Day 32 – Demopolis

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I’m in Demopolis!! This cute little antebellum town here on the Black Warrior River section of the Tenn-Tom Waterway is on the brink of a waterfront rejuvenation. While it was sad to see Chelsea, aka “Poco,” leave to head back to school, I lucked into the capable hands of camp hosts Robert and Miss Donna here at the ACoE campground and Linda Vice, who is involved with the Alabama Scenic River Trail. She has been a Godsend as she knows everyone and everything concerning this area. Check out what these amazing folks are up to- http://www.alabamascenicrivertrail.com they work hard to get folks on the water and outside. They work with the Army Corps of Engineers, which maintain not just the locks and dams that get heavy commercial use especially when the Mississippi floods, but also an extensive network of parks along the Tenn-Tom.

These parks are clean, well staffed, and safe public places where one can camp and have access to the waterways. As I stand here and type my blog, a cute couple strolls by with their little pack of dogs, one big one and three little ones. This is definitely much better than our “no-option-for-camping” stop the other night. I’m heading over shortly to Robert and Donna’s RV for a cup of coffee. Then it’s back to making arrangements for the next few days.

Linda picked me up yesterday at the gate and gave me the tour of Demopolis. The downtown is especially charming as are the old homes and huge mansion from pre-Civil War days. There is a ton of history here and once again, like in Paducah, Cape Girardeau, as well as the little towns along the Erie Canal, those that highlight their rivers and history seem to come out ahead. Probably one of the best ways to learn about one’s history is to travel about the country and collect stories from the locals and visit the museums and sites there.

Our country has gone through, and continues to go through, tremendous growing pains. To travel to these places, despite the obstacles-both the legitimate ones and the ones you create in your head-which loom sometimes frightenly large in your mind, is testament to the resiliency of our nation and ourselves. By learning where we came from, appreciating how difficult various changes have been through the ages of our country and the challenges so many people and groups of people have and continue to face, we can have faith in our future. The rough road we travel as a nation is not new; we can surmount these obstacles and become better people and a better nation just as we have in the past. We just have to tap into the good that’s in all our hearts and we can and will not only prevail, but be better than our past.

For now my body is happy to have a day of rest while I plan the next and final leg of the journey. Linda Vice not only rejuvenated me with her kindness and offer of hosting me further down the road, she also took me to a wonderful local restaurant, The Red Barn, where I learned I like pickled watermelon rinds.

Prior to immersing myself in the long distance paddle world, I was a farm gal-working for my horse’s board and lessons and bailing hay, so of course I’m always curious about any restaurant in a barn.  You know it’s going to have character! The Red Barn, with its homey atmosphere, fantastic down home cooking, and Holstein cow print table cloths, is THE place to eat in Demopolis. It was so much fun to be there with Linda as she told me about her stints abroad through the Rotary in Hong Kong and other Eastern venues. I also discovered that she’s a Methodist and an English major, just like my mother! She is also active in her local library and offered me a choice of books she had in her trunk which I sadly declined to take as there is really no stowage in my canoe.

Linda took me touring around what will be a new deeper water port to accommodate vessels coming up from the south. Demopolis expects to have more recreational vessel traffic as increasingly frequent storms and the rising insurance rates chase them further away from the vulnerable Gulf of Mexico. With increasing access to its waterways and the new marina plans, plus the existing celebration of history and the arts (Linda told me their theater is quite good), this town seems like it’s on the brink of a rebirth.

Once again, I’m finding myself wishing I could get my family out here. It’s not just the waterways, history, and art that this town has going for it, once again, as I’m discovering in my journey through Alabama, the people here are a HUGE asset. I wish more Northerners would venture down here and see the beauty and the goodness. After all, we are all fellow Americans. How can you really know your country, all it has to offer, if you don’t travel it and meet the people? And what better way than on the water? Okay, I admit, I am a little partial…

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