I have no idea what the proper name of this waterway is. I’ve read and heard it called all three of the above. The charts on Ben’s plotters say Tombigbee Waterway. The guide books have a slash situation like I typed above. Whatever it is, it’s the water from Pickwick Lake down to Mobile Bay and we are almost done with it!
I’m going to try to get back on track with regular posts. I said I would after my last crazy long post and now it’s been another couple of weeks. But in that time we’ve been crazy busy again. Who knew traveling and being on a year long pseudo vacation could be so exhausting!
Ben’s parents met us in Decatur, AL Saturday night the 15th. We had a busy visit with them with not so much boating. We decided to stay on the Tennessee River and Pickwick Lake during their visit because we knew as soon as we turned south it was just lock after lock with not much to see and not many places to go. We spent Sunday the 16th at the US Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville. I’ll spare you more pictures and details since the girls both wrote blog posts about that already! We learned a lot and had a great time!
Monday morning Nikki drove to our next stop in Florence, AL and we met her there on the boat. Only about 40 miles on the water but we had two locks to clear including the 93 foot Wilson Lock. We figured Fred would enjoy that segment of the trip so he rode on the boat with us. The next morning we toured a Frank Lloyd Wright house in Florence before heading to Grand Harbor marina on Pickwick Lake. Molly wrote a crazy in depth description of the house that I told her I’d type for her in a blog post so I will again spare the details here. It was a beautiful house and I was thrilled with how much the kids enjoyed it! After lunch at the marina restaurant we headed out. Nikki rode with us this time and Fred drove and met us near Iuka, MS at Grand Harbor marina.
We spent Wednesday touring Shiloh. 4th grade at the girls’ school at home does an IB unit on slavery and the Civil War. It could not be more perfect for this trip. We were able to tour Point Park and learn about the Battles of Chattanooga there and now Shiloh, one of the most famous Civil War battlefields. The museum was great, but the movie was too much for the girls. Incredibly informative but way too violent and after both had heads buried in my laps begging to leave I took them out before it was over. We loved looking at the exhibit on women during the war while the movie finished up. I was impressed at how much Madelyn got out of it and actually remembered. And I learned a lot too. My knowledge of history is appallingly bad. So I’m learning with them. Fred took beautiful fall pictures of the girls while at the park. We walked through the military cemetery there and did much of the driving tour around the grounds.
After Shiloh we went to Abe’s for lunch on the recommendation of fellow loopers. Fantastic old lunch counter restaurant. Best burger I’ve had in ages. Chocolate chip cookies and the mother, father and son who run it were amazing. But we were told breakfast was not to be missed so we came back Friday for breakfast! Thursday night Ben and I got out for a date night! We had a great dinner in very adorable downtown Corinth and then had an awesome date night trip to Walmart and Dollar Tree. It was just like being in Chicago! But truly…dinner was fabulous! Walmart was Walmart. And I just wanted to grab some flash cards from Dollar Tree for the girls.
Friday morning Fred and Nikki packed up. We all went to Corinth together and headed to Abe’s for an amazing breakfast and then to the Corinth Interpretive Center. Shiloh was great. But I LOVED Corinth. This museum, also run by the National Parks, was incredible. Molly was engaged and reading everything and really interested in everything she saw. We learned a lot about slaves and there were huge interactive maps so she could clearly see the division of states and slavery, see the railroads and how they were taken, see where the armies each advanced from, see which states first seceded from the union, etc. We also learned a lot about the camp set up in Corinth for freed slaves who formed a community with school, church, various jobs, housing etc. They were safe there behind Union lines. And one thing I found interesting…at the museum in Corinth the Union army was only referred to as the United States Army. The Confederates still the Confederate Army. Corinth was also home to the huge medical response for the battles at Shiloh. Molly was able to read about and listen to recordings from nurses who were there and we learned that as many people perished there in the 7 weeks after the battle as died in the battle…roughly 23,000 in each place. Such a loss of life. Hard for a 9 year old to grasp. To finish our tour off, there was a great outdoor exhibit with various stepping stones for the various amendments. Molly was shocked to hear how late it was when women could finally vote.
Time for another goodbye. Fred and Nikki headed home and we headed to the marina and pulled out to begin our trek south. This is our last leg before salt water! And tomorrow we’ll be there. It’s been a LONG week. We just went about 37 miles Friday afternoon and stopped just before the first lock. This leg of the river has 12 locks. We cleared 7 on Saturday. Beautiful day. Right through them all. Easy peasy. Then we pulled into an anchorage written up as an ox bow with good depth all the way around. And promptly hit a sand bar and were completely stuck. We’d been traveling with two other boats that day. We pulled in first. The second tried to help us and got stuck. The third pulled them out. The amazing tug driver going past helped over the radio with advice and stopped and lit us all up with his spotlights for quite awhile. Such wonderful people on the water. Our companion boats went down river a bit and anchored and we stayed for the night stuck. They came back the next morning to pull us out. Ironically the third boat got stuck and boat 2 had to pull them out. And then some fisherman going past helped Ben pass lines to the third boat all while boat 2 filmed the whole thing. The captain of Seascape is a professional photographer and he got some great shots of the freeing of our boat as well as a movie of it. Cutie Me & V, who isn’t doing the loop but has been so wonderful to travel with this week, rescued us. We met them at 7 AM the day before in our first lock of the day. Seascape and Cutie Me & V didn’t have to come back and help. But they did! We were on our way with a VERY bad prop. Ben’s been running on one engine the entire rest of the way down river. We anchored Sunday night further upriver from everyone else because we were afraid of depth so we picked a good and deep place with cows in a field and a farmhouse in the distance on the bank. We all caught up in Demopolis Monday night.
Tuesday and Wednesday mornings we’ve been up and moving before sunrise to catch the last two locks before the tows get there. They are stuck in the fog but if our group can all get there they put us through. The three of us boats made it to Bobby’s Fish Camp last night. The others we left Demopolis with were moving slower (even though we’ve been going so slow for us!) and didn’t make it that far. We all left Bobby’s in the dark this morning and went through our LAST lock for many many months! I haven’t minded the locks much at all except when it fouls schedule and we wait for hours. This stretch of 12 has been amazing. In and out for every one of them.
Tonight we are anchored in the Tensas River. Tomorrow we will travel the last 40 miles into Mobile Bay and enter the Gulf! Wow! It’s kind of amazing to think that we took our boat from Chicago all the way to the salt water. With our kids! Just think how amazing it will be to say that we made it to Cuba and the Bahamas (hopefully!!). The boat is going to a shop in Gulf Shores for some much needed repairs and to get a bunch of stuff done before salt water cruising. Ben can do a blog on that. We plan to spend a couple of days in Mobile and Gulf Shores and then we will pack (yikes!) and rent a car and head to Destin to stay with Ben’s aunt and uncle! Two of his cousins are there and they both have little kids. We plan to be there for Halloween. The girls are SO EXCITED they will get to trick or treat and see the kiddos. They have been talking about it nonstop.
I’ll try to be more timely with updates so they aren’t so long. I know, I said that last time too. But I’ll try harder this time. We plan to turn in just after the Cubs game tonight and catch up on sleep. Ben and I stay up late. That doesn’t work well with getting up before the sun. We are TIRED. Alright, off to plan out school for tomorrow. Madelyn assumed there would be no school next week. I reminded her she’s being home schooled and school will be coming with us. Ben’s aunt is a teacher…she’d expect nothing less! However I’ve been keeping in touch with school back home and it looks like in a few weeks when we go to Disney we can safely take a few days off of school and have a little fall break. Yay!
Florida here we come!
Laura, a truly lovely descriptive and evocative blog entry. Thanks for being so complete.