In the way distant past, in a year that I can’t even pin down, a group of us decided (with me probably being the primary ring leader) that it would be a great idea to do a Water-Road Trip. In those days, before most of us had kids – we were boaters, in a serious way. We all grew up within a stone’s throw of Kentucky Lake and with a few exceptions all absolutely loved the water.
So, with some minor planning we decided to take two 21-foot run-abouts and leave from just north of the Paris Landing State Park and travel – by water – to Pickwick State Park. That’s right, geography students, the entire width of the state of Tennessee. I don’t remember the mileage, but it takes eight hours of boat riding, wide open, including time for finding marinas to get gas!
Once you have navigated the entire length of Kentucky Lake (or that section of the Tennessee River) you encounter Pickwick Dam. There is no marina at the base of the dam and you have to lock up to Pickwick Lake to the marina to buy gas. We also planned on spending the night at the state park and renting transient slips for our boats. Alas, the inn was full…so I inquired about other accommodations in the area and was directed to a “quaint” place called The Botel.
Now, staying at The Botel still required us to lock through the dam at Pickwick (which is daunting in small boats, but an experience I would recommend for all boating enthusiasts) for gas, AND THEN hang out a while and lock BACK DOWN. The process can take about two hours EACH WAY…and we were, tired, sunburned and ready to stop for the day.
Then we made our way back to The Botel, which we had passed a bit earlier in the day. WOW. Can I just say WOW again?
Now, I started telling you this long convoluted tale because a few days ago, as I was perusing The Tennessean Travel section there was an article on Savannah, Tennessee. I’m eating tomato soup, happily skimming the article, and suddenly, I nearly choked on said soup, when I came to a section on THE BOTEL. I was all like, THE BOTEL, that place is still around? The article goes on to explain that after World War II THE BOTEL was used by the Corps of Engineers as crew housing and floated "onto is present location during a flood, where it was set up as a fish camp. Limited lodging is available upstairs”.
Let me tell you, limited lodging is an understatement! THE BOTEL is the measuring stick to which our gang still measures ALL accommodations twenty years later! Upstairs was a rabbit warren of small rooms, with MULTIPLE beds, not your usual two, jammed up against the walls. There were NO outlets in the bathrooms…they were all out in the room, and get this – they were AT CEILING LEVEL. GO FIGURE. You had to stand on the bed to blow-dry your hair. No. I am not kidding.
Debbi & Frankie even had something extra special in their room! Underwear. Behind the bed. Not theirs. Dirty. Oh yes they did.
The article continues with “Downstairs, crisp-fried Tennessee River fiddlers (small catfish), catfish topped with grilled pepper and onions, tender peel-and-eat Cajun shrimp, not to mention Cajun crawfish in season and melt-in-your mouth chocolate cobbler topped with vanilla ice cream will keep you coming back for more.” WOW, that sounds great! Maybe they have new management! I vaguely remember some greasy catfish, nothing like that rings a bell.
The most distinct memory of eating I have is sitting at long picnic tables in the belly of the “barge” and staring at a support post that had penciled markings indicating the flood levels from year to year. Apparently THE BOTEL was repeatedly submerged and I just couldn’t get over the fact that I was eating in a restaurant that from time to time was at least eight to ten feet under water!
We had a great time on our Water-Road Trip and honestly now, all these years later I’m kind of glad I made those reservations at THE BOTEL, despite all of it's little "quirks" shall we say. We’ve gotten tons of mileage out of BOTEL stories, we made a lot memories on that trip and like I said before, we have to have something to use as our yardstick, somewhere to start on our scale of 1-10!