Tuesday, September 21, 2010

New sayings I have learned -Shucks, I recken, and Y'all

What a crazy three weeks it has been!  As we left the Illinois and forged our way down the Mississippi, Anna and I were so happy to have the companionship of our new Friends on Bulldog Sally, Sassy and Monkey Girl.  As a group we made light of the long days at the wheel and made the most of the evening stops.  To tell you the truth a better group of people would be hard to find. As we left the city of Alton, the flotilla encountered the first of many hurdles which we would conquer.  From time to time on the Mississippi, Illinois and Ohio Rivers the Core Of Engineers will close a lock for repairs or maintenance.  The result in such a close is a huge backup of commercial traffic waiting to make their way up and down the river. Many of these barges on the Rivers are made up of 25 barges all cabled together in one unit.  Each barge is 25 feet wide and 100 feet long.  A barge of 25 would be five wide by five long giving the unit an overall length of 500 feet by 125 feet not including the tug which could be an additional 75 feel long.  In order for a tow to lock through a lock, it is usually necessary to break the unit up into sections and then reassemble the unit on the other side of the lock.  One barge of this size can take up to three hours to lock through.  Ultimately this results in a two to three day wait at locks.  In our case, we found that if we played our cards right we could lock through in between sections.  On our first day we found ourselves right in this very situation.  As we waited to transit our first lock on the Mississippi we found ourselves facing what could be a 24 hour wait to get through.  With nowhere to anchor Paul on Bulldog Sally hailed one of the barge Captains and talked him into letting us tie to his load until our number came up. Thank God, we all thought, the prospect of having to return to Alton after getting this far down river was none to appealing.  As luck would have it a Coast Guard buoy tender arrived three hours later and was given first priority to go through the lock before the barges.  To our surprise the coast guard allowed the lock master to let our group enter the lock with him and lock down.  What could have been a full days wait was now only three hours.  As we entered the lock we were  accompanied by two classic reproduction clipper ships.  It seemed that the crews of these boats didn't want to share the lock with us and appeared to intentionally tie to the lock wall in such a way that not all of us would fit with the Cutter.  Anna was so mad she said she wished she smoked cigarettes so she could throw her lit butt on the deck and burn them to the ground.  The tension of the situation had brought all of us to the brink, the members of the boats looked at each other with laser beam eyes, if their had been concrete between us I think there would have been a brawl.  As the Lock gates opened we pushed on leaving the clipper ships behind us.  Arriving later that evening at Hoppies we all gathered on the docks to meet Fern, a woman with a legendary reputation among loopers for giving advice on the Mississippi.  Hoppies was the last dock we would see until we reached Barkley Lake on the Cumberland River. It would be four days till we reached this spot and Fern was to advise us on all the safe anchorages from here until that point.  Meeting Fern and talking to her was an experience, she advised in the ways of the river, all the while sitting under the tin roof over the fuel dock.  She must have smoked ten menthol cigarettes all the while sitting under the danger no smoking sign right next to the pumps.  After her talk, we all spoke of what a character she was, yet at the same time the service she provided was invaluable to us all. The next four days were long and hard, we stayed together called out dangers as we saw them and each took our turn in the lead as we made our way through the River. At one point we all decided that when we got to Kentucky we would all head to Nashville together and celebrate our success.  We contacted our old friends Bill and Carol on the Tennessee Rover and convinced them to join us.  Bill and Carol had charged ahead of us in Canada and had completed the loop with their return to Tennessee.  Great we thought, know we have two things to celebrate.  Soon the Mississippi was behind us and like a group of college students on spring break we took Nashville by storm.  For four days we visited the streets of Nashville and enjoyed all that it had to offer.  The music coming from the bars was fantastic and the history of the stars that got their break on the streets and at the Grand old Opry was seen on every corner.  Looking back Anna and I both agree it was one of the best stops we have made on the trip thus far.  With our departure came a bit of sadness.  Bill and Carol are finished with their trip and our group will now be splitting up as we all go our separate ways for a while.  Monkey Girl has pushed on to the the Tennessee River, Bulldog Sally has left for a visit home to NY for two weeks.  Jerry on Sassy still works and had to return home to check in on his business and Anna and I are heading to Green Turtle Bay to meet her parents whom have made arrangements to visit us.  While in Green Turtle Bay we plan on having Blue pulled from the water where she will have her bottom striped and repainted as well as having here topside compounded and waxed.  After delivering us down the waters of the Mississippi we felt she could use a week at the spa.  God knows the old girl earned it.

Just look at the trash in the water on the Mississippi.  Get me off this River!
We ran into these replica ships.  The boats looked really cool, but they were crewed by some of the most unfriendly people I have encountered thus far on our trip.  It must be the Tofu the cook serves them or the effects of to much patchouli oil. 

With nowhere to safely anchor on the river, sometimes the side of a barge is our only option.  This Barge Captain saved our butts by allowing us to raft on his cargo for a few hours till the lockmaster allowed us to pass through the commercial locks.  We asked the Captain how long he had waited, to find that he had been waiting for 35 hours.  Without discussion we all shut our mouths and felt pretty lucky to have only had to wait three.

The Arch in Saint Louis was a welcome sight.  We would have loved to have stopped but the city offers no recreational dockage.  I wonder why?
"Hoppies"  A loopers Oasis on the Mississippi.

It is good to know that Mobey has not been affected by the stressful waters of the Mississippi

Arriving at the Cumberland Towhead, a small cove safe from Barge traffic we all dropped anchor and gave out a huge sigh of relief, WE HAD MADE IT!

Once through the Barkley Lock and Dam we saw people fishing again.

It was nice to see Nature again.

Nature sometimes can be cruel.  Look at the size of these Flies.  We traded in the flyswatter for a 2x4.

We may be off the Mississippi but the Barge traffic is still moving. 

We had been told that the rivers had suffered a major flood this past spring.  This house boat stuck on the bank of the river made that all to clear.

Look at how the high waters washed out all the dirt form under the trees.  Soon this tree will fall in the river and float its way down river. 

As we arrived in Nashville we were greeted with what is referred to by the locals as the Bat Building.

Cowboy hats, big belt buckles and boots were everywhere.

If there is one thing they love in Nashville it has got to be the King.

The view of downtown Nashville from the water was out of sight.

Two weeks on the Mississippi river can make people do crazy thing.  This group is ready to Party.  Look out Nashville here we come!

First stop? THE BAR!

After a few drinks we all tried to get a record contract.

After a few more, we found ourselves walking down the world famous Printers Alley.

Soon we all found ourselves in Ryman Auditorium standing on the stage of the Grand Old Opry.  Just think of all the stars that have gotten their start right here.  Paul and Cindy couldn't resit.

Rambling Bill Peters

The Tennessee Rover Duo.

Ok Ok I'll do it too.

The next morning I awoke with a mission.  Buy scalper tickets and see a NFL Titans game.
If you want good tickets you have got to look like a local.
Oh Yea what a day for a game.

We were all relieved that our nights spent in Nashville didn't get us sent to this place.  Kentucky State Penitentiary .  We were told that the KSP holds the record for the most executions in one day.  Don't be bad in Kentucky this place looks like zero fun.
As we make way to Green Turtle Bay, Anna and I took the time to enjoy the scenery of the Tennessee and Kentucky hills as the Cumberland winds it's way through the landscape.

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