Tuesday, December 6, 2011
Joliet to St. Pete (Oct 8 to Nov 21)
The rest of our trip down the Illinois, the Mississippi, the Ohio, the Cumberland, to the Tennessee was relatively uneventful. This is the part of the loop that gets bad press. It's not really bad, you just have to appreciate different things.
And then there's the scenery and wildlife. In some areas, there are barges pushed up all along the banks, or places to load and off-load. Not very pretty - but sometimes interesting.
St. Louis is the only big city on the river in this area and unfortunately there is no convenient place to dock to see it. The arch is impressive as we go by, though.
We'd been cruising long days, usually leaving near dawn. When we got onto the Tennessee the air and water temperatures combined to make fog every morning. It was hard to complain about having a leisurely breakfast and leaving the dock sometime after nine when the fog had burned off.
From here to Pensacola, where we planned to make a brief stop, we'd travel about 530 miles and go through 12 locks with a total drop of more than 400 feet. We started out with the Whitten Lock and its 84 foot drop - the biggest one we'd come to. After four locks in about only 30 miles we stopped for the day with three other boats we'd been in the locks with. There are limited facilities along the way and there are lots of boats moving south at the same time, so you take what you can get. Smithville Marina boasted proximity to two good restaurants - one for catfish, the other a steakhouse. The four of us took up all the transient dock space, the rest of the marina being filled with small, dilapidated house boats. Maureen (Duddon Pilot) dubbed it the Bates Marina ala Psycho's Bates Motel. The owner showed up to take our money and said we could use the car to go to the nearby restaurant. Seven of us piled into the six-passenger car which had a lot in common with the marina house boats! We made it to the restaurant - which may have been the former two combined in one. Surprisingly, the catfish and steaks were quite good. It all made for a memorable stop.
Again we cruised from dawn - some very chilly dawns! - and often to dusk.
Our renter was kind enough to let us spend a few days tied to the dock behind our house. It was great to catch up with our neighbors, friends and family in the area.
Not sure yet what next year will bring - other than we'll be heading north somewhere.
There are more pictures on the picasa site: http://picasaweb.google.com/joseph.pica