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Circus Trip 2018: Harry S Truman NHS

Day 75, Friday, September 28, 2018
Harry S Truman National Historic Site, Independence, Missouri

After camping in a small, family owned campground called Hanson Hills (they also do taxidermy!) somewhere between St. Louis and Independence, Missouri, I drove for a few hours across the state.  I was doing a bit of a quick reset through the Midwest so I could get to the West, where I wanted to spend more time.  It meant I had to make some sacrifices!

I ended up in Independence, Missouri at about 12:30 pm, and immediately headed to the Visitor Center at the Harry S Truman National Historic Site.  I signed up for the 1 pm tour of Truman’s Home.

The Truman home is a large, white Queen-Anne Victorian style home that was built by Bess Truman’s grandfather in 1867.  He ran a successful lumber business, so no expense was spared in making the home a showpiece.  It is pretty!

The Trumans were a close knit family, with their daughter Margaret continuing to travel with the Trumans on the campaign trail and spending time at the White House into adulthood.  They enjoyed music, with Harry Truman playing the piano, and Margaret accompanying as a classically trained soprano.

My tour was interesting.  After Harry Truman died in 1972, his wife Bess continued to live in the home until her death in 1982.  She donated the home to the National Park Service at that time, along with all the furnishings and personal items in the home.  The piano and music that Truman loved to play is there.  So is the calendar that Bess had hanging on the wall in the kitchen from the year she died.  The damaged linoleum floor is even original.

Sadly, the tour only includes the first floor of the home, as the second floor is unstable and unsafe for visitors.  You also can’t take photos inside the home…

The last car that Harry owned is in the garage; a 1972 Chrysler Newport.  He only had it for 6 months before he passed away, and then his wife used it until she died.  Even still, it only has 19,000 miles.  The license plate, 5745, was specially requested by Truman, as it commemorates VE Day, the end of World War II in Europe.  It was also a day before his birthday.  The license plate number has been permanently retired.

The historic site also includes other homes in the neighborhood that are open to the public on a self-guided tour, and I checked those out as well.  The Noland, Frank Wallace and George Wallace homes are there; the Nolands were Truman’s cousins and the Wallaces were his brother-in-laws.  It isn’t common anymore for the relatives to all live so close!  They are all much more simple than the Truman home but interesting to see.

I took a walk around the block and checked out some of the other homes in the neighborhood.  It seemed like a nice place to live!  I also saw a mule drawn wagon ride go by with some late season tourists having a good time.  I would also really love to visit the Jackson County Historical Society and their 1859 preserved County Jail.  It looked so cool!

I drove by the Harry Truman Library but decided not to stop, as the price was a bit steep for a quick stopover.  Truman and Bess are buried there, but their graves are inside the museum, so I’ll have to check that out on a return visit.  The ranger had recommended A Little BBQ Joint for good Kansas City style BBQ, so I stopped in there for a late lunch.  I had the combo sandwich with pulled pork and brisket, and it was so delicious!  They had three levels of kick in their sauce; I tried the Sweet Sister and the Mad Housewife.  I also got some ribs to go for the next day.

When I left, I decided to check out the Truman Farm.  Truman moved in with his family on this farm in 1906, giving up a hefty bank salary ($100 per month) to do it.  He lived with his parents, grandmother, sister, brother, and hired hands.  The farmhouse had no plumbing or electricity.  He spent eleven years doing heavy physical labor around the farm, until he left to join the military in 1917, to serve in World War I.  The day I visited, the farm wasn’t open, so I just spent a few minutes outside, taking photos and checking out the place.  I always find it so fascinating to stand where Presidents stood.

Although it was time to get back on the road, there was a lot to see in Independence and I would like to return!

 

 

Book Review: Inferno

Inferno, by Dan Brown

You probably know author Dan Brown, and his main character Professor Robert Langdon from the well known book and movie, the DaVinci Code.  Langdon makes his return in this fast paced adventure novel, featuring more mystery and symbols to decode.

Inferno (Robert Langdon, #4)

Langdon wakes up in the hospital, not understanding where he is or what has happened for the last 36 hours.  He soon learns that someone is trying to kill him, and flees, with the assistance of the doctor who has been treating him in the hospital.  

He discovers he is Italy, and he begins the slow, erratic process of piecing together the story of where he’s been and what he’s been up to.  That is, in between dodging a well-armed and mysterious militia, and a solitary hitman (albeit a woman).  He knows he can’t get caught before he puts the pieces of the puzzle together, but what is it that he’s looking for?  

Langdon uses his talents to read the symbols, and learn what threat is facing the entire world.  Similar to his other novels, Brown weaves history into the story, with a plenty of historic sites and their stories woven in.  And let me just say, after COVID, this story hit a bit close to home…

And with other Dan Brown novels, this thriller has many twists and turns.  You never quite know where you are heading next!  

4 stars.

Circus Trip 2018: Ulysses S. Grant NHS

Day 74, Thursday, September 27, 2018
Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site, St. Louis, Missouri

Just outside St. Louis, Missouri is the Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site.  This site, with its home called White Haven has a long history associated with President Ulysses S. Grant.

The home was built in 1808 (other sources say between 1812 and 1816), and the property was purchased in 1821 by Frederick Dent, who eventually became Ulysses S. Grant’s father-in-law. Dent built White Haven up as a fairly large plantation; it had 850 acres and grew wheat, oats, corn, potatoes and hay.  They also had several varieties of orchard fruits, including peaches, apples, plums, apricots, nectarines and grapes.  There were still extensive forests too.

Grant met his wife Julia in 1843, when he visited White Haven to visit his friend and classmate from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, who happened to be Julia’s brother Fred.  At the time, Grant was stationed in the Army at Jefferson Barracks, only five miles south of White Haven.  The two fell in love and eventually married in 1848.  Although Grant struggled with the launch of his career and tried his hand at a number of failed ventures, the marriage was a happy one.  Grant spent long periods of time away from Julia in their early marriage, when he went out West for his Army career.  Julia stayed at White Haven with her family.

Grant suffered from a depressive episode and quit the Army and returned to White Haven from the West Coast in 1854.  Between 1854 and 1859, he lived with Julia and the Dent family at White Haven, while farming, serving as an engineer, and dabbling in real estate in St. Louis.  By all accounts, he was not a particularly successful man at this time.  He did build Hardscrabble, a log cabin on the property with a name that was intentionally chosen to poke fun at the difficulty of their life then.  In 1859, the Grants moved to St. Louis for a short period and then to Galena, Illinois for Grant to go into business with his brothers.

They never again lived at White Haven, but continued to own the property until shortly before Grant’s death.  White Haven served as the home for the Dent and Grant families until 1885 (some sources say 1881), when Grant used it to pay off a debt to William Henry Vanderbilt.

What a fabulous place!  This home was acquired by the National Park Service relatively late in the game; it became a National Historic Site in 1989.  Thankfully, it was saved from becoming an amusement park in the early 1900s.  Hardscrabble was acquired by the Busch family and became a part of the nearby Grant’s Farm theme park; I’ll have to go visit it sometime.

Today White Haven is in much the same condition as it was then; although an attached kitchen was added later by a caretaker of the property.  A summer kitchen remains, which may have also been slave quarters, along with an ice house, chicken house, and a barn that was built in the 1870s.  All are open to visit or peek into, and there are exhibits about Grant’s life and the Dent’s life on the plantation.

The exhibits don’t mince words; although historic accounts indicate that the Dents and Grant were most likely fairly kind slave owners overall, Julia seemingly was completely unaware of the hard work these men and women provided for the family.  She spoke about the slaves being able to partake in all food products grown by the farm, as well as several types of meat and fish, without any recognition of the fact that these enslaved people had no freedom to directly benefit from their labors.  Grant himself is known to have owned one slave during his time at White Haven and while working his Hardscrabble Farm.  It is not known whether he purchased William Jones or if he received Jones as a gift; the historical record does show that he freed Jones in 1859.

Oh, and surely you have noticed the bright green paint on the house.  Yes indeed, that paint color was selected by U.S. Grant and his wife Julia when they painted White Haven in 1874; it is called Paris Green.  Do you love it or hate it?!?

And in unrelated news, I happened to have taken one of my favorite selfies here!

I enjoyed wandering around on the farm and seeing the buildings and exhibits.  It was an informative visit!

Circus Trip 2018: Gateway Arch NP

Day 74, Thursday, September 27, 2018
Gateway Arch National Park, St. Louis, Missouri

In my last post, I explained the history of Gateway Arch National Park, but I was so excited to visit again!  My first visit had been in 2006 with friends, but this would be my first visit by myself.

My first order of business was to purchase my ticket to go up to the top of the arch in their little pod unit.  There is always a bit of a wait for tickets, but going solo means they can fit you in more easily!

While I waited, I checked out the Westward Expansion museum in the basement of the arch.  It is a great museum dedicated to telling the story of the Louisiana Purchase, Lewis and Clark’s expedition to the West Coast, and the stories of the later pioneers.  It was definitely worth a return visit!

In short order, it was my turn to get into the pod.  I climbed in, and to be honest it is a little bit claustrophobia inducing.  It’s really tight in there, but it helps to look out the window in the pod to see the inside wall of the arch and the machinery that moves the pods up and down through the arch.

Soon I was at the top, and I got to see the incredible view!  The windows in the Arch are very small, but they give a great view of the buildings down below, and the river nearby.  I found the small windows to be good for not making my fear of heights flare up!  There are also some displays that give you some interesting facts about the arch.  Did you know that the Gateway Arch is 630 feet tall, and also 630 feet wide at the base?  You can stay up in the Arch for as long as you want, and then you just line up to catch the next pod going down.  

Afterwards, I headed over to the Old Courthouse, to check it out once again.  It was built between 1839 and 1864, and was the place where the Dred Scott trial first started.  So this courthouse was one of the pivotal places leading up to the Civil War.  The building has been renovated to stabilize it, but many of the historical features are still intact, and it is an incredible building.  I wandered around for a while, checking out the architecture of this amazing courthouse.

There was a lot to see and do here, even though it is a small park.  Soon enough though, it was time to get on the road; I had more I wanted to see nearby!

 

Circus Trip 2018: Gateway Arch NP History

Gateway Arch National Park
St. Louis, Missouri

Gateway Arch is a fascinating park with a unique history.  Located in St. Louis, Missouri, it was first established as a National Memorial on December 21, 1935, by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  It commemorates three things: The Louisiana Purchase and subsequent westward migration, the first American civil government west of the Mississippi River, and the Dred Scott decision, the monumental Supreme Court decision on slavery that contributed to the fiery debate on slavery and was one of the pivotal events leading up to the Civil War.

Sadly, in the 1940s when they were clearing the land where the arch would eventually be built, they razed several historically significant buildings, including the 1818 home of fur trader Manuel Lisa and the 1819 home of St. Louis pioneer Jean Pierre Chouteau.  I guess those guys didn’t seem as important.  I wish they would have left those homes, or at least moved them to elsewhere on the property!  I guess I’m one who likes as much history as I can get.

The Gateway Arch itself was constructed between 1963 and 1965, and is 630 feet tall, and interestingly, also 630 feet wide at the base.  There is a tram that takes visitors to the top, where you can get a birds-eye view of the river, the park, and the government buildings below.  The basement has an exhibit about Lewis and Clark’s expedition to the Pacific Ocean from 1804 to 1806, and the later migrations of the pioneers.

But one of the best parts of Gateway Arch National Park is the Old Courthouse, which was built between 1839 and 1864.  The Dred Scott case originated here and was tried in 1846, with enslaved Dred Scott suing his master for freedom, because he had been moved to a free state.  You can see the actual courtroom where the case was argued, although the room has been altered to preserve the integrity of the building.

On February 22, 2018, Gateway Arch was made a National Park by President Donald Trump.  It is the nation’s smallest national park, covering only 91 acres.  It contains the Gateway Arch, the park surrounding it, and the Old Courthouse.  Annual visitation in 2019 was 2,055,309.  That’s a lot of people for such a small park.  There is just so much to see and do here.  I’ll share about my visit next!

Circus Trip 2018: Indiana Dunes NP

Day 73, Wednesday, September 26, 2018
Indiana Dunes National Park
Author’s Note: At the time of my visit in 2018, Indiana Dunes was designated as a National Lakeshore.  To avoid confusion, I am using the National Park designation it currently holds.

From my family in Galesburg, Michigan, I drove about an hour and 40 minutes to Indiana Dunes National Park.  I was back in Indiana and had a chance to do some state sign posing!  It is located along about 20 miles of Lake Michigan, with the western part of the park located in Gary, Indiana.

Indiana State Sign

Indiana Dunes protects the sand dunes along the southern shore of Lake Michigan, located about an hour from Chicago.  This area of the lakeshore had many steel mills, and glass companies at the turn of the 20th century found the sand ideal for their glassmaking.  As a result, the dunes were shrinking from all the sand that was being trucked away, and pollution was a huge problem.

Indiana Dunes was authorized by Congress as a National Lakeshore in 1966, and its designation upgraded to National Park status on February 15, 2019 by President Donald Trump.  In 2020, annual visitation was approximately 2,293,000 people.  As it is only about an hour from Chicago, it makes for an easy day trip.

Indiana Dunes National Park

I checked out the Century of Progress Architectural District, a collection of five homes that were relocated to this area after the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair.  These homes are privately owned, so you can’t see inside, but it is interesting to see the outside!  The architectural style of the time was very unique and these are good examples!

Indiana Dunes has several trails to the lake, and is a well known spot for birdwatching.  So I wanted to check it out!  I hiked the Dune Succession Trail, a one mile trail that included some dune habitat, grasslands, deciduous forest and of course, the beach and excellent views of the lake.  There were also quite a few mosquitos – YUCK!

I didn’t do too much exploring that day, as I was getting acclimated to traveling again, but there is lots more to see at the park, including more historic homes and farms and many more trails.  I will have to go back there sometime to check it out!  After my visit I got back on the road and headed south to the KOA campground in Springfield, Illinois.  I was going to be heading west along I-70 and was making my way south to do that!

Circus Trip 2018: Kalamazoo, Michigan

Day 72, Tuesday, September 25, 2018
In and around Kalamazoo, Michigan

After more than two months on the road, my car was a bit of a mess.  Staying at my Aunt and Uncle’s place gave me a great opportunity for reorganizing!  You get a few weird looks anywhere when you are laying all of your possessions out on the driveway, but at least this way I could put it out on the concrete and not on campground dirt.

Mom and Dad had 16 jars of cherry preserves that they wanted me to fit in the car, since they had flown out to Michigan on that trip.  Cherry preserves are tough to find out here in Washington – it is apparently a regional flavor!  So I spent a few hours retucking, consolidating, folding and rounding up strays that morning – soon enough I had a neat, controlled environment in the camping car again!  Then it was time for an afternoon of fun with my cousin!

Megan and I headed over first to the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts to see some of their exhibits.  Some of the art was very sexually risque, with an entire exhibit of contemporary art of naked men with erections.  Not really my thing, but I guess art offers something for everyone.  There was plenty of other art that was more to my taste, with elaborate blown glass, Western art, and some interesting sculpture.  At any rate, it was a good visit to an art museum I hadn’t seen before.

Next up we did a quick stop at Henderson Castle, a Bed and Breakfast in Kalamazoo.  It is a ten bedroom, seven bathroom castle that was built in 1895 for Frank Henderson and his wife Mary.  Frank’s company made uniforms and regalia for secret societies, fraternal organizations and the military.  It is a beautiful home and it would be fun to stay there!

We ended our afternoon with a couple of stops at wineries in Paw Paw.  We went to St. Julian; the wines were good, but sadly our server was very disengaged.  It was unfortunate, because I always like hearing about the wines and talking with the server.  I did buy a couple of their wines to take home; their sparkling Brut was delicious and I wish I had some now!

Last but not least we went to Lawton Ridge, which was a winery I have visited before in Paw Paw.  We shared our flights so we could try more wines, and enjoyed several.  I ended up buying a bottle and a cute wine t-shirt.  It was a fun visit!

After our day out, we went home to my Aunt and Uncle’s house and had burgers with pickles and olives, and corn on the cob.  Yum!  We watched TV for a bit, but then I went to bed early in order to do some route planning, so I could resume my travels the next morning.  After a week with family, I would be hitting the road again!

 

Circus Trip 2018: South Haven, Michigan

Day 71, Monday, September 24, 2018
South Haven, Michigan

Monday, my cousin had the day off, so we had the opportunity to take a little day trip over to South Haven, Michigan.  We were ready to have a little cousins relaxing time!

Our first stop was at the South Haven Brewpub for lunch.  I had the Philly Cheesesteak and the Sunset Amber Ale; it was a great lunch!  The sun was warm; by the end our lunch, Megan was already getting sunburned!

After lunch, we headed over to Warner Vineyards for a little wine tasting.  There were lots of options, so Megan and I split our tastings.  Megan and I have different palates for wine; Megan likes the sweeter wines and I like the drier ones.

After wine-tasting, we did a little poking around in shops in South Haven.  I got a Michigan zipper hoodie.  It was fun seeing all the cute items.  

We did one more wine tasting that afternoon, at 12 Corners.  I got a couple of bottles there, including their Aromella, which was really good!  

We wrapped up our day with a walk out to the South Haven Light.  It is a beautiful lighthouse, bright red at the end of the pier!  It was a beautiful, sunny day, but it was so windy!  We had a good time getting selfies with the lighthouse and taking photos of the lighthouse too.  

We ended our day with dinner with my parents, and my aunt and uncle at the Chinese buffet.  It was a good day to a fun day!  

Daily Musings: Girl’s Days

Last weekend I spent the day with my oldest friend, Tiffany. 

Tiffany and I met when I was 7 years old and she was 5; her mom taught me how to ride horses.  I saw her one or two weeks a year for the first couple of years, and then once a week for lessons, and then as we got older we saw each other regularly for 4-H meetings and horse shows, county and state fairs, horse camping and various other horse activities.  It was a good way to grow up. 

It has been almost 40 years since we met and we are still friends.  We don’t see each other all the time, but we make it a point to get together for dinner or a girls day every few months.  And every time, we pick up where we left off without skipping a beat. 

We went south to have a late lunch at one of my favorite restaurants, the Train Wreck Bar & Grill.  The food is so good!  And the cocktails are excellent!  We sat for a couple hours, catching up and chatting. 

Afterwards, we went for a walk around Northern State Hospital.  Northern State was at one time one of Washington State’s largest asylums. It opened in 1912 and was in operation until 1973. 1,487 patients are buried on the grounds… The Spanish style architecture is beautiful, and we wandered around the buildings and peeked into the broken windows. At it’s height in the 1950s, over 2700 patients were there, committed for various reasons. 

According to histories, many severely mentally ill people were confined, but others were given quite a bit of freedom to roam the grounds, work in the various industries and sneak off into town.  Commitments were different back then, as husbands could have their wives committed for hysteria, and teenagers were sent there because they were troubled or difficult to deal with.  Sadly, lobotomies and electroshock therapies were performed there, and many patients were worse off after these treatments than before.

There are many rumors of Northern State being haunted, and I can understand why, with almost 1,500 people buried there.  When the facility closed, 204 containers of unmarked cremains were found as well, and buried in a nearby city cemetery.  There are probably more who died there, and their families had them buried somewhere else.  There was a palpable energy that makes your hair stand on end. I know we weren’t alone…

We explored only a tiny portion of the hospital grounds, and I would like to go back and see more.

Yesterday was a pretty nice day.  It would have been a good day for relaxing.  But no…  Yesterday I spent the day cleaning the deck.  It’s a tough job, but fortunately it is a once a year chore.  Thankfully my friend Shelley helped!

And it looks so good when it is done! 

I hope you are all well and enjoying the last of the weekend!

Circus Trip 2018: Historical Museum of Bay County

Day 67, Thursday, September 20, 2018
Bay City, Michigan

The Historical Museum of Bay County is operated by the non-profit Bay County Historical Society, and is located in Bay City, Michigan.  My Dad grew up in Bay County, living in Munger, a tiny little town that is no longer incorporated.  He attended high school in Bay City because the Catholic School in Munger didn’t go past 8th grade.

The Bay County Historical Society was first created in 1919, and is located within the former National Guard Armory building, that was built in 1910.  The building itself is a beautiful historic structure.

But Mom and I had a different interest in visiting the museum that day.  My grandfather, served in World War I in the Ambulance Corps.  Yes, you read that correctly.  World War ONE.  You see, my grandfather was already well into middle age when he married my grandmother at the age of 48; he was born in 1887.  And when he was serving, they were still using horse and mule drawn ambulances.  My grandfather, having grown up on a farm that used horse drawn plows, would have been a hot commodity on a horse drawn ambulance crew.  

My Grandfather, Circa 1918 in World War I

The Historical Museum of Bay County happens to have a World War I ambulance among their collection that was from my grandfather’s unit.  It was so cool to see!  This ambulance is a motorized one, and we aren’t sure if my grandfather ever used it, as the end of the war was a period of transition from horse drawn to motorized vehicles.  So it might not have been an ambulance that my grandfather used, but wouldn’t that be neat if it was! 

Either way, it felt like a step back in time to experience just a tiny bit of what my grandfather would have experienced when he was in the War.  He also was stationed in France for nine months after the Armistice, as the wounded were still being treated and evacuated back to their home countries.  There was a lot of work to do for a soldier in the Ambulance Corps even after the war ended.  

We checked out the other exhibits at the museum, including Bay County’s history in the logging industry, historic nursing uniforms and the history of the fire service.  We only had a limited amount of time, and there was way more that we didn’t get to!  It was a worthwhile stop, and there is no charge to see it!

 

I never met my grandfather, as he died in 1960, long before I was born, and I never got to hear any of his stories.  It was nice to have some small connection to him.