American Queen - Chester, IL
Now for something completely unexpected. We were originally scheduled to spend the day Steamboatin'[end] up the Mississippi to St. Louis. Instead, the Captain informed us last night that he had other plans: a surprise landing at Chester, Illinois! I was up early (as always) to see the sunrise and soon realized that we were landing on the east side of the river instead of the west. Finally I will have an opportunity to get a good photo of the ship in the morning sunlight. I grabbed my cameras and spent a good deal of time shooting photos and videos from shore.

American Queen in Chester, Illinois

I suppose many folks are like me and have no idea where Chester is, much less that it is the home of Popeye! Actually, Chester is the hometown of Elzie Segar, Popeye's creator. Located only 63 miles southeast of St. Louis, Missouri, Chester sits high on the bluffs of the Mississippi River. Always being one to try and get some exercise, I decided to walk into town from the boat. Did I mention the town is located high on the bluffs? No kidding! Not realizing there were steps leading up to the center of town, I went the long way. The 2.5 mile walk, mostly uphill, was strenuous, yet exhilarating. Taking the Steamcoach would be a better option for most.

Welcome to Chester, Illinois

One advantage of walking into town is you see things you might miss when on the coach. One thing becomes quickly apparent: the town is definitely invested in the Popeye culture. There are marble Popeye character statues all over town.

Chester Public Library

The highlight of any visit to Chester is the Popeye Museum. Now honestly, this is really more of a Popeye gift shop than a true museum, but it is worth a visit. If you are into Popeye, they probably have whatever you are looking for. I bought a refrigerator magnet for our collection. Right next to the museum/gift shop is a small park with more Popeye cutouts and statues.

J. Wellington Wimpy
"I'll gladly repay you Tuesday for a hamburger today!"

After taking in the museum and shop, I chose to hop on the Steamcoach for the short ride back to American Queen. On the way back, we stopped briefly at the Elzie Segar Memorial Park right next to the Chester Bridge (Missouri Route 51) where a 6-foot, 900-pound bronze statue of Popeye the Sailor Man stands to welcome all who drive into Chester.

Popeye Museum

Other than the Popeye statues and the shop/museum, there's not a lot to see in Chester. But that's the great thing about small towns in America: you only need one reason to visit. I know that if we ever find ourselves on a road trip down Route 51 across the Chester Bridge, we will stop in Chester and say hello to Popeye and his friends again.

Watch for our full, in-depth review of American Queen coming soon!