Wednesday, May 8, 2019

10 Years In

Khloe and I at LBJ's gravesite in Stonewall, Texas. June 2009

   Since 2019 began I have had cause for reflection. It has been a full 10 years since something awoke in me that had caused me to set out to visit the gravesite of every US President. From there the travel bug took root and expanded into visiting historical sites of every sort. I can honestly say that since then the thought of the next possible trip has never been far from my mind. Of 38 Presidential gravesites at that time, I visited 20 in 2009, 9 in 2010, 5 in 2011, and the final 4 in 2012. And it all started with the birth of a little girl.

   My daughter Khloe was born in early January 2009. As I look back at the few years leading up to Khloe's arrival, they seem less enjoyable then the decade since. The day before getting married in June 2004 my best friend growing up, and would be best man Nick suddenly and unexpectedly passed away. Heartbreak also hit us hard in the coming years in other forms. This all made Khloe's arrival that much more of a special blessing after some difficult years.

    Since work caused me to travel all around, including nearby states during the week, the thought of traveling in my free time didn't really occur to me. In those years after marriage and before parent hood, my wife and I would make little trips to Lake Erie sometimes, but mostly stuck close to home. Looking back, I guess that being away from home so much just caused me to naturally enjoy being around home whenever I could.

   Shortly after Khloe was born, my wife came up with the idea of visiting her family in Texas that summer. The idea got me thinking about what kind of things we might be able to see along the way. Nashville was along the way and I thought about Andrew Jackson's Hermitage. Growing up I had visited the Presidential gravesites in my home state of Ohio as well as the ones in the Virginia / DC area, which put my tally at 13. The thought of visiting the other ones hadn't really occurred to me until now. Plus I had little to no pictures of any of my previous trips. After researching online I saw other people with the idea of visiting all of the Presidents gravesites. This led me to starting my own quest at the beginning, so that I could get pictures of myself at all of these sites. This was the original spark that lit the fire. Since then,  more goals occurred to me along the way - Presidential birthplaces, Libraries, homes, VP graves and gravesites of Governors of Ohio, among many others.

   If your interested in the details of my early trips check out my trip blog posts in 2011 and 2012. And since then I have documented most of my other trips in "Year in Review" posts.

   I started emailing back and forth to some of the people whose websites documented their own quest to visit Presidential sites. One of them, Pat Weissend (  ) from Buffalo, introduced me to the Facebook group: I Purposely Visit All Presidential Graves, Birthplaces and Libraries. In that group I met a lot of great people  who share the hobby of visiting Presidential sites. Many of them have become friends over the years and I've even had the pleasure of meeting several of them in person. In my free time it's always fun to message back and forth with them whenever I may be seeking advice on an upcoming trip to a site they have visited, or to offer advice to others who may be visiting a place that I have been to.

   By 2011, we had covered a lot of ground and seen a lot of sites. I really wanted an outlet to document my travels. So I decided to start a website/ blog of my own, which you are reading right now. In 2014, I made a facebook page for this blog. Sharing it in various history themed facebook groups attracted more attention and more followers. 

     Khloe wouldn't be an only child for long. Nicky was born in November 2010, and Grant followed in January 2013. Watching them grow and see how there interests have grown has been a great experience. All my kids have shown an interest in history, especially my older 2. After a recent trip to Fallen Timbers Battlefield, Khloe told her teacher that we had visited the site, since they were studying it around that time. Khloe requested that I send pictures of the site to her teacher, at which point, Khloe conducted a slide slow explanation of the Battle to her class. While touring historic homes, Nick has been known to keep the tour guides on their toes with surprisingly complicated questions for a child. On a recent trip to President Grant's boyhood home in Georgetown, Ohio, Nick kept taking notes in his notebook of anything that he found interesting. They are so used to road trips that Grant will often ask "What cemetery are we going to?"

Khloe and I at Chester Arthur's gravesite in September 2009

Khloe and I at Berkeley Plantation in June 2010. Birthplace of William Henry Harrison

Khloe and I at Millard Fillmore's gravesite in 2009 and 2017

  I have really come to enjoy these sort of pictures, above and below. We have been visiting these sites regularly, and often covering the same ground to catch stuff that we missed the first time, which makes these fun comparison pictures possible.

My son Nick and I at Fillmore's grave in 2012 and 2017.

My kids and I at Marblehead lighthouse on Lake Erie. When the weather is nice. One of my favorite things to do it throw the kids in the car and just start driving to various places for day trips.

Khloe and I at WH Harrison' Tomb in 2009 and 2018.

My wife Danielle.

       My wife has also gotten the travel bug along the way. Although during a lot of our trips, she is a very good sport as I geek out on history stuff,  it is not uncommon for her to instigate a last minute weekend trip to Niagara Falls or other places. I do my best to incorporate stuff that she likes into out trips. Since she likes Lighthouses, the east coast is always an easy sell. Which is why I still have quite a bit that I need to see out west. Not to many lighthouses in Kansas. She is also a great person to have around when locating a difficult grave. She will look at the pictures from and pick out details that I overlook. For example, last summer we were in Grand Rapids, Michigan, trying to locate the final resting places of President Ford's Mother and step Dad. I was there, just the kids and I back in 2014 and couldn't find them. They were flat on the ground markers, so the pictures didn't show much back ground to reference. But something about the grass in the picture led her to search under a few trees where she found them.

My travel buddies

    I hope you found this interesting. As I see more sites, I always update each Presidents individual page. But I am always trying to find a reason to come up with a new post. And I thought that this would be good cause for a new one. Thanks everyone!

Sunday, December 23, 2018

2018: Year in Review

2018 was a unique year. In preparation for my wife working less and spending more time with her school work, we didn't plan any big trip like we had the last 2 years. As I recall, we only left the state of Ohio 3 times. 2 last minute trips to Niagara Falls in March and October, and a trip up to Michigan in June to attend my cousins wedding and see some other stuff up there while we were at it. It was a busy year of coaching soccer, scout leading and attending a lot of baseball, softball, soccer and flag football games. But we also worked in a lot of day trips along the way that made for a satisfying year.

As winter died down a little, my wife was needing a little weekend get away. So I threw together a last minute weekend trip to Niagara Falls one weekend in March. Of course I figured a couple of things to see along the way.

Gravesite of Benjamin Franklin Wade in northeast Ohio. If Andrew Johnson had been removed from office after his Impeachment trial, Wade would of assumed the office of President, instead, Johnson avoided removal from office by one vote. I had to walk through 2 foot high snow drifts to find it. We hit it on our way to Niagara Falls in March.

My wife and I drove the 5 hours to Niagara. They were recovering from a snow storm and the snow was scattered everywhere and frozen solid. It made for an interesting walk to the falls that night.

Well worth the trip

After visiting the falls, we had a late night dinner at the Hard Rock Café in Niagara Falls

Revisiting the Falls in the morning

Of course we had to stop at Grover's in Buffalo. Named for President Grover Cleveland, they have the absolute best burgers that I've ever had, as well as some excellent cheese burger soup.

Dani with her cheeseburger soup

Me with my Grover's burger

After lunch at Grover's we stopped at the Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural site in Buffalo

Dani and I in the room in which TR took the oath of office after the death of William McKinley

On the way home from Niagara we hit a couple of sites in Westfield, NY. Barcelona Lighthouse here over looking a frozen solid Lake Erie.

A frozen solid Lake Erie that my wife refused to let me explore

Also in Westfield is this memorial to the little girl from Westfield, NY who suggested to President elect Lincoln that he grow a beard.

A day trip to President Hayes Spiegel Grove

On the same day trip we stopped at Marblehead

With it being a midterm election year. I was hoping to get to more political rallies. But my schedule would only allow for one. In April, I was able to get off of work early and went with my Dad and nephew Chris up to Bowling Green to see candidate for Governor Mike DeWine speak. DeWine went on to win the General election and will be sworn in as Ohio's 70th Governor in January. From left to right, My Dad, Governor elect DeWine, his wife Fran DeWine and me.

My boys and other scouts on a draw bridge during a camp out in early May.

On the way home from the camp out we stumbled on a section of the Ohio and Miami Canal.

In the spring I coached my son Nick's soccer team for the 2nd season in a row. With most of the same kids returning from the fall, they went from a one win team in the fall to a 500 team in the spring. It was great to see them all improve so much.

In late May, my wife and I attended our first Indians game.

Visiting the site of the Kent State shooting

James Garfield home in Hiram, Ohio

Visiting the Presidents cemetery in Lancaster, Ohio. This cemetery was deeded to President Monroe when he was President and to all his successors in hopes that it would secure the preservation of the cemetery. So far it has worked.

My kids and I at the grave of cabinet secretary Thomas Ewing. He served in the cabinets of Presidents WH Harrison, Tyler, Taylor and Fillmore. He was also the foster father and father in law William Tecumseh Sherman.

William Tecumseh Sherman birthplace home Lancaster, Ohio

It was a nice tour

My daughter Khloe at the gravesite of one of her hero's Annie Oakley

Gravesite of Gospel singer Rich Mullins

Climbing the Miamisburg mound near Dayton

Southern Ohio has a bunch of these ancient native American mounds.

In June, we went up to Michigan to attend my cousin David's wedding. It was a Viking theme wedding. It was a very fun time. David surprised me by jumping into my arms just before the picture was taken. To my surprise a could still carry him around like a could when we were kids.

We hung out in Michigan for a few days after the wedding. Here is one of Gerald Ford's homes in Grand Rapids.

 Gerald Ford museum in Ford's oval office

After Ford sites we spent a day and a half seeing lighthouses and beaches along Lake Michigan

We stopped in Ann Arbor on the way home to visit the Gerald Ford Library on the campus of the University of That Team Up North. Since the Library is only open on week days. This was about the only chance I've ever had to visit.

Outside of Ford's office at his Library

In July, we got the chance to see Darryl Strawberry speak in our town festivals Church in the park

On the way to dropping off my daughter to her first year at 4H camp. We stopped at the final resting place of Nan Britton. Mistress and mother to President Harding's child. As confirmed by DNA testing in 2015

Nick giving his sister a by hug. The 2 had never been apart so long.

We got to go to the Ohio State Fair twice in August since Khloe had done so well in her both of her 4H projects

One of many stops at Youngs Jersey Dairy this year, down by Yellow Springs. On this trip I was enjoying a peanut butter banana split.

Seeing Scott Stapp of Creed perform was a highlight of the year. I was a big fan of Creed in my late teens, early 20's. It was a great trip down memory lane.

Chilicothee, Ohio was the first capital of Ohio. We spent Saturday of Labor Day weekend exploring the area.

The mountain range in the background inspired the background of the Seal of Ohio

At Adena, the home of Ohio founding father Thomas Worthington

Museum at Adena

I had to

Thomas Worthington gravesite

Birthplace of First Lady Lucy Hayes in Chilicothee

Canoeing on a cubscout camping trip in September

About half way through my wives fall semester she was needing another get away. So in October we made another last minute trip to Niagara Falls.

We also hit some historical markers in Buffalo

Building in which former President Fillmore hosted President elect Lincoln at a church service.

Millard Fillmore house in East Aurora, Ohio

Found an unexpected one the campus of Ohio Weslyan University in Delaware.

Sulfer Springs at the campus of Ohio Weslyan University. The site where Rutherford and Lucy Hayes met.

Visiting Grants boyhood home in Georgetown

My son Grant outside of President Grant's boyhood room

Schoolhouse that a boyhood Grant attended

New Grant statue in Georgetown

Gravesite of General and Congressman Thomas Hamer. He made the appointment of a young Grant to West Point. And screwed up his name. Forever changing it.

Gravesite of Grant's maternal grandparents John and Sarah Simpson

We unexpectedly found a nice lake near the site of Grant's grandparents graves in southern Ohio.

Gravesite of Senator Robert A. Taft. Cincinnatti. President Taft's son. It took awhile to find since all of the markers are flat on the ground. Actually it was my older boy Nick who found it. It was his first gravehunting find.

At the gravesite of President Taft's parents in Cincinatti

It was a lot of fun to see this small museum in North Bend, with William Henry Harrison artifacts. I had to make a special appointment to see it.

A musical instrument played at WH Harrison's funeral


The lady who gave us the tour of the museum had a key to get inside of WH Harrison's Tomb. She was gracious enough to let us in.

My little family at our Church Christmas program

     Our 2018 was nice. Until my wife finishes school later in 2019, this hobby will take a back seat and we will likely just explore nearby sites. I do have hopes of bigger stuff in 2020. We will see. Thanks for reading and I hope everyone has a safe and Happy New Years!