June 28-July 10, 2014 Pensacola, FL - Fairhope, AL - Daphne, AL - Columbus, MS

         Just a little post script to the Pensacola story; the conclusion to my most recent update.  This is the humble little home my parents had built and moved into two weeks before I was born in 1940; where my brother, Bob, and I grew up; and where my parents lived until 2006 when they moved to an assisted living facility. I've always loved those beautiful trees.  No one lived behind us because the two spinsters who lived on the corner had a tennis court built back there.  That's where Bob and I learned to roller skate.

             Across the street from our house is  a park...which isn't a park.  

     No swings or slides or park benches but ancient mammoth sprawling oaks that were great for climbing way back then... 

and they still are.  I couldn't resist!

     Our oldest son, Chad, brought our 13 year old grandson, Zack, to cruise from Pensacola to Fairhope as a "trial" to see if he'd like to continue with us for a week as we mosey north into Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee.

     As we were leaving Pensacola Harbor, we saw Chad driving away.  On Find My Friends, we saw him already back home in Daphne and we weren't quite to Ft. Pickens yet.  45 minutes for him; 7-8 hours for us.

     When we arrived at the Fairhope Yacht Club, Chad was there to take our lines.  I think Zack was most happy to have his feet back on terra firma.

     Our fly bridge view from our slip in the Fairhope Yacht Club of the new clubhouse and their yacht basin.

      Sammy's closely watching to make sure Bill has enough hot air to extinguish 68 candles.  His birthday occurred the weekend that we were fortunate enough  to be able to spend with Chad, Ginger, and their children in their huge Daphne home.  We're so accustomed to living in +/- 300 square feet and even though we've been in their home before, when we stepped into the entry, we both audibly exclaimed at the shear enormity of their house.  Their foyer is larger than our total floor space. Chad and Ginger prepared a wonderful Cajun Shrimp Creole birthday dinner for everyone and Publix did a fine job on a carrot cake, Bill's favorite.

     We rode our bikes from the Yacht Club, along the bay, and to Point Clear where the charming and alluring historic Grand Hotel has stood since the 1840’s. Overlooking Mobile Bay, it was a prime vacation spot for wealthy Victorian-Era families.  Through fires, floods and hurricanes, the Grand Hotel has survived.  The main part of the hotel with the dining rooms and bars are in the area photographed below.

     And here we have Bill, my first born, Chad, me, but no Ginger.  Fun lunch in the shade of a spreading oak tree in the courtyard of Fairhope's Panini Pete’s at the Fairhope French Quarter. Ginger had just left when we remembered that we can never remember to take photos of all of us. I hi-jacked a young boy to be our photog---he worked for free! 😎.

     I found her!!!  Ginger has more energy than any ten people collectively, that I've ever seen.  She's hard to catch but here she is.  Look quick because, like a vapor, she'll be gone again before you can blink.

     We love our lifestyle and our lives and here are a couple reasons why that are very recent experiences.  The afternoon we arrived in Fairhope, we left and were away from the boat for a while. When we arrived home, we found someone's boat card (like a business card but contains boat info) wedged in the door.  I emailed the couple thanking them for dropping by, told them expected length of our stay there; and briefly what our cruising intentions are after leaving Fairhope.  The next morning a couple bearing a huge canvas bag of books and charts, knocked.  They introduced themselves as Bob and Vicki and have made this river trip 42 times so they are familiar with even twist and turn.  I took notes as fast as I could write while we listened to them and Bill was following in the charts.  They gave us a copy of their favorite stops along the way and warnings of where NOT to stop.  Each day they've checked on us to ask where we are and what will be our destination for that day.  Vicki even offered to take me blueberry picking!  Cruisers are just the most phenomenal, generous, gracious, and caring people!

     Later that morning, we noticed a man walking our way down the dock and looking at our boat.  Bill opened the door to speak and long story short, his name is also Bill. We invited him in and he told us that he has a sailboat but has just begun to consider a trawler.  We jumped up and down and clapped our hands with glee.  He wants us to talk to him about our favorite subject!!!  How much better can it get???  How lucky can we be!!??  We filled his ears with probably far more information than he thought his noggin could absorb.  We just couldn't quit regurgitating boat stuff.  

     He was a delight to meet and an exciting conversationalist.  By the time we parted, we felt as if we'd known him for years as an old friend and not just a new acquaintance. 
     Bill invited us for cocktails and dinner at The Grand Hotel, Point Clear, that evening and what a memorable joy that was for us.  We hated for the evening to end because he was such a stimulating and intriguing man with whom we could delight in a relaxed and casual conversation and so importantly (to us) someone who understands the meaning of engaging in dialogue.  The sun was setting over Mobile Bay and this was our view as we dined with our new friend, Bill.

     We anticipate seeing him on our return trip and spending an appreciable amount of time with him.  When we said our goodbyes, he entrusted us with this from Mark Twain. “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.”  Does that not transport ponderous meaning!

     Zack decided he'd rather stay home, work for his dad and make some mad money (since his iPhone took a fatal plunge into the murk off our dock) so we sadly took our leave, although were thankful for the time we had with our children.  This is a very rare opportunity so I savored it every second.

     As a child, our family drove to Mobile often to shop for clothes and shoes but this was the first time to travel over the Bankhead Tunnel although I think it bears another name today. To see Mobile from the river and explore (with my eyes) the Port of Mobile, was really special for me.

     Our first anchorage after leaving Fairhope was Old Lock #1.  Very peaceful and quiet.  We saw a few tugs and barges but no other boats all day long.
     Day was just about done by the time our anchor was set so we chilled and enjoyed the end of a wonderful day and reminisced about the pleasure of visiting, unhurried, with our children.

     The next morning, this sight welcomed us.  If this isn't a promise from our heavenly Father for a magnificent day stretched out before us, I don't know what is!

     On Day 5 after leaving Fairhope, we arrived at Kingfisher Bay Yacht Basin, Demopolis, AL, a new and beautiful facility.  Brand new pool, new laundry facilities, beautiful showers, a raised covered deck with lounge chairs, grills, a wet bar and whatever a cruiser might need to enjoy their stay.   A courtesy car and a golf cart were at our disposal to get from one area of the expansive marina to another or to go into the sleepy little southern town that progress has forgotten.  Upon our arrival, other cruisers came to welcome us and take our lines.  The people we meet make this life so much fun.  Fellow cruisers are never strangers.

     We've been through just a few locks but after going through 100 in Canada and NY, this is nothing!  Notice on the left, the enormous amounts of water spilling over the dam.

                    We're entering the lock preparing for our ride up.

     We are in Day 8 and mile 266 since beginning our river cruise and other than the tugs and a few bass boats, there has been NO boat traffic.  It’s doubtful that we’ve seen more than a dozen shanties along these river banks, yet in some areas of CA, people are practically living on top of each other.  They could move here and have inexpensive water front property.

     I was fascinated by these birds that were diving and swooping and becoming an ornament on every bollard.  It was difficult for me to fend off the lock wall and take pictures at the same time.  Was so afraid my phone would end up in the drink like poor Zack's.  

     These aren't the White Cliffs of Dover but are on the west side of the Tombigbee River just east of Livingston, AL

      This afternoon we tucked into Columbus Marina, Mississippi, and are relishing being plugged in with the air conditioning to banish memories of the last several hot and humid days.  It's nap time just as soon as I place my final period.

     I am finally caught up with our blog and what a relief.  No more "to-be-continued's" because we're actually where we say we are!!!

Bill and Laura Bender
Kindred Spirit III
Columbus, Mississippi
10 July 2014


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