Monday, March 25, 2013

Steamboats and Indian Wars--by Jennifer Uhlarik

Hi, everyone! Thanks for stopping by. Can you believe that it’s already March? I blinked once, and January and February both disappeared.

March is typically a fun month for me, as that is the month that my husband requests his big vacation time for the upcoming year. We don’t always have the money to get away during his time off, but March tends to be the month of the year that I get to dream about packing my bags for the next adventure our family might take. In the nearly six years hubby and I have been married, we’ve gone on several fun trips, from a week cruising around the Hawaiian Islands (our honeymoon), to eight days learning our nation's history in Washington D.C., a few days investigating the rich histories of Savannah, GA and St. Augustine, FL, or relaxing amongst the beauty of the mountains of Georgia. All of them were wonderful trips in their own way!

This year as I consider possible vacations, I find myself daydreaming about taking a riverboat cruise along the Mississippi River. Not too many months ago, I discovered that the American Queen Steamboat Company does a variety of tours on old-fashioned rear-wheel steamboats like those of Mark Twain’s day. Trips range in length from six to fourteen days. I’ve got grand memories of a two-hour steamboat trip I took as a child during a family vacation, and would love to experience a longer trip with shore excursions to the towns along the Mississippi River. Southern plantations, local restaurants, historical sites, and museums. All of these sound fascinating to me. Such a trip is probably out of reach for now, but there’s no harm in daydreaming, right?

In addition to the fun of vacationing, I’d love to take one of these trips to aid in researching a story that’s percolating in my brain. I recently did some cursory research on steamboats in the Old West to see if a scene I’d dreamed up would work. I was aware that steamboats were prevalent along the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, but hadn’t realized they were able to navigate some of the smaller tributaries of the Missouri River. Come to find out, a common joke about steamboats was that they could sail on dew alone.


photo by Dave Gostisha
In the tiny bit of research I have done so far, I learned that the steamboat, the Far West, was actually an important part of the Battle of the Little Bighorn. It was commissioned to be a supply ship for the battle, carrying 200 tons of supplies from Fort Abraham Lincoln to the 7th Cavalry’s camp along the Yellowstone River. In the Far West’s cabin, Generals Terry, Gibbons, and Custer planned their battle tactics. The boat ferried soldiers and horses from one side of the river to the other. And after the massacre, the steamboat carried the news of the battle, as well as the wounded back to Fort Abraham Lincoln. I’ve always tended to have a fairly romanticized view of steamboats, and learning these facts showed me a side of steamboat history I’d never known before. It certainly got my mind spinning with story ideas. More research is necessary before I’d feel confident to write a full novel centering around steamboats, but there’s plenty there, I’m sure, to carry a novel.

So let's hear from you...what is the best vacation you've ever taken, or what dream vacation do you hope to take some day? Make sure to answer one of my questions to be entered in the drawing for this beautiful vintage pin. Winner announced tomorrow morning!

53 comments:

  1. Hello Jennifer, great post. Vacation? What's a vacation? I would so love to be able to go somewhere..anywhere..for a week, just me and my hubby. It's been so long and I fear it will be even longer. But, I can always vacation in my mind, through the many books that I read. Someplace where it's warm and the ocean is accessible...Yes, that would be my dream vacation. God bless.
    debsbunch5[at]jesusanswers[dot]com

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    1. Oh, I completely understand the "what's a vacation?" question. There was a LONG period in my life where going anywhere outside of the grocery store or work seemed out of the question. But you're right, books do provide a great "mental vacation" at the least. Thanks for stopping by, chaplaindebbie!

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  2. My husband and I have always dreamed of driving across country. We'd go along a northern route and then return along as much of the old Rt. 66 as possible.

    bcrug(at)myfairpoint(dot)net

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    1. Hi Connie, I could see this being an exciting trip if you were able to stop and see the various sights along the way. What a way to experience America! Hope you'll get the chance to try it once day soon.

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  3. I am really enjoying this blog! Thanks for your great giveaways.
    I am older now and don't travel much, but remember some great times with family in earlier years. I guess I vacation now through books.....as Debbie said above...lol.....love to read!
    Jackie Smith
    jackie.smith[at]dishmail[dot]net

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    1. Hi Jackie, thanks for stopping by! Isn't reading wonderful? The words of a book, if written well, have so much potential to transport the reader to different times and places. I remember the first time I ever experienced a book's power...it was a cold, winter day in Wisconsin, and I was all of 9 or 10 years old. I curled up on our loveseat, bundled in a handmade afghan, and read all day. That evening when I pried myself off the loveseat to get ready for bed, I felt like I'd been on a grand adventure on a desert island, rather than huddled under a blanket to ward off the blizzard outside. The experience has never left me, and the memory of that day and that book push me to write vividly so my readers can experience the same.

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  4. I agree with Debbie...what's a vacation?! ;-) My dream vacation would be a tour of England! But, to date, the best vacation I've taken would have to be my honeymoon 13 years ago, a Caribbean cruise! I wouldn't mind cruising again! Pampering and relaxing!

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    1. I have to agree, cruising is wonderful. I'd love to take another cruise. And a tour of England would be excellent. I honeymooned in London when I married my first husband, and it was certainly an exciting trip. However, we only ventured outside of London one day. There is so much more to England than London. LOL

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  5. My LAST dream vacation was the Hawaiian Islands - I toured them several years ago & thought they were the prettiest places I had ever been. My NEXT dream vacation would be the South Pacific Islands. I love to see new places - my dream house would be a log cabin on a mountaintop overlooking the ocean. I live just south of Louisville, Ky.(which lies on the southern banks of the Ohio River) - there are steamboats here, the river & Louisville were important parts of transportation during the Civil War.

    Thanks for the opportunity to win the pin.

    bonnieroof60@yahoo.com

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    1. So far in my travels, I think my cruise around the Hawaiian Islands had to be the most spectacular vacation. The South Pacific sounds delightful, though! Hubby and I love to travel, and we dream a lot of the various places we'd like to see. How exciting that you are so close to the steamboats. Must be a sight to see!

      Best wishes in the drawing tomorrow morning!

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  6. I'm more of a home-body so not a real vacation dreamer. I've been fortunate to visit several places in the U.S. and I go to Ark. to stay with my mom twice a year. I drive through some pretty parts of the country as it takes two days....I start in PA, Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, Tennessee, & finally Ark. Beautiful mountains. I've always dreamed of taking my mom to Ireland or Alaska but she is now in her eighties and unable to go, so we just go on day outings. I do love history and steamboats are fascinating. I'll think about them when I cross the Mississippi River going into the state of Arkansas. The pin is gorgeous...thanks for the opportunity to win! Linda
    dmcfarl101(at)juno(dot)com

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    1. Hi Linda, it sounds like you get to see a lot of beautiful places even without the actual vacation. That's what I love--being able to see all the different places God created. Both Ireland and Alaska are on my hubby's and my bucket list of places to see. One day...

      Best wishes in tomorrow's drawing!

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  7. My favorite vacation would be the last vacation my family went on together to Florida. It doesn't have anything to do with where we went but who went on the vacation. We've lost family members since that time, so that's the last time I remember us all being together as a family.
    My dream vacation would definitely be to visit Ireland!!!
    Thanks for having the giveaway.

    Rose
    harnessrose(at)yahoo(dot)com

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    1. Hi Rose, I completely understand about why that trip to Florida was so special. Family is important, and cultivating relationships is what life should be about. I'm happy you had that time together. May the memories live on. (And Ireland is definitely one place I want to see as well!)

      Jen

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  8. My last vacation was a weekend 'girls' getaway my mom my sisters and me took to a condo on the beach. We walked on the beach, watched old movies and played board games. We'd never had that kind of together time before and it was great to be able to make those memories together

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    1. Hi Winnie, a girls getaway sounds heavenly! Hmmm. Another trip to dream about. LOL Thanks for the idea!

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  9. I've ridden on the Branson Belle riverboat a couple of times, and that was really cool. I'd never heard about trips on the American Queen. I'll have to check that out. Sounds like fun.

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    1. Hi Vickie, the American Queen has lots of options for length of trips and shore excursions, from what it looks like. They even do "theme" cruises. Oh, if money were no object! LOL

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  10. We haven't taken any real vacations in many years now - only brief visits with family. But one day I hope to take my whole family back to WY where I lived for almost 10 years, and show them all the amazing sights and fascinating historical places. History is so recent there that you can still see it like it was, not restored. From the petroglyphs, to the wagon tracks and grave markers, to the dugouts of outlaws - it's all so much fun to explore! I'd love for my kids to be able to experience it for themselves.

    jimmynmatthewsmom [at] netzero [dot] com

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    1. Hi Bethany, thanks for stopping by! I know I have passed through Wyoming when I was a child, but I don't recall spending much time there. My dad was big on road trips when my brothers and I were young, and he'd often plan some roundabout travel plans in order for us to be able to say we'd "been in" one state or another. I suspect Wyoming was one of those where we just drove through without spending much time. I'd love to be able to see the things you mention. Oh, the stories that could be told!

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    2. Yes, when you just drive through a place, it doesn't seem so interesting! lol For instance, we always drove back east, and I thought Nebraska was the most boring place ever because it was long and flat and little to see! But I would guess that there is some very interesting history and places to see in Nebraska that I never would have realized just by passing through.
      Wyoming is a fascinating place. The "Old West" isn't so far distant there! I remember when I first moved there (from Ohio) how surprised I was the first time I saw a man with a holster and pistol in the grocery store! lol That just isn't done back east! :)

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    3. Oh, you made me chuckle with your comments about Nebraska, Bethany. My husband is from Nebraska, and his almost 101-year-old grandmother still lives there. So I've been to Omaha to visit her numerous times, and we've driving around the city and over state lines to visit my husband's mother in Iowa. There's some interesting history there, for sure!

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  11. I've done a lot of traveling in my life - growing up a missionary kid, it was just a way of life. But some of my favorite vacations have been with my husband and children to our favorite campsite in the Sierra Nevada mountains. There's nothing better than getting above the "real" world, with no social media interference, a tiny general store (that offers $2 HOT showers - yes!) and a campfire. Our kids are mostly grown now, starting families of their own, but we go every year because THEY insist. Makes my heart swell every time they start planning. :-)

    becky (at) beckydoughty (dot) com

    Beautiful pin!!

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    1. Hi Becky, I always find the splendor of the mountains inspiring! Love to hike and sightsee, no matter what mountains we're talking about. Of course, the last time I actually STAYED in the mountains for any length of time, I was about ten years old, and my parents still tease me about how much time I spent IN THE TENT, rather than exploring or enjoying the out-of-doors. LOL I'd like to think, now that I'm older, that would be different.

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  12. Great blog, Jennifer! I never knew about the steamboat connection with the Battle of the Little Big Horn. Fascinating stuff! I love steamboats and I learned a lot about them while researching my book Sweet Forever set along the Ohio River in 1845. Hubby and I took a ride on the Belle of Louisville as part of my research and I really enjoyed that. Have to say, the idea of a longer steamboat cruise is tantalizing. May just have to consider it. BTW, the jeweled blossom pin is gorgeous!

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    1. Hi Ramona, thanks for stopping in! I was really surprised to learn of the steamboat connection to Custer and the Battle of the Little Big Horn. It's one aspect that you don't hear anything about. I'm anxious to dig in and find out more. Let me know if you do end up doing a longer steamboat cruise. As I said in my blog post, it's out of reach for us right now, but certainly on the list of trips to make one day.

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  13. I have to mention that the American Queen stops in La Crosse, WI!

    My best vacations always involve my sister. Just getting time to relax, and talk, and laugh with her are great. Whether we are at her home, mine or in a hotel.

    My dream would be to go to Ireland. I am researching the Irish part of the family. Still haven't gotten to the point where I know what part of Ireland they are from

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    1. Hi Martha, how cool that the American Queen gets all the way to Wisconsin.

      I don't have a sister to vacation with--two older brothers and their wives and children, but we are all so very busy that trying to plan family vacations just hasn't come together so far. We love the idea, but it hasn't panned out yet. Maybe one day...

      I'm with you, Ireland is a dream vacation. I also have Irish ancestors, and it would be fascinating to see my "roots" in that way.

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  14. I've done so much traveling and vacationing in my life, it's hard to pick a favorite.I will say that the first time my husband and I went to Alaska was a dream come true. We'd planned and then canceled a couple of times, so when it finally took place, it was like, "OK, we are really doing this!" We spent almost 3 weeks there in mid-summer. It was wonderful!
    may_dayzee (at) yahoo (dot) com

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    1. Wow, almost three weeks in Alaska sounds amazing! Hubby and I dream of taking an Alaskan cruise one day. I don't know that I'd want to spend very long there. I've lived in Florida long enough now that my blood is very thin, and I don't tolerate even mild cold very well. But it's definitely worth the "discomfort" to see for a little while.

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  15. My dream vacation is a cruise to Hawaii. My sister has gone 3 times and says it is amazing! I haven't talked my hubby into it yet...and we have been married 37 years...that is why I call it a "dream"... we usually take our trips to historical places, however EVERY place has history...right? That is why I like to read...I get to go everywhere! jelliott53 at hot mail dot com.

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    1. Absolutely, every place has history! And the history of Hawaii is as interesting as anywhere else. There are plenty of historical sites to see in Hawaii, including Pearl Harbor. I highly recommend it! Praying you'll get to go one day.

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  16. I took a trip with my husband to Apalachicola, Florida two years ago. It's on the Gulf, in the corner where the Florida coast takes that 90 degree turn south. No major interstate highways go directly there, so it has missed all the high-rise condos and commercialization of some other Florida coast areas. It was quiet and peaceful. Liked your post on steamboats. I'd love to win the vintage pin. Thanks. reneeyancy@reneeyancy.com

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    1. I've lived in Florida for 30 years now, and I've yet to make it to Apalachicola. Depending on how the finances go, maybe I'll ask hubby to take me there this year! LOL Best wishes in tomorrow's drawing!

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  17. While I prefer to vacation here in our beautiful country, one of my most exciting vacations is when I visited my brother and his family when he was stationed at Rota, Spain. He took me to a bull fight (never again-it was sickening), we visited one of the oldest cities of the world (Cadiz, Spain) and we were able to go see the Rock of Gibralter. Here in the United States one of my favorite places to go is Stone Mountain, Georgia.

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    1. Hi Cindy, Spain had to be a thrill, although I would probably agree with you on the bullfight. There are so many wonderful sights to see within our own country, I can see why you prefer to vacation here. I can think of so many places I want to see within the U.S. borders, and to do them all justice, it would take a lifetime!

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  18. Oops, my email address...

    countrybear52 AT yahoo DOT com

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  19. *waves happily* Ms. Uhlarik,
    Well, hallo there! :) I read your sweet reply on last month's entry, and I've been wondering how you've been ever since!! I realise your schedule is hectic, so not to worry, I wasn't disappointed when I didn't hear back! I simply hope all has been well with you!? As for me, *March* dissolved into the insanity of having my oak tree pollen allergies flare something fierce and kicked me in the head to the brink that I had to find herbal teas + consume more ricola's than what I perceived to be humanely possible! Oyy vie. At least, it’s not a transferable allergy if I ever want to be around other 'oaks'... :) Cheers!
    Meanwhile, your question of the day is hard for me to answer! I oft dreamt of exploring the Highlands of Scotland, the rocky cliffs of Avalon {Newfoundland}, kayak the fjords of Alaska and go into the interior, as much as I want to bounce around London for at least a month, and roam the outer perimeter of Iceland! :) :) Ahhh,... I think I'll settle for Alaska right now, because like many of us in the lower 48, next to Hawaii, Alaska is our undiscovered country! I love the rawness of Alaska's heart, the pureness of her land + air, and the natural beauty of her rainforest, wildlife, and the hearty mindfulness of her natives! The appeal of Alaska runs deep, because its harnessed by wind, volcano, sea, and true grit -- it digs into your heart first, and then, its up to your mindset and hoopstka {its Yiddish? spelt?} to see if you can forge a life there OR if you simply want to visit throughout your lifetime to encourage your curiosity and endeavor your appreciation for a land whose people are mystifying as they are reverent. I love how both worlds: the Native Americans and the Settlers have shaped their internal histories, by outwardly given their presence to all who come there. The totems alone would be as awe inspiring to stand beneath as the South Pacific/Pacific Rim's stories high Buddha’s! I am always humbled by man's breadth and reach to leave an impressionable mark on where he lives by entombing a physical presence that has the ability to carve a niche on the wider world.

    --end part one--

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  20. I'd start by ferry in Bellingham, and make my way North, towards the inside passages. I'd might even opt for a private ferry to scope out the smaller townes and cities that hug the shoreline that are only accessible by sea. I'd dig into my adventurous soul, kayaking next to surfacing whales, {and hopefully not accidentally tossing my camera into the drink!}, rip lining through the rainforest, hugging the trees, eating the wild caught halibut, and taking a fishing cruise! I'd soak up the local art culture and seek out a way to experience everything that is not contained in a tourist brochure! :) Mind you, this might not all happen on my first expedition, but ooh, a lass can dream, eh!?

    The Tongass National Forest would be ideal to simply walk and observe all that was there,.. allowing my mind to drink in the richness of forest and the ambiance of being present, and amble around Sitka until I felt like a local! :) Ketchikan, Palmer, and Homer, round out areas of keen interest!! Of course, being a fan of Jack London, I'd be just as happy taking in the Iditarod! Ahhh, such sweet dreams!

    Goodness, I was off in my thoughts to the brink I forgot to mention that riverboat Queens, Mark Twain and the Mighty Mississippi are on my list too! Did you know that the ONLY Mississippi River Museum is in Dubuque Iowa!? There are hidden spaces in America that enchant the mind as much as the heart! Imagine though being in the MRM and watching a gator swim past you as it’s cavernous to where you can 'walk' under the river! :) :) Little things like this always excite me! I best stop here! I am sure this is longer than I intended already! Thanks for such a hearty essay to get my imagination to explode!! OOh boy do I love history + traveling!!

    Godspeed on your travels, and may joy abound wherever you go! -- Jorie
    // inkand-blogaways(at)usa.net // Florida ps: Did you know we're only allowed 4,096 characters!? LOL

    --end part two—
    {sometimes you cannot get around word limits!}

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    1. Oh my goodness, Jorie, you've given MUCH thought to what travels you'd like to take! Wow. You had me along for the ride, too! You should consider becoming a travel guide with that sort of knowledge and vision!

      Forgive me for not responding to you on last month's post. I have NOT forgotten, and I will get back to you. I've been scrambling since the writing conference I attended, and it's been a struggle to get everything caught up.

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    2. Ms. Uhlarik,

      Ooh my dear stars, you flatter me so! :) Actually, you might find it extraordinary, but whilst I was committed to a search of 10 years to sort out where to relocate too, I garnished an impressive array of knowledge for our dear country, and that of our, northern neighbour, O Canada! :) To full effect, my zest and impressions I am sure will not only parlay into future novels that I pen, but in hearty conversations that I share with people that I shall meet thus far forward! Its quite keen really, because whenever I meet people know from here or there, I honestly have a bit more to say than "Oh I have heard of Fargo!", because truly, I have been to Fargo! Part of the quest was visceral and part of it was lived!! :)

      Ooh dear goodness -- have not one worriment over it at all! I am very patient and as foresaid, this month played out so horrifically for me, that now that I have my allergies nipped under tea leaves, I think April shall be a better month for us both! I'll eagerly look forward to your response, and I am quite delighted that my post was read with such affection! You simply enfused a lot of inspiration when you broached the subject of "dream locale to visit"...

      Musefully yours, Jorie, whose embarking herself back intot he 1920s, and into the life of Z... Miss Zelda Sayre who became the infamous Mrs. Fitzgerald! :)

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  21. Thank you for an interesting post.

    griperang at embarqmail dot com

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  22. "So let's hear from you...what is the best vacation you've ever taken, or what dream vacation do you hope to take some day?"

    Well, we are living it! My husband and I retired four years ago and moved ten hours away to be in the middle of our children in a long day's drive to three states. It has definitely been the right place for us to be! Kathleen ~ Lane Hill House
    lanehillhouse[at]centurylink[dot]net

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  23. Yay, Kathleen! Enjoy living your dream. :)

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  24. Thank you all for stopping by yesterday to read and comment. The winner of the vintage pin is CONNIE R! Congratulations. Best wishes to each of you in the grand prize drawings in a few days!

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  25. Hi Jennifer! Loved your post and dream. :)

    I'm from Louisiana, yet I was born near the Mississippi River in Natchez, MS. I have been to Natchez dozens of times and I can just imagine how it was back in its heyday with steamboats and barges galore. Natchez has a gorgeous downtown filled with antebellum homes and other landmarks, just brimming with history. The steamboat trip would be quite an experience. I've wanted to do one too.

    Since a six day steamboat cruise is not a viable option right now, I want to suggest a New Orleans' Steamboat day trip (http://www.steamboatnatchez.com/harborcruise.html). Also St. Francisville, LA and Natchez, MS are only a few hours north of New Orleans, easily accessible by car on a four lane highway. There are dozens of antebellum and historic homes and landmarks to see within these two towns and lovely B&Bs (and some of these historic homes too) for lodging. (http://www.stfrancisville.net/) (http://www.visitnatchez.com/) And, of course, our food is spectacular. ;)

    Well, I just wanted to let you know of a trip possibility for you and your hubby. We'd love to have yall. Even though I live here, I still love being immersed in our history.

    My dream trip would be to travel around Europe for a few months. :) I've been blessed to visit Europe several times and I'm visiting England and Scotland in May. Book research! I can't wait.

    Have a great day, Jennifer! If you have any travel questions, please send them my way. I blog at "Pens on a World Map" (www.pensonaworldmap.com).

    Morgan

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    1. Wow, Morgan, thank you for the wonderful information! I will certainly check out the links you gave me, and we'll look at the possibility of such a trip. My brother has been to Natchez and raved about it.

      Traveling around Europe sounds wonderful too. As I said in a previous response, I've been to London, but ventured outside of the city limits only one day. Hardly what you'd call "seeing ENGLAND." LOL London was nice, don't get me wrong, but to go that far and not see some of the countryside was disappointing. I hope you'll enjoy your trip to England and Scotland! I'd love to hear all about it.

      Jen

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  26. I agree with "vacation? what is that?". :) My dream vacation is to visit Ireland and Scotland. *sigh* Someday, right? Thanks for the post!
    farmygirl at hotmail dot com

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    1. I sooo understand, Sue. There is a whole lot more travel in me than there is budget and time. LOL Maybe someday.

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  27. Hi Winnie. The vacation that I took that was most memorable was to Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, for the Sourdough Rendezvous. There was so much history behind it there. I have one of the last photos taken of their paddlewheelers as an arsonist burned them to the ground the week after I left there. They had the 2 boats servicing that area. I learned about the gold rush there. I actually met one of the oldest gold seekers/trappers while I was there. He and my friends had been interviewed by Real People, a weekly tv series. Real People gave him his 1st vehicle ride, his normal transportation was mule, and took his 1st photograph, poleroid. He for some reason picked me to sit beside and talk to me about these new fangled things. I was told by my friends that I should be honored by this. There was so many things and historical places I was shown while there. It was an amazing trip. I even got to see where Robert Louis Stevenson's Sam McGee met his fate and the true story behind the poem.
    Thanks
    Helen
    hmmbailey@live.ca

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    1. Helen, that sounds like a fascinating trip! And to meet one of the oldest gold seekers had to be amazing. What a wealth of stories he must have been! Thank you for sharing with me. :)

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