On the Ohio River

On Monday, we had a two hour flight down to Louisville, from Minneapolis. It was one of those relocation days where a two-hour flight managed to take the whole day.

We had a view of some interesting use of the airports at each end of the flight. On leaving Minneapolis, we could see a few US Air Force Hercules aircraft parked on the tarmac. They belonged to the 934th Airlift Wing, also known as the “Global Vikings,”. This is Minnesota’s only Air Force Reserve unit – a combat-ready Air Force Reserve Command flying unit,.

At the other ended of our flight, we passed the enormous UPS (United Parcel Service) logistic hub. There were dozens of wide bodied freighter aircraft parked at this world wide freight hub (Worldport). I have ordered different things online that all seemed to come through here and now I understand why. UPS has 256 planes in its fleet and that is twice the size of the Qantas’ fleet. The freight hub has parking stands for 125 planes.

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Kentucky is the home of Kentucky Fried Chicken with whom I worked for a couple of years when we were first married. The company was founded by Colonel Harland Sanders, an entrepreneur who began selling fried chicken from his roadside restaurant in Corbin, Kentucky, during the Great Depression. Jill and I actually met him once when he came to Australia. He impressed us as being a cantankerous old bugger!

Colonel  Sanders identified the potential of the restaurant franchising concept, and the first “Kentucky Fried Chicken” franchise opened in Utah in 1952. KFC popularized chicken in the fast food industry, diversifying the market by challenging the established dominance of the hamburger. By branding himself as the “Colonel”, Harland Sanders became a prominent figure of American cultural history, and his image remains widely used in KFC advertising to this day. However, the company’s rapid expansion overwhelmed the aging Sanders, and he sold it to a group of investors in 1964.

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On Tuesday morning we boarded our riverboat, The America. It’s only three years old and a replica of a traditional Mississippi Steamboat. We had a little while to explore the boat before lunch and then a talk about the tour so that we could choose which excursions we wanted to join along the way. So far, the meals are good and the service is excellent.

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The boat travels through the night and in the middle of last night we passed through two locks. These are enormous as they are built to hold a set of barges that carry freight along the river.A standard configuration is a set of three barges wide and three long, pushed by a tow boat. They carry a variety of cargo, but mostly coal. There are a number of power stations on the river, each of which burns coal carried by the barges. The locks are about 350 metres long and 30 metres wide. 


I’m told that the lock gates on the Mississippi are currently wide open to let the enormous volume of water that is currently flowing pass through and not cause any damage. This boat made its last full voyage down the river a few weeks ago and just made it under the bridges near Hannibal by a few inches. I understand that the Corps of Engineers who manage the infrastructure along the river had to hold back some of the flow to avoid the boat  being trapped between bridges. That’s why our trip wes modified ti start on the Ohio River.

At first light this  morning, we awoke to see some river fog that was especially obvious in the areas of sunlight. 


After breakfast, we stopped at the little town of Henderson and had a few hours to look around. Most people went on an organised tour to a museum that showed paintings of birds by a man named John Audibon. It seems incongruous that he shot hundreds of birds to be able to examine and paint them. He nearly caused some series to be extinct in his endeavour to save the species in paintings. Now, he is a nationally famous artist.


Instead, I took a town walking tour as I wanted to buy some sunblock from the pharmacy. Today is sunny and 27C – a lot different from the 9C days we had in Minneapolis just a few days ago.

This town is typical of ‘Small Town America’. It has a Main Street with quite functional shops, a park by the river and some city and government buildings such as the library. People in the town were very friendly. Some smiled and said hello and others stopped for a chat with me. The library had a few prints of Audibon’s work.

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It also had a little dome in the centre of its roof that was  decorated with a mural. Not quite the Sistine Chapel but very impressive nonetheless for a small country town.

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Just out of the downtown area, Main Street became a residential street,. I enjoyed looking at the various styles of the homes in this little town. All looked well kept and I find this American residential architecture unique and interesting. Halloween will be happening soon and some homes were already showing some decorations.

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We were back on board for lunch at 12.30. This afternoon’s activities include a few talks about life on the river. We are currently traveling through wooded areas that occasionally open up into farmland. Every now and then we pass another small town like Henderson.

3 thoughts on “On the Ohio River

  1. Hi Bruce n Jill
    As they say…..row row row ya boat gently down the stream!!!
    Some boat!!
    Some stream!!!
    Hope you’ve got your copy of Huckleberry Fin!!
    Enjoying your reports

  2. Audubon’s works are now worth a lot of money. A four-volume folio book containing 435 hand-coloured plates sold last year for nearly US$10 million. He also shot animals so he could draw them, up to the size of a moose.

  3. Hi Bruce,
    Nice to know that the trip has now all fallen into place .Wondering just how many passengers the steam boat carries and how many are locals?
    Looking forward to your next missive

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