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Well, it is another ridiculously long road trip--New Jersey to Arizona and back. Twelve states (NJ, PA, WV, OH, IN, IL, MO, KS, CO, NM, AZ, and UT), 7085 miles, and 36 days. The goal is to keep this log shorter than that might imply. For example, I will not describe every aircraft in the U. S. Air Force Museum in Dayton, or every animal in the St. Louis Zoo. Aren't you pleased?
Our Toyota was a bit crowded, but this may have had something to do with our bringing a dozen books, six dozen music cassettes, seven dozen cassettes of radio shows, and four dozen DVDs, as well as a portable DVD player. Oh, yes, and clothes. Even with all those DVDs, we still found ourselves wishing we had brought others, e.g. GETTYSBURG, THE BATTLE OF BRITAIN, THE RIGHT STUFF, and EMPIRE OF THE SUN (after just the first two museums).
June 17, 2004: We took the usual I-287 to I-78 to I-76 to I-70 route. Lunch was at a Country Oven, where I had French onion soup and Mark and I shared a shoofly pie and an apple dumpling. (Well, they are supposedly known for their desserts.)
We stopped at the new (opened in 2000) National Civil War Museum in Harrisburg. As Mark noted, this was too large to take in during one visit and too small to do the subject justice. (We spent three hours.)
The first part talked about the history of slavery in the United States. For those who are complained about how now "the judges are making the laws" in Massachusetts (by ruling that gay marriage must be allowed), I will point out that there is a long tradition for this: the abolition of slavery in Massachusetts in 1783 was by judicial decision. While the written descriptions (and videos) talked somewhat about states' rights and the opposition of the South for the industrialization of the North, almost all the displays deal with slavery as the main issue.
One plaque said that the "first regular army policy regarding chaplains" was in 1864, but I do not think this is entirely true. As Mark wrote in 1993: "The Bill of Rights promises freedom of religion, but the first Jewish chaplains were not commissioned in the United States armed forces until the Civil War. Before that time, one of the requirements for a chaplain was that he be a minister of a 'Christian denomination'. Even as late as July of 1861, a bill by Congressman Vallandigham to permit rabbis to serve as chaplains was defeated. While the debate was going on, however, the 5th Pennsylvania Cavalry asked Michael Allen to serve as their chaplain. (Allen was not even a rabbi.) After a YMCA representative visited the unit and saw this, he reported back on how this violation of the rules reflected badly on the military. Allen was removed, but on July 17, 1862, Congress voted to change the wording in the requirements for chaplain from 'Christian denomination' to 'religious denomination.' After Allen's removal, Rabbi Arnold Fischel was named chaplain for the 5th Pennsylvanian. Jacob Frankel was the first official Jewish chaplain commissioned, on September 18, 1862, and Leopold Sarner was the first regimental chaplain (of the 54th New York Volunteer Regiment), commissioned on April 10, 1863."
The museum has taken the current approach of following various people through the war. (I think this was started by the Holocaust Museum in Washington.)
A section at the end talks about the "New Myths of Old South": post-bellum Southern writers such as John Esten Cooke, Thomas Page, and Sara Pryor, who painted a very favorable, albeit inaccurate, picture of the antebellum South. I had just finished Edmund O. Wilson's analysis of American Civil War literature, PATRIOTIC GORE, so this was particularly interesting to me. In that book, Wilson also discussed George Washington Cable's analysis (in his book "The Negro Question") of why the North, having fought to free the slaves, was so willing in the last part of the 19th century to let their condition in the South be reduced almost back to that level, and why the South, having made such a fuss about states' rights before and during the War, was so willing to rejoin the Union and cede many of those rights. Cable's answer is that the North was really fighting for Union, and that freeing the slaves was merely an excuse--they did not care about the condition of the Negroes (to use Wilson's term). And the South was really fighting for slavery, and states' rights was merely an excuse. Whether this is actually true I do not know, but it certainly explains a lot of otherwise odd behavior. (Note: The vast majority of the Acts of Secession passed by the Southern states did in fact mention slavery as one of the reasons for their secession.)
In regard to a reference in this exhibit to "writers of local color," Mark pointed out that this was not the same as "local writers of color."
Now that we have a pedometer, I can keep yet another set of statistics. This museum took 1600 steps, or about three-quarters of a mile. (I should note that at times the pedometer seemed to fail by not registering steps. I would look at it and then fifteen minutes of walking when I looked at it again it was only a few steps more. So the numbers given should be considered estimates at best. It also sometimes seemed to tally steps even if we were just riding in the car.)
Then more driving. Dinner was a fairly mediocre chicken and strawberry salad at Eat 'n Park. (Shouldn't that really be "Park 'n Eat"?) Then we watched (most of) VERSUS, a Japanese movie about Yakuza fighting zombies.
Miles driven: 311
Cumulative miles: 311
June 18, 2004: Today was mostly driving. Lunch was a chicken enchilada and a tamale at an AAA-recommended El Toro. It was very mediocre--I have no idea why it was recommended. Certainly, there is much better Mexican food near us.
We got to Dayton about 2:30 PM, so we decided to spend a couple of hours at the U. S. Air Force Museum today, and then finish up tomorrow in order to have more time for the Art Institute. Ha! All we managed today was the Early Flight gallery.
The first airplane death was Lt. Thomas E. Selfridge. I wonder if he was any relation to the General James L. Selfridge who at one point in the Civil announced that "they couldn't hit an elephant at this distance"--right before he was killed by a bullet from the enemy.
There were also non-airplane items, such as the World War I ambulance made from a Model T, about which the following parody was written:
Yes, Tin, Tin, Tin. You exasperating puzzle, Hunka Tin. I've abused you and I've flayed you, But, by Henry Ford who made you, You are better than a Packard, Hunka Tin.
The two hours in the museum took about 2000 steps, or about a mile.
Dinner was at Skyline Chili, part of the chain started in Cincinnati. I had two chili dogs, and Mark had 5-Way Chili. First of all, Cincinnati chili is different in flavor. I know it has cinnamon in it, but I am not sure about the other distinguishing ingredients. And then there is the multiple "ways". "Original 3-Way Chili" is over spaghetti and with cheese on top. (I guess "2-Way" is without cheese.) "4-Way" used to be "3-Way" with beans, and "5-Way" with beans and onions, but they have bowed to the consumer's desire for more options, and now "4-Way" can be with either beans or onions as the additional ingredient.
The evening's watching was most of a wretched spaghetti Western titled BOOT HILL, and a considerably better Japanese science fiction film titled WARNING FROM SPACE which seems heavily inspired by WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE.
Miles driven: 331
Cumulative miles: 642
June 19, 2004: We returned to the U. S. Air Force Museum when it opened at 9 AM. And we stayed until it closed at 5 PM. And we still did not see everything.
The first thing we did was to sign up for the tour of the Presidential and R&D hangars. (These are limited, and by early afternoon at the latest all the tours are booked.) Since we had a 10 AM slot we did not have too much time beforehand to look at exhibits, but we did a bit.
The Presidential and R&D hangars are about a mile from the museum. Before 9/11, you used to be able to just drive (or walk) over there, but now you have to take a shuttle bus there, and you have to show photo ID to sign up. Luckily I knew this in advance, so we had our passports with us. (New Jersey has only just started requiring photo driver licenses, so our drivers licenses would not work.)
Most people spent all their time on the Presidential side. Admittedly that was of interest, since you could walk through four of the Presidential planes: Roosevelt's (used only once, to fly to Yalta), Truman's (called "Independence"), Eisenhower's (called "Columbine II"), and one used by Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon. The last one was the plane on which Johnson took the oath of office, so it is the most familiar.
But the R&D side had such planes as the Bell X-1 (actually an X-1B) and other experimental and prototype planes. Since you get only about forty minutes total for both, you have to plan carefully.
When we returned, we started going through the World War II section. Part way through we joined up with a museum tour in progress. This turned out to be a really good idea--the guide was very good, and there was still about an hour and a half to go on the tour.
For example, the guide said that the ammo belt used in a P-51 Mustang (the "Cadillac of the Skies", as seen in EMPIRE OF THE SUN) was nine yards long, and if the gunner came back having used all his ammo, they would say that he had gone the whole nine yards. It sounds reasonable, but I am sure I have seen other equally plausible explanations.
The Enola Gay is in the Smithsonian, but the U. S. Air Force Museum does have Bockscar, the plane that dropped the bomb on Nagasaki. They also have a kamikaze trainer--this had landing skids, while the actual kamikaze planes did not bother with any sort of landing gear.
The guide pointed out that if the A-26 cockpit shape looked familiar, it was because the manufacturer used the same mold, rotated ninety degrees, as the front of a classic 1950s jukebox. Also, at some point they renamed the A-26 the B-26, but that was confusing because there was already a B-26. (Whatever possessed them to rename it in the first place?!)
Helicopters were first used operationally in Korea. (I think I had asked the question about their first use in a previous log, so look on this statement as providing some sort of continuity.)
There was a MiG which had been flown to an Air Force base by a defector, who was quite surprised (and delighted) to discover that there was a $100,000 reward for any defector who got a MiG to the Americans. He ended up going into the aerospace industry here as a career. There was another MiG-23MLD seized by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms after it was bought by a Florida businessman from the Finns, who had bought it from a Russian general who supposedly used the money to feed his troops. I guess a MiG counts as a firearm.
The tour took us through the newer hangars, with Korea, Vietnam, and general Cold War Era aircraft.
Then we took a brief cafe break, before joining the afternoon version of the same tour to get the information for the part that we missed. Unfortunately, the afternoon guide was not as good as the morning one, but it was pretty good anyway.
There was a special exhibit on Chinese-American friendship, including the Flying Tigers, the Doolittle Raid, and Flying the Hump. This had some corporate sponsorship, I think, and one wonders if there is not an underlying agenda of making Americans more sanguine about giving advanced technology to China.
This day took 8000 steps, or about four miles.
Dinner was at Don Pablo's, a Mexican restaurant considerably better than El Toro yesterday. The evening's entertainment was INDEPENDENCE DAY and the first two chapters of ZORRO'S BLACK WHIP. (Throughout the trip we watched episodes of serials or old 1950s TV shows such as "The Adventures of Long John Silver" and "Sgt. Preston of the Yukon". I will not list them all.)
Miles driven: 38
Cumulative miles: 680
June 20, 2004: Today was another driving day. First we drove to Bloomington, Indiana, where we drove around Indiana University for a while. Mark had spent the summer of 1972 there in a National Science Foundation program, and we hoped to see something familiar, but it had changed so much that it was next to hopeless. Mark did recognize the Music Library, but so many of the buildings were clearly post-1972 that it is not surprising that it did not look familiar.
We then drove to St. Louis, where we stayed at a Travelodge in St. Charles, a suburb to the northwest. It was pretty hard to find, being a ways down a service road and impossible to see from the exit. In fact, even when you got there, you could not figure out which building it was until you were past it. No wonder it was cheap. (It was a nice place, but the location is clearly working against it.)
Because it was Fathers Day, almost all the restaurants were packed. We ended up at McAllister's Deli. It was a less than stellar experience, and not just because of the two screaming babies. Their idea of rye bread is slices in the shape of white bread (not the traditional oval) that looked more like whole wheat. Also the mustard was French's "Pourable" which 1) was not pourable, and 2) was not deli mustard.
Today's movies were HIS GIRL FRIDAY and TARZAN AND THE GREEN GODDESS. The latter supposedly takes place in Guatemala, but all the stock footage shots have elephants, giraffes, and lions.
Miles driven: 428
Cumulative miles: 1108
June 21, 2004: Today we spent at the St. Louis Zoo. (Insert usual discussion of how we are conflicted over enjoying zoos, and feeling guilty about them, and how, yes, we realize that a lot of these animals would be dead without zoos to care about them. But somehow looking at the gorillas in particular, I was reminded of how a couple of hundred years ago, explorers would bring back natives from various land to exhibit them. Given that gorillas seem to have an intelligence only slightly below ours, I hope this comparison is not deemed insulting to people, but rather taken as a comment on how close gorillas are to us.)
Because we arrived before 9 AM, we got to go on the Wild Ride and see the Insectarium free. (At 9 AM, they start charging; for example, the Insectarium would be $2.) Since the zoo is free, that is not too bad--except that parking is $8. (On the other hand, if we had gotten there really early, or were willing to walk a ways, there is on-road parking in the park area around the zoo.)
The Insectarium was sponsored by Monsanto, who used to make a lot of insecticides. Bow they are giving advice about how to avoid using insecticides, such as "Slugs just can't hold their liquor, so set a low-rimmed dish of cheap 'brew' in your garden and they will crawl in, get drunk, and drown."
There was also a Butterfly Atrium, complete with warnings to "stay on the path" and to "[make sure not to] step on any butterflies." Shades of Ray Bradbury's "The Sound of Thunder"!
The Wild Ride was a motion ride in which you see the world through the eyes of various animals. (That is not strictly true, as you retain your normal stereoscopic vision even when you are supposedly a bird or a fish.)
A display in "The Living World" said that mammals are defined as being vertebrates that have hair or fur at some time in their lives, are warm-blooded, and nurse their young with milk. This is not the definition we saw in the American Museum of Natural History, which defines mammals as animals having three bones in their middle ear. (It seems to be that there are some mammals lacking hair, though I cannot recall them right now. [Actually, the only ones lacking hair--cetaceans and naked mole rats--apparently have hair in the embryonic stage.])
This zoo categorizes the hyena as being more feline than canine, in a tree which can be described mathematically as "(((dogs+bear)+raccoon)+weasel) + (cat+(hyena+mongoose)) = carnivore". I am not sure that this is universally accepted; I had thought that there were some who felt the hyena to be more canine. (And "dogs" here seems to include wolves and foxes.)
The zoo took 7100 steps, or about three and a third miles.
Dinner was at Lewis and Clark's in the historic downtown district of St. Charles. I had a salad with smoked cheese and artichokes.
The evening movie was, fittingly enough, THE BEAR.
Miles driven: 59
Cumulative miles: 1167
June 22, 2004: Apparently the law in Missouri is that gambling is okay, as long as it is on a riverboat. So the gambling areas are on boats docked right next to the hotel, restaurant, etc. of the same casino. It reminds me of the technique used in the Ealing comedy ALL AT SEA.
We started with the Gateway Arch, now part of a National Historic Site which also includes the courthouse where the original Dred Scott case was tried. We got there about 8:45 AM and bought tickets for the tram ride to the top. There are normally $8 each, but with our National Parks Pass, they were only $5 each.
The tram takes about five minutes to get to the top. You can spend as much time as you want there, but since it is only a room with small observation windows, ten or fifteen minutes is probably enough.
At the base is the Museum of Western Expansion. This is about the Lewis and Clark expedition, which left from St. Louis, and about western expansion in general. Among the noteworthy quotes is Thomas Jefferson quoted as having said, "It may be taken for a certainty that not a foot of land will be taken from the Indians without their consent." He may have been smart, but he was not perfectly prescient. Jefferson also thought it would take three hundred years to settle the area of the Louisiana Purchase, when in fact the Census Bureau declared it settled ("the end of the frontier") less than a hundred years later, in 1890.
Stephen Long also demonstrated his fallibility when he wrote, "In regard to this [Great Plains] section of the country, I do not hesitate in giving the opinion that it is almost wholly unfit for cultivation and of course uninhabitable by people depending upon agriculture for their subsistence."
The arch and museum took 2400 steps, or a little over a mile.
We then went to the Soldiers Memorial Military Museum, a small two-room museum of memorabilia and photographs which is more an adjunct to the actual memorial than a full-fledged museum.
After this it was lunchtime, and we went to a place called Duff's near Washington University (in what was described to me by someone as the "Central West End"). It was recommended by AAA, but we found it very over-priced ($9.95 for vatapa, described as a seafood stew, but more like a cream broth with two clams, two scallops, two shrimp, and a few small pieces of fish). I am beginning to think that AAA may be a good source of information for sight-seeing (though their minimum times for sights are often very minimum indeed), and good for accommodations, but not very good for restaurants. Many of the places they recommend are national chains, which are fairly easily spotted from the road and well-known anyway.
After lunch we stopped into Left Bank Books, right across the street. The same person who described this as the Central West End claimed this was the largest and best general bookstore in St. Louis, but that was clearly before Borders opened a superstore along US 40. Down the street a ways was The Big Sleep, a mystery store, but since there were no available parking spaces nearby, we did not stop.
The St. Louis Art Museum is also in Forest Park (along with the Zoo), but it has a free parking lot. We had planned for this at the end of the day, because supposedly it was open on Tuesdays from 1:30 PM to 7 PM, but it turned out that they had changed the Tuesday hours to 10 AM to 5 PM to match the other days. Luckily we got there about 1:30 PM, so we had enough time to see everything of interest. A lot of the Asian art had been moved out temporarily to make room for a display of the history of botanical drawing, and I suppose we see less of that in museums than of Asian art in general. What was more interesting was the special exhibit of the William Blake engravings for the Book of Job.
One observation: with their propensity for naked babies, some 15th century religious paintings would qualify as child pornography under some of today's laws.
This all took 3000 steps, or about a mile and a half.
As we left Forest Park, we passed the Zoo. The parking lot was full and people were parked for at least a mile along the roadway. It pays to get there early.
Because lunch was rather small, we went to Mr. Steak for dinner.
This evening we watched DOUBLE WHAMMY and CONAN THE BARBARIAN.
Miles driven: 62
Cumulative miles: 1229
June 23, 2004: We drove to Fulton, Missouri, to see the Winston Churchill Memorial and Library. Why is there a Winston Churchill Memorial and Library in Fulton, Missouri? Well, on March 5, 1946, Churchill was invited to speak at Westminster College, and he gave his famous "Sinews of Peace" speech. You never heard of it? Well, maybe you know it better by its other name, the "Iron Curtain Speech": "From Stettin to the Baltic, to Trieste to the Adriatic, an Iron Curtain has descended across the continent."
Many years later, the college discovered that the Christopher Wren Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Aldermanbury, in London, which had been wrecked during the Blitz, had never been restored, and they decided to bring the ruins back to Fulton and restore it there as a memorial to Churchill.
The museum itself covers the life of Churchill. Did you know that he was one-sixteenth Iroquois through his mother's side? Well, he was.
Briefly, Churchill started out as a war correspondent, stood for Parliament, lost, returned as a war correspondent to the Boer war (where he was captured and escaped), stood again for Parliament in 1901 (as a Conservative) and won, but switched to the Liberal Party in 1906. In 1911 he was appointed First Lord of the Admiralty, but after the disaster of Gallipoli he resigned and went to serve in France. In 1924 he ran as a "Constitutional Candidate" (he changed parties a lot), was appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1924, and again First Lord of the Admiralty. On May 10, 1940, he became Prime Minister, a post that he held through World War II. In 1945 his party was defeated in Parliament and he stepped down as Prime Minister to become the Leader of the Opposition. In 1951, he returned as Prime Minister, resigned again in 1955, but stayed in Parliament until 1963.
On March 9, 1996 (the fiftieth anniversary of Churchill's speech), Margaret Thatcher came to Westminster College and gave a speech, "New Threats for Old", in the same lecture series as Churchill's speech.
One exhibit was a shelf of all the books Churchill wrote, in chronological order. The bookshop, however, has very few copies of his books, and none of the famous speech (though it is included in another book about Churchill). It does have pieces of the Wall for sale, though.
The church had a stand with a large Bible, but propped against it was a sign saying "Do Not Use". What is that all about?
From Fulton it was a short drive to Jefferson City, the capital of Missouri. This is another state capital like Frankfort, Kentucky, which is so small that you can park on the street right in front of the Capitol building for free. (Or just about anywhere else in town, for that matter.)
The Capitol building is relatively new, having been built after the last one burned down in 1911. The decorations include busts of famous Missourians, paintings of historical Missouri scenes, and a mural by Thomas Hart Benton. Two of the paintings are by N. C. Wyeth ("The Battle of Westport" and "The Battle of Wilson's Creek") and they look just the covers he did for the Scribner's series of classic novels such as THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND,
The famous Missourians include David Rice Atchison, who was President for a day (March 4, 1849). President Zachary Taylor did not want to be sworn in on a Sunday, so supposedly James K. Polk's Presidency ended on Saturday, March 3, 1849, and Taylor's did not start until Monday, March 5, 1849. In the absence of a President or a Vice-President, the President Pro Tem of the Senate is President, hence the claim that Atchison was President for a day. I find this argument less than compelling. First of all, one could argue that the transition apparently occurs when the new President is sworn in--otherwise, we would have several hours between midnight and the swearing-in when we were between Presidents. (For that matter, when a President dies, the Vice-President becomes President at that moment, no matter how long it takes for the swearing-in to happen. Generally they try to have it happen as soon as possible, so that there would be no possible confusion, but I do not believe it is absolutely necessary.) But if one argues that the new President takes office at his swearing-in, then the old one must remain in office until that instant.
The title of "famous Missourian" seemed to be applied to people who were born elsewhere, but lived in Missouri for at least a few years (e.g., Scott Joplin, who did not, I hasten to add, have anything particular to do with Joplin, Missouri).
The House Lounge has a mural by Thomas Hart Benton of the history of Missouri. There was much debate over it after it was completed. Some objected to the fact that it showed a baby being diapered, but no war heroes. Benton responded that without babies being diapered, there would be no war heroes. Others objected to the portrayal of political boss Tom Pendergast, partially-clad dancing girls, or the ballad of Frankie and Johnny. Many want to whitewash over the whole thing. (This is similar to the reaction to Diego Rivera's murals. It must be something about murals and muralists.)
We had lunch at Madison's--excellent pasta dishes (I had Grilled Cajun Shrimp Pasta). This was also an AAA recommendation, so they do make some good ones. We then drove on to Lexington. This was an addition to our original plan, the site of a Civil War battle known for two things: it was claimed to be the most complete Confederate victory of 1861, and the Confederates shielded their advance with hemp bales which they rolled along ahead of them. (I assume the bales in the museum are imitation hemp, since I think the growing, etc., of hemp is still illegal. It is possible, however, that once processed into bales it may be okay.)
One of the displays was a reprint of a news story about the sale of a slave girl to her mother. Apparently the mother had been freed and had earned enough to buy her daughter (and free her). According to the report, all the prospective bidders but one agreed not to bid against her, but one bidder persisted until the price had been run up, at which point he gave up, she achieved her goal, and the recalcitrant bidder was almost run out of town. This, I suppose, is to try to show that slaveholders in the South were not all cruel and unfeeling.
We drove on to Independence. Apropos of both the Air Force Museum and the Churchill "Iron Curtain" speech (as well as the upcoming Truman Presidential Museum), we watched THE BIG LIFT and a short with Burgess Meredith and Ronald Reagan titled "The Rear Gunner". That made two films with California governors we have watched on this trip.
Miles driven: 291
Cumulative miles: 1520
June 24, 2004: The main event of the day was the Truman Presidential Library and Museum.
The lobby is dominated by Thomas Hart Benton's mural "Independence Opening to the West". Truman (perhaps remembering the unflattering portrait of his mentor Tom Pendergast in Benton's mural in the State Capitol) said that it would be fine to have Benton do a mural for the museum, but the mural could not have anything about him (Truman). Benton portrays three sections, the family in center, the burgeoning city on right, and the Indians on the left. Randall Jesse (a local newscaster and Benton's neighbor) is portrayed as a wagon train leader, and Jesse's son is also in it, but the other figures are not painted from specific people.
We started with two films, one about Truman's life before his Presidency, and a longer one covering his entire life. From these we learned that Truman's eyesight was always bad, and that he got into the Army during World War I by memorizing the eye chart. (I do not know whether SPACE COWBOYS got the idea from this, or whether it was a fairly common trick.)
Truman was not always a great judge of character. He was associated with political boss Tom Pendergast (and was initially know as "the Senator from Pendergast"). Truman also misjudged Stalin, saying of him after their meeting at Potsdam, "He seemed a man you could do business with." It was typical of the museum that they did not attempt to cover up Truman's mistakes, or hide the controversy about his decisions.
One film showed Truman doing a fairly good impression of H. V. Kaltenborn predicting that Dewey would win.
The museum itself starts with a replica of the Oval Office as it was when Truman was there (though the sign saying "The Buck Stops Here" on one side and "I'm from Missouri" on the other is not on his desk, but in a display case). Truman redesigned the Seal of the United States so that the eagle faced to its right, towards the olive branch rather than the arrows, and he also added stars for each state.
He hated air conditioning, so would put it on only when he had visitors, then turn it off as soon as they left. Some of the airplane pictures decorating the office came off calendars. (He loved planes; Bess hated them.) The furniture here are all reproductions, though--the originals are stored at White House.
Truman was the last President who never graduated from college.
When Bess realized that all of Truman's papers would end up in archives, she burned their love letters, saying they were private. According to the guide, this was probably because she wanted to conceal her family history, particularly that her father committed suicide. It obviously did not work, but I am also not clear what letters she burned, because something else I read indicated a lot of the love letters did still survive.
Though Truman's early life was covered in the museum, most of it dealt with his Presidency. That part began with his decision to drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and here as in other sections, there were statements by Truman explaining his decision, but also statements from people who opposed him, either at the time or in retrospect.
One display talked about Jackie Robinson. The guide said that he was the first African-American to play professional baseball, but that was wrong. The display got it right: he was the first African-American to play baseball in the modern major leagues. There were some in the very early days of the game in the 1890s, and I think one or two shortly after the turn of the century, but that was soon stopped. However, there were the Negro Leagues, and given that the Negro Baseball League Hall of Fame is practically next door in Kansas City, I would have expected the guide to be a little more precise.
On March 12, 1947, Truman announced what became known as the Truman Doctrine: "To support free peoples resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressure." As Mark noted, this was ignored by Eisenhower in places such as Hungary.
Truman also initiated the Marshall Plan (he felt it would be more like to garnet support if George C. Marshall spear-headed it). He initiated the Berlin Airlift (June 24, 1948, to May 12, 1949), which used 594 craft making a total of 277,804 flights. His other major accomplishments during his first term included integrating the armed forces and recognizing Israel (which George C. Marshall opposed and over which he threatened to resign, but Truman recognized it anyway). Here was another example of the museum's openness--the display about Israel acknowledges the political component for getting Jewish support for the Democrats by recognizing Israel.
Even more surprising, the section about Truman and civil rights displays a couple of early letters written by Truman in which he expresses racist ideas and uses racist language. Since these letters were from the 1910s and 1920s, one might reasonably assume that his opinions changed in later ideas.
There was, of course, a whole section on Truman's firing of MacArthur, and how it re-established the fact that "civilians, not generals, control the nation's military policy."
As for the "Give 'em hell, Harry!" thing, Truman did at one point say, "I'm going to fight hard. I'm going to give them hell." But later when the slogan caught on, he said, "I just tell the truth and they think it's hell." (Actually, I've seen a few slightly different phrasings of that, but I assume he said something like it.)
There as an audience participation on civil liberties (tied in to McCarthyism). One question was whether you thought the government should be allowed "to wiretap anyone they suspect of being a terrorist or spy." However, when the responses were tallied, this became "the right of privacy overrides finding terrorists and spies."
Movies were THE GOODBYE GIRL and THE THIRD SOCIETY.
Miles driven: 8
Cumulative miles: 1528
June 25, 2004: We left Independence and drove to Leavenworth, Kansas, to see the Frontier Army Museum. (This is a museum about the Frontier Army, not just an army museum about the frontier. Apparently for a long time there was a distinct Frontier Army.)
The museum is on Fort Leavenworth itself, so the security was similar to that at Fort Knox last year: photo IDs and a car inspection. The AAA book had not mentioned this, even though they did have warnings that photo IDs were needed for some parts of the U. S. Air Force Museum in Dayton.
The museum was actually fairly small, perhaps in part because they seemed to be making some changes and so a couple of rooms were not open. Motion sensors were used to turn lights on to conserve displays, but sometimes they would go out while you were looking at the display and you had to figure out where to move to turn it on again.
In 1817, the western border of Louisiana, Arkansas, and Missouri was declared the "Permanent Indian Frontier". That did not last. The area west of it was termed "the Great American Desert", which may be where Puccini got the idea he used in "Manon Lescaut", that there was a desert near New Orleans (which is on the eastern side of Louisiana). (Actually, it's not clear whether the desert was the idea of Puccini or his librettists.)
Apparently "hough", pronounced "hoo-ah", is a well-known army word. (Al Pacino used it a lot in SCENT OF A WOMAN.)
Almost all the exhibits had some plaque expressing "Army Values: Leadership, Duty, Respect, Self-less Service, Honor, Integrity, Personal Courage".
One reason that flintlock muskets remained popular so long was that flints could be procured in the field, while cartridges had to be manufactured and shipped.
There was a brief mention of the abortive attempt at forming a camel corps. They did have a photograph of the 25th Infantry Bicycle Corps.
At the outbreak of the Civil War, the Frontier Army (which formed 183 of the Regular Army's 198 Companies) lost a third of its officers, but very few men.
Once again the claim was made that the black soldiers were named "Buffalo Soldiers" because they had the courage of buffaloes. I suspect the other story--that they were called "Buffalo Soldiers" because their hair reminded the Indians of buffalo hair, is far more likely, but probably politically incorrect these days. And in fact, the Indians would not have named the soldiers after the buffalo had the soldiers not also had some of the characteristics such as courage ascribed to the buffalo by the Indians.
Somehow, when we list all the wars the United States has been in, we do not mention the Pershing expedition of 1916 after Pancho Villa's raid on Columbus, New Mexico. (Well, we do not list the Dominican Republic, Panama, or Grenada invasions either.)
There were some early planes here, but the museum noted that JN4s were discovered to be unsuitable for Mexico--the wheels sank in sand, and the low humidity dried out the propellers.
Half the enlisted men of the Frontier Army were immigrants (half of those Irish, and the rest mostly German). This becomes clearer in the movie ONE MAN'S HERO.
One of the displays had a 38-star flag, so it presumably represented some time between 1876 and 1889.
Interesting fact: There were more horses and mules in the artillery than there were in the cavalry.
One of the tasks of the Regular Army from 1886 through 1918 was to guard the National Parks. The hats worn by the current rangers remain the same as the hats worn by the army then.
There was a collection of vehicles, including the Lincoln Carriage (in which Lincoln had ridden on a visit to Kansas before becoming President), the Custer Sleigh, and the Wainwright Sleigh.
There was the obligatory Lewis and Clark display. Well, this is the two-hundredth anniversary, and they did stay at Fort Leavenworth.
My pedometer said 300 steps. This seems way too low. I think the problem is that the strolling and sidewise walking one does in a museum does not register very well on it.
We drove on to Lawrence, Kansas, where we ate lunch at Shalor's, the restaurant in the historic Eldridge Hotel. Mark ordered an elk chop, but it was out of season. I had a portabella mushroom sandwich with avocado and goat cheese. The hotel may be old, but the menu is not.
Across the street was The Dusty Bookshelf, a very nice used bookstore. Well, Lawrence is the home of the state university, so you would expect good bookstores. Around the corner was another bookstore, The Raven, which was mostly new books and very small.
The Spencer Museum of Art is a small art museum, but it has some nice pieces, and their special exhibit of Japanese and Chinese art, "The Art of Stories Told", was a really nice bonus for us, including fantastic creatures, the story of Chushingura, "The Tale of Genji", ghost stories, and others. It also talked about a Japanese story-telling tradition, Hyaku monogatari (One Hundred Tales), which involved a group of people gathering at dusk and lighting a hundred candles. They take turns telling ghost stories and at the end of each story, the teller blows out one candle.
The story of Prince Shotoku (574-622, who established Buddhism in Japan), includes that he was born unexpectedly when his mother arrived at the imperial horse stables. Why does this sound familiar for religious figures?
I noticed that a religious triptych from 1460 showed the people who were abusing Jesus while he was carrying the cross had hooked noses, while the "good guys" had a very Roman look. Jesus's nose is not hooked.
They have the obligatory Thomas Hart Benton, "The Ballad of the Jealous Lover of Lone Green Alley", as well as works by Winslow Homer, Georgia O'Keeffe, and Grant Wood.
This seemed to be about 1000 steps, or a half a mile.
We then drove on to Abilene, Kansas. This used to be a major rail stop, but now is a very small town with only the Eisenhower Center and the National Greyhound of Fame. Dinner was at Sonic.
We watched the closest thing to the Japanese story-telling we had, GODZILLA 2000.
Miles driven: 236
Cumulative miles: 1764
June 26, 2004: Abilene has very few restaurants--we ended up having breakfast at McDonald's. The Sausage McMuffin on the Dollar Menu is not bad. They had two sizes of coffee, 75-cent and one-dollar. Used to eastern prices, I figured the small one would be about eight ounces and the large about twelve. So I got the large--which turned out to be more like twenty ounces! Well, as Mark said, the Eisenhower Center will have restrooms.
Our major stop of the day was, of course, the Dwight D. Eisenhower Library & Museum, a.k.a. the Eisenhower Center. The June ductory film covered Eisenhower's life, but except for D-Day, it seemed to portray him more as someone whom things happened around than someone who did things, or only vague descriptions. For example, they might say, "During his administration, Eisenhower had to deal with Soviet aggression during the Hungarian uprising." And this sense of being acted upon rather than acting carried through in the displays in the museum, which were often more about the times than about Eisenhower. This seemed a marked contrast to the Truman Museum, which was very much a "Truman did this" and "Truman said that" sort of place.
One room was devoted to Birger Sandzen prints. I guess Abilene is small enough that this is the only museum they have and it serves multiple purposes.
The family name was originally Eisenhauer, but it was changed around the time of Eisenhower's grandparents. His parents were pacifists and not pleased about his choice of West Point as a college. (He actually wanted Annapolis, but was too old by the time he applied. He was not particularly looking for a career in the military, but more a free education.) His three older and two younger brothers all went into different fields: Milton Stover Eisenhower was a college president (as was Dwight for a while), Earl Dewey was a journalist and state legislator, Roy Jacob was a pharmacist, Edgar Newton was a lawyer, and Arthur Bradford was a banker.
He graduated West Point in the Class of 1915, "The Class the Stars Fell On", so named because its graduates accumulated more stars as generals than any other class. For example, both Eisenhower and Omar Bradley because Generals of the Army. During his early career, Eisenhower served under MacArthur.
There was a "First Ladies" gallery, including a charm bracelet of Mamie's with the charms representing milestones in Eisenhower's career.
The first part of the War Gallery shows guns, uniforms, etc., but says little about the decisions, strategy, etc. Later on it does become more specific, though.
In one gallery documenting his time in England, there are photos of his staff on the back wall of a replica of his office there. One photo is positioned such that it you stand at the obvious spot to view the display it is behind the explanatory sign, and if you shift a little to the right, it is behind the printing machine. That is the photograph of Kay Summersby. I would contrast this with the display in the Truman Museum of letters and such which were negative on Truman. In a lot of ways these differing attitudes of the museums represent the different styles of the men portrayed.
The description of the Soviet "scorched earth" policy against the Germans reminded me that it was not a new idea--the Russians used it against Napoleon in Moscow in the early 1800s.
The Supreme Headquarters of the Allied Expeditionary Forces (SHAEF) had a lot of diversionary tactics to convince the Germans that the invasion would happened elsewhere than Normandy (on beaches designated from east to west as Sword, Juno, Gold, Omaha, Utah). They spread word of a fictitious Northern Army in Scotland, complete with (fake) announcements of weddings between soldiers and local girls in the papers. Another plan involved someone impersonating Montgomery to convince the Germans of a southern invasion (following the landings in Italy on July 10, 1943 (see the movie I WAS MONTY'S DOUBLE). There were also fake oil dumps built at Dover (across from Calais); these were constructed by the set builders from movie studios! Some of the deceptions were abandoned, including one which involved an Army training exercise Operation Tiger at Slapton Sands that the Germans accidentally discover, resulted in 700 Allied dead.
Since by now you must know about D-Day, I will just mention some D-Day statistics here: 5000 ships, 4000 LSTs, 250,000 troops (including 20,000 paratroopers), 12,000 planes, and 3500 gliders.
One paratrooper described the drops as, "We knew what was happening, but didn't know where we were. The Germans knew where we were, but didn't know what was happening."
According to the displays, Pearl Harbor planner Minoru Genda is still alive, but the exhibit may be old. Hirohito died in 1989, having out-lived just about all the other major players of World War II. [Actually, Genda also died in 1989, so I guess the display was composed between the two deaths, and has not been updated since.]
The display on Mulberry Harbors was something new, describing how the Allies built artificial harbors on the French coast after D-Day to assist in landing troops and supplies.
This was the second place that talked about "short snorters" as souvenirs. A short snorter was a series of currency from the various places a soldier had been, taped together end to end. At bars, the person with the shortest short snorter often had to buy everyone else a round of drinks.
There were a lot of documents displayed, ranging from Eisenhower's planned letter if D-Day failed and his letter given to each of the troops participating in D-Day, to a letter of instruction for WAC personnel information regarding such details as that they should make sure to wrap used sanitary napkins securely, since they would be transferred from container to container several times. I also noted that when they listed religious services, Jewish services were not included. (Well, maybe there were not a lot of Jewish WACs.)
There was a Presidential Gallery, which included a lot about "The Eisenhower Years" in general, including a television set running clips of "Dragnet", "The Lone Ranger", etc.
As an example of how Eisenhower's accomplishments all seemed to be passive ones, one display said, "One of Eisenhower's greatest accomplishments was avoiding a nuclear war with the Soviet Union." (A panel talking about films of the time that dealt with nuclear holocaust listed as one such film "The Last Day". There is no such film that we can find anything about.)
Eisenhower's best known accomplishment may well be the Interstate Highway System. He tried to convince Congress to form a Cabinet-level department for health, education, and welfare, but failed. Eventually, of course, that did happen.
He had to sign so many documents that at one point he said, "I wish I was A. Doe." Eventually his legal staff said that the signature "DDE" would be sufficiently legal.
On the civil rights front, Mamie Eisenhower integrated the annual Easter-egg roll on the White House lawn.
There was a display of the various gifts that Eisenhower received from other heads of state. (After 1961, Head of State gifts were declared Federal property, rather than the private property of the President.)
The end had a few memorable quotes: "One of these days, people are going to demand peace, and their governments had better get out of the way and let them have it," and "If all that Americans want is security, they can go to prison." And one of his best-known quotes (from his "Chance for Peace" speech, April 16, 1953): "Every gun that is fired, every warship launched . . . signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed."
My best guess for this museum is about 2200 steps, or a little over a mile.
We then drove on to Hays, Kansas, where I had a good soak in the hot tub, and then watched CONAN THE DESTROYER, "Conan Unchained" (a fairly interesting documentary about the making of and the phenomenon of CONAN THE BARBARIAN), and THE CRAWLING EYE.
Miles driven: 142
Cumulative miles: 1906
June 27, 2004: We bought some groceries, then went to the Sternberg Museum of Natural History. This has a walk-through diorama of the Cretaceous, complete with signs saying, "Don't feed the dinosaurs" and "Stay on the path". Is it just me, or is the latter yet another reference to Ray Bradbury's "The Sound of Thunder"?
The Sternberg's most famous fossil is a fish-within-a-fish, where one fish swallowed another and then was immediately killed and preserved. There were also sea lilies (uinacrinus), which in spite of their name are animals, not plants. The museum is known for being the most complete fossil collection of the region. Because it is used for teaching, it goes into a lot of detail detail (e.g., describing phaneritic vs. aphanitc textures in rocks). But it also has a lots of human artifacts, including a "Japanese ladle" (which is basically the sort of soup spoon one gets in Japanese restaurants). It is not as bad as some "natural history" museums, in including only other cultures artifacts, though, because it also has a lot of Euro-American ones, including the "Hadley Dish Collection" and the obligatory barbed wire collection.
There was a section about a trip sponsored to South Africa, with the information that a cheetah can go 65 miles per hour for 300 yards (taking about 10 seconds), but then is basically exhausted, while a wild dog can go 30 miles per hour (or 15 yards a second) for up to three miles (taking about 6 minutes). So if you give a dog a 100-yard head start, the cheetah will catch it, but if you give a cheetah a 100-yard head start, the dog will catch it.
There was a special exhibit on the Burgess Shale, which contained a few smaller fossils from it, but not any large plates. I guess someone read Robert J. Sawyer's "Calculating God" and was worried about crazed gunmen. :-)
The Cambrian Explosion (543-490 MYA) was preceded by the Ediacran Era, which somehow never got the same amount of press. A lot of the creatures were familiar from Stephen Jay Gould's "Wonderful Life" (highly recommended). There was Pikaia, the first chordate. There was Anomalocaris (originally parts of it were thought to be separate animals, a shrimp and a jellyfish). There was Hallucigenia, which was originally thought to walk on stilts and have tentacles, until in the late 1960s someone realized that the "tentacles" were really its legs, and the "stilts" were really spines. There was Opabinia (a five-eyed creature!).
All the life forms vary wildly from each other; there were many body plans, but little diversity with each. As they said, "It's like finding a land populated only by earthworms, elephants, lightning bugs, starfish, sponges, and clams."
Afterwards we ate lunch at Guiterrez Mexican Food, where we had items with trademarked names that would not mean anything to you (like a Mijito).
We then drove to Burlington, Colorado, where we watched the commentary track on CONAN THE BARBARIAN (not a very good commentary) and then TARZAN AND THE TRAPPERS (not a very good movie, but there was at least a vague natural history connection).
Miles driven: 173
Cumulative miles: 2079
June 28, 2004: On the way to Denver we changed our plans. We had thought to go to the Museum of Natural History, but that was too similar to yesterday, so we decided to go to Rocky Mountain National Park. This would normally be $15, but with the National Parks pass we had it was free.
As a sign of the future of National Parks, we needed to take a shuttle bus to Bear Lake. In an attempt to cut down on the traffic and to minimize the amount of prime space needed for parking lots, the parks are putting car lots near the edges of the parks and making people take shuttle buses to the trail heads and popular points. This would not be so bad except here they are also widening the road, so the bus ride was very rough.
We walked around Bear Lake, being rained on occasionally but luckily not very heavily. This was described as a half-mile trail, but with the walk to and from the bus, it was really a mile, with some inclines but paved the whole way.
The other main feature of the park is the Trail Ridge Road, which climbs up above the tree line for magnificent views, then descends to drive through a more heavily forested area. Early on, all we were seeing were prairie dogs, chipmunks, and birds, but towards the end we saw a herd of about a dozen elk.
After leaving the park, we continued on the scenic loop to Denver, passing a herd of bison somewhere near Buffalo Bill's grave (according to the sign). And it did finally rain.
We ended up at a Best Western in Englewood, and had dinner at Landry's Seafood (apparently a chain). I had crawfish etouffe and Mark had fried oysters--not exactly typically Coloradan.
We watched half of JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH before falling asleep.
Miles driven: 398
Cumulative miles: 2477
June 29, 2004: We stopped at the tourist center in Raton, New Mexico, to pick up brochures, and discovered that we were passing very near Capulin (CAP-you-lin) Volcano National Monument, so we decided to visit it. For this, you drive up a very narrow road with no guard rail wrapped around the volcano--pretty scary going up when you are on the outside. At the top you park and can walk around the entire rim if you want. Given it was at 7877 feet and steep in parts, we decided to do just the gentler trail down into the vent area. (It is, I should note, an inactive volcano.) On the way down, someone ahead of us pointed out a rattlesnake just by the side of the path under a shrub, crawling away from the path. Cool! This round trip was about half a mile.
We drove on. It was a long time between gas stations here along I-25, but we managed to get gas before running out. So far we have managed to find gas for under $2 a gallon everywhere.
Our next stop was Fort Union National Monument. This was a fort in use during the second half of 19th century. Only the ruins of the third fort are still visible, thought the earthworks of the second fort are also still evident. Here we were walking along a path in front of the old officers' quarters when we heard an odd noise. It was the rattle of another rattlesnake, this time out in the open and coiled up about six feet from the path. We moved to the far side of the path and walked by slowly, which was really all it wanted. Cool!
There were also some very impressive anthills, and interesting beetles. Outside the boundaries of the fort we could still see the ruts of the Santa Fe Trail. The entire walking route took about a mile and a half. (By now, you are probably saying that you really wish I had not got the pedometer. :-) )
After this, we drove to Las Vegas, New Mexico (considerably smaller than the other one), and had a dinner of New Mexican specialties at the Plaza Hotel. (These were specialties of New Mexico, not recently added Mexican specialties.) I had Blue Corn Enchiladas and Mark had a Stuffed Burrito, which did not contain rice. All too often, places make their burritos large by stuffing them with rice. I am not on an Atkins diet, but I do not think that stuffing rice into it is a good way to make a burrito.
From there we drove to Santa Fe, seeing several large lighting bolts and hearing thunder and even being rained on a bit as we went.
Being in the West now, we watch ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST, along with two featurettes "Railroad: Revolutionizing the West" and "An Opera of Violence".
Miles driven: 462
Cumulative miles: 2939
June 30, 2004: Instead of going to the Pecos National Historic Park, we decided to drive to Albuquerque and go to the Rio Grande Zoo instead. (In part, that was because we were up so early, though Pecos does open at 8 AM.) This zoo seemed about the same size as the St. Louis Zoo, but not as good. Part of this was probably because many animals were missing for some reason, not just small arthropods, but even the polar bear, the cheetah, and the snow leopard. On the plus side, the gorillas seemed to have a bit more room, mostly because the weather means they can have a large outdoor area year round.
The Reptile House displayed a rhyme to distinguish between the non-poisonous milk snake and the poisonous coral snake: "Red to black venom lack, red to yellow kill a fellow." (This refers the ordering of the red, black, and yellow stripes and assumes you are close enough to distinguish them.) A prominent sign warned that this rhyme applied only in the United States!
Lizards have eyelids and external ear openings, while snakes do not. Because of this definition, there are legless lizards, much as because of the way mammals are defined, there are egg-laying mammals. (More taxonomy: echidnas + platypuses = monotremes)
Walking around here took just about 5280 steps, which is just about two and a half miles.
We then went to a couple of bookstores, Birdsong and The Bookstop. The former was described as having the largest selection of used science fiction in Albuquerque and this is probably true. The fact that it is right next to the university probably has something to do with this. It also has very large mystery and literature sections. The Bookstop, by contrast, has very little science fiction, probably because it concentrates on hardbacks and higher quality books (first editions and such).
Lunch was at Yasmine's, a Middle Eastern restaurant. We got the lunch plates (I a vegetarian combo, Mark grilled chicken) and they were enormous!
After this we drove to Gallup, New Mexico, where we stayed at what I hope will be the worst motel of the trip, a Howard Johnson. The ice machine was broken; the phone system allowed 800 calls, but not 877 ones; they charged for the safe, but there was no key (we did get a refund on this); and the cleaning staff had not removed the last person's shampoo. And to this that the desk was actually just whoever was the clerk in the restaurant/store of the travel plaza, and we understood why it was only $32.95 plus tax a night.
We watched the commentary track on ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST--much better than the one on CONAN THE BARBARIAN. For all this motel's faults, I think the color settings on its television were better than last night.
Miles driven: 214
Cumulative miles: 3153
July 1, 2004: We drove to Scottsdale today. Because we started early enough, we took a short detour through the Petrified Forest National Park. (This is certainly an advantage of the National Parks pass. As with the Museum Card in Paris, one is encouraged to drop in to various places for a short while, instead of feeling that one must spend hours and hours to make it worthwhile.) We still had extra time, so we drove down through Oak Creek Canyon, Red Rock Country, and Sedona rather than just taking the interstate south from Flagstaff. We had driven this before, but it is still beautiful.
Lunch in Sedona was at Oaxaca, where I had posole and Mark had buffalo chili, both served in a bread bowl and with a salad. It is nice that they have a small meal with a salad, since getting vegetables is often iffy when traveling.
In the Phoenix area, we stayed in Scottsdale for one night before heading over to the convention tomorrow so as to be able to spend a few hours with my mother-in-law (and save a bit on the cost of the hotel--$39 vs. $105).
Miles driven: 351
Cumulative miles: 3504
July 2-5, 2004: My convention report for ConKopelli is in a separate report.
However, I will describe the hotel here, because it was without doubt the poshest place we have ever stayed.
Westercon 57 (ConKopelli) was held July 2-5, 2004, at The Wigwam Resort. Their trademark is "Authentic Arizona", but as John Hertz pointed out, wigwams are strictly eastern United States, and even teepees are a bit further north from here.
The room was huge, probably about 20' by 20', with two queen-sized beds, a couch, a comfortable chair, a coffee table, a desk and chair, and a wardrobe with television, mini-bar, and drawers. Surprisingly, though the closet was large, with about a dozen hangers, there were only three small drawers.
The bathroom was also huge, close to the size of some hotel rooms we have been in. It had two sinks, a tub, and a shower.
The extras are where you really notice the luxury. The main room has a pitcher and glasses made of glass. (There are a few plastic cups, with the explanation that they are to take to the pool area rather than the glasses.) The ice bucket really works--ice gotten in the evening is still mostly ice in the morning. Even the bathroom cups are pottery mugs!
Only the coffee maker and iron are no fancier than other places. (The prices for the mini-bar and the bottled water on the counter are high, but at least the coffee is free.)
The television gets only about a dozen basic channels, rather than the extended assortment one gets elsewhere (so no History Channel, Discovery Channel, AMC, TCM, or Sci-Fi Channel). On the other hand, they assume you will be spending times doing resort things like swimming, playing tennis, or golfing.
The thermostat was great--you could set the desired temperature easily. The air conditioning was quiet. You could hear it if you listened, but it did not have the usual noisy turning-on and turning-off. There were also enough outlets, though no empty ones located right next to the bed.
There was a balcony overlooking the small pool near our building. Unfortunately, the door automatically locks behind you and the room key does not open it. They do warn you, though, and you can open the deadbolt while it is ajar to keep it from shutting completely. The rooms are in small two-story building scattered around the site, so there was a small swimming pool that our balcony overlooked as well as a larger pool by the main lodge. An extra bonus was that we could watch the Litchfield Park fireworks (which were two blocks away) from our balcony, since it just happened to face in the right direction.
Because the resort is so spread out, there are little golf carts to take you (and your luggage) back and forth. We used them to get us and our luggage out to our room (650 steps, or about a third of a mile from the main lodge) when we first arrived, and then to get our luggage back to the car at the end, but generally just walked.
My one complaint is that the railings on the stairs to the second floor, and many of the door handles, are metal. They are okay in the shade, but not in the July Arizona sun.
Probably because the resort was so spread out, I clocked myself at four miles Friday, five miles Saturday, three miles Sunday, and three miles Monday.
Being in Arizona, we watched TOMBSTONE on July 4, with an intermission for the fireworks. On July 5, we watched an episode of "Tales of Tomorrow", another of "Adventures of Robin Hood", and THE GODFATHER (which we had bought before Marlon Brando died).
Miles driven (over the four days): 129
Cumulative miles: 3633
July 6, 2004: Today was family get-togethers, including going to see THE NOTEBOOK. Later we got our science fiction fix by watching the commentary track to GODZILLA 2000.
Miles driven: 12
Cumulative miles: 3645
July 7, 2004: We took Mark's mother, brother, and sister-in-law for a trip on the Verde Canyon Scenic Railroad. This was something we had done with Mark's aunt and uncle when we had been out here a few months earlier, and we enjoyed it enough to want to bring the rest of the family out. This railroad uses refurbished 1950s cars and engines to travel two hours into Verde Canyon from Clarkdale and then two hours back. The first part is fairly ugly, being the remains of mining efforts, but after you enter the canyon there is a lot of scenic beauty, as well as the occasional bald eagle or elk. The cars are "climate-controlled" (I think this means ceiling fans rather than air-conditioning) but the open gondola cars are where you will spend most of your time for the best viewing. The biggest drawback may be that it is almost two hours from Phoenix. The drive to Clarkdale is very beautiful, but it is not exactly "convenient."
Miles driven: 7 (on our car; Mark's brother drove to Clarkdale)
Cumulative miles: 3652
July 8, 2004: More family stuff: watching NEWSIES (my mother-in-law likes musicals) and eating Chinese food at Jade Palace, a really good restaurant in Scottsdale. It turned out that our college-aged niece Sara also likes NEWSIES--when my mother-in-law said that it had no memorable songs, Sara said she could probably sing all of them.
Miles driven: 19
Cumulative miles: 3671
July 9, 2004: We drove north to Flagstaff back through Red Rock country, Sedona, and Oak Creek Canyon. We were thinking of staying at a Quality Inn, but on weekends in the summer it is $90 a night, so we picked the Saga Budget Host Inn motel instead at half that. This was an older motel, with some upgrades in the intervening years (refrigerator, microwave, additional outlets, etc.). The television was a combination television and clock radio, but had no sleep cycle. (It also had only coax input, so we needed an RF converter for our DVD player. Given that they got a full slate of cable, including AMC and TCM, we probably could have managed without it.)
We had lunch at Buster's. I had grilled shrimp and pear cider; Mark had steak fajitas (which came as a huge portion) and lemonade.
And when we got to the Lowell Observatory at 1:20 PM, I realized I should have checked my notes: the tours were at 10 AM, 1 PM, and 3 PM. So we (initially) missed the first part of the talk about what research was going on at the observatory. But we did see the two historic telescopes and the rotunda, now a museum of historic equipment and documents. When we were last here (in 1992) the rotunda was the Visitors Center. The chandelier in the center of it is Tiffany or Tiffany-style and shaped like Saturn with its rings, a motif also seen in the iron gate leading to the telescope dome.
Last time we were here I wrote, "They're building a new Visitors Center which will be open in two years, at which point it will probably be like every other science museum and lose the historic aspect it has now. Even now, the small gift shop has books of photographs from Mariner and Voyager, but none of Lowell's own books." Well, I was wrong. It still maintains a lot of historic flavor in the museum part (though not so much in the exhibits area, that being mostly about the science of astronomy), and it now sells reprints of several of Lowell's books. This must be because of the advantages of print-on-demand technology, though the $29.95 cost for each is a bit daunting. It was a bit odd to see such works as "Mars as the Abode of Life", "The Evolution of Worlds", and "Mars and Its Canals" in a glass case here and realize that those same editions are still part of the circulating library of Bangor, Maine.
A tree ring outside demonstrates dendrochronolgy, a science developed by Elliott Douglass, an early astronomer here. Lowell was also interested in botany, and even discovered a new variety of ash, the Lowell Ash Tree (Fraxinus Lewellii Sarg.). They had planter one here, although it normally does not grow at this height (7248 feet).
I guess they did not have a lot of programs in astronomy a century ago, because Percival Lowell had his Ph.D. in mathematics. The guide was not very good and had a slight speech impediment as well as changing his mind about what he wanted to say in mid-sentence. He also had no problem pronouncing "spectroscopy", but could not pronounce "exquisite". (The last time the tour was given by a student--of mathematics, again, not astronomy--who seemed to concentrate on making it folksy and accessible rather than highly technical. Some of the folksy stuff was interesting, though--did you know that Lowell used cooking pots and fry pans from his wife's kitchen as lens covers on the telescope?)
Anyway, this guide saw Lowell as first SETI scientist, with his pre-occupation with canals on Mars (and who built them). There was a push to build the main telescope for the 1896 Mars opposition, but they ended up going to an observatory outside Mexico City because that winter was bad in Flagstaff.
One thing not much emphasized is that Lowell's telescope was much a quantum leap then in its capacity as the Hubble telescope was in our time.
In spite of Lowell's fascination with Mars, the two most important discoveries made at the Lowell Observatory had nothing to do with that planet. One was the discovery of Pluto, and the other was the discovery (though unrecognized) of the expanding universe.
One could say that the search for Pluto really began in 1781 when William Herschel discovered Uranus based on perturbations of Saturn. Then in 1846 someone discovered Neptune based on remaining perturbations. (I say someone, since both French astronomer Urbain Jean Joseph Leverrier and English astronomer John Couch Adams did the calculations that predicted it, but it was actually a German astronomer who first saw it, so there is some dispute over who should get credit. See Tom Standage's THE NEPTUNE FILE for all the details.) Around the end of the 19th century, Lowell discovered an anomaly in the orbit of Uranus, and the search for Pluto began here in 1902. It was interrupted after Lowell's death in 1916 and a lawsuit over his bequest to the observatory, but resumed in 1928. And in 1930, Clyde Tombaugh discovered Pluto. Tombaugh used a "blink comparator" to flip back and forth between two photographs of the night sky taken January 23 and January 30, looking for the one "star" that had moved (only planets would move against the background that fast). (Last time the guide said the slides were six weeks apart.) I tried it out; if it had been me looking for Pluto, we would still be looking. The discovery was announced on March 13, 1930, which would have been Lowell's 75th birthday.
The air in Flagstaff, by the way, is rated a 10 for clarity, while Kitt Peak in southern Arizona is only a 7. The city of Flagstaff claims it is the World's First International Dark-Sky Community, meaning it mandates things like low-pressure sodium lights. Actually, there are three aspects to Flagstaff's lighting ordinances: shielded fixtures, the types of bulbs, and the amount of lighting allowed per acre.
By the way, Pluto's moon, Charon, was also discovered at Flagstaff. And there is now a tenth planet (Planet X), named Cedna, which has a diameter of 1100 miles and is a Kuiper Belt object.
The other discovery was the expanding universe. Vesto Melvin Slipher, measured velocity through changes in light received [the red shift] in 1912. But he did not realize the meaning of what he had discovered.
We sat in on the talk at the start of the next tour and discovered that each guide decides what to talk about. The second one was much clearer in his presentation.
Most of the current research has been moved to Andersonville Mesa, twenty-five miles southwest. I think that is where they are building the Discovery Channel four-meter telescope (which should be ready in 2006). There is also the NPOI (Navy Prototype Optical Interferometer), equivalent to a quarter-mile mirror, which can see the surface of stars. (No extra-solar planets have been imaged yet.) They are currently looking at star formation within the "Summer Triangle" formed by Vega, Deneb, and Altair. Another project is SOFIA (Stratospheric Observatory For Infrared Astronomy) looking at stellar nurseries and the demise of stars. And there is LONEOS (Lowell Observatory Near Earth Object Search). The guide talked about how the Tunguska Meteor was fifty meters across and was a once-a-century occurrence. A meteor a kilometer across would be a once-in-100,000-years occurrence, and one two kilometers a once-in-500,000-years occurrence. (How do they calculate this, I wonder?)
Tonight we watched a couple of episodes of "Dick Tracy", an episode of "Flash Gordon", the special effects commentary of INDEPENDENCE DAY, and TERROR OF FRANKENSTEIN.
Miles driven: 164
Cumulative miles: 3818
July 10, 2004: Today we drove up to the Grand Canyon. We tried to stop at Mather Point to go to the Visitors Center there, but the lot was full. So we drove to one of the lots near Grand Canyon Village and took a shuttle bus back to Mather Point, and then a connecting shuttle to the South Kaibab Trail.
Now Mark and I are not great hikers, and especially not at 8000 feet, but I did want to hike just a bit down into the canyon so I could feel I was in it rather than just looking at it from above. So we hiked about a quarter of a mile down the South Kaibab Trail and then back up. (This was fifteen minutes down, half an hour up.) We also got to see the mules come up. They seemed to be having an easier time of it.
When we got back up we took the shuttle on to Yaki Point, and then back to the Visitors Center where we listened to a non-very-good geology talk by a ranger who admitted to being not very knowledgeable about chemistry, physics, etc. The cutaway diagram showing the various rock layers was fairly informative in itself. The ranger said that now the Glen Canyon Dam removes all the sediment that gave the Colorado River its name (meaning "colored" in Spanish) and carved the canyon.
The canyon is a mile deep, and about ten miles wide (varying from eight to twelve). The river is of course considerably narrower and was never wider than it is now, but as the river went down, wind and rain erosion, freeze-and-thaw cycles, and gravity caused the sides of the canyon to collapse as they were exposed. The canyon is 277 miles long. The Grand Canyon is not the longest canyon in the world, or the deepest, or the widest. However, it has possibly more volume than any other canyon. (All this is on Earth, of course. The Great Rift on Mars, for example, is 2000 miles long, 50 miles wide, and four miles deep.)
After the talk we walked along the Rim Trail (now being renamed the Grand Canyon Greenway) a third of a mile to the next shuttle stop. The walk is nice, but one does not see a lot of change in the view over short distances, and at 7000 feet walking long distances, even on a level paved path, can be tiring.
There were scattered clouds in the sky, and the shifting of their shadows on the formations and colors in the canyon added a new dimension that one does not get when it is either completely sunny, or completely overcast. The clouds also provided occasional respite from the heat of the sun--the entire Southwest seems to be having a heat wave.
Last time we visited the South Rim (1992) we had driven out along the West Rim Drive to see the sunset, but this being summer rather than October, sunset was hours off, and the West Rim Drive is now closed to private vehicles. We could have taken the shuttle out, but decided to call it a day and drive out through the east entrance and past the Little Colorado River Gorge and through the Painted Desert back to Flagstaff. (We also visited the North Rim in 1995. One cannot really see both rims on one short trip, since one has to drive several hundred miles down to the end of the canyon and then back again on the other side.)
Last time I commented on the curio shops near the rim. This time we did not see any, but that may be because we did not go to the same spots as before. Or it is possible that they have been moved away from the rim--there was a shop at the Visitors Center complex near Mather Point. And there is a lot less traffic, because many areas are closed to private vehicles (at least during the summer months), and you have to use shuttle buses. And because of this, they have not had to expand any of the smaller parking lots and may possibly have decreased some of them. The buses run frequently enough that they are probably more convenient than cars anyway.
Just as with last time, I ended up feeling we had not seen enough of the Grand Canyon. But as a character in a Karen Joy Fowler story says: "We should have done more. I look back on those years and it's clear to me we should have done more. It's just not clear to me what more we should have done."
Dinner was at Del Tacos, a chain that is similar to, but slightly better than, Taco Bell. Or maybe it is just that all of these sorts of places have to be better in this area.
We started the serial ZORRO RIDES AGAIN (even though that is more California than Arizona), and then watched the commentary on VANILLA SKY (which was not very good, and did not cover the details and clues as much as I had hoped).
Miles driven: 192
Cumulative miles: 4020
July 11, 2004: Today we drove from Flagstaff, Arizona, to Durango, Colorado, going through the Navajo and stopping at Monument Valley Tribal Park.
When we had been here in 1992, I had been told that Prohibition is still in effect on the Navajo Reservation and alcohol is illegal. Since I was seeing billboards on the reservation for beer, this may no longer be true.
Kayenta had changed a lot since we were here twelve years ago. They had built a Hampton Inn, a McDonald's, and a Sonic, and the old El Capitan Cafe is now the Blue Coffee Pot Cafe. Also, I am pretty sure that they relocated where Route 163 joins Route 160 by a few hundred yards.
In 1992, the admission fee for Monument Valley Tribal Park was $2.50. Now it was $10 (which is in line with National Parks and Monuments). You still have two choices. You can drive your own car over the 17.5-mile dirt road through the park or you can take a guided tour that covers it. Actually, the latter is still two choices: the 17.5-mile route for an hour and a half at $35 (formerly $12.50), or an extended tour lasting two and a half hours and going to some additional sites for $45 (formerly $15). Last time we drove, so this time we opted for the extended tour. Luckily we had enough cash, because the tour companies do not take credit cards. (There is an ATM in the Visitors Center. Last time even the vendors at stalls took credit cards, so I am not sure why this one service does not.)
Monument Valley is where John Ford filmed a lot of his Westerns (there is even a John Ford's Point named after him) and so would probably look familiar if you have seen such films as SHE WORE A YELLOW RIBBON or FORT APACHE. A man named Goulding who had told Ford about the scenery is the one who named the formations: Elephant Butte is not a traditional Navajo name. There used to be Left Mitten Butte and Right Mitten Butte; now they are West Mitten and East Mitten. (I guess someone decided they did not like Goulding's names. My guess would be that those older named assumed that you were sitting at Goulding's Lodge when you were looking at them, while the Navajo were more aware of them from all sides.) Some of the formations we saw off the shorter road included the very impressive Sleeping Dragon, Indian Chief, Eye of the Sun, Ear of the Wind, and Big Hogan. These forms are scattered over a wide landscape (which I guess is partly why wind erosion could work on them to achieve these results). It is like a giant sculpture garden.
We ate lunch (or dinner) at the Twin Rocks Cafe in Bluff, Utah, and had Navajo tacos: chili, beans, lettuce, tomato, and sauce on top of Navajo fry bread (which is like Asian Indian puri).
We got a little lost after this. The AAA Triptik indicated that we should turn right on route 163, but it was actually route 162. (It is possible that the route was re-numbered, but I doubt it.) I have been somewhat disappointed in the AAA materials this trip. The directions for the motel in Flagstaff indicated a non-existent exit on the interstate. (Later, the directions in Colorado Springs gave an exit that existed, but was not the right one.) One thing I would like to see them add, especially on non-interstate roads, is the mile marker at which one is supposed to turn, as the intersections are not always well-labeled.
And speaking of mile markers, it was somewhere around mile marker 70 on the south side of Route 160 where we saw a watering hole with a whole herd of elk, at least two dozen.
On the way to Durango, we passed a billboard advertising a large reward for anyone who can find a Bible verse stating that Sabbath has been moved from Saturday to Sunday. I could not read it fast enough to see who paid for it, but I am guessing that it was the Seventh Day Adventists.
In Durango we stayed at the Adobe Inn--more expensive than the Saga Motel, but considerably nicer. After all the dust of the jeep ride in Monument Valley, the first thing I did was take a shower and wash my hair. Then we watched BRONCO BILLY. At the end I found myself thinking that if anyone actually used the flags the way that movie did, all of Eastwood's Republican friends would be up in arms about "desecration".
Miles driven: 351
Cumulative miles: 4371
July 12, 2004: Today was mostly a driving day, though at least it was through gorgeous scenery. We drove up through Wolf Creek Pass, over 10,000 feet high. We had a lot of time to admire the scenery, because Colorado seems to be working on becoming the first "all-one-way-roads" state by doing construction such that it closes off the other lane. During our longest stop (over half an hour), Mark got to talk to a conspiracy theorist from Maui.
We had lunch at a Mexican Restaurant called Mrs. Rivera's, which had very good food. I had tamales and they were obviously freshly made, with a lot of attention paid to the filling.
We then went to the Great Sand Dunes National Monument, which is just a giant sand dune (or perhaps connected dunes) which builds up at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Because the dunes are constantly being rebuilt, this is one place where people are encouraged to hike up them, surf on them, slide down them, and so on. We had no desire to do this, so it was a fairly short visit. There is a flat stretch of sand several hundred yards wide between the road and the dunes--my comment was that it was like the beach without the ocean. The water table under the flat stretch is very high--if you dig down a foot or so, you hit water.
When we got to Colorado Springs, we saw the oil light flash once so we checked and added three quarts! I guess all the down-shifting going up and down over the Rocky Mountains really puts a strain on the engine.
We were not sure what we were going to do about dinner until we discovered that Travelodge was right next door to a restaurant named Saigon Stars. Pho! We have not had that since we left New Jersey.
For entertainment, we watched the commentary on THE BRIDE.
Miles driven: 361
Cumulative miles: 4732
July 13, 2004: This day was somewhat nostalgic for me, as quite a bit of what we did was similar to what my family did when we came out on vacation in 1962. We started with the United States Air Force Academy, though since we had no military ID now we could not go to most of the area. We did see the Visitors Center and the Chapel.
The Air Force Academy was founded in 1955, the third of the three service academies. (Do Marines go to Annapolis?) Since this part of Colorado Springs is at over 7000 feet high, I figure they picked it to get a head start on flying.
The Class of 2007 has about 1300 versus about 1000 for the earlier ones, but this is apparently just attrition rather than higher recruitment. (In 1964, President Johnson established a 4417-cadet quota for all three academies, but in 1995 this was lowered to 4000 cadets.)
The film, "Pursuit of Excellence", gives you a CGI tour of the campus, careful to emphasize diversity ("young men and women of every race color and creed") and the Honor Code ("We will not lie, steal or cheat, nor tolerate among us anyone who does."). This has not prevented some sexual harassment scandals in recent years, but maybe that is why they put it in. They had a mix of Doolies, Fledglings, Wheels, and Firsties, which are the Academy names for freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors.
After the Visitors Center, we walked over the one-third-mile trail to the Chapel. There is something strange about the main attraction of a service academy being the chapel, but it is very striking and architecturally interesting, with the exterior looking like many planes (albeit of the flying-wing variety) pointed upward. The pews are shaped like wings, with the end pieces shaped like propellers.
Or at least that is true in the Protestant Chapel (the main one on ground level with the stained-glass windows) and the Catholic Chapel (filling most of the lower level). The Jewish Chapel has no pews, only chairs, though given the comparatively small size (a hundred-person capacity versus over a thousand for the Protestant Chapel), this is probably more efficient, and also allows for more flexibility for smaller groups, etc.
There are paintings around this chapel, but you cannot walk into it to see them well. They say it is to save the carpet and that may well be true--there are probably way more than a hundred visitors a week, meaning the visitors would far exceed the congregant traffic. But Mark thinks it may be a security thing.
(Official notice: The next section contains political and philosophical opinions.)
The next thing we did (but that my family did not do in 1962) was to visit Focus on the Family. In part my family did not visit this is because the organization was established only in 1977, and has been in Colorado Springs only since 1991. But it is also because it is not the sort of thing that my family would do on vacation, or even what most people would do. But just as we were interested in seeing how the Mormons presented themselves in the Visitors Center in Salt Lake City, we were interested in seeing how Focus on the Family presented itself.
One difference is probably that the Mormons know that many of their visitors are not Mormons, but Focus on the Family seemed to assume that everyone there was a supporter. Since they claim to have 220,000 visitors a year, that would be a lot of supporters.
While we were waiting for the June ductory film, we watched a video of clips of the Rev. James Dobson claiming that most gays do not want to marry, that they want to destroy marriage, that they have between three hundred and a thousand partners, that even committed gay couples cannot be called a family, and so on. Contrary to what might be termed the compromise position that the majority of people favor, Dobson does not support civil unions or any other legal arrangement that is in any way similar to marriage.
Needless to say, I think he is full of horse puckey.
And his position (and hence the position of Focus on the Family) on this is not even the major reason that many people object to him (and it). It is that back in the 1990s he pushed for an amendment to the Colorado state constitution that would prohibit the state government or any local governments from passing non-discrimination laws protecting gays and lesbians. This attempt to write a law that would legally endorse and protect discrimination is why there is such strong feeling against him and the organization. (The Colorado State Supreme Court and the United States Supreme Court eventually struck this down.)
They also have a Focus on the Family Institute one-semester class on the family for which, they say, one can earn college credit, but I suspect that is true only for some Christian colleges. (I cannot imagine the University of Massachusetts giving someone academic credit for it.)
Dobson was shown promising in a speech "never [to] cast one vote for one man or woman who would kill one innocent baby." I wonder if he includes bombing in wars, though I suppose one could say that the people who advocate bombing would not do it purposely. There was also included praise from Presidents Reagan, Bush, and W. Bush. Notably absent, of course, was Clinton, but also missing was President Carter, arguably the most religious living President.
At one point, Dobson talked about his happy childhood and said he wished every child could have "such love and security as I enjoyed." And that, I think, sums up the problem. He has taken too much to heart Tolstoy's statement that all happy families are alike, and has concluded that there is only one model for a happy family: two parents, one male, one female, with the female staying at home to raise the many children. He does not seem to realize that there are many happy families that do not fit this description.
The five basic tenets Dobson propounds are the supremacy of God and Jesus Christ, and the importance of evangelism; the sanctity of the marriage of one man and one woman for life (though Reagan is much venerated, even though he had divorced his first wife and remarried after); the idea that children are gifts from God and should be cherished; the sanctity of life from conception to the grave (though I do not hear a lot about opposition to capital punishment); and the idea that God decreed the three institutions of church, family and government, and the relationships between them. (Later, one of the guides, in listing the Institute's publications, said that while the Institute felt that the best family was the two-parent one, it did recognize that there are single-parent families, and had a magazine for them as well.)
Symbolism seems to be very important: the speech we saw was given on a large stage in what looked like a convention, yet Dobson is shown standing on a very homey-looking braided rug.
The guides for the tour had the usual friendliness that seems just a trifle forced and artificial. But one had a sense of humor: when she described the reaction of Dobson to whether to accept an offer of a $4,000,000 land grant, she said he "prayed and fasted--for about ten seconds."
The guide talked about how some episodes of their children's radio show "Adventures in Odyssey" are being used in public schools and libraries, and explained that they accomplished this "by taking out overt references to God and Jesus Christ." This sounded like it might be difficult, and was somewhat underhanded, but they gave out some sample tapes and the episode we listened to was an ordinary story which illustrated positive values of patience and perseverance, and only at the very end did the narrator quote a verse from the Book of Proverbs that it illustrated, so I can see how it would be easy to "fix" that one. I suspect this is the sort they send, rather than other episodes she mentioned where characters accept Christ.
In several places, they said of the rapid growth of the Institute, "...and all the people marveled at what God had done so quickly." This is a bit of a different translation of "And Hezekiah rejoiced, and all the people, that God had prepared the people: for the thing was done suddenly." (II Chronicles 29:36) In any case, Mark commented that he did not know why they were so surprised--after all, God created the entire world in just six days.
One thing they had that I had not seen before was a computer with two monitors that served as a split-screen (the screen saver spanned them). This seemed to serve mostly as two full-size windows, because the way they described their use was so that the person using them could be reading an incoming email and responding to it on one screen while calling up resources on the other.
The guide also told us about Focus on the Family Action, a political action group formed so that they could be more active in the political arena without losing their tax-free status as a church. Since the board of Focus on the Family Action is exactly the same as the board of Focus on the Family, this seems a bit disingenuous. On the other hand, there are presumably no funds being transferred between the two, which is the main issue. What worries me is that this seems more like a pose. In the film earlier, Dobson presented his wife with a bouquet of roses at a rally. She asked, "Are they from you or from Focus on the Family. Dobson asked, "Does it matter?" She replied, "Oh, yes. The women out there know it matters," and got a big laugh. Then Dobson said, "They're from me. [pause] Because I'm going to reimburse Focus on the Family." Yes, it is just a joke. But it might be taken to indicate an attitude of "I'll skirt the edges and if I get caught I'll pay up then."
Am I being too harsh? I do not think so. I agree with some of the basic aims: improving life for children, supporting the family, etc., but I disagree with the definitions and methods used by Focus on the Family. I see the family as a unit that is not necessarily two parents of different sexes with one or more children. And Focus on the Family seems to spend more time on negative efforts than on positive ones. They seem more concerned with making sure that companies do not offer health insurance to the children of an employee's gay spouse than they are in making sure that everyone has affordable health care. And they seem more concerned with attacking people who form families that do not meet their requirements than in supporting all families.
Anyway, enough of the politics. After a quick Thai lunch at Wild Ginger, we went to the Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument. (Actually, given the anti-evolution materials in the Focus on the Family bookstore, I suppose even this is not completely free of politics.)
The talk by the intern here (Shannon Kupersmith, I think) was one of the best we had heard, because she had real style and a sense of humor. She warned those hiking the paths and trails of the "ground squirrels of disease and destruction" which carried all sorts of germs. "Nothing would ruin your vacation faster than contracting the Black Death," she said.
She also warned about the altitude here (8400 feet). We had decided not to drive up Pikes Peak because of the altitude (over 14,000 feet), but even to get here we ended up around 10,000 feet. (Shannon said that all the Pikes Peak memorabilia says it is 14,110 feet, but it was recently re-measured as 14,115.)
One of the two main features here is a collectoin of fossilized redwoods which lived 34 million years ago. At the time there was Mount Guthie, an ancient volcano that was 18,000 to 20,000 feet high, "out in the South Park area, which is a real place" (as she said). When it exploded, it spewed out gas, ash, pyroclastic debris, and a volcanic mud flow (lahar) which covered the redwoods, then solidified into volcanic mudstone. Petrification (permineralization) set in, resulting in the largest petrified trees in the world.
The other main feature is a vast number of insect (and leaf) fossils. In order to fossilize, fossils have to be buried quickly and completely. Here there was a lake with diatoms that used silicates, but secreted a slime which when stressed that formed floating pads. Insects fell on the pads where the slime coated and protected them until they sunk and were buried. Shannon said that fifteen of the forty-five butterfly fossils in the world were found here, and seen of the seven tsetse fly fossils. She also said that paleo-entomologist Scudder from Harvard found five thousand fossils in five days, and doubled the known number of ancient insect species. (Some thing we saw later seemed to contradict this, though.) In the 1960s this area was almost turned into a vacation cabin development, but the local populace rose up in indignation and managed to get it declared a National Monument on August 20, 1969.
One of the larger petrified tree trunks has a saw blade stuck in it from when someone decided they should try to cut it up to take it to the Chicago Exposition about a hundred years ago. Mark says that when someone comes along who can pull it out, he will be the one true governor of Colorado.
On the way home we drove around the "Garden of the Gods", a city park with amazing red rock formations. It would be even more impressive if we had not been seeing amazing red rock formations for the last couple of weeks.
Even though we did not hike a lot of trails, I managed to walk about four and a half miles today.
This evening we watched the classic silent film SUNRISE.
Miles driven: 125
Cumulative miles: 4857
July 14, 2004: Today was a lot of driving, from Colorado Springs to Liberal, Kansas. We saw some deer along the way, but other than that, it was a very boring drive.
In Liberal we went to Dorothy's House and the Land of Oz. The former is just a 1910 farmhouse furnished to look like the house in the book, or more specifically, the house in the movie. The latter is far more elaborate, being one person's re-creation of the key scenes of the story, laid out in a way such that you must go around a curve or corner before the next scene is revealed. It was obviously a lot of work, and was apparently spread out over several locations in Kansas until Liberal offered a single hanger-like structure to house it all. There was also a display at the end with Oz memorabilia--some having to do with the books, but most connected with the 1939 movie. (There was nothing about any of the other movies, not even the version with Oliver Hardy. There were at least four silent version before the Judy Garland one, and then later THE WIZ and RETURN TO OZ.) The only actual "artifact" from the film was the model of the house used in the tornado sequence in the movie.
There was also a small museum of the area which had, among other things, curlers from the 1930s that are just like ones that I remember using when I was young in the 1960s, and which my mother probably still has.
We were not hungry for dinner, so we went to a place called Braum's for ice cream instead. Then we watch episodes of ZORRO RIDES AGAIN, "Sgt. Preston of the Yukon", and "Long John Silver", and the made-for-television movie THE QUICK AND THE DEAD.
Miles driven: 349
Cumulative miles: 5206
July 15, 2004: We started with the Mid-America Air Museum, Liberal's other attraction (not counting their pancake race). One of the first things we saw was an F-14A that was Gus Grissom's plane when he was on the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt. [Note: I have been unable to confirm that this.] There was also an Aero L-26, a very small plane, which was one of the Air Force Ones for Eisenhower. It was more like a Piper Cub than those large Air Force Ones we saw in Dayton.
This is the country's fifth largest air museum, with a hundred and one planes crammed into one hanger. (Okay, six or seven of them are outside.) But while there is an explanatory sign for each, there is not much to explain their progression or collective history. About three-quarters of the planes were donated by one man, Col. Tom Thomas, so it is not too surprising that they ended up with a big museum without the usual museum accoutrements or staff. For example, when we went in, a sign said "Pay you're admission in the gift shop." (Admittedly, it was corrected right after Mark pointed it out, since it was just a sheet printed on a PC.) And there were careless errors in the signage, such as saying that the Shooting Star was in the "first aerial dogfight" in the 1950s! (They obviously meant the first jet aerial dogfight.)
(This museum took about 2000 steps, or one mile.)
We then drove to Meade and saw the Dalton Gang Hideout and Escape Tunnel, though since they have enlarged the tunnel, put in stone walls and ceiling, and installed electric lighting, it has very little of the original flavor left.
I was reminded (assuming I ever knew) that the Daltons were half-cousins to the Younger Gang, who rode with Jesse James. They made their final bank robbery attempt in Coffeyville on October 5, 1892, but were almost all killed when they had to park their getaway horses in a more distant alley because the one they had planned on using was torn up. This probably made them the first outlaws killed because of road construction.
The history read in part, "With Bill Dalton out of the way, Oklahoma and the Indian Territory were fully qualified for admission as a state." This makes it sound as if the Dalton Gang was the only thing preventing statehood, which I doubt. (The article also had lots of typos in the possessives.)
Emmett Dalton, the only outlaw Dalton to survive after this period, went into real estate, eventually went to Hollywood, and wrote two books about his life.
Other exhibits in the museum included a two-headed calf and a dwarf calf. The Daltons were not blamed for these.
We drove on to Dodge City, arriving in the early afternoon. Since it was so hot, we decided to rest up in the motel and as a farewell to the West and a tribute to Dodge City, we watched TOMBSTONE again. (It has been above 100 degrees almost every day for the last two weeks.)
About 5 PM, we went to Boot Hill, Inc. This is a museum/historical area dedicated to the old Dodge City. The only actual historical part was Boot Hill itself, but since all the bodies were removed over a hundred years ago to the regular cemetery, it is only a reconstruction as well. (I have no idea if the grave markers for the people looked just as the originals did, or were merely someone's notion of what they might have looked like.)
There is a small museum, but the main part of Boot Hill, Inc., is the recreation of Front Street and some of the businesses along it. Along the back of the shops was yet another museum recounting the history of guns and of the lawmen that made Dodge City famous: Bat Masterson, Wyatt Earp (hence the TOMBSTONE link), Ed Masterson, Bill Tilghman, and Ham Bell.
They also had an article labeled "Weekly World News", February 9, 1889, recounting an old disappearance: "Mr. [David Allen] Mather rode to that same spot alone and never came back, the spaceship rose 200 feet in the air and took off over the horizon, never to be seen again." (as recounted by Jorge Hernandez). Either the date is wrong and should be 1989 (but then Hernandez would have to have been well over a hundred unless it was reprinting an interview from thirty years earlier or something), or the whole thing is made up, because I do not believe that the word "spaceship" existed in the late 1800s. [I checked. It was first used--hyphenated--by John Jacob Astor in 1894, and not used without a hyphen until August Derleth's poem "To a Spaceship" in 1934.]
The drug store had such remedies as Black Cohosh and Comfrey Root, which are still sold today.
The main "show" included in the regular admission is a gunfight, held at noon and 7 PM (although a hand-out we got did not list the noon one, making me wonder if they cancel the noon one during the summer when it is too hot). This evening there was a television crew (local Channel 6) filming it for some reason. I cannot believe that local people do not already know what it looks like,
Afterwards, we went to the Freight Train for steaks, supposedly a good place. This may make me a philistine, but I think the steaks at Outback Steakhouse are better. (I know the salad and baked potatoes at Outback are better!) And Outback is cheaper.
Miles driven: 95
Cumulative miles: 5301
July 16, 2004: We drove to Hutchinson, Kansas, and the Kansas Cosmosphere. This is a major museum dedicated to the history of the space age from German rocketry through the Apollo program (and its parallels in the Soviet Union).
Outside the main door is a statue that at first you think is Neil Armstrong descending the lunar ladder--but what are those footprints behind him? Well, it is actually Gene Cernan, leaving the moon--and the last person (so far) to do so. For some reason I had thought of the V-2 as being a follow-on to the V-1, but in fact the V-1 was the German Air Force project, and the V-2 the German Army project, and they were completely independent. The V-2, which was actually successfully fired first (October 3, 1942, versus December 22, 1942 for the V-1), was originally named the A-4. There were also an actual V-1 and an actual V-2. This may not sound like much, but there are very few actual V-1s and V-2s left "in exhibitable condition", and this is the only museum to have both on exhibit.
The exhibit also talked about the cost of the V-1s and V-2s. 20,000 people (almost all slave labor) were killed building V-2s, which when fired killed fewer than half that number. (Of course, the Nazis did not consider the 20,000 deaths of much importance.) There were 9779 V-1s launched; about 1900 were shot down by anti-aircraft guns, 250 were downed by barrage balloons, 1800 ere downed by fighters, and 5800 actually landed on England.
In a very alternate history sort of approach, one panel asked, "What if the 200,000 people working on the V-2s had built an additional 24,000 fighter planes for same budget (which they could have done)?" With German control of the skies, there would have been no D-Day, and as a result maybe the atom bomb would have been used on Berlin instead of on Hiroshima.
There was also a section on the Me-163 Komet, a German rocket plane so dangerous that only ten of thirty test pilots of it survived.
A long section discussed how the Americans got most of the German rocket scientists and most of the materials. Basically, we stole them. Well, the rocket scientists surrendered to us, but the materials at Nordhausen were within the area that we had agreed the Soviets would control, and we had promised to let them have everything in that area, but when the rocket materials were discovered, we changed our minds. The Soviets did get some materials that had been left behind, and some of the scientists, from which they built their space program. (Shortly after the Russians moved in and discovered that we had taken everything of value, they got word from us that we were sending them several dozen train-car loads of machinery found at Nordhausen. They were very excited until the trains arrived filled with old, rusting farm machinery!)
There was a section about Sergei Pavlovich Korolev, the Soviet "Chief Designer" whose name was not even known until after his death. (Ironically, Korolev once told someone that he feared that "someone will send me to the hospital for a minor surgery, and they won't let me wake up," and then he died during an operation for an intestinal polyp. The display showed the parallels between Korolev and von Braun, and also had actual slide rules used by each of them. This is the sort of artifact that one does not see in most museums.
The Comosphere does not have the actual Bell X-1 that Chuck Yeager flew when he broke the sound barrier on October 14, 1947, but they do have the one that was built for use in the film THE RIGHT STUFF. When the sound barrier was broken it was kept secret for a couple of months--so well, in fact, that when the Los Angeles Times reported it in December, they consistently spelled Yeager's name "Yaeger".
They also had the actual model of the X-15 that hung in the Officers Club at Edwards Air Force Base.
Ninety minutes after starting the museum, we finally got to Sputnik.
One of the things the Cosmosphere is known for is their collection of Soviet artifacts. For the Luna II program, five "lunar spheres" were built: two were launched with the payloads, one is missing, and the other two both ended up in Kansas! One is in the Cosmosphere; the other was presented to President Eisenhower and is now in the Eisenhower Library. (The lunar spheres were small globes of the moon made of plates engraved with "CCCP".)
For this period, the Cosmosphere was very negative on Eisenhower and how little importance he placed on rockets and space. He kept insisting that we would not use military rockets in the space program and only gave it when it became apparent that those were the only ones we had that would work. And even then, he insisted on changing the name of the rocket so it was not obviously the military one. This negativity is particularly noteworthy since this was in Kansas, Eisenhower's home state.
There was definitely a slant in some of the descriptions. For example, Khrushchev was described as "bald, rotund, bombastic individual", while Kennedy was the "new, young, vibrant President". The fact that Krushchev was bald and rotund really has nothing to do with anything, and there is a very fine line between "bombastic" and "vibrant" ("He's bombastic, I'm vibrant").
Kennedy at one point early on proposed to Khrushchev a joint space program, but Khrushchev refused. Later in his memoirs, he explained, "We had nothing to hide. It was just the opposite. We had NOTHING! And we had to hide it." The Soviets had only about 140 missiles but had convinced us they had many more. To have a joint program would have meant revealing this to us.
There were several spacecraft: a Mercury capsule (they did not say which one), a Vostok (from the Kosmos 1978 mission), the Gemini X, and a Voshkod.
They were running the documentary "For All Mankind", but since it runs a full eighty minutes, we did not sit through the whole thing.
Moon Walker Roll: Neil A. Armstrong; Edwin E. Aldrin; Charles Conrad, Jr.; Alan L. Bean; Alan B. Sherpard; Edgar D. Mitchell; David R. Scott; James B. Irwin; John W. Young; Charles M. Duke, Jr.; Harrison Schmitt; Eugene Cernan
The Apollo section had an actual White Room used for some of the launches, complete with Gunther Wendt's signature on the wall, but there are no records to indicate which missions it was used for. There was also one of the panels from the old Mission Control.
A display of spacesuits and personal effects had a pair of gloves saying, "With these gloves, humans first held the soil of another world." But these were the pressure gloves; another pair of work gloves was worn over them, so these gloves did not actually touch the moon.
One of the personal effects show was the piece of Dentyne that got stuck in the ventilating system and almost grounded the Apollo-Soyuz mission.
There was a large display dedicated to Apollo 13, partly because the Cosmosphere was heavily involved in the making of the Ron Howard movie, making the suits and many of the other items in the film. However, even this museum makes errors. The display claims that it was Swigert who said "Okay, Houston; we've had a problem", but it was Lovell (as the documentary proves); the Howard movie gets it right.
One record held by the Apollo 13 astronauts is the greatest distance from earth: 248,708 feet up (or away).
The display shows the actual command module, as well as Lovell's suit.
This museum also has more space devoted to waste management in space than any other museum. They describe a urine purge and how beautiful it was because of the diffraction, but note that there are no photographs of one. If the astronauts had taken a photograph of one, they would have had to explain it, and NASA did not want to have to do that. (Nowadays because the craft are much bigger, they probably do not purge it into space. Still, one wishes they might do just one and record it for posterity.) NASA also did not want to call what the astronauts wore while walking on the moon a "diaper", so it became a "fecal management subsystem".
They had a mock-up of the lunar lander and also a Lunokhod (Soviet lunar rover). There was no explanation as to whether the Lunokhod was a replica, a test version, or an unused one intended to be launched at some point.
The display, as I said, went only through Apollo-Soyuz, with nothing on the shuttle or on planetary exploration. However, they did have Blackbird and shuttle mock-ups hanging in the lobby. I have no idea what the Blackbird has to do with all of this. It is high-altitude, but it is really a spy plane rather than tied in with anything here. But it is cool-looking, and so museums love to display it.
I noted that the IMAX theater, planetarium, etc., are on the main floor, while the exhibit hall is underground. This is not for security reasons, I suspect, but rather because of the frequency of tornadoes in Kansas, the basement is the most protected area and that is where you would want to put your irreplaceable objects.
The exhibit hall admission was $8. A combination ticket including exhibits, one IMAX presentation, and one planetarium show was $12.50 ($11.50 with AAA discount). Since most of the IMAX shows were the NASCAR film, and since the planetarium show sounded that one we had seen before and were unimpressed with, we had opted for the exhibits only. Now, the AAA book lists only the combination ticket and then says "3 hours minimum". With 45 minutes each for the IMAX and planetarium, that really leaves only about an hour for the exhibits. We spent four hours on the exhibits. Plan accordingly.
Throughout the museum are various quotes, including: - "Wisdom is better than weapons of war, but one sinner destroys much good." (Ecclesiastes 9:18) - "There is no easy road from the Earth to the stars." (Seneca) - "Launch out into the deep..." (Luke 5:4) - "Man can not discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore." (Andre Gide)
We had a late lunch/early dinner at the Amarillo Grill, where the lunch special was a strip steak for $6.95. Even this was better than the steak last night, so maybe the Freight Train just is not as good as they say.
Then we went to see I, ROBOT. The credits are at least somewhat honest, saying it was merely "suggested by" Isaac Asimov's stories (though the idea of picking out the extra robot from a batch of a thousand is actually in one of the stories). It was a typical summer action flick. As I said afterwards, "I wasn't so much worried that the Three Laws of Robotics were being violated; it was that the Three Laws of Motion were." Robots would jump into the air to do karate kicks and just hang there. Will Smith would fire a rocket launcher and suffer no recoil at all.
We then checked into a Microtel. Mark described it as a dorm room, and there is some truth to that (think Scandinavian design), but it was very well designed. There was sufficient lighting--pretty amazing in a motel room--and a window seat with backrest that was very comfortable for stretching out on to watch television or read. The only drawback was that the television had no way to hook up the DVD player (no jacks, and the coax connection appeared to be soldered in place). Luckily, there was actually something worth watching on television: THE GREAT TRAIN ROBBERY.
Miles driven: 132
Cumulative miles: 5433
July 17, 2004: We had to go down to the front desk to resolve a credit card problem. Not ours, it turned out, but the motel's. According to the credit card company, they did not have enough information on file about Microtel to process the request.
We drove on to Kansas City and eventually found the Liberty Memorial Museum, dedicated to World War I. Yes, it is really tall, but unless you are pointed in the right direction, you still cannot see it.
Unfortunately, the museum was mostly closed. Or rather, it was not yet completely open. Or rather, we are not sure. The part that was open was two large rooms on the level of memorial obelisk. The main museum, on a lower level will not open until next year, but it is not clear that it was ever open as a museum before. I suspect it was more an archive for reference purposes. There were a few display cases in one of the rooms, along with a film. The other had paintings of battle maps done around 1921, along with excerpts from diaries and letters from soldiers and others. The admission for this museum is currently $4, which seems a bit high for what is currently open.
We had planned to stay in Columbia, Missouri, but the motel prices were high because of the Show Me Games, so we drove on to Kingdom City instead. This evening was the director's commentary for INDEPENDENCE DAY.
Miles driven: 417
Cumulative miles: 5850
July 18, 2004: Kingdom City, Missouri, is apparently our post office of choice. On the way out we mailed a cassette to someone from here; on the way back it turned out to be a convenient place to mail post cards from.
We drove to Hannibal, Missouri, known as the boyhood home of Mark Twain. (He was actually born in Florida, Missouri, but came to Hannibal when he was very young, much as Lincoln was born in Kentucky, but spent his formative years in Illinois.) There are several sites within a few blocks that form the "Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum": Mark Twain's home, a museum, a museum annex, a drugstore, a law office, and "Becky Thatcher's House" (actually Laura Hawlins's). Becky was patterned after Laura, and Tom Sawyer's cousins Sid and Mary were patterned after Twain's brother Orion (OR-ee-un) and sister Pamela (pa-MEEL-a).
Everything in Hannibal is Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer, but these are not (in my opinion) Twain's best or most interesting works. His writing included fiction, essays, travelogues, biography (Joan of Arc), religion (Christian Science), and so on. Of the fiction, I probably prefer "A [Connecticut] Yankee in King Arthur's Court". (Of course, according to Mark, Twain's Hartford house has little or nothing about his books at all.)
Looking around, Mark mused, "I wonder if anyone is buying up 1737 Academy [his childhood house in Dayton] for purposes like this."
The house itself seemed a reasonable size: three bedrooms, a parlor, a kitchen, and a dining room.
There are several bookstores in the area (Becky Thatcher's Bookstore, the Mark Twain Bookstore--that sort of thing). But they all sell lots of other souvenirs, and do not have anywhere near all Twain's books. Admittedly some are out of print, but not as many as it might appear. For example, "Joan of Arc" is available in a Dover Thrift Edition, but the woman in one store said it was out of print. That store had no Dover Thrift Editions, so I suspect she did not count those of worthy of carrying. By the way, it is good that Dover has a lot of Twains in print in very inexpensive editions, but I am not entirely pleased that they have also re-written some of Twain for "younger audiences." This includes removing objectionable language and incidents as well as simplifying the language. The latter is bad enough, but the former completely changes what Twain wrote. However, enough people protested the first printing that did not reveal this on the cover that later printings do say on the cover that they have been re-written.
Twain wrote a lot from his own experiences. He structured characters after real people, but also used his experiences for events in novels. For example, he had an experience when he was young of unknowingly sleeping in a room with a corpse, and probably drew on this for the incident for the corpse in the floating house in "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn".
The drugstore had some of the pictures from "A History of Pharmacy in Pictures", which looked like it would be an interesting book.
The museum had displays for several of Twain's novels. The display for "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" included one of the prop bats from the 1938 film. There were also excerpts from a film described as "William Perry's production of "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn'".
Upstairs was a collection of Norman Rockwell prints of illustrations for the books. One of the scenes illustrated was, "Then Miss Watson took me in the closet and prayed but nothing come of it." And I was reminded that this was probably a real practice, based on the verse, "But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly." (Matthew 6:6)
There was no mention of books influenced by Twain. This is not too surprising, but looking at all the Twain books could not help but remind me of Peter Heck's mystery series of Mark Twain as detective: "Death on the Mississippi", "A Connecticut Yankee in Criminal Court", "The Prince and the Prosecutor", "Guilty Abroad", "The Mysterious Strangler", and "Tom's Lawyer".
When we were finished here, we drove to Springfield, Illinois, and after dinner at the Steak 'n' Shake, watched episodes of "The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes", "Long John Silver", and "The Adventures of Robin Hood", and JAWS. We started the director's commentary on THE QUICK AND THE DEAD but it was really boring--there were incredibly long gaps when nothing was being said.
Miles driven: 183
Cumulative miles: 6033
July 19, 2004: We started with the Lincoln Home National Historic Site. There is parking for this for $2 an hour, but if you arrive early enough, the meters on the street are only 50 cents an hour. (The site itself is free, which was a condition of the grant of it to the government from Lincoln's son Robert.)
We thought the site opened at 8 AM, but it did not open until 8:30 AM, so we worked on our logs.
For those who think John Edwards has not enough qualifications because of his background as a lawyer with only one term in the Senate, I will note that Lincoln was a lawyer with only one term in the House of Representatives (although he did serve in the Illinois legislature for a few terms).
The house had been painted white for a long tome (because all the old photographs were, of course, not in color), but in the 1980 restoration they discovered traces of the original paint, a color called Quaker Brown. (And then later, a document turned up that referred to it as being Quaker Brown.)
The house still has 70% of the original wood inside, and 80% of it outside. Since 1865 it has been preserved in one way or other, meaning it is in much better shape than many other sites which were allowed to decay for a while before being "discovered."
The guide was really upset that in a vote for "best artifact", Lincoln's desk came in somewhere around fifth; the winner was a pair of mummified mice found in the walls from around 1871. After all, Lincoln probably wrote many of his great speeches on the desk (which went to Washington with him), while the mice were not even around while Lincoln was alive. In fact, most of the furniture was not Lincoln's--when he went to Washington, he sold most of the furniture because he was renting out the house.
After this we went to Lincoln's Tomb State Historic Site. This (along with the house) was something I had seen when I lived in Illinois, but Mark never had.
We drove to Champaign and ate lunch at Niro's Gyros, a take-out place with picnic tables that gave us way more food than we could finish.
Then we drove up US Route 45 to Rantoul.
Now will follow a very long section of little interest to anyone besides my family or anyone else who happened to live in Rantoul during the time that Chanute Air Force Base was active (particularly 1959-1964). The rest of you can skip the rest of this day and go directly to July 20.
I drove up Route 45 rather than take I-57, because there was no I-57 when we lived there, and Route 45 was the road we used. It goes through Thomasboro, which has grown from about 400 to about 1100. Most of this growth is probably people connected with the University of Illinois in Urbana or other Champaign-Urbana employers, since it is less than ten miles up the road.
The air base is gone now, closed in 1991. As a result, the population of Rantoul went from about 25,000 to about 12,000. And again, some of these are students or others who are looking for the cheaper rents if they travel a short distance from the Champaign-Urbana center.
In a way, I am surprised the town has survived at all. And one could claim it is barely holding on. The town (actually, it is the "Village of Rantoul" but I have always called it a town) got the land back, and some of the buildings have been rented or sold to companies looking for cheaper costs than in Champaign-Urbana (sort of like companies in the San Francisco moved into the East Bay, though I do not think there will be that sort of growth here). It is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year, though the only evidence seems to be a few signs and posters.
So what is left? The library is still there. It has moved to a building on the old base area, and is larger and better lit, but does not seem to have more books, and seems to have gotten rid of just about every book it had when I was there--all the books look much less than forty years old. (It is possible that they may have some classics that have been around since my time, but the science fiction and non-fiction I looked at were all newer.)
The downtown area (or at least the original one-block business district) has same buildings, but none of the same businesses. The movie theater where I saw THE MIRACLE WORKER is closed, though the marquee is still there. The theater that replaced it (called the "Wings Theater") was on a cross street, but it too has closed. (I would guess it was within the last year, since there were still soft drink cups sitting on the counter, unless that indicates that they are working inside it. In any case, no theater is listed in the Yellow Pages.) The drive-in on Route 136 is also long gone, eaten up by new houses and the inevitable cluster of motels and eateries that spring up at an interstate exit.
The spot on Century Boulevard (Route 45, the main throroughfare) where Rantoul got its first fast-food restaurant (a Burger Chef) now has a Hardee's. There is also one Chinese restaurant (pretty bad, according to the clerk in our motel), one Mexican restaurant, and a few chains (a pizza chain named Monical's, the Hardee's, a Long John Silver's, and a couple more than I forget). (There has obviously been a large amount of immigration from Mexico to the central states. Some small towns in Kansas had more Mexican restaurants than any other kind, and I think that Dodge City had more Mexican and Chinese restaurants than all the others put together. The old gunfighters, cattle drivers, and lawmen would be astonished.)
The Rantoul Motel is also on Route 45. I think that is where we stayed when we arrived there in 1959.
Woolworth's, built while we lived there, is gone--but then, it is gone from everywhere. Ben Franklin's,which worried about Woolworth's as serious competition, apparently outlasted them, but closed in 1994. I used to get my rock-and-roll records by buying used juke-box 45s at Ben Franklin for a quarter each. (New ones were 98 cents.)
Rantoul has no bookstore. There is a used bookstore listed in the Yellow Pages, but from the address I think it is just an aspect of the antiques shop. Champaign does have a Barnes & Noble and a Borders (as well as a B. Dalton and a Waldenbooks and a couple of others), so there are bookstores within an hour's drive. I was not a book buyer back then, so I do not know if there was a bookstore or just what the Ben Franklin and such carried.
The IGA that used to be on Century Boulevard has enlarged into an "IGA Plus" and moved to the outskirts of town at Grove and Maplewood, next to what used to be the Piggly-Wiggly. The Piggly-Wiggly was the only store when I was there that could be called a supermarket. It is gone, replaced by some sort of discount store that sells a limited line of milk, bread, produce, and canned goods. The Zander's grocery that used to be diagonally across is also gone. The only other grocery store in town is a small Mexican market. However, there is a Walmart at this end of town, and oddly enough, they are building a Super-Walmart on the other side of town by the interstate. This was built well after Ben Franklin's closed, so it did not drive anyone out of business. Rather, it gave people in Rantoul a place to shop without having to drive to Champaign. When we lived here, I can remember we had to drive to Champaign to buy lox--and that was only found in one liquor store in vacuum packs. I forgot to check the IGA to see if they carried it. They did have Mexican food, though.
The white clapboard Baptist church that I used to help my friend clean (she was the step-daughter of the caretaker) is gone, replaced by a new brick one. But the enormous stone American Lutheran Church (which had enough additional buildings that it looked more like a small college campus even then), St. Malachy's Catholic Church, and the Presbyterian Church near our house are still the same.
What used to be the orphanage is now a children's learning center. The cornfield near our house that ran from Maplewood Drive to Champaign Avenue is now a park with a pond. My elementary school, Maplewood, closed in 1992, but my junior high, J. W. Eater, is still active. There are however, a lot more trees in front of it than there were then.
In fact, the trees are what changed the most. The houses in my neighborhood are pretty much all the same, but the trees are all changed. The willow in our front yard that I used to climb is gone, as are the apple trees in back. But I could see a couple of tall trees in back that I would like to think grew from the trees we planted on Arbor Day each year.
The laundromats where I used to warm up while walking to school in those Illinois winters are gone. The big trailer park next to one of them (and the cornfield) is also gone. I guess when the military personnel moved out, the civilians who still lived there either moved or could find regular houses very cheaply when the base closed. Trailer parks were never a good idea there--every summer a tornado would inevitably hit at least one in our area. (It could be that the laundromats were no longer as popular when there were no trailer parks right there.)
The base housing has been converted to civilian housing. (The O'Neil and Wherry housing seems to have had pairs of adjoining two-story "apartments" joined to make one unit that is a more acceptable size these days. (The most they ever had was three bedrooms, and all had just one bathroom, and all the rooms were small.) The Capehart housing did not need as much work--but then again, that was the officer housing.
We stayed at a Best Western; there was also a Days Inn and a Super 8. Our clerk was an Indian from Chicago (possibly a hotel and restaurant major) who really missed being in a real town. He talked about how there was only one grocery store (but see below), and no place worth eating (almost all chains, but the Mexican place might have been good), and nothing much else. He said someone had bought some old officers housing for $500 and turned it into a fancy hotel. My question is, "Who would stay there?" There may be a golf course (a lot of the base streets now have name like Golfview and Fairway), or maybe people visiting Champaign-Urbana might stay there, but it seems unlikely, and so much of the base seems so run-down.
I drove around the base a bit, but it was hard to recognize the buildings after forty years (assuming they had not torn down the old ones). Which was the commissary? Which was the library? Or the theater? (Not that we attended anything there. It was only after we moved to Massachusetts that I started going to the movies, both on and off base.)
There is a book, " Eye of the Storm: Chanute Closes", which talks about the closing, but also some about what it was like when the base was open. For example, the Impact Aid program, where the government paid Rantoul for each military dependent in the school system. I can remember bringing home the forms each year to be filled out. The book claims the amounts never covered the cost but that Rantoul was happy to do it. In fact, this seemed to be a common theme: Whatever the cost was, Rantoul was happy to bear it. They built new housing and schools when the base expanded, never knowing how long they would be needed. They worked hard to make the town a good place for families rather than having the pawnshops and bars that so many towns never bases have. And so on. Of course, the base also pumped a lot of money into the local economy by employing civilian staff, shopping in local stores, etc.
Miles driven: 164
Cumulative miles: 6197
July 20, 2004: For me, probably the main reason for coming to Rantoul was nostalgia. But for Mark, it was probably the only real attraction Rantoul has, the Octave Chanute Aerospace Museum.
The "space" part of the name, however, is a bit questionable. There are a lot of planes in the hanger, and you can (for example) climb into the cockpit of a B-52. But much of the museum is an almost random assortment of ideas, more an air and military and local museum than an aerospace museum.
The first part is a history of Chanute Air Field/Air Force Base from 1917 until its closing on September 20, 1991 (though there is much more emphasis on the first half of that period than the second). They had a copy of "A Sixty-Year History of CAFB, 1917-1977", written by base historian George Y. Coates; I wonder if that is available. (I did buy a copy of " Eye of the Storm: Chanute Closes" in the gift shop.)
There was a time capsule buried on July 17, 1990, and opened as directed ten years later. The contents were not very exciting, but then what kind of time capsule is dug up only ten years later?
There were a variety of rooms commemorating various military "events": a POW/MIA room, a Korean War room, an Air Forces Escape and Evasion Society room, and so on. The Rantoul Historical Society had a couple of rooms. One of the items displayed was the children's horse ride from the Ben Franklin store. I rode on that horse when I lived here before. When the store closed, the local citizens were very concerned about the fate of the horse. There was also a parking meter that must postdate the time I was here--I do not think they had any meters yet, and if they had, they would not have charged a quarter an hour.
Other room had toys, books, and games--a lot with military connections, but also toy trucks and other non-related items. They went up to the present, with DVDs of war movies and G. I. Joe action figures of Colin Powell.
One display is of military name tags for people who were stationed here, and they are trying to collect more. It is not clear to me why military personnel who move around every couple of years would feel so particularly attached to this base over others that they would send their name badges here, but I suppose the fact that most other bases do not have such a museum might affect this.
The hanger, in addition to many planes packed in even more tightly than the Mid-America Air Museum, also had a Minuteman training silo. Going down into it was like going down into a damp basement--it had that mildewed smell and there was standing water on the floor. The planes, particularly those outside look very beta up. One outside looked good, but the sign indicated that 3000 hours of restoration had gone into it. The rest looked like planes abandoned to Illinois summers and winters for ten years might be expected to look. Some of the restoration is a bit odd also--glass canopies have been replaced in several cases by ones made of an opaque material, but this is not noted, and it took us a while to realize that pilots were not actually encased in a cockpit that had no view at all!
And even what is in good shape is poorly displayed. Part of the collection is roped off, including the replica of the Spirit of St. Louis. The problem is that it is quite far back from the rope and the descriptive sign next to it is unreadable from the viewer's side of the rope unless one has binoculars.
All in all, I would have to rate this as a fairly mediocre museum. Most of the people coming in seemed to be retired military who had been stationed at Chanute. It is somewhat off the beaten path, and unlike the Mid-America Air Museum did not have someone present them with a large well-maintained collection. The Chanute Museum does the best it can with its budget, I am sure, but is unlikely to attract the numbers it needs to have to maintain or improve it. The parking lot has grass growing up in all the cracks, and the building itself is set among other buildings that are deserted and unused, looking a bit like the sort of abandoned and derelict neighborhood where you would not want to park your car. It's perfectly safe, of course, but old abandoned buildings have an air about them.
What makes this worse, in a way, is that much of the base has been "recycled" and is in use and kept up. But the part that was best for the museum seems to have very little that anyone else wanted to buy or rent, so it looks the worst.
We left Rantoul and drove to Dayton, Ohio. We had thought about seeing some sights in Indianapolis, but the strange hours that town keeps blocked us. The two sites open today (the Benjamin Harrison House and the Art Museum) closed at 3 or 3:30 PM, which was about when we arrived, and did not open until 10 AM in the morning. And the Indiana Medical History Museum was not open on Mondays through Wednesdays anyway. Since none of these were that irresistible and since we were getting a little tired (it was day 34 of this trip), we decided to skip them.
We entertained ourselves with THE BRIDE and THE BIG LEBOWSKI. The latter is the much better film.
Miles driven: 285
Cumulative miles: 6482
July 21, 2004: We had thought about going to the Dayton Art Institute, considered a "gem" by AAA, but Mark expressed a wish to see the natural history museum he remembered visiting as a child. That was not exactly possible, but we did visit the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery, which is the successor to it, and built on land behind the old museum.
Mark described this as being about five times the size of the old museum and having at least half as much educational content. Not half again as much, just half.
The problem seems to be that science museums too often try to become a combination science museum and playground. (For that matter, even the Focus on the Family Visitor Center had some sort of slide between floors of the building for children to go on.) So at the Boonshoft there are rooms where kids can dress in pioneer clothes, or pretend to dig for fossils, or climb on equipment that is theoretically supposed to display something about air, or water, or something. The educational parts, on the other hand, have gotten more boring--the section on trees had so many plaques of solid text and so few physical items that Mark described it fairly accurately as being just the pages of a book pasted on the wall.
The dioramas were old, dusty, and ill-lit. (How could anyone even read the labels?)
The only section that looked educational and interesting was the Hall of the Planets, and that only because the photographs were relatively recent. But unfortunately there seemed to have been water leakage or something and the plastic films with the images of some of the planets was had separated and then wrinkled. (Either that or they have discovered some major new features on the planets that we had not known about before.) What seemed to attract the visiting children the most, however, was a tent in the shape of an Apollo nose cone.
One of the descriptions of astronomy started, "Since the days of Christ . . . ." Maybe it would be just political correctness, but I think in our area, they would say rather, "Since the days of Jesus . . . ."
One quote of interest from Albert Einstein was, "The most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is so comprehensible."
The quiz section said that a "Blue Moon" was the second full moon in a calendar month, but Mark said that he thought he had heard that this was not true.
Olympus Mons on Mars is 79,200 feet high. I would have thought that a more dramatic way of saying/showing this would be to have side-by-side models of Olympus Mons, Mt. Everest, Pikes Peak, and maybe a few more mountains or structures to give a better idea of the scale.
There was a motorized spinning globe of the moon with a sign saying, "Please do not spin the moon."
Supposedly Meteor Crater is also called Barringer Meteor Crater after Daniel Moreau Barringer, who was the person who decided it was a meteor crater. He bought it up, figuring to mine the vast quantities of iron he thought it would contain. Well, it turned out that the size meteor needed to make that size crater was very small. And it also turns out that no one seems to call it Barringer Meteor Crater either.
The display has names for all of the planets; Saturn is "Lord of the Rings". However, it does not include Sedna, so it is already out of date.
The most interesting exhibit was a temporary one titled "An Exhibit Beyond Bizarre". (At least I think it was temporary.) This was a collection of the sorts of things one would see in traveling exhibitions or old museums of the "cabinet of curiosities" variety.
The sections included Ohio Oddities, Curious Curatives, Maine Mania, For the Love of Lincoln, and Patriotic Pieces. The first had the Three Skulls of William Hewitt. Hewitt was a renowned local hermit who lived in a cave for many years. After his death various people had what they claimed was his skull. There was a light bulb with water from the flood of 1913 still sealed within it. There were scraps from the U.S.S. Shenandoah, with a caption beginning "750,000 cattle stomach linings were required to lift the first American commissioned Zeppelin into the sky." There was a polar bear from the old Rike's Department Store. And there was a pair of handcuffs once used to capture Dillinger, as well as Dillinger's Colt .38.
The display said that people would display some items without knowing what they were anymore. One such item, for example, was eventually recognized by someone as a butterfly-shaped calf weaner.
There was a cast of the skeleton of a Jefferson's Ground Sloth (Megalonyx Jeffersonii). Since the skeleton was discovered in the 1970s, this was definitely not here when Mark visited as a child. The trilobite cast, however, was. (The Isotelus trilobite is Ohio's official state fossil.)
Patriotic Pieces had fragments of the U.S.S. Maine. The description talked about how we remembered its explosion as the cause of the Spanish-American War, but then says, "Less memorable is the cruel reality that more American servicemen died from disease than from enemy fire." And even less remembered is how many more Filipinos died as a result of that war. In the Spanish-American War in Cuba, the United States had 385 battle deaths, and several thousand deaths from disease. In the Philippine-American War that was a direct result of it, the 4234 United States had 4234 deaths, while the Filipinos lost 20,000 soldiers, as well as 250,000-600,000 civilian deaths. (And I bet you never learned about that in school!)
One of the sections asked the questions, "Are we connected closer to an event or place by owning a piece of it? Does it serve as a reminder? What value do we place on them?" These are certainly pertinent to tourists, and one might add, "What is the purpose of a souvenir that is not even of the place, but merely imprinted with its name?"
At the end, a sign announced, "The artifacts you have seen are not normally displayed by museums anymore. They no longer fit the role that the museum has determined for itself and its audience." But of course this is not true. Historical museums display such items as Dillinger's handcuffs and chairs used by Lincoln, natural history museums display casts of sloth skeletons and stuffed polar bears, and so on. What they may mean is that these are not all displayed together as "interesting stuff`" (Then again, the Chanute Museum seemed to have this sort of miscellaneous assortment.)
Did you know that the pop-top opening for beverage cans was invented in Dayton by Ermal Fraze in 1977?
The current modern temporary exhibit was "Grossology". This is designed to appeal to children's fascination with the grosser aspects of the human body by covering such topics as Barf, Snot, Toot, and Burp. There is also a quiz game called "Urine: The Game". In the Snot exhibit, there is a figure with a nose that looks like a large faucet from which is lowered a cloth bag that looks like, well, snot, and is then "sniffed" back up, while the figure informs the children, "Snot is 90% water." This is what passes for science education these days.
There was a "Zoo" but it was entirely indoors and fairly skimpy.
Miles driven: 115
Cumulative miles: 6597
July 22, 2004: We drove back about fifteen miles to Norwich and the National Road Zane Grey Museum. (There does not seem to be any separator between "National Road" and "Zane Grey", but it really is two separate museums housed as one.)
The National Road was built between 1811 and 1838 from Cumberland, Maryland to Vandalia, Illinois. It actually connected to existing roads that extended to Washington, DC, and Baltimore, Maryland, and was supposed to go past Vandalia, but there was an alignment dispute between Illinois and Missouri and the road never got any further, at least until much later. As part of the standardization of road designations in 1925, the name was changed from the National Road to U.S. Route 40. (The Lincoln Road was renamed to U. S. Route 30 at the same time.)
The National Road part of the museum was almost entirely dioramas of the road through time (and space, to some extent). The first couple showed the road being constructed, then subsequent ones showed stretches with toll booths, inns, and drovers' stations (which they compared to today's truck stops). Later ones showed the road in Columbus, Ohio, and then with cyclists and later motorcars. After 1854 when the railroad came through, they eliminated the need for frequent stops, so many local taverns failed. It became a farm-to-market highway, but then after 1880 cyclists revived its use. With the coming of the motor car, schoolhouses became the first rest areas: they were unused in summer, and had wells for water. The road was paved in the 1910s, and after the paving was finished between Zanesville to Hebron in 1916, there were "monumental Sunday traffic jams and grisly accidents as almost all of Muskingum County's 1,557 auto owners were on the highway for the smoothest ride of their lives." And there were also filling stations, tourist cabins, and the whole road infrastructure we are familiar with.
The other half of the museum was dedicated to Zane Grey, born in Zanesville in 1872 and named Pearl Zane Gray (note the original spelling of his last name). I knew him only as an author, but he was also a deep-sea fisherman who held several world records. Ed Zern (whoever he is) said, "No one will ever challenge his right to be known as the greatest fisherman America has ever produced." He was also a very good baseball pitcher with a curve ball (and because of that got a baseball scholarship to the University of Pennsylvania), but when the National League moved the mound from 50 to 60 feet, his curve ball failed and his plans for a baseball career ended. He started out following his father's footsteps as a dentist, but was never happy in that profession.
His first novel was BETTY ZANE. RIDERS OF THE PURPLE SAGE, his first hit, was originally rejected by Harper & Brothers. He ended up writing over eighty novels and 130 million words. He wrote two novels a year and his publishers had such a backlog when Grey died in 1939 that they could continue to release almost a book a year until 1963.
Grey was also involved in movies. He made seven films with his own production company before selling the company to Jesse Lasky. In the 1920s there were about fifty movies made from his books. He got $25,000 each for the rights and was able to require that they shoot on location, but with the Depression this sort of control was lost.
An issue of McCall's containing one of his stories indicated a concern about marriage that seems very current--"Is Marriage on Trial?"--but the issue was the March 1928 one.
Grey was much more popular (based on sales) than the more highly regarded John Steinbeck, Ernest Hemingway, or William Faulkner. In fact, Grey wrote a story in TALES OF THE TAHITIAN SEA in which a fisherman goes eighty-three days without a strike, and then when he lands a fish, the sharks eat most of it. Hemingway read this, and a lot of it seems to have ended up in THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA.
We then headed home. We stopped in Somerset again for lunch. We had stayed overnight there our first night out on this trip, and had also eaten at the same restaurant (the Grapevine Cafe) two years ago while returning from our North Central trip.
We drove through a lot of rain and a lot of construction, arriving home--finally!--about 9 PM.
Miles driven: 488
Cumulative miles: 7075
I did my traditional license-plate spotting (an old childhood travel game). Going out, I saw all the states except Hawaii, and also saw Alberta, Ontario, Quebec, Guam, Sonora, Chihuahua, and Coahuila. Coming back was all the states except Hawaii and Rhode Island, plus Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario, and Quebec. Both last year and this year the most common license plate we saw in states other than its own was Missouri. I guess when they say, "Show me" they are at least willing to go there to be shown.
Costs for this 32-day trip:
Hotels 2189.63 Food 1000.39 Ground Costs (gas, tolls, parking, etc.) 388.63 Miscellaneous (admissions, etc.) 658.42 Souvenirs 151.66 Film & Developing 11.53 TOTAL 4400.25
We used 180 gallons of gasoline for this trip, given us an average mileage of 39 miles per gallon.
This was our third long road trip in three years, and I suspect we will not be doing another one soon. Next year we will be taking a long vacation in Scotland, the year after that possibly flying to the Northwest states, and the year after that possibly Japan.
Evelyn C. Leeper (email@example.com)