I like Ike…sort of

September 2014

From our stop in Topeka we journeyed to Abilene, Kansas, home to the Dwight. D. Eisenhower Presidential Library, Museum and Boyhood Home. One of 13 Presidential Libraries in the National Archives and Records Administration it was dedicated in 1956. As we walked into the Museum my first thought was that it felt as though it hadn’t been updated since. The museum starts out about as inviting as a 10th grade history book. In fact, the opening exhibit hall looked as if someone had merely blown up the pages of a history book.

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Truthfully, I moved through the opening section rather quickly, skimming through most of it with very little of it drawing my eye or attention. But as I continued to explore the museum, I warmed up to it (adapting to the fact that it’s as much a war museum as a presidential museum – it’s nearly 2/3rds of the way through the museum before you stumble upon Eisenhower’s presidency). Of course, the heavy focus on General Eisenhower is certainly understood.

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It’s difficult to write about and capture the spirit of any museum without turning it into a bit of a book report (proven by the fact that I still haven’t gone back to finish a write up of the Truman Library). And while I could certainly fill a long blog post about all that the museum had to offer and all that Dwight D. Eisenhower accomplished in his life, I’d rather just highlight some of the pieces that were of particular interest to me and leave the rest to Wikipedia and such.

Boyhood Home

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We took the short tour of the home where Ike was raised between ages 8-20, a home that his parents lived in until their deaths.

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Eisenhower was one of seven boys, and while his brother Paul died in infancy, all of the others were very accomplished in life. One of my favorite stories from the tour recounted a moment when Ida Eisenhower was supposedly asked, after the victory at Normandy, “Are you proud of your son?” To which she replied, “Which one?”

The Original ‘Do It Yourself’ Project”

I found these instructions for building your own bomb shelter very helpful.

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Trench Art

I had never really heard about “trench art” before coming upon an example of it here.

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I’ve included the next picture for a couple reasons. First, to give a little perspective on the size of that ashtray. And second because the funny man front and center is movie star, Mickey Rooney – Private First Class.

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Life Saving Map

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On the Campaign Trail

I love old campaign memorabilia, and there was lots of fun stuff to be found here. I think the gloves are my favorite. There were even some Ike-themed women’s stockings, but I didn’t manage to get a very good picture of them. “Like” was probably not a strong enough word for how people felt about Ike.

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Mamie Eisenhower & the White House

As a bit of a hat enthusiast, I had a particular fondness for Mamie Eisenhower’s hat collection.

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But I also enjoyed seeing jewelry, dresses and some of the things gifted to her in the White House.

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Ok – I confess, one of those is Ike’s, I’ll let you figure out which.

Ike’s Emmy

This was a fun discovery. Who knew that President Eisenhower had an Emmy? The teleprompter reel shows the stern warning in his farewell address on Jan. 17, 1961; but his Emmy, as noted, was not for any speech in particular, but simply “in recognition of his extensive use of television.”

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The Space Race

I’m always happy to encounter space memorabilia (I really was born too late), and as Eisenhower had a hand in authorizing the formation of NASA (and keeping it separate from the Department of Defense, a separation he believed to be crucial) there was some fun space stuff to be found.

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Of course there was so much more to see, and in the end (and upon reflection), I enjoyed our visit to the museum despite my first impression upon entry. I suppose I’ll retract my “sort of” and declare that “I like Ike!” I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention the awesome staff in the gift shop. When we couldn’t find a bumper sticker for our roof box they were kind enough to give us one of the “I like Ike” stickers that they hand out to kids. Thanks!

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From August 12 – October 15, 2014 my husband and I traveled the northern United States in my Honda Civic. Cross Country Civic was started (and will eventually be completed) to document our cross country adventure. All comments and questions welcome and appreciated.

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Kansas City Baseball

Continuing on our day in Kansas City we decided that since the Boston Red Sox were in town and we’re from Boston (though only one of us is a Sox fan…and it’s not me) that we would take in a Royals game at Kauffman Stadium. But as far as baseball goes, the Royals aren’t the only “game” in town. Before our evening at the ballpark we made a stop to learn about an oft-neglected history of the sport.

Negro Leagues Baseball Museum

The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum is a showcase for the (mostly) unknown talents that passed through the Negro Leagues from the late 1800’s to the early 1960’s. It was founded in 1990, growing from a small, one room office to the 10,000 square foot space that it occupies now.

An important point about the museum’s purpose can be found on its website:

Often the museum is referred to as the “Negro Leagues Hall of Fame” or “Black Baseball Hall of Fame” and various names. It is important to the museum that we not be referred to as such. The NLBM was conceived as a museum to tell the complete story of Negro Leagues Baseball, from the average players to the superstars. We feel VERY strongly that the National Baseball Hall of Fame, in Cooperstown, NY, is the proper place for recognition baseball’s greatest players. The Negro Leagues existed in the face of segregation. Baseball’s shrines should not be segregated today. Therefore, the NLBM does not hold any special induction ceremonies for honorees. As space allows, we include information on every player, executive, and important figure. However, we do give special recognition in our exhibit to those Negro Leaguers who have been honored in Cooperstown.

As was the case on a few other spots along the trip, the museum did not allow for photography, so the only picture I took was of the lobby as you enter.

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As I blog this nearly a year later (yes, I’m a slacker), I find it would be impossible for me to do this museum justice. On future road trips (we’ll have to do the southern states at some point), I’ll bring along a notebook to all of my stops to record my thoughts in the moment, but since I can’t go back in time to do that on this trip, I’m left with only vague memories when trying to write about places I couldn’t take pictures.

I recall really liking the setup of the museum. A movie, They Were All Stars, set in a bleachers area, tells the story of many of the players and is narrated by the incomparable James Earl Jones. The museum itself is laid out in time-line fashion chronicling nearly 100 years of African American and baseball history. It was a fascinating place to visit and a fabulous tribute to those who played the sport without the credit or fame of their white counterparts.

One of my favorite parts of the museum was the Field of Legends. 10 bronze statues of players who have been honored in Cooperstown are positioned on a baseball diamond. I found this picture of it online at Trip Advisor:

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The players on the field are Rube Foster, Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, Buck Leonard, Pop Lloyd, Judy Johnson, Ray Dandridge, James Thomas “Cool Papa” Bell, Oscar Charleston, Leon Day, Martin Dihigo, and “Buck” O’Neil

The link to Buck O’Neil’s page on the Hall of Fame website leads to information about the Buck O’Neil lifetime achievement award:

The Buck O’Neil Lifetime Achievement Award is presented by the Hall of Fame’s Board of Directors not more than once every three years to honor an individual whose extraordinary efforts enhanced baseball’s positive impact on society, broadened the game’s appeal, and whose character, integrity and dignity are comparable to the qualities exhibited by O’Neil. The Award, named after the late Buck O’Neil, was first given in 2008, with O’Neil being the first recipient.

I went back to our visit at Cooperstown at the beginning of our road trip and found this photograph that I took of a bronze statue of O’Neil with an infographic about his eight decades long association with baseball.

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Those are some of the highlights of our visit to the NLBM. Feel free to read more about the current exhibits on the Museum’s Website.

Our afternoon of baseball learning morphed into an evening checking out Kauffman Stadium. We were able to walk right up to the ticket window and get pretty great seats right up over home plate. It was a chilly September night, as evidenced by this concession change:

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Note the carousel in the picture above. As is my ritual when entering any new ballpark (this was my tenth), we did a lap around the park to see what there was to see. The outfield had lots of activities for kids – batting cages, rides, a playground, even mini-golf. I’m not sure how I felt about the number of things kids and their families could be doing instead of watching the game. We kept on moving.

The park had the typical bronze statues denoting notable Royals and this great water feature in the outfield made for cool viewing from either side. Here’s a shot from center field as the sun went down.

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After our exploration, we grabbed some hotdogs and headed up to our seats. A pretty great view for last minute tickets.

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Here’s another view of that water feature from the seats.

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It was a fun outing, but since we wanted to avoid being stuck in the parking lot, and were more than a little chilly, we decided to take off early. Ultimately the Royals ended up winning 7 to 1. We made a pit stop before heading back to Sriram’s friend’s house, which you can read about it in the upcoming “Eats and Treats” installment. Until then, see you next time!

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From August 12 – October 15, 2014 my husband and I traveled the northern United States in my Honda Civic. Cross Country Civic was started (and will eventually be completed) to document our cross country adventure. All comments and questions welcome.

Losing Our Marbles

Note: I know I said the Truman Library would be next, but I’m finding that writing that post is more time consuming than my blogging availability currently allows for. I’ll definitely get back to it soon. In the meantime I hope you enjoy reading about the next part of our adventure.

September 2014

Though we’re still touring Missouri (Kansas City up next), we’ve popped on over to Olathe, Kansas for a couple nights as friends of Sriram’s have graciously opened up their home to us for our stay in the Kansas City area. Today we are spending the morning with their two daughters at the Moon Marble Company in nearby Bonner Springs.

In addition to selling all sorts of wonderful toys (lots of great items from my childhood lined their shelves), and lots of machine-made marbles, Moon Marble also makes specialty marbles right on the premises. We were lucky enough to visit on a day when marble making was happening and watched a demonstration by owner Bruce Breslow. It was fascinating seeing him melt down the various glass rods and swirl the colors together as he worked the marbles into shape. The presentation was both informative and entertaining. I’d really never given much thought to marble making, and it was a lot of fun to see it in action.

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The company makes some beautiful marbles and also sells hand-blown marbles from other marble artisans. Here are a variety of gorgeous marbles available for purchase in their shop:

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Before leaving, we purchased a couple marbles to commemorate our visit and also got a sticker for our roof box. Speaking of which, I don’t think I’ve given a roof box update in a while. Here’s a section of it with some of the most recent stickers added on. You’ll notice the marbles on the lower right:

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After dropping the kids back home, we headed into Kansas City, MO and visited the Hallmark Visitors Center. It didn’t come highly recommended, but it was free so we figured we’d give it a shot. I found it more interesting than I would have assumed. It was fun to see the various cards presented time-line style along with pop culture displays, World events and Hallmark mementos.

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Another fun display was the collection of “Christmas trees” that the employees created and presented to Hallmark founder Joyce C. Hall each year. Each tree had a theme and was given as a sign of affection by the employees to their boss. Here are just some of the trees on display.

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Perhaps the most interesting discovery at the museum was in learning that Winston Churchill was an artist and his paintings once appeared on Hallmark cards. Mr. Churchill was friends with Mr. Hall. At the time of our visit, an exhibit displaying Mr. Churchill’s paintings was open (it has since closed). No photographs were allowed inside the gallery, but I did take this photograph of the sign explaining the exhibit, which showcases two of the cards by Churchill and as well as featuring a letter he wrote to Mr. Hall.

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It was very cool seeing the paintings and learning a bit about the history of the company. As a random side note, Sriram thought all the employees there looked really unhappy. Still, it was an interesting stop and if you’re ever in the area, I’d recommend popping in.

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From August 12 – October 15, 2014 my husband and I traveled the northern United States in my Honda Civic. Cross Country Civic was started (and will eventually be completed) to document our cross country adventure. All comments and questions welcome.

Meet Me in St. Louis

We arrived in St. Louis and checked ourselves into the Magnolia Hotel, a beautiful hotel in the downtown area of the city. After being on the road all day (and driving in some pretty nerve-racking weather) we decided to simply grab dinner before settling in for a good night’s sleep so we could hit the town fresh the next day.

For our one day of site seeing in St. Louis we started, of course, with the city’s biggest (literally and figuratively) attraction, the world famous Gateway Arch at the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial. Completed in 1965 (after two and a half years of construction), the Arch, standing at 630 feet tall, can be seen from virtually every point in the city.

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We bought our tickets for the ride up to the top and because we had about a 1/2 hour wait for our turn, we settled in to watch an interesting movie explaining its construction – a pretty impressive undertaking. When the time for our ride came, we boarded the small 5 person “pod” to take us on the journey to the top. This is not a ride for the claustrophobic, but the view from the top certainly can’t be beat. In one direction, the Mississippi River – out the other side, the City of St. Louis. I was stunned at how much the entire city almost looked like a little Lego village.

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We also got a great view of Busch Stadium. We were disappointed that for our short stay in town we were going to miss the Cardinals by a couple of days because they were on the road. It would have been nice to get in another major league ballpark, but this was a great peek at the park.

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Once you’ve taken in the view for a bit, it’s back in line for the pod ride down. Back at ground level, we popped into the Museum of Westward Expansion, which we perused for a little while, but to be honest we found it pretty boring. Since our visit, the museum has actually closed down and is undergoing a modernization project. It will be interesting to see what changes they make.

We headed out of the Arch to explore other parts of the Memorial. We moved over to the Old Courthouse which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1966. The old historic building’s history includes being the site of the Dred Scott Trial. Scott, a slave who sued his owners on behalf of himself and his wife, eventually lost his case when the US Supreme Court deemed that since a slave had no claim to citizenship, he could not bring suit in Federal Court. Another sad chapter in our Nation’s sad history with slavery.

A monument to the Scotts is located outside the courthouse.

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We strolled around a bit more, grabbed some lunch and then were just about ready to hit the road again. Our final stop in St. Louis was a part of the city known as “The Hill”. This neighborhood, set in the highest point of the city, is known for its extensive Italian-American population (nearly 75% of the residents), a fact that is pretty clear once you cross into the neighborhood.

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Our primary purpose for a visit was to check out the boyhood home of New York Yankees Hall of Famer Yogi Berra.

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Our stop over in St. Louis was a brief one, but nice all the same. Next up – Independence, MO.

All comments and questions welcome. Hi Tina.

Mark Twain’s Hannibal

We ducked into Hannibal, MO for the day to visit the town that so thoroughly celebrates native son Samuel Clemens, aka Mark Twain, that you’d be hard pressed to not trip over a reference at every turn. Though also home of another famous resident – the unsinkable Molly Brown herself (whose home/museum was unfortunately closed the day we visited) – from street signs to restaurants, museums and motels, Hannibal is ALL about Twain and the characters he created. So much so, that after a description of the town, our handy road trip guide, Road Trip USA, had this to say:

“Not to detract from the credit due him, but don’t look for any subtlety or modesty surrounding Mark Twain’s achievements here.”

The book also references disgraced baseball player, Shoeless Joe Jackson as being from Hannibal, MO, and has this to say:

“The Twain mania is so overwhelming that little is made of Hannibal’s other famous son(s). Baseball lovers searching for some mention of Joseph Jefferson “Shoeless Joe” Jackson will look in vain, there is none.”

Jackson, however, was born and raised in South Carolina. I believe the book’s author is confusing Jackson with the fictional Joe Hardy from the musical Damn Yankees. Hardy, also dubbed “shoeless,” is immortalized in the show’s number, Shoeless Joe from Hannibal, MO.

But back to Twain. The Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum is actually a series of buildings and exhibits that span a few blocks in the downtown Hannibal area. We began our tour as directed, in the interpretive center. The center chronicles the timeline of the Clemens Family and does an excellent job of setting up the social and economic context of the great author’s life and how many of his early experiences influenced his future literary works. We enjoyed reading through much of the exhibit.

However, as we got closer to the adjoining room, we encountered a problem. A video was playing in the next room. It could be heard from wherever you stood once you were near or in the room. It was quite loud, and extremely distracting. It was difficult to focus on the events I was trying to read about with conflicting information playing loudly in the background. The video was likely good, but I didn’t stay around to watch because it was so intrusive while trying to enjoy the rest of the exhibit. The remainder of the interpretive center was mostly a loss.

We moved on to tour the other properties, off first to Huck Finn’s house.

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In his autobiography, Twain mentions his childhood friend Tom Blankenship as the inspiration for creating Huckleberry Finn: “In Huckleberry Finn I have drawn Tom Blankenship exactly as he was. He was ignorant, unwashed, insufficiently fed; but he had as good a heart as ever any boy had. His liberties were totally unrestricted. He was the only really independent person—boy or man—in the community, and by consequence he was tranquilly and continuously happy and envied by the rest of us. And as his society was forbidden us by our parents the prohibition trebled and quadrupled its value, and therefore we sought and got more of his society than any other boy’s.”

Across the way, we stopped to visit the Tom and Huck statue that has been erected. But, we decided that it didn’t quite capture the mischievous nature of the boys. In fact, we didn’t think it much looked like young boys at all.

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Next stop was the Clemens home. Inside the home, which was much larger than Huck’s home, each room was set up with various statues of Twain, as well as quotes and memorabilia.

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Tom and Huck fans know that two boys were bosom buddies despite their social and economic differences (which were more than apparent when comparing their homes). Perhaps before there was neighborhood zoning, the rich and poor and in-betweens lived next door to each other and knew and played with each other. It seems the real Huck grew up to be a petty criminal and there are several instances where he was arrested for stealing food.

Outside the Clemens house we discovered a fun interactive exhibit. Just grab a brush from the bucket, and you, too, could help paint Tom’s fence.

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The next building to explore was Becky Thatcher’s House. Becky, Tom Sawyer’s love interest, was based on Twain’s friend and neighbor Laura Hawkins. While touring the home we learned about the Tom and Becky Program. Each year since 1956, the Chamber of Commerce selects two students to portray Tom and Becky, and serve as ambassadors, representing the town in parades and other ceremonies throughout the year.

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Further down the block the larger museum welcomes you in with exhibits depicting scenes from Twain’s most popular books. One of the fun things to do was to sound the whistle of a steamboat. The staff assured us that they like hearing the sound all day long. Hannibal at one time was an important port and lead Samuel Clemens to become a Mississippi riverboat pilot. In his book Life on the Mississippi, he talks about how a river pilot was the most coveted job in many small towns along the great river. There were riverboat tours available, but we didn’t have the time to go on one.

An upstairs gallery at the museum contained a great exhibit of drawings by Norman Rockwell from one of the illustrated editions of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

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Noticeably, racial segregation and slavery in Hannibal was barely mentioned – there was a small mention in the interpretive center that differences existed and words to the effect of ‘everyone knew their place’. There was also a small display about the real ‘Injun Joe’, a harmless Osage Indian, who was badly disfigured by small pox. Supposedly, his ugliness led Mark Twain to make him the perfect villain.

Though we thoroughly enjoyed our experience in Hannibal, our greatest disappointment was that we purchased the Mark Twain: Words & Music double CD set and then accidentally left it in a Post Office while mailing some other items home. A collection of stories and music, narrated by the incomparable Garrison Keillor as well as Clint Eastwood and others, the collection features such wonderful country artists as Vince Gill, Emmylou Harris, Brad Paisley, and many more. At some point we’ll replace it, but it would have made for fantastic listening on the road.

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After a full day exploring the town, it was time to move on. As we were leaving, an employee of the museum directed us back inside the gift shop. She’d asked if we’d taken note of a painting hanging on the wall. The painting shows Twain painted with other famous figures. See how many you can pick out.

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This post is dedicated to my cousin, Tina, who has waited patiently to hear the next installment of our travel adventure!

Born to Be Wild

Our journey in Iowa continues. And no road trip would be complete without at least one completely random and unplanned destination. While on the road, Sriram spotted the National Motorcycle Museum and decided we had to stop in for a visit.

One of the first displays you come across as you enter into the museum is of dare devil Evel Knievel, perhaps the most famous rider of all time. Known as much for his Americana riding outfits as his dare devil stunts, Knievel’s official career spawned 15 years, included more than 75 jumps and resulted in more than 425 broken bones (which earned him a Guinness World Records record for most lifetime broken bones).

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But Evel Knievel wasn’t what drew us off the road. Just around the corner, Sriram got what he came for. The bike.

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Peter Fonda’s famed bike from Easy Rider. I confess, I’ve seen this movie and found it to be … mind numbingly boring and tedious. But Sriram is a big fan and was hoping to come across the bike. He was certainly happy to discover it in the museum.

We meandered through the museum which had some interesting displays and stories, including a display for the first female motorcycle club, an old fashioned 1920’s gas station, a track chronicling the history of race surfaces, as well as many movie and television bikes. As with any such museum (planes, automobiles, etc) it’s so difficult to photograph with any real meaning because the backgrounds are cluttered with so many other bikes. But I managed a few fun shots.

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Notice the bike on the bottom left, it’s an ice-cream “truck”. Such fun.

Of course, for me, the museum was not considered authentic until we came across this display commemorating the best rider of them all, and the object of my (very) youthful crush. The Fonz, himself. No bike, but a worthy tribute.

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It was a fun stop and considering how pricey a lot of museums and tourist attractions are, the $10 admission was modest. I’d recommend it for motorcycle enthusiasts and casual fans alike.

Wondering about a particular bike? Ask in the comments section. I have lots of pictures.