Thursday, October 30, 2008

Up the Tennessee to Chattanooga

We left Joe Wheeler State Park Saturday morning along with “C-Life”, “Kismet”, “Wanderin’ L & M”, “Sunshine”, “Freedom’s Turn”, and “Going There”. We were all headed for the great city of Chattanooga—200 miles away from Florence, Alabama, up the Tennessee River. If all went well, we would be two nights at anchor and two nights in marinas. Our flotilla looked great as we all left the park, lined up like little ducks following their mother.

After traveling about 25 miles, our first stop was Riverwalk Marina in Decatur, Alabama. As we were approaching the narrow entrance to the canal leading into the marina, we all waited out in the river for the first boat to get into his slip. We were a very impressive sight all circling out in the river just past the huge bridge—a sight so impressive that an Alabama police boat came barreling up close to all of us to take a “look see”. Once he figured out we were not terrorists and were just waiting our turn to tuck into the marina, he left as quickly as he came—no lights flashing. Whew! We had dinner on premise at “The Hard Dock CafĂ©”—with Charlie and Linda getting a big boost as Michigan State beat Michigan.

Sunday morning we left for a 55 mile day plus a lock—we all knew it would be a long day. We had a beautiful ride and easy locking to get to the new, free docks at Guntersville, Alabama. We arrived fairly late in the afternoon, but still had time for everyone to get out their chairs and have an impromptu cocktail party on the docks—we had the dock all to ourselves and had passing cars honking their horns and waving to us as they passed by. Loopers do seem to draw attention!

Evidently, someone in a car had stopped by the local newspaper there in Guntersville and sent a reporter down not 20 minutes later on Monday morning to interview us—I think this will make the fourth time we’ve been in the papers so far. We find it so interesting that the locals find US so interesting—we would have thought they’d been used to seeing several boats traveling together by now. And I’ll bet with all the negative reporting that’s being done right now on the upcoming elections, a nice story about friends traveling great distances together is a refreshing storyline and welcomed relief to all readers!

As we were pulling away from the docks that morning, “Freedom’s Turn” evidently hit something under water—there was a big CLUNK as Charlie put the throttle in gear. Making a long story short, he and Linda turned away from our group and headed for the nearby marina where the boat was pulled, propeller taken off, and their boat will be out of commission until the prop is fixed. Also, “Going There” peeled off to go to the same marina—they’re having shaft problems. So now we were down to 5 boats—but not for long.

We arrived at Goose Pond Marina, near Scottsboro, Alabama around noon. Louis quickly secured two loaner cars for the 11 of us, and we took off for town—hoping to get to the famous “Unclaimed Baggage” store (stocked with lost airlines’ bags), a lunch stop, Wal-Mart, and CVS before we needed to be back by 4pm. After a lot of hype, the unclaimed baggage store was a disappointment for all of us—the prices were too high. We all felt we could find new things for almost what that store was selling its used things for—Louis was happy, I could check that store off my list!

When we returned to the marina, we found two more boats that would join us for at least these next few days—“Little David” and “Gill Raker”. Our ever-present, resourceful, transportation leader, Louis, called a nearby Italian restaurant, “Stevarino’s”, and he persuaded the owner to come get all 14 of us so we could eat with them—and then bring us back to the marina! Unexpectedly, it was a really delicious meal—with Steve’s unique “beach bread” being especially delicious—and we all had great leftovers to enjoy the next day. It was the coldest evening to date as we all hopped on our boats—tired, full, and happy. Weather reports said it would get down to 40 degrees that night.

Knowing it would be chilly the next morning, we had been promised during dinner that Tuesday morning we would all be treated to a warm breakfast—“Bud’s Buns” and “Kay’s Hams”—all 16 of us!! And sure enough, at 8am we all were gathered on “C-Life” with coffee in hand to enjoy Kay’s ham biscuits and Bud’ cinnamon buns—all homemade and perfect! We thank them both—what a way to start the day!

Tuesday, we traveled along the winding Tennessee to an anchorage just upstream of the Nickajack Lock and Dam. Rafting together in a group of six boats, we watched from our bow as the sun set in a beautiful and quiet cove—boy, it was getting cold. Splitting off into pairs, we had second-time-Loopers Lisa and Jim from “Kismet” over for a just-after-sunset early dinner.

Wednesday, we woke to the first-ever-this-trip of ice (heavy frost) on the boat!! We were slipping and sliding outside and laughing as Robert made a “snowball” and threw it at Larry. The fog, from the warm water, rising over the steep hills that morning was truly one of the prettiest scenes I’ve ever witnessed. Everyone was taking pictures and I’m sure there will be some spectacular ones too. We were able to leave our cove around 9am.

Making the last few miles to Chattanooga was surely the prettiest part of the Tennessee. We had only 12 miles to go by “as the crow flies” chart, but it took almost 36 miles of winding around these canyons to get there. In fact, the locals call this the Grand Canyon of the Tennessee River—and grand it was—narrow and deep too. This trip up to Chattanooga is just a “side trip” and is not considered part of the Loop. But Fall is the best time to be doing this river, and about 16 Looper boats decided it was not to be missed—we don’t know if “Bella Luna” will ever be near here again! I’m really glad we have the opportunity to turn around and go back—all 200 miles of it—this is just too pretty to only see once! Paddle wheel boats, beautiful homes, wildlife (we saw several turkey families!), tree covered mountains, tall gorgeous rock cliff formations, and changing leaves make for a great October ride up the Tennessee River. More from Chattanooga.

Monday, October 27, 2008

A Week at Joe Wheeler

The Fall Rendezvous of the American Great Loop Cruisers Association (AGLCA) was held October 21st through the 24th at Joe Wheeler State Park near Florence, Alabama. This event has been held here for the past several years and we now can see why. The park covers about 1,500 acres and is beautiful in its wide open and colorful simplicity. There were close to 170 people and 55 boats present for the four days of meetings, dinners, and fellowship. It was fun catching back up with some of the boats we have been traveling with over these past several months—and sad to witness as some of these same people have “crossed their wakes” meaning they are now finished with Looping and are going home. It’s hard to believe that Louis and I are just a little over half done ourselves—but coming from North Carolina through Canada down Michigan to Alabama is a daunting task just in itself.

We had a lot of laughs, good food and jokes, and gathered valuable information for going south along the Gulf and then Florida and the Keys. One of the more interesting things to happen to us while we were at Joe Wheeler was our first night in the marina. We had been warned upon check-in that there were lots of raccoons wandering around at night who were not shy in the least about getting on any boat. We made sure nothing “foodwise” was out down anywhere below that raccoons could get into and we secured our flybridge too. Feeling all was well, we turned in for the night. Lo and behold, the next morning we had a surprise waiting for us “up top”.

About mid-morning, I climbed our ladder to get a soft drink out of our dorm refrigerator which is on the flybridge, I unzipped the door curtain, and couldn't believe what I saw. Evidently and unbelievably, several raccoons had made themselves at home during the night feasting on our Tupperware locked box of snacks! Cheetos and Nekots being their favorites, there was paper mess everywhere—and not a speck or crumb left anywhere. I just didn't think that raccoons could/would climb our steep ladder of 8 steps—much less be able to unlock our plastic container!! There were small, very distinguishable footprints all over the deck—so we knew exactly who made the mess—and who had left us two “piles” as a calling card. By the time the week was over, every boat we checked with had been visited during the night—and several Loopers saw them out wandering the docks too—six at a time, at last count.

Sometime during the period we went home, both Louis and I picked up colds—so we were definitely not the life of the party at the rendezvous. We would race back to the boat after sessions to grab a quick nap, re-medicate ourselves, stuff our pockets with more tissues and cough drops, and we would always be the first ones to turn in at night—not the norm for either of us. But it was a great time to be with special friends in a quiet setting and if we had to both be sick, it was the ideal spot to be in.

Our mentors and home-port friends at Joe Wheeler and “gold flag” Loopers, Liz and Bob Stagg, graciously hosted all of us and made us feel so comfortable all week—lending their car for much needed runs to the grocery and pharmacy and answering tons of questions for all of us. They even rounded up a van and took a group on Friday—post rendezvous—to their hometown of Huntsville, Alabama for a day long tour. The group went to the Space Center, the Botanical Gardens, Harrison Brothers famous hardware store, toured the pre Civil War homes that were left standing by Union soldiers, and had some famous Alabama bar-b-que for dinner. The whole group was so appreciative for the time, enthusiasm, and energy it took for Liz and Bob to arrange all this—they’re both very special people!!

Saturday morning was sunny, cool and crisp as 7 boats departed Joe Wheeler bound for Chattanooga—“C-Life”, “Wanderin L & M”, “Kismet”, “Sunshine”, “Freedom’s Turn”, and “Going There”—it will take us four nights and 200 miles to get up river. We’ll have two nights in marinas and two at anchor, but the leaves will be pretty and it should be a smooth and gentle run with interesting stops along the way. More later from Chattanooga

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Sneaking Home

After going through two huge locks (80 feet plus!) on the Tennessee River, we arrived in Joe Wheeler State Park Marina on Tuesday afternoon, October 12th. We had an easy time with locking (we’re old hats at this now!) and our transit up the river to here was a beautiful ride on a perfect fall day. We were traveling with “C-Life” and “Freedom’s Turn” and had a good time taking pictures of each other’s boats in front of the mammoth locking doors—what pictures we’ll have to share once we get home!

Wednesday morning, Louis was immediately able to secure a rental car and that accomplished, we decided we had just enough time to go home for a few days—we had until Monday noon at which time the Fall AGLCA Rendezvous would begin here at this marina. Others were making plans to go by car to either Nashville or Memphis, but we hadn’t seen our children in almost six months! I was way overdue in needing hugs and kisses from our precious grandchildren—and the last couple of weeks have taken their toll on us as we have talked with them on the phone about Halloween costumes, pumpkins, school doings, scouts, and the State Fair. Without a doubt, it was time to “sneak home”.

We had inquired a few days earlier about our children’s plans for the weekend, not letting them know we were even contemplating coming home—so we knew they both would be at their respective houses during the time span we had available to surprise them—they would not be camping, having evening parties to go to, having company, birthday parties, going out of town, etc. We knew it would take one full day of traveling (just about 620 miles to our lake house) and then one whole day (ugh!) to get back to the boat, but we didn’t care how far it was—we were grabbing the time and going home specifically to see all our children. Yippee!! So, with lots of help from friends here, we got the boat off-loaded with lots of stuff and the car loaded down and we were underway at just past 1pm when we texted a message to Geni and Catherine saying what our surprise was. Everyone was jubilant—me especially!

We arrived safely home just after midnight Eastern Time—boy, what a great feeling to see that everything was all right there. We were tired after a 12 hour driving trip—but still so excited to be home that it took another two hours for me to calm down and get to sleep! Louis hit the big bed immediately and had no trouble at all falling asleep—lucky him. We had (earlier in the afternoon) made impromptu plans to spend Thursday afternoon/night in Cary with Catherine and her family—then drive over to Oxford for the same on Friday afternoon/evening with Geni and her family. We would spend Saturday night back at home and leave for our return to the boat early Sunday morning—“o dark” 5-ish—we wanted to get back to the boat before dark. Whew—it was Wednesday, we’d be back Sunday afternoon—a lot to accomplish in just a few days. Around 1400 miles--no problem, “Let’s go!”

Suffice to say, it was well worth the huge push to make it all happen. Our children were thrilled to see us, and I think even more, us them—thankfully, we had comfortable and safe traveling—our home and yard were in surprisingly good shape (thank you, Rick!)—we were able to see just a few of Southern Coach’s office staff Thursday at lunchtime—I got to sleep in Taylor’s bed Thursday night and Clay’s bed Friday night—we had great meals at Neo-China in Cary, La Coquina Mexican in Roxboro, Smithfield’s Chicken and BBQ in Henderson, Oxford’s famous George’s pizza, and Cracker Barrel somewhere on the way back to the boat—we got to see both boys play their Saturday morning soccer games (sorry we missed yours, Katie!)—we were able to get to the post office in Leasburg and continue to have our mailed forwarded—we got to “trick or treat” with Katie and Taylor and see their cute costumes—we changed out light bulbs and rotated timers at home—we pulled under a shelter our potted plants and brought back fall clothes—we slept blissfully in our own king size bed two nights (our bed on the boat is a double!)—I had time to take two long, hot, tub baths (my first in six months as there is no tub on the boat!)—and we got "just barely enough” hugs and kisses to last us until we come home for the holidays.

When I titled this blog, “Sneaking Home”, I did so for a specific reason—we called no one other than our girls to say we were coming home—there just wasn’t enough time to get a chance to see our friends in three short days. How could we call one person and not others? We both decided it was a Solomon’s choice we just couldn’t make. But as fate would have it, we were just several hours into our trip home when we got a call from Frank—and we couldn’t lie!—so he was the only one who knew how our plans were unfolding—and it must have been telepathy—we were bringing off the boat the last of Buddy’s things for his dog, Dixie. We had planned to leave those things at Catherine’s house for Frank to pick up later, but wound up going over to his house and delivering the "dog stuff" in person and getting great hugs there from Mimi too—so glad we did that. (We love your new hairstyle, Mimi!)

Hopefully in the 4-5 weeks we’re home for the holidays, we’ll be able to connect with others whom we’ve missed so terribly too! Both Louis and I are looking forward to seeing friends and other family members during that time—both at home and at the beach—it will have been since the first of May that we left. Seven months then, we're half done----unbelievable!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Grand Harbor and Shiloh

Today is Sunday, October 12th and we have been here in Grand Harbor Marina since Friday mid-morning. And I was wrong in my last blog saying this marina was in Tennessee—it’s actually in Mississippi—the state line of Tennessee being at the top of the very steep hill here! This very large, fairly new marina is on beautiful Lake Pickwick (on the Tennessee River) and we have a great spot here alongside “C-Life” right at the marina’s office/ship store. We are backed into our slip, and the view off our stern (for 180 degrees!) is nothing but tall hardwoods just beginning to turn their fall colors—we’ve had some nice “slip spots” before, but this one ranks right up there in the top few for us. We even have a working cable TV—cable being something that seems to be rare for us in any marinas these days!

Yesterday, Saturday, six of us went in one of the marina’s courtesy vans about 25 miles away to visit Shiloh National Military Park—site of the famous Civil War battle which took place April 6th & 7th in 1862. Situated along the Tennessee River, this two-mile square battlefield area and surrounding woods saw almost 24,000 men lose their lives in just two days—Union soldiers being the victors against the Confederate men. It is absolutely staggering to me to even comprehend that fact—what an unthinkable tragedy. We spent nearly three hours there—visiting very quietly and soberly—we all felt we were on such hallowed ground. One interesting fact that I do not want to forget is that immediately after all that carnage, General Grant ordered mass graves to bury all the dead—trenches where the bodies were piled on top of each other—Union soldiers placed in separate mounds from the Confederate ones. The horses and mules were burned. After the war was over, President Abraham Lincoln ordered only the Union graves reopened to bury the soldiers in proper single graves marked with headstones in the cemetery at Shiloh--the cemetery remains there today with a huge American flag flying, very visible even from the river. The Confederate soldiers were left where they were buried—all in a pile. Doesn’t seem right, does it—and I also wish I knew why the Confederates' loved ones were not ever allowed to claim the bodies of the men who died there for a proper burial. Led by the Union General, Ulysses S. Grant and the Confederate General, Albert S. Johnston, all the soldiers fighting there thought the war would be over in just a few weeks—little did they know the war would last another three long years—ending at Appomattox, Virginia with the surrender of the Confederacy by General Robert E. Lee to General U. S. Grant in April of 1865. In those four awful dividing years of the Civil War, over a million lives were lost. Unbelievable to comprehend, isn’t it.

Because we stayed so long at Shiloh, we had a very late lunch (3pm) at a small local Tennessee ribs/bar-b-que/chicken place—yummy—we all were starving! Our meal was delicious; we watched some of the UNC/Notre Dame football game while eating and needless to say, none of us had supper after eating so much/so late in the afternoon!

We had just enough time to make one more stop before making the trek back to our marina—the former home/now museum of Buford Pusser—the notorious 1960’s sheriff of McNairy County, Tennessee. His life was made famous by the movie, “Walking Tall”, and he was well known around these parts as being “judge, jury, and executioner”. A tall man, he was always known to carry a large stick or baseball bat along with his gun, and he never hesitated to use the stick/bat—his temper was just a heartbeat away. He primarily wanted to rid this area of moonshiners, and in doing so, lost his beloved wife and half his face in a “Bonnie & Clyde” style ambush. Plus, he was stabbed twice and nearly died both times from the puncture wounds to his chest—but he always survived against unreal odds in the late sixties and early seventies. He lived a fast and hard life, and died at an early age while driving alone in his Corvette one evening at high speed and losing control of his car in a curve.

Tonight, Sunday night, we had a pot luck dinner on the dock with “C-Life” and “Freedom’s Turn”. There are four sets of wooden gliders on our dock here, two 4 person, two 6 person—all complete with a pretty blue canvas on their tops—and we each brought something delicious for the six of us to share in one of these gliders. Complete with candles and our special “mosquito busters” at our feet, we had a special evening right on the dock for an hour or two—just gliding back and forth and enjoying each other’s company under a beautiful “Bella Luna”. We thank our lucky stars we are so blessed.

We leave tomorrow morning, Monday October 13th, for two nights at anchor and then arriving Wednesday afternoon at Joe Wheeler State Park for the Fall AGLCA Rendezvous with all the Loopers of this year—plus new ones from Michigan, Wisconsin Illinois, Ohio and up-this-way just beginning their journey. Lucky for them!!! Sadness for us!!—we just realized our trip is now half over.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Kentucky Lake & the Tennessee River

We left Green Turtle Bay Marina Monday, October 6th mid morning. It was a bright and clear fall morning as we departed with “C-Life”, “Sunshine”, “Southern Comfort”, and “Blue Max”. We were headed for Panther Bay, a great anchorage along the Kentucky Lake about forty miles down—a cove just off the lake enough not to get any wakes from other boats. It was a pretty day to travel on the water and when we arrived, we found “Freedom’s Turn” and “Voyager II” already tucked in the cove—great minds think alike! We quickly rafted up with “C-Life” and “called it a day” of traveling. We really like these “short” days of our trip—around 40 miles is just perfect—when traveling at 7.4 knots—are you reading this, Ed? Can you believe Louis is actually enjoying this speed?! We spent the night up in the cove with lots and lots of stars out—Louis and I have taken to setting up cushions on the bow at night and enjoying the beauty of it all. Without lights and noise—wow!

Tuesday morning there was rain “a-coming”—and much needed rain for this area too—can you believe that with all the flooding we dealt with on the Illinois and the Mississippi, that on these lakes there hasn’t been any rain to speak of in 4 to 5 weeks! It’s hard to imagine, but it is visually so—both hurricanes Hannah & Ike missed this area of Kentucky and Tennessee—and the water levels are down considerably—in fact, people here are in a “water conservation mode”. So with the impending rain, we scurried about and got our anchors up and washed off (lots of black mud on the bottom here) and headed for our next stop, Pebble Isle Marina—again about 40 miles.

We arrived at Pebble Isle mid afternoon after a huge thunder storm about noon. (One thousand one, one thousand two, one thousand three …) Thank goodness we were under our bridge cover and only got wet from our leaky top—not much though—and it was a damp and cool afternoon as we pulled up to the marina. With 8 other Looper boats tied up to the main dock, “Bella Luna” was given a spot under a huge tin awning—what fun it was to listen to the rain under that! But we are quickly learning that under these huge awnings, you have no cell phone, no wireless, and no TV signals! We were tied up where all the huge houseboats were housed—one having bright orange canvas all over—got that Jan?

We all had dinner in the marina’s store/office/dining room/main everything building—right on the end of the dock where all the others were tied up. Six of us had the special of the day, “home-made chicken & dumplins”, and it really was a perfect dish for the cool rainy weather we had experienced all day. This particular place is known for their huge desserts—“the cookie” being most famous—a freshly-baked hot 12-inch chocolate chip cookie piled high with three scoops of ice cream, pecans, whipped cream, hot fudge sauce, caramel sauce, and a cherry. If only we had had our camera as our friends at the next table ordered it—and I can’t believe Louis resisted ordering one. However, he did order a strawberry cake with ice cream weighing in at slightly less than 3 pounds (citing eating chocolate at night keeps him awake all night long!). We all had a great time laughing at the absurdity and abundance of both those desserts!

We left Pebble Isle Wednesday morning under cloudy skies with “C-Life” in the lead. “Mojo” and ”Grettatude” had left about an hour earlier—and the rest of the Loopers decided to remain at the marina one more night. With access to a courtesy car, haircuts and a trip to the grocery were on the agenda for those who stayed. (Wonder what the “special of the day” will be at the restaurant there & what dessert they’ll have tonight—can’t wait to hear when we catch back up with those friends in a few days!)

As the day has progressed (I’m writing this up on the bridge now), the weather has turned from cool to perfect. One of the highlights of the day for Louis has been crossing UNDER the I-40 highway bridge which crosses over the Tennessee River—the bridge that he crosses on his winter duck hunting trips to Reelfoot Lake in Tennessee. He said he always hoped one day to be down on the water under that bridge taking a trip—some wishes do come true—just like the bridge near Belhaven, NC over the ICW that we cross over on our way to Hyde County—that was a wish for me to cross under that bridge one day—and we have.

We’re in such a beautiful area, the Tennessee River—others have called it the prettiest on the entire Loop—and Louis and I heartily agree. Earlier in the summer when we were going through the beauty and wilderness of Canada, we thought we had reached the “visual” summit of our trip. Not so, this area really is prettier to us than what we saw in Canada. So far, the Tennessee River is calm, narrow, green, and deep—the shores are hilly and green (just beginning to turn into fall colors) with willows and hardwoods and the occasional cypresses with their sprawling exposed roots. The hills are magnificent where the river has cut deep into the rock, leaving only the hardest of the rock exposed—we’re seeing trees growing right out of the rock up high as well as down low. It’s hard to think that a tree could survive in that space, but they do—none of these trees show any signs of being deprived of water! We’ve seen one eagle today too—always such a thrill, no matter how many we have seen on this trip so far. And the migrating white pelicans are following us south too—we’ve seen hundreds of them today. Louis has even seen a few flocks of blue wing teal—the first ducks to migrate south. More later.

We traveled a long day, and when we pulled up into a cove for the evening, “Mojo”, “Grettatude”, and “Party of Two” were already rafted together and at anchor. Way up in the cove ahead of us was “Barbarossa” a 35 year old, dark-green, concrete sailboat from England. We’ve been traveling some these past few weeks with Rob and Sue, and it was good to see them again—I have numerous pictures of this boat—she’s not like anything we’ve ever seen before! We got anchored and rafted with “C-Life” and were able to enjoy a gorgeous sunset, dinner with Robert and Kay, and a calm night.

Thursday, October 9th (Happy…..Birthday Nancy!) was spent mainly waiting for the TVA lock and dam at Pickwick to open. Barge traffic always takes precedence, and we had to wait almost 3 hours tied up to a “cell” waiting for the lockmaster to call us in and lift us up. But boy, once we got on this upper part of the Tennessee—what a show! Pickwick Lake on the Tennessee—what fabulous place to call home! We are now in the area where Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee all join borders. Huge “homes” (and I mean “movie star” status) dotted the very steep hills everywhere and most everyone had some kind of elevator from the house to the water! Beautiful boat houses, perfectly groomed and landscaped lawns were all around us—complete with railroad tracks from the lake to the top for the necessary elevators! The water level here was at pool stage, meaning the water hadn’t fluctuated like it had below the dam. And the houses up here evidently are not subject to flooding like the ones downstream—the ones below earlier in the day were all built on levees AND on stilts. Not on the upside of the dam here though—this is what we used to call “High Cotton”!

We tried to get in a small cove for the evening that had a waterfall in the back of it—but when we turned off the big lake, there already was a trawler in it. The lady aboard said she had been there a week—“why leave?’ she said—just a perfect spot. But it wasn’t big enough for two more trawlers, so we went to another anchorage just a couple of miles away recommended by Skipper Bob—and it was equally beautiful. A big, beautiful, white-chested osprey watched as we anchored and rafted; he was still there, standing guard high in his tree, when we closed up for the night on the Mississippi side. We will be in a marina for the weekend—Grand Harbor—on the Tennessee side. We can be in three states in just a matter of minutes—amazing, isn’t it!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Green Turtle Bay Marina

It’s hard to believe that we have been here in Green Turtle Bay Marina for almost a week. Situated on Lake Barkley, the marina is about 25 miles east of Paducah, Kentucky and home to some of the largest house boats we’ve ever seen! The average house boat here is probably 80 feet long and 18 feet wide—all with two stories and numerous sundecks, most with hot tubs, central air-conditioning units sitting right out on their aft decks, sliding boards, beautiful teakwood furniture, and each one looking like it could sleep twenty or more—huge floating condominiums is what they are!

AGLCA flags have been coming and going all week—and new “waves” of Loopers are expected in here over the next few days—as all the boats that were stuck up-river of us have begun to catch up with one another. This marina is easy and pleasant to remain in for several days! They have good laundry facilities, an indoor pool, a workout room, two saunas, two on-site restaurants, cottages and golf carts for rent, a fairly decent book swap, four “loaner” vans, numerous gazebos in pretty spots, a movie rental on site, and the ever famous restaurant, Patti’s Restaurant, with-in walking distance. Our week has been full and we’ve had beautiful weather every day—how lucky we have been!

In trying to remember it all, I’m sure I’ll miss something—but here goes on our week. The first two days were spent “cleaning house”—Louis spent the better part of those two days below deck—cleaning the strainers and the bilge from all the mud of the Mississippi River and then washing the boat. I did very necessary interior cleaning, five loads of laundry, and cleaned the nasty—lock besieged— fenders. After we were satisfied with all our cleaning, it was time to relax—so we signed up for one of the loaner vans and took off for Paducah. Six of us set off for downtown to specifically see the murals, the River Heritage Museum, and the National Quilt Museum. We also wanted to have lunch, do grocery shopping, go to the marine store and of course—find a liquor store! (Our marina is in a dry county, so we’ll all have to “brown-bag” at dinner!)

The quilt museum was breathtaking—the pieces displayed (actually owned by the museum) were stunning in their complexity, colors, and fabrics—we were blown away with the art of such fine stitchery—a lot done by men too. I could have stayed in that museum for hours—I thought of you Judy—a definite road trip for you sometime soon! It is inconceivable to me how anyone who has labored so long over any one of these quilts would/could/should dare part with them. We were told that the museum rotates the quilts every 3 or 4 months, so they must have an awesome collection hidden somewhere special.

The “downtown” murals are very special too—thank you for telling us about them, Jan! Painted on the inside (town-side) walls of a huge concrete man-made levee—are scenes depicting the history of Paducah. Covering over 300 years, the hand painted murals were so interesting to see and very graciously donated by individuals and businesses—and so pretty a covering for such a drab grey concrete stretch of wall. Having recently been built, the levee is the only barrier in keeping the rising waters out of the downtown area—1993 being the latest (and hopefully last) river surge which flooded all the businesses there.

The week was spent dining out several times too—imagine that! We ate at Patti’s in Glen Rivers—just a short distance from our marina. The restaurant is famous for its’ grilled 2” thick pork chops—we all had one and it was truly delicious. By the time we were done with dinner and dessert, we were stuffed and miserable! Patti’s so reminded us of the old Hartmann’s in Durham, with its many connecting rooms—except these rooms at Patti’s were extravagantly decorated—too, too much. Stuff was everywhere! Each room had a different theme—and by Christmas time, all the rooms will be “decked out” in you know what. We also went to dinner at the marina’s club house, which was delicious too, followed by a van ride to the local “community” theater in town where we saw the cute play, “Bus Stop”. That play, so we were told that night, launched the career of Marilyn Monroe back in 1955. One other night, we went to a small house nearby that the owner, Marilyn, primarily uses as a cooking school. Knowing what we were getting into, eleven of us sat in her kitchen one evening and ate a completely German dinner/buffet—in celebration of Oktoberfest. It was a fun and entertaining evening with lots of laughs, but not something any of us would do again any time soon—it was just too heavy and meaty a dinner. Bring out the Rolaids!

All in all we had a great six days there—seeing faces we hadn’t seen in a while, and meeting new members of our AGLCA crazy group. Two afternoons (one the day we got there and one the last we were there), we had “Looper” cocktail parties out on one of the gazebos overlooking the water; those parties are always fun—and we spent one afternoon out on our dock celebrating with “My Cin” and “Whichaway” both of whom have just crossed their wakes this week—congratulations to them for finishing the Loop—go Texas! (Now go get that gold flag!)