Michigan Trip

April 2010

Part Two

* * * Part One * * * Part Two * * * Part Three * * *

The following day was much better. After a good night's sleep in our hotel 

room, we drove over to The Henry Ford, a two hundred-acre facility that 

encompasses the astonishing Henry Ford Museum and the picturesque

Greenfield Village. Prior to our departure from Rhode Island, my father had 

contacted several hotel and historical sites and told them about my hobby, which 

ended up getting us free passes to The Henry Ford and a free hotel room the 

night before. After picking up our tickets, we ventured inside the museum itself, 

which was incredible. In all honesty, words cannot describe the treasures that 

are preserved inside the building. The objects inside vary from impressive to 

breathtaking, most of them pertaining to inventions and innovation in America. Of 

course, inside was a large collection of cars, including the Model T Ford that put 

the museum's namesake on the map. One row is lined with gigantic machines of 

sorts, and climbing up the staircases of these monstrosities gave me a much 

better look at the layout of the building.

One of the most interesting innovation-related artifacts in the museum is 

what is called the Dymaxion House. Designed by R. Buckminster Fuller, 

Dymaxion Houses were round, metallic, and were intended to be the houses of 

the future, post-World War II. However, the structures never saw mass 

production, and only two prototypes were ever made. Equipped with rotating 

shelves and other interesting features, the energy-efficient Dymaxion House 

cannot be justifiably described by words alone.

As interesting as those objects were, I was also interested in some of the 

presidential exhibits at the museum. President-related artifacts there include a 

cot and mess kit used by General Washington during the American Revolution, 

playbill from the April 14, 1865 performance of Our American Cousin at Ford's 

Theatre, and the chair that Abraham Lincoln was sitting in on that fateful night. 

Several presidential vehicles are also in possession of the facility, most notably 

the limousine that was carrying the 35th president as he rode through Dealey 

Plaza in 1963. Especially after having seen the famous Zapruder film, to be 

standing alongside the vehicle where one of the most notorious murders in 

history occurred was chilling. Yet another highlight of the awe-inspiring 

collection was the bus that Rosa Parks was riding when she refused to move 

from her seat, which inspired the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Not only are 

museum visitors allowed to board the bus, but they can sit in Mrs. Parks' actual 

seat as well.

After grabbing some lunch at the museum, which serves Oscar Mayer 

hotdogs in honor of the 1950's Weinermobile that is there on display, we took a 

break and left the grounds to pay our respects at Mrs. Parks' grave. When we 

reached the cemetery where she is interred, we were able to find someone there 

to unlock the mausoleum where she is resting. Though it was dark inside, we 

were able to take a few decent photos before we headed back to The Henry 

Ford. When we returned, we spent some time in the Greenfield Village, which is 

like stepping into a time machine. The village is filled with many historical 

buildings that were transported from their prior locations long ago. Among these 

structures are the home of lexicographer Noah Webster, Thomas Edison's Menlo 

Park laboratory, and the Wright Brothers' bicycle shop where they invented the 

airplane. Visitors can be seen being driven around by employees in period 

costumes in cars like the Model T, the Model A, and even in horse drawn 

carriages. There are several trains that can be seen encircling the village as well, 

and they are kept in a gigantic roundhouse there on the grounds. My father and 

even got to turn the turntable, which directs where the trains go when they leave

the roundhouse. Trying to push it to make it spin was fine, but making it stop 

spinning is a lot harder than it looks.

We were at the grounds virtually all day, and still did not have enough time 

to see all of its magical wonders. Next time I'm ever in Michigan, I know what 

one of my stops is going to be.

Next on my list was the Michigan State Capitol in Lansing, which is about 

ninety miles from The Henry Ford. We were able to reach the state capitol just 

before sunset, so we had enough light for good pictures. After eating dinner at a 

nice restaurant nearby, we headed to Grand Rapids so that we could go to the 

Gerald Ford Presidential Museum and pay our respects to the 38th president. 

Though I knew that the museum would be closed by the time we arrived, I 

wanted to go to the grounds and walk around for a few minutes, as it was such a 

nice night out. President Ford's burial site, the gate to which was locked, was 

peaceful and had a nice view of the calm Grand River less than one hundred 

yards away.

Twelve hours later, we were back in that same spot, taking pictures of the 

former president's burial site and of his impressive museum. Inside are many 

important objects that deal with the Republican's tenure as a politician, such as 

the .45 pistol Squeaky Fromme used in her attempt on the Ford's life, some of 

the tools used during the Watergate Break in, and Richard Nixon's letter of 

resignation. The museum was rather impressive, as are most of the presidential 

libraries across the country. A big chunk of the museum's space is dedicated to 

the bicentennial, as Ford was president in 1976. Another portion displays 

artifacts that pertain to America's time in Vietnam. The most mesmerizing object 

in that exhibit was the staircase from the U.S. embassy in Saigon that refugees 

climbed up to escape the oncoming North Vietnamese forces in 1975.

As we finished up in Grand Rapids, we prepared to drive down to South 

Bend, Indiana, where Ulysses S. Grant's first vice president is buried. Although

Schulyer Colfax is interred at the front of South Bend's City Cemetery, I missed 

the grave when we drove past it, and we ended up driving around needlessly for 

fifteen minutes trying to find it. When we finally did locate it I was rather 

embarrassed, but we carried on, taking pictures of Colfax's grave as well as the 

burial site of President McKinley's grandparents. I was very intrigued by the 

plaque located at their final resting place, as it states that they were the 

grandparents of "William J. McKinley", and I have no knowledge of the 25th 

president having a middle initial. We then quickly headed back to the car, drove 

to the state capitol in Indiana, got a speeding ticket, and spent the night in 

Louisville, Kentucky.

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