After leaving Chattanooga, the trip up the river was nearing its end. A marina not far from Knoxville, TN was as far north and east as we were planning to go, and, with the exception of a 30-mile run up the Little Tennessee River to be at the base of the Smokey Mountains, the time was coming when we would need to turn around and head downstream. The area promised to be a great place to do some sight seeing, however, and to meet up with our friends, Chris and Sam, who were joining us for part of the trip.
Our first stop on July 6th was at a wonderful family run place by the name of Terrace View Marina in Spring City, TN. Here, we met Mark and Heather, and their seven home-schooled children. The children charmed us with their outgoing personalities and polite manners. The marina has a restaurant and a pool, and on Saturday, hosted a poker run for pontoon boats. We really enjoyed Terrace View and put it on our list of those places to stop on the way back down the river.
Next we moved on to Long Island Marina in Kingston, TN. Another great stop, this little marina is run by Marla, a very pleasant lady who was happy to have us, even though we took up most of her gas dock by being there. Long Island Marina does not have a restaurant, but it does have a great tradition; each weekend day a food truck arrives to serve guests delicious meals, and on the day we arrived, music was provided as well. We had a great barbeque lunch while enjoying the view and the country music played by a local artist.
On July 9th we arrived at our farthest point up the Tennessee River by boat, Fort Loudon Marina in Lenoir City, TN. While we originally planned to go to Knoxville aboard AfterMath, we studied the map and found that Fort Loudon Marina was a perfect place to allow us access to rent a car and do some exploring of the area, including the city of Knoxville itself. We stayed at Fort Loudon for several days, with the exception of one night where we moved to an anchorage as the marina had a large group of boats coming in and they needed our dock space. John and I rented a car while at Fort Loudon and the first day we drove in to see what Knoxville had to offer. I felt pretty guilty taking pictures of the University of Tennessee football stadium, being University of Florida fans, but I did enjoy seeing the World’s Fair Park there.
The next day we took a day trip through the nearby mountains. I researched driving trips in the area and we came up with a plan for our day. Our first adventure that day was to drive the “Tail of the Dragon”. This road sounded interesting, as it was a favorite for motorcyclists and sports car drivers. In 11 miles, the drive has 318 curves that travel up and down the mountain. By the end of the drive, both Kirby and I had had quite enough of those curves, and I refused to do it as a return trip. John was kind about our carsick feelings and took us on a much nicer, and calmer, drive through the Great Smokey Mountain National Park and into Gatlinburg, TN.
Chris and Sam arrived on July 17th, for their fifth trip with us, loaded with goodies as always. We looked at weather and decided to do another road trip the next day through the mountains before leaving our dock. Soon, however, it was time to move on. All along the way we heard that the prize destination was the Tellico River, also known as the Little Tennessee River. The Tellico River, and much of the controlled Tennessee River, was formed by flooding towns and farms, and along the way it’s easy to see buildings that are still partially emerged from the water. Soon, however, we were at the base of the mountains in the Great Smokey Mountain National Park. It’s a beautiful sight to see the colors that change as the sun sets and rises over the scenery, and, for us, what started as a quick dip in the water turned into a few hour-long soak in the lake. After a night at anchor in this gorgeous scenery, we returned to Fort Loudon Marina for one more night before beginning our downstream voyage. We had traveled 1008 miles since leaving the Gulf Coast at Montgomery, AL and risen 814 feet above sea level by way of eighteen locks.
Retracing our steps, we took Chris and Sam to Long Island Marina where this time the food truck was called “Waffley Good”. While John and Chris ate waffle sandwiches stuffed with whipped cream, strawberries and blueberries, Sam and I were more adventurous, Sam eating a bacon, chicken, ranch waffle and me having a BLT waffle. No matter what, we enjoyed our stay at this tiny marina where AfterMath was oversized but the people were friendly and welcoming.
July 22nd took us back to Terrace View Marina. It’s really surprising how much we all loved this stop. Chris and I spent countless hours at the pool over the next couple of days and we all enjoyed a great dinner at La Hacienda, a Mexican and Italian restaurant in town. One night, the local fire departments conducted training at the marina. The kind owners held a full dinner for the fire fighters and, by way of two adorable kids bearing a home made flyer, we were also invited to attend. Mark and Heather served smoked pork, pork loin, an assortment of barbeque sauces, coleslaw, potato salad, baked beans, and Texas sheet cake to all who came to share in the fun. After dinner the fire fighters had a great time with demonstrations of their hose power and rescue boats. We loved our time at Terrace View and truly hated leaving such a family oriented place.
We were back at anchor on the 25th. Anxious to jump in, we were soon shocked by some of the coldest water we have felt in a very long time on the Hiawassee River. Although we were never sure why this water was so cold, we still enjoyed floating around and enjoying the scenery.
We arrived back in Chattanooga on the 26th and that is where we spent the rest of our time with our wonderful visitors. John and I had left plenty to do in this city for when we had company and together we all enjoyed riding the carousel, visiting the park, lunching in the German beer house, visiting the aquarium, riding the incline railway to the top of Lookout Mountain, and, John and Sam’s favorite, visiting the International Towing and Recovery Museum. We topped it all off with an amazing dinner at Hennen’s Steak and Seafood Restaurant. It was so hard to say goodbye again to our good friends when they left on Sunday, but it’s nice to know that we will find them again somewhere in the near future.
So, now we are now heading back towards Florida. We will travel slowly, stopping for a month or so again at Grand Harbor Marina at the junction of Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee. The Tennessee River has brought us to, what was for us, an unexplored part of America. I’m not sure that we would have ever spent time in this area of the country if we were not traveling aboard AfterMath, but it has been an eye opening experience full of kind people who were happy to have us see what the true south is like. We look back at our lives over the last three years and we are in awe of the people we have met, the sights we have seen, and the things we have learned about the nation and the world. Our eyes have been opened to new opinions, different values, and unfamiliar cultures. Travel is surely a learning experience. To quote one of my favorite authors, Pat Conroy, “Once you have traveled, the voyage never ends, but is played out over and over again in the quietest chambers. The mind can never break off from the journey.” Hopefully, we will never forget, never have our minds break off from, this adventure of a lifetime.