Thanksgiving Day 2016

I cannot remember a time when, on this day, I did not get up with the sun and put a turkey in the oven. It has always been my favorite holiday. Alone in the kitchen, watching The Homecoming (the pilot that introduced the world to The Waltons),  I would be chopping stuffing ingredients, mixing dough for rolls, spooning Armenian Rice into my crock pot. As the morning progresses Don awakens, I shower and dress for the day. I check the bird, then set the table with my finest cloth, Nana’s china and goblets, then slide fancy napkins through jeweled rings. The whole house is perfumed with aromas of harvest.

The pies, made the day before, are sitting on the counter. I spoon the olives and pickles into crystal bowls, set out butter trays, place individual S & P shakers between plates that have been carefully arranged in front of each chair along with Nana’s silver-plate knives, forks, and spoons that are positioned appropriately beside each plate. Goblets and water glasses are placed exactly where they belong. I pull out all the dishes to be used for the multitude of food and decide which ones I will use for each item as well as each utensil for ladling.

The day progresses. Our weather is clear and warm and quiet. No drone of traffic. No yard work. No car washing. The world is sleeping late and the neighbors have delayed their walk to the curb for the paper. Kitchen fragrance fills the air. It is a lovely time to lazily walk the dog.

Our guests arrive and while I visit with them I am filling glasses and synchronizing all the  food to go to the table HOT in a well-coordinated dance. We sit, Don delivers a Thanksgiving prayer, and we eat.

This year I am a few thousand miles away in Mobile Bay, Alabama. I will miss my kitchen. I will miss my family. I will miss the golden autumn day in Eagle, Idaho, strolling through my neighborhood greeting friends. This Thanksgiving Day I will walk the beach content with my memories.

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November 20

We are staying in Fairhope, Alabama until our friends return from their Thanksgiving visit home. Our weather had been gorgeous and warm until last Friday night when a cold front moved in. We were awakened at 3 a.m. by the violent rocking of our boat. Tsunami? Tornado? All boats in the harbor were bobbing uncontrollably. We could hardly stand up. The Bay was wild with 4 foot swales.

 

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Before
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After

In Alabama Cotton is King and the landscape is full of cotton crop.The inland country here has more open fields with cattle grazing than anywhere else in our travels.  It makes my heart yearn for the fields of home.

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We visited the USS Alabama warship museum. It was humbling to see how our boys lived aboard in cramped spaces during WWII, nothing like the movies depict.

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Thursday night we attended the Fairhope Christmas Lighting of the Trees. Choirs performed and the Fairhope Maidens made their appearance dressed in traditional Southern dresses. At 6 p.m. sharp all the trees lining the main streets came alive with glittering lights AND the sky above us was showered with fake foam snowflakes. The little kids went wild.

 

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November 20

We drove to Gulf Shores and Orange Beach. Beautiful sugar sand and blue ocean. When we travel south again we will be in the Inter-Coastal Waterway and will moor at The Warf.

OO LA LA pretty.

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The Warf Marina
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The Warf waterfront shops

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Mobile, Alabama

November 16

Entering the Mobile Bay was exhilarating! Miles above we noticed the water quality had turned brackish with the introduction of salt water. Seagulls screeching overhead and the smell of the ocean drew us along.

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Mobile Bay  is the fourth largest estuary in the United States. Mobile’s role as a seaport accommodates numerous goods and services.  Cotton was the chief commodity in the nineteenth century; during the Second World War, Mobile’s shipbuilding industry expanded and the city’s population surged.

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Residents living around Mobile Bay sometimes enjoy the fruits of a mysterious natural phenomenon called a Jubilee, when fish and crabs swarm toward shore and can be easily harvested by people wading in the shallows.  Mobile Bay is the only place on earth where jubilees are a common occurrence.

We were dwarfed by the enormous cargo ships that line the bay. Some are being built, some are being loaded. Our mouths were agog at all the activity. The city fronts the Bay and is distinguished by elegant towers and Convention Center that resembles a cruise ship.

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We scurried across the Bay watching our buoy  markers closely because the center of the Bay is very shallow. We are staying at Eastern Shore Marina in Fairhope, AL.

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Eastern Shore Marina

The town of Fairhope began as a dream in the minds of a group of individuals who were seeking their own special utopia. The first Single Tax colonists  who advocated no taxes other than a single land tax looked at land throughout the South and Midwest before settling in 1894 on a high bluff overlooking Mobile Bay. According to legend, one of the group said the new colony had a fair hope of success, and the town was born. Based on a spirit of cooperative individualism, the Single Tax Colony attracted supporters and financial backers from around the country, drawing an eclectic assemblage of industrious, creative, and free-thinking people to Fairhope.

Today, Fairhope is a breathtaking vision that draws visitors from around the world who come to enjoy its natural beauty and vibrant downtown filled with unique shops and galleries, gourmet restaurants, cozy cafes and more.

The marina is nothing special, but the Bay is glorious to see every day all day and the rolling of the tide as it fluctuates rocks us to sleep like infants in a mother’s arms. Love it.

View of the bay from the city park.

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Following The Herd

Demopolis, AL

Sitting in Demopolis, Alabama for a few days. We’ve been traveling hard for 2 weeks; eager to get to Mobile before Thanksgiving. Most Loopers will head home for the holidays. Not us, our home is rented. This is alligator country so we won’t be swimming each day and will need to keep a close eye on Inky when on land. Yikes!

 

In the lock at full pool, held fast to the pin in the chamber, see the 60 foot drop from the back of our boat after.

Grand Harbor Marina…10.26

Beautiful, full service marina on the Mississippi side of the Tennessee River.  Visited the Shiloh Memorial; very somber. This part of the trip has been lovely. Tall trees lining the banks of the meandering Tennessee River.

 

Grand Harbor Marina, Panacea and RioMarLago, Rocking Trollies

Bay Springs Marina…10.27

Too many lights. End of season neglect made for ugly conditions. Spider nests everywhere, dirty restrooms, dead leaves covering the ground and docks. Very nice people, but $1.25 a foot seemed wrong under those conditions. But, the water was clean and warm and we had a nice swim. The South is experiencing the hottest summer ever recorded. The ground is parched.

Tied to a coal barge in the lock.

Don learned of the death of his dear friend, Mike Bauer.

Smithville Marina…10.28

OMG. Deplorable conditions. Docks falling apart, ancient trashy liveaboard house boats, friendly but desperately poor people. In 2012 an EF5 tornado leveled the town above the marina, killing the current proprietor’s father and while he is trying to get the marina in better shape there isn’t enough money to create any charm. Cousin Eddy’s RV was parked in the lot above us. Met Larry and Cindy, sailors on Alaskan Dream and Kathy and Mike on Easy Pace with dog, Millie.  BTW, Noah was a Liveaboard.

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Notice the potty on the back of the last boat…Oh, My.

Columbus Marina…10.29

Big, nice place. No restaurant, only 2 shower/toilet combos, okay laundry.  It was 88 degrees today and the hot weather brings out the gators, small ones, but still need to be careful. No swimming now.

We came down river through 3 locks with 8 big boats (40-60 footers). They are slower than us, and we crammed into the locks together.   We went into the lock first and scurried out ahead of them. Looking over our shoulder they appeared as the 6th Fleet in pursuit.

We all piled into this marina where numerous other Loopers were moored. 15-20 boats and most very large. Internet connectivity is difficult with so many boats logged on and often we can’t even get email.

Met Pat and Lynn Lortie on Adamant I, a 36 foot sailboat Pat built himself! They act as Harbor Hosts in Midland, Ontario. Great people.

Visited the childhood home of Tennessee Williams.

His home, and the laurel wreath that adorned his head in his coffin.

Waverly Plantation…10.30

Magnificent antebellum mansion that survived the Civil War intact. Beautifully decorated with antique period furniture in every room. Miss Melanie was our tour guide. Her gracious southern narrative brings all the stories to life. Miss Melanie alone is worth the trip. She, her sister, brother and 91-year-old father live in the mansion to keep it from vandals and protect it from despair.  The original plantation sat on 50,000 and acted as a small village feeding, clothing, housing 1,000 souls while maintaining the property.

 Waverly Plantation

Autumn Descending

The late retarding and unsettled sun
Hangs in the air with distracted aim
Loosing the heart from distempered reason
To burn like autumn in low sullen flame

The year deepens and protracts the lesion
The heart surrenders to time and place
The leaves, casual and dull with dull adhesion 
Litter the garden bed, the green efface

As augers of some final desolation
But time delays, the year withholds the tides 
That feelings need to bring a consummation
It is despair unresolved that abides

Autumn's despair is summer's pride unending
Pride, that like summer's wealth assailed seems fallen 
Yet to greater resplendence bending
Your true perfection in despair is veiled




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Heading South

Left Paris Landing for Pebble Isle. Nice quiet marina set back into a deep cove.  We had Barb and Nick Malden on “RioMarLago” with us and that made for a fun time. Spent one night then headed toward Pickwick Landing. The Maldens traveled faster and moored at Clifton, while we poked along and went in at Mermaid Marina. Funny place. End of season and the cafe was closed. No showers, no toilets! The docks were nearly out of the water. Yikes.

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Mermaid entrance….skinny water!
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Mermaid Marina Restaurant and Office
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Mermaid at night
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Do we really want to stay here?

Rose with the sun and scurried out of Mermaid. Stopped at Clifton for fuel. Lovely marina. Miss Amy met us and treated us like royalty. We stayed only an hour then hurried on to Pickwick Lock and Dam. Arrived 3 p.m. Hot day. Gorgeous fall colors starting. The shores of the Tennessee are lined with multi-million dollar homes all with stunning views of the river.

Made it to the dam in time to lock through quickly. Arrived at Pickwick Marina in heavy winds that caused Don several hard attempts to land us in a slip. But…no one died, no one was hurt, and we didn’t have to write a check!

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Pickwick Landing

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Our friends, the Raffos, mailed us our absentee ballots for the upcoming election, so we must stay here until they arrive on the 21st. Then we will head south to Demopolis, AL. There are NO marinas between there and Mobile, so we must provision and anchor out for a week. We will travel that leg with RioMarLago for companionship and safety. Once in Mobile, Joan will travel home for a week. Our plan is to trailer our boat to Florida and skip the Gulf crossing…we’ll see….

 

Moving On

October 17, 2016

Sarah K. turns 40 today! How does this happen?  Our girls are getting older, but we stay the same.

Left Paris Landing and arrived at Pebble Isle at 3 p.m. after a wild ride with much wind and wave. Lovely quiet harbor. Nice people. Great cafe open only on weekends at season end, but they made us gigantic cinnamon rolls with mountains of frosting…FREE. Nick and Barb are with us. Inky is finally sedate. As we left Paris Landing another cannon fired and Inky ran away again. So Long Civil War!!!!!!!!!!!!! Met another Looper from Colorado tonight. It’s rare to see westerners on the Loop. Most live east of the Mississippi.

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Took the courtesy car into the nearest town (Camden…8 miles away), to a new Walmart. It struck us how lucky we have been all our lives to be able to walk into any grocery anytime and buy whatever our hearts desired. Being on a boat miles from services we learn to get by with little. We eat a lot of spaghetti and beans and rice. And then when we actually get to a REAL market we are thrilled with the vast array of options. We are mindful of our very blessed existence. We are so lucky to be born into loving families with good jobs where there is always food and comfort.

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Tennessee River

 

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Barb and Nick

We walked to the adjacent Johnsonville State Historic Park; remarkable battle occurred there. Beautiful setting on the Tennessee River. Somber. The park features a modern welcome center complete with exhibits focusing on the 1864 Battle of Johnsonville. The beautiful wooded park encompasses 527 acres of cultural features with well preserved  Civil War entrenchments. General Grant created a vast supply depot on the river at Johnsonville. The Confederates attacked it from across the river in a heated artillery exchange.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paris Landing, Tennessee

 October 14, 2016

Better weather yesterday. We left GTB at 9 a.m. and arrived at Paris Landing at 1 p.m. Smooth sailing with calm seas and a blessed tail wind. Beautiful, quiet night. Very nice marina here, but only one bathroom/shower combo serving 290 boats slips! Paris Landing State Park is 841 acres of camping with golf and hotel.

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Moon over the marina
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Panacea at Paris Landing

We came on a weekend when the Park was sponsoring a Civil War Reenactment  with cannon and artillery fire. Vendors with food, arts, relics, and chili cook off. Then  a big display with all cannons firing at night. Woo Hoo.  Poor Inky ran away and 6 of us roamed the docks for an hour calling  until he appeared.

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Blacksmith

We happened upon three large bird cages housing rescued Barn Owls, Barred Owls, and one blind hawk. Gorgeous birds.  Saw our first Persimmon tree. Unusual knobby bark. Messy when the fruit falls.

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Owl rescue

 

October 16, 2016

We motored round the corner to Fat Daddy’s  for dinner with Barb and Nick Headly…and Ziggy. They are moored beside us with their 288 Bayliner! Skinny water coming in…2.5 feet, but we raised the motor and plowed in.

 

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Back to Paris Landing at sunset

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Fare Thee Well Green Turtle Bay

October 12, 2016

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Shoved off at 8:30 this morning headed south running upstream on the Tennessee River in a stiff 15 mile per hour headwind. About 90 minutes in we gave up and returned to GTB. 4-foot swales coming over the bow made us slow to a crawl and would put us at Paris Landing (40 miles)  later  than we wanted. It wasn’t dangerous, just exhausting. Don loved it. I was’t afraid, but I didn’t want to be falling down every step for 8 hours.

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Coming back WITH the wind and current

Bucolic Life

FAITH:

We have been in Kentucky for a month. Every community has hundreds of churches. Every quarter mile there are at least 3 churches and at least one of those is an enormous, 1200-seat facility on acres and acres of land in a beautiful setting. Everybody cleans up and attends church.

It strikes me that we have not heard the F Bomb once, not one time! People don’t curse here. We never hear the Lord’s name in vain. Never.  Everyone is polite (even in the Mall). It is “Please” and “Thank You”, “Yes Sir” and “Yes Ma’m”. Refreshing. They are educated to be courteous and gracious.

CAMPING:

These people love camping. Not the kind of camping we do in Idaho. There are huge state and local impoundments  with acres of campsites around the water’s edge. It is very communal.

Driving through the Barkley Lake facility last night we saw that every site was full. It is Fall Break here. School starts August 1st and October 1st the schools close for 2 weeks and everyone heads to the campgrounds. Each family has their camper or RV with all the appropriate toys: boat, wave runner, and the omnipresent golf cart. Golf carts are everywhere, it is more fun and easier to get around in these carts and everybody owns or rents one. Some are souped up and fancy. The campsites are close and familiar. It is very social. There are parades and BBQ’s and dances in the local villages.

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Campers are into lighting. Most add outdoor decor to create a feeling of warmth, fun, and style. There is competition to decorate campsites with cute harvest signs and figures and lights.  In addition to the overhead multi-color string lights we noticed large white buckets with solar lights inside hanging from the trees to illuminate each vicinity as well as colored rope lighting to outline the perimeter of individual sites.

FOOD:

Oh, my goodness. Everything is deep-fried from pickles to Oreos. If it can be eaten, it can be deep fried. Many counties are alcohol free or “dry”, but these folks prefer their soda to beer anyway. We’ve never seen a drunkard or a drunken party. Perhaps they behave themselves until they get to Nashville (their Vegas). The favorite restaurants provide 2-inch pork chops slathered in gravy, flower pot bread and Strawberry Butter. The baked potatoes are gigantic and LOADED.  Be careful to ask for your salad dressing on the side or it will be swimming in Ranch. Pork is king, bacon adorns every side-dish. Deep-fried Catfish,  Mac & Cheese are always available. All pies have mountains of meringue.