Missouri, Illinois, and Ohio

Thursday, June 9
We made a quick stop at the Gateway Arch National Park in downtown St. Louis first thing this morning. We got lucky and found a great parking spot close to the Arch, and I went inside to get a stamp in the book while Alan took Aardi and got a photo of the park sign. We’d been here before so this was just to get our “new” book stamped.

Next up was the Ulysses S Grant National Historic Site. In 1843 a young Lieutenant Grant graduated from West Point he was stationed at Jefferson barracks. In St. Louis, he was invited to the home of his West Point roommate, Frederick Dent where he was introduced to Julia Dent Grant, who would eventually become his wife. Their courtship was a long because Grant was away fighting in the Mexican American war for nearly four years. In 1848 Grant returned to St. Louis and married Julia. After years of traveling for the military he had tired of the separation from his loved ones and in 1854 had grown tired of life separated from his loved ones so he resigned his commission. But, when the civil war broke out in 1861, Grant was quick to volunteer his services to the union army. Within a month, he was promoted from Colonel to Brigadier General. Grant won more than a dozen major battles for the union army. Eventually he become the top commander in the US military, and in 1865 he accepted Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s surrender, effectively ending the Civil War. In 1968 he was elected the 18th President. During his two terms, he supported and signed the 15th Amendment to the Constitution, giving African American men the right to vote. His Native American “peace policy” revised government relations with Native Americans and attempted to protect Indians from people who wanted their land. He sought free public education for all. Grant also signed legislation that established Yellowstone as the nation’s first national park. Some years after he left the presidency he and his wife were swindled out of their fortunes by a partner. To offset that loss he wrote his memoirs, dying just a few days after completing them in 1885.

The next place we stopped was the George Rogers Clark National Historic Site where we learned how Clark’s insight and cunning, coupled with his understanding and experience upon the frontier, made him a formidable adversary. His leadership helped to overcome the French and British and help a young United States expand westward. He is most remembers for as the heroic Revolutionary War commander who led a small force of frontiersmen through the freezing waters of the Illinois country to capture British-held Fort Sackville at Vincennes, where this site is located, during February 1779.

Our last stop was an unexpected one. Since we had run out of time to make it south to another NPS site, Alan saw that the Red Skelton Museum was here in Vincennes. Well, you know we couldn’t pass this up! It is a wonderful dedication to a man who was not just an actor, he was a clown, comedian, author, classical music composer, and accomplished artist. I remember watching his show when I was little, and loving to see any show he was in on TV. I think I smiled throughout the entire exploration of this museum.

Friday, June 10
Today’s first stop was at the Howard Taft National Historic Site where we learned more than just how he was the 27th US President. Early on he led a distinguished career in law, with a dream of someday serving on the Supreme Court. In 1890 Taft was appointed U.S. Solicitor General by President Benjamin Harrison, and in 1900 he was appointed Governor General of the Philippines, becoming governor of the islands in 1901. In 1903 Taft became secretary of war in under Roosevelt. With Roosevelt’s support, he ran for and easily won the Presidential election in 1908. In 1921 Taft’s dream came true when he was appointed to the Supreme Court as the Chief Justice. He has the distinction of being the only person in history to have been President and Chief Justice of the United States.

We drove north to the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historic Park and toured the museum dedicated to the Wright Brothers and their careers, which started in Dayton, Ohio. They were quite the entrepreneurs and did a little bit of everything, including running a print shop, and a bicycle shop. It was the bicycle shop and repairs to bikes that helped them in their design of the flying machine that made them famous.

Just a little ways away was a Skyline Chili, which is a food famous in Cincinnati, but since we didn’t get a chance to have any while there, we had some in Dayton. It was good, but Alan said he preferred my chili. Awww.

Our next stop was the Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Memorial. We learned a LOT about Young, and had the privilege of chatting at length with the ranger (superintendent?) there. He filled in a lot of blanks with regards to Young’s life and service.

Charles Young was born in 1864 in May’s Lick, Kentucky to indentured slaves, automatically making him a slave, but his parents traveled north to Ohio the next year where his father 1865 joined the army. Young’s parents believed in a good education and in 1884 he entered West to become only the ninth African American to attend the Academy and only the third to graduate. Young was a good leader and rose in the ranks, but it was hard won. In 1903, Captain Charles Young would become the first African-American national park Superintendent when he and his troops were tasked to manage and maintain Sequoia National Park in northern California. He had a long and distinguished military career, and had achieved the rank of Colonel before his death in England in 1922. His remains were later repatriated to the United States where he received a full military honors funeral and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery. In 2021, Charles Young was honorably and posthumously promoted to Brigadier General.

The last stop of the day was to see the Arnold Schwarzenegger Statue in Columbus. We got curious as to why there would be a statue of him there, so we did some digging and found out that his relationship with Columbus began in 1970, when Mr. Lorimer, a local sports promoter, persuaded him, as a bodybuilding champ at age 23, to travel to the city for the new Mr. World competition. Schwarzenegger was so impressed by the show that he formed a handshake agreement to put on bodybuilding shows in Columbus starting in 1976, originally including such events as the Mr. Olympia competition. The sculpture was unveiled in 2012 to commemorate Schwarzenegger’s commitment to Columbus, where the Arnold Sports Festival is held each year.

Holiday Inn Express Suites, Cambridge, OH. 4.9 Just about perfect.