|Foghorn, her beloved pig (Oinkers), Uncle Chester, and the Professor|
After depositing Grandma, we found the loading area on 3rd street, in the patio of Toro's bar and restaurant. It was 9:45 a.m. and we were already melting. The heat index was supposed to get up to 117 today, with the actual temperature a humid 96 degrees or so. We hid under the shade of umbrellas until the rest of the tour group arrived. Much like a restaurant's early bird special, this 10 a.m. discounted tour attracted mostly an older crowd. Foghorn looked down the way at a group of gray haired ladies and said, "There's a lotta OLD people here." Later, when we were lining up to embark and the silver ladies were right next to us, Foghorn loudly noted, "This place is full of senior citizens." She's lucky she didn't end up in the river.
|The amphibious vehicle rolls up for loading.|
|The wonderful Wacky Quackers.|
The tour started on land, immediately taking us over the bridge into Cincinnati and we got the welcome relief of a strong breeze during the crossing. We were warned by the guide to keep tight hold on loose items, though, as she had seen everything from hair (real and unreal) to a set of false teeth be whipped into the water. Foghorn kept a tight hold of Oinkers. We arrived at the public landing, got a history lesson along the way, and then prepared to plunge into the brown water. She warned that those sitting on the right might get splashed and since we were sitting there, I wasn't thrilled at the thought of the bacteria getting ready to land on my face. We stayed dry, fortunately.
The Inmates were unusually quiet, even though it was boiling hot on the river portion of the tour and they seemed to be paying little attention to the tour guide. The guide was knowledgeable and presented everything in a fun, enjoyable way. Turned out later that The Professor had heard more than we thought, as he wanted to hang around the area until noon to hear the Peace Bell chime. We had a sing-a-long to Rollin' on a River, although they were playing the Creedence version and not Tina Turner, so I couldn't get up and do my dance (much to the Inmates' relief). Following about a 15 minute round trip ride up the river and back, passing Great American Ballpark, Paul Brown Stadium, and a big bunch of earth that will someday be the Banks Project, we were back on dry land. We then road through downtown Cincinnati where we entertained the crowds on the street with our collective duck quacking. She then got the tour further into the mood by blasting the Village People and those waiting for buses looked at us, mouths agape, as we did the arm movements to Y.M.C.A. while quacking along.
|Peace Bell in Newport.|
The Hofbrauhaus Newport, a quick walk from the Levee.
The original Hofbrauhaus is in Munich, Germany, and we learned that they attempted to give this one some authenticity. The floors in the room in which we were seated were made of 400 year old barn wood, there was pottery from the 1500s to 1700s on the shelves, and even the tables were imported. Foghorn amused herself while waiting for the food by speaking what she insisted was German. When asked what she said she replied, "I'm stealing your loot." We insisted that wasn't necessarily what a German person would say, but she was adament and even edited the picture on her menu to reflect the guy's criminal status
While the menu is full of schnitzel and brats, the three adults opted for a very good turkey and ham hot brown atop a potato pancake. Luckily they have a kids menu and Foghorn got pizza and The Professor chicken fingers. We topped it off with one of the best cream puffs I've had in my life, with soft pastry and whipped cream filling, not the usual custard-style filling I get most places. While I waited for the bill, The Professor rushed outside with the rest of our party just before noon so he could hear the Peace Bell chime.
|Uncle Chester, Grandma, The Professor, and Foghorn.|
|Cincinnati Observatory building, home of Ohio's oldest telescope.|
|Foghorn, Grandma, and Josh outside the larger 1873 building.|
Grandma accompanied The Inmates and me to the 8:30 p.m. program, which began in the smaller of the two buildings. A very erudite-looking gentleman in a greying beard began his talk on exoplanets and I suddenly felt more stupid than I had in 25 years (going back to about the time I took high school chemistry). It was so far above my head that I thought I might drool. Needless to say, The Inmates were even more perplexed and bored, a lethal combination. The Professor at least behaved himself. While the presenter was going down the five ways for locating exoplanets, Foghorn kept loudly asking, "How much longer?". When he was on #4, she asked, so loudly that half the audience turned to look, "What number is he on?!?" The presenter whipped his head around and said, "Yes, is there a question?" I blanched and said, "No, no. She was just talking to me." I then tried to give her my most withering stare. After about 40 minutes the presenter declared, "Well, folks, that's all I have." Foghorn let out a loud and enthusiastic, "Yay!" Everybody started to applaud the presenter and I can only hope he thought that "yay" was a cheer for a job well done.
|The 1842 refracting telescope.|
We then moved on to the other observatory building, built in 1873, and housing the "new" telescope from 1904. We got a historical tour of the building, learning all the background information on the observatory as a whole, as well as the efforts that went into saving the observatory back in 1999. I was probably preoccupied with having my first child, so I didn't remember hearing that the University of Cincinnati, who owned the buildings and grounds, wanted to sell them off to a developer for high price condos. People stepped in, formed a non-profit group, renovated, and got National Historic Landmark status for the place. I'm so glad they did. It would have been a shame to lose such beautiful buildings with so much history.
|The 1904 telescope.|
Grandma waited downstairs while we went to the upper floor, the actual observatory where the telescope is set up. As soon as we started up the stairs we were hit with a wall of hot air. Turns out they keep the rooms housing the telescopes the same temperature as the air outside. In this case you were talking high 80s and muggy. We got an explanation of the 1904, 22 foot long telescope. We saw how they manually pulled ropes to open the sliver of roof for the telescope to peek through. They demonstrated the crank used to literally rotate the roof to the appropriate spot and even saw the turn-of-the-century (last century, that is) set of wheeled steps with an "elevator" that was used to lift the astronomer up to the telescope for viewing. Think wooden, manually driven cherry picker.
|One of The Professor's favorites - a replica built from Legos.|
When we caught up with Grandma, she explained that she told Foghorn that some day she'd be old and she'd look back and say, "I wish I had looked at Saturn when I had the chance." To which Foghorn snarled, "No, I'll look back and say, 'Boy, was that place boring.'" The Professor, on the other hand, said the evening was totally worth it just to get to see Saturn. He then went on to say, "I'd have stayed at the bottom of a well for a week just to get to see that." Victory!
You might also be interested in:
* Camp Gonnawanna
* Camp Gonnawanna - The Kickoff
* Meet the Inmates -- Foghorn