Thursday, May 30, 2013

Quick trip to Cairo, Illinois

I had heard Cairo, Illinois, was a city in decline, but I didn't realize how much until Adam and I drove through there last weekend. He was disappointed in what he saw, and I told him Cairo was like a lot of towns whose best days appear to be behind them.

There were a lot of empty buildings and vacant lots. We drove through the floodwall to look at the river, but we didn't stay in town long because we had other places to be and not much time to be there.

The bad part about that was that we didn't get to call ahead of time and arrange to talk to people who live there about how Cairo is their home and how they're trying to bring the city back despite the obstacles. One of the easiest things for a news person to do is to helicopter into a city, find people who say, "This town is dead, man" and leave. We go back home and write a story about how a place is filled with despair and someone ought to do something about it. And we move on to the next "dead" town.

I knew Cairo had had some problems in the past, but I didn't realize the extent of them until I read this Wikipedia article about the town and its history. When you see the population decline of the past 90 years, you can understand the vacant buildings and empty lots, and you wonder how people there now get along.

Adam and I want to go back when we can spend more time and get to know the town. You can't make a quick trip in and out and pretend you know the place. We're probably the only people we know who really want to spend a week wandering around the Paducah and Cairo areas. Go figure.

Monday, May 27, 2013

The end of the river ... or not

So this is it. The so-called mouth of the Ohio River.

Between the entrance ramps of two bridges – one over the Ohio River and one over the Mississippi – is a road to Cairo Point. It’s a road you have to look for. Once you’re there, you look for an observation tower. Then you follow some steps take a ramp down to a muddy river bank, balance yourself while you walk on some rocks in the water and step onto a square piece of concrete slightly above water level.

In theory, the left side of the point is the Ohio River and the right side is the Mississippi.
But not so fast.

 Adam and I were there last weekend. We arrived early in the morning, having left our motel in Paducah, Ky., so we could squeeze in a few hours of river exploring before he had to be in the wedding party of an aunt. One thing we noticed about this park was the awful smell. There were barges tied to the bank, too, and the M/V Walter Hagestaad was either dropping some off or picking some up. But the smell was terrible. 

We saw and older coupe walking a dog. Their car had Illinois plates, so I asked why the place smelled so bad.

The man said it was because of dead fish. The park was under water the week before, and when the river went down it left a lot of fish on the ground, he said.

He started telling me how this spot was the end of the Ohio River, and how he had traveled north in Minnesota to a place near the Canadian border, to Itasca, so he could step across the Mississippi.
I told him that hydrologists and others will tell you that the upper Miss is a tributary of the Ohio. Here at Cairo Point, the Ohio kicks in more water than the upper Miss, so that river is really a tributary of the Ohio.

He didn’t like hearing that, and I was wondering later if he told people about that know-it-all jerk from West Virginia who thinks the Ohio is a bigger river than the Mississippi.

It doesn’t matter. It’s an old story. Truth vs. prejudice. We know who usually wins, and it’s not truth.

I guess the park there at Cairo Point is a nice enough place when the ground is dry and you don’t have to worry about sinking two inches when you step on the grass, as I did a time or two. Adam kind of liked the place except for the mud and the smell.

He had his camera and I had mine, and we thought we would get a picture of something when I was up in the observation tower (the stairs are very steep, by the way) and heard a boat coming down the Mississippi. I stayed there and Adam went down to the bank in case it turned into the Ohio. I think I caught its name as the M/V Mary Parker. But it didn’t slow down to turn. It kept on going down the Mississippi (I’ll give the old fellow this one).

We went to some other spots nearby before we had to be back in Paducah. More on those later.

Where's Adam?

Adam and I and the rest of our family had an out-of-town family function to attend this weekend. We're back now and trying to recover and catch up on everything. While we were gone, Adam and I broke away from the rest of the family one morning to do some river exploring. More on all that later, but here are two photos for your consideration. Some river folks will be able to guess where we were.

While we were in this area, Adam asked if we had any family there. I told him that an obituary of one of my ancestors said he was a riverboat captain who had women in at least a couple of ports, and that some people of our last name in this state are his descendants, too, along with our branch, which is from Ohio.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Two CSX locomotives

Seen on the old B&O line along the Ohio River.

The one in the first picture was parked near a crossing where a taxi was waiting. The one on bottom was on a sidetrack a couple of miles up the road. I assume  he was waiting for the remainder of the train from the other locomotive, which was a mile or so down the road, to pass. This area has only one track. The 933 was pulling a lot  of AEPX cars, by the way.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Life changes

Posting items on the Ohio River Blog has become sparse lately.

When I started this blog about four years ago, I had just been laid off from a job I had had for more than thirty years. The company I worked for was going through some hard times, and management decided to eliminate my position and several others. The company is run by a board of directors of old-timers. A few months ago they added younger blood -- a person in his early 60s. Seriously. Most board members are in their 70s and 80s, so things are done the old-fashioned way. There were no optional buyouts. I was not given the opportunity to bump anyone out of a job and take a demotion. I was told I and several other people were being terminated. They gave me a check for two weeks' vacation pay and two weeks' severance pay. I was given time to clean out my office, and I was walked out the door. So much for three decades of service.

So I took an interest I had -- the Ohio River and its tributaries -- and I started this blog. It happened to be at a time when AEP, Crounse and Marathon were adding new boats to the fleet, and a time when my then nine-year-old son was taking a liking to the river, too. So I lived on unemployment checks while learning that no one wanted to hire a 50-something journalist for anything other than an entry-level job where I would be on call 24/7 to go cover trailer fires in the middle of the night, sometimes leaving my nine-year-old at home alone.

It got discouraging after a while, knowing people with lesser experience and skills were working while I was not. The up side was that Adam and I got to spend a lot of time together, and he got to learn a lot of history and science by learning the river -- the kind of history and science they don't teach in school while they obsess over standardized tests.

We had fun chasing boats and looking for new ones. We looked for boats we had not seen before. At one point, Adam squinted toward the setting sun and decided a boat a mile or more down the river had been built by Jeffboat. He was right. We met pilots and port captains who were surprised by the knowledge the kid had accumulated event though his family was outside the river fraternity.

I've had a good time with the blog, but things have changed. No, I'm not shutting it down. I'm still out there every now and then, but it's four years later. I'm now the managing editor of a weekly business newspaper based in a city that's an hour away from my house. I have a grandchild who needs my attention. And there are very few boats in my area that I haven't seen, and if there were, they're not pushing nearly as much as they did four years ago. And I have other matters that need my attention.

Those are some of the reasons blogging is light lately. I'm hoping I can pick it up soon. But I need more recharging time between those long trips down to the river, which by necessity are fewer now. When I do go out, I look for the really good pictures, the kind that I don't necessarily put on the Internet because I don't want other people stealing them.

So please bear with me. I'm not making any money off the blog. It's a hobby that had introduced me online to a lot of good people. But as with all blogs, the fire fades as the fuel is spent. I need to clean out some ashes so I can put more wood in the stove.

Adam and I have to go out this morning. Who knows? Maybe we'll see something interesting and write about it. Or maybe not. You never know what's going to happen, do you?

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Another early morning down by the river

This morning I had a few minutes between Place to Be A and Place to Be B, so I went down to my favorite bridge, which happens to be at the boat ramp at the mouth of the Guyandotte River.

First, it looks like this marina right above the bridge has added some more slips. Which means the Great Recession is over for some people. Not for me, but for some people.

I turned around and saw this. I guess an empty beer can has to go somewhere, and this is better than on the ground or in the river. For now, at least.

The bridge as seen through foliage.

And someone was out on the river having a good time, I guess.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

An hour down by the river

Yeah, I'm still busy. And I will be at least through Labor Memorial Day. So I blog when I can and get down to the Ohio River when I can.

I had to take a vacation day today just to mow my grass. Every time lately that I've had time to mow, it's rained. When I didn't have time, the weather was perfect. So, with my work schedule giving me a couple of days of leeway, I took the day off. I tended to my yard this morning, even if my lawn mower decided it didn't want to start. That's when you mow your lawn with a string trimmer. Not fun.

This afternoon was the final class of the semester of the class I taught at Marshall University. It was on media management. The nine students I had were bright, and from their papers it was easy to tell they had a diverse outlook on things.

Between those two things I spent an hour or so down by the Ohio enjoying the weather. And here is a sample of what I saw.

Here is a Huntington Police Department patrol boat out on the Ohio. I don't know what they were looking for, but it was a great day to be looking for it.

Then I went to a popular fishing spot near where Ingram parks barges. Here is an empty coal barge with the cables of the East End bridge in the background.

Normally Bud Light is the favored beer of litterbugs in the greater Huntington WV area, but these folks appear to be trying other brands.

I hear a good day fishing can't be beat. When I was little, my older brothers tried to interest me in fishing. I tried it, but I just couldn't get into it. If you like it, great. I like photographing fishing, but I just can't get into it like this guy apparently does.

I saw several recreational boats out on the Ohio, including this one heading back to the marina.

After class, I made one more trip to Harris Riverfront Park before I went home. And yes, there's a fisherman fishing from his motorized wheel chair.

Overall, it was a good day to be down by the Ohio River.