More rivers but always better with friends!

We arrived in Demopolis and were greeted by a bunch of loopers. All in the same insurance situation as us, waiting for Nov 1 to continue downstream. This is the “technical insurance holding spot.” The weather was another obstacle. More rain was predicted and it was getting cold!! On the water, when the temperature drops, it just goes right to your bones. Thankfully our heaters are working just fine and all the blankets are piled high. We haven’t worn pants on this whole trip until these last few days. They were buried so deep that I had to really search for them.

We are getting close to the gulf, but it still seems so far.

What does one do when the weather is cold and the town is crappy? LAUNDRY!! This is one of the drawbacks of this lifestyle/trip. It has to be done and I had quite a pile. Six loads to be exact. Since this laundry room was one of the nicer ones, I decided to do all the towels and sheets. I know, this is really interesting information! Your welcome!!

While I did the laundry Andy tore apart the boat to find a leak. We have a leak and with all this rain it’s finding it’s way in. No bueno.

There was absolutly nothing to do here in this town. A curtesy car and a trip to Walmart was all I could get excited about. I had a group of looper friends arriving today so I decided to put on a dinner for them. I made a huge pan of lasagna and fed 11 people. They say that one of the best things about the loop is the friendships you make and that is 100% true. (Sure wish I had taken a picture of everyone on our boat!)

We spent 4 long days here waiting until Nov 1 and the weather to break. We woke up on the 2nd, before the sun to 32 degrees and frost all over the windows. I scrambled to find our beenies and jackets. The water had mist coming off it and it felt eerie as we left the marina before the Sun. The current was moving fast and pushed us along and increased our speed as it carried us downstream. As the sun came up and heated up as the mist went away and the day was crisp but lovely.

We pulled out of the marina with our friends TxAU, Done Diggin, Laurie Jean, Honey Badger, Breakaway, Seas Today, and a few others. The plan was to make it 100 miles to Bobby’s fish camp. This is the only safe place to tie up to a dock and only has room for 4 boats. The other boats raft off each other. The dock is right on the fast moving river that is full of debris. We arrived second and took our position on the dock. As others came in we all helped each other tie up and to each other. We ended up with 9 boats and up to 3 deep. The current was really swift so as the boats came together it took a lot of skill not to go too fast to crash, but fast enough to get a line tied around a cleat. It was a real scene and one that no one would really believe unless you witness it. Now I have to say that all of us in this group are really seasoned and the captains maneuvered their boats like pros. If a new boater tried this it could have been catastrophic. Thankfully it went well.

Bobby’s Fish camp is an iconic step along this route. They serve catfish fried and are sort of famous for it. We all went up and had dinner. The place was a little rough around the edges but we laughed and had fun.

We are a bad ass group of loopers!!

This is the restaurant that we invaded for catfish.

The next morning we again woke at dawn to freezing cold, mist on the water and we watched trees, YES, entire trees floating down the river. We were all a little giddy because today is the LAST LOCK!! The very last lock for the rest of my life! LIKE seriously the last one!!! Some people talk about looping again. Ah, HELL to the NO! I will totally continue boating but I am NOT looping again. Honestly the rivers have seriously kicked my butt.

Yes, they are pretty. Yes, they are the link from Chicago to the Gulf. Yes, it is a wonder that you can take your boat down them in this crazy thing called the Great Loop. Yes, it seems an impossible task. Yes, its been wonderful. But I will NOT do it again. Unless it’s like childbirth and the memory fades and suddenly you decide “sure honey lets have another.” Right now I’m still in it and no way am I thinking I will ever do it again. These women pictured above have kept me sane, kept me laughing. We cry on each other’s shoulder, bitch to each other, drink lots of wine together and they are the reason I am still here. Jodi, pictured below with me has become my text buddy. We text each other while we travel and it helps kill time. I seem not to be able to concentrate on a book, not sure why but texting is fun! Plus she and I always find things to talk about. Thank you Jodi!!

Jodi and I looking at the cold water and pondering our last lock and the tree that just went by.

All of our 9 boats rafted up on a short old dock. Interesting.

THE LAST LOCK!!

We all cheered and clapped and headed out feeling so happy. DONE!! ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿป

The only yucky thing about today after we locked was all the debris. The junk in the water is crazy. Birds standing on logs are a sure sign but some you can’t see until you get close. It’s called “Dodge A Log” and Andy was on full alert the whole day. With all the rain, the river is high and debris is loosened from the shoreline and sent downstream. It’s hard to see it all and you pray you don’t run over anything large that can damage a prop or dent your boat. We have been fine but it takes a sharp eye and constant watch. No eyes off the river!

Tonight we had to do another anchorage. This was a day of lasts. Last lock and last anchorage on the river. We picked a spot but decided to stick with the gang and all 9 boats anchored in a wide river that had a good anchorage rating. It had a current that kept the boat in the same position all night. The anchor set and I am just now starting to trust it.

Fall is here and the trees that line the river are beautiful. This is our anchorage at sunset.

We are almost done with the rivers!!!

Will the Rivers ever end?? Nope, Not yet!

Andy rested up and recovered from his cold. We were ready to get moving down the rivers. We had lots of miles still ahead of us and we just really wanted to get going. Our boat insurance won’t let us pass Demopolis Alabama until Nov 1st so our plan was to head that way and hope our timing was good. It was already Oct 22nd. We had lots of locks still ahead. Let’s get these done!! Locks, Locks, and more Locks. This lock was a doozy. It dropped 82 feet. It was the biggest, baddest one yet.

This picture was taken by a fellow looper Rick who flew his drone above the lock. You get a real perspective of just how large these locks are. They are built for commercial traffic and barges. The barges on this section were impressively large.

I wondered this morning as we left Aqua Yacht Harbor why I was feeling bittersweet. I am so ready to get through his next section of rivers and closer to the gulf. I wonder if other women felt the way I feel about these locks? Am I the only one who hates them? They are NOT hard at all. In these locks you simply tie your line to a Ballard and watch it lower, making sure the line stays secure. (Showed above). Really easy compared to the Erie Canal. It’s the waiting AND waiting. A lot of times we are stuck waiting for barges to enter the lock and they move at a snails pace. If a barge makes it to a lock before us, we are forced to idling for hours waiting. They move really slow and the process of lowering them takes forever. Then they refill the chamber before we can enter and it can be hours long. We have waited up to 5 hours and we have friends who waited as much as 8. Sometimes it’s just a few hours. The waiting is stressful especially if you have a destination and lots of miles to cover. The delays can put you into your marina well after dark. This happened only once to us. Some locks have a place you can anchor waiting your turn, some locks you just drift and idle. There is no place to tie off and secure your boat. It is nerve wracking to say the least! We watch to see if there is a tow in front of us and then decide if we can “outrun them” to the lock. In most cases the lockmaster knows the boat traffic on the river by watching AIS and already knows who’s coming before we announce our arrival. It’s up to the lockmaster who he lets in first. The “pleasure craft” as we are called have the last priority. Sometimes it works, sometimes we wait…..and wait. It’s a bit of a game.

So I dread it. I get anxious that we won’t make the run to the next spot until after dark, which happened to us going into Green Turtle Marina. That was a nightmare. Andy says I use that word too much, when things are difficult, not a nightmare, but tonight it was a true nightmare!! I was scared to death. The inlet was super shallow and the markers were hard to find. We got into our slip by the kindness of a fellow looper who stood at the end of our space with a flashlight and guided us in. He grabbed our lines and helped tie the boat. This “Looping” thing has so many great benefits. Mostly the people who are also looping look out for everyone. We all know the struggles. Some days go smooth like butter, some not. Our approach the Green Turtle was one of those “not so smooth” days waiting for the lock and approaching the marina in the dark, 11 other loopers in tow and no idea where to go or where our slip was. Normally the marinas have staff that help tie lines and direct you, but in this case it was after hours and we only had the kindness of fellow loopers who always jump to assist. Because of this I always run to the aide of any boat, even when staff is present. Because loopers care, staff is ambivalent. They see this all season. Not that they aren’t good and accommodating, they are, but Loopers CARE!!!

More pictures of the locks. They are just huge on this section of the river.

We made our way to the next marina and again the next day another marina. We arrived at Columbus Marina and the weather forecast looked terrible. We had 4 days of rain and for at least 24 hours straight it poured pounding rain, hard rain that I thought was never going to end. We were with a huge group of “stuck loopers” due to the weather. Loopers make fun when there is no fun and I have really enjoyed these days being “stuck” because they always end up being interesting. The marina had a curtesy van. We had 14 people who all wanted to brave the rain and go to dinner. So Mr. Tex (Greg) shuttled us the the restaurant in the pouring rain. The van was in such bad shape that it leaked and the seatbelts didn’t work. None of us cared because we were getting off our boats. We all arrived safely and enjoyed a nice dinner out.

This picture shows my Nebo app and how many loopers where held up here in a storm.

I hated leaving because after 4 days I get comfortable, although I didn’t love sitting on the boat for 4 days in the rain. So off we went when we felt it was safe to venture off. There are not always marinas on the river. Today was one of those that we needed to anchor. It is not my favorite thing to do but I had no choice. We picked our spot, turned into the location and dropped the hook. We had a fellow boat with us who also choose this spot. (I do feel better when another boat is anchored with us). The evening was beautiful and this spot was eerily quiet. You could hear the leaves russel and birds in the distance. There was no current and we had a good night here.

Fall has really kicked in and the days are getting cool and the nights are freezing. We pulled out the down comforter!

We are headed to Demopolis today where we will, again, wait out an incoming storm. We will also be here until the insurance requirements to stay until Nov 1 (something to do with hurricanes and blah blah blah..)

Will we ever get to the Ocean?? The river just goes on and on!!๐Ÿ˜ญ๐Ÿ˜ญ

Road Trippin: Maryville, Gatlinburg, Asheville๐Ÿฐ๐Ÿ

We left Chattanooga and headed for the Great Smoky Mountains. We had no idea where we had booked hotels along the way but they all sounded great, and well frankly, this was part of the adventure. We had booked 5 hotels along a plotted route and we figured we would score on some, and we crossed our fingers. Andy is a great researcher, but in the day of internet and creative photography who knows. All I know is that we prefer smaller, quaint family owned, not chains and commercial hotels. We prefer hotels with outside space and coffee/breakfast. We set off, snacks and water bottles full. We drove in the direction of the Smoky Mountains. We started seeing beautiful yellow trees and it got cooler. So Far so good.

The trees are starting to turn and really pretty.

We pulled into Maryville and noticed all the familiar chain stores. Target, Homegoods, Walmart, JCPenny etc. I always get a little giddy because even if I don’t need anything it gives me a little comfort knowing I could get whatever I might want. Oh ya, we are on a boat and currently in a car, and oh ya, I don’t really need anything. Ok, breathe! We found a good BBQ place for lunch (Thanks Rhonda for the recommendation) then went to find our hotel. Our navigation directed us to turn off the road and onto a college campus. It was a really pretty old looking small university called Marys University. Obviously a private school. The directions wound us around the campus and we suddenly found ourselves in a wooded forest. The road was narrow and the trees towered overhead. I thought we were lost but the direction said turn here, turn left, then right. Suddenly a lodge appeared. It looked inviting. I told Andy to wait in the car and let me go check this out. I walked to the building and opened the door to a gorgeously decorated lodge with sitting rooms with fireplaces and old worn leather furniture. SCORE!!! I checked us in and we found our building and room. SCORE!! I wondered if we would ever want to leave.

This place was wonderful. Today also happened to be our 28th anniversary. I had no idea that this place also has the top rated restaurant in the whole area. Of course they were booked!! So I pleaded my case and prayed. It worked out! We had a wonderful dinner and didn’t have to leave the property. The other treat was that they had a huge firepit that had rocking chairs all around it. Before dinner, and not knowing if they could accommodate us for dinner, we sat by the fire and really enjoyed the setting. What a lovely place, in the middle of someplace we had no idea existed. Stumbling on this was a gift. After dinner (yes they got us in, bless their hearts) we again enjoyed the fire and the nightly guests who roast marshmellows in the fire to make s’mores. I’m telling you this place was a real find!! Still shocked we found it.

The white Nike shoes are new! I took my good shoes from the boat (after searching all the compartments for where I stowed our hiking shoes/closed toe shoes) because I knew we would be hiking/walking around. The first day of wearing them my feet were killing me. The tips of my toes were so sore. What I have discovered is that in the 6+ months of living on a boat have changed my feet. They are flat! All my closed toe shoes do not fit. We went to a shoe store and YEP I am a size bigger. Getting old sucks and my feet do not like being confined to shoes. These new Nike’s helped me walk but I am not sure if they will get much use once we return. In any case, I have shoes that fit now.

The next morning we drove to Townsend and into Cade’s Cove. This pasture land in the valley between the mountain ranges was exactly like little house on the prairie. I could just see Laura Ingle running after Pa. I grew up watch that series and remember the girls getting tucked into bed in the loft by Pa and the houses were exactly like that. I remember Michael Landon dying and feeling sad as a young kid.

It was pretty but CROWDED with cars. It was an 11 mile, one way loop through the valley with stops at the old homesteads and churches. The loop took us a few hours stopping along the way and following cars doing 10MPH. I’m glad we went but following cars so slow was a little yucky. At one point it came to a dead stop. I said, “I bet there is some kind of animal there.” Sure enough I saw the tail end of a black bear walking away. Of course he was walking away from about a dozen people with long lenses and making a ton of noise. It was still cool to see his butt move into the brush.

After 2 wonderful days in this lodge and some great drives we packed up the car and headed to the next lodge in Gatlinburg. We took a long scenic road up the mountains enjoying the crisp air and winding roads. We went to the tallest peak in all the smokies. We stopped for fried apple turnovers and browsed through antique stores. We took our time exploring.

The colors are starting to turn on the hills. We are a bit early because of the heat wave but it was still breathtaking.

The Smoky mountains get their name from the clouds that appear like smoke coming from the trees. We had a great showing of this on our drive. The day was crisp and had rained earlier. The clouds were atop the mountain peaks and had these wisps of clouds that looked like smoke coming from chimneys. It was really pretty.

Next stop is Gatlinburg.

We followed our navigation and suddenly found ourselves in a mecca tourist zone. Dollywood, Ripley’s believe it or not, tons of fudge and ice cream shops, go carts, miniature golf. You name it. We had no idea that we were stepping into our version of a tourist nightmare. The street was lines with cheesy gift shops and families on fall break. Holy cow, get us out of here!! We pulled through the Main Street and headed to our next lodge to escape the craziness.

We prayed our chosen lodge was away from all this. We were led up a steep hill. We climbed up a street that was narrow, turning and twisting and I was like “SERIOUSLY!!!! Where the hell are we going?” We pulled into the parking lot to and found this lodge right on the side of the mountain. We found the host and she showed us to our room and it was amazing. Everything was made of lumber, twigs and trees. We had a separate bedroom and bath. We had a kitchen (not that I planned on cooking) and a gas fireplace. It had a balcony that looked out to the mountains. It was amazing! SCORE #2!!

The view from our room was incredible.

We avoided the downtown tourist mecca (although I did crave a Carmel apple) and did some long drives into the mountains. We packed snacks and enjoyed the scenery. The trees are not fully turned colors. This year has been a record year for heat and no rain. The leaves are actually dying before they turn so it does feel like fall. I did see some beautiful red trees and beautiful colors. The locals say its not as pretty this year, but this California girl wouldn’t know the difference.

It was sad to leave this lodge but not sad to leave this crazy tourist town. Our next stop was Asheville and everyone said we would love it here. Asheville is actually listed as one of the top places to live in the US for both the 20 somethings and also the retirees. I wondered why but would soon find out what all the hype was about.

We pulled down the street our B&B was on. The house was in a neighborhood with large homes. Some cared for, some not. The street was full of homes that had obviously been there a long time. I got a bit nervous as we found the house and parked. I wondered what we would find inside. I reminded myself that I was not keen on hotel chains and wanted a more intimate experience but after the last 2 awesome lodges I felt nervous. We rang the door bell to this big blue house and we were greeted by Kevin, the owner. He invited us in and showed us around the house and to our room. I instantly relaxed. This was going to be special. Our room was a light blue color and called Robbins Nest. It was roomy and pretty. The house had the feel of a very well loved old house. The floors creaked and nothing felt straight but it was really well decorated and comfortable. We were invited to wine and appetizers at 5:30. We relaxed and settled into our and went down at 5:30. What I found was a small group of people who had traveled from different areas, all engaged in conversation, drinking wine and food that was prepared by the owner and it was INCREDIBLE!!! The spread was huge and Kevin sat and chatted with his guests. I could tell that this was his favorite time of day as an owner of this lovely B&B. He mingled with the people who shared his home. We also found out that he and his wife had come from Camarillo, just a few miles from where AQUAMAN had spent its whole life in California. We chatted about the area and why they had made such a life change. I felt an instant connection to them. The next morning breakfast was served in the dining room and I was again blown away at the gourmet spread. SCORE#3!!

Andy enjoyed the front porch! We had a great front porch in a previous house. Maybe we will have one again!

What does one do while in Asheville?? Well 2 things actually. Tour the Biltmore Mansion and drink beer. First stop was the Biltmore. I could write pages on this house but if your ever in Asheville it’s a must see. The largest home in the U.S.  Only 175,000 square feet. My feet hurt after walking the property and grounds and it seems hard to imagine the magnitude of living or building something this grand.

I loved walking the grounds and the arboretum. I am a huge lover of orchids and I took 100’s of pictures of them. Every orchid known to man. Some I had never seen. This gardens were carefully sculpted and out of a magazine.

We happened to hit this as they are preparing it for the holidays. It seems early but I guess they better start with the sheer amount of trees that we saw going up. Every room had at least 1 if not 3 trees! Incredible!

I took tons of pictures. These are just a few.

Next up, we went up to see The Grove Park Hotel and find lunch. We drove up the hill to find another spectacular property. We had a glass of wine by the most enormous fireplace and an amazing lunch on the grand terrace overlooking the property. Today sure was about grandeur.

Next up, BEER!

I am not much of a beer drinker but this town is a hot spot for microbrew pubs. They do all kinds of beer tours and you could spend a week visiting all the microbreweries in the town. We just don’t have the time and frankly, it’s been a long day. So we choose this one! HA!! Loved the name.

The beer was good. We enjoyed watching all the hipsters and trendy kids in crazy weird clothes (what are they thinking. Denim jumpsuits and mom jeans are back in style. Sorry girls they didn’t look good then and they still don’t look good even  on your skinny little ass. My old lady opinion anyway!)

Tomorrow we head to Nashville. I am excited.

We walked Broadway and drank our way from bar to bar, listening to country music. We saw girls gone wild riding around on tractors and party busses, singing and dancing. We could barley squeeze our way into these crowded bars with sticky floors and I suddenly felt old and out of place. We found ourselves some food and then made our way back to our terrible hotel. Andy came down with a cold and when we woke up we looked at each other and thought the same thing. “Let’s blow this place and get back to the boat.” We packed up and headed home. I know we missed all of what makes Nashville really cool but we were just plain reads to get back. Andy getting a bad cold just gave us the push we needed.

I am super grateful for the wonderful places we have found along the way so far, each unique and special. The difference is that at The Carolina House B&B we had real connection to people. When people gather in small groups over food and drink, you get a real feel for people. We all come from different places in the world with different passions but we all had the common thread of travel and having new experiences. I enjoyed listening to the stores from everyone’s trip and little anecdotal things that happened along the way. One guy was a cyclist who had rode 102 miles that day. Another couple shared getting their rented red convertible mustang stuck and needing to call AAA and waiting 4 hours to be rescued. Another group of 4 women all traveling together who were having a girls weekend. We shared our Great Loop journey and maybe inspired some. Either way this is the best part of travel. Everyday we collide with souls on this planet who are all wonderful beings, special, enlightened by travel and having an experience. I keep thinking about a sign I had at home that I passed to my niece when we left. It’s exactly what I believe. Experience life, get uncomfortable, let go of stuff.

“The best things in life are not things”

Road trippin. First stop Chattanooga ๐Ÿš‚

Time to hit the road Jack! (That is my father-in-laws name and boy do I miss him).

First thing was breakfast! Our first visit to a Waffle House. The coffee was just ok and I won’t write a review. It filled us up until we get where we are going and find REAL food. ๐Ÿฝ

We left our boat safely covered at Aqua Yacht Harbor, rented a car and started a road trip. We have 5 towns and 5 hotels and are making a circle through Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama and North Carolina and back to Tennessee and Mississippi. It also happens to be our anniversary Oct 12th, so we are calling this our anniversary trip. We actually wanted to explore the Smoky Mountains and see Nashville and need to kill some time. Perfect opportunity to hit the road. It’s so nice to change up our travels. Since we have a car we loaded it up with all the comforts we will need. This is going to be cool!!!

Our first stop is Chattanooga. We planned on bringing our boat up the Tennessee river to Chattanooga. We realized that we could be here in a car in 4 hours verses 4 days cruising up the river. We had already booked a trip to the Smoky Mountains from Chattanooga so we just added a hotel here and took off.

We pulled up to The Read Hotel (Andy’s the king of google searches) to the coolest old brick building. The moment I walked into the dark interior I could feel this was a special place. There was a brass key in a box labeled room 313. You could buy one for $10. So I asked “what’s the deal with room 313?” She replied with “Its haunted! Do you want a tour? We do that. But you cannot sleep in there. Al Capone slept in there and said it was truly haunted.” Thank you but NO!

The elevator has a dial that still works.

The original key holders that were behind the desk are here as well as the phone booths.

The hotel rooms are ultra modern and all updated. The juxtaposition is appreciated as a designer but I would have loved to see them before. I am sure they have changed many times over their life. It was a very nice room and comfortable. Here is the hallway. There is a theme of elegance with silver and pearls.

The story about how 313 room is haunted is conflicting but they say that Annalisa was murdered in that room by a confederate soldier. Other stories are that she was a prostitution that was murdered by a jealous lover. Some say it was suicide from a broken heart. People who go into the room say hear spirit is very present. Creepy. Especially being here in October!! ๐ŸŽŽ

The hotel was built in 1847 across from the railroad. It burnt to the ground in 1867 and was left abandoned with the owners not wanting to rebuild. It was purchased by Dr. John Read and was built to 10 stories of Georgian grandeur. Prior to its completion it turned into a civil war hospital because it was close to the railway system. They brought the soldiers by train to this location and made it a hospital.

What does one do while off the boat, in a cool city, hotel in it??? We eat!! And boy do we know how to do it! I’ll spared you a whole blog just on the amazing food we have eaten everyday. We make a sport out of finding the next meal. It makes up for all the traveling days with coffee for breakfast and a P&J lunch and whatever I come up with that night. No suffering here. Cheese plates are our gig!!

When in Chattanooga you have to find the ChooChoo! We did. Its a poor excuse for a hotel and really needs a hip renovation but just walking around this very old train station and terminal was cool. So much original fixtures and I could just feel all the lives that had walked those sidewalks waiting for trains in and out of here.

Chattanooga has rolling hills that are really pretty. We wanted to come here for fall colors. Being from California, we don’t get seasons. This year this area has had a record heat wave and the trees are not turning. Just our luck. Instead of turning they are just dying and falling off. Regardless, its pretty.

We went up to Lookout Mountain for the view of the city and to Ruby Falls. That ended up being a very long walk through a cave to an underground waterfall. Who knew. It was cool but touristy. We marched into the tunnel with a guide telling us silly stories with a group of about 30 of our closest tourist friends. When in Rome…….

They light up the falls with a light show. Ok but seriously! We had exactly 7 minutes to say ohhh, awwww and take pictures. The cave was pretty cool with stalagmites and stalagtites.

Next up on the tour of Chattanooga was the Rock City. The coolest part of this was the view. It was a nice walk through these boulders up onto of this mountain. We walked and walked and my feet were saying “you are not on the boat today sweetie!” The view was incredible. We even saw 7 states from up here.

I HATED that bridge. Almost puked. Honestly I hate heights and a little kid ran down behind me and started jumping. I started yelling STOP STOP like a freak. She just laughed and I almost had a heart attack.

One of the high lights in Chattanooga is their aquarium. I have been to a lot of aquariums, and frankly Andy and I have an issue with them, but we decided to go because we heard it was really awesome. It was. A really good show of rivers and wildlife. I had to admit that if I knew some of these fish existed in these rivers I might not have gotten in the water. I’m being dramatic. Most of the crazy, scary fish exist in places like the amazon, not the Tennessee! But my imagination is wild and now I am scared!

We noticed the side streets were starting to get barricaded around the hotel. We of course asked someone what was happening and found out there was a historical car show and race around the downtown town of Chattanooga. Mr. Aquaman/Ex-race car driver himself was excited and on Friday morning he got to see the famous Wayne Carini from Chasing Classic Cars and Donald Osborne from Jay Leno’s garage. I walked along with him like a good wife.

We are leaving Chattanooga for the next stop in the Smoky Mountains.

Road trippin continues……….Beep Beep!๐ŸŽ

Aqua Yacht Harbor, Mississippi ๐ŸŒฟ๐Ÿ๐Ÿ‚๐Ÿข

We are really making progress getting through the middle of the USA. Who knew it was possible to take our big boat down a bunch of rivers through the middle of America. Well, it is possible and we are doing it. Honestly, it hasn’t been my most favorite part of this “Loop” but when I see the map and realize we are more then half way to Florida I get that overwhelming feeling that I have had a lot on the trip, Gratitude.

It is still surreal, even after all this time.

We left Green Turtle Bay and headed down the Kentucky Lake. It was gorgeous and we had 4 travel days that were amazing. Except for our bad decision to stop at Birdsong Marina (which turned out ok but was really not a good decision) Kentucky lake was beautiful. We had 4 good cruising day when we arrived at Aqua Yacht Harbor. This was an all covered marina with a great service department. We had planned a road trip so Andy thought this would be a great opportunity to pull the boat out of the water and inspect the props and do some general maintenance. We pulled into our covered slip and settled in.

It had been ridiculously hot so being under a cover made it so much more comfortable. The A/C had barely been able to keep up so it was a really nice way to get the sun off the boat and cool it off.

We finally had a chance to get the toys down and play. We enjoyed a few hours of paddling the lake and seeing the sights. We loved the relief from the sun in our covered space. The boat was nice and shaded and cool.

The lake had lots of these turtles. A big group of them hung out by the restaurant because the kids liked to go down and throw french fries in the water.

The first day we arrived, I got a notification on my Nebo app inviting us to dinner at a guys house named Charlie McVey. I answered it with a “well thanks for this invite but I do not know you!” His response was “I am inviting all loopers at Aqua Yacht and a neighboring Grand Harbor Marina.” I wasn’t sure about this and we had limited groceries to make something to share at this point so I asked Andy what he wanted to do. Before long I had put together an appetizer (no one shows up empty handed) and found a fellow looper with a car and off we went…..to dinner…..at a house of someone we had never met! Welcomes to looping. It is surreal how people open up their home just by flying this thing called a burgee (a flag) on the front of our boat. We had a wonderful evening and made new friends and saw others we had crossed paths with before. Charlie and Robin were so warm and wonderful.

This is the group who showed up and our host and hostess were just the best. It was super fun and I felt so blessed in the friendships.

Charlie told us about a waterfall and offered to take us in his pontoon boat. We decided we really wanted to get our dingy down and go explore. So we managed to get it off the boat, in a tight slip, wedged between the dock and the boat. It was slightly deflated so it was easy to squish into the tight spot. We packed a lunch and went out for a ride on the lake. We found the waterfall and it was so worth it. We swam around and had fun all afternoon. Jackie and Jim showed up in their dingy and we enjoyed the afternoon together. Thanks to Jackie for the pictures!! She braved her phone in the water! It was so nice to have a few days to have some fun, sleep in and no agenda. I find that I need these breaks after days of traveling. It was really needed.

I even found a handful of shells here. Score! ๐Ÿš๐Ÿ๐Ÿ‚

Our original plan was to take the boat up the Tennessee river all the way to Chattanooga. It was a 4 day trip up. We looked at each other and decided since the boat was in such a good spot that we would start our road trip from here. A drive to Chattanooga is 4 hours vs. a 4 day trip up the river, against the current. We decided to spend the gas money on a hotel and a boat break. We felt really good about this because we are also hoping we are giving time for our buddy boat, Robin and Ted, time to catch up. They got delayed and are just now starting the rivers from Michigan. If they speed up, and they can, we will rejoin each other soon. At least I am hoping. Get moving Ted!!!

Birdsong Marina, Pearls and almost death by a curtosy car๐Ÿš—๐Ÿš˜

Not sure how to begin this story. I guess I will spoil the ending by saying we are fine!! So what happened you ask??

We left Paris landing this morning for a super easy cruise down Kentucky lake. The lake is beautiful and FLAT! I am lovin’ it. It IS hot as hell though. This area is having a record heat wave. Lucky us! I am getting used to being sweaty.

We were having such a great cruise that dancing was a must. Rocking out to the sounds of Andy’s playlist, he has the best music.

Are we seeing turning leaves or dead trees? Not really sure because it’s been so hot here they are saying they might die before turning color.

We passed a fire!

This tree was right in the channel stuck in the mud. Good thing we are watching and the bird kinda gave it away.

So your still asking what’s with all the drama?? I am getting to it, hold on!!

We booked a marina called Birdsound Marina. Bob was the nicest guy on the phone when I called to enquirer about the marina. It is listed in all the books we have! Bob is a good Ol’ midwestern guy who had lived here his whole life and explained all that the marina had to offer. It is a family owned marina he kept saying. I was pretty psyched to meet Bob!

Bob told us to call him when we reached a certain mile marker and he would come out to escort us in. Awesome!! We made the call and waited patiently for Bob to come get us. He came out in his pontoon boat and we proceeded into this narrow channel that had markers that were set up like a slalom course. My excitement turned to terror when immediately we hit ground, something hard, but the boat didn’t stop, it kept going. So we were not aground. We left a big trail of churned up dirt, mud, rocks.

Oh boy!!!

As we continued we had shallow water that we had absolute no business being in. For most of the way we had 1 foot or less under our props. A lot of time it hit 1/2 foot. It sucked. We idled, prayed and I wanted to high tail it right back to the river. Bob was ahead of us like nothing while I chewed off a fingernail.

We arrived to this. A rickety old wood dock. Just us and the pontoon boats.

Aquaman stood out like a huge sore thumb. No big boats back here at all. We looked like a target. We shook our heads and decided to make the most of it. We actually might never make it out of here. This might be our new home. I told Bob that we really didn’t have enough water to be back here. He was so surprised and said he had no idea. For a moment I had that feeling, like I have a lot on this trip, that no one cares for your stuff like you. Good Ol’ Bob had no idea of the water levels and I trusted him that we would be fine entering that channel. He was so friendly on the phone and we had put our home in his hands.

The dock had a bunch of old tanks, equipment and signs. Almost like of days gone by. It felt erie and freaky. This boat was left here to rot into the earth like garbage. Like a ghost town. I felt venerable and uneasy the whole time. Sleep did not come easy as I listened for noises and I wondered if the boat would be sitting in mud when we woke.

After we had settled in, or actually cranked up the AC and pulled the shades, a lady came down to take me up to the pearl museum. It was the LAST thing I wanted to do, but I went not wanting to be rude. Andy opted out and I didn’t have the heart to say No to her. I let her take me up to a makeshift little closed restaurant/museum/pearl store. I got to see a video about this fresh water pearl operation and how it started. Then I had to find something to buy. I couldn’t walk away empty handed. OH VEY!!

This is what I choose. I can wear next to all my bracelets. I also took a mussel shell.

These are the shapes they use to form the pearls in the mussels.

Bob offered us a curtesy car. Cool! So let’s go see what’s around and get some dinner.

We walked up to find this Lincoln. SWEET!

(Notice the back end is almost sitting on the ground)

It was far from sweet. This car has seen better days. The entire back end scrapped on the ground and it bounced down the road with bigger wakes then the Mississippi. We bounced and scraped down a 2 lane country road trying not to die or get hit because Andy was so afraid we would bottom out over every bump so he didn’t drive fast. I imagined a car flying down the road and ramming into us. My seatbelt didn’t work making me even more nervous. I actually laughed so hard every time we bounced as my boobs almost left my chest. We eventually made it to a Mexican restaurant where no alcohol was served! Hilarious.

We have been in a lot of curtesy cars. Some good, some not so good and even sketchy but this one really took the cake.

Sooo…….. We made it back. We are fine. No loopers come here! I wonder why??? We have to get out of here in the morning. I will try to keep my fingers out of my mouth.

We did get the gift of a new moon and sunset. Thank you for that!

“The difference between an adventure or an ordeal is your attitude.”

I won’t sleep tonight as I fear our departure tomorrow morning as early as possible.

๐Ÿ™๐Ÿป๐Ÿ™๐Ÿป๐Ÿ™๐Ÿป๐Ÿ™๐Ÿป๐Ÿ™๐Ÿป๐Ÿ™๐Ÿป๐Ÿ™๐Ÿป๐Ÿ—บ๐Ÿ—บ๐Ÿ—บ๐Ÿ—บ๐Ÿ—บ๐Ÿ—บ๐Ÿ—บ๐Ÿ’ฉ๐Ÿ’ฉ๐Ÿ’ฉ๐Ÿ’ฉ๐Ÿ’ฉ๐Ÿ’ฉ๐Ÿ’ฉ

Green Turtle Bay Kentucky ๐Ÿข

Arriving in Green Turtle bay marks the halfway point of the Rivers connecting Chicago to Mobile Alabama. I was super excited to get here because, from what I was told, the upper section is the toughest and we are now done with that! YES!! This marina is a looper favorite and I just wanted to sit still for a few days. From here we will be on Kentucky Lake, which is supposed to be beautiful. When we leave here we will make our way up the Tennessee River to Chattanooga. Right now I cannot think about leaving. I need a break!! This next stretch doesn’t seem as stressful or difficult. ๐Ÿ™๐Ÿป

Poolside docktails with fellow loopers.

This place is a looper favorite and I know why. It was a nice marina that had everything a looper needed. They offered a golf cart shuttle into town, golf cart rentals to cruise yourself, a courtesy car to run errands, a nice spa, a yacht club for a gourmet dinner, a bar/restaurant for dancing drinks and fun, a ship store for supplies and even services for people with boating issues. Thankfully our issues were resolved.

There are little green turtles but I did not manage to get a photo! ๐Ÿข

The town had a restaurant called T. Lawsons. Turned out Mr. Lawson built a historic house and was the first home around with electricity and running water. He invested in copper right before the Copper Boom of the late 1800’s. His Original house was still there restored. The food was incredible. Best shrimp and grits!!

This is his Victorian house. Very cool!

There was also a settlement called Pattys. Part of it had burned down but it was a good spot to walk around and see the original homesteads now turned boutiques.

Loved these bird houses made from old wood. I would have bought them all is there were for sale!

We planned 4 nights here but a lot of our friends are staying much longer. After a few days I was ready to move on, but it was a great stop. I got a massage which was nice.

We meet friends at the Thirsty turtle and danced. It was so much fun and I was ringing wet. This humidity is really awful and takes some getting used to. This area is getting hit with a heat wave also. Lucky us! ๐Ÿฅต

Laurie, Jodi and I asked about making a bonfire on the beach because we weren’t hot enough. We had seen the beach with a fire pit and knew other loopers had done this. The marina gave us permission and they set up a huge metal ring and we had quite a fire. A lot of people came and it was a great night.

It was hard to leave but we got places to see! Bye Bye famous Green Turtle. You were a favorite stop to date!!

Floating down the River, Chicago to Kentucky.

This blog post is long. It covers our journey to the half way point on the rivers from Chicago to Green Turtle Bay in Kentucky. I was not looking forward to this part of the loop. It would be months before we will be on Florida. There is no other option but to get through it. We will have lots of obstacles, a bunch of locks, barge traffic, logs and debris to not hit and ruin our props, anchoring because some sections don’t have marinas AND weather. Green Turtle Bay is a looper stop and a nice resort style marina. Some people stay a long time. We planned a 4 day respite.
This blog is my daily journal and account on this crazy trip. Writing what happened each day helped me cope. Some days were hell, some were great.
Here is how it went:
Sept 12
Day 1
We left this morning as the sun came up from Hammond Marina just south of Chicago. As we pulled out of the marina, 8 other loopers left with us. This is my first experience in a large pack of loopers. The most we have traveled with has been 4. It was somewhat comforting to be in their company but also concerning about the locks, the size of these locks and if we would all fit in the lock together. We did and it was all good.
Coming off Lake Michigan was exciting for me because I was nervous about this huge body of water. It is not like the Pacific Ocean. It can be really nasty. We did great on the 5 days of our passage, stopping at cute towns along the way. It took us about 2 weeks as we stopped along the way. Ted and Andy picked really good travel days and we got really good at reading the water. We only had 1 uncomfortable day. The rest were nice. We were lucky. Regardless I wanted to check this section off and onto the one I was most dreading.
THE RIVERS!!!!
This is the choo-choo train of looper boats.
We have 1300 miles or so of rivers to get to the Gulf. We will start on the Illinois River and meet up with the Mississippi, then we will turn onto the Cumberland and the Ten-Tom waterway. We have countless locks (I donโ€™t know the actual number of them) and tons of barges and commercial traffic, who have the priority through the locks. Pleasure craft gets the last slot to lock thru after the barges. This waiting can make for a long day.
We left as the sun came up and it took us 10 hours to get to a spot to tie off for the night on the wall in Joliet. Along the way we had a huge barge come at us and all 8 boats had to turn around, duck into an alcove and hover waiting for the barge to pass, which took forever!
As you can see, there was not room for us AND a barge. We waited until he gave us permission to pass.

When we got to the lock we had a barge in the lock and we again had to hover and wait for it to exit. It felt like all day but it was about 45 minutes before we went into the lock. Poor Andy was on the controls all day avoiding the rock hard walls and keeping the boat straight with current and avoiding the other loopers. We were all bunched up so this was a challenge. Andy is a better captain than he was when we started this trip.
Bumper boats waiting to get into the lock.
We idled out waiting for the lock to open and we lost an engine. It overheated as we waited and the alarms went off. Andy yelled at me to open the engine hatch and see if I saw anything bad. Thank god there was no fire in the hole. I looked behind us and we were about 12 feet from the rocks. My heart start beating out of my chest as he tried to access what was wrong and another boat drifted to us to raft up to avoid the rocks. Thank god for them. Nothing appeared to be wrong so he turned the motor back on and revved the engine a few times. The temp came down but not a lot. We limped into the lock where they rafted us up 5 boats deep and turned the motor off hoping it will cool off.

We made it to the Joliet wall were everyone tied up and some of us rafted up. I was so relieved and immediately poured a stiff drink to calm my nerves. Loopers started gathering and I made my way to meet the ones who were new to us. Some of them we had never met before, others we had crossed paths with before. We had been traveling with a buddy boat for months but they were unable to continue on this leg of the journey. We knew some boats but many were new. I am not real good socially in big groups so I find this a little stressful.
This picture is my Nebo app and shows just how many boats were on the wall together. It was full!
Everyone decided to walk up to a local Wendy’s for dinner. That frosty tasted sooooo good after a long hot day. Bed felt good, I was exhausted. Day 1 in the books!

Day 2
We woke to the sound of rain beating on the bow. Our bed is in the bow and the sound of the rain is so soothing. Except that we were getting a super early start. We woke before the sun and untied the lines from the wall and set off just as it got light. The rain eased but it was a welcome break to the heat of yesterday. I got up and prayed that we would be ok today and our motor that overheated yesterday would be ok. The day was cooler so I was hoping for the best. I was extremely anxious so I covered myself in my essential oils and took lots of deep breaths. All I wanted was to make this leg and into the marina we had all booked. Then I want Andy to get someone to look at the motor and reassure us we will be ok or fix whatever is causing the coolant to leak and overheat. We noticed a bunch of coolant under the motor. There was no obvious spot it would have pour out from. It is a mystery. Motor still not fixed.
We made it to the first lock with 15 boats! Our looper flotilla had grown. The good thing about this many pleasure boats is they interrupted the barge traffic for us. YES!! It still took 2 hours of idling out waiting for our turn. NOT good. Our engine doesnโ€™t like this and gets hot. Andy turned it off as much as he could during that very long wait. Once we finally got into the lock they rafted us up 4 and 5 boats deep. This means one boat is up against the wall with a line attached to a Ballard (this is a pole that slides up and down as the water goes in or out of the lock). It was our turn to be on the wall. I secured the line no problem. The next boat came at us HOT!! Almost took us out with his anchor into the side of the boat. He was yelling at his very inept wife who could not throw a line to save her sorry life. I started to yell โ€œthrow it, throw it!โ€ (You dumb bitch almost came out of my mouth but I held back). They finally got it together and 2 more boats tied up. This is crazy locking. Not sure I would say it’s hard. Itโ€™s not. But rafting up so many boats is very concerning. The lock masters act nonchalant and were not worried. Ok then! Once the lock emptied and everyone untied from us our neighboring boat lost his engine and couldnโ€™t control his boat and again, almost took us out. They spun around in the lock blocking us all from exiting the tight opening, a barge was outside waiting to go in and took up a large portion of the door opening. I thought I was going to lose it. This guy was a real jerk and his poor little wife was lame. We made it out and good riddance to him only to have him fly by all of us loopers cruising and waked us all. ASS of the day!
Will this day ever end?? We got going finally and were met with wind and waves as we exited the lock. Made for a bumpy ride. Good thing there is a marina in the distance.
We arrived at Heritage Marina with 11 other loopers. The staff could not have been nicer. We settled in and Andy went to work on the engine to figure out our overheating problem. The guy from the fuel dock came down to help. They tore apart a bunch of stuff and could not find any obvious problem. It was 9PM with NO dinner and we were thrashed.
Day 3:
Heritage Harbor Marine does an early 6 AM call to let the loopers know whatโ€™s happening at the lock. They told us to stay put because a barge was aground. YES!!! Back to bed. At 7:30 the radio went off and told us that the lock was going to let all of us through so get moving. We jumped out of bed (that extra hour of sleep was great!) and we untied the lines and left with a huge herd of loppers. We arrived at the lock and hovered, FOREVER!!!! Waiting for the barge that was in the lock to move out. Seriously, I have no idea what could take so long. We played bumper boats trying not to hit each other while idling in the current. Our engines continued to overheat. I was totally anxious. I hated this. Eventually we got into the lock, we tied up and shut down the motors all tied up. We still waited hours for the lock to actually move us. It was FUN!!! (NOT!!)
We finally locked through and exited. We decided to put the metal to the pedal and book it all the way to Peoria. We pulled into the yacht club with no dock hands. This day was better then the previous but waiting at the locks was hell. We decided that we would not move again until we see the engines accessed. It was a Saturday so no one was around until Monday. Time to rest.
Day 4,5,6
Illinois Vally Marina
We hung out at the Marina and we did some projects. Monday morning we got a mechanic to come look at our overheating problem. It got fixed and we were happy. Turned out to be a minor problem thankfully. We also had new batteries for our bow thrusters because they burned up.
Itโ€™s kind of a funny, not so funny story. As we had been traveling we got a very bad poopoo smell that came from our front stateroom. I was instantly upset because we had just replaced our holding tank and the system was brand new. How can it possibly stink? This is also a huge pet peeve of mine! Eventually the smell went away. Andy went to find out what had happened to the bow thruster and lifted our mattress off the platform, the thruster and batteries are under our bed. He was immediately greeted by that same foul smell. We panicked and wondered if the bilges were full of shit. (This was technically impossible). We got the hose and sprayed into the bilge and drained them with the bilge pumps. The water came out clear and we still had smell. I wasnโ€™t happy (I was actually getting really annoyed) and we were both confused. After some time it became apparent that the smell was sulfur and coming from the dead batteries. As Andy was trying to figure out the bow thruster, the batteries were sending out the sulphuric smell. THANK GOD it wasnโ€™t our new tank. The batteries got replaced and no more smell. Things have been really FUN!!!! OK time for a drink!
Passing large barges can be intimidating but so far it’s been fine. They have a whistle to direct the side to pass on. One whistle for port and 2 for starboard. We still call on the radio just to make sure and most captains are friendly.
Day 7
Today we are finally headed down the river. We are with a much smaller group of loopers now as the group has dispersed a bit. Iโ€™m grateful for that. I am also grateful our problems have been resolved and we are safe to keep traveling on. We left at sunrise and got to our first lock to find they had the dam open and we were able to just pass right on through. YES!! Things are looking up today. We are going to get some miles in today since the locks won’t delay us.
The river was flat, winding its way through the countryside of Illinois. There was nothing around but trees and brush. We saw large groups of white cranes flying overhead as they migrated north. The river is dark brown and muddy. I almost felt like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory movie as it felt thick and looked like a river of melted chocolate. I had moments of thinking I could run faster then the 8-9 knots we traveled at. Slow boat to China kept coming to mind, except this boats headed to Florida. Iโ€™m picturing sandy beaches and umbrella drinks.

We traveled the longest distance we have ever gone, 110 miles. The day was perfect for a long cruise. We pulled off the river and out of the channel to anchor. I hate anchoring but I knew at the end of today that was our only option. The next stop is another 60 miles. Running in the dark is not a good idea. There is a ton of logs, branches and debris in the water to avoid that you wouldnโ€™t be able to see at night. We were tired. Time to stop. We dropped the anchor in 10 ft of water and it held. We had a 2 knot current so it kept the boat right in place. I actually felt calm and relaxed. We ate a lite dinner and went to bed early and watched TV.

These little duck hunting shacks were all along the river.
Week 2
Day 8
Today was a smooth cruise on the river. Itโ€™s getting pretty with hardly any barge traffic. I slept last night so I felt rested and ready today. The river is so calm that I actually bounced around the boat cleaning up and even took a shower. I never do that. Kinda like this but I wonโ€™t hold my breath. We made our way to Grafton and tied up to a dock. This was an easy day and we tied up before lunch time. Andy and I went to the bar and had a bottle of wine. My kind of day drinking. It was fun. Later that night a big group of loopers gathered and we ate at the restaurant. Good day. Iโ€™m taking note because they havenโ€™t all been good.
Loopers gathering for dinner!
Day 9
We slept in today because we only had 17 miles to go today. We left at 10am and were docked and tied up by 1PM. Another easy day. Todayโ€™s stop was Alton Marina. This is the last stop for fuel and a pump out for 250 miles. This marina is by far one of the nicest. It’s the first one with covered docks we have stayed in.

The only thing it is missing here is a restaurant or bar. They did have a little deli and served some margaritas. Sacrifices need to be made but Iโ€™ll take it because this placed is great. Loopers tend to gather at night and drink, cook or just visit. Tonight was just like that. The marina had a BBQ area so we all brought our food and cooked. It was fun. This looping thing is fun some days. Today was one of them.
Day 10,11,12
We are staying here in the marina for a rest. Today we decided to get up and clean. Like REALLY clean. We are in a covered dock, under the shade, so we washed and detailed the whole boat. I call these days AQUAMAN spa days. I love it when it’s clean and shiny. It never lasts long but boy does it look good now. It takes us a few hours and we are always thrashed when we finish but it is so worth it. Today is chore day so laundry was next. Then some pool time and relaxing. I made up for the hard work by lounging in the pool with a margarita the rest of the afternoon. Later that day we met a new looper name R&R. Rick and Rhonda had just left Michigan and were only days into the loop. I remember that feeling like yesterday but now we are seasoned. I offered to teach her some rope knots for the fenders and gave her some words of wisdom about things that I had learned along the way. Meeting new people and talking about our past 10 months made me realize just how much we had done and how far we had traveled. I had that feeling of awe again. I had lost that because it was starting to feel just like work. Seeing it in new fresh eyes opened me up to the gratitude that I am able to do this.
A patriotic homes along the rivers and most are built up on stilts. I could never live elevated off Mother Earth that far. It feels very ungrounding to me, plus I hate heights.

Here is a rough draft of the stops we are following to Green Turtle on Lake Barkley. When we get there we will take a break for a few days. I booked a massage!
DAY 13
We left at the crack of down for the next section heading towards Green Turtle Bay. It will take a few days and a night on anchor and we planned on some long mileage days. Our hope was to be in Green Turtle by Thursday or Friday . (I vote for Thursday. The sooner the better). This stop is a looper favorite and many people stay awhile as a respite. Once we get there we will plan out the rest of our rivers to Mobile Alabama. We plan on taking a road trip thru the Great Smokey Mountains, Asheville, Nashville and Chattanooga. I am really looking forward to this.
We left the marina and the day went pretty fast. We ended up in a group of about 8 boats. First up was a lock, which we got right in and out of quickly! This is our new looper friend on R&R.

This is an example of how I tie a rope around A Floating Bollard and simply hold onto it as it raises or lowers. Easy!! Today we went by the iconic landmark Arch in St. Louis Missouri. We stopped and photographed the boats as they passed under the arch. Rhonda from R&R got our picture. This was a milestone for sure.

Our ending destination was a lock wall to tie up to called Kaskaskia. Rhonda hosted Docktails in her air conditioned boat!! Sweet!

Great group of new friends and some brand new loopers.
DAY 14

The next morning we planned on doing a bunch of miles. We left early and after we turned onto the Mississippi things got rough. First off we were greeted with thick fog. As we entered it it was a complete black out! It broke and then came again. We watched the chart and drove in black out conditions relying on the chart. Thankfully no barges were on the chart and only a bridge!!! Holy moly! ๏ฟผ๏ฟผ๏ฟผIt was scary but we got thru it and we were fine.

Spooky!

Is that a bridge?

Here is our buddy R&R emerging thru the fog!

Next came the barges. The fog lifted and we turned onto the Mississippi. The barges were larger then we had seen before and they threw a huge wake behind that stirred up the river for miles. It was crazy AND scary. As each barge passed, we had to hold on for dear life as the boat bounced through the wakes. They had to be 4-6ft at least but the water was turbulent following them forever and then another would approach.

3 wide and 6 deep. Unbelievable!!

We got to the planned anchorage and decided to continue on because it was still early enough and we thought it would be great to get off the Mighty Missippippi. We traveled another 20 miles bobbing around after each barge until we reached the Ohio river. We made the turn and onto flat, calm water but against the current. What a difference.
We took a breath, slowed down and found an anchorage for the night. We traveled about 130 miles today. A new distance record. The furthest we had ever gone on the loop. This will eliminate having to anchor another night in Mississippi with passing barges. We turned up the Ohio River which has a relaxing 1 knot current. I was thrilled. We enjoyed a spectacular sunset, dinner and fell into bed.

We woke to another gorgeous sunrise as we entered the lock. This is getting easy as pie!

DAY 15

The next day was an easy 29 miles to Paducah. This was a cute town full of historic old brick buildings, antique stores and lots of charm. The girls went to the quilt museum. Amazing works of art here.

This is not your grandmothers quilt!

I loved the old brick buildings and this VERY old mural that was still on a building. Super cool!!

I love pulling into a city early enough to walk around and explore. We won’t be here tomorrow unfortunately for a huge BBQ competition. They were setting it up and we cannot stay another night. I am sure we will be smelling it all night as they get those fires going.

Tomorrow marks our half way point down the rivers. We are staying at Green Turtle Resort, a Looper favorite stop. I am excited to see it (its not fancy but it is iconic in the looping world). I booked my first massage in a very long time. We will start making our plans for part 2 of the river journey.

The city did a great job on this but it needs to be much bigger dock because this will become a favorite stop for loopers. This is the longest ramp I have ever seen that was built to rise and lower for the rising rivers. Incredible engineering.

This trip has taught me to relax and be in the moment. Things go wrong. I am learning it’s how I deal with these situations that is more important then the outcome. My heart still beats out of my chest and I feel like I am going to barf when facing a scary situation, but I am learning to trust and breathe. I am learning so much about myself. I am super proud of myself. Honestly, a lot of women don’t make it this far. It is not easy. Loneliness still haunts me. Even with people around I feel lonely and it can be hard. Our buddy boat wasn’t able to continue. We had formed a great routine and we traveled so well together. Now I feel a little lost watching other groups who have bonded through months of traveling together. This for me is the hardest part. There is comfort in traveling in small groups. Now we don’t know where we fit in. I miss my friends, my peeps. I went home and came back refreshed but only to learn we would be venturing off alone. Praying for my friend and hoping she will catch up when the time is right. Hoping we can bond with someone eventually. I know we will.

Home Sweet Home

We made it home. I was so happy to see everyone. The next day my kids and parents thru us a surprise party. (It was supposed to be a surprise but I found out about it because I am so nosy!). It was so appreciated and awesome!

The people who meant the most to me came to celebrate with us and I felt so blessed.

It was a perfect day. Thank you Jon and Jamie for opening up your house. Thanks to my mom and dad who helped plan. Thanks to Bernie and Tammy who drove all the way from Fresno to come. Thanks to Jerry and Debbie who drove from Oxnard and Abby and Nannette who had to Uber all the way from the beach. My daughter went above and beyond. My good friends came and I felt loved. This was the first birthday we had spent at home in years. It was special.

My week at home flew by so fast and we didn’t get time to see as many people as we wanted. It’s never long enough.

While home I did something crazy and got a tattoo. My son drew it for me and Alyssa to get matching tattoos. It HURT!! I sucked it up and did it! It’s beautiful and special.

I am still in shore I actually did this. Midlife crisis?? Who knows but now I own it.

My son, my life and blood. Notice the sun rays in the design.

There is no place like home. Even though this isn’t really my home anymore, It is still the place that I will always consider home. It’s a comfort and it’s where my peeps live. I miss everyone really bad but I have learned thru this travel that it’s so much better to visit and enjoy each other rather then having day to day interactions. The visits are fun and we have lots to say and catch up on.

What I miss most of home is actually our dock life. Our boat was on F-Dock for 11 years. We made great friendships and we miss the heck out of these crazy, wacko, sweet, honest people. We spent 5 days in Oxnard with Abby and we saw lots of friends. We went to the Yacht club and we were invited to eat fresh caught Swordfish.

Debbie and Jerry

Lowell, Mandy and Lisa Easley

This is the view to our former dock from the yacht club

The next day was Labor Day weekend and Lowel decided to take his boat out to the harbor mouth and get the jet skis out. So many people showed up. Some people pulled their flamingo thru the harbor. Lowell blew up the swan. Debbie and Jerry showed up in the electric boat. It was a real party. Totally fun!

These guys!! Andy, Jerry and Lowell.

We spent time with my parents and I got lots of puppy cuddle time.

These kids are my life. Alyssa, Jake and Nicole.

It was hard to say goodbye to these people. The time came to pack our bags and get back to our trip. I was refreshed and ready but sad. This is the hardest part.

Chicago ๐Ÿ›๐Ÿšฟ๐Ÿธ๐Ÿท๐Ÿ•

Before jumping on a plane for home we decided to check ourselves into a luxury hotel. We booked the Viceroy and walked into our room and fell straight on to the king size bed and stretched out. Next was the longest shower and bath of my life. So long that Andy actually took a drink in with him. We proudly drained the hotel hot water but we didn’t care.

The Viceroy Hotel right downtown Chicago

Hello beautiful bathroom!

After we had enough water therapy, we walked to find some food. This was not hard because there was restaurants on all the corners and choosing one became our problem of the moment. We eventually settled on an outdoor patio and watched people walk by. Beautiful people who were dressed nice and wore make-up and had designer bags. Men in suits. There were a lot of pretty people! I had a huge salad and was so happy. Keeping fresh produce on the boat has been a challenge and I really miss my big salads.

After lunch we walked and walked. The city alive with noise and commotion. It felt great and somewhat foreign after months of isolation.

Later that night we went to the rooftop bar to have drinks. We chatted with the hip bartenders and I felt like I was dreaming. I even put a little mascara on for the occasion. We had a few drink and then asked for the check. It came to $96. WHAT the WHAT?? Honey, we are not in Kansas anymore. Each martini was $22 and my “house” Chardonnay was $16. Wowza.

The city at night

The next morning we set off on foot to see the sights. Millennial park, Michigan Ave and we took the famous Architectural tour down the Chicago river.

We were exhausted and our feet hurt at the end of the day.

We found some Chicago pizza for dinner.

We crashed after a full day and soaked again in our luxurious shower. Tomorrow we get up early to go home. This was a wonder respite but i was ready to see my kids!!