-friendly comments on the entries for almost all their properties on the Casino Camper web site. These folks get it -- it costs almost nothing to welcome RVers, and most of us spend at least some money at the property.

Since then I've been following several of their Twitter streams and keeping an eye out for their properties along our route. Although Louise would probably say I'm biased because their marketing staff appears entirely composed of attractive and vibrant young women. In any case, having built something of a relationship with the company came in handy on this visit.

When we arrived
we indeed found there to be three marked RV spaces. Unfortunately, two rigs were already here, and one of them had quite rudely straddled two out of the three stalls.

We were able to squeeze in to the next stall over, about the same size as the first three but not specifically marked for RV's. That still put us in reach of the power outlets, a pair of 20-amp duplex receptacles on a stake next to the first space. Unfortunately, one of the two 20-amp circuits was completely dead, and in addition to us being the third rig, another rig came along shortly after us and parked two stalls over.

I got my tools out and disassembled both receptacles to check the wiring and make sure it was nothing as simple as a bad GFCI, but no such luck. (Long-time readers will know that I am no stranger to repairing receptacles all over the country.) I even found the electrical panel and checked the breakers, which were both "on". I suspected a bad breaker or a loose wire in the panel, but I had figured it was best to draw the line at unscrewing the panel cover -- casinos have cameras everywhere. So I fired off a message to our new friends at headquarters, asking if they could secure permission for me to continue my repair.

Within a few minutes we had first a manager, then one of the maintenance workers visit us, and the maintenance guy and I were able to quickly track the problem to a bad breaker. He had spares back at the shop (I carry them, too) and a short while later a new breaker was installed and all was well. Since then we've had one of the two 20-amp circuits mostly to ourselves, and between that and our whizzy load-supplementing inverter and battery bank, we've been able to run an air conditioner for the few hours we've needed it. It has been climbing into the mid 80s in the afternoons.

Friday night we took the scooters to McGregor, just a mile down river, and had a nice dinner at the Old Man River brew pub. We also found a coin laundry there, to which Louise returned yesterday. In addition, we discovered the schedule for the combined Marquette/McGregor schedule of holiday festivities. Due to some confusion we actually missed the parade yesterday morning in downtown Marquette, but we did pass by the flea market and hatched a plan to take in the fireworks display. We ate yesterday at the casino buffet, which was quite good although in a surprisingly small room, commensurate, I suppose, with the whole small-town nature of this little stretch of river.

Last night before sunset we scooted down to the little city park-cum-marina at the water's edge with our lawn chairs and settled in for the fireworks. We had previously scoped out the open decks of the river boat, which would have been a great view, however there would be no comfortable place to sit and we did not guess we could get lawn chairs past security.

In addition to most of the populations of Marquette and McGregor, I would guess people came from far and wide to watch, possibly even a good portion of Prairie du Chien across the river. Dozens of boats arrived from up and down river and anchored along the banks or tied up to the city docks for the show. It was a good show, lasting perhaps half an hour, with a very small-town-America feel to it, and the weather was perfect. We were glad we stayed right here in Marquette for it, as it was a nice compromise between last year's austere Fourth and the chaos of a large-city celebration.

We generally try not to drive on holiday weekends, and this would be a fine place to wait it out through Tuesday morning, with several more restaurants to sample in these two towns and a power outlet to boot. However, we feel compelled to continue south today, in part because two tropical investigation areas sprung up this morning in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean. We had intended to amble, perhaps stopping next at the casino in Dubuque, but I think we will probably press on to Louise's childhood home of Bettendorf. That would give us easy access to Interstates 80 and 74, as well as US-67, putting us within the mandatory two-day distance of most of the gulf coast.


  1. I am sorry, but I had to laugh out loud when I pictured you "sneaking around" with your tools! It so reminds me of my Dad, you engineers just crack me up! They are lucky to have such guests, and as you said, it is good that they are finally learning it.

  2. We ARE lucky to have such guests! I told Sean we may have to start putting him on our payroll if he keeps fixing things. I am glad you got the help you needed and enjoyed your visit to Lady Luck Marquette...I hope your stay in Bettendorf is as enjoyable! As always, safe travels!

  3. To the anonymous friend who posted a comment here about our credit card: Thanks! We canceled the card tonight. Your comment won't show up here, but we appreciate the alert that you sent us.


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