There are many forms of art and craft that have always fascinated me; however, quilting never captured my interest as much as glass-work or woodwork, my two favorite mediums.  That all changed in 2006, when I saw the most amazing quilts as part of a fiber arts exhibit, at the Southwest School of Art, in San Antonio.  Sometime after that, I heard that Paducah, Kentucky was home of the National Quilt Museum.

Paducah?  This California gal had never heard of Paducah, population +/- 25,000; however, I kept hearing the name over and over, after moving to Georgia.  When Bruce and I noticed Paducah was on the itinerary for our American Queen Steamboat cruise, it piqued our interest, because of the National Quilt Museum.  If the quilts at the exhibit we had attended were that amazing, imagine how incredible they would be at a national museum!


We made the museum our first stop, following the hop on-hop off bus tour of the artsy town that is located on the confluence of the Ohio and Tennessee rivers, halfway between St. Louis and Nashville.

As soon as we walked into the lobby, we knew this wasn’t just your grandmother’s quilt museum!  There are not enough adjectives to the describe the quilts we saw, and if photography (flash or otherwise) had been permitted, the pictures wouldn’t have done those quilts justice.  Go ahead and check out their website, though; you will be amazed!  Glancing at the current exhibit, you will think those are paintings hanging on the wall.  You can’t possibly imagine the thousands of hours that went into making some of those quilts, obviously labors of love.

I did, however, take pictures (with permission) of the gorgeous stained-glass windows in the lobby and conference room:






Visiting the National Quilt Museum was not only the highlight of our day in Paducah, but it was one of the highlights of the entire cruise.  Those sentiments were echoed by Bruce as well as several of the other men we spoke with on our cruise.  (Even the men who were dragged to the museum by their wives were enthusiastic about what they saw and happy they went along!)

Aside from the museum, the entire town of Paducah had such a cool, artsy vibe.   As a matter of fact, UNESCO designated Paducah as the world’s seventh City of Crafts and Folk Art, in 2013.  (Santa Fe, New Mexico is the only other American city given such a designation.)






In addition to the artistic feel of the town, great care has been taken to preserve the historic buildings of Paducah.  As a result, twenty blocks of the downtown commercial district have been placed on the National Register of Historic Places.P1140621.JPG

















Paducah also did a great job of beautifying their formerly drab flood wall with murals designed and painted by Robert Dafford and his crew.  We enjoyed learning about Paducah’s history through these murals, just as we had done in Cape Girardeau.














Walking around downtown was such a pleasure, and we enjoyed seeing the historic (and beautifully maintained!) homes nearby.

American Queen Steamboat Company’s marketing department definitely got it right when they chose Paducah as the meeting point for American Queen and the company’s third riverboat, American Duchess.  On its inaugural river cruise, the brand-new Duchess arrived before sunset and tied up just ahead of our boat.  It was a beautiful evening that couldn’t have been planned any better.  As the passengers from both boats waved, shot photos, and shouted greetings, the Queen welcomed her sparkling new sister with several loud steam-horn blasts and a calliope concert.  It was a travel brochure moment for American Queen’s marketing department, and we were sure the drones that were sent up captured some amazing shots!  We sure had a lot of fun, too!


Although several of the crew and passengers went over to tour the Duchess, we opted to enjoy another fabulous dinner in the dining room, and wait until January to see the new girl in town.  (More to follow next month!)

Until then, here are some scenes from that Kodak moment, reminiscent of when the American Queen, Mississippi Queen, and Delta Queen met up in Paducah in 1996, as was depicted in one of the wall murals (above).





Coming up next:  A DAY “AT RIVER”




Following our visit to Chester, the American Queen Steamboat paddle wheeler steamed on down to the sleepy river town of Cape Girardeau, Missouri.  Founded in 1733 by a French soldier as a trading post, it is now home to around 38,000 residents.



The American Queen is on the right.

As we had typically done previously during the cruise, we took American Queen’s included hop on-hop off bus for a narrated tour of the town to get a good overview, before hoofing it around on foot.

The historic Glenn House was located in a lovely neighborhood situated on a hill overlooking the river, so we opted to head back up to take the included tour of the lovely 1800’s home.


Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the home was built in 1883.  I especially liked these beautiful stained-glass windows in the foyer:


Across from the home, we thought this was quite the curious sight:


This was the original bridge that crossed the river; however, it was ultimately replaced by a new, modern one.  Instead of completely tearing the old bridge down, they kept the beginning of the bridge intact as a river and riverfront park viewpoint.  Clever!

Back in town, the downtown streets were pleasant to meander and photograph.






One of my favorite buildings that added a bit of charm to the town was this Spanish-style home to Southern Missourian, the local newspaper.  These murals on the side of the building depict the history of the town and newspaper print:




The highlights of Cape Girardeau, in my opinion, were the fabulous river wall murals.  What started as a necessary—but ugly—barrier to protect the town from flooding, was morphed into attractive and informative works of art.


“Mississippi River Tales” is an 18,000 square feet mural that covers the 15-foot high wall with 24 panels of history, beginning with the Native Americans who inhabited the area between 900 and 1200, long before our “founding fathers” stepped foot on American soil.  Informative plaques describe each panel that tells the history of the area in chronological order.  Painted by Chicago artist Thomas Melvin, in collaboration with several local artists, the mural has graced Cape Girardeau’s flood wall since 2005.

These were some of the panels of interest to me:









Immediately following “Mississippi River Tales” was the “Missouri Wall of Fame,” spanning 500 feet of the flood wall.  Depicting 45 people who were born in the state or achieved fame while living in Missouri, this mural included some of our baseball favorites, including Yogi Berra, the New York Yankees Hall of Fame catcher who had, let’s say, an interesting way with words!



Unfortunately, the mural also included Cape Girardeau’s very own Rush Limbaugh, who also has a way with words…











I sure hope they sold out of those eclipse glasses, because the next total solar eclipse to be viewed in the U.S.A. won’t be until April 8, 2024!

Our post-solar eclipse stop along the Mississippi River was Chester, Illinois.  Although Chester was a stopping point on several occasions for Mark Twain when he piloted a riverboat on the Mississippi River, from 1857 until the Civil War, it is best known as the “Home of Popeye.”  Popeye’s creator, Elzie Crisler Segar, was born in Chester, and several of his characters were created from experiences with the people from the town.



Have you ever wondered where Olive Oyl got her name?  Back in the 1800’s, Chester’s chief commodity was castor oil, which was used as a lubricant.  Guessing there was a connection there, I researched Olive Oyl on Wikipedia and discovered she was the youngest sibling of Castor Oyl.  Aha! I knew that Olive Oyl was named after olive oil; however, I’m pretty darn sure big bro was named after castor oil, after Chester’s chief commodity.  (As you have probably ascertained by now, I’m not exactly a Popeye scholar—or, familiar with all of his buddies!)




More Chester trivia:  Scenes from the 1967 movie “In the Heat of the Night” were filmed in the town, as were scenes from “The Fugitive” (1993).



Unlike solar eclipse enthusiasts, Bruce and I did not book our travels because of the solar eclipse.  People had been talking about the upcoming solar eclipse for months—even years!  There was even a non-swimming related thread on the U.S. Masters Swimming Discussion Forums (of which I am a member) about the eclipse and where the best place would be to see it.  There were swimmers I knew who traveled out of state just so they could see the eclipse.  Me and Bruce?  No.  I hadn’t paid much attention to the discussion, and we didn’t even know when the eclipse was going to be when we booked our three-week Mississippi River cruise aboard the American Queen.

It wasn’t until we were already on board that Bruce and I realized we would be in one of the best places in the country to view the eclipse in its totality.  There was even a special premium excursion, “American Astronomy:  A Solar Eclipse Tour,” passengers could book for August 21, 2017, the day we were docked in Alton, Illinois.  Us?  No, we gave it a miss in favor of taking the included tour into St. Louis, for the morning.  We figured we would catch the eclipse when we returned to the ship for the afternoon (Although, we never bothered purchasing viewing glasses, so we wouldn’t be able to view it).

As it turned out, the riverside casino, Argosy Alton, was sponsoring an eclipse viewing party at the park adjacent to where the ship was tied up.  I happened to notice a little note posted on the purser’s desk counter about it with a mention that free viewing glasses would be handed out to the first 300 people in attendance, beginning at 11:30 am.

Filing that tidbit of news away in my memory bank, off we went to “see” St. Louis.  (Seriously.  How much can you really see of a city on a morning bus tour?)  I’m not a fan of bus tours, because you can’t experience a place in such a short period of time.  That, my friends, goes without saying, though.  I could write an entire BOOK on the topic!  Suffice it to say that shooting pictures out the bus window is definitely not my cup of tea, nor is getting off the bus for a few minutes to shoot a few more pictures.  Having said that, we thought it was better to see something of St. Louis than nothing at all; so, the following pictures (shot out the bus window and otherwise) are what we saw of St. Louis:








Budweiser Clydesdales


As the bus returned to Alton, I surveyed the meager crowd at the riverside park that began to gather for the solar eclipse viewing party.  Quick calculations made by gazing out the bus window led me to declare upon disembarkation, “Screw having lunch.  I’m going to find those free viewing glasses!”  Ignoring Bruce’s protests, off I went in search of those eclipse peepers while Bruce mumbled behind me.  It was hot out, and neither of us wanted to hang out in the park; however, I wasn’t going to let this opportunity pass me by.  The eclipse was going to happen, so we may as well be able to view it safely!

Glasses in hand, and a grateful “Thanks!” to the Argosy Alton employees who so graciously dispensed them, we returned to the ship, ate lunch, and waited out on deck.


As the eclipse began, I noticed clouds gathering on the horizon.  Then, the clouds got closer… and darker… and, then the race was on.  Would we witness a total eclipse of the sun by the moon, or would the eclipse get obliterated by a rain storm?



We watched and waited.  Then, I came up with an idea and shifted my focus away from the impending gloom.  How about photographing the eclipse by covering the small lens of my Panasonic Lumix with the eclipse viewing glasses?  I couldn’t safely look up at the sun without my glasses; however, I could guess at the angle, shoot, review the shot, and try again if I missed!  Wash, rinse, repeat!  Yeah, there were a lot of misses; however, I did manage to get a few shots, too.  That’s the nice thing about shooting digital (rather than film, like the “old days”); it doesn’t cost anything to make a bunch of mistakes, and try again!




Bruce’s last look at the total eclipse as the Argosy neon lights turned on, and the storm grew near



Pleased that I captured a few photos, I returned to viewing the eclipse—and watching the clouds roll in.  It was an eerie site, difficult to describe—and, even harder to capture accurately in a photograph.  When the eclipse reached totality—or 99.7% in Alton, according to local experts—the ambient light took on a strange hue.  Between the eclipse and the impending rain storm, it was the strangest feeling.  After the crowd at the park cheered enthusiastically at totality, the nearby Argosy Alton Casino neon lights turned on, the wind kicked up, and a huge cloud passed in front of the sun, obliterating it for less than a minute.  Soon after, it got very windy, the storm blew in, and it began to thunder, lightning, and rain.  We got to see totality just in in the nick of time.  Between the “ooh’s” and “ahhh’s” (and, me poking Bruce with a snarky, “Aren’t you glad NOW that we got these viewing glasses?”); in retrospect, Bruce and I realized we couldn’t have planned it better if we had tried.  August 21, 2017 was a day to remember for a very long time.


The entertainment aboard the American Queen paddle wheeler was top-notch during our three-week Mississippi River cruise.  From the guest entertainers to staff singers/dancers and musicians, we were quite impressed with the quality of the shows we enjoyed after dinner each evening.





Bobby was also the Riverlorian and gave presentations on all things Mississippi River and riverboats.

Even the captain had us impressed when he sat in with band with his electric guitar made from the planks of the ship’s old paddle wheel.  That guy could play!


Following one of the shows early in the cruise, we made our way back to the Engine Room Bar to listen to the duo performing covers of classic rock tunes.  The setting back there had a cool vibe—an ornate tin ceiling, a lot of dark wood, and port hole windows; just as you would expect on a vintage-style ship or riverboat.


Through those port holes, I was mesmerized by the turning of the huge red paddle wheel, as I listened to the music.  During the break, I stepped out on deck to enjoy the view up close.


It was during those early days of the cruise that I tried to convince Bruce to ask if he could sit in with the guys and play his harmonicas.  He had brought a few harps with him and played a little bit on deck when nobody was around; however, I knew Bruce would enjoy playing with the guys.  He had played drums and harmonica in bands back in high school and college, and I’ve seen him get enthusiastic applause and glowing compliments each time he’s played since getting back into music.  He only plays occasionally now, and sits in from time-to-time with a really good rock and blues band, when they perform fundraisers for local charities.  They love to have him join them, and he fits right in.  Not to brag about my husband, but the guy is good.



Not wanting Bruce to regret being too humble to ask to sit in with the guys on board, I stepped in with a little nudge.  I told Jim and Norman that Bruce had a few harmonicas with him, and he would love to sit in.  Oh yeah… and, Bruce is good.  I’m sure they thought to themselves, “Yeah, that’s what they all say; we’ll let him join us—for just one song.  Period.”  To me and Bruce, Jim actually said, “Sure, bring your harmonicas with you next time, and I’ll bring you up to sit in on a tune.”

The next night, that one tune was all it took.  They invited him back onstage for another, and another, and… Every time we saw Jim and Norman around the ship, they wanted to know if Bruce was going to come sit in at the Engine Room bar that night.  One time, Bruce went to an afternoon Dixieland Jazz performance that included the show band and Engine Room performers, and Norman sent him back to the cabin to get his harmonicas!  When Bruce protested that he played blues, and Dixieland wasn’t his genre, Norman shot back, “That’s ok; you’ll figure it out!”





That’s Norman, the American Queen Steamboat Company’s musical director on piano and Jim, on guitar.

Now, Norman was not only the musical director for the American Queen, but he was also the musical director for the other two American Queen Steamboat Company riverboats, the American Empress and the brand new American Duchess.  He knew his stuff!

At the end of the cruise, when I told Jim how much Bruce enjoyed sitting in with him and Norman, he told me how skeptical he was when I first asked him to let Bruce sit in.  Having had nearly all give-it-a-miss experiences with passengers sitting in, he was prepared for Bruce to be a one-and-done.  Let him sit in once, so he could have that memory to tell all his friends, and then never invite him back on stage.  Instead, Jim told me I should have asked earlier in the cruise, instead of waiting until the last week!  Norman echoed the same sentiments, and they both kept thanking him.

Bruce learned his lesson, and I’ve learned mine.  Harmonicas have been added to the packing list for our upcoming American Duchess and American Empress river cruises, and if Bruce leaves them behind the first night, I’ll bring them myself!  After all, I can just tell the band, “Norman and Jim told me to ask you if Bruce can sit in.  They said you wouldn’t be sorry.”


Coming up next, I back up one week to August 21, 2017, the day after visiting Hanibal, Missouri.  Our next port was Alton, Illinois, our home-base for the day while visiting St. Louis in the morning, and Alton in the afternoon for the solar eclipse.


It had been years since I had read a book by Samuel Langhorne Clemens; however, memories of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Flinn came back to me during our visit to Hannibal, Missouri.

Hannibal was the boyhood home of Clemens (aka Mark Twain), and it inspired the setting for those two novels.  Many of Twain’s haunts have been restored to their historical accuracy, so the entire town has a Mark Twain feel to it.


Samuel Clemens (aka Mark Twain) visited with the passengers one evening aboard the American Queen.  He never broke character, even during the Q&A session after his monologue!


Hannibal, Missouri

It’s a picturesque little town with houses dotting the bluffs that border the river, and attractive 1800’s-era businesses that quaint and well-maintained to attract the tourists.  The shops and restaurants are even named after Mark Twain characters.


We enjoyed our tour of Mark Twain’s childhood home and the Mark Twain Museum—both well worth the visit, especially the Norman Rockwell exhibit at the museum.  They thought of everything, even making the famous fence a tourist destination, complete with paint brush and bucket!

Have you ever wondered how the name “Mark Twain” was chosen by Clemens?  If you remember back to Clemens’ novels, Mark Twain was fascinated by the Mississippi River and wanted to become a river pilot.  Back in the 1850’s, river pilots didn’t have modern navigational aids.  When entering shallow water, a man was sent to the front of the boat with a lead weight tied to a rope.  He tossed the rope out in front and let it sink to measure how deep the water was.  A series of knots were tied in the rope at measured distances.  A “mark” was the distance of six feet (the same as a fathom in the ocean), and “twain” meant two; so, the knot at “mark twain” meant the water was twelve feet deep.  For river boats, twelve feet was safe water and mark twain meant “safe water ahead”, so Clemens like the way that sounded!

The Unsinkable Molly Brown was another famous character from Hannibal.  Remember her?  She was the Titanic survivor who heroically helped rescue many women and children during the disaster.  She was a distant relative of Mark Twain’s, and Hanibal was her home as well.  (Her home was open for touring as well; however, we didn’t visit it.)

We found Hannibal to be quite a charming town and well worth hangin’ out in for a day along our Mississippi River voyage.




Meanwhile, back on the American Queen Steamboat, the evening entertainment aboard the paddle wheeler took an entertaining turn in a more personal way.  Check back for more details in my next post!





I liked the historic feel of Burlington, which was quite different from where I grew up in Southern California.  Several of the downtown Burlington buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places, and it was great to see the care taken to preserve these old buildings.

Take the Capitol Theater, for example.  Dating back to 1937, the 700-seat theater had been closed since 1977; however, a foundation of passionate citizens was formed to raise the money needed to restore the theater back to its 1937 splendor– with some modern additions.  Such painstaking care was taken in the restoration that the new seats and carpet were reproduced to look like the originals, and a boatload of money was spent to restore the marquee to exactly as it looked in its heyday.


We took a guided tour, one of the included attractions for the day.  I especially liked the art deco-style lighting throughout the theater, and the old projector was a classic!


The hop on-hop off bus also made stops at the top of Heritage Hill, a beautiful neighborhood of lovely old homes and Snake Alley.



Constructed in 1894, Snake Alley was once known as the crookedest alley in the world.  It was built to create a short cut from the top of the hill to the business district below.  Needing to accommodate horses, the mode of transportation at the time, the bricks were tilted higher on the upper edges, making it easier for the horse’s hooves to catch on the raised edge making the ascent easier and the descent a lot safer.


We didn’t have access to a horse, so we hoofed the 275 feet of Snake Alley carefully on foot to the street below.

While bumming around Burlington, we had a quick look at St. Paul’s Catholic Church:


In all, it was a pleasant little historic city of 25,000-26,000 people, and we enjoyed having a look around.


It was another beautiful sail-away highlighted by an entertaining calliope concert!













A typical river barge on the Mississippi River


Coming up next:  HANGIN’ IN HANNIBAL


It’s the busiest time of year for Cooked Glass Creations, so the long delay since my last post was due to Bruce and I galavanting off to craft shows here, there, and everywhere!

A short break from the action (while Bruce builds his stock back up) allows me to squeeze in another post:

The American Queen paddled us down the Missississippi River from La Crosse to Dubuque, Iowa, our next port on the journey.  Having visited the area during a previous trip with my best friend, Laura, her step-brother, and his wife; I had a plan:  Rent a car and visit Galena, where the four of us had thoroughly enjoyed our day.

The shore excursion office offered a premium excursion to Galena; however, after some quick research and calculations, I figured it was a LOT less expensive (and more fun!) to rent a car for a few hours from Enterprise Rent-A-Car and go on our own.

We asked our table mates if they wanted to join us, so after a quick look at Dubuque aboard the hop-on-hop-off bus (included with the cruise), a friendly Enterprise rep. picked the four of us up and took us back to the office to sign the paperwork.  (The rep. who brought us back was also friendly and a fun guy to chat with during the drive back to the boat.  I’ve had nothing but good experiences with Enterprise folks, so I concur with Consumer Reports and recommend them for your car rental needs!)


This shot was snapped through the bus window in Dubuque.


Another shot through the bus window of an interesting mural.

Galena, Illinois, located across the Mississippi from Dubuque, was a pleasant 25-minute drive, and well worth the visit.  Bruce, Jacque, and Rick enjoyed strolling through the historic district as much as I thought they would, and it was nice to visit the quaint town (population less than 3,500), once again.

Unfortunately, it was a gloomy day, so my photos aren’t nearly as nice as the ones I posted in my first blog about Galena.




Now, somebody up there has an interesting sense of humor!  I wonder how many tourists look up and wonder about THAT!


We enjoyed a tasty “flight” of root beer here:



Our boat, back in Dubuque


Jacque and Rick seemed to enjoy the calliope concert during the sail-away as much as we did!


Goodbye, Dubuque!

Next stop on the cruise:  QUAD CITIES




On August 16, 2017, the American Queen arrived in La Crosse, Wisconsin’s largest city on its western border.  Historically known for its lumber and brewery industries, La Crosse has become a regional technology and medical hub, thanks to the numerous educational institutions and health systems in the city.  Not only is La Crosse home to a University of Wisconsin campus, Viterbo University and Western Technical College are also located in this city of under 53,000 people!  No wonder why La Crosse has received high rankings for education.  Gundersen and Mayo Clinic health systems are also located in La Crosse, so the city also ranks high for health, well-being, and quality of life.  That’s a lot of greatness for such a relatively small city!

We chose to make the Dahl Auto Museum the first hop-off visit of the day on the bus route.  Ranked 4-1/2 of 5 on Trip Advisor, we were not alone in our assessment that this was a worthwhile attraction in La Crosse!


















My, how times have changed since I was born!












After a couple of other stops in the city, we enjoyed a walk along the Mississippi River from the riverboat to the lovely Riverside International Friendship Gardens.  La Crosse has sister cities in China, Germany, France, Russia, Norway and Ireland; and, this collection of themed gardens celebrates those relationships.  I like their motto: “Riverside International Friendship Gardens will be a place of beauty reflecting our appreciation for the diverse cultures that share the earth.”













































Onward ho to Dubuque, Iowa!  Bon Voyage!



One of my favorite times of the was during the short calliope concert during each sail away.



This was one of the many locks we encountered along the Mississippi.




Another tasty seafood dinner…


… and delicious dessert!




One of the enjoyable aspects of cruising aboard a riverboat is the easy access and close proximity of each town on the itinerary.  In most of the ports we visited, it was a short walk to town from the boat.  Many of the attractions were close by, and for the highlights not within walking distance, the (complimentary) hop-on-hop-off buses got us to where we needed to go quickly and efficiently.

The evening before each port, we stopped by the kiosk located at the purser’s desk and selected the time we wanted to hop on the bus for the narrated circuit of town.  Forty tickets were available for each time slot (on the hour, quarter hour, and half hour).  Select the desired time and quantity of tickets, and your tickets would immediately print out for the taking.

The following morning, we would board the bus at our designated time, and off we would go.  If we arrived early, and there were still available seats on an earlier bus, we could take that bus instead.  It was an efficient system, because it avoided unwanted line-ups and waiting.

Once in town, tickets weren’t needed.  If there were seats available on the bus when it stopped at one of the several available locations on the circuit, you could hop on for a ride.  There was never a problem catching a ride; the buses were never full.

Most of the time, we would ride the circuit once to listen to the narration and learn about the town.  Once we had gone round-trip, we would plan out our day from there.

Red Wing was one of those towns located adjacent to the river, so it was a very short walk into town.  We did hop on the bus, though, because the Pottery Museum of Red Wing was one of the attractions located outside of the historic town center.

According to their website, The Pottery Museum of Red Wing is dedicated to preserving and celebrating the rich and colorful story of Red Wing’s clay industry. More than 6,000 vintage pieces of artisan-crafted stoneware, art pottery, dinnerware and folk art bring the story of historic Red Wing to life in dozens of dynamic exhibits covering 13,000 square feet.”

 The museum had a group of excellent docents, and we were fascinated by the history of the pottery they had on display.



Red Wing, Minnesota, a small town of less than 17,000, is also known for their handcrafted work boots of the same name, a company that has been in existence since 1905.  These giant painted boot sculptures around town were a humorous reminder of the company that made the town’s name recognizable to us two native Californians:

The historic downtown was an attractive little area to walk around, especially this quaint little park located across from the St. James Hotel:





We also made sure to stop by Red Wing Confectionery to pick up a couple of treats and compliment them on the cute steamboat chocolates that were waiting on our bed for us when we returned to our cabin the previous evening:






As we sailed away from Red Wing during the late afternoon, we were fortunate to catch a glimpse of some bald eagles.  This one was photographed from quite a distance using telephoto, and then cropping the photo.  Due to the fact we were moving when the picture was taken, it isn’t sharp.  Still, l thought it was worth including:


The sail away was the beginning of our 2,300-mile, 21-day journey down the Mississippi, and we were excited to be in on the adventure!


Meanwhile, on board, I had a humorous encounter with another passenger as I stepped into the hallway from my cabin.  A man stopped one of the cabin attendants in the hallway, and in a jovial, teasing manner, asked her why all the passengers on this deck had cabins with pretty names on the doors, while he was stuck on a floor with cabins named after presidents.  He lamented, “I’m in the ‘Polk’ cabin, and ‘Filmore’ is next door—two of the worst presidents in history!”

I was listening in on him teasing this poor gal, so I took a flyer and snapped back, “At least you aren’t in a cabin named after Trump!”  Now, that could have gone either way.  At that very moment, I either made an enemy, or made a friend.

Fortunately (for me, because he was a big guy with a gruff-looking expression), that brought a smile to his face!  After a bit of commiseration about the current state of national affairs, we introduced ourselves and exchanged typical passenger-to-passenger questions, such as, “Where are you from?”  The thing is, every time I asked Rick a question, and he replied, I felt as if our pasts had mirrored each other—and, his wife’s, too!

As it turns out, Rick and Jacque currently live about four miles from where Bruce and I had lived during our last fifteen years in San Diego County.  Then, I learned they were both from my native home town of Long Beach (and neighboring, Lakewood), California!  Rick graduated from a rival high school, while Jacque was a Lakewood Lancer, like me!  Go Lancers!!  Jacque and I also attended Long Beach City College; however, the two of them graduated from Long Beach State University, while Bruce and I were San Diego State University graduates.  Jacque worked at San Diego State University, though, and they are basketball and football season ticket holders.  Go Aztecs!!

Since we had a twenty-year age difference, we didn’t know each other back then; however, it still felt like a small world.

When I met Jacque at the show that evening, she greeted me with a big hug and, “Go Lancers!”  She couldn’t wait to text her group of friends who were also Lancers and have stayed friends over all these years.

As it turned out, the four of us were able to arrange a table together in the dining room, and we were table mates for the length of the cruise.  Lucky for us, we really hit it off, and they were the best table mates we have ever had!


Coming up next:  LOVELY LA CROSSE