What An Absolutely Wonderful Day!!!

Trip Start Apr 05, 2013
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Flag of United States  , New Jersey
Thursday, May 23, 2013

I was up at the regular, 8:00 am time, dressed in shorts as it's humid in NYC.  After breakfast, I actually considered walking from my hotel on 48th Street to Grant's Tomb on 122nd Street.  That lasted about six blocks (sorry Michele!) and I gave in and took a cab.  I was there in 10 minutes.  Grant's Tomb is a beautiful mausoleum in Riverside Park on the Upper West Side right along the Hudson River.  
 
 One of the oldest riddles in the world was used by Groucho Marx on is show, You Bet Your Life.  He would ask contestants who hadn't won any money at all the question, "Who was buried in Grant's Tomb?"  He gave credit to them for one of two answers...Grant or no one.  And both are correct...sort of.  No one is the more correct answer.  As Grant (and his wife) are entombed in the mausoleum, not actually buried.  I got there shortly before it opened, but the nice guy who was working inside (the door was open) invited me to come in and look around.  It's as beautiful inside as it is out.  The lower level has the sarcophagi of Grant and wife, Julia, and he is surrounded by busts of his favorite Generals...Sherman, Ord,Thomas, Sheridan and McPherson.  In the upper wings, flags of the regiments he commanded are displayed and the walls have a map of all the major battles of the Civil War.  All in all a very impressive structure and a great tribute to the man.  

Interestingly, I went to the visitors center which is across a busy street and in the lower area of what obviously used to be a restroom.  How do I know, the entrance has "WOMEN" etched in stone above it, and at the other end where the door says, "National Park Service Only" etched above it, says, "MEN."  Am I wrong or what?  The ranger inside was nice, but not extremely informative.  

I was wondering why Grant's grave is in NYC.  I mean, he was from Galena, Illinois after all (although born in Ohio.)  I learned there were several cities vying for Grant's tomb, but only NYC guaranteed he AND his wife could be buried side by side.  His son made the decision.  They say at one time Grant's Tomb drew more visitors annually than the Statue of Liberty...hard to believe.  

He was a beloved 18th President who served two terms.  Etched over his tomb are the words he used during his campaign after the Civil War and Andrew Johnson's impeachment, "Let us have peace."  Spoken like any any General who both loves and deplores war.       

You oftentimes see Grant depicted with a cigar in his mouth.  And sure enough, he died in 1885 primarily of throat cancer.

I had received an email from a good friend and another 1979 Preview Guide by the name of Dr. Dawn Williams.  She said she works 2 blocks from Grant's Tomb and to call her when I got there.  I did so, and five minutes later, there she was bounding across the street looking like she looked thirty-some years ago when she was a Preview Guide.  It was a real treat to see her!   We talked for a while and she told me she worked at Barnard College which is near Columbia.  I said, Columbia?  Yep.  I asked how close it was....a couple blocks.  Do you think we could go there?  Sure she said.  Then I told her why.  I told her that the former ISU women's bball coach, Stephanie Glance had recently taken the job at Columbia.  Dawn knew where the gym was.  We walked, hoping to see Coach Glance and Assistant, Shelia Roux.  We went down to the gym and the asked the guard about seeing the women's basketball coach.  He said, he hadn't seen them (the coaches) come in today.  But a young lady in an office close by said, " Oh, yea, they came in about 15 minutes ago."  We walked back to the basketball secretary.  She said, (rather skeptically),  "Can I help you?"  I said, "Yea, we'd like to Coach Glance."  She said, "Did you have an appointment?"  I said, "No, just tell her Dave Colee is here and would like to see her."  She said, "OK" sounding still uncertain.  Soon, Coach Glace was walking down the hallway with a huge grin on her face, saying, "What are you doin' here?"  (I had told Dawn, when she comes out, you're going to realize, ---in my most southern of accents, ---she's not from around here!)  I have a huge smile on my face right now just writing about our reunion.  Then she said, "Roux, get out here!"  And it was surprise and hugs all around again.  Dawn excused herself...oh, yea, she still has a job!   And we (Stephanie, Shelia, and their two assistants, Ginny Boggess and former IWU assistant Michell Bilek sat and talked for 10-15 minutes.  Gonna miss Stephanie and Shelia...quality people who ran a quality program!  And, I can't stress this enough...got every ounce of talent out of their players!  

I left that brief Reunion walking about three feet off the ground, and headed back to my hotel to check out and head to my next Presidential gravesite.  

I used Garmin to get to President Teddy Roosevelt's gravesite.  I am not sure I've taken so many turns on the way to a gravesite.  But I finally got there.  Took me a little over an hour from my hotel.  It's in Long Island...like the Iced Tea!  Very snooty rich!  And you could tell.  Nice homes.

Unlike John and John Quincy Adams, who were father and son, the Roosevelts (Teddy and FDR) were more distantly related...they were 5th cousins.  Teddy was never supposed to be President.  As with several others, he was reluctantly offered the VP spot thinking by critics that he would  become invisible and unimportant (as many VPs have done) and just fade away.  Boy were they wrong.        

Roosevelt became the 26th President of the US upon the assassination of McKinley in 1901.  He won reelection in 1904.  He had been a Governor of New York and hero in the Spanish-American War with his "Rough Riders" and his legendary charge up San Juan hill.  He was a conservationist who started the first National Parks.     

Nice gravesite overlooking Oyster Bay where he had enjoyed a great deal of his childhood.  His home, Sagamore Hill is also there, but closed for renovation.  The grave is simple but tasteful...what you would expect from an upper crust President.  Bully!!!   One more interesting fact.  Did you know that the "Teddy Bear " was named after Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt?   Yep!    

On to Princeton, New Jersey.  Strange way to get me there.  Both Garmin and my iPhone took me down I-495 into Manhattan (through the Queens/Manhattan Tunnel), then they both got confused when cops wouldn't let us turn right when they thought we should...sorry!  Finally realized we were making our way across Manhattan to another tunnel, the Lincoln Tunnel (I think) to NJ.  But it didn't take that long, even though I had wanted to avoid the Manhattan traffic.  Pretty soon I was on my way to Princeton.  

I was headed for another trifecta!  Grant, Teddy Roosevelt, and one of the most interesting Presidents ever...Grover Cleveland.  As I drove south it began to pour rain, but I was sure it wouldn't rain on my quest at the Princeton cemetery, so I ventured on.  And sure enough, it stopped raining just as I got to Princeton.  It took me 10 more minutes to get to the cemetery.  I pulled into one of three (?) parking spaces for the cemetery, and I was just pounded with rain!  So much for it won't rain on my parade!  That's OK, gave me time to make hotel reservation and call daughter Laura to see if we could get together for dinner.  Success on both accounts.  

Grover Cleveland was both the 22nd and the 24th President of the US.  The only one who was elected (1884) defeated (1888) and then elected again (1892)!  Others have tried, but no one has done it before or since him.  When he married Francis Folsom in 1886, he became the first President to get married while in office.  Very cool!      

One-term President Benjamin Harrison (remember where he's buried?   Yep, Indianapolis)  defeated Cleveland in 1888, but he came back and won re-election in 1892.  Interestingly, his own party deserted him in 1896, nominating William Jennings Bryan to run against McKinley.  How'd that work out for you?  

Cleveland is buried in Princeton's cemetery along with some other historical notables, Johnathan Witherspoon (signer of the Declaration of Independence), Aaron Burr...I hate him, he dueled and killed Alexander Hamilton (I could barely help from spitting on his grave!), and many of the Stockton family...you know, our former SF VP and Mayor of Bloomington.  And the family that Stockton, CA was named for....I took pics of some of the grave for our friends, Steve and Linda Stockton.     

Headed to my hotel and then quickly off to dinner with Laura and Rick.  The pizza place (Lorenzo's)  hadn't updated their website, so I went to the old address.  Ten minutes later, I found the new one.  Place is a BYO.  Rick tells me it's because of the cost of licenses and the strange liquor laws in NJ.  We had some great pizza and beer (thanks Laura and Rick!).  I headed back to my hotel to blog and the kids were heading to a movie!  Great to see them!  Took a pic and sent it to Sandy...I later called her and asked what color she was?????  She finally got it and responded....GREEN with envy that I was with her little girl and she wasn't there...quit crying!!!

Between, Grant, Dawn, Stephanie, Shelia,Teddy, Grover, Laura and Rick, it's been an absolutely wonderful day!!!

As the most interesting man in the world would say, "Stay thirsty my friends!"

Dave   






 
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