Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Why We Love Two Lane Highways

July 30, 2013
Day 3
We spend just about the whole day meandering from Richmond, Indiana to Holland, Michigan.   On expressways, we probably could have covered the distance in four hours or so, but look what we would have missed:

The road is lined with family farms.  Prideful barns, and barns that have been left to crumple.

 There are magic miles when the road becomes a path through green stalks of corn that tower above us on both sides.  Front yard tables hold summer squash, zucchini, and tomatoes for sale; a sign invites us up the driveway for brown eggs.  There are lots of farm implements, shiny and rusty--useful to the farmers and artful to us.

Our route is punctuated by small towns that proudly trace their heritage back to pioneers in the 1800s.  This is the Swiss clock tower in a lovely park in the center of Berne, Indiana.  The park commemorates the town’s founding by Swiss Mennonites in 1852.  

And the Mennonite heritage of the town lives on.

The crown jewel of the day is our chance discovery of the United States Vice Presidential Museum at the Dan Quale Center in Dan Quale’s hometown of Huntington, Indiana (population 17,400).

The Vice Presidential Museum--motto “Second to One”--traces the history of the Vice Presidency from John Adams through Joe Biden, with brief summaries of each Vice President’s individual contributions to the office or his special political circumstances.  A variety of historical artifacts document each Vice President’s accomplishments (or lack therof).

Since Dan Quale donated eight tons of records and artifacts, and no one else was so generous in endowing the place with stuff, he does get a bit more attention (and space) than the others.  And, he is accorded more respect here than he was by the press during his Vice Presidency. (Remember the extensive coverage of his misspelling of the word “potato” at a primary school spelling bee, and the derision spewed upon him for upholding traditional family values?) 

Forget about it.  He’s a hometown hero, and rightly so.  And, hey, Indiana is proud to boast of four other Vice Presidents, too--Colfax (with Grant 1869-73), Hendricks (with Cleveland 1885, he died eight months into his term), Fairbanks (with Teddy Roosevelt), and Marshall (with Wilson).   

Here are a few other things we learn that lead us to conclude that the Vice President was not really considered to be very important at all until pretty recently:  

There wasn’t a Vice Presidential residence in Washington until 1974, when the 33 room mansion on the US Naval Observatory Grounds was finally procured and adapted for that purpose.  One of the adaptations was the installation of bullet-proof glass in all the windows--a quality which we learn the Quale kids appreciated because they were able to play ball inside the house without fear of breaking a window.  

The first Vice President to actually have an office in the White House was Walter Mondale--who expanded the role of the Vice President considerably while serving with Jimmy Carter in the late 1970s.   

The 25th Amendment of the Constitution provided a means for filling a Vice Presidential vacancy--the President appoints a replacement, who must be approved by a majority of both houses of Congress.  When this amendment was ratified in 1967, the office of the Vice President had been vacant for a cumulative period of 38 years.  Gerald Ford was the first Vice President sworn in under the terms of the 25th Amendment, and he has the dubious distinction of being the only holder of the Presidency not elected to either it or the Vice Presidency (recall he was appointed by Nixon when Agnew resigned amid scandal).

John Garner, Vice President to Franklin Roosevelt, described the Vice Presidential office as “Not worth a bucket of warm s*it.”  (Not willing to be Roosevelt’s Vice President for a third term, Garner tried to run against him in 1940 and we know how well that turned out.)

Enough already.

Time for lunch.  And where better to go than Nick’s Kitchen, the Huntington Restaurant where Dan Quale began all his campaigns.  The Vice Presidential Museum even has a chair from Nick’s that Dan stood atop to announce his (alas?) unsuccessful bid to return to his office of Vice President for a second term.  

Nick’s Kitchen is famous in its own right, a Huntington institution for over 100 years, and the proud originator of the pork tenderloin sandwich, invented here in 1908.  Of course we have to sample the signature dish, which turns out to be way too big to fit in a bun (and to provide way more than one person’s appropriate calorie intake for an entire day). 

In the afternoon, we drive around the charming lakeside art colony of Saugatuck, which we last visited aboard Starsong.  This ferry has been crossing the Kalamazoo River there since 1838.  The ferry pilot propels it by turning a crank which pulls the ferry along an underwater chain.  It is a lovely five minute ride, as we recall.

Our final destination is Holland, Michigan, where we climb Mount Pisgah, a 157 foot sand dune that towers over Lake Macatawa to the east and Lake Michigan to the west.  To preserve the sensitive dune ecology, the climb route is a series of switchback stairways--239 steps in total.   We are rewarded with panoramic views at the top.

Back in downtown Holland, we notice a crowd gathering around an outdoor performance pavilion in the park.  A band concert is about to begin, but we are hungry and too tired to add yet another activity to this very long but lovely day.

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