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 Café”—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.

1 comment:

Jan said...

Hi Diane and Louis,
So glad you are loving my part of the country! Wish we could see you at Neyland Stadium this weekend!! You would be a great addition to the Vol Navy (and we need all the help we can get this year!) Rex has family in Florence - wish I had thought to tell you that sooner. We both have relatives in Chattanooga - guess there aren't many places over that way that we don't have some manner of kinfolk!
Enjoy the rest of the beautiful Tennessee and have fun at the aquarium in Chatt. Don't forget to See Rock City!