Trip Peek #24
Trip #44
Labor Day Loop

pv29This picture is from my 2006 Labor Day Loop trip through southern Ohio. I started out tracing the Ohio River eastward to meet some friends in Portsmouth. From there, we visited a couple of blast furnace sites from the Ohio Valley’s heyday as an iron producer. The photo is of the completely restored Buckeye Furnace. Little remains at most sites beyond a stone chimney if that.

Trip Pic Peeks are short articles published when my world is too busy or too boring for a current events piece to be completed in time for the Sunday posting. In addition to a photo thumbnail from a completed road trip, each Peek includes a brief description of that photo plus links to the full sized photo and the trip journal it is from.

Trip Peek #13
Trip #56
Indy Sixty-Two

Classic Cars on IN-62This picture is from the my 2007 Indy Sixty-Two day trip. Although the actual trip was rather spontaneous to take advantage of a warn autumn day, driving Indiana State Route 62 had been on my mind for several months. I had sampled a bit in April and the thought of someday driving more of it was made rather firm by the discovery that Car and Driver Magazine had once listed part of the route as one of its “Best Driving Roads in America”. The east end of the C & D designated section was at Corydon which I reached by taking US-42 along the south side of the Ohio River and crossing over at Louisville, Kentucky. IN-62 between Corydon and Dale was just as curvy and scenic as promised and many others, such as the people in these classic cars, were out enjoying it, too.

Trip Pic Peek #12 — Trip #75 — Madonnas and Signs

Trip Pic Peeks are short articles published when my world is too busy or too boring for a current events piece to be completed in time for the Sunday posting. In addition to a photo thumbnail from a completed road trip, each Peek includes a brief description of that photo plus links to the full sized photo and the trip journal it is from.

Majestic Still

Showboat Majestic“Mothballing” is a term used to describe putting boats and ships into storage. When theaters close down, they are said to “go dark”. In the very near future, both of these phrases may apply to long time Cincinnati riverfront fixture the Showboat Majestic. It’s the last of its kind. That sort of thing happens around here more than it should. Martha, the last known Passenger Pigeon died in the Cincinnati Zoo in 1914. The Delta Queen, the last steamboat carrying overnight passengers, called Cincinnati home before losing an important exemption in 2009. Now it is the last authentic showboat that is shutting down.

Showboat MajesticI put the word “authentic” in that last sentence since there may very well be other boats around on which shows are regularly performed. But the Majestic was built as a showboat and that is what it has always been. In 1923, Captain Thomas Jefferson Reynolds set out with his family on the boat he had built with the help of friends and relatives. For the next three decades or so, the boat would be home to the captain, his wife, and their eleven children, six of whom were born on board. Up to the start of World War II, the Majestic cruised the Ohio River and its tributaries providing welcome entertainment to the many small communities along the way. During the depression, seats at performances were traded for, literally, chickens and eggs. In 1943, the boat was docked in Henderson, West Virginia, while Captain Reynolds worked as a river security agent.

Showboat MajesticAfter the war, changes begun long before were even more apparent. Many of those little river towns now had their own theaters and the residents of those that didn’t had cars to drive to someplace that did. Captain Reynolds kept his family and boat afloat thorough contracts with universities who used the Majestic in summer theater projects. Reynolds died in 1959 just months after selling the showboat to Indiana University. The boat spent a couple of years, still working, tied up in Jeffersonville, Indiana, after the Safety at Sea Act of 1965 brought an end to traveling the river with cast and crew aboard. In 1967, the City of Cincinnati bought the boat and a long run of University of Cincinnati student performances began. Since 1991, the floating theater has been operated by Cincinnati Landmark Productions. More detailed histories of the Showboat Majestic can be found on CLP’s website and elsewhere. Those plaques on the bulkhead proclaim the boat an Historic Place and a National Historic Landmark.

My own first contact with the Majestic came early in the University Of Cincinnati era when my wife and her sisters, undoubtedly through some UC contacts, organized an on board birthday party for their mother. The family did not buy out the theater but did buy a few rows and guests were able to hang out after the performance eating cake and drinking sangria. I attended another performance or two in the 1970s then sort of forgot about the theater. Oh, I knew it was there, I saw it often enough, but I took little notice of it until reminded of it by someone on another boat. It was July 2009 and I was staying on the Delta Queen for the first time. The historic steamboat had docked in Chattanooga just a month before and many of the traveling workforce, including entertainers Laura Sable and Bill Wiemuth, were still aboard. As we bemoaned the status of the Queen, Laurel pointed out the treasure that Cincinnati still had with the Majestic. I did attend a performance on the showboat early the next season but Wednesday’s was my first since then and apparently my last.

Showboat MajesticThe show was fantastic. Showboat Follies! contains glimpses of all aspects of Showboat Majestic‘s history with plenty of Cincinnati’s past and present mixed in. It took some incredibly creative people to put it together and it was delivered by a wonderfully talented cast. The performance today, September 29, 2013, will be the last for Cincinnati Landmark Productions on board the Majestic. It is not because I haven’t attended more shows. They have been operating at over 80% capacity for some time now. A new theater, which can be used year round, is being built and will allow the company to deal more with performance issues and less with keeping their theater from sinking or floating away. Leaving the Majestic has not been an easy decision and it is obvious that the boat will be missed. Near the end of Wednesday’s show, CLP’s Artistic Director, Tim Perrino, came on stage to talk with the audience about the move. I sensed approaching tears more than once while he spoke and that was with four more shows on the schedule. I predict a lot of wet cheeks this afternoon.

Showboat MajesticMartha won’t be back but both the Delta Queen and the Showboat Majestic could be. The City of Cincinnati has no intention of scrapping the Majestic and hopes that a new tenant can be found. In a strange twist, the US House of Representatives voted to restore the Delta Queen‘s Safety at Sea exemption just hours before I sat down for Wednesday night’s show. The bill is expected to pass the Senate and get the President’s signature. A cruising Delta Queen is still a long long way off but it is a whole lot closer than it has been in a long long time. The picture is of the Delta Queen docked next to the Showboat Majestic during the steamboat’s last visit to Cincinnati in October, 2008.

What a Regatta!

New Richmond River DaysSaturday’s cardboard boat race at New Richmond would have made a perfect topic for this week’s Sunday morning post except that the big tennis match already had the spot filled. But the mixture of creativity and calamity at the big race is too good to ignore so the blog gets two posts today. This year, for the first time ever, I made it in time for the parade.

New Richmond River DaysNew Richmond River DaysNew Richmond River DaysThere were quite a few “normal” classic cars but I really liked the old Jeep. Then there was a large number of decorated golf carts, several horses, the New Richmond Marching Lions, and miscellaneous.

New Richmond River DaysFollowing the parade, I strolled through town looking over some of this year’s racers. I did not get an entry count but there was clearly no shortage of people ready to go floating down the Ohio on various cardboard based contrivances for the Twenty-First International Cardboard Boat Regatta. For many, me included, this is the center piece of New Richmond’s River Days.

New Richmond River DaysNew Richmond River DaysNew Richmond River DaysI did, of course, intend to go down to the river’s edge at some point but these two beauties, which turned out to be the only entries in the “Mechanical Advantage” class really tugged on me. The business end of the “Row Man Chariot” looks like this.

New Richmond River DaysNew Richmond River DaysNew Richmond River DaysI’m hoping these pre-race photos provide some sense of the variety of watercraft taking part in the race. The picture of the “Moon Shiner’s Express” next to “R.R.2” illustrates that there are sometimes differing opinions as to how much effort should go into racer construction.

Some in-race photos:

New Richmond River DaysNew Richmond River DaysTo close things out, here’s a picture of the Log Ness Monster, which I captured in progress a couple of weeks ago, and a parting shot of the “Moon Shiner’s Express”.

My posts on the 2010 and 2011 Cardboard Boat Regattas might also be of interest. I was out of town in 2012.

Trip Peek #3
Trip #9
Augusta Spring

August FerryThis picture is from my 2004 Augusta Spring day trip. A Corvette club that I belonged to at the time had cruised some great southern Ohio back roads then crossed over to Kentucky at Maysville and drove to Augusta for lunch. We had intended to return to Ohio on the ferry but high water kept it docked.

Trip Pic Peek #2 — Trip #16 — Doin’ Eighty

Trip Pic Peeks are short articles published when my world is too busy or too boring for a current events piece to be completed in time for the Sunday posting. In addition to a photo thumbnail from a completed road trip, each Peek includes a brief description of that photo plus links to the full sized photo and the trip journal it is from.

Remembering Infamy

A TV commercial has been running for the last several weeks that begins by urging viewers to mark December 7 on their calendars. It grabbed my attention the first time I saw it because I knew the significance of December 7 or thought I did. It is the date of one of the most important events in our country’s history. I anticipated some news about a Pearl Harbor Day observance or maybe just a PSA about the attack’s upcoming 70th anniversary. But the spot went on to explain that December 7 marks the end of open enrollment for Medicare.

Medicare enrollment is certainly important and I’m not faulting the ad in any way. It stresses the need to do something by a certain date and stresses what that date is. Although I’m sure it’s entirely accidental, the fact that the date is December 7 may really increase the ad’s effectiveness. The majority of people who need to be concerned with Medicare are exactly the same people for who December 7 is a date which continues to live in infamy. The full date is December 7, 1941 but just December 7 is enough. To my generation and one or two on either side of it, December 7 means just one thing.

New Richmond Pearl Harbor RemembranceI wasn’t around in 1941 but I showed up just as soon as I could after the war. December 7 and June 6 were two of the very first dates I learned about. However, despite an almost instinctive connection between December 7 and the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, I don’t believe I’ve ever attended any sort of commemorative service for the day. I don’t recall even seriously considering it until a few years ago when I became aware of a ceremony conducted in New Richmond, Ohio. New Richmond is an Ohio River town that I tend to visit fairly often. Just about everything I learn about the town, which is home to that cardboard boat race I wrote about here, makes me like it more. So I’ve thought about going for a couple of years but this is the first time I actually made it. This year’s New Richmond Pearl Harbor Remembrance was held on Sunday, December 4.

New Richmond Pearl Harbor RemembranceNew Richmond Pearl Harbor RemembranceNew Richmond has been doing this for twenty-plus years. In the past, it has been held at the park near the river and may still be on dry days. Today wasn’t one of them. Things began with the entrance of a sizable color guard followed by the singing of the national anthem and the pledge of allegiance to the flag. The anthem was sung solo by a fellow who I know nothing about beyond his name. John Hale‘s a cappella performance of The Star Spangled Banner was right up there with many big-name auto-tuned renditions I’ve heard. A very nice job. There were speeches, of course, but all were brief and pertinent. More nice jobs. Then we came to a point in the program labeled “Introduction of Pearl Harbor Survivors”.

Pearl Harbor Survivor Joe WhittWhen New Richmond began holding this remembrance, it was attended by approximately twenty-five area residents who had survived that horrible day in Hawaii. Just three remain. Two are in nursing homes and unable to attend. Joe Whitt stood alone. Joe enlisted when he was seventeen and turned eighteen just a couple of months before the attack. People familiar with pictures of Joe from that time say that he looked fourteen. The math is fairly simple. This is the seventieth anniversary. Joe is eighty-eight. He stood straight and recounted events of that day with frightening clarity. He and others fired at the planes with rifles. Because his ship, the USS San Francisco, was stripped for maintenance, these were the only weapons available to them. One of his shots, which he doesn’t believe did any real damage, was at a pilot whose face was clearly visible at “about the height of the ceiling” of the high school gymnasium. Even though Joe went on to fight in seventeen battles and do a lot more shooting with much bigger guns and a lot more impact, there is no doubt that his memory of that pilot’s face is vivid and crystal clear.

New Richmond Pearl Harbor RemembranceNew Richmond Pearl Harbor MonumentThe left hand picture shows local Buckeye Boys State representatives presenting a wreath to Joe Whitt as Ralph Shepherd of the American Legion looks on. Today, the actual anniversary of the attack, it will be placed at the riverside monument and another will be cast into the Ohio River.

As far as I know, this is the only Pearl Harbor observance in the area. Someone said that Addyston, on the west side of Cincinnati, may still have one but I could find nothing online. In some respects, having the horrible events of December 7, 1941 recede in our collective memory is a good thing. Unfortunately, they are not receding so much on their own as being pushed back by more recent and equally horrible events. Yes, we should never forget events such as the attack on Pearl Harbor but it would sure be nice if all such memories were really really old ones.

With the Remembrance scheduled for a Sunday, my first thought was to make it the subject of the blog post for that same day. As Sunday approached, I realized that I would not have a book review ready for Wednesday and that I had a small herd of electrified horses trotting about my brain. It would be better, I surmised, to post the horse parade stuff on Sunday, the Remembrance stuff on Wednesday, and hope to have a book review by next Wednesday. Sorry to disillusion anyone who thought this was all carefully planned weeks in advance.

Water Cardboarding

1992 must have been a fertile time along the big river in southwest Ohio. As noted in last Sunday’s post, the annual Cincinnati Blues Festival was just held for the 19th time. Yesterday, the 19th International Cardboard Boat Regatta took place just a few miles up river from Cincinnati. I don’t know what triggered that little rash of event birthing at Ohio’s southern edge. Maybe Iron City Brewing up in Pittsburgh had a big spill or something. Or it might just be lucky coincidence that got these two wonderful events going in the same summer.

RoadsideAmerica at Cardboard Boat Museum, New Richmond, OHIt was definitely a coincidence that I stopped by New Richmond’s Cardboard Boat Museum last month on the day before was to arrive for a photo shoot and interview. This is the world’s only cardboard boat museum and the driving force behind the annual regatta. Of course I eagerly returned the next day for a chance to see Doug Kirby & Ken Smith in action. I’d submitted a few photos to the site and exchanged some email with Doug but had never met either of these fellows. For me, it was kind of like meeting Tiger Woods would be for a golfer. The report produced from the visit is here.

Cardboard boats waiting for race, New Richmond, OH, 2011Cardboard boats with mechanical assist, New Richmond, OH, 2011Now that the name dropping is out of the way, I can move on to yesterday’s regatta. Even though I’ve heard of it for years and watched many after the fact reports on local news, this was only the second year I’ve attended. New Richmond is one of those river towns that, in recent years, I tend to end up in during semi-aimless weekend drives. I naturally started popping into the museum whenever I saw it open and last year actually knew of the race date in advance. I used the 2010 race as the starting point of my Blue Ridge Parkway drive. As I recall, there were about fifty boats last year. That record was shattered by this year’s fifty-five entrants. There are different heats for juveniles and adults and for single and multiple person crews. Boats with “mechanical assistance” make up their own distinct class.

Broken cardboard boat, New Richmond, OH, 2011By rule, the boats are constructed of nothing other than cardboard, tape, and paint. The paint is critical though there is nothing special about it. The same basic house paint that keeps water from soaking into your wooden siding keeps it from soaking into cardboard. Of course, should water somehow find its way in, the cardboard reacts even quicker than peeling wood siding. By using different crews, many boats run in more than one heat. Some run in less than one heat.

Cardboard Man finish, New Richmond, OH, 2011After all the various class competitions are finished, any surviving boat with any crew can compete in a wide open free-for-all with the winner taking home the prestigious Cardboard Cup. In previous years, the Cardboard Cup race was the last of the day but this year a new event was added. This double length race would seriously test the stamina of any individual with the nerve to try it. Rather than the single downstream pass of the 200 yard course that makes up every other event, this race required entrants to paddle the course in both directions. The picture shows Sam Richmond about to cross the start/finish line to become the first recipient of the Cardboard Man title.

The Cardboard Man title is clearly out of my reach. In fact, almost everyone in a boat expended a lot more energy than I’d ever consider. The lone exception was the fellow who played steel drums while his wife propelled their craft. Now that’s a gig I think I could handle.

Steel drum cardboard boat, New Richmond, OH, 2011