Our 2021 Road Trip #4: Hangin’ with the Hoovers

Herbert Hoover gravesite!

The working title was “Hunting the Hoovers” but that makes me sound like a suspect in their deaths.

Our presence in Iowa this year was an entirely intentional navigation for the sake of pursuing one of our recurring motifs. We could’ve trimmed a few hundred miles off this year’s drive if we’d bypassed it and taken the more direct route up I-90 through Wisconsin and Minnesota. However, one of the many unseen attractions on our to-do lists was in east-central Iowa — small enough that it was unlikely to be a primary destination in itself, and remote enough that the odds of it being “right on the way” to some future Point B were negligible. We’ve missed so many off-path stopovers in years past that we’re tired of missing out and have become a bit more amenable to long detours. Well, the fun kind of detours, anyway, as opposed to road construction detours.

(Prime example of one out-of-the-way challenge that’s stymied us: a complete Laura Ingalls Wilder historical tour would require days and days of backroads, virtually no interstates. Multiple tiny towns have historical homes or museums in her name because Pa Ingalls did a stellar of job of never living near a single Podunk anywhere that grew into a conveniently connected metropolis.)

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Our 2018 Road Trip, Part 49: The Last Dead President

Warren and Florence Harding!

President #29: Warren G. Harding, d. 8/2/1923, age 57.

Our Presidential body count so far on this vacation:

  1. Rutherford B. Hayes, in the verdant park behind his lavish museum in Fremont, OH
  2. Millard Fillmore, in the same well-kept Buffalo cemetery as several Famous Names in Black History
  3. Chester Arthur, in a dusty corner plot in Albany
  4. Martin Van Buren, in an ancient burial ground a mile from his Dutch home church in Kinderhook, NY
  5. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, on the grounds of Hyde Park
  6. Grover Cleveland, alongside his fellow presidents of Princeton University
  7. James Buchanan, alone on a hill in Lancaster, PA
  8. William McKinley, under a seven-story dome in Canton, OH

…and now, two hours from the William McKinley Memorial and 3½ hours from home, we wended our way through a maze of lazy country highways and one construction detour to reach the final American President on our week-long tour. We had not saved the best for last.

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Our 2018 Road Trip, Part 47: The Climb to McKinley

McKinleys with wreaths!

You can tell our next President has a bigger fan base than some of the others in this series — far more wreaths, and his final resting place is indoors.

I realize these chapters have been rather spaced apart and there’ve been so many of them, but we’re technically in the home stretch now. After a quick lunch stop in West Virginia, only one state stood between us and home. We’d already paid respects to one American President from Ohio, Rutherford B. Hayes, back on Day One. Two more Presidential gravesites lay ahead on the trail before we would cross the final state border.

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Our 2018 Road Trip, Part 40: The Bachelor of Lancaster

James Buchanan!

President #15: James Buchanan, d. 6/1/1868, age 77.

Day Six would prove to be a long and draining day, but we refused to be swayed from sticking to our theme, even though it meant a detour for the sake of a politician saddled with a “consistent ranking by historians as one of the worst presidents in American history” per one or more Wikipedia editors. Honestly, we’re not in a position to argue with them.

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Our 2018 Road Trip, Part 27: The Princeton President(s)

Aaron Burr!

Hi, I’m Aaron Burr! You might remember me from such works as Hamilton and Michael Bay’s “Got Milk?” ad!

We’ve been to New Jersey before, but usually just passing through. It was a useful costar in our first trip to New York City in 2011. It made a cameo as a launchpad for our visit to the Statue of Liberty in 2010.

2018 marked our first time arriving in New Jersey for the sake of a distinctly New Jersey site. Again, we didn’t make time to dwell at length in any one city, but it was nice to pay tribute to one set of Garden State notables.

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Our 2018 Road Trip, Part 20: A Walk in Hyde Park

Roosevelts statues!

Come have a seat with Eleanor and Franklin in happier times!

I know what some of you are thinking: of the nine American Presidents whose graves we visited on our week-long scenic tour, isn’t it about time we got to a President who had more than twelve fans? First of all, the city of Buffalo thinks people like you should stop being so mean to Millard Fillmore. Second of all, yes. Yes, it is.

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Our 2018 Road Trip, Part 19: Martin the Okay President

Van Buren statue!

This handy 2007 statue and bench let kids and adults alike pretend they’re Van Buren’s Vice President.

It’s not easy to drum up excitement for a President who had to follow a memorable showboat like Andrew Jackson, who inherited a major recession without any tools to deal with it, who got clobbered four years later by William Henry Harrison, and whose Presidential campaign popularized a hand signal that became an acceptable part of American casual communication from two full centuries ago until about fifteen minutes ago last month.

But by dint of the dignity and respect that older generations perceive as inherent in the Office of the President, Martin Van Buren netted himself a place in American history anyway.

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Our 2018 Road Trip, Part 14: Arthur of Albany

Chester A. Arthur!

President #21, Chester Alan Arthur, d. 11/18/1886, age 57.

For those a bit mystified that this vacation was supposed to be all about dead Presidents and are getting impatient because our last Presidential burial site was nine chapters ago: fear not! We’re getting there. They weren’t exactly next door to each other, and upstate New York has so many excuses for detours, we couldn’t possibly pass them all by. The nine-President plan was a goal, not a vendetta.

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Our 2018 Road Trip, Part 5: The Man, the Myth, the Millard

Fillmore sign!

If the only thing you know about Millard Fillmore is his mention in The Simpsons‘ “Mediocre Presidents” song…join the club. It’s a large one.

As we ended Day One with a drive through a scenic locale from a previous road trip, so did the following morning commence with another encore of sorts. Last time we were in the city of Buffalo, it was 2004 and we were too enamored of nearby Niagara Falls to bother researching or looking at anything else in the vicinity. We’d barely figured out where any Buffalo restaurants were, let alone their history or highlights.

The locals are especially proud of one famous resident in particular — the gentleman and philanthropist who co-founded Buffalo General Hospital and the Buffalo Historical Society, a self-made man borne of tenant farmers who crawled his way up the class ladder to become a lawyer, U.S. Congressman, and Comptroller of the state of New York.

Also, once upon a time he served as President of the United States. Some folks regard his performance in that workplace a bit differently.

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Our 2018 Road Trip, Part 1: Hayes’ Shade of Summer

Webb Hayes + flags!

Patriotic grave sites: as American as apple pie, but a lot more solemn.

It’s that time again! Another year, another driving marathon, another chance to see sights we don’t have back home, and another MCC travelogue series to record the experiences before I forget them all and Anne gets tired of retelling them to me.

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