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Trips lead to numismatic treasures

The months of May, June and July were mighty quiet for me from the perspective of travel. Over the 13 weeks between my return from Central States in Cincinnati and heading off for the American Numismatic Association convention in Los Angeles, I only availed myself of two numismatic outings.

The Monday prior to Memorial Day found me hitting the road to Okoboji, Iowa, to attend the annual spring meeting of the Higgins Museum board. Taking leave of my Iola office at about 11 a.m., an 88-mile cross-country drive carried me to Tomah, where I opted for a quick lunch of George’s chili and a grilled cheese sandwich at a Culver’s.

Back on the road about half an hour later, westbound on I-90, I crossed the Mississippi at La Crosse shortly after 2 p.m. It was about 5 p.m. when I reached Jackson, Minn., there dropping off on US-71 for the half hour drive down to Okoboji. With the day’s drive having left behind rather cold and windy conditions – it had been 37 degrees at sunrise and just 62 at midday in Central Wisconsin – in favor of very comfortable 85 degree and calm conditions in northwest Iowa, I opted for dinner on an outdoor deck at a restaurant overlooking the short water isthmus connecting the Okoboji lakes.

Walking the roughly one mile distance between my AmericINN overnight accommodations and the Wharf restaurant, I enjoyed a dinner of chips and salsa, complemented by a crab salad. This was a welcome respite following what was essentially an afternoon, albeit a long and quite aggressively pursued one, of 361 miles.

It was about 6 a.m. Tuesday when I got my day started with a walk of an hour or so in duration, heading out along the north shore of East Okoboji Lake toward Spirit Lake and back on the Iowa Great Lakes Trail connecting the two communities. I then occupied my time until about 9:30 a.m. with a leisurely breakfast while absorbing the contents of USA Today. I was the first of the board members to arrive at the museum for the meeting, but the others arrived shortly thereafter.

Prior to the meeting being called to order by president Dean Oakes from Iowa City, I enjoyed my first visual encounters with the first two Lincoln cent bicentennial/centennial issues with new board member-to-be banker Michael Scacci from Fort Dodge passing out a pair of the first issue (Birthplace) to each of us, while grocer Don Mark from the Des Moines area shared with us rolls of the 2008-D second issue (Formative Years) ,which he had acquired while attending the release ceremony at Lincoln City, Ind., the previous Thursday. The six of us, including museum curator/docent Larry Adams from Boone, also managed to devour a freshly baked Door County cherry pie, a favorite of board member Don Jensen from Humboldt, that I had picked up from the Crystal Cafe before departing Iola.

With the meeting getting under way at 10 a.m. sharp, and a rather short agenda in place, the one hour meeting was perhaps the shortest experienced during my 18 years on the board. The first order of business was the installation of Scacci as the successor to the late Mike McGinnis as a member of the board. Discussions of financial and museum maintenance issues followed, along with explorations of several exhibit loan and acquisition opportunities. The board also approved a donation to the Antique Automobile Museum of Iowa in Iowa City, with which the Higgins Museum is undertaking the development of some cross-marketing efforts.

By 11:30 a.m. I had my Town Car back on the road headed home. It was about 12:45 p.m., with 70 miles behind me, when I pulled into the rest area on I-90 just west of Blue Earth. This rest area memorializes the “I-90 Golden Spike,” a historical marker placed there recalling that a ceremony held nearby on Sept. 23, 1978, celebrated the laying of the last four miles of the twin ribbons of concrete for this trans-continental highway, stretching from Boston Harbor to the Puget Sound.

That ceremony was highlighted by two Minnesota National Guard trucks nosing together, reminiscent of the two locomotives that nosed together at Promontory Point in Utah in 1869 for the trans-continental railroad “Golden Spike” ceremony, both events representing east meeting west. This $256 million project, the longest trans-continental route in the Interstate system, which can be driven in 44 hours at 70 mph, was begun in 1958 under legislation championed by President Eisenhower, roughly along a military route pioneered in the 1920s by a youthful General Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Subsequently pulling off the Interstate at Austin, I pulled in at an Applebee’s for a late lunch. Crossing back over the Mississippi at La Crosse at about 4:30, I had logged 225 miles to that point. It was about a 6:45 in the evening as my return drive of 362 miles ended when I pulled into the drive at our Long Lake home.

The second trip fell in the middle of June, with the third Thursday finding me embarking on a trip to New York City, spread over four days, to attend the annual summer meeting of the ANS trustee board. I was able to get departure day off to a leisurely start as my United Express flight to O’Hare was scheduled for a 9:25 a.m. departure. While that initial flight operated on schedule, the United 11:05 connection to NYC did not. It was pushed back until 12:20 p.m., after which it was directed to a holding pen, resulting in a 1:10 p.m. wheels up and a 3:45 touchdown at LaGuardia as opposed to a scheduled 2:23 arrival.

A taxi ride into Manhattan delivered me to my Hampton Inn SoHo lodgings by 5 p.m. The hotel proved to be very comfortable, in addition to being very convenient to the ANS location. With a light drizzle falling, I borrowed an umbrella and headed off into an unfamiliar neighborhood seeking a nearby place to eat. I happened upon the Aquagrill, just a couple blocks away at 6th and Spring, which proved to be a great choice. The food, presentation, service and atmosphere were all really great, so I thoroughly enjoyed my selections of a crab cake appetizer and a scallops entree. With the light drizzle having turned to rain, I had returned to the Hampton and called it a day by shortly after 8 p.m.

On Friday I hit the streets for my morning constitutional by 5:30 a.m., heading up 6th to West Houston, then out to West Street paralleling the Hudson River and down to Moore Street, then east to 6th and back up to Watts, a short walk which got me back to the Hampton shortly after 6 a.m. I had a lot of time on my hands between then and a 10 a.m. appointment to visit with ANS executive director Ute Wartenberg.

Arriving at the ANS offices shortly after 10 a.m., having learned that Ute was running late, I enjoyed an extended visit with her administrative assistant, Joanne Issac, who has been on board for several years. My subsequent discussions with Ute concerning hobby community issues and opportunities did not break up until around noon.

After dropping my attache case off at the Hampton, I headed to the nearest subway station, catching a train up to the Times Square area. Lunch was a hot dog with mustard and kraut, along with a couple packs of honey roasted nuts from street vendors, while I spent the afternoon wandering about the streets of Midtown through a pleasant and dry afternoon. After watching the masses of humanity rushing through Grand Central terminal for a bit over the rush hour period, I walked up to the State Deli on 7th Avenue near 53rd Street to have a tongue sandwich for dinner, returning to the Hampton by subway around 7 p.m.

On Saturday morning I didn’t head out walking until about 6 a.m., my route this time being up Varick Street to Spring and out to the pedestrian promenade along the Hudson. Walking south to Albany, from there I headed over to Church Street, then north past the World Trade Center site to 6th and back to the Hampton, picking up a heads up (lucky) 2007 Lincoln cent off a sidewalk along the way.

Having put in a full hour of walking this time, I’d built up a fair appetite for the Hampton’s continental breakfast offerings. After subsequently spending a couple hours selectively reading the morning’s New York Times, I unexpectedly joined up with fellow trustee Peter Tompa from Washington, D.C., for the short walk to the ANS offices in the One Hudson Square building off Varick at about 9:30, he having also opted for the Hampton for his overnight accommodations.

The trustee board meeting, with second vice president Roger Bagnall from the city presiding in the absence of president Roger Siboni from New Jersey and the first vice president, with just eight board members physically present, along with two by phone, got under way at 10 a.m. with barely a quorum represented. While the ANS meeting was considerably longer than that of the Higgins board, as it still adjourned somewhat before 1 p.m., it was probably the shortest and lightest attended through my now nearly 12 years of participation.

One of the big items on the day’s agenda was a review of the preliminary budget for fiscal year 2010 beginning in October of this year, as advanced by the finance committee, which is modestly balanced based on what are believed to be conservative assumptions given the present economic environment. Another was the review of a proposed five-year “Virtualization Plan,” for digitization of the ANS’ library, archival, publications and coin database resources, with attendant budget and fund raising requirements, which was returned to the staff for refinement. Other matters included a trustees conflict of interests and disclosure statement, considerations of nominations for Fellows and Trustees at the annual meeting in the fall, and a range of other housekeeping issues.

Following adjournment of the meeting, a catered light salad and sandwich buffet was shared by the trustees and executive staff in attendance, before heading our separate ways. Returning to the Hampton at about 2 p.m., with rain again falling rather steadily, I again borrowed an umbrella, then headed to the nearest subway station, again catching a train to the Times Square area, where I found the streets already packed with humanity.

With the rain lightening up to very light sprinkles, however, I enjoyed spending a couple more hours exploring the Midtown area between there and Central Park South, and Broadway and 5th Avenue, prior to opting for an early dinner at the Carnegie Deli on 7th Avenue near 55th Street. This time my choice was a pastrami and fried egg sandwich. By 6 p.m., another subway ride had delivered me back to the Hampton Inn for the night.

On Sunday morning, a 3:45 wake-up call got me rolling for the day. At 4:30 I was picked up by one of the private taxi/limousine services for a ride to LaGuardia and a scheduled 6 a.m. departure. With both that departure and my O’Hare connection operating on the money, I was on the ground in Appleton by 9 a.m. and home by shortly after 10 a.m.

The third trip got under way on the last Friday of June, extended through the entire week following, ending on the Friday before July 4th. This was a family outing involving five adults and five grandchildren, our destination being Sioux Narrows, Ontario, on the northeastern waters of the Lake of the Woods area. Our three-vehicle caravan got underway in the wee hours of Friday morning at  2:45 a.m. We stopped in Duluth for breakfast at a Perkins at 7:45 a.m. – 288 miles logged – clearing border formalities at International Falls around noon and arriving at our destination at about 2 p.m. having logged 531 miles.
This was a fishing outing for most of the crew, but not being so inclined, for me it was really just a pleasant and relaxing week. In addition to enjoying daily walks around the Tomahawk Resort property, with the trio of fishing boats venturing forth two or three times daily, I went along for the ride on at least six or seven occasions. I even ended up reeling in one nice size walleye when the line of an otherwise occupied son-in-law took a hit. Otherwise, I served as the runner for provisions shopping.

During one of these outings, late on Thursday afternoon, I used a family member’s cell phone to call ANA headquarters, seeking to confirm the timing of a scheduled Friday conference call announcing the election results to candidates. My call was answered by executive director Larry Shepherd, whose first words were to congratulate me on my election as president, explaining that the timing of the call had been moved up 24 hours, so the results had been released about three hours earlier. An attempt had been made to advise me of the change by e-mail, which I do not access except from my office in Iola – it being the only option that was available to the staff, they knowing that I was away on this family outing, for which I had not provided any destination or family member contact information.

That development simplified our travel plans for Friday’s drive back to Iola, which got under way at about 7:45 the next morning. We cleared immigration and customs at International Falls around 9:30, stopping again  in Duluth at about 12:30, this time for lunch at Perkins. It was 6:45 in the evening, right on 11 hours on the road, when we pulled into Iola, a somewhat tired, but happy family.

Personally, I returned from this third outing of the summer with a couple numismatic experiences tucked away in my memory as well. When one has been immersed in this hobby for nearly 60 years, of course, it is certainly not unusual that nearly every travel venture imparts some numismatic trappings into the mind.

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