Monday, September 5, 2005

Along the Ohio River

Before I continue with the routine posting of our travels, I want to udate you on the situation with our main web site, OurOdyssey.US, and the provider that hosts it,

It turns out that DirectNIC has been up, for the most part, throughout the disaster. Hosted sites were off-line briefly a couple days ago when the last upstream bandwidth provider finally succumbed to lack of diesel fuel, and all connectivity to DirectNIC was lost. That situation was remedied in short order and our site is back on line. In the course of reading about all this, I have been following the blog of DirectNIC's disaster operations specialist, here:

I have to say, it is fascinating reading, and paints, in some respects, a very different picture of things than the mainstream media. Just to be clear: these folks are still in downtown New Orleans, in a skyscraper, keeping a telecommunications facility running. They are running on generator power, and are having to deal with their own provisions and sanitation issues. Thus far, they have been able to get supplies and diesel fuel brought in.

In addition to the blog text, follow some of the links to the thousands of photos taken with both their handheld cameras and the streaming web cam that they have been moving around the building. Also, there are some links to other discussions, including postings from people in contact with survivors who are still awaiting rescue.

As for our own situation, we are parked at the Belterra Casino in Florence, Indiana (map). It is still the holiday weekend and we are still in assault mode. There are perhaps six or seven other rigs with us here in the parking lot.

This casino is somewhat of an oddity. It is a $200+M facility with some 600+ hotel rooms, a conference center, spa, golf course, pool, five restarants, etc. but it is, essentially, in the middle of nowhere. Apparently, it is not generating the revenue the owners had hoped (duh!), unable to compete with less elaborate but more convenient casinos closer to Cincinatti and other cities in the region. From the number of people here on a holiday weekend, I would have to concur with the assessment.

The casino itself is on a riverboat on the Ohio called the Miss Belterra. It is connected to the rest of the complex by a massive gangway that effectively masks the fact that one is boarding a vessel. The boat remains docked at all times now, but there was, apparently, a time when it needed to actually be cruising for gaming to be allowed.

In an interesting side story that does have some bearing on the property's financial troubles, the riverboat was involved in a maritime collision on the Mississippi while it was being delivered from the builders to the property, delaying the opening of the casino portion of the resort by several months. While the pilot of the barge she struck was found to be 90% at fault in the collision, maritime law limits the liability of any vessel to the value of the vessel itself and its cargo. The value of the barge/towboat and its load of concrete was far short of the damages done to the $15M Miss Belterra, and the casino partnership had to eat the difference.

Speaking of eating, we went in to the hotel for dinner, as is our custom when parking for free on their property. Not one single restaurant on the property makes any accommodation for non-smokers. Within two minutes of being seated, we were overwhelmed by the cigarette smoke, and had to leave. We ended up cooking our dinner in the parking lot. At least we tried to be good customers... we will likely send an email to the management explaining why they lost our business, although I don't expect it will make much difference here, just a stone's throw from tobacco-growing country.

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