We wake up to a rainy day at Joliet and depart the wall at 8:00AM with five other Loopers heading to the Brandon Road Lock and Dam and the Dresden Lock and Dam. We end-up being a bit early, by an hour or so, but we eventually lock through and actually raft a boat (tie a boat to our boat) in the lock for the first time. The push to get going early is stemmed by the fact that we need to make a lock time at Marseilles Lock 26 miles down river. This lock is under construction and has restricted hours when ‘pleasure crafts’ (P.C.’s) can lock through. We arrive early as the lock tender has instructed and then have to wait at one of the large bollards. Unfortunately, the wall near the lock is not available for P.C.’s as we had been led to believe. An hour and a half later we lock through and are on our way to Ottawa (37NM) Heritage Harbor for the night. Our second ‘problem lock’ is Starved Rock Lock. It has the same construction/restricted lock openings for P.C.’s. So, thinking strategically, we move a few miles downstream to a fuel dock at Starved Rock (7NM). This location is only two miles from the lock so we figure that this will be better for our 05:00 transit. By the way, this is our first, and as it turns out, very eventful, dark transit. We have a high-power spot mounted on the brow of the boat and a hand held spot as well. The captain has the radar and nav screens active, but let me tell you, nothing prepares you for the hundred plus foot tug and tow coming your way in the black of night. Larry, once again, cool as a cucumber, lets the tug ‘n tow slip smoothly by. Waiting for the tow to pass cost us time and we miss the early bird lock and have to tie up to another large bollard and wait until 06:30. We have the lock to ourselves and then a long but uneventful transit down the Illinois River to Peoria (59NM). We leave the municipal docks at Peoria and lock through the Peoria Lock and Dam without any issues. The lock is only an 8 foot drop, no bollards or lines, Larry holds us in the middle and we exit about 20 minutes later. A long day down the Illinois River checking depths, and double checking river markers as there are many that have been dragged out of position by the massive tug and tows or are missing all together. In addition there are plenty of snags (trees wedged into the bottom of the river) so we have to be diligent about looking for these, not to mention Larry having to maneuver around the goliath tugs and tows in these narrow channels. Eight hours later we arrive at Beardstown (61NM) where there are barges you can tie up to for the night and then climb up a steep stairway to get over their breakwater and into town. Rereading what I have just written, I am thinking how lucky we were to make all these locks with just an hour or two’s wait....our lock- luck is about to change. Out of Beardstown we head to the La Grange Lock, just an hour down river. Thinking that it is smooth sailing after our two problem locks we are absolutely gobsmacked to learn that they have started post-flood maintenance and there will be a three hour wait. Well, we use our time wisely, we ride the exercise bike, read, practice spanish and play cards. One o’clock rolls around and we find out that a tug with fifteen tows has to lock through...cut to the chase it is nearly a six hour wait to clear this lock. This was not good for so many reasons, but mainly because our tie-up this evening is six hours away and it is four o’clock. You do the math and yes, that means two hours of dark transit and arrival far after cocktail hour! I am sure by now, you all have guessed I have not grown accustomed to running at night. Well, practice makes perfect I guess and we will just chalk it up to experience. We have a great captain and a great crew. All hands were on deck to look for logs and snags and use the hand-held spot to shine on the reflective river markers. Learning how to effectively use the spot-light mounted on the boat increases my confidence in running the river at night, however, the car ferry zipping across the river every five minutes and the massive tug and tow (however nice on the VHF) rounding a blind corner was just unnerving. Ultimately, it comes down to the captain and his capabilities. I will shout from the mountaintop (if there were any in this flat land) my affirmations on how accomplished a captain Larry is at this time. He was calm and sure and got us to Hardin (67NM) safe and sound. Thank you Cap!