Traveling is in the cards for Astoria bridge players

Lewis Richardson and Monica Taylor, of Astoria, are avid bridge players.

In their many trips together, Lewis Richardson and Monica Taylor have taken shelter from a tornado, explored the Grand Canyon, viewed wildlife in national parks and peered over artifacts of history.

But the main point was to sit around and play cards.

Richardson, 75, and Taylor, 73, formed a two-person team more than 10 years ago after rediscovering bridge, a card game that pits pairs of people against each other. This year, the retired Astoria residents accomplished their goal of traveling to every state in the country to play in tournaments.

Richardson’s and Taylor’s experiences with bridge run parallel. They learned the game in college in the 1960s and stopped playing for about 40 years. Following retirement and the deaths of their spouses, they found other locals who played and eventually agreed to form their own team.

Richardson moved to Astoria in 1968 and worked at the Oregon State University Seafood Lab for 20 years before retiring. He was an avid chess player. But when his wife died a little more than 10 years ago, he searched for more ways to interact.

“Bridge is more social than chess,” Richardson said. “I needed to get out of the house and do something.”

Taylor moved to Astoria from California in 1974. A longtime nurse, she retired after working at Columbia Memorial Hospital for 10 years. She recalls playing bridge with dormitory mates an hour each night while studying chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley. When she heard about others in the area who taught and played bridge, she jumped on the chance to end her 40-year hiatus from the game.

“It’s just a mental fascination with the game, one of the best games there is,” Taylor said.

Taylor and Richardson met each other after taking classes and attending local tournaments. After forming the team, they set a goal to play American Contract Bridge League tournaments in all 50 states and even some Canadian provinces.

“He hadn’t seen much of the country and neither had I, actually,” Taylor said.

They hit their final mark in October, and they possess a bundle of memories to show for it.

They visited the Nantucket Whaling Museum in Massachusetts, where they learned how young boys would be lowered naked into the skull of a sperm whale to fetch a bucket of oil from the animal’s sonar system. During a bus tour through Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska, they gazed as several bears and a pair of coyotes chased a lynx up a tree where a squawking magpie was perched.

Other experiences were more dangerous. The pair once landed in Oklahoma City soon after a tornado hit the city and as warnings were still in effect. Later, a manager at their hotel interrupted a tournament and asked players to take shelter. They reluctantly obliged, placed their cards on the table and scattered to safer locations.

Richardson and Taylor huddled together in a brick hallway as flash flooding, baseball-sized hail and uprooted trees slammed the hotel’s exterior. The large, fatal tornado that hit less than a mile away spared the hotel, though, minus the inch of water that flooded the hallway carpet.

The next day, they resumed the tournament.

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