At Sea (October 2, 2022)

We successfully found an array of excuses to avoid packing. Knowing that our suitcases have to be out in the hall by 10:00 PM should have motivated us to get an early start, but sadly no.

Dan and I weighed in to find out the astonishing amount of weight we had lost by skipping one meal a day. Apparently we made up the calories at the other two meals, because we did not lose an ounce. Mission not accomplished!

The seas were a little rough, so most of us turned to Dramamine, so we could enjoy our last lazy day on the water. It passed quickly as we saw to last minute admin details, napped, walked, scarfed tea and scones, tossed spare change into the slots, and reluctantly crammed dirty clothes, blueberry jam, maple syrup, and lobster rolls (not!) into our suitcases.

Cyd and Ricky are assigned to a different dining room than the rest of us. We can eat in their dining room but they can’t eat in ours, so we have been having a series of double and triple dates. Two couples in each dining room or three in one and one in the other. We broke with tradition tonight and met for cocktails in a quiet corner near the buffet, scrapped fine dining altogether, and ate as a group at the buffet. Dan and I pushed tables together in a quiet corner around 4:30; the others joined us for cocktails at 5:00; and we proceeded to have a blast of a final night. Dan kicked things off by announcing the prize recipients from our series of challenges. Walter took first place by getting a whopping 50 answers correct; Ron was next with 43; and Cyd barely beat the rest of us out for the booby prize with 25 correct responses. Each in turn came forward to have their picture taken and to receive their prize.

After dinner Cleone introduced us to the fun game I Should Have Known That. We took turns reading random question off cards we drew from a box. Questions that we kinda felt we should know the answers to but might or might not be able to remember. Did that gal win a Nobel or Pulitzer? Is that the old capital of the Philippines or the new one? What movie was she in? Did WW I end in 1918 or 1919? How many provinces does Canada have? How many months of the year have 31 days? I know it’s up there somewhere, but can I yell it out before the others? We skipped tonight’s entertainment and entertained ourselves with the game. Cleone did not keep score or award prizes.

Although the cruise did not go as planned, we all had a good time in spite of the cool, wet weather and cancelled ports. As we scatter with the winds tomorrow the devastating losses and massive suffering of so many of our fellow Americans and Canadian neighbors will put our mini-disappointments in total perspective.


Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada (October 1, 2022)

Halifax is very closely connected to the tragic story of the Titanic since the ships that recovered survivors and victims came to Halifax, the nearest port. The maritime museum has a permanent collection of Titanic artifacts and two local cemeteries have graves of some of the victims. Sadly, Halifax was also called on to provide assistance and recovery for the 1917 Halifax Explosion, the 1998 Swissair disaster, and the terror attack of September 11, 2001. The citizenry had our respect before we even pulled into port.

The first part of our day was spent on a hop-on-hop-off bus with a delightfully funny, duel-hatted driver/guide. We rode the whole circuit twice but never hopped off. Dan and I have been here before, so the ride was a reminder of what we had previously seen up close: the Halifax Citadel, a series of forts that sits on a hill overlooking the harbor; the extensive and impressive Public Gardens; old stately homes; Saint Mary’s Basilica; cemeteries; government buildings; neighborhood churches; shopping districts; and established neighborhoods. We saw the last of the cleanup efforts from Hurricane Fiona from the bus.

Our guide told us about a gyro-style wrap called a donair which none of us have ever tried. We learned that Halifax is the fastest growing city in the country and that it currently has a population of half a million. Folks from Halifax are called Haligonians and Nova Scotia stands for New Scotland. We were touched to learn that Halifax honors Boston’s assistance with the 1917 explosion by continuing to provide a Christmas tree for Boston Common. With all the vets in our group the guide thought our guys could be talked into enlisting in the Soldier of the Day program. For heaven’s sake, it just involves a three-hour-long immersion into the life of a 19th-century soldier. Our driver ended the tour by singing his national anthem! Did I mention he was a fun guy?

We docked at Pier 21 just as nearly one million immigrants did in days gone by. Think pirates before massive immigration and throw in early settlers, search and rescue, a modern naval base, fishing, troop deployments, and you have a very rich history in a very small area. Today it is a vibrant, fun playground for locals and day trippers alike with restaurants, microbreweries, pedestrian-only zones, studios, a museum, a college, coffee shops (think Tim Horton), and a boardwalk. After the hop-on-hop-off we moseyed around the pier area for a few hours, shared beaver tails, and shopped. The weather was perfect. A t-shirt we enjoyed said, “It’s a KILT! If I wore underwear then it would be a skirt!”

Dan lead cocktail conversation with his last Wall Street Journal quiz. This eight-question stumper had us guessing about things like poultry-related antitrust charges, high yoga, and airline mergers. As always, it was fun, funny, and enlightening to know just how ill informed we world travelers are.

…Fun Tidbits …

Halifax boasts the world’s second-largest ice-free natural harbor. Mic drop!

The Halifax explosion, a devastating accident, was the largest manmade explosion
before the atomic bomb.

$1.00 U.S. = $1.31 Canadian or, put the other way, $1.00 Canadian = $0.76 U.S

One in every five Canadians is related to someone who passed through Pier 21 here in Halifax.

A beaver tail is a deep fat fried pastry made with whole wheat flour. It is shaped by hand to resemble the long, flat tail of a beaver and topped with anything from cinnamon sugar to chocolate to you name it.

The natural history museum is home to much-loved Gus the tortoise who turns 100 this year
right along with Cyd’s and my mother! While Mother is not the oldest living human,
Gus is the oldest known living gopher tortoise in the world.

The British colonial tradition of firing a noontime gun is still alive and well here.
A canon is fired from the Citadel every day except Christmas.

Two More Sea Days (September 29-30, 2022)

Great news: Orlando was not hit hard, so Michelle is fine.

Good news: Halifax is back on the itinerary!

Disappointing but anticipated news: Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island and Sydney, Nova Scotia have been taken off the itinerary due to hurricane damage. They were both firsts for us, so we are disappointed to miss seeing the land of Anne of Green Gables and the city that boasts the largest fiddle in the world.

Unanticipated news: a mask mandate has been put in place due to the number of mild COVID-19 cases on board.

Great, disappointing, and unanticipated news aside, our two days at sea were relaxing and enjoyable. We sailed up the Saint Lawrence with the provinces of Quebec on our left and New Brunswick on our right. Once far enough north we set a course a bit south and east which took us between Greenland and Nova Scotia. Once around the top of Nova Scotia, we headed south and west.

I gorged on dulce de leche pastries both mornings which certainly got my days off to a good start. I kid you not, they are divine! The sun was our constant companion, so walking the track, reading on deck, and enjoying the burger bar were appealing options again. A great two-part lecture on, of all things not related to Canada, Marilyn Monroe was part of each day too. The ladies broke away for a nice luncheon in the dining room while the guys did who-knows-what. Sleeping late, tea and scones, the casino, naps, and browsing the small shops we almost have memorized flushed out our days.

Being back on the water, my cocktail quiz about the Navy seemed appropriate last night. It covered stumpers ranging from the Navy colors to what the acronym SEAL stands for to bell bottom trousers to Army Navy football wins and loses.

Murphy sent an activity for tonight: seven parenting questions.
1) What is your top piece of parental advice?
2) Do you recommend any specific experiences for kids or kids with their parents?
3) What is your advice for talking to kids?
4) What responsibilities from your childhood were the most fruitful, served you well?
5) As a parent, was there something you thought was super important but turned out to not be such a big deal?
6) And the reverse: was there something you minimized or ignored that turned out to be important?
7) What advice should not be passed on?

No points were won or lost on this activity, so the pressure was off and everyone had fun tossing out answers which I jotted down for Murphy, father of two toddlers.

Parenting advice lead to dinner, entertainment, and then bed. Halifax tomorrow!

Quebec City, Quebec, Canada (September 27-28, 2022)

Quebec is the city we were all looking forward to the most. Super imposing Chateau Frontenac, the most photographed hotel in the world, welcomed us from its perch overlooking the city as we sailed down the Saint Lawrence. We all clambered ashore early afternoon yesterday with high expectations. Voted best tourist destination in Canada for the last six years, I must say it did not disappoint!

Quebec City, the only walled city north of Mexico, has two parts: Upper Town or Old Québec which is on a natural rock rise and Lower Town or Petit Champlain which is on the water. They are connected by 30 stairways and a funicular. France established the city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, at the narrowest point of the Saint Lawrence River over 400 years ago. A smart move because it meant France could control access to the Great Lakes as well as the interior.

French influence is at every turn, from the language to the food and architecture. We spent a few enjoyable hours strolling the cobbled streets, popping in and out of shops, and enjoying the huge murals, abundance of flowers in full bloom, street musicians, and fun Halloween-themed photo parks. Cyd’s passing comment that Quebec is “quaint as crap” cracked us all up.

We enjoyed a tour that took us around Old Québec and then a short distance out of town. While in town we drove past Notre Dame Basilica-Cathedral, which has the only Holy Door outside of Europe; the oldest house in town, now a restaurant; a large urban park called the Plains of Abraham where a 20-minute battle between the French and English settled ownership of the city once and for all; a statue of Jeanne d’Arc on horseback; cascading window boxes; and the house where Queen Victoria’s father lived with his mistress and six children before he was obligated to move back to Europe, marry a princess, and father a future queen.

As we headed a short way out of town our guide shared fun stories about fur trappers, cod fisherman, agricultural practices, Scottish immigrants, annual snow fall, and his love of the area. We passed farms and lush gardens on our way to Montmorency Falls, a beautiful falls that just happens to be 100 feet taller than Niagara Falls. Because it started pouring rain before we arrived we passed on getting a closer look by riding the gondola, climbing the scenic stairway, crossing the suspension bridge, or ziplining.  

Our next stop was at the magnificent Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupre Shrine, the oldest pilgrimage destination north of Mexico. We entered through handmade copper doors and were immediately taken with the central vault which is completely covered in gold, soft green, and cream mosaics. Soft light came from some 240 stained-glass windows and brought our attention to the beautiful tile floors. The shrine is dedicated to the grandmother of Jesus and has beckoned pilgrims since the 1600s. Besides the obvious wow factor of the interior, two other things caught our eye: a pieta nestled in an alcove and a display of crutches left by people giving thanks for divine healing. We lit two candles for Aunt Jerry before we left, one upstairs and one in the original chapel downstairs. On the hill to one side of the shrine is the Way of the Cross: fourteen stations evoking  different moments of the Passion of Jesus. They are situated on a zigzag path going up a small incline. Each scene includes up to five life-size people in cast bronze. Very moving. 

On our short trip back to town we learned that Canada is the second largest country in the world with a population of 36 millions and that the number one employer in Quebec is the insurance industry. Dan should have worked that into one of his quizzes and we would all have guessed wrong. We drove  through an area where the guide pointed out old root cellars built into the sides of hills, some dating back to the 1600s, and outdoor bread ovens, very few in use today. Each oven is completely separate from the house, protected by a simple shelter, and positioned so that the prevailing winds don’t blow smoke or sparks towards the house. 

Although Quebecois cuisine is known to artfully combine French, Indigenous, and British influences, humble poutine holds the honor of being its most emblematic dish. For those of you unfamiliar, think French fries topped with gravy and cheese curds. For the sweet tooth, all things maple seem to be the rage. We watched a lady roll boiled syrup around a stick on shaved ice. Voila…maple taffy. For the cutting edge cook, boreal spices and birch syrup.

Cocktail conversation was compliments of Rick last night and Dan tonight. Rick passed out three by five cards with eight of Canada’s ten provinces listed in random order. We were to put them in order west to east! Clever idea. Dan had another nine-question news quiz tonight with stumpers about Colin Kaepernick, the average age of vehicles on U.S. roads, and Justin Timberlake’s music catalog. Dan continues to tally correct answers for his awards presentation a few days from now.

We headed to bed knowing that Ian made landfall south of Tampa this afternoon, so there is a good chance that all is well with Jen’s home. With Jen out of danger we watched in fascination and sadness as the storm inched its way across Florida right toward Walter and Cleone’s daughter’s home north of Orlando. Fingers crossed Michelle and her husband are spared being that far inland. From all reports it looks like it will be the deadliest storm to hit Florida in 60 years.

… No Way! …

The almost 300 year old wall around Quebec City is 3.5 miles long, well maintained, and can be walked.
I only had time to enjoy a small portion of it and the amazing views it affords.

There are only six other Holy Doors in the world: four in Rome, one in Spain, and one in France.
They symbolize a passage between this life and what lies ahead.

The lifespan of a sugar maple tree is 250-300 years!

Quebec Bridge is the world’s longest cantilever bridge.

In winter, Quebec is home to the only ice hotel in North America.

Dan loves to regale folks with the fact that the Mongeons immigrated to Massachusetts from Quebec.

Two Days at Sea (September 25-26, 2022)

How can two people gain so much weight in such a short time? It’s a mystery every cruise and one Dan and I decided to tackle starting today. Our plan: skip one meal a day. Updates to follow.

Because these two sea days are a response to Fiona and not part of the original itinerary, Celebrity did not have any special activities planned to help flush out the days. Beautiful weather yesterday drew a large crowd to the al fresco movie theater, but the cool wind and dampness made it less attractive today. There was a flash sale we ladies took advantage of, a track to walk, indoor and outdoor pools, the spa, beds for napping, a casino to tempt our luck, and afternoon tea. It was each to his own both days and all in all quite pleasant, low key, and relaxing.

We stayed with our routine of meeting for cocktails at 5:00. Each evening Dan, Rick, and I took turns presenting challenges to the group with Dan promising prizes at the end of the cruise. With Boston in our rear view mirror, Rick kicked things off the second evening by giving us each a card with the names of the first eight presidents. Our task was to put them in order. Hettie, the little showoff, won with five correct. The next night I passed out a multiple choice quiz about the Coast Guard, apropos I thought considering we are cruising along the coast. Its multiple choice questions ranged from a Hollywood family that served in the Coast Guard (Lloyd, Beau, and Jeff The Dude Bridges) to the Coast Guard’s first chief journalist (Alex Haley) to the founder of the Guard (Alexander Hamilton). Dan and Ronnie got 10 out of 12 correct. Last night Dan took a turn with a current events quiz from the Wall Street Journal with nine questions ranging from the Obama’s official portraits to unblended cloth to Queen Elizabeth’s first prime minister. Dan, Walter and I tied with six correct answers. Tonight Dan lightened things up with a Disney quiz which proved harder than we guessed. Walter, Ronnie and I tied with three out of six answers right.

From cocktails we went to another four course dinner and then entertainment.

As we were settling into a relaxing two days, our attention turned from Fiona to Hurricane Ian. We monitored the spaghetti models on the news and were alarmed by its probable path toward Tampa where Cyd’s daughter, Jen, and her family live. As we relaxed on deck with our books, napped, and dropped quarters into the slots, evacuation orders were issued, airports were closed, and Jen and her family headed north once evacuation was mandatory.

Portland, Maine (September 23-24, 2022)

Good news: Fiona was downgraded from a hurricane to a tropical storm yesterday.

Bad news: Parts of three Canadian provinces where we are scheduled to stop experienced torrential rain and winds of up to 99 mph with trees and powerlines down and houses washed into the ocean.

More bad news: Before going ashore this morning, the captain announced that Saint John, hometown of Donald Sutherland, was no longer part of our itinerary. I was looking forward to this port for two reasons. It is in the Bay of Fundy which has the highest tides in the world (28 feet) and is one of the seven wonders of North America. Add to that it’s on the banks of the Saint John River which flows into the Bay of Fundy through a narrow gorge in the center of the town. At every high tide, ocean water is pushed through this narrow gorge forcing the Saint John River to flow upstream for several miles. Say what? This phenomenon is called reversing rapids and lasts for several hours. Another time perhaps.

I digress.

Anyway, we anticipated being in Portland at the end of the trip, so reversing the order of our visit was really not an issue. This beautiful waterside city, hometown of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Steven King, is located on a peninsula in Casco Bay which is dotted with dozens of small islands. It is home to the tallest (16 whopping stories) building in the state as well as a third of the state’s population. We spent time exploring and shopping in the old port district.

We also went a short way out of town to check out the small, quaint, colorful towns of Kennebunk and Kennebunkport. Historically shipbuilding and fishing villages, they are now popular summer colonies and seaside tourist destinations. We enjoyed a guided ride around the picturesque area and could easily see the attraction of this collection of low-lying wooden buildings clustered along the shore. Halloween decoration were out along with loads of flowers in full bloom and, hip hip hurrah, the sun!

We drove past the summer home of former presidents George H. W. and George W. Bush. It was built on Walkers Point by Bush’s maternal grandfather, a Walker, in the early 1980s and has hosted the likes of Margaret Thatcher, Mikhail Gorbachev, Vladimir Putin, and Nicolas Sarkozy. The compound takes up the whole point and offers what must be spectacular views of the ocean on three sides. A flag was flying indicating that one Bush or another was in town. We saw the church where the Bush daughters were married, went through the single traffic light installed after H. W. was elected president and saw the spot where he skydived in celebration of his 90th birthday. 

We learned that Maine does not permit billboards and that it has a state soft drink named Moxie. Maine is the most forested state in the country with 75%-85% of the land covered in trees. It produces the most itty bitty wild blueberries in the country and has a highly regulated, well respected lobster industry. We assumed that paper, lumber, blueberries, or lobster would surely be the state’s top industry but no. Seaweed agriculture is coming on strong, but it also does not come out on top. Healthcare beats them all. 

Both evenings we met for cocktails, dinner, and entertainment and enjoyed hearing about what everyone had seen, done, and purchased. We’re headed to bed now looking forward to the two relaxing sea days ahead. 

… For what it’s worth …

Almost all of the other New England states would fit inside Maine. 

Portland is a stone’s throw from Freeport, home to L.L.Bean which is a destination in and of itself.
It’s open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. 

Portland boasts the first factory ever built specifically to manufacture chewing gum.
Think 1850.

In 2009, Portlanders assembled what was then the world’s biggest lobster roll.
At 61-feet, 9 1/2-inches it contained 4 gallons of Miracle Whip and 48 pounds of lobster meat. 

(The other six wonders of North America are the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone,
Niagara Falls, Yosemite National Park, The Everglades, and Mount McKinley.)

Bar Harbor, Maine (September 22, 2022)

We woke up anchored off Mount Desert Island to pouring rain, fog, and gusty wind! The kind that turns umbrellas inside out and dampens spirits. Perhaps Fiona didn’t get the memo about not causing problems this far north. We decided, what the heck, we didn’t have anything to lose, we’d tender ashore and take the tour we had previously chosen. Cyd and Ricky had already gone to town but were so discouraged by the weather that they were headed back to the ship on one tender as we were heading to town on another. Cyd texted about our whereabouts and once she and Rick heard we were going to go ahead with our plans, they caught the next tender back to town and joined us. Walter, recovering from emergency surgery a few weeks ago, decided wisely to stay on board. Hettie and Ronnie ventured to town once the weather let up. Although the rain, wind, and fog persisted, we are really glad we decided to forge ahead.

Bar Harbor’s claim to fame is being the gateway to Acadia National Park which encompasses a scattering of small islands, the Schoodic Peninsula, and nearly half of Mount Desert Island. We had a terrific guide who drove us along the 27-mile Park Loop Road to the top of Cadillac Mountain, the highest point on the island, and back. The drive took us along oceanside cliffs and through mountain forests. He said the mountain is called Cataract Island when the weather is like it was today. Get it? Funny man our driver. We saw just shy of nothing thanks to the fog but enjoyed his good humor and descriptions of what would have been spectacular on a sunny day.

Our guide explained the cottage culture that grew up here. By cottage we are talking about a 10,000 to 40,000 square feet summer getaway for the over-the-top privileged few. Think of names like Pulitzer, Vanderbilt, Rockefeller, Morgan, Astor, Ford, and Carnegie. We drove past some of these cottages, still in use today, as well as the charred ruins of many others that were destroyed in 1947 by a month-long fire that swept the island. All said and done 67 cottages and five hotels were burned to the ground. By the mid-1940s the Great Depression and the newly‐introduced income tax had taken a toll on the opulent lifestyles of the ultra rich, so most of the owners took the insurance money and did not rebuild.

Acadia National Park is part of the legacy of John D. Rockefeller, Jr. and the other wealthy cottage-owning businessmen who established it. A standout feature of the park is the interlaced system of hiking trails and carriage roads. Carriage road, like cottage, is a misnomer of grand proportion. The roads are 16 feet wide with drainage part of the design and are considered the best example of broken stone roads in the entire country. Locally quarried granite was used to build the roads and 17 unique bridges. Motorized vehicles are prohibited. Think bikes, horses, cross country skis, carriages, sturdy footwear, and sleighs.

After our tour we strolled around the charming town, bought sweatshirts anticipating an adjustment in the weather forecast, browsed the cute shops, snacked, and took a walk along a beautiful path that ran right along the shore. Cold and wet, we headed back to the ship just in time for tea and scones followed by a warm shower, cocktails, a delicious dinner, and great entertainment.

We got the word around dinnertime that storm warnings had been issued for the Atlantic provinces of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland, New Brunswick, and parts of Quebec. EXACTLY where we are headed. For the safety of the passengers and crew, the captain announced, he was taking Halifax off the schedule, and to buy time while the weather makes up its mind he’ll set a course south to Portland, Maine rather than north to Saint John, New Brunswick. Sounds like a plan.

… Oh Really? …

Cadillac Mountain enjoys the first sunrise in the country. Who knew?

Acadia National Park is one of the top ten most visited parks in the United States.

Lobster is the second industry here.
We saw lots of lobster boats and immediately decided we needed a lobster float as a souvenir.

Bar Harbor has 12 foot tides.

Cruising from Boston to Quebec and Back (September 21-October 2, 2022)

We eight enthusiastic cruisers pre-positioned ourselves in Boston a day or two ahead. We made sure we had time to either rest up a bit (Hettie and Ronnie), walk the well-marked Freedom Trail from end to end and relax over dinner in Little Italy (Cyd and Ricky), relax and pop in and out of favorite spots from previous trips to Boston (Walter and Cleone), or walk part of the Trail to Breeds Hill where the Battle of Bunker Hill was fought in 1775 (Dan and I). Before setting off on our various adventures, six of the eight of us enjoyed lunch at the oldest restaurant in continuous service in the U.S., The Union Oyster House, which is conveniently located right on the Freedom Trail. Surprising historical tidbit: the future king of France, Louis Philippe, lived on the second floor in 1796. Exiled, he earned a living teaching French to young women of substance.

The weather was cool and breezy with hints of rain that never materialized.

Our stroll along the Freedom Trail took us past The Bell in Hand, the oldest pub in the country; Paul Revere’s home which we toured; the Old North Church where we saw a plaque in remembrance of when Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip worshiped there, especially poignant since we had all watched news coverage of her burial last week; several cemeteries with graves of the prominent as well as the long forgotten; a new memorial that displays a dog tag for each life lost in the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars; plaques placed in remembrance of the tens of thousands of Irish who risked life and limb to immigrate to Boston in unseaworthy vessels; a cemetery that has medallions next to the gravestones of the men who participated in the Boston Tea Party; and so much more. The Freedom Trail runs right through the old part of the city and made history lessons of days gone by come to life.

After dinner and a good night’s sleep we made our way to the port this morning. After producing our passports, negative covid-19 tests, electronic Canadian entry documents, and a couple other things, we boarded the Celebrity Summit and made a beeline for lunch.

Stuffed to the gills, we spent the afternoon unpacking, exploring our mid-size ship, doing the safety briefing, and sorting out small details like Wi-Fi and room keys. It was time for cocktails (5:00 PM) before we knew it and then dinner and entertainment, NYC3, which we thoroughly enjoyed.

Just as we had all followed the somber events surrounding Queen Elizabeth’s death and funeral services last week, we had also watched Hurricane Fiona with interest. She’s already wreaked havoc on Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic and is headed north, but the expectation is that she’ll run out of steam by the time she gets to us. Knowing that severe hurricanes in Canada are rare (something about losing energy once they hit cold water), we’re heading to bed excited for the cruise and our first port tomorrow.

…Bet You Didn’t Know…

The toothpick was first used in the United States at the Union Oyster House.
They were imported from South America.

Before becoming the first public park in the United States, Boston Common
was a place for grazing cattle, public hangings, and a camp for British troops. 

Boston proudly claims the first public school in the country. It counts Ralph Waldo Emerson, Samuel Adams, and John Hancock among its alumni. (Benjamin Franklin dropped out.)

Eight U.S presidents have earned degrees from Harvard University, the first college in the country.

To promote his toothpick business, the importer hired Harvard boys
to dine at the Union Oyster House and ask for toothpicks.

Boston is a city of firsts: the first printing press, newspaper, post office, brothel, lighthouse, chocolate factory, school built specifically for black children, ice export business, school for the blind, municipal library, subway system, World Series, American Hockey League team, in-utero cardiac implant, and full face transplant. Just to name a few. These folks stay busy!

Food firsts are a point of pride here also. For starters Boston is the home of Fig Newtons, fluffernutters, Boston cream pie, chocolate chip cookies, Dunkin Doughnuts, and Boston baked beans.

Clarkston, WA (July 14, 2022)

Most of our fellow travelers headed home this morning. We four, however, planned all along to stay on a day to explore Hells Canyon. I was surprised to learn that it is North America’s deepest river gorge. Yep, deeper even than Arizona’s Grand Canyon.

Midmorning, we disembarked the ship, walked to the end of the dock and boarded our 42 feet long, flat bottomed, aluminum jet boat along with the others who had extended their stay. Our fun-loving captain, former owner of the company, revved up the engine and away we went. The scenery was beautiful although very similar to what we had seen. A few things were remarkable, however: two petroglyphs, both 6,000-7,000 years old; 30 or so bighorn sheep and lambs grazing at the water’s edge; numerous small beaches tucked into the landscape; fledgling osprey practicing their aeronautics; and a few flotillas comprised of a momma duck and an obedient string of offspring. Green for July, the rolling hills in this arid environment looked like green and gold moss.

The captain shared a few fun stories as we zipped along. He told us that lamprey eels migrated here in great numbers 100 or so years ago which made it a good camping spot for the Nez Perce. We passed the site where Lewis and Clark camped, presumably with the Nez Perce, near a longhouse that was 80 feet long and had three firepits. I’m guessing that is huge in the realm of longhouses. We slowed down so the captain could show us the site of a turn-of-the-20th-century ranch that was across the river from the road. Solution: build a garage by the road. Boat over, jump in your car, and get on with your business. As time went by the school bus even stopped to pick up the kids. Since the early 1900s a mailboat has served the canyon. Today there are a whopping seven stops and the mail is delivered once a week. One last tidbit involves the rut and a beautiful home with large windows built at the water’s edge. Much to the homeowners surprise, during the rut, rams roaming down by the river occasionally noticed what looked like a rival male, lowered their heads, and charged…right into their own reflection in the (expensive) windows. Lesson learned: board up the windows during the rut.

Hells Canyon is a popular place. We saw folks out for a day of rafting as well as groups returning from week-long trips. Some rafts were coasting along tied together, some had dogs at the helm. Small neighborhoods of off-the-grid homes are sprinkled along the river as well as lone cabins of a more rustic nature. We shared the river with other motorized boats our size and smaller. The homes and other river craft combined with the noise of our boat were a total contrast to the serenity of the rest of our time on the water.

Chinese gardeners used to grew and sell produce at the location where we had lunch. By the 1920s it was a private ranch, and now the Nature Conservancy owns it and is working on protecting native plants on the approximate 14,000 acres. A fruit orchard was planted, grass irrigated, buildings constructed, shade trees planted and now it is a little oasis on the river. We had a bit of excitement at lunch, sad to say. A fellow traveler who had just come out of a five-day COVID quarantine on the boat fell backward and split her head on a cast iron stove. (She carried on with the trip but went to urgent care when we were back on shore.)

After lunch we retraced our trip back to the dock in Clarkston, walked the short distance to the Holiday Inn where our luggage was already in our room, decided against doing anything that involved getting back out in the heat, and just relaxed until dinner. Our delicious meal in the hotel lobby was the perfect ending to a wonderful trip. Our waitress was a hoot to boot.

Tomorrow we’ll transfer to Lewiston-Nez Perce County Regional Airport and begin our trip home. 

Cruising the Snake (July 13, 2022)

Today, spent on the water, was possibly my favorite day. I was outside as much as the hot day allowed enjoying the beautiful scenery and the pin-drop silence of our surroundings. The low rolling hills looked like honey-colored velvet from a distance and the clouds continuously morphed into interesting shapes. We passed a few grain silos, could see long trains in the distance, and went through four dams that took us up an additional 400 feet. Each dam had a special system that assisted baby salmon headed downstream. I enjoyed two cookie breaks, read, chatted with Zoe and the cook at the grill, and when I couldn’t put it off any longer, I reluctantly packed.

This afternoon’s lecture was a perfect compliment to this evening’s entertainment: the Nez Perce. The lecturer told the disheartening story of the 1855 treaty that forced all Indians in this area onto large reservations. Things deteriorated further for the Indians, custodians of the land for millennia, when the Gold Rush continued to bring uncontrolled numbers of bound-and-determined prospectors to the area and the government took away 90% of the reservation that had been guaranteed by the treaty! Cindy explained all of this to us as well as the role that Chief Joseph, an eloquent speaker and writer, played in trying to broker an awareness and sensitivity on the part of white citizens to the plight of their fellow citizens, Indians. No happy ending there.

On the flip side, our entertainment tonight was uplifting. Maurice “Pistol Pete” Wilson, an Indian dressed in beautiful traditional garb, introduced himself, spoke briefly about the pride Indians have in their heritage, and highlighted his pride in having served in the Navy. He then honored a veteran in the group with an Indian blessing. Pistol Pete passed the mic to a young Nez Perce woman dressed in traditional Indian regalia who explained her beautiful outfit. Her dress was made out of two 75-year-old bighorn sheep hides; her necklace and other adornments incorporated numerous porcupine quills; her woven hat looked like a basket turned upside down on her head; her striking moccasins were heavily beaded; and her beautifully beaded bag, 58 years old, was passed from her grandmother to her mother and is now in her care. She danced for us and spoke of the hope she has for the future of all Indian tribes. It was the perfect end to the official part of the cruise.

By bedtime we were tied up in Clarkston, our final destination, but slept onboard.

… For What Its Worth …

The Snake, 1,078 miles long, is the largest tributary of the Columbia River.

Oregon is now home to nine federally recognized tribal nations, plus several unrecognized tribes.

Eight tribes own casinos in Oregon. 

Clarkston is named for Clark of the famous and oft-mentioned expedition.