Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Bye-bye, 2013

I probably won't stay up to welcome the new year. I've seen a lot of New Year's Eves in my day. Maybe I should, because other than the joy my new granddaughter brought me this year, 2013 has been like that tickle in my throat that makes my cough, the hangnail in your life and I can't bite it off (with apologies to Hoyt Axton).

So what river picture of 2013? Probably this one, taken at the supposed mouth of the Ohio at Cairo, Ill., on Memorial Day weekend.

I say supposed mouth because ... well, I've griped enough about how the Ohio is really bigger than the Mississippi here.

Just because a map says the Ohio River ends here doesn't make it so. And just because a calendar says tomorrow morning will be that much different doesn't make it so, either. But a new year brings new opportunities, and I plan to take advantage of a few that are coming my way, and more that I will have to work on myself.

So from the Ohio River Blog, have a great 2014.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas day on the river

Adam and I usually take time each Dec. 25 to see what's happening on the river. In years past we've caught an AEP boat tied up at Lakin WV for a while, presumably for the crew to enjoy some time off on the holiday. Or maybe it was there for regular business. We don't know.

We've also seen the Neil N. Diehl, the Lelia C. Shearer and the Sara Elizabeth out and about on the day. Today we saw the Earl Jones upbound at Point Pleasant WV. Across the river, we saw the Dan Elder dropping a couple of barges at what I think is called O-Kan Harbor.

Adam got these two shots while we crossed the Silver Memorial Bridge. The bridge is right next to where the boat left the barges. In this first shot, we just got up on the bridge.

In this shot, Adam was shooting into the sun while the camera was bracketing exposures. This was about 0.7 EV underexposed, and I played with it a little.

That was about all we saw, but it was more than we expected, really.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Cloudy day

It was warm enough yesterday that Adam and I spent a little time down by the river before we ventured out to the mall to see if traffic was as bad as we thought it would be. It was worse.

Back to the river ...

From Chesapeake OH we watched the AEP Legacy pass beautiful downtown Huntington upbound.

We knew this was coming. The Miss Mae was pushing to office- or dormitory-type structures -- or whatever they were -- and it looked like she was steering mainly by radar. The wind was pretty brisk at times, and we wondered if that caused any additional problems steering this tow.

After the AEP Legacy passed our spot, we noticed it moved to one side of the river and almost stopped. That got us wondering if another boat was coming down. Yes, there was. The Tennessee Hunter, actually.

And that was about it on the river. The day was warm and cloudy. Traffic at West Virginia's largest mall, which is about 10 miles from Huntington, was nasty. You can have it.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

A few photos from the simulator dedication

Here are some of the officials, as we call them in the news business, who were present for the dedication of the pilot simulator at Mountwest Community & Technical College in Huntington WV last week.

1. U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va.
2. West Virginia State Sen. Robert Plymale, D-Wayne County
3. MCTC President Keith Cotroneo
4. John Whiteley, executive director of workforce development at MCTC
5. Bill Smith, superintendent of Cabell County WV Schools

Here's Adam trying his hand at the controls:

The man in the background on the left is Jeff Topping, an instructor at the Inland Waterways Academy. He noticed Adam's hoodie with the letters "USMC" across the front and asked where Adam got it. Adam replied that he got it at Parris Island a little over a year ago when his older brother graduated from Marine Corps basic training. Mr. Topping said he is a retired Marine, so they talked a little about that.

John Whiteley again:

And this person, who did not attend the dedication but was in my living room waiting for me when I got home:

That's my granddaughter. She's the most beautiful girl ever born.

Whatever happened to ...

Here's something about an Ohio River town that maybe someone can provide an update on.

A Facebook friend shared this link about a ghost dealership in East Liverpool, Ohio. It's about a shuttered Chrysler-Plymouth dealership that has a couple of classic cars in the showroom still. The article quotes the building's owner as saying he has more classic vehicles (or what working class folks might consider classics in terms of being trucks they once drove) stored in another building. But he was interesting in selling them.

Interesting story, I thought, until I saw it was more than three years old. I did a quick search and found that the owner quoted in the story, Basil Mangano, died last year.

My question: Does anyone reading this blog know what happened to all those vehicles?

More in the new simulator

My employer has posted my piece from earlier in the week about the riverboat pilot training simulator at the Mountwest Community & Technical College's Inland Waterways Academy.

To fill in some blanks: The dedication ceremony was this past Tuesday at 3 p.m. Adam doesn't get off the school bus until around 4 or 4:30 (we live at the end of the route, so he gets on at 6 a.m.). I went to his school to pick him up so he could attend this ceremony and get a look at the simulator.

While there, he met U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., and Bill Smith, superintendent of Cabell County Schools, which Adam attends. He sat through the speeches and watched as the bigwigs got to play with the simulator. Before we left, John Whiteley, the man in charge of the Inland Waterways Academy, offered to let Adam try his hand. Adam did, and performed well. Pilot simulators are his favorite video game, even more than Minecraft, where he has spent several days building an American Queen-type passenger boat.

Before we left, Capt. Whiteley talked with Adam for a while about various training options for a career on the river, whether it's by getting a job straight out of high school or even applying to the U.S. Maritime Academy.

That's the nice thing about river people: If a kid shows a genuine interest in their work, they will take the time to give advice.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Catching up on some news

Only in America?

The Olmstead Locks and Dam is still under construction, yet the U.S. Army Corps of
Engineers has started the process of soliciting bids to rehabilitate the locks at a cost of $5 million to $10 million. Here is one article on the solicitation. Here is the original document.


For the latest look at whether the people of Cincinnati got a good deal by approving a sales tax increase to build stadiums to keep the Bengals and the Reds in town, check out this article by Bloomberg.


And here is another take on the controversy over shipping frackwater on the Ohio.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

A new simulator

Today the Inland Waterways Academy at Mountwest Community and Technical College here in Huntington had a media availability and dedication of its new towboat pilot simulator.

Adam gave it a thumbs up. He did pretty good in a couple of tight spots in New Orleans, and he got some career advice from people at Mountwest about his river career ambitions.

More on this later. I was there to write a news article for my employer, and I don't want to scoop the folks who issue my paychecks. That article should be up on the web by the end of the week. I'll link to it when it's up.

Meanwhile, here's one media report on the event.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

$10K for recreation

A group in Pennsylvania wants to get enough online votes for a $10,000 grant to promote water-based recreation on the Ohio River in that state.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Mercury in the Catskills

A new study indicates mercury from power plants and other industrial sources in the Ohio Valley could be contributing to mercury found in animals in the Catskill Mountains of New York state, and mercury concentrations in animals increases with elevation.

A summary of the article is here.

From the summary, the study does not specifically link mercury in the Catskills to the Ohio Valley. It does find a correlation between concentration and altitude.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Another boat gone down south

Someone sent this to me. I can't find a date on it.

Anyway, Adam and I have ridden this boat a few times, but no more, apparently. The sale doesn't surprise me. It seems ownership of some of these boats turns over pretty fast after the novelty wears off (for the customers as much as anyone else) and it's time for the owners to move on.

But what will we ride now to get on-the-river photo shoots in the Point Pleasant area? Surely someone will fill the void.

Science in the Ohio Valley

The abstract of this scientific study looks interesting, but I'm going to have to buy a new dictionary to understand it. Maybe then it would be worth $39 to buy the actual article. Or maybe not.


On a serious note, if you want to read the results of a study on the link between C8 (perfluorooctanoic acid, a synthetic chemical used since the late 1940s in manufacturing industrial and household products)from a DuPont plant near Parkersburg WV and cancer, check out this one.

From the abstract:

Participants (n=32,254) reported 2,507 validated cancers (21 different cancer types). ... PFOA exposure was associated with kidney and testicular cancer in this population.Because this is largely a survivor cohort, ndings must be interpreted with caution, especially for highly fatal cancers such as pancreatic and lung cancer.


And efforts are underway in Ohio to return the hellbender -- a large salamader -- to its native range in the Ohio Valley, now that the tributary streams it once inhabited are cleaner.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Three from October

Here are three photos I got during my two-day minivacation in October.

First, the remains of an abandoned coal tipple on a foggy morning.

Second, some guys fishing on the Ohio side of the Robert C. Byrd Locks and Dam. Over on this side of the river, people still call it by the old name of Gallipolis Locks and Dam, as they prefer their name on it and they as Ohioans feel no particular fondness for the late senator.

And here's one of my favorite boats -- the D.A. Grimm -- coming out of the Kanawha and heading down the Ohio.

It was a good day.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Blennerhassett Bridge

I was up in the Parkersburg WV area a couple of weeks ago and got this shot of the Blennerhassett Bridge.

There's one good spot to get a shot of this bridge, and that's on a boat in the river. I hope to do just that next summer. But you know how they say life is what happens when you're making other plans.

Here's another.

It's a cool bridge to drive across. Sometime when the traffic is right, maybe I'll be brave enough to pull over, jump out of my car and get a picture of the river.

Roundup 11/30/2013

Wonder how Louisville looks from space, heat-wise? Check out the pictures here. I hope to actually read the article later today.


It looks like another Ohio River bridge is in the works, with this one up in West Virginia's Northern Panhandle.


In case you wonder how the Commonwealth of Kentucky is paying for a new bridge over the river at Louisville ...


Keeping with the Kentucky theme, here's a short article -- one of many lately -- about the coal woes of Central Appalachia.


Moving up the river a bit, Asian carp may or may not be present in the upper Ohio. This explains the ambiguity in an otherwise "duh" statement.


I can't believe I've not made it up to the river museum in Marietta, Ohio, yet. This gives me another reason to go.


That's about all for now. More later, maybe.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving, y'all

Or yinz, if you live far enough upriver.

My favorite Marine is home for a few days -- the first time in almost a year. I hope you all have as good a time as we expect to have today.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

M/V West Virginia

I saw this fine boat backing out of the Kanawha today. It was backing out so it could head up the Ohio with several loads of coal and material that looked like sand, although it could have been anything, I guess.

She was built in 1967, meaning in about four years she'll turn 50. I remember the '60s. It's hard to believe they were that long ago.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Dry period again

Sorry for several days of no posting, but life gets in the way of blogging sometimes. I can say that a nine-month-old baby can eat into your time something powerful. My wife says the kid used to go through 2.1 adults per day, but that's up to 3.7 now.

Traffic on the river has been light during the times I've been able to get down there. Today I did see a boat that I hadn't seen before: the M/V Capt. Kirby DuPuis.

The other day I was on the iPhone checking Ohio River lock activity when I noticed some boat ID numbers had hyperlinks attached to them. So I clicked one to see what information would come up. Next thing I knew, my phone dialpad came up on the screen and I heard a phone ringing, so I hung up immediately.

Speaking of which, how do you "hang up" when there is no handpiece and no hook to hang anything on? But "hang up" sound more colorful than "ended the call," you know?

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Catching up on the news

I don't have much firsthand knowledge about the Mike Fink riverboat on the Covington KY riverfront, but apparently there are questions about its future.


Jeffersonville, Clarksville and New Albany IN are getting a path along the Ohio River to connect those communities. A $50,000 grant from the Duke Foundation will help complete design work.


The Coast Guard is thinking about allowing gas drillers who use hydraulic fracturing (fracking) to ship their wastewater to disposal sites by barge, which has some people unhappy.


Up in Columbiana County, Ohio, the local port authority has signed an agreement with Arrowhead Utica Pipeline LLC to connect the Marathon Ohio River terminal to another pipeline. Marathon has already announced it will ship crude oil from the Utica shale of eastern Ohio by barge to its refinery at Catlettsburg, Ky.


And from a a few days ago, in an announcement that surprised no one, Consol Energy announced it would sell five coal mines plus its river transportation division to Murray Energy Corp.


I'll post some photos from last week soon.

Friday, November 1, 2013

My youngest son's favorite towboat

The M/V Hoosier State passing Huntington WV.

I wonder why this is Adam's favorite boat. I have no clue at all.

M/V Miss Mae at work

At Proctorville, Ohio.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

M/V Daniel T. Martin et al

I don't know who designed the particular generation of boats at St. Louis Ship ...

... but he gave us a fleet of nice-looking vessels. I don't know how they handle or how they ride, but they look good.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

A couple of images

First, we were at a boat launch ramp in Point Pleasant WV Sunday afternoon and noticed all these trucks and trailers.

By the way, all but one of the trucks had Ohio license plates.

Today I saw the M/V Roger W. Keeney going up the river past Huntington WV. I wasn't able to get the shot I wanted or the second shot I wanted, so I settled for something a little different.

More tomorrow, if the weather and life both cooperate.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

A good day

Today was the second day of a two-day minivacation. I needed some time where I had nowhere to be, no schedule to keep and no one to slow me down, so I drove up to Point Pleasant WV and back on the Ohio side. The day started pretty foggy.

I got some photos at a former coal tipple -- people under a certain age have no idea what those things were -- and some foggy photos of guys fishing on the Ohio side of the Gallipolis Locks and Dam, now known as the Robert C. Byrd Locks and Dam.

As far as boats go, I saw the AEP Future, the D.A. Grimm, the Daniel T. Martin, the Hoosier State and the Transporter. I got home in mid-afternoon ready to work on some photos when I learned I was on babysitting duty the rest of the night. She's asleep now, and her mommy should be by soon to pick her up.

I posted three pictures from today on my Flickr photostream. If I get ambitious, I might post another before getting some ready for this blog.

So enjoy, and I'll see you all later.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Gone from Point Pleasant

Adam and I were crossing the Silver Memorial Bridge yesterday from Ohio into West Virginia. As usual, Adam looked down the river to see what boats were at the Campbell Transportation dock. Not did he see no boats, but he didn't see the dock, either.

From what I've heard since, Campbell has decided to pull its operations out of Point Pleasant. The dock was where we got several good views of Campbell boats, and it's where two or three times a year I used to see one of the prettiest boats on the river -- the Amber Britany.

But things come and go. The Campbell dock at Point Pleasant was where G&C Towing was based. The company was owned and operated by a guy named Bosworth who died a few years ago. Campbell took things over, but it's apparently over now.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The summer of '85 ...

... and October, too.

Last night I found a couple of boxes of slides that I had misplaced. One was labeled "Summer 1985," although I'm sure a few photos are from fall of that year, such as this one. I may post a few of them on my Flickr photostream in the next few days.

This photo was taken at Tu-Endie-Wei park at Point Pleasant WV. This photo might have been from a warm October Sunday of that year. This is the M/V Mr. Jesse Barr of G&C Towing exiting the Kanawha River with several barges loaded with coal. I haven't seen the Mr. Jesse Barr in years, and G&C is another of those companies that was bought up as larger ones expanded through acquisitions.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Another view of Hannibal

If you'd like to see another view of the Hannibal Locks and Dam, check out this photo by Flickr user Lewie Osborne.

If anyone can give me directions on getting to this spot, or a similar spot overlooking the Simon Kenton Bridge (the old one) at Maysville KY or the Sciotoville (OH) railroad bridge, I will gladly accept them and give you a shoutout when I post the pictures.

Politics, media, the shutdown and the Ohio River

So the federal government shutdown is over. For now. We survived, somehow. It made us forget about the fierce urgent issues that must be addressed immediately for the survival of the republic and the free world. Gun control, immigration ... stuff like that. I guess we'll wait until the shutdown is dissected on the Sunday morning news shows before my peers in the national media decide what issue will be the next to drive us apart as we choose sides and identify heroes and villians.

But with the shutdown's end comes some news about ... the Ohio River, of all things. For me, it started with this basic news release that I read and thought, I'll have to put that on the blog this weekend. Here it is, from the Waterways Council Inc.

Arlington, VA – The passage of last night’s Continuing Resolution to fund the Federal government and raise the debt ceiling contained a provision to raise the 902(b) cap on the amount that can be spent on the Olmsted Project in Illinois to $2.9 billion from the current $1.56 billion.  The measure does not appropriate funds, but allows work on the critically important project to continue.   The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers informed the Inland Waterways Users Board in August that the Olmsted project would be shuttered in November 2013 and would displace 400 workers if Congress did not act the raise the cap. 

In response to the Corps’ announcement, the Senate-passed Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) bill, the House Water Resources Reform Development Act (WRRDA) bill, and the FY 2014 Energy & Water Appropriations bill all contain provisions to raise the 902(b) cap but will not become law before the project would have shut down in November. 

If Olmsted were to have shut down, according to the Corps, it would have cost $40 million to restart the project, and of course, needlessly delay its delivery. 

“To be clear, no money has been expended in this action by Congress.  It simply raises the ceiling on the cost of project that was set in 1986 to allow work to continue in 2013 and beyond,”   said Michael J. Toohey, President/CEO, Waterways Council, Inc. (WCI) “This important project in Illinois has a 7.4 to 1 cost-benefit ratio as determined by the Corps of Engineers’ Chief’s Report approved by Congress, and is estimated to return more than $410 million annually in transportation cost savings and benefits when it is completed,” he continued.  
But there's always a story behind the story. Within hours, I saw this on the Bloomberg BusinessWeek website.

Don’t tell American Electric Power (AEP:US) Co. that a part of the U.S. budget agreement allowing an Ohio River lock reconstruction project to continue is a sweetheart deal for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.  

Other news folks picked up the Bloomberg story and ran it.

And today I found this version:

The last-minute addition to the fiscal deal this week of a $1.2 billion boost in the spending cap for an embattled waterway project in the home state of Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell kicked up a political storm, but the "Kentucky Kickback" has jittery inland-shipping interests on the busy Ohio River breathing a sigh of relief.

There are others. There will be more. Doing my own Olmstead story is on my Ohio River bucket list, which gets longer every week.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

You do what you can

When you have an 8-month-old sleeping in the back seat and no one else in the car with you and you see a boat you want to photograph, you go with the best angle available, even if it is through a windshield.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Ten minutes too late

I think this is the M/V Dixie Leader. It's headed up the Ohio River just past old Lock and Dam 27 there on the left of the picture.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Something missing

Remember how I said the Corps of Engineers had posted signs saying the public fishing areas of the Robert C. Byrd Locks and Dam on the Ohio River were closed for the duration of the federal government "shutdown"?

This evening on my way home from work, I made a side trip to Winfield WV to see if the signs at the Winfield Locks and Dam on the Kanawha River were keeping fishermen out, or if local anglers were engaging in a bit of civil disobedience

Guess what. Gate open. No sign.

Don't know if there ever was a sign or why the corps would close one public area and not another.

Another mystery of this great controversy that has the political class and its wannabes all screaming at one another and the rest of us shrugging our shoulders and waiting it out. Meanwhile, people I know are going without work and paychecks. For now, at least.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Dense cargo

When I saw the W. Stanley James pass Huntington WV yesterday, I was thinking it was carrying a load of finely crushed rock. But when I looked at the pictures in a larger format, I thought it might have been carrying salt.

Whatever it was, it was awful heavy for such a small volume.

There will be two or three things that keep me awake tonight. This will not be one of them.

Bringing the pain home

So far this month I have avoided making any public comments on the federal government "shutdown," but after seeing this, I can't help myself.

Saturday, Adam and I made the trip up the river to see his grandmother and one of his cousins. We went up the West Virginia side, and as no one else was in the car with us, we made our usual stop at the Robert C. Byrd Locks and Dam. We were surprised to see concrete barriers blocking vehicle access to the public use area. A notice taped to one barrier said it was because of the shutdown.

We found that amusing as we had never seen a Corps of Engineers vehicle ever in the public use area the many times we had visited it. So an area that operates at minimal cost had to be closed to public access because of the spat in Congress.

Oh, to get to that notice, I had to walk around three motorcycles parked next to the barrier. And across the road was a pickup. We looked over in the park area and saw a man sitting at a picnic table in one of the shelters. I guess he was making a silent protest over the situation. Or he may have been a security guard to keep troublemakers like us out. You never know, even if he would have been the first security I had ever seen there. But I was pretty sure people had disregarded the notice and walked down to the river to fish.

We came home on the Ohio side so we could see what it looked like over there. Here's the interesting thing. There are two parking areas on the Ohio side. One, which is down by the river and provides handicap access for fishing, was blocked off with a gate, and a notice similar to the one on the West Virginia side of the river was attached to it. The upper parking lot, which is at the same level as Ohio Route 7, was open.

So I guess if you have a disability, you're not supposed to fish on the Ohio side because of the shutdown. But if you are a normally abled person, you can park at the top of the bank and walk down with no problem. Sounds like a conflict with the Americans With Disabilities Act to me, but I'm no lawyer.

I don't know how it is at other public access sites the corps maintains along the river, but I do know of one that was open with no problems that same day. I guess it's not busy enough to close.

Maybe you folks can explain it all to me. All I know is the great debate over the Affordable Care Act/Obamacare had come to fishing areas along the Ohio River.

P.S. Now that I think about it, I have made one public comment. This is what I put on my personal Facebook page on Oct. 2: "They say politics is show business for the ugly. The past couple of days I have heard so much fake outrage over the federal government shutdown that I can't stand it any more. I'm tuning it out except for what is required in my job."


Sunday, October 6, 2013

M/V Kelly Lee

I might have seen this boat before, but if I have, I can't recall it right now.

Handbook of International Bridge Engineering and Design

One of my favorite bridges over the Ohio River is the Blennerhassett Island Bridge near Parkersburg WV. I have found something on Google Books called "Handbook of International Bridge Engineering and Design."On Page 75 is an engineering description of the bridge.

For my West Virginia followers, the book includes chapters on the I-64 bridge over the Kanawha River at South Charleston and the New River Gorge Bridge.

On Page 93, the book lists major suspension bridges in the United States. Two on the Ohio are included: the Wheeling Suspension Bridge, which opened to traffic in 1849, and the John A. Roebling bridge in Cincinnati, which opened in 1866.

The book also has articles about the Three Sisters bridges on the Allegheny River in Pittsburgh and the Mon River bridge over the Monongahela River in Pennsylvania.

If you like bridges, you'll want to scan the excerpts that are in the link, even if you don't understand the engineering talk.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Sunset at Huntington

Seen at Harris Riverfront Park, Huntington WV, Oct. 4, 2013

The park was unusually quiet that evening. Which was good.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Still at it

When will I stop taking pictures of boats going under the Huntington WV East End Bridge? The day I get one that says, you'll never top this one. I haven't gotten that shot yet.

Here is the M/V Escatawpa of Amherst Madison.

I think I know what that final picture will be, but it will be a while before I can get it.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Boat for sale

I linked my previous post on my personal Facebook page. The first comment was from a guy I used to work with who's now at AEP. He says if I really have the itch, AEP has a surplus boat for sale.

If only ...

All I have is a dollar, and I think they want more than that.

Science class presentation

So my eighth-grade son Adam had a class assignment in science. He was to put together a PowerPoint presentation on how technology changes things over time.

What he did was no surprise. He did a piece on towboats, which he turned in yesterday. The presentation required a minimum of five slides. He started with sternwheelers and how some were converted to propellers. Then he moved to the 1940s and the Hillman boats, then to the turtlebacks that were designed in the 1950s, then the Dravo Vikings of the 1970s and ended with modern boats.

 A Hillman boat on the Kanawha River at Dunbar and South Charleston WV.

He said he will tell me what grade he got.

Adam didn't get towboat-crazy until he was in third grade. That spring we were at Virginia Point Park at Kenova WV, where the Big Sandy empties into the Ohio and boats and barges tend to congregate. He saw the M/V George King sitting in the river close to the shore. He took my camera in hand, started snapping pictures and an obsession was born.

Before that, Adam was fascinated by school buses, and he still is. When he was in second grade, every assignment turned into something about school buses. His teacher got tired of that and told him one day he had to write about something other than school buses. The poor kid froze. Now, I would go to the principal and tell her that a teacher was trying to kill a kid's passion.

In first grade, Adam came home upset. His school was serviced by four school buses. One was an older bus built by AmTran. The other three were Blue Birds. He was upset that the AmTran and a BlueBird had been replaced by two C2 models made by Thomas Built. Adam didn't know about the C2 model until the school system had bought one the year before, and he was fascinated by them. I wrote a piece for the local paper about his love of school buses and the C2 on his last day of kindergarten. That day, we received an invitation to visit the factory at High Point NC and see some C2s being made. After the tour, the company's marketing director held Adam on his lap and let Adam steer a C2 around a parking lot. It was the high point of the kid's life until he got to steer the M/V Hoosier State out on the river in 2010.

Anyway, Adam's first grade teacher heard him talking about the C2 and asked, "What's a C2?" So she arranged for Adam to take a brief ride on a new C2 one day after school. By the way, two of my three kids had this teacher in first grade, and she is the kind of teacher who should be paid twice what they're making now. Some should be fired and some should be rewarded. This teacher definitely deserved more than what she was paid.

Maybe some day I'll describe how his love of the C2 turned into an interest in Freightliners.

Adam also likes the Dodge Viper and the original Ford Mustang, by the way. He was so interested in one that we saw at an outdoor car show that the owner took him for a ten-minute ride around Huntington WV with the top down.

That's the kind of kid I live with.

P.S. Adam gets on the bus early in the morning and rides a Blue Bird most of the way. Then he transfers to a C2 for the remainder of his trip. He's ridden the same Blue Bird since kindergarten. But his bus might be scheduled for retirement next year. Although the school system has bought a lot of C2s and HDX models in recent years, Adam's driver says they might be switching to IC Corp. buses (a division of International, which acquired AmTran) next year. So Adam's curious about what bus he'll be riding and if he will commuted on buses made by all three American manufacturers.

I think he'd really like to get a ride on an EFX model somehow, but I don't think our school system has any of those.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

D on the K

Yesterday morning, as I was crossing the South Charleston bridge on I-64, I saw an old Hillman-built boat downbound on the Kanawha. Lucky for me it was moving pretty slow, giving me time to get up on the Dunbar bridge and grab a picture with my phone. ... You know, a few years ago that sentence would have sounded like total nonsense. But it's how things are now. ... Anyway, here's the Drema G. Wood, downbound pushing six loaded coal barges.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Fate of Tanners Creek power plant

It looks like another coal-fired power plant along the Ohio River is headed for mothballing and who knows what afterward. AEP announced Tuesday that it will shut down Tanners Creek entirely in 2015. I wrote a quick story here. More will come in this week's print edition.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Olmstead Locks and Dam ... again

If you want to read a long story on the long, long Olmstead Locks and Dam project on the lower Ohio, try this one.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

M/V AEP Leader

Saw it this morning.

Almost missed it because I got too carried away in Kenova WV this morning getting pictures of Norfolk Southern locomotives just sitting around.

Coast Guard et al

A few mornings ago, I was headed to the Ohio River for a quick look at things before I headed to work. On the boulevard in Huntington WV along the river -- the one where you can't see the river for the floodwall -- I found myself behind this truck and trailer. They used the same entrance to Harris Riverfront Park that I did.

I might have been on this boat many years ago when I was a reporter for the Huntington paper. The Coast Guard wanted to show me what they were doing on the river in terms of homeland security after 9/11. They didn't show me everything, of course, but they wanted the public to know they were out there.

But as I looked at this boat I got to thinking that earlier this year I saw a Huntington police department boat that was something like this one, and the Huntington Fire Department announced a few weeks ago that it is getting $500,000 from the Department of Homeland Security to buy a boat of similar size.

I guess if anything happens on the river at or near Huntington, someone can get a boat in the water fairly quickly. That's the idea, at least.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Not much

Been busy at work and at home. Took a few photos with a cell phone, but can't find the cord to download them. I'll have to try e-mailing them to myself, I guess.

I was going to go out today, but I didn't see any boats in the area, and one of my favorite spots has a big chilli festival going on nearby, so that was out.

Life has a tendency of getting in the way of my plans, you know?

Sunday, September 1, 2013

The M/V Buckeye State on a Sunday afternoon

So Adam and I went out to spend some time on a fine September day. We knew the Buckeye State was in the area, and we saw it, so we parked ourselves at old Lock and Dam 27 and waited for it to come by. It took a few minutes, meaning we sat in the grass and talked.

Then the boat came by.

We saw it pass and went shopping for some stuff I needed and he wanted. A good day, I guess.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Family over river

We had a chance to tour a Dravo Viking today, but we didn't. We went to a family reunion up in the mountains of West Virginia. It had been a while since my wife had seen some members of her extended family. Sometimes family trumps river, I guess.

On the way there, we passed through the community of Omar. I told Adam how the community got its name from a mining company. He asked if that's where the towboat name came from. I said it was where the old sternwheeler of Ohio River Co. got its name, and from there the new Ohio River Co. boat built in the early 1980s and now the property of Ingram.

Adam said he likes the name "Omar" the best of that particular class of boats. He said he didn't know why Ingram or someone changed the name of the Omega to the Erna E. Honeycutt. He said he liked the name Omega better. I didn't argue the point.

Anyway, if anyone knows of a chance he can get on a Viking sometime, please pass the word along.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

M/V D.A. Grimm

As seen from both sides of the river.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Thoughts in a cemetery

Today on my way down Ohio Route 7, I stopped at the Swan Creek Cemetery, where my mother is buried. She passed away 20 years ago this week, and I still miss her.

While I was there, I checked the dates on the grave markers of her parents and her paternal grandparents. My mother was the only one of the four children in her family who was born on land. The others were born on the Ohio River. I saw the grave of my grandfather, who had a dish boat, and my great-grandfather, who I am told operated a ferry near the spot where he is buried. He died in 1902, so the ferry would have run in the 1800s.

The idea of the ferry got me to thinking how bridges had changed the interaction of communities on opposite sides of the Ohio River. Around here, there were no highway bridges across the Ohio until the1920s, so if you wanted to cross, you had to take a ferry. From what I gather, there were several ferries. But they weren't as glamorous as the packet boats and the early towboats, so I have seen relatively few photos of them.

Around 1909, one of my ancestors was killed by a train as he slept off a drunken Saturday night along a railroad track. His obituary said at the time of his death, he was building a barn in Glenwood, W.Va. That's across from Swan Creek Cemetery. I thought of him as I stood near my great-grandfather's grave and pondered how communities on opposite shores must have had fairly close economic ties in the days of ferries. With easy access to autos and bridges now, those ties are long gone. I know of no interaction ever between the people Swan Creek and of Glenwood unless they work at the same factory in the Huntington WV or Point Pleasant WV areas. There's little reason for them to. There's a convenience store in Glenwood, but people in Swan Creek can drive a few miles down the road to one in Crown City, or to the Dollar General store there.

Is that way elsewhere along the river, where communities on opposite shores once had people taking the ferry back and forth, but now they almost don't know the other exists?

It's one of those things I think about when I have too much time alone, but not enough time to go look up the answer in someone's genealogy chart.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Olmstead $

I had heard that the Olmstead Locks and Dam project was way over budget and way behind schedule. When Adam and I were in the Paducah area over Memorial Day weekend for a family wedding, we took off for a few hours one morning so we could look around the lower river. We stopped at the post office in Olmstead and got directions to the project, and this is what we saw:

Considering the weather and where the sun was, it was not a good morning to get pictures, but it was a good day to see how much had been done and how much remained.

Here's an article in The Courier-Journal of Louisville on the status of the project. Whether Mitch McConnell and Dick Durbin have the ability and/or the desire to keep the project going I have no idea.

All I know for sure is that these big public works projects get more and more expensive. When it costs a billion dollars to build a bridge over the Ohio River, you're talking real money. And that's apparently nothing compared to the cost of building a new locks and dam from scratch.

And a tip of the hat to Richard McCoy of Huntington for sending the link.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Off topic: the 1955 Packard Clipper

Does anyone else on here like old cars? I saw this one in my neighborhood a few weeks ago, but it's gone now.

As far as I can tell, this was a 1955 Packard Clipper, possibly the last Packard design sold. Packard held on as a brand name for a couple more model years, but in their last days Packards were just Studebakers with a Packard badge on them.

The 1955 Chevy was pretty hot. The '55 Ford was pretty cool, too, and so was the 1955 Plymouth owned by a guy I used to work with. He takes it to car shows, and it looks ... neat.

Imagine a 12-year-old boy riding in the family Packard while his friends rode in Chevys and Fords.

Maybe a car enthusiast I know as right, and this car might be better off recycled as razor blades. I hope not. Maybe someone can restore it or use it for parts. Cars like these need to be in car shows. We see enough 60s-era Camaros and Mustangs. I want to see a Packard Clipper or a 1974 AMC Gremlin or a Chevy Vega or Ford Pinto. You know, the kind of cars people actually drove.


One other thing about this car that I need to mention. As with cars of its era, and into the 1970s, it had a chrome-plated steel bumper. Fuel economy and the 5 mph standard wiped them out, and fiberglass and plastic bumpers took their place, I think.

Here in Huntington WV, we had a plant that made chrome-plated bumpers up to the end. I remember having to go to the plant gate the day the company announced the plant was closing because no one was buying its product anymore. By that time, the only workers left were the old ones with a lot of seniority. With that being more than 30 years ago, I doubt many of them are alive, if any.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Columbia River fantasy

One of these days I'm going to make it out to the Pacific Northwest again, but this time I'll visit the Columbia River. Things are different there. The barges draft 16 feet and they're of a different width than Ohio River barges. And the covers are different, too.

Because of that, the towboat pilothouses are raised higher than ones on Ohio River boats. And the exhaust or air intake stacks are a sight to behold, too.

I've never seen them in person. I have to do it through the Flickr photostream of captaintimb.

Maybe I need a Kickstarter campaign to raise a few hundred dollars to pay for the trip. I already know of some real news items I could write about some issues and controversies involving Columbia River navigation, mainly how a lot of folks out there don't want to see coal on their river at all.

But check out captaintimb's pictures. If you watch Ohio River boats, you might find these interesting, too.

The M/V Earl Franklin and the M/V Milton

Two Amherst Madison boats doing some dredging at the Gallipolis Locks and Dam.

Okay, so it was renamed the Robert C. Byrd Locks and Dam a long time ago. That doesn't mean I have to give up the name I grew up with, does it?

And what do folks on the lower part of the river call the John T. Myers Locks and Dam? Does anyone still call it Uniontown?

Thursday, August 15, 2013

M/V Steven J. Mason

One of our favorite boats, partly because it's a former turtleneck that was rebuilt, and partly because we know one of the guys who works on it.