Nov 5 DAY 41 From Pain to Escape

Today we journeyed 50 minutes northward-ish to Birmingham in the rental car and after finding the CLOSED (permanently) West Marine where we had hoped to find more doodads and thingamajigs to add to our collection (including a new flag pole thingy for our Looper burgee/flag on the bow), we continued on to the Civil Rights District of Birmingham and were steeped in impressions that left me as sad as the Holocaust Center in Jerusalem but still with some hope too and thanks for all the work of those who went before.

First we visited the very well laid-out tons of meaningful exhibits at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. No words nor amount of pix I could put here can approach the impact. Please go if you ever have the chance. But here are a few:

Yes, I love maps…Freedom Riders  route accompanied by really graphic film footage and other media.   Just one example of many  great compilations covering from the days after the Civil War to present (including a few references to other countries as well)

Perhaps this will give you a view that my words can’t:

2016-11-5-court-br-v-school   I know this might look boring to most, but as a “recovering lawyer” this whole section of the summaries of over 20 landmark decisions and court battles meant a lot to me:  I thought of all the pain and humiliation, the leaders’ fights and doubts, the citizens’ guts, the bad guys and why they felt so compelled to fight so hard to perpetuate the indignities, the amount of work and sweat in each lawsuit, the joys of the wins and too frequently the compounded pain of the losses and, all while still always knowing there was more to be done to erase the invisible lines/barriers/sentiments even if the legal ones were straightened out.

They had a board like this for a handful or so of other countries with historic landmark rights demonstrations, etc.2016-11-5-tianemen-sq

Aside from visiting the Civil Rights District, the whole point of our venture to Birmingham was to check in and visit  Vicky, our “chinese daughter,” who lived with us a year or so ago. She is now attending  University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB)

So Vicky took a break from her studies and joined us for a few hours of lunch and more site seeing (and dog walking/chatting):

Hahahaha look at the name of the restaurant. We all got very filling soul food for lunch!
And walked around a bit and chatted w/ quite a variety of characters at the park.  I learned a lot and need to do some further research on the behind the scene stuff that the Civil Rights Institute did NOT report about.
The 16th Street Baptist Church where the 4 little girls died after KKK bombing. (needing more research–perhaps more on that another day)


After saying good bye to Vicky (and thank you for the nice little gifts she brought), we made it back to our boat zone and Ziggy and I walked down the mile  via this little country road.

No cars the whole way…lucky doggy off leash in the woods.

We were greeted on the dock by the shaking not-scary-but-rather-chilled Snowman and the wiggling and bending big bass…


It was about an hour before dark and we decided to undock and jump across the river/lake to a cove and anchor for the night. It was the right decision and an indulgent way to escape/heal/rejuvenate the emotions of Birmingham (and the country’s) past.

At anchor


Oct 29 Day 35 Slippin’ into the South: Notable Columbus, Mississippi

Nothing like a small college town (remember how fun Marrietta, Ohio was way back on Day 4 Sept 6?)

We’re spending 3 nights here (and maybe, hopefully, getting out of the pack of boats we were bound up with earlier in the week). So we’ve rented a car to tour around a bit.  We remain in Mississippi (always fun to spell!!) which is why I wonder why the original founders of Columbus thought they were Alabamans?!?!  Apparently it took a few decades for them to realize they were actually in Mississippi and then all sorts of legal petitions had to be done to get the mailing addresses and naming all straightened out.

Regardless of the state, glad we are in Columbus because it is notable for several things:

Home of TWO Pulitzer Prize Winners:  Eudora Welty (The Optimist’s daughter)  and Tennessee Williams (Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Streetcar Named Desire, etc)  . Per capita, I’m not sure any other city can make that claim?!?

Tennessee William’s Birth home. His grandfather was an Episcopalian minister and this was the church’s rectory where his mother lived with Tennessee and his brother since their father was a “traveling salesman/absentee father figure.”
One of the more intent and thorough tourists around:Nick reviewing the info on Tennessee Williams.

Home of Memorial Day: 

Late in April 1866 (or so), some women gathered here to take flowers over to the Friendship Cemetery and put them on BOTH the Union AND the Confederate soldiers buried there.  Word of the concept spread to the North and soon it was a copied and then eventually became a national event.   See poem The Blue and the Gray  by Francis Miles Finch

The women gathered here at Twelve Gables Home  (altho it only had 10!) before heading over to Friendship Cemetery.  Tons of other nicely taken care of ante-bellum homes too that were not touched during the Civil War—another reason it is a notable town!)

Here’s Friendship Cemetery (altho only white folks are buried here… not very in-line w/ it’s name.)

Graves of 2,194 Confederate soldiers here.  The Union soldiers were re-interred up at Shiloh (see Days 26 and 27 Oct 20-21!)

Here’s the cemetery for the African-Americans about a mile out of town:

Sandfield Cemetery:  These are recent…not sure of the mounding concept (?) Lots of older graves on the opposite side of the road with minimalist markers.

Home of Henry Armstrong: First boxer to hold world championships in 3 different divisions at the same time

First public college for women  (didn’t sound too southern of an idea to me….so maybe I need to re-think MY thoughts! Welll..unless the curriculum was limited to darning socks, etc) (it’s co-ed as of 1980’s, btw)

We actually ate out TWICE in one day!  One of the good things about the boat is we don’t get stuck eating in icky restaurants and instead we get all our good salads, veggies and grilling every day…..but a college town usually has some pretty good spots and we were not disappointed!

Sorry forgot (aka ate it sooo fast!) to take the pic of the Mongo BLT with Fried Green Tomatoes Po’ Boy Sandwiches we had here in this cute little patio.
Double-Date Night at Huck’s Restaurant…appropriate for us since we are Huck Finn’in  it down the rivers. Yummy crawfish and spinach cannelloni and Crawfish Etouffee!….Ridiculous Selfy…but here it is…w/ Don and Joan from the “sister-boat”.

Oct 25 Day 31 A Father of a Day!

We said goodbye to Florence midday. Really a great town with lots of things on the tourist calendar: from mega-golf to a storytelling extravaganza (and lots in between—including all that music!).  After yesterday’s tourist extravaganza, here are a few parting shots:

Just to give you some idea of the intensity of music history and roots here!  We are in Florence/Muscle Shoals (midway-triangle btwn Nashville and Memphis) (obviously I like maps!)

We stopped at  the Alabama Music Hall of Fame- very long list of successful and famous Alabamans in the music industry.  And did you know the first Rock and Roll song was from here??

I like the part about the amplifier falling off the truck.

Can’t forget Sam Phillips the Father of Rock and Roll  (with Elvis, duh!):

Sam Phillips launched Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins,  Roy Orbison, Johnny Cash, Charlie Rich and many others.  Even in the 50’s and in the South he had no racial biases…only what sounded right (and probably moved right) was what mattered.  He said he was only “looking for that little piece of soul magic.” 
The Golden Country Car, a 1960 Pontiac convertible adorned with more than 500 silver dollars and 17 silver guns….but still not sure WHOSE car it was??! haha

So aside from being the birthplace of Rock and Roll, Florence is also the birthplace of W.C. Handy, Father of the Blues:

2016-10-25-handy  — recorded BEFORE outbreak of WWI  …wow !

Besides our “tourist” things we golfed and walked.

Look at this cool frisbee golf course in Mcfarland Park…can you see the next “hole/target” way through the trees on the grassy knoll?  And Nick thinks HIS courses are challenging!


Nick’s last (for now) day of golf on the Robert Trent Jones Trail –the Father of all Golf Trails.  At least THAT pin/hole can be seen!

And then we arrived late in the afternoon back at Grand Harbor Marina Iuka, Mississippi

On the way, we enjoyed perfect weather, water and scenery:


Largest boat we’ve seen yet….and, for that matter, hardly any boat traffic of any kind today.

Little islets near Sevenmile Island Wildlife Area (see above feature photo too)                     Good bye Tennessee River!

We are now positioned for the Tenn-Tom Waterway section that we’ll start tomorrow.


Oct 24 Day 30 Rock n’ Roll

By now you know we’re in Florence, Alabama which is the reputed birthplace of the blues and just across the river from Muscle Shoals where many big names like the Rolling Stones, Cher, Aretha Franklin, The Osmonds, Little Richard and more recently, Alicia Keys have recorded hit songs. Literally hundreds of hits have been created with the mixing board above and it continues to be used.

The interesting thing about this river cruising is you can easily crossover from boating to land exploration at the drop of a hat. Today we rented a car and decided to do some touring. Nick agreed to good naturedly go with the flow and visit the spots of interest Barb wanted to see (seemed only fair since he’s playing golf on 2 of the four days we’re here!). First there was the dirt pile…..

Actually this is an Indian mound similar to the one we saw earlier this trip in Moundsville.

 Which was followed by a 20 minute drive to a rock pile…..

Actually this is a rock wall (and you only see a small part here) built by the guy on the left over the last 35 years to commemorate his great, great grandmother who was the only native American woman who returned home after the trail of tears in which Native Americans in the South East were rounded up and forced to march to parts west of the Mississippi as part of the Indian Removal Act of 1830. Each rock marks one of her steps home. It is the largest unmortared rock wall in the US and the largest memorial to a Native American woman.

…and then a 45 minute drive to a cemetery on “Coon Hound Road”. 5 minutes into it, WAIT…Nick realized it was not A cemetery on Coon Hound Road, but a coon hound cemetery! Nick had been doing so well, but reached his limit and was not up for a long trip to a doggy cemetery specializing in coon hounds…famous ones, but dogs. Instead we went bypassed that one and continued on the route to some other cool spots celebrating the musical history of the area:

The Rolling Stones recorded Brown Sugar in this building.


Check it out…Cher in 1969 in front of that same building. Notice the façade is blank (but see the number in the window?).
…and then the album cover from record she made there. Notice the name of the record “3614 Jackson Highway”…..the building owners thought that looked cool so they added that address façade later!

and at FAME:

Editor’s Add-On Pic: Yes! We walked through the doors! Maybe there’s some hope for us!?!
B outside the FAME control room right where the hits were made!

the birthplace of Helen Keller (another famous local). 

Birthplace of Helen Keller. Small building to the right is where she spent 2 weeks, at the age of 6, under the supervision of Anne Sullivan, her tutor, and had the “water” breakthrough . At the insistence of Sullivan, Helen’s parents actually rode her around the town for hours before moving her there so she would believe they were far away in order to stop the cycle of spoiling and indulging!

We also went to see the lions at University of Northern Alabama. It’s the only university with a live mascot living on campus. In this case it’s in an actual lion compound. (no lion picture as he wasn’t out!) 


Broad Picture and Plans of Attack!

For more Land and Sea Adventures:




We’re starting this  blog to facilitate sharing our latest adventure –the Attack of the Great Loop–with family, friends, and apparently strangers lurking on the internet (welcome, btw!). Out of the chute, it’s felt almost as nerve-wracking and strange as the locals must have felt as the Brits pressed in to their towns. But we’ll see how it goes and perhaps add other adventures on land too–hence the name of the blog! ONE IF BY LAND, TWO IF BY SEA.  (Well, technically anything involved with water will be under the “By Sea” category.) So tip of the hat to Longfellow for coining the phrase that we’ve picked for more trivial and fun communications than rebelling against taxation without representation.

For the current adventure, here’s the general map; however, we aren’t starting close to the main Loop route.  The prologue to The Loop for us is to approach it via the Ohio River (beginning at The Point in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania).  Well, actually we started a few miles up river.  (See Red Dot for starting point)   Hope you check in often and enjoy the posts! xo

THE GREAT LOOP: Over 5000 miles long (depending on side-trips…did you say Cuba?….well, we DID say it ( as well as the Bahamas!)….but that will have to be another trip!)

MAP UPDATED::   SEPT 21,2017  !!!!!!

2017-6-6 best great loop pic map (8)_LI.jpg

We started Sept 3, 2016, just North of Pittsburgh on the Red Dot with a 922 mile prelude/side trip down the Ohio River  (all WHITE LINES ARE SIDE TRIPS! — ie NOT technically part of the Great Loop) to get to our official beginning  start point on the Loop (Green Dot at Green Turtle Bay, Grand Rivers, Kentucky).    The GREEN LINE represents our Loop trip. In addition to the Ohio River prelude/side trip, other side trips (WHITE) were: A small leg  up and back the Tennessee River to Florence, Alabama;   leg up and back the Black Warrior River in Alabama past Tuscaloosa (and nearly to Birmingham);  up and back the Potomac to Washington DC; and up and back the Sassafras River (at the north end of Chesapeake Bay).  All DOTS (except the pink one at Chicago) represent times we’ve flown home for 10-18 days (one dot for flight home is missing–right about where the “S” is in the word “Severn” in northern Canada).  As of September 20, 2017 we have traveled 7,827 miles and are a stone’s throw down a section of the Mississippi River and a turn toward the east)  from completing our Loop back at the green dot (Green Turtle Bay, Kentucky!)        [Any route marks that are not GREEN or WHITE are simply the possible routes of “The Great Loop.”]

UPDATE (10-19-16) The  Second Leg:  We left Green Turtle Bay, Grand Rivers, Ky which is just east and south of Paducah on the map below (and marked w/ a big green oval dot on the map above). As of 10-19-16 we are at the top (north end) of the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway (in dark purple on the map) where it branches off of the Tennessee River (which flows downstream to Paducah/the Mississipii –hence we were going UPriver from Green Turtle Bay to the head of the Tenn-Tom Waterway…which will then be “DOWN-river”


UPDATE (9-19-16):   THE OHIO RIVER:  Which we have now completed as of Sept 15, 2016! 922.5 miles (We started just north of Pittsburgh on the Allegheny River and we did NOT go that tiny little end knob section to the Mississippi River but rather turned left (aka east) (towards Nashville up the Cumberland River)

UPDATE: (5-15-2017)  Chesapeake Bay Area.  By the way, Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary in the USA….followed by Puget Sound, Washington.

chesapeake map (2)
The Red Line traces our route out of the ICW through Norfolk, Virginia and up to the Eastern Shore.  Stopped at Cape Charles, Va, Ohancock, Va and Crisfield, Md  Drove to the Red Dots on the Atlantic Coast: Assateague and Chincoteague.  Plan to hit the Orange Dots (and other tbd spots) within this next week: Smith Island, Tangiers…..and then Washington DC!


UPDATE:  JUNE 8, 2017:

6-6 map_LI (8)
As of June 7, 2017 we were at the Schuyler Yacht Basin (Red Arrow).  Our route  will continue up the Champlain Canal, Champlain Lake and into Quebec, Canada to more canals and finally Lake Ontario, the Trent-Severin Waterway, and Georgia Bay on Lake Huron….following the green dash above. (but… you can see there are a lot of other canals and waterways that remain for future trips!)

At my request, Nick revised Longfellow’s The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere with a little artistic freedom to fit us:

LISTEN, my children, and you shall hear
Of the great boat trip that started this year,
On the fourth of September, in 2016;
Nick and Barb got on the Loop
Knowing not what to fear.

Nick said to Barb, “When running the river
Let’s look out for barges and whatever might be
Keeping red buoys to right while not missing greens,
Failure to do so will leave props obscene
And we’ll finish the trip by land not by sea.

Passing through locks with nary a shiver
Slowly but surely we’re learning the river.
Bollards are watched and lines always kept free
Passing through locks with nary a shiver 
Slowly but surely we’re learning the river.

For the original see:      or     for a live reading and cool old prints