New Jersey to Phoenix and Back
A travelogue by Mark Leeper
Copyright 2004 Mark R. Leeper
06/17/04 New Jersey to Somerset, Pennsylvania
Well, we are on another of our road trips. My travel logs these days no longer chronicle a lot of international travel. They used to cover travel to exotic places like Turkey and Africa. We just have not taken that sort of international trip since the world situation got a lot worse. International travel is riskier and much more of a hassle than it used to be. In the last three years our major trips have been mostly by car and have been around the United States. I think my logs of those trips are getting repetitive and perhaps I am getting a little lazier. In any case it does not seem a worthwhile exercise to chronicle things like what did I have for breakfast. I will just lit the major sites we visit.
The National Civil War Museum in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania is a very new museum. I think it opened in 2000. My impression is that it has way too much to see in detail on one visit and way too little to do an even decent job of covering the subject. The American Civil War was just about exactly four years. I think General Anderson returned to Fort Sumter and re-raised the American flag on the fourth anniversary of the capture. He had been at the fort when it was fired upon as the first real fighting of the civil war. Four years later the fighting had ended within the previous week and he returned. But the news of the event was drowned in the news of the Lincoln assassination. These four years did more to define the American people than any decade of American history. Second runner-up would have been the 1940s.
The Civil War is considered to be the first really modern war. And by that I think they mean that weapons had really been changed by technology and were a lot more effective. That really changed warfare. Just running in to overwhelm your enemy might have previously worked but now it was making the soldiers targets for effective new weapons. What had been "the valiant and glorious charge" as recently as the Napoleanic wars was now the bone-headed suicide charge. We learned that at Fredricksberg and Gettysburg and many other battles. The French and Germans who pride themselves on being more sophisticated than Americans failed to learn that lesson until well into World War I. They did not learn from our mistakes. The Civil War was the first in which armies could be really formidable from a safe distance.
Maybe I have been spoiled going to Civil War battle sites. They take their battle and show a good deal of detail about it. Here they have one room for Gettysburg. They have about a quarter of that on Fort Sumter. Most every other battle there is little on. I guess a museum is not a very effective medium for conveying information about something as complex as the Civil War. Obviously a lengthy history of the Civil war is most desirable. Short of reading a book (gasp) I think the best source of information would be the Ken Burns documentary. His film is one of the greatest documentary films ever made.
Most of the museum is paragraphs to read and pictures to see. For that you might as well have a book. There are artifacts to see, guns, bullets, canteens, uniforms, etc., but only a moderate collection.
What is of some interest is TV monitors that follow ten or so people through the war. They tell you what is going on in their minds. I am not sure if this is taken from real journals. This seems to be a trend in history museums. To make you better identify with the events they give you one or a few people's personal histories. You trace these people as the story of the war proceeds.
The museum tries to be even-handed up to but not including the issue of human slavery. It (rightfully) holds that as a big strike against the South and there is no equivalent issue in which the North is so monstrously wrong. Aside from that issue they try to be even-handed. Perhaps as a counter-balance, if you can ignore that issue the South seemed to have more panache. Northerners seem less colorful, more like machine parts, but more in the right. The North really had few flamboyant heroes to match JEB Stuart, Stonewall Jackson, John Mosby, etc.
In one exhibit you see a camp and hear what people are saying. They are gambling with a simple dice game. You bet on a number, one to six, and then roll three dice. You get the amount of your bet back for each time the number comes up. If you bet on five and one five comes up you break even. If two come up you double your money. If all three come up you triple your money. I did the math and the house take is one dollar on every two dollars bet. That's pretty bad.
Lunch had been at a Country Oven. That was pretty good. Dinner was at an Eat 'n Park. That was not very good.
After dinner we saw a film from Japan called VERSUS. It was young gangster fighting zombies. It was very violent and rather stupid. The plot gave no sign of developing. We gave up at about the halfway point.
06/18/04 Somerset, Pennsylvania to Dayton, Ohio
Continental breakfast at the Best Western was pretty bad with almost no selection. I had cereal and a doughnut.
Lunch had been at a Mexican Restaurant, El Toro. They had Mexican staff, played Mexican music over the sound system. We expected it would be really authentic Mexican food. It was just mediocre, however. I suppose there are American restaurants that are authentically American enough, but not great food. This was the equivalent.
Back when I was a kid living in Dayton, that was about 1955 to 1959, there were a few small rooms at Wright Patterson Air Force Base that had displays on the history of flying and with a little about space travel. Heady stuff for me as a little kid. Fed on an unchecked supply of tax money the place has just growed and growed. I suspect that it is now the biggest military museum in the world.
The museum is a useful
repository for obsolete aircraft used in the air force, at least for
one of each kind. Unlike the civil war museum this one does not seem
like it is too small to cover the subject. We started the museum seeing
what is essentially a very large hangar That traces the history of the
air corps from the invention of the airplane to WWII, with a lot of
illustrations that were real planes parked in the hangar and more
hanging from the ceiling. I had not heard the diplomatic story behind
the Lafayette Escadrille. These were American fliers who went to France
in WWI to fight against the Germans. They fought in a group called the
American Escadrille. Germany did not like the fact that though they
were not at war with America; there were Americans attacking them so
the American Escadrille had to be renamed. Lafayette Escadrille was, of
course, a purely French name, but it obviously said they were Americans
repaying the debt to Lafayette.
That was enough for a one-day visit.
You get to a place like this and at first you read all the little paragraphs. Then most. Then some. Eventually you just look at all the pictures and read the paragraph if the picture intrigues you.
We got a room at the Red Roof Inn about nine miles from the air force base. In the room we watched about an hour of a DVD we had gotten for a dollar and it turned out to be over priced. It was a dull Italian western called BOOT HILL.
Dinner was at a chain called Skyline Chili. There are two strains of chili. There is the Tex-Mex variety we are used to all over the country and there is Cincinnati chili, available mostly only in Ohio, but popular here. Really what they serve is chili-ghetti, that is chili over spaghetti. It is spiced more mildly than the southern variety. They put a lot of cheese over it. They call that 3-way chili. Add beans and it is called 4-way chili. Add onions and it is called 5-way chili. These days you can add onions instead of beans and that is called 4-way also, but in the purist days that was not allowed. (Actually it may have been beans rather than onions added for 4-way. But they have gotten more flexible.) It is spices a little differently from the Texas variety. It is more mild. But there is hot sauce on the table for those who want it spicy. Oh yes, and it is served with oyster crackers that are supposed to be peppered over the chili.
That had taken us to 8PM but the sky was still very light since it is nearly the start of summer and we are in the western end of the time zone.
We went back to the room and watched WARNING FROM SPACE, a Japanese SF film from the 1950s. I expected it to be a terrible film of the Starman variety. While I cannot recommend it, it was considerably better than expectation. Benevolent aliens come to Earth to warn us that a runaway planet will hit Earth. The aliens are treated with suspicion until we get our act together. It really combines elements of THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL and WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE. I think it has been ignored since the aliens look really stupid, like six-foot five-pointed stars with big non-functioning eyes on their bellies. You can pretty much see the actor inside the suit. I won't say it is good, but to find even a mediocre new SF film from the 50s is rare.
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06/19/04 Dayton, Ohio
Breakfast at Bob Evans. Service was slow. We eventually had to ask the waitress to take our order.
We got to the Air Force Museum just a bit before it opened. We wanted to register for the Presidential Plane Tour. I asked Evelyn, "Where do we sign up." I had visions of having someone overhearing and telling me "Sorry, we like to get 'em a little bit younger."
The tour is really access to far hangers that have Presidential planes and R&D planes. The Presidential Planes are the Air Force Ones from FDR to Nixon. You can actually walk through them. In Kennedy's plane, called the 26000, they have the famous photo of Johnson being sworn in where in the plane it happened. (Well, inside the plane it was where it happened, outside the plane it was someplace totally different.) These planes are a little tight and even more so with plastic protecting them from touch. You walk between two clear plastic walls 17 inches apart. But one wonders if they had had aviation what a presidential plane would have been like for Taft.
The R&D display has planes including the Bell X-1B, a variation on the first supersonic plane. They had an X-9, X-10, and X-15. When I was growing up I had pictures of all these planes. The X-15 was our Spirit of St. Louis and our spacecraft. They have various experimental aircraft. Back when I was eight and nine years old I had pictures of all of these experimental aircraft. Like most kids I was all excited about the idea of space travel and I had a collection of postcard-sized photos of supersonic experimental planes. Here they were in the flesh, uh, metal.
Side fact: they claim here that the machine-guns for one of the WWII had an ammunition belt 27 feet long. If you got into trouble and had to shoot the whole belt, that was "the whole nine yards." That was the origin of that expression. I a not so sure since I thought there was controversy over where this expression came from.
The museum is huge and seemingly constantly growing. There are big galleries in the form of hangars for the early history, WWII, Korean, and Vietnam, the Cold War, and a new one for the present. It is interesting to see the new graceful and very untraditional shapes for stealth aircraft. The curved surfaces intended to prevent radar detection give the planes a surreal and artistic look. They told the story about a stealth bomber was parked and a bat flew into it and knocked itself out. Their sonar detects tiny insects but could not tell there was a many-ton aircraft in front of it. The new technology is laser-guided bombs. We actually got a bomb in the front door of Saddam's palace with one of these. The technology is easier to understand than I realized. If you have a laser pointer you can put a little red dot of light on an object a fair distance away. It is almost undetectable unless you are looking right at it. They just developed a missile that can see it and home in on it. Hold it in place and you can put a missile just exactly where you want it.
The thought that scares me is that just as they have made such strides in what I would call targeted warfare, the sort of enemy we face is not one that gives us targets to aim at. In a guerilla war there are no big targets to shoot at or they materialize unexpectedly just before they strike. In World War II we had Berlin and Tokyo as major targets. After Pearl Harbor we knew where we had to go to strike back and the problem was getting there. After 9/11 we could go pretty much wherever we had to but we really didn't have any good targets to attack the enemy directly. We had to hit back indirectly. It seemed to be the right thing to do because when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. But it was a very dubious sort of revenge. And it seems logical that if we get so good at targeted warfare, the enemy will arise that does not provide targets.
The Wright-Patterson Museum is a nostalgic look at a style of warfare for which technology was an answer.
After the museum I went back to see my old neighborhood where I lived from 1955 to 1959.
Dinner was at a Mexican restaurant.
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06/20/04 Dayton, Ohio to St. Louis, Missouri
There was a time when the maid service at a motel cleaning the bathroom would leave a ribbon of paper across the toilet to show it was clean. Fancy hotels would instead do some sort of origami with the toilet paper. These days what they do is leave the seat up. I think this is emblematic of our times. It is an improved way of doing things. It is faster and cheaper. It requires no special materials and it takes just an instant to do it. It just somehow lacks the charm.
Breakfast was again at Bob Evans. The service was better today.
Back in 1971 I spent ten weeks at Indiana University in a National Science Foundation undergraduate research program. I rarely was off campus and have little memory of the area. Evelyn wanted to could find the places I was on campus hoping I would get there and know my way around. I was skeptical and, in fact, I found nothing that looked familiar. Too much time has passed. The campus has changed. My memory must not be that good and the campus was just too big. I saw nothing that brought back memories.
Lunch was in Terra Haute at a Steak 'n Shake. I had heard these were good restaurants, but I had never had an opportunity to try one. It tries very hard to recreate the 1950s atmosphere. I got a hamburger and a shake. The shakes are terrific. They are real ice cream shakes and large. Good for $2.39. The burger some up a little short. They are made to order, but the patties are thin and greasy. They have table service, but it is essentially a fast-food restaurant. I am not sure if they expect a tip.
We drove to St. Louis.
Dinner was at McAlister's Gourmet Deli. They have a big poster up that claims their deli is the "Best of the U.S." I got a Corned beef sandwich on rye. It came as something of a surprise that the best of the U.S. delis serves corned beef on toasted rye. St. Louis is a long way from New York I guess. The rye bread they use looks like and is the shape of Wonder Bread. Only it is gray and has a consistency like a multi-grain bread. The sandwich tasted OK but was just not what a corned beef on rye tastes like.
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06/21/04 St. Louis, Missouri
Our motel proves the adage of real estate that the three most important aspects of a property are location, location, and location. Triple-A rates it at three diamonds with prices that are pretty good even for the local two-diamond motels. It is a well run Travel Lodge in St. Charles. It cannot be seen from the road and the road is a service road to a highway. They get people by advertising and a big Travel Lodge sign next to the service road.
Continental breakfast at the motel was decent for this part of the country. No hot protein items, but OK. I think that continental breakfasts at motels are more generous in the West. Eastern motels haven't really got into the spirit of it.
Our visit today is the St Louis Zoo. The entrance to the zoo is free but the parking is $8. This makes it cheap for large families, more expensive for couples. Still four dollars apiece is not bad for the zoo and it seems better than most zoos. At least it is well maintained. The zoo is free, but several of the attractions have a paid admission. However, the zoo opens at 8AM and each of the paid attractions is free until 9AM. We went to two: the Wild Ride and the Insectorium. The other two were the children's petting zoo and the carousel.
The Wild Ride is the sort of thing they have at Las Vegas. You see a movie that is from a subjective point of view and sit in a seat the bucks violently in unison with the film. In this they show a big cat running through a forest, a bird soaring, etc. I am not convinced this is what it takes to get inside the mind of such an animal, but it is a thrill ride, which is a little strange for a zoo.
The other freebee we went to was the Insectorium. This is an exhibit sponsored by Monsanto documenting the relationship between humans and insects. For now Monsanto is showing it as a sort of love-hate relationship. Back when Rachel Carson published SILENT SPRING Monsanto published a rebuttal saying how bad the world would be without insecticides. They are no longer so anti-insect. This exhibit talks about how insects (and spiders and other arthropods as well as the occasional slug) help us, how they harm us, and environmentally friendly ways. In the later category they suggest using cheap beer for slugs. If you put out a dish of beer in your garden the slugs will go for a drink, get drunk and drown in beer. They show some spiders like the Brazilian Salmon Pink Birdeater, which is one heck of a big tarantula.
They show insects and arthropods that are eaten. The Japanese eat cicadas in a kind of sushi. That seems timely since right now we are having a once-in-17-year swarm.
Probably what I found the most interesting is leafcutter ants. They need pieces of leaves to grow fungus on. The display had a box with a colony of ants, one with leaves, and a bent stick about three feet long between them. Well the ants were cutting off pieces of leaves and bringing them home. We watched as one ant carried over the hump a piece of leaf that was about an inch and a half long. She had problems with traffic and at times it was not clear what her strategy was. But she showed amazing determination. There are really two sizes of ants that we saw workers were doing the impressive looking moving tasks. They were about an eighth of an inch. Gardeners were about half the scale. It was not clear what they were doing, but they too were going over the hump to do something with the process.
I won't describe all the animals we saw. I did see a sign in which they were showing types of bear. They include a panda as a bear. I am almost certain a panda is a member of the raccoon family. A dog is more closely related to a bear than is a panda.
I always feel sorry for the gorillas especially. They are smart by nature and inevitably bored. They all try to sleep all day with their backs to the visitors. "When they brought me here I was in this room 10 minutes when I knew every square inch. I have lived here several years now and time goes miserably slowly. I sleep as much as I can to pass the time. When I was younger I used to be curious when people pounded on the glass and made noises. They wanted to get my attention. But when I looked that way they just made more noises or went away. I try to ignore them, but they do wake me up. Why do they keep trying to get my attention if they don't really want to do anything with me?" Lots of animals were sleeping to pass the time. The baby hippos swam for a while in they pool and then slept with their noses above water.
Lunch at their cafeteria was expensive for the two little sandwiches we got. We stayed until about five, then returned exhausted to the car. We hit a used bookstore on the way home.
Dinner was at Lewis and Clark's in the center of St. Charles. It was decent. I got pasta nothing I would recommend.
In the west there is something sacred about the Lewis and Clark Expedition. For one thing a high proportion of museums have either relics of Indian tribes or tell the story of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. (Two other popular favorites are displays of guns and rifles and displays of barbed wire.) We went to a computer museum on a previous trip and they worked in the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Yes, it is important in history, but I don't understand the fascination so that so many museums have exhibits.
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06/22/04 St. Louis, Missouri
After continental breakfast we headed out for the Gateway Arch. Symbolizing the "gateway to the west" this is a 630 foot high inverted catenary. We got to the area and I pointed to the huge arch and asked Evelyn "Is that it?" It took her half a beat to realize I was joking.
This is a memorial to the stepping off place for Western expansion Eero Saarinen the Finnish architect. There is what they call a tram taking people to the top. It is, of course, part tram, part elevator to go the peculiarly curved route to the top. At the top you get out of the tram and climb the last little bit by yourself. There is a room at the top with horizontal window giving a view of the Mississippi River on one side and of the town on the other.
One of the visitors was a boy about ten from Florida. He said his dream was to come and see the arch, though he was wheelchair-bound. His father had to carry him up the stairs from the end of the tram to the arch. He was excited but he complained he was not comfortable.
Under the arch is a museum of the history of Missouri including a long piece on (what else?) the Lewis and Clark Expedition.
On the way back to the car we discussed the possibility I suggested that the Mississippi and the Missouri rivers might possibly not converge nearby but might just cross. I don't think that is the case, but I like the idea. Maybe you could have an overpass.
In the center of St. Louis is the Soldiers' Memorial and Military Museum. At the center as you come in there is a big stone cenotaph. That is a big stone memorial. On either side are rooms of a small museum with artifacts and memorabilia of the Civil War, WWI, WWII, and Korea.
Among the items are German Pickelhauben helmets with spikes, gas masks, wooden gas alarms, Maxim guns, and WWI torpedoes. They have sheet music for the song "If I'm Not at the Roll Call Kiss Mother Goodbye for Me."
I was unaware that the Japanese in the Philippines issued their own currency. They had a 100 peso note and a one peso note in English. They also had a Ghurka knife.
One of the more interesting items was a poster showing nose art from bombers. The museum took about an hour. Afterward for lunch I had Vatapa, a seafood stew at a restaurant called Duffs. We each had Vatapa. There wasn't much in those bowls and with tax and tip the two bowls of what was really soup coast $24.50.
In the afternoon we went to the Saint Louis Art Museum. They had some good art by major artists. Picasso, Matisse, Degas. But nothing was really exciting but some illustrations by William Blake for the Biblical story of Job. You can't go too far wrong with William Blake.
Dinner was at Mr. Steak and was decent and a much better deal than lunch.
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06/23/04 St. Louis, Missouri to Independence, Missouri
After breakfast we checked out. Our first stop of the morning was Fulton, Missouri for the Churchill Memorial and Library. Now why do they have a museum to Churchill in the US? It was at Westminster College in Fulton that Churchill gave the speech in which he warned of the dangers of Communism and coined the term "iron curtain."
The small museum is in a church that was destroyed during the WWII in Britain. Christopher Wren had built it in the years following the great London fire. The pieces were numbered and transported to Missouri where it had been reconstructed and restored. The main floor and above are still used as a church and the basement houses this museum to Churchill and to the recreation of the church. There is not enough of any one topic to make this a good museum of anything, but it does briefly trace the biography of Churchill.
We also looked upstairs at the church. It is light and airy in the style of Wren. Curiously there is a Shakespeare statue in church. He is hardly a religious figure. But is suppose the church is also reverent for all things English.
From there we went to Jefferson City. The state capitol of Missouri is in Jefferson City. Like many state capitols it is a memorial to famous state citizens. It has artwork decorating much of the three floors. It is placed on a hill and then has two stories of steps on the outside. I was somewhat breathless after climbing the hill and the marble stairs only to find us on the third floor. There were public entrances on the first floor. After looking at a few of the bronze busts of locals like Thomas Hart Benton and Walt Disney we went down to the first floor. There are two exhibits to be seen on either side of the rotunda. On one side they have Missouri history and on the other is a display of the history of Missouri commerce. They call that "natural history," but take it from me it is about commerce.
The third floor has some pieces of art around but gem is a room muraled on three sides by Thomas Hart Benton. In it are scenes of Missouri history. There it a scene from HUCKLEBERRY FINN, the James Brothers stage a robbery, politicians harangue a crowd, businessmen listen to a speech while over their shoulder you see a dancing girl on a stage. Benton has a style that is almost cartoonish but is quite enjoyable.
We finished with the second floor with semi-circle pictures from Missouri history including two from Andrew Wyeth.
Lunch was at a place called Madison's Place on Madison Street. We got two delicious dishes in portions that were too damn big. Best meal so far this trip. The price of each dish was under $11. Not bad considering. Of course the state tax is high, 8.5%.
Confederate Memorial Park at Higginsville is a park devoted to those slain in the cause of the confederacy. In there memory there is a nice place where some guy can wax his pickup truck and listen to loud rap music about what sounded like Jews and Coca-Cola. I suspect the music would confuse those honored dead.
It was about a 20 minute drive to the site of the battle of Lexington.
The state of Missouri was heavily and violently divided having large populations who favored each of the two sides, like Kansas. Once the war started in April 1861 neighbor was fighting against neighbor. Possession of Missouri was desperately important to each side since it was an important area to control the Mississippi River. The Union needed to control Missouri, but it was hard to get control.
On August 10 the Union forces lost at Wilson's Creek near Springfield. They had retreated but left a fortified outpost at Lexington. The Missouri State Guard, part of the Confederacy under Major General Sterling Price marched with 12,000 men on Lexington to roust out the remaining 3500 federal troops.
Col. James Mulligan, commanding the federals at Lexington, sent urgently for reinforcements, but none ever came. More and more volunteers joined Price's troops, but they could not attack until an ammunition train arrived as it did on Wednesday, September 18. Against heavy fire Price surrounded the Union forces that pulled back to a Masonic College which they could surround and defend with earthworks they had dug. Their source of water was now in Confederate hands. Price realized that victory was only a matter of time.
The State guard tightened the noose each day. The night of September 19 they started using bales of hemp wetted down as a protective wall that could be moved forward. On the morning of the third day Mulligan surrendered the position. It was one of the Confederacy's greatest victories of the first year of the war.
We continued to Independence where we got a room at a Best Western. It is not well maintained and could use a good sweeping. A lot of little things are wrong and never fixed.
We were neither of us hungry after the big serving at lunch so we spent the evening in the room. We watched the film, THE BIG LIFT. Montgomery Clift and Paul Douglas star in the story of two pilots in the Berlin Airlift.
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06/24/04 Independence, Missouri
Breakfast at the motel was OK. A little more selection, but not much.
Previously we have been to the Andrew Jackson, James Polk, Herbert Hoover, and Lyndon Johnson Presidential Museums. In Independence we went to see Harry Truman's.
As we enter and pay admission they tell us they will be showing a "Truman Era" film. The title of the film is ON THE BEACH. Isn't that a 1959 film? Well, that's sort of Truman Era. He was out of office seven years by then, but it dealt with issues that Truman would have had to consider.
The visit started with two documentaries. One was a biography from birth to becoming President; the other was an hour long (minus a few minutes) and covered his entire life. David McCullough narrated this one. This was produced for the library, but I think it might have run on AMERICAN EXPERIENCE on PBS. There was a fair amount of overlap. After that we took a tour and it was about an hour long. The museum is in three sections. Upstairs they cover the Truman presidential years. Down stairs they have two sections. One covers the rest of Truman's life. The other covers the Korean War.
(I will try to keep this brief...)
Truman's early years were a series of failures. He had grown up a dirt farmer. He had invested in oil wells that came up empty. Things started to look up when he went to WWI in Europe. His eyesight was bad but he memorized the eye chart to pass the test.
He became a captain. But his men were betting that he would not last two weeks on the battlefield. In fact he lasted three month which was outlasting the war. This experience built Truman's confidence. He became a haberdasher and was in the process of failing at this also when he was convinced to go into politics, albeit in the organization of Tom Pendergast, a corrupt political boss. He himself was not corrupt and he built a reputation for getting civil projects done. Pendergast sponsored Truman for the Senate and he won.
However in the Senate he was the subject of ridicule and was referred to as "the Senator from Pendergast." Things got worse when Pendergast was convicted of tax evasion and was sent to prison.
In spite of losing Pendergast support he was reelected to the Senate. He claimed that in all the time he worked with Pendergast he never let the political boss influence his judgement and Pendergast ended up losing a great deal of money from some of his decisions. (It makes one wonder why Pendergast supported Truman.)
In the Senate Truman continued his role as crusader against shoddy materials. FDR on his final term was diffident about all the possibilities for running mate. When he compiled a list Truman's name happened to be at the top, but it was not that he had any special regard for Truman. The party seemed to know better. FDR was in failing health and whoever won would probably end up President. Nobody seemed to thing that Truman was a really exciting candidate.
April 12, 1945 Roosevelt died and Truman found himself leading the country. The war in Europe was reaching its climax. The war in the Pacific would still be a problem. Among the first things that Truman had to handle was the knowledge of the US having this new-fangled weapon, the atom bomb. He went from not knowing anything like it existed to being the only human in the world with the power to use it.
At Potsdam Truman met and initially liked Stalin. However, Stalin used agreements only to manipulate others' behavior. He never felt obliged to honor his agreements. Truman was surprised that Stalin was blase being told about the existence of a super-weapon to use against the Japanese. It is now assumed that Stalin knew about it already. Stalin knew that Truman would be getting the power when Truman never knew it existed.
The end of war brought inflation and housing shortages, and labor strikes. And Truman was blamed for all. Most particularly there was Communist expansion. Truman backed the Marshall Plan. It also brought the television and better refrigerators, the coming of suburbia. The country was changing.
The cold war was beginning and the Soviets blockaded Berlin, the only part of East Germany they did not control. Truman countered flying food and fuel into Berlin in the Berlin Airlift. (P.S. Appropriate that we just saw THE BIG LIFT.) These were the days of the Truman Doctrine to support free people threatened by outside powers and the days of the formation of NATO. To feed the starving of Europe Truman supported the Marshall Plan to export US food surpluses to Europe.
In 1948 Truman was to run for reelection against Dewey. Even the Democratic Party refused Truman funds for his campaign, thinking they knew a lost cause when they saw it. Truman campaigned from his private train, whistle-stopping though the heartland. At one point the crew on the train even stopped until Truman paid them. Rural America seemed to like Truman in spite of the political pundits. The election that Dewey was to get by a landslide went to Truman. Now Truman was President by election.
In his second term there was the Korean conflict. And part of that conflict was a sub-conflict between Truman and American hero General Douglas MacArthur. MacArthur wanted a free hand to expand the war in the country's interest. Truman tried to reign him in when he wanted to invade China. MacArthur felt he had the real power and frequently would ignore instructions from Truman.
Truman essentially faced the same sort of split that Japan faced when the military Shoguns became more powerful than the Emperors were, though I have not heard the two histories compared elsewhere.
Truman relieved MacArthur, angering much of the public to whom the general was a hero. The next President would be a military general and a Republican. (P.S. My comments on him will come a little later.)
Truman himself planned the building of the museum and library. He had Thomas Hart Benton do a mural for the front entrance. Benton was slow to the task so one day Truman got up on the scaffold and painted some of the mural himself. Benton was unhappy and repainted the portion, but Truman had gotten his attention. The mural is entitled "Independence and the Opening of the West." There is an exact replica of the Oval Office as Truman had decorated it. There is a television set and several ashtrays. He had a fascination with flying and he has up pictures of airplanes from a calendar. The Oval Office was air conditioned but when he was alone he opened the windows because he "wanted to breathe real air." Out front is the famous sign that says "The buck stops here."
After the museum we went to a used bookstore, Dog-eared Books, to check it out. We asked the owner if there was a good place in town to eat. She thought for a little while and told us no there really wasn't a good place in town to eat.
We ate at a pizza buffet called Pizza Street. It lived up to the recommendation. Well, there is no bad pizza. There is only good and better. But this wasn't better pizza.
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06/25/04 Independence, Missouri to Abilene, Kansas
Breakfast was at the motel and then on the road. We listened to James Whitmore's one man show "Give 'em Hell, Harry." Years ago it was on TV and we recorded it to audiotape. It is based on Truman's own words and covers a lot of the material from the museum yesterday.
We got lost in Leavenworth, Kansas looking for the Fort Leavenworth Frontier Army Museum. I think they don't put a lot of signs on the road because they would give to much help to escapees.
The museum is on an army base and we had to go through a security check. They need a photo ID. Forty-nine states have photo drivers' licenses that can serve as a photo ID. In New Jersey photo licenses cost extra and are optional. We were fools not to get the photo licenses, but that has really become obvious to us after 9/11. Not being able to use drivers' license, the next best thing we have is a passport. But there are two big disadvantages to using passports. They are too big to fit in wallets and they are valuable to thieves. This means when we carry they we have to keep them in a secure place, but it cannot be our wallets. Early this trip I decided to keep my passport in my suitcase. Then I decided that wasn't safe so I moved it to my photovest. By the time I needed it I was no longer sure what safe place I had put it. I have seen examples of good before and this was pretty much its opposite. There was this military guard at Fort Leavenworth standing over me asking for photo ID and I was digging in the trunk looking for it. It was in my photovest all along. Ha-ha.
Fort Leavenworth Frontier Army Museum's chief claim to fame is that somebody at Triple-A rated it a tourist gem. It isn't such a gem. It is an OK museum of the history of the army on the frontier. It is an exhibition of guns, uniforms, wagons, barracks, recruitment offices, more guns, and more uniforms. And of course the Lewis and Clark Expedition.
People who saw the film SCENT OF A WOMAN will remember that the Al Pacino character would let out with an odd expression of sarcastic derision that sounded like hoo-ah. They had the origin of that expression, though it is different than Pacino seemed to be using it. Hough (pronounced hoo-ah) means good-job or can-do. An Indian asked a question once gave this as a response in his native language and the army seems to have picked up on it.
The museum had motion sensor lights on many of the exhibits to save on electricity. But the sensors didn't work and became a puzzle on getting the lights turned on in themselves.
We moved on to Lawrence. Stopping to have lunch at Shalor's, a restaurant in a hotel, we went on to the Spencer Museum of Art on the campus of the University of Kansas.
The first room we went to was the room of Asian art and it was by far the most interesting. They had a series of woodcuts illustrating popular stories and folklore. Some of the woodcuts were illustrations from Chushingura. This is the famous story known here as 47 Ronin. A lord at the Japanese court is misinformed by another lord about a point of etiquette. He must commit suicide in repentance. His 47 samurai know that the incident was not his fault and know who is to blame, but they cannot attack yet because the other lord is prepared. To put him off guard they wait years, all the time planning revenge. Finally they strike and avenge their lord. Then their purpose in life ended each commits suicide himself.
The panels talk about a sort of ceremony and tradition where 100 people each bring a candle on a dark night and each tells a ghost story. When he finishes his story he blows out his candle. At the end of the 100 stories they are in complete darkness.
In the woodcuts Utagawa Kuniyoshi does story of Sakura Sogoro who was killed for complaining about taxes but returns as a ghost. The lords and samurai could kill any peasant they wanted to, but ghost haunting is a peasant's recourse.
There was also the story of a pregnant woman killed by a bandit. But the baby did not die and she returns to give the baby to its father.
There was a modest collection of art of the Middle Ages and Renaissance. Almost all of it was religious art.
Upstairs we walked in reverse chronological order to see art of the 21st back to the 17th century. We saw another Thomas Hart Benton. There was a howling wolf sculpture by Luis Jimenez. Dinosaur by Lino Tagliapietra was sculpted from etched blown glass.
Moving to earlier centuries there was more religious art. The art is more obscure than in previous museums. There were only a few artist names I recognized. For a university art museum it was large, but it was only a small collection.
After the museum we drove on to Abilene. This is a very small town. About the best place to have dinner was a Sonic drive in.
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06/26/04 Abilene, Kansas to Hays, Kansas
The motel does not serve breakfast. We had to go out looking for breakfast. In Abilene that is not easy. The town is well known from history and from movies, but it really is very small. The population is 3500. We couldn't even find anyone serving breakfast. We ended at an over-crowded McDonalds.
The first stop was the Eisenhower Center. This is really the museum and library and tomb of the 34th President. We saw a film about him. From there we went on to see his childhood house, and then the main event, the museum. They retell the story of his life.
Dwight David Eisenhower lived in Abilene as a boy. His house is there at the center, and it is small for a family of nine people. Eisenhower's parents raised six boys, all of whom became successes. Eisenhower went into the military for a free college education.
At this point almost all the personality drops out of his story. He is a good soldier. There is a cartoon of him in a camp newspaper. Two other soldiers are looking at him and saying he's a great soldier and someday he'll be a general. Strong stuff.
Without much to say about him personally the museum tells very briefly the story of how we got into WWII, building up to the D-Day Invasion. Eisenhower had been a major for 16 years in the peacetime army. With the war he started getting promotions.
He headed up SHAEF, the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force, who planned and organized the D-Day Invasion.
In the museum there is an unconnected display of Birger Sandzen prints (perhaps temporary?) and another of the Mamie Eisenhower fashion look. There is also a display of many guns Eisenhower would have seen in the military. All this tells us little about the man.
There was a disconnected but interesting documentary of how in the days after D-Day they built Mulberry Harbor--two artificial harbors for unloading supplies and provisions for the invasion. There were several natural harbors in France and Hitler appreciated how valuable they could be to an invasion. He had them heavily fortified. Artificial harbors had been built in the past, certainly, but they took years to build. What Hitler did not expect was a plan to build an artificial harbor in less than two weeks, a huge engineering feat involving sinking boats and concrete floating boxes to create a breakwater. Then spans are brought in that float creating multiple causeways.
Neither the film nor the museum said very much about what he personally did to launch D-Day. Instead we are told of the results. For the rest of the war and after the war he soldiered on.
In mail it is claimed Truman implied he would step aside for 1952 if Eisenhower ran as Democrat. However Eisenhower did not like Truman, probably for his stand against the military. Eisenhower instead went to the Republicans. In 1952 the Republicans nominated him for President. He did a Truman-esque whistle-stop campaign. And, of course, he won. The film said that he "oversaw..." various projects like the fledgling space program in his two terms. Actually he was afraid to get into a space race with the Soviets and restrained Werner Von Braun from sending up satellites until not doing so was an embarrassment.
The issues that concerned him most during his terms were preparing for possible nuclear warfare, tying up the Korean War, Hungary, The U-2 spy incident, and the Middle East. The displays say little about his own plans for these places. He just seems to have accepted or rejected others' plans.
They showed a display of films of the fifties including nuclear holocaust films like "ON THE BEACH and THE LAST DAY." I don't know who writes these things but there is no well-known film called THE LAST DAY. It sounds like a title that might have been used, but the film does not exist or is so minor nobody has ever heard of it. [P.S. the Internet Movie Database does not know about the film.]
The film said, "In his own quiet way opposed Joe McCarthy." The film makes no mention of Richard Nixon and the museum has little more. I guess my feelings about Eisenhower are best represented by his reaction to Senator Joseph McCarthy. According to the information at the museum he always treated McCarthy cordially. Privately he said he refused to take on McCarthy. "I refuse to get in the gutter with that guy," he said. McCarthy was destroying people's lives with the apparent approval of the government and of a Republican Party that had chosen Richard Nixon as Vice-President. Assuming that Eisenhower really opposed McCarthy, a word from him would have meant a very great deal. Eisenhower was President in a good time, but he was not a good President. Like Grant, once he entered politics he was in over his head and he was more a Republican Party man than he was his own man. He let his advisors set policy. He was no Truman.
My gut feeling is that since FDR Democratic Presidents have been individualists. The Republicans depend more heavily on advisors. As for Truman, before, during, and after he was in office people thought he was a mediocre man and the wrong sort of man to be President. He did not have the charisma of either FDR or Eisenhower. Later the opinion was that perhaps he wasn't so bad. Today he is one of the most fondly remembered Presidents of the century.
Lunch was a Russell's, a restaurant in Salina. The service was slow.
We picked a Comfort Inn in Hays, Kansas and got there about 4:30. We read and wrote and watched a movie in the evening.
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06/27/04 Hays, Kansas to Burlington, Colorado
We ate breakfast at the motel. They have one of those waffle irons that seem to show up a lot in hotels in the West, but not those in the East. They are designed for minimum labor. They put out cups of waffle batter and this machine. It is like a waffle iron on a pivot. The whole thing turns over 180 degrees. You pour the batter on the iron, close the iron, and turn it over. That starts a two-minute timer. After two minutes a tone goes off. You flip the iron back right side up and open it and their sits a fresh-made waffle. It is pretty foolproof and makes a pretty good waffle.
We did some writing in the morning and a stop at the store for things to eat in the room.
The Sternberg Museum of Natural History is the museum of the Fort Hays State University. You would expect it to be on the campus. Well, we drove around the campus and did not see it. Finally we found it off campus on Sternberg Drive. The museum is really a dome and a joined building. Originally it was a sports building with pools and courts. The university transformed the building into a museum.
Sternbergs were two brothers who were fossil enthusiasts. There was George, his brother Charles, and Charles's son George L. After the death of George L. the museum was named for the three of them.
You start on the third floor toward the top of the dome and then you spiral down. On the top floor you see a life-sized mock up of an ornitomimus and tyrannosaur as well as some flying pteranodons. The Tyrannosaur is motorized and gives a nasty roar occasionally.
As you spiral down you see a mosasaur and a xiphactinus (like a prehistoric shark). As you get further you see exhibits of the fossil work that was done on these animals. The xiphactinus fossil was found with another large fish in its stomach. It is thought the one died just after eating the other. They thing there was some geological event. I think the big fish choked.
There is not a lot of optional detail like some museums have with computer terminal and their dialogs. This just gives a few little signs telling you what you are looking at.
There is an exhibit of three basic types of rock: igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary. Igneous is formed in volcanic heat that melts and fuses sand and minerals. Metamorphic uses pressure to fuse minerals. Sedimentary is formed of sand or animal remains that collect in piles and petrify.
And there are the almost inevitable exhibits of Indian relics, barbed wire, and firearms. No Lewis and Clark. How some of these things qualify as natural history I don't know.
There is an exhibit of photos from a South African Safari and a temporary exhibit of the Burgess Shale and the strange life forms whose fossils were found in it.
Lunch was at a Mexican restaurant that was called Gutierrez. I thought it was pretty good.
We drove on toward Denver. On the road we listened to a BBC science fiction drama. We stopped in Burlington Colorado at the Chaparral Motel.
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06/28/04 Burlington, Colorado to Denver, Colorado
LEEPER'S RULE OF THUMB: The country has returned to normality when none of the top three news stories have to do with Islam or the Islamic world.
I don't think we have had normality for years. Today the US turned the Iraqi government over to its receivers. It was two days early. They will not get a lot more ready in two days.
We have to decide between Rocky Mountain National Park and Denver for our next stop. The Mint, which we had intended to see now, requires more notice. I guess they are afraid of terrorism. On the other hand the weather is gray and has been for a while.
We chose the park and hoped for better weather. (P.S. the weather varied from overcast to partly cloudy the rest of the day.) Straddling the continental divide is the Rocky Mountain National Park. This is a highpoint of the area, at least as far as altitude is concerned. Rainwater in the east part of the park flows east. In the west part it goes west. This area is high enough, we are up 9000 feet and the peaks are much higher, that there is still glaciating. At Cuzco we were up 11,000 feet. But I was younger then. Today, by coincidence, I am setting my own personal record for number of days lived.
There is a drive that will take you around the park that is supposed to be one of the most beautiful drives in the country. Ours was somewhat shrouded in clouds, which limited the beauty. In the mountains with wisps of clouds offset the snow peaks. Even on our level there was still some ice from winter even though it was now summer.
There is supposed to be a wide variety of wildlife, but we generally are not good at finding it. We saw elk, prairie dogs, and chipmunks. That is about it. We took a shuttle to Bear Lake. The only way to get to it is by shuttle to limit the traffic. They had torn up the road to widen it. I told Evelyn that we were having clear road turbulence on the bus. We took the nature walk around the lake. Again rain and thunder hit us. The busses were just arriving as we returned to the clearing and we took them back down. Then we drove the circle.
There are several prairie dog towns and a lot of prairie dogs running across road. But there is no road kill, so I guess the drivers are careful. As you drive the peaks above clouds look like floating islands. It looks like Norway. We stopped and watched a herd of elk off the road.
We stopped at Rainbow Curve. I was a little surprised to see how brave the chipmunks were. They would scurry within a yard or two of people. It must be a tribute to the care people take not to hurt them. Then they came even closer. One ran over my shoe. As more people arrived at the curve more chipmunks arrived and ran up to people sitting upright. Then I realized that these were chipmunks who came to this curve begging for food. It is not the same as seeing them in the wild.
After the park we returned to stay in Denver. We got a room at the Best Western and went to dinner at Landrey's Seafood. I had fried oysters.
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06/29/04 Denver, Colorado to Santa Fe, New Mexico
Last night I had put a can of Jumex Mango in the room's refrigerator, freezer section so it would be cold later in the evening. Dinner had been filling and the juice can went forgotten until this morning. It was a can containing a chunk of mango juice ice. At breakfast there was an apology note instead of fruit juice. We put the can in the car. As we drive we drink the mango juice. Every ten minutes or so we hand the can to each other and drink the recently melted mango juice. Talk about a mistake that went right. We have our first really sunny day and see billowy with and blue clouds over the mountain in the distance. We look at the green and blond fields, the mountains, the sky, and sip really cold mango juice while we listen to a story on cassette. Yeah. This is it.
We drove into New Mexico. We stopped at a tourist information center. You know you are in a good state when the tourist information stands sell hot sauce. The official state question is "Red or green?" My kind of place.
I picked up a brochure for Capulan. It sounded interesting and was not far from where we were so we took a side trip. There have been three periods of volcanic activity in this are. One was 9,000,000 years ago, one was 5,000,000, and one began 30,000 years ago and is de facto continuing. Capulan is a cinder cone volcano from 10,000 years ago. One of the things that makes it unusual for a cinder cone is that it grew over fairly quickly with plant life and was colonized by animals.
We drove to the top and parked. There is a path to the vent at the bottom of the crater. As we walked a previous family was looking at a rock. On it was a six-foot rattlesnake. It was a little hard to see under the foliage but we could see a head and a flicking tongue. We kept our distance. This was the first rattlesnake we had ever seen in the wild. It sort of made our visit complete. Then we climbed into the mouth of the volcano. The latter is less dramatic than it sounds.
The roads here are very straight. What you do is put the car on cruise control and then you just hold the wheel straight and wait until there is a curve in the road or you get where you are going.
Fort Union National Monument was once the biggest frontier army outpost in the Southwest. Only a few years after the area was acquired in the Mexican War the fort was built. That was 1851 it was placed here to oppose hostile Indians. It was placed on the Santa Fe Trail to protect traders. They had little action so life here was fairly monotonous.
The museum shows game equipment, musical instruments, uniforms, guns, etc. It talks about the founding and the wagon trains that came through here. At the time of the Civil War there were fears that the Texans would come through here to grab the territory. The original fort was built too near a hill and had to be rebuilt when it was discovered guns on the top of the hill could hit the fort, but the guns in the fort could not hit the top of the hill.
We spent about an hour walking the grounds. We saw a large rattler. It was the second rattler we ever saw in the wild. This one was not at all hidden and wanted to make sure we saw it. Rattler strategy is to make its presence known and hope that is sufficient. It is actually a very timid animal, particularly around things that are bigger. All the while it is posing as a mean snake it is hoping to avoid a confrontation. Keep far enough away that you do not appear to be a threat and you have one happy snake. We were about six feet away and that made everyone happy. This same area had big anthills 8 inches high and 24 inches in diameter. The ants looked about an inch long.
We were passing Las Vegas, New Mexico and were fairly hungry so we ate at the Plaza Hotel. They had fancy dinners for about $12 and Mexican dishes for about half that. I had a stuffed burrito. Nice.
We drove to Santa Fe through rainstorms under spectacular skies. We stayed at a Luxury Inn. We watched ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST, which seemed appropriate to the day.
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06/30/04 Santa Fe, New Mexico to Gallup, New Mexico
Not a very good breakfast. The juice machine had Tang. The bagels were really just near-bagels in a plastic bag from a grocery store.
We were going to go to stick around Santa Fe, but there was not a lot to see that was different. There was a museum with Indian artifacts. I suggested we give it a miss. I am just not attuned to the differences and what to look for. In any case we drove to Albuquerque.
At the last minute I choose the Rio Grande Zoo. Our visit lasted about three and a half hours.
I give the zoo a mixed review. They have a really good map of the zoo. It is more compact than the map at the St. Louis zoo but it is marked off in a grid with an index to the major animals. That is a real convenience, not because I might especially want to see the lion but because I might have just seen the lion and want to find myself on the map. I got the idea that there was a fairly simple path to go by all of the animals without a lot of backtracking. A lot of zoos and other places you tour are just not laid out with an easy path to go past everything once.
Call it Luck of Leeper, but this was not a good day to go to this zoo. The weather was fine but a lot of the animals were no-shows. I don't know if they take them out of the pens and cages but a lot of the sites had nothing to see. Many had no animals at all. Many had the animals sleeping and all you saw was a pile of fur. Some of the missing animals may have been hidden in some niche of their compounds. But in most cases there was no place to hide. You can see all of the polar bears enclosure but the bear is AWOL. I guess the animals have Wednesday off.
The cages are of a different style than I have seen before. There is heavy fencing between the visitors and the big cats, for example. They then have vines growing over the fencing. It obscures the animals, but also adds atmosphere.
The meercats seem bored in a cage that does not offer them much to play with but the gorillas seem to be interaction and playing around a little. They are having a good, albeit leisurely day. One likes to lie in a net hammock. There is a young gorilla playing in a puddle and watching the way waves go out in circles.
A woman at one point complained that the elephants and giraffes seem to choose to stand with their hindquarters toward the visitors. I explain that when I go to a restaurant and they have something like sports on the TV I will intentionally sit with my back to the TV. I don't want to be distracted by the movement, which is essentially irrelevant to me. The animals probably are blocking out the visitors who whistle and howl at them just to see if they can get the animal to react and then walk away.
Evelyn is better than I am at seeing animals that are hidden in tanks and cages, etc. Supposedly women are better than men are at this. Men need the animal to be moving and then they are good at picking out women. But women are better at pattern recognition. It seems to be a genetic gender difference.
After the zoo we went to a bookstore, Bird Song Books. Really nice used bookstore. I got a book about mathematics in nature. The storeowner recommended a good Middle Eastern restaurant called Yasmine. We go to another bookstore and then we continue on to Gallup. On the way we listen to a BBC production of "The Elephant Man." I really like these BBC plays.
We seem to be really in the desert. My mouth goes dry and I want to drink more water, but my stomach is full from lunch. I try to take sips of water and hold them in my mouth for a while. But soon I have to swallow and within minutes the moisture in my mouth has found someplace else in the environment where it is more needed. My tongue and the roof of my mouth go sticky.
In Gallup we get the best rate from Howard Johnson's. When we go to the room and the next priority is ice water and some ice to cool my fruit juice. I pick up the ice bucket and find it has a big piece broken off of it.
I go to the ice machine and it has an out of order sign. I climb the stairs to the second floor, carrying my broken ice bucket. No ice machine there. I call the manager. There is an ice machine in the middle of the corridor on your floor. I tell them it is out of order. Oh, then you have to go to the restaurant and ask them for some ice. The restaurant is a walk across the parking lot with my broken ice bucket. At the restaurant they have a sign saying to seat yourself. But I don't want a seat. So I wait there at the front, broken ice bucket in hand, for someone to come. After about five minutes I am sure nobody is coming. People start to line up behind me for seats in spite of the sign that says seat yourself. They stare at the broken ice bucket. I tell them that they should seat themselves. More people line up behind me. I figure I better do something or this will disrupt the whole system. I see a waitress and ask for some help. She disappears with the broken ice bucket. I see her go off and do something else. Finally she comes with the ice bucket full. I only wanted ice water for the room. Jeez.
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07/01/04 Gallup, New Mexico to Scottsdale, Arizona
Evelyn has decided she does not like Howard Johnson's based on this experience with the motel. In addition to the whole ice farrago
-- They left somebody else's empty shampoo bottle on the sink.
-- They give you a list of cable channels from some age in the past but you waste time discovering that the list bears no relation to reality.
-- They charge for the room safe automatically without telling you, adding the extra fee onto the bill. The safe does not have a key so it is useless.
-- The phone system does not handle 888 numbers. This was a real inconvenience.
Anyway, Evelyn says no more Howard Johnson's.
We skipped breakfast rather than eat in their slow restaurant. (Well, we gave up waiting to be served.) We started to fuel up at their pumps but they could not take credit cards. That reminded Evelyn that she would be taking the credit card to the same cash register where she just complained. She said it was worth it to pay a few pennies more per gallon to fuel up elsewhere.
We had dry cereal and pineapple juice nectar on the road. We listened to a recording of George Bernard Shaw' Arms and the Man.
We drove thought the Petrified Forest. This area has petrified wood and petroglyphs. It took us a little longer but it was a welcome alternative to highway driving.
We continued on to Sedona and an area that is probably one of the most beautiful in the world. You thread your way around some of the most scenic buttes, pinnacles, and canyons in the world.
We had lunch at the Oaxaca Restaurant. We got there around 11 due to the time change and eating breakfast in the car. We sat on a patio facing a butte. It was cooled with an atomized water spray (outward). It really cools the air like air conditioning.
We drove on past more buttes. In a recent article I said that the four states that come together at the Four Corners might have some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. Afterward I wondered if that was an overstatement. But when you have a 400-foot butte towering over you it sure feels that way.
We stopped on the way into Scottsdale for some origami paper. Then drove to the Comfort Inn.
The problem with being in Arizona in the summer is that it is dry, dry, and dry. Your mouth feels like you have been nursing on a bottle of mucilage. I kissed Evelyn on the lips and our lips stuck together.
Water from the motel tap comes two ways. It is naturally warm and artificially warm.
At this point the trip becomes a visit to my mother which is personal business and attending a science fiction convention which Evelyn will cover. I will sign off.
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07/09/04 Scottsdale, Arizona to Flagstaff, Arizona
I am back on the air after a science fiction convention and a family visit. Evelyn will cover the convention.
The drive to Flagstaff is not very far and we decided to stretch it out a little driving again through Oak Creek Canyon and Sedona. It is much the same kind of scenery, but we are seeing it from the other side. We checked into the Saga Budget Host Inn. It is a 1950s-style motel (probably coming by the style honestly) run by an Indian family. When you talk about Indians in this part of the country you mean Native Americans. Unless you mean in a motel context. Then you are talking about Asian Indians. These are Asian Indians.
We had lunch at Buster's, a nice little place. Then we drove up Mars Peak to the Lowell observatory. It is a private observatory founded by Percival Lowell in 1894. Lowell was the wealthy son of the Lowell family from Lowell, Massachusetts. He was fascinated by Mars and Giovanni Schiaparelli's reports of seeing lines on the surface of Mars. He was excited by the possibility that Mars might have life. He had a telescope observatory built on an unused hill in Flagstaff, then a mostly unsettled town.
Lowell set up the facilities and made observations of the sky, many of which advanced the science. But he is probably best known for something that he got wrong. He thought he was seeing canals on Mars and called them that he mapped the lines he thought he saw. Now we think they were an optical illusion. There are no lines on Mars and certainly no canals.
The observatory made some impressive discoveries. Vesco Slipher know that you could find the content of a substance by burning it and examining the wavelengths of light created with a spectroscope. He decided to try it with stars and invented astrospectroscopy, a very important part of modern astronomy and cosmology. Among the things that he discovered was that the light from stars was shifted toward the red side. This can only be true if the sources are moving away from us at speed typically like 600 miles a second. Voila, the universe is expanding. From there the most likely theory is Big Bang.
The other major discovery was
the explanation for the perturbation in the orbit of Uranus.
Mathematicians Leverrier and Adams discovered Neptune by dong the math
and finding another object, Neptune. But Lowell found there were
perturbations in Uranus and Neptune and predicted another object was
there to be found. An astronomer
named Tombaugh, who (officially) had only a high school education,
found it. It was named
Pluto. That made sense, as it was a Roman god of a far away place. The
symbol was a P with base like an L. PL is short for Pluto. Not entirely
coincidentally PL can also stand for Percival Lowell. [Thanks to
Steven Silver for correcting an inaccuracy in the above paragraph.]
The observatory has a new museum, albeit a small one. And surprisingly most of the exhibits work. They demonstrate many of the principles of astronomy.
The tour starts with a talk and then takes visitors to Lowell's original observatory and the later one that was used to discover Pluto.
Back at the room we worked on logs and watched the effect commentary on INDEPENDENCE DAY.
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07/10/04 Flagstaff, Arizona
There are a lot of little things wrong with the motel. The cable comes in poorly and needs to be adjusted. There is no sleep on the TV. The room has all kinds of little mars. The paint is blistering off the toilet seat. There are two towels, two washcloths, and two plastic cups. In other words no extras. If you want a cup for soda, use the toothpaste cup. There are holes in the curtain that let the light through. Nothing terrible, but I will be anxious to leave. Evelyn points out that it is better than the Howard Johnson's where we stayed is because at least it has a refrigerator and a microwave. However the fridge was not plugged in so the stuff we left inside did not cool. We plugged it in.
Breakfast was in the diner across the street. I had pancakes. From there we drove to the Grand Canyon, South Rim. What can you say about the largest canyon in the world? It is 277 miles long. There are places where the river is 6000 feet lower than the rim. It gets as wide as 18 miles. A rim to river hike takes two days. The area was formed by schist, granite, shale, sandstone, and limestone. The first three were the base, then sand collected above that and sea animal bodies on top of that forming the limestone. A tectonic plate beneath pushed it up. Then it was worn away by water, wind, freezing etc. That created the huge formations we see today.
We started to hike down one of the easy trails. My age may be showing, but I was a little leery. We did not go the whole way down. Particularly when the trail got steep I was concerned about the trip back up. We met another couple approximately our age. The husband looked in better shape than I did, but he called it quits a lot sooner. Instead we too some shorter and less ambitious trails including a rim walk. We also heard a geology talk.
The rim walk was impressive, but there was little change in the views since we were not walking far enough to get much parallax. We left about 3:30.
Dinner was at Del Taco, a reasonably good Mexican fast food chain.
We got back to the motel and found the room was not cleaned. The refrigerator that Evelyn said was a bonus apparently is only for show and does not work. The ice machine requires a key from the front desk and has a limit of one bucket on ice. On a hunch I checked the smoke alarm and found it had no batteries. This place had two diamonds rating in Triple-A and has Triple-A plaques up all over the front office.
I left a note saying that the smoke alarm is not working. This is against the law. They might want to get ALL their smoke alarms working by July 26.
Why the 26th? I don't know. July 26 sounded like a good date for them to work toward. It gave them better than two weeks. It was a Monday so they would be starting a week with them all working. Let them wonder why I gave them a specific deadline to get legal.
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07/11/04 Flagstaff, Arizona to Durango, Colorado
We checked out and had eggs at the diner. Then we drove to Monument Valley. As we traveled we went from dry high desert grazing land to some area with really impressive rock formations. Some nice mountains. As we got near to the valley we started seeing the stone monoliths. Some of these are as high as the Empire State Building and a good deal wider.
In the hot, dry air you sweat a lot and the water tastes good. But curiously the sandwich crackers we brought also tasted very good. They recommend you bring crackers to replenish salt. The crackers that taste just OK normally taste a lot better when you have lost salt.
We bought a 2.5-hour tour of the monoliths. Let's cut a long story short. If you have seen John Ford Westerns you have probably seen Monument Valley. That is great for everything but showing you the scale. The films don't do a good job of showing you the size of the monoliths. It is beautiful country. We got the more expensive tour that takes you off the more public route to see some additional stone formations.
They are huge and sculpted by wind and the occasional water. It proves the changing taste of the American people that Monument Valley is on the Navajo reservation. The Jeep tour costs about three times what it would have cost 12 years ago on our last visit. Good. If anyone deserves to make a profit, they do. It is interesting some of the plant life is bright green, some light green, and some brown. But the vivid green is unexpected in the middle of the hot summer. We saw a piece carved to look like the monoliths in the museum beforehand. I thought it was humorous and a visual pun because the separate spires looked like they could be people. No. The formation named Totem Pole is just the shape of the carving. You see a lot of human shapes in the rock. There are faces in everything you see if you use a little imagination.
This area is terrific, but there is not much I can do to convey that.
Lunch was at the Twin Rocks Cafe in Bluff. We each had a Navajo Taco. That is a big piece of Navajo fry bread with a layer of chili (mostly beans, and a layer of salad. Neither of us could finish it.
We started to see trees again as we drove. That is a good sign we were out of the desert.
We stayed the night in Durango at the Alpine Motel. It was a little more expensive than the previous night's but it was a lot more comfortable.
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07/12/04 Durango, Colorado to Manitou, Colorado
The motel did not offer breakfast but did have coffee, so Evelyn was happy. She had coffee and a muffin. She is driving this morning and I eat as we drive. Dry cereal and fruit juice. The hills are shrouded in light fog. They Ok like an nth generation photocopy. Soon the fog clears. The topography has changed very quickly from the desert of Monument Valley to the high rocky mountains of the Rocky Mountains.
From Durango we are driving east over the Wolf Creek Pass. This is returning over the Continental Divide. It looks like an alpine fantasy. It is a beautiful thick forest. The pointed evergreen trees poke skyward like Britney Spears, beautiful and dense. The pass itself is at 10,850 feet. There are frequent stops for road construction limiting the roads to one lane.
At one of our stops we were stuck about 40 minutes. People were getting out of their cars. I ended up in a conversation with the guy ahead of us in line. It started with how beautiful the mountain is and ended up getting into Jesus, the Illuminati, flying saucers, Islam, Jesus, Israel, ethics, and Jesus. Freaky. It took about 40 minutes before the traffic was moving again. After that we were a little glad when he pulled off the road for some reason. That meant we would not end up with our car stopped behind him again. As it turned out that was the last stop. We listened to a BBC production of The Hound of the Baskervilles.
In Alamoso, Colorado we stopped for lunch at Mrs. Rivera's kitchen. I ordered a bowl of Red Chili (which they spell Chile). It is soupier than I was used to. It was like a broth with ground beef. The broth was very nice and rather fiery. Green chili is mild and red is hot. In Thai cuisine the green is hotter than the red. I thought I had not ordered much but it was quite filling.
Our next stop was the Great Sand Dunes. These are the largest dunes in North America. It is hard to imagine that there is that much to see at what is essentially just a huge pile of sand. The wind whips up interesting surface textures. There are birds over it and insect life. It is impressive, but not one of the great national parks.
The dunes lie at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. About 25 million years ago the Rio Grande River (a local river of that name) brought sands to a pocket at foot of mountain. At some places the pile of sand is 700 feet high. They cover about 30 square miles. The fluid dynamics of the wind over the sand gives it interesting shapes. It has been described as looking like a slow motion sea storm. You get sharp crests and ripples.
It does interesting things to wildlife, suffocating some trees. Others adapted to survive. There is Indian Rice Grass and something called Blowout Grass. You see the sand dune and it looks big. Then you see people at the base and realize it looks much smaller than it actually is. It looks like a bit of seashore 8030 feet above sea level. The special wheel chairs have big tubular tires like dune buggies. We stayed for only about an hour. After all, how long can you look at a big pile of sand? It has been made wheel chair accessible.
We had picked out a Colorado Springs motel and we headed to it. When we got to the neighborhood it looked a little scuzzy so we filled the tank, added oil, and high-tailed it. We picked a Best Western in Manitou.
There was an Asian restaurant, Saigon Star, next door to the motel and we had Vietnamese pho for dinner. That is a huge bowl of soup. We left pretty stuffed.
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07/13/04 Manitou, Colorado
The deal at this motel is that you can get cold cereal, a sweet bun, orange juice, and coffee free for breakfast. Not too healthy. For $1.50 more you get hot waffles and biscuits and gravy. Still not very healthy. We stuck to the basic.
Our first visit of the day is the Air Force Academy at Colorado Springs. This is the Air Force's equivalent West Point and Annapolis.
"Attention: Mountain lions may be in area up to 8 feet long including tail." This is the sign that greeted us as we entered. Actually I was rather pleased that they included the tail in the length. It set my mind at ease. I didn't want to meet a mountain lion that was 8 feet long NOT INCLUDING the tail.
What do you do if you see a mountain lion? Don't run. He can run faster. Don't move toward him. He will see you as a threat. Don't look him in the eye. He will think you are sizing him up for attack and he will attack first. Don't make any sudden moves. Another attack sign. Don't worry. They can smell fear. Don't laugh at him. Hell hath no fury like a hellcat scorned. The best thing to do is to teleport to another city. If that fails put your hands on your head. This makes you look big. Without looking him in the eye talk to your mountain lion. This will make him think you run into mountain lions every day and you think it a perfectly natural thing to do. If this bluff fails bring your hands down and try to open his jaws wide enough to pull your neck from them. If you cannot dislodge your neck think about your first grade teacher and the first time you kissed a member of the opposite sex. And remember he is an endangered species and has led a hard life. Do what you can to make his meal pleasant.
The academy is up at an altitude of 7200 feet. I guess they figure that being that high to start with gives the students a head start.
The visitor center has exhibits about the history of the academy. They have more about academy history than about the history of flight. If you want flight history, go to Wright Patterson in Dayton, Ohio.
They have a film to tell you about the academy. You go into the auditorium and it says, "Pursuit of excellence will begin in 4 minutes." Isn't this a little late to think about it? The film and the small exhibit outside seem to stress athletics and the chapel. They return to images of the two over and over. I guess those represent American values. They do talk about their honor system. They will not lie, cheat, steal, or tolerate anyone who does.
I was thinking everything they showed about religion that they were showing a Christian religion. I assume there are Jewish cadets. Well, I was wrong. A Star of David does show up in the film, but it is so artistically stylized it is hard to tell that is what it is. Everything has been done to make the chapel a beautiful piece of art.
Another theme they keep returning to is falconing. Falconing seems to be a popular sport at the Academy. They fly the falcons at football games. The souvenir store connected sells all kinds of clothing and flying toys, and whatnot but only about seven books. I find that surprising.
The other building we visited is the chapel. It is a surprisingly beautiful building. It has at least three sub-chapels. The biggest is Protestant. Next is Catholic. The smallest is Jewish.
The Cadet Chapel is actually a very beautiful building that is formed of 17 parallel chevrons pointed skyward with flying buttresses at the two bases of each. While its construction went from 1959 to 1963 it looks futuristic even in the 21st century while still being evocative of cathedrals of the past. It may be the most beautiful religious building I have ever seen. It houses four chapel of decreasing size: Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, and all faiths. The architect is Walter A. Netsch.
Our next stop was at the Focus on the Family Center. Dr. James Dobson founded this organization. Initially it was a sort of outreach program to help Christians have better family lives. Its accent was on raising children better with a religious bent. That is the positive face they present at the center.
Even walking from the parking lot I could tell I was not at a science fiction convention. He seems to appeal to physically well-proportioned if not attractive people. His fans and the people who run his organization mostly seem to have a sort of "wholesome" look.
The decor in the building is also seems to reflect Dobson taste. In one cabinet I saw two china swans. Put them together and their necks form a heart. There is something about this image that seems appropriate. Swans are a particularly graceful and beautiful bird, but they also have nasty personalities. Put them into a pond with ducks and frequently they will peck and bully the ducks. They have to be separated or the swans will not leave the ducks alone.
They have a room where they played a Larry King interview of Dobson. According to Dobson in the interview, "gays don't want to be married." In fact they seem to in very large numbers. When that was questioned he said, "many homosexuals are not committed for life." The same can be said of heterosexuals. This interview was on TV about the time that Britney Spears married someone for two days and had it annulled. I disagree with Dobson on the question of gay marriage. I certainly don't see the threat he sees to straight marriage.
For the most part, however, the presentation stayed away from hot button issues. Of course they take a fundamentalist view of homosexuality. I think there are issues where we and Focus on the Family are still miles apart, but there is still a lot we agree on. Most of their message is constructive. And most of what they have to say I agree with. It is our differences that are what is significant.
220,000 people visit the Focus on the Family Center each year to get a Christian message. The film on Dobson's history shows his friendship with each Republican President since Reagan but not one Democrat.
Dobson apparently quit a job in medicine to try to specialize in his Bible-based ideas about families. It was successful and after out growing his first facility in California he moved to another and outgrew it. He was given a free $4,000,000 land grant to move his facilities to Colorado Springs.
They had a tour of the administration building, giving a history of the ministry and the buildings. They repeated some of the material about Dobson's past. They told how on May 2, 1996 a gunman came into the building and took hostages. They claim that prayer saved the hostages. The gunman did not know he had taken the building on a National Day of Prayer.
In the same talk they claim there are five principles of their ministry:
1) Their ultimate purpose is to glorify God.
2) Marriage a lifelong institution between one man and one woman.
3) Kids are a gift from god.
4) Human life is of inestimable worth.
5) God ordained family, church, and government
They have four buildings. We saw the visitor center and the admin building. The latter had the broadcast facilities--they do a radio show--and the offices where they counsel people who write in with questions. They have a computerized system so if someone writes about an un-wed mother they can pull up everything that Dobson ever said in his broadcasts about un-wed mothers. With that the responder can answer the question as Dobson would. I asked what if the person responding finds he disagrees with Dobson. Our guide said it was a good question but one she couldn't really answer. Dobson is considered the authority and he uses Scripture as his authority. I take it that people don't usually disagree with Dobson so the issue does not come up. Perhaps it does not come up more than once. What she did not say is that the responder's viewpoint is considered.
The law presumably does not let Focus on the Family meddle in politics and keep their tax-free status. The temptation to exercise political muscle was too great so they have ways to get around that law. They are, to some extent, following the trail blazed by Father Coughlin. They are meddling in politics and pushing an anti-gay fundamentalist agenda. They are opposing same-sex marriage. The same organization previously backed a bill saying that in Colorado anti-gay discrimination could never be made illegal. In other words they wanted to block any possible equal rights bill for gays before it was even proposed. Apparently the courts struck down their law. He also has an anti-feminist agenda. They set up a separate organization called Focus on the Family Action that is not taxable and for which contributions are not tax deductible. There are obviously links between the two organizations. They have identical boards of directors. The non-profit organization publishes a distinctly political magazine called "Citizen Magazine."
Some of their message may be good, but they should drop their tax-exempt status or stop meddling in politics.
Lunch was at Wild Ginger, a Thai restaurant. I thought it was fairly good. There seem to be a lot of Thai restaurants in this area.
Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument is a site near a prehistoric volcano eruption. Huge piles of ash were created and this mixed with rain causing mud. Piles and piles of mud in layer after layer washed downhill catching dead plant and small animal bodies. The mud under tremendous weight formed shale. Crack open the layers of shale and the plant and animal remains can be seen. Discovered here were about one third of all prehistoric species of butterflies known, 15 of 45. Also all seven known species of prehistoric tsetse flies were discovered in this shale.
There was a lively talk in the amphitheater given by a ranger who called herself Shannon. She talked about the shale and the petrified stumps of redwoods. We walked a path that took us past the petrified redwoods. The Big Stump is the largest and still has saw blades imbedded where people who thought that it could be cut like a tree and failed to cut the rock.
When we were leaving I asked Shannon if there was any truth to the rumor that whoever withdrew the sawblade from the Big Stump was the true Governor of Colorado. Apparently it is.
Humorous names of restaurants we saw on he route back... One near Pike's Peak called itself "Bust, Colorado." Another calls itself "Java... The Hut"
Garden of the Gods is a city park in Colorado Springs. I wonder how many city parks are Triple-A gem sites. There are few countries that have such magnificent scenery anywhere. Red sandstone rock, much of it worn away so it looks like giant boulders are precariously balanced. Great rock spires in red. It is really impressive for any place, but for a city park it is amazing. Tomorrow night we will be back in Kansas and back away from this geological fairyland.
The park is full of rock formations, many of which look like they are about to fall on the road and commit mayhem. They stick up all over, the color of brick.
We retreated to the room after a very full day.
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07/14/04 Manitou, Colorado to Liberal, Kansas
We have a long way to drive today so hit the road early after breakfast. I drove and we listened to a four-hour mystery from the BBC, Paul Temple and the Margo Affair.
Lunch was in Garden City, Kansas at a Travelodge restaurant that was called Red Baron. On the way we passed a store called Leeper Transmission. I should have gotten a picture of the sign.
At the restaurant I had ordered a Black Jack Burger. That was a hamburger with black pepper. It took a long while to get and then they brought the All-American Burger. I didn't complain, but they charged only for Evelyn's lunch. The food was not great, but they seem like nice people.
We continued to Liberal, Kansas. The big attraction here is, believe it or not, Dorothy's House. You know, Dorothy as in WIZARD OF OZ. There are two buildings. One is a house of the period of Wizard of Oz that was rebuilt to look like the house in the film and then entirely furnished in the style of the period. You also go through a warehouse furnished to take the person through the story of the film. Some places decorate a place like this as a hell house for Halloween. This p7lace is intricately decorated to take the guest through the story of the film. All the major settings of the film are represented. The guide is called Dorothy and is dressed like Judy Garland in the film. And she sounded like she was from the United States but she was dark-skinned and had black hair. It was an odd image and she told the story in the first person as if she was talking about it after the fact. She was not really right for the part. It was really designed for kids. Our Dorothy was worried how to do the presentation with no children to play to. There were we and a couple ten or twenty years older than we were. She just presented as if she was presenting to kids.
The Purina warehouse across the street had put up a sign that said, "Toto eats Purina Dog Chow."
By this point the heat was getting to us. We have been in 95-plus temperatures for about 17 days and it was starting to get to us. We retreated to the room. I was feeling slow and Evelyn was actually feeling sick. We were unsure if we wanted to go out for dinner. At 7:30 we went out for dinner. We thought perhaps Arby's Roast Beef. We pulled into the lot and found Arby's was closed at 7:30 in Liberal, Kansas. I think the police department closes at 4PM when he goes home.
I saw ice cream on a sign and decided that was what we needed. I think Evelyn's blood sugar was probably low. And we had been in the oppressive sun and sweated all day. We each had a medicinal ice cream sundae.
We watched a movie, a Western filmed in the forests near Grand Canyon.
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07/15/04 Liberal, Kansas to Dodge City, Kansas
Breakfast was at the Sonora, a Mexican restaurant next to the motel. The motel gives you a coupon for 1.25 off breakfast or free roll and coffee or free biscuit and gravy and coffee. We ordered a breakfast burrito and a scholar's breakfast. The latter is whipped beans and cheese on toast. Curiously I think we both agreed the beans on toast was better. I like frijoles. I am surprised we don't have it more often at home. It is cheap protein and I find it tasty.
On a related subject they had an interesting statistic on the news this morning apparently 12% of the American public is currently on low carbohydrate diets right now. But that is no sign that they are really doing that much. What we really need to know is whether the statistic that the government year after year consistently refuses to make public. Just what is the total weight of the American People? Is it down because of the diets? Is it up because of immigration? How much does the American People weigh? If you could put the public on a scale without clothing what would it weigh? Someone must have a reasonable estimate. How much pulsating flesh is there? This is the real gross national product. Just as a back of the envelope calculation I am guessing there is about 20 Megatons of American citizen out the.
The Mid-America Aircraft Museum is the 5Th largest public aircraft collection in the US. Air Force Col. Tom Thomson owned 74 aircraft that he donated to make a museum. The museum now has 101 on view on an airfield and inside the museum itself. There are also models showing the evolution of powered flight. It is a little redundant with seeing the Wright Patterson Museum so recently. Evelyn pointed out that one of the planes on the field had the name Gus Grissom on it.
On the way in I pointed out that one of the signs (printed on a computer) had a misspelling. They had said, "you're" when they meant "your." By the time we left they had replaced it with a corrected sign.
In Meade, Kansas we visited the Dalton Gang hideout. This is a small private museum of lessor interest. It is spread over two small houses that are side-by-side. The Dalton Gang was comprised of three Dalton brothers, Emmett, Grat, and Bob, as well as some others including the Doolins. Their crime spree started with horse thievery in February 1891. Eighteen months later they tried to rob two banks at the same time in Coffeyville, Kansas. The road in front of the banks was torn up and they had to leave their getaway horses in an alley at some distance. They were seen and the residents of the town were ready for them. They emerged from the banks to find a rain of gunfire. They killed four citizens, but Bob and Grat were shot to death and Emmett was badly injured. Emmett got a life sentence but was paroled after 14 years. He went to Hollywood hoping for a new career acting in films.
They had as part of their getaway arrangements a tunnel to their sister's house next door. The two houses and the tunnel--made taller to make it easier to walk through--have been preserved.
On the road we saw a billboard for the Gunsmoke Campground--full hookups with cable TV. The prairie ain't what it used to be.
We pulled into Dodge City, the home of Wyatt Earp for a time before he went to Tombstone. It also is the town where the old Gunsmoke series was set. Of course that was a while back. Today most people don't remember Gunsmoke. You say Matt Dillon they won't think of William Conrad or James Arness, they will think of the actor Matt Dillon. Wyatt Earp gets resurrected in films, so he gets remembered. We passed Doc Halliday Liquor. I guess Doc is sort of the Colonel Sanders of liquor.
We picked an Econolodge and got a room and got out of the heat. We watched TOMBSTONE. It has only small references to the Dodge City days. From there we went to Boot Hill, Inc., a museum devoted to the Wild West days of Dodge City.
In the 1870s the railroad came through this area that had previously been called Buffalo City for all the local buffalo hunting. Geographically it was the best place for Texas cattle drives to meet the railroad. Since the days of the Indians the Santa Fe Trail came right through Dodge.
The drives would bring their cattle to Dodge and pay off their men here. The men would come in from 25 to 100 days on the trail and they were suddenly solvent. This was where they would let off steam drinking and gambling and going to brothels. For a little while this was the wickedest town in the West. Then they made an effort to clean themselves up and hired more muscle to keep order. The best known peace officers were Wyatt Earp and Bat and Ed Masterson.
Wyatt Earp was a ruffian with nerve. He had been a tax collector, fired for keeping what he had collected. He had probably been a cattle rustler. He never had a higher rank than assistant Marshall in his life, but he made a reputation as a mean defender of the law in Dodge. He also met and befriended "Big Nose" Katie Elder and "Doc" Halliday. Eventually for some peace he retired from the law and moved to Tombstone, Arizona. There his reputation became a legend when he got involved in a small war on the side against the Clantons, Curly Bill Brocious, and the enigmatic Johnny Ringo. That gang war included (but neither started nor ended with) the famous gunfight at the OK Corral.
Boot Hill Inc. has a little bit of history museum, a little bit of living recreation and a little bit of theme park. Their big draw (no pun intended) is the staged gunfight twice a day.
Afterwards we thought it appropriate to go to the Freight House, a steakhouse, and have a steak dinner.
Then we watch a film about that great defender of the peace, uh... Sherlock Holmes.
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07/16/04 Dodge City, Kansas to Hutchinson, Kansas
Breakfast in the restaurant next to the motel. This is our first rainy day in a while. Maybe it will kill the high temperatures.
The Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center in Hutchinson, Kansas is a museum dedicated to the exploration of space. It is the best space museum I have ever seen and I think I have seen all the major ones. Why is this one so good? It is really chronological history of government programs for rocket-powered flight from German V-weapons through the end of the Apollo program.
The first display covers the V-1, V-2, and the Komet. The V-1 was really the first cruise missile. It was made by Volkswagon at a cost of only $500 each. It used some clever but simple mechanisms. It had a little propeller on the nose connected to a turn counter. The designers knew how many turns corresponded to the distance to London. When the proper number was reached the engine would stop. The missile would glide to the ground and explode on impact.
The V-2 project under Walter Dornberger was much more expensive. An estimated 10000 forced laborers died making V-2s at Nordhausen. It killed less than half that many. Each V-2 cost on the order of $140,000. The total cost of the V-2 project was about twice the cost of the Manhattan Project. It could never be marshaled to return sufficient value. By the time it was sent several German spies were caught and used as double agents. They kept reporting inaccurately that V-2s were falling east of London. The V-2s were reconfigured to pull west.
The third rocket weapons was the Komet, the first rocket plane. The pilots hated it because it used a highly corrosive fuel that could give fatal burns to the pilot. If the plane crashed it was deadly to the pilot. It would have only 7.5 minutes of flight in any case. It was never very well marshaled either.
When the war ended both the Americans and the Soviets wanted to get all the expertise they could. Project Paperclip was the operation to get German rocket scientists before the Soviets got a chance. It was so named because the dossier files of the rocket scientists we wanted were marked with paperclips. The Americans moved in to strip Nordhausen before the Soviets could get to it. Stalin found out about the missed opportunity and was furious. What remaining information he could get from Nordhausen he got.
On October 22, 1946 the Soviets held a conference at Nordhausen of all the remaining German rocket scientists they could force to go. They had a long dull meeting about the future of Soviet rocket science. Afterward there was a party with plenty of Vodka. While all this was going on the secret police were arresting the families of the rocket scientists and shipping them east to the Soviet Union. Suddenly the German rocket scientists were a lot more favorably disposed to work with the Soviets. This was known as Operation Osvakim and is considered the beginning of the space race. In charge of the Soviet rocket program was Chief Designer Sergei Pavlovovich Korolev. Heading our program was Werner Von Braun, Walter Dornberger's chief contributor to the V-2 project.
The first milestone of the space race was to get an aircraft to go faster than the speed of sound. Several test pilots were killed attempting to surpass Mach 1. On October 14, 1947 a Bell X-1, a rocket plane whose design was in part inspired by the German Komet lifted by a specially modified B-29, broke the sound barrier at 42,000 feet, a speed of 670 mph. The pilot was Chuck Yeager and he had the plane named the Glamorous Glennis after his wife. The plane has the Bell X-1 from the film THE RIGHT STUFF. It also has documentary footage that looks very like the scenes shot for the film. It would be interesting to see if Philip Kaufman saw this footage before directing that film. The testing continued on faster and faster planes. There was the Bell X-2 up to the X-15 which took test pilots to the edges of space. When I first got interested in spaceflight the X-15 was the ultimate.
Meanwhile the rocket people had built the Redstone rocket. It was really our version of the V-2. The race to space heated up on Friday, October 4, 1957. The Soviets had put up Sputnik, the world's first artificial satellite. They intentionally gave it a mirrored surface and put in a radio transmitter so there would be no doubts that their announcement might be a bluff.
Our own space program was foundering with the rushed Vanguard, which turned into a disaster. Meanwhile the Soviets sent Laika, a dog, into orbit and let her die after a week. Von Braun got frustrated that the Soviets were making our rocket program look bad and Eisenhower did not want the US to put up a satellite with a Redstone, a missile based on the V-2. Eventually Von Braun was unleashed.
Meanwhile the Soviet Luna I took pictures of the moon, Luna II dropped a man-made object on the moon, Luna III took pictures of the never before seen far side of the moon. The museum claimed that the Soviets had an advantage in space because they were low-tech. They could not make their missile payloads light so they needed huge booster rockets. Scientific payloads were lighter so they could send them greater distances into space. But that was all going to change soon.
President John Kennedy had made a huge mistake by allowing Americans to invade Cuba at the Bay of Pigs. As a distraction he challenged the American people to meet an optimistic and ambitious goal. The space program was having some success in space. He told them he wanted to see a man on the moon by the end of the 1960s. It was an exhilarating idea. To a space and science fiction fan like me in the 1960s it was wonderful. My country would be the first to travel to and walk on another celestial body.
The Soviets had a second class economy and defense had to eat up a big piece of it. Most of their high reputation in space was the result of clever coups of opportunity. Now they were going to have to really accomplish wonders in space. Khrushchev later wrote in his memoirs that they had to tell the world "We had nothing to hide. It was just the opposite. We had NOTHING! And we had to hide it."
They show some of the spaceware from Project Gemini and the Vostok missions. Then they go into the Apollo program. (Though not much on Apollo before 11.) There is a 65-minute film on Apollo 11. They have the gloves that the first astronauts on the moon wore. There are artifacts of the mission Apollo 13 as well as the film. The Cosmosphere personnel were technical advisors on the film and there are artifacts of the film. There is a full-scale mockup of a moon buggy and a LEM. They also have a Lunakhod, the Soviet moon rover from the early 70s. By this point it was clear the Soviets could only put in their claim to second place in space. They may not have won the space race, but if it was not for their competition it is doubtful we would have gotten to the moon in the 20th century.
This is a terrific and detailed history of the space race in museum form. My one complaint is that there are no references to the famous Colliers Magazine articles on the possibility of space exploration, no mention of the Disneyland TV documentaries on space, no mention of Chesley Bonestell art, and no mention of science fiction.
Lunch was a small strip steak from the Amarillo Mesquite Grill. Then we went to the theater to see the first day of I, ROBOT. Not a very good film.
A first draft of my review follows.
CAPSULE: In 2035 there is a murder at US Robotics and a robophobic policeman played by Will Smith believes robots are responsible. Mixing animation and live action nearly seamlessly, I ROBOT turns Isaac Asimov's robot world into the backdrop for a prosaic summer action film. It is not a film Asimov would have enjoyed much. Rating: 0 (-4 to +4) or 4/10
Isaac Asimov wrote about psychohistory, which implied that there were certain tides of history that could not be avoided. Had he lived long enough he might have extended it to psychocinematics which would include a theory that a summer science fiction film in the 21st century might even start with ideas from his stories but eventually the forces of the box-office would make it a mindless action film. That seems to be what happened with I, ROBOT. In spite of frequent references to Asimov's laws of robotics this is a rather prosaic story of a conspiracy involving robots. Just because the robots' behavior is examined and analyzed in terms of the three laws, when the plot calls for it the writers eventually get around the restriction of having the robots be restricted to following them.
We are in Chicago in the year 2035. Del Spooner (played by Will Smith) is a wisecracking good cop with a bad attitude when it comes to robots. The reason why he hates robots is eventually revealed as being both well-intentioned and totally wrong-headed. But hate them he does though he is a good friend with one of their prime inventors, Dr. Alfred Lanning (James Cromwell) of the US Robotics Corporation. When Lanning commits suicide by throwing himself through an unbreakable glass window. The investigation leads Spooner to work with robot psychologist Susan Calvin (attractive Bridget Moyahan). Side note: in the book Calvin is plain-looking but is the high-IQ Mother of Robotics. In this film no mention is made of her seminal role in the development of robotics.
I knew Isaac Asimov a little as did most people in Massachusetts science fiction fandom in the 1960s. I am reasonably confident that if he had seen this film claiming to be based on his writing he would have cut it to pieces with a few quick verbal barbs. The film is really a travesty on his style of writing. He might have appreciated the rationalization that what is happening in the film is arguably consistent with the laws of robotics. That rationalization might actually be in his style if little else in this film is.
Certainly not in Asimov's style is the Spooner character who has an ability to get out of tight situations that would look ridiculous in a James Bond film and in ways that as Asimov would point out contravene physics. The cars are futuristic with spherical wheels that go in any direction, but even so, Spooner's control of these cars verges on the supernatural. It is a sign of poor scriptwriting to make the main character too unusually skillful. Fans of CSI will look on in horror as Spooner vandalizes a crime scene under investigation.
Much of what we see is simply impossible by the laws of physics, but then the filmmakers proudly point to the high degree of CGI in this film. I, ROBOT is a film that blurs the distinction between live-action and animation. It is in large part an animated film with live-action elements and a realistic animation style. Like Gollum in THE LORD OF THE RINGS, real actors actually usually play the robots with images replaced by computer.
I, ROBOT is being handled as if it is a major film event. A lot of attention may have been lavished on the production, but the script keeps the film strictly second-rate. It dumbs-down Asimov and replaces the thought with special effects. I rate it 0 on the -4 to +4 scale or 4/10.
We checked in at a Microtel.
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07/17/04 Hutchinson, Kansas to Kingdom City, Missouri
We had a small breakfast at the motel and headed out. Mostly driving today. About 1PM we got crossed into Missouri and in Kansas City went to the Liberty Museum of World War I. This was built as a tribute to the soldiers of the Great War who gave their lives for their country. There is a 217-foot tower and two small buildings. The first has frieze showing tributes to the soldier in Classical style. In other words it is done in what would be today rather stiff style. It shows many of the prominent people at the time arranged to show tribute at a fictional ceremony. Computer guides tell the visitor who anybody is and what all the symbolism is. You just point to it on the screen and a sentence or two pop up. That is fairly creative as a use for the computer. Around the base are a few quotes and few artifacts displayed showing what it was like to serve in the war.
Symmetrically opposite there is an exhibit of artifacts of the war and a short film tells what the war was about. We are told there is a lower level that is being made into a museum and we should come back when it is complete, but we live half a continent away. In the meantime they are charging museum admission prices to see what is only a small exhibit. Pay Tribute to Those Who Sacrificed for Us, Incorporated. I might like to try the museum business. It doesn't pay well, I know. But only in that business and drug dealing can one collect full payment in advance from one's customer and then turn around and say, "by the way, we cannot and have no intention of delivering what we sold you." And only in the museum business can you carry on this way with no fear of physical retribution.
For lunch we went to Gates Bar-B-Q. We ordered a single combo platter and a big 32-oz drink. This is a portion that is too big for human consumption. They have it there for linebackers. It had three ribs, the large pieces of ham, slices of beef, good fries, and bread. It is a big meal at a not too unreasonable price. Splitting it two ways, however, it qualifies as a "cheap date." We both left pretty full. Food in America is cheap, but restaurants keep trying to sell each person two portions. Splitting portions works well for us, but a lot of restaurants now see what is happening and want to charge extra for splitting portions. Gates was good BBQ, but their sauce was a little salty for my taste.
I think a good tourism slogan for the state might be "Missouri loves company."
We listened to a reading of HUCKLEBERRY FINN as we drove. We stopped for the night in one town and found a much higher price on motel rooms than advertised. It seems that the local towns are having some sort of high school baseball playoffs called the Show-me State games. It is tough to find a room at any price. In Kingdom City we paid slightly advanced rates at a Super 8 motel that was almost full.
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07/18/04 Kingdom City, Missouri to Springfield, Illinois
Modest breakfast at the motel. Then we struck out for Hannibal, Missouri.
Samuel Clemens is one of those people born every once in a while who go against the tide of their society. They do what they believe, not what is easy, until they convince people. Eventually they win people's hearts. People begin to agree with them. Their viewpoint becomes the majority viewpoint. And the very scoundrels they railed against turn them into a money-making proposition. Hannibal has dubbed itself America's Hometown and is chockablock full of Mark Twain Museums, theme parks, riverboat rides, cave tours, restaurants, inns, mansion tours, humble home tours, and more. All this to lionize and elaborate the cynic whom nobody much liked when he lived here.
We pass a bunch of billboards for Mark Twain related attractions. Three right together including the Mark Twain Casino. There is Huck's Home-cooked Buffet. Hotel Clemens. Mark Twain Ready-mix concrete. Jumping Frog Cafe. Mrs. Clemens Shoppes.
The Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum is a collection of buildings from Samuel Clemens's (Mark Twain's) childhood showing how he lived. It also has a museum devoted to his works. It really is of only peripheral interest, and that because they were what he was visualizing when he wrote TOM SAWYER. You see photos of some of the people who were the prototypes of Twain characters. Even in the museum it tells me little about Twain when they show me the pipe he smoked. But having reads the stories does help.
You start with a 20-minute film about Twain's life. You then move on to his home. Again what is most interesting is where it evokes of Twains books. They keep suggesting that TOM SAWYER is semi-autobiographical. They show the kitchen described in the book. You see the bedrooms with the window he sneaked out of. You are never far from shops selling Twain-related items. I find it interesting they display children's editions of HUCKLEBERRY FINN skillfully rewritten to remove everything that made it a classic.
The Becky Thatcher House--mostly a store for Twain items--is where Laura Hawkins lived. The young Clemens was smitten with Laura Hopkins. Less mercenary parts of the museum includes the law office and Grant's Drug store. 0ut none of this much captures the Mark Twain style and humor. For that you go to the New Mark Twain Museum. Here you have Tom Sawyer exhibits dramatizing events from the book. You sit on the Huck Finn raft and see excerpts from a film version of the story. You can get your picture taken at a riverboat wheel. They have Norman Rockwell's original paintings that were illustrations for TOM SAWYER. In the Twain House they found an old newspaper with a fascinating two page ad for a set of the "complete" works. (I doubt it had the vulgar story 1601.) They have old Classics Illustrated comic books of Twain stories. They have displays from ROUGHING IT including an excerpt from the film ADVENTURES OF MARK TWAIN. They have readings from the books you hear on phones. You finish up with a display of A CONNECTICUT YANKEE IN KING ARTHUR'S COURT.
Early dinner was again at Steak `n Shake. Again it was a good shake but a pretty poor burger. We get a room at a Super 8 that was not well-maintained.
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07/19/04 Springfield, Illinois to Rantoul, Illinois
I am looking at the places we have yet to go to in order to find different things to do. After having been more than a month on the road it is tough finding attractions different from what we have seen already. The problem with zoos is that there is a lot of overlap.
Breakfast was not very good here. It was just toast, cereal, and coffee. I did not have the latter. We went to the Lincoln home, getting there about 8. It turns out it doesn't open until 8:30. We went in at the appointed time.
They have a film that asks that asks the question what was there about this house that formed him? They talked a little about his history here, but never really answered the question. I am not at all sure it was the house that made the difference. In fact it wasn't until 1864 that Lincoln was considered to be a great President. It wasn't long before the 1864 election that he was not even thought to be re-electable.
Yesterday we went to the Mark Twain Home and at least there the buildings had some meaning because Twain wrote about his childhood in books like TOM SAWYER. They show the kinds of furniture he sat on and what the kitchen he ate in looked like. To be honest I don't think this tells you very much about what formed him. Here we see a couch that Abraham Lincoln sat upon, but it tells me little about the man himself. Presumably it was not a formative influence on him, at least not if the couch was made properly. I think they would be better telling about Lincoln's history when he was in this house than showing you what kind of table he ate at.
Lincoln bought the home in 1844. The rooms are tall and easily accommodated the 6'4 man. Land nearby was also bought by Lincoln for exchange. With all kinds of banks issuing script and minting their own coins money did not mean what it does today. Accepting money was a risky thing. Accepting a deed to land meant more. So Lincoln bought land across the street from his home. He was elected to the House of Representatives in 1846, but lost later in a run for the Senate. His opponent was Stephen Douglas and the campaign included the famous Lincoln-Douglas debates. Lincoln moved out of the house in 1861, of course, and rented it out.
Following visiting the home and one or two others opened to the public in the area we also visited the Lincoln Tomb. I cannot say this is one of the more interesting historical sites we have visited.
On the grounds of the cemetery where the Lincoln Tomb is located is a Museum of Funeral Customs. It was closed. I suggested the admission fee was two coins on the visitor's eyelids. We stopped at a dollar store for some snack materials and then headed out on the highway.
We stopped for lunch in Urbana and found Niro's Gyros. We were intending to go to some place Italian listed in the Triple-A book, but rather than figure out where it was this place seemed inviting. At yesterday's Steak 'n Shake a double burger was barely enough for one. Here I got a double gyros and it needed a holster to carry it all. Particularly unexpected since the places that serve gyros in New Jersey seem to be very stingy with it. We ended up saving gyros for later, but then throwing it out when it had stood too long.
Just a few miles away is Rantoul. Evelyn moved there at 9 and left at 14. Those were pretty much her formative years. She has a lot of memories of this town. We drive around exploring. We stop at the library. We check into a Best Western. I don't know how Evelyn feels about it. Here she returns to the town of her youth. She is here for just an hour or so when she checks into a motel with a boy.
We spend an hour or so in the room to get away from the heat. Then Evelyn shows me all the old landmarks she remembers including her old home. We see her grammar school and junior high. I think they did a good job with her.
We go to the local IGA and get some soda and to Wal-Mart to see if they have any $5.50 films we are interested in. Soda yes, films no.
We spend the evening in the room.
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07/20/04 Rantoul, Illinois to Dayton, Ohio
The museum does not open until 10 so at this moment I am back in my room after breakfast of raisin bran and a toroid piece of bread they probably thought was a bagel.
Rantoul, the former host to Chanute Air Force Base, is a town that has lost it raison d'Ítre. This was a town that was heavily dependent on the Cold War. No Cold War, no Chanute Air Base. Evelyn thinks the big industry in town is probably the Wal-Mart. There is a school in Urbana 15 miles away. That is helping to keep the town alive.
The Ocatave Chanute Aerospace Museum is an impressive and misleading name for a museum that is really a catchall museum for the local area and the now-defunct air force base that it hosted. (It is pronounced shuh-NOOT.) It is like me calling this travel log a "Chronicle of Western Civilization." The only thing this museum seems to have to do with space is that in one room there is a reference to Star Trek. In large part it is a museum of what life was like on base. How much does looking at an old dentist chair, once used on the base, tell you about Aerospace? How about a bedpan? A salary table shows you that airmen were not very well paid by Uncle Sam.
With similar pride they claim that Octave Chanute was the father of aviation. Why? He made gliders and wrote a book about it that presumably inspired the Wright Brothers. But there seems to be many people who can be candidates for the title of "father of aviation." The Wright Brothers would be a better choice.
This is really a catch-all sort of museum. It has exhibits on the past of Chanute, the past of Rantoul, collections of war books, models of aircraft, and of course planes and hangars and pilot trainers and posters. They have an interesting collection of boys' books about flying. There were books about heroes like G-8 and his flying aces.
They have a missile silo you can go into. There is a missile silo we toured in Tucson. It was in pristine condition and we didn't think twice about that. This Chanute silo had been badly neglected. It was not a real missile silo but a trainer. It was full of rust and standing water. There was an unpleasant smell.
There is a newspaper account of a local airman who parachuted from a plane and pulled the ripcord too soon. The cute fouled on the plane. The plane could not land without killing the human pendulum. Eventually they pilot flew over water and cut loose the airman. The airman had a backup chute, which he used to save his life.
Much of the equipment seems not maintained. There were spider webs on things. Unlike Wright Patterson, these exhibits are not owned by the military. Civilians in Rantoul have inherited them and they have been left to their fate. The civilians are letting people go in and look at them in their current state for a fee.
Most interesting is the B-52 cockpit that can be climbed into. The seats have been ripped out, but you can see the actual cockpit. Also there is a toy SR-71 Blackbird, ten feet long or so that someone made for his children.
There is a time capsule that was left when the base closed to be opened ten years later. If you are going to leave a time capsule, leave it buried for more than ten years. After ten years what is inside is barely of interest value. There are things like motel room keys to the party celebrating the closing of the base. There are pieces of a broken tail light from a car accident one of the officers had.
There was a model of a Messerschmidt and I told Evelyn, "You mek anudder Messerschmidt like dat, I pop you in the Chanute."
We drove from the museum to Indianapolis. We got in about 3:15 and went to G. T. South's Rib House.
We continued on to Dayton where we stayed at the same Red Roof we stayed at on the way out. We watched THE BIG LEBOWKSY, which I still find very funny even if it never got very good reviews.
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07/21/04 Dayton, Ohio to Cambridge, Ohio
Bob Evans for breakfast. We are discussing if we want to see the John and Annie Glenn House on the way back. Somehow I just am not all that curious about what John Glenn's kitchen looked like. The same goes for Abraham Lincoln's front parlor. I am not certain what would be a good exhibit of what thee people stood for, but seeing their furniture does not tell me much about them. I think we can skip the John and Annie Glenn house.
I lived in Dayton from ages five to nine and frequently went to the Dayton Natural History Museum. That was where I learned a great deal of my astronomy, geology, physics, and other science. I think the year I was nine I took some sort of courses there and was there multiple times a week. The best days of the week were science at the museum and science fiction (and fantasy) on Twilight Zone. It is now the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery. Instead of being free it is now $8.50 for admission. It is now as much a playground as a museum. There are big plastic slides and things to crawl through. There is a big plastic village with a play animal hospital, recycling center, general store, and courthouse. There is a treehouse where there are story books. There is a small indoor zoo. There is an exhibit of weird curiosities of Ohio. It is probably five times the size it was, is much fancier, and may still have at least half the educational content it used to have. It has a lot more to do for children not interested in science. Currently they have a temporary exhibit on "Grossology: the (impolite) science of the human body." It is an exhibit on burping, producing snot, vomiting, and other gross functions of the body. In September an exhibit on football will replace it. It is a dumbed down science museum for a dumbed down America.
There was one decent exhibit showing science the Big Bang and the nine planets. It was not in very good repair but at least it was about real science. It didn't have a lot of information on each planet, but it took the visitor planet by planet to the sound of new age music. Most of the rest of the museum was a disappointment.
In Zanesville we ate a late lunch at Buffalo Wild Wings and got some spicy wings. The sauce on the buffalo wings was pretty spicy. In Cambridge we got a room at the Best Western and called it an early day. We rested and wrote in our logs.
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07/22/04 Cambridge, Ohio to New Jersey
The Best Western had a decent continental breakfast. We are getting a bit of rain. We had quite a bit early in the trip but have not had much since. Today we may get more.
We start out the day backtracking to Norwich to get to the National Road-Zane Gray Museum. There are two small museums combined to form a larger one.
The National Road was America's first national highway. It was the Route 66 of colonial times. The road went from Cumberland, Maryland to Vandalia, Illinois. George Washington suggested the idea for the road, but it was not actually started until Jefferson's term. It was built from 1811 to 1838. The workforce mostly consisted of local farmers who sold their services for typically $1/day. It was about 600 miles long covering what is today I-40 and I-70. It was not as cheap as the Erie Canal for transport and the Appalachian Mountains were something of a barrier. But it did help to bring settler west, frequently in Conestoga wagons. The railroads in 1850s took away business from the road and it looked like the road was just a relic of the past. It was mostly used to take food from farm to market along the road. It was the subject for nostalgia about the old life style gone forever. The National Road was an obsolete relic of the past.
Then Henry Ford invented the automobile. And he developed a low price version called the Model T.
By the decade following 1910 much of the National Road was being surfaced to give a smoother ride. Columbus, the biggest city on road, saw it was a tremendous source of business. Interstate Roads were extended into a system across the country.
The museum has one very long diorama showing the evolution of the road over time and distance. They also show some of the life style showing a blacksmith, a wheelwright, and an innkeeper and how they lived.
The other half of the museum is devoted to Zane Grey.
Zane Grey (1872-1939) was born Pearl Zane Gray in Zanesville, Ohio, a town his family had founded. He developed an early love of hunting and fishing. He also tried his hand at writing, but his father would have none of that. In school his interests were mostly in sports rather than learning. Mostly to please his father he studied and became a dentist. He went to New York City to practice and mostly to be near publishers. After a day of working in people's mouths he would have a hankering for the wide-open spaces. He wrote his first novel BETTY ZANE. He had to publish it at his own expense. He followed it with SPIRIT OF THE BORDER. He had a hard time getting any of his books to sell, but his wife kept spurring him to write and kept his articles circulating to publishers. Eventually he broke into the market.
He wrote more, getting his wife to proofread them and correct his grammar. Eventually his novels became very popular with the public. His RIDERS OF THE PURPLE SAGE is perhaps the most famous western novel ever written. Grey's novels are weak on characterization but strong on action and the feel of the locale.
Fox Pictures decided to film one of his stories. This gave Grey the idea to produce his own films of his stories. He produced eight or so before he was bought out by Jesse Lasky of Famous Players, formerly Famous Plays and Famous Players and soon to be renamed Paramount Pictures. From 1921 to 1929 Paramount made at least two Zane Grey films a year.
Grey was now a big success and spent much of his time hunting and fishing as well as writing. His books had sold 130,000,000 copies. He was pretty sure that would keep him financially healthy the rest of his life. He moved to Arizona to be nearer the film industry and for hunting only to find out that to conserve wild life Grey's sort of hunting had been made illegal. He went to the Arizona State government to apply for an exemption from the law on the grounds that, well... he was Zane Grey. The Arizona State Government turned him down on the grounds that well... they were the government.
He moved on to Catalina Island and spent his time sport fishing. He never managed his money well and when he bought an old boat and had it refitted for sport fishing he basically just ran himself out of money. He spent the last years of his life hunting and fishing living like a boy.
While we were driving we decided to see if we could make it home tonight. At about 2:30 we pulled into Pennsylvania for lunch. This was the same town where we had dinner the first night. I hope we have a better restaurant. We picked the Grapevine. As I write this we are waiting to be served.
The food was just mediocre. I told Evelyn that it had a familiar feel. One of our previous trips we finished up before the home stretch with an Italian meal. It too seemed to be not really very good cooking. Evelyn looked through the old trip logs and found it was on our Dakota trip. What is more it was the same restaurant.
Going through Harrisburg I was driving. We ended up missing a junction we wanted and drove all over the dickens. As we were driving we were running out of gas and just then the sky opened up and really dropped a flood of rain on us. We were in the rush hour traffic through an area under construction. The traffic just ground to a halt. The road was flooding. Eventually we made it to an exit to get gas. I thanked heaven that the pumps were under a canopy. I put in my credit card and pump told me I had to pay inside. I looked across at the building and running to the building would have been through a heavy drenching rain. I tried the card again. Still it would not authorize me. There was nothing for it but to run through the rain around a bunch of maneuvering cars. I was drench by the time I went into the store for them to authorize the card. The guy at the cash register had a big cigar with one end in his cheek. "The pump doesn't authorize my card." "Yeah, the telephone lines are down. Go ahead and pump your gas." Well, it was three more runs through the rain, but I filled the tank. Evelyn took the wheel and a few miles down the road everything was dry.
Well, that is about it. We got
home about 9PM. We were hot and sticky, but home.
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