Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Thursday Aug 6th

We left Stevenson in the morning and continued East.  When we got to the Hood River we were able to look up the valley for a spectacular view of Mt Hood.  We docked at The Dalles, Lewis and Clark camped here in 1806 and a town  was founded here just a few years later.  There is a fairly wide valley floor here and the guides said the local Native American tribes used to use this area for an annual fall meeting place.  They had fishing platforms and would collect and dry fish for their winter camps.  They also made carvings and petroglyphs on the rocks.  When the Dalles Dam was constructed, it flooded the valley covering everything including their burial grounds in water.  There was a group of volunteers that met us at the dock, all dressed up old timey.  The women call themselves the Fort Dalles Floozies and the men were dressed up like a sheriff and some deputies.  There was also a lady with a 3 year old gyspy horse and a carriage to take people into town.  She had bags of little pieces of bread that you could feed the horse, Max, for a donation.  He was very sweet.

We got on the bus to go to the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center.  The ladies that drive the bus are hired to accompany the trip and as we motor down the river, they drive to the next port to meet us.  On the way we passed by a minimum security prison, our guide says because there are so many wildfires, the inmates are trained to fight fires.  At the Discovery Center we went into a small auditorium and the ranger brought out a hawk, a kestrel and a great horned owl.  She held each one with one of those big leather gloves and talked about it, then put it on a perch and brought out the next one.  These birds are here because they have been found injured and can not be rehabed and returned to the wild.  The ranger talked to each one like I talk to my kitties, the owl was grumpy and she just cooed at him.  She brushed up his fathers so we could see his horns and he gave her the dirtiest look.  She told all about the different birds, the most surprising thing was how little they weigh.  Maybe because their bones are hollow and they are fluffly from feathers but she said the male great horned owl weighs only around 2 pounds and  the female is about 4 pounds.  We walked around the Center a little bit more, some old dug out canoes and other artifacts.  Then we went outside to the Golden Eagle enclosure.  She opened a gate so we could see them.  They were so majestic.  There is a male and a female and again, both have injuries that prevent them from surviving in the wild.  Sad, but occasionally the female lays eggs and they have to destroy them because the parents can't teach them to fly or hunt, so the young could not survive.  We wondered about another bird fostering them but evidently, the eagles won't accept someone else's eggs or young.  Too bad.   There were some interesting plants there as well.

TThen the bus took us on a tour through the town, there are murals on many buildings and an old courthouse with a clock tower.  Then we went up the hill outside town to an overlook where there are several war memorials and some beautiful roses.  Back to the boat for a good dinner and while we still had some daylight we went through locks at the John Day dam.  We continued to travel during the night, by morning we were in Lake Umatilla, really just a very wide section of the river and after breakfast we stopped shortly at the small port of Umatilla and all the folks going on the tour to include the Pendleton Factory got off.  They will travel overland and meet us later today when we dock at Richland.  Just after Umatilla we went through the locks at the McNary Dam and I went up on deck to watch.  The dam is impressive and I got to see what a fish ladder looks like.  Hope my pictures come out good.  The captain has a small stand with controls in it right on the rail at the bow of the ship.  He stood there guiding the boat just so into the locks because the boat is nearly as wide as the lock.  He had a deck hand with him whose primary job seemed to be keeping people from trying to talk to the Captain as he was doing the tricky steering.  At one point he sent the deck hand on to the bridge to do something, it's wonderful how the young men and women can get experience and training on the boat.  They all work so hard.

The inside crew wear kahkis and blue polos and serve breakfast and lunch.  They change into long sleeve blue shirts for dinner.  As soon as the dining room is all cleaned up they change into what looks like scrubs and start cleaning rooms.  Then back in kakhi and blue for lunch and the cycle repeats.  The deck hands wear red polos and navy pants.  They all take turns learning to wipe and oil the engines, one does laundry all week, I saw Justin hang off the back of the boat just over the paddle wheel to wash the big windows.  I saw Ethan hosing off the decks.  And always they are front and center when we get on and off.  They've helped my Mom to get to shore when the gangway incline is steep and they take a couple others off in wheelchairs every time.  One of our servers told me he's hoping to move up to deck hand.  They all just fall all over themselves to do anything you ask them to do.  Their standard answer to "can you…." is "of course, I'd be glad to" and when you thank them they always say "you are very welcome".   When they've been around a while they might graduate to the red vests.  Right now that's all women, one who oversees the dining room, one who is head of housekeeping and one who runs the tours.  They all wear grey pants, white blouses and the red vest.  They run the bar during happy hour and work as hard as everyone else.  Jess runs the tours and has to deal with all these people with limited mobility and others who need all kinds of special attention.

The river gorge is so interesting.  The terrain changes from high bluffs that are as barren as can be to bottom land with apple orchards.  We've seen vinyards up on the hills. But all along at the top of the ridges has been lines and lines of wind turbines.  The grren electricity is wonderful but the ranger told us that 30,000 raptors will be killed by the turbine blades this year.  They are developing technology for internal turbines, rather than the big exposed blades, that will be safer for the birds but I doubt the exsisting ones will be retrofitted anytime soon.

Yesterday the captain let us go up into the wheelhouse for a look see.  He had computer screens that showed exactly where we were on the river and depths and such.  He explained about the different engines and the propellers, some of which I understood.  The paddlewheel is functional but is so inefficient compared to the engines that it's mostly for show.

Most of the people on board are very nice.  With open seating we've met a lot of different people and it's been interesting.  Today at breakfast a lady traveling with her sister, who lives outside Boston, looked at the dinner menu and had to request something special.  The choice was beef or pork and she told us she was bitten by a Lone Star tick, the enzyme from its saliva created an anti body in her and she can not eat any mammalian flesh.

There is a family on board, grandpa and I think his girlfriend, his two daughters and their families.  The one daughter has husband, her own grown daughter and son in law.  The other sister has 2 boys, one about teen age and the other younger.  I call them the Funsters.  I've been in the Paddlewheel lounge after dinner a lot so I can use the wifi to blog.  They've been coming in and playing games and having the best time.  They really like Jenga.  The one sister started apologizing for being rowdy until I joined in a little bit and they realized they weren't bothering me.  So sweet to see them finish a game and go to their cabins, they all kiss grandad and tell each other I love you. 

Of course there are some holier than thou types, but it's not too hard to figure out who they are and steer clear.  I really feel sorry for people who are so angry and tied up inside that they can't relax, go with the flow and enjoy.  They fuss about some little thing wrong with the food or that the service is slow or the boat isn't just so.  I think this is the oldest boat in the American Cruise Line fleet, they've refurbished it but it's getting a little frayed around the edges.  The captain says they are going to bring a ship from the Missippi up to run the Columbia and I think they will retire this one.  Still, things are pretty nice.  Our room is small but adequate, we are among the few that don't have a balcony but there are all sorts of places to go if we want to be outside and my Mom complains about the wind so much I doubt she's use it.  It gets windy in the gorge.  We had beauty parlor this morning, my Mom took a shower and washed her hair.   I helped her blow it dry, luckily she has a good permanent and I was able to curl it around a brush and shape it.  That's about the extent of my hair skills. 

We are going to dock at Richland this afternoon.   It looks like Richland sits between the Columbia and Yakima Rivers.  My friend, Mary Langley, has lived in Ellensburg, WA for many years.  It's about 2 hours from Richland and she's coming to meet the boat so we can visit .  I am very excited to see her.

Did I say earlier that I like this Dell 2 in ??  It was fine until Windows 10 creeped in one night.  Now I have to learn all over again how to get my pictures on and put captions on them.  Technology is not my friend.  Give me a needle and thread any day.  I noticed the cuff of my pj's was coming loose and got out my little sewing kit.  We were docked at Umatilla with the sun shining in our windows.  I sat propped up on the bed mending my pj's and was as happy as a clam.

Because we were down in the gorge we didn't have any wifi service so I have typed on OneNote.  The instructions say it saves automatically, so I hope for the best.   

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