NOV 7th/8th Days 43-44 Back-tracking in So Many Ways

Ok…just to get the literal elephant out of the room (and, yes, I know it is a detour out of a travel blog …but the byline DOES say the blog will reflect my thoughts/perspective!), I’m jumping ahead to today’s actual posting date and then I’ll get back to our chronology. I HAVE to say how saddened, disheartened and worried I am for my country that has voted in a man so full of spewing hatred directed particularly (but not only) to people of color, Muslims, immigrants, LGBTQ, indigenous people,  and women.  To quote my friend, Seamus Kirst: “I denounce white supremacy and racism and hate, and I am so ashamed of the millions of people who embraced it when they walked into those polls.” I will say that it is that much more shocking to me now that I have spent time on the river chatting and sharing with people from Tennessee, West Virginia, Mississippi, Kentucky and Alabama and found them to be so open and giving and warm.  I can now only imagine how two-faced their behavior has been only because I am caucasian on the outside.  As I said after the visit to the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute last week,  I  remain perplexed at how and why people hold such deep fear/hate in their hearts.  I am weary of the fight though and the thought of the 50 steps backward our country has just taken is overwhelming.

Backtracking to the post:

Despite getting up early, we still managed to delay pushing off and out of Hide-Away Harbor Marina until nearly noon due to Home Depot and post office trips, rental car return, and repairs to the “sister-boat’s ” bow/anchor/roller/windlass thingy. (Nothing major, in fact, the time I took to describe it was about as long as the job should have taken)  But as a result of all of N’s running about on the above delays, B set herself to bringing the “back patio” (some in the boating world call that the Aft Cabin) up to chlorox -bleach- white levels.  N returned quite happily surprised to the brilliant shine. It only took one dirty lock and some Fall leaves to un-do most of the work.

 

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Birds-Eye View of our moorage ( and “back patio”).  As you can see we are out on the outermost edge at the marina….so  we did get a few rocking waves from the big barges.  Not too bad though.

As a result of the late start, we ended up meeting even more people at the marina.  As I‘ve said in earlier posts, it is truly amazing how open-hearted and literally giving people we meet “on the river” are.  Today we got these cool hats as gifts simply because we were raving how much we loved this Black Warrior River!

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B is keeping the cool one for herself (besides it doesn’t really fit N).

So we headed back down the river –first time we’ve backtracked a significant mileage.  So it’s been fun to compare the mileage with vs against the current: about half a gallon better per mile heading down river.  We stopped on this soft, sandy beach for some snackies and wading (and dog walk).

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There are at least 6 even better beaches than this awesome one along this leg of the river.  Picked this one though because the wind and the current were cooperating here.
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It was fun to nose in, drop the anchor into the sand and have the bow for our “table” of snacks.  AND there were no problems with this new experience! That’s a switch!

In addition, because of the late start and lots of lock delays, we didn’t make it as far as we had tentatively planned ( if I’ve learned anything, as soon as you make a plan, or pre-write something in the Log Book, it needs to get re-assessed), so we anchored again in front of Andy’s Place (see post from a few days ago)  He didn’t come out to greet us this time; but his wife hollered and called off and on like a small screaming child between midnight and 1 am for her cat (who was equally howling in pain for some reason farther up in the woods –but the wife didn’t hear it).  As a result, Ziggy woke up and barked nervously every 20 minutes. Once awake, B got no sleep wondering what to do about the poor cat. N slept through the whole thing.  Yes, he does happily (and accurately) acknowledge that “we” get a much better sleep (normally) in the boat than anywhere else.

In the morning, we headed back to Demopolis  (where we already spent a few days last week); but where we need to re-position ourselves for the big jump off for the final section of the “River Leg” of the Loop.  But not before the final lock on the Black Warrior River….where we had such a looooong wait (the Army Corps of Engineers were doing a repair), that we asked permission to tie up to an unused, beached barge. Kinda fun to walk around and look at all the knick-knacks laying around.

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FYI Kids:::  Great party spot (other than being in full sight of the Lockmaster!)

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Anyway, for us the day was clearly a foreshadowing of the backtracking yet to come on election night:  repeat scenery in the opposite direction….  so that’s about it.

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:

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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: http://www.npr.org/2006/01/12/5149667/get-on-the-bus-the-freedom-riders-of-1961

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.

http://www.pbs.org/black-culture/explore/civil-rights-movement-birmingham-campaign/#.WB-8kPkrLIV

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):

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Hahahaha look at the name of the restaurant. We all got very filling soul food for lunch!
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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.
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The 16th Street Baptist Church where the 4 little girls died after KKK bombing. (needing more research–perhaps more on that another day)

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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.

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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…

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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.

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At anchor

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Oct 31 and Nov 1 Days 37/38 A Few Tricks and Plenty o’ Treats

Left Columbus, Mississippi on Halloween morning. So let’s get all those Halloween shots going and move on:

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Moving on to the action:

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On the wall, dropping in the lock.

So although it was Halloween,  we had no fears of “camping out”  “on the hook” (aka anchoring!) in the middle of nowhere.

Our first anchoring with this boat and, of course, there had to be a hiccup or two. The breaker switch had to be found and re-set so that the windlasss would release the anchor. A bit of back and forth on that (ie changing and re-changing who is at the helm, who is looking for the breaker, who is at

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On the Hook. YAY!  Sumter Cove, Alabama

the windlass, exiting and re-entering the cove, watching for encroaching shoreline while focusing on solving the issues, etc etc!). But resolved relatively easily and w/ no frustrating voices!  See below, however, for the morning-after hiccup!

 

In the meantime a few shots of a great place to always remember as our “first anchorage” in RioMarLago.

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Panorama 180 degrees from the bow.  Note the above  Feature Picture is 180 degrees from the stern. Idyllic.

Swim time!  We all went in…Ziggy’s first swim (w/ life vest)…she wasn’t too keen on it but did enjoy cooling off and rubbing all over her rug afterward (and shaking on cigar-smokin’ Nick!)  No alligators …but did keep our eyes out!

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Swim time!  We all went in…Ziggy’s first swim (w/ life vest)…she wasn’t too keen on it but did enjoy cooling off and rubbing all over her rug afterward (and shaking on cigar-smokin’ Nick!)  No alligators …but did keep our eyes out! 

Great dinner on the grill under the crystal clear Milky Way.  I forlornly think about the fact that one-third of humanity —and 80 percent of North Americans—can’t see the bright smear of the Milky Way. Entire generations of people have never seen our galaxy. (thanks Atlantic mag!) I feel that much more lucky when I think of that….it’s free for everyone; but really it isn’t.   We slept well after avoiding the 5 pm mosquito hordes and were serenaded by hooting owls, howling coyotes, and jumping/splashing fish right out the open windows and open hatch over our bed.

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Well, you might be so focused on Nick and the dinghy, but actually the engine on the boat is in idle…well it WAS in idle about 20 seconds before I took the pic!  Why, you ask? Read on!

Within minutes of getting out of bed and announcing to one another how pleased we were to hear the purr of the refrigerator (meaning that the ONE (of 2) batteries that we had left on seemed to have lasted the whole night!!),  a little beep beep sounded announcing the battery was near it’s end of juice.  No problem; we kind of expected that! The refrig would be fine for a few hours and we still had the OTHER battery saved for starting the engine. Captain Nick wisely thought to check to see if the engine would actually start; however, we were both a bit dumb-struck to NOT hear that familiar sound of a roaring engine starting up at the turn of the key.  Yikes! Remember we are in the middle of NOWHERE and no cell coverage.  Luckily Nick is one of those ‘active shoppers’ who grabs cool little devices and thingamajigs and had come home just before the trip with an under-$100 Costco purchase the size of your flat palm w/ 2 little jumper-cables and chargeable jumper box!  WOW! AND uncharacteristically we found where we had stowed it quite quickly AND, because he had pre-charged it, it worked!  Yay for WINPLUS!

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See!!?!?!  I don’t exaggerate!  It is palm-sized, right?

In fact, it worked TWICE! (after being  partially RE-charged a little w/ his  OTHER power pack thingamajig….because although he left the engine running for what seemed like eternity, it didn’t sufficiently charge either battery for a re- start.

 

I’m sure all you boaters are thinking that B forgot to switch the battery usage thingy over to ONE battery upon anchoring. No, not forgotten (this time).  Once at the next marina, Nick sleuthed and even tho it reads LIVE, that second battery is plain old dead. No harm other than some holding-breath moments (and other than another pull-out-the-Visa moment for TWO new, better, bigger shinier, heavier, more –er er ers battererereries!

But I jumped ahead there….first we had to have breakfast before we get to the marina!  Since it was a slightly (relative term!) cooler morning AND it was our first anchor/camping AND b/c the little jumper box had worked (the first time), B made something extra for breakfast:

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Besides the usual eggs and veg, a yummy apple crisp in a cool contraption that acts like an oven (I know it looks  like a bundt pan—but it isn’t. Really)

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Virginal use of the Omnia pan!  see: www.omniasweden.com  (those swedes…always thinking of something!).  More to come from that pan after that success!

Also new for us was the use of denatured alcohol in the burners instead of the power—something we’ve never dared to do, but finally did (upon B’s insistence) and now both wondering why we just never tried that option on our prior boat. Not stinky, easy enough to “load” it, boils water fast enough, and didn’t feel dangerous.

Aside from the second re-jump w/ the little jumper-thingamajig and after some more obnoxious windlass issues (too boring to discuss further!), we got on our way out of Sumter Cove aware that we could not dare turn off the engine for fear of another non-start which meant leaving it in idle in the locks.  Not really normally a problem (although they prefer you to turn them off because of the exhaust build up especially on a descent, etc….which btw, SOME Loopers think they are exempt from this (even tho they tend to have the stinkiest diesel exhaust) just so they can keep using their bow thrusters to stay on, yet slightly off, the wall (so their fenders don’t get dirty…gee isn’t that what they are for!??!?!?!)

Anyway, we weren’t going to worry about our minimal , by comparison, exhaust given the exigent circumstance w/ our battery situation.  However, the wait FOR the first lock was about an hour and we had to idle back and forth wasting gas….which we were slightly concerned about since it had been a fairly long push since the last gas dock.  Luckily our mpg held up and we had 30 gallons to spare by the time we got to the next gas dock!  So although we had some tricks come up, it ended all very well w/ the river treating us to great scenery the whole way.

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Just in case your cell doesn’t have connectivity! The old-fashioned way– a phone booth!

We had been told about some great white cliffs in this section of the river and had our eyes peeled to spot at each bend.   Actually there were about 4 sections, and each one improving on the prior….so to be honest the first ones we kind of just said, “oh neat” to just not feel like our expectations were not met.  But by the last, it was clear they really were neat and the first 2 weren’t really the famous white cliffs after all. Haha!

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White cliffs of D_____. (guess the name??!)   Just one pic of about 40!                                        No, not White Cliffs of Dover……White Cliffs of Demopolis!

 

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Cleanest marina yet.   Great community room too!
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More swimming here in this great, refreshing, saline -based pool too!  Look at that longest ever ramp!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Sunrise, Demopolis Yacht Basin

Ok, kinda long….but gee it was two days worth!

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) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2avAy2rx7Ds  and Tennessee Williams (Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Streetcar Named Desire, etc) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=763wrhAthqE  . Per capita, I’m not sure any other city can make that claim?!?

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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.”
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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  http://www.riehlife.com/2009/08/31/civil-war-poem-the-blue-and-the-gray-by-francis-miles-finch/

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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.)

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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:

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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!

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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.
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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 27 Day 33 Lockin’ Down the Tenn-Tom

 

Today was a big, long day but short on overall miles: only 36 miles; 4 Locks; 4hrs 35 min engine hours;  but 7 hrs 50 min Total Transit Time.  Bottom line, the locks held us up in all aspects.  But we have some fun new lock photos to share and other new dock experiences. My artsy shot above: “Mississippi Monet”

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I know, I know…you might be tired of my maps…but I like them!  This one shows the Tenn-Tom Waterway. It starts just on the south side of the Tennessee River 
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On Wednesday, we left the Tennessee River (see map above!) and cut through the big man made gash (see the rocks above..striations are NOT Mother Nature’s work.  That first 50 miles or so was so straight and narrow and bordered by rip rap. It was built in 1984-5 so luckily it has had these last 30 years to grow vegetation along the banks.  The scenery is already starting to be even more interesting and change and will continue to do so as we head further south each day.

 

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Although we have never been tied up to a barge in a lock, here was our first experience to witness it…and it was our “sister-boat!”

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Look at the before and after water drop comparison in another lock! 

Another perspective of the height of the water level droppage, the bollard and the tie down (and the grunge on the boat from the lock wall)!

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2016-10-27-b-sun-lockApproaching dock Sun in eyes, not practicing my Lewis and Clark explorer pose.

Fun signs at Midway Marina where we stopped in to kill a few hours waiting to be invited to go into the next Lock.  Lockmasters were taking all the commercial traffic up and down before taking any pleasure craft.  It’s the law; so we can’t complain …..too much.

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They were quite proud of this hot tub rule sign, btw.   
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Hmm, ya’ mean paison?  maybe that’s why some ppl call pizza a pie?

We stayed the night at Smithsville Marina (unplanned, but we ran out of day and patience with the locks) Although not as snazzy as places like Green Turtle Bay, the marina was quite full of character and characters.  Aside from narrowly missing being entirely blown to bits in the tornado of 2011 it is now run by the son of the man who did,sadly, die in that tornado. On top of that, it’s just a plane colorful character spot:

 

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All live-aboards: some loopers others from this fun dock
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General condition of the dock and boats…the “bumper” sticker  on the top right house boat belonging to the guy in the left side of the prior photo says : “Noah was a live aboard” ….the Ark, whereever it is, is probably still more seaworthy than this one. Note the toilet on the stern of another guy’s boat.
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Look at this guy’s cool way to carry the mast (can’t fit under all the bridges from Chicago to Mobile, Al)…and it carries his dinghy!  Most other ppl have to ship their masts for as much as $10,000.
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Morning sunrise at Smithville, MS
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Baby Got Back…. Or,  Honey, do I look fat w/ this dingy on? (a/k/a wasting time waiting for the lock to open for us!)

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:

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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??  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e0mhgyTgxtw

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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!):

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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.” 
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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:

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZGqBmlZR3dc  — recorded BEFORE outbreak of WWI  …wow !

Besides our “tourist” things we golfed and walked.

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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!

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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:

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

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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…..

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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…..

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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:

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The Rolling Stones recorded Brown Sugar in this building.

 

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Check it out…Cher in 1969 in front of that same building. Notice the façade is blank (but see the number in the window?).
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…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:

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

the birthplace of Helen Keller (another famous local). 

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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!)