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Saturday, October 30, 2010

Crazy Bass Fishermen

Friday we left Wheelers after our wonderful two week visit. We had such a wonderful time, but we were itching for a new adventure. We decided to travel only 20 miles to Florence and through two locks. One of the locks, Wilson Lock, drops the boat 93 feet. Since it is such a large lock, it is different from other locks that have opening and closing doors. The Wilson Lock has a door that rises on the upriver side. The bottom part of the "gate" does not move as the level of water in the rivers at pool is typically 25-35 feet.

Florence is an old river town with an extensive history, but it is alive with activity. As we "paddled down the river", as the tow captains say, we heard Fred and Joanie Meyers behind us in Liberty Belle. Fred is the author of two reference books for the Tennessee and Tenn Tom. He is foremost authority in my mind. Interesting fellow and charming wife. We enjoyed dinner with Fred and Joanie at Ricatonis, in downtown Florence. Fred and Joanie live in Florence and their recommendation was excellent!

Another boat traveled with us and he radioed to say there was a Bass Tournament going on in the Florence Harbor, so I called the Harbormaster and she suggested that if the bass boats got in the way, we should just "mosy on in and they will move out of the way - we are bigger". When we arrived, the tournament was underway and they were weighing fish and announcing the weights. The boats and trailers were pretty impressive. Don't know why they need 255 horsepower to go fishing, but they all do! Some of them even need helmets!

The prize money apparently is significant for this type of event and the competition is fierce. I awoke at 530AM to a LOUD speaker announce that all boats were required to check in before the event. I looked outside and did not see much, but fog, so I stepped outside to see more than 100 boats circling the harbor with other boats attached to our boat as they waited. The fog finally lifted about 9AM and the boats were released. We left the harbor soon thereafter and saw fishing boats for miles.

Interestingly there was only one woman entered. This was a qualifying tournament and she is the only woman who has won certain of these events. (You can easily tell I don't know squat about bass tournaments!)

Wonder who won......

The Marine Mechanic and his able-bodied assistant

Our last day at Wheelers was a real work day. Doing the wash at Wheeler's is a real chore as there is ONE washer for the entire marina. My friend Cathy Condon, from MERRIED WITH HER washed before me and showed me how to remove underwear that is seemingly stuck forever in the 50 year old dryer. She is pictured tearing her husband Jim's underwear from the bowels of the dryer.

Jim also bathed Buddy, returned the kayaks to their berths on the side of CRAWDAD and then we took on a joint project - we love joint projects - NOT! We changed the oil in the diesel engines.

Fortunately, CRAWDAD came with an oil change pump. Sure makes the job easier, but these 135 Lehman engines take a lot of oil and we had a little accident removing some of it. We have an instructional book prepared by yours truly from previous episodes and each time the instructions improve. We use empty 5 gallon containers from Arbys for the dirty oil. The instructions noted we needed 2 containers, but....we forgot to get 2, so empty milk cartons and oil containers work as well. Truthfully, we were pretty proud of ourselves after it was over. Another 200 hours before we have to do it again. Our neighbor Greg Franklin on GONCRUZIN was changing his oil on the same day. Two greasy looking men emerged from the bowels of their boats!

Greg and his wife, Barbara are the proud owners of Buddy's girlfriend, Vanilla Bean. She looks quite like Buddy, but is a petite little girl. Since our boats were adjacent and less than 12 inches apart, the pups could smile and give kisses over the boat railing in the marina.

Greg and Barbara are golfers and we played golf a second time at Wheeler State Park. The topography is beautiful and the hills and valleys were a fun challenge (for Jim and Greg - Barbara and I said forget it! ...9 holes was enough!).

The Pirates found us at Joe Wheeler

You have read earlier about our friends, Craig, Danielle, Morgan,Ryan and Jaxon Parrent. The kids scared the heck out of our last night at Wheelers! All the boaters had candy ready for the trick-or-treaters and we were scared to death by Morgan, Ryan and Jaxon - a family of Pirates!

The kids are home schooled as they travel on the loop with their Mom and Dad on a Chris Craft Commander. Great boat and pretty roomy! The vbirth had two bunks when they purchased the boat and Craig added a third for Jaxon, who is about 4. The girls told us that Craig climbed into the bunk at completion to show he could fit and it work work perfectly for Jaxon as he grew! Wise man, that Craig!

They sold their house in Ada, MI and their cars and went on the road for a year in an RV. Now they are doing the loop with all us oldsters. We love them as do Buddy and Boo.

Real lion and lioness....are they nuts?

A few weeks ago we visited Florence, AL, home of University of Alabama. During our last visit, we explored the Frank Lloyd Wright house and the supermarket. We wanted to spend more time on our second visit back to the entrance to the Tenn Tom. We had been told that UNA are Lions and they have...REAL LIONS! These lions go to the football games. Football is big time in the South for both College and High School and they do things in the South.....uh....differently than we do in the North. The UNA campus is gorgeous and we really enjoyed touring the campus and visiting with Leo and Una. The lion and lioness send their regards to Allison!

We also took time to visit the WC Handy Home and Museum, since Jim is such a fan of the Blues. Now he knows WHO is the King of the Blues and where he was born, in a log cabin in Florence, AL.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Still at Joe Wheeler State Park

The weather continues to hover around 75 to 80 degrees every day and we just cannot get enough of this wonderful State Park. Jim and I golfed with our friends Greg and Barbara from Goncruzin. Barb and I maxed at 9 holes and the guys played 18. The topography is beautiful and fun for golfing, biking or anything else.

Other loopers are arriving and we are seeing friends we have not seen for some time. The Rendezvous starts tonight so our schedule should be hectic. AGLCA (American Great Loop Cruisers Association has a website that sends an email daily. Members post topics and we receive an email daily. We can also go to the website and research a topic that has been discussed earlier. Extremely helpful.

For the Rendezvous, topics include various geographic areas of the loop. One topic is the Bahamas, another Mobile Bay to Tarpon Springs - the Big Bend and all around the loop. You can bet our notebooks and pencils are ready to take lots of notes. About 80 boats are expected and others have arrived who are staying at the lodge. Some are thinking of doing the loop - others are planning the loop and the rest of us are ON the loop!

Last night one of the loopers supplied fresh shrimp for a party. There were about 70 people and the rest of us brought a dish. Great food and great fun.

The boys are becoming well known. They are known as the "brothers with different mothers". People have said to us when they arrive, they don't recognize us right away, but they recognize the boys! Buddy and BooBoo are getting lots of pets and neck scratches. Boo hangs out on the boat with his orange life vest. His favorite sitting spot is on the front of the boat on the hatch. If someone calls him to the rail, he complies and gets a nice pet. Buddy is a sunworshipper, but is happy to meet anyone at the rail for a scratch.

Jim is enjoying the time he now has to relax and read magazines. Our mail is routed to a mail service who collects the mail and sends it when we know where we will be (and when). Not so easy much of the time, but now that we are at Wheelers, we have been able to collect our mail on two occasions. Lots of magazines to read!

We expect to be here until about November 1st, then we are off to the confluence of the Tennessee River and Tenn-Tom. This confluence is where the states of Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee meet.

Monday, October 18, 2010

General Joe Wheeler State Park

On October 14, Thursday, we arrived at General Joe Wheeler State Park. General Wheeler was a General in the Confederate Army and later served in the US Army. Wheeler State Park is an Alabama State Park comprised of a golf course, marina, hiking trails, lodge rentals, restaurant, campground, cabins and lakeside cottages. The Lakeside Cottages are really outstanding and were built just a few years ago. It would be a great place for a family reunion. In addition there is the Elk River Group Lodge which has 13 separate bedroom and can accommodate 30. It has a commercial kitchen and large living room with linens and cookware provided!

We are having a great time here, kayaking, bicycling and golfing. (seeing this picture with Jim's knees makes me think maybe we need to pop for a bigger kayak for him....) Today Jim and I golfed 9 holes together (my limit for fun) and he golfed 18. During his last 9 holes I took a 10 mile bike ride into Rogersville where there is a grocery store and hardware. Meanwhile, BooBoo visited with Campbell on Mas Bueno and Buddy.....well he did not get an invitation to visit anyone.

Buying groceries is usually a challenge as we are walking or more often biking to the grocery store. In this case, the grocery store is 10 miles away, so we load up our bikes with the panniers and other carrying devices (of which we have many!)
Often we host or attend cocktail parties to get to know the other loopers, so we need appetizer "stuff" to serve or bring to our host.

Last night we attended a celebration of completion of the Loop by our friends in Mas Bueno. They had finished in 14 months and are from Soddy Daisy Tennessee, right near Wheelers. Hal popped a bottle of champagne and we celebrated, then to their surprise, they were honored at a cocktail party along with another boat Amalfi, who finished after 18,000 miles!

Our friends the Parrents are here with their three children and BooBoo has been invited for his first overnight. Should be fun! Sorry Buddy, you are stuck at home with YOUR parents!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010



Chattanooga turned out to be a great stop and adventure. We passed thru the Grand
Canyon of the Tenneesee River on our way there - very pretty with the leaves changing color. The locals tell us next week should be prime and many boaters will be out with cameras in tow. Many of the boats here are houseboats and can be 60 feet in length. We wonder how they maneuver the monsters, but somehow they manage to go where we go!

While in Chattanooga we visited the two Aquariums, IMAX theater, art district, road our bikes, visited the Chattanooga Choo-Choo and watched a rowing contest actually called sculling. Crawdad was parked near the finish line. The race is called a Head Race with college teams, private clubs and individuals competing. In fact we saw many people as OLD as we are competing!

We have had exceptionally good weather with the temperature in the 80's and sun shinning nearly every day. Continue to cross your fingers!

We spent 3 days in Chattanooga and are now back at Goose Pond Development in Scottsboro, Al. The State Parks in Alabama are very nice. They often have Marinas, Camping, cabins and a restaurant.

The next stop will be Ditto Marina near Huntsville Al. We stayed there on the way to Chattanooga and enjoyed the new bathrooms and docks. It is a City Marina and they received local and federal funds to update the marina.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Oct. 6 & 7 Goose Pond & Hales Bar Marinas

We are still on the way to Chattanooga. The side trip to Chattanooga added another 370 miles to our total miles. Tomorrow we will arrive in Chattanooga.

Goose Pond Marina is in an area filled with milfoil and hydrilla. Sounds like a disease, but are two different weeds that grow in stagnant water. There is little current in some of the outlying parts of the river and the water is covered with these weeds. As we entered Goose Pond, we were surrounded by hydrilla and milfoil. It is an effort to keep the weeds out of the channel. The area is surrounded by fisherman on their bass boats with 300 hp motors. (Yes they are fast!) We were greated by Ray, who invited us to his home for dinner. We were not sure what to expect, but we were joined by 10 other people who were also "loopers".

There is a time schedule of sorts for "loopers". It makes sense to be on the Great Lakes in the summer, Inland Rivers in the fall and be in Florida, Keys or Bahamas in the winter. In spring, the group moves up the East Coast and back to the Great Lakes. With this schedule, the group is quite separated, but over time, you meet people over and over again you met in another port. Also, we tend to travel with other loopers if we are headed in the same direction and have the same time table. So it was nice to meet some other loopers we had not met before.

We met Jerry and Carolyn of Sassy earlier and they were in Goose Pond, so we took off for Hales Bar Marina together. After a dinner of catfish and tilapia, we went our separate ways and will meet up again at 830AM, when we leave for Chattanooga.

October 4th and 5th, Huntsville, AL, Ditto Landing Marina

Huntsville, AL is the home of my cousin Brad, his wife April and 8 month old son, Drew. We had not met Drew and were anxious to meet him. He did nothing but smile the entire evening we spent with him. Needless to say, I monopolized him as much as possible. What a doll!

Jim and I hitched a ride with our friends from a Nordic Tug, Blue Yonder into Huntsville to see the US Rocket and Space Museum. We really enjoyed the museum and Brad picked us up and showed us Redstone Arsenal. We were really impressed. We had no idea there were so many people working for NASA and other government agencies in Huntsville. We visited he, April and Drew in their new home. Housing in Huntsville continues to develop. We did not see the slow down that is so prevalent in Michigan.

The next morning we hitched a ride again with Pete and Ana from Blue Yonder and did a big supermarket shop. We needed everything! They had rented a small car and we laughed as we loaded all our groceries into the tiny trunk. We were just glad they offered to share their wheels with us!

Jim and I rode the bike trail, that was built along the river and goes into Huntsville as well. We saw cotton growing and we picked some to examine the virgin cotton in more detail. We felt the seeds and were reminded of our lessons in school on the cotton gin. We were wishing we had more time to enjoy the ride and on the way back from Chattanooga, may stay another day to fit in that long bike ride.

Every week or so we must pumpout the holding tank. Since the head (toilet) flows to a holding tank, it must be pumped and cleaned. This morning we completed the process and are glad to not worry about the process for a while.

The river is more beautiful as we progress upstream toward Chattanooga. We are traveling easterly through Alabama and will soon begin travelling northeast up into Tennessee to Chattanooga. The leaves are just beginning to change color and the cliffs are impressive. We have been told that we will soon approach the "Grand Canyon" of the Tennessee, which is near Chattanooga.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

October 3rd Clifton to Florence to Joe Wheeler

We have enjoyed the last few days immensely. The weather has been perfect and the Tennessee River is so diverse! From low-lying shores to colorful cliffs of stone....large and beautiful lakes such as Pickwick (my personal favorite) to Wilson Lake. These lakes were created by the Locks as were Barkely and Kentucky Lake. Incredible homes and modest homes adorn the lakes.

We played golf at Paris Landing State Park. Tennessee State Parks are really nice. We also went to dinner at the State Lodge and had a great meal for little money. Notice the two deer in the background in Jim's golf picture.

Clifton is a historic town on the Tennessee River. We stayed at a small marina along with our friends from Eastport, TN. Their friends from the marina arrived later in a Gibson houseboat. Houseboats are very common in this area. We do not see any vessels like this in our area for obvious reasons! They are flat bottomed and would not take the waves of the Great Lakes very comfortably. 13 transient boats arrived for the night in a harbor that you would not think could handle 1/2 that number. Made it fun for us as the crowd is diverse, as are the boats. We do see more trawlers than we would see at home and many are local boats. Our friends are Steve and Barb from Eastport. They are a retired Engineer and Teacher on a Mainship 34. We will be staying in Eastport on the way back to the Tenn-Tomm, so we hope to see them again as we pass through.

We cruised up the Tennessee River Saturday to Florence, AL. Cute town with such history. All long the rivers US history was written and in this area most of it revolves around the Civil War. Homes in the area are historic and the downtown is on the Historic Register. We borrowed the courtesy car and drove through the downtown and discovered a Frank Lloyd Wright house was built in Florence. Since it was located near downtown, we visited it as well. What a genius! We are becoming quite proficient at cooking on the boat and are enjoying cooking together! (surprise!) Our new stove is wonderful. Glad we made the change.

This morning we called Wilson lock and asked about traffic. It is possible to call the locks on the telephone and talk to a real person. The Lockmaster (keeper of the lock) told us to "come on down and we'll take care of ya". We "paddled down" and waited about 45 minutes while a sailboat came down the lock. This is a huge lock and locked us up 93 feet. We are getting better at locking up and know now what fenders to use and what height is best. We even have our assigned jobs. Buddy's job must be chewing leashes, because today he chewed through BooBoo's leash. He has already eaten two of his. (just like at home!)

15 miles later we locked through the Wheeler Lock. Another 43 feet. Jim and I talk about what the river must have looked like in the early 1800's. Must have been an incredible experience to forage through the forest and find such a might river and waterfalls.

Joe Wheeler State Park is a huge park and will be the sight of the Rendezvous for AGLCA. Americas Great Loopers Cruising Assoc. There will be quite a crowd for 4 days. We should learn a lot and make a lot of new friends. We are only here for one night on this trip up to Chattanooga.

Tomorrow we leave for Huntsville, some 52 miles up the Tennessee River. My cousin Brad, his wife April and new baby Drew live in Huntsville. I haven't seen them since April's shower some months ago and we are thrilled to see their new home and their little cutie pie, Drew. I have been watching him grow on Facebook.