Month: November 2018

Week 46 Giving Thanks

It amazes me that we have been on this journey for 46 weeks and that we are coming down the home stretch. The past couple of weeks have been some of the most difficult, psychologically.  As we traveled the Loop in Florida and up the east coast, we saw Loopers here and there, had docktails with some of them and shared experiences upon occasion.  There are just so many options for places to visit and explore that we end up pretty well spread out due to our individual preferences.  Once we hit Chicago and came down towards Joliet, we became part of a flotilla.  The members of the flotilla change daily owing to: the top speeds each captain is willing to push his/her craft, to the number of days the crew wants to stay in a particular town, or heaven forbid due to mechanical issues that must be addressed, which can sometimes be lengthy.


This pack mentality can be trying.  We like to travel through undisturbed waters hoping to catch glimpses of wildlife along the way and have been rewarded with deer, turkey, beaver and eagle sightings.  In a flotilla, we have been first a lot of the time because as Jerry says, “If you ain’t the lead dog, the view never changes!”  The odds catch up with us though and often a faster boat will overtake us and become leader until he disappears around the bend of a river.

IMG_7978.JPGMoon Dance

We leave Columbus marina at dawn with just two other boats and lock through at dawn without a hitch.


The journey for the day is pretty easy; there’re only patches of debris rather than great islands of it and there are sticks as opposed to whole trees in the water.  We find out that we cannot lock through the last lock that we wanted to because the anchorage below it will have a dredge working through the night, making it impossible for us to anchor there.  So, we pull into Sumpter anchorage with our two buddy boats and it is a calm and lovely place to spend the night, just a few miles up from the lock.

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Catalina Jack

We call the Hefflin lock the next morning, acting as point person for our three boats, and the lock master informs us that he has a barge in the chamber and another one coming up river in a bit.  “Call me back in 20 minutes and we’ll see whether we will be able to lock you through or not.”

That isn’t very heartening and we relay the disappointing news to our friends.  When we call back, the lock master says, “Come now or wait 3 hours, your choice!”


Dang!  We all scramble to get our anchors up, get the glass cleared of fog (at least it isn’t ice this morning as it has been the past couple of mornings) and get into the river, knowing that there is a barge that will be coming out of the lock towards us.


 The fog is so thick we really can’t see much.  We contact the barge and he says he can see us but we can’t see him until he emerges, like a ghost, from the fog.  It looks like he is going to mow us down and he’s telling us to take him on the two which means starboard to starboard but we can’t see any room between his starboard and the bank.


He keeps saying that he is moving over for us and finally daylight appears between him and the bank though fog is still swirling around it.  We quickly move to that side and pass him safely.  Creeping along, we are able to get into the lock and we lock through as the fog lifts for good.


The rest of the ride is serene and pretty, with gray clay hoo-doos and interesting white cliffs beside parts of the river.


After a long day, we pull into Demopolis Marina and it looks like homecoming.  We recognize 99% of the boats here either from being with them or from the Meets app that shows where Looper boats are.  This is not good because it means that we will all be trying to get out of the marina and through the lock at the same time in the morning.

We meet up for docktails, appoint a spokesperson to coordinate with the lock master and call it a night.  We are not looking forward to the next couple of days because they are LONG river days with no marinas anywhere along the ride, which means at least a dozen boats all trying to fit into the small and limited anchorages that do exist.

The day dawns with thick fog and the lock master says to wait until he calls us.  He can’t see the lock from his building that is right beside it and his lock is closed due to fog.  He estimates a 7AM lock through but repeats that we are to wait.  At 7 the marina comes alive with engines roaring to life and a mass exodus is immediately underway, even though we haven’t heard from the lockmaster.  The fog is thick but we can see about a quarter mile and then it lifts.  The lead boat calls the lock and he is NOT happy that we already have 9 boats on the river. “I guess y’all didn’t understand what I said when I told you to stay put until I called you!” he says.  After some moments of radio silence, I guess he feels that we are less safe on the river because he tells us to come ahead and he will lock us down but he insists on each boat giving him its name and registration number before we enter the lock.


 The fog thickens even more and now all that we can see is the boat ahead of us as we approach the lock.  The lock master comes on the radio instructing us to stay on the left descending bank or we will miss the lock and go over the dam in the fog and we wouldn’t be the first boat that has done that!   Can this get any more fun!?!?!?

The answer to that is a resounding YES, it can!

We lock down and exit, nine boats in single file.  Coming around a corner there is a tug side-pushing a barge into the bank, meaning his prop wash will and does throw our boats sideways towards the bank but we are now all pro’s at dealing with this situation and adjust accordingly.  Then we proceed into literally zero visibility as the fog swallows the boats ahead of and behind us. We can see NOTHING.  Well, I can see that my eyes are deteriorating because I can see a LOT of floaters against the fog but that’s it!


We slow down and Jerry is steering by the I-pad chart plotter without any visual cues. It is reassuring that he has done this many times while piloting an aircraft on instruments alone but it is still unnerving driving forward into nothingness. I go up on the bow to watch for debris and the boat ahead of us until I can finally point him out to Jerry.


 We follow him about 3 miles until the fog lifts for good and we have a nice day – even warmer than yesterday when we put on shorts for the first time in over a month!  We are happy campers again!  We take the lead and travel almost a 10-hour day, making it to Bobby’s Fish Camp just as the sun is setting.  We have decided to run long days to get to Mobile in two overnights rather than the usual three.


Even though it is now dark, Jerry adds “comfort fuel” because, while we have enough fuel to reach Mobile, we have been having to run faster than we normally do because of the short days and fewer hours of sunlight that we have to reach our destinations.


Bobby’s is a fun old place, founded in 1956 and full of old Coke memorabilia and taxedermied wonders.  It would have been nice to arrive early enough to enjoy “the world’s best fried catfish” but the kitchen is closed and we opt to lift a glass with our friends to celebrate the fact that we will encounter our very LAST LOCK of the trip in the morning!


We get a very early start because there is no fog at all the next morning.  We are all doing the happy dance as we go through the LAST lock of our Loop at Coffeeville.


We are now in tidal water again and so must account for tidal movement as we plan how far we can travel in a day. The day we left, our friend, Steve gave us this advice, “Don’t ever drive where there are birds walking,” which has stood us in good stead.  On this river it is a little tricky because it appears as if the birds are walking in the middle of the river channel.  Upon closer inspection though, they are actually standing on floating flotsam and fishing from there.  We figure it must be like hunters in duck blinds.  The prey can’t see you if you are camouflaged!


The tide and current are a constant two knots with us and so we are able to make good time to our last anchorage at the Tensaw River.  We toss our anchor in and it immediately grabs fast against the current.  We monitor its hold for a while to make sure we are secure and when we don’t move at all, we breathe a sigh of relief and relax.  We end up with 3 other boats anchored in the river behind us and the current makes it look like they are under way and throwing a wake – that’s how fast it is.


Moon Dance at anchor!

This is why I love anchoring out.  It is quiet and so peaceful as the water gently moves the boat back and forth against the anchor rode.  We sit on the front deck in the warmth of the setting sun and an orchestra of crickets warms up, punctuated by the haunting “who-who’s” of a pair of owls calling to one another.  The three-quarter moon is rising and life is good.

After a sound sleep, the final 6 hour run into Mobile is a piece of cake.  We are so excited to see cypress trees swinging with Spanish moss and palmettos around their bases.  FINALLY, we are back in the land of civilized climate! We have now enjoyed three sunny days in a row, with no rain for a couple more and I think that’s a record for the last couple of months!


We enter the Port of Mobile and are overwhelmed.  We didn’t expect it to rival Miami, Ft. Lauderdale and Norfolk but it does. There are container ships from almost every continent in the world, naval vessels galore and some things we have never seen before like a mobile dry dock for repairs to BIG boats!


We clear the port and enter Mobile Bay – we are back in the Gulf of Mexico and dolphins arrive to make us welcome – we haven’t seen any in half a year and it is thrilling to be back in the Gulf!  Shrimpers are everywhere, followed by clouds of hopeful pelicans and seagulls.


We arrive at Turner Marine with perfect timing.  We pull into our slip and get secured and set up just as a shrimper arrives across from our slip.

IMG_8069.JPGHe is selling fresh caught shrimp to people who are on a list.  They have come from restaurants all over the area.  I ask if there might be enough for me to get some and the old man directing the operations assures me that there should be enough once the pre-orders are filled.  We hustle back and grab our cooler and I buy 7 pounds of HUGE shrimp for $6 a pound (IF you could get these at home, they would be at least $15)!  I am so excited!


Our friends from France arrive shortly afterwards and we discover that it is Gilles’ 61st birthday.  We make a date to celebrate together.  I will bring the shrimp and Gilles declares he will cook them! I marinate the shrimp in some olive oil, garlic, salt and cayenne pepper and when Gilles pulls them off the grill they are succulent and fresh and fantastic!


I made a coffee cake for our breakfast and it doubles as a birthday cake since we are all too tired to make anything else.  It is a marvelous celebration with very good friends.  I think it was a good birthday for Gilles especially since he celebrated his 60th birthday sailing in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean (they are on a 4 year, around-the-world journey!


The day before Thanksgiving dawns bright and chilly but warms up quickly which is great because Turner Marine is throwing a fried turkey Thanksgiving feast for their staff and all who are in the marina.  While many boats are here while their crew have gone home, more are here with full crews aboard and we join about 3 dozen other Loopers for a fantastic meal.  All have brought sides which are excellent and the man who made the eggnog is truly a master. I don’t even like eggnog but this was delicious!

After a week of great meals with friends, we are ready to go home to meet our new granddaughter, celebrate the wedding of our nephew and catch up with friends and family.  The boat is tidied and we will rent a car tomorrow to drive home for a few weeks.  The plan is to return to the boat in mid-December and bring her home to Tarpon on Epiphany if weather and mechanical allow.  We are truly thankful for the people and places we have gotten to know this year and for the blessing of being able to take this trip at all.  We are also thankful for the family and friends we will reconnect with when we are home.


More in a couple of weeks as we resume our final leg of the Loop!


Week 45 Weather Stops Us AGAIN and Keeps us in Columbus, MS!

We’re back in the locks again!  Have I mentioned how much we HATE locks on this river system!?!?!  (We have done 134 locks during the 6,500 miles we have traveled so far) The locks on the Tennessee and TennTom are much smaller than what we have been dealing with and there seems to be less barge traffic, so these are not as stressful (though the first lock is an 80’ drop, our largest drop to date).


The challenge is that we are hitting them on a holiday weekend and there is a schedule in place for when they will lock boats through; the first lock goes through on the even hours, the next on the odd hours and so on.  As you can see, timing is pretty critical to success, or so we think!

We are designated to call the lock master at 5:30 AM (most likely because we are the only ones up that early) and then text everybody else the departure time.  We find that he wants us there for the 10 AM lock through.  It will take us 3 ½ hours to get there and so off we go as dawn as dawn is peeking over the horizon.

We pick up a few boats along the way that have anchored closer to the lock to be in ready-position, since they don’t travel as fast.  We are constantly hearing this one sailboat on the VHF discussing how slow his boat goes and that he wants the lock and all of us to wait for him AND he wants to make sure there is a starboard side tie since he is carrying a stepped mast aboard and a starboard tie will make his life easier.  Mind you, this is AFTER we are all already inside the lock and tied up (mostly on the starboard side!)  He wants to be last AND to have it exactly the way he wants it.  We just shake our heads.  I am going to omit the name of the boat in the interest of political correctness because this story continues.


Arriving at the lock at 9:45, we are instructed to enter the lock chamber and secure ourselves to a center-tied bollard.  The wind is directly from the stern and is blowing to beat the band.  Jerry has become very adept at getting us right on the pin and I am now an expert bollard lasso-er so we are successful in tying on right away but it is rough.  Usually once you enter a lock, it is pretty protected and wind is not too much of an issue but with the wind coming directly from astern we are getting beaten up inside the lock as the waves toss us against the lock wall over and over again.  We have every fender we own deployed to good use and we are okay but it is very uncomfortable.

We just want the lockmaster to close the damn doors so this will settle down! And to make it worse, the lock master decides he will wait for the whiny sailor to arrive.  We all groan.  We get being efficient with the resources and all of that but to penalize the 8 boats (5 power and 3 sailboats) who managed to plan a timely arrival for one guy who delays us for 50 minutes is disconcerting, especially because this may jeopardize our ability to make the next lock on time vs. waiting 1 ½ hours for the next lock-through.


We try to make the best of it and are heartened to hear the lockmaster comment that because we have so many boats together, the next lock will probably open immediately for us rather than making us wait for the schedule, IF there is no commercial traffic.  This actually ends up being the case but we spend all day waiting for the whiner at each lock along the way.  SHEESH!

We all end up in the same marina and the game plan is identical the next morning.  The first lock is nearby and he wants us there for the 7AM lock-through so off we go again, as dawn breaks.  It is 29 degrees and I am wearing three shirts, a fleece vest, a sweatshirt and windbreaker on top, and then 3 pairs of socks, leggins under my jeans AGAIN, two pairs of gloves, a scarf and boots to try to stay warm. I feel and look like the Michelin Man and it is a nifty trick to get my PFD (which fits fine over a bathing suit) loose enough to strap over all these clothes!  Have I mentioned how much I HATE winter clothes?!?!?  There is ice on the docks and decks and this is getting old!


All of the 6 power boats are in the lock at 7 AM sharp and the lockmaster asks if anyone has heard from (insert name of whiny sailboat here).  We all groan and answer that we have not.  The last boat in says that he left the marina and not one of the sailboats was stirring at all.  The lockmaster thanks him and says, “Well, let’s get this show on the road then.”


The cheer that goes up from all the power boats is deafening!  No sailboats for a whole day that will include 4 locks and cover 60 miles is magical and we feel like we’ve drawn the get-out-of-jail-free card!  WOO-WOO!

Jackie exit midway 4.jpg

Photo Credit: Jackie Carlson-Hayes

The day turns sunny at noon and the temps climb to a balmy 50 degrees, which finds us shedding layers and turning our faces up to the sun’s warmth.  We pass a majestic Bald Eagle, which is very fitting since it is Veteran’s Day today.   It has been really uplifting to see so many of these birds especially the numbers of juveniles flying along the rivers.


As we get close to the marina around 3 PM we pass lots of white pelicans who have come south but I think they probably need to keep going; this is NOT warm!  We enter Columbus Marina to see Mia and her sister, Ella (see Week 43 Post if you don’t remember Mia and her story) waving at us from the office.  Their sweet little faces shine with happiness to be reunited with friends that are in our group of boats but I don’t think they have enough clothes on!

We plan to remain in the Columbus Marina for a few days as the weather is dismal and we want to try to visit a Rotary Club here.

I contact the Rotary Club and receive an almost immediate response, along with an invitation to dinner and we are thrilled.  Many times we message a club and get no response.  Bob Raymond, a French teacher here in Columbus picks us up and take us to the Welcome Center where the CEO of Visit Columbus, Nancy Carpenter has come in on her day off to welcome us and give us a gift bag of city must-do’s.  We are so warmed by her southern charm and hospitality and feel instantly welcome in this city.  Bob takes us on a driving tour of the historic district of Columbus and is very knowledgeable on architecture, history and the people of his city and we gain a real feel for the evolution of Columbus from being a civil war hospital town (for both confederate and union soldiers) to the very vibrant city that it is today.


We enjoy a wonderful dinner with Rotary President, Stacy Madison and his wife Heather and Major General (ret USMC) Tango Moore and his lovely wife Lee Ann.  Tango was chief of staff of MacDill AFB for a year and so is familiar with our area.  The evening is delightful with great stories and witty repartee between Bob and Tango that cannot be taken as anything other than an enduring fondness for each other.  Again, we feel like family here!


The next day we grab the marina courtesy car with our Moon Dance friends.  We take a tour of the home where Tennessee Williams was born and our friends drop us at Rotary where we enjoy a wonderful lunch and a great meeting.


Our friends pick us up again and we tour the Friendship Cemetery where many union and confederate soldiers are buried


and where Tennessee Williams’ grandfather Rev. Teasdale is buried.  He was the priest at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church and was so beloved, it was said that when he died, the angels wept, hence his grave marker.


From there we tour the Tom Bigby waterway museum which has a fun display where you sit in the pilot house of a tug and get to see how the controls work and some of the scenery from a pilot’s viewpoint.  It is a nice little museum.


The wind is up and temps are dropping rapidly as we come back to the marina in time to do docktails and a planning meeting. Five more Looper boats come in. One is a sailboat whose captain has been outside all day at the helm of his boat and he looks painfully cold. “Ain’t no way in Hell, I’m leaving tomorrow!” he declares.


There is a lot of discussion about leaving tomorrow or staying.  Because of the amount of rain this week, the river is flooding (expected to crest at 60 feet above flood- SHEESH, here we go again!) and is carrying a lot of debris, according to some of the Loopers who left yesterday.  We had planned on going tomorrow but there is no marina until we get 100 miles and 5 locks down to Demopolis, AL. This means we will have to anchor out at least one night.  And if the flooding and debris weren’t bad enough the lows for the next couple of nights will be in the 20’s with freezing rain and/or snow expected.  Jerry and I decide we are going to stay put at least one more day.  We just don’t think that venturing out under the current conditions would be prudent or safe.

We spend most of the next day on the boat (I don’t think I got out of my pj’s until around 3 PM).  Since we will be back in salt water soon, Jerry replaces all of our zincs, which are the sacrificial metals in the engines.


Later that evening, we meet with many of our fellow Loopers for a concert by a university professor and fellow Looper, who taught violin making.


He has made his own violin which is impervious to the humidity on a boat because the wood he used was soaked for a couple of months in water and then dried before he even began creating this instrument.  He says that you could throw it in the water, let it all come apart and then glue it back together and it would sound every bit as good as it does now.

Sorry this video is sideways, I can’t figure out how to right it but it is here more for the sound than the visual anyway!

The music is amazing, especially considering the fact that Tom broke all of his fingers, which now have pins holding them together.  He is soft-spoken and kind and oh so generous in sharing his gift of music and knowledge about the history and evolution of the violin music that we enjoy that evening.  What an experience this is for all of us!


After the office closes and the concert is over, we head out with our group and enjoy a wonderful dinner at Huck’s Place.  On our way home, after dinner, we see bits of snow in the streetlights drifting down around us. REALLY!?!?!?

Today we will tour some of the historic homes but I am going to go ahead and post this because we will leave at dawn tomorrow and have been told that we will not have any internet until we get to Mobile on Tuesday, if all goes well.

Week 44 We’re FREEZING! We add Mississippi to our List of States visited!

This week  starts with some backtracking and more engine challenges.  We retrace our route from Nashville, TN  to Grand Rivers, KY by going down the Cumberland River.  Having the current with us is a nice change and we make good time, clearing the one lock with no delays or drama, YAY!  Being back at Green Turtle Bay Marina sort of feels like a homecoming even though all the boats we know are long gone.

More than 200 hours have elapsed since our last oil change and so we borrow the marina’s courtesy car and make a run to Walmart where we re-provision and buy all the oil and other junk for optimal engine care and feeding.

On the way home, we comment to each other about how well the engines have been running and about how we have come in well below budget for two months running since we have had to make no repairs.  BIG MISTAKE!!!  The karma gods strike quickly!

Jerry warms up the starboard engine and changes the oil and filters in record time. He is getting to be quite the diesel mechanic (he brags that he can even spell diesel now!).   When he goes to warm up the port engine – nothing – nada- zilch!  He tries everything he can possibly think of, fearing that it may be a bad solenoid or starter in which case we might be stuck here for days waiting on parts to be delivered.

 He goes to the Boat Works part of the marina and the guy there takes one look at him and says, “Don’t even sit down, I’m telling you right now that I can’t help you!  You guys (meaning Loopers) have been nothing but trouble this year…busted shafts, nicked props a record number of tows off groundings out in the lake. I am way behind in winterizing boats and I can’t spare any of my mechanics.  If we don’t get these boats finished, I’m liable for the damage a freeze might do.  I gotta tell you, I am Loopered-out!”

Jerry explains that he is pretty sure the problem is not mechanical but is electrical and the guy softens, saying that he CAN help with that and get an electrician to us first thing in the morning.

Jerry watches YouTube videos and the next morning we work together and are successful in literally hotwiring our boat, starting it by bypassing the solenoid!  We are very proud of ourselves but don’t tell anyone that we are now in possession of the kind of know-how that would allow us to actually steal a boat!  To us, the fact that we are able to do this means the solenoid and starter should be okay.

The electrician actually shows up when promised and confirms that our parts are fine but we have a broken wire between the starter switch and the solenoid.  He rewires it and off he goes after the engine starts up with a roar, YAY!!!  And the best news is the bill doesn’t break the bank.  Jerry changes the remaining filters and oil on that engine while I use the first really sunny, warm day in an eternity to super clean the decks and polish the stainless rails and stanchions.   The boat looks better inside and out by the time we are done.

The time has changed now and it gets dark early but we throw a dinner party anyway since the weather is nice.  We have our friends from Sadaya II (a powercat on a three-year, world tour that began in France) and from Moon Dance (a fellow Florida Looper) over for a candle-lit dinner on the flying bridge.  We laugh for hours, really enjoying each other’s company and it is sad when we all decide we’d better get to sleep since we plan on an early morning departure to get onto the Tennessee River.


It is hard to believe that we are now really and truly on our way home.  The Tennessee river is very wide but our channel hugs the eastern shore where the trees wear their glorious fall foliage.  It is unfortunate that we have a gloomy gray day here but thankfully it isn’t raining, which was forecast.


We are traveling upriver but there is little to no current, thankfully. We have an uneventful 73 mile run to Pebble Isle Marina in New Johnsonville, TN, where we pick our way carefully in through a VERY narrow channel and dock.


It turns out that the reason the channel is so narrow and twisty is because we are actually driving through/over the main streets of the old town of Johnsonville, which was literally flooded when the Tennessee Valley Authority built the Kentucky Dam in 1944.  Some of you might recall the George Clooney movie Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?” that was set in this area at about that time.

The forecast is for a low of 27 in a couple of nights and I am now ready to get moving further south.  We are more than ever confirmed Floridians – hating the cold that makes our hands not work well and the constant gloomy skies.  We need lots of light for optimal functioning apparently!

We cruise most of the day with no locks and arrive in Clinton where we reunite with 2 sailboats we have been with off and on and our whole crew of 9 enjoys a fabulous treat of homemade French cuisine aboard Sadaya II.  Thank you, Cat and Gilles!!!!



Photo Credit: our new friend, Jackie (second from left) who is doing the Loop with her dad and 2 kids who are “boat-schooling” this year!



The morning dawns really COLD AGAIN! UGH!  We actually have ICE crystals on the strata-glass!



We are SO happy to have brought our heating pads which work well as seat heaters, foot warmers and which draw so little voltage that we can actually use them any time.  Have I mentioned how much I HATE winter clothes!!!?!?!?  The constant layering of socks and sweaters and having to wear leggins under my jeans! UGH!! I HATE THIS!!!


This is us trying to hover in the current near the lock!

Photo credit: Catherine Szpirglas Toulo

We made it through the Pickwick Lock, after jockeying against a 5 mph current for over 2 hours (the hydro electric plant was really cranking to provide heat for the coming frosty temperatures) waiting for a tug that couldn’t get his barges in or out of the lock – sheesh – I think he had his learner’s permit!  The delay there after a 7 hour ride caused us to have to come into Aqua Yacht Marina in Luka, Mississippi in the dark, which we are not big fans of but all went well and after today, we will have fewer than a dozen locks left to get to the Gulf and hopefully some warmer weather!  Sorry for the whining 🙂

Week 43 – Music City!

We relax into the atmosphere of Green Turtle Bay Marina. We have heard about it for months and it doesn’t disappoint.  The marina is lovely with lots and lots of Looper boats. There is a well appointed ship store and everything that isn’t a boat part is 30% off so we have a great time browsing but not so much buying.


We connect with new friends and say goodbye to some of those with whom we have traveled for a while now.   It is funny how you can tell where people are in their Loop journeys by looking at their burgees.  Some that we see are brand new and crisp, others are well worn and are beginning to be a bit tattered like ours and others are barely discernable as AGLCA burgees. These are the folks we envy.  They are taking their time, going back and forth home to work or just visit and then returning to continue their Loop.  Some have been at this since 2011 and while some smell the barn now and are hurrying home, others don’t want this experience to be over and are finding any excuse to side trip anywhere just to prolong their journeys.


We enjoy a fantastic potluck dinner with Looper friends before we bid all a fond farewell and leave GTB at first light to start the trip to Nashville.  It is a gorgeous day that starts with a lot of fog but shortly sees us shedding coats and scarves as the temperatures climb.  The Cumberland River is a really nice change in that the water is tranquil and free of debris and all of the markers are exactly where the chart plotter says they should be. What a nice change from our recent river experiences on the Illinois, Mississippi and Ohio rivers.  Fall is touching the leaves with color and it is a long 11 hour trip to Clarksville (Yes, I can hear the Monkees’ song in the back of my mind) but it is a peaceful and pleasant journey.


We pull up to the town dock just as the dude is turning on the power for us and we ask for a restaurant recommendation.  We follow his direction to Strawberry Alley Ale House and have a fantastic dinner of chicken picatta for me and a home made vege burger for Jerry (his was good, mine was exquisite!).  We stroll the river front after dinner and turn in, ready to travel to music city tomorrow!


The trip is long but even prettier than yesterday because we travel through fall foliage that works its way up and down small mountains.  We see deer and turkey along the river and after a long day we come into Nashville at sunset.


We get the boat secured and crash for a bit but the draw of the city is too much and so we stroll Broadway and sit at Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge listening to two bands simultaneously.  It is amazing the sheer number of musicians in this town and we only really walk about 8 blocks before we are really done and return to the boat.


The next day we play tourists and do the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.  We are not really country music fans, not that we don’t like it, we just haven’t been exposed to enough of it to really know much about it so our expectations for this museum are modest.


Boy, are we pleasantly surprised!  We travel back in time, tracing the roots and expansion of country music through the ages.  It is a blast to see Willie Nelson with short hair and performing in a suit and tie back before Willie became the Willie we all know and love today, grizzled and twinkling at the camera.  We love that there is an exhibit dedicated to the Outlaws Era (Waylon, Willie and Kris) and a lot of information on the Armadillo World Headquarters which we didn’t know before.


It is really neat to see my old school mate from Princeton Day School, Mary Chapin Carpenter honored here.  Mary Chapin has won five Grammy Awards and is the only artist to have won four consecutive Grammy Award for Best Female Country Vocal Performance, which she received from 1992 to 1995.  She has sold more than 12 million records worldwide. On October 7, 2012, Mary Chapin Carpenter was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Maybe the biggest shocker, after seeing that Shel Silverstien (author of the Giving Tree) writes successful country lyrics, is to see Kris Kristofferson’s military uniform!  He attained the rank of captain, was a helicopter pilot and an Army Ranger. He was offered a scholarship to Oxford and a teaching position at West Point but turned both down to focus on his music.  Never would have guessed that in a million years!  This museum was a great way to spend a day.


The next day is rainy and windy so we stay in to work on paperwork and do some light housekeeping.


By noon is dry enough to walk into town and we visit the Frist Museum of Art which has a wonderful exhibit called Paris 1900.  We are lucky enough to catch a docent lead tour and learn about the Belle Epoch (1875-1918) through the art of that time.


The museum also has a fantastic children’s room where lots of materials are set up for art exploration.

IMG_7784.JPGAfterwards we walk across town to the Tennessee State Museum which is an extensive and well curated history of the state from prehistoric days through the present era.  We like the Bicentennial Park which leads to the museum.  It traces state history through the ages in a series of stone pillars and walls that mark historic events in Tennessee history along with famous quotes that are applicable to the happenings of each decade.  It is really well done.


This one was Jerry’s favorite!

IMG_7800.JPGWe wish we had more time here to explore the Farmer’s Market and other areas near here but I am excited to spend some time with my old roommate who I haven’t seen since a class reunion in 1990 or 91 (?) and we need to get back to the boat and cleaned up.

Kathy and her husband arrive for a tour of the boat and we catch up over drinks and appetizers and then head out for a wonderful dinner near where they live in East Nashville.  It is a fun evening and it seems like just yesterday not 20 some-odd years since we have last seen each other.


The next day, Kathy is kind enough to use her day off to shepherd us around Nashville, showing us city and suburban neighborhoods and making sure we see her alma mater, Vanderbilt University. We got to see Kathy’s gorgeous home and neighborhood, did a little shopping and went back to the boat.  It is easy to see why Kathy and David stayed right where they went to school. Nashville has so many diverse and wonderful draws, I know we will come back to see some of the sights we missed due to lack of time.


Somehow our tickets for the Grand Ole Opry were for 9:30 not 7 as we had thought and we killed some time listening to an amazing band called The Skeleton Crew at the Bourbon Street Blues and Boogie bar on Printer’s Alley.  Thankfully they were more rock than blues and we really enjoyed the performance and the venue which had a more intimate feel than did some of the venues we saw on Broadway.


I have heard of the Grand Ole Opry for decades and always thought it was a place.  So it is a lesson for me to find out that it isn’t a place, it is a live radio show which can take place in different venues.  Our tickets are for the Ryman theater and the experience is amazing!


We hadn’t heard of most of the performers except for Larry Gatlin, who emceed the first segment and Ricky Skaggs (inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame just a few weeks ago) who emceed the last segment.


The show is fast paced with performers doing 1-3 songs and then making way for the next act, as an old time radio announcer does the ads for the sponsors in between.  The talent of these people from bands, to comedians to a capella septet called Home Free (my personal favorite) is absolutely stunning (  The audience is totally engaged, clapping and cheering and we were all sad when it was over.


Nashville was all that we expected and more and we hate to leave but it really is getting too consistently cold for these poor Floridians and we need to be moving south towards warmer weather!  Thanks again to Kathy for a wonderful introduction to her home town!

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