Dick and Gayl's Cruising Adventures

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October 7, 2005  Pickwick Landing State Park, TN to Florence AL
49 miles
Finally, we had a day that felt like Fall.  We left Pickwick Landing under overcast skies, with a cold north wind blowing on the backs of our necks.  We turned up our collars and surfed the whitecaps up the river.
About an hour out of Pickwick Landing, we passed a point where the states of Tennessee, Mississippi and Alabama meet.  We cruised along a short portion of the river that divides MIssissippi from Alabama for a while, then the river took a bend to the east, the state line headed south, and we were in Alabama.  We will be in Alabama for the next 200 miles or so, until we get to Chattenooga, just over the  border.
We docked at Mystic Harbor Marina in Florence, Alabama, at 3 p.m.  We were happy to see Main Course, who left Pickwick yesterday, was docked at the Marina. Frank came over to help us with our lines, and gave us the lowdown on the town. 
Our timing was perfect -- Florence had a First Friday Celebration downtown this evening.  After Main Course, Geminellie and we shared dinner at an outstanding Italian restaurant, we wandered the city's main street, where all the stores were open, street vendors lined the sidewalk, and musical groups were spread just far enough apart to not be audible in each other's space.
We stopped to listen to the headline group,The Cadillacs, who played 50s rock.  Further up the street, 13 members of the Shroud  Dulcimer Society were playing traditional regional folk tunes and hymns.  The Rockabillies just about had us dancing in the streets to their lively bluegrass arrangements.  Along the way we looked at hand-carved Santas, painted saws, sequin and bead encrusted Christmas ornaments, and other regional artwork.  We were all drawn to the local bookstore, and none of us left empty-handed.
By the end of  the night, we all agreed Florence was a great town, and there was so much to do here, we would have to stay another day.
Saturday, October 8, 2005  Florence, Alabama
We began our day with a trip to Walmart, sharing the courtesy van with Geminelli and Main Course. It  is difficult to understand how we can need so many grocery items when we are eating out with our boating friends so frequently.  Nonetheless, we managed to fill a shopping cart with vital food and cleaning supplies.
We spent the afternoon biking around the outskirts of Florence in search of geocaches.  We explored McFarland Park, which is adjacent to the marina and extends for several miles along the river. It has scenic picnic and camping areas, as well as a golf course, which inexplicably seems not to be open.  We found one of the most creative geocaches ever, hidden inside a lifelike plastic dove roosting in a tree.

Woodland Culture Ceremonial Mound

On our cache hunting expedition we saw signs pointing the way to an Indian Mound and Museum.  We stopped in the Museum and learned a bit about the mound.  It is 42 feet high, and 310 feet long at its rectangular base.  The mound was built for religious and ceremonial purposes about 2,000 years ago by people of the Woodland Culture. It was an enormous undertaking to haul the dirt for this massive mound, and to build the fifteen foot high and forty food wide earthen wall that once surrounded it and protected it from river floods. We climbed 72 steps to the top of the mound to look out over the river, and the industrial area of the Port of Florence. The mound is an island of antiquity in the midst of modern commerce.
We were thankful that the many people who have lived here over the past 2000 years respected this mound and did not disturb it as they built roads. homes, factories, warehouses and power lines all around it.  In this photo, the little dot at the base of the mound is me on my bicycle.  That should give you an idea of the monumental scale of this earthwork.
After finding five caches and having a good long ride, we headed back to the boat.  We had plans to go out to dinner at a popular Mexican Restaurant with our boating friends tonight, and Frank invited us over to Main Course for his famous Beer Margaritas before dinner. 
Beer Margaritas?  We were a bit skeptical, but game for a taste. They were outstanding!  You must try them.  Check out the recipe at the bottom of this page.
Our Mexican dinner at Rosie's was another outstanding culinary experience, with great service, a festive atmosphere, and traditional Margaritas that were almost as good as Frank's Beer Margaritas.  After dinner we walked down the street to a gallery with a jazz and blues trio, where we enjoyed the music for a while before walking back to our boats. 
October 9, 2005 Still in Florence
The plan was to get together with Geminellie and Main Course to run a few errands about town in the courtesy van, grab a quick lunch at a local barbecue joint, and head on up the river to Joe Wheeler State Park.   Well, one thing led to another, and by the time we were done making just a few more purchases than planned and spending a bit more time lingering over lunch, we didn't get back to our boats until nearly 3 p.m. 
When we calculated how long it would take us to get to Joe Wheeler, including time to get through the two big locks along the way, we figured there was a good chance we would be running in the dark.  So, we decided to just stay another day.
Ellie invited us over for dinner on Geminellie. We all contributed a little something to go with her savory slow-cooked beef burgandy, and had a most fascinating evening learning each other's life stories. 
Frank's Famous Beer Margaritas
In a pitcher combine:
1  12 oz. can frozen limeade concentrate
6 oz. tequila (fill the limeade can half full)
2 cans beer (Mexican beer is good, but not necessary)
Stir (do not shake or use a blender -- you will wreck the head of the beer).  Pour into prepared glasses (prepare by putting lime juice on the rim and dipping in salt as desired).  Garnish with a slice of lime.

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