Last night instead of getting the sleep that a normal human being would get I went to the Gerald R. Ford Museum in Grand Rapids, Michigan to view the casket of the former President. After waiting in line for about six hours I finally got to view the casket for about ten seconds. The line seemed to be moving fast when we got there so we ignored the people in charge that told us it would be about eight hours. What they did not tell us was that we would get a walking tour of Grand Rapids before going into the Devos Center to walk in formed lines for three hours. It was worth the trouble to be a part of history. When will I ever get the chance again to view a President lying in state? Probably never. The shear amount of people that I came into contact with last night was amazing. I arrived in Grand rapids at around 10 o’clock at night, and left a little after 2. There were as many people there when I left as when I arrived. President Ford was laid to rest today next to his museum, and the long days for his family are finally at an end. You have to feel for them for what they have gone through for the last week. Grieving with cameras in their faces. Hopefully they can enjoy some peace now.
I had an entire day to kill before the bowl game so I decided to spend it at the Kennedy Space Center. I love the history of the early space program, so this was like Disney World to me. You can see the pads that made history as well as the pads currently in use. The picture is of pad 34 where the Apollo 1 fire occured. In the background in the picture is the pad that launched the first unmanned Apollo missions and is used today for the Delta IV rockets. You get to see a lot of the equipment that was used to send these men up in the old days. It was very primitive, and makes the mystery of how we did it even greater. The new Tom Hanks’ IMAX movie makes you feel like you are on the moon, and is a great way to start your trip. I was at the museum for eight hours, and still had much more to see. I will have to find a reason to go back in the future to spend another day or two.
After visiting Andersonville I went to the birthplace of Jimmy Carter just down the road in Plains, Georgia. He obviously meant a lot to this small town that he still lives in. The whole town is just about a monument to him. Some of the sites to visit include his boyhood home that he talks about in his book “An hour before daylight”, his school, his campaign headquarters (an old train depot), and the town itself. The Carter compound is right on the main highway, but the secret service does not like it if you stop and gawk. This was a great little town that I did not get to see too much of because I got there so late in the day. I was able to spend a couple of hours in the footsteps of a president. Hard to believe someone from such a small town would grow to become on of the most powerful leaders of the world.
In a time of great tragedy already, the Andersonville prison was an even larger tragedy. Union soldiers were forced to live in inhumane conditions in this prisoner of war camp during the Civil War. I had seen the movie on the prison, but did not know too much about it beyond that except for what Ken Burns taught me. This was a huge prison that many of the men did not make it out of. This was on the way to the boyhood home of Carter in Plains so it made sense to stop and check it out. I was glad that I was able to after I left. The place is full of history, and I can appreciate the movie a little more now that I see what they were dealing with first hand. Proof that almost 150 years has not healed any wounds I overheard someone with southern accent say “serves them right” when reading about the conditions. The Prisoner of War cemetery is on the same grounds, and has graves of prisoners of war from every war since the Civil War. This was a great place to help appreciate the price that was paid to keep this country the way that it is.
…that I will not get shot. The Martin Luther King Historical site in downtown Atlanta looks pleasant enough as you get off of the Freedom Parkway, but as you soon find out it is in a bad part of town. If you have armed security it looks like it would be a great place to visit. You have his birthplace, his tomb, his church, and the historic fire station all within a block. The only problem is that the block is in a bad part of town. For the short time I was there I had a good time learning about one of the great leaders of the last century.
Located on Freedom Parkway in Atlanta, Georgia is the Carter Center. Part of that center is the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library. This Library highlights the four years Carter was in office, as well as the years surrounding that time. His Nobel Prize is on display as well as a replica of his oval office. This is the fourth replica of the oval office that I have seen now, and it is interesting to see how they each personalize them. Carter is a great man that is still trying to bring peace to the world. As time goes by, his legacy will only grow. Behind the museum is a Japanese garden with a beatiful view of Atlanta. As always I left the museum with a inspiring view of civil service.
After touring Graceland in the morning we barely made it to President Bill Clinton’s museum in Little Rock, Arkansas. We got to the museum with only two hours left to go through it. We took our time, and made it through the museum with some time to spare. This is the newest of the Presidential museums, and by far the most modern looking one that I have visited so far. The museum from the outside resemble a trailer. Inside they tell the story of a President that was both great and not so great at the same time. He was perhaps the greatest polititian ever. He could get the public to do what he wanted with ease. Just watching the welcome video that he narrates I wanted to go out and make the world a better place. The area will eventually be entirely comprised of Bill Clinton buildings I think. On President Bill Clinton Avenue you have the museum, the library, the Bill Clinton School of Public Service, the Bill Clinton museum, and more buildings that are currently in construction. I may have to come back in the future to see how the area has grown.
In a couple of weeks I hope to add another museum to my list when I visit the Jimmy Carter museum on the way down to the Champs Sports Bowl.
Sunday morning started off with a trip to Graceland the former home of Elvis Presley. This trip was more for the experience than anything. Elvis died less than a year after I was born so I did not really know much about the man. All I have seen or heard of him has been his stereotypes. His house is a mecca to his fans, so while we were in the area we decided to check it out.
Graceland is an 18 room former church that Elvis bought in 1957 for his family. Over the years it became his personal playground. Even though anything in the house is at least 30 years old it is still impressive. He lived a life most would love to have. One of the most intriguing parts of the day is watching the people that he affected. People were still crying and having trouble dealing with his death almost 30 years later. The one fact that has always seemed fishy to me is that his middle name is spelled Aron on his birth certificate, and Aaron on his grave. This has been the root of the conspiracy theories that I have heard all of my life. We did not see him at home on this trip, but that might not mean anything. Alive or dead, the trip to Graceland is a must, and should be experienced by most people. His influence on people from beyond the grave is amazing. I am glad that I got the opportunity to see the phenomenon.
After the National Championship game I drove a little ways down the river to visit the Wilson Dam. The Wilson Dam was constructed in 1918 to supply power two nitrate plants that supplied explosives for the war effort during World War I. We arrived at the dam at night, and were treated to a beautiful view of the Tennessee river and the dam at night. This was the beginning of our post football sightseeing expedition.