Sunday, October 24, 2010

Alabama Getaway

Brave guest boaters Scott and Jan Berger
"You're going WHERE for a vacation?"  

My brother Scott and his wife Jan are Yankees, sort of . . .   they live in New Jersey.  When Jan told work colleagues she was headed to Alabama for a getaway, not everyone was convinced it was a glamorous destination.

But actually, this neck of the woods makes a fine place to vacation in autumn. Daytime temps are in the 80s, and at night it's refreshingly cool.

Meanwhile the leaves are turning colors--bright red sweet gums, orange maples, rust-colored oaks--adding interest to a shoreline already ornamented with narrow coves and crenallated layers of limestone cliffs.

Scott and Jan flew in to Huntsville and joined us in Florence, Alabama (just across the Tennessee River from Tuscumbia and Muscle Shoals).  This region has a bunch of attractions, not the least of which is the Key Underwood Coon Dog Memorial Graveyard (est. 1937).  

Another Florence attraction: The Sternwheeler Pickwick Belle
Other attractions in Florence, Alabama? Penn State Nittany Lions fans take note:  This town is home to the University of North Alabama, whose claim to fame is the nation's only LIVE lion mascot.  Actually, two lions, Leo and Una, whom you can see on live lionwebcam.)  Now you are saying, "WE gotta get us some here in Happy Valley!"

Scott and Jan joined us on Friday, and Saturday morning we stretched our legs by hiking into town to visit the only home in Alabama designed by the architect Frank Lloyd Wright.  Wright built the Rosenbaum Home in 1940 for an Alabama college professor and his wife, a New York City fashion model.  

Boat-style decor! Dining table: Built in.  Storage cabinets on left: Built in.
Panelling: Dark-stained cyprus (a great water-resistant wood)
Though the grumpy architect never actually visited the site (he let an apprentice supervise the work), he was reported to have approved of the Rosenbaums for living "beautifully and appropriately" in their home. 

Translation:  Frank fitted all the homes he designed with lots of odd touches, such as doors a mere 20 inches wide and space-age-style furniture of his own design (he loved plywood)--and he DID NOT LIKE FOR YOU TO MESS WITH HIS DESIGN DECISIONS by mucking up your home with furnishings of your own personal choice. The Rosenbaums were good homeowners because just about the only thing they added to the mix was a set of 10 Eames chairs, which to our eyes seemed perfectly at home in this environment.

We found the house a tiny touch impractical, with its leaky flat roofs and a large south-facing glass wall, doubtless hot in summer, but overall we loved the place, on reflection for the way its design resembled the interior of a good boat.  

Everywhere you look are polished dark wood surfaces, spaces that are small but inviting, and lots of clever built-in storage, engineered with craft and attention to detail, and fitted with interesting bits of brass hardware.
On the other side of the fence is a charming Japanese garden--
and a set of drains to deal with all the water from those flat roofs
(Check the SlowBoatCruise page on Facebook for more photos.)

On other fronts, travel update: We've spent the past three weeks working our way slooowwwly south on the Tennessee River. 

Interestingly, as we've been moving south, we've been heading UPstream. This is one of the oddball rivers that flows from south to north.  But because of the dams along the way, we're not bucking much current.

When we passed through Pickwick Lock to enter Pickwick Lake, we started a new phase of our trip.  From the head of Pickwick Lake, you can pick up the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway, which takes you further south . . .  ultimately to Mobile, Alabama on the Gulf Coast.

But at Pickwick, we took a hard left turn to make a side trip.  Instead of continuing south on the Tenn Tom, we travelled east on the Tennessee, through two locks, to Joe Wheeler State Park in Rogersville, Alabama. That's where we are now, with Scott and Jan as honorary deckhands.

And what drew us here?  A "Looper Rendezvous."  Folks who do this trip, the so-called Great Loop, have a kind of club, the American Great Loop Cruisers Association or AGLCA, and each fall they put on a kind of convention, where during the daily sessions you can get all your questions answered about doin' the Loop.

We're told that one highlight of the Rendezvous is the "Looper Crawl," when attendees take turns offering tours of their boat.  Considering that Dragonfly has been a continuous floating open house for the past five months, we are primped and ready!


  1. I'm jealous! I couldn't get away from my conference on Thursday. Actually, it was way more interesting than I thought. And we did go to the Delta (Clarksberg, MS, actually). Check out my album on F'book if you're interested.

  2. Jay B writes: Hi Cynthia and Bill.. My Dad...your grandfather.. Samuel Solomon Berger worked for a couple of years at a Paper Mill in Florence, Alabama after he graduated UMaine in Chemical Engineering, specializing in paper.

  3. The picture of Dad and Uncle Bill looking over the edge is classic Dad studying something pose! I hope you all had a wonderful weekend. PSU is not the same without relatives here to harass! I mean visit. xox

  4. We miss you, Margot! We want to feed you dinner! Come visit on the boat!