Friday, June 1, 2012

River Crossings

A construction-caused lane narrowing prevented me from peering quickly at the Maumee River as I drove across it in the family van yesterday. Major letdown. I'd have to hold out for a tributary crossing in Findlay and then for a few looks at the Miami River before our grand crossing of the Ohio.

For as long as I can remember I've always delighted in crossing or paralleling rivers during travels. In fact, I think the rivers we'd see during family trips from Florida to Minnesota were the events that best helped me bear the long car rides as a boy. Every time we'd start across a bridge, I'd begin a quick study of the river's character, consider what sport fish might call its waters home and then scan the water and the banks for fishermen with hopes of doing a bit of vicarious angling.

Often, I'd borrow my dad's atlas for a moment (or an hour) of what fellow home-school parents world dub "delight directed learning." Looking back, I have little doubt that I learned more about rivers during car rides than I did in all my geography classes combined. I'd trace the rivers upstream to figure out sources and then go downstream to see where they eventually flowed. Little by little, I was also piecing together differences in the appearances of rivers according to topography, regions of the country and settings.

Of course we commonly traveled the same routes (both within Florida and across the country), so time allowed me to get to know some rivers well, and I was able to observe things like how different the Mighty Mississippi would look from one trip to another based on the level of the water. Occasionally, on a Boy Scout trip or some other outing, I'd get to camp beside or canoe down one of the rivers I'd previously seen only as a snapshot and would be able to get to know that river much better.

Four decades later I enjoy crossing rivers as much as I did as a young boy. Often, I'm the driver, so I have to settle for much faster looks; however, I still like figuring out stuff about where a river came from, where it is going and what its waters hold. In fact, just this morning, I looked at the Maumee and Miami rivers on Google Maps and read a little more about the Maumee.

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