ANN ARBOR TO KEY WEST AND BACK

We left Ann Arbor for Florida in late January to pick up our new boat, which we expected to be delivered to Port Everglades near Ft. Lauderdale in mid-March.  Unfortunately the manufacturer couldn’t find a ship to transport our boat from Taiwan until April.  Apparently it has to be a very large vessel that can support the weight of our boat on its deck without capsizing in heavy weather.  It also has to have large enough cranes to lift our boat onto its deck.  We still do not know the exact shipping date; however we do know that a contract has been signed and that once our boat is picked up in Kaohsiung it will take 34 days to make Port Everglades.  At this time we are expecting it around June 1st.  Once in Port Everglades, it will take about two months to outfit the boat and begin sea trials; we expect to begin our next cruise around August 1.

Our drive to Florida was very enjoyable as we took a beautifully picturesque route through eastern Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, North and South Carolina, Georgia and finally Florida.  At each of our stops we stayed in historic inns and hotels, making the trip even more interesting.  Our first stop was Charleston, WV. to visit Rebecca’s sister Mary Sue, then on to the Richmond area and a couple of days of site seeing around Monticello, Montpelier, and the capitol itself.  At Monticello we saw the desk on which Jefferson penned the Declaration of Independence, and at Montpelier we stood in the room where Madison wrote the constitution.  This was heady stuff and gave us a deeper appreciation for the genius of our founding fathers and the origins of the country. We are so lucky to have had these men alive here in this country and together at the same time!  We toured the University of Virginia’s campus, marveled at the Rotunda and the layout of the campus as envisioned by Thomas Jefferson, the university’s founder.  In Richmond we stopped for several hours at the 200 year old state capitol building.  It was very interesting, particular the old Supreme Court Chamber that houses the statues of Lee, Davis and company.  Ironically, the House of Delegates keeps the Ceremonial Mace, a symbol of the state’s power, in that room.  Just outside the room’s entrance is the famous stature of George Washington surrounded by other sons of Virginia who became Presidents of the United States.  Rebecca and I visited the State Senate while it was in session, which was interesting.  People in the south generally referred to us as northerners (except at the Virginia Capitol where a lady welcomed us home, as she said Michigan was once part of Virginia), and talked emotionally about the devastation of the civil war as through it were yesterday.  At first I thought they were kidding, but as we traveled in the old south I learned they were not.  Outside on the capitol’s lawn was a group of NAACP members singing “We Shall Overcome” just as a beautiful black woman pulled up to the curb in front of us in a red Ferrari: quite a contrast.  Apparently she has overcome very nicely, thank you! 

Our next overnight was near Chapel Hill, N.C, then on to Savannah where we spent two wonderful days.  Savannah was a lot of fun, particularly seeing the 22 public squares and historic homes around each one.  The city is beautiful and was the ingenious creation of the British General James Oglethorpe who founded Savannah in 1733.  Of course Savannah was the last stop on Sherman’s March to the Sea, and although people still speak bitterly about it, he wisely spared this wonderful antebellum city from destruction. The home that General Sherman requisitioned as his headquarters during the occupation of Savannah was open for touring and was particularly interesting.   The home is in perfect condition with many of the original furnishings still there. Other local highlights include the steeple from which the feather drifted down during the introduction to the movie Forrest Gump; our tour guide also pointed out the location of the bus stop and park bench that was used in the movie.  The actual park bench is housed in the city museum; down here they take their movies seriously!  Savannah is also home to America’s cholesterol queen, Paula Dean.  She has several restaurants here; one very overweight gentleman told me they were terrific, were reasonably priced and offered “all-you-can-eat”!  We passed on Paula’s offerings as I am trying to lose weight, but we did find some very nice alternatives.  Our hotel was next door to the birthplace of Juliette Gordon Low, founder of the Girl Scouts.  

Our apartment in Florida is in a town named Stuart, located north of West Palm Beach and below Vero Beach.  The locals describe it proudly as “Old Florida”.  It is an unpretentious working class area, not a ritzy place like Naples, West Palm Beach or Boca Raton.  Our apartment is owned by a contractor who has “tricked” the place out with every gadget imaginable.  We have a large flat screen TV and surround sound in every room including the bath rooms, but we have yet to figure out how to make all the stuff work, assuming it does in fact work. The community has a number of very nice restaurants including Crawdaddy’s, which features a lively band almost every night.    

While waiting for the boat we have been traveling around Florida visiting friends who are wintering here, checking on boat items that we have ordered, and touring the state.  We took a five day vacation to Key West.  The drive down the keys was beautiful, especially the 7 mile bridge connecting the middle to the lower keys.  After checking into our hotel, we ventured downtown and up to the third floor of the Bull Tavern to the “Garden of Eden”, the famous “cloths are optional” bar.  Of course Rebecca wanted me to ascend the stairs first, but except for some interesting videos, it was pretty tame; more bark than bite.  We really enjoyed Key West: we found a very creative clothing store for Rebecca, which was a lot of fun and expensive (but who counts money when you have a beautiful wife!); the restaurants were great, some with terrific views; the marina was filled with yachts and home to a dockside pub that was lively and served up wonderful stone crab.   Walking around the historic district and touring Hemmingway’s yellow and green home with the “southern” iron porches on the first and second floor, and learning about his life was very interesting.  He was certainly a very accomplished man.  A WWI veteran who was seriously wounded, he returned to lead a life of adventure and personal tumult.  He may have been bi-polar, but in any case he was an inveterate hard living risk taker. After taking the tour, I came to understand that he was a greater man than I had previously realized.

One night we drove to Palm Springs to attend a fund raiser for the Perlman Music Program, a charity organized by Itzhak and Toby Perlman for the purpose of developing the most promising young string players from around the world.  The program provides up to 40 students between the ages of 12 and 18 with a summer music camp taught by master musicians.  The benefit was held at the home of Kristi and Jim Clark. This couple is worth spending a minute or two on Google to learn about.  Kristi is a 31-year-old former model hailing from Australia. Jim Clark (69) is most famous for creating Netscape, the first widely used Internet browser. He can rightly be called one of the true creators of the Internet. Mr. Clark is ranked as the 419th wealthiest person in the United States with a net worth of approximately $1.2 billion. We entered the Clark’s home by driving through a guarded gate at 1500 S. Ocean Blvd. in Palm Beach, which is next to Mara Largo, Donald Trump’s former estate. The driveway is covered with coifed brown gravel and surrounded by the home on three sides. On one side of the driveway was a classic descending garden with each step defined by sculptured curbs made of marble and cascading to the next with a carpet of immaculately cropped grass. In the center of the driveway was a large fountain. Once inside the large, beautifully carved wooden front doors we were directed up the arched staircases made of travertine marble to the second and main floor, which opened out onto a huge veranda done in a classic Italian architectural motif and made also of travertine marble. It must have been about an acre in size.  Several trees were perfectly placed in the veranda as miniature gardens.  Directly across from this entrance was a columned portico framing a beautiful pool clad in azure tile, at the end of which was a huge, beautiful stature of a floating female figure in black granite. Turning now to the right and walking out to a classic spindled marble wall perched 20 feet above a beautiful one acre lawn cut like a putting green that flowed to the sea, was a framed view of Palm Beach across the intercostal waterway.  The whole place was simply spectacular. 

Being country mice, Rebecca and I had never been in a private home of such scale or beauty. It reminded me of a beautiful palace that might’ve been owned by a Prince of the Church in Italy during the 15th century. It was spectacular to say the least. As we collected our glass of champagne we saw Mr. Clark and greeted him; he immediately introduced us to his beautiful wife and their six month old daughter Dylan.  I tried to keep my jaw from hitting the floor.  As more people arrived, Rebecca and I began to look around. Returning to the entrance, we turned right down a short hallway toward the room in which the concert was to be held and found ourselves in a small anteroom.  On the wall was a little sketch in oil of a nude that seemed extremely well done.  I looked closely…Picasso…of course!  Then we walked further into the large living room that was being used as the concert hall.  There on the walls were some of the most beautiful and interesting paintings I had ever seen; 2 Picassos (cubist), a Van Gogh, Cezanne, Matisse, Monet and others.   In the dining room hung at Renoir, a Matisse, and another Picasso (from the blue period).  The dining room itself was about 1,000 sq. ft. with a table that would seat 20 or 25 people.  We wondered into the kitchen, which was easily about 1,500 or 2,000 sq. ft.  We then returned to the veranda and met a wonderful man on a wheelchair named Paul Callahan.  He has devoted his life to helping other paraplegics enjoy the sport of competitive sailing.   

We have taken other trips around Florida to visit friends including a few days in Ft. Meyers with Judith and Bill Davis who own a beautiful villa on a great golf course.  We also spent ten days in Naples dog-sitting Pattie and Bill Tupper’s little dog Nicki, at their lovely condo perched 17 floors above the gulf at Vanderbilt Beach.   During our stay in Naples, (which has more Bentleys, Aston Martins and other exotic cars that anywhere else in the world, not to mention the size of the diamond rings sported by most of the ladies) we visited Judy and Brian Eisner, whose spectacular condo looks over Bonita Bay and the golf course. Brian invited me to play the easiest of the five courses offered by his country club.  On another evening, Kathy Macher invited us to a dinner party at the beautiful home she built on Naples’ white sand beach.  At the end of our visit to Naples we headed north to Ann Arbor.

Since we have the luxury of time flexibility, we decided to follow the Mississippi River north toward Michigan. Our route took us up the West Coast of Florida to Tallahassee, then to Apalachicola, Panama City, Pensacola, to Mobile; from there we went to Gulf Port, Baton Rouge, Natchez, Vicksburg, Memphis, St. Louis, Springfield, and then home.  In all it took ten days.  The first night we stayed in Tallahassee and walked the city seeing the capitol and FSU, the home of the Gators.  Florida’s Capitol Buildings are reputed to be perhaps the nation’s ugliest, but the FSU campus was very nice.  The next day we pushed on to Mobile via US 98, which winds along the coast through Apalachicola, Panama City, and finally Pensacola where it joins I-10 leading to Mobile.   US 98 is a back road, but it gave us a chance to explore this famous part of the country.  The Florida coast to Panama City is surprisingly undeveloped and pleasant.  Most of the towns cater to snowbirds and sport fishermen.  The commercial fishing industry is all but dead, so the little towns are mere shells of their former selves.  From Panama City to Pensacola the coast is one continuous development of beautiful high-rises built right on the beach.  At Pensacola, site of the famous Navy flight training school, we picked up I-10 and took the interstate to Mobile. 

We reached Mobile late in the afternoon and enjoyed a fantastic dinner at the Bluegill Restaurant, which is perched (no pun intended) on pilings and located in the floodplain just east of the city.  It was a lot of fun, with down-home Gulf Coast cooking including barbequed oysters, cheese grits, fried okra and all washed down with cold beer to the tunes of a live band. The next day we began walking the city for our daily exercise and came upon one of the city’s squares (similar to ones the ones found in Savanna). There was a beautiful Catholic Basilica at the square, and after a brief tour we walked across the street to a little café to have breakfast. There we met Ruby and Junior More (age 83).  Junior quickly identified himself as one of the top three ranked gamblers in the country back in “the day”.  After very little coaxing, Junior opened up and started telling us the whole story of his life, which included episodes with Minnesota Fats, his gambling days in Blytheville, Arkansas, and the fact that he had published his autobiography (that was almost made into a movie), which was available for ten dollars (copies of which Ruby fished out of the trunk of their car).  We bought the book and began reading it on our trip home. We ask him if he had known Elvis Presley, since Elvis was on our mind as we were stopping at Graceland on our way through Memphis. Junior told the story of how Elvis came to him and asked for help in finding employment for his band. Apparently he was broke and just starting his career.  Junior’s cousin owned a pool room and bar in Blytheville, then a mecca for gamblers in the 50’s and 60’s.  Junior told Elvis he would help him out and promised to arrange for an audition with his cousin.  Shortly thereafter, Elvis showed up in Blytheville ready to audition with his band.  As the story goes, he and his band ascended the stage and began playing for Junior’s cousin.  After a few minutes his cousin stepped up on stage, pulled the plug, and told Elvis to hit the road. Apparently he didn’t like what he heard and that was the last his cousin saw of Elvis.  Of course after Elvis became THE KING, Junior and his friends have never let his cousin live it down.

After saying goodbye to Junior and Ruby we continued our walk through what was once a very beautiful and lively downtown area in Mobile. Like most of the cities we visited on our trip, the historic downtown areas are in decline, as businesses and shops have moved out to the freeway strip malls on the outskirts of town.  What’s left of the original city is a decaying shell of what was once a vibrant and interesting town center. The people of Mobile are making a heroic effort to keep the city alive, but no city can tolerate more than a certain number of vacant buildings before it begins to look empty and a little shabby. Before leaving Mobile we had two other stops to make: one was at the battleship Alabama Memorial, which was very interesting and displayed a number of World War II vintage airplanes and a submarine, then on to Bellingrath Gardens.  The gardens are about ten miles out of town and were built by Mr. and Mrs. Walter Bellingrath in 1932, and are beautiful and well worth a visit.  Mr. Bellingrath was born in Atlanta, and as a youth he sought his fortune and decided to take a chance by becoming the first Coca-Cola bottler in the south, which at that time was highly speculative and very labor intensive.  He expanded his franchise over time to include the entire south, and he became very wealthy and successful indeed.  After his wife died, he spent much of his time building the gardens she loved as a memorial to her.  After touring the gardens, we drove on to Gulf Port/Biloxi, Mississippi via US 90.

Gulf Port is the place where Katrina made landfall in 2005, and although the area has been largely repaired the losses are still evident.  The main drag is Beach Blvd., which is mostly barren, as the antebellum homes of yesteryear have been swept away.  People told us that the original tidal surge that rolled through town was over 30 feet high and wiped out almost everything in its path. Since then they have rebuilt the casinos and associated hotels, and the man made white sand beach is simply dazzling.  However, it doesn’t look very lively as the tourist infrastructure near the beach is missing and probably will take a long time if ever to rebuild.  The reason for this situation is the lack of affordable insurance.  However, two blocks off the beach things look undamaged and the historic town center has been rebuilt.  Unfortunately it has a busy four lane highway running down the middle and many stores vacant, so it isn’t very inviting.   There isn’t much to see in Gulf Port except for the big casinos featuring all-you-can-eat buffets.  Friday being seafood night, we drove to the Beau Rivage Casino in hopes of truly memorable evening.  The line for the buffet was at least 50 feet long and crowed with the fattest people you can imagine.  We have learned by experience that, contrary to what one might think, fat people don’t know as much about quality as they do quantity.  By this time we were pretty hungry, so we waited it out and, in the meantime, got a coupon from a passerby that paid for one of our dinners.  At this point things were half price.  The meal was OK, but the people watching was much better, although a little sad.

The principle historic attraction in Gulf Port/Biloxi is Beauvoir, the retirement estate of Jefferson Davis.  The home is perfectly preserved and on the site is his presidential library, all of which is sponsored by a private organization.  Interestingly, after the Civil War Davis was not permitted to be a citizen of the United States, he was a man without a country until President Jimmy Carter reinstated his U.S. citizenship in the 70’s. 

The next day we took off for Vicksburg, MS.  We decided to drive the back roads and see the country.  The first part of our trip took us to Baton Rouge, capitol of Louisiana.  This city was a very pleasant surprise; the city was clean and nicely refurbished.  The historic downtown as well as the art deco style capitol complex are among the most beautiful we have seen.  As we continued north we passed a very large refinery on the outskirts of the city, which reminded me that Louisiana’s wealth comes in part from the energy industry: no wonder they could afford such a lavish capitol campus. Part of the trip took us over the Natchez Trace, which is an original Indian trail though Mississippi and Tennessee.  Today the Natchez Trace is a beautiful two lane forested parkway about 500 miles long and is part of the National Park System.  We drove about 25 miles on the Trace as we made our way to Vicksburg by way of Natchez.  Other than on the Trace, the countryside is forested rolling hills with open sections of land used for grazing cattle and horses.  The forests are composed of everything from long needle pines to hardwoods such as oak and maple, as well as magnolia and gum trees. As we drove north, the Spanish moss disappeared and the specie of oak trees changed.  In mid-afternoon we stopped in Natchez for lunch.  Here we got our first close look at the Mississippi River; indeed it is the “Big Muddy”, sprawling out across the valley below, flowing very swiftly on its winding course to the Gulf  250 miles below.  It seemed to us as one of the most violent and dangerous bodies of water we had seen in all of our travels.  The levy at Natchez was about 20 feet high; however the city itself is built on a bluff overlooking the river.  Across the river were the rice fields of Louisiana.  Most of downtown Natchez has been restored and you can almost hear the bustle of the cotton traders and slaves loading cargo on the steamboats tied up on the river bank below.  Natchez was of course a center for the cotton trade, but now depends on their rich antebellum heritage to draw tourists.  After a short lunch and drive around town, we moved on to Vicksburg.

We reached Vicksburg about 4 PM and checked into our hotel, which was part of a casino.  Since we had so much luck with the buffet in Gulf Port, we thought we would try it again.  The next day we got an early start and began by looking for the local hangout for breakfast.  The only place we could find was another casino located on the river downtown.  Near the casino was a 10 foot levy on which murals were painted depicting life along the river.  After breakfast we investigated the historic downtown, where the old drug store and soda fountain that started the first bottling process for Coca-Cola is located.

Vicksburg is situated on top of a long bluff above the Mississippi River affording it a commanding view of the approaches to the city by river.  From its heights the Confederacy was able to control the river making it impossible for the Union Army and Navy to defeat the rebels via the river.  Lincoln said, “Vicksburg is the key.  The war can never be brought to a close until the key is in our pocket.” Grant tried and failed for months to take Vicksburg through conventional means.  In desperation, he embarked on a risky strategy to surround Vicksburg and lay siege to the city. Success was his, and after a siege of 43 days the rebels gave up and the confederacy was split in two.  Today the battle lines are memorialized in a National Military Park.  Here you can walk or drive the 16 miles of battle lines to see the positions and monuments built by each state to commemorate the sacrifice of their citizen soldiers.  One interesting point for us was the fact that Missouri has monuments on both sides – Confederate and Union – because in that state brother literally fought brother. 

On the city’s highest hill stands the Old Courthouse, a great granite structure in classic Greek style built.  It is an imposing edifice to be sure, and as it turned out is historically significant.  It is shown in many Civil War photographs of Vicksburg.   Jefferson Davis grew up not far from Vicksburg.  He practiced law and began his political career here on the steps of the courthouse. There is a plaque on the building commemorating this fact.  It was also on the steps of this courthouse that on the July 4, 1863 that Grant accepted the surrender of the city from General Pemberton, but curiously there is no plaque. Apparently the citizens of Vicksburg took their defeat so bitterly that they did not celebrate the 4th of July until President Eisenhower visited the city in 1947. 

Vicksburg today is nice, sleepy town.  There is not much going on here.  It has wide streets with many Victorian homes and nice government buildings downtown.  One of its restaurants, the Walnut Hill Restaurant, was feature in Southern Living.  We dined there that evening.  It is located in one of the city’s old Victorian mansions.  After a pleasant evening, we departed the following morning for Memphis. 

Memphis is a city with a rich cultural and history and lots to see including Beal Street, Graceland and the Lorraine Motel.  We arrived a little tired following our 6 hour drive.  After checking into our hotel, Rebecca couldn’t wait to set foot on Beal Street, the iconic one block long home to blues and jazz.  The first place we stopped was B.B. King’s. It is a jazz joint that acts as the western gateway to the street.  It has two beautiful neon signs out front and inside the musicians are, well…no B.B. Kings.  After a libation and a little time to orient ourselves, we headed out and down the street.  Eventually we found Rum Boogie Café featuring Davina and the Vagabonds.  Wow!  They were exciting and terrific.  We stayed for a few hours listening to their combination of Dixieland/old blues/Billie Holiday sort of music.  The music combined with a ribs, fried okra, beans and rice, and beer made for a fantastic evening.  Every place on the street was hoppin’.

Next day we toured the city, which has invested a great deal of money to keep the downtown alive.  There is a very large river front development and park, an antique street car system, and a huge glass pyramid that was a sports arena now turned Bass World complete with an indoor lake.  The downtown looks healthy and interesting.

Graceland receives 600,000 visitors a year and is owned by Lisa Marie Presley, the King’s daughter.  Now on her fourth marriage, she lives happily in England.  The two tickets we bought to tour the place cost $145.  Of course as VIP ticket holders we went to the head of the line if there was one, (but there wasn’t one) and we had the right to see the secret room not offered to the general public.  That room turned out to house mementoes of Lisa Marie’s childhood and career.  Great!  Elvis’s home is garish by any standard and modest by current standards.  Situated on about 14 acres, the original building is about 5,000 sq. ft. in size, but with all the out buildings and additions is now about 17,000 sq. ft.  In addition to the home or mansion, the tour included a trip around his car collection (pink Caddy and others) and a walk through two of his jets. The site also includes the graves of Elvis, his brother and parents.  After Graceland we went to the famous Sun Studio where Elvis first recorded his songs. All of this was of great interest to Rebecca, who probably wasn’t born when Elvis started out, but she was nevertheless as enthusiastic as her cheerleader background might suggest!

The Lorraine Motel was the site of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.  It is right near the downtown area and was within easy walking distance of our hotel.  The motel looks from the street exactly as it did on that terrible day April 4, 1968.  As you walk by the front of the motel, the spot where he was murdered is plainly marked, and the front door to the motel is now the entrance to the Civil Rights Museum.  The museum tells the story of the fight for civil rights in America, and as you pass through the exhibits you eventually find yourself in the room that Ralph Abernathy and Martin Luther King, Jr. occupied just before the assassination.  He was only 38 years old at the time of his tragic death.  It was a very moving experience.

The next day we crossed the river into Arkansas and headed north on I-55 to St. Louis.  Once we crossed the river we saw a much different landscape; the earth was flat with very few trees, no fences, only land under cultivation for as far as the eye could see.  Gone were the 19th and early 20th century subsistence farms with their out buildings for chickens and pigs, big wooden barns for cows and fodder, and 30 acre fenced plots for growing feed grain.  In their place are efficient small steel buildings to house the machinery that is the foundation of our way of live.  There is no livestock wondering about in the sunshine anymore. Instead of silos there are only huge grain storage bins.  Mammoth elevators with railroad sidings dot the landscape. All of this went on for hundreds of miles all the way up to Peoria, Illinois where the land then turned into the environs of Chicago and the steel mills of Gary.  It was breathtaking when viewed as an economic miracle of efficiency, but also a little frightening when you consider how many people are dependent on this fragile man-made environment.  

St. Louis is about 280 miles from Memphis.  On our way we stopped for lunch at St. Genevieve, Mo. The little town was founded in 1733 by French Canadians and was the northern most European outpost in the French Territory of Louisiana.  Of course we didn’t know all this when we wondered into town, but we soon found many buildings with corner stones dating from the 1700’s.  Apparently many French tourists visit here to see firsthand the French Creole colonial architecture, which was based on a vertical post construction technique rather than horizontal laid logs as in a conventional log cabin.  It was a lovely and interesting interlude on our trip, particularly as we discovered a little antique shop and found hanging on the wall nine original Edward Curtis prints of Indian life before their culture was eradicated and lost in time. I asked the lady who owned the store if she had any other prints.  “Yes, there are four more upstairs in my apartment, but I am sure my husband won’t sell them”, she said. “Could I see them?”, I asked. There in her apartment were four beautiful prints including Chief Joseph and Geronimo.  After pleasantries we return downstairs and we began to talk about the possibilities.  We mentioned that we might be interested in all nine, which improved the price of the prints considerable.  We decided to go next door to a coffee shop to think things over, and before the coffee was delivered, she returned to tell us that her husband couldn’t possibly part with two of the four special prints, but we could buy the other two, which include Chief Joseph.  At that point Rebecca and the lady agreed that one can never truly know the mind of one’s husband.  Now we have 11 prints to grace our memories of a beautiful trip up the Mississippi.

A couple of hours down the road the Gateway Arch came into view.  It is as iconic a site as the Golden Gate Bridge.  The arch is huge, awesome and beautiful.  We took a river boat cruise up the river in order to get a better perspective of the city and the arch.  The river is very industrialized around St Louis and not very picturesque.  However the city is quite nice and we enjoyed a dinner in the Italian district.   Bush Stadium, home to the Cardinals, is right downtown and the Budweiser Brewery is also close by.  Before leaving the city for Springfield, Illinois, we toured the beautiful old courthouse in the downtown center where the Dread Scott case originated. It has the first iron domed copula in the country, preceding that of the U.S. Capitol Building by many years.

Our next stop was Springfield, IL.  This of course was Lincoln’s home and the place where he is buried.  Springfield is a relatively small town and is the Capitol of Illinois.  It has a nice capitol building and the largest Governor’s Mansion in the country.  We checked into our hotel, which as we soon discovered was site of a Baptist Ladies Convention.  That was interesting.  That evening we walked a few blocks to a restaurant located across the street from Lincoln’s law office in a building constructed a few years after his death.  Sitting there and trying to picture life as it must have been 150 years ago, I was imagining what would possess a man from the rural back woods of Illinois, far away from the intellectual centers of Boston, Philadelphia, New York and Atlanta to think he could rise to the presidency.  Across the street was the office of the local Congressman, an office Lincoln held for one term.  I recalled that Lincoln had floated down the Mississippi as far as New Orleans twice, and he had traveled east to Washington D.C and New York City during his term in Congress.  He had come to know at least two Presidents, Taylor and Van Buren, and debated Senator Stephen Douglas several times when he ran for the Senate.  Perhaps in meeting these people and taking their measure he found himself as capable as anyone.  At any rate, the Old State Capital where he served several terms as a state legislator and the place where he lay in state before his burial was just across the street from his office.  A few blocks away is the home in which he and Mary Todd lived for 17 years.  Most of the furnishings are original, including the mirror that reflected his face every morning when he shaved, and the desk where he wrote his first inaugural address.  I thought his home was surprisingly comfortable.  He must have been very proud of owning such a fine home.   

Later that day we visited his former office, the Presidential Museum and finally his magnificent tomb.  The tomb is open so that visitors can actual go inside and walk within a few feet of his seplecur.  It is quite moving.  I have placed pictures on this web site, so a further description isn’t necessary.  

Before we left Springfield for Ann Arbor we toured the first home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, known as the Dana-Thomas House. I have placed pictures on the site so you can see it for yourself, but it didn’t suit me as the ceilings were uncomfortably low for a person of my stature. 

Ann Arbor is 480 miles from Springfield.  We had a lovely, enjoyable drive home, and after all the places we had seen and all the states we had been through, Michigan and our hometown of Ann Arbor looked mighty good.  As Lincoln said: “I like to see a man proud of the place in which he lives.  I like to see a man live so that his place will be proud of him.”  

We traveled 4,500 miles in total.  We learned about our country and met many wonderful people.   We followed American history from its origins as an English, French or Spanish colony, through the Civil War, our experience with slavery, world wars and our struggle for social justice.  It was a great education and a fascinating trip.  I recommend it to you. 

We will be heading back to Florida soon to begin to outfit our new Odyssey. 

Best wishes, and thanks for looking in on us.

 

 

 

 

 

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