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Week #10, 06-12.November, 2005

Derby, IN to Cairo, IL: Ohio River Mile 696 to Mile 982


Our plans to zip down the Ohio River in order to get to the next school on time came to a screeching halt early on in the week.   Monday morning we headed to Newburgh Lock only to learn that the large chamber had been shut down because of repairs, so all traffic, including the barges, had to be brought through the smaller lock.   Due to the size of almost all the barges, they had to do what is referred to as "double locking," meaning that the barges were sent up or down in two loads, instead of just one.   As a private "pleasure craft" we were especially low on the priority list, and when we contacted the lock we were told to buckle down and wait.   Though a bit frustrating, this forced rest period was much appreciated after a rough few days of heavy weather along the river, and we set to work on a few projects.   Finally, we were summoned over the radio to pass through the lock at about 6:30pm: nearly ten hours after we had arrived.   Well beyond sunset at this point, this was the first time we had gone through a lock at night, but the well-lit lock made it easy to pass through, though it created a much spookier atmosphere than the locks have during the day.


While heading downriver on Tuesday we passed the mouth of the Green River as it flows into the Ohio, reminding us of John Prine's classic song "Paradise."   In the song he talks about visiting Kentucky as a boy and wishing the river was as clean as he remembered.   We sang the chorus as we passed:


" Momma won't you take me back to Mullenburgh County,
Down by the Green River where paradise lay?
I'm sorry my son, but you're too late in asking,
Mr. Peabody's coal train has hauled it away."

Later that day we arrived in Mt. Vernon, Indiana where we visited the fourth graders at the local elementary school.   Continuing on our journey on Wednesday, we passed this funny looking vessel pictured on the right.   It is used to dredge the navigable channel in the river, keeping it deep enough for the safe passage of barges and other commercial river traffic.  

On Friday morning we needed to use our outboard in order to arrive on time at our next school in Paducah, KY, and things began to get interesting when the steering for the motor stopped responding. We were suddenly left out in midstream without a way to control the boat under power! After a few moments of panic, Morgan remembered we had the tiller usually used for steering while pedaling the bikes.   We dropped it into the water.   It proved to be a fine emergency steering system, preventing us from being hit by any barges and also allowing us to avoid being seriously late to the school.   After dismantling the case of the steering wheel, we found that the hub around which the large gear rotated had pulled away from the aluminum body to which it was normally attached (pictured in Morgan's hand to the left). This failure of the hub caused the large gear to become unseated from its central position, resulting in the failure of the steering system and the breakage of some gear teeth. Through a fine bit of serendipity, the school that we visited that day happened to be across the street from a used boat parts store, and in a further piece of luck, they actually had the piece we needed for a repair at a reasonable price.   Rather an odd coincidence for a school situated in a largely residential area!

When we arrived at the school, which was located in Paducah, Kentucky--a big industrial port because of its situation at the confluence of the Ohio and Tennessee Rivers--the principal had a special request for us.    He felt that content of our program would be applicable to what his fifth grade students were learning and asked if we could visit them along with our scheduled stop at the fourth grade classrooms, We thought that sounded like a fine idea, so we decided to do one program with each grade.   This was our first chance to talk to fifth graders about the river, and they responded quite well to the program.   As usual, the fourth graders also seemed to enjoy the activities, particularly the "Boatman Song."    They asked if they could get up and dance, and we figured we couldn't deny them since the lyrics of the song include the line "Dance, Boatman, Dance."   In the picture, Morgan plays the upright bass as the students frolic around him while playing the percussion instruments.

That weekend, we passed several significant spots along the Ohio River, including the town of Cave-in-Rock.   Strangely enough, this town is situated along a bluff with a giant cave carved into the side of limestone rock.   As the picture shows, the mouth of the cave stands about 30 feet tall by 30 feet wide and opened into a carnivorous space that stretched back almost 100 yards.   The lore surrounding the cave tells stories of bandits that used it as a hide out and as a place to launch surprise attacks on unsuspecting river travelers, who were often met a little up river by men claiming to "warn" them of the dangerous robbers.   The travelers would take them on as help to assure safe passage, only to find that they were in cahoots with the bandits themselves.   Later on, the cave was used a safe refuge for pioneers heading out west along the Ohio.   Indeed, we found lots of graffiti in the cave with some carvings dating back to the early 1800s.

On Wednesday of this week, Indiana had given way to Illinois on our northern border, and that weekend we passed the town of Metropolis, IL.   Metropolis is the only town in America so named, and thus they were handed down the honor of being the hometown of Clark Kent and his alter ego, Superman!   To mark this fine achievement, the town of Metropolis had a 20-foot statue of Superman erected near the courthouse, and we stopped by to pay homage to this defender of the common good.   As a young boy, Morgan would frequently dress up as Superman--never to imagine that one day he would stand beside the man himself, as he does in the picture to the right. Please note that the base of the statue is in the shape of the famous S logo and the bottom of the statue has a carving that reads "TRUTH - JUSTICE - THE AMERICAN WAY".

This marked our last official week on the Ohio River, and we went to bed with only 30 more miles to traverse before meeting up with Old Man River himself.   The photo shows the last bridge over the Ohio River in Cairo, Illinois, where we would arrive Sunday afternoon, just one day shy of the 202 nd anniversary of Lewis and Clark's arrival at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi on November 14, 1803.


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