We left Chicago early Monday morning and started our mad dash through the Rust Belt to visit Emily in NYC; meaning that we scheduled another series of one night stays with a lot of driving plus a daily activity or two. Here it is:
Monday: Drove to the Country Inn and Suites in Grand Rapids, Michigan with a stop in South Haven for lunch. Really not much to report on so I’ll mention our rather interesting dinner at The Green Well in downtown Grand Rapids. I had the Brazilian Black Bean Stew consisting of cilantro rice, black beans, pork, chicken, salsa, and lime sour cream all topped with a fried egg. Robin had the Kind Veggie Wet Burrito. Very different but very tasty.
Tuesday: We visited our first of several Presidential Libraries scheduled for this trip with a stop at the Gerald R. Ford Museum.
Having been to many such Libraries this past year (and feeling like experts), we figured this one would take about 2 hours to complete…..afterall, he only served as President for about 30 months. Turns out we were pretty close in our estimate as we got through it in a mere 3 1/2 hours. Guess we forgot how captivating these Libraries can be!
The curators did a really nice job of organizing and presenting the exhibits in an easy and comfortable flow (you would be surprised how random and scattered the chronology of the exhibits can be in these places) starting with a fun exhibit on life in the 1970’s.
Some interesting facts (besides having never been elected to VP or P) about our 38th president:
- He was born in Omaha (Robin was excited about that one) and named Leslie Lynch King, Jr. (What?). Soon after his birth, his mother Dorothy divorced his abusive father, moved to Grand Rapids, and eventually married Gerald R. Ford, Sr. (no relation to Henry) who gave his name to Dorothy’s first son.
- Gerald Jr was an All-American Center (football) for Michigan and was offered jobs with both the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions. He turned them down to go to Yale Law School.
- Ford’s 1948 run for Congress cost a total of $5,500 (combined cost for the primary and general election and about $55,000 in 2015 dollars). Just a bit less than today’s elections.
- His congressional office in Washington was across the hall from JFK’s office. Both being veterans of the Navy in WWII, they became good friends.
- He survived 2 assassination attempts in September 1975, both in California. If you can read the following picture, there is a rather amusing story about the aftermath of the second attempt.
We really enjoyed reading and hearing about the OPEC oil embargo, Nixon’s pardon, the fall of Saigon, Bicentennial, and the highly contested primary against Ronald Regan and presidential election against Carter.
While checking into the hotel in Grand Rapids, the girl at the desk asked why we were in town. I replied “We are here to visit the Gerald Ford Presidential Library”. She gave me a puzzled look and said “Oh, I’ve never heard of that”. Well……clerk aside, it was well worth the trip!
Once out of Grand Rapids we headed for Detroit with a quick stop in Lansing for lunch and to snap our obligatory capitol building picture. Being an unseasonably cold 62 degrees, we stopped at Zoup for soup.
Checked into the Aloft Detroit at the David Whitney in downtown Detroit and unpacked our fall clothes for the Tigers vs. Angels game. The hotel was great. We got a nice upgrade to a suite with a view of the ball park. The building was recently renovated and has a very cool interior.
We were able to walk the 400 yards to Comerica Park where we enjoyed a very long game won by the Angels 7 – 6. The park is yet another fantastic downtown sports venue; small, open, and with great views of the city.
Detroit itself (at least downtown Detroit) is still pretty impoverished and uninviting. On the positive side, it does appear that work is being done to rehab the area (like our hotel).
Wednesday we drove to Cleveland with a stop in Toledo for lunch (just love that name….Toledo). Checked into the Westin in downtown Cleveland,
added another layer of clothes, unpacked our umbrellas, and headed to Progressive Field for the Indians vs. Brewers game. Game time conditions…..record cold 59 degrees (for 8/26) and misty rain. Kind of felt like a typical summer night in San Francisco so we were fine.
On the way to the game we happened to come across the Quicken Loans Arena (The Q), the very spot where our beloved Golden State Warriors won the NBA title last June. Had to stop for a picture……such fond memories.
We really liked Cleveland and Progressive Field. The city itself has a clean, vibrant downtown with a nice mix of modern and refurbished older buildings. They are working on revitalizing the Lake Erie waterfront with a new Football field and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as anchors.
The baseball park has a very nice comfortable intimate feel and our inexpensive club seats included an all you can eat and drink lounge offering every kind of food station you would expect at a ball park. We ate brat(wurst), pizza, popcorn, peanuts, soft pretzels with cinnamon, and ice cream. After weathering the rain, filling our stomachs, and watching the home team win 6 – 2, we waddled back to the hotel to get a good nights sleep in anticipation of an early wake up call so we could visit the gym.
After our much-needed workout Thursday morning, we set out for King of Prussia Pennsylvania. The drive was a good seven hours long, so our only highlights of the day were lunch at Kings in Somerset, PA and doing our laundry. Lunch is only notable because we happened to stop in Somerset last June and happened to have lunch at Kings, so we thought it was pretty cool to do it again (and they serve a nice Cobb salad). Also the drive through PA is really pretty as it is mile after mile of heavily forested rolling hills and mountains.
Checked into the Valley Forge Sheraton, got a nice suite upgrade and started packing for our trip to NYC tomorrow.
But before leaving for NYC, we went to visit Valley Forge National Historic Park, the location of the Continental Army’s 1777-78 Winter Encampment. We decided to see the park via the self guided bike tour, which was fun albeit challenging as Valley Forge is very hilly. Sadly not much is left of the famous encampment, but the home George Washington used as his headquarters is still intact, and replica huts dot the landscape throughout the park.
We also enjoyed taking our picture with Frederich Von Steuben’s statue. Besides coming to Valley Forge all the way from Prussia to train the troops that extremely trying and difficult winter, Von Steuben is also the namesake of my parent’s high school in Chicago, so…….
Once off our bikes we headed to Newark, NJ where we parked the Old Home in our favorite parking garage and caught the Newark Airport Express to Grand Central Station where we were met by our lovely daughter.