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Contributor: Travel editor Kerri Westenberg.
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I was fretting about a lack of hangers in my stateroom when the paddlewheeler, the American Queen, blasted her horn and got underway from the Port of St. Paul. I dashed out of my room, and the worry about how to hang my dresses (which I’d packed for dinners in the fancy J.M. White Dining Room) subsided.
At the River Grill, with its open-air patio, the mood was festive. A musician played a tiny piano-like instrument and from a deck above, steam burst from pipes, producing a joyous, carnival-like sound: It was 20-minutes calliope concert. Passengers were grinning, sipping beer, watching the paddlewheel turn and plop into the water, propelling us down America’s greatest river, on a 7 day voyage to St. Louis.
In St. Paul, curious people snapped photographs and waved from onshore, the city skyline behind them. In fact, all along the slow route south, I’ve witnessed people stop their cars at the side of the road to watch, kids on an athletic field wave wildly, and cameras flash from the shoreline as this beauty of a boat, with its intricate railings and big red paddlewheel, goes by.
I feel lucky to be aboard, excited to explore the many public spaces -- like the “ladies parlour” and the “gentlemen’s card room.” But that can happen tomorrow. For now, I’m content to watch the sun set behind the trees on the bank of the Mississippi.
As for my dresses, I’ll hang them when the last bit of light leaves the sky. Because housekeeping, after all, delivered the hangers I needed.
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