The (Recent) Travels of a Journalist-ABOUT BOWERS, BOATS AND BUDDIES:YACHTNG ON UPPER MISSISSIPPI -(PART 1)
Posted on August 25th, 2010

By Shelton A. Gunaratne ©2010

 Shooting the breeze during a leisurely boat ride on the upper Mississippi, more than 40 years after we left graduate school on the Minneapolis campus of University of Minnesota, turned out to be an exhilarating experience for three of us old buddies””‚Jim Bowers, Kurt Kent and me””‚mid-August 2010.

Minnesota Buddies

The three of us have known each other since fall 1968, when I enrolled in the graduate program of the school of journalism and mass communication (SJMC). My diary attests that on 31 March 1969, the newly formed SJMC Graduate Students Club elected Kent as its president and Dennis Davis as vice president. Because both were good in statistics, the school employed them as part-time research fellows in the communication research division.

Both Bowers and I were members of the self-same club. Bowers was then married to Kate, a university hospital employee, who supported his quest for a master’s degree. Democrat Hubert H. Humphrey, who ran against Republican Richard M. Nixon in the 1968 U.S. presidential race, had allowed Bowers access to the letters Humphrey received during the presidential campaign. Bowers’ master’s thesis was an analysis of these letters. Kent and Davis helped Bowers to do the statistical analyses.

As mentioned in an earlier story (see The Travels of a Journalist””‚19), Davis, Kent, Bowers and I drove all the way from Minneapolis to Berkeley (22-24 Aug. 1969) to attend the annual convention of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC).  On a Friday afternoon, we drove Davis’s car to Wayzata to pick up Bowers, who had bought a lot of food to eat on the way. Then, we drove day and night (via Sioux Falls, S.D.; Sioux City, Iowa; Omaha, Neb.; Cheyenne, Wyo.; Salt Lake City, Utah; and Reno, Nev.) until we reached Berkeley Sunday early afternoon.

This 2,116-mile trip enabled us to know one another better. The bonds we developed during this long journey remained intact to this day!

The school gave me a teaching assistantship for the winter term and a research assistantship for the spring term (1968-69 school year). These assistantships enabled me to pay tuition at the lower in-state rate and to pay for my living expenses. Kent, Davis and I came into contact almost every workday because our offices were next to each other’s in the Murphy Hall basement. I got to know Bowers quite well during his visits to see Kent and Davis. Bowers, who was curious about my foreign origins, became an intimate friend of mine from 1970 onwards.

Davis, then a bachelor like me, frequently visited my one-room apartment in Dinkytown, adjoining the campus, to cook our meals together and to socialize. Davis, who owned a car, often helped the foreign graduate students like Lea Vuori (Finland), Irene Meyer (Brazil) and me to go shopping. He also took me to his parents’ home in Sauk Rapids (pop. 11,900), Minn., a couple of times. Davis, who taught at several universities, eventually settled down in Pennsylvania. He met his wife Nancy through a contact of mine, Tammy Hall, who attended the 1970 summer seminar of the Institute of World Affairs with me.

2010 Summer Cruise

This summer, Kent and his wife Beth, who had settled down in Florida since the mid-1970s, stayed over in New Brighton (pop. 22,206), Minn., to attend on Kent’s 83-year-old ailing mother. The Kents expressed a desire to visit with me in Moorhead (pop. 32,177), Minn., on their way to see a brother of Beth’s in Bemidji (pop. 13,419), Minn. Meanwhile, Bowers had invited Yoke-Sim and me for the almost annual ritual of a boat trip on his Tiara express cruiser. This turn of events permitted me to arrange a rendezvous of old Minnesota buddies at Bowers’ farmhouse on 138th Street East in Rosemount (pop. 20,000), Minn., on the way to Red Wing (pop. 16,200), Minn., to board the cruiser this particular Sunday morning.

Had the Davises joined us for the summer boat trip, it would have been a consummate rendezvous of our group of Murphy Hall know-alls. Instead, two others joined our cruise””‚my son Junius and his girlfriend Lindsay Bennett, both of whom live and work in New York City.

After Bowers divorced Kate during my 10-year sojourn in Australia (1976-1985), he married Kathleen, who initially backed his yachting activities enthusiastically. Later, she distanced herself from yachting, and engrossed herself in weaving.  Therefore, Yoke-Sim volunteered to prepare the picnic lunches for everyone to eat during the cruise.

We left the farmhouse in two vehicles about 11 a.m. to drive south and east to Red Wing, 35 miles away on the Mississippi River. After reaching Bill’s Bay Marina, close to the Eisenhower Bridge, which is part of U.S. 63 that connects Minnesota and Wisconsin, we got on board Bowers’ luxury yacht with great expectations of a fine sunny day.

Bowers’ Tiara express cruiser was indeed a luxury yacht because of its size (43 ft. x 16 ft.), its twin diesel engines and generator; its cabin containing a berth (bedroom), settee, head (toilet), galley (kitchen) and open top; and its cockpit equipped with GPS, electronic location maps, etc. Moreover, it had a top speed of 10 knots per hour. The Bowerses have steered this boat to the Bahamas on three occasions to spend their holidays with the Blackmuns in Nassau. They have also steered the boat all the way down the Mississippi and through the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River.

After we settled down for the ride, Bowers unleashed the boat from its moorings with Kent’s help and headed southeast toward Pepin at an average speed of about six knots per hour. The splendid scenery of Wisconsin on the eastern flank and of Minnesota on the western flank fascinated us.

Bowers occupied the cockpit to steer the boat along its proper course while we sat next to the cockpit to exchange nostalgic yarns of yore and to gawk at the flora and fauna and the near-naked Homo sapiens lying on the riverbanks or riding other boats.

We entered Lake Pepin after we passed Bay City (pop. 465) on the Wisconsin side and Wacouta Bay on the Minnesota side as we approached the 2,270-acre Frontenac State Park, 10 miles from Red Wing. A 430-foot high and three-mile long steep limestone bluff is the centerpiece of this park.

We were excited to watch a few bald eagles and golden eagles flying around the bluff above and pouncing on their prey. Warblers were aplenty in the bottomland forest. We also spotted migrant birds such as ruddy turnstones and sanderlings.

Aspen, basswood, elm, maple and oak adorned the high terrain as we moved down the river. Cottonwood and willow stood out in the bottomland.

We ate our lunch as we passed through the landmarks from Eisenhower Bridge to Lake Pepin, the largest lake (encompassing 40 square miles) on the entire Mississippi. According to legend, this is the domain of Pepie, the lake monster who was last seen on 28 April 1878.

Wikipedia elaborates: The wide area of the lake stretches from Bay City, Wis., in the north, down past Pepin (pop. 878), Wis., and Reads Landing, Minn., in the south, with Pepin being just upstream from where the Chippewa River enters the Mississippi. The villages of Maiden Rock (pop. 121) and Stockholm (pop. 97) border on the Wisconsin side, and Frontenac State Park takes up a large part of the Minnesota side. The largest city on the waterfront is Lake City (pop. 4,950), Minn.

Some 16 to 20 nautical miles from Red Wing, Bowers turned the yacht back for the return journey. We saw no point in stopping at any of the places around Lake Pepin.

Back in Red Wing about 4 p.m., Bowers carefully docked the Tiara at its allotted spot in the marina.

On the suggestion of the Kents, we decided to do a walking tour of downtown Red Wing before re-gathering at the Rosemount farmhouse for dinner.

Red Wing, the county seat of Goodhue County in Minnesota, is home of Red Wing Shoes, the Riedell Ice and Roller Skates and Red Wing Stoneware. As we walked the streets, we saw giant Red Wing shoes placed strategically at the intersections. We also had a good look at the facilities of the city’s quaint old Italianate-style hotel, the St. James, built in 1874-75. The shoe company has owned the St. James since 1977, when it was declared a national historic building. Finally, we drove in the city to locate stores that sold collectible Red Wing pottery.

We returned to the farmhouse in Rosemount before nightfall. Yoke-Sim served the party a Sri Lanka-style dinner. The monks of the Minnesota Buddhist Vihara had sent us part of the Sunday dana offered by the [Cyril] Sonnadara family.

2009 Summer Cruise

Bowers had invited Yoke-Sim and me for a cruise on his yacht on the Mississippi the preceding year as well. On that occasion, he had moored the Tiara in Hastings (pop. 18,204), just 11 miles east of the Rosemount farm. Three monks from the Buddhist Vihara joined us on that memorable cruise to Prospect. On the return journey, the river patrol of Hastings cited Bowers for speeding the boat in a restricted zone.

Bowers remonstrated, “The barge behind me was driving faster than I, but you didn’t stop it!” Despite his denial that he exceeded the speed limit  (five knots per hour), the police issued him a speeding ticket.

“How much did the court fine you?” I asked Bowers at the re-union dinner.

“I refused to pay a fine because I broke no speed limit,” Bowers said. “The court agreed to dismiss the case if I paid $50 for court costs.”

Bowers said he had the suspicion that the Hastings police targeted him perhaps because they didn’t like the skin color of the people on the Tiara.

The Kents thanked us profusely and departed for New Brighton. Junius and Lindsay left to stay with the Bennetts in Chanhassen. We spent overnight at the farm with Bowers.

 

(To be continued)

(The author is professor of mass communications emeritus, Minnesota State University Moorhead.)

Picture 1:  Jim Bowers (left) and Shelton Gunaratne at the Excelsior Fair 2008
(Sketched by a street artist.)                                                                                    

  

Picture 2: A view of Lake Pepin, the largest lake on the entire Mississippi, from the Frontenac State Park.

Source: Natural Resources Conservation Service. Wikimedia Commons.

Figure 1: Section of the Upper Mississippi we explored in mid-August 2010. We drove from A=Bowers’ farmhouse in Rosemount to B=Bill’s Bay Marina in Red Wing, near the Eisenhower Bridge.  Bowers steered his Tiara express cruiser as far as D=Lake Pepin.  The river turns into a 40-square-mile natural lake along C=Frontenac State Park. Hastings, the venue of the 2009 Tiara excursion, lies to the northwest of Red Wing.

8 Responses to “The (Recent) Travels of a Journalist-ABOUT BOWERS, BOATS AND BUDDIES:YACHTNG ON UPPER MISSISSIPPI -(PART 1)”

  1. Raj Says:

    BORING

  2. gunarat Says:

    Raj:

    This is the second time you said so. You can easily skip what bores you.

    If you critique something, give reasons. Desist shooting from the hip.

    Others have asked me to continue the series.

    I took the trouble to read some of your work published in the Lankaweb. I reserve my comments.

  3. Sri Rohana Says:

    Shelton this is not the American Tourist Board website. Shelton “Naya danawa”

  4. gunarat Says:

    Sri Rohana:

    You may not be aware that about 500 Sri Lankans live in Minnesota. They read the Lankaweb as well. This article would be of substantial interest to them.

    Philip Fernando, an expatriate journalist domiciled in Greater Los Angleles, told me that my series on California deserved to be published as a book.

    I know of no American Tourist Board. I dont’ understand what your hieroglyphic “Naya danawa” means.

  5. Ext1411 Says:

    I found this to be a very good article and read this with interest – many thanks.

  6. Raj Says:

    I have never published any work on Lankaweb. I thought this is a political forum. Why don’t you publish your work. Who knows, it might be a best seller on Amazon. Good luck Shelton.

  7. gunarat Says:

    The only “Raj” I could find in the list o of Lankaweb contributors was # PREM RAJ.
    If you are not Prem Raj, take it easy.

    Since armchair criticism is so easy, weigh the implications of every word you use when critiquing another’s work/

  8. Raj Says:

    I am not Prem Raj. I am sorry Shelton if I hurt your feelings. However, I am surprised that you find time to write long serial essays, and sprinkled among them interesting and thought provoking (to me), Buddhist items. By the way, ‘naya danawa’ or ‘naya arinawa’ are university slang for ‘sing your own praises’.

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