Blennerhassett In Fall

Yesterday took me to Blennerhassett Island, a state park in West Virginia. I went with friends who had never been there which made the day all the more enjoyable. After all, when you have visited a place many times, it’s pretty neat to see it through someone else’s eyes.

It’s a special place that I been visiting off and on for most of my life and I wrote about it here once. I have some new thoughts to share but for now, I would love to just show you some pictures.

Meet the horses who took us on a wagon ride tour of the island. The one on the right is Sugar and recall that name because I heard it a lot – our tour guide said she’s a bully.

The foliage was amazing and the forest surrounding the mansion positively glowed in the sunlight.

I don’t know why but I always look forward to seeing this room on the mansion tour. The buttery yellow walls, the woman over the mantle who points em toward the bedroom. The built-in cabinets – it all makes me happy.

Their season ends today and the island will be closed until the new season begins in May. The island is home to a magnificent 90 year old walnut grove and is incredibly peaceful. It makes me wish I lived on an island like this with nothing but the company of squirrels and birds

Here’s one last image of this incredible place.

Do you follow Make the Journey Fun on Facebook? I’ll post some bonus pictures there too!

The Belle Of Cincinnati

Before planes, trains and automobiles dominated the landscape of American travel, the riverboat was a key means of moving people up and down our nation’s rivers.

On Tuesday, I got to spend a couple of hours on a sightseeing cruise aboard the Belle of Cincinnati. While a throwback to a long gone era, this riverboat features modern conveniences including a lunch or dinner buffet, a bar and gift shop.

Every summer, this sightseeing boat leaves its Cincinnati home for a summer cruise tour of historic river towns. They stop in Huntington in West Virginia, Ashland and Maysville in Kentucky and Portsmouth and Gallipolis in Ohio. Sightseeing, lunch and dinner cruises are offered at each city.

I opted for just the sightseeing cruise in Gallipolis Tuesday night. The cost was significantly less than the dinner ticket and seemed the wisest option given that the vegetarian dinner option sounded sketchy. When someone uses a phrase like “vegetarian pasta bake” without description on a menu they typically translates to white pasta covered in cheese. I have become such a skeptic about food that I decided to skip it.

I met a friend at boarding time and we were pleased to learn that we could sit anywhere we liked. So we headed up to the top deck. I am afraid of heights but surprisingly had no trouble sitting there or even climbing the stairs to get up there.

The forecast had been for showers so I came prepared with rain gear that was completely unnecessary. Just before boarding began at 6:30, the sun came out and the sky turned blue, a lovely contrast to the puffy white clouds that made me think the Universe was conspiring to make my life better.

The temperature was in the upper seventies but a steady breeze made it feel much cooler. That breeze gave life to several American flags along the boat’s top deck. A DJ played a vast array of music to please nearly any taste. We heard a lot of country music, some disco and oldies. This encouraged a group of, shall we say, older ladies to get up and dance.

Within two songs, they had cleared a dance floor near the DJ and showed us all their line dancing skills. A couple of songs later, the DJ was up teaching them a new dance. By the end of the night, other employees had jumped in on the fun, at one point leading a conga line through the center of the crowd.

I’m not much of a joiner but people watching is one of my favorite activities and this place was ripe with opportunity.

It was festive and fun!

All the same, I found the changing sky positively captivating and loved how the setting sun illuminated the clouds. The slow, smooth glide of our boat was exactly the relaxing change of pace I needed. It’s unusual to move so slowly you hardly know you’re moving at all. Meanwhile, small speedboats zipped by and even an enormous barge seemed to be moving quite fast.

It was a night to remember.

Their last stop of the summer cruise is today at Maysville, KY. After that, they’ll be headed home for a full schedule of cruises offered by BB Riverboats, the company that owns this and other riverboats.

Want to learn more about the company and book a ride? Click here!

Valley Gem Sightseeing Tour

There’s no better way to enjoy a Saturday in Marietta than to kick back and float by the world on the Valley Gem Sternwheeler. I took their ninety minute sightseeing tour last weekend and had a terrific experience.

The tour begins on the Muskingum River in Marietta and heads up the Ohio River before turning and heading back down.

The narration doesn’t last the entire time. Instead, the Captain talks for the first 15 or 20 minutes, providing some tidbits about local history and landmarks along the way.

This house has been owned by the same family for twelve generations.

We learned about how NASA once built equipment in Steubenville and moved it downriver by barge. We even got a great view of this old railroad bridge I told you about once.

We saw lots of kayaks, barges and speedboats and even spotted a Bald Eagle.

We also got a good look at Buckley Island which was once home to a prolific potato farm. Prior to that it was an amusement park built by the Buckeye and Eureka Pipeline Company. It’s now gone back to nature and it’s hard to imagine that it could accommodate the masses of people who were once drawn here.

It’s now part of the Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge. We saw kayakers hanging out there.

It’s a peaceful and picturesque ride. It’s a little like going back in time to a slower pace of life when paddle boats ruled the river.

Captain Jason told us about how he and his family built this boat in 1989. He is one of the youngest people to earn his pilots license when he was just 18 years old. It’s very much a family business and I felt like they took good care to keep everyone happy and safe.

For ten bucks you can add a box lunch to your ticket. It was quite good but you can also buy light refreshments at their concessions stand.

They do a number of tours including some longer history tours and celebratory dinner cruises for holidays. You can even book it for weddings and parties.

Want to book a tour or learn more? Click here to visit their website.

Red Doors

There’s just something about heavy wooden doors on a church or red doors on any building to draw me in. These doors are attached to the Christ Episcopal Church in Point Pleasant, West Virginia.

This imposing limestone building is larger than life and even more beautiful in person. The Gothic Revival design does sort of resemble a fortress but I like to think that’s to keep the devil out.

The congregation was founded in 1867 and the original brick church built two years later. The town sits at the confluence of the Ohio and Kanawha rivers so it has seen some pretty bad floods and the original church suffered for it.

That first building was demolished in 1919. The congregation held services in a hotel down the street until this new house of worship was available for its first service on Christmas Day 1923.

As far as the red doors are concerned, there is some symbolism to be considered. Many churches use red doors to symbolize the blood of Christ while some people believe that a red door protects occupants from evil.

I once read that church doors were painted red in England during the Middle Ages to signify safety as no one would commit a crime or do harm on Holy Ground. I’m not sure that’s true today but it’s a nice idea.

Whatever the reason or the symbolism, they sure do make for a pretty picture and something special to see on your journeys.

Perspective From A Brave Place

a5.JPGThere’s this pedestrian bridge that connects downtown Marietta with Old Town.

I hate this bridge.

It seems kind of rickety. The boards are soft and it’s been patched in a few places.

I have stepped up on it a few times but never had the nerve to walk across the darn thing. It crosses the Muskingum River and seems awfully long given that I’m afraid of heights, can’t swim and am terrified of falling through a weak board to my watery grave.

But I’ve been feeling braver than normal lately, or maybe just wreckless, so I took the bridge during my adventures Saturday.

Here are some things I wouldn’t have seen if I hadn’t braved the bridge.

A family. See the eggs in the nest?

a9.JPG

This plaque honoring an important man.

a8.JPG

Athletes hard at work.

a10

Lots of locks. Incidentally, I feel like we don’t need to be adding weight to this structure but maybe I’m just a stick in the mud.

a18

Here’s a better view of the scary bridge.   Pedestrians and bicycles use the wooden walkway. The iron bridge is a historic but abandoned railroad bridge. Isn’t it fabulous?

a6

Here’s a view of the other side. You can drive here too.

a12.JPG

Just so you know, lots of people use this walkway every day. You always encounter locals with their dogs, bicycles and baby strollers. It probably isn’t as scary to the rest of the world as it is to me so, by all means, go and enjoy the view.

I’m just pleased that I braved it once and got a different perspective than I would’ve had from the shore.