Hello and a happy Monday to you all. Actually I am guessing you will be receiving this on Tuesday. Greetings from somewhere on the Tennessee Tombigbee Waterway. As you can see the blog is running a little behind because I am are running down the Tenn-Tom waterway on what is commonly called “river time!” I had to rush home last week with only one day to unpack and repack and then catch a boat ride headed back to Florida with my good friends David Milly and his finance, Ms. DeAnn Fowler. As crazy as it may seem, two weeks ago David and DeAnn were heading north on the vessel from Orange Beach to Huntsville as I was heading south in my Hummer to St. Petersburg, Florida and other cities. Timing they say is everything.
I must say when I got a call from David and DeAnn about a month ago inquiring as to whether I would be interested in boat trip down the Tenn-Tom with them, I answered with a resounding – let me check my schedule – YES!!!! A trip of a lifetime is how I thought about it, imagining the interesting photos I might be able to capture along the way. A leisurely boat trip (or so I thought) from Huntsville, AL to Orange Beach, AL with stops along the way. The most intriguing part of the trip for me was the idea of passing through the 14 Tenn-Tom locks along our journey south.
We left Huntsville on June 1 riding high on their 43-foot Silverton with our first layover in Florence, AL. The first lock we took the “ride on” was Wilson. The ride being the drop in water level from one point to another which was truly exciting for me because I had never had the experience of going through one. It is so extremely amazing to the see the whole system work, gates closing, draining the “tub” and then the doors open to a new water level.
From Florence we headed south, traveling to Iuka, MS, and then on to Bay Springs, Ms. where we stopped over night at the Bay Springs Marina. We time on our hands we decided to take the “marina curtsey car” on a road trip that evening down the Natchez’s Trace trail and ended up in Tupelo, Ms., the birthplace of Elvis Presley and as luck would have it, they were getting ready to host an Elvis festival. We toured the birthplace of Mr. “Hound Dog”, ate dinner in Tupelo and headed back to the Marina to hunker down for Day 3 of our trip!
You see, Day 3 had been circled on the calendar since the beginning of the trip because we knew what lay ahead of us. We had set a lofty goal of passing through 7 locks in one day, traveling a whopping 65 miles. So far our best had been two locks in one day. Gaining entrance and passing through locks is totally dependent on the traffic running up and down the waterway with commercial barge traffic receiving priority status. As luck would have it, our trip was almost flawless catching a every lock in an up river status with the green light to enter. The only wrinkle in the whole trip was that we were asked to share the “ride down” with the barge Heritage at the number 6 lock, Armory at mile marker 371.1. It was a burden that we gladly relished, finally catching the ride with an additional occupant. We took aim with our final run of the day and ended up in Demopolis, AL for the evening and due to the weather took the next day off to enjoy some down time. Seven locks in Seven hours, it was time to celebrate.
So far it has been a photographers dream come true but everyday has been anything but a vacation. Boating is not as easy as climbing aboard and enjoying a libation or two as you rocket down the river. There are lines that need to be tied to cleats, ballers to be roped in the locks and preparing the boat for the next’s day journey, tightening down the hatches if you will. Lastly there is the river traffic of huge barges that you have to get around. We have been very fortunate so far on the journey to have missed the storms by finding refuge in a couple of marinas well ahead of the downpour.
With Day Six in the books and a few more days to go, I can only imagine what awaits us on our water journey south. A few more barges to dodge, a lay-over at the near infamous Bobby’s Fish Camp, run by Bobby’s’ daughter, Lora Jane just north of our last “down ride” at Coffeeville Lock. The fish camp and the one dock one gas pump “marina” have been in operation for over 60 years.
So stay tuned, there is so much more to come as we meander down the Lazy River!
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Best Regards …..
~ dennis keim ~