Road Trips Crisscross the South|
In early May I embarked on a 10-day road trip, first steering the Town Car to St. Louis to participate in the latest in the ongoing CSNS educational symposium series, this venue being at the Eric P. Newman Museum.
Then it was on to New Orleans to attend the ANA spring National Money Show with a side trip visit to Gainesville, Mo., worked in between those stops. In all, the trip meter log had rolled up 2,545 miles by the time I pulled back into the garage at home.
My travels had gotten under way at 7 a.m. on the first Friday of the month. Having cleared Rockford, Ill., at 182 miles around 9:40 a.m., it was about 11:45 a.m. when my route intersected with I-55 at Bloomington after 306 miles.
Arriving at a Cracker Barrel for lunch just as a couple bus loads of Knights of Columbus members from downstate headed for a convention in the Chicago area were disembarking, I shared a table for lunch and conversation with one of the delegates. Having opted for my usual pinto beans and salad option, followed by topping off the Town Car’s gas tank, I was back on the road about an hour later.
My destination was the Parkway Hotel in St. Louis’ western suburbs, where I arrived at about 3:15 p.m., having driven 473 miles and ready for a nap after claiming my room.
It was about 6:30 p.m. when I met up with CSNS president Jim Moores, treasurer Jack Huggins, education chairmen Ray and Fran Lockwood, and fellow speaker Ken Bressett from Colorado Springs, to head off for dinner at Bartolino’s Osteria as guests of the host Missouri Numismatic Society. There I enjoyed sharing a dinner table, great food and pleasant conversations with Moores and fellow MNS members Carl Garrison and William “Chip” Vaughn. We were back to the hotel and calling it a day some three hours later.
With a 7:15 a.m. time set for our departure to the seminar venue on the campus of Washington University, at the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum building where the Eric P. Newman Museum is quartered, upon awaking on Saturday morning any thoughts of starting the day started with a constitutional were quickly dismissed. At 8 a.m. the 40 or so registered participants started arriving and were treated to a continental breakfast.
The seminar was tied to the 75th anniversary of the MNS. In the morning session, Bressett and I provided our respective perspective glimpses into the early years. The 1930s into the early 1960s were explored by Ken, and the early ‘60s into 1980s by me. My thrust was an overview of the triumphs and tragedies of our hobby community through the ‘60s and ‘70s. Following a lunch break, Coin World editor Steve Roach assessed the developments of the last 25 years, while MNS member Dave Frank peered into the future, with the afternoon session wrapping up around 4 p.m.
Over the lunch hour everyone in attendance was delighted to welcome the appearance of Eric Newman, then just days short of observing his 102nd birthday, who shared some poignant observations drawing from his life experiences.
At the seminar I also had the opportunity to reconnect with Francis and Karen Hawks from Hutchinson, Kan., and Donna Nuss from Amarillo, Texas, whose travels to the seminar were by way of attendance at the CSNS convention in Schaumburg, Ill., the previous weekend, followed by an exploration of northeastern Wisconsin’s Door County and Washington Island, before heading to Iola to partake of the Crystal Cafe’s homemade pie offerings before knocking on my office door for a brief visit earlier in the week.
In the evening following the seminar the speakers and Central States officials in attendance gathered at Applebee’s for an informal and relaxing dinner session that stretched until near 10 o’clock. In the interim I had belatedly worked in my daily constitutional, embarking on about an hour-long walk.
It was about 6 o’clock on Sunday morning when I headed out for my morning constitutional, but with a persistent solid mist in the air, I quickly retreated to putting it in under the cover of a parking garage complex. After showering and dressing for the day I headed down to the lobby to avail myself of a complimentary biscuits and gravy breakfast, visiting briefly with Bressett before he caught his airport shuttle, then hit the road out of the St. Louis area around 8 a.m.
Picking up I-44 I headed southwest to Rollo, there picking up US-63 south to Cabool. From there a short drive on a US-60 expressway took me to Mountain Grove. Then it was 40 twisting but scenic miles on state Hwy. 95 through the rolling Ozarks to Gainesville, a community with a population under 800 that is the county seat of largely rural under 10,000 population Ozark County. Arriving there at about 12:30, having driven 238 miles for the day, I met up with Wayne and Doris Sayles and enjoyed lunch with them at the Black Bear Grill on the edge of town.
Following lunch Wayne and I adjourned to the office facility he established a few years ago in a nicely appointed structure originally built in 1935 as the Gainesville Community Hall. It is home to a pair of his dedicated interests. The first of them is the fledgling Ancient Numismatics Research Institute, the realm in which he possesses a long and deep commitment. The other is the 416th Bomb Group Archive, an obsession he took up unexpectedly and has pursued relentlessly over the last eight years since the 1944 class ring of a West Point aviation graduate came into his possession. In the evening Doris treated us to a home cooked meal overlooking the Ozarks countryside.
On Monday following breakfast at the local cafe, Wayne toured me around southwestern Ozark County, which is dominated by the Bull Shoals containment waters spreading up into Missouri from neighboring Arkansas. Among our several stops during the course of the day was the Bull Shoals hydroelectric dam near Mountain Home, Ark., the visitor center of which features a nice historical display of the development. That evening Wayne and I enjoyed a quiet dinner at the Gaston’s Resort restaurant overlooking the White River near Lakeview, Ark., the atmosphere of which is set with the display of a multitude of Ozark mountain antiques, including signage, outboard motors and bicycles suspended from the dining room ceilings.
On Tuesday morning, after being treated to breakfast, I took leave of the Sayles’ at about 9 a.m., heading south. After logging 453 miles for the day, ti was about 6 p.m. when I took up river country of southeastern Arkansas and northeastern Louisiana to just outside Natchez. Having logged 453 miles for the day, at a Hampton Inn in Natchez overlooking the visitor center and the Mississippi River.
Wednesday found me getting back on track with my morning constitutional, as by 6 a.m. I was out walking along Canal Street into downtown Natchez. A short walk along Jefferson took me to the Natchez Bluff Park overlooking the Mississippi River. By 8 a.m. I was on the road south via US-61 to Baton Rouge, where I picked up I-10 into New Orleans, arriving at the Marriott at the convention center at about 11:15 a.m. after a short day of only 172 miles on the road.
Informed at registration that my assigned room had been vacated but was not yet ready for occupancy, I opted to bide the wait time over an early lunch at the Wolfe’s restaurant off the lobby. There I briefly visited with ANA controller Carol Shuman and Numismatic News ad sales representative Sue Konkel, who were sharing a nearby table, before claiming my room and heading over to the Ernest Morial Convention Center at about 1 p.m. The ANA’s Hall G location was at the far end of the several blocks long structure, a brisk walk of about eight minutes duration, where the first familiar face encountered was that of national volunteer Greg Ruby from Maryland, who heads up the message center.
At registration ANA staffers Emily Silver and Ben Scott were kind enough to whip up a photo ID for me, as I as usual had failed to pack mine before leaving Iola. While dealer setup was not scheduled to get under way until 3 o’clock, the Collector Exhibits area had opened to setup at 1 p.m., so I ventured into that area, where I enjoyed a lengthy discussion with former fellow board member and exhibits chief judge Joe Boling. Numerous casual conversations followed over the next four hours or so, before I headed back to the Marriott where I joined Wendell Wolka from Indianapolis, Donn Pearlman from Las Vegas and Chet Krause, who had arrived from Iola late in the afternoon, for a casual dinner in the lounge across from Wolfe’s.
Having retired around 9 p.m. on Wednesday, my energy level was high when I headed out on my daily constitutional at about 6 a.m. Thursday. My hour long outing pretty much encircled the warehouse/arts district of the city. Along the way I passed by the National WWII Museum, which Chet subsequently visited and accorded a favorable review, and enjoyed a brief chance encounter and visit with Chicago area paper money specialist and PCDA secretary Jim Simek.
I shared a Concierge Lounge breakfast table with ANA vice president Walter Ostromecki before returning to my room and dressing for the day. It was about 8:30 when I headed over to the convention center, where the bourse had opened to dealers at 8, with the public opening set for 10 a.m. The activity level around the bourse appeared to be relatively light throughout the morning.
It was about 12:30 p.m. when I took leave of the convention hall, embarking on a roughly two-mile walk along the riverfront to the former New Orleans Mint, now a Louisiana State Museum branch largely dedicated to the arts, situated in the easternmost corner of the French Quarter. I treated myself to a crab cake po’boy sandwich for lunch at a kiosk along the way. My objective was to join a 2 p.m. historical tour conducted by collections director Greg Lambousy, with former ANA staffers and now national volunteers Sandy Hill from Oregon and Marilyn Reback from Colorado, along with Ruby and fellow board member Mike Ellis from Georgia being among the others in the group of 20 or so.
A generous portion of the structure is given over to exhibits of relics with historical ties of the building’s two eras of service as an operating U.S. Mint facility from 1838 to 1861 and from 1879 to 1909 for the minting of gold and silver coins. Among the exhibits is a significant collection of New Orleans coinage assembled and loaned to the museum by Rick Demers, who served as collector exhibits chairman for the show. The history of the structure as a mint, and subsequently (1909 to mid-1960s) as an assay office, Naval recruiting station, Veterans Bureau dispensary, federal prison facility and Coast Guard Station is pictorially and descriptively recounted on historical murals displayed around the building.
With the tour breaking up around three o’clock, I availed myself of a ride on the riverfront streetcar line for return to the convention center at about 3:30. After spending the next hour or so floating around the ANA show hall, I headed off to the assigned meeting room for the closed session board meeting scheduled for 5 o’clock. We were treated to a rubber chicken working dinner catered in by the convention center at about 6:30, with the session thereafter droning on until adjournment approached as the hour neared eleven.
I still rolled out of bed shortly after sunrise on Friday morning, again hitting the streets for my morning constitutional by 6 o’clock. This time I opted to walk along Convention Center Boulevard to Canal Street, then north to Rampart Street. With light sprinkles developing, at that point I opted to reverse my strides and walk directly back to the Marriott, arriving there at about 6:45. Again opting for the Concierge Lounge’s complimentary breakfast offerings, this time I shared a table and conversation with fellow board member Wolka and ANA museum curator Doug Mudd.
At about nine o’clock I joined a group of about a dozen others, including six of the nine members of the ANA board, along with former U.S. Mint director Philip Diehl (1993-2000) and Diane Piret, the long time director of ICTA’s industry affairs initiatives, for a trip to the state capital as guests of ANA member and Louisiana legislative representative Paul Hollis. Meeting Hollis at the Capitol upon our arrival around 10:30, our group was ushered into the observer area where we witnessed the formal adoption of a House Resolution commending the ANA on its choice of Louisiana for our spring assembly. Thereafter we were treated to a quick highlights tour of the skyscraper capitol building.
At noon we were conveyed to the adjacent Louisiana Governor’s Mansion, a classic structure reflecting hints of a southern plantation house and the White House, to enjoy a home cooked Louisiana meal prepared by chef Don Bergeron. It featured a Gulf shrimp cocktail, a beef tournedo with lump crabmeat, a filet of drum and a praline crepe drizzled with bananas foster sauce. On the road back to New Orleans by 1 o’clock, it was well after 2 o’clock when we arrived back at the convention center, where the open session board meeting had been scheduled to get under way at 2 p.m.
With a quorum not present, the opening of the meeting had been delayed. As those of us who had availed ourselves of the Baton Rouge trip arrived on the scene, a formal ceremony welcoming Kimberly Kiick on board as executive director was in process. In keeping with the traditions of the venue city, it was being conducted with appropriate pomp and circumstance by a Voodoo High Priest, under the sponsorship of ANA past president Barry Stuppler, with 25 or so members and guests in attendance.
With those formalities out of the way, the meeting was called to order by president Tom Hallenbeck at about 2:30 p.m. Working through the meeting agenda wound the clock around to about 4:20, with a relatively brief Town Hall session of about a 20 minutes following.
Thereafter, I again spent about an hour on the floor, this time at the tag end of the day, so for the two days I’d spent no more than perhaps six of the 20 available hours exploring and experiencing the activity that had unfolded. While that doesn’t leave me very well based to personally assess what the experience might have been for most, the reading one dealer related to me on Saturday is probably quite succinct; “My expectations were not very high, and they were met.”
At 6 p.m. I attended the reception of the Gold & Silver Political Action Committee, where a local Congressional delegate from Louisiana was hosted. Formed a couple years back to monitor and influence legislation impacting the coin collecting community, at the present time the group’s focus is on the Internet sales tax and Chinese counterfeiting issues. Thereafter, I returned to the Marriott for dinner at Wolfe’s, retiring before 9 p.m.
On Saturday I slept in until 7 o’clock on what was a stormy morning. After sharing a table and conversation over breakfast with Wolka, this time at Wolfe’s, I headed over to the convention center. It was about 9 when I wandered back to the ANA education booth at the back of the bourse, where several staff and volunteers had gathered to cut and share a cake on the occasion of Floridian Merna Lighterman’s birthday, she being the ANA’s most senior national volunteer. The balance of the morning was spent circulating about a very quiet bourse floor.
At noon I headed up to one of the meeting rooms to sit in on the Candidate Forum, moderated by The Numismatist editor Barbara Gregory. With 14 of the 16 candidates on the podium, including the unopposed candidates for president and vice-president, the exercise was rather grueling and repetitious. The session attracted an audience of no more than 25 to 30, but in a first for the ANA, it was broadcast live on the ANA website. The forum was still under way, although all of the candidates had worked through their opening statements and four or five set questions posed by the moderator, when I took leave at about 2:30 to hit the road for home. I’m told it was not officially closed down until about 3:30 p.m.
Hitting the road north at about three o’clock, I picked up I-55 out of the New Orleans area after about a 25 mile drive on I-10 westbound. This route carried me up through central Mississippi by way of Jackson. I’d logged 289 miles by the time I pulled off for the night at Grenada, about 100 miles south of Memphis, where I put in for the night at a Hampton Inn and dinner at a nearby Pizza Hut around 7:30.
With a long day on the road ahead of me, one that turned out to be 854 miles, I opted to forego a morning constitutional. It was about seven o’clock when I hit the road, having contented myself with the complimentary offerings of the Hampton for breakfast. Continuing north on I-55, I crossed the Mississippi into Arkansas at Memphis and continued north through the Missouri boot heel. Breaking off I-55 in favor of I-57, I crossed back over the Mississippi near Cairo, Ill., pulling off at Marion for a Fazoli’s sub sandwich lunch and a fill of gas, having racked up 315 miles for the day at that point. Back on the road in well under an hour, at Champaign I picked up I-74, which connects to I-39 at Bloomington.
The day proved to be a beautiful one for a long cross-country drive, with clear skies and cool temperatures around the 60 degree mark all the way. The last leg on I-39 found me crossing into Wisconsin at about 6 o’clock with 695 miles logged. About halfway between Beloit-Janesville and Madison I pulled off for supper at the largest outlet of the Wisconsin based Culver’s restaurant chain. Not quite 30 years old, this chain numbers nearly 500 restaurants, largely concentrated in the Midwest and plains states. Ahead of me after I’d finished my meal and gassed up once more was about a two hour drive that delivered me home as the nine o’clock hour was drawing near.
Ten days, all those miles, but little to show for the investment. How do I assess the experience? It was something I’d do again in a heartbeat, because community involvement in the hobby is in my blood!
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