TIME OUT #3

Post #35:  Time Out #3 – Day 176, October 27, 2014

This post is dedicated to my Dad.  Known to others as Hank, my Dad officially turned 90 on October 25, 2014 – he was born on that day in 1924.  A member of “The Greatest Generation”, he grew up during the Great Depression, then served in General Patton’s 3rd Army as it liberated France and Germany in 1944-1945. Like so many other returning soldiers, he married shortly after he returned stateside, and he and my Mom started a family. Four children – two boys, two girls. Nothing remarkable about the story, but everything remarkable about the man, the father, the human being.

Not a lot of money, but a lot of love.  Although he grew up in downtown Buffalo, he wanted to live in farm country. So he scratched and saved to buy a plot of land on a rural, country road. He and my uncle then built my uncle’s house, then our house themselves, since they couldn’t afford to hire someone to do so – every night after work except Fridays, and every weekend. More than just a house, it was a happy home. He worked hard, but always made time for his family. So much more I could say, but you get the sense. How fortunate I was to have my Dad as my father!

So we four kids planned this small birthday celebration for my Dad in Buffalo where he lives. He was insistent that he did NOT want a party, so we kept it small. However, a number of close friends of Trish and I have also become friends with my Dad through our annual bicycle trips – for the past three summers, my Dad and I have organized a week-long bike trip for about 15 of our friends in which we biked each day, then stayed either in a campground or a B&B each night. My Dad drove a 30 foot RV along the route, ferrying stragglers, bringing us lunch, and otherwise supporting us in every way. Yes, my Dad was 87, 88, and 89 while supporting us in a 30′ RV (he would have again this past summer if it weren’t for the Great Loop trip). So a number of the “bikers” wanted to come to Buffalo to see Hank and help celebrate his 90th. We therefore rented an RV in Boston and drove together to Buffalo for the celebration. Here are a few pictures from the weekend:

On the way from Boston to Buffalo in the RV on Friday afternoon -

On the way from Boston to Buffalo in the RV on Friday afternoon – Happy Hour!

On Saturday, we all piled into the RV and went to Niagara Falls, about an hour from my Dad's house

On Saturday, we all piled into the RV and went to Niagara Falls, about an hour from my Dad’s house

All piled into the trolley for a ride around the grounds at the Falls

A trolley ride to get around the grounds at the Falls

 

We went on the "Maid of the Mist", a boat that takes you right up to the base of the Falls - be prepared to get very wet!

We went on the “Maid of the Mist”, a boat that takes you right up to the base of the Falls, seen here on its way to the base of the Canadian Falls – be prepared to get very wet!

Donning the raincoats (I use the term lightly...) on the Maid of the Mist. Between the wind and the spray next to the Falls, I'm not sure the raincoats did much good...

Donning the raincoats (I use the term lightly…) on the Maid of the Mist. Between the wind and the spray next to the Falls, I’m not sure the raincoats did much good…but we sure looked the part –

The rapids at the top of the Falls - the current is over 30 knots - nothing compared to the Mississippi!

The rapids at the top of the American Falls – the current is over 30 knots – reminds me of the Mississippi –

Saturday night we had a dinner party in a reception room at a local restaurant, after Happy Hour at my Dad's house

Saturday night we had Happy Hour at my Dad’s house, then we had a dinner party in a reception room at a local restaurant.

My Dad with our four kids - from left to right, Chrissie, Hank, Jenny, Jessie, and Danny

My Dad with our four kids – from left to right, Chrissie, Hank, Jenny, Jessie, and Danny

 

 

 

Our daughter Jessie, who is currently serving in the Navy JAG Corp and my Dad - both wearing their military hat - my Dad's from his service in World War II

Granddaughter Jessie, who is currently serving in the Navy JAG Corp and my Dad – both wearing their military hat, known as a “garrison cover” – my Dad’s from his service in World War II

My Dad dancing with granddaughter Jenny -

My Dad dancing with granddaughter Jenny Saturday after dinner-

OK, OK - just one more family picture. Sorry, I couldn't resist. To my Dad's right is Mary Alice, my Dad's wonderful sister.

OK, OK – just one more family picture. Sorry, I couldn’t resist. To my Dad’s right is Mary Alice, my Dad’s wonderful sister.

So a week or so ago, Jenny asked my Dad what her favorite cake is, to which he replied "I don't know". Jenny thought that by the time someone turns 90, they should know what their favorite cake is. So she made six cakes, all a different flavor, and had him taste each one to decide, once and for all, what his favorite cake is. He chose chocolate.

So a week or so ago, Jenny asked my Dad what her favorite cake is, to which he replied “I don’t know”. Jenny thought that by the time someone turns 90, they should know what their favorite cake is. So she made six cakes, all a different flavor, and had him taste each one to decide, once and for all, what his favorite cake is. Chocolate. Now he knows.

As the party progressed into the evening, some of the dancing moved outside under the lights. Not sure exactly what this is....

As the party progressed into the evening, some of the dancing moved outside under the lights. Not sure exactly what this is….also not sure how many drinks they had…

One final group picture as we piled back into the RV on Sunday morning and headed back to Boston

One final group picture as we piled back into the RV on Sunday morning and headed back to Boston

Happy Birthday, Dad!  You’re the best!

So back to the Great Loop trip. Before leaving for Buffalo, we spent a few days in Fairhope, Alabama, a city about 10 miles south of Mobile on the eastern shore of Mobile Bay where the Joint Adventure is docked. Fairhope was first settled in 1894 when a group of idealists, reformers, and free thinkers left Des Moines, Iowa to start a model community. They found what they felt was a good location and declared that they had a “fair hope” of success – they therefore named their new settlement “Fairhope”. Today, Fairhope is a small, upscale, fairly prosperous tourist city with many restaurants, shops, and boutiques in a charming historic downtown district which is on the National Register of Historic Places – very different from the poor, struggling towns we visited through rural Alabama along the rivers. Here are some images from Fairhope:

A cool house along the Fly River in Fairhope

A cool house along the Fly River in Fairhope

Another cool house along the river

Another cool house along the river

Small but cozy...

Small but cozy…

Another option for living along the Fly River in Fairhope -

Another option for living along the Fly River in Fairhope –

A graphic illustration on the side of a building along the Fly River in Fairhope, showing the water levels of recent hurricanes and floods

A graphic illustration on the side of a building along the Fly River, showing the water levels of recent hurricanes and floods

This Great Blue Heron was perched on the railing of he long pier in Fairhope that extends out into Mobile Bay. There is a nice, casual restaurant on stilts over the Bay about halfway out on the pier

This Great Blue Heron was perched on the railing of the long pier in Fairhope that extends out into Mobile Bay. There is a nice casual restaurant on stilts over the Bay about halfway out on the pier

This is the third alligator we've seen so far - the other two were live along the Black Warrior-Tombigbee Waterway, and were enormous - they looked to be about 12-14 feet long. They quietly slinked from the riverbank into the water as we passed by

This is the third alligator we’ve seen so far – the other two were live along the Black Warrior-Tombigbee Waterway, and were enormous – they looked to be about 12-14 feet long. They quietly slinked from the riverbank into the water as we passed by. This one stayed put.

Unfortunately, I was the only one who showed up....

Unfortunately, I was the only one who showed up….

I also spent a day in Mobile, exploring the city. The French founded Mobile in 1702 as the first capital of their new colony, La Louisiane – the original settlers were Acadians who were forced to leave Nova Scotia by the British. The original location of the settlement was 20 miles up the Mobile River, where they built a wooden fort. There was a dramatic need for women, however, so in 1704, twenty three women who were taken from orphanages and nunneries were sent on a ship called the Pelican to become wives of the soldiers and pioneers – they became known as the Pelican Women.

The original location of the settlement proved to be poor due to flooding and frequent outbreaks of Yellow Fever, so in 1711 the settlement was moved to its present location at the head of Mobile Bay. When the French lost the French and Indian War in 1763, they ceded Mobile and the surrounding territory (along with Quebec) to the British, and Mobile became part of British West Florida. In 1780, when the British were preoccupied with fighting the American Revolution, the Spanish took their turn – they attacked and captured Mobile. The Spanish then ceded the fort to the Americans in 1813, at which time Mobile became part of the Mississippi Territory until Alabama obtained statehood in 1819. Mobile’s growth was fueled by cotton, which was shipped down the rivers from Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee, where it was loaded onto ocean-going vessels bound for the Atlantic coast and ports in Europe. Mobile became the second leading cotton export city in the country.

Today, Mobile is a smaller cousin to New Orleans (which, by the way, wasn’t founded until 17 years after the first settlers arrived in Mobile). The city remains a major international seaport, which is the lifeblood of the city. The architecture, music, and culture are quite similar to New Orleans, although the Mobile retains its own identity.

Here are some images from my visit:

A replica of a portion of the 1723 fort is located in the center of the city, and depicts much of the early history of Mobile

A replica of a portion of Fort Conde is located in the center of the city, and depicts much of the early history of Mobile

There are several walking tours that pass by a multitude of historic homes in the city

There are several walking tours that pass by a multitude of stately historic homes in the city

The entertainment district is known as Daphne Street, which is lined with restaurants and pubs, many of which feature live music.  The architecture is very reminiscent of New Orleans, since the history of their development is quite similar

The entertainment district is known as Daphne Street, which is lined with restaurants and pubs, many of which feature live music. The architecture is very reminiscent of New Orleans, since the history of their development is quite similar

Another picture of Daphne Street

Another picture on Daphne Street

Wintzell's Oyster House, a famous oyster bar and restaurant on Daphne Street

Wintzell’s Oyster House, a famous oyster bar and restaurant on Daphne Street – it was a great stop for lunch!

There is an excellent museum near Fort Conde called the History Museum of Mobile.  In addition to a superb presentation of the history of the city and the surrounding area, the Museum addresses in a forthright manner  the tragedy of slavery and its important role in the economy of Mobile prior to the Civil War. This famous statue of a slave at auction is presented in the Museum next to the chart below

There is an excellent museum near Fort Conde called the History Museum of Mobile. In addition to a superb presentation of the history of the city and the surrounding area, the Museum addresses in a forthright manner the tragedy of slavery and its important role in the economy of Mobile prior to the Civil War. This famous and gut-wrenching statue of a slave at auction is presented in the Museum next to the chart below

Although it may be difficult to read in this picture, this chart shows the market value of various types of slaves as they were sold in the public auctions in downtown Mobile prior to the Civil War

Although it may be difficult to read in this picture, this chart shows the market value of various types of slaves as they were sold in the public auctions in downtown Mobile prior to the Civil War

As seen in some of the photos in my last post taken from the water as we motored through Mobile Harbor, dramatic, modern architecture used in the design of several of the new buildings highlight the skyline of the city.  This one, however, hasn't panned out as envisioned - it is a new cruise ship terminal, designed to entice cruise ships to stop in Mobile.  However, with New Orleans a short distance away, the cruise ships continue to bypass Mobile.  It is now being converted into a Maritime Museum, but its opening continues to be delayed

Dramatic, modern architecture marks the design of several of the new buildings on the skyline of the city. This one, however, hasn’t panned out as envisioned – it is a new cruise ship terminal, designed to entice cruise ships to stop here. However, with New Orleans a short distance away, the cruise ships continue to bypass Mobile. It is now being converted into a Maritime Museum, scheduled to open next year.

No visit to Mobile would be complete without a visit to the battleship museum and USS Alabama, a retired WW II battleship.  One can't help but be awed by the size of the ship and the enormity of its guns.

No visit to Mobile would be complete without a visit to the battleship museum and USS Alabama, a retired WW II battleship. One can’t help but be awed by the size of the ship and the enormity of its guns.

This picture is taken from the bow of the ship, looking backwards

This picture is taken from the bow of the ship, looking backwards

This is a replica of the Hunley, the first submarine ever to sink an enemy ship.  It was built in secrecy by the Confederacy in 1863-1864, and several crews drowned during attempts to deploy it. However, on February 17, 1864, it successfully planted an underwater charge on a union ship. The Hunley surfaced and sent a coded message of success to shore.  However, it then silently sank beneath the waves for reasons that have never been determined, drowning its 8 man crew. The Hunley was located and raised in recent years, and is on display in Charleston, South Carolina

This is a replica of the Hunley, the first submarine ever to sink an enemy ship. It was built in secrecy by the Confederacy in 1863-1864, and several crews drowned during attempts to test and deploy it. However, on February 17, 1864, it successfully planted an underwater charge on a Union ship. The Hunley surfaced and sent a coded message of success to shore. However, it then silently sank beneath the waves for reasons that have never been determined, drowning its 8 man crew. The original Hunley was located and raised in recent years, and is on display in Charleston, South Carolina

This super-secret spy plane used in reconnaissance missions over North Korea in search of the USS Pueblo, captured by North Korea in 1968

This super-secret spy plane was used in reconnaissance missions over North Korea in search of the USS Pueblo, captured by North Korea in 1968

Tomorrow (Tuesday) we fly back to Mobile, then start heading east along the coast of Alabama in the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, heading towards the Florida panhandle. The rivers are behind us, and a new set of challenges await us along the Gulf coast.

 

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SALTWATER!

Post #34 – SALTWATER!  – Day 167 , October 18, 2014.  On board: Paul, Jim K

On Friday afternoon (October 10), as we continued south on the Tenn-Tom Waterway, we crossed the border into our last “western” state – Alabama! The marina is in the town of Pickensville, and 10 miles away is Aliceville.  Pickensville is little more than a wide spot in the road, but Aliceville is a sizable town of about 2500 people. Unfortunately, it is a very depressing town which the economy has left behind. More than half the storefronts in the downtown area are boarded up, and many of the houses are in disrepair. Like many towns we have encountered throughout the trip both in Canada and in the US, the development of strip malls, big box stores, and other retail outlets along the highways have starved the downtown areas for business.  Aliceville, however, suffers even more from a loss of population and from having few well-paying jobs. This is the soft underbelly of the rural south. Here is a sad picture of Main Street in Aliceville:

At least half of the storefronts in downtown Aliceville are boarded up and vacant

At least half of the storefronts in downtown Aliceville are boarded up and vacant

That being said, there are two truly interesting places in Aliceville, which I stumbled upon while out exploring. The first is the Aliceville Museum in downtown Aliceville. During World War II, nearly 400,000 German soldiers were imprisoned in 511 POW camps in the United States. One of the largest of these was in Aliceville, Alabama, which housed over 6,000 prisoners and employed over 1,000 American soldiers and civilians. The camp was built in just 3 months, and in June of 1943, prisoners from General Rommel’s Africa Corp arrived in Aliceville, followed by prisoners from the European theater. The museum tells the story of the camp, and it is an encouraging one: in deep contrast to the treatment which Allied prisoners endured in German and Japanese prison camps, the prisoners at Aliceville were well treated, as evidenced by the many former POW’s who have returned to Aliceville and to the museum, and by the many displays at the museum which were actually donated by former German POW’s. It is a fascinating museum with a film in which several former German POW’s are interviewed.

Pictures were not allowed inside the museum, but here are a couple of images from an area outside the museum where pictures were allowed:

In order to pass the time, prisoners were allowed to put on plays, create paintings, and build statues. Several of the statues created by the prisoners were donated to the museum. Here is one of them (it was just coincidental that I happened to take a picture of the statue of a naked lady...)

In order to pass the time, prisoners were allowed to put on plays, create paintings, and build statues. Several of the statues created by the prisoners were donated to the museum.

Here is one of the statues donated to the museum - it was just coincidental that I happened to take a picture of the statue of the naked lady -

Here is one of the statues donated to the museum – it was just coincidental that I happened to take a picture of the statue of the naked lady –

The other interesting place in Aliceville was the US Montgomery, a 178 foot sternwheeler powered by steam that was built in 1925.  It was built as a “snagboat” – a specially-designed boat used to hoist from the rivers trees, logs, and other obstructions that impeded navigation- known as “snags”. This steam powered sternwheeler – a relic from earlier times – was actually used to remove snags from the rivers until 1982, when it was finally retired; at the time it was retired, it was the last sternwheeler still in operation in the south, and one of only two steam-powered work boats still in operation in the US. It is now on display and can be boarded in Aliceville, and is on the National Register of Historic Places:

The Snagboat, US Montgomery - 178 feet long sternwheeler, powered by steam

The snagboat US Montgomery – a 178 feet long sternwheeler, powered by steam

The massive sternwheel, which was the only source of propulsion on the Montgomery.  It's hard to imagine maneuvering this ship in wind and river currents to position it to hoist snags from the river

The massive sternwheel, which was the only source of propulsion on the Montgomery. It’s hard to imagine maneuvering this ship in wind and river currents to position it to hoist snags from the river

The massive crane on the front of the Montgomery, used to hoist snags from the river

The massive crane on the front of the Montgomery, used to hoist snags from the river

The very impressive Visitor Center building at the US Montgomery

The very impressive Visitor Center building at the US Montgomery

One sees some unusual sights cruising along the inland rivers. Here are a couple of interesting ones, the first of which is one of the more perplexing:

Suddenly in the middle of nowhere, there was a clearing in the trees along the shore and this appeared - phone call, anyone?

Suddenly in the middle of nowhere, there was a clearing in the trees along the shore and this appeared – phone call, anyone?

A nice place to swing while you enjoy the view of the water - don't swing out too far!

A nice place to swing while you enjoy the view of the water – don’t swing out too far!

Even though there was a threat of rain and scattered thunderstorms, Saturday night we opted to anchor out rather than run over 90 miles with a lock in the middle.  We anchored in a cove immediately next to the waterway – the weather stayed sunny and calm, and the night was clear and windless. Here are some images:

The Joint Adventure at anchor in the cove - the Tenn-Tom Waterway passes by in the background

The Joint Adventure at anchor in the cove – the Tenn-Tom Waterway passes by in the background

Part of the Tenn-Tom Waterway was formed by water building up behind dams. In most places, these flooded areas were not cleared of trees and debris prior  to flooding. As a result, there are fallen trees, logs, stumps, and other debris lurking below the surface in many locations. Therefore, we always attach a line to the end to the anchor with a float on the other end of the line - called a trip line -to help pull it up if it gets snagged on something or if it becomes set hard in the bottom. Paul is shortening the trip line after the anchor was set so we could better identify the location of the anchor as we swung

Part of the Tenn-Tom Waterway was formed by water building up behind dams. In most places, these flooded areas were not cleared of trees and debris prior to flooding. As a result, there are fallen trees, logs, stumps, and other debris lurking below the surface in many locations. Therefore, we always attach a line to the end to the anchor with a float on the other end of the line – called a “trip line” -to help pull it up if it gets snagged on something or if it becomes set hard in the bottom. Paul is shortening the trip line after the anchor was set so we could better identify the location of the anchor as we swung

Out for a joy-ride in the dinghy, exploring the cove

Out for a joy-ride in the dinghy, exploring the cove

A north-bound tow passing by, just as the sun was setting

A north-bound tow passing by the cove where we were anchored, just as the sun was setting

On our last day on the Tenn-Tom, we passed through one of the most beautiful land forms on the inland rivers, called the White Cliffs at Epes. I couldn’t resist taking many pictures, so here are several (I had trouble eliminating pictures…):

The White Cliffs at Epes -

The White Cliffs at Epes –

AATT-white cliff 2

AATT-white cliff 3

AATT-white cliff 4

AATT-white cliff 5

AATT-white cliff 6

Late Saturday, we entered the last stretch of the inland route to the Gulf, called the Black River-Tombigbee Waterway.  A total of 217 miles long, it consists of the lower Tombigbee River below the junction with the Black Warrior River, which then empties into the Mobile River, which takes us to Mobile Bay. The town of Demopolis, Alabama is at the start of this stretch, then it is VERY remote until Mobile Bay – there are no towns and only one “fish camp” with dockage until Mobile.  Therefore, we provisioned for 4-5 days and planned to anchor out for at least three nights.

Here are a few images from Demopolis, another town whose downtown has been decimated by strip centers and other retail development along the highway corridor:

I couldn't figure out what a "Vine & Hoof" shop would be - Paul guessed it would be a wine and beef store. It turned out to be a wine and beer store -

I couldn’t figure out what a “Vine & Hoof” shop would be – Paul guessed it would be a wine and beef store. It turned out to be a wine and beer store –

Yes, we're still in the deep south....

Yes, we’re still in the deep south….

Evidence of the Confederacy abound - here is a statue honoring the Confederate Dead, located in Confederate Park in Demopolis

Evidence of the Confederacy abounds – here is a statue honoring the Confederate Dead, located in Confederate Park in Demopolis

Different places that we have visited as we pass through the rural South have dealt with the legacy of slavery in different ways.  This historical sign summarizing the history of the City in downtown Demopolis is one example

Different places that we have visited as we pass through the rural South have dealt with the legacy of slavery in different ways. This historical sign in downtown Demopolis summarizing the history of the city is one example

Now there are gift shops when you visit for some spiritual healing?

A gift shop when you visit for some spiritual healing?

This is the fuel dock at Demopolis Marina. Given its strategic lacation at the start of the Black Warrior- Tombigbee Waterway, the marina provides fuel to the tug boats that push the barges up and down the river. The tugs rest against the tall yellow steel posts when fueling

This is the fuel dock at Demopolis Marina. Given its strategic location at the start of the Black Warrior- Tombigbee Waterway in an otherwise remote area, the marina serves as a fuel stop to the tug boats that push the barges up and down the river. The tugs rest against the tall yellow steel posts when fueling

Here's the fuel dock with a tug taking on fuel - they take on as much as 30,000 gallons of diesel fuel!  At $3.50/gallon - I ran out of fingers & toes...Notice how the tug dwarfs the building on the dock - they are all engines at the lower level, but must be high enough for the pilot to see over the barges, which stretch out up to 600 feet (two fll football fields, end to end) in front of him!

Here’s the fuel dock with a tug taking on fuel – they take on as much as 30,000 gallons of diesel fuel! At  $3.50/gallon – I ran out of fingers & toes…Notice how the tug dwarfs the building on the dock – the tugs are all engine at the lower level, but the helm must be high enough for the pilot to see over the barges, which stretch out up to 600 feet (two fll football fields, end to end) in front of him!

So as you probably know, a massive storm system passed through the midsection of the country, and especially the south, on Monday and Tuesday, bringing huge rainfalls, near-hurricane force winds, lightning, and tornadoes in some places. Knowing that it was coming, we planned our schedule to be in Demopolis, which ended up to be under a tornado watch for about 12 hours. The storm that hit us was very nasty, but fortunately for us, the worst of the storm passed slightly north of us. However, the high rainfall throughout the watersheds that drain into the Tenn-Tom and Black Warrior-Tombigbee Waterway, caused the water level to rise over 15 feet above normal. The result was swift currents and a resurgence of floating debris, though nothing like we experienced on the Mississippi. Here are a few images:

A flooded dock along the Black Warrior-Tombigbee Waterway

A flooded dock along the Black Warrior-Tombigbee Waterway

High water and swift currents

High water and swift currents

We stayed in Demopolis for two days due to the storm, then continued south, where we tied up at Bobby’s Fish Camp – it is quite rustic with a single dock parallel to the river, but it served us just fine.  Here are a few images:

Bobby's Fish Camp - notice the Spanish Moss hanging from the trees - quite beautiful

Bobby’s Fish Camp – notice the Spanish Moss hanging from the trees – we are in the deep south!

The main building at Bobby's, which also has a small restaurant that is open just three evenings per week - unfortunately, we were not there on one of them, and no one was around

The main building at Bobby’s, which also has a small restaurant that is open just three evenings per week – unfortunately, we were not there on one of them, so we cooked on board

Is this the same guy whose hand got caught in the rear hatch of the minivan?  This guy really gets around - he ought to be more careful!

Is this the same guy whose hand got caught in the rear hatch of the minivan? This guy really gets around – he ought to be more careful!

Prior to the storm, the weather has been very hot - mid to high 80's during the day, mid to high 60's at night. The water is incredibly warm - like bath water,  However, the storm pulled in cold air, so it's been in the 40's at night - as a result, we've had morning fog on the water every day since the storm went through.  This is a picture of the fog at Bobby's as we prepared to cast off.

Prior to the storm, the weather has been very hot – mid to high 80’s during the day, mid to high 60’s at night. The water is incredibly warm – like bath water, However, the storm pulled in cold air, so it’s recently been in the 40’s at night – as a result, we’ve had morning fog on the water every day since the storm went through. This is a picture of the fog at Bobby’s as we prepared to cast off.

As we continued, we arrived at our 140th lock since we left Boston – however, this was a very special lock:  it is our LAST lock until we reach the lock on the Charles River, back in Boston.  Here it is:

I just had to take a picture of it as we exited our last lock until we reach Boston

I just had to take a picture of it as we exited our last lock – the 140th that we have transited -until we reach the lock at the entrance to the Charles River where we keep the Joint Adventure in Boston

We stayed at two more anchorages on our final push south. Both of these were in fairly narrow creeks, so we needed a stern anchor to keep us from swinging into the banks. However, we couldn’t get the stern anchor to hold (a large aluminum Danforth anchor which proved inadequate), so we ended up with a bow anchor out, then tying the stern to a tree along the shore to hold us in place both nights.  Here are some images:

The Joint Adventure at anchor in the narrow creek, with the stern tied to shore

The Joint Adventure at anchor in the narrow creek, with the stern tied to shore

The anchorage in the morning - notice the fog even though the sun has risen quite a bit.  The anchorages were very beautiful and quiet

The anchorage in the morning – notice the fog even though the sun has risen quite a bit. The anchorages were very beautiful and quiet

Remember the Asian Carp?  We haven't seen any since the Illinois River. Imagine our surprise in the morning when I got into the dinghy to retrieve our line tied to shore to find this Asian Carp that had jumped into the boat at some time in the morning!

Remember the Asian Carp? We haven’t seen any since the Illinois River. Imagine our surprise in the morning when I got into the dinghy to retrieve our line tied to shore to find this Asian Carp that had jumped into the boat overnight!  We say several more jump during our stay at the anchorage.

We could have had dinner for two!

Dinner for two!

The anchorage on our last night before Mobile, in a creek off the Mobile River, about 15 miles north on Mobile

The anchorage on our last night before Mobile, in a creek off the Mobile River, about 15 miles north on Mobile

Our stern line tied to an overhanging tree on shore - small bass fishing boats plied this creek, so we tied floats onto the line to make sure any boaters saw the line and passed around the other side of us

Paul starting to retrieve our stern line, which we tied to an overhanging tree on shore – small fishing boats plied this creek, some at night, so we tied floats onto the line to make sure any boaters saw the line and passed around the other side of us

So for the first time since early May – nearly 5 1/2 months ago – we are again in salt water!  We arrived in Mobile Bay this morning – another major milestone on the Great Loop route. We have completed the inland rivers, nearly 1400 miles of waterway that is a unique experience and is the most variable section of the trip. Weather conditions, of course, affect every day on the water. However, on other segments of the trip, a weather system passes and conditions return to normal. On the inland rivers, it can be very different – the effects of a weather system can and sometimes do affect the rivers for weeks. In addition, weather systems from hundreds of miles away that you may not even know about can have a huge effect on you – such was the case when major storms dumped near-record rainfalls on Kansas City and the Upper Missouri River, causing extreme conditions for weeks on the Mississippi – just at the time that most of the Loopers (including us!) were starting to pass through, damaging many of the boats and delaying virtually everyone.  The inland rivers also include the most remote and rural sections of the trip, with long stretches (up to 250 miles) with no fuel, water, provisions, or other services, necessitating anchoring for several nights.  However, it is also one of the most rewarding sections of the trip, with unique challenges, beautiful scenery, an opportunity to see rural towns and meet wonderful and interesting people in a way that you wouldn’t any other way, and a chance to see and understand the unique role that these vital waterways have played and continue to play in the movement of goods in our economy.

So this morning, we pulled up the anchor and ran the last 15 miles through the city of Mobile and into Mobile Bay.  Here are some images:

The last 10 miles or so of the Mobile River run through an enormous cypress swamp

The last 10 miles or so of the Mobile River run through an enormous cypress swamp

A shanty along the bank of the Black Warrior - Tombigbee Waterway

A shanty at the entrance to a creek along the bank of the Mobile River

Our first glimpse of Mobile, coming downriver from the North

Our first glimpse of Mobile, coming downriver from the North

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Most of Mobile Harbor is lined with industrial uses on both sides, with a great deal of activity – ships and barges being loaded and unloaded up and down the harbor, dry docks, freighters, barges, tugs, Navy ships – you name it.  We saw very few recreational vessels, and they were virtually all small boats out fishing.

Several Navy "stealth" boats were in the harbor - I'm not sure what they are, but they looked intimidating

Several Navy “stealth” boats were in the harbor – I’m not sure what they are, but they sure looked intimidating

Downtown Mobile from Mobile Harbor - the harbor is very busy and is extremely industrial for most of the way on both sides - there is a great deal of activity, with ships and barges being loaded and unloaded up and down the harbor, dry docks, Navy ships, freighters, tugs, barges - you name it.  We saw very few recreational vessels, and virtually all of those were small fishing boats

Downtown Mobile from Mobile Harbor – this picture is taken slightly from the south, and shows the one area of the downtown waterfront that isn’t industrial

Some interesting architecture from the water

Some interesting architecture from the water

Entering Mobile Bay - the city of Mobile is in the background.

Entering Mobile Bay – the city of Mobile is in the background.

We’ll be in Mobile for a few days to do some exploring, then we leave the boat here for a week while I go to Buffalo to help celebrate my Dad’s 90th birthday!!!

 

 

 

 

 

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CATFISH, GRITS, BISCUITS AND GRAVY, FRIED CHICKEN, AND TORNADOES

Post #33:  CATFISH, GRITS, BISCUITS & GRAVY, FRIED CHICKEN, AND TORNADOES – Day 158, October 9, 2014

We are in the deep south – if I didn’t know it any other way, I would know it every time I look at a restaurant menu – it is signature-south. Most of the menu items are fried. Everything can be ordered smothered in gravy. Every restaurant features catfish for dinner. Grits for breakfast. A side of biscuits covered with gravy at any meal. Big portions.

Paul requested an order of sausage biscuits with gravy for breakfast:

They say it's good to eat a hearty breakfast....

They say it’s good to eat a hearty breakfast….

Everything tastes irresistibly good.  We up North turn up our noses at catfish, presumably because catfish are bottom-feeders and somewhat ugly-looking fish – but it is a light, flakey white fish, much like flounder, which are also bottom feeders and somewhat ugly-looking fish. Catfish is really good, especially when it is grilled or baked with lemon-pepper as they sometimes do it down here. However, most of the catfish is served deep-fried. In addition, the health benefits of catfish in the southern diet are often overwhelmed by the health detriments of most of the other signature-south items in the southern diet, as well as the large size of the portions. The unfortunate result is that Mississippi has the highest obesity rate in the country, and the southern states as a group have a disproportionately high level of obesity. But the food sure is good.

After weeks without rain, we finally had a major storm last Thursday night, starting around midnight. Wind, rain, near-continuous lightning flashes.  Around 2:00 AM, anyone who was asleep was awoken by a loud and prolonged siren – a tornado warning. Thinking it’s no big deal and with no real understanding of the implications, we rolled over and went back to sleep when the siren finally stopped. However, the threat became real to us the next day shortly after we arrived at a small marina in the small town of Smithville, Mississippi, just 18 miles away. We learned that, just three years ago, the owner of the marina along with 15 other residents of Smithville were killed in a tornado that virtually wiped out the town. The son of the deceased owner now runs the marina – the empty foundation of his father’s house adjacent to the marina is a sober reminder of the power of nature. The EF5 tornado (the most powerful category) passed within 100 yards of the marina, leaving only foundations in its path; miraculously, the marina was unharmed. Later in the day, we visited a hardware store in town and learned more – the store was new, as the building that had stood since the turn of the century had been leveled. Stories abounded. As the tornado approached, the owner and employees of the store took refuge in an old bank vault adjacent to the store which they used for storage. All survived. That night, we went to the local diner (the only one in town). More harrowing stories.  From a written story on the menu of the diner:

“Bobby and Melanie Edwards [owners of the diner] had been home for an afternoon break from work when the weather turned ominous. When alerts showed Smithville in the tornado’s path, the Edwards went into the basement of their church a couple of miles from their home. Bobby called the diner on the phone. ‘Shut off the gas and get into the cooler’ Bobby recalls urging waitress Brandy Holloway over the phone minutes before the EF-5 rumbled through.  The waitress said ‘You don’t understand. We have customers here’. Bobby said ‘You don’t understand. It’s going to be here in 10 minutes’. Holloway did as she was told. That made 12 more survivors.”

The diner was gone. The cooler with its mix of 12 employees and customers still stood. Bobby and Melanie rebuilt. Others weren’t so lucky. A drive through the small town revealed empty foundation after empty foundation where homes and businesses once stood.

Here are a couple of images:

This is a photo of the actual tornado, taken by a resident moments before ducking into a tornado shelter. The clerk at the hardware store showed us this and many other pictures she had

This is a photo of the actual tornado, taken by a resident moments before ducking into a tornado shelter. The clerk at the hardware store showed us this and many other pictures she had of the devastation.

The new Mel's Diner, rebuilt after being leveled by the tornado. The only restaurant in town, it serves as a de facto community center/gathering place as well

The new Mel’s Diner, rebuilt after being leveled by the tornado. The only restaurant in town, it serves as an informal community center/gathering place for residence of the small town.

From now on, if we hear a tornado siren, you can be sure we will pay attention.

Of course, much of the story of our trip is the story of the people that we meet. Everyone has their own story to tell.  I’ve told the story of some of the boaters and fellow loopers whom we’ve met.  Here are some pictures of some local people we’ve met recently in Mississippi:

This is Dave and his homemade houseboat. Dave is the guy who drove us to Tupelo to visit Elvis's birthplace & museum.  Dave and his wife are from Wisconsin - he built the boat, then decided to take it down the inland rivers to Mobile. He had never piloted a boat like that before and had never been in a lock. Down the Mississippi, up the Ohio, down the Tennessee, then down the Tenn-Tom they went. They stopped overnight in Fulton, Mississippi a year and a half ago and never left. They live on the boat, she works at the local Community College, and he drives a long-haul tractor trailer

This is Dave and his homemade houseboat. Dave is the guy who drove us to Tupelo to visit Elvis’s birthplace & museum. He and his wife are from Wisconsin – they built this boat together to live on, then decided to take it down the inland rivers and move to Mobile for a change in lifestyle. He had never piloted a large boat before and had never been in a lock. Down the Mississippi, up the Ohio, down the Tennessee, then down the Tenn-Tom Waterway they went. Fortunately, the weather and water levels were favorable for them. They stopped overnight in Fulton, Mississippi a year and a half ago and never left. They live on the boat;  she works at the local Community College, and he drives a long-haul tractor trailer. Very nice people.

This is Patty and her home, docked at the Smithville Marina.  Patty got divorced, then became sick of maintaining her single family house,  "especially mowing the grass - I don't ever want to mow grass again". So her friend Scott, who owns the marina, told her "I have just the place for you". So she has lived on this boat since April, and intends to stay there indefinitely. She has set up her lawn patio furniture on the dock next to the shore, where it serves as a gathering place each evening for the few people who also live in the small marina and friends who occasionally stop by.

This is Patty and her home, docked at the Smithville Marina. Patty got divorced, then became sick of maintaining her single family house, “especially mowing the grass – I don’t ever want to mow grass again”. So her friend Scott, who now owns the marina since his father was killed in the tornado, told her “I have just the place for you”. So she has lived on this boat since April, and intends to stay there indefinitely. She has set up her patio furniture on the dock next to the shore, where it serves as a gathering place each evening for the few people who also live in the small marina and friends who occasionally stop by.

 

This is John, standing next to his boat in Smithville.  John has lived on the boat at the marina for 15 years. "I seldom take the boat out", said John. "Maybe once a year, if that".  It looked like it had been much longer than that since the boat had moved....

This is John, standing next to his boat in Smithville. John has lived on the boat at the marina for 15 years. “I seldom take the boat out”, said John. “Maybe once a year, if that”. It looked like it had been much longer than that since this boat had moved….

These are two local fisherman who come down to the marina whenever they can to fish off the dock where the Joint Adventure was tied up. The pressure was on - their church was having a fundraiser later that day and was selling fish dinners for $10/plate - they had to catch the fish for the dinners, many of which had already been sold. I'm not sure if they were up to the task or not, but they sure were fun to talk with -

This is Ned and Al, two local fisherman who come down to the marina whenever they can to fish off the dock where the Joint Adventure was tied up. The pressure was on – their church was having a fundraiser later that day and was selling fish dinners for $10/plate – they had volunteered to provide the fish for the dinners, many of which had already been pre-sold. I’m not sure if they were up to the task or not, but they sure were fun to talk with –

 

Emily, the clerk at the hardware store and the daughter of Bobby and Melanie Edwards (owners of the store) and her Mom Melanie told us many stories about the tornado, which struck when she was 22. After hearing about our trip, she very much wanted to see our boat, so we took her on a tour of the Joint Adventure

This is Emily, the clerk at the hardware store and the daughter of the owners of the store.  She and her Mom told us many stories about the tornado, which struck when Emily was 22, and shared many pictures of the tornado with us.  After hearing about our trip, Emily very much wanted to see our boat, so we took her on a tour of the Joint Adventure. Her southern accent was so thick we had to strain to understand her, but she was just a peach of a kid and a joy to talk with.

 

This is Keith and Debby and the houseboat that they plan to live on. Keith was a trucker for years but was forced to retire for health reasons. He sold this boat a year ago, but had to repossess it due to lack of payment. So we met them on the Tenn-Tom as they were bringing it to Mobile, then on to New Orleans where they live. Keith intends to earn a living buying older boats, fixing them up, then selling them.

This is Keith and Debby and the houseboat that they plan to live on. Keith was a trucker for years but was forced to retire for health reasons. He sold this boat a year ago, but had to repossess it due to lack of payment. So we met them on the Tenn-Tom as they were bringing it to Mobile, then on to New Orleans where they live. Keith intends to earn a living buying older boats, fixing them up, then selling them. Judging from the condition of this boat, he has his work cut out for himself.

While much of the Tenn-Tom Waterway is a wide, man-made canal, the dams at each of the locks create small lakes and wetland areas that are very beautiful. Often the channels entering the occasional marina wind through areas that are scattered with trees growing through the water or stumps from trees that have long since fallen. We planned to anchor out on Saturday night, but the wind was howling in the afternoon and we didn’t like any of the possible anchorages that we saw, particularly with the gusty winds. We therefore opted to go into the Aberdeen Marina, with a winding channel that required some focus. Here are some images from Aberdeen, Mississippi:

A beautiful wetland area, created when the Tenn-Tom was built.

A beautiful wetland area, created when the Tenn-Tom was built.

The narrow channel winds through this  tree and stump-filled wetland - better stay focused!

The narrow channel winds through this tree and stump-filled wetland – better stay focused!

I couldn't resist this sunset picture, taken from the bridge of the Joint Adventure at Aberdeen Marina

I couldn’t resist this sunset picture, taken from the bridge of the Joint Adventure at Aberdeen Marina

A few nights ago, I inadvertently left the VHF radio on and was awakened in the night by someone talking on the radio. I turned it off and went back to sleep.  However, it reminded me of the last time I left the radio on and went to bed.  We were bringing the Joint Adventure to Boston from Florida where we had purchased her, and were tied to a dock at a marina about a mile up a river from the Intracoastal Waterway in the low country of Georgia. Around 2:00 in the morning, the radio started to squawk. I was in a deep sleep, out cold;  I thought it was my alarm clock and I groped around in the dark, pushing every button I could find to turn it off. I finally woke up enough to realize it was the VHF radio, so I stumbled to the breaker panel and shut it off, then went back to bed.  Now half awake, I started to connect the dots as I lay in bed.  Could I have pressed the “DISTRESS” button on the radio?  Did I just call the Coast Guard? I sat up wondering what to do, slowly deciding I’d better turn my radio back on when suddenly my cell phone rang (remember, it was 2:00 AM). “Is this Mr. Koningisor?” Yes, it is. “This is the United States Coast Guard.  We received a distress signal from your radio and are preparing to send out a Search and Rescue mission.  Are you OK?” I sheepishly explained what had happened. Fortunately, he pretended to be somewhat understanding and just scolded me mildly. As I lay back in bed, I had visions of helicopters descending upon me next to the dock where I was safely tied, then receiving a bill from the Coast Guard for $25,000. I’m surprised I ever used the radio again.

So we spent a day in Aberdeen, Mississippi, and are now in Columbus, on the Tenn-Tom waterway 335 miles by water from Mobile, Alabama and the Gulf of Mexico.  Here are some images from our stays in Aberdeen and Columbus:

Aberdeen, Mississippi is an interesting town with many historic homes and buildings. Main Street has a covered sidewalk along its entire length on both sides, and the town boasts a historic architectural tour of over 50 homes from various periods and displaying various styles of architecture.

Aberdeen, Mississippi is an interesting town with many historic homes and buildings. Main Street has a covered sidewalk along its entire length on both sides, and the town boasts a historic architectural tour of over 50 homes from various periods and displaying various styles of architecture.

One of the nearly 50 historic architectural tour in Aberdeen

One of the nearly 50 historic architectural tour in Aberdeen

Aberdeen has a rich history with music, particularly the blues, as captured in this large mural on Main Street

Aberdeen has a rich history with music, particularly the blues, as captured in this large mural on Main Street

My Dad making sure our lines on the dock are ship shape - if only we kept the inside of the boat so neat and organized...

My Dad making sure our lines on the dock are ship shape – if only we kept the inside of the boat so neat and organized…

So I tried to come up with a clever caption for this picture but drew a blank - can anyone help me out?  I'll put the best ones in a subsequent post

So I tried to come up with a clever caption for this picture but drew a blank – can anyone help me out? I’ll put the best ones in a subsequent post

 

An impromptu Happy Hour/Dock Party at the marina in Columbus, organized by our friends Scott & Angela on the boat "Lucky Lucky", whom we first met on our first day out of Chicago on the Illinois River when we both had to wait several hours for a lock, tied to a barge and then to a seawall.  Scott & Angela are doing the Great Loop with their two daughters, age 10 and 7 (or thereabouts - I have trouble remembering the ages of my own kids...). Angela is home-schooling them during their year on the boat - an interesting and challenging task, I'm sure!

An impromptu Happy Hour/Dock Party at the marina in Columbus, organized by our friends Scott & Angela on the boat “Lucky Lucky”, whom we met on our first day out of Chicago on the Illinois River when we both had to wait several hours for a lock, tied to a barge and then to a seawall. Scott & Angela are doing the Great Loop with their two daughters, age 10 and 7 (or thereabouts – I have trouble remembering the ages of my own kids…).  Angela is home-schooling their daughters during their year on the boat – an interesting and challenging task, I’m sure!

Sadly, my Dad and Tom left the boat yesterday to go back to the real world. I will miss them!  So Paul and I are on our own for a couple of weeks until our friend Jake joins us later in the month.  Tomorrow, we continue our march south.

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THE MAN-SIZED TOILET STRIKES AGAIN

Post #32 – THE MAN-SIZED TOILET STRIKES AGAIN –   Day 152, October  2, 2014.  On Board:  Tom, Paul, my Dad (Hank), Jim K

Here it is again....

Here it is again….does this look familiar?

You may recall that, early in our trip, in Albany, New York, our toilet became clogged to the extent that we had to remove it completely to try to unclog it. Many boats, including this one, are built with a “compact” toilet.  Not very convenient.  So we decided that if we had to perform the somewhat unpleasant task of removing the toilet in its entirety, we would “upgrade” with a brand new, “man-sized” toilet.  Which, with the help of Dave Luciano, we did.  YYAAYY!  A brand new toilet!  No more toilet woes!  Not to be.  Earlier this week, we successfully managed to clog the new one, or so we thought. It turned out that we instead clogged the discharge hose that goes to the holding tank.  Then in the process of trying to make it work (i. e. forcing it when we really knew better), we seem to have damaged the pump on the toilet.  !#@#%&!!.  We were in southwest Tennessee – otherwise known as “The Middle of Nowhere”.  No place to buy parts.  Of course it was Friday afternoon, so parts couldn’t be shipped out until Monday, for overnight delivery on Tuesday. I’ll spare the details, but we kept moving and had the parts shipped ahead to where we would be on Tuesday.  The parts arrived, and our big-boy toilet is again functional. Among other things, we learned that you really need a toilet on a boat…

So – knowing that we had a 60 mile run and a large lock to go through on Sunday, we left early. The lock was only 9 miles from our destination, so when we arrived at the lock by 3:00 PM, we thought we were in good shape.  Not to be – a tow had just started locking up, and he was too large to fit in the lock all at once;  therefore, they had to separate the barges into two sections, lock them up separately, then re-assemble them at the top.  Four hours later – at 7:00 PM and in virtual darkness, we finally were locked through and emerged at the top. For the next hour, we picked our way 9 miles up the river in the dark, including turning the corner from the Tennessee River onto the Tenn Tom Waterway. Getting into the marina in the dark where we had never been and finding our slip was another challenge;  however, by 8:30 PM we were tied up. We were happy to be greeted by our new friends Harvey & Mary Helen on the boat “Lollygagger” (also doing the Great Loop), who quickly invited us onto their boat for a much-appreciated cocktail. We finally had a dinner of beans and applesauce at 9:30 PM.  Just another day on the water!

As are most “loopers” whom we meet, Harvey & Mary Helen are fun and interesting people. Harvey was a Virginia State Legislator for 32 years, and mesmerized us with stories from Virginia politics. We exchanged political views and all complained about one thing or another.

So we have now finished our run down the Tennessee River – a very beautiful river through mostly remote countryside. Here are some images from our final days on the Tennessee:

There are many creeks that empty into the Tennessee, including this one entering from the right of the rock formation.  Most of the marinas along the Tennessee are located up these creeks, sometimes a couple of miles up a winding channel

There are many creeks that empty into the Tennessee, including this one entering from the right of the rock formation. Most of the marinas along the Tennessee are located up these creeks, sometimes a couple of miles up a narrow, winding, but beautiful channel

Notice the hot tub in the rock enclosure overlooking the edge of the cliff.  I could live here....

Another interesting home along the river – notice the hot tub in the rock enclosure overlooking the edge of the cliff. I could live here….

Due to flooding, even mobile homes are now put on stilts -

Due to flooding, even mobile homes are now put on stilts –

An interesting place to put a house -

An interesting place to put a house –

We'd like to spend some time with the folks on this boat...

We’d like to spend some time with the folks on this boat…

So we entered the Tenn-Tom Waterway, another significant milestone on our journey. The Tenn-Tom connects the Tennessee River with the Tombigbee River, cutting as much as 720 miles off the trip between various ports and creating the path we are following to the Gulf. The waterway was originally proposed by the French in the late 1700’s, followed by lobbying in 1810 by citizens of Knoxville who urged Congress to construct the waterway. However, the first engineering study wasn’t performed until 1875, when it was determined that the 43 locks needed for a 4 foot deep channel was uneconomic. Another study was done in 1913, in which it was determined that 65 locks would be required for a 6 foot deep channel – again determined to be uneconomic. Further studies were done in 1923, 1935, 1938, and 1945 (as we know, our government likes to study things…).  In 1946, Congress finally approved construction of the waterway. However, continued opposition delayed the project until President Nixon included $1 million for the project in his 1971 budget to build the waterway, and construction began. In 1977, with construction well underway, President Carter tried to stop construction;  nevertheless, Congress continued to fund the project. After spending nearly $2 billion, the Tenn-Tom was finally opened in 1985. Yes, Nixon approved $1 million for construction, and the final cost was just shy of $2 billion. Though the Tenn-Tom Waterway is relatively unknown, the enormous 243 mile project is the largest ever performed by the US Army Corp of Engineers – more earth was moved than in the construction of the entire Panama Canal!  Of course, despite all the studies, the Tenn-Tom will never be “economic”, but we’re glad it’s here – otherwise, we would be fighting the Mississippi River all the way to New Orleans!  Some images:

The junction of the Tennessee River and the Tenn-Tom Waterway.  It looks much different in the daytime, as we turned the corner and entered the Tenn-Tom Sunday night in the dark!

The junction of the Tennessee River and the Tenn-Tom Waterway. It looks much different in the daytime, as we turned the corner and entered the Tenn-Tom Sunday night in the dark

Heading south on the Tenn-Tom, the river narrows, and eventually transitions into a 25 mile man-made canal

Heading south on the Tenn-Tom, the river narrows, and eventually transitions into a 25 mile man-made canal

Although the weather remains hot as we continue south, generally in the 80's, the leaves are beginning to show some fall colors along the river

Although the weather remains hot as we continue south, generally in the 80’s, the leaves are beginning to show some fall colors along the river

We used the courtesy car at the marina in Cource, Mississippi to drive to Shiloh to visit the museum and battlefield at one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War. The two day battle resulted in over 23,000 casualties on both sides, finally resulting in a critical victory for the Union forces commanded by General Grant. The memorial park is enormous, as the battle raged over a large area adjacent to the Tennessee River. Here are some images:

The church at Shiloh, a critical place in the see-saw battle which was alternately held by the Confederate and Union forces

The church at Shiloh, a critical place in the see-saw battle which was alternately held by the Confederate and Union forces over the two day period.

The inside of the church -

The inside of the church –

Pittsburg Landing on the Tennessee River, where the Union forces landed their troops to try to penetrate deep into the south. In the Shiloh battle, the Confederate forces tried to capture the Landing to prevent reinforcements for the Union forces from crossing the river, but failed to reach the river

Pittsburg Landing on the Tennessee River, where General Grant landed his troops to try to penetrate deep into the South. In the Shiloh battle, the Confederate forces launched a surprise attack to cripple the Union army, then tried to capture the Landing to prevent Union General Buell from crossing the river with 13,000 Union reinforcements which were expected within days. Though the Confederate forces were clearly victorious on the first day of the battle, they did not capture Pittsburg Landing. General Buell and his army arrived and were ferried across the river that night, and the Union army forced the Confederate army to retreat with heavy losses the next day.

One of many memorials marking key locations in the battle of Shiloh

One of many memorials marking key locations in the battle of Shiloh

At Shiloh, we learned more about the battle of Johnsonville and Confederate General Nathan Forrest, who, you may recall from the last blog post, successfully destroyed the entire heavily-fortified supply depot at Johnsonville with a small group of men and some artillery. It seems that, as a result of  the strategic artillery barrage by Forrest, the Union commander of the supply depot became convinced that the Confederate forces were much, much larger than they were. As a result, he ordered his own men to set fire to the supply depot and intentionally burned the $6 million worth of supplies, the remaining ships, etc. to keep them from being captured by the Confederates.  We also learned that, although we up North generally know nothing about General Forrest, he is a major hero in the South and was a huge figure during the war in the South. Below is a picture of a historical plaque at Shiloh which says it all:

Apparently Confederate General Forrest was quite a soldier

Apparently Confederate General Forrest was quite a soldier

Back to our trip – we reached another major milestone on Sunday as we left Tennessee and entered our 11th state – Mississippi. We are now about 450 miles from the Gulf of Mexico. There are reminders everywhere that we are well into the Bible Belt:

Driving along the highway on our way to Shiloh, we came upon this enormous cross - there was no church or other building around, just tis cross.  Notice that it matches the height of the adjacent full-grown trees!

Driving along the highway on our way to Shiloh, we came upon this enormous cross – there was no church or other building around, just this cross. Notice that it matches the height of the adjacent full-grown trees!

Even on the waterway, there are reminders that we are squarely in the Bible Belt...

Even on the waterway, there are reminders that we are squarely in the Bible Belt…

We arrived in the Mississippi town of Fulton, just 17 miles from the town of Tupelo, birthplace on Elvis Presley. How could we not go? The marina wouldn’t let the courtesy car go outside the Fulton town limits, so we found a local guy who agreed to take us there and back for a small “donation”. Fearing a tourist trap, my expectations for the Elvis Presley birthplace museum weren’t very high;  however, it was actually quite well done and I learned some things about Elvis that I didn’t know (which was easy, since I didn’t know anything).  Anyway, did you know that: (1) Elvis had an identical twin, who was stillborn (2) Elvis’s family lived in the poorest section of a very poor, Mississippi town during the Depression, and (3) Elvis’s father was a sharecropper and sold a pig to pay his rent. The buyer would only pay $4, but Elvis’s father was desperate.  Knowing that the pig was worth much more than $4, however, he took a pen and wrote in a “1” in front of the “4” on the check, making it $14 instead of $4. He was arrested for forgery and sentenced to 3 years in jail. He was released after 8 months, but lost his job and his house as a result. As a result, he moved the family to Memphis in pursuit of a better life, and the rest is history.

Here are some images:

This is the house where Elvis was born and his Dad lost as a result of his stint in prison

This is the two-room house where Elvis was born and that his Dad built as a sharecropper. It had no electricity and no plumbing. His Dad lost the house as a result of his time in prison

The kitchen/dining room of the Elvis house

The kitchen/dining room of the Elvis house

When I saw this outhouse on the grounds of the Elvis birthplace museum, I thought it was a bit over the top.  However, the museum used the replica outhouse to show one aspect of life growing up very poor in a very poor neighborhood, explaining that often multiple families shared a single outhouse like this one. Also, in keeping with the theme of this post, I'm guessing that they didn't have to deal with a clogged toilet...

When I saw this outhouse on the grounds of the Elvis birthplace museum, I thought it was a bit over the top. However, the museum used the replica outhouse to show one aspect of life growing up very poor in a very poor southern neighborhood, explaining that often multiple families shared a single outhouse like this one. Also, in keeping with the theme of this post, I’m guessing that they didn’t have to deal with a clogged toilet like we do…

One last thing from the Elvis museum – the plaque shown in the picture below was on the wall at the museum – I have no idea why. However, you may recall from an earlier post the story of Tom and Tim, the grandfather/grandson team that we met early in the trip and with whom we’ve become good friends. The name of their boat is “IF”. When I asked Tom why, he explained that he loved the poem “IF” by Rudyard Kipling. I don’t know much about poetry, but I happened to know this poem well and recited a verse by heart at the time. In any case, if you are not familiar with the poem, here it is as shown on the plaque at the Elvis museum:

If, by Rudyard Kipling

If, by Rudyard Kipling

Having completed our day of sightseeing, tomorrow (Friday) we continue heading south on the Tenn-Tom.

 

 

 

 

 

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