A Day in Tupelo

The forecast for Tuesday was clear and cool, a great day for a car ride 60 miles north to Tupelo Mississippi, the birthplace of Elvis Presley.

I have to preface this by saying that when we researched Elvis’ birthplace there were some negative comments. Our findings were that visitors enjoyed the area, but were let down on the customer service and the amount that was charged to enter the home, museum, and church. Because of the negative comments we just about decided to skip going. I am glad we went. It was easy to get to, just a few minutes off Interstate 45 with signs marking the way, and we enjoyed our visit.


Birthplace Map helped us keep our bearings.

We had decided to check out the Events Center complex first, and see the movie about his early childhood before making the decision to pay for entry to the exhibits. The Movie was a local production, not like the Elvis movies of the 50 and 60’s, but well done and informative. What really caught my attention was during the ending credits, an Elvis song that I was not familiar with, played. Many of the audience sang along. These are “hard core”, Elvis fans.


This couple was on a tour from Memphis, seeing all the Elvis spots.

Cynthia, my wife “Dearest”, and I walked the grounds and took in the views. From the movie we saw what the house and church interiors looked like and did not pay the extra $17, $14 for seniors, to enter.

Elvis Presley was born on January 8th, 1935 in a two room house built by his father Vernon, with help from Vernon’s father, Jessie, and his brother, Vester, in 1934.

Vernon had borrowed $180 from his employer to finance the building, which had a single light bulb in each room.

A fact that isn’t publicized is the Presley family only lived in the house about 3 years. Vernon couldn’t make the payments and had to move into a different part of town. That move may have influenced a young Elvis even more, because he had to walk through a part of town called “Shake Rag” that had honky-tonks, and it was there that he was introduced to Blues.

Embedded into the walk around the house are stone carvings that contain facts about each of the 13 years that Elvis lived in Tupelo.


Elvis at 13

The statue of “Elvis at 13” was created by the sculptor from pictures and measuring the brick and mortar to make it life-size.


Cynthia in front of the Assembly of God church doors that the Presley attended.



Left this picture large so you could read the information in front. Elvis did NOT sit here.

Something else that I found interesting was the fact that the original home has not been moved. It is on the location it was built. In 1957 Elvis donated the proceeds from a concert in Tupelo to help purchase the area and create a park for young people. The story is that as a young boy Elvis and his friends would play in this area. Statues at the top of the overlook depict Elvis as a young boy and a guitar and then the larger than life Elvis the entertainer.


Elvis larger than life.

As we were getting ready to leave the birthplace we stopped to ask where we should go for lunch. Both the ladies behind the counter said “Johnnies”.



Just a couple blocks from Birthplace Park is Johnnie’s Drive-in. It’s a local burger joint and as we walked in Dearest asked me “Do we just sit or wait for them to seat us?”. The gentleman that was behind us said “Just find a spot. They’ll take care of you.” We did and as the waitress was taking our drink order she also said “Would you like to sit in the Elvis Booth? I just cleaned it and it’s open.” We said sure, and moved to the spot that Elvis would sit when he ate there. The special was called a Doughburger. A mixture of flour and meat that extended the meat. This has been a staple since the opening of Johnnie’s in the 1940’s.


Left to right Miss Christi (the owner) Cynthia (Dearest) Mikey (cook) Amanda (our server, she was great) Savanna (cook)


Dearest and I in the Elvis Booth


Lots of pictures and memorabilia around the cafe.


After a great lunch we headed into town and stopped at Tupelo Hardware. A real hardware store that has something for everyone. It’s where Gladys Presley bought Elvis’ first guitar as a birthday present. I stood on the spot Mrs. Presley stood when she purchased that guitar. We also found some items that we could use on the boat.


First try wasn’t quite right.




Perfect fit


It was a great day and a lot of fun.

Some of the information I used in this blog was taken from the Elvis’ Birthplace visitors guide, and the Tupelo Visitors Guide.


Moving on up

We are currently in Grand River, Kentucky at Green Turtle Bay Marina/Resort. While here at the dock and around the area we’ve met and talked with many people. We’ve also passed out quite a few boat cards. When handing the card to someone I tell them that our blog site is on the back side of the card, however, I have not been too diligent about updates but plan to add more soon.

Now I am keeping my promise.


Heading out of Turner Marine meeting some others that are heading north also


We are now heading UP river.


Here’s what we’ve been up to;

Mid-April we left Turner Marine in Mobile AL, after spending the winter, and started North. Our first night we anchored in Bates Lake and had a couple tell us that when the tide went out it would be too shallow to get back into the river. So, up anchor, and back downriver a couple of miles to the Alabama cutoff. Now, many others anchor here and sing its praises, however, when we dropped anchor it would not set. After pulling it back up we realized that somehow our anchor chain had wrapped around a log. Cynthia kept the boat in place while I was tried to get rid of the log. Finally we got the log alongside the boat and loose. Now, we were able to set the main anchor. Then climb down onto the swim platform to set the stern anchor.  (Setting a stern anchor keeps the boat from swinging.) We were alone in the anchorage and had a pleasant evening. I was real tired and had no problem getting to sleep.

The next morning we pressed on up river and made it to the Coffeville Lock and Bobby’s Fish-camp for the night. An easy evening with dinner at Bobby’s and another early night.


View of Bobby’s Fish-Camp from the boat, It’s rustic.


From Bobby’s it’s 100 miles to Demopolis, the next fuel and dockage. We decided to stop in between. We passed a good anchorage at Bashi Creek before noon, but did not want to stop that early, so we pressed on looking for a another spot to anchor for the night.

We found Chickasaw Bogue and bumped our way across the bar into deeper water. We anchored in about 7 foot of water, but when the boat would swing the depth would vary. It was decided to set the stern anchor again, so back onto the swim platform and another toss of the stern anchor. While I was on the swim platform Cynthia noticed we were moving, the main anchor had not set properly.  With Cynthia at the helm we raised the main anchor and moved forward to make another attempt at setting the anchor. This time we let out extra chain and gave a good tug to make sure it dug into the mud. Then back to the swim platform and a toss of the stern anchor.  To set the stern anchor I went back to the front and pulled in some of the extra chain to set the stern anchor. This had us staying in one place and not moving too much.


Looking into Chickasaw Bogue


Checking the movement of the boat

Tired I sat on the back deck and watched a tree to make sure we were not moving. We were glad that we spent the extra time getting the anchors set because, later that evening a storm front passed through. The winds gave the anchor chains a good tug, but we moved some but stayed pretty much in the same place. That was our first Thunder Storm at anchor. Not something I would like do on a regular basis.

In the morning we reversed our anchor process to release the stern anchor then moved forward to pull the bow anchor. With Cynthia at the helm we started out of Chickasaw Bogue and promptly ran aground, and of course, here comes a Tow as we are trying to get off the bottom. I took over the helm while Cynthia contacted the Tow on the radio. With some extra reverse thrust we backed off the sandbar and with help from the tow captain we angled our way back out into the main river. Demopolis was our stop for that evening and the rest of the weekend.

I had developed a cough and told Cynthia that it was from breathing exhaust fumes while trying to set the stern anchor, she didn’t believe me.  From the beginning of our trip up river we had set our sights on Columbus, MS as a rest stop, because we both like the area and the people. Neither one of us thought our stay would last as long as it did.

The day after we arrived in Columbus Cynthia took me to an Urgent Care facility to figure out what was the matter with me. We found out we both had this seasons flu and bronchitis. Me about ten days ahead of Dearest. After lots of tests and armed with prescriptions we arrived back at the boat,  medicated, and went to bed, for a week.

Our first week in Columbus was gone before we knew. We put our heads out for short periods after that but for almost 3 weeks we stayed on the boat and tried to get over our sickness. Finally we started to feel better and thought of moving up-stream again.


Making waves again, it feels good.


From Columbus north, the Tom Bigbee river has plenty of marinas to make easy days of 50 to 60 miles. Allowing us to be in and tied up well before the sun has begun to set.  We entered Pickwick Lake through Wilton Lock and found the current changed direction and is now running  with us, adding extra speed for less fuel. We made Aqua Yacht Harbor in Iuka, MS our address for the next couple of nights.  

From Aqua Yacht Harbor we entered the Tennessee River,  Pickwick Lock and Dam took us off Pickwick Lake and continued the Tennessee River. Two 60 mile days have us at Pebble Isle Marina, and a great place to spend the weekend.

The last few days of travel has Cynthia having back pain, making it hard to move around and giving her problems while handling lines.  By the time we reached Green Turtle Bay on the North end of Lake Barkley she was in serious pain. Now, with chiropractic care and after a couple massages, she is on the mend, but we don’t want a relapse. Because of this we have signed on for a month here and will remain at Green Turtle Bay until after July 4th. That should give us time to heal.

In the mean time we are trying to figure out what to do, and where to go next. But that is another story.


Wow! It has been a long time.

It has been a long time since I’ve let my fingers walk on the keyboard. So long that I had to look up my last post to figure out where I left off.

Four Months!

July. It has been a long time.

Let’s get started. Here’s what I’m going to do. Give a brief review of our travels in the last 4 months then go back and expand on what I thought were significant.

Last time we were in Canada celebrating Canada Day with new friends. We still are in contact with them through Facebook.

While traveling the Trent-Severn waterway we had a situation with a recurring problem that required the boat to be lifted out of the water. With out a place to stay we rented a vehicle and drove to our home port of Grand Haven, Michigan. Friends and family were gracious enough to put up with us for almost 3 weeks.20160729_134614


Thanks again to everyone that helped out.

With the boat back in the water and August slipping away we pushed through the Georgian Bay in 2 days and back into the North Channel of Lake Huron. At the top of Georgian Bay is Killarney, Ontario. We were now in familiar waters, having travelled here in 2013. My thoughts were to push to Mackinac and down the coast of Michigan to Grand Haven. Silly Me

Lake Michigan is not a lake to mess with. We ended up in St. Ignace, MI waiting for weather and waves to become better. Waves again forced us into Beaver Island. Then with our sights set for Frankfort, we were forced into Charlevoix. Let me tell you this. If you are forced into a harbor Charlevoix is a great place to pushed into.

With an open window we moved from Charlevoix to Frankfort and from Frankfort to Manistee. Where again we had to wait for a weather window to move again. Then to Pentwater, Muskegon and finally on September 4 we reentered Grand Haven harbor and completed our Great Loop.


We stayed at the municipal marina for 2 weeks, met with friends and family, went to Dr, appointments, and caught up with what needed to be caught up with. We were so busy that by the time we left we were ready to get back to the easy pace of cruising.

A salmon festival had us leaving Grand Haven in not the best of conditions. We traveled the Lake Michigan coast in 17 – 20 feet of water. Very close to shore. But any farther out and we were being banged around by 4-6′ waves. We made South Haven and stayed til better conditions arrived. Then New Buffalo MI and Hammond IN.

We arrived in Hammond on Cynthia’s birthday and went to the Casino next door to the marina. If we signed up for Player’s Cards we would get a free buffet. Whoo Hooo, free food and a birthday dinner to boot.

Now off the big lake and into the rivers again for smooth cruising. Our cruise down the Illinois River was uneventful. The upper Illinois River is highly commercial and is not the prettiest of scenery but in improves the closer you get to the Mississippi River Valley.

The Mississippi River has a great current that makes for easy travel at speeds unthinkable in slow-moving vessels. We would travel around 14 to 15 mph at engine speeds that would usually have us at 8 or 9 mph. Then we make the turn up the Ohio and speeds drop from 15 down to 6 in a boat length. But this is only for a couple of days and we enjoyed our nights at anchor on the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers.

From there we entered the Cumberland River just north a Paducah, KY on a Sunday. The Kentucky Lock and Dam was closed for repair and barge and tow traffic had been re-routed onto the Cumberland. Where when we first traveled the Cumberland we saw 1 barge this time we saw and passed more than 12 moving tows. The Cumberland is much more narrow than the Tennessee and the Ohio and water levels were much shallower than the last time we were on it, making the passing just a little more nerve-wracking. But a great day and we were able to enter the Barkley Lock without waiting.

Now up the Tennessee and on to the Tom Bigbee River. We are currently in Columbus MS and what was supposed to be a short stay has become weeks. I turned and put out my back and have been here recuperating until we both feel comfortable in my moving capabilities.

Life goes on.


Cruising; Off Loop

Our travels on the rivers have offered many interesting sights. Most have been either right on the river or within walking distance of a marina. Lately we have been able to expand our range. With the help of local courtesy vehicles and relatives of good friends we were able to see some great locations a little farther away.

Mr. Snow purchased Waverley Mansion in the early 60's

Mr. Snow purchased Waverley Mansion in the early 60’s

Columbus, Mississippi was a gold mine of great side trips. I had been in the area in the 90’s and toured briefly but now it was time to share some great locations with Dearest and other Loopers. Our First excursion was to Waverly Plantation Mansion in West Point, MS. We borrowed a courtesy van from the marina and loaded 3 Looper couples and Toots for the short ride to Waverly. With me at the wheel we drove past the mansion but were treated to the Waverly recreational boat launch, which at one time was the location of the steamboat stop for the plantation. A quick turnaround and we were there. It seemed a little more overgrown than I remembered from my first visit.


Waverley Mansion


You do have to pay, but the money goes to upkeep

But, still the sight of the mansion is impressive. As we approached, I first noticed an elderly gentleman sitting in the sun on the front porch. “Hello, would y’all like to see the house?” a quick smile and handshake later we were escorted through the front door to meet Jimmy, the curator and guide. Jimmy informed me that the gentleman out front was Mr. Snow the owner of the property.  Jimmy also told me that Miss Melanie was busy and that he would be offering the tour today. Miss Melanie did make an appearance and welcomed us all to their home. I remembered her from my first visit. She was embarassed by her appearance and very apologeti.,She had been cleaning in preparation for the return of a film crew that was in the process of completing a documentary on the mansion in hopes of gathering support for the on going restoration.

Jimmy lead us throughout the first floor and the back of the Mansion giving explanations to room decor and the original uses for each room. Taking of pictures was not allowed inside of the home but any picture taken from the outside looking into the home was OK.

Through the back door to the front door. The red windows are original. To make the glass red gold was added.

Through the back door to the front door. The red windows are original. To make the glass red, gold was added to the molten glass to make the color.

Jimmy explained that the family was only allowed to show the first and second floors. This was because of their being only one staircase to the top two floors. Insurance carriers would not allow them for public viewing. After his tutorial on each of the bedrooms and relating stories of ghost sightings, we were left to explore the second story on our own.

We were invited to walk the grounds at our leisure. Here Toots got her first chance to stalk and point a peacock. She did not care that it was in a pen.

As we gathered to leave I related a story from my first visit to Miss Melanie, and as my reward, received a kiss on the cheek, and genuine thanks for remembering the moments. Cynthia was talking with Jimmy and Mr. Snow and when I looked around for her, Dearest was also receiving a heartfelt hug and kiss. We arrived as interested tourists and left as friends of the family.

Toots and the peacock

Toots and the peacock


Huge Magnolia tree

Later that afternoon we were met by Dale Weaver, the younger brother of close friend Lois Weaver. Dale explained that his “big” sister had asked if he would be able to show us some good “southern hospitality”. “Would you like to see a Cotton Gin?” “SURE!”

We went to Bogue Chitto Gin. Dale explained that Bogue Chitto was Choctaw, loosely defined as big creek. When I asked why it was called a Gin and no one knew. I “Googled” it and Ginning was a household word used for separating cotton fibers from the seed.

Empty cotton truck

Empty cotton truck

We were introduced to Doug Dahlem the Gin Manager and handed safety glasses and ear plugs.
I found the whole process very interesting and Dearest must have also, because we both forgot and never asked whether we could take pictures. I will try to describe the tour as best I can.

As we left the office Cynthia found a cotton plant that had been discarded. It was a great example of the progression of the bolls. I did not know that the cotton bolls bloomed from the bottom of the plant to the top. In the fields the plants are cut to prevent them from growing tall, no more sitting in tall cotton. The cutting forces the plant to focus on the bolls closer to the root rather than the stalk. Dale explained that prior to picking, a defoliant was sprayed on the plants forcing it to drop the leaves. Dropping the leaves allowes the mechanical pickers to pick and not leave green stains on the cotton fibers. Any discoloration reduces the value of the cotton.

As we entered the Gin a flatbed truck was backing in with a “module” of cotton. The module is the large rectangular bail that you might see shrink wrapped along side a field. Again new technology has changed what we are used to seeing. John Deere has designed a picker that will make a round bail. The new picker picks and wraps the cotton with less labor and man hours than the old modules we have seen.

Cotton hauling truck

Cotton hauling truck

Once off loaded from the truck the large cooton bail is conveyed in to a machine that breaks apart the module and starts the separating process. Lots of air is used to blow the cotton up and over to rollers that move the cotton, separating sticks and ultimately the seeds from the fibers. When the seeds drop out the remaining fibers are then compressed into individual small bails about 500 pounds each. A sample of each 500 pound bail is sent to Memphis for analysis and grading. While in full production the gin will process one, 500 pound bail every minute and a half. The farmers get their pay from the sale of the cotton. The Gin makes it’s money by selling the seeds that have been separated from the fibers to be made into oil.

Sorry for the lack of pictures, makes it like a middle school report.

Dale then took us to Macon, MS and showed us their library. What makes this library special? It was the former jail, and still has the bars on the windows of the second floor. Not only does it have bars on the windows, but it has a gallows on the third floor. What kid wouldn’t want to check out a book from inside the jail or be dared to stand on the gallows doors without dropping through. Officially there is no record of the gallows ever being used.

Barred windows

Barred windows

Noxubee County Library, Macon, Mississippi

Noxubee County Library, Macon, Mississippi

 My chain gang baby

My chain gang baby

Stuck in the children's section

Stuck in the children’s section

Down river a few miles we stopped near Pickensville and the Bevill Lock and Dam. The lock and dam has a visitors centers that was completed in 1985 and built to depict the time period between 1830-1860. Throughout the visitor center there are antiques and reproductions of antiques from that period.

There is always Tara

There is always Tara

Paddle Wheel

Paddle Wheel


View of the pilot house on the snagboat Montgomery

Outside the visitors center is the retired snag-boat Montgomery. Built in 1925, it is a paddle-wheel steamboat that worked the area until 1982. Unfortunately we found the boat was closed for touring. But we were able to wander around a view the outside.

We are seeing many new places, meeting friendly people and learning more about the areas we are passing through. Currently we are waiting out the cold weather in Demopolis, AL. It would be a 2 or 3 hour  car ride from here to Mobile AL. We are looking at 3-4 days by boat. But that’s OK we are not in a race – it’s the journey not the destination.

Here is a sunset from Dale Weavers front yard. His house is built where our good friend Lois Weaver grew up. Hope you can remember the view Lois, this one is for you.

Sunset Near Macon, MS

Sunset Near Macon, MS

If you would like to donate to help with the restoration of Waverley Plantation Mansion look for them on facebook or Google, Friends of Waverley Plantation Mansion.

Book Reviews

Book Reviews; Catching up

With the snow coming in Michigan and colder temperatures dipping way to far into the south, I would usually be snuggling up in a comfy chair with a book. Our change of lifestyle has slowed the idle days of reading. Although we tend to stay put when the temperature drops below the freezing mark there is still plenty to keep me occupied.

While here in Columbus, Mississippi we have toured antebellum homes, visited with relation of good friends and, watch for a weather windows when we can continue our moving southward. It looks like the next few days will be good for traveling. Sunny and cold for the first day and a scheduled marina stop with power for the heaters. Day 2 is an anchor out and temps will remain above freezing. Which means we wont have to run the generator all night for heaters. Then on to Demopolis, Alabama and a wait for mail. (I’m still trying to replace the glasses I dropped over the side in Chattanooga.)

Now this post is supposed to be about books, and although my reading schedule has slowed I still am reading. I have completed three books since the last book post and will put them all together with short reviews. If you want more information you can always look up the titles on Goodreads, Amazon, or one of the many other book related web sites.

Like I’ve said before I don’t usually buy new books. The books I read I get from used book stores or lately from other boaters or in marina “put and take” libraries. So, new titles are not usually what you will see from me. I don’t do audio books, they just don’t fit my lifestyle and I haven’t moved to an electronic book, yet. Maybe an I-pad thing eventually, but my oldest son tells me that one would be more of a frustration for me than what I need. Seems he doubts my technological skills, and he is probably correct.

Well back to the reviews;


“The Stargazey” by Martha Grimes copyright 1998
A British mystery novel, and if you’ve read any of my reviews you will know I like these. I enjoyed the book, it reminded me of something one might see on PBS. I would read other novels by Martha Grimes

Poseiden's Arrow

“Poseidon’s Arrow” by Clive and Dirk Cussler copyright 2012 (hardcover)
I have moved away from hardcover books just because the soft covers are easier to hold while reclining. Since my first Dirk Pitt book I have always enjoyed the stories. But now Dirk is getting to old to be accomplishing some of the tasks that he is required. The character has aged but not the super hero gymnastics that Dirk is expected to handle everyday. An older person just doesn’t bounce back the way Dirk Pitt does. I know, he is a fictional character, but what makes a fictional character believable is the reality that is given to him. Still it’s Dirk Pitt and NUMA and bad guys and good guys. A fun quick read. Now let the kids take over, it’s a natural thing to do.

Started Early took my dog

“Started Early, Took My Dog” by Kate Atkinson copyright 2011
Kate Atkinson lives in Edinburgh, I pretty sure that’s Scotland. The book takes place in Britain and is part of a series of books that feature the private detective Jackson Brodie. It could be considered a standalone book because I enjoyed the book even though it is the first of Atkinson’s books I have read. This book gives enough information on what has previously happened in Jackson Brodie’s life to make me want to find other books by Atkinson to read the earlier stories. Good book but it kind of gave me a let down at the end and a feeling that the author is just preparing for the next in the series. If it was a movie I would say she left it open for the sequel.

That’s it for now, I am way behind the goal I set for this years reading and even farther behind my personal best in a years read. But life has given us a great opportunity to explore new places and experience great, small and large towns and extraordinary places. We are on the trip of a lifetime and enjoying all of it, even the cold. But the sun will come out tomorrow. (I’ve heard that some where before.) And even with the cold the sun makes it a better day to be traveling on the river.

Next up “Coup D’etat” by Ben Coes

Until next time, we have visited antebellum plantation mansions, cotton gins, BBQ, Catfish farms, Air Force flight school fly overs, and a library with a gallows, all in the last 5 days. What could be next, just around the river bend? (Seems I’ve heard that before, also.)