AMERICAN DUCHESS CRUISE: MADISON, INDIANA

Journalist Charles Kuralt once called Madison, Indiana, “the most beautiful rivertown in America.  Although we haven’t seen them all, Bruce and I have seen a lot of these little towns during out cruises along a few of the American rivers.

Mr. Kuralt was onto something.  Madison was so charming, it put a smile on my face as we roamed the quaint town on the Ohio River.

Back in the early 1800’s, Madison was a significant cultural and industrial town for the region.  Today, it’s just a cute little town that welcomes river tourists and road trip enthusiasts alike.

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This is a utility box for the street signal on the main street.  Quite a catch!

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Shrewsbury-Windle Home, built 1846-1849

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Lanier Mansion, built in 1844

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The mansion had quite a backyard and view of the Ohio River!  The community pool (below) is located next door to the backyard.

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It was a hot day in Madison, and this pool was very tempting!

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On Broadway, cars are permitted to park down the center of the street along the solid yellow line!

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There were so many wonderful houses, both big and small, in the historic district.   Laura, we thought of you the entire time!

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I love the Little Free Library system!  The first one I ever saw was on our road trip, and I fell in love with the concept of  “Take a book, return a book.”  I am proud to say that in our community of Spalding County (pop. 60,000) has 28 Little Free Library’s!  Check out the non-profit here.

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AMERICAN DUCHESS CRUISE: LOUISVILLE, HOME OF THE KENTUCKY DERBY

In 2015, during our seven-week road trip, we spent a wonderful day in downtown Louisville, touring the Louisville Slugger Museum and seeing other highlights of the city.  (See my blog post here.)

This time, we arrived in Louisville aboard the American Duchess, so we saw the city skyline from a different perspective.

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Instead of revisiting downtown, we did something we missed during our first visit:  took a behind the scenes tour of Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby.  Having seen Churchill Downs on TV over all these years, it was fun to be able to actually be there.  On this day, however, it was very quiet; not a horse to be found on the track.  It was a very hot day, and the horses that were there had been exercised hours before our tour.  (We had been fortunate to get to see the horses close-up during our tour of Keeneland Race Course during that road trip, but the timing just wasn’t right for this tour.)

One of the highlights of touring Churchill Downs was getting to meet 1970 Kentucky Derby winning jockey, Mike Manganello, who rode Dust Commander to victory.  We heard some interesting stories during our Q&A session with him and learned what life is like to be a professional jockey.

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The other highlight was watching a film about the history of Churchill Downs that we viewed in a theater with a 360-degree screen.  We sat on stools in the center with the screen surrounding us.  As they showed footage from previous Kentucky Derby races, we spun around to watch as the horses raced a full 360 degrees around the screen.  Since the sound traveled with the scene, and the camera angles were very close-up, the experience was thrilling and quite unique!

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Here are scenes from the day at the track:

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Bill Shoemaker was one short guy! We toured the Churchill Downs Museum and learned about the great jockey.

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Standing next to Wilt Chamberlin proves just how short Shoemaker was– and, how tall Chamberlin was in comparison!

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AMERICAN DUCHESS CRUISE: NATIONAL QUILT MUSEUM IN PADUCAH

Without a doubt, the highlight of Paducah is the National Quilt Museum.  The massive wall murals along the river depicting Paducah’s history are quite a sight as well; however, the quilts are, in one word, amazing.  More on that in just a moment…

Back to the murals, I didn’t photograph them this time, because I had done so during a previous visit.  If you are curious to see them, check out my 2017 blog post about Paducah that includes photos of the beautiful wall murals.

In that post on Paducah, you will notice something missing:  Photos of the quilts at the National Quilt Museum.  At the time, no photography of any kind was permitted, even without flash.  I was so disappointed, because the artistry in the exhibited quilts was unbelievable.

I was happy to learn that photography (without flash) would be permitted this time.  I went crazy with my camera!  Although most of the photos can be viewed in the “American Duchess River Cruise, July 2019” album on my photo sharing site, I tried to limit my selection for this post.

As you can see below, these aren’t your grandmother’s old-fashioned Colonial-era quilts that keep you warm at night.  These are works of art.  They are so incredible, that even the men from the riverboat who were dragged to the museum by their wives were saying, “Wow!” over and over again, as they viewed one phenomenal quilt after another.  Seriously.  Bruce loves this museum as much as I do!

A warning as you view these pictures:  They don’t do these quilts justice.  At all.  There is so much detail that couldn’t possibly be picked up by any camera to match what we saw in person.  These are just small pictures on a computer screen.  You really have to see the real thing.  If you ever have an opportunity to visit Kentucky, you must go to Paducah and see all of the exhibits at this wonderful museum.  Send me a message after your visit, too.

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This “quilt” is actually carved from basswood! It is on display in the conference room at the National Quilt Museum. It was created by Fraser Smith, and measures 65″ x 42″ x 4″.

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One of my favorite exhibits at the museum was of miniature quilts, measuring no more than 24″ on one side. The quilts in this glass case were the smallest on exhibit, measuring just a few inches long.

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Look closely at the work that went into sewing each of the flowers. What patience!

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The artist’s statement of this piece: “I decided making a small quilt (14-3/4″ x 21-1/4″) would be a fun, relaxing respite from my current large quilt. How long could it possibly take? I figured a few hours work for a couple of weeks. Little did I know that this fun project would take two months of working seven days week for fourteen hours a day. It was a great accomplishment to complete this quilt, but believe me it was pure joy to get back to my usual large quilts.” ~ Shirley P. Kelly, 2006

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I first saw this quilt at the museum in 2017 during our “Mighty Mississippi” cruise. It was so disappointing at the time that photography was not permitted. This time, photos were allowed without flash, so I was thrilled to be able to photograph this amazing quilt.

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This is a close-up of the previous picture.  So much detail!

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This quilt was HUGE!

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“Corona II: Solar Eclipse,” by Caryl Bryer Fallert-Gentry, measures 76″ x 94″ and is made from hand-dyed fabrics. It is machine pieced and machine quilted. It was named one of the 100 Best Quilts of the 20th Century.

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“Breeze is the third quilt in my ‘Simply Sensational’ series using architectural settings to highlight each of the five senses. Touch is the only sense that involves the whole body. For this reason, I chose a rush of wind through and open window to completely surround the dog with the awareness of this sense.” ~ Rachel Wetzler

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This was one of my favorites! “Port of Cassis,” by Lenore Crawford, measures 52″ x 48″. It was created from a photo that she took in the south of France at dusk.

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This quilt as well as the following quilts (some are close-ups of the same quilt) were created by Danny Amazonas who started out as a professional floral designer in New York City in the 1970’s. I was mesmerized by how these quilts looked like photographs when viewed from a distance.

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This was a huge mural that was several feet long and stretched across a wall.

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A close-up of a fish from the previous photo.

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Another close-up shows the pretty fabrics Danny Amazonas used to create his fish.

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MEMPHIS: HOME OF THE BLUES & THE BIRTHPLACE OF ROCK ‘N’ ROLL

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When I took my mom on a Mississippi River paddlewheel cruise aboard the American Queen, in 2013, I thought it would be a one-and-done experience; a novelty that you do once in a lifetime and check off the bucket list.  I enjoyed the experience so much, however, that I convinced Bruce that he should give it a try.  Four years later, he went all in, choosing a “Mighty Mississippi” cruise (Red Wing, Minnesota to New Orleans, Louisiana) on the same boat.  And, as they say, the rest is history.  He was hooked, and the hook was set.

The following January, in 2018, he took me on the American Duchess (another American Queen Steamboat Company paddlewheeler) for my birthday, and even though it snowed in Memphis (!) and during the first two days on the boat, we had a blast.

Four months later, we cruised aboard the third boat of the fleet, the American Empress, on the Snake and Columbia rivers.

We thoroughly enjoyed them all, but there was one more itinerary with American Queen Steamboat Company that Bruce really wanted to do, and I was game:  Memphis to Pittsburgh aboard the American Duchess for the “Great River Race” cruise.

If you search “Memphis” on this blog, you will see that Bruce and I had been to Memphis together twice before; this would be our third.  (The cruise in 2013 also started out in Memphis, so this was my 4th time to the city.)

I have enjoyed Memphis during each visit, and even though I photographed the neon signs on Beale St. each time, I found myself drawn to them once again.  Here are the ones you won’t see in my previous blog posts:

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One of my new U.S. Master Swimming friends lives in Memphis, so she joined us for dinner at Blues City Café.  She told us about “Mighty Lights,” the light show that was installed on the bridge that we could view from the top of the Peabody Hotel where we were staying.  The summer nights show lasts about ten minutes and is repeated twice an hour until 10 PM.  It was quite a sight!  I had fun with my camera, playing with the light and capturing some of the images while purposely moving my camera.  Other times, the lights flashed “U.S.A.” and phrases across the bridge, so it was a beautiful display to watch (but impossible to photograph clearly with still shots).  Check out the videos on the Might Lights website; it’s amazing!

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This time while visiting Memphis, we toured Sun Studio, “The Birthplace of Rock ‘n’ Roll” and where Elvis Presley recorded his first album.  B.B. King, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and many other Blues, Gospel, Rock ‘n’ Roll, and Country musicians got their start at this iconic recording studio.  Our entertaining tour guide shared interesting stories, and the studio was full of wonderful photos and memorabilia.

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Staying at the historic Peabody Hotel this time was a treat, because our past cruises out of Memphis had us at the Sheraton for our pre-cruise night that was included in the package.

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Can I buy a “T”?

During our departure from Memphis, we were treated to nice views of the city skyline, the “Dolly Parton Bridge,” and a rainbow off the paddlewheel.  We were on our way to Paducah…

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NATIONAL SENIOR GAMES IN LOCAL NEWSPAPER

As a follow up to my last blog post about the National Senior Games, I was in today’s sports section in our local newspaper, Griffin Daily News, along with local cyclist, Bruce Reid.  We were the only two athletes from Spalding County, Georgia to compete in the 2019 National Senior Games, in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

In case you are wondering, the “Submitted” was me.  Several people from my community suggested I write an article and send it in to the newspaper, so what the heck?

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NATIONAL SENIOR GAMES GOAL (FINALLY!) ACHIEVED

I remember the moment vividly.  It was the summer of 2004, and we had just retired to San Antonio, Texas.  The previous November, I had undergone a serious four-hour operation for thoracic outlet syndrome.  My surgeon, Dr. Richard Braun, had assured me that if the surgery was a success, I would be able to swim again.  In fact, he encouraged me to take the sport back up following my post-surgery rehab.

Our San Antonio community had a 20-yard pool, so I gave it a go. Once I got back in condition, I timed myself in the 50-yard breaststroke, my favorite event when I competed on my high school swim team.  Out of curiosity, I looked up the National Senior Games race results for the youngest age group, 50-54 years old, and surmised that in six years, I had a good shot at a medal.  It was that moment I said to myself, “When I turn 50, I am going to start competing in the National Senior Games.”

Five years later, we moved to an active retirement community in Georgia, and I competed in my first state senior games meet, Georgia Golden Olympics, the state qualifying meet for the National Senior Games.  I medaled and qualified in all my events; however, I opted not to attend the national meet in Cleveland.  In retrospect, I regretted that decision.  The National Senior Games take place only in the odd years, and I was unable to participate in the following two Games due to hip surgery and a shoulder injury.  Missing out on Minneapolis and Birmingham, even though I had qualified for both meets, burned a hole in my heart.

When I qualified in Alabama, in May of 2018, for this year’s National Senior Games, I was more determined than ever to succeed in my goal of competing in Albuquerque.  As I waited for my turn on the blocks for my first event, the 100 Yard Butterfly, I had tears in my eyes as I realized I was about to achieve my goal. I gave that race my best effort, so not only had I succeeded; but, I shaved time off my qualifying swim and swam my fastest time in three years, placing 5th for a ribbon (awarded for 4th thru 8th place finishes). Later in the day, I raced my fastest 50 Yard Breaststroke in five years, finishing 12th in a tough field of 21 swimmers. I couldn’t have been happier, even though I had no ribbon to show for it.

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My longest race of the meet, the 400 Individual Medley, proved to be a difficult challenge due to the high altitude of over 5,300 feet.  Although I was winded during the race and was unable to clock a good time, I was awarded a 6th Place ribbon for my efforts.

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The following day, I raced the 200 Butterfly, the most physically demanding event for female Masters swimmers in pool competition.  I was one of only 19 women across all age groups to compete in the grueling event. This race, as well as the 200 IM and 200 Breaststroke on my final day of individual races played out much the same as my 400 IM.  At the 100-Yard mark, I was winded in a way I had never experienced at sea level.  Comparing notes with several of the other swimmers at the meet, I was not alone.  Most of the gals had to stop at the walls during parts of their races to catch their breath.  Misery loves company, and most of us were in the same boat—uh, make that “pool!”

Getting winded during the most painful 200 Butterfly I had ever swum was well worth it in the end, because I won a bronze medal!  (Hey, you have to show up to win!)  I really, REALLY wanted one of those medals, because I thought the design was fantastic—a wonderful souvenir of my accomplished goal.  Check it out below.  Instead of a propane tank to inflate the balloon, it’s an Olympic torch.  The “flame” is a red chile pepper and green chile pepper, which, like the hot air balloon, are the iconic symbols that characterize Albuquerque.  In addition to the Albuquerque logo on the front, the backside of the medal depicts the National Senior Games logo and motto.

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On the final day of swimming competition, Mixed Medley and Mixed Freestyle relays were added to the events for the first time.  As in the individual events, the swimmers competed in their own age group; however, the age was determined by the youngest swimmer on the team.  I was determined to organize both relays with just swimmers from Georgia to represent our state, so I put out a plea on the Georgia Masters Facebook page.  I received an immediate response from Randy Russell (58), and after I was unable to nail anybody else down, he recruited Barbara Ingold (60) and Lane Schuckers (66) during the weeks leading up to the meet.  I was able to get a practice run in with Randy during a relay at an April United States Masters Swimming meet at Georgia Tech; however, I had never met Barbara or Lane.

Based on the (accurate at the time) seed times I submitted for our relays, we were in for a fight for a bronze medal.  All of us ended up swimming faster than our seed times in our individual events, though, so our hopes were up.

In the Medley Relay, Barbara led off with backstroke, I swam breaststroke, Randy followed with butterfly, and Lane anchored with freestyle.  It was a come-from-behind race, but all of us swam our fastest splits of the meet, and we nailed down a bronze medal!  Watch it here.

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Barbara, Me, Lane (burgundy shirt) and Randy (red hat) receiving our bronze medals.

Then came the Mixed Freestyle Relay with our closest competitor in the neighboring lane.  We kept the same race order, and by the time I (the slowest sprint freestyler on our team) finished my leg of the race, we were more than half of a pool length behind.  All Barbara and I could do was hope Randy and Lane could make up the deficit.  Randy, gold medalist in the 55-59 age group in the 50 Yard Freestyle, closed the gap further; but, what we saw next was simply amazing.  50 Yard Freestyle silver medalist in the 65-69 age group, Lane, swam his heart out!  He later said that when he spotted the neighboring swimmer during his flip turn, he put this head down and sprinted the entire last 25 yards without a breath.  I never yelled so loud in all my life!  As they touched the wall at what I thought was simultaneously, I looked up at the electronic board and saw we had won by .08!  Another bronze medal!  What a way to finish the meet!  We were so excited, we didn’t even swim down after the race.  Instead, we gathered in the warm-up pool and celebrated!  Want to see something amazing?  Check this out!

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What a fun and exciting experience these National Games turned out to be.  Over 13,700 athletes showed up for the Games, shattering previous attendance records.  A couple of World Record holders as well as several USMS (U.S. Masters Swimming) All-Americans and Top Ten swimmers were among the 800+, 50-100-year-olds racing at the West Mesa Aquatic Center.  As a result, many National Senior Games records were broken.

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That night, Randy and I, along with our spouses, met up at the Celebration of Athletes.  Marching in with other Georgia athletes when our state name was called was an exhilarating moment I will never forget.  I truly felt like a Senior Olympian!

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Georgia swimmers, Chip Woody, Me, and my relay teammate, Randy

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The New Mexico contingent handed out state flags during the Parade of Athletes.

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On the jumbo screen:  103-year-old, Julia “Hurricane” Hawkins (gold medal winner in track), being welcomed to the Games by the 94-year-old founder of the National Senior Games.  Later in the evening, while the band played, she danced enthusiastically, swinging her hips back and forth!  I want to grow up to be just like her.

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My husband, Sherpa, videographer, photographer, and greatest supporter, Bruce, with me following the Celebration of Athletes.

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We attended a free event, Growing Bolder’s “Launchpad to What’s Next Live” at Kimo Theatre. It was an educational and inspirational program on healthy and active aging. Watch the short video about it here.  I’m in it towards the end! https://www.growingbolder.com/our-favorite-moments-from-the-national-senior-games-3059650/

 

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Three-time Olympic Gold medalist and the face of United States Masters Swimming, Rowdy Gaines, was one of the excellent speakers at the event.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Me with Rowdy Gaines

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Journalist and World Record Holder (Masters swimming), Marc Middleton, is founder of Growing Bolder.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New friends:

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Kari and I first “met” on the USMS Discussion Forums

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Samantha Martoni encouraged and cheered me on in my 200 Butterfly. I returned the favor when she followed me in the fastest heat.  She won a silver medal, and I won bronze.

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Penny Noyes is an All-American USMS swimmer (age 65) I had met previously at Atlanta area meets.  She won 7 gold medals, including one in the triathlon, as well as a relay bronze medal and a 4th Place relay ribbon.

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Ted and I met in the warm-up pool and encouraged each other throughout the meet.

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Relay teammates, Lane & Randy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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This photo was taken of fellow USMS “Forumite,” Kurt Dickson, at the conclusion of the meet.  Kurt broke National Senior Games records in all six of his individual events, including the 500 Freestyle, where he shattered the  record by 20 seconds.  He then won gold medals in the mixed medley and mixed free relays. The entire pool area had emptied out, and he was sitting by himself waiting for his wife to pick him up. (She competed in cycling.) His jug of milk had turned warm, but he was powering down a bowl of Cheerios as he waited. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AMERICAN QUEEN STEAMBOAT COMPANY PHOTO CONTEST

Note:  My Adriatic Coast blog posts are still in the works.  It has been a slow process in between our busy craft show season; however, more posts will be on the way soon!

A few months ago, Bruce and I were sitting in our booth at the summer Gatlinburg Craftsmen’s Fair, pouring over some photographs during the late afternoon,  and the crowd had left for the day.  American Queen Steamboat Company had announced their photography contest in the Steamboat Society of America’s monthly newsletter, The Paddlewheelerand I was trying to decide which photos to enter.  We each had ranked my final selections and agreed that this photo was our favorite:

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We were aboard the American Queen in 2017 during a 23-day “Mighty Mississippi” cruise when the American Duchess embarked on her maiden voyage.  We met up with her in Paducah, Kentucky when I shot this photo.  This past January, we cruised aboard the beautiful paddlewheeler.

After entering the contest, I forgot all about it.  Today, we are sitting here in our booth once again for the fall Gatlinburg Craftsmen’s Fair, and I checked my e-mail in between customers.  Surprise!  The latest edition  of The Paddlewheeler was in my inbox.  I clicked on the link, scrolled down to see the winners– all much better than my entry.  Oh well; I lost.  I scrolled down further to read the remainder of the newsletter, and I saw the second place entries, and there it was!  I won second place!  We are going on another cruise aboard the American Duchess, so I will get to use my credit then.  Fun!

Well, the band ended their set, and the customers are cruising the aisles once again, so it’s back to work!

Stay tuned for another Adriatic Coast post soon!

 

 

AMERICAN EMPRESS: PORTS ON THE SNAKE AND COLUMBIA RIVERS, PART 2

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Multnomah Falls measures 620 feet from top to bottom.  On September 4, 1995, a 400-ton rock slid from the face of the upper falls and dropped 225 feet into the upper falls pool.  It sent a 70-foot splash over the bridge and drenched a wedding party having their photographs taken!

The American Empress stayed overnight in Stevenson, so the following day, we took a tour to see the breathtaking Multnomah Falls and the panoramic views from Vista House.  Unfortunately, it was a cloudy day and not the best for photography; however, we couldn’t complain.  The weather was fabulous otherwise!

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During the afternoon, we took the hop on-hop off bus to the Bonneville Dam where we were fortunate to have an opportunity to tour the facility.  We arrived at the dam’s visitor center just in time for one of only three tours scheduled for the day.  It was fascinating to see how the dam and power plant operates.  Just as was done at McNary Dam, a fish ladder system was built for fish migration, and we were able to get a close look at it from above and below.  Viewing windows allowed us to see the fish pass through.

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When we returned to Stevenson, there wasn’t much to see in town, because it is very small.  We were quite entertained, though, just hanging out along the shoreline and back on the boat, where we watched wind surfers and kite surfers having a blast!  The dependable high winds on the riverfront is a huge draw for them, and they come from all around.  We had a perfect vantage point from our veranda—great for photography!

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Our final port was Astoria, Oregon where we had a gorgeous day to cap off our cruise.  Situated near the mouth of the Columbia River, the deep-water port city of only 10,000 residents has a growing art scene, and a cool vibe.  The Riverwalk thrives with cafes, a brewery/restaurant, and shops served by an old-time trolley that stops alongside them.

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The highlight of the hop on-hop off route was enjoying the breathtaking views of the river from the Astoria Column.  When we disembarked the bus, we were given a souvenir balsa wood glider kit.  After hiking up the 164-step spiral staircase, we flew our gliders from the viewing platform and watched the long flight to the ground below.  If you were lucky, it didn’t end up in the trees!  I was lucky– twice.  I had written our names and date on the bottom of the wing, so I would know if I had found my own glider down below.  Somebody else found it and placed the glider on a bench in front of the gift shop.  Trying my luck again, I gave it to another American Empress passenger getting ready to climb up to the top.  Sure enough, I later found my glider on the ground, and it now sits atop my computer printer as a souvenir—at least for now.

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Meanwhile, the exterior of the 125-foot Astoria Column has a beautiful wrap-around mural depicting the history of the region from 1792 to the 1880’s.  If the mural was unwound, it would be over 500 feet in length!

Our next stop in Astoria was back downtown to see the Sunday street market, an excellent market considering the small size of the town.  In addition to the usual produce and foods, there were several high-quality artists and crafters.

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Next, we toured the Flavel House.  Built for Captain George Flavel in 1885, the 11,600 square-foot Queen Anne style house was full of beautiful woodwork and antiques.

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The backyard of the Flavel House

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The woodwork was beautiful throughout the house.

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Rather than take the bus back to the boat, we walked down to the riverfront and enjoyed the views of the river along the Riverwalk.  As we passed by the brewery, restaurants, and shops, we could hear the seals barking just below.

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 The American Empress was tied up at the same dock as the Coast Guard cutters and in front of the Columbia River Maritime Museum, so there was plenty to see around the boat as we made our way back on board for our final night aboard the beautiful paddlewheeler.

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AMERICAN EMPRESS: PORTS ON THE SNAKE AND COLUMBIA RIVERS, PART 1

Since high water levels made it impossible for us to visit The Dalles in Oregon, the revised itinerary had the American Empress visiting just Richland, Stevenson, and Astoria, before ending up in Vancouver, Washington.  The following (in two parts) are the highlights of those cities as well as our river cruising in between.

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 At the confluence of the Columbia and Yakima rivers, the American Empress stopped in Richland, one of the tri-cities in the southeastern part of Washington.  Richland is home of the Hanford nuclear site, the once-secret plant that was part of the Manhattan Project.  During World War II, the U.S. Army had bought up 640 miles of land along the river, evicted Richland’s 300 residents as well as residents from nearby White Bluffs and Hanford, and then built a community for the workers they had hired to build and run this top-secret plant.  It was so secret that the workers there didn’t even know what they were building.  The town swelled from 300 to over 25,000 between 1943 and the end of the war in 1945, when the workers finally learned they had built the nation’s first nuclear reactor.

In Richland, the highlight on the hop on-hop off bus route was The Reach Museum, where we saw a fascinating exhibit about the Manhattan Project and what life was like for the workers and families in this government-built town where it was forbidden to speculate with others about the nature of their work.

 After leaving Richland, we went through the locks of McNary Dam, which is 1.4 miles long and spans the Columbia River.  It was interesting to see the fish ladders that were built on each side of the dam for salmon and steelhead passage, allowing the fish to follow their natural migration as babies to the Pacific Ocean and back as adults.  The flow of water is regulated, so that the velocity flowing over the steps is fast enough to attract the fish to the ladder, but not too fast to exhaust the fish and wash them back downstream.

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Osprey

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 As we headed west during our scheduled day of cruising the Columbia River Gorge, the topography became much more lush and green.  The gorge stretches for over 80 miles and is up to 4,000 feet deep with a wide range of elevation and precipitation.  In the westernmost region of the gorge, temperate rainforests get up to 100 inches of rainfall each year!  Compare that to the 6-7 inches of rain in the desert of Richland, and it’s understandable why it is so much prettier on the western parts of the Columbia River.

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 Upon our arrival to Stevenson, the hop on-hop off buses drove American Empress’s passengers out to the Western Antique Aeroplane & Automobile Museum.  Originally, it was scheduled to be a premium tour out of The Dalles; however, the cancellation of that port meant having to get bused there an hour each way from Stevenson.  As a nice concession by American Queen Steamboat Company, they refunded the tour fee to the passengers booked for that tour and made it available to everybody for free.

Along the way, we could see evidence of the horrible Eagle Creek fire from last fall.  Taking three months to extinguish, the fire scorched 76 square miles of forest and destroyed eight buildings. The area was still beautiful, though, thanks to the tremendous amount of rain and regrowth since the fire.

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A view of Mt. Adams from the museum, which was behind me.

When we arrived at the museum, which has the largest collection (325) of still-flying antique planes, cars, motorcycles, and tractors in the country; we were treated to a beautiful view of Mt. Hood behind the exhibits.  There, visitors had the opportunity to catch a ride in a vintage auto,

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Inside the huge hangars, there were rows of beautiful antiques, everything from a 1909 Franklin Model D to a WWII glider.  Check out their website for details, and you will be amazed at what they have displayed in their huge museum!

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The first car is a 1917 Willy’s Overland

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1931 Chrysler Imperial

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In the afternoon, for a belated birthday celebration, we treated Adam (the bartender/cocktail waiter we had met on the American Duchess) to a beer at Walking Man Brewing, a nice place to hang out and relax.

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 Next up:  AMERICAN EMPRESS:  PORTS ON THE SNAKE AND COLUMBIA RIVERS, PART 2

 

 

LEWISTON (IDAHO) AND CLARKSTON (WASHINGTON): CAN YOU GUESS WHO THEY ARE NAMED AFTER?

After being bused from the Historic Davenport Hotel in Spokane, we boarded the American Empress in Clarkston, Washington on the afternoon of May 21.  Since the boat wasn’t scheduled to depart until the next afternoon, we had time the following morning to explore Clarkston and Lewiston via the hop-on, hop-off bus.  We had never been to Idaho before (one of eleven states we hadn’t visited), so I was excited to see at least a fraction of the state!

Clarkston was named after William Clark, of Lewis and Clark.  Across the river, Lewiston, Idaho was named after Meriwether Lewis.  Commissioned by President Thomas Jefferson after the Louisiana Purchase, the two men joined up for the first American expedition to cross the western portion of the United States, from May, 1804 to September, 1806.  They were tasked with exploring and mapping the newly acquired territory, to find a practical route to the Pacific Ocean.  Along the way, they studied the area’s plants, animal life, and geography, in addition to establishing trade with the Native American tribes.  The “Corps of Discovery Expedition” began near St. Louis and passed through Lewiston, across the river from where the American Empress was set to begin our cruise west on the Snake and Columbia rivers.

Both Clarkston and Lewiston are small cities with a combined population of about 55,000.  Surprisingly, though, there was a Costco just down the road from the dock!  Once the reason was explained by the local guide on our hop on-hop off bus, it made good sense.

Located at the confluence of the Snake River and Clearwater River and thirty miles southeast of Lower Granite Dam, Lewiston is reachable by some ocean-going vessels because of the lock system on the Snake and Columbia River.  The Port of Lewiston is Idaho’s only seaport and has the distinction of being the farthest inland port east of the West Coast of the United States.

According to our guide, farmers and their families drive to Costco from hundreds of miles around to do their shopping.  (There are a lot of farmers in Idaho.  In addition to lentils, peas, garbanzo beans, and barley grown in the state, 49% of all wheat grown in the U.S.A. gets barged out of Lewiston.)   They will come in and spend a night, see a movie, and stock up before heading home.  One of the founders of Costco (based in Kirkland, Washington) was from Lewiston, so he convinced his partner to build a location in Clarkston.  Evidently, they do a very good business!

Clarkston is also the gateway to North America’s deepest gorge, Hells Canyon (8,000 feet!), a year-round recreation resort, thanks to its mild desert climate and only ten inches of average annual rainfall.  In addition, the area has a rich history of the Nez Perce Native American tribe who assisted Lewis and Clark with their expedition and still reside in the area today.

We were able to get a good look at the area on our way to the Nez Perce National Historical Park as well as the drive out to the First Territorial Capitol Interpretive Center where we hopped off for a visit.

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The next stop was the Bridablik/Schroeder House where we were hosted by the Schroeders for an exclusive tour (for American Empress passengers only) of their fully restored 1906 home full of gorgeous antiques, and then homemade refreshments on their back patio.  The panoramic view of the river below was spectacular!

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Finally, we hopped off to visit the Nez Perce County Historical Society Museum before heading back to the riverboat for our departure.  (There were other stops on the route; however, we didn’t have time to see them all.)

 

Fortunately, it was a beautiful and warm day, so the afternoon cruise towards Richland, our next stop, was delightful!

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Entering a lock

 

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Coming up next:  AMERICAN EMPRESS:  PORTS ON THE SNAKE AND COLUMBIA RIVERS