Grand Rapids: June 26 – 28, 2013

Ford Museum3

Mr. President

Ford Museum5

The All-Star

We still had four or five days to kill until our due date at the next Rally in Mackinaw.  Grand Rapids was a comfortable midpoint, and we enjoyed the opportunity to visit yet another Presidential museum.  Our 38th President’s heritage is divided.  Grand Rapids, his home town,  is the location of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum, while his Library is on the campus of his undergraduate alma mater, UMichigan, in Ann Arbor.  They are jointly administered.  The museum  is housed in a grand architectural concept near downtown, its front lawn guarded by an abstract Ford in football regalia. Captain of his high school football team, outstanding college player elected to the national all-star team, and recipient of contract offers from two NFL teams,  he opted, instead, for boxing and football coaching positions at Yale, hoping to get into their law program.  Completing his LLB in the top quarter of his class in 1941, he returned to Grand Rapids and briefly worked as a lawyer.  But a year later he became an ensign in the Navy Reserve.  He served aboard the aircraft carrier USS Monterrey and almost lost his life — not in battle but when the ship was caught in a typhoon in the Philippine Sea, caught fire and was severely damaged.  After his discharge in 1946, he returned to Grand Rapids to practice law but was soon inspired by his adoptive father, the state Republican chairman, to run for Congress.  He was elected to 14 terms, each with over 60% of the vote.  While he longed to be Speaker of the House, the best he accomplished was Minority Leader, a post he held for 8 years before being tapped by President Nixon to replace Spiro Agnew as his right-hand man.  The rest, as they say, is history.

The museum does, indeed, chronicle his life with many exhibits.  His three short years as president do not provide much sensationalism, but it was a much-needed national calmness after Watergate.  Thinking back, the strongest memory I have – other than the pardon — was his “WIN” slogan, encouraging us to Whip Inflation Now.  Pundits  would turn it upside down and recast it as No Immediate Miracles!

While in Grand Rapids, we took a day to drive out and see Lake Michigan at Muskegon.  It’s a fascinating town, and since we now seek out history and aesthetics wherever we go, we find that we often allot too little time to cover a destination.  We could have spent three days exploring Muskegon! The area is blessed with Muskegon Lake, fed by the Muskegon River and emptying into its huge sister through a narrow channel.  It’s 4150 acres and has almost 15 miles of coastline.  As such, it was a haven for the logging industry, where timber came down the river and was milled on the banks of the lake before being freighted out to the world.


Hackley and Hume Homes

The names Hackley and Hume pepper the landscape; Charles Hackley and partner Thomas Hume were the prime lumber barons.  Here’s a picture of their adjacent homes.

We spent the most time in the Lakeshore Museum. The museum itself explores the lifecycle of the area over the past half-billion years or so – it’s been under water for much of its life and it once meandered south of the equator.   Several lovely dioramas were created by the Works Project Administration, which apparently put many artists, as well as artisans, to work in the 1930’s  Fauna from the woolly mammoth to the barn owl were displayed.

Hackley Park is less than a block away.  It was created to memorialize the War between the States.  It opened in 1892, the day of the dedication of its centerpiece, a 76 foot soldiers and sailors monument. In its center, a 14-foot bronze “goddess of victory” atop a granite pylon, holding a flag and sword (pictured).  She is surrounded by a sailor, infantryman, cavalryman and artillery man.  At the corners of the city-block sized park are four additional bronze statues:  Pres. Lincoln, Adm. Farragut, Gen. Grant and Gen. Sherman. The Museum has several annexes.

scolnik house

The Scolnick House

Time expired before we could explore the campus of  Hackley/Hume homes.  But we did visit two others. The Scolnik House, named for the real owners of the house, represents the Depression Era, when the market declined 75% and 25% of the nation was unemployed.  The storyline in which the home lives today is that it was owned by a Polish Catholic family who converted it into a two family to make ends meet, leasing the upstairs to a family of Polish Jews escaping the Holocaust.  Our guide put us clearly in the situation as she took us through the humble Queen Anne structure.

Next door is the C.H. Hackley Hose Co. No. 2 , a.k.a. the Fire House Museum.   It is a reconstruction, built as part of the bicentennial celebration.  Its artifacts, however, are authentic.  Upstairs is the bunk room, complete with the requisite fire pole.  On the main floor were two horse stalls which, when opened, put their “engines” within a few feet of their tack, hung and prepared for instant harnessing.  A “modern” motor driven engine stood ready, and a jumping net was displayed over it.  Above the stables was a pompier ladder, a device that allowed the fighters to break a window on the floor above, hook to the sill, and climb to rescue the damsel in distress.

This, and a scenic drive to the harbor and channel where the waters of Muskegon flow into Lake Michigan, was the most we could get to do in one day.  Pity!

As a bonus, I got to visit with one of my former database clients, John Worsley.  John was Director of Marketing at Performance Bicycle in North Carolina, and I loved to go down to Raleigh and visit my favorite good ol’ boy.  John moved out of the Tarheel State almost a decade ago, and I found him in Grand Rapids, thanks to LinkedIn. We hadn’t seen each other for over fifteen years, and we did a lot of catching up – and clue-ing Dot in – over a long lunch downtown.  He’s now  a confirmed Michigander and, as usual, a font of local –and industry — knowledge!  (I was really only interested in the former!)

Grand Rapids and environs was a new and very interesting venue for us.  But now it was time to join our Maryland club at our annual long-distance adventure.  This was the first time in four years that we’d been able to.















The Heartland Rally and Aftermath — June 16-23, 2013

Numerous nice things happened at the Rally.

When the damage on my trip home from North Carolina first occurred, I contacted the director of dealer services at Heartland to enlist his aid in finding a suitable repairer.  Jim and I have developed a “working knowledge” of each other over the years.  I then contacted the director of the Heartland Owners Club, sponsor of the Rally.  As a result, the word got around, and everyone I ran into when I got there bent over backwards to accommodate and help me.

One of the perks of the Rally was the opportunity to have Heartland perform a couple of factory service needs on each rig.  Techs showed up from neighboring Elkhart in droves on the first Rally day and stayed for several days to complete reasonable requests.  We got everything done that we’d requested!

One more repair was required by the tire explosions — replacement of a small body panel.  Heartland uses an authorized agent for most of its repair and dealer prep work, and Jim made arrangements for me to get that job done before we left – at a very reasonable price.

Despite the fact that we’d spent a week in Goshen in 2012, we still found two new area attractions.  One was Menno-Hof, the perfect place to hone your knowledge of the many area people with straw hats or bonnets, beards or long dresses, boxy black buggies, and houses with no electricity.  Collectively they’re Anabaptists, a movement founded in Zurich, Switzerland in 1525 in the early years of the Reformation.  The movement spread north and east, to Tyrol, the Low Countries and into South Germany and Russia.  Convinced that the church had become corrupted, Anabaptists called for the strict separation of church and state.  They also sought the purity of the simple life.  They were violently persecuted by both Catholics and Protestants — members were declared heretics and treated as such.  They escaped by migrating into the U.S., beginning in 1644 and increasing throughout the 18th century.  William Penn welcomed them to Pennsylvania.  Between 1815-60, others flooded into Ohio and Indiana.  Many of the Pennsylvania Mennonites migrated to Ontario, and direct immigration into Canada followed.

Menno Hoff Center

Menno Hoff Center

Menno-Hof, in the neighboring town of Shipshewana,  is a multimedia presentation of the heritage, beliefs and lifestyle of the movement.  One of the most important things it does is define the groups within the movement, primarily Mennonites, Amish and Hutterites.  The original movement was the Hutterite, but the largest is the Mennonite.  Today, Anabaptists can be found in 66 countries, on every continent except Antarctica!

Your experience begins with a 13 minute introductory video, and then you pass through two dozen exhibits that document nearly phase of Anabaptist life.  It’s a wonderful opportunity to understand – and respect – their culture.  Speaking of respect, the Goshen Walmart isolates a section of its parking lot with hitching posts!

Adjacent to Menno-Hof is the  Hostetler Hudson Museum.  Eldon Hostetler grew up on his family’s 280 acre Amish farm, where automobiles were, of course, verboten.  A neighbor’s son, however, went south and west to follow the wheat harvest, and when he returned, he was driving a 1936 Hudson Terraplane.   In 1940, at age 18, Eldon began his own lifetime bond to Hudsons,  purchasing a 1938 model with a secret loan from his grandfather.

Eldon had a profitable life.  He left the family farm and started a poultry business.  He revolutionized the industry when he invented an automatic feeding system for laying hens and started Ziggity Systems in 1977 to take it to market.  This was followed by dozens of other patents aimed at streamlining farm processes.

Eldon bought a new Hudson every year until manufacturing ceased in 1954.  After that, his wealth made it possible for him to amass and restore a collection reputed to be the largest in the world.  In 1997, Eldon donated the collection, a maintenance fund and 18 acres of land to the town of Shipshewana, which, in turn built the complex to hold it.  Most are now housed in the museum; a few are loaned to other   I took a picture of every one but will spare you by selecting a sampling!

During the Rally, I took advantage of a service called Smart Weigh.  The advisors weigh each wheel of the RV and tow vehicle independently.  I frequently checked the overall weight to be sure I wasn’t exceeding road limits.  But this program revealed a significant fact:  the left rear trailer tire – the culprit in my May travail — was overloaded.  So just before we left town, we installed a new set of heavier-duty Goodyears.

Now we were broke!



Land O’ Goshen

Meanwhile . . . back at the RV travails.

We were scheduled to be at the  Goshen, Indiana fairgrounds for a huge rally beginning on June 16, sponsored by Heartland, the  manufacturers of our Bighorn trailer.  Goshen and neighboring Elkhart are the center of the RV manufacturing universe.  Goshen is also the home of Lippert Components, the company that manufactures the complete chassis for Heartland and many other RV trailer companies.

The shop I visited in Maryland reported serious damage, including a bent frame.  They couldn’t do the frame work, but they has a neighboring company quote on it, at $1900.  At that point, I would still have to have significant damage to the suspension and running gear repaired.  I contracted for the work, but at the eleventh hour, I smelled a rat.

I called Lippert to see if they could repair (actually replace) our running gear prior to the rally, and I got an appointment.  On Monday, June 9, alone and with two extra tires aboard, I aimed for another 600 mile run, this time to Goshen.  I passed nothing on the road, travelling between 40 and 50 mph as though I was driving on eggs.  I stopped in Streetsboro, Ohio, after 385 incident free miles, and I ate the biggest steak I could find!  The additional 240 miles on Tuesday got me in early enough to arrange to occupy space in the fairgrounds during the Rally’s advanced days.

On Thursday, Lippert fixed the “frame damage” for $100 and replaced the entire undercarriage with a new, heavier duty package.  Total cost: $1400  — $500 less than the quoted frame straightening alone in Maryland.  I was so relieved that I splurged on the addition of air ride.  In the end, I spent about the same for all new stuff that I would have just to have repairs made in Maryland.

As soon as the Rally was underway and the unit was in its reserved space, I drove back to Maryland – a 1,300 mile, 24 hour round trip – to bring Dot and the family aboard.

Gracie and Melody

On Sunday, May 26, the other shoe fell.  After receiving a clean bill of health from her vet just three days earlier, our beloved Gracie suddenly crossed the Rainbow Bridge.  She was lethargic, slept most of the day, and began bleeding in the late afternoon.  Dot rushed her to an emergency vet, but she died on the way.   It was doubly unexpected — Gracie, our retired champion who had  just turned 15, came from a strong lifeline.

We’ve decided that Gracie was the victim of an undetectable colon or intestinal cancer.  Such a condition is not unknown.  Recognizing a cause, however, did very little to salve the uncontrollable grief that Dot felt – and I shared.  Gracie was the closest to the center of Dot’s heart.  Willie also died quite unexpectedly in 2010; the pair joined our family within a couple of months of each other in 2007, and they constituted Dot’s team, while Ted and Allie were my team.

Dot was dangerously depressed.  Without letting her know, I sent an urgent plea to six of my closest Schipperke “resources” – rescuers and breeders alike.  Within 48 hours, I was blessed with an offer of another champion in search of a retirement home.  Melody CH Sheradin’s Summer Rhapsody – was a month short of seven.  She was infertile, and Diane Harris, her breeder,  felt she would be much happier in a smaller Schip environment.

There were more surprises:

Tanner was a very successful champion from Tom and Carol Luke’s kennel in Illinois. Tanner was Gracie’s father  and Melody’s great- grandfather!

Diane’s beloved Thumper was a renowned champion until his death at 18 in 2010. Thumper was Gracie’s step-brother – and Melody’s grandfather!

So you can see why we had extra hope that Melody could significantly ease Dot’s pain.  On June 9, she drove to Tennessee to bring Melody to her new home.  They bonded quickly and have continued to do so.

We continue to openly adore Gracie and all the others who’ve gone before us.  She is aboard on our bedroom dresser — along with Barnacle, Teddy, Serena and Willie —  in their tiny boxes, each topped with a Schip angel.