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We had to delay our departure due to thick fog. At 9:00 it had lifted and it was sunny with blue sky. But then as happens frequently the fog closed in on the river and was so thick at one point I couldn’t see Hattitude 500 ft. in front of us. We slowed right down and used the AIS, radar, chart-plotter, and our eyes to navigate. Then as always the fog was gone.
Lady Finger Bluff
Fred Myers writes about this bluff in the Tennessee River Chartbook. The buff is at mile 130.2. He says’ “Legend has it that in pioneer days, a lady chose to leap to her death from this bluff rather than be caught by attacking Indians.”
Checking the AIS around mile 135 I discovered the Delta Mariner was approaching us. The Delta Mariner is the infamous cargo ship that knocked down the US-68 Eggers Ferry Bridge near Kenlake Marina in January 2012. This time it was approaching the US-212 Alvin C. York bridge. You may remember we saw it cruising downstream on Day 1. Now it was on its way back to Huntsville presumably to pick up another load of rockets. We got an up-front view as it passed by. Remarkably it made very little wake. It passed under the bridge without a problem.
Pebble Isle Marina
Tonight we had dinner at the marina. They had spent the day smoking baby back ribs. I had a taste of Vebbie’s and they were really good. Since they only had one half left the rest of us had hamburgers and the salad bar.
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We are still alive and happy. The Internet service at Joe Wheeler was so bad I had to give up trying to post anything new. Yesterday it was a long day and with visits from Joanie and Fred, I just couldn’t get to the computer. Tomorrow we go to Pebble Isle Marina and Monday to Kenlake Marina and home by car.
The events started on Monday afternoon. There were 62 boats and 260 in attendance. The most fun was the newbees talking about their boats and worries. For example “I hope I am still married when we finish the loop”. Another one I really enjoyed from a “wannabe” was “I am spending my time learning to operate my boat … but the engine won’t start. My mechanic says it needs a new starter”. The Looper Crawl is always fun where you hold open house on your boat and can tour others boats. The Katy Leigh was on the main dock in front of the hotel and because of the new varnish had a large number of visitors. Mavis put everything inside away and I am still trying to find stuff. I attended a few seminars and liked the ABC’s of Looping and How To Sell Your Boat After the Loop. The ABC’s talk said it was very important to have a reciprocating saw aboard. I had to point out we did the entire loop without one of those. Curtis Stokes said “If you are going to sell your boat when you finish the loop then list your boat while you are on the loop.” I bet some people knowing that would probably list their boat before even leaving and skip doing the loop.
At the rendezvous there was a captains’ meeting to organize departure on Friday. With so many boats the locks and marinas can get overloaded. I signed up for the 7:00AM departure with 8-10 others. However, at 7:00AM we were in fog so thick you could hardly see the bow of the boat. The lockmaster at Wheeler also said not to come. We finally got going at 8:00 when the fog had thinned out. Watching some of the boaters tying on to the bollards in the lock was entertaining. One couple had all their fenders out but spent all their time with boathooks trying to keep the fenders from touching the lock walls. That is hard to do and it’s a wonder they didn’t lose a boat hook or worse wind up in the water. Fenders are sacrificial devices intended to keep the boat from getting scratched up. If they get dirty, clean them off. One twin engine boat had the driveshaft break loose from the starboard engine. He left the lock and right in front of Hattitude stopped, jumped in the water with a rope, tied it to the propeller, and tied it to the boat. He continued with us through the next lock at Florence. Another boat instead of following single file insisted on staying right beside me. If I slowed down, he slowed down. If I sped up he sped up. How he avoided getting green paint on his side I will never know. Finally when we were about 10 miles from Grand Harbor he sped up and arrived a couple of miles ahead of us.
Fantastic Fall Fueling Frenzy
Grand Harbor decided to reward all loopers that came to the harbor with 25 cents off $4.14 per gallon. I filled up with 196.2 gallons of diesel. That’s what Katy Leigh drank to go the 500 miles to Chattanooga and back. It works out to 2.55 miles per gallon.
My Story in Heartland Boating Digital Magazine
My story on the 7 Things Every Great Looper Should Know appeared in the September-October issue. The layout by the Heartland Boating staff is great. You can read and see it here.
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The weather was perfect and we had an uneventful trip from Ditto Landing to Joe Wheeler. We arrived to find another boat in our assigned slip so we took the one beside it. Eventually the culprits were found and they left in their own boat. It would have been towed otherwise as a 45 ft. came in soon after. I tried to hook up the cable TV with no luck and then the same result with the satellite dish. For some reason the receiver would not talk to the TV set. I gave up and will continue life without tv as the only thing we watch is the news and right now it’s not even worth watching with the same news every day. How many ways can you say no deal has been reached? Internet service via Verizon is abysmal with one bar and many boaters trying to use their MiFi devices.
Ditto Landing is the Huntsville-Madison County public marina. This is the third time we have stayed here and I dreaded staying here again. The docks were wood, and there were derelict house boats in the transient area that got an amazing number of visitors. Today we discovered all new concrete floating docks with power that works and water. There is a even an unmarked private bathroom for transients with a shower and all the other fittings. I would not hesitate to recommend Ditto now. Tomorrow we will cruise to Joe Wheeler State Park for the start of the AGLCA Rendevous on Monday.
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You may remember this post from a few days ago. “Sad Sight: At the Guntersville Lock I looked up at a strange object hanging from one of the light standards. Binoculars showed it was a dead eagle that had dove down to catch a fish that was already caught on a line and lure. It must have flown up with its catch, but then got the line caught around the arm of the light standard. “Out of respect for the eagle I didn’t show a photo.
Well today we went back through the same lock and got the scoop from the lockmaster. It seems a flock of White Winged Buzzards or Black Vultures were so numerous at this lock they were eating the calking around the facility. To scare them away, our government spent $200 to stuff a vulture and hang it from the light standard. It’s kind of like a scarecrow or maybe scarebuzzard and it worked. The buzzards are staying away. The lockmaster said that when tow operators ask about the bird, he says “It’s to scare away tows!”
You read this first on this blog. A photo of the gruesome sight follows. Our eagles are safe.
The Hunter Museum
The Hunter Museum of American Art is a short walk up the hill behind the docks to the Bluff District. We started with breakfast at Rembrandt’s on the patio. A man, who was alone, must have spent 15 minutes on his cell phone talking about his motorcycle accident. Whoever he was talking to never got a word in. We walk around the sculpture garden first and were impressed with a horse sculpture made of drift wood. Closure inspection revealed each piece of “wood” was cast in bronze. The artist lives in Montana and specializes in horse sculptures. The museum is centered around a mansion that belonged to one of the Coca Cola people. The mansion has many rooms each with American paintings. The most interesting showed the Tennessee River. There are two very modern wings on each side of the mansion. One has modern art and the other had a special show of work by Whitfield Lovell. This artist hunted down old photos of African Americans and painted large reproductions of one or more people in the photos on wooden planks, discs, and even large wire reels. In another area was the amazing glass sculpture of a woman’s silk dress. This is not a solid blog of glass but very thin glass like silk. We had an ok lunch at Tony’s in the district and then Roger and I returned to the boats.
Mavis and Vebbie went to the Houston Museum of Decorative Arts which is across the road from the Hunter. Anna Houston was a hoarder of glass and ceramics. Dying penniless she left 15,000 pitchers to the city. In one room the entire ceiling was full of hanging water and lemonade pitchers.
Cruise to Goose Pond
We said goodbye to Roger and Vebbie as they were staying in Chattaooga for the weekend. We were up Friday morning leaving the dock at 6:30AM for a long 83 miles cruise to Goose Pond. We had one lock we got through in 15 minutes. It was so nice cruising downstream averaging 9.4 mph vs. the 7-8 mph going upstream. We did the 83 miles in 9.5 hours. Dinner tonight was a take-out shrimp and grits dish from the Dock Restaurant that we split between us.
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Today was Tennessee Aquarium Day. There are two buildings to tour. One is for salt water and the other for fresh water. We started with the salt water. We rode up a long escalator to the top of the building and into a sunlit room with a pair parrots and a small pool where you can pet sting rays. You then walk through double doors to the butterfly garden. We were warned not to pick up any butterfilies on our clothes as there are many non-native species and if they get out the Aquarium can get into trouble. Right away Roger attracted one of the largest and most beautiful, a Blue Morpho. When its wings are open you see the blue iridescent color. When its wings are closed its coloring matches the trees around it. The Blue Morpho finally flew away from Roger’s hat and we could move through the double doors with two guards to another exhibit about penguins. After that we watched the jelly fish float up and down. The lighting is remarkable in that area. After lunch we toured the fresh water building which is undergoing renovations so the entire top floor with the Otters is closed. It will reopen in 2014 and it will be worth going back just to see what they do. They have also turned off the neon light display on the ceiling of the large fish tanks which always impressed me.
IMAX Steam Trains in British Columbia
In the IMAX theater we saw the Rocky Mountain Express, a relatively new film that tells the story of the building of the Canadian Pacific Railroad across the mountain ranges in Alberta and British Columbia. It is spectacular and well worth seeing. The CPR restored a 1930s steam engine to make the movie. There were lots of helicopter shots of the train and the mountains. Mavis and Vebbie were sea sick at the end.
Boathouse Rotisserie and Raw Bar
Chattanooga friends Bob and Gail joined us on the Katy Leigh and we all went to dinner at the Boathouse Rotisserie and Raw Bar. I had the Cajun shrimp that were very good. Mavis had clams that were very spicy hot. Bob and Gail just got back from an RV trip to Alaska and are leaving tomorrow for Michigan. It was great that our timing just fit their schedule.
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Quote from Fred Myers' CruiseGuide
We left Hales Bar without running aground although at one place the sonar showed less than 1 ft. under the keel. Then it was spectacular scenery all the way to town with high mountains on both sides of the winding river. You have to travel 33 miles to get 13 miles from where you started. There is some great stuff in Fred Meyer’s Tennessee River CruiseGuide that I enjoy reading each time we make this trip. For example at daymark 445.8 Fred says “Don’t be surprised if your depthfinder shows water as deep as 135 feet. One reason for this extreme depth is that the river follows an ancient earthquake fault. This part of the river is known as “The Pan”. Names given to other troublesome stretches include “The Skillet”, “The Pot” and “The Suck”. The boatmen chose those names because the boatmen thought the boiling and swirling water reminded them of food being cooked.”
After lunch aboard we walked up the stair step waterfall to the aquarium. Then we crossed the Walnut Street pedestrian bridge, did a loop around the park there, and returned to have dinner at the Buffalo Wild Wings Grill and Bar. The sun was setting behind the waterfall beside the dock and I caught Vebbie and Mavis walking past.
Supposedly huge storms with high winds and lightning were coming today (Oct 6), so we decided to stay at Goose Pond for a second day and delay our arrival in Chattanooga by one day. As it turned out it was a beautiful day and only rained a little that evening. We used the courtesy car and shopped once again at Wal-Mart. I managed to get 3 hours of work in editing a video for a client so that made the day payoff. The Dock was closed on Sunday so we couldn't get another round of shrimp & grits.
More about AIS Etiquette
Hales Bar Marina
On the 7th we were up early and cruised to Hales Bar Marina near Guild, Tennessee. This marina has changed a lot since our last visit in 2006. A large number of docks have been added without increasing the size of the harbor. There are a lot of twists and turns to get into the harbor and no markings of shallow water. There is a new owner of the Ship Store that I talk to and described our products. His strategy is to sell the products that people ask for; not original but very smart marketing. He said people were asking for the Tennessee River Chartbook and Fred Myers’ Tennessee CruiseGuide so I got a new customer.
Verizon service is almost non-existent at Hales Bar even though I spotted a mountain top cell phone tower on the way in and got 4 bars in the river. Once in the harbor there were only one or no bars. I had an online meeting scheduled for 5-6 pm. Using the computer was out of the question, but by walking up a mountain to a rental cabin I was able to get consistent 1-2 bars and could participate in the discussion.
How to Spend $36 to Visit Wal-Mart
There are two taxi companies listed in Google for the Alabama town of Decatur. We need to by ant traps badly as the tiny sugar ants were everywhere. Wal-Mart was 5 miles away so I called the first taxi company listed and arranged for an 8pm pickup at the marina. The driver was there at 7:45pm. Roger, Vebbie and I all jumped in and off we went. On the way we learned all about the boilers on the Delta Queen, as our driver used to work on that cruise ship and before then in the boiler room of an aircraft carrier. Then we learned that he was the owner of both taxi companies as well as the only driver, and that all calls went to his cell phone. It’s hard to believe there is only one taxi in a town of 56,000 people. He said he had another fare at 9:00pm and another at 9:30pm. Now we began to worry. Would we have to wait for 2 hours in Wal-Mart to get back to boat? Walking 5 miles at night with no sidewalks was out of the question. We asked him to pick us up at 8:45pm. I shopped quickly and found a $2 ant trap and a few other items. I made it out the curb with others on time. No taxi; so I called and he said just 5 minutes more. Of course it took 15 minutes more but he did show up leaving his 9:00PM fare waiting. The total cost was $36.
At the Guntersville Lock I looked up at a strange object hanging from one of the light standards. Binoculars showed it was a dead eagle that had dove down to catch a fish that was already caught on a line and lure. It must have flown up with its catch, but then got the line caught around the arm of the light standard.
Beautiful Mountains of North East Alabama
This was a long day cruising 73 miles. Leaving at 7:30AM we didn’t arrive at Goose Pond Marina until 6:00PM. Once you get to Huntsville the area becomes mountainous and a great setting for the wide Tennessee River. The photos tell the story.
The Docks at Goose Pond Marina
Getting into the first dock was pretty exciting. You have to cross a vast field of milfoil weeds. A weed cutting machine has cut a channel but the growth of weeds on the bottom confuses depth sounders. Mine read -2.0 ft. and Roger’s just quit altogether. The real bottom is probably 10 ft. down.
The second dock was the Dock Restaurant where we all had the shrimp and grits. I had them there before in 2006 and this time they were even better. The Dock is the best marina restaurant on the Tennessee River.
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This was a cruising day with two locks. It was beautiful in the morning crossing Wilson Lake. We cruised 46 miles to Decatur without incident. Tomorrow we plan on 73 miles to Goose Pond marina near Scottsboro.on Guntersville Lake. Sunday is expected to be stormy so we may have to reschedule our arrival in Chattanooga.
AIS (Automatic Identification Systems) are now being installed in many cruising boats. AIS has tremendous benefits in knowing where tow boats are travelling on river bends and large fast ships on coastal waters. AIS gives the name of the vessel, its position, heading direction, and speed on a display at the helm. Boaters that have installed a transmitting AIA Automatic Identification System should learn the proper etiquette.
- It serves no purpose to keep the AIS transmitter turned on when your boat is tied up to a dock. Leaving it turned on clutters up the display of other boaters passing by or entering the same harbor.
- The process for turning off the transmitter may be difficult. Manuals need to be consulted and if all else fails then turn the circuit breaker off that feeds the transmitter.
- AIS receivers have an alarm that turns on if a transmitting vessel is nearby. In the morning turning on the receiver sounds the alarm if any other boat in the harbor has failed to turn off their transmitter. On Garmin units the AIS alarm sounds as soon as the receiver is turned on. After a few seconds the most ungodly screams announce an immediate collision is about to occur and the display shows a ship wreck symbol on top of everything else.
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We took a day off boating to get some work done and do some sightseeing. Tomorrow we head for Decatur.
Frank Lloyd Wright House
We borrowed the marina courtesy car and drove up the river bank to the Frank Lloyd Wright designed home here in Florence. We had an excellent tour guide, a retired teacher. He and his wife have been involved with this house since it was bought and restored by the city in 1999. The city paid $75,000 for the house and then had to spend $700,000 restoring it. It seems that Frank designed the outer and inner walls of cypress but put a layer of pine in between. Bad idea, termites got in and pretty much destroyed the home. Next to Falling Waters in Pennsylvania this would be most enjoyable FLW home we have visited. The home was built in 1940 by newlyweds Stanley and Mildred Rosenbaum and added to in 1948. All the furniture, books, and many other items were left by the Rosenbaums. The front of the home is the back and the back is the front so it got the river view. Today trees completely obscure any view of the river. The long post free overhang is a car port. All the many windows on the back have bronze screens on the insides of the windows that open out, and many of the windows are also doors. The bronize screens glow like gold in the afternoon sun.
Ricatoni’s Italian Grill
Dinner was at Ricatoni’s which is probably the best known restaurant in Florence. The atmosphere is warm and it’s easy to carry on a conversation. It’s not for the millennials (under 34) that text each other and don’t need to hear. The wine was good and two of us had the spaghetti and meat balls. Their bread is fantastic and comes warm in white paper bags. I was advised by Eva at the marina office to just eat the bread while you are there and bring the rest of the meal at home. We didn’t go that far.
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Our 8:00AM plan to leave turned into 10:00AM. I needed to wait for Grand Harbor harbormaster, Barry to arrive to register and talk business. He has started his “Looper’s Fantastic Fall Fuel Frenzy” which offers a 25 cent per gallon discount on fuel. I had to take advantage of that deal even though we were ¾ full after 3 days cruising. Then we needed a pump out. It seems the aft holding tank vent was plugged up so it took a long time to clear the blockage so we could finish the job. I have to order a new filter.
PassageYacht – A Dutch Canal Boat
An interesting boat was near us. It looked like the kind of boats that are sold in the USA that are made in Turkey. I toured one at the last TrawlerFest and was not impressed. I checked out boat’s website at passageyacht.com and changed my tune. This boat was custom made in the USA and has beautiful woodwork in the interior. The two tall dry exhaust stacks serve the diesel engine and genset. The design is based on Dutch canal boats.
Vebbie and Roger stayed behind awaiting a mechanic to try and solve their dead engine battery problems. The mechanic didn’t show up but Roger called the former owner’s mechanic and got a big surprise. It seems the engine alternators feed the house batteries and not the engine batteries. The only way to charge the engine batteries is to run the generator. It’s hard to believe any owner would make that change to the boat’s original wiring. Anyway, my jumper cables got them started and the generator ran the whole way and charged the batteries. They arrived at Florence about 3 hours behind us.
Pickwick Lake Cruising
The weather was perfect with the sun sparkling on the water. Pickwick Lake is very beautiful with its wide stretches, and clean water. Pickwick Lake is much like Kentucky Lake but doesn’t have nearly as many coves for anchoring. The trip to Florence was smooth and we arrived at 3:30PM.
Famous Visitor & Great Food
Our friend and famous Florence author, Fred Myers, with his wife Joanie, visited us at 5:30PM. We publish Fred’s CruiseGuides and sell them in the shop on this website. After much discussion all six of us went to the new restaurant on the dock called “Stanfield’s River Bottom Grille”. I am not sure that is the best name for a restaurant but the food was very good. Maybe gross attracts the millennials. We sat outside on the deck it was quieter than inside where music was playing for the younger set. We had breaded pickle chips, burgers, and flats. I wanted to see a Cheeseburger Slider but no one would order that. Apparently sliders are tiny hamburgers. The portions were huge and we all went back to the boats stuffed. We are staying here for another day and will see the town tomorrow.
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This was our first sunny day and a good day for photos. First I have to show off the new varnish on the Katy Leigh that was completed a couple of weeks ago by Florida based Yachtbrightwork . A couple spent 10 days working on the boat at our marina. We cruised from 9:00AM (Hattitude had starting problems) to 5:45PM to cover 57 miles. One hour was spent at the Pickwick lock so our average speed was 7.4 mph. It was slow! The worst place is just beflow the lock where the current runs at 4 mph slowing us down to 5 mph. With no current we would be doing 9 mph. The picture shows how the current builds up behind the buoys. The boredom was broken up with a eagle sighting, and the different homes we passed by. One was built out of shipping containers. The Savannah Mansion is right beside Cherry Mansion which was the Union Headquarters during the Civil War.
It was cloudy today but there was not a single rain drop. We cruised 63 miles from Pebble Isle to Clifton TN. Pebble Isle cooks cinnamon biscuits and coffee for the overnighters. At breakfast there were a couple of Loopers that had been with Tom and Linda at Green Turtle Bay. It seems that there was a big celebration there as well as at Kenlake. Tom had raised the new gold burgee there as well. Now some are wondering if they ever did the Loop. It's just like the rumours that man never landed on the moon. We arrived in Clifton at 4:45PM. Vebbie and Roger arrived a few minutes later on Hattitude. This marina is famous for hospitality and Sonja was there to greet Vebbie & Roger. Later Sonja cooked fried corn bread that was really good. Tomorrow’s issue is whether the locks will be open with the government shutdown.
The Rainiest Day
This was the rainiest day ever on the boat. It rained from 8:35 to 5:30 without a break. I must apologize to all our Kenlake Marina friends that had planned a big bon voyage party for our departure at 9:00AM. And this after a big Grand Lakes Yacht Club party the night before. However, checking the radar I figured we could get out ahead of the rain while we erected the mast and covered up the fly bridge. It actually started 5 minutes later. Heading out to the main channel I caught the Delta Mariner (the ship that knocked the Eggners Ferry bridge down 20 months ago) moving toward the bridge once one more time. I held my breath until it passed safely under the proper span. There is more to write about yesterday than today.
Our friends Tom and Linda completed the Great Loop but may have set a record at 9,650 miles by boat over 21 months. They circumnavigated Lake Superior and spent one winter in the Bahamas. There was a brief ceremony to raise their new gold burgee that had been hidden away waiting for this day. That night there was a great party with a seafood buffet with crabs legs, shrimp, scallops, sausage, and potatoes. A photo booth had been set up that took multiple pictures of up to six people crammed in wearing different hats and glasses. This trip on the Katy Leigh will visit Chattanooga.
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We spend the weekend camped at the very clean St Paul RV Campground visiting family. Saturday night we were joined by friends from Brainerd who were in the Twin Cities for a college football game. We had an excellent dinner at Cravings Wine Bar & Grill. Sunday morning we went to downtown Minneapolis to Hell’s Kitchen in the basement of a large office building. In spite of the name it was mobbed with people and the line so long I never did see what the restaurant looked like. We gave up on that place and went to an Irish restaurant called The Local. They must have imported the entire walls and bars from an old pub in Ireland. It was beautiful. They have poured the largest volume of Jameson Irish Whiskey in the world for four years in a row. We planned to take 3 days to drive the 785 miles to Murray in the View and another 115 from Murray to Nashville. We got off to a good start and after 388 miles at 3:00pm we were near my first choice destination at Starved Rock State Park on the Ilinois River. This seemed like a good choice since it is beside one of the locks on the Great Loop. Maybe we could meet a looper. However, since was still early, it would be better to keep going so we could be home by noon on Wednesday. I picked Ramsey State Park near Vandalia as our destination and called to see if it was open and had room. The lady that answered said “Heavens yes, we have room.” It was another 168 miles which would get us there by 6:00PM. Well we got there at 6:00 alright, but took 30 minutes to find the road to the campsites and then that road was closed as a bridge was being replaced. The next closest campsite was in Vandalia. I programmed the park name, Okaw Valley Kampground, into the Garmin and found the campground did not exist where Garmin says it is. By now it was after 8:00PM and we had to break one of our all time RVing records. We went to the nearest Walmart! There must have been 50 trucks there with many running generators. I asked for permission to say and was told that it was quite alright just get a space on the outskirts of the parking lot near the trucks. Our unit must attract trucks because after getting as far away from the trucks as I could two arrived and parked close to us. We broke another record driving 575 miles in one day. Tuesday we only had to go 180 miles to the boat and were there by noon. We dropped off boating stuff and checked the beautiful new varnish on the Katy Leigh. While we were away, a couple from Florida drove to the marina and put four coats of new varnish on all the teak trim. We put the View away in the shed, and drove the car to Nashville arriving at 5:00PM. Our next trip is on the Katy Leigh, starting September 29th travelling to Chattanooga and attending the America’s Great Loop Rendezvous on return cruise.
On Monday, Day 4, we headed out early, rounded the end of Lake Superior in Duluth and then headed north east on the scenic highway that runs right beside the lake. We stopped at 9:00AM at the Split Rock Lighthouse. This lighthouse was built on a high rock in 1910 and served as an aid to navigation with a fog horn and beacon until 1969. It was made obsolete by the inventions of radar, loran, and GPS. It is now a museum owned by the Minnesota Historical Society. We took the tour of the lighthouse and watched the movie in the visitors center. By then it was already noon and we still had 60 miles to go to get to Grand Morais. Arriving at 2:00PM we walked from our campsite to the Recreation Center where the meeting was well underway. The speaker was an engineer from Winnebago that did an excellent job of managing the crowd with their many nit picking questions. The classic was the beds are too short for 6’-4” men. I pointed out if they would get a B model like ours they would find each bunk bed is over 84” long.
In the evening I showed my Four Corners slide show to a packed house.
Tuesday I took a short walk along the stony beach to town and checked out the restaurants. Grand Marais is a community of artists and art schools. I got photos of a couple of them probably practicing. The rest of the day was devoted to tours of our groups Views and Navions. This is how you learn of all the neat ideas people have to make modifications. One idea is to use an electronic fish tank thermometer to measure the water temperature in the hot water tank. When it reaches 97 degrees it’s the right temperature for a shower so you don’t have to fool with the cold water tap, you just turn on the hot water. Not all the modifications I saw are really improvements. Wednesday was the dreaded technical session which is very useful to new comers but after 5 rallys I have pretty well heard it all. I left after an hour when the experts were still talking about oil and diesel. Mavis and I then walked to town shopped at the galleries and had a really nice lunch at the Angry Trout Cafe. Thursday it was time to head for Duluth and on to Woodbury, MN. In Duluth we stopped at the Glensheen Mansion, built by Chester and Clara Congdon in 1908. Chester was a lawyer and business man that became the richest man in Minnesota by buying up land and opening taconite mines. The house has 39 rooms and was built on the water. During the tour of Glensheen I asked if there were any ghosts in the home. Ghost stories can help market home tours like this. The tour guide avoided the question completely. However, Mavis searched the Internet tonight and found there was a murder in the house of the Congton’s daughter and her nurse in 1977. The daughter’s ghost has been sighted a number of times since. We are now at the St Paul RV Park and visiting family. This afternoon we drove to Stillwater with our son, Graham, had lunch at the Dock Café, and walked down the main street spending at least an hour in a very large antique store. Stillwater is a beautiful town on the St. Croix River.
This is a short 13 day trip to attend a View/Navion Rally in Grand Marais, MN and visit our family in Woodbury, MN. We left Nashville on Friday Sept 6 and drove the car to Kenlake Marina to check on the varnish work being done by Donna & Ron from Brightwork. They basically follow the Great Loop and varnish boats at the cities and towns along the way. They are doing beautiful work on our boat. We then picked up the View and left the car in the shed. Our first night out was in Effingham, IL. On Saturday while driving through Madison, WI, I was in the middle lane with the cruise control set to 62 mph. A semi passed me on the right with horn blaring. I looked down to see we were only going 54 mph. The dreaded Turbo Resonator (TR) had failed once again at about 80,000 miles. The previous two failures were near Calgary at 14,000 miles and in Jasper at 55,000 miles. The Turbo Resonator is a muffler that reduces the noise from the turbo. I always carry a spare along with a special wrench that is required to remove the TR. We limped to the KOA Madison and called Coach-Net for help installing the replacement. They called back to say it would have to wait until Monday. I decided to replace it myself when the engine had cooled down. We propped the front of the View up on blocks and started work about 4:00PM. After 2 hours I managed to get the faulty TR out. Another two hours failed to install the new unit. By then it was dark and we quit work. I tried to start the engine to back off the blocks but while it would start, it immediately stopped. We rolled the View back off the blocks on to the level. There was now no way to move the View. I pleaded with Coach-Net to find a mechanic to come out on Sunday. Otherwise we would have to give up the trip to Grand Marais which was two days away. We went to bed very dejected.
Coach-Net called at 9:45 and said they had found a mechanic who could be there in an hour. Robert Ford showed up at 10:30 very nervous about the job but willing to try. By 11:00 he had the job done. The secret was to put grease on the end of the TR that goes into the output of the turbo. The TR then slid in as far as it was supposed to go so the 2 bolt holes lined up with the support. Robert was able to crawl under without having to raise the front of the View. The engine started right up, no engine warning lights came on and we drove to Lucius Woods County Park in Solon Springs, WI. It is well off the main road US-53 but right beside a well used railroad track. We are now just 146 miles from Grand Marais and should arrive before noon on Monday. I ordered a spare TR from Amazon of a new Chinese made copy which all reports say does not fail. This one sells for $28 compared to the $72 I paid for the unit just installed.
It seems like the Eggner's Ferry Bridge is in the news a lot. My last post was about a boatiing accident and another post covered one span being knocked into the river. A new bridge is now under construction with work going on at both ends to build the approaches out into the river. This structure of several hundred tons of weight has been placed on top of a piling. An explosive charge will then be detonated which will cause the load to bounce. Sensors on the piling will then gather data that will be used to develop design specifications for the foundation of the new bridge piers. Thanks to the WestKyStar for this information.
On May 9, 2013 a bass boater team of two was heading north on Kentucky Lake and instead of passing under the main channel of the Eggers Ferry Bridge the operator elected to go under one of the narrower spans west of the main channel. The speed must have been very high as the boat hit an underwater object so hard the outboard motor flipped up into the boat and fatally struck a passenger on the head. The water level on May 9th was about 364 ft. Yesterday, July 19 I went out to the bridge and took these photos. It seems obvious that the bridge’s concrete supports were under water on May 9th, perhaps only a few inches. There are warning signs about underwater obstructions. Boaters that know this bridge know there is lots of water between the supports but between any supports where the steel forms a large X must be avoided at all times. That is where the horizontal concrete beams are located. A possible piece of evidence of the accident is a missing chip of concrete. More here.
This accident illustrates the importance of following the main channels magenta line on charts and not taking shortcuts in unknown waters.
At Mineola, MO (Lazy Day Campground) we are now 1,141 miles from Moab. We have endured high gusty winds on our passenger side the entire time except for the last 100 miles. It is so nice to get out of the wind. Today’s highlight was a visit to the Eisenhower Museum in Abilene, KS. President Eisenhower was a remarkable leader the likes of which we haven’t seen for some time. His childhood home is in the center of the property and is exactly the way it was when his mother died. All the furnishings are the originals. It used to be in the middle of a residential neighborhood with a school. All the property was acquired by the museum and torn down leaving the home. He never lived there after going off to military school at West Point. The museum opened in 1953 right around the time he became president. Both the republicans and democrats tried to get him to run for their respective parties. The WWII exhibits in this museum require far too much reading and the graphic design is weak with dark blue text on dark backgrounds. The WWII Museum in New Orleans is much better, but then it just opened a year ago. One interesting area contained all the fancy stuff he was given by world leaders at the time such as the Shah of Iran. A whole section of the museum is devoted to Mamie Eisenhower. She came from a well-to-do family and owned an early 1900’s Detroit Electric Car. In those days electric cars were bought by women and physicians because they started up instantly without cranking. Tomorrow we head for Nashville with a stop at Eddyville, KY for dinner.
We are back to boring interstate driving. It’s OK in the morning but around 10AM the wind starts to blow and I have to constantly correct for the gusts on our starboard side. It is also noise. I have always enjoyed visiting attractions called “Visit the World’s Largest ____”. You just know it’s going to be a rip-off of some kind. To break up the boredom today, we stopped at the World’s Largest Prairie Dog Zoo. I paid nearly $10 to get in and there was the sorriest zoo I have ever seen. I am glad I didn’t have to pay for Mavis as she wasn’t so keen on seeing the World’s Largest Prairie Dog. The entire area of the zoo was pitted with prairie dog holes with the odd dog popping up every now and then. The largest prairie dog iwas made of plaster and hidden behind a high fence so the secret would not be given away to drivers on I-70. The barn was good looking but in sad condition. The aviary section was a cage of pigeons. I can see all of those I want to see in Nashville. There was a coyote sleeping in a cage. I can also see those in our neighborhood at home. I forgot to look for the 5 legged cow. Leaving after 10 minutes, I was not surprised to see the zoo is for sale. I didn’t ask about the price. As a public service I am showing my photos of the zoo on this blog and sparing readers from having to travel to Oakley KS to see this "world famous attraction". Tomorrow we will visit the Eisenhower Library in Abilene and then on to a few miles west of St. Louis. We should be home on Monday or early Tuesday.
We are on our way back to Nashville now. To get things started we drove 420 miles to get past Denver and avoid the holiday crowds at RV parks. The traffic heading west into the mountains was stop and go for miles. We had no problem with traffic as we were heading east. I-70 has some spectacular scenery but it’s a tough road to drive through the mountains at high speed in lots of traffic. There are two points that got us higher than 10,000 ft. The Loveland Pass is the continental divide at over 11,000 ft. The Eisenhower tunnel built in 1979 saves having to climb another 1,000 ft or so. Tomorrow we will take it easy and drive just 317 miles to Homer, KS.
The photo above is a panoramic view of the Colorado River from Dead Horse Point. You can see the river top left and bottom right. Arches National, Park is well worth seeing. As Memorial Day approaches traffic in the park was fairly heavy. We saw all the arches we needed to see driving about ½ way north in the park. It was interesting to learn that these arches were caused by salt beds dissolving around the sandstone. Then wind and rain gradually caused the arches to form. The arch beside Lake Powell was caused by rivers breaking through an already eroded sandstone river bank. In the afternoon we drove 31 miles to Dead Horse Point State Park. You get a dramatic view of the Colorado River as it winds around from 2,000 ft up. The view compares to Grand Canyon. There is a mysterious bright blue area with white lines across it that can be seen from the point. It appears to be about 1,000 ft higher than the Colorado River. If anyone knows what this is, please comment. For sure it’s not natural.
I always thought interstate highways were boring. Well I-70 is anything but. Check out the photos above. We took the interstate because it saved nearly 200 miles over the “direct route” through Escalante and Canyonlands NP. We got a good campground in Moab with no reservation. With Memorial Day weekend everything is booked solid. Our best bet is to head for the prairies on Friday.
We left Zion on US98 which goes to the East Gate of the National Park. A series of switchbacks takes you up a 1000 ft or so and then you enter a tunnel. Two way traffic is stopped for motor homes like ours because of our width I was told by the warden. It also costs $15 extra. After Zion we were on a high plateau until Bryce Canyon National Park.
Just when you think you have seen about everything there is to see in canyons after Durango, Lake Powell, Grand Canyon, and Zion Canyon, you come to Bryce Canyon and are surprised once again..
Tomorrow we will head for Moab.
We took the shuttle bus 15 miles or so into the canyon and then hiked ½ mile to the point where you have to ford the river with its 50 degree water. Pictures are better than words to describe Zion. Click here for a slideshow or Click here to see slideshow in Picasa
Our first stop was Brigham Young’s winter home. We were personally guided around the home by a member of the Church of the Latter Day Saints. Many of the objects in the home belonged to Brigham Young. He was the second president of the church and led his followers to Utah after incidents in Illinois made it unsafe to stay there in Nauvoo. Suffering from arthritis he needed to escape the cold in Salt Lake City and bought this property in St. George. His portrait hangs over the mantle in the drawing room of the home. I was amazed that the photo turned out so well as you could hardly see the picture in the dark room. Wikipedia says he had 55 wives and 56 children; 46 of his children made it to adulthood. For a time he was governor of the Utah Territory. He died in 1877. St. George is a beautiful town with tree lined streets and flowers everywhere. It’s a short 36 mile drive to Springdale, nestled in the canyon at the entrance to Zion National Park. We were camped at the Quality Inn RV Park overlooking the Virgin River until two busloads of kids arrived for a 2 day camp. They parked the busses between us and the river. The park moved us up the hill to a much quieter site but no river view just mountains on either side. What makes Zion different from the other parks so far is it’s a canyon surrounding a small river. At the visitor center we watched a 45 minute IMAX movie of Zion’s mountains made in 1994. It was well done. Tomorrow we will hike beside the river to where the canyon narrows.
The 100 degree panoramic photo above is from Day 13 when we visited Bright Angel Poiint on the North Rim of Grand Canyon. We decided to spend a couple of days in St. George so as to avoid the weekend campers in the National Parks. The trip to St. George was not very photogenic. We are camped in a large commercial park, Temple View RV Resort, with 270 spaces. Over half are park homes jammed together in long rows. The rest are 40 ft motorhomes. I think most are extended stay folks that come here in the winter. Our site is pretty good with a lot of grass between us and Main St. I thought the Temple was the mountain the Resort shows in its ads, but it is the Mormon Temple a few blocks to the north we could see on our way in. Brigham Young had his winter home here. Tomorrow we head for Bryce Canyon NP. We will now begin our trek heading north and east to Denver, St Louis and Nashville.
We picked a good day to visit the canyon. It’s an 80 mile drive and we were there in under 2 hours. The description that follows was written by my father of our family's 1950 visit and is much better than anything I could write.
"A three hour drive brought us to the north rim of the Canyon and there it was, the most beautiful panorama that can be imagined. It has a hazy unreal look, differing from every viewpoint, a natural kaleidoscope of color and formation. Unlike other eroded areas it has a great forest of Ponderosa pine at the crest. There are The high altitude (9100 ft.) and clear pine-scented air all contribute to its beauty. The Grand Canyon Lodge on the bank of the Canyon provides a variety of accommodation from tent and trailer camps to luxurious suites. Our log cabin near the main lodge was not more than 150 feet from the Canyon edge but built in among the pine trees.
As the Grand Canyon was one of the main objectives on our trip we decided to forget Mr. Abbott (Canadian Minister of Finance in 1950) temporarily and celebrate by having a grand dinner and to hell with expense. For this purpose we lined up outside the dining room of the lodge and waited for a half hour until the curtains were drawn back revealing the waitresses all lined up against the backdrop of the view of the Canyon through the huge windows. The setting couldn't have been more appropriate for such a special celebration. The waitresses sang a chorus and then the guests swept down the grand staircase into the dining room and were placed at large round tables. The other guests at our table were very pleasant people, one couple from California and the other from New York. Then the anti-climax came in one of the poorest meals we were served anywhere on the trip. Poor Bob, after being warned that this time he was not to demand a hamburger, found he had meat that defied the most aggressive efforts of the knife. After dinner there was a good musical show in the auditorium that the children enjoyed while Marion and I gazed at the Canyon under brilliant moonlight.
The lesson here seemed to be that Grand Canyon Lodge is long on scenic grandeur and entertainment but short on food. Best results there are obtained by taking your own food and eating it under the pines in the beautiful park, which is well equipped with fireplaces and fresh water."
The good news is that we had lunch in that same dining room and the food today had improved greatly after 63 years. We couldn’t get a cabin or campsite so we drove back to Kanab. The big surprise was a travelling carnival opened in the evening right beside our campground.
We went back to the overlook for Lake Powell’s Wahweap Marina to get a better photo. I estimate there are slips for 400 large houseboats. It is the largest marina on all the US inland lakes. There are many more slips for small powerboats but I only saw one megayacht. Lake Powell is a very different boating experience than any of the other places we have been to. I am glad we went out once, but I would not be too keen on doing it again. I’ll stick to the Tennessee River. Kanab was 75 miles from Page. We went past the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument which is a 1.8 million acre geological territory of multicolored cliffs, plateaus, mesas, buttes, pinnacles, and canyons. It occupies most of Southern Utah and was declared in September 1996 at the height of the 1996 election campaign by President Bill Clinton under the Antiquities Act (which saved Mesa Verde), and was controversial from the moment of creation. The declaration ceremony was held at Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona and not in the state of Utah. The Utah congressional delegation and state governor were notified only 24 hours in advance. That November, Clinton won Arizona by a margin of 2.2%, and lost Utah to Republican Bob Dole by 21.1%. (credit Wikipedia). The park is managed by the Bureau of Land Management rather than the National Parks. No doubt that ruffled a few feathers. However, in our view there is little to see that is different or unusual from what we have seen already and the visitor center was closed as it was Wednesday. Kanab was a town we stayed in on our 1950 trip. We stayed at Parry Lodge and it is still there today. There have been about 5 different owners since then I was told at the front desk. The restaurant now only serves breakfast and lunch so we missed out on that.
Lake Powell is named after John Wesley Powell the first known person to explore the Colorado River in 1869. The lake was formed by the Glen Canyon dam dating back to 1957. Not since Lake Mead in Nevada had we seen anything like it. The best way to see it is by boat (of course) and we took the Rainbow Bridge tour that travels 50 miles upstream. The boat was 92 ft long and made of aluminum. There were 112 passengers and a crew of 4. Between Mavis and I we got over 250 photos a few of which are shown above. It is hard to take a bad picture, but it is impossible to capture the immense scale of the towering mesas and buttes. Look for the people nearest to the Rainbow Bridge in the photo. Just click on any photo to enlarge it. The only way to see Lake Powell is in person and by boat. The route we were to take to the Grand Canyon North Rim today has been closed since a February landslide. I only discovered this at the Glen Canyon Dam visitor center where signs were posted. Instead we will go 75 miles today to Kanab UT and then south to the North Rim tomorrow.
It is 126 miles from Monument Valley to Page. We left early as Day 10 means it’s laundry day. The scenery changed all the time from the Monument Valley mesas, buttes, and spires to really twisted and spun rock formations near Page. There were two coin laundries across the main street from each other so we took the one with the easiest parking. It was a good choice as there was a Safeways, a Post Office, and a bank to get rolls of quarters at. We ate lunch at Subway while the clothes were drying and then headed for the campground. We got one of the last 4 sites. This afternoon I booked the 7:30AM boat trip on Lake Powell (Colorado River) that goes 50 miles upriver to the largest natural rock bridge on earth called Rainbow Bridge National Monument. This is the first really hot day with 90 degrees in the campground.
I had a pancake breakfast at the campground restaurant. There is a gas station at Morehead but the price for diesel was $4.42. I bet we could do better in Cortez just 14 miles away and filled up for $3.79. The next stop was the actual Four Corners where Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico meet. The only photos I had previously seen showed a concrete pad with an X marking the spot. I am sure there were numerous shacks selling Indian jewelry in that location as well. Today it’s different; almost all but a couple of shacks are gone and replaced by a four sided structure with 14 stalls per side. A bronze plaque marks the spot and the main event is to stand on the dot and be in four states at once. I had hoped to get a panoramic view of all four states from the spot but the new stalls completely block the view. I went outside the rows of stalls and got pictures of each state. Colorado had the most junk in the picture, Arizona had two porta- potties, with Utah and New Mexico having the best views of the natural landscape. Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park is a small part of the 29,817 square mile Navajo Nation. There are ancient mesas, buttes, and spires scattered about the desert. There is a magnificent visitor center attached to a hotel with great views over the valley. We had a good dinner in the hotel restaurant to celebrate Mother’s Day. We are staying at Goulding’s Campground. Harry Goulding bought a large plot of land from the Navajo’s in the 1920’s. During the depression they convinced a movie producer to film westerns here. John Wayne starred in Stagecoach in 1939. They still show this film here every night.
It was a short 36 mile drive from Durango to the Visitor Center at Mesa Verde (green table). Then it was almost the same distance in the park to the cliff dweller Pueblo Indian homes. We took the ranger tour at Cliff Palace which is the largest of the ancient towns in the park. It was built and occupied in the period from 1190 to 1270AD. Today it has been greatly restored. Our tour guide, Jo, put on quite a performance explaining each of the different buildings and what life was like. Couples married at age 12, had children at 14 and died at 35 from tooth decay. After the tour we drove alongside Soda Canyon and stopped at view points. You could look across the canyon and see the remains of cliff dwellings including one named in honor of Mary Hemenway who advocated for the protection of these sites and got Teddy Roosevelt to pass the Antiquities act in 1906. Not all the natives lived in cliff homes, some lived on the mesas. We walked around Far View which was occupied by Puebloans from 750 to 1300AD. I was most impressed with a 200 ft diameter reservoir that was named a National Historic Engineering Landmark by the American Association of Civil Engineers. It’s one of the oldest engineered public works in the USA. We camped at Morehead Campground in the park and were lucky to get 1 of 15 sites with power out of 235 sites total. There was no Verizon cellphone/internet service at the campground. Tomorrow we cross into Utah and head for Monument Valley.
The train ride was well worth the time and cost. Everything about this railway is done right. It’s owners are running it as a labor of love with no expense spared and great staff from the ticket agent to the attendant, Ellie, and the considerable crew it takes to run the train. Ellie is a geologist that spent many years in Alaska before moving to Durango and becoming one of the senior attendants. Her talks about the geology of the area were like going back to first year engineering. In Canada because mining was so important to the economy, all engineers had to take one course in geology. It’s one of the few courses I remember much of what was taught. The railway was built in 11 months and opened in 1882 to take the silver and gold out of the mines in Silverton. It has operated continuously ever since. There are businesses along the route that can only be reached by the railroad. One is a hydroelectric power station and the other the Tall Timbers Resort. The route runs alongside the Animas River with spectacular views of the river from high up in a canyon. We returned on the bus which takes a different route. The driver spoke interestingly and continuously all the way back. We learned a lot about aspen trees which are the first to grow back after a forest fire. They grow in clusters with connected roots. For many years one Colorado aspen grove was the largest living organism on earth. Recently a French mushroom has claimed the honor. Tomorrow we visit Mesa Verde.
The drive to Durango was an easy 174 miles over mostly good roads with one mountain range to cross. We drove beside the Rio Grande River for a time and crossed over at South Fork. This river starts in the mountains north west from South Fork and flows south though New Mexico, passing Albuquerque, crossing a corner of Texas and then forms the border between Texas and Mexico. We had our first snowflakes as we climbed over Wolf Creek Pass at 10,600 ft. The temperature at that altitude was 33 degrees. Durango is a prosperous town with lots of fancy shops and restaurants on its long main street. The big attraction is the Durango & Silverton narrow gauge railroad. The station was beside the restaurant where we had lunch and after studying the brochure for the tours we went over and bought the first class trip up to Silverton and the bus ride back. We will be in an observation car on the back of the train. We will stay in Durango one more night, then on to Mesa Verde National Park on Saturday
Correction: The Grand Sand Dunes highest point is 950 ft above the desert floor, not 3,000 ft as stated 2 days ago in my eyeball estimate.
Today was kind of a rest day. I checked the house batteries when we got up and with our watching a two hour movie, and the heat going all night, we still had power. We turned on the generator and Mavis cooked sausage biscuits for breakfast in the microwave. Two of those last all day. We hiked out to the sand dunes accompanied by lots of school children on a field trip. When you get to the top of the first dune, you see another and another. Then it was a 22 mile drive to San Luis Lakes State Park which is 11 miles straight south and 11 miles straight west. The sky became very exciting especially when you can see storms coming from miles away. We got a picture of a tornado forming but Mavis says it was a dust devil. Then we got some rain and even a little hail. We are in a beautiful state park surrounded by snow capped mountains and power at each of 51 sites. Apparently we are ahead of the season as we almost had the entire park to ourselves. One other rental RV showed up later in the day. I was cold and windy so we stayed inside and I got some work done as well as finally planning the rest of the trip. Tomorrow we head for Durango, CO.
We had most of another day on the Santa Fe Trail. When you think about it the route follows the Arkansas River. Man first walked on the Prairie beside the river to find a way west. In the 19th century wagons traveled the route. In the 1880’s the railway was built on the route, then finally in the 20th century the road was built. All 4 modes of transportation followed the river. Unfortunately it was not navigable. Leaving Garden City the route changed to US50. Crossing into Colorado we stopped in Lamar to get maps and directions at the visitor’s bureau. Its 72 miles From La Junta (The Junction) to Walsenburg. The road slowly climbs until we were at 6,000 feet. It was the most desolate part of the trip so far. There were no stopping places along the highway, so we wound up going into the driveway for a cell phone tower and had lunch.
At Walsenburg we were at the edge of the Rocky Mountains. The View took the La Veta pass to 9,428 feet at 54 mph without missing a beat. We arrived at the National Park at 3:00pm CDT, 2:00PM MDT. It turns out we are early in the season so there were lots of good sites in the campground. There is pretty fair Verizon Internet access here but no power in the campground. The sand dunes are the highest in North America at 650 feet above the base Tomorrow we will climb the smaller dunes and then move to San Luis state park just few miles from here; no more 300 mile days until the return trip.
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