Dear Friends at the Shawnee Boat Club in Portsmouth, OH,
There are so many of you who welcomed us and helped us when we landed at the city ramp in Portsmouth. We were not able to connect with anyone in Portsmouth ahead of arrival so we took the chance that there would be room in the inn and paddled a total of 24.5 miles to get to what looked like a place we could pull out. Thankfully, earlier that day we had had the chance to rest and shower at a boat club upriver. But we were still hoping for some restrooms and showers in Portsmouth that evening.
We pulled up on the ramp that turned out to be part of city campground. After asking who we might speak to about camping there we were directed to Pat in the golf cart. She squeezed us both into the front seat and showed us where we might pitch a tent and use a crude toilet. Unfortunately, there were no showers. But she was kind enough to bring us over to the Shawnee Boat Club right next door to introduce us to you folks and we fell in love. Of course, the promise of hot showers helped that love grow! We were invited, against the general rules of the club, to paddle the canoe to your docks so we were happy for Pat to take us back to our canoe and we did just that.
We paid our $15 docking fee, wondering if ever a canoe had docked there with the big party boats before! We had scarcely started unloading when a hand reached out to help us, in fact, to INSIST on helping us. That’s how we met you, Christine. Thank you, for all that you and Larry did for us. You made Portsmouth our favorite layover. You awed us with the pride you have in your small, struggling river town, sitting along the Ohio like a Medieval fortress with its huge flood walls. This was the first time paddling that we saw so many of these walls and realized the peril that your towns await several times throughout the year when the waters threatened to swell over the riverbanks.
We met your police officers and learned of the drug problems in your town as it struggles to keep its identity in changing times. But the pride was so strong that we have no doubt that you will weather the times just as you have weathered centuries of change before. We were so thrilled to ride on your jazzed up golf cart, clinging to the poles as Larry zoomed (yeah, I know he probably wasn’t even going 5 miles an hour but next to our canoe it felt like zooming) through the streets of the town with what seemed like everyone waving greetings to you with the two strange women hanging onto the back. Hey, when you are going to get seatbelts for that thing?
It was great to go to your favorite BBQ pit, The Ribber, and it was so kind of you to buy us ribs which we enjoyed that night and the next. People downriver where we stayed the next night knew the Ribber well. I was thinking it is interesting that they knew a restaurant a whole day’s journey upriver and then realized that by car it was about 30 minutes. Perspective is interesting on the river.
The beautiful murals on the flood walls were so realistic, depicting generations of life in Portsmouth. You insisted we visit with your friends on the deck of the boat club and we loved telling our story and hearing theirs. What an interesting contrast for us paddlers to meet the man who races speed boats professionally.
And then you were so thoughtful to bring us oatmeal from McDonalds the next morning. And it was very good. I loved it when you said: “I figured you to be health conscious so I brought oatmeal!” Yes, we get out on the river every day but did we ever confess to you that we manage in no small way by indulging in a Snickers bar every afternoon? That is a habit that some may not believe did NOT start with me. Karen insists and I have come to enjoy it quite a lot.
You made it impossible for us to ever forget Portsmouth, OH. You made us promise to go see the movie 42 which I have heard from others is excellent. Branch Rickey, who signed on Jackie Robinson, was from Portsmouth. And you may have read on Facebook that my sister reminded me that she went to school in our hometown of Elmira, NY, with Rickey’s grandchild! Small world, eh? And, of course, we will not forget that Roy Rogers was from Portsmouth as well. I haven’t seen 42 yet, but I will let you know when I do!
I am sure that I am leaving out some of the details of that wonderful evening. Of course, we did have a great place to camp and wake up to a wonderful view of the river AND we took a shower both in the evening and in the morning, bought ice for the day, and headed out, refreshed of heart, body and soul.
Thank you to you all for your kindnesses and encouragement.