Friday, November 7, 2008

Chattanooga Back to Joe Wheeler

The 3 “marinas” in Chattanooga are all just floating docks right alongside the river—all 3 owned by the city and run by River Max. Employees use golf carts to run back and forth between the marinas, which are just 1 ½ miles apart. There are no showers or laundry facilities—ugh. But the location of our “marina” was otherwise perfect—we were almost at the base of the aquarium—right in the “official park” area. We had arrived mid-afternoon on Wednesday, too late to take in the huge aquarium with its’ freshwater side and other saltwater side—we understand you should spend a whole day there. Louis tried to get a rental car, but being so late in the day, it would have to wait until early the next morning.

Early Thursday morning, Louis got us a sporty rental car and we were off to do laundry—2 miles away and across the river. We had accumulated a weeks’ worth of dirties, and had “company” flying into Chattanooga Friday mid-day (we’ve really got to get the boat ship-shape now). Our dear friends, Mimi and Frank Liggett, were coming to spend almost a week with us! Knowing Frank’s rules for visiting other people, we were truly thrilled that they would take the extended time and extra energy to visit us. They had never been in these parts before and they wanted to experience the river system here with the all pretty fall foliage. We were also having a Halloween Looper gathering on our dock the next evening—complete with a pumpkin decorating/carving contest—another excuse for a party! Frank and Mimi would be the judges (they had no idea what was ahead of them!) and Louis and I would furnish the prizes!

After the great Halloween party (the Liggetts decided everyone was a winner!), the four of us walked up to “Sticky Fingers” for a delicious dinner—the restaurant is famous for its ribs, chicken, and bar-b-que. It was a fairly long walk up and upon leaving the restaurant; Louis spied one of the marina’s golf carts taking another couple back. It was cold outside—we were tired and full—and the street was festive and alive with costumed ‘young-uns’. Sooooo, we hailed the golf cart and all six of us piled on and had a welcomed-relief ride back to our boat. Happy Halloween everyone!

Saturday, November 1st was Frank’s birthday and our 39th wedding anniversary—time to celebrate again! Before breakfast, we brought out a chilled bottle of pink champagne and all had congratulatory hugs and cards from our fellow Loopers—what fun—and early too. We had to vacate our spots at the marina because there was a competition of high school and college scullers/rowers—out in the river just beside us and taking up the whole area in the park. It was so interesting to see all those long, skinny boats—we were told they were around 900 of them. Among the hundreds of competitors, we were lucky enough to see boats from UNC, Wake Forest, and Duke—they would be racing Saturday and Sunday in different categories and with different sizes of boats. It was the “Festival of the Hooch 2008”—a huge event—and multiple tents were set up within the park selling food stuff, tee shirts, and rowing gear. Huge speakers were blaring hip music and traffic was halted at each end of the park. Boats were piled on hundreds of racks sometime four high and eight long. Spectators and competitors were everywhere enjoying the beautiful clear morning—it was quite an event to pull off—the organizational aspect alone was awesome.

We left the dock and traveled a short distance (around 4 hours) to our anchorage near Nickajack lock and dam. We rafted with “Wanderin’ L & M”, “C-Life”, and “Kismet”. The others--“Sunshine”, “Freedom’s Turn”, and “Annie” chose to anchor nearby. To celebrate our anniversary and Frank’s birthday, Lisa and Jim had us over for her delicious Bloody Mary’s (complete with blue cheese stuffed olives!) on “Kismet’s” fly bridge. We watched a beautiful sunset on an equally beautiful boat—a Fathom—thanks Lisa and Jim! It was Saturday evening and Daylight Savings Time would be going off after midnight—ugh—our days on the water would be getting shorter and shorter and our nights longer. Little did we know how the time change accompanied with entering a different time zone would mess all our systems up!

Because it was now dark just past 5 (for the rest of the week) the four of us were hardly able to keep our eyes open past 7pm—and we were rising around 5am—an awful mess! It’s one thing to be on the water and not know the day, but coupled with not knowing the time is surreal. We just laughed a lot about the changes we all were experiencing and ate when we were hungry and slept when we were tired! (It’s now six days later and my body hasn’t caught up yet!)

Monday and Tuesday we traveled the beautiful Tennessee River with glorious days—there were still the six of us who were all together since Chattanooga. “Annie” is a very special boat—a tug of sorts—and handmade by her owners, taking 16 years to complete. Unique and simply gorgeous, she has a calliope on her bridge and has serenaded us on several occasions—but the most special time was in the lock. After all the locks we’ve been through (somewhere around 130), I can honestly say this one lock was the most enjoyable and fun. We listened intently to the Southern songs as we descended the 60 feet and with a big blast of her “toot-toot” whistle, we all left the lock smiling.

We arrived at Joe Wheeler State Park Tuesday afternoon—in time to enjoy this area with Frank and Mimi before they had to fly home early Thursday morning. Louis had a few “projects” to do on our boat and Frank was a willing and knowledgeable helper. Mimi had caught “the cold” and needed to get some meds and rest, so it was good we came in a day earlier than scheduled. The two of them took the two of us out to dinner Wednesday night, and we all four “turned in” early to bed yet again. We have so enjoyed having the Liggetts along for the short week with us—our fellow Loopers have too. Maybe a Loop is in store for them when Frank finally retires—who knows, we may do this again if they do! Time will tell.

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