Thursday, October 1, 2009

Boat ride to a Cherokee feast

Yesterday evening I got to do something I get to do all too seldom: go out ON the water via a ride in a boat. And I'm not certain that I've even BEEN in a houseboat before, out on the water. But what a ride! Ahoy, matey!

You see, the Nashville area Lambda Chi Alpha alumni held our monthly get-together Wednesday; one of the Brothers graciously invited us onto his houseboat moored at Cedar Creek Marina on Old Hickory Lake (a reservoir formed by a dam on Hadley Bend of the Cumberland River), north of Mt. Juliet (which is east of Nashville just over the Wilson country line). This houseboat includes a "front room" (or living room/captains post), behind which and a little lower is a kitchen-dining room, and stairs lead down from that first room presumably to sleeping quarters. Narrow outdoor passages along either side of the boat connect small deck areas at prow and stern; from the hinder deck a ladder leads up to a larger deck area, and from there a second ladder heads up to another deck, partially sheltered by a forward canvas roof under which are built-in seats looking both forward and backward and the steering wheel and controls for the craft. Seven of us Lambda Chi brothers enjoyed this craft and its journey upriver (or "up-lake"). We included boat owner and captain Paul Lyle, Alex Davies who usually arranges the monthly meetings, Tom Hoy who is High Pi or alumni advisor for Gamma-Delta Zeta (our chapter at Vandy) and with whom I rode from Nashville, and our driver Fritz Haimberger.

An aside: The LCA brothers I've named all graduated from VU -- and I hold an MA from Vandy -- but Bro. Paul is a UT alumnus. There WAS some "trash-talk" and rivalry words this evening, but all in good-natured fun. Nobody was about to get TOO harsh about Bro. Paul's alma mater; after all, nobody wanted to swim to get back home!

This evening presented a nearly perfect environment for the boat trip! The sky was blue clear, the air a pleasant autumn warm -- I removed my suit coat (I was the only one garbed in suit & tie) -- and being past summer we encountered little boat traffic on Old Hickory Lake. Bro. Paul entertained us by playing hit songs of the Sixties and Seventies off an ipod thru the boat's p.a. system. He pointed out to us that the reservoir is really very shallow except at the former riverbed. In fact, we passed a rather broad segment of lake where several downed tree trunks and limbs lay mostly above water! Almost all the shoreline had trees, and occasionally we saw houses and other man-made objects.

Of special interest to myself and Bro. Tyler (alumnus of Western Kentucky Univ.) was Boxwell Scout Reservation on the south shore of the reservoir. Bro. Tyler spoke of earning his Scout sailing merit badge there, on his way to becoming an Eagle Scout. And my son David spent a week during at least one summer in the 1990s camping there with his troop from Clarksville (I was there, too). Since we were passing Boxwell, I pulled out my cell phone and gave David a call; when he answered I informed that I was floating past the scout camp even as we spoke.

David said, "Boxwell? No way!" To which I replied, "Way!" and proceeded to fill him in on the context of my statement. Then he made me doubly glad that I had called, because he told me that he and Allison had heard the baby's heartbeat during a recent visit to the doctor! So, when I hung up the phone I regaled my fraternity brothers with my impending grandfather status (most of the seven are in their early-to-mid twenties, so I excuse them that they didn't display much in the way of congratulations or interest).

The boat passed under the Highway 109 bridge, and looking back down-river ("down-lake") to the West we could see a brilliant sunset sky. Against this was silhouetted the superstructure over that part of the bridge which carries the road high up over the former riverbed. I took a photo of this, to add to earlier ones I'd taken of the shoreline and of my Lambda Chi brothers on the boat.

Just past the bridge Bro. Paul turned his houseboat to the right and into the south shore, where he docked us in a marina close by Cherokee Steak House. An eighth LCA alumnus who hadn't been on the ride joined us there, and we had supper. The food was delicious and the ambiance delightful. We had a great time eating, conversing and getting better acquainted and occasionally throwing glances at an MLB game on the TV up in the corner next to us. During the chatting I discovered that Bro. Paul worked for radio stations WKDA and WKDF, and thus knows my fellow church member Cindy Francis (Lovelace) very well. Small world, one might say!

If you, dear reader, get opportunity to travel around the Nashville-Old Hickory Lake area, and want a very good place to dine, I heartily recommend the Cherokee Steak House to you.

Then we walked the short distance back to the docked boat and began the return voyage. Even tho' the night air was quite cooler, we all had jackets (and me my suit coat), so we all were on that highest part of the upper deck, toward the front, where the steering wheel and controls are. We continued our chatting, generally in pairs, and listening to hits of the Sixties and Seventies, while luxuriating in the soothing sensation of the boat moving along thru the water. Too soon, almost it seemed, we were back at Cedar Creek Marina, said our farewells -- and our thanks to Bro. Paul -- and drove to our respective homes.

What an utterly delightful evening of brotherhood, in motion on the water and dining around the table! I can almost feel song lyrics coming on! Must be because this happened so near Music City!

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