Staycation - late Summer 2009 travel blog


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dragon boat

When we plan the agenda for the day, it is quite likely that we will be overly optimistic and try to cram in more things to see and do than the day allows. That was certainly not the case today.

We rode our bikes to the riverside park where we had hoped to camp to watch the dragon boat races. The boats were large enough to hold twenty rowers and decorated in a vaguely Asian manner. But they were manned by a motley group ranging from eighth graders to aging men with beer guts to women who held their paddles as if they were still drying their nail polish. The boats went off two at a time traveling a short distance down river. After watching three heats we had a "been there, done that" feeling and left wondering what all the hoopla was about.

Then we headed downtown to the Mississippi River Museum, a nicely done collection of all things Mississippi. Part of the building housed an aquarium and it was striking to see how drab and dull the animals looked compared to the electric neon colors you see from tropical fish. Some of the catfish looked large enough to take your leg off and their whiskers dangled menacingly in the muddy bottom. A number of short films were quite interesting. One followed a barge down the Mississippi from Red Cloud, MN to New Orleans showing the lock process and the challenge of steering six lengthy craft tied together down the twisting waterway. Another dealt with man's efforts over the decades to control the path of the river and his failure to do so whenever rain is heavy. We saw heartbreaking footage of people finding fish swimming through their living rooms when the levees gave way. Outside the museum building, various boats were docked that also were interesting historically. One was a dredge that had kept the channel deep enough for over forty years. It would vacuum the river bottom and shoot the dirt and stone up the hillside. Annual rains would wash the muck down and the process would begin again every year. Some river industries have totally disappeared. In the early 1900's clammers would take 800 - 1000 mollusks out of the water a day. The shells were used to make buttons. Ultimately plastic buttons were cheaper and easier to make, which was a good things because the clams supply was depleted by then.

We liked the museum, but the thirtieth annual Arts & Crafts Festival was a real bust. The fact that we had no trouble parking down town should have been a give away. The music tent featured volunteers singing karoke broadcast loudly throughout the Clock Tower Square. Unless It's Susan Boyle doing the karoke, this sort of singing can only be enjoyed by the performer himself. A few tiny tents sold junk that looked like it came from the back of our basement, the very back. We were out of there.

Next we tried Galena, a short drive across the river into Illinois. Galena has a cachet with those who live in metropolitan Chicago, and finding a place to park here was far more challenging. The cute shops boasted a "girl friends get away," but there were plenty of men following their women around lugging bags full of treasure. The stores sold the sorts of things you don't know you need until you see them, but even after we saw them, we were not tempted. There were some historic homes to tour; some we have seen the last time we were here. After we walked Main Street we shrugged our shoulders and drove back to the casino campground. You never know...

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