We had decided over the winter that we wanted to become "full time cruisers". Not quite ready to sell our house, we found a ready renter in a close friend of the family. Thus began the long crazy process of liquidating 27 years worth of "stuff" starting with our 15' Boston Whaler. Steve says this is the only thing he was sad about selling, but we're sure her new owner will take good care of her.
I became a Craig's list expert and we held the requisite garage sale in July for the small stuff. VVA picked up most of the rest, and we finished with weekly Goodwill trips as we did the final cleansing of each room. We rented a climate controlled storage locker for a minimum of furniture and memorabilia and offered family what we thought they might want. What a lot of work !!! Steve had to store his "complete since Issue 1" collection of Passagemaker magazine, so here I am sorting by year to box them up.
Steve did some home repairs that were probably a bit overdue. The flood had destroyed most of the plants in the two perennial gardens on our river bank, leaving bare ground, fertile for weeds. Not wanting to leave this mess for our renters, I got some estimates on rip rap placement. When I explained this plan to our new neighbor, he jumped right in and volunteered to use his 12 ton dump trailer and his brothers Kabota tractor and we could DYI it. "It'll be fun", he exclaimed. His enthusiasm was hard to resist, so we had to accept his offer. First of two loads.
Jeromy was an expert with the tractor and we just had to spread out the loads by hand.
Right before we left, a couple of cruising boats made the long journey up the Mississippi. Young America came up last summer and was joined by Carolynn Ann this summer. The two Great Harbor N37's made an impressive site as they approached our dock.
Our last week was filled with last minute lunches and dinners and lots of good-byes. "When are you coming back?" we were asked. "We don't know, that's the beauty of it", we answered. With the van packed full and Lucy lounging on top of it all, we were off. Our first stop was at Taliesin, Frank Lloyd Wright's Spring Valley Wisconsin home and studio. The tours are well organized, fun, and informative. Of course, no pictures are allowed inside, but here's the outside of the building called "Hillside". The room seen on the left of the photo is the "Assembly Hall", first stop on the tour.
The tour we took according to the website ..... is a rich overview of the Taliesin property’s finest architectural jewels, beginning with Hillside’s expansive Assembly Hall, the Fellowship Dining Room, the 5,000 sq. ft. "abstract forest" Drafting Studio, and the delightful Theater, after which you’ll drive across the estate to Taliesin and enjoy Wright’s personal Studio, the Living Room, his Guest Bedroom, the Blue Loggia, Mrs. Wright's recently restored bedroom, as well as Mr. Wright's bedroom.
The drafting studio is especially impressive as there is a graduate level school of architecture present on the grounds. The students live in this building and work and study in the studio at drafting tables designed by Mr. Wright. Very competitive program and the students come from all around the world.
Back on the bus, we admired the incredibly gorgeous views of the property and surrounding hills, and then toured the Wright's private home. A couple of outside pics of the home.
Taliesin is an American Treasure and I highly recommend a visit. Our next tour stop was the Cherohala Skyway, a scenic drive through the Smokey Mountains. Only 37 miles long, with many switchbacks and awesome views, we saw lots of motorcycles and took a little side road to this lovely waterfall.
Next up, we visited a home that was a bit more ostentatious.
This is the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC, the largest privately owned home in the USA. We did a well organized audio tour that gives you a look into the main living and sleeping areas along with the servants rooms and kitchens. The home has about 40 bedrooms and bathrooms, so you only get a glimpse, but there are more indepth tours also offered. George Vanderbuilt completed the home in 1895, but died young at 51. His widow opened the estate to the public during the depression and it is still owned, preserved and managed by his heirs. Again, no interior photos allowed, so I copied this view of the library from the website. The art and architecture are phenomenal ...
... as are the acres and acres of gardens. Again, a recommended bucket list experience.
Our final stop before Florida was at Brunswick Landing Marina where Once Upon a Time is berthed for the summer. Many insurance companies want their insured boats out of Florida for the hurricane season, and Brunswick, Georgia serves this purpose well for a few of our cruising friends. Brett and Susan rented a studio for her art where we got to see some of her amazing work.
We stayed on their boat for 2 nights, Lucy included, and had great meals and lots of laughs. They drove us out to St. Simon's Island, where we did our usual tourist drill: climb the lighthouse, eat ice cream and walk on the beach.
Finally, after a week of car travel, we got to the boat yard. We had the boat shrink wrapped last spring, so we wouldn't have to worry about leaks with the torrential Florida summer rains. We have one extremely elusive leak and were afraid others would crop up over the summer.
It was late in the day, so Steve set up the portable AC (it's still hot summer here) and we got enough of the interior put back together to sleep. It felt GREAT to be in our own beds, even on the hard, even living with only 15 amps of electric, ie. no refrigerator. The next day Steve replaced 4 bolts that hold the rudder in place. When you have a 30 year old boat, you almost have to have a sixth sense about what's gonna wear out next, and he does. When we were hauled out last year, he decided to check these bolts and it's good he did. Here's one of the old ones, looking quite corroded.
The sealant had to sit overnite, so another night on the hard in the yard. Spent the day unloading the van and organizing inside and the next day Steve tore off the shrink wrap and we launched by noon. The minute we pulled off the dock, we had a beautiful cooling breeze coming in through the pilot house window and a total feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction. Our 2.5 day cruise to the marina was mostly uneventful except for getting caught in a bit of a thunderstorm just as we approached the lock coming off Lake Okechobee. We could see about 5 of these storm cells to our north, and finally one caught up with us.
We called the Lock in the middle of it, looking forward to getting into a more sheltered environment, but were informed that they were on a "lightening hold" and wouldn't lock us through until the storm passed. There was enough lightening around us that we unplugged all our electronics and I called him on the cell phone rather than the marine radio. He said they didn't want to be liable if we were hit by lightening in the lock ... we thought maybe they might be more liable if they left us sitting out in the middle of the lake, rather than getting us into the more sheltered river ... but I did not make that argument to him. We waited a half hour, and when he finally opened the lock, they had both doors open and we cruised right through. A lockmaster further down the waterway told me it's really up to the the lockmasters descretion in these cases. Interesting ....
Anyway, we are now safe and sound back in our same slip at Harbortown Marina. Today, we are doing Absolutely Nothing, except writing this lengthy blog. We have a rental car for the weekend and will go back to retrieve the van tomorrow. Then the annual "boat project marathon" begins.
Thanks for reading if you made it this far, it was a long one. I promise regular posts, not as frequent as during the Great Loop, but I do enjoy it and appreciate all your support and comments.