I have been informed that I am responsible for the houseboat blog so here it is! Apparently I cannot stop talking about it so that is the reason I was ‘volunteered’ to do it!
Part of our planning this mammoth road trip last year was the unknown and the uncertainty of what we could expect in certain places! This week was one of those experiences!
We booked the RCI timeshare bonus week quite early in our planning and were told we were getting a “2 bedroomed houseboat on Lake Eufaula” – that was it. We thought it was a resort but this was not the case. RCI could offer no more info and when we called the company that RCI contracts to, they were also a bit vague. Our other worry was that this place was in the middle of nowhere, and in tornado alley!
We stopped in Stigler on the way (apparently Carrie Underwood, American Idol 2005 winner, comes from a village close to this one-horse town!) which is about 20 minutes from the lake, and did a shop for our ‘voyage’. We arrived after lunch to a really quaint dock (Evergreen Dock) with about 10 houseboats (each about 50 foot long) and another 10-15 yachts and powerboats, all moored in docks with undercover walkways/gangplanks. We met the Evergreen family and they were so excited to have South Africans use the houseboats – a first for them!
While walking down to the houseboat, a couple who were just leaving, asked if we wanted to inherit their 10 pool noodles. Little did we realise what fun these would turn out to be later in the week!
We did all the necessary paperwork and were told that it was a bit late to head out onto the lake and that we should wait until after our ‘Skippers Course’ in the morning before heading out. So that is what we did.
The houseboat itself was amazing. A front patio area with 4 plastic chairs and a table. A gas ‘barbeque’ and a sliding door into the lounge. Inside was a lounge area with tv and dvd player, sleeper couch, diningroom area with glass table and 4 chairs, kitchen with stove, fridge basin etc, dishwasher (oh no, that was me!) and loads of storage space. Down the passage was a bathroom with electric toilet, large shower and basin. The two bedrooms had double beds and loads of storage space. All areas were air conned.
Down the passage and out the back sliding door was another patio area with the aircon unit and a ladder going up to the top deck. This would later be used for sundowners, tanning, jumping into the water and sliding down the built-in slide into the water, with dishwashing liquid adding turbo to the rides!
We found a little bait shop up the road and bought some fishing tackle and worms and the boys then fished off the dock for the rest of the afternoon. We then had a great braai in the dock and after watching the 3 available local TV channels hit the sack. During the night we were awoken on numerous occasions by these huge Carp and turtles that were eating the algae off the bottom of the boat.
After a night of being plugged into shore power (this is very important as once you leave the dock, you need to run the generator – more on that later!) , we went for our quick Skippers Course. We were told where we could and could not go, how to navigate, use the depth gauge, power up the generator and use the radio etc and that was it – we were ready!
I must admit it was a bit daunting as they only spent an hour with us and then put us onto a lake that has a surface area of 102,000 acres (410 km2) and 970 km of shoreline! Storms have been known to come up over the lake and the concept of ‘tornado alley’ kept on resonating at the back of our minds!
Anyway, with beer in hand (yes it was lunchtime!) we headed out into the blue yonder! Mitch was my additional eyes and ears looking out for sandbanks while Cameron and Liz were sitting on the patio (also with drinks in hand) looking at the amazing views. We decided to head out to Paradise Cove, a ‘voyage’ of about an hour, to the other side of the lake. The Evergreen Dock is in the SE side of the image down a waterway and Paradise Cove on the other side of the lake, diagonally opposite in a NW direction:
After navigating through some deep (75ft) and then shallow waters (3ft) we drove the houseboat onto the sandy beach at Paradise Cove (yes that is what we were told to do!).
We tied the houseboat up (as per the Skippers Course!) and then headed into the water for a dip. I have not mentioned previously but the temperatures in the area had been around 40 degrees so very hot and humid. Over the next couple of days we spent up to 3 hours at a time in the warm water. Needless to say, after a week we were all very tanned and relaxed!
It is difficult to describe the area and what we experienced during the week (the family keep on reminding me that I keep on rambling on and on about it!) but I kept on thinking (and verbalising apparently!) that we were on this magnificent lake with numerous islands, reminiscent of the Mediterranean or any beach in Thailand, and that there were over 320 million American citizens surrounding us but for that week we had Paradise Cove to ourselves – not a soul to be seen (some boats during the day but they then went home I suppose), nudda. nobody – all to ourselves. Going into the bush when nature called, waking up to Racoons and deer next to the boat, relaxed meals, swimming and amazing sunrises. It was a surreal feeling (and a little unsettling when Liz said she heard banjo’s one night!) – so at one with nature and very very privileged and humbled to have experienced this part of the USA. Being with Liz and the boys was the cherry on top for me and cavorting in the water with the boys for hours on end was just plain fun (and sore – amazing how you find muscles you have not used for a while!)
Ok enough of that. We decided not to stay out permanently over the week for a number of reasons. We were running out of water and beer, it was month end and we needed to do some online banking, and we had to head back to the dock where there was cell phone reception and internet access. The other reason was that we had to run the generator for at least 6 hours a day to keep the freezer cold and with the cost of fuel, it was cheaper to head back to the dock, freshen up, restock, use dock power and then head out again, so this is what we did – every 2nd night we headed back to the dock.
Every 2nd day we headed out onto the lake to a different spot, got the boat all tied up and prepped and the boys would ask to go back to Paradise Cove – now their 2nd home! So we ended up spending each night back at the same spot – all alone in paradise. Braaiing every day was also a treat, albeit on gas
So we had an amazing week exploring this unique part of the USA – one of the highlights for me so far. Some recommendations from my side:
1. If you are visiting the USA, make a turn to Lake Eufaula in Oklahoma and go houseboating for a week – you will not be sorry! Choose your seasons carefully, either Spring or Autumn/Fall as you will not not need the generator as much as we needed it!
2. If you own local South African timeshare (no matter how many weeks), you can purchase bonus weeks (apparently you can only buy local weeks based on the number of weeks you own, but you can buy unlimited international bonus weeks). We bought this week’s accommodation online which cost us around R4000 for the week or R570 a day – you cannot stay in a Road Lodge back home for R570 a night! We have purchased many bonus weeks during our travels this year – cheaper than staying in hotels and you get excellent value for money and the knowledge knowing that the resort you are staying in has been benchmarked by RCI. Just call RCI or book directly on their website and be prepared to be offered set dates and places so be flexible.