Saturday, September 04, 1999

River swimmer will stop short of holiday reveling

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Next time she plans to swim 100 miles down the Ohio, she won't do it during Cincinnati's biggest river party of the year.

        “Riverfest is great for PR, but horrible for safety,” said David Deerwester, the husband and coach of Valerie Deerwester, who swam Friday among heavy traffic of barges and speedboats.

        As the number of obstacles on the river grew, the two decided to cut their trip one day and 30 miles short. She will swim under the Interstate 471 bridge — her finish line — at around dinnertime today to miss Riverfest's traffic jams on Sunday.

        By 3 p.m. Friday, after six hours of swimming, Mrs. Deerwester got out of the water near Ripley and traveled 30 miles upriver to Neville in the couple's borrowed boat.

        “The biggest reason for doing it was to shave off a day from the journey,” she said. “But the tons of boats were a problem and about 12 barges passed us today. All I could do was bounce up and down in the water. I couldn't go forward.”

        The barges cast powerful waves as long as a mile, she said, throwing her off course. And she could not swim anywhere near the Meldahl Dam in Clermont County. She hadn't calculated the dam in her preparations.

        From Neville, she swam a couple extra miles to dock at Jolly Roger's Marina in New Richmond, about 37 miles from Cincinnati, doing a total of 20 miles for the day.

        Mrs. Deerwester is taking the long distance plunge to raise money for St. Aloysius Orphanage in Bond Hill, where she stayed until she was 5 and moved in with a Deer Park family. In return for their kindness when she was young, she wants to take as many kids as she can to Disney World.

        Far away from her Milford bank and with a cell phone that does not work along many sections of the river, Mrs. Deerwester doesn't know if she has raised any more than the $300 pledged before she left.

        “All I'm interested in is finishing this swim, lasting the whole way. I'll worry about the money when I land.”


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