Regular readers will recognize that I like to lay out big routes with minimal milestones, and fill in the details as I go along.
I just had a look back at my 2021 travel plans and I’m going to give myself a near perfect score. A few bumps and turns, but that’s part of the fun. In a challenging year I followed the plan exactly.
My basic game plan hasn’t changed. I’d like to spend the summer close to Lake Ontario, and we have to get Tin Lizzie up and running again this spring. So I’m shooting to be in Chicago some time in May. I haven’t ruled out leaving Escapade in the rivers somewhere for the summer, but that’s more of a contingency than a plan. Most likely I’ll head for Toronto by boat.
I was chatting with Greg this evening about routing and timing for the next few months. River travel in the spring can get challenging, and I’m heading north into winter, but here’s my optimistic route for the next four months. Get your map out!
From here I’m heading up the west coast of Florida, then west across the top of the Gulf of Mexico to Mobile AL. I’ve covered most of this area before, but there are a few new diversions and stops on my list. The Gulf ICW is remote and empty this time of year.
At Mobile I head north on the rivers, then through the Tennessee-Tombigbee waterway to get to the Tennessee River just above Pickwick Dam. 470 miles upstream.
At that point the direct route to Chicago is down the Tennessee, but my plan is to head upstream and go as far as I can, which is a bit beyond Knoxville. It’s about 435 miles upstream. Then we’ll turn around and run downstream about 600 miles to where the Cumberland River runs into the Tennessee, around the Kentucky Lakes.
My plan is to explore the Cumberland as well. This is an up-and back trip, 385 miles each way. Nashville is a planned stop. I’m hoping to have guests.
Once back in Kentucky Lake, it’s a short jaunt downstream to the Ohio River, then another short jaunt down the Ohio to get to the Mississippi at Cairo, IL.
From Cairo it’s upstream on the Mississippi to St Louis. That’s a 200 mile upstream slog, probably the most challenging segment.
Above St Louis the worst is over. It’s about 350 miles upstream on the Illinois River to Chicago, a mostly pleasant trip.
I’m pretty pumped to hit the rivers. When I went south on Mazurka I went the western route down the Lower Mississippi and into Louisiana. So I’ve done the stretch between Chicago and Cairo, but none of the other areas.
The Ohio River is another big one, of course, running east to Pittsburgh. I think it’s too ambitious to plan to include that this year. Another time perhaps.
Side note: I have an enduring memory of a lecture in a Geography class I took, where we looked at early Colonial American travel and trade routes. One case was of the early fur trappers. They would hike across the Appalachian Mountains, traveling very light by neccessity. Camp in the Ohio River Valley and harvest pelts. Build a raft, load it up, and pole down to New Orleans, sell the raft, and travel by sailing ship back to Baltimore or Philadelphia to sell the harvest. Amazing. Life sure got easier and more productive with coal, and then oil.
Big risks for this segment are mostly weather related. High water is a persistent risk, especially during spring runoffs. That could cause major delays. Local violent weather is common. And it will likely be cold at times, but that doesn’t concern me too much.
Off we go!