Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Cruise Hosting

So what is a cruise host anyway? As cruise host, I was a member of a contingency, 100 strong, who served cruise ship passengers in a capacity much like that of a hotel concierge: greeting the ship, providing information about transportation, activities, restaurants, shops, medical services, and more. Each spring, Astoria becomes a port of call for ships that are being repositioned to Alaska for the summer season. The weekly visits frequently brought 900+ people into our city for sight seeing and shopping opportunities. It also gave the hosts an opportunity to meet folks from many of the United States as well as from the following countries: Argentina, Barbados, Canada, Columbia, Cuba, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Ireland, Malta, Mexico, Nepal, Nicaragua, Philippians, Puerto Rico, Russia, Scotland, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, and Wales

Host, Dave C. is easily identifiable, wearing the blue jacket as he welcomed arriving passengers.

So what were the most frequently asked questions? The following are are are a few of the most popular requests:

  1. Where is the "Goonies House"?
  2. Is there a pharmacy near by?
  3. Where is the mall?
  4. Which way to Penney's?
  5. Where do we catch the bus to the Astoria Column?
  6. What should I see while visiting your city?

The spring cruise season began on a cold and rainy March morning and ended with similar weather on May 21st. I suppose until the fall hosting season begins, maybe I will have to shingle the porch roof and plant the garden!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

A Pleasant Spring Ride

One of the many things I hoped to do in retirement was go get out on nice days and ride my "tank like" mountain bike. Since we have had a rather cold and wet spring, those perfect opportunities have been few. This past Saturday did however present near perfect conditions with clear skies and temperatures in the low eighties.
My biking buddy Dale and I have been planning for months now to ride a few of the trails in Oregon's newest state park, L. L. Stub Steward. The park is located in the coast range mountains just 31 miles west of Portland. The park boasts 15 miles of trails for hiking, biking, and horse back riding. As far as the trails go, the designers did an excellent job of layout and construction. The downside however is any where the tail is wet and a horse has passed over it, the surface is extremely rough to the point of being unrideable! We learned a valuable lesson on Saturday; horses and bikes don't mix!

On Monday morning, I decided to go for another ride but this time I took an easier trip which followed Astoria's River Walk Trail. The trail is mostly paved and follows along the Columbia River beginning at the port and heads east nearly to Tongue Point. A round trip ride is just over nine miles and on a typical foggy morning affords a view as seen below.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Welcome Aboard The Lightship

Your first thought might be what the heck is a lightship anyway? Well, let me share with you my thirty second-second spiel about the Lightship Columbia.

A lightship is a floating aid to navigation or simply a floating lighthouse. Lightships where first used in the United States beginning in 1820 and were anchored off shore in locations where the construction of a lighthouse was not possible. Custom also dictated that the ship be named after the site where they were stationed.

A lightship was anchored five miles off shore marking the entrance to the Columbia River beginning in 1892; it was replaced by an automated buoy in 1979. The ship, Number 604, pictured in my photos, was manned by a crew of 18 who worked on board rotations lasting from two to four weeks in length. Duty on board the ship was frequently described as monotonous and boring until the gale force storm winds struck.

The ship’s high intensity lights were visible from a distance of 13 miles in the darkness of a clear night sky. The ship is also equipped with two fog horn that sound a three second blast twice a minute which could be heard up to five miles from the ship. Needless to say, sleep was often difficult, if not impossible!

The two brown objects above my head that look like trumpets are the fog horns

Being a docent and volunteer host on board the Lightship Columbia is way beyond fun! It is simply a blast to share stories of the ship's service and to meet people who visit the museum from all over the United States. I also get to be a ship's captain for two hours; I may not have a crew to command and the ship never leaves the mooring of the dock, but I don't have to pay the fuel bill either!!

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Was Exercising Ever So Easy?

Pictured with me is my cousin Cheri; she is the cute one on the left. My best guess is that the photo was taken some time in 1957 or 1958. Those were the days when exercising was easy, you just hopped on your tricycle or the nearest swing.

Physical education was never my favorite class regardless of the grade level. During high school, the physical education curriculum consisted of basket ball or flag foot ball depending upon the season of the year. If the spring monsoons ended early and the field dried out, we might get a couple of weeks of softball before the end of the school year. In retrospect, the limited variety in physical education was no surprise because both instructors also coached both the football and basket ball teams and these sports were a big deal back then. Yep, Mr. C and Mr. H must have spent maybe five minutes on their weekly lesson plans; all that was required was adequate inflation of the appropriate ball.

I suppose it should also have not come as a surprise when much of the class flunked the President’s Physical Test on an annual basis! The idea of a national fitness test was first put forth by President John Kennedy in the 1960s. Despite our school’s failure rate, Mr. C and Mr. H, our intrepid PE instructors, continued to drill us on the fundamentals of their chosen sports!

Fast forward to 1981, I had completed college and had been settled into my career as a forester for four years. At this point I decided that maybe it was time to think seriously about physical fitness. With this goal in mind, I joined the local YMCA and signed up for an early morning aerobics class. For nearly a month, it was an hour of nearly endless physical pain and suffering! It was also at this point that I became interested in running, but my pace was so slow, I was more of a “plodder” than a runner.

As a wannabe runner, I quickly developed a new circle of friends who were competitive runners. They would often invite me along on their daily training runs despite the fact that I clearly was not in their league and frequently slowed their pace. With the completion of the Salmon Run, a 10K run that challenged you with some of the better hills Astoria had to offer, I was finally hooked! Over the course of the next eighteen months, I participated in about a dozen 10K fun runs in preparation for the ultimate goal, a marathon.

The folks pictured below joined me for my 30th birthday fun run; it was a grueling 2K!

Logic dictates that before one attempts a marathon you need lots of training and perhaps completion of a half-marathon. To that end, a friend and I signed up for the Puget Island Half Marathon which used to be held annually in February. The course began and ended in Cathlamet, Washington while winding it’s way around the narrow county roads of Puget Island. As my memory recalls, it had to be one of the flattest courses known to man. With limited training, I forged ahead and nearly died somewhere between mile eleven and twelve. It was also during this race that I sustained a stress fracture in my left foot, thus ending forever my running career!

In the succeeding years, I have attempted to maintain a reasonable level of fitness by riding a bike or walking on a tread mill. The effort and expense of fitness has increased greatly for me since the 1950s. Now a proper workout requires the appropriate workout shoes complete with custom orthotic supports. A heart rate monitor is also a given; how else can you know if your heart rate is with in the target zone. Finally, would a workout be complete without a fully loaded MP3 player?