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ANA travel was extended road trip
By Clifford Mishler
October 17, 2017

The first American Numismatic Association anniversary convention I attended as a member of the Numismatic News staff was in Denver, 54 years ago in 1963. My attendance this year is the third time I’ve since returned to the “Mile High” city for the annual event. Unlike the previous instances, however, this year my travels were undertaken as a 10-day road trip rather than by air.

My first ANA anniversary convention participation was actually at Atlanta in 1961, and has been continuous since Washington, D.C., in 1971, with the 1970 event in St. Louis having been the only one of the past 57 that I’ve missed. They’ve all been interesting and enjoyable, and looked forward to without exception, the memories being varied and vivid . . . though the “vividness” in some instances is slowly becoming jumbled, even fading.

As I hit the road for Denver from home on July’s last Saturday, my mind briefly wandered back to that first outing as a member of the News staff. My traveling companion for the flight was Faye Rochette, my then boss Ed Rochette’s first wife. We boarded a North Central Airlines DC-3 flight out of nearby Stevens Point, Wis., which with one or two interim landings delivered us to the Detroit airport, where we connected onto a flight to Denver on a larger long-range aircraft.

This time I fired up the Audi and took leave of home at 7 o’clock in the morning for a 90-mile cross-country drive to Tomah, where I-90/94 split. Crossing the Mississippi River on I-94 at La Crosse at about 9:15, the trip meter read 134 miles. Having pulled off I-90 at Worthington, Minn., for a quick Burger King Big Fish sandwich and a gas tank fill, time passed and it was about 5:30 Mountain Time. At that point I’d been on the road for just shy of 12 hours and logged 620 miles when I pulled off at Murdo, S.D., to spend the night.

It appeared my best option for supper might be the Rusty Spur Steakhouse/bar next door. Opting for a sandwich selection and their salad bar, it proved to be a good choice. Following the cold breakfast selections available to overnight stays, it was about 7:30 on Sunday morning when I hit the road diagonally cross-country through western South Dakota and Nebraska, by way of Mission, Martin, Gordon, Alliance and Bridgeport, dropping down to I-80 at Kimball, about 60 miles east of Cheyenne, Wyo.

It had been a pleasant Sunday drive through the cattle studded, gently rolling prairies of South Dakota and Nebraska, accented with soybean, sunflower and corn fields, traversing the Sand Hills region. I took the time to pause and read a half dozen or so historical markers posted roadside along the way. This was Spade Ranch country, an entity established in 1888 near Ellsworth by Bartlett Richards and William Comstock, according to one, which at its peak around 1905 encompassed over half a million acres hosting over 60,000 head of cattle.

The morning was wearing along when I paused in Alliance, Neb., to enjoy a couple sausage biscuits with egg at a McDonald’s, and to top off the fuel tank. A historical marker on the eastern approach to the city revealed an Army Airfield that had been established nearby in 1942 for training air transport crews. By August 1943 featured four 9,000-foot long runways and hundreds of buildings; it was decommissioned in early 1946 and conveyed to the city in 1953.

Stopping to absorb the historical facts set forth on another historical marker at Bridgeport, I learned the local claim to fame was that the Oregon, Mormon, Pony Express, and Sidney-Deadwood Stage trails passed that way. Driving on, it was about 2:40 in the afternoon when I arrived at Cheyenne and pulled up at the home of a cousin and her husband for a most enjoyable overnight visit, as it’d probably been more than 15 years since we’d last visited.

The house was still quiet early Monday morning when I headed out for an hour-long constitutional before breakfast. Following breakfast and a bit more visiting, it was about 9 o’clock when I hit the road for the 110-mile drive down I-25 to Denver, pulling up at the Sheraton Denver some two hours later. After registering, I headed over to the Colorado Convention Center, about a five-block walk away.

The first familiar faces encountered were those of John Parker and Art Benjamin from out east, Mike Fuljenz from Texas, and Bob Brueggeman from California, the Professional Numismatists Guild executive director, with whom I enjoyed chatting at some length as he was standing security at the bourse entrance to the PNG event. Thereafter, with the opening of photo ID, I enjoyed briefly visiting with Cary Hardy and Ben Scott of the ANA while receiving my bourse entry credentials.

It was about six o’clock when I made my way back to the Sheraton. Before heading up to my room I stopped at the Yard House restaurant for dinner, treating myself to a crab cakes plate and bowl of jambalaya. It was somewhat after 7 p.m. when I called it a day.

Having eschewed any thoughts of a morning constitutional, it was 7:30 a.m. on Tuesday when I headed down to retrieve the Audi from the parking garage for a short drive over to the convention center loading dock area, which was to open to unloading at 8 o’clock. Among those encountered awaiting access to the dock area was a longtime acquaintance, dealer Ralph Mueller from Salt Lake City.

Packed away in the trunk were four big boxes of residual ANA and related convention memorabilia from the Chet Krause Estate that I’d be displaying as a silent auction offering, with the proceeds earmarked to benefit the ANA. Returning to the bourse at about 9 o’clock, having returned my car to the Sheraton parking garage, I spent the next three hours getting the display of the silent auction offerings arranged.

Joining a moderate-sized assembly in the Hall F lobby I awaited the bourse and exhibit area opening to the public, where the 12:30 p.m. ribbon cutting ceremony was held. Thereafter, my afternoon was spent pretty much holding forth at the silent auction table, from where I witnessed what appeared to be moderately active traffic milling about the floor.

At 6 o’clock I headed to meeting room 502, where an ANA Legacy Series reception interview with the father and son past president team of Ken Hallenbeck (1989-1991) and Tom Hallenbeck (2011-2013) was scheduled to get under way. There were perhaps 35 or so who joined me in sitting in on the interview, including Tom Uram from Pennsylvania, Bob Jesinger from California, and others with whom I shared a table and conversation. It broke up shortly after 8 p.m., at which point I returned to the Sheraton to call it a day.

I put in an hour long morning constitutional on Wednesday, heading out at about 5:30 a.m., walking over to Colfax, then up to Lincoln and over to 12th Avenue; then along Cherokee past the U.S. Mint to Colfax, then out to and along Speer to Arapahoe, and in to 16th Street back to the Sheraton, passing by the Denver Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City along the way.

Walking over to the convention center in the company of Ron Sirna, a longtime fellow Michigander and former general counsel of the ANA, we shared a bit of conversation over light breakfast rolls and juice before heading our separate ways.

My 8 o’clock arrival at the convention center coincided with the Token and Medal Society’s scheduled business meeting, which I sat in on with a dozen officers and board members until it broke up at about 9:30. Observing bourse activity largely from my silent auction table vantage point on the left side of the bourse past the World Mints Promenade, it was off to a moderate pace and seemed to remain so throughout the day.

While I did wander about the bourse and exhibits a bit from time to time, most of the day was spent tethered to the silent auction table. The resulting generally casual visitations I had with people were many and varied. Acquaintances old and new stopped by to bid or express their respects for Chet Krause. Overheard as I was briefly lounging on the other side of the bourse on one occasion was a conversation between one non-tabled dealer and another who were working the floor:  “This is the worst ANA market in years.”

When the bourse closed down at 6 o’clock I walked a few blocks down 14th Street to Larimer Square, joining around 30 others for a delightful evening of conversation and dinner at the Osteria Marco restaurant. This was a social dinner organized by the New York Numismatic Club and the Chicago Coin Club, an annual ANA gathering of the members of these two groups that has in a few short years become a convention tradition. I enjoyed sharing seating and conversation with Chicagoans Shanna Schmidt, Mark Wieclaw, and David Gumm and his daughter Melissa. With the evening breaking up at about 9:30 p.m., an 11-block walk by way of the 16th Street Mall back to the Sheraton closed out my day.

Thursday got under way with another 5:30 a.m. constitutional, this time looping the Golden Triangle Museum District, out Broadway to Speer to Fox Street, past a vintage building bearing a Rocky Mountain Bank Note Company nameplate over its entry, then along Glenarm back to the Sheraton. Following breakfast at the Sheraton’s 15/Fifty lobby restaurant, it was about 8:30 a.m. when I found my way over to the convention center.

This was another busy day at the silent auction table. At 10 o’clock I felt compelled to pass up the first of several educational programs I had ticked off on the schedule with intentions of attending on Thursday or Friday. In the end, I did not attend a single one of them; this had to have been the first time in years that I had not taken in at least two or three of the programs of interest that are annually on tap.

I did break away at 1 o’clock to attend the annual Goodfellows meeting, where I was one of roughly 15 past convention host chairs assembled to exchange thoughts and observations with executive director Kim Kiick and convention director Rhonda Scurek over the next hour. Then, at 4 o’clock I broke away again to sit in on the annual member donor and awards reception, in part for the purpose of being on hand to receive a recognition on behalf of an individual of long acquaintance who was unable to be in attendance, returning to the bourse about a half-hour later.

With the show closing down for the day at 6 o’clock, I returned to my Sheraton room to relax for a bit before heading down to one of the Plaza Ballrooms to forage on the goodies laid out for the Numismatic Literary Guild Bash. This annual event is something of a shadow of its formal self, with perhaps 80 or so in attendance this year. I shared a table with David Lange and Dennis Loring from Florida, Mark Borckardt from Texas, Pete Smith from Minnesota, and Mark Ferguson from Wisconsin. I was invited to participate in a tribute to the late Leon Hendrickson, offering some brief impromptu remarks of my recollections. I took leave of the Bash around 10 o’clock, calling it a day, although the awards program had not concluded.

Once again heading out on my morning constitutional at about 5:30 a.m., this time walking the 16th Street Mall down to Chestnut, the Union Station and Millennium Bridge area, and getting back to the Sheraton just an hour later. It was nearing 7:30 a.m. when I headed down to the 15/Fifty restaurant where I was joined by numismatic author Joel Orosz from Kalamazoo. Mich. Enjoying a leisurely breakfast and conversation it was a bit after 9 o’clock by the time I made my way over to the convention center for the day.

At 11 a.m. I was among the perhaps dozen ANA members who showed up for the open board meeting conducted by outgoing president Jeff Garrett from Kentucky, in addition to the three new incoming board members and headquarters staff. The meeting quietly slipped away to adjournment well before noon, including an invited town hall interaction with the membership that was essentially a no show. Spending a relatively active afternoon behind the silent auction table, I did not break away to take in any of the trio of educational or other meetings that I had penned in as opportunities to be explored.

Returning to the Sheraton when the bourse closed down at 6 o’clock, I relaxed for about an hour before heading down to the Grand Ballroom to attend the banquet. I really enjoyed sharing a banquet table and conversation with Maryann Rochette and her son Joe. Also seated at the table were Tony Terranova from New York, Bob Leonard from Illinois, Bill Hyder from California, Bob Rhue from Denver, and Deborah Muehleisen of the ANA staff from Colorado Springs. It was something after 10 p.m. by the time the formalities of award recognitions and the installation of the new board and officers concluded.

As I headed out on my morning constitutional shortly before 6 o’clock on Saturday morning, walking along Broadway past the historic Brown Palace Hotel, my convention recollections again slipped back to the 1963 Denver ANA and convention chairman Dan Brown, a dealer whose shop was located on Broadway. I walked Broadway north to Larimer, then down to the 16th Street Mall and back to the Sheraton, where I treated myself to breakfast before heading up to my room.

A very quiet 8 o’clock opening greeted the day on the bourse. At 9 I sat in on the open ANA board meeting conducted by incoming president Gary Adkins from Minnesota, with only seven members in attendance, in addition to board and staff. Other than the usual formalities, to my recollection a discussion of the effectiveness of the district representative program is the only thing of note that developed.

At 11 a.m. the Advisory Council met, the designated membership of which is past officers and board members, garnering the participation of only five council members, along with 10 board and staff. With bidding on the silent auction closing at 1 p.m., thereafter I spent the balance of the day there, as it took me until four o’clock to pull all the closing details together.

It was 5 o’clock by the time I cleared out of the convention center, with the undistributed lots tucked back in the trunk of the Audi and having returned it to the Sheraton parking garage. Following my return to the Sheraton, it was about 6 o’clock when I headed down to the Yard House for dinner, a bowl of clam chowder, onion ring tower and a blueberry-banana crumble dessert.

Not rolling out of bed until 6 o’clock, on Sunday I cut my morning constitutional to about half an hour, walking about the nearby Civic Center Historic District and Cultural Complex area. Having met up with Greg Allen from Minneapolis for breakfast in the 15/Fifty restaurant at 8, it was about 9 o’clock when I hit the road for what is about a 68-mile drive down to Colorado Springs, arriving there around 10 a.m. There my primary objective was to partake of the “Golden Day” open house at ANA headquarters with upwards of 100 convention attendees who were similarly inclined.

This relaxed event, featuring a picnic lunch, was highlighted by the cutting and sharing of a 50th anniversary cake, celebrating the completion and inauguration of the original ANA headquarters building on June 10, 1967. The cake was cut and served at 1 o’clock. Hitting the road around 2 o’clock, on what would be a beeline drive home, I headed up to I-70 at Limon by way of US-24. Driving on to Hays, Kan., for my overnight, arriving there at 8 o’clock in the Central Time zone, five hours on the road had racked up 315 miles.

Up and back on the road by 6:30 a.m. on Monday on a dark gray early morning, the 845-mile drive home from there was across Kansas on I-70 to Kansas City, then I-35 and I-90 past Des Moines, Iowa, and Albert Lea, Minn., to Tomah, Wis., then cross-country to home, arriving there at about 8:45 p.m. as the sun was settling into the western horizon.

Aside from a quick break around 1:30 p.m. just north of Des Moines at Ankeny to gas up and treat myself to a quick Culver’s strawberry fields salad and cup of chili lunch, the 845-mile drive home was unbroken other than for three or four rest area visits along the way.

Pulling into the garage when I arrived home, I noted the mileage readout on the Audi odometer appeared as a radar number – 24842 – which means I’ve averaged roughly 2,500 miles of driving monthly since taking delivery of the car back in October. For this 10-day-run I’d actually racked up 2,340 miles, the resulting daily average being only slightly less than what the weekly average is when I’m around home.

To say that this year’s venture to the Denver ANA was anything short of interesting and enjoyable expresses an injustice to the experience, notwithstanding the fact that my interaction at the convention was relatively restricted. It goes without saying, however, that the experience was balanced with tiring travel days on both the front and back ends.

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