Meadowlark restaurant, Dayton Ohio

Meadowlark Restaurant is located on the outskirts of Dayton Ohio, pretty much in its suburbs… and is so impressively good that it’s almost worth the trip. And because it is in a relatively small city the prices are utterly reasonable; were it in places like Chicago or New York they could charge double or triple what they can in a town like Dayton.

(Barely took any photos while here, sorry)

This place ROCKS…and I’m not the only one who thinks so; pretty much ever one of the customer driven review sites gives this place between 4 or 5 stars. Appetizers are around $6-8 each and mains were around $20-$30, so for what it is, amazingly affordable. It is a farm-to-table chef-driven restaurant, i.e., fresh ingredients picked at the height of ripeness at nearby farms, cooked by an honest to goodness chef… I am sorry to say that I forgot to take photos of our appetizers.

I ordered a watermelon Gazpacho with peanuts, mint and a Fried Pork rinds garnish (which I asked them to NOT include) that was good enough that my travel buddy enjoyed it even though he is NO fan of watermelon… While my friend ordered the Shishito Pepper Hushpuppies with pimento cheese (which were deep-fried so not allowed on my diet) which he said were AMAZING… although not quite as good as my soup

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For Dinner I ordered blackened catfish with sweet corn butter and “hambalya” which was really really good (I had recently passed my liver blood test with flying colors, and was expanding my diet a bit to include fish dishes cooked as the chef intended… but still steering clear of anything fried.

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My friend, who is vegetarian, had the Ricotta&Goat cheese Tacos with Green Chiles in fresh corn Tortillas, topped with Capers and Spicy Tomatoes and served with a dressed cabbage and radish counterpart along with Lemon-scallion rice and creamy, smoky pinto beans ($22), which he also said was more than worth the price — he is not one for pricy restaurants.

For dessert we ordered the Homemade Pecan Pie Ice Cream with pie crust crumbles, which was as good as it sounds.

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Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library & Museums: Fremont, Ohio

Located in the incredibly pretty town of Fremont, Ohio (formerly known as lower Sandusky) is the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library & Museum (19th president of the United States, 1877-1881). The election of Hayes is actually one of the low points of US history; it was arrived at via the Compromise of 1877, a completely UNDER THE TABLE deal where the southern states agreed to recognize Rutherford B. Hayes as President in exchange for an end to Reconstruction in the formerly confederate states rather than address what had happened in a pretty fucked up election (the outcome of which was statistically impossible). In other words, the Republican party to stay in power, rather than confront election tampering head-on, agreed to put an end to all attempts to use the force of law to give former slaves their civil rights as free men, a chicken shit move that took 100 years to rectify. That said, once in power Hayes did a reasonably good job while president (he tends to be ranked about well as Nixon, Ford or Carter), and as such this is a place worth visiting.

IMG_3288.jpgWhen I arrived in Fremont it turned out to be yet another one of those Ohio towns that in the 1800’s were the place to be, but that are now one of those unexpectedly pretty but economically struggling towns that make for great movie sets. The homes here were impressively gorgeous and/or huge and I had a feeling that it was one of those town where you could buy an amazing home dirt cheap. I saw more than a few ‘for sale’ signs all describing the property as a classic that just needed to be lovingly upgraded.

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The library and Museum are located sort of near the center of town, on a fairly large piece of green land known as Spiegel Grove.

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The Grove is a state park that houses not only the property the Hayes family, but was also (according to the gates) the entrance to the old Sandusky Scioto Trail (which went from Lake Erie to the Ohio River (connecting the St. Lawrence river and the Great Lakes with the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers) — which was used during the Harrison Trail War in 1812 as part of the battle of Tippecanoe (whose memorial in Indiana I also visited)

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The park itself is very pretty, and full of some very old growth trees, some of which were planted by important people, etc.

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On the grounds are two buildings of interest… The home (which you need to buy a ticket and join a set tour in order to see) and the Museum/Library — entrance to which is included in the ticket.

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firstly the Library. Personally I found its front stairs to be fascinating. They had recently been redone to convert them from traditional museum steps to handicapped accessible ones, using a design I’d not seen before…  (on the left or right edges they’re fairly normal steps) AND according to the staff member I spoke to they heat up in winter so that no snow or ice form on them.

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which contains the gift storeIMG_6239.JPGI was actually very impressed with the store because in addition to some of the more obligatory things (t-shirts, mugs, bumper stickers, etc) and the same fake ‘historical type’ stuff which you see for sold at almost all US historic sites, they had gone the extra mile to try to make sure they promoted locally made products.

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The Museum, like ALL of the presidential museums is WELL worth a visit. It’s expertly curated (wouldn’t be surprised if they borrowed someone from the Smithsonian to do it) and discusses not only his administration, but also the family. It starts with the obligatory introductory video:

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The displays on the main floor were about the presidency and started with a discussion of the controversial election, it began by focusing on how issues of suffrage (who did or did not have the right to vote and when) might have impacted the outcome of the election

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And then went into the specifics of what happened, how the south basically did everything it could to sway the outcome (more people voted then there were residents in towns and blacks were actively intimidated and threatened to keep them from voting, etc), all of which led to the final compromise, rather than running a second election.

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And then the presentation turned away from the election to what he was able to accomplish during his tenure.

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And then in addition to all of the “text-book” like displays, there were personal items given to or belonging to the family, scattered around the rooms. After this was a large atrium sort of room (I have a feeling it may have been the original entrance), called The President’s Gallery, that was REALLY beautiful

IMG_6244.JPGOn either side of the gallery were large rooms; one was dedicated to desks used by the president’s administrationIMG_6249

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The collection of signatures is impressive, it begins with our first president, George Washington…  travels through the various presidents beginning with purchased/collected letters … and in the modern period moves to presidents specifically writing to the president’s son, or the library itself…  and ends with Obama

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In the room on the other side of the atrium are items belonging to Hayes’ wife, children, grandchildren and GREAT.

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This is a heck of a doll house I want this doll house

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And then lining the walls were other personal items of the family members

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If you head downstairs, you find more stuff….IMG_3456.jpg

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When I leaned in to take the close up photo of the description of the desk I heard a warning message “You are to close to the exhibit please step back!” in an authoritative male voice…

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This is kind of a cool experiential exhibit, clearly designed for little kids; they’re allowed to stand on platform (it’s one of those weight machines) and experice what a 46 lb load (which is what ever civil war soldier carried) feels like on their back

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They had a temporary exhibit about medicine in that period (later I learned that the business of Fremont had been foundries, which did all sorts of cutlery and things like the surgical knives… hence the exhibit, well at least partially)

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That said… Apparently military service AND weapons collecting were both a big things in the Hayes family going forward based on these collections. One room is devoted to the weapons collected not just by the President, but also by his grandchildren

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If you never studied the war of 1812, it was sort of The American Revolutionary war part 2, begun in large part because the British weren’t respecting American sovereignty

A few of the grandsons went on the be an admirals or some such and were involved in the wars in the Philippines, The Boxer Rebellion in China, and in World War …

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In addition to showing the familie’s arms collection they had an area devoted to their tours of service and what they did

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This included how the female members (like President Hayse’s wife) served by supporting the troups

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One cool thing they did was to try and replicate things like the trenches of WWI, and the Submarines, to try to give you a sense of being in one.  After viewing the exhibit I said to them… that was so cool!!! But you need to dirty up the metal!!

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And then after completing the museume I visited the Hayes home. The tours of the family home happen every hour (rather than every half hour as described by the RoadTrippers web page).

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As I waited to go in I talked to some local women, one of whom was actually (through Rutherford B Hayes’s daughter) related to the family. She told me that the industries here were foundries, which did all sorts of cutlery and things like the surgical knives that were shown in the display in the museum (see above). The town of Fremont, being connected to Lake Erie through the Sandusky river was therefore at the time conveniently located for the transportation of goods, and were also on the railway lines when those came through. Rutherford B. Hayes, had apparently helped build this town — even before becoming President; and that it was really a major nothing when he came to settle here. He built the first church… for his wife (even though he didn’t attend), and he also built a prison because until then all of the prisoners were held in underground pits.

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You can tell by looking at the back of the house (see above) that it was one of those homes built in stages — hence the unwieldy angles of the thing. In fact according to the docent it was built in three stages…

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The lady wearing blue told us REPEATEDLY that she was related to the family through Rutherford’s Daughter. The woman in white, also had a personal connection… her grandfather had been a caretaker of the property and had actually died there.

The initial home (the door and to the left of the docent) was owned by Hayes’ uncle who was a “professional bachelor” (a term we now pretty much always know meant he was most likely gay) who was affluent, but had no wife or children. Hayes own father had died before he was born, so his mom went to live with her brother. Since Hayes would therefore inherit the house, the Uncle had asked him what ‘changes’ he’d like made to it, and he had said what he wanted most was a “porch with a house attached to it”, hence this great big gorgeous porch… which had at one time encircled the whole home. Later when Hayes went to D.C., while he was gone he added to it knowing that now it would need to host (and probably house for the term of their visits) all visitors, official and otherwise who might want to see him, at which point he added two major extension, the bit to the right of the docent (see above), as well as an extension at the back of the house for a formal dining room and a kitchen capable of supporting it.

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At that time, Rutherford B. Hayes, also ordered a new knocker for the home (with a presidential looking Bald Eagle on it) and sent it home to his wife and gave specific instructions of where it needed to be installed — exactly where and how high. The family, once Hayes became president got into the habit of saving EVERYTHING, so we know that it cost $1.95 in 1877 (about $46.83 in 2018 dollars).

No pics were allowed once in the house…. booooo!!!!! I was like, “oh no biggie, I’m sure I can find them on-line… but NO!!! When I started writing this and looked I found they’ve actually done a pretty good job of limiting access to the home. The only rooms shown in the videos were pretty much the ones they had made post cards of, that was it.

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I did however find these videos that DO show the inside:

This one, produced by a local TV station talks at length about the renovation of the first floor of the house to its condition when the former president lived here. This was necessary because his descendants had lived in the house until 1965, and had updated various things to keep with modern styles.

This next, much longer video is from C-Span June 1995 (BEFORE the renovations took place, so the rooms now look different), is much longer and includes a lot of the narrative I heard while visiting.

I can’t embed it but you can click on this link:  https://www.c-span.org/video/?65969-1/rutherford-b-hayes-home

Like I said the family from the time he was elected President were HYPER conscious of their historical importance from that point forward (to the extent of saving the receipt for the knocker). According to the docent, Rutherford’s cousin, who was a photo enthusiast, had visited the home in 1880 —  while Hayes was still president — and took photographs of every single room in the house. These photos were then stored, along with everything else, and rediscovered among the boxes when the unpacking began in 2007, with the start of the restoration (which finished in 2012) so we know exactly how each room is looked.

Over the years, family members that inherited the property kept all of the original everything, and with great care. This family obsession with historical importance was such that THE ORIGINAL FABRIC that covered the sofas and chairs was left on the back of every item whenever they re-upholstered the fronts!!!!  SERIOUSLY!!! As such, they were able to take that cloth and have brand new cloth made exactly to the same pattern and what we see today is that. 

They altered a couple of things, as needed but they intentionally didn’t do any serious damage or made sure to keep examples of the old (like with the backs of the chairs). There’s a cover spread and pillows set that had been hand stitched by a cousin that was gifted to the Hayes’ that he and his wife had used on their bed, that had been folded up and carefully stored once Hayes had died, so that it is now still in perfect condition. When they changed a bathroom room into a different kind of room, they kept EVERYTHING… even if they weren’t using it because they understood it’s historic relevance… down to the square wooden pipes that diverted rain water into the bathtub. (According to the docent when they didn’t have enough rain water collected they would pump it from the kitchen and bring it in by hand).

The house — after the renovations — is four stories … the younger owners had put in wall-to-wall carpeting; and when they pulled it up they found this gorgeous inlaid wood floors. According to the docent in 1880 the cost of changing the house from one story to a four-story $880 (a sum of around $21,753.77 in 2018) …. at the time a daily wage for the workers was $.50-$.70 a day (we know this because the family even saved the receipts for what they payed their workers).

Photos were taken in 1880 and there were some bazaar items that they kept in the museum for forever, assuming “the president’s family couldn’t POSSIBLY have had this in the house… it was probably some odd gift someone had given them”… but when they finally found the photographs in the archives they brought them back into the house. This included one of those chairs made out of deer horns and leather. They have photos of what the house look like in the 1960s and then the photos of what it look like in 1880. There are a few items in the house that are not correctional he had, the two pianos in the house are not original because the second oldest son had taken the two of them and traded them to somebody for a large baby grand. He had over 8000 books and he read all of them

It was supposed to be a one hour tour we went in at 2 o’clock we came at 3:30. This entranceway was recently converted to handicap capable and in the winter time it heats up so they don’t get ice

 

Local boy does good: Woodville Ohio

Let’s hear it for Civic pride in a home town boy! Passed this barn while road-tripping

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The sign says:

Welcome to Woodville, OH (Ohio),
Home of (then the picture of the Space Shuttle)
Astronaut Tom Hendricks
Four time Shuttle Astronaut (Col. UASF)

and just left of his image in Red paint it says: Aim for the Stars!
(then I passed through the town which I think had one stop light)

Giant Campbell’s Tomato Soup Can: Napoleon, Ohio

In Napoleon Ohio, on the edge of town is a massive Campbell’s Soup manufacturing plant, and sitting on it’s back corner is massive tank, painted to look like one of their Tomato Soup cans… because why not.

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On my current cross-country road trip from Pennsylvania to California, one of the places I decided to stop along the way was this place… because why not. At first, I couldn’t find ‘the can’ and there was a massive rain storm threatening. In the descriptions I had read of the place everyone complained it was hard to find the thing, so I pulled into the company lot, right up to where the security guard is located, and asked. At first he looked at me confused, then he said to me “Ah! You’re a tourist and you’re from out-of-town!” So he directed me to where I would find ‘the can’ (it’s on the far end opposite from where the employees enter — check its location on my click map)

And then he gave me a very specific instructions about where I could and could not step so as to not trespass on private property. (Do NOT pass the little ditch/moat they’ve dug, or you’ll get in trouble — do NOT try to get close to it.) When I finally found it, and pulled the car to the side of the road so I could take the picture …  there was a white truck inside the plant gates, and the guy in the truck was watching me very carefully. Just saying…  Two seconds after I got back into the car the deluge began! And I’m taking a serious downpour.

National Museum of the U.S. Air Force: Dayton, OH

You wouldn’t think one of the best FREE museums in the world would be in nowhere Ohio, but you’d be wrong. If you’re even marginally interested in flight, technology, engines or just history, The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force is amazing. I enjoy this place so much that this was my second time coming here, the first time was by myself in September of 2009, the second was July 23, 2018 with my travel buddy, Mik.  Let me remind you that the Wright brothers, who are the ones usually given the credit (cough) for having invented the airplane, did so in Dayton, Ohio. And, that is probably the reason why this is located in the Wright-Patternson Air Force Base.  (That and the fact that it IS the middle of nowhere means land prices are very low.) Be prepared to devote a few days to it (I suggest a minimum of three)… and like the Smithsonian, it’s FREE (your tax dollars at work).

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two photos on left are 2009, right is 2018

Also, having been to both museums twice, far as I’m concerned the Smithsonian’s Air and Space in D.C., can’t really compete; it can’t, it hasn’t the space.IMG_2809.JPGNote the photo in the 1903 photo bottom right (above) is the same airplane in the photos below, that’s one of the great things about this museum, they don’t just have photos of historic models, they have the actual airplanes (and according to their website they’re all kept as much as possible in perfect ‘airworthy’ condition. fullsizeoutput_424e.jpegThe Air Force Museum in Dayton is HUGE; it has close to 900K square feet of hangar space within which its planes are displayed … according to Wikipedia it’s the largest military aviation museum in the world… it has to be, they currently have around 360 different aircraft and missiles on display, including most of the Air Force One‘s not in usage, and the number will only grow. What I tell my friends is if it historically relevent, belongs to the U.S. Air Force, and the Smithsonian doesn’t have, it’s probably in Dayton.IMG_2812In addition, it is a REALLY well curated museum, that tells a very easy to follow story of the history of flight (as it pertains to the military), and does so in a way that keeps you engaged and willing to come back for more …. and they have actual examples of EVERY plane they mention, full size sitting right in front of you.fullsizeoutput_4252.jpegThis is one of my very favorite museums anywhere… and I’ve been to a lot of museums. I liked it so much I’ve been to it twice. I feel that it has something for everyone, it’s about history, war, technology, etc… As an example, I had been trying to convince my travel buddy to come here with me, but he kept saying he had little to no interest in flight technology…. as it turns out however he’s a big fan of engines, and for almost every type of innovative airplane they would have a display showing the engine it used (so he was very happy).

 

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There’s a hallway of the museum devoted to Dayton locals who survived the Holocaust

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A different hallway devoted to WWII airforce art, like the bomber jackets, and the designs on airplanes (giving them personalities, and keeping track of how many bomber raids they went on)

IMG_2820A hallway devoted to the Berlin Airlift after WWII, when the Russians tried to strangle hold part of the city. IMG_2818IMG_2560

The first time I came was in 2009, when for family reasons I found myself stuck in Cincinnati for a few days. My brother had been to this museum once before, and STRONGLY suggested that I rent a car, head North, and go to Dayton once I got bored with what Cincinnati had to offer. I ended up coming here three days in a row.

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I then returned in 2018 with my travel buddy, because I was coming from Chicago, had a spare week to fill before heading off to Pennsylvania, and as a fellow geek I felt he’d really enjoy this place (and would never have come here on his own). That said, I the more I see of Dayton the more I think that I would happily came back to here for a third extended stay (one of my one month trips) in order to take the place in, in full, at my leisure.

For the two pictures above of the thermonuclear bomb, my 2009 visit is on the left, while my recent 2018 visit on the right…. The major change seemed to be the placement of the Mark 41 sign (not a huge change)

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The picture above is 2018, while the parallel image from 2009 is below (top left image) … the rest are all from 2018… not much has changed in this exhibit (I image moving intercontinental ballistic missiles –ICBMs– isn’t all that easy to do)

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Then and now, one of my favorite sections of the museum is the collection of Airforce One airplanes. The first time I went this was located at the very back of the museum, where there were normal quick construction airforce hangers (the sort the military can put up in a few days during war-time rather than actual buildings) that were, as such, FULL of natural light… (something that is NOT considered a good from an archival point of view, since harsh sunlight can cause things to fade over time) that were absolutely crammed full of the newest of the high-tech airplanes (that weren’t secrets anymore) that they had to display. I was told by a docent that they had plans to build a fourth building to house them in the near future (by my 2018 it had been done)

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2009, crammed together planes in a hangar

Behind these most recent high-tech airplanes they had just sort of lined up next to each other, the Airforce ones planes.

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Where by 2019 they were in a darkened structure that had to lit artificially

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The first plane I went into was the plane made especially for transporting Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933-1945), who as we all know was paralyzed.

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Between 2009 and 2018, I found two major differences in the first Airforce One plane display (the one Roosevelt flew in). Firstly, in the President’s office part of the plane, in 2009 they had a Roosevelt manikin sitting in his office

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while in 2018, when I visited the same plane I found it had been removed. Note the white decoration on the drapes for evidence that it’s in fact the same space (sorry for the lousy 2009 picture, my digital camera then, and it was a camera — not a camera in a phone, was nowhere near as good as the camera currently in my 2016 iPhone SE)

IMG_2826Additionally, at the back of the plane, where the elevator was located, in the 2009 version a wheelchair was located in the elevator, which included a sign explaining the use of the elevator…. (top two photos below)

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But when I returned in 2018, the elevator well was empty… and I didn’t spot the wheelchair till AFTER I’d already left the plane, and spotted it sitting on the ground in FRONT of the elevator’s cage.

The next plane was flown by both Harry S. Truman (1945-1953) and in the very beginning of the presidency of Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953-1961)

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in this one I found a MAJOR change… firstly, in 2009 the cockpit came with tags attached to the plexiglass explaining who was sitting where

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Which had been removed by the time of my 2018 visit… but LOOK AGAIN, they had refurbished the chairs and changed the color of the leather???? From a historical standpoint, WTF????

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ALSO, in 2009 there were mannequins seated in the plane while in 2018 they were gone. (Note that Truman was at a special presidential desk while Eisenhower wasn’t) During Eisenhower’s tenure, he also got a new plane…a Lockheed VC-121E

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The final airplane, a Boeing VC-137C, was flown the longest of all the Airforce One planes, for almost 30 years before it was finally replaced, from the Time of John F. Kennedy (1961-1963) all the way through Bill Clinton (1993-2001)

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In this plane I was unable to spot any differences between 2009 and 2018

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By the time we were done with the presidential planes it was almost time to go (the place closes at 5pm) but we managed to fit in one last plane, one of the transport planes that took soldiers to Vietnam, and nicknamed by them as the “Hanoi Taxi”

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Oh, and I’m adding one last photo, this was from 2009: I really wanted to do this again in 2018 but we didn’t happen to find it… that said we were only in the museum for about 5 hours… nowhere near enough to do it justice and see everything

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Me in 2009, you stood behind it and put your head up into the helmet

World Largest Gavel? Columbus, Ohio

The “Gavel” is a whimsical piece of outdoor art by Andrew F. Scott, that some are on the web have declared the World’s Largest Gavel (although I’m not sure that’s true). According to CivicArtsProject.com it is 30 feet long, 15 feet wide, and 12 feet high… so pretty frigging big! IMG_3076.jpgIF you’re in or driving through Columbus it’s worth a stop see, in part because it’s located in a man-made pond/water feature located adjacent to the Ohio Supreme Court building.

IMG_2573.JPGI searched online for verification that the “Gavel” was in fact the world’s biggest, but other than it being called such by various websites (of the tourism variety) I didn’t find anything from let’s say the Guinness World’s Records people verifying it such.

Anyway, the Ohio Supreme court is a rather impressive building and worth looking at in its own right

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The tower in the distance is the LeVeque Tower, the 2nd tallest building in the city

and it is right next to a very pretty river walk area, along the Scioto River. That and parking in the area was really easy to find — we arrived at about 6pm and had NO trouble at all finding a spot.

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I loved the bunch swings

I didn’t really come to see Columbus this trip; rather my travel buddy and I were visiting Dayton, OH (about 1.5 hours away) and we arranged to have dinner with an old friend of his who used to live in San Francisco, but now lives in Columbus with her family. We’d arrived about a half hour early, so he said, “we’ve got a half hour to kill, what do you want to see?” (He was driving.) I quickly pulled out one of my travel apps Roadtripper, which allows you see what’s around right now, as well as plan in advance, and pretty quickly spotted this — and we all know how much I love big things.

Bender’s Tavern

A trip to a food past: I came here based on a Yelp review that said (essentially), “Bender’s is probably the best restaurants in three counties.”  Happily, this turned out to also be a historic restaurant that has been in the same building since 1907, with a lot of the menu’s ‘favorites’ tracing back almost that far. For example, I can now check off turtle soup (an American classic that sort of disappeared from our menus) from those “have you eaten this?” food lists memes that float around the internet — not mock turtle soup mind you, but the real McCoy with actual turtle meat, which apparently has been on their menu for over 60 years. It was tasty, but I have nothing to compare it to so I have no idea if it was good turtle soup.

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… The thing on the side is sherry, to be added ‘to taste.’

They even still do Monte Cristo sandwiches (another item that’s mostly disappeared from US menus, that was once ubiquitous), but apparently only on Mondays. For my main I had a fairly decent crab cocktail (trying to loose some weight). Apparently, and I discovered this afterwards while researching the place on the internet, the automobile Blue Book used to suggest this place as a driving destination.

If you get there when the place isn’t busy, the manager will happily give you the historical tour. I was just walking around looking at the place and he walked right over and started giving me background information. For instance, I learned that the mural that’s in the bar was painted by a local artist in barter for free food and drink during the whole period it took him to paint it

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And, believe it or not, the bar area originally not only had spittoons on the floor, but also urinals!!! Standing right out in the open (uhg). Apparently, once the place started to get popular for it’s food (and not just the liquor) the owner purchased the building next door and created a ladies dining room with it’s own door, so that they wouldn’t have to enter via the main doors at the bar, and walk by guys with their dicks out…

(SERIOUSLY? This was a thing?)

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Found a more complete write up on the history of this place in a google book called “Taste of Ohio”

First Ladies National Historic Site

Worth a visit, but underwhelming; remember to use your National parks pass!!

You know how pretty much every former US President has gotten a memorial or (at least since Herbert Hoover) a library, well this fairly new National park is a museum (consisting of two, not quite adjacent buildings) dedicated to the women behind the men… i.e., all our unsung first ladies. It was established, in order to fill that gap, around the year 2000, and consists of the historic (from 1878-1891) home of Ida McKinley (whose husband’s memorial and museum are about 5 minutes away by car), and a nearby former bank (built 1895 — so after her family had already moved out); the former bank now holds a small collection of first ladies dresses, etc., and a library/research section (on its upper floors).

The Museum is pretty easy to find, and there is free parking. However, one of the more disconcerting things about this site, at least to me, was how the area is arranged; the lot is adjacent to Ida McKinley’s house but blocking your entrance is one of those vertically swinging gates. When you get there you have to ask (via a microphone) to be allowed in, and will be asked to verify that your intent is to visit the site — I get why they do it, but it is pretty unusual, all things considered. Then you will discover, confusingly, that the building you need to go to first (it’s where you pay your fee and are then led around by a docent) is NOT the house you just parked next to, but rather, it’s the former bank building which is on the FAR side of an adjacent hotel&parking-structure. And, if you happen to be cutting it close till the tour, as I was, and have any trouble walking (as I do), then it can be quite the trek. However, and I learned this afterward having already left the site entirely, there are actually quite of few first ladies dresses and things of that sort on display in the hotel, so you should try to either time your arrival so that you have a chance to see those — either before a tour, or otherwise try to remember to do it before driving away afterwards (the docents were NOT the ones who told me about it, so odds are they won’t remind you either).

In the bank building (where you are NOT allowed to take pictures) you’ll pay your fee, don’t forget to use your national park pass if you have one, and be led to a back ‘library’ to watch a pretty propagandist movie about the first ladies. I say this, because it says things like, and I’m paraphrasing “all of the wives were supportive of their husbands” and then goes on to even mention Bess Truman who I wouldn’t describe as a ‘supportive’ first wife….

Now if you know anything about Bess, you’ll know that she DESPISED Washington and would only deem to be there when her presence was absolutely demanded (essentially abandoning her husband for the majority of his presidency). Her behavior overall made it clear that she was less than thrilled about her husband’s political career in spite of Truman doing everything he could to keep her involved, including nepotism in the form of finding her paying jobs. Once, when asked if she’d like her daughter to one day be President, she said, “most definitely not.” Bess held only ONE press conference over the course of Harry’s two terms in office and only did that once her repeated refusals to do them had become a political issue. While one could give her the benefit of the doubt and say that she feared her father’s suicide would become a public issue (back then the ‘heinous sin’ of a suicide in the family was like a permanent ‘taint’ on the blood of all descendants), or perhaps one could argue that it was a before-her-time feminist stance (if the press asked her what she might be wearing to a public event her “written” responses were usually pretty sarcastic) the overall effect is still of a woman whose behavior could not be described as “supportive of her husband.”

…. hence why I mean it when I say the movie they showed us about the first ladies was pretty “propagandist”; for me, I prefer my history presented unapologetic-ally, with the good, the bad and the ugly intact.

Then we were led into the front room where the docent offered to either let us just wander the exhibits independently, or he could share with us what he knew. I promptly said “share what you know” and he made it clear he knew his first ladies (although he did edit some of the most controversial stuff out), including things like the fact that Jackie-O felt she was cursed. The docent then essentially keeps us in the ‘first ladies room’ for what I’m pretty sure was a set amount of time — it was clear my group was ready to go one well before he allowed us to do it, and then we were told to all go as a group past the hotel (again) to the Ida McKinley’s house where we led around by a different docent.

Over all, I felt the place was underwhelming; the exhibits in the first building were, in my opinion, worth seeing but not quite ‘ready for prime time.’ It was like they knew they HAD to have something, and this was the best they could come up with.  I have not yet seen the Smithsonian’s first ladies exhibit, but I’m guessing it beats the pants off of what I saw here. And then, while the lower floors of Ida’s house impressively attempted to ‘recreate’ the home — based on old family photographs of the rooms, the top floor of Ida’s house then discordantly tried to tie back into the first ladies theme by offering a gallery of portraits of the women. While up there I brought up the topic, “what are you guys going to do if Hillary wins the presidential campaign?” The docent admitted it was an issue they were currently trying to wrap their brains around — even though it was something they should have considered at the outset. Insisting that first ladies need to be recognized is a feminist stance… Yet,  Just looking at the place, in my opinion, how they set the place up is evidence that its founders essentially bought into the belief that presidents are and always will be male. Considering organized the place not 16 years ago, you’d think they’d have prepared, nay… looked forward, to the eventuality of a female president, but it is clear they had not.

Before leaving the site entirely, I struck up a conversation with some retired folks who were in the parking lot. To my great luck, one of them had grown up in Canton and started telling me about just how different the site had been then — reiterating something I had spotted in an image that was in the house.

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Ida’s childhood home had been converted into a business, and the parking lot we were standing in, as well as the home’s garden, had been occupied with other businesses/buildings … all of which have since been torn down (in order to restore the site, something that probably could not have happened but for a downturn in the Canton economy).

President McKinley National Memorial & Library

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For those who are weak on their presidential history, McKinley was the 25th President, and was shot six months into his second term, in 1901, by Leon Czolgosz, an anarchist (he didn’t think we should have any sort of government); McKinley is probably best remembered for, by the simple act of dying, making way for Teddy Roosevelt — which might not be fair to McKinley who was actually a fairly effective president (depending on how you feel about US expansionism/colonialism), but is none the less an accurate statement.

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As mausoleums  go, this is a pretty impressive one, and doubles as a popular place to work out, a phenomena that I seriously doubt the folks who designed and built it had in mind. While there I saw any number of ‘dressed to work out’ women and some men doing the steps. I even saw one class of orange clad 2nd graders assigned by their teacher to run up the stairs as a way of calming them down after a long bus ride, before entering the presidential library/museum portion of the memorial.

 

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Next door to the mausoleum is a really impressive little museum (completed in 1964) that is most definitely worth a visit. It kind of reminds me of a miniature version of Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry. There’a small planetarium (because of all the school kids I was lucky enough to see a light show on a week day), a gallery devoted to the McKinley’s that shows furniture and various items that belonged to the and includes an animatronic President so good that I’m thinking they may have gone to Disney for his production.

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There is also a whole wing dedicated to recreating a small town of McKinley’s era, with various shops, a post office, a doctor’s office, a dentist, etc., which is in and of itself worth the price of admission, etc., and that’s just on the top floor. I consider this to be part of the living museum trend, even though none of the ‘buildings’ are saved historic ones.

 

The basement is devoted to dinosaurs, but I barely got to see it. There is in fact way more thing to do that I made time for because I wanted to make sure I was able to fit in a visit to the first ladies museum on the other side of town before it closed. If I go to Canton again, which I intend to, I will devote a whole afternoon to this museum.

 

Pro Football Hall of Fame

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Hadn’t come to Canton intending to visit the Pro football Hall of fame; to be honest didn’t even know it was there (not a football fan); however, driving around in this town it’s kind of hard to miss it.

So I came here, and I was interested, but not $24 + $10 for parking interested….

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Once I saw the prices, I opted to just check out the gift shop, which the guys working their front-desk did not want to let me do (and they even said I should have paid the $10 for the pleasure of parking my car before shopping) but I just ignored their comments, and no one stopped me.

The gift shop is basically any sports wear shop you’ve ever seen that specializes in any particular NFL team, only this one has stuff for every team, and not much more than that. They don’t even have much specifically aimed at that museum itself… I compare this to goods for sale at Hong Kong Disney which are just generic ‘disney’ stuff, with almost nothing that is specific or special to the park. In other words, there’s no reason to not just buy a generic disney character shirt at a discount store rather than pay the elevated park prices. Suffice it to say, I was out of there in about three minutes. 

I heard afterwards from the front desk clerk at my hotel that it’s possible to get a combined ticket for both the NFL and the Rock and Roll (which I didn’t realize was also in Canton)hall of fame ticket for $30, and according to my male friends — when they heard I could have gone in but didn’t — both are MUST see museums  ….. So, I will try the combo ticket next time I’m in Canton.