After nearly 14 hours aboard the American Queen, I awoke at 7:30 this morning in the distant land of ... Red Wing, Minnesota. You could call it the slow boat to St. Louis. The Riverlorian told me that we The smokestacks on the American Queen top out 100 feet above the water and can be lowered to pass under bridges. (Marjie Lambert/Miami Herald/MCT)average 8 to 10 miles an hour. To which I say, maybe speed is overrated.

The leisurely pace is just right. In Lake Pepin, sailboats slid across our path. A speedboat zoomed in and then kept pace for a close-up look of the 6-story, iron-clad American Queen. I had my own sightings: pelicans skid across the sky, an eagle soared overhead. Then came the bluffs of Winona, looking like loaves of bread from the boat.

The sun came out, and passengers lined up in rocking chairs at the so-called Front Porch of America and on chairs outside their staterooms to soak up the sun as the trees and hills inched past.

Another perk of the slow pace: Because the boat’s first stop was a mere 1 hour’s drive from my home, my husband and daughter came to spend the morning with me in Red Wing before the American Queen departed at 1:00. I’d packed hastily on the day of departure (which I don’t recommend). They were able to bring me a few items I missed, which was a small thing compared to enjoying their happy, entertaining company.

Next stop: La Crosse.