Paducah to Paris Landing, and a taste of Nashville

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Just after Paducah, we had the choice of turning south on the Tennessee River, or continuing on the Ohio for a while longer, and then following the Cumberland River.  Both rivers lead to the Kentucky Lakes, the Tennessee forming Kentucky Lake and the Cumberland forming Barkley Lake. However, the Tennessee River carries most of the tows and barges and there is usually a long wait to get into the lock which leads to the lake, so we decided on the Cumberland River, and 3 nights at the famed Green Turtle Bay Resort and marina on Barkley Lake for a bit of a rest and to catch up with the laundry and shopping. 

_MG_0056 (2)Start of the Cumberland River

Start of the Cumberland River

_MG_0059 (2)Mile 9 near Bissel creek

Mile 9 near Bissel Landing

The cool mornings and autumnal feel appeared to have been a temporary blip, and it was very hot. We were a little disappointed to find the pool at Green Turtle Bay was closed for the season, but it was a very short walk to a little beach and we swam in the lake there instead. 

_MG_0005 (2)The beach at GTB

The beach at Green Turtle Bay

The resort is in a narrow piece of land between the two lakes, next to the small town of Grand Rivers. The marina operates a shuttle service to anywhere anyone wants to go, so we decided to try the Thirsty Turtle, the marina’s Bar/Restaurant for dinner, about half a mile away in the woods. 

The Thirsty Turtle  was housed in a low, dark wooden building and we weren’t sure whether it was an old building which had been renovated, or a new one made to look old. But it was quite atmospheric, full of other Loopers, including Carol and Tom, and Patrick whom we’d met at Kaskaskia. 

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At the Thirsty Turtle

I’m still puzzled on occasion by American menus. I totally get that biscuits are scones, and cookies are biscuits. And blueberry muffins are little cakes with blueberries in them, not the sort of spongy, rubbery-textured things that are English muffins. I understand that fries are chips, and chips are crisps. But if the menu says ‘Fish and Chips’, I imagine that the fish will be accompanied by chips. Or fries. 

At the Thirsty Turtle, you could choose a side to go with your fish and chips, so I asked for coleslaw. So I was a little nonplussed when the coleslaw came with a more than adequate amount of fish, but no chips. Or fries. 

I looked questioningly at the waiter, who was a little harassed because he was single-handedly waiting on the entire bar. He indicated that fish and chips actually only meant fish. We didn’t say anything. We just ordered an extra side of fries. In the event, because Ian had ordered fries to go with his basket of chicken, there were so many fries that we had to take most of them back to the boat with us in a box and reheat them for dinner the next day. 

We had a treat in store. It was an open mic night. A gentleman in a kilt played a few airs on his bagpipes and got a polite reception. 

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Then a young man with a guitar came on. He looked about 17, his name was Clint and his mum and dad had come with him. But he was very good and didn’t just sing and play his guitar, he engaged with his audience of elderly boaters and entertained us as well. He explained that a song only qualified as country music if it contained references to women, trains, a pickup truck, alcohol and prison. It then transpired that he had got married the previous Friday and that his new British wife was already on her way back to England, where he was going to join her when he had sorted his visa out. Then he hoped to play country music in pubs and clubs in Britain. 

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Clint at the Thirsty Turtle

At the end of the evening we went over and bought one of his CDs (recorded in Nashville, no less) and introduced ourselves, and said we hoped to see him playing somewhere when we were home. 

We stocked up at the village store in Grand Rivers. Village stores are as variable in the US as they are in Britain, but this one was good, with good fresh meat and vegetables and we got everything we needed, except for wine. 

We mentioned this to Elwood, who had driven us down in the shuttle. He indicated the liquor store next door, which we hadn’t noticed because of its very discreet appearance. While Ian went in to replenish our stocks of Pinot Noir, Elwood explained to me that the liquor store had only opened 17 months ago. Despite Kentucky’s economy being based mainly on the production of Bourbon, large parts of the state are dry, meaning that although possession and consumption of alcohol are allowed, it can’t be sold in shops or served in restaurants. Until recently, counties could hold referenda to decide whether alcohol could be sold or not. 17 months ago, the law changed so that communities, rather than counties, could have their own referenda. And Grand Rivers defied the rest of Livingston County, by deciding that selling alcohol was ok. This enabled the liquor store to open, and Green Turtle Bay Resort to open the Thirsty Turtle. Even to someone who generally disapproves of referenda as part of a decision-making process, this seemed like a result. 

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Ian and Elwood in the shuttle

The Captain kept disappearing off to see someone called Miss Wendy, who apparently operated the chandlery at Green Turtle Bay. It seemed we needed all sorts of things that we never even knew existed. During one of these absences, while I was getting lunch ready, something in the boat emitted an alarming noise. I grabbed all the phones in turn, but none of them usually made that sort of noise. Could it be the smoke alarm? Surely not. Then I remembered that that there was some sort of alarm that indicated the bilges were filling and that Carina was in imminent danger of sinking.  Panicking slightly, I tried to assess whether Carina was listing more than normally, and whether I should make a swift exit. 

The Captain came back. A few minutes later, the noise went off again, and this time it was definitely coming from our American phone. 

It was a Presidential Alert. A text appeared. ‘THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed.’

Just as well, really, as I wouldn’t have had the faintest idea what to do. 

On our last afternoon, we went to the beach and watched as a flotilla of 12 Looper boats came into the dock, one following the other through the narrow channel,  in an elegant procession. Docktails was quite lively that evening. 

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We left Green Turtle Bay to head south down Kentucky Lake, formed by the Tennessee River, via the short Barkley canal which links the two lakes. As we came out of the marina, there was another trawler coming in through the narrow entrance. Between us, there was a small power boat sitting in the middle of the channel, with two men in it, fishing. This is most definitely not the thing. We stopped, and the other trawler stopped. Eventually the fishing boat moved out of the way sufficiently to allow us to get through. As we passed, the men waved. Then I distinctly heard the word ‘motherf*****s’. The Captain heard it too. In my British way, I assumed that they couldn’t possibly be addressing me, so I waved majestically back. 

_MG_0001 (2)leaving Green Turtle Bay

Leaving Green Turtle Bay

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Fishing boat obstructing the channel, Green Turtle Bay

_MG_0006 (2)Barkley Canal

Barkley Canal

The long finger of land between Barkley Lake and Kentucky Lake is known as the Land between the Lakes. It’s a National Recreation Area, a wildlife reserve with trails and camping grounds. Parts of the forest have been removed and prairie grasses sown, and bison introduced. But it has not been without controversy. When the two rivers were dammed to allow water flow in the rivers  to be controlled, and  the Kentucky Lakes were formed, a large area was flooded and many people lost their homes.

But the lakes are beautiful. There are numerous sheltered inlets along the lake shores that are good for anchoring. We stopped in Pisgah Bay, 12 miles south of Green Turtle Bay. 

_MG_0007 (2)Pisgah Bay

Pisgah Bay

We had the anchorage to ourselves. There was a little beach and we took the dinghy over and had a swim. Another couple had arrived by kayak, but there was plenty of space for us all. They were from Indiana and the Captain was impressed to hear that they were camping in a tent. 

Later, back on the boat, we could see fish leaping out of the lake, and on the opposite shore, two deer appeared for a while. 

Did I say it was unseasonably hot? We had planned this trip partly to avoid the humidity and heat of the summer months. Now we were sweltering.  The weather man on the radio said it was 20 degrees above the average for early  October. That’s degrees Fahrenheit of course, because we’re in America, but even so. We decided to chill for another day at Pisgah Bay, though ‘chill’ is perhaps not an apt word to use. Ian had a desultory look at the map to see if there were any walking trails we could explore. There were, but we decided we couldn’t face walking in the heat. The little beach was the only place which had any shade, and this time we took chairs, cushions, Kindles and beer with us. Meanwhile, Carina baked in full sun. 

_MG_0013 (2)Pisgah Bay

Pisgah Bay

In the evening, we put the generator on so we could run the air conditioning, and it managed to reduce the cabin temperature from 87 to 78 by the time we went to bed. A battery-operated fan is now on the shopping list. 

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Sunrise at Pisgah Bay

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Early morning sun on the beach at Pisgah Bay

We cruised down to another anchorage at Ginger Bay. Again we were the only people there apart from a few small fishing boats and a family we could see in the distance on the shore.

001 (2)leaving Ginger Bay

Leaving Ginger Bay

The next day day we stopped at Paris Landing, where we’re leaving the boat for 10 days while we take a road trip to Nashville and on through Kentucky to Virginia to see the family. 

We arrived in Nashville just in time for lunch and got an Uber from the hotel to the downtown, a couple of miles away. The driver recommended the Cajun pasta at the Rock Bottom Bar on Broadway. The pasta came with chicken, andouille sausage and shrimps in a creamy, spicy tomato sauce and it was delicious. We sat in the patio looking out at the crowds in a haze of sounds.

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Rock Bottom Brewery and Restaurant

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View of Broadway and 2nd Avenue from the patio, Rock Bottom

After lunch, we wandered up and down Broadway and along First and Second Avenue. Almost every building was either a bar or a boot store, and the honky-tonk music poured out of every door. The boots were very tempting, but I resisted. 

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Broadway, looking towards the Cumberland River

We were intrigued by the sight of what appeared to be small charabancs, powered entirely by the passengers pedalling furiously and without anyone obviously responsible for steering the vehicle. This was Nashville Pedal Tavern. For $39 you can pedal yourself  round Nashville, in the company of other crazy people, stopping off at carefully selected pubs and bars.

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2nd Avenue, Nashville

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Butler’s Run between 2nd and 1st Avenue

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Nashville Products Co

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Nissan Stadium on the Cumberland River

I didn’t have to wait long for my birthday treat. In the evening, we went back and had dinner at the Pinewood Social. This establishment consisted of a bar/restaurant in a large warehouse building, with a bowling alley at the back.

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Restaurant at Pinewood Social

The food was superb and when we get home I have to try to recreate the salmon with pistachio dish that we both had, and the cherry bourbon tart, served with homemade vanilla ice cream, that Ian had for dessert. 

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Outside the Pinewood Social

We went on to Layla’s, a bar in Broadway that was famous for Bluegrass. The Grass-a-holics were on and they were great. 

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The Grass-a-holics with Jenni Lyn at Layla’s Bar

We had only a brief taste of Nashville, but it was intoxicating.

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Kaskaskia Lock to Paducah

Kaskaskia Lock to Paducah

We woke up early the next morning to cool, grey skies.

008 (2)Heading out of Kaskaskia

Heading out of Kaskaskia

It was my birthday. In the face of radio silence from the Captain, I decided to maintain a dignified silence of my own, while continuing to remain affable and exchange the usual pleasantries over breakfast.

Thanks to T-mobile’s patchy coverage, we had had no internet for a few days.

So I was feeling kind of lonesome. Magically, as soon as we got back on the Mississippi, the internet reappeared and I went on Facebook to find lots of lovely messages and emails from my friends and family. These included a couple of birthday videos which I couldn’t resist playing and of course the accompanying tune was unmistakable.

The Captain turned round.

‘What day is it?’

‘Wednesday.’

‘Yes, but what date?’

‘26th September.’

‘Oh b****r.’

He looked a bit contrite. I’ve taken a rain check on the meal in the expensive restaurant and something small and sparkly, or perhaps a better lens for my camera. Or both.

The sun did come out after a while, and by 2.30 we were safely anchored in Little Diversion, a small inlet off the main channel.

010 (2)Mile 100 looking upstream towards Chester

Looking upstream towards Chester

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Soulshine about to pass us on the two

025 (2)Outcrops at Mile 67

Outcrops at Mile 67

Anchored at Little Diversion

Birthday Prosecco

The Mississippi is very different from the other parts of the Loop that we’ve experienced so far. Unlike the Intracoastal Waterway, depth has so far not proved a problem. Although we’ve had to be wary of the tows with their big barges, which can’t stop or change their course within a quarter of a mile, and treat them with due respect, the wakes they generate pass within minutes and it’s not like crossing Lake Ontario or venturing out down Lake Michigan.

But the current is something else. Luckily we’re going in the right direction. It means Carina is managing 9.5 knots instead of her usual 6. But it also means you have to take that into account when anchoring or docking.

The River has a kind of turbulence with whirlpools and eddies everywhere. ‘Pretty, and menacing at the same time’ is the Captain’s verdict.

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Whirlpools behind us on the Mississippi

The banks are mainly enclosed by woodlands, so it’s hard to get a feel of the surrounding countryside. Just occasionally there’ll be a break in the woodland and we’ll be afforded a glimpse of what lies beyond the banks.

_MG_0005 (2)Gap int he woodland

Gap in the Woodland

Anchorages are few and far between, and marinas even less so, so the days have to be quite carefully planned. After leaving Port Charles on Sunday, we will have had 6 or possibly 7 nights at anchor, or on a wall with no access to any facilities. We won’t starve, but we might run out of milk or teabags. That might not qualify for disaster status, but it’s still a dismal prospect.

Turning into Boston Bar, our last anchorage on the Mississippi

On Friday morning we were fog-bound at Boston Bar, a few miles upstream from the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. The plan was to go up the Ohio River to an anchorage 27 miles upriver, with the aim of reaching civilisation at Paducah, Kentucky the following night.

But the timing was critical. Because we’d be going upstream against the current on the Ohio, we would only be making 3 knots. To get to the anchorage before dark, we needed to be away by 10.

There were two other boats moored a few yards away from us. At 8 o’clock we could barely make out their ghostly forms. By 10, visibility was better but not good enough to go. The last thing we wanted was to be suddenly confronted with an enormous barge bearing down on us out of the mist.

At 10.15 we decided to go, and the other two boats left shortly afterwards. Everyone has Paducah in their sights. There was a conversation on the radio about what people were running out of.

‘I gotta get to Paducah, I ran out of wine.’

‘I ran out of water, bread, coffee but I still got wine.’

‘Then I’ll be on your boat tonight.’

As we turned east into the Ohio River, the sky started to clear. The sun caught the boats and the river turned a swirling yellow. We still had Illinois to our left, but now it was Kentucky on our right.

Turning off the Mississippi

The Ohio seemed even busier than the Mississippi. There were tows and barges everywhere, lining both banks.

Barges on the Ohio River

A large vessel seemed to be making straight for us. It was American Queen, which we had seen tied up at St Louis. But we kept out of her way and passed her ‘on the one’.

American Queen on the Ohio River

The Ohio River is running  16’ above normal. We would normally have had to go through two Locks, Olmsted Lock and Lock 52. The water was so high that the locks weren’t operating – we just passed by the side of them, but there was a lot of turbulence as we did so. Olmsted Lock is in the process of being rebuilt.


Olmsted Lock and Happy Destiny passing us on the two

By 3 o’clock we had 9.5 miles to go. We had left the industry behind and the river had widened out so it was more like a lake, with attitude. We could see how high the river was – the trees in the Bank were partly submerged.

Trees partly submerged on the Ohio River

The Illinois Bank of the Ohio River

Near Paducah

So far we haven’t met any other Brits doing the Loop. But suddenly, a rather cultured English voice appeared on the radio, conversing with a tow and some of the other boats. We anchored 300 yards behind them at Bean Branch Creek, and Steve and Diane obligingly got into their RIB and joined us on Carina for a drink. Ian thought that getting into a small dinghy on the river was a bit hazardous, given the currents and eddies, but it turned out that Steve and Diane were experienced boaters, Steve having sailed across the Atlantic a few years ago, so the river probably seemed nothing to them.

The first people we met in Paducah were David and Wanda who we’d met at Kaskaskia Lock and who had overtaken us on Soulshine, with their Peace flag flying, a couple of days before. There was a party going on – the Paducah Barbecue Festival, a 3-day event, and we were lucky to get there for the last day. The Riverfront was lined with hundreds of gazebos selling street food as well as clothing and knicknacks. Loud music played and a boy was having a go on the Bucking Bronco to the sounds of Love Shack and the enjoyment of onlookers. For what seemed like a fairly small town, the crowds were enormous. John, the dockmaster, told us people come from all over West Kentucky and Southern Illinois.

 

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Riverfront BBQ Festival

Sweatshirt stall

Tupperware stall

There were quite a few charity stalls as well, and we stopped to look at a temporary aquarium which housed some of the many species of fish found in the Ohio River. The young man in charge explained that they had caught the fish the previous day by luring them into a trap with an electronic device which emitted waves at a soothing frequency. The next day they would release the fish back into the river. He pointed out the long-nosed gar, what he described as a living fossil, unchanged for 30 million years.

Long-nosed Gar

We had a wander round the town too.

Main St Paducah

Checking out the department store, Paducah

A door in Paducah

In the evening we had drinks with John and Janice from Toronto and it was interesting to hear Canadians’ view of their country.

 

John the dockmaster recommended the Gold Rush Cafe on Broadway for breakfast the next day, and as we had actually run out milk and couldn’t go shopping till the afternoon, this sounded a sensible plan. We had to wait half an hour for a table, but the breakfast was a real treat.

Ian was vacillating over whether to have the sausage patties or the link sausages. Our elderly waitress wasn’t slow to advise.

‘Ya know what? I know link sausages have the flavour, but, I don’t know….. I just don’t like that, ya know….. that casing.’

I knew just what she meant. He had the patties.

We wandered back to the boat. Paducah has had catastrophic flooding at various times and there is now a flood wall along the river front. On the side facing the town, murals have been painted depicting the town’s history from when it was first settled in 1821, to its role as a distribution hub, to the present day, and including a portrait of its most famous son, Alben Barkley, who was Vice-President to Harry S Truman.

Wall Painting in Paducah

Wall painting commemorating Paducah’s role as a hub for telecommunications in the region until switchboards were replaced by electronic computer switching system in 1979

 

As we wandered back to the boat, we came upon the Church on the River, and sat down some distance away. We spoke in whispers, even though we couldn’t possibly have been heard. The preacher was using ‘Somewhere’ from West Side Story as the text for his sermon.

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The Church on the River

 

His sincerity shone through, but he was followed by another man who spoke in a rather accusing tone and whose words seemed banal, and we moved on.

Fishing on the Ohio River

We went to the National Quilt Museum near the Riverfront. It was opened in 1991 to celebrate the work of modern quilters. The quilts were very varied in design, ranging from patterns based on historical designs, to very modern ones. The amount of thought that had gone into the design, the effort made to find just the right colours for the fabrics, and the skill involved in sewing the quilts were all awe-inspiring.

National Quilt Museum, Paducah

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Cityscape by Lucretia Romey, based on the Toronto skyline

Aletsch by Michael James: ‘a synthesis of sensory responses to a particular space: the vast mountainous basin in the Swiss Alps that enclosed the Aletsch Glacier’

Escapade by Libby Lehman

Adventure Awaits by Susan McCarty
Based on the Hobbit

Detail from Adventure Awaits

Later, John drove us to the Mall 7 miles away to stock up. He had been working all weekend and said he would take us after he finished at 2.30. While we were out, he was messaged to say other boats were coming in. He was still on the dock as the sun was going down, helping latecomers to dock their boats.

John on the Dock, Paducah

Carina at Paducah

6.30am, Paducah

We had an early start the next morning. The Captain was worried about getting away from the dock. We were sandwiched between two other boats, and the current would tend to push us back into the dock. As ever, other boaters came to our aid and gave us a good push in our bow to help us get away.

3 hours later we left the Ohio and turned into the lovely Cumberland River. The leaves are just beginning to show a tinge of yellow, and that, along with the cool mornings, gives a hint of Fall.