Originally Posted by tkrfxrs
If you avoid Chicago, say go up the St. Lawrence Seaway and over Nova Scotia instead of down the Mississippi, does the air draft restriction become less onerous? That seems like a more interesting albeit more rigorous route.
You can take the St. Lawrence route to the Great Lakes with no problem, just have to take that route or another one back out. That's actually the route commercial vessels take as they go through the Welland Canal. You can't go South down the Illinois River from Chicago. Theoretically you could go to Chicago that way and then explore up the Mississippi and Illinois to almost Chicago if you wanted another time, so cover all the territory without looping.
Actually the alternative I'd suggest if over height is to go to the Great Lakes through the Erie or the St. Lawrence routes, then return. Another year then go around the Gulf Coast and up the TN Tom to the Tennessee. From there you could explore the Tennessee, Cumberland, Ohio and Missouri rivers. Really there isn't a lot to see and enjoy on the upper Mississippi and Illinois.
You could enjoy multiple trips to the Great Lakes and at the same time spend years exploring the Inland rivers from the other direction. The Illinois and Upper Mississippi stretches above Cairo are about 550 miles long and not really anything in that area that qualifies as a "must see".
And I'm not commenting at all on the size of our bed or our sheets. I'll leave that completely to my wife.