Spent most of yesterday in Decatur, Illinois, where I finally found the motel where Harry and Bess stayed in 1953 – only it’s not a motel anymore, it’s a correctional facility. Officially it’s the Decatur Adult Transition Center – i.e., it’s where the work-release inmates stay. While it is technically possible for me to spend a night there, just like Harry and Bess did, my zeal for historical accuracy in re-creating their trip is not that strong.
I spent today in Indianapolis. I visited the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum, where a shuttle bus takes visitors around the 2.5-mile oval at about 30 miles an hour. In the time it takes the shuttle bus to complete one lap, an Indy car would pass it 19 times!
I also visited the Benjamin Harrison Home in downtown Indianapolis. Harrison, of course, was the president who rearranged the furniture in the White House between Grover Cleveland’s two terms. I showed up for the 10:30 tour. I was a few minutes early, and while I was waiting on the front porch, a mailman – mailwoman, actually – arrived with a handful of letters to deliver. I said, “Benjamin Harrison still gets mail?” She laughed.
My tour group consisted of me. The docent was a nice guy in his mid fifties, but he was new and very thorough. Very, very thorough. The tour lasted 90 minutes. Every detail of every room was described in great, well, detail. And when he was finished with a room, his eyes would scan it just to make sure he hadn’t missed anything. On the bright side, I learned a lot of interesting things about Benjamin Harrison:
--He was the president who converted the White House from gas to electric (probably so none of Grover Cleveland’s appliances would work when he moved back in).
--He was the last president with a full beard.
--After his first wife died (in the White House, by the way), he married his niece (his wife’s sister’s daughter), who was younger than his own daughter.
--He was a Civil War general and, even as president, he preferred to be called “General,” not “Mr. President.”
That’s all for now… Next stop, Cumberland, Maryland.