Thursday, October 28, 2021

Theater's Southern California comeback marks return to the boards

Celebrating a joyous return to live theater at San Diego Repertory Theater are, Bruce Keller and
Christene "Cookie" Meyers, here before the house filled at the Lyceum Theater in San Diego.

JOYOUS TIME ON BOTH SIDES OF THE FOOTLIGHTS AS LIVE THEATER RETURNS


STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER
Masks are mandatory in San Diego theaters.
Covid vaccination card, or negative test proof is
required here at Northcoast Rep and elsewhere.

(and courtesy theater marketing departments)

AFTER 18 MONTHS of dark houses, bare stages and empty seats, live theater is making a rousing comeback in southern California.
San Diego is blessed to have more than a dozen active, enchanting theater venues and we are grateful returning members of the audience. Streaming and video productions kept us going through the purgatory of pandemic, but there's nothing like live theater. So we give thanks for the talented actors, directors, designers and volunteers whose patience and persistence kept hope alive.
Happily, after a year's absence, we offer our annual autumn roundup, this time showcasing the return of live theater with what's on the boards in our theater loving San Diego area.
 
Fine acting and captivating direction mark
"Mother Road," by San Diego Rep at the Lyceum.
SAN DIEGO REPERTORY THEATRE
: "Mother Road" is the spectacular opener, through Oct. 31 on the Lyceum stage downtown.  It's a continuation and spin on Steinbeck's "Grapes of Wrath," speculating on the legacy of the Joad family 100 years after the Dust Bowl.  An accomplished, well cast ensemble and evocative writing mark this spellbinding production, enhanced by Sam Woodhouse's creative direction. The smart, eight-show season includes Second City's sassy "She the People" running Nov. 18-Dec. 5, followed by Tony winning "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time," "The Great Khan," "Twelfth Night," (an intriguing musical version), and the gifted Herbert Siguenza in his original portrait of biochemist Isaac Asimov. Woodhouse will direct a yet unannounced season finale, which promises the Rep's usual electric, thought-provoking theatrical experience. sdrep.org 
NORTHCOAST REPERTORY THEATRE: As the first San Diego theater to announce a full 2021-22 season, this inventive theater is delighting crowds with a truly original work. "Ben Butler" continues the 40th season of this Solana Beach treasure. Set in the Civil War, it features a brilliant escaped slave
Richard Baird, left, as Major General Benjamin Butler, spars
with Brandon J. Pierce as Shepard Mallory in "Ben Butler."
and the equally bright, compassionate but pompous general he asks for asylum.  It's an engaging work brimming with humor and intelligence, showcasing fine acting, skillful direction and an imaginative story. The Civil War doesn't suggest humor, but this tour de force offers verbal sparring reminiscent of Neil Simon's best. It is winning raves for its originality and humorous twists. Northcoast's docket includes two west coast premieres plus a world premiere musical, says the company's ambitious artistic director David Ellenstein, who also deftly directs "Ben Brown."  The intimate house offers excellent seating and the season's pleasing mix includes a new romantic musical comedy, the sassy musical parodies of "Forbidden Broadway," Harold Pinter's Tony-winning "The Homecoming," and a work inspired by Sherlock Holmes' tales. Laughs, thoughtful dialogue, familiar comforts and new challenging pieces on tap. northcoastrep.org  
David McBean as Albin in Cygnet Theatre’s production
of “La Cage aux Folles, held over with sell-out houses.
CYGNET THEATRE.  Capping a rousing extended run, "La Cage Aux Folles" is selling out its final two weeks, through Nov. 7. It will be followed Nov. 23-Dec. 26 by Cygnet's ever engaging holiday musical tradition, "A Christmas Carol" with artistic director Sean Murray's clever adaptation.  "Life Sucks" follows, billed as  "a brash reworking of Chekhov’s 'Uncle Vanya,' featuring a group of old friends, ex-lovers, estranged in-laws, and lifelong enemies gathered to grapple with life’s thorniest questions. "Water By the Spoonful," "Mud Row" and "Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet" cap the spirited, varied Cygnet season into August of 2022.   cygnettheatre.com
The approach to La Jolla Playhouse in evening heralds the
new season which opened to kudos with "The Garden."
Patrons are excited about the upcoming "The Yellow House"
 a spin on the life of famed artist Vincent Van Gogh.
 La JOLLA PLAYHOUSE. Carrying on this venerable, top drawer theater's dedication to the unique is a new play, "To the Yellow House." Its Nov. 16-Dec. 12 run follows the hit, "The Garden," a beautifully rendered, ground-breaking production, praised for its touching story of a mother-daughter alienation and reconciliation. "To the Yellow House" set in Van Gogh's colorful Paris, imagines a visit by the down-and-out artist to his brother's home. Always ahead of the curve ("Come From Away" began its Tony-winning life here), the LJPH season continues with a world premiere musical, "Bhangin' It," March 8-April 17. Digital wonders await with "Wow" shows to enjoy at home. Click on the website's "Without Walls" for more.  lajollaplayhouse.org
Cynthia Gerber plays poet Emily Dickinson in “The
Belle of Amherst” playing Lamb’s Players Theatre.
LAMB'S PLAYERS THEATRE:
"The Belle of Amherst" is winning praise for its lovely staging and brilliant acting by Cynthia Gerber as poet Emily Dickinson. It plays through Nov. 14.  Then the popular and musical version unique "A Christmas Carol," with Lamb's own adaptation, running Nov. 27-Dec. 26. "The Hound of the Baskervilles" promises creative staging of a Sherlock Holmes classic, Jan. 29-March 20. "Million Dollar Quartet" is an inventive spin on the meeting and jamming of Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis, April 2-June 12, then "RESPECT" features the music of girl singers of the 1960s, Sept. 10-Oct. 30.  lambsplayers.org
The new season of San Diego Musical
 Theater offers a well tuned quartet. 
SAN DIEGO MUSICAL THEATRE:
  The new season  begins in 2022, with "Catch Me If You Can," opening Feb. 11. Billed as "a splashy high-flying spectacle based on the hit film." The musical comedy about a globe-trotting con artist is followed in May by "In The Heights," the innovative musical which introduced Lin-Manuel Miranda to the world. It is followed by "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee," then perennial favorite "Little Shop of Horrors."  SDMT's lively "A Christmas Story" closes the 2022 season. The popular grassroots enterprise made its name with romantic comedy and favorite musical theater offerings thanks to musical-loving founders Gary and Erin Lewis who launched the endeavor in 2006. It has a loyal following for its varied repertoire. sdmt.org 
NEW VILLAGE ARTS.  This delightful 99-seat theater in Carlsbad opens its 20th anniversary season with "1222 Oceanfront:  A Black Family Christmas," Nov. 19-Dec. 26. The musical promises "a joyous
New Village Arts promises a lively holiday show,
in Carlsbad, then will collaborate during a major
renovation with Oceanside's theater. 
mix of original holiday songs with traditional carols re-imagined." During renovation of its Carlsbad home, NVA is collaborating with Oceanside Theatre Company in temporary residence there. The ambitious Carlsbad venue produces year-round musical events, showcasing local bands and musicians, intimate cabaret and concert readings of Broadway musicals. The Oceanside collaboration includes "Desert Rock Garden," marking the 80th anniversary of the creation of the World War II Japanese-American internment camps and a friendship forged in the Topaz Relocation Center. newvillagearts.org
Diversionary Theatre has a new look, and a slate
of four intriguing works with LGBTQ themes.
  
DIVERSIONARY THEATRE. Two world premieres and a pair of west coast premieres  highlight the new, enhanced season at the nation's third oldest LGBTQ theater.  Creativity is the force of this small, mind-challenging venue which opened season 36 in a newly renovated space, including a cabaret. Diversionary's stories espouse love, honesty, humor, and hope.  "Homecoming" is the umbrella theme, with the next play, "Azul," a memoir love story set in Castro’s Cuba, spanning three generations. A mother's Alzheimer’s inspires daughter Zelia to explore her heritage. With her wife by her side, Zelia excavates family secrets and discovers a love that led her mother’s beloved auntie to remain in Cuba. Spanning two countries and three generations, Azul runs Nov. 18-Dec. 19. diversionary.org
MOXIE THEATRE: Watch this ground-breaking company which opened its season with "The Mineola Twins," and has kept alive and engaged by streaming shows. 
Its mission is to present diverse and honest looks at the female gender and the world. Moxie's delightful "Handbagged" -- about British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher ("Mags") and Queen Elizabeth II ("Liz,") -- was acclaimed  "B.C." (before Covid.) The new season opener won raves so we eagerly await a world premier, "Sapience," about communication, and "Mother of the Maid," about Joan of Arc's mother.  Imaginative Moxie works on tap. moxietheatre.com
A gifted trio of local actors is headed by
Rosina Reynolds, left, in "Iron."
ROUSTABOUTS THEATRE CO.: This talented, daring company features some of San Diego's finest actors and has produced a range of funny, touching and acerbic pieces. After streaming, Roustabouts makes a "live" comeback with "For Whom the Southern Belle Tolls,," by award winning playwright Christopher Durang.  Silly fun is on tap  for certain Nov. 13-Dec.4, with gifted actor Phil Johnson directing (company co-founder and brilliant in "A Jewish Joke") and a talented local cast. Roustabouts attracts the best talent around and the season continues with "Iron," set in a women's prison, slated for June, 2022. theroustabouts.org
Jason Lorhke has been
praised for his fine
Neil Diamond tribute show.

WELK RESORT THEATRE. The theater, at 8860 Lawrence Welk Drive in Escondido, has returned to live audiences with bands and variety shows scheduled into 2022. Its musical theater performances will resume in January with "Nunsense" opening Jan. 14 for a run through March 27. Acclaimed tribute artist Jason Lohrke performing his acclaimed Neil Diamond show “I Am Neil I Said” in March 2022. Eagles tribute band The Long Run will perform “The Long Run: Experience the Eagles” in June 2022. "Spamalot" and "Elf, the Musical" are also on tap in 2022.ect the resort's excellent tribute shows. welkresorts.com
SCRIPPS RANCH THEATRE. Creative use of space on the campus of Alliant International University provides a welcoming forum for an interesting, diverse season including "Heisenberg," opening mid-January. Set in London, the 2015 play features an unlikely romance between a bubbly New Jersey woman and 75-year old Irish butcher who's ready to call it a day. Its title was inspired by German physicist Werner Heisenberg’s 1927 uncertainty principle: that it’s impossible to precisely measure both the velocity and position of a particle in motion. An ambitious five-part season awaits. scrippsranchtheatre.org 
WITH THIS BOUNTY, pandemic purgatory ends and we're back on the boards with a bang-up, eagerly anticipated season.
We've been made aware even more how essential the lively arts are to our mental and physical well being.
 IT'S BEEN a difficult, long period for artists and performers. So please support your local theaters wherever you live. And remember that a pair of theater tickets is an excellent gift.
The magic of  Lewis and Clark Caverns is next up.

UP NEXT: Lewis and Clark didn't discover the magical Montana caverns named after them, but they were very near this geological wonder as they explored the route from Saint Louis to the Pacific. We take you there -- but please watch your heads -- as we go road tripping in Big Sky Country, Montana! Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us each week for a fresh spin on travel, family, the arts, nature and more. Please tell your friends and share the links:
www.whereiscookie.com


Thursday, October 21, 2021

Show time: Zoppe Italian Family Circus hits the mark in the Big Top

Acrobats and trapeze artists exhibit their prowess and daring in a jaw-dropping act.
Zoppe Italian Family Circus is on tour in California, then on to Arizona and beyond.

LIVELY, FUN FAMILY SHOW
HARKENS BACK TO THE DAYS
OF THE TOURING CIRCUS OF YORE



STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
Enjoying the circus pre-show, from left: Bruce Keller
 ("Uncle KK,") James Ganner, Christene Meyers
("Auntie Cookie") and Penelope Ganner. 

PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER

THE ZOPPE FAMILY'S touring circus is a delightful throw-back to the circuses of childhood. The elements of magic and surprise are time honored themes as a global assemblage of performers entertains and delights.  

One could call it a true "dog and pony show" for horses and pups are indeed 
part of the act, along with mimes, acrobats, trapeze artists, sword balancers and a charming clown -- plus more -- much more.
The remarkably old fashioned yet polished and contemporary Zoppe Circus dates back 179 years to a collaboration of French, Hungarian and Italian performers who launched the production.  Legend says a young couple -- both performers -- fell in love and launched the now famous touring troupe.
The talented ringmaster opens the show, with his faithful
sidekick, clown Nino, behind him and the full house.
 

The company takes in the applause of a standing
ovation, with baby Ilario Fabrizio Luigino Zoppe,
the ensemble's newest member, sixth generation.

THE PRODUCTION honors  centuries old circus traditions: thrills, chills, charm, humor, surprise and -- always -- magic.
We treated our great-niece and nephew, Penelope and James Ganner, to the Big Top in Redwood City during opening weekend of the Zoppe run.
Jugglers, musicians, jesters, horses and multiple generations of the cheerful troupe greeted us as we strolled toward the tent for the 6 p.m. Sunday show, the last of three performances that day. (The company takes only Monday and Tuesday off, and bunks behind the circus in a compound of trailers.)


THE CIRCUS theme changes yearly and the 2021 theme is "La Vita Nuova, the New Life." Ringmaster and mime Mace Perlman explained  that coming back from the pandemic has special meaning to the performers. "As we create a new life ahead, we are reminded to take things lightly,  to appreciate as much as we can." How true, we thought, as we sat with our beloved little ones, surrounded by other families and friends.

Contortion acts are part of the
show, with body-bending moves.

 



The Zoppé family is constantly importing new people -- and new life. Young performers learn the ropes early. Even the company's newest member was on stage. Ilario Fabrizio Luigino Zoppé --  born in April in Guanajuato, Mexico -- and has been part of the acts since his four-month birthday. Actor and ringmaster Mace Perlman, a classically trained mime, is a circus veteran, who studied and performed under Marcel Marceau in Paris, and later under Giorgio Strehler at his Piccolo Teatro in Milan.
Ringmaster Mace Perlman, a classically- trained
mime, studied with famed mime Marcel
 Marceau in Paris. He is also a fine actor. 

Giovanni Zoppé, who plays Nino the
Clown, is a 6th generation performer,
son of Alberto Zoppe, who performed
into his 80s and is much revered.

 

FORMER OLYMPIC  Diving Team  members from the Russian State Circus, are among the many pros in the company. Belarusian brothers Mikhail and Alexei Drozdov joined Russian born Illya Alikov  for a thrilling Russian bar act. It had me gripping my nephew's arm in fear of a fall. 

THEN MORE thrills with fifth-generation circus artist, Mexican born German Rodogell in a daring sword balancing act. More gripping of my nephew's arm as Wisconsin-born Disa Carneol took fearlessly to a swinging trapeze.  The talented aerialist has performed worldwide -- as have most of the seasoned troupe -- thrilling audiences from Shanghai to San Francisco and Sao Paulo.

Poodles are part of the fun,
and some are rescue dogs. 
Clown Nino was a huge audience hit, working the entire house with juggling, physical humor and clever commentary to the ringmaster's feigned impatience. Actor Giovanni Zoppe is a non-stop delight with an expressive face made for clowning!


Smiling and in complete control, a Zoppe rider thrills the
crowd with her expert talents and beautiful maneuvering
.

WE AND OUR
kids are animal lovers, and Penelope is a talented rider, so the dog and horse acts thrilled us all. Doggies jumped through hoops, danced and formed an endearing conga line then an expert rider managed two spirited horses with grace and control. She even rode atop a pair of horses -- one leg on each -- and rode backwards and upside down without incident.

This is a dog and pony show of exemplary quality and good, old-fashioned entertainment value. Tickets are reasonably priced and many kinds of refreshments are available, plus an opportunity to be photographed with the horses. 

WHAT WE LOVED most about the circus was seeing it with family, remembering the circus shows we older folks enjoyed as kids. Hats off and paws and hoofs up, all around!


IF YOU GO:  Zoppe is in Redwood City through Nov. 21.  Tickets may be purchased at the box office or on  redwoodcity.org/residents/redwood-city-events/zoppe-italian-family-circus
If you miss the Bay Area performance run, the Zoppe company is headed for Arizona with stops in Chandler, Dec. 9-19, and Tempe, Dec. 23-Jan. 3 of 2022. Check out zoppe.net/schedule-tickets/

"The Last Ship" at the Ahmanson Theater in Los Angeles was
the last show Cookie and Keller saw before "pandemic 
purgatory." After months without theater, it's back now
with a full season at many Los Angeles and San Diego venues
.
UP NEXT: After nearly 20 months without our usual full docket of live theater offerings, we are thrilled to have a series of  well received productions on line. It's wonderful to be part of the audience once again.  Southern California is "back on the boards" with a full slate of offerings now through the winter months and into next summer. It's a wondrous, thrilling time for theater junkies including the whereiscookie staff. We take a look at what's on stage from San Diego to Palm Springs, Carlsbad, Los Angeles and more, remembering to explore, learn and live.  And do catch us each week for a fresh spin on theater and the arts, travel, family, nature, health and more: www.whereiscookie.com

  









Thursday, October 14, 2021

Honoring Sacagawea's starring role in the Lewis and Clark expedition

The Sacajawea Inn in Three Forks, Montana, honors one of the most revered women in the history
of the United States. Whether spelled with a "j" or a "g," dozens of parks, museums, halls and mountains are named after the famous guide, interpreter and friend of Lewis and Clark.

The structures of Fort Clatsop were simple. Two large
buildings were surrounded by large walls. Most of
the men lived in one structure, while Lewis, Clark,
Sacagawea, her husband Toussaint Charbonneau,
and their son, Jean Baptiste, stayed in the other.

INDIAN WOMAN'S  TALENTS, SKILLS  SAVED THE FAMOUS JOURNEY FROM DISASTER


STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER

THE DARING AND bravery of the Lewis and Clark Expedition live on in the West, 216 years after the Corps of Discovery explored the rugged terrain between St. Louis and the Pacific Ocean. While these two smart and daring men deserve accolades -- along with President Jefferson who engineered the trip -- the true hero of the long and arduous journey was the multi-lingual Shoshone woman. For it was she who  helped chart the trail, making invaluable inroads with native people encountered along the way.

The lobby of the Sacajawea Hotel (spelled with a "j") in
Three Forks offers western hospitality in understated elegance.
SACAGAWEA -- a member of the Lemhi Shoshone tribe --was only 16 when drafted into service.  She proved herself an able guide, interpreter, peace maker and medicine woman, gathering important documents, tools, and medicines, while taking care of an infant son. During negotiations with the Shoshones for horses, she was reunited with her brother.
WERE IT NOT for her finesse, quick thinking and multiple talents in  wilderness survival, historians believe the expedition might have failed.  Surely, she kept it from disaster, advising Lewis and Clark on the route, introducing the explorers to native people, suggesting the best places to camp. Her knowledge helped the expedition navigate mountain passes in the vast Louisiana Territory. Her prowess as a guide and interpretor complimented her diplomacy in encountering people along the way.  Her contributions altered the course of history in this daring search for a route over the Rockies to the Pacific Ocean.
The Sacajawea Interpretive Center tells the story
of the Corps of Discovery and stresses the
important role that Sacajawea played.

TO RECOGNIZE her importance, dozens of parks, museums, mountains and even a posh Montana inn are named after the skillful and multi-talented woman.  In Montana, the historic Sacajawea Hotel (spelled with a "j" not a "g") offers history and old-fashioned charm accented by contemporary amenities, fine dining and luxurious accommodations.
Front desk clerk and amiable
concierge Alex Kyser keeps
everythig running smoothly
at the Sacajawea Hotel
.
We met guests from Vermont, Florida, Arizona and Italy during our two-day visit capping an  American Cruise Lines journey on the Lewis and Clark trail.  
WE SIPPED welcome champagne in the elegant lobby, which offers understated western ambiance. An attentive concierge, Alex, manned  the front desk, and gave us the menu to contemplate our dinner choices at the excellent restaurant.
For more than a century, the Three Forks, Montana, inn has welcomed travelers from around the globe. The hotel is a major downtown attraction. Tourists use it as a base to explore nearby Lewis and Clark Caverns and the "three forks" of the rivers.  Here the Jefferson, Gallatin and Madison rivers join to form the great Missouri.

The skills and diplomacy of Sacagawea
likely saved the expedition from disaster.
 Our 10-day Lewis and Clark odyssey ended at "the Sac," as it is affectionately known. The imposing hotel attracts history aficionados, outdoorsmen and travelers accustomed to comfort and pampering, including morning coffee and homemade banana bread.
A young "Pomp"
carried by his
now famous mother
.
HOW TO PRONOUNCE and spell that famous name? Is it Sacajawea or Sacagawea? The latter is the most widely used spelling, pronounced with a hard "g" sound. Most of us grew up spelling and pronouncing it with a soft "g" or "j" sound. Both spellings and pronunciations are recognized. Lewis and Clark's  journals mention Sacagawea by name seventeen times but spelled in eight different ways.
 SACAJAWEA HISTORICAL State Park and the Pasco, Washington, ("j" spelling here) offers a wonderful interpretive center  honoring the woman whose quiet, peaceful ways helped establish the explorers as friends, not foes coming to conquer.
  Her presence as a woman helped dispel notions to the Native tribes that the company intended to capture or harm, and confirmed the peacefulness of their mission. Her young son, Jean-Baptiste Charbonneau, became America's youngest explorer. "Pomp" was cared for and educated by Clark after his mother's untimely death following the birth of her daughter.  She was only 25. 
MORE INFO: www.sacajaweahotel.com; www.americancruiselines.com; www.sacajaweacenter.org 
 
Trapeze artistry is at its finest in the Santos Family, a high-
flying quartet of gifted women who thrill the audience.
UP NEXT: 
Welcome to the Big Top as we visit the Zoppe Italian Family Circus, on tour in the United States and in residence now at Redwood City, California.  Clowns, contortionists, acrobats, dancing dogs and more await sell-out audiences in a spectacular, old-fashioned circus show.   Meanwhile, remember to explore, learn and live and catch us each week for a fresh look at travel, the arts, cruising, families, nature, pets and life on the road. We appreciate sharing the links and telling friends and like-minded people about www.whereiscookie.com 



Thursday, October 7, 2021

Columbia, Snake river cruise yields small-town surprises, pleasures

American Cruise Lines' vessels come close to land for beautiful scenery and fascinating ports.

AMERICAN CRUISE LINES OFFERS BALCONY ROOMS WITH STELLAR VIEWS, CHANGING LANDSCAPE, GOURMET DINING, SAFETY AND SURPRISES

We could see and soon touch the locks from our balcony aboard American
Pride on the trail of explorers Lewis and Clark. Great educational fun
.

STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS

PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER

THE PLEASURES of river cruising are many.  First, you're close to shore. Because of your ship's size, you easily tie up at surprisingly beautiful -- even enchanting -- places.
Instead of waiting in line to get off the ship, you walk in minutes from your stateroom to your shore adventure. In a few quick strides, you're embarking on a leisurely independent stroll or a fascinating land excursion. Your transportation awaits, a smiling guide greets you and the day is yours to explore historic venues, museums, parks, to begin a new experience.
YOU MIGHT be docked in the center of historic towns and places, as we were on our recent Columbia and Snake rivers cruise on the Lewis and Clark trail.
We had to pull ourselves away from the changing landscape of our river sojourn. Yet we enjoyed the equally interesting land tours. We scarcely wanted to leave our balcony for the wonders we witnessed there. Coffee or cocktail in hand, we were "up close" to locks and lighthouses, dams and lavish private homes, farms and parks. Each  
Cookie played a xylophone, a
feature of several Oregon parks

turn of the river offered changing landscape, bird life, deer, cattle, even a fox. There they were --  right off our balcony stateroom, our home for a week aboard American Cruise Lines' American Pride. On land, we discovered surprises aplenty: lavish gardens, museums, water sportsmen, intriguing architecture, even a xylophone for music-minded me to play at an Oregon riverfront park. 

American Cruise Lines offers unique side trips to historic
 venues such as this 1913 streetcar in Astoria, Oregon. 



WE ENJOYED and appreciated the homegrown aspect that personifies ACL.  The fleet is American made and American staffed. Workers are trained to reflect that spirit of confidence and pride.  ACL's are the largest riverboat  staterooms  afloat.  While many lines are just recovering from the purgatory of the pandemic, ACL with its variety of domestic cruising options has been back in business for months, specializing in sophisticated cruising and intriguing activities to enjoy on land.
The variety of locks adds interest and
photo opportunities on ACL river trips.
This "guillotine lock" is on the Snake
.
     Our options included a chance to hop aboard Astoria's Riverfront Trolley, a delightful 1913 heritage streetcar using former freight railroad tracks near the south bank of the Columbia River.
Transiting the dams and locks is fun on a small ship, too. We joined fellow travelers to touch the moist side walls as we passed through. We transited through several kinds of locks including the aptly named "Guillotine," which -- like the French execution implement -- lifts up, then comes down.  We could feel the drips of the water! Fascinating way to climb and descend as we travel, explore and learn.
EACH AMERICAN Cruise Line itinerary tailors its stops and lectures to life on the specific river.  In the South, there are trips to plantations and the food reflects the locale -- barbecue in Memphis, gumbo in New Orleans. New England voyages may feature fall foliage.  Mississippi River cruises feature Cajun cuisine, Civil war battles, wildlife, jazz, etc. So there is a river cruise for every taste -- and one can be as busy or as laid back as one wishes.  Repeat cruisers like to sit on their balconies and admire the scenery, while others prefer to get some exercise -- walk into the various towns, or hop aboard conveniently located transportation for tours or museum visits.
Bruce Keller steps inside a tule mat lodge,
a replica of ones used by native people. 
We witnessed the same raw beauty the explorers saw on our 350-mile transit. But instead of building forts in the rain and sleet, we toured a lovely museum and stepped inside the "tule mat" lodges, clever, tightly woven structures which protected the native people from cold in the winter and kept them cool in summer.
Small boats can anchor near land, and welcoming
committees often greet, as in The Dalles, Oregon.
















NEW FRIENDS were excited to be heading to a recently introduced ACL itinerary, "Music Cities," a few days after our Pacific Northwest adventure. They, too, are music lovers, eager to learn more about the variety of musical genres explored on the "bluegrass to jazz" itinerary.
View from the gorge: Bruce Keller and Christene
Cookie Meyers enjoy Maryhill Museum of Art
If you're a Mark Twain buff, you can satisfy your yearning for the history, art, folklore and literature spawned on the Mississippi -- enjoying a one-man show by an actor impersonating Samuel Clemens.  The boat stops north of St. Lewis in in Hannibal, Mark Twain's boyhood home so cruisers can tour a fascinating museum in his honor.
Keller, Cookie and driver-guide  Mike became
friends during the couple's week on the rivers.
 

As art and history buffs, we never miss an museum jaunt. The Maryhill Museum of Art, a beautifully designed, small museum with an eclectic collection, offers a stunning room of Rodin sculptures plus artifacts from Queen Marie of Romania, Orthodox icons and unique chess sets
Who'd expect to find these treasure in rural Klickitat County, Washington? But there they are.  We enjoyed the museum's"thrones" on a bluff atop the east end of the Columbia River Gorge.
   MEETING CHEERFUL drivers, who double as knowledgeable guides, is another benefit of traveling with ACL.  These history-minded native sons and daughters know the territory and share their knowledge and stories because they follow the ship. We had the same lovely guide, Mike, all week, and developed a friendship with him -- enjoying his anecdotes as we retraced parts of the famous Lewis and Clark Expedition 216 years later. We enjoyed superb accommodations and comforts of modern day cruising, while learning of the hardships faced by the daring explorers who shaped western expansion so long ago.

 americancruiselines.com or 1 800 981-9149

A painting at Sacajawea State Park
Interpretive Center in Pasco, Wash
.



UP NEXT:  So remarkable a contribution did Sacajawea make to the 1805 Lewis and Clark expedition that she is remembered and revered today throughout the West.  We hopped on and off American Pride to visit several sights paying homage to the brilliant guide, interpreter, lay doctor and linguist, with a side-trip to a luxury inn named after her, the Sacajawea Hotel in Three Forks, Montana. The influence of Sacajawea is felt today, nearly 220 years after the journey, in museums, parks, and the hotel we visited is one of many places to honor Sacajawea throughout the west. We pay homage to her and enjoy the hotel, reminding readers to explore, learn and live, and catch us weekly for a fresh look at travel, nature, the arts, family and more: www.whereiscookie.com