Friday, May 4, 2012

Stowing Away on the Delta Queen!

Delta and Mississippi Queens moored upriver during Tall Stacks
It's the Friday before Derby Day, and I can't help but be transported back to my life 32 years ago.  Picture a newly-divorced, single parent of 22-month-old little girl.  I was still trying to cautiously navigate the waters of my new phase in life.

My family had a love of the Delta Queen.  After all, it was a historic steamboat whose home port was Cincinnati (at that time).  My youngest brother, Don, worked on the Delta Queen after high school and before college.  He became friends with the Cruise Director, Terry Sevrens. Thus began a long friendship between Terry and our whole family.

Mom (in center waving) and Terry (far right) depart on a Derby Cruise

Terry introduces the calliope player.

Mom and Terry
My mother was widowed and making her way in uncharted territory, too.  She had always loved Derby Day (usually throwing a party to celebrate the blooming azaleas, mint juleps, and, of course, a horse race). This particular year, she decided to indulge herself and book a four-day round trip on the Delta Queen to coincide with the Kentucky Derby.  Terry, who had more than a passing interest in my mother, was sure to provide her with a good time.

Don and Liz on a separate trip
We all went down to the river to see my Mom off on her great adventure.  Just as we were about to leave, Terry asked who was going to "stow away" and use the top bunk in my Mom's cabin. After acknowledging that this was a totally crazy idea, it was decided that I would be the stowaway.  My toddler daughter was handed over to my brother, Don, who agreed to watch her and drive down to Louisville the next day and pick me up. I don't know what we were thinking, as there was no preparation, no diapers, no change of clothes for my daughter, and Terry could jeopardize his job if I got caught.

I WAS IN!!  I can't tell you everything that happened in one post, but I can tell you it was one of the most risk-taking adventures of my life, and one I cherish.

The Delta Queen in 2012

So today is the anniversary of that great adventure.  The Delta Queen is no longer plying the rivers between Cincinnati and New Orleans.  It is docked "permanently" in Memphis, Tennessee. Due to the wooden construction of its superstructure, Congress would not extend its waiver to continue operating as an overnight passenger steamboat. Thus ended an era.

American Queen docked near Showboat Majestic
Port of Cincinnati

I made my way to the riverfront to take in the newly-refurbished American Queen. The boat made its way to Cincinnati last night, following up a steamboat race with the Belle of Louisville and the Belle of Cincinnati. The Belle of Louisville "won."

Port of Cincinnati, Ohio
May 4, 2012

I'll be thinking of Mom, Terry, the Delta Queen and the Derby all weekend. Now all I need is a mint julep.