After sleeping fairly well, we got up, showered, and dressed. There was an announcement that we would be delayed upward of an hour due to barges ahead that were run aground. We were only supposed to be in town from noon to 5pm anyway. The mighty Mississippi hit a historic low in 2012, and the feeling by the pros is that a new record may be set in another couple weeks. I hope not. And, oddly enough, there are high waters in the northern Mississippi River, but that doesn’t obviously translate down south. The result – and I don’t claim to understand the logic – is heavier than normal barge traffic.
Alison and I were up early – big surprise, and had breakfast on our own. We were randomly assigned to table 70! After breakfast, we took the opportunity to explore a bit more of the “boat”.
Our first “River Laurean” session was scheduled for 8:30. It was good, and we learned a lot about the Mississippi River and its history. Our speaker has been on the river for roughly 30 years – not a a captain, but this was very good.
The river is typically 25 to 100 feet deep, but only guaranteed to 9 feet! It travels an average of 3-4 miles per hour, but is only running about 2 miles per hour now, due to the low water levels. Sand bars very dynamic. The river is NOT tidal, at any point; however, it can normally change up to 30-40 FEET during the course of the year. He demonstrated that with pictures from Baton Rouge with the Kidd and the Paper Clip dock. Wow!
Down river bound vessels have the right of way, and the Pilots basically agree on which side they will pass on.
It’s a BOAT because it’s in fresh water and boats can be loaded on a ship. Good luck with this one!
We have been “landing” most of the time, which is essentially a controlled grounding – and they tie up to whatever is available – like trees. When the boat is tied to a tree, it’s called “choking the stump.” We will not be docking, in a traditional sense, much this trip.
Travel on the river is actually measured in land miles NOT nautical miles. The ocean opening is actually 95 miles south of New Orleans – and Memphis is almost 900 miles up river. If you Google the distance from Memphis to New Orleans, is about 394 miles, or half the miles than going by river.
No locks and damns on the Southern Mississippi, which begins at the Ohio River, its largest tributary, by far, but it’s a different story up North with the Mississippi and its tributaries.
“Tow Boat” 40-60 barges in the spring – strapped together as a single unit. They used to “tow” like done on other rivers, but the Mississippi is too big, and they learned that pushing was better.
Coal and gravel uncovered and rocks from the north. “Don’t grow rocks in the south”
“Wing Damns” keeps the river on course. – river control
Chemical and petroleum.
Grain, contretemps, rolled metals
15 barges equal xxx trailers [INSERT CHART FROM CHART ROOM]
Steamboats were critical to commerce from roughly 1830 to civil war, after which trains and ultimately roadways and bridges took over. Interest has been restored over the past 10-20 years more from tourism, and it seems that they are learning how to do it right.
The American Queen is 418 feet long, and stands 87 feet tall, with lowerable stacks, a lowerable pilot house, radar and communications tower, and flags. It is currently the largest steamship – by far, and houses an 84 year old steam engine, although the ship itself is only 21 years old. The bond draws only 8-1/2 feet, which is basically the same as barges. Ocean vessels on the lower river have a 45 foot channel to accommodate them, but the rest of the river guarantees only a 9 food channel. There is an anchor on board, but it’s not used. The boat holds up to 60,000 gallons of #2 diesel fuel, and 110,000 of fresh water.
That was quite a session!
Alison and Marion had already signed us up for our excursions, months ago, but we attended the excursion orientation session to hear what they had to say, and learn a bit more about what we were going to see throughout the week.
Next up, at 10:30am was Mr Sam Thompson – a friend of Elvis and his chief body guard. He grew up in Memphis, worked for the Sheriffs department, and possibly most important, his sister, Linda, was Elvis’s girlfriend – and a previous Miss Tennessee. This was his fifth “Elvis” cruse for American Steamship, as ambassador for Elvis Presley Enterprise.
Sam and Elvis met in 1972. He was Dany Thomas’s assigned body guard while Danny was heavily involved with St. Jude Children’s Hospital.
Elvis was almost nocturnal – and slept all day to 3-4pm, before waking for a show, or partying or whatever. Sam was at the house the day Elvis died. He was actually there to take Lisa Marie, then only 9, to California to her mother —– and things changed
He left us with story after story.
We were to have landed in Greenville, Mississippi at noon, and we had a full afternoon excursion involving BB King. We also had severe storms in the forecast.
The captain delivered an announcement that we would be arriving an hour late because a barge was grounded in the river and the Coast Guard, yes, the Coast Guard on the river, was actively trying to free it and because the river was low, there wasn’t a lot of room to go around. We took a hard left into a tributary for Greenville, and then learned that the back end of a barge was hanging out into the channel, and had to have a tug push it into shore so we could pass. Finally, we landed and climbed the levy that was expanded several feet higher after the 1927 flood. Wow.
B.B. KIng museum
We finally got to the museum – in the rain. Pictures and videos were not permitted, but we had a great time!
“He’s done it with kindness. He’s done it with grace. He’s done it with class. And that goes further than the licks he can play, or the notes he can sing. ”
We were greeted by an adult brother/sister singers who were wonderful. Great museum. The museum was a LOT bigger on the inside than it appeared from the outside, and it was packed with good material. We were supposed to have gone to a local club owned by BB King for some food and more music, but due to the weather, they brought everything to the museum. Music and food brought to us instead of going to the club due to the severe weather. We tried fried catfish, fried chicken, French fries and fried hush puppies and lemonade. and some good music from a four piece band.
Our Greenville guide was, like all of them passionate about Greenville, but there is NO WAY I would consider living there. Nicest lady, but as she was explaining things to us, all I could hear in my mind was the guy in Forest Gump explaining all the ways to prepare and eat shrimp!
The wild weather struck, as we were driving back in the bus – severe thunderstorms heavy rain and tornado warning. We learned that ours was the only excursion that made it out. All other excursions and hop-on/hop-off plans were grounded to severe hail that occurred.
One quote I took away from today’s excursion: “If you can eat it we can deep fry it.”
The bus got back to the ship about 5, and we got ready for our “formal” dinner. This apparently means different things to different people, but I thought we looked pretty good. Half joke, and half curiosity, I had shrimp, spring mix and a stuffed pepper with quinoa, lentils, etc. and lots of wine for dinner.
The later show starts at 7:45pm, and this was part II, Elvis, the later years. It was another good show by Andy and his band.
After the show, we stopped outside, on-deck outside out cabin. It was still thundering and lightening. It was still raining, but not terribly hard. And FOG, so much that I couldn’t tell if we were moving forward, backward or standing still – literally. So we decided to leave it to the Captain and his crew to get us back out to the Mississippi and on to our next stop.