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

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