Saturday, September 1, 2012

Ohio River Down Bound Part I (Aug 15 to Aug 31)

With one more pass by a sculpture we had wondered about (memorial to Mr. Rogers who was from Pittsburgh), we started the trip down the Ohio, although we were heading north.  We end up learning a good bit of geography on these trips.  Thank goodness for the road atlas!
After 342 locks you'd think it would all be pretty routine by this time, but as we were finishing up in our second lock of the day, the lock tender  pointed out a piece of line floating in the water.  Line in the water is a dangerous thing as it can easily wind itself around the boat props and cause all kinds of havoc. I extended my boat pole to its full length and started trying to fish the line out of the water.  Once I finally got some on the hook, I could tell it was attached to something heavy.  Joe came to help and we finally pulled up a rod about 10' long with a sharp point on the end of it and line wrapped around it - yucky!  The lock tender dropped his hook back down and took it away for us.  Catastrophe averted.  Nice to add a little excitement to the day.  In our 8-1/2 hour, four lock, 57 mile cruising day that's all the excitement we had.
After a shorter day and only one lock the next day, we stopped at Moundsville, WV.  We had two reasons for stopping there:  easy access to a Kroger and Barb and I both wanted to tour the penitentiary.  We took care of Kroger that afternoon, but the next day rain had moved in.  As we waited for the rain to pass, a tow boat came toward our dock.  We'd noticed guys in a van hanging around the parking lot - it was time for a crew change and re-provisioning.  The tow pulled in right behind us - very close, but no touching!- and the unloading/loading began.
The penitentiary tour was interesting.  According to our docent, although the inmates were all there for crimes  committed in WV, the pen was considered the most dangerous in the country.  (Another of those suspect superlatives.)  It was hard to believe that they held prisoners there until 1995 - definitely not a comfortable place to be.  An interesting fact: Charles Manson's mother was incarcerated there for a time when he was young.  Years later,  Charles Manson wrote a letter to the warden asking to transfer to WV because they weren't being nice to him in CA.  Answer from the warden:  "When hell freezes over."
After the tour as we again waited for the rain to stop, we chatted with a woman who had been the first female guard in the all male penitentiary.  Interesting stories!

The following day we made it to Marietta, OH in time to take the last trolley tour of the day.  Marietta is a nice little town which was originally settled mostly by former Revolutionary War officers from Massachusetts.  When our young country couldn't pay the soldiers' wages, they were given credits that could be exchanged for land in the "Northwest Territory" - northwest being a relative term.

Sunday Joe went to mass at the incredible St. Mary's Church, which we followed with a disappointing tour of  "the castle," which was
 followed by a surprisingly good lunch at the Harmar Tavern.
I had the specialty of the house - a fried bologna sandwich!

While Joe had been in church, I had walked through the Marietta College campus and along some nearby streets with beautiful old homes shaded by big old trees.  It's a beautiful little town.
Marietta is also home to the Ohio River Museum and Campus Maritius.The Ohio River Museum has lots of models of stern wheeled steamboats. It's also home to the W. P. Snyder Jr.; one of the first steel hulled tow boats to be built and the last workng steam powered paddle wheel tug working the river. Andy, our docent, seemed to know pretty much everything about the boat.  We'd started the tour with another couple but I think they got bored with the details that Joe was getting from Andy and finally left to catch a lunchtime riverboat cruise.
The Campus Maritius Museum had various historical exhibits, but the biggest exhibit was the 1780's house that the museum had been built around.  It was originally one of the blockhouses for the fortification that was built to protect the original settlers.

The museum was closing as we were finishing up and Andy, our River Museum guide came in.  Surprised we were still there, he said he'd been about to go to our boat for a tour.  We tossed Joe's bike in the back of his truck and after a short grocery stop at the Giant Eagle, Joe reciprocated with a tour of Carolyn Ann for Andy.

Feeling we had pretty much done Marietta, we made the short trip - about 12 miles - to Parkersburg, WV.  One little tidbit here: the Ohio River is the border between Ohio and WV in this area, but the river is in West Virginia.  Ohio owns none of it.
We wanted to visit the Gas and Oil Museum in Parkersburg.  It turned out to be a big building filled with lots of stuff - much of which related to the gas and oil industry - all of it just plain old, and little of it sufficiently labeled.  Joe loved it; I have to say I was less enthusiastic.
The next thing we did there, we both enjoyed.  The Julia Ann Square District is an area about four blocks long and two streets wide containing houses from the mid-1800's to early 1900's.  There was a surprising amount of money in WV in those days - oil, gas, coal and lumber money.  Many of the houses in the district have been beautifully restored.  Some of them show that even then, people wanted to keep up with the latest fashion and did so when enlarging their homes.  This one started as Italianate, added on some Victorian turrets, and a big Colonial Revival porch.
As we passed one of the nicer Victorians, the owner, Mr. Smith, was outside and invited us in for a tour.  Stepping into the house is like stepping back in time.  It is everything Victorian.  He and his wife are docents at the nearby Blennerhassett and Henderson Hall mansions where they dress in period costumes.  All of the furnishings in their home are either antique or reproductions.  The music room is filled with music boxes of all kinds; the attic is filled with the Christmas decorations that take three months to put up downstairs.  Above the attic is a small room with a window that allowed the original owner, who made his money in lumber, to watch the lumber as it went down the Ohio.
After the house we toured the carriage house that contained T-birds (old and new), two Model A's, a 1915 Metz, and a surrey (with fringe on top) hitched up to a full size fake horse.  As if they don't have enough to do taking care of the house and their docent jobs, they now make the cars available for weddings.  Mr. Smith, of course, has a nice outfit for that - including a beaver skin top hat.  (If you're interested there are - big surprise - a lot more house pictures on picasa - link at the bottom of the post.)
Many of these houses open for Christmas tours - it might be worth a trip up!
Even though the guy driving the stern-wheel ferry offered us a free ride to the island, we decided to skip the trip to Blennerhassett Mansion.  It is supposed to be a good reproduction of the mansion that burned in 1811.  Besides the beautiful mansion, Blennerhassett's claim to fame is tied to Aaron Burr - both men having been accused of treason.

After an overnight stop at Point Pleasant - to which we will return - we cruised up the Kanawha River to Chareston, WV.  Not Charles Town the gambling mecca, Charleston the capital.  And what a capitol they have!
 Lazy Dolphin had arrived a day ahead of us and Barb and Randy joined us on a tour of the governor's mansion.  Very nice digs, and we really enjoyed our docent, Grace.  She had  Joe pretty well pegged right from the start.  After a quick lunch, we met up with Grace again at the capitol building for a tour of it.  Magnificent!  I really don't have much to compare it with in the way of state capitols, but have trouble believing there are many like it.
The chandeliers alone were worth the trip.  Something we found pleasantly surprising, is that there was no obvious security there.  You could enter and exit freely by any door.  The legislature was not in session, but indications were that this is always the way it is.  Refreshing.
Later that day Young America arrived just in time for Friday at the Levee.  We asked a young person what bands were playing.  "I don't know, some old bands from the 90's."  As it turned out, mostly they were just loud.
That let us out, so we went to Pies and Pints for pizza and root beer to celebrate Fred's birthday.

Joe and I walked/biked back to the museum at the capitol complex the following day.  Joe stopped and took so many pictures of the old houses on the way that we had to have lunch before we could go to the museum.
Grace was again on duty at the capitol and suggested Bluegrass Kitchen or Tricky Fish.  Bluegrass Kitchen turned out to be a great choice - the Breakfast Burger, complete with fried egg, was especially good.
The museum traces West Virginia history from 300M B.C. to the present.  We had two and a half hours.  The exhibits are well done and easy to follow - unlike what we've found at some museums - but there is just sooo much information.  We got through about half of it in pretty good detail, then it was closing time and our brains were beginning to shut down anyway.
Lazy Dolphin had left to start back to the Ohio, followed the next day by Young America (after a photo op in front of the Capitol) and Carolyn Ann continued up the Kanawha River - which actually means we headed south.  We'd gotten conflicting descriptions of the trip.  Some said the banks were lined with industrial sites; others spoke of cruising almost through a gorge.  We did see - and smell, occasionally - some industry.  But most of the trip took us into a scenic, mountainous area.
After going through two locks which raised us up a total of forty-eight feet in about thirty miles, we reached the end of navigation.  One piece of advice that was not in dispute was to not go past the railroad bridge.  So, railroad bridge in sight, we turned around and made our way back down to Charleston for the night.  Had we been able to continue, we'd have been in the New River which continues across Virginia and into North Carolina.  Flooding can be bad here as water drains from all those mountains into the narrow gorge.

On our way back to Point Pleasant, WV, we again passed by many stern wheelers, some still working tug boats.  I think Joe might be willing to trade Carolyn Ann in on one except that they are not exactly sea worthy.  We've heard stories about how easily a wake/wave can wash over the side, sinking the boat.  One that was in immaculate condition recently sank just before the prospective new owner handed over a check. It sank during a bad storm when another boat broke loss and drifted into it.
Point Pleasant had been on our agenda since we passed it by on the way up.  We hadn't stopped the first time by because it was so hot and we'd been told they didn't have power available on their wall.  The power outlets are on a board on wheels that is plugged into recessed/locked receptacle on the dock.  Linda on Young America had really connected with the locals and knew all the right contacts.  Shortly after we arrived, someone showed up to make sure we had the power we needed.  This time the power boards were already out in anticipation of an up-coming festival.
Our first stop the next day was the River Museum.  For a small town, the museum is quite impressive.  They have lots of pictures of the river, town and boats from the past as well as bells, whistles and a calliope to play.  Joe enjoyed steering a tow with a load of barges through a bridge on a simulator. This thing was really high tech with screens in front, on the sides and behind you.

You might remember that I mentioned a newspaper article about our trip when we were in Morgantown.  Evidently there is not much news happening in the area, because the AP version of the article has been picked up by quite a few local papers - and, we hear, some not so local boating publications.  Anyway, by the time we got to Point Pleasant word was out about this guy on a trawler wanting to go to Point Pleasant to rub the Mothman's butt.  So here's the shot you've all been waiting for.  We also, of course, went to the world's only Mothman Museum.  (This is one time I believe the "world's only" is probably true.)  The Mothman sightings happened around 1966 over a period of about a year.  The story goes that there have been birdlike creatures through out history that show up to warn of impending catastrophes.  In the case of Mothman, in December 1967 the Silver Bridge over the Ohio at Pt. Pleasant collapsed during rush hour.  There were no more Mothman sightings after that, thus proving the theory.  Or not.  You might possibly remember the movie about it - The Mothman Prophesies with Richard Gere.
When we got back to the boat after all our sightseeing, a stern wheeler, the Dresden Belle, had arrived.  Connie, one of the owners, and I started chatting about a boat they'd met up with a while back.  Turns out it was Young America.  As we sat on Carolyn Ann, Connie saw some friends  outside.  Shobha and her husband, Butch, own another stern wheeler, and came on board also.
As we talked about their boat, Sunshine (which is the translation of Shobha), Shobha pulled out a photo.  When I noticed the car on the boat I realized that Joe and Butch had talked on the radio two months earlier when we'd seen them on the river.  I had even included a picture of Sunshine on the blog!  Small world.
Even though they all tried to convince us to stay for the festival, we decided to continue on our way the next day.  We did pass Sunshine as she made her way up to Point Pleasant - without the car.

We arrived at Holiday Point Marina on the Thursday before Labor Day Weekend.  All the towns would be having festivities for the last weekend of the summer.  Also, Isaac's rain was heading up the Mississippi Valley, possibly into the Ohio River Valley.  Holiday Point is a well protected marina in the middle of nowhere.  Lazy Dolphin had arrived earlier in the day with plans to spend the weekend to avoid the crowds and the possible flooding which we thought was a grand idea.  So, here we both sit.

There are more pictures on the picasa site:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Joe and Punk,

Punk writes the best boating blog on the net. Bar none.

Not sure who takes the pics, but I find them interesting. Spent an hour or two last night going over the latest picassa batch.

My grandmother was born and raised in Charleston WV. I need to visit, most likely by car.

Keep posting. Stay safe, and put the mothman "behind" you.

Thanks for the update,

Mike T.
Palm Coast FL.