Time to play and enjoy some Honky Tonks in Nashville and BBQ in Kentucky! We are half way down to the Gulf and these two states have a lot to offer for boaters. Their inland lakes and rivers make for pleasant cruising, such a nice surprise.
When we arrived in Paducah, KY it was during their annual BBQ on the River festival. This is a large BBQ competition with vendors from all over. We really got some great BBQ. The hardest part was deciding on which one to pick. During the event there were good southern rock bands which made this stop very special. I was also surprised at the docks by a friend of mine who has been following on Facebook. He and I used to work together and came by the boat to say hello with his wife and friends, Of course, they came on board to enjoy some Gypsies Palace vibe.
Then, one of my best friends decided to join us on this part of the trip and travel with us to Nashville. We have found out how difficult it is to have guests on board with a trip that is always moving. On this part of the trip we had the added burden of closed locks that were backed up with commercial traffic. All Loopers have been warned never set a date AND place because we won’t make it. We can make a date or place, but meeting both is tough. She arrived early and had to spend a night in a hotel waiting for us. That being said, she and I had a great time catching up and just enjoying the river cruise.
Nashville is considered a “side trip” on the Loop. It is not part of the Loop itself, but Loopers take advantage of the proximity of different towns and venture off the path on a “side trip”. We realized that Tennessee and Kentucky offer many “side trips” in addition to Nashville one can travel to Knoxville, Chattanooga and Louisville by boat. Neither of us had been to Nashville and we both love country music so it was a given we were going to Nashville! It was a two day boat trip from our starting point at Green Turtle Bay to get there. Read more →
After leaving Chicago and Lake Michigan the next sequence for the Great Loop is the inland rivers. We were not necessarily looking forward to this section of the Loop because we have been receiving many notices of lock delays and closures on the route. We had been hearing reports of Loopers having to wait a day or more to lock through due to repairs, dredging or the backlog of commercial traffic. It is necessary to traverse more locks on all of the inland rivers on the way to the Gulf of Mexico. Locking by itself is not an issue, but due to the amount of commercial traffic i.e. tugs with barges it makes for a slow pace. Commercial vessels have priority in all of the locks on the rivers. Their barges are mostly filled with large bulk items such as coal or rock. River traffic sometimes reminds me of driving through traffic jams on I-95!
The route of the various rivers starts with the Illinois River, Mississippi, Ohio, Cumberland, Tennessee and the Tenn-Tom Waterway. All of that finishes in Mobile, Al. Steve and I have done the Tenn-Tom to Chattanooga route, but had no idea what to expect with the upper rivers. We were not sure that we were going to enjoy this part of the journey. Read more →
As we have gone along on our Great Loop journey a defining moment seemed to be reaching Chicago. We would have completed the Lake Michigan phase our trip and Chicago was the gateway to the inland rivers. Chicago was beckoning us to explore and stay before we would begin the inland river route which we had really not even figured out. We had a long list of things that we wanted to do in Chicago. We docked right by Navy Pier at DuSable Marina. We were close to everything and decided that we needed to stay 6 days especially since the weather was going to be perfect – sunny and in the 70’s.
Naturally, lots of Looper boats were also there, but everyone was so busy sight seeing that we rarely saw anyone until the end of our stay. What we loved about the city is that people were out jogging, biking and walking – a positive energy. The dogs were fascinated by all the dogs and people. But, it was not a feeling of frenzy like New York City. Chicago just envelopes you in friendliness and a welcoming atmosphere.
We had food at the top of our list – Portillo’s Hot Dogs and Gino’s Pizza. We also had to get to Al’s Italian Beef before we left! I had been yearning for Gino’s Pizza, but we actually found another that we liked even better at Labriola the night we went to a Blues Club. We just stumbled on the place as we were walking. We wanted to experience the blues in Chicago and found a club called Blue Chicago. It was just what I pictured in my mind – small, intimate, no food, great band and everyone enjoying the vibe. My only disappointment is that we were pretty pooped from the day and couldn’t stay for a 2nd set.
Those of you that know me that I tend to cram as much into a day as possible and in Chicago I got my wish. Steve even kept up as he didn’t want to miss out on a thing. As we pulled into the marina another Looper gave us a good piece of advice to check out Groupon for tourist deals. They had also taken a Segway Tour with their Groupon and highly recommended it. They had never done it before and neither had we or One Eye Dog. So, the four of us were in for the adventure. It was the best experience!! Steve took his Go Pro and put together a cute video of us. We then “paid it forward” by suggesting this to other Loopers as they came in. They also loved it!!Read more →