Dick and Gayl's Cruising Adventures

Tennessee River

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October  3, 2005  Cypress Creek to Cuba Landing Marina
52.9 miles
We woke to yet another sunny and warm day.  A summer haze made the distant hills look like silhouettes in ever lighter shades of grey blue.  The weather certainly doesn't feel like Fall, and it doesn't look much like Fall either.  By looking very carefully we could detect just a bit of changing color among all the shades of green in the trees.
At midday we passed over thirty Union Army ships sunk off Johnsonville by Confederate troops under the leadership of Nathan Bedford Forrest.  It was the only time in military history that a cavalry force defeated a naval force. 
Forrest was no ordinary General -- he was the only one in U.S. military history to enter the service as a private and work his way up to Lt. General (a 3-star General).  He had 30 horses shot from beneath him during the Civil War. 
The spot across from Johnsonville where his cavalry mounted their attack is known as Pilot Knob, because it has a high rock peak early riverboat pilots used as a landmark.  It is now the site of a Tennessee State Park names for General Forrest.
We arrived at Cuba Landing Marina just before 3 p.m.  We stopped at the gas dock to get our slip assignment, and Toby, the marina manager, wanted our fuel business.  His diesel was $3.29/gallon, and Dick already knew he could get fuel at our next stop for $2.89 (unless they raised the price before we got there).  Dick negotiated with Toby, and got him down to $2.99 plus a free overnight stay.  Try that at your local gas station! 
Cuba Landing Marina is in the middle of a Tennessee National Wildlife Refuge, which is pretty much in the middle of nowhere.  The nearest restaurant is eight miles away, at a highway exit with no town.  The nearest grocery is 25 miles away over a hilly winding rural road that leads to the little town of Waverly.
Sandy and Peter on Alexander Kelly had reserved the Marina courtesy van, and invited us to join them and Karen and Frank on Main Course for a drive to dinner and the grocery store.  We found our way to the Log Cabin Restaurant, where we ate authentic hill country home cooking (fried chicken livers for me and fried chicken for Dick) served with side dishes including collard greens, fried okra and fried apples. 
After dinner, we all waddled back out to the van and wound our way to the grocery store.  Evidently Loretta Lynn is the primary industry here.  We saw billboards promoting the Lynn Family Flea Market, and passed the Loretta Lynn Resort Ranch and RV Park.
Peter, who drove the van, reported that it was like driving cattle -- it responded in general to his attempts to steer it, but it also wandered with a mind of its own.  It was adjusted for maximum fuel efficiency, by using only some of its cylinders some of the time and all of its cylinders none of the time.  In other words, it was a typical marina loaner vehicle.  But, we were glad to have it, and we figured Peter, who races a Ferrarri, was the perfect driver for this van -- not bacause it resembled a Ferrarri in any way, but because he probably had the reflexes to deal with any little surprises it might throw our way.
October 4, 2005  Cuba Landing Marina to Clifton, Tennessee
42 miles
We took an early morning birding walk before we left the marina.  A local told us about a dirt road that led through woods to a wide flat spot along the river bank where he thought we might find some good birding.  The birding wasn't particularly good, but we found lots of shells on the gravel shore.  The mussel shells were huge, and many looked pearly white both inside and out.  We also saw thousands of  cone-shaped shells about an inch long.  We will do a little research and try to find out what they are when we get a bit of free time in a place with good signal reception for internet access.
Instead of going back via the dirt road, Dick suggested we go by way of the river  bank, which worked well, until we got to a bend in the shoreline, where a steep shale and slate bank rose from the water and our little gravel beach disappeared.  We waded along a ledge, holding onto tree roots to keep from falling in (We weren't worried about getting wet -- it was the camera and binoculars at risk.)  After we made the turn, we found that the shoreline was sticky mud, covered in some spots with thick green weeds.  We kept moving, and made it through without falling or sinking any deeper than the tops of our shoes, which Dick volunteered to wash, since it was his idea to take this path back. 
Only later when I was exclaiming about what a fun adventure walk we had did Dick tell me he had been somewhat concerned about coming upon a snake as we waded and slogged at the water's edge.  Earlier, he had noticed a snake skin on the dock, and Toby told him that the place was just crawling with them.  They had to roust a copperhead out of the men's restroom a week ago.  A cottonmouth took up residence in the broom closet for a couple weeks, and hissed menacingly at anyone who opened the door.  Eventually, it just went away and they could start cleaning again.

Lady Finger Bluff

We left Cuba Landing Marina mid-morning.  It was sunny and the temperature had already reached above 80 degrees when we started.  We drank lots of water and slathered on lots of sunscreen, and enjoyed the ride.
We passed Lady Finger Bluff at about noon.  The local lore is that an early woman settler leaped to her death fron the top of this limestone bluff to avoid being captured by Indians.
We passed the town of Clifton, population 800, at about 3:30.  We heard that Clifton was just one vote short of being chosen Tennessee's state capital back in 1843.  You would never guess it today.  It is a one-street town. 
The Clifton Marina is about a half mile walk from town, just around a bend in the river.  Tammy and Amanda greeted us warmly when we arrived, got our boat all tied up, and couldn't have been more accommodating and friendly.  They had home-made chicken soup in the crockpot, and although their cable service to the boat dock was not fully installed, they offered to leave the remote control for the office television with us so we could hook a cable to it and change the channel through the window after they locked up.
We had a little happy hour with Alexander Kelly and Main Course, then all retired to our respective boats to fix dinner, since the tavern and the restaurant in town both were closed for dinner today.

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