Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Ohio River Down Bound Part II (Sept 1 to Sept 24)

We stayed at Holiday Point Marina in Franklin Furnace, OH for Labor Day weekend.  Haven't heard of Franklin Furnace?  Not a lot there.  The docks were fine, the power good, they had a free washer and dryer and loaned us a car to go grocery shopping.  What more could you really ask for?  Our plan had been to avoid all the crazy boaters that come out for the holidays and also any storms from Isaac that might arrive.  I think the holiday boaters probably stayed at the dock because Isaac brought some thunderstorms and at least threatened rain all weekend.

By Tuesday Joe and I, and Barb and Randy, were all getting a little stir crazy and were ready to leave.  The Greenup Lock, which was just beyond our marina, was still only operating its small chamber.  Randy had been watching his AIS and reported 18 tows backed up at one point.  Joe called the lock tender about 8:30am to let him know that we wanted to lock down.  He told us to sit tight until we heard that Henry J (with a female captain!) was secure in the lock.  That would mean it was locking up and we'd be going down once the tow cleared the lock.  Finally, shortly before 11am we that heard Henry J was entering the lock, we moved into position, and were locked down and on our way about noon.
Luckily we had planned a short day and arrived in Portsmouth, OH early enough to do the tourist thing.    Inside the floodwall, Portsmouth has the best series of murals we've seen.  The artist, Robert Dafford, painted the 2200 feet of murals from 1993 to 2002. The depth that he managed to achieve in some of pictures is truly impressive.  Along with the murals, you can use a cell phone to listen to the description and history of each panel.  This one was really worth the visit.  We also visited a small museum before having a steak at Ribber's with Randy and Barb.
After an overnight stop at Ripley, we arrived in Cincinnati.  The waterfront area seems to be nearing the end of a complete renovation.  We were told that there is a plan to include a marina in the future.  For now, we tied up along a serpentine wall that didn't have any signs saying we were not allowed to be there.  After we'd gotten tied up a security guy came along and welcomed us to the city, so we settled in for what turned into almost a week-long stay.
This may sound strange, but the first thing I wanted to see was an 1848 daguerreotype at the main library.  We'd heard about it on NPR.  It is a series of 8 panels that show a panoramic view of the Cincinnati waterfront taken from about a mile away in Kentucky.  Nothing today can match the clarity of a daguerreotype which captured an image on a silver-coated metal plate.  The library not only has the original plates, but an interactive display.  An enlargement of each panel can be pulled up; then there are subject areas linked to additional information pertaining to things shown in that panel.  You could spend all day going through it.
After the library we headed to Skyline for some authentic Cincinnati chili and a "coney" (hot dog with chili and cheese).  Tasty!  Then it was on to the visitor's center at fountain square where we found out about John the Able Scotsman who could be hired as a guide.  Unfortunately, Cincinnati does not have any type of trolley tour available - other than the Ducks.

So, the next day we met up with John, who looks a lot like Santa Claus.  He grew up in Cincinnati and not only knew the history, but also entertained us with some personal stories - and quite a few bad jokes.  We rode all around downtown, through the Over the Rhine area and up Mt. Adams.
That evening we and Barb and Randy were picked up by Ted to have dinner with him and his wife Audrey at Terry's Turf Club - a good burger joint that  seems to be the repository for all the unwanted neon of the world.

Joe and I also spent some time wandering on our own and happened by City Hall.  It looked so interesting on the outside, we decided to check out the interior. 

 We were greeted with a large marble staircase and three levels of stained glass windows.  Built in 1893 for more than $1.6 million, it was almost demolished in the 1960's but they never allocated the funds.  Now it's safely on the National Registry.
On Sunday Joe started off on his bike intending to go to 11 o'clock mass at the St. Peter in Chains Cathedral.  Along the way he heard the bells at St. Francis Xavier ringing for 10:30 mass and went there instead.  Leaving just after communion, he was able to catch some of the mass at St. Peter's also.  As he stood in the emptying church, someone asked if he was there for the tour.  Well of course he'd like the tour!
The interior of the Cathedral is like none we've ever seen.  The area behind the altar is decorated with a mosaic made up of thousands of pieces of Venetian glass.  The murals depicting the stations of the cross are styled after drawings on ancient Greek pottery and there are walls of geometrically patterned stained glass.

After his tour, Joe managed to duck into the Jewish Plum Street Temple across the street.  We'd heard that it was never open, but there seemed to be some maintenance going on.  Built in 1866, the Byzantine-Moorish style temple was home to the beginning of Reform Judaism in America.

While Joe was getting religion, I had walked up Mt. Adams for an Architreks tour.  The group gives tours of many areas - but only on weekends, so I didn't get to take advantage of as many as I would have liked.  Among other things, our tour included the Holy Cross-Immaculata Catholic Church.  One thing we'd learned about Cincinnati is that it was populated by waves of immigration - especially by German and Irish.  Often there would be two churches of one denomination close together - one German and one Irish.  This one survived when the Irish Holy Cross was consolidated with the German Immaculata.

The next day we were off to the Union Terminal which now houses three museums.  We started in the Cincinnati History Museum - and never made it much beyond that, though Joe did run through a bit of the Natural History one.  The first thing we came to in the History Museum, was a huge model of Cincinnati.  It was split into sections so you could walk through it and each section portrayed the city in a different time period.  The rest of the exhibits, which took us from the first settlements to the present, were nicely done and well laid out.  We feel like we can really judge a good museum now, having experienced such a variety on these trips.
We had actually stayed in Cincinnati a bit longer than planned because we wanted to see the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center.  The building is large and impressive and contains a large exhibit area as well as a research area for tracing ancestry.  For the self guided tour you are offered and ipod that is linked to the exhibits.  Joe and I both found that the ipod became annoying and some of the exhibits seemed to become repetitious, but on the whole it was an interesting museum and we were glad we'd allowed a whole day to see it.

After five full days of sightseeing in Cincinnati, it was time to move on .  About half way to our next destination, Turtle Creek Harbor, we passed the halfway point on the Ohio River.  Hard to believe, but it had been just under three months ago that we passed this point on our way up river.  It's been a great cruise overall, with lots more to do.

Our Turtle Creek stop combined visits with the marina folks we've come to enjoy and Paul  and Marty who provided us so much river guidance.  We also had mail and packages waiting there.  Joe's new AIS - receiver and transmitter - arrived and was installed.  Now, after a few glitches, we can "see" the tow traffic and they can "see" us.  Joe also seized the opportunity to do an oil change and I caught up on laundry.
Our first night there we were watching tv and Joe noticed he was being watched.  A small cat was on the bow looking in at him.  Getting no response from Joe, the cat next moved to the back of the boat and climbed up the textra (woven window covering) on the back window.  After a few good squirts of water didn't deter him, I removed the textra and closed the window.  Even his sharp little claws couldn't hold onto the glass window.  Later, cat forgotten, we went to bed.  About 2:30am I heard Joe yell.  With the nice weather we had the hatch over the bed open.  The cat had pushed the screen out of the way and jumped through the hatch - landing on Joe's face!  We were told his "family" was out of town and he just likes to be near people.  All hatches were closed tight for the rest of our visit - also helped to keep out the spiders, including the black widow Joe found in the dinghy.
Our next stop was Madison, IN, one of the towns we'd heard good things about.  We arrived around noon and immediately took off to see the sights.  Our first stop was a saddletree factory.  Had no idea what a saddletree was, but it was an old place so we checked it out.  Turns out the saddletree is the wooden form that the leather and padding go over to make a saddle.  This place had been in business for nearly a hundred years - making saddletrees, clothespins and other things until the 1970's.  It looked like they were using most of the original equipment too!  Interesting stop.  After a couple more quick house tours, we went back to the boat.
The next morning we'd planned to get an early start on what looked to be a full day.  We were docked at a restaurant with a long dock offering some marginal power for one of the highest prices on the Ohio River.  Joe looked out and noticed some people trying to come down the ramp to their boat and encountering a padlocked gate.  Hmmm.  No one had mentioned a locked gate when we paid for dockage.  We tried calling the restaurant - no answer.  I called the visitor's center and got another number.  At that number Gary kept telling me it should be unlocked.  "But it's not," I said repeatedly.  Shortly after my frustrating chat with Gary, some restaurant employees arrived (after 10am) and opened the gate.  "Nobody gave you a key?"  They didn't offer to give us one, but said the gate would be open until 10pm.  (The guy who we'd seen at the gate earlier had finally waded to his boat and left.)
We took off and had a wonderful tour of Lanier Mansion  and the interesting Costigan House.  Costigan was an architect and built a house on a very narrow lot.  It didn't have a hall downstairs.  You could walk straight up the stairs when you came in, arrive at a landing at the top and then walk straight down another set of stairs to the back room of the first floor.  He'd also put in some curved walls to make space for closets behind them.
After we'd finished touring, Joe went back to the boat and I decided to walk around the town some more - eventually stopping for a long over due haircut.  As I walked down the ramp to the boat, I could see the padlocked gate ahead of me!  No, it was not anywhere near 10pm.   Luckily, Joe was on the boat, and had been there when they decided to close the restaurant and brought him a key.  So the next morning we left Madison.

When we arrived in Louisville, KY, Barb and Randy were there waiting and Fred and Linda were in town also.  We all had dinner and wished Fred and Linda bon voyage as they were flying off to NY the next day.  Louisville has nice public docks with power - no charge!
Barb and I decided to take a walking tour of Old Louisville.  Surprisingly, it took us two trolleys and a healthy walk to get there.  Old Louisville, where the very wealthy moved in the late 1800's is well south of downtown - the original suburb.  The houses are definitely impressive and we were surprised to see so many.  Evidently there was a lot of money to be made in the three "industries" in old time Louisville - tobacco, bourbon and gambling.  As we walked the streets with our guide, an owner invited us in to see the house she and her husband had restored.  It was interesting to hear all they'd been through during the process.
Although none of us are big bourbon fans, Randy and Barb went with us to Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort for a tour and tasting.  We arrived early and took a trolley tour of the city.  We were the only ones on the trolley and the driver kept up a non-stop narration of all things Frankfort along the way. He mentioned that the state capitol building was one of the most impressive in the country.  Having seen WV's we were skeptical, but didn't have time to check it out.  Frankfort looked like it would have been good to visit by boat, but the locks are not currently functioning on the Kentucky River.
Back at the distillery, we took what they called the hard hat tour.  We learned the process used to make bourbon and saw most of the equipment used.  We saw the fermenting mash, bubbling away in 93,000 gallon vats that were three floors tall.  After the tour we were allowed to taste some of the product.  Joe decided to buy a bottle of the premium bourbon.  On our way back to the boat, we stopped off at Sam's to pick up a few things - and found the premium bourbon for about 1/3 less than Joe had paid at the distillery.  Oh well, the tour was free.
Saturday we went to the Muhammad Ali Museum.  The visit starts with a good movie and then you move on to various displays concerning his life, boxing career and religious beliefs.  They also have interactive displays and films of boxing matches.  One section was a quick over-view of the Vietnam War helping to put his conscientious objector position into perspective - especially for those too young to have experienced that period.
Later we stopped in for a tour of the Louisville Slugger factory.  The woodworking shop was started in 1856.  The original owner's son was an apprentice and amateur baseball player who made bats for himself and his friends.  Legend has it that he made the first professional bat in 1884 for Pete Browning (the Louisville Slugger) after seeing him break his bat in a game.  The father was still reluctant to go into the bat business, but the son evidently won out and the Louisville Slugger name was trademarked in 1894.  Now they have over 8,000 variations.  Each professional has his own bat design and uses about 120 per year.  Evidently they can really tell the difference.  One was sent back because it didn't feel right and was found to be off by 5/100 of an inch - or some such infinitesimally small amount.
It had been a busy day, but Joe managed to make it to mass at the Cathedral of the Assumption built in 1852.  When built, it had the highest spire in North America and now has some of the oldest surviving hand painted stained glass in the country.

The next day the Arts and Crafts Museum was on our schedule.  We walked through it pretty quickly - it was small and really didn't have much in it.  Quite a disappointment since they did charge admission.  But the girl at the desk had told us to stop by the 21c Museum Hotel.  We had to walk right past it to get back to the car, so after admiring their glass-beaded limo, we went in.  Free and always open, the museum has changing exhibits of 21st century art in what used to be tobacco and bourbon warehouses.  It's a great collection of multi-media art that was fun as well as thought provoking.
Joe was also really impressed with the men's room - although he's still trying to figure out if the motion sensitive fountain was art or a urinal.  (No, he did not pee in the fountain and only later wondered if he was supposed to.)  Some one later told us that when you stand at the sink washing your hands, your silhouette is projected in a gallery upstairs.  We missed that one.
Next on the agenda was a trip across the bridge to Jeffersonville, IN and the Howard Steamboat Museum.  The Howard's were steamboat builders and had this mansion built in 1894.  The woodwork was done by the steamboat woodworkers using the best of the wood they had.  The interior is a blend of parts rescued from old steamboats, some steamboat like design elements and things purchased at the World's Fair.
The family's intention was not so much to showcase the house, but to have a steamboat museum, so many of the rooms are filled with detailed models of steamboats and tools and equipment.  Our private docent for the tour was actually the curator and was knowledgeable about the house, the family and the steamboats.
Our last day with the car was dedicated to a visit to Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby Museum.  What a great stop that was!  You enter the museum through a starting gate with thundering horses running straight at you.  Just as the horses are about to trample you, they come to the turn and veer away.  In the museum are displays of hats along with displays about every facet of the Derby and a timeline that I wished I'd had the time to really look at in more detail.  Before the tour we watched a movie that was projected all around us on an oval screen.
Then we toured the paddock area as well as the grandstands.  The race is still run on the original 1875 dirt track and the original twin spires building is the core of the facility.  The Kentucky Derby is the only one of the Triple Crown races that has been run every year since 1875.  Now the average attendance is over 150,000 - with only about 54,000 getting seats and actually being able to see the race.  Even though they can't see it, those other 100,000 evidently enjoy the event.

We have loved our stop in Louisville - have I said that about nearly every place we've stopped?  Maybe. It would be hard to pick a favorite, but Louisville has surprised us at every turn - the blend of old and new (and the very visible trend to preserve the old) and the art on the streets - from sculptures, to bicycle racks, and (possibly our favorite) a trailer park.

Lots more picture on picasa!

1 comment:

scott davidson said...

What an interesting blog, introduced by a thought-provoking photo. The unusual wall painting of the dwellings is
also a strangely modern interpretation. Something like this hieroglyphic view of a park by Swiss painter Paul Klee, http://EN.WahooArt.com/A55A04/w.nsf/OPRA/

The image can be seen at wahooart.com who can supply you with a canvas print of it.