Thursday, January 13, 2022

Key West legends: Hemingway, Truman shared love of a unique place

President Harry Truman spent happy, relaxing times during his tenure, establishing a southern
White House in Key West, and hosting cabinet members and many dignitaries for poker and fishing.

Guides tell colorful Hemingway stories at the Key
West home where he lived 11 years, from 1931.




President Harry Truman's "Little White House" offered him
a warm, relaxing break from the tensions of public office


THE PRESIDENT who ended World War II and the writer who ran with the bulls in Pamplona loved Key West, Florida. Neither could claim to be a "conch" (native son) -- but each fished the waters and relaxed in the town. 
Both men established homes in this laid-back berg, spending treasured days there.  Harry Truman escaped Washington D.C.'s cruel winters, spending 11 extended stays during his Presidency,1946-1952. Beginning in 1931, Ernest Hemingway spent 11 years in Key West. Both men are remembered in museums centered in the homes they lovingly furnished.

The Hemingway House in Key West is a lovely
Spanish Colonial home, beautifully maintained

TRUMAN HELD card games, planned fishing trips and hosted foreign dignitaries. His Presidential limo is parked outside.  Hemingway staged lavish soirees and designed a special cemetery for his famous six-toed cats, offspring of a captain's gift.
Both men's homes and gardens are  meticulously maintained as museums and visitor attractions with well informed, story-telling guides.

On Hemingway's upstairs bed, one of 50 cats
naps. Each one is carefully chosen from
 offspring of the author's famous six-toed cats.

LAID BACK Key West has a bohemian feel, much as it did in the days Truman and Hemingway fell in love with the place. It continues to attract an assortment of eccentrics, sun seekers and tourists -- with a loyal "local" clientele who proudly call themselves conchs -- that is, proud people born in Key West. The range of admirers includes dozens of writers, politicians, actors and five presidents besides Truman. According to our volunteer guide, a retired history professor, Truman found Key West

Two of the mostly
spayed and neutered 
felines in the garden
    to be a sanctuary -- a welcome respite from the pressures and tensions of life in the U.S. Capitol.  He lovingly created his fascinating Florida White House.

Hemingway tributes, friends, ex-wives,
hunting expeditions, cats are celebrated.

ACCLAIMED WRITER Ernest Hemingway was equally captivated, purchasing a lavish home -- mostly with his wife's money -- entertaining fellow writers and artists.  It, too, is now a fine museum. The Hemingway House, across from the Key West Lighthouse is on the far southern coast of the island.

THE HEMINGWAY house has an open, airy feeling, with plenty of natural light and a compact study up the stairs in a separate building, where the author spent long hours writing.  Among the memorabilia are sculptures, trophies of his hunting expeditions, drawings and photos of wildlife and family portraits. One wall brings chuckles.  On it hangs a four-part collage of the author's quartet of wives:  Hadley Richardson, Pauline Pfeiffer, Martha Gellhorn and Mary Hemingway, his last wife, with him until his suicide in 1961.  Hemingway is in the center.

President Harry Truman loved Key West and kept a selection
of short-sleeved tropical weather shirts in his closet.
It was during the "Pauline years" -- 1927 to 1940 -- that Hemingway lived in Key West, and it was through her uncle Gus that the house came to the couple. According to our lively guide, the couple spent happy years raising their boys and socializing before he left her for his third wife, Martha, originally a friend of Pauline's.

The lovely pink and coral hues
of the protected conch. Florida
restaurants serve conch harvested
in other parts of the Caribbean. 

TRUMAN'S TENURE came when his doctor recommended a warm place to rest during his 19th month as President.  He returned each November and December, February and March for the next seven years, relaxing on the wrap-around enclosed porch, playing cards, strolling the town and escaping secret service guards to have coffee and shoot the breeze at a beloved restaurant, Pepe's Cafe.

Conch fritters -- enjoyed by both
Truman and Hemingway --  are
 a popular item but the seafood
is from outside Florida waters.
(In Florida, conch is protected.)
 Reportedly, he loved seafood in particular conch fritters. Hemingway's fondness for seafood  is well documented, too. He particularly liked to eat fish he'd caught. Truman  hosted many fishing trips for Cabinet members and other politicians, who stayed in guestrooms of the 1890 building, once officers' quarters on the town's submarine base naval station.

SO MUCH about Key West captivates the imagination.  Thousands of people have felt the allure and magic of this southern most point on the continental United States.


 Footnote about "conch" as applied to people: Mayor Dennis Wardlow, in a statement of protest and secession, declared the independence of Key West on April 23, 1982. The Mayor was designated the Prime Minister and the territory was given the name Conch Republic, with local citizens called Conchs.

The Conch Republic was declared in 1982 during a 
tongue-in-cheek secession from the United States.
"The Conch Republic" tongue-in-cheek moniker has been maintained as a tourism booster.  One is not a conch (pronounced "conk," like "conk your head") simply by living in Key West.  You must be born there. If you've lived seven years, you're considered a "freshwater conch" a la Hemingway.  The conch is a large sea snail living in the depths of the Gulf of Mexico.  The beautiful, coral-colored critters were almost extinct and are now protected, with heavy fines for taking a shell with the living creature within.

  So while the former President was a visitor only-- albeit for long stays -- he didn't actually live there full time.  The famed author, on the other hand, did, and thus his ranking as a "freshwater conch."

Mahi mahi is part of a Cuban inspired food tour in
Key West, featuring five small-plate delicacies and
a walking tour of the town's historic district.
UP NEXT: No, not conch, but tasty mahi mahi in photo at right, served with a Carribean-style rice side dish and mango salsa during our foodie walking tour in Key West, Florida.  We sampled conch fritters (photo above) along with other popular bites on this Cuban inspired tasting tour.  We sampled five small plates, including a shredded, roast pork deliciously spicy and served with freshly baked, slightly sweet Cuban bread and barbecue sauce. We cap our walking tour and feast with key lime pie, made famous in the Florida Keys. Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us each week for fresh spins on the arts, travel, nature, family and food:  



Thursday, January 6, 2022

Key West charms with activity, history, sun, sand, homeland safety

Christene "Cookie" Meyers and Bruce Keller stroll the waterfront in Key West, readying to sail. 


The Conch Train is a well loved travel option downtown.

yearns for balmy breezes, fun food and the soothing sound of the sea, it's not necessary to book a ticket to Fiji, the Canaries or French Polynesia.
Those are beautiful places, but with COVID, and all the time, angst and red tape necessary to enjoy foreign travel, U.S. citizens can't do better than Key West, Florida.
OUR COUNTRY'S southernmost subtropical paradise is a unique blend of all that we seasoned travelers yearn for: perfect climate, the beauty of nature on both land and sea, flowers galore, cultural diversity, history, and a romantic appeal that one usually has to go to another continent to enjoy.
Cookie shows her ticket to board Old Town Trolley.
Key West attractive to us, with one huge additional advantage.  We're still in the good old U.S., and don't have to fill out entry forms and paperwork to experience the new.
While many restaurants and hotels now ask for proof of vaccination, it's much easier to head for south Florida than it is to cross a sea and risk getting detained or quarantined on foreign soil.
So the appeal of Key West is enormous.
Coffee is a huge industry in Key West, and you'll
find coffee stores as well as cafes serving the 
sweet, strong and pungent Cuban coffee. 
There's the exotic amenities one looks for in foreign travel: interesting architecture, new food options, history with an opportunity to learn, comforting familiar language and enlightening nature experiences. There's also a fine butterfly conservatory and world-famous museums, including Mel Fisher's fascinating one, where one views nicely curated treasures found on the shipwrecked Atocha.
If you want to see the sights without the expense of renting a car, the wonderful Old Town Trolley offers is a delightful way to get around with access to nearly everything of interest.
Old town Trolley gives bird's
eye views of homes, museums
It transits famous Key West streets and squares, popular local places and tourist attractions ranging from the fine Key West Aquarium, Key West Lighthouse, the shops and restaurants of Mallory Square and other historical and entertaining places.  
Sunset sails are a popular Key West option.
Close-up of a cigar poster, touting the stogie grown
from Cuban seeds, but on other Latin American soils
Salvaged from the Spanish
ship, Atocha, pottery in the
fine Mel Fisher Museum.
Key West's history is filled with drama and the amiable, well informed trolley guides share the history with colorful anecdotes, engaging stories and humorous asides. You'll see the coffee shop where President Harry Truman ditched the secret service at his Florida White House to share a morning cuppa with Florida friends. You'll see key lime pie adverts and get tips on the best places. You'll stop near Ernest Hemingway's lovely home and see how the writer lived and worked -- with his adored six-toed cats. 
A wonderful museum is housed in a historic building run by the non-profit Key West Art and Historical Society.
This handsome rooster
 and all chickens are
 protected in Key West.
OTHER TOWNS in the U.S. -- including our own San Diego -- have successfully introduced Old Town Trolley.  The entertaining trolley operation also runs in Savannah, Washington D.C., St. Augustine, Boston and Nashville. 
Key West is an artistic town, with galleries
and museums showcasing everything from ship-
wreck treasures to carvings and paintings.

Cigar making was once a huge industry in Key West and Island Cigar Company still sells them. Key West has a rich cigar history, but most stogies in the Keys are now made in other parts of Latin America with tobacco grown from Cuban seeds.
Watersports abound in Key West, with sunset sails, dolphin and snorkel watching, eco and paddleboard
tours and many other options,
Among many historic buildings, this one is the
original office of Pan American World Airways.
It is now First Flight, a brewery and restaurant.

including a wonderful rare opportunity to sail on General George Patton's custom made schooner
"When and If," which he designed and hoped to sail with his wife around the world "when and if" World War II ended. Sadly, Patton died in 1945 and didn't accomplish his world sailing tour.  He did sail it up and down the East Coast, and Chesapeake Bay, and down into Key West, according to biographers. (More about this lovely boat later.)

For more info: 

The Hemingway Home and Museum showcases the author's
literary memorabilia, awards, collectibles, portraits, history
of his several wives and his unusual six-toed cat progeny. 
UP NEXT: Our visit to Key West and the Florida Keys continues with a look at two famous fellows who loved the place.  Famed author Ernest Hemingway lived many years in Key West, and President Harry S. Truman set up a White House in this charming Florida town.  Both made friends with the locals and enjoyed the leisurely, warm and inviting life the climate and temperament offer. Descendants of Hemingway's famed six-toed cats  roam the place as privileged, pampered pets. Truman's beloved vacation home gives insight into why he loved Key West.  Both homes are interesting museums. Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us each week for a fresh look at travel, nature, family, the arts:


Wednesday, December 29, 2021

New Year's tips in COVID times: For a fun, safe, virus-free 2022!

Bruce Keller and Christene "Cookie" Meyers off to board 
a Cessna for a fabulous tour around the island of Kauai, Hawaii.
Entering the state called for patience, QR codes and long lines.

Keller and Cookie put a lei-clad cap
on 2021, with caution, masks and hope.


TRAVEL TODAY in Covid times is unlike anything we've experienced anywhere in the world.
It calls for courtesy, patience, flexibility, adjustment -- plus the ability to land on one's feet.
If one wants to travel again -- and we do -- it's important to soldier on, obey the rules and pick up the pieces of life "B.C.," (before Covid.) 
On our current trip, we found entry to Hawaii to be time consuming and stressful.  We're here now, spending a couple weeks during the year's busiest travel season.  It's much like entering Europe, Asia or South America and takes equal time.
While as U.S. citizens, we don't have to contend with a customs line, travelers must line up to show IDs and QR codes -- an electronic version of health documents, verifying vaccination.
QR codes must be shown
entering Hawaii. Rules change
quickly so check the website. 

WE SPENT nearly 90 minutes in a line at Honolulu International Airport, waiting to show we'd followed the "Safe Travel Hawaii" protocol to prove vaccination and allow us entry into the state. Because of the delay in working up the long line, we missed our connection to Lihue, and had to  rebook for a flight to Kauai two hours later. This involved retagging our bags (another long line) which resulted in our nearly missing that second flight, too.
Although this sounds like a lot to contend with, it's nothing compared to intra-Europe travel.  Israeli friends tested a half-dozen times on a recent trip to the Greek Isles and Italy, then a trans-Atlantic sail to Madeira and on to the U.S.  Vaccination proof was carried with passports for frequent use.
IT'S BEEN TWO years since Covid introduced us to our new reality: masking, distancing, vaccinations, cancelled trips, frustration, testing and worry.
Our Hawai'i resort on Kailua Kona required our QR codes, proving
 vaccination. We must also wear bracelets and masks on the property.
We knew when we booked this trip, it would be a close call to make the inter-island connection. We were grateful our Hawaiian fire dance banquet was the next evening -- or we might have missed that, too.
 Other aspects to note:
*Hotel maid service is bare bones as the industry recovers from closures, lay-offs and employee shortages.  Our pricy resort requires 24-hour advance request for room cleaning and provides bags for setting out our own trash and towels.
*Many hotels now require proof of vaccination; the word is that airlines will soon follow suit.
ALTHOUGH OUR "travel wings" have been clipped, we are "triple vaxed," and back on the road, writing this piece from a hotel overlooking Kauai's Wailua Bay at Kauai's lovely Hilton Garden Inn, and the splendid, showy Hilton Waikoloa Village.
Roosters and parrots are singing, greeting a splendid time in paradise.  We've had sporadic rain for days -- "liquid sunshine"  -- but are thankful to be traveling again.  
A few weeks ago, masks briefly off at Palm
 Desert's Living Desert Zoo and Gardens.  
Who would have guessed our pandemic purgatory would continue into a third winter?  "First Covid winter, second Covid winter," our niece Amarylla says. Now we embark upon "third Covid winter."  Instead of lions and tigers and bears, oh my, we have masking, distancing and fears. Double oh my!

A few years ago, New Year's Day in Rome before
masking, at the beautiful Trevi Fountain. 

lifelong travelers, born and bred.  Keller grew up with an Army dad and adventuresome mom.  He spent the first two years of life on a military base in Europe.  Cookie's dad was a pilot and her mother loved travel, too, so she grew up in the back seat of a Cessna, taking family train trips to New York to see plays, baseball games and a memorable 1964 World's Fair.
Traveling domestically with elderly Yorkie Nick is nothing
compared to traveling to Hawaii in COVID times.
When Keller and I met 14 years ago, we began a tradition of "holidays on the road."
It has taken us to New Year's Eve climbing Sydney's famous Harbour Bridge in Australia, to Singapore, Barcelona, Rome, the Austrian Alps, Iceland for the Northern Lights and on many cruises. Last year -- before our first vaccination in late January -- we spent the holidays in southern California, at our nearby Hotel Del Coronado.  We brought our aging, loveable Yorkie, Nick, and with the vaccine still weeks away, we were in full-out masking mode, using room service, making our own hotel bed.  
New Year's Eve just before Covid, December of 2019.
Since then, we've had six cruises cancelled and continue
to rebook and hope we'll be cruising again by spring. 
MANY OF OUR friends in Europe, New Zealand, Israel, the UK and Asia were disappointed when trips cancelled. English friends had planned to be in Austria for the beautiful Christmas markets this year, but that plan fell apart because of high Covid numbers in Austria. Our Israeli friends experienced their British Air flight from Washington, D.C. to Tel Aviv cancelled.  They had to rebook on El Al, at a much higher price, lost their business seats and departed from JFK instead. Says our friend, a seasoned traveler, "As far as I am concerned, traveling in COVID times, especially long trips, is a 'No No'."
Full vaccination is required for anyone travelling abroad and we recommend it for domestic travel, too -- in fact, any travel at all, even a simple auto or train trip within the same county, state or district.  The CDC advises against travel unless fully vaccinated, and as of Dec. 6,
Bruce Keller and Christene "Cookie" Meyers brave
the 2021-22 holidays at Hilton Waikoloa Village.

insists that international travelers show negative Covid test results.
WHEREVER YOU are as the ball drops Saturday in New York's Times Square, may your 2022 be filled with love, kindness, caution and good health. 
For the mandatory state of Hawaii travel and health form, go to: You'll need to create an account, upload required documents and receive a QR code to present upon entering Hawaii. It's a long, laborious procedure.  You'll register with Safe Travel Hawaii, and follow instructions. If you don't, you'll be pulled aside and mandatory quarantine will be strictly enforced. for the most recent recommendations and rules.

Cookie and Keller set sail in Key West, about to board a
famous boat, "When and If," designed for famed Army
general Patton, for "when and if" he could sail after WWII. 
UP NEXT:  Key West calls.  The furthest point south in the United States is a lively place with plenty to do, plus history, cats, roosters and museums. We recently spent a week in this lively town, famous for watersports, an energetic nightlife, beaches, historic sites and its lovely pastel, conch-style architecture which reminds of the nearby Caribbean.  Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us weekly for a fresh spin on nature, dining, travel, the arts, family and more:

Thursday, December 23, 2021

Holiday happiness: food, fun, family and a cherished recipe

Bruce Keller displays the cookies he begged for and which the non-baker
Cookie provided. He pronounced them "incredible - far beyond edible


Grandmother Olive's vintage cookie cutters.

I AN NOT A BAKER. The art demands a precision that most improvisational cooks like me lack.
But I can still picture helping my grandmother make holiday cookies in the 1950s. The ritual was about  much more than sweets.  It was about sharing, learning, being together with my siblings and one of our all time favorite individuals.
The memories come happily alive. As I enter her well lit, geranium filled kitchen, I smell cookies baking, see  ingredients and utensils on the green counter. 
My grandmother, Olive, places a large yellow earthenware mixing bowl on the kitchen counter.
She holds her long wooden spoon like a conductor's baton, directing each grandchild to a specific task.
"Peny, beat the eggs."  "Cookie, measure sugar." "Rick, soften butter -- use a mixing spoon, not hands."
The little kids had separate "ingredients" -- flour, water, sprinkles to make their own faux cookies. 
"Watch how I sift the flour." "Here are measuring cups and spoons."  "Add an extra half-teaspoon of vanilla."  Then we mix the dry and moist ingredients. The first of the chocolate cookies cool on the counter and we children hurry to sample. 
We sing Christmas carols as we work.  Soon the counter is a mess of spilled sugar, wayward spices, egg shells. There's flour on the floor, in our hair. (Gran wears a pair of her clean pink knickers on her head, which makes us giggle.) The happily cluttered kitchen cupboard bears witness to our endeavor.   For me and my siblings, it's a cherished memory. 
Grandmother Olive
Nystul  (minus her
classic hair net.
CHRISTMAS COOKIES are a tradition in many families, and for mine, the cookies were several kinds: ginger snaps, sugar cookies and the family favorite: filled cookies, usually mincemeat and dates, with walnuts or pecans, sometimes coconut. Gram was a great improviser and encouraged that in all of us youngsters -- not only in the kitchen, but at the piano, the garden, in life in general.  
Her notes are priceless, and I've included them here.
    Dry ingredients: Mix together: 5 tsp baking powder, 4 cups sifted flour, 1 cup raw oatmeal, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp cinnamon, optional nutmeg, cloves, ginger or allspice 
  • In separate large mixing bowl, mix: 2 cups butter, 1 cup milk or buttermilk, 2 eggs. Cream these 3 ingredients with 2 cups packed brown sugar.)
  • Add sifted dry ingredients to creamed mixture. Chill dough a half hour.
  • Filling (have fun, improvise): 1 l/2 cup of dates, cup of jarred mincemeat or raisins, half-cup walnuts, 3 tbsp brandy or liquor of choice, 2 tbsp flour, 1 tbsp brown sugar or honey. Coconut, cranberries, grated orange rind. Chocolate or caramel chips make the filling too "goopy." Nice idea.
  • Grandmother Olive's filled cookies create family ambiance,
    teach baking skills and and leave lasting memories.

    If pressed for time, substitute 3-4 nine-inch prepared pie crust for dough. (No need to announce this.) Roll pastry thin on floured surface.  Pre-heat oven 350 degrees. Cut in circles or squares, top of large glass works well.  
    Separate dough into four or five rounds; refrigerate, remove one at a time. Fill each cookie with generous spoon of filling, pinch edges. Bake 10-12 minutes or until edges are golden brown.  Can store dough for a week or more, if covered. Store cookies in air tight jar. In our house, they don't usually last more than a day or two. This is a great recipe for introducing kids to the art of baking. 
"Keller and Cookie" on the road at Christmas time, off
to catch some sun, bound for a holiday away from home.
Happy holidays and a joyous New Year! We've spent many a New Year's Eve on the road, ushering in the next day on Bali, in Buenos Aires, Berlin and in Big Timber, Montana!   We take a look at the traditions and fun of celebrating this festive season and the turn of the year -- from Europe to our own back yards in San Diego and the West Fork of the Stillwater River. Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us Fridays for a fresh spin on travel, nature, family, the arts and more: Please share the link with like-minded folks.

Thursday, December 16, 2021

Morro Bay: play, stay on the bay, with seals, otters and great seafood

Morro Rock stands imposingly and majestically in the waters, as it has for centuries, welcoming
tourists and modern-day explorers. The rock is beloved by locals for its lore and ancient history.

A regal seagull checks out the surf near Morro Rock.

AN ANCIENT landmark, revered by native people and photographed by tourists, greets curious visitors and charms locals in Morro Bay, Calif.
Explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo named the towering 476-foot rock known by sailors as an imposing navigational aid.
It stands sentinel above the entrance to Morro Bay.  Cabrillo's "discovery" was made during his voyage up the California coast in 1542 --50 years after Columbus made his famous voyage to the new world on the other side of the country.
Cookie and Keller enjoy a bay stroll near sunset.
THOUSANDS of years before, native  
people fished the rich coastal waters and traversed the land of long-extinct volcanoes which formed the historic landmark.
Morro Rock goes back 23 million years. The "Gibraltar of the Pacific," is the last peak of the Nine Sisters, which extend from San Luis Obispo to Morro Bay. The rock was mined until 1963.
Still today, there's a feeling of age and mystery about the rock's place on the beautiful bay, shrouded in fog as it often is and looking like a movie backdrop.
ONE CAN picture long-ago Spanish galleons, when commerce relied on the sea for transport.
Farmers came to work the land, and miners worked the hills and caves. 
Morro Rock is an imposing sight from the hotel balcony.
Located as it is midway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, Morro Bay is a stopping off place for us and many others on our drives up the coast from San Diego. California's renowned Pacific Coastal Highway runs right through the center of this quietly satisfying little beach town.
Everything seems to center around the beach, where high school students work out and can easily walk to or from their school.
Morro Bay is a fishing town. Dozens of privately owned boats on hitches line residential streets and you can't go wrong ordering seafood at the dozen or so popular restaurants.
Morro Bay is a fishing and tourist town. The
seafood is abundant and delicious everywhere.
WE GOT GREAT tips from our hotel check-in clerk at Ascot Suites, a charming, centrally located hotel with an abundance of English country art.   We took our happy hour drinks to the rooftop sundeck with a beautiful vista of the bay and rock.  We lingered to enjoy a perfect sunset with gorgeous shirt sleeves weather in late October.  Locals say the pleasant temperatures last through the holidays.
Thousands of people visit Morro Bay each year so there are over a dozen hotels, plenty of B&Bs, and assorted other rentals -- from simple and rustic to plush and expensive.
After a day of play on the bay,
Bruce Keller enjoys sunset.
FOR A TOWN of only 11,000 there is a surprising amount of activity and entertainment.   We happened upon live music on the bay -- and asked about the town's other landmark: three large smokestacks.  They're from an old power plant and can be seen from almost everywhere in town. We nature lovers delighted in the wildlife, too. We saw harbor seals, sea lions, sea otters, snowy plovers and peregrine falcons which nest on Morro Rock.
More info:;  
Gran Olive's filled date and mincemeat cookies.
We'll share her recipe next week. Please "tune in."
UP NEXT: A non-baker finds courage to restore a family tradition: making Christmas cookies, grandmother's recipe no less.  After a day of kitchen duty for Cookie, Keller is munching his way through the holidays with the results. We share a favorite family recipe -- my grandmother's delicious date and mincemeat filled cookies. We also travel the globe in search of foodie fun to celebrate the holidays in style with other cultures.
Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us Fridays for a fresh look at family, travel, cruising, nature, the arts and more. Please share the link and tell your friends:

Thursday, December 9, 2021

Astoria Maritime Museum offers superb look at Pacific Northwest's stormy sea connection


Crossing the fabled bar where the Columbia meets the Pacific is the focus of several exhibits
at the engaging Columbia River Maritime Museum in Astoria, Oregon.  

Life-size exhibits draw viewers from around the world
into the story of Astoria's stormy relationship with the sea.


The museum's exhibits artfully blend photos,
artifacts, three-dimensional art and more.
Here, high-tech underwater diving of yore.

THE MARITIME history of Astoria, Oregon, is one of tumult, terror and triumph.
Many a ship and sailor have been pummeled by the surf -- thrown against the shoals on the treacherous Columbia River bar.
We learned at the Columbia River Maritime Museum that the river has taken at least 2,000 vessels and nearly as many lives.
MERGING OF river and ocean take on mythic proportion at the splendid museum, which does an excellent job of explaining the fascinating reality of meandering river meeting a wild ocean.  
A museum visitor notes the warning given as
ships approached convergence of river and sea.
This section is so rugged because of the huge volume of water as the river spreads nearing the ocean. It washes sands and sediments from many miles away against thrashing tides. As the 1,243-mile long Columbia reaches its mouth, its drainage basin is enormous -- almost the size of France. So when the swelling river meets the Pacific, it's a big deal. It began quietly in British Canada, gathering speed and ferocity before colliding with the turbulent Pacific. From the days of dugout canoes to the early 1900s, lives were lost in this crushing convergence.
Installation of great boulder-mound jetties more than a century ago made the area safer, but before that, the treacherous "bar" was a dangerous five miles wide and filled with changing channels and shifting shoals, making it a navigational nightmare.
A lighthouse lens designed by Fresnel is
artfully displayed in the Astoria museum.

THE MUSEUM takes a colorful look at the river and its importance to its host town and beyond -- a massive region between Washington and Oregon.  
 More than a traditional repository, the Columbia River Maritime Museum is a unique combination of seafaring vessels, maritime artifacts, and exquisite paintings, enhanced by exhibits, three-dimensional displays, live demonstrations and hands-on activities.
A giant ship's anchor is a focal
point outside the museum, and
often photographed by visitors.
One of the paintings, "Smoky Sunset on the Columbia River," is breathtaking -- a ship at full sail on one wide and a canoe on the other, all framed by haunting land and light. For my sailor partner and me, it was an engaging history lesson about boats, equipment and the hazards of the sea.
THE MUSEUM naturally focuses on the waterway that gave birth to Astoria and the northwest region of Oregon. But its scope is broader. Anyone with an interest in the sea and its dangers, challenges and pleasures will enjoy this creative gem of a museum.
The famous Morro Rock stands proudly in the harbor of
a quaint seaside town with shops, views, plenty to amuse.

UP NEXT: The pretty coastal town of Morro Bay, California, attracts hikers, drivers, sea lovers and tourists from around the world. Located midway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, this lively village is home to world-famous Morro Rock, which serves as the backdrop to an enticing abundance of year-round outdoor activities. We explore the options -- kayaking, surfing, boating, golfing, hiking and biking. We also look at some quaint hotels and visit Morro Bay State Park, home to lagoons, trails and a rich bird-rich saltwater marsh. Remember to explore, learn and live at