ON THE OHIO RIVER_Is it Friday already? As cruisers know, it’s easy to lose track of the days when you’re sailing — each day bleeds into the next.
But it is indeed Friday, and we are at our second to last port of call, Point Pleasant, West Virginia. The tours start later today, not until after lunch, so this morning we are free agents. For the boat, the first order of business is docking at a fuel depot to tank up — which, according to one of the workers, means a 30,000-gallon fill-up. Talk about pain at the pump.
The first activity of the day is the river lecture, where riverlorian Chris Wistey acquaints us with the history behind some common riverboat terms and phrases, which, as an English major myself, I always find interesting. For example, “hog wash” was coined by deck workers who had to clean up after the pigs the boat was transporting. And we all know that cabins on cruise ships are called “staterooms.” That came about because cabins were initially named for states, and the name stuck.
Next up, they assembled the entertainment team in the Grand Saloon to field questions from the guests. What’s impressive about this group is their deep level of experience and how they support each other in whatever task needs to be done.
After lunch, it was time to board the buses for our tour of Point Pleasant. With intermittent light rain falling, we grab an umbrella provided by American Queen and head for our bus. Like many other small towns along the Ohio, artists have painted large murals all along the flood wall. The walls were put in place after the disastrous floods of 1937 we are told, which must have been catastrophic for the entire region.
It’s a small town — less than 5,000 residents — founded in 1797 and named by George Washington. Located at the merger of the Kanawha and Ohio Rivers, we learn it’s the second oldest city on the Ohio River. There are five stops planned, and we opt to “hop off” at the third: Fort Randolph, a faithful replica of the original, built in 1776 to protect its residents from the Indians.
Tour guides in authentic garb of the period are on hand to tell us about the various buildings, their purpose and what life was like during that time. Major kudos to the townspeople we have encountered throughout this cruise, who have really rolled out the red carpet for us.
But of course, the real attraction I’m looking forward to seeing is the Mothman Museum, dedicated to the winged creature that allegedly terrorized the town in November, 1966. Eyewitness accounts at the time tell of a something six feet tall, with big red eyes and giant wings. It’s even being tied to UFO activity, the infamous Men in Black and the collapse in 1967 of the Silver Bridge, which killed over 40 people.
It gained notoriety mostly through a book by John Keel, “The Mothman Prophecies,” published in 1975, and a 2002 movie by the same name, starring Richard Gere.
Whatever you choose to believe, believe this: The Mothman Museum is the most happening place in town. Pam indulged me as I viewed old newspaper clippings, took selfies with Mothman replicas and did a deep dive into the legendary monster. Bless her heart, she even bought me a Mothman T-shirt.
Every September, they hold a Mothman Festival, which attracts three times more people than live in the town. But enough of the Mothman; time to make the short walk back to the boat.
One note about that: Getting on and off the boat just involves swiping your boat card. There are no metal detectors or checking bags and belongings, as they do on most cruises we’ve taken. We’re not used to that.
The late afternoon is off to a good start at the Captain’s Bar, where the Steamboat Syncopators are doing a set of Duke Ellington jazz, one of our favs. Their versions of “The ‘A’ Train,” “In a Sentimental Mood” and “It Don’t Mean a Thing” had guests clapping their approval.
Next up was the port talk, detailing our upcoming visit to Marietta, OH., followed by tonight’s show, “Over the Rainbow,” featuring vocalist Mandy Kerridge and the Steamboat Syncopators. She has an outstanding voice, which was showcased on a stirring rendition of “Don’t Rain on My Parade.”
Our dinner featured pecan-encrusted corvina (excellently prepared) and for dessert, Tennessee Whiskey Cake. While we dined, American Queen entered another lock on the river. It didn’t appear we had a lot of room to spare as we went through. Our captain knows what he’s doing for sure.
Afterwards, we walked the top deck and were treated to a beautiful sunset, creating golden ripples across the river while the boat’s paddlewheels threw spray in the air. It was the perfect way to end the day.
And in case you were wondering: No sign of the Mothman.
PHOTOS: by Gerry Barker
- Sunset creates a golden glow on the Ohio River (Cover Photo)
- The Mothman Museum
- I take a selfie. Is the Mothman smiling or licking his chops?
- Inside one of the buildings at Fort Randolph. The original was built in 1776.
See sailings here American Queen Voyages Cruises (cruisecompete.com)
See earlier American Queen posts here