Sunday, June 24, 2018

Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum

We have had a couple of trying weeks with the passing of two friends and ongoing issues with Opus. We had hoped to have one of those resolved at Spartan while we were in WashPA for Tom's memorial service, but it did not happen. We had an appointment in Elkhart, IN this week and had a slide that would not open repaired. We are now in Bloomsburg, PA and have an appointment on Tuesday for a reoccurring acceleration problem that two other places did not get fixed. I will be writing more about these repairs when they are all completed. 
While in Michigan we toured the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids. Ford was our 38th president and came to the office via a path that no other person has followed to become president.  
The Ford Library is in Ann Arbor the home of the University of Michigan, his alma mater. Ford was born Leslie Lynch King Jr. in Omaha, Nebraska. His father was so abusive that his mother left him 16 days after he was born. They ended up in Grand Rapids where his mother married Gerald Rudolff Ford. His new family called him Gerald Jr. He was never formally adopted and did not legally change his name until 1935 after graduating from Michigan. He did not learn who his biological father was until he was 17. He had limited contact with him after that and he always said his stepfather was a wonderful man.
Ford was an outstanding student and athlete in high school. He was captain of the football team and won all-city honors as a senior. This statue is Jerry as an Eagle Scout, the only president to achieve scouting's highest rank. 
The statues are of a wolverine and a Michigan lineman. Ford played in two all-star games as a senior. His number "48" was retired in 1994, but has since been put back in use. The number 61 belonged to Willis Ward, Jerry's friend and roommate for away games. When Ford was a senior Georgia Tech refused to play the game if Ward, who was Black, played. Ford threatened not to play the game until Willis asked him to play without him. 
After playing for Michigan Ford was offered the chance to play for the Green Bay Packers and the Detroit Lions. Instead, he decided to attend Yale Law School and graduated in 1941.
After the attack on Pearl Harbor Ford enlisted in the Navy. He was commissioned an ensign and assigned to duty in Maryland and North Carolina. He then asked for sea duty and was assigned to the USS Monterey. The ship saw action in several battles in the Pacific Theater. While the ship was not damaged in combat, it was caught in a typhoon that sank three other ships with over 800 men lost at sea. Ford was lucky not to be washed overboard when his ship listed to 25 degrees, only surviving by grabbing a small steel ledge on the ship. 
On October 15, 1948 he married Elizabeth (Betty) Bloomer in Grand Rapids. Then, in November, he won his first election to represent the Grand Rapids area in the US House of Representatives. He held that office for 25 years, the longest by any house member who became president. 
In the House President Johnson appointed him to the Warren Commission that investigated the Kennedy assassination. In 1965 he became the House minority leader, a position he held until he became vice-president. He said his only political goal was to become the Speaker of the House.
In December, 1973 he was tapped by Nixon to became vice-president after the resignation of Spiro Agnew because of corruption. This is the proclamation sent to the House by President Nixon nominating Ford to be vice-president. He received 387 votes, showing he had the support for the position from both parties.  
At that time the entire Nixon administration was under investigation for the Watergate affair where the democratic party's office was broken into to steal campaign information. Ten months after becoming vice-president Ford became president on August 9, 1974 when Nixon resigned rather than be impeached. He became the only person to be president who had not run for the office as president or vice-president.   
These words from his inaugural address capture the times very well as he made it about the rule of law and the Constitution, not about himself.
The replica of the Oval Office during the Ford presidency. The ship's wheel is from the SS Mayaguez, an American merchant ship that had been seized in international water off Cambodia in 1975. Ford sent Marines to retake the ship and the captain presented him with the wheel.
Ford's first month in office was a whirlwind, starting with his inauguration on August 9, 1974. The next day he asked the Nixon cabinet to stay and on the 12th he addressed Congress. On the 14th he dealt with a crisis in Cyprus and the 16th he held his first state dinner with the king and queen of Jordan. On August 19th he started the process that lead to clemency for draft dodgers and deserters during the Vietnam War. On August 20th he nominated Nelson Rockefeller over George H.W. Bush, as vice-president and on September 8th he pardoned Nixon. Many of these actions were unpopular, but he felt they were important for putting the years of unrest caused by Watergate and Vietnam behind us so we could move forward as a nation.  
Replica of the Cabinet Room during Ford's time in office. Each president selects the portraits for the room. Ford chose Republican presidents Eisenhower (not pictured) and Lincoln. He also chose Truman as a show of bipartisanship, something we sure don't find in the White House today.  
The Ford presidency was only 895 days long, the shortest of any president who did not die in office. During that time the economy was going through the worst recession since the Great Depression along with growing inflation. He did sign the Helsinki Accords that began a move to detente in the Cold War with the Soviet Union. In 1975 the Vietnam War ended with the fall of Saigon. The helicopter and staircase show how the last people left the country being rescued from the roof of the US embassy.
Many of those who escaped Vietnam had helped the Americans during the war and Ford made every effort to ensure those people where welcomed to the United States.
This exhibit shows some of Ford's diplomatic accomplishments, including going to China to continue the process put in place by Nixon. He also went to Vladivostok to meet with Soviet Leader Leonid Brezhnev to sign the SALT Treaty.  He was also the first president to visit Japan. The case holds gifts he received and the dishes used at state dinners.   
Ford was president in 1976 when the nation celebrated its 200th birthday. It was a period of unity for the country after the years of division caused by Nixon and Watergate.   
1976 was also a presidential election year and Ford ran or the office. The Republican Party was still divided because of Watergate so he had a hard fought battle with Ronald Reagan for the nomination. Ford won by only 100 votes at the convention.
In the general election Ford started very far behind Jimmy Carter but closed the gap. On election day Carter won the popular vote with 50.1% to Ford's 48.0%. The electoral votes were 297 to 240. With the loss he remains the only person to hold the office of president who had never won an election for the office of president or vice-president.
First Lady Betty Ford was an outspoken supporter of many causes. Soon after Jerry became president she announced she had breast cancer and had a mastectomy, bringing this important issue into the spotlight. She was an ardent backer of the Equal Rights Amendment, that failed to pass, and supported a woman's right to abortion. 
In 1978 Betty Ford admitted to being an alcoholic and addicted to opioid analgesics that she had been prescribed for a pinched nerve in the 1960's. Her candor about her addictions lead her to opening the Betty Ford Clinic in 1982 for the treatment of chemical dependency. Her belief in being an advocate for what she believed was best stated by her, "Being ladylike does not require silence." 
The Fords received many accolades after he left the presidency. Among the most important are the Medal of Freedom, the Congressional Gold Medal (awarded to both of them), the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award and the naming of the USS Gerald R. Ford honor his character and accomplishments.
The Fords are buried in the garden of the museum in Grand Rapids. They both died in Rancho Mirage, California where they had settled after the presidency. They were born five years apart and died five years apart, both at age 93. The Ford Museum is an interesting look at the life of the only person, who even though he become president without being elected, helped the nation heal the wounds of Watergate and Vietnam.

Monday, June 11, 2018

58th Escapade

For the second year in a row we were the co-coordinators of the Escapade along with John and Lora Newby. It was a very busy, but fun filled two weeks with all the preparation in the week before and then the actual event.  The Escapees are an all welcoming group for anyone who has an interest in the RVing lifestyle. It does not matter what kind of rig you have or even if you don't own one. Parked near us was a young lady who had flown in from Alaska and rented an RV for the rally. Across the road from her was a motorhome that cost well over a million dollars. There were even two people who were staying in tents. All are welcome to join the Escapees RV Club.
This was the first time we have attended an Escapade in Sedalia, Missouri. The Missouri State Fairgrounds was a good facility with all the RV sites being full hook ups..
The staff of 130 began arriving several weeks prior to the rally with all of them in place at least three days before the Sunday opening of the event. On Wednesday we had an after work happy hour to get together with the staff.
On Thursday at the end of the day the big job is filling nearly 700 welcome bags with fliers, coupons and ads from over 30 different supporters for each registered rig. It is an assembly line operation that the team completes in less than an hour. All are rewarded with a pizza party after the job was done.
Friday was the staff appreciation dinner. It was a time to socialize and have a great meal catered by a local company.
Mark, Cole and Jean yukking it up as Shawn, with Nanc's help, makes sure not one little drop of this very fine Card Bordeaux wine does not go to waste.
The coffee and donut booth is one of the most important, as they keep everyone fueled up. Gary and Mary along with Chick and Debby did this job. They served 1680 donuts and made 150 gallons of coffee. They raised $4063 for CARE (Continuing Assistance for Retired Escapees) selling donuts.We know it is a hard job that requires getting up real early to have the coffee ready by 7:30 because we helped with this job several years ago. 
Pictured here are Escapade Directors Jean and Duane,  Director Assistants Robert and Jo, and the Co-coordinators Nanc, Jim, John and Lora. It was a great team to work with in putting on the whole event for nearly 1300 SKPs.
There are 27 different staff positions that are filled by volunteers to put on the event. Here are Volunteer and Info booth chairs Bill and Jan (Top left). They recruit attendees to help out with various jobs during the Escapade. Lanny and Lois (top middle) and Jack and Pat (lower right) are Market Hosts. They work with the 55 vendors who sell their wares at the rally. Sky with his grandson Gage (top right). Sky is the Property Chair and is responsible for ALL the equipment, as well as, setting up the seminar rooms, stage and generally anything else that needs done. Bottom left are Entertainment Hosts Brenda and Dave who have been fulltimers for 27 years and have attended almost half of the 58 Escapades. There used to be two a year. One very important team I did not get a picture of  is the Parking Team. They come in early and have the job of getting the 657 RVs parked safely, rain or shine.
By Sunday everything must be ready for the 3:00 opening ceremony. Here, Duane and Jean introduce Escapee's CEO Shawn Loring. President Travis Carr and Vice President Melanie Carr.
At each assembly there are announcements and door prizes. I had fun doing the announcements again this year and raised over $70 for CARE by asking for a donation for returning found items. The door prize give-away is always fun and the last couple of years kids from the Kidscapade group were the prize runners. There were 40 kids at this years event.  
There is always great entertainment and this year was no exception. Sunday evening was Bill Lepp, a teller of tall tales and humorous stories. Bill is a five time winner of the West Virginia Liars Contest and his stories included many locations we have visited. If you every get a chance to hear Bill be ready for a evening of fun and laughter.
This was the 40th anniversary of Escapees and sadly the first without one of the two founders, Joe and Kay Peterson. We are so glad that we had a chance to talk to Kay in Tucson during last year's Escapade. This really marks a change for the club.
The golf cart parade. No, this was not on the schedule of  events. We had to take the carts down a public street to a nearby gas station to fuel up several times while we were there. 
When you have an event at a fairgrounds there are often other things going on. This year it was a 4-H goat show. While they are cute, they left a bit of country air smell around there pavilion.
One of the most popular happenings is vendor Paul Evert's RV Country daily 4:30 happy hour. Every day is a different theme from Margarita Monday to Two Shot Thursday. It is always a good time to relax a bit and get caught up with friends. 
Monday evening's entertainment was illusionist Reza. It was a fantastic show of "Shock and Awe" as he made things disappear only to pop up somewhere else on stage. Reza performs over 200 shows a year and travels in an RV, a huge Prevost,, so he really related to the RV crowd.  
I was worried when Nanc got this close that he would make her disappear. This is another act that you should not miss if you get a chance to see him perform.  
One of Nanc's jobs was to pass out kisses to the vendors. I was not sure what that meant, so I followed along one day and was happy to see it was Hershey Kisses she was passing out. 
Tuesday evening is a day for socials and we always get together with our Class of 07 mates. Wow, this year there were only six members and two adoptees. This was by far the smallest group we have ever had. Last year there were nearly 50 of us. Here I am with Terry (Rick was working), Lora, Nanc, John and adoptees Dave and Brenda. Hope next year's Escapade out West will bring more 07 mates.
Wednesday's entertainment was Escapade's Got Talent. There were fifteen great acts, from story and joke telling to some great music. It is wonderful seeing all these SKPs showing off their talent. As you can tell by the orange suit, emcee Jim Koca added to the fun of the evening with his outfit and corny jokes.
Thursday brings the Escapade Hair-Raising Chili Cook-Off. There were eleven chili cookers and, as you can see, it was a very well attended event. There is a People's Choice award for the chili that raises the most money for CARE.
The best chili is selected by a group of experts who must be sequestered away to prevent bias. I delivered samples to the the judges while the Hottest Pepper of them all, Shawn Loring, did his best encouraging people to donate money to CARE. He did a good job as the cook-off raised $1956 for this great Escapees program.
These are all people who were at the rally whom we have met at Betty's RV Park. Top are Bill Jan, Jim and Justine. Bottom are Judy, Danny, Dan, Sue, Richard, Loretta and Ray. I'm sure there were others that I did not see because Betty is very popular with Escapees. 
Thursday afternoon is the closing ceremony. It is always well attended as the grand prizes are given away. This year's prizes were for two people to attend the Rose Parade (a $1990 value) presented by the Escapees RV Club and from Adventure Caravan for two people to attend an eight day Chicago rally (a $4595 value). It is great that the sponsors and vendors offer such support and prizes for the rally. Pictured here (left to right) are a few of  the national staff; Teresa, Shawn, J.P., Travis, Melanie and Cathy.
In the past the closing ceremony was, as you would expect, the last event of the week. This year they added an evening street festival with a great local band, food vendors, craft beer and local wines. 
Most of us where pretty worn out at this point so it was a great time to just kick back and relax. National staff members Georgianne, Teresa, Melanie, JP and Shawn enjoying the festival. 
If you forgot your chairs, you could gather on the steps to have a cold one, enjoy the food, and share experiences with friends.
Jim, Travis and Mark showing how worn out we are at this point with Dead Guy Ales. 
After the sun set we went to the grandstands for the fireworks. The street festival was a great way to relax and visit with friends one last time before we all headed out in different directions to explore the country and was also a great ending to a great Escapade.
Friday morning dawned hot and sunny.  Not a great day to have to tear down and load everything that the Escapees brought to Sedalia from headquarters in Livingston. The trailer holds 26 of the carriers that must be brought from the buildings where they were used. Then they are loaded and secured in place for shipping.
Jim, John and Duane had it all done by 3:30 that afternoon. By the time we were done we were toast. The temperature when I got in the car read 105 and, while it was not that hot outside, it was that hot inside the trailer where we were working.
One last dinner Saturday evening before we hit the road on Sunday. While it is not an easy job, we had a great time being on staff and contributing to make the Escapade a great experience for all those who attend. Next year's event does not fit into our travel schedule so we will not be in Tucson in March. 
Our plan was to go quickly from Sedalia to Michigan where we had a service appointment scheduled. We had planned to spend one night in Springfield, IL but when we got there we realized how tired we were so we decided to stay for three days. Look who showed up! Escapade parking crew members, Jan and Skip and Escapade Directors, Jean and Duane. We had a nice evening just relaxing after a very busy time. 
On a sad note, while we were in Springfield we learned that our dear friend, Tom Ridge, passed away while he and Georgie were vacationing in North Carolina. We were able to leave Opus at Spartan Chassis in Michigan, where the service was being done, and drive the CRV to WashPA for Tom's memorial service. We are going to spend a week here to support Georgie before we head back to Michigan to pick up the RV. This is a picture of us with Tom and Georgie on Hatteras Island last fall.