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Our dream of cruising on a boat Around the Great Circle Loop and beyond has the drawback of leaving our friends and family far away from us for an extended time. This blog is intended to keep you up to date on our travels and adventures, and encourage you to join us for some part of our trip as we make our way around the waterways of the eastern US, Canada, the Bahamas and the Caribbean. Click on the archived posts below to follow our journey. Our dog, Ben, has been helping us write this blog since he has more time!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Rental Car Cruisin'

Hi All...Ben here from the back seat of our rental car.

 We left the Izzy R docked at the Columbus Marina in Columbus, Mississippi under a big roof.  Jeff and Izzy spent a couple of days putting the outside furniture and cushions away, draining all the water lines, and locking her up for the holidays while we're gone.  They also got me a "cut and fluff" so I'd  look and smell good for the trip.
The plan was to go to Atlanta to spend Thanksgiving with Dick and Cathy, Laura and Steven ( and my friend Angel).  Jeff said that on the way, Izzy wanted to stop at this motorcycle museum, so we spent all morning there.
In this photo I think Jeff was standing in line with these scary guys to buy a ticket.
I'm glad they left me in the car to keep watch over our luggage.

This is Jeff beside the "Easy Rider" motorcycle in the museum.
 A lot fancier than the "Easy Rider" bike of John's that he rode in Fort Lauderdale last winter. Remember that?
At Dick and Cathy's house in Atlanta, not only did we have a great Thanksgiving dinner, but Dick had three other surprises for us. 
The first event had to do with that cousin of Izzy and Dick's whose picture was hanging right under President Obama's picture in the Visitor's Center at the Jamie Whitten Lock that I told you about in the last post.  Remember?
It turns out that he was just about to be promoted to a Two Star General  over the Thanksgiving holiday, and Dick managed to get us invitations to the ceremony in Atlanta. Well, when I say "we", I guess I'd have  to be a seeing eye dog to actually get an invitation...but Izzy and Jeff got to go, and they told me about it.

Here they are with Todd and his wife Connie, and Dick and Cathy.  Since none of them had ever actually met Todd, he must have been surprised to see their faces in the audience.  They all spent some time afterwards sharing family info and promising to get together again to become better aquainted.   Since Todd is in charge of the Army Corp of Engineers for the Southern Division, we may have an opportunity to see him again on our trip somewhere.  If he's looking for suggestions for the inland waterways, I'll tell him that they need to provide dog treats at the locks, and more dedicated dog parks along the route. That ought to help. 
I actually stayed home with Angel that day.  Here she is pretending to be asleep, while keeping an eye on me to be sure I don't eat her treats or something.  Not sure she trusts me...I'm a lot bigger.
The second surprise was that Dick had put in a real nice new back yard with a a fire pit and lots of lights so we could sit outside and chase the squirrels and birds.

The third surprise event was that Dick had planned a big party at their house that weekend to celebrate Cathy's 50th birthday. 
Good time for everyone...Cathy had a great time seeing all her friends - even old friends from college that she hadn't seen in years. 

  Izzy and Jeff got to help plan the party food and set-up, then join in the festivities - some of their favorite things to do.

Laura was a good hostess too.  Here she is manning the corkscrew...
 She got to invite her boyfriend and his mom and dad and sister over to introduce them to all of us.

Steven got to smoke cigars with Dick and the guys around the new firepit

 and Dick got to tell jokes to his friends and brag about his much younger wife!

Angel and I got treats from the guests and lots of petting
 and I got to roam in the woods and smell the squirrel tracks for a while before anyone noticed I was gone. That's me hiding in the trees way down there before I got busted.
Just as Angel and I were beginning to be reaquainted, I noticed Jeff and Izzy acting like they were ready to go on another trip.  I can tell because they put their clothes in those bags and zip them up.  They packed up the car with the bags while I waited anxiously to see if my bed and bowl were going to be put in too. I love riding in the car, and I hang around waiting for an opportunity to get in so they won't leave without me. 
Sure enough the bowl and bed went in too, and pretty soon they boosted my butt up into the back seat and we waved goodbye...off on another long car ride. 
Motels are okay, but I'm not allowed to bark and I don't get much exercise riding in the car all day.
  Jeff and I do go out for a wiz along the side of the road every now and then.  He says it's for me, but I know better.
Oh, one other advantage of the motel life is that Izzy lets me get up on the bed and join them for "happy hour"
and a nap
...wouldn't happen at home! I think she feels sorry that my big fluffy bed is rolled up like a big sausage on the roof of the car.  I try to limp around for a few minutes in the morning to keep the sympathy coming.
Speaking of sausage, I got another Big Mac the other day.  They ran out of my usual Purina, and let me have a burger instead in Oklahoma somewhere.  Next time I hope they Super-size it so I can get some fries. 
Within two days we arrived at Wendy and Jim (and Neva's) house in Arvada, Colorado.  They were glad to see us, and Neva took me outside and we romped in the yard for a while until I was real tired.  She's a fiesty one!
The next day it got real cold and the ground was covered with soft white stuff.  Jeff had to brush it off the car so he could see to drive it.   So this is what "snow" is....
Izzy and Wendy took Neva and me for a walk in it.  What fun!  I couldn't find grass to do my business, but  I watched Neva and figured it out.  My nose hairs were freezing up but I had a good time.
When we came back home, the neighbors had turned on their Christmas lights.  Looked so pretty reflecting off the snow.
One night everyone got dressed real warm and went to Boulder for sushi (that's fish...I could tell by the smell of their clothes when they came home).  After dinner, they decided that it would be fun to ride the "mechanical bull" at the bar down the street.  I don't know what got into them - must have been the saki. 
Anyway, from the pictures I found, I don't think the bull liked it much. Can't blame him.

A few days later, Jeff was packing the car again, and the next morning he got Izzy and me out of bed real early and put us in the car too.  It was real cold...I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw the temperature on the dash board.  Yikes!  THREE degrees!
The snow started falling and we drove the rest of the day on the snowy and icy roads through Colorado and into Utah.  Luckily Jeff is a good driver, so I could relax and sleep in the back seat.  Izzy, on the other hand wasn't at all tired, and she continued to talk to Jeff the whole time.  I think he wished she take a nap like I did. 
When we stopped for a pee break, I got all covered with snow,
and Izzy got out to play with me for a few minutes.
At one pee stop we saw a whole herd of elk along side of the road.  They got scared when they saw us and ran away, jumping over the fence and into the woods. Jeff didn't get a very good shot of them because he was "busy".
The next day we left the mountains behind us as we got closer to Irvine.
Izzy told me she'd take me on a walk around the lake when we get there. I can hardly wait!  Meanwhile you can find me here in the backseat.


Thursday, November 5, 2009

My Tennessee Walker

Hi All...Ben here in the Tennessee River,
After our big rendezvous at the Joe Wheeler State Park with the Loopers, we decided to keep on going up the Tennessee River to see the pretty fall leaves and check out the town of Chattanooga, Tennessee. The first night we stopped at Riverwalk Marina.

Crazy marina was plopped down on an island right in the middle of the river with a bridge connecting it to the land on both sides to a little town called Decatur, Alabama. I was resting peacefully on watchdog duty (not sleeping, mind you), while Izzy and Jeff were at the Hard Dock Cafe that evening with Jan and Nicoline from "Blue Arrow". As I was daydreaming about squirrels, the boat door opened and in came Mike and Debbie Grayston - our CA neighbors that had visited us in the Chesapeake Bay last spring.

I barked real loud so they'd know I was on duty.  They patted my head and gave me a good scratching, dropped off their luggage in the v-berth and I gave them directions to the Hard Dock Cafe so they could meet up with Jeff and Izzy.

We're in the south now,

and the people talk funny around here and  use some terms I haven't heard before. One of them is something called a "Tennessee Walker".  Now I know what that is...it's Debbie! She takes me for walks at least twice a day.

I hope she stays and becomes the Mississippi Walker and the Florida Walker too. 
I think Mike is the "Tennessee Driver",

cause Jeff likes to take it easy while Mike steers,

and sometimes I can convince Debbie to take me to my "Yard"

The next Day we went to Huntsville, Alabama in the pouring rain and cold. That's where there is a Space Center that Mike and Jeff were hot to visit. We got a cab to take us there and I took a lot of pictures to show you.

Here's Jeff in front of something that looks like my old igloo dog house

This is the bottom end of a big rocket that's hanging on the ceiling.  Hard to get everyone in this picture, so Izzy helped me. That's Mike and Debbie, Jeff, and Nicoline and Jan from "Blue Arrow".

I had to practically stand on my head to get this one, so Izzy helped me again.

I think Nicoline is catching up on her sleep inside this capsule

Debbie is ready for takeoff.  I think that must be Mike above her...?

Jeff and Jan tried their hands at flying the plane in this simulator.

Jeff crashed with a big explosion.

The Shuttle is a lot bigger than Izzy.  She's standing under it in her yellow shirt trying to look as big as the plane.

This is the rear view of both the Shuttle and Izzy.  Now she's glad the Shuttle is bigger.

Mike, Jan and Jeff looked at this Stealth for a long time.

I usually go to the nose end first.

 We came home early because there were heavy storm warnings and a tornado watch. Jeff wanted to put out more lines so the boat would be sure to stay tied to the dock.  Good idea.  Everyone came to our boat to ride out the storm and have tacos. 

The tornado passed us by without any problems but left us with a cloudy morning to leave Huntsville, AL and travel to Goose Pond Colony Marina in Scottsboro, AL. 

Here's Mike getting fenders and lines ready for the lock.

The leaves were turning pretty colors of red, orange and yellow

And they were even better when the sun finally came out

Cocktail time on the flybridge

before a dinner of shrimp and grits, steaks, and pecan pie at The Dock restaurant across the street overlooking the river at sunset.

We decided to stay at Goose Pond another day so we could borrow the marina courtesy car and go to Walmart.  Izzy needed groceries, Jeff needed a haircut before Izzy started giving him a pony tail again, and  I needed wine, beer and dog bones.  I'm not allowed in Walmart, so I gave my list to Mike and Debbie.  They made some great selections in the wine and beer department and wheeled their cart to the checkout stand.  The check out guy looked at them and asked, "What day is today?"
Mike foolishly said,"Sunday."  To which the check out guy said,"Sorry, we can't sell beer and wine today". 
Ho hum...if Mike had only said "Monday"...  He'll know better next time.  

There's a nice nature trail along the river where we walked and looked for squirrels. 

That night everyone went out for Mexican food at Margarita's.  Here again they ran into the issue of no alcohol sales on Sundays, but there was lots of laughing and some tales of a wild car ride over the curb and some "diet cokes" that were pretty strong!  I'm glad I was safe and snug in the boat. 

We left Jan and Nicoline at Goose Pond the next day, so they could have their engines fixed while we went on up the Tennessee River to Chattanooga.  We crossed from Alabama into Tennessee somewhere along the way.  Maybe that's what Mike and Debbie are looking at in this picture.

I don't know what it looks like, so I couldn't help.
Pretty soon we came to a lock, and I got a chance to go down to my yard.
Tough to get any privacy around here.

This long legged guy appeared to own this lock.  He flew around in there the whole time we were in it.  I guess he though we would take a fish or something.

My favorite time of the day..."Five O'Clock Somewhere"- I usually get cheese and crackers

Izzy took a lot of pictures of the pretty leaves on this winding Tennessee River on our way to Chattanooga, so bear with me for a few more...I think she likes the colors. 

I have to admit, it is a pretty spot, but I'm not ready to give up on returning to Irvine to chase the ducks around the lake someday.

Another night we stayed in Hales Bar Marina where there were some cute little  floating cottages all lined up across from our boat.  No one was in them that night, but the  marina guy said there was a real big party there over the weekend.

We must be close to Chattanooga

When we got to Chattanooga we parked the boat right on the river walk in front of the Aquarium
where Jeff and Izzy and Mike and Debbie spent a few hours looking at fish.  I couldn't go but I didn't mind...fish aren't my thing.  They had a nice view of the river from there.  Our boat was parked just past that big bridge.

Chattanooga has lots to see and do near the river front.  We went up an Incline Railway to the top of Lookout Mountain

where we saw a diarama of the Civil War Battle in Chattanooga, and Jeff shopped for flags.

From the top of the mountain we could see three different states, and the winding river way down there that we had traveled on.

There's also a deep cavern in the mountain with a big waterfall inside called Ruby Falls. Jeff and Izzy went in to see it.  Looks like a giant shower. 
We said good bye to Mike and Debbie here in Chattanooga and they flew back to California.  Izzy said we'd be seeing them there in Irvine when we drive back for Christmas  in December.  Yippee! I'll get to see my old Woodbridge Lake again soon!  Hope the ducks will remember me.
I'm going to take a nap now and dream of my old neighborhood.