My wife and I just returned from a recent vacation. During our time away we spent six days on the American Queen on a river journey on the Mississippi and Ohio rivers. Such a journey provides you with ample opportunity to relax and observe the world as it flows by. Some observations from our trip:

During a tour of the boat’s pilot house we learned how the vessel navigates and the rules of the river. Boats coming downstream have the right of way over boats coming upstream. Part of this right is determining on which side of an upriver vessel the downstream boat will pass. Our guide indicated there is no river rage. For one who is going downstream now will shortly be returning upstream.

Ship captains continually communicate with each other and beyond sharing job related information learn about lives and families.  Over a period of thirty years they may never meet in person but they will acquire a  deep respect for, and knowledge of, each other through their repeated passings on the river.

During the week we observed many 15 barge tow units going up and down the river. I had never thought how much traffic is on the river and what quantity of goods are conveyed by this method of transportation. One of these tow units can carry as much material as two 100 car trains or 879 large semi trucks. I now better understand the need for new and updated locks and the continual maintenance of river channels and facilities. Hurricane Ike had more of an effect inland than I had realized. The dock at Mount Vernon, Indiana had been swept away by Ike.

We took several side trips when the boat was moored at various communities along the way. We visited a wonderful public library in Mount Vernon, Indiana, saw an excellent exhibit of modern American Indian painting and sculputure in Cape Girardeau, Missouri and visited the Earthquake Museum in New Madrid, Missouri.  It was interesting to see how various communities defended themselves against periodic river floods. Floodwalls in Cape Girardeau, Missouri and Paducah, Kentucky displayed interesting murals depicting aspects of their community’s history.

We came back from this vacation refreshed and ready to re-enter our normal world.