In the last week or so we have seen some spectacular scenery. The Kentucky Lake and Tennessee River are filled with limestone cliffs and the trees are covered with yellow, rust, orange and green as the fall foliage is coming into full bloom. Of course pictures will not do it justice, but we have taken a few and will share.
And since this is the main route to Mobile and the Gulf of Mexico, there are lots of Looper boats – many heading to and then from the AGLCA Rendezvous at Joe Wheeler State Park in Tennessee. Each day we cross the paths of at least 10 others while underway, or staying in the same marina as us. Therefore our evenings are filled with socializing and sharing stories or plans. Nothing exciting, but fun nonetheless.
Here is what we have been up to:
Wednesday (10/7) – Pebble Isle Marina – New Johnsonville, TN – We opted to stay another day at Pebble Isle because it is such a pretty place and we were enjoying the company of the owners and other Loopers. Denise started the day with a run that took her into the Johnsonville State Historic Park and up a few very large hills that were quite challenging. This park is the location of a former Civil War era garrison and was named after Andrew Johnson. Denise saw the remains of the garrison and even a few white tail deer along the way. At the top there was a lookout over the hill and onto the Tennessee River, and she was able to get a few pictures. You can learn more about this beautiful park here. Here are some pictures:
Mark spent most of the day reading and finishing his book (“War Lord” by Ted Bell) while resting his foot; he hyperextended it and is hobbling around a bit. Denise worked on cataloging pictures (now well over 5,000) and posted the last blog update. It was really beautiful day and we were enjoying the scenery; not a bad view out our Island Office windows.
During the day, some of the Looper boats left, some stayed, but new ones arrived including some we had not met before. In the evening, the marina owners prepared free hot appetizers for our “docktail hour” and invited us to bring our own drinks or purchase them there. At $2 per beer, we purchased our drinks from them as this was a generous offering and we wanted to patronize their business. The owners (Randy & Tammy) were super hosts and make you feel part of the family. Of course they are always encouraging all boaters to stay “just one more night”.
Thursday (10/8) – Clifton Marina, Clifton, TN. – We took our time leaving in the morning as we were not going too far and Pebble Isle was such a great spot. Plus, we had to get our second morning of cinnamon buns!
We headed out along the Kentucky Lake-Tennessee River and enjoyed the spectacular color of the leaves which have been changing each day.
We also passed our Looper friends Sid & Evelyn (“Something Special”) whom we tried to connect with in Green Turtle Bay, but were unable to. They are still interested in having our nephew Johnny help them make the crossing from Carrabelle to Clearwater sometime in November, so we shared his contact information so they could get in touch with each other.
Along the way we only passed one tow and very few fishing boats, therefore we did not have to slow down hardly at all. This allowed us to make pretty good time, despite fighting the increasing current as we headed up-bound. We also passed through the Tennessee National Wildlife Refuge where there was a plethora of small bass boats enjoying the day.
It was really beautiful and surely the pictures will not do it justice.
Our intended destination was an anchorage at Double Island that had been recommended to us at the AGLCA Rendezvous in Norfolk. So, we pulled in there around 1:00, set the anchor and thought we would enjoy a nice quiet evening. However, we had no cellular signal and had to return several phone calls received during the day. Previously we had been encouraged by Tim & Karen (“TiKa”) to join them at Clifton Marina – 10 miles further south, and where we had plans to stay on Friday night. So we changed our plans.
We pulled up the anchor, cruised past boats we had passed earlier, and headed to Clifton. Of course we had to find out if they had space at the marina for us, which we were able to secure while under way. By 3:00 we had pulled into the assigned covered slip and met up with Tim, Karen & Mark- the younger (“TiKa”).
This marina is located in a “dead” town with nothing much to see. It is also not a spectacular place with one bathroom and shower for use by all boaters, as well as lots of spider webs, wasps and very stagnant water. The transient space is limited, but they were able to squeeze in the 10 or so Looper boats who came in for the night. The people who own it are very nice and helpful, but they have been trying to sell it for a few years. There is a restaurant/snack bar onsite and the owners were offering hotdogs and hamburgers for dinner. However, since we were planning to anchor out, we had already prepared chicken for enchiladas and chose to eat on the boat. However, we did participate in the Looper docktail at 5:30 and were able to share some fun times with our friends on “Endoxi”, “Sassified”, “Mitzvah”, “Coer de Lion”, “Moondancer”, “GimmeTime”, “Chimera II”, “No Zip Code” and of course “TiKa”.
Given the conditions of the marina, we opted not to stay a second night and made plans to leave in the morning and get to Pickwick Landing State Park. This will put us a day ahead of schedule and that is ok with us. The weather is expected to change with rain forecasted and high winds on Friday night, so we would just as soon be in a protected marina to endure it.
Here are some other pictures from our cruise today on the Tennessee River and in Clifton Marina:
Friday (10/9) – Pickwick Landing Marina – We got under way at 8:00 and headed down the Tennessee River encountering a bit of traffic almost immediately. First was the passing of Looper friends (again) “Something Special”, “Tranquility” and “Alley Cat” – who were not in the Clifton marina as they chose to anchor out. Then we passed two big tows and had to slow down for many small fishing boats. Eventually we caught up and passed “No Zip Code” who had left the Clifton marina about 1 hour before us.
We had one large single lock to get through today at Pickwick Lake. It is a 51’ lock up and we were initially by ourselves, but AJ on “Gimme Time” came up as we approached the lock. Together we only had to wait for the Lockmaster to empty the lock from the last lock-up as only one of the lock chambers (the smaller one) was working. Fortunately there were no tows to wait on and we were through the lock in 30 minutes.
We entered Pickwick Lake and were so impressed with the beauty of this inland waterway. There were very large houses on the eastern cliffs and the trees were really showing the autumn colors now. There was a nice reflection of the shoreline on the lake and it was a really beautiful.
We arrived at this state park marina and were directed to a slip near the office, and down the pier from our friends on “Palmetto Paradise”. Shortly after we arrived, so did “TiKa” and “Harvest Moon” and then in came the rain. It was forecasted to rain in the afternoon and the sky opened up right after we all had settled in our slips. We had been trying to arrange docktails with the other Loopers, but “Palmetto Paradise” and “Harvest Moon” had prior plans on another Looper boat that was putting their boat up for the winter in this Harbor. So, we got together with Tim, Karen & Mark – the younger for drinks, just like our Canadian days.
For dinner, all five of us had the Pickwick Landing Lodge come and pick us up for dinner. Like at Paris Landing, this state park has its own Lodge (hotel) with a restaurant on site which is located 1 mile from the marina. They offer breakfast, lunch & dinner and have a very affordable buffet dinner for $13. The food is not 5-star, but it is good and offers sufficient variety that we all could find something to enjoy. The state of Tennessee does a good job of offering some very nice facilities and the staff are helpful and friendly. We would recommend staying at this marina as it is in a well-protected area and is really quite pretty and peaceful.
Here are some more pictures from Pickwick Landing:
Saturday (10/10) – Grand Harbor Marina – Counts, TN (mailing address – but really in Mississippi) – All night long it rained off and on and when we woke up in the morning it was still misty and there was an overcast sky. The park harbor master told us that they recorded 2.5 inches of rain and we were grateful as it washed all the bugs off the boat.
We were not in a big hurry to get going as the next stop was only 8 miles away and would take us off the Tennessee River. Finally we left the dock after 10:00 and headed south across Lake Pickwick and turned into Yellow Creek; the start of what will become the Tenn-Tom Waterway. Here we pulled into Grand Harbor marina; home port for Looper friends Mike & Lois Fannon (“Inchin Along”) whom we shared time with up the Hudson River in New York back in June. Although this marina has a Tennessee mailing address, it is geographically located in Mississippi. So right before entering the river and marina, we crossed into our 16th state; Mississippi.
We had wanted to get fuel right away, but when we hailed the marina we were advised there were several boats ahead of us, and there would be a 30 minute wait. We wanted to get on with our day, so we opted to go directly into our slip and decided to get it on the way out when we leave. Since we are staying here for the whole week, we were assigned a covered slip which is usually reserved for seasonal renters. This was nice as it provided us better protection from the elements, and was closer to the nicer restrooms & showers located in the condominium building also on the property.
We settled into our slip and visited several Looper boats that were near the marina office, including Evelyn & Sid (“Something Special”), Tom & Julie (“Sum Escape”) and Tim, Karen & Mark-the younger (TiKa). We made plans for docktails and dinner with TiKa and went back to our boat for some chores, watch college football games, and to plan some other activities for the week.
In the evening, we had dinner with several other Loopers that Julie (“Sum Escape”) organized, including some we had not yet met. It was at a place called “Freddy T’s”, a local Tiki-bar style restaurant with water-themed decorations all over the place, including Jet skis, water skis, mermaids & pirates. It has lots of televisions all over the place, so people were watching college football games, as well as the MLB playoffs. The restaurant had a passenger van, but because there was such a large group of us, they had to make two trips to pick us up, and then two more to take us back to the marina. It was a lot of fun and the food was good. We all had fun and we got back in time to watch FSU beat the Miami Hurricanes one more time.
Sunday (10/11) – Grand Harbor Marina – Because we had the Looper dinner last night, we had to make 8:00 mass at the only Catholic church in the area. But this means we had to get the marina loaner car keys the night before as the office doesn’t open until 8:00. Fortunately, we remembered to do this and were able to make the mass at Our Lady of the Lake. It is a small but welcoming church about 5 miles north.
When we came back to the marina, we noticed many of the Loopers had left, or were preparing to leave. Most were headed to the AGLCA rendezvous at Joe Wheeler State Park down the Tennessee River which starts later in the week, and most need 2 days to get there.
We spent the rest of the day working on the plans that would take us through the month of November. We did this in part so we could make tentative plans for going home at Thanksgiving and make marina reservations, recognizing Florida marinas are going to fill up during the high season.
It was a very low-key day and there were few Loopers around to socialize with and that afforded us some quiet relaxation. Later in the afternoon we noticed Charlie & Kay (“Plane 2 Sea”) had arrived in the marina, so we walked over to talk with them for a bit, mostly about boat insurance and our future plans. Eventually it started to get dark and we went back to the boat where we grilled some chicken on the bar-b-que for dinner.
In the evening, we watched television. One of the benefits of this marina is free cable and we have been able to watch some news and other shows. This is not something we get in a lot of places; usually we are streaming on our tablets or a notebook computer. Depending on the Wi-Fi signal at a marina this can sometimes be tedious as they rarely have the bandwidth for this, especially when there are many boats in the marina all trying to do the same thing.
Monday (10/12) – Grand Harbor Marina – Counts, TN – It was a beautiful cool morning, so Denise took advantage and went for a run. The hills around the marina proved quite challenging as they are very steep and there are many of them. Additionally, the two lane road that runs around the lake perimeter is wooded and has a small shoulder with no sidewalks. But she found an area where there was a cluster of lake homes and one long mostly flat street that she looped several times to get in a few miles. It is difficult to do more than 3 – 3.5 miles without running buddies or plenty of safe areas.
Today was a work day on Island Office. Mark spent all day on the phone with clients, doing work for clients, or doing office work. Denise worked on filing all the quarterly payroll reports and getting some bookkeeping activities completed. She also had some bookkeeping work to do for the embroidery business, and worked on updating this blog. We also firmed up more of our future schedule and made a few marina reservations in AL and FL marinas.
Later in the afternoon, we met up with fellow Loopers Al & Kaye (“Knot Home”), and Ron & Bev (“Sea Venture”) for docktails. We saw an awesome sunset over the marina and enjoyed the reflection on the banks across Yellow Creek. We were very grateful for the beautiful weather in such a beautiful place.
For dinner we cooked a frozen pizza we have had in the freezer. We supplemented it with extra cheese and sausage we had in the fridge. It wasn’t near as good as the pizza we had in Nashville, but it was quick and easy, and it worked for us.
Tuesday (10/13) – Memphis, TN – We made plans to get a rental car for today and drive the 2 hours to Memphis and go see Graceland (Birthplace of Elvis Pressley). This was a logistics nightmare! We had to use the marina loaner car to drive the 30 miles to Enterprise – the only rental agency around, and no, they would not come get us. Then we had to drive 30 miles back to return the loaner car, stopping to replace the gas beforehand. Then we left to go to Memphis driving right past the rental car location we had left. Additionally, we had wanted to be at Enterprise at 8:00 when they opened so that we could get an early start, but that meant we had to get the loaner car keys the night before. Unfortunately, we forgot to do this and had to wait for the marina office to open.
Eventually we got on the road to Memphis and drove through parts of Mississippi and, yes Tennessee again. We stopped at a Chick-Fil-A for lunch (Mark’s favorite) and shortly thereafter found our way to Graceland.
We had purchased our AAA-discounted tickets on line and arrived to find no lines at the ticket counter where we had to redeem them. There was no parking issues and there was hardly a line to get on the shuttle bus to tour the mansion. We definitely timed this well as there were fewer people behind us and we got to spend a lot of time at the mansion.
By today’s rock-star standards, the house is nothing. But considering the era and his humble background, this place was a palace. The biggest surprises for us was the beautiful horse pasture in the backyard, the trophy room, and the racquetball court. These last two rooms house all the record-setting awards and honors bestowed on Elvis. It is here that you really appreciate his talent and contribution to the music industry – not just himself. You also come to appreciate his loving nature as he gave back to the community of Memphis with frequent donations to all types of charities. Graceland is a place that everyone who loves music should visit at least once.
In the afternoon we checked into the Residence Inn downtown Memphis, passing the Mississippi River to our left as we went down Riverside Drive. There were beautiful homes on the cliff to our right, and crossing the river is a pedestrian bridge with a trolley that also runs underneath it. Across the water is the state of Arkansas, beckoning us to cross to add one more to our list of travel states; but we resisted.
For dinner we went to a place called “The Bar-B-Que Shop” which had been recommended by a local we met at Grand Harbor Marina.
The place is not large and is located in the Mid-City area of Memphis. Because we didn’t want to move our car which was parked in a free spot, we took a taxi there and back. Both drivers also said it was the best Bar-B-Que, and come to find out Bon Appetite magazine agreed.
After a sampling of their Bar-B-Que Spaghetti (something they are known for), we settled on a shared rack of ribs with 50% dry (rub only) and 50% wet (sauce). While both were delicious we liked their sauce the best and bought a bottle to take home as you cannot buy it outside the Memphis area.
We did not have an interest in seeing Beale Street (famous for its “nightspots”). We are not really bar people and some locals we met at Grand Harbor had warned us of it becoming a problem area, even though it was not far from our hotel. So we went back to our hotel, took advantage of the free DVDs and watched “The Fighter”, a true story about the boxing Ward brothers. It was a great way to relax and end the day.
Wednesday (10/14) – Memphis, TN – We started the day with a trip to the Bass Pro store located in the Pyramid building near the Mississippi River.
We just had to see this place that houses 4 different fish tanks swimming throughout; one of which emulates a real marina with boats in the water and large carp swimming about.
In the middle of the store is a glass elevator that you can take to the top and see 360 view of Memphis. As Denise is scared of heights we did not think it would be worth the $10 per person fee, so we opted not to go up.
The Pyramid building also houses a Ducks Unlimited Heritage Center and as well as a shooting range and a Berretta-sponsored gun shop. But the most interesting thing is it also has a large hotel (called the Big Cypress Lodge) that has rooms that overlook the store (interior), the Mississippi River, or downtown Memphis (exterior) – depending on the room you get. This was truly a sportsman’s paradise and makes the one in Orlando look like a 7-11! You can learn more about this very unique place here.
After that we moved the car up the road a bit and went to the Welcome Center where we were able to park for free to explore some of the riverfront area. From here, we took the pedestrian bridge over a body of water called the Wolf River Lagoon to a place called Mud Island.
We could have taken a monorail that hangs on the underside of the bridge that is over 100 feet above the water, but someone in our party doesn’t like heights (see above). So instead we walked the 500+ meters to the other side and looked down on Mud Island. Because we were high up, we could a lot of what this park had to offer. In addition to the amphitheater it also has a shallow water feature in the shape of the Mississippi River that runs the length of the park. It is very cool and we wished we had bikes and more time to explore this area further.
After this adventure we left downtown Memphis and headed out to do some errands. We hit Costco and Lowes for a few things needed on the boat, and then to Supercuts right nearby for Mark to get his hair cut. Afterwards we grabbed some lunch and then headed out for the long drive back to Grand Harbor.
Here are some other sights from Memphis:
We arrived in time for “docktails” with several Loopers including KelliRae & Bill (“Ocean Dancer”) whom Denise got to know in Michigan City, IN when Mark was in Wisconsin. As luck would have it, they were getting a rental car from Enterprise the next day and they were trying to schedule the marina loaner car to drive to Corinth to get it when we ran into them. We offered to coordinate departure time and take them in the car we had to return, if they would give us a ride back to the marina afterwards. This would negate the need for either of us to do the marina-loaner-logistics nightmare described previously (see above). Since it was a win-win for both, they agreed and we set our plans to do so early in the morning.
But since we had a car for one more day, we opted for dinner off the boat and drove back to “Freddy T’s” one more time. We later learned that the reason discounts there are given to Loopers is because the owner of the marina also owns this restaurant. He also owns a 90’ yacht he keeps in the marina!
Thursday (10/15) – Grand Harbor Marina – We were up early with the fog and left the marina by 7:30 with KelliRae & Bill. The drive to Corinth and back took about 1.5 hours and had us back to the boat for a few chores. Denise did laundry, which took the rest of the morning, while Mark put water on the boat and did a few other “honey-do” items.
In the afternoon we moved the boat to the fuel dock to fill up our tank. We wanted to do this today as we want to leave before the fuel dock opens on Saturday, and didn’t want to fight the heavy wind forecasted for Friday.
We also made plans to meet with our Looper friends Mike & Lois Fallon (“Inchin’ Along”) whom we met on the Hudson River. They are from Memphis and have been taking 3 years to complete the Loop; leaving their boat (this time in Brewerton, NY) and returning to their home. They recommended this marina to us as it is their “home port” and they wanted to come see us.
In the evening we got together with other Loopers for the usual docktails, including Al & Kaye (“Knot Home”), Dennis & Carol (“Reunion”), and Ron & Bev (“Sea Venture”). Some of the Loopers are leaving in the morning, and some are staying at Grand Harbor for the whole month of October. It is a nice area, and a great place to hang out if you have to stay somewhere.
During docktails, it is not uncommon for Loopers to share stories, but at this point in the Loop, discussion is frequently about boat insurance coverage, which dictates the plans for many to mover further south. While everyone is anxious to get off the rivers and into the Gulf Coast ports, many boaters have to wait until November (1st or 30th – policy dependent) due to their boat insurance. Since policies differ from carrier to carrier, and the FL coverage is one of the most expensive, everyone wants to compare policies and costs. And as a result, many will hold up somewhere between Pickwick and Mobile Bay to wait for the special date when they are covered by their policy. Since we live in FL we get the coverage we need for hurricane protection, however we won’t make it effective until we hit Mobile. This way we only have to pay for the remainder of the policy year (July 2016) and therefore did not have to incur the hefty fee for the whole year. Comparing notes is like comparing presidential candidates across all parties; there are good and bad to just about all of them and there is no perfect one!
Friday (10/16) – Memphis, TN – Grand Harbor Marina – We woke up to cooler and slightly misty weather and the wind had picked up as expected. We got the marina loaner vehicle and drove to Shiloh National Military Park, about 20 minutes away from the marina. This national park is the site of one of the bloodiest battles during the civil war and is very spread out across miles of this pretty part of Western Tennessee. Denise was sorry she had not brought her running shoes to get a good run in as it had perfect trails in a beautiful setting along the river and provided the opportunity to go more than 3 miles without circling back over the course a few times; something she hasn’t been able to do in a long time.
In addition to the cemetery, there is a terrific award-winning video at the Welcome Center that documents the two-day battle at this location that had over 20,000 casualties. Throughout the entire park area there are markers that depict the locations of each battalion, company or regiment from both Union and Confederate armies. It is a great history lesson and was pretty overwhelming when you see how spread out the battleground is. You can learn more about this great park here.
Here are some other sights from Shiloh:
On the way back to the boat we went to a place called “The Outpost” located on the other side of Pickwick dam that we had been told about. It is combination country store, bait & tackle shop and bar-b-que restaurant. We stopped in to buy a steak for cooking on the grill for dinner and some home-made pickles and then headed back to the boat.
We returned to the marina in time to meet Mike & Lois for lunch who then took us back to The Outpost for a delicious meal. We had a chance to get caught up on our Looping adventures since we last saw each other and talked of their plans to continue the loop next spring. After lunch, they gave us a tour of the homes surrounding the area near the marina, and told us about some of the owners including the one who owns Grand Harbor Marina, and Freddie T’s (restaurant). Then they took us back to the marina and said our good-byes. They are really fun and wonderful people and we were so glad they came to see us.
In the evening we decided to stay close to the boat and prepare for our departure in the morning. Since our lunch was very filling and ran late, we decided to skip dinner and watched TV until we turned in for the night.
We really liked this marina and this area and can see why so many people stay here. This is one of our favorite spots on the Loop!
Saturday (10/17) – Midway Marina – Fulton, MS. We were up and off the dock just after 7:00 with only bass fishing boats on the water with us. Although it was cool and a little breezy when we woke up, once underway on the Tenn-Tom waterway we were more sheltered by the canal and hit some light fog. Fortunately it did not last.
When we left Grand Harbor we had called the first lock (Whitten) to clarify their opening schedule and to let them know we were headed their way. We received instructions to be there for what would be a 10:00 opening. That was per our plans and so we made our way south. When we got to the lock there was an up-bound tow that had just exited and he had the chamber filling for another up-bound waiting tow. We had to wait over an hour for this to materialize and then finally were allowed in this lock with two other boats (“The Bucket List” and “Lady KK”).
The Whitten lock is the first of 12 locks we will have to go through that will drop us over 400’ before we get to Mobile, AL and sea level. This particular lock is the largest drop of all at over 80’. It has been since Canada and the TSW that we have encountered such lock heights and it can be intimidating when you first pull in and see the doors facing you. It took about 20 minutes to lock down and be on our way. Fortunately, the other two locks we had to go through were open for us when we arrived and we were in and out of them within 15 minutes each.
Some of the Tenn-Tom Waterway is more like a big ditch with high banks on both sides. During this portion there are baffles that are placed near neighboring creeks to prevent them from rushing into the waterway and affecting water levels. It is an interesting sight to say the least.
Along the way we also saw some evidence that we are definitely in the Bible belt!
We arrived at Midway Marine just after 2:00 pm and were quickly followed by the other two boats who had traveled the locks with us during the day. We exchanged boat cards and some pleasantries, and then we were off to shower and get to mass. We used the marina loaner vehicle to drive into the very small town of Fulton and attend Christ the King Catholic for their only mass at 4:30. We were elated that we could find a Catholic church in this part of Mississippi where Baptists and Methodists rule the roost. There were less than 30 people at mass and the priest was a transplant from India, where Catholics are the largest Christian faith but only represent 1.5% of the total population there.
After mass we drove to the Wal-Mart, picked up a rotisserie chicken & salad fixings, and took it back to the boat for dinner. Although there is a restaurant up the hill from the marina, we had decided to eat on board instead. Walking down the docks we could smell the wonderful aroma of our fellow Loopers all of whom were cooking aboard their boats too. Great minds think alike.
Here are some pictures from Midway Marina:
Sunday (10/18) – Columbus Marina – Columbus, MS – Knowing it is easier to get the locks to open for a group of pleasure craft, we coordinated with our new Looper friends on “The Bucket List” and “Lady KK” and left at 7:45. We called the first lock (Fulton) to tell them we were coming and got their ok. So when we arrived there was no wait and that set the precedent for the rest of the day. There was only one lock of the other three that we had to wait at, and that was less than 10 minutes.
We arrived at Columbus marina just before 2:00 pm covering 50 nm, about the same distance as yesterday in about 2 hours less time. It is amazing how the locks can impact your plans.
After settling the boat and checking in, we went to work on assigned tasks. Denise had a blog to update and pictures to catalog and Mark had a very dirty boat that had to be washed. We showered in time to meet our new Looper friends for dinner. Using the marina van we drove into town to Harvey’s restaurant with Larry & Sherry (“Lady KK”), and Gary & Ingrid (“The Bucket List”). Since Lady KK is a Gold-Looper and have run these rivers several times before, they already knew of Harvey’s. Of course we knew of the place from our days working for a client in Columbus so it was kind of like a trip down memory lane for us. We stayed late at the restaurant talking and getting to know each other a bit before returning to the marina.
Here are some other pictures from our adventures on the Tenn-Tom today:
Tomorrow Mark will fly to a client in Columbia, SC for work on Tuesday and will return on Wednesday morning. This means we will stay in Columbus, MS until at least Wednesday. In the meantime, Denise will be able to get the blog published and also get some much-needed boat chores done.
Stay tuned for more adventures!