Friday, December 30, 2016

2016: Year in Review

  The last couple of years I have done year in review posts. This always gives me a good reason to make a new post to add what I've been up to. Since I started this blog five years ago I have been adding to each Presidents page as I see more sites with a connection to each one. So if I see a new site you may not know about it unless you were scrolling through each Presidents page that I had originally posted back in 2011. And I always enjoy updating those pages.

    The bulk of the historical site seeing I did this year was during an east coast trip that I took during Fourth of July week. 
At the beginning of the year I started a new job and I wasn't sure their vacation policy. After a few months things were going well and I found out that after 6 months I will of accumulated one weeks vacation, I started to do some planning. This was the first time in a few years that I was able to take a full week of historic  sightseeing. And I was able to work quite a bit in. But I also hit a few sites before and after the big July trip. 


     In February we took a day trip up to Marblehead along Lake Erie. If it stays cold enough, long enough Lake Erie accumulates a lot of ice. As it thaws, the chunks of ice wash along the shore.  This is the first time that we made it up there to see the ice before it melts. It's a pretty cool thing to see!

  On Memorial Day weekend the Hayes Presidential Center in Fremont, Ohio opened their newly renovated Presidential library / museum. Their new displays now resemble some of the more modern Presidential libraries ran by the national archives. 

A presidential podium on display at the Hayes museum


In mid-June my wife and I took a weekend getaway to the Cleveland area for our anniversary. On the trip we saw several lighthouses. Above we are at Fairport Harbor along Lake Erie. 

   This starts my big July trip. I got off of work at 1pm and hurried to get on the road. Our hotel was in Staunton, Virginia, so we had a long way to go. My sister Kim was able to go along on the trip with us, which was a nice added bonus. I decided to make a last minute stop in Point Pleasant, West Virginia when I noticed that we were going through there on the way. I became familiar with Point Pleasant after seeing the the movie Mothman Prophesies. Back then I showed  the movie to my sister Kim and it freaked her out. So naturally as a good brother I thought that it would be funny if I unexpectedly stopped by the Mothman statue as a surprise. The urban legend of the Mothman is rooted back in the 60's when several locals claimed to see a mothlike creature.  We weren't able to get very close to the statue because of a festival they were having. So we parked and stretched our legs as we enjoyed some of the festival. The look on Kim's face as we approached the Mothman statue was priceless. After awhile we got the kids some Mothman cookies and were on our way.

   By the time that we got to Charleston, West Virginia we were getting hungry. We noticed on Google maps that there was a Chick fil A nearby. As we got closer we realized that it was in a mall and we didn't want to deal with that hassle. I've always wanted to see the "Lincoln Walks at Midnight" statue on the State Capital grounds, and since we were so close I decided to stop by. We had a nice recharging visit in Charleston. Which is always nice when your on a long road trip, especially with young children.

   This begins our first day of the trip which was spent in the Charlottesville ,Virginia area. We started off picking up some Presidents birthplaces that I hadn't seen before. Above is Montebello, birthplace of Zachary Taylor

Birthplace of Jefferson

We made a brief stop by Madison's "Montpelier"

Theodore Roosevelt's "Pine Knot' Presidential retreat. This was one of my favorite stops of the trip. I've met a lot of people online that share this interest of visiting Presidential sites. And I don't know of anyone who has visited this site yet. I had to call ahead and arrange a tour in advance. 

   Inside "Pine Knot". You can easily picture TR rocking in his chair near the fireplace

  Next we had another great visit at Jefferson's Montecello

It was a hot beautiful day on Jeffersons mountain 

We ended the day walking the campus of the University of Virginia to enjoy more Jeffersonian architecture

Day 2 was a busy one. We started by a quick stop in Fredericksburg to see a few loose ends. Above is me at Monroes law office museum. At 7am on a Sunday they were closed of course. 

George Washingtons Ferry Farm boyhood home was also closed. We also visited the tomb and home of Mary Washington (George's mother). 

We continued east and hit some important historical markers. Above is Madison's birthplace

Near Madison's birthplace is the site where John Wilkes Booth was killed

At George Washington's birthplace. This is my favorite President's birthplace. I could of spent the whole day there walking around and enjoying the scenery. But we had a lot else to do.

Monroe's birthplace

Gravesite of Signer of the Declaration of Independence Thomas Stone

We hit the DC metro and headed towards National Museum of Natural History so that my boys could see some dinosaur bones. Across the street behind me is the Museum of Art. President Garfield was shot in a train station that used to sit on that site.

One of many dinosaur bones that we saw

After the museum we hit the monument. Above is the WW2 Memorial

The White House









Day 3 started out at Mt. Vernon. We spent a lot of time there and got to see some of their museum that we didn't get to see before.

A friend who went to school with my sister Kim used to be a guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers and he arranged for us to get a tour inside the barracks. The metro wasn't stopping at Arlington that day and all traffic was forbidden to the cemetery. So we parked at a Pentagon parking lot and walked about 2 miles to Arlington National Cemetery. My parents joined us on the trip that morning at Mt. Vernon. With the downpour of rain they took the boys with them. So it was Kim, my wife, my 7 year old daughter Khloe and I that took the hike in the rain. In spite of the obstacles  getting there I really enjoyed the experience. It always makes for a good story. Above is Khloe and I at Taft's grave

Khloe and I soaking wet at JFK's grave

Inside the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers barracks

After leaving the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers we stumbled upon the graves of actor Lee Marvin and boxer Joe Louis. They just happen to buried next to each other in Arlington

After Arlington we met my parents and boys in Georgetown, where we waited for along time to get some famous cupcakes. I became aware of this place the week before the trip as my kids were streaming episodes of their show. The kids really wanted to stop there and I must admit that they were very good.

It was 9pm on July 4th and we wanted to see the fireworks in the National Mall. I had read that you can see them pretty good at the National Cathedral. So after food and cupcakes in Georgetown we headed to the Cathedral. After we parked we followed the crowd to set up for fireworks. As we passed the doors to the Cathedral I fully expected the doors to be locked. But by some miracle they were open. So I rushed in with my kids and sister to see Woodrow Wilson's final resting place again. Unfortunately, because of the rain throughout the day, the fog was to thick to see the fireworks.

Day 4 was a more relaxing day. Whenever I have a big history filled trip I try to work in something like this for my wife, who likes lighthouses. Whenever we are on a big trip near the East Coast I always work in a day of lighthouses and going to the beach. Above is Piney Point lighthouse along the Maryland coast. 

This one is Cove Point lighthouse 

As we were looking for a beach we came across this sign. We considered seeing what Capt.  John Smith was referring to but it was going to involve a 2 mile walk one way. And I knew my kids would not be up for that. So we continued up the coast looking for a beach

We eventually found a nice beach and spent sometime there. But we didn't do a lot of swimming though because, although it was beautiful it was also infested with jellyfish. So I played in the sand with my kids while the rest of my family enjoyed the sun and scenery. After a while we started to head towards our hotel.  On the way we stopped at Dr. Mudd's house. This of course is where John Wilkes Booth road to after shooting President Lincoln. This is where Dr.Samuel  Mudd set his broken leg. It was closed so we could only look at it from a distance. We then headed back to the hotel, got cleaned up and went out for a nice dinner

Day 5 was a busy day.  We had tickets for Ford's Theatre when they opened at 9am. We then had to be at my Congressman's office by 11:30 for a tour of the US Capital building. My Mom and Dad weren't up for all of the walking that would be involved. So they took my three-year-old son Grant with them and they hit a few sites in Maryland while we headed for DC. With plans of meeting them at Fort McHenry in Baltimore later in the day. Above is Mary Surratt's tavern. We made a brief stop there on our way to the DC metro. 

On the metro heading for Ford's Theatre

  Always wanting to be early, and in this occasion wanting to beat the worst of DC traffic, we arrived at Ford's Theatre around 7:45. To kill time we got some breakfast at a restaurant across the street called Lincoln Waffles. 

Across the street from Fords Theatre is the Peterson house, the house where Lincoln died. By the time we got through Fords Theatre and saw the Peterson house we had to hurry to get across town for our capital tour. Which was a shame because there's quite a bit at Ford's theater and the Peterson house that I would've liked to spend more time seeing

We made it to our congressman's office just in time for our tour

One of the highlights for me in the capital tour was seeing where John Quincy Adams sat in Congress. He is the only President to return to Congress after his administration. And this is where he sat. Due to the acoustics in the room he would lay his head on his desk pretend to be sleeping and could hear people talking about him across the room. It was here that he suffered a stroke and was taken into a nearby room where he eventually died. 

Congressman Latta returned to his office for lunch around the same time that we got there. We talked to him for a little bit and then we're on our way to Baltimore. 

Our next stop was visiting the grave site of Vice President Spiro Agnew near Baltimore. It was getting late in the day. I had hopes of seeing more in Baltimore but our capital tour took longer than expected. So after visiting VP Agnew we were on our way to Fort McHenry to meet up with my parents. 

We got to Fort McHenry at 5 PM. They closed at 6. This ended up being about the perfect time to get there because it was late enough in the day that they did not charge admission. And we also got to take part in the flag lowering ceremony. It was a pretty amazing stop on the trip. I've always heard of Fort McHenry and reading about the story of the Star-Spangled Banner. Seeing it in person was a pretty moving experience. 

Dinner at Chap's Pit Beef in Baltimore was a nice ending to a great day

Day 6 started with a tour of Independence Hall. I've always wanted to see the room where our country was born. 

My kids inside Independence Hall. The history that took place in this room was overwhelming. 

After Independence Hall my parents stayed with the kids at the Independence Hall visitors center while my wife, sister and I headed down to reading terminal market to get some Dinic's pork sandwiches. I got one of the sandwiches 4 years ago and I've been dying to have another one ever since. Along the way we passed the Declaration house, where Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence. 

Dani, Kim and I at Dinic's

We brought lunch back to Mom, Dad and the kids. After lunch my parents headed home. Around Philadelphia for the next few hours. This is Franklin Court-  The site of Benjamin Franklin's house. The house is long gone but some of the foundation can be seen. But the outline of the houses are represented by the steel frame in the picture. 

This very convincing Ben Franklin impersonator was fun to talk to you

This is the Todd house. Dolly Madison lived here when she was married to her first husband. A plague hit Philadelphia and killed her first husband, his parents and one of her sons. James Madison was a congressman in Philadelphia when he met her. 

While walking the streets of Philly I hit 2 Christ Church burial grounds where I found the final resting place of several signers of the Declaration of Independence. The most notable being Benjamin Franklin in the picture above

Before leaving Philly we had to do the Rocky steps

After Philly it was time to start heading west towards home. Our hotel was in York, Pennsylvania. On our way we made 2 stops in Lancaster. The first being the final resting place of James Buchanan. 

Our 2nd stop in Lancaster was the gravesite of Thaddeus Stevens. He was an abolitionist congressman. He was made more well known since Tommy Lee Jones played him in the 2012 movie "Lincoln"

On the final day of the trip we started in Gettysburg. Last time I was there I did a pretty thorough job of touring the battle field. This time my main focus was to see President Eisenhower's farm. As we waited for the bus to take us there we looked around the visitor center and the kids got to play dress-up

Eisenhowers farm

My son Nicky admiring President Eisenhower's putting green. Before we left Gettysburg, we had a few other loose ends to hit. We stopped by one house that  Eisenhower lived in when he a young officer. Then we hit another house that Eisenhower used as his office in his retirement. We also made a quick stop by the Wills house, where Lincoln wrote the Gettysburg address. 

After Gettysburg we continued west. On the way we hit some Buchanan sites in Mercersburg. Above is the cabin and which he was born. But this isn't the site he was born

Not far from Mercersburg is Buchanan birthplace state park. The rock pyramid is on the site that the cabin once stood when we he was born. This is the last stop of the big East Coast July 4th trip. We had every intention of stopping at the flight 93 Memorial but they weren't open by the time we got close. 

On the last weekend of July my wife and I took a weekend trip up to the upper Peninsula of Michigan. I haven't been up there since I was 16 years old and my wife had never been there. We grove up on a Friday afternoon and got a nice hotel in Mackinac. Early the next morning we drove up to Whitefish Point. This is a win-win site. There's a lighthouse there for my wife and a shipwreck Museum there for me. Whitefish point is the closest point of land to where the Edmund Fitzgerald sank. In the museum they have the bell from the Edmund Fitzgerald. 

Whitefish point

Me with the bell from the Edmund Fitzgerald in the museum

After Whitefish Point we hit more light houses and stopped by the Soo locks

Sunday morning we hit a couple more light houses and took one last look at the Mackinac Bridge before we headed home

Labor Day weekend I took the kids to the Air Force Museum in Dayton. Above is the bomber "Bockscar". This bomber dropped the Atomic bomb on Nagasaki, Japan which ended WW2

The Air Force Museum recently built a fourth hanger in which they display their Presidential Collection. The Air Force One above is the one that served most Presidents from Kennedy to Clinton. Most notably it flew Kennedy to Dallas, and flew his body back to Washington. LBJ also took the oath of office on this plane.

I already made one post on who I got to see during election season. But since these were definitely highlight of the year. I'm gonna briefly post some pictures on this post as well, above is former President Clinton campaign for his wife in Toledo, Ohio. 

VP elect Mike Pence in Toledo

President elect Donald Trump in Cleveland Ohio 

Christmas shopping in Marion recently I made a late night stop to the Harding memorial. This is the closest presidential site to where I live. After a while of not taking any trips sometimes I like to go to Marion for the evening and stop by, just to feed the  habit so to speak. 

For me personally 2016 was a pretty good year and I have hope that 2017 will be even better.