The One Where We Make A Run For Dolphins

In our house, no one is allowed to say “the B word.” It’s considered a bad word and you get in big trouble if it comes out of your mouth.

(Boring is the word I’m referring to, of course.)

But there is absolutely no other way to describe the inland waterway system that Loopers must traverse on their way from the Great Lakes to the Gulf. The best part of the whole river system is finishing it.

And, as a prize, you get dolphins!

I will start by acknowledging that this might be one of the most controversial opinions I’ve ever publicly shared.

Some people love the rivers between Chicago and the Gulf. They talk about all the amazing things you’ll see. Loopers rave about the quilt museum. And the random red phone booth you pass along the banks in Mississippi. They get giddy over the white cliffs and the muddy river anchorages.

In light of that, I want to say that one person’s highlights are another person’s dullest days. I just happen to fall into the latter category. And, well, it’s my blog so you get my opinion.

Hopefully you followed along on our journey out of Chicago. If not, check it out here: The One Where I Herd Cats Down A River.

In hindsight, that section of the rivers was exciting because it was a challenge.

After being tasked with getting 12 boats past the locks that had been closed for 4 months, the competitive side of me had to excel.

After conquering that section of the rivers, life slowed down. I took a second to look around and it was then that I realized how uninteresting our surroundings became as we headed south.

Every morning I had to remind myself, “we’re on our way to the dolphins.” I knew they’d be waiting for us in the Gulf and we’d have a very exciting season ahead of us.

We just had to survive the rivers!

It’s tempting to just gloss over these weeks in our journey. No need to rehash day by day.

However, we did have a few unforgettable highlights and great laughs. What the rivers lacked in personality, our friendships and experiences made up for, tenfold.

Here are a few of our favorite moments on our run to get to the dolphins…

Thanksgiving Feast

I never imagined that we’d ever celebrate a major holiday at a random marina in the middle of Alabama with new friends. But we did, and hosted quite a feast for 12! Despite cooking in the smallest kitchen ever, I don’t think we missed anything!

Fall Foliage

The best part of heading south during the month of November was experiencing weeks of beautiful fall foliage.

Boating Under I-40

We’ve boated under many familiar roads, but none more exciting than I-40. Not only had we driven over that exact spot, but it was also very cool knowing that we could jump on a truck going east and end up in Charlotte.

Intersection of 3 states

We spent several days in a marina at the exact intersection of Tennessee, Mississippi and Alabama.

While it was reminiscent of our day at the 4 Corners (read about that HERE), it did have a little more going on. The kids and I visited Shiloh Battlefield and learned a ton about the Civil War. One night we also happened upon a drive up concert that was quite memorable and provided many laughs.

Florence/Muscle Shoals

This stop will forever be talked about as a favorite. In fact, it’s so special that we actually extended our trip down the rivers (thus postponing the dolphins) by a whole week.

Admittedly, there were hurricanes hanging out in the Gulf and that inspired this side trip.

However, the week was made memorable by: friends visiting, karaoke in a cave, Helen Keller’s museum, and the Muscle Shoals recording studio. We even got to play a famous piano. No other stop down the rivers captivated us more than this little corner of the world.

Ice Cream and Cinnamon Rolls

This one needs no explanation. We did manage to find some good food on the rivers. A highlight for the non-gluten free people on our boat were definitely the homemade cinnamon rolls provided by Pebble Isle Marina.

Goat Island

One night we loaded up all our friends on our boat and headed over to a place called Goat Island. It was just strange enough to peak our interest!

We anchored out and sent the kids over to the island in our dinghy, armed with a loaf of bread. Everyone fed the goats and then had a sunset potluck of our own.

While I’m partial to dolphins, the goats will be something we talk about for quite a while.


One night, our friends proposed doing a “Crappiefest.” The idea was to stay up really late and catch as many crappie as possible. Naturally, Miller loved the idea.

Mary Grace made hot chocolate for everyone and Miller had the trophy catch of the night. The next day our friend, Matt, spent hours cleaning all of the fish and grilled them for all of us for dinner.

Waterfall Anchorage

3 boats anchored by our own private waterfall for the weekend. The kids swam in the Tennessee River in November, and YES it was freezing cold. We hiked. Our friends introduced us to “beach breakfast,” our new favorite tradition.

This is the closest I will ever come to camping. And I loved it!

Storm At Bobby’s Fish Camp

Bobby’s Fish Camp strikes a chord in the heart of every Looper. It’s an unavoidable stop. Some love it and some hate it (you can probably guess what boat I fall into.)

We literally raced a storm and won. No sooner was our boat tied to the rickety dock, but the lightning and thunder began. Followed by pelting rain. We huddled on our boat, taking in our surroundings and wondering if the dock was about to break apart.

The night definitely earned us bragging rights. We survived a pretty big storm AND a night at Bobby’s!

Hopefully you enjoyed some of these highlights from our run down river to the dolphins.

I’m sure in some cases, you had to be there to appreciate it. But hopefully the pictures help! As always, thanks for following along on our crazy adventures! You might also enjoy reading:

The One With The Time We Almost Lost Our AGLCA Burgee

The One With All Things Remote: Working, Learning and Living

How To Sleep Better When You Travel

PS. If this is your favorite part of the Loop, please don’t be offended. I try to be authentic and “real” but my goal is never to hurt anyone’s feelings.

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  1. Gary Pursell on January 7, 2021 at 12:54 am

    looks like you are making memories that will last a life time and possibly be handed down a generation or two. No problem with you being real and giving your opinion but those of us in the south ar looking at those pictures and smiling.

  2. Chris Huffstetler on March 17, 2021 at 7:14 pm

    For a boring section it seems you guys really had a lot of fun and things to do and see :-). Unfortunately for loopers, late fall and winter are not the prime time of boating and social activities on the Tennessee River and it’s lakes. Come back again in the summer sometime and see how you feel about it. Fair winds and following seas.

    • momwithamap on March 22, 2021 at 2:11 pm

      YES! We really did have the best time even though we were excited to reach warmer weather. We can’t wait to return to that section- hopefully a bit earlier in the season- and explore throughout Tennessee (we really want to do the trip to Nashville, and the trip to Chattanooga/Knoxville)

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