Having taken leave of Iola on Christmas Eve day, I embarked on the first of four travel odysseys that found me spending precious little time at home over the 30 days that followed.
While attendance at the annual FUN convention in Orlando highlighted those travels numismatically, providing the venue for an ANA board meeting and a Town Hall session, along with an informal discussion session covering issues of mutual concern between the ANA and PNG boards, they also included the opportunity for several other enjoyable hobby visitations.
My travels to the 54th annual FUN convention in Orlando got under way on Tuesday, Jan. 6, just three days after returning from a family retreat to Cabo San Lucas at the foot of Mexico’s Baja that stretched over the holidays. Having missed attending the FUN event the past two years because of personal scheduling conflicts, I was anticipating this outing with some eagerness.
I didn’t leave home for the roughly 45-minute drive to the Appleton airport for the scheduled 11:30 a.m. United Express departure until about 9:30 a.m. With that flight operating about a half-hour late, I was left with under a half-hour for hiking from gate F2 to B21 at O’Hare to catch my connecting flight to Orlando. There my itinerary caught up with that of Chet Krause, who had departed on the earlier morning flight, along with local part-time dealer Bob Worachek and his wife Judy, who had already boarded.
With our flight to Orlando arriving about a half hour late, by the time Chet and I settled into our Peabody accommodations it was about 7 o’clock and time to head down for dinner at the B-Line Diner. As we were leaving dinner to head back up to our room about an hour later we encountered the day’s only other familiar faces, they being those of Industry Council for Tangible Assets stalwarts Dianne Piret and Eloise Ullman, in from New Orleans and Washington, D.C., respectively.
It was about 6 o’clock Wednesday morning when I headed out on what became about an hour long reorientation constitutional down International Drive and around the north and south concourses of the Orange County Convention Center. By 8 a.m. Chet and I were heading down for breakfast at the B-Line, exchanging greetings with Heritage co-chairman Steve Ivy along the way, then with his fellow chair Jim Halperin when we were leaving the hotel for the convention center about an hour later.
Arriving at the north concourse hall area where FUN activities for the day were getting under way I encountered “FUN Topics” editor Jim Best and past-president Carrie Best holding forth in the registration area. President Bob Hurst and secretary Cindy Wibker were in the FUN show office, where this year’s designated general chair Jeanne Shepard was serving in her usual role of gatekeeper.
Dealer and exhibitor setup, along with Early Bird access to the bourse area got under way at 2 p.m., the six-hour session appearing to have been quite active. During the course of the day I enjoyed several extended conversations, including with early coppers specialist Tom Reynolds from Omaha, Whitman honcho Mary Counts from Atlanta, former ANA board member Michael Fey from New Jersey and ANA president Barry Stuppler from southern California.
Having opted for a taxi ride to the convention center in the morning, although a shuttle was available, I opted to walk back to the Peabody at about 6 in the evening. That was a 20-minute hike that I expect did not consume much more time than the morning taxi ride, the driver having been clueless on how to access the north and south concourse areas. Chet and I headed down to the B-Line for dinner around 7 – the chicken pot pie was great – where we were joined first by fellow ANA board members Alan Herbert and then by Walter Ostromecki, who had arrived from Arizona and California, respectively, during the course of the afternoon, stretching the evening out until about 9.
On Thursday morning my constitutional didn’t get begin until about 6:30, but was still about an hour in duration, as I walked the sidewalks paralleling International down to Westwood Drive, then up to Austrian Court and back to the Peabody. Passing on breakfast I was headed over to the convention center by about 8, availing myself of the shuttle this time, as I would for the balance of my attendance. Stopping by the FUN show office, I did avail myself of a piece of coffee cake, a small banana and a cranberry juice, before heading out to do a little political campaigning among the early arrivals.
During the 10 o’clock ribbon cutting ceremony formally opening the FUN convention to the public I was pleased to symbolically receive from that organization a $40,000 donation that will provide ongoing sponsorship to a pair of classes at the annual ANA Summer Seminar, which marks its 41st year in 2009. Thereafter, in addition to having an extended conversation with former ANA president David Ganz, and adjourning at noon for about a two-hour lunch and discussion session with executive director Larry Shepherd, I spent most of the day wandering the bourse and proffering my presidential campaign brochure into the hands of many of those in attendance.
It was about 6 o’clock when I headed back to the Peabody, where I briefly crossed paths with Chet before he headed off to the Heritage currency auction – he successfully picked off a few lots to add to his Wisconsin obsolete holdings – before heading down to the B-Line Diner for dinner. There I invited myself to a booth occupied by ANA controller Carol Shuman. We were subsequently joined by Ostromecki, resulting in another dinner hour that stretched out to about two hours before we headed off our separate ways.
My Friday got under way at about 6 a.m. with another constitutional along International Drive, retracing my steps of the previous morning. I followed that with breakfast at the B-Line with Chet and Herbert, before heading over to the convention center for the day at about 9. I again spent much of the morning wandering the bourse and interacting with potential voters among the ANA dealer and collector members in attendance. Along the way I spent some time surveying the exhibit area as well, which offered nearly 60 quite impressive presentations, including at least three or four truly fresh ones, which captured a good bit of my attention. At noon I shared a table with ANA immediate past president Bill Horton from New Jersey, and traditional money specialist Chuck Opitz from Ocala, over lunch in the convention center snack bar area.
At 1 o’clock I headed off to participate in a series of ANA meetings, the first being a board executive session. That was followed at 4 p.m. by a Town Hall meeting, at which the reportable actions taken during the executive session were announced to the assembly of 30 or so. I’ll not bother commenting on those actions, nor the exchanges that took place during the Town Hall meeting, as news reports have been published covering these matters. At 5 o’clock or so the ANA board and five or six representatives of the PNG board met informally for about an hour to discuss some topics of mutual interest. It was around 7 when Chet and I got back to the Peabody and dinner at the B-Line.
On Saturday morning I ended up sleeping in until about 6:45, at which time Chet was getting up and heading out for an early morning flight north, while I headed out for another walking regimen, this time up International to Sand Lake Road – during a chat with Early American Coppers Vice President Denis Loring from the Palm Beach area the previous day I had learned that distance is exactly 1-1/2 miles – then back and down to Hawaii/Canadian Court, where I encountered early coppers specialist Reynolds heading to the convention center from his accommodations, before returning to the Peabody near 8 a.m.
It was about 9 when I caught a taxi to the airport for my scheduled 11:45 a.m. departure for home on a three flight United/US Airways itinerary by way of Charlotte and O’Hare, catching a light breakfast snack in the concourse. While the first leg came off without incident, arriving in Charlotte a bit ahead of schedule at 1:15 p.m., it turned out that this was one of those travel itineraries from hell. With the equipment assigned for my scheduled 4:48 p.m. connection to O’Hare somewhere in never-never land, I was re-booked on an earlier flight, for which the equipment did not arrive in Charlotte until after 4.
This boarded and was pushed back for a 4:45 p.m. departure, but after taxiing to the departure runway was sent back to the terminal by air traffic control at O’Hare, with a revised wheels up advisory of 7:30. That time was met and we landed at O’Hare at about 8:30 p.m. With my Chili’s lunch at Charlotte having worn thin, I was able to quickly grab a bunch of grapes and an Almond Joy candy bar at O’Hare to serve as dinner before catching my scheduled 8:37 p.m. departure for Appleton a couple gates away, which boarded at about 9. Like all of the flight delays involved with my itinerary on this day, this one was also victim to inclement weather at O’Hare and around the upper Midwest.
By the time our flight was worked through departure slotting and de-icing, it was 10:20 p.m. before it was rolling on the departure runway. While it landed in Appleton at 11:05 p.m. – scheduled arrival time had been 9:37 p.m. – it was about 11:30 before we were able begin disembarking at the air-bridge, as conditions on the apron were a glare of ice. The captain called to our attention that the aircraft was being slowly pushed sideways by a stiff wind, despite the fact he had the brakes set, requiring a wait for service equipment to arrive and sand the apron before the aircraft was moved into the gate parking area.
While I was fortunate enough to belatedly reach my intended destination for the day, my suitcase did not. With managing to be the first in line for filing a lost luggage claim, followed by what is typically a 45-minute drive being pushed out to some 80 minutes, it was nearly 1 in the morning when I pulled into the drive at the lake house. That was about two hours later than anticipated when my day began in Orlando, but fully six hours later than my original reservation, which the United computer system had blown out four hours by a schedule change, with the Charlotte and O’Hare connecting times being upped from about one hour to the three-hour range in each instance.
Yes, my travels home from FUN definitely turned out to be an itinerary from hell, but at least I got home. I subsequently learned that despite his much earlier more direct two flight itinerary, Chet ended up having to overnight at O’Hare!
A travel break of about three days followed, with the Tuesday after returning from Orlando finding me spending the better part of the day at my office before putting the Town Car on the road at about 2:30 in the afternoon, commencing a 540-mile run over two days. That outing had unfolded rather quickly during the course of the day. It included attendance at two club meetings – a third had been intended but missed due to a cancellation – and calls on six coin shops/dealers.
My first objective was attendance at the monthly meeting of the South Shore Coin Club. A drive of 156 miles placed me at my overnight accommodations near the Milwaukee airport at about 6:30 p.m., having briefly stopped at home to pick up some clothes Sally had quickly packed for me and taken time for a quick feed at a nearby Culver’s, with the club meeting scheduled to get under way nearby at 7. Somewhat under 20 members braved the below zero temperatures to attend, but it was a lively meeting, which didn’t adjourn until about 9:15, following a show and tell in which I participated. I was pleased to also share an overview of the Wisconsin sales tax exemption initiative that is being reactivated for the current session of the legislature, after having been defeated in the last.
Coin dealer visits on Wednesday and Thursday were keyed to pursuing varied sales tax initiative ends. The first, on a very cold, snowy and windy Wednesday morning, was only about five miles south, just off Howell Avenue at Oak Creek Coins and Currency, where I stopped by at about 9 .M. to visit with Rick Radke. By 10:30 I was back on Howell, heading south to Racine, where I hooked up with Bill Spencer at American Coin, who operates a very spacious and inviting store at the corner of Washington and Ohio streets. This visit stretched over a lunch shared at the Dynasty Restaurant, then it was back on the road to state Highway 31 and a drive of about 12 miles south to Kenosha where I visited with Jerry Binsfeld at his JB Coins shop on 39th Avenue.
Hitting the road out of Kenosha at about 2:30 p.m., I picked up I-94 south to Gurnee, Ill., where I claimed overnight accommodations at a Hampton Inn. After settling into my room, I headed off on a 44-mile drive to Chicago’s Loop at about 4 o’clock, meeting up with about a dozen members of the Chicago Coin Club at the Ceres Café on the ground floor of the Chicago Board of Trade building at Jackson and LaSalle at about 5:30 p.m. for dinner in advance of that evening’s club meeting.
From there we walked three blocks over to Plymouth Court, the club’s meetings being held in a room on the third floor of the Chicago Bar Association building. Although attendance at this meeting was likewise just under 20 as a consequence of the frigid conditions outside, it was a lively session with member Mark Wieclaw presenting the featured program. Most members participated in the show and tell presentations, while I was invited to respond to some questions about ANA activities and my pursuit of election as president. The meeting didn’t start breaking up until about 9:30 p.m., and I was one of the last to depart at about 10. It was nearing eleven by the time I arrived back in Gurnee.
Thursday dawned as a bitterly cold morning, certainly unfit for man or beast to be exposed to the -10 mercury and -30 range wind chill elements. I slept in until about 7, rather than giving any thought of a constitutional, as had been the case the previous morning as well. Contenting myself with the Hampton Inn’s continental offerings for breakfast, it was about 9 when I headed north. With driving conditions pretty decent for such a winter morning, a drive of 60 miles delivered me to my first stop of the day in Milwaukee’s northwestern suburbs at about 10 o’clock.
This first visit was with Russ Konig at his Greater Milwaukee Coin & Jewelry location in Brookfield. From there I headed over to a second Greater Milwaukee Coin location, this one operated by Russ’s son, Ken, situated about 10 miles further west in Waukesha on the fringes of the metro area. Both shops are nicely appointed. Taking leave of my visit with Ken shortly after noon, I stopped by a Culver’s for lunch before leaving Waukesha. My third dealer call planned for this day was some 40 miles away in the north metro area of Mequon, where I spent about two hours visiting with Andy Kimmel of Paragon Numismatics at his pleasant office.
Having learned during the course of the day that the Milwaukee Numismatic Society meeting scheduled for Wednesday evening, which I was planning to attend, had been canceled as a consequence of -25 mercury and really frigid wind chill conditions being predicted, I hit the road north at about 4 o’clock. Arriving at Fond du Lac about an hour later I opted for dinner at Schreiner’s restaurant, a really venerable German restaurant with a 70-year heritage which I had not treated myself to in several years, where I enjoyed a really great ribs and kraut dish.
Thus, it was early evening, about 6:30 p.m. rather than 11 o’clock or so, when I pulled into the drive at the lake house and was able to call it a day, having logged 120 miles since departing the Mequon area. By that time local temperatures were nearing the -20 mark – the state was in the midst of a month long run of overnight low readings of well below zero and daytime highs that never reached freezing, which conditions stretched unbroken from late December to the last day of January – but I was left with a bit of an empty feeling because I had missed out on one of my infrequent opportunities to participate in a MNS meeting.
Another three-day travel break followed this junket, with the following Monday morning finding me on the road again, this time to Appleton to catch a 9:26 United Express flight itinerary destined for Colorado Springs by way of an O’Hare connection. With an on-time arrival in Chicago, there was ample time for me to walk from gate F11 to C2 for my connecting flight, which arrived in Colorado Springs about 30 minutes ahead of schedule. There I met up with Patrick Heller of Liberty Coin in Lansing, Mich., who last year and this year has been serving as chairman of the ANA budget committee, he having arrived a few minutes earlier by way of a Northwest routing through the Twin Cities and arranged for a local relative to provide us with transportation to our Antlers accommodations.
About an hour after settling into my room, at about 3 o’clock I headed to an office tower next door to meet up with a member of the ANA legal team to be accorded an overview of a deposition I was scheduled to give on Thursday in conjunction with the challenge of the board’s dismissal of our former executive director in October 2007. At 6 or so I headed down for dinner at the hotel’s Judge Baldwin’s grill and bar.
Having called it a day early the previous evening, by 5 o’clock on Tuesday morning I was headed out for a morning constitutional, walking up Cascade Avenue past ANA headquarters and through the Colorado College campus to Unitah, then back down to Cimarron and back to the hotel, a regimen I was to retrace the next three mornings as well. With morning temperatures each day ranging from around 50 to the high 30s, the experiences were a pleasant contrast to conditions back in Wisconsin. I met up with Heller for breakfast at the Antlers Grille at about 7. Thereafter we walked to ANA headquarters about a mile away, arriving around 8 a.m.
Our first working session for the 2010 budget started at 9. We were joined by ANA Vice President Patti Finner, Executive Director Larry Shepherd, Controller Carol Shuman and administrative assistant Kim Kiick. It did not conclude until about 5, with salads and sandwiches brought in for lunch. At 6 o’clock the six of us met up at The Melting Pot, a fondue restaurant situated just steps away from the Antlers on Pikes Peak Avenue, for a tasty repast and relaxing evening that stretched out to around 9.
Wednesday was somewhat a repeat of Tuesday, although I did not head out for my morning regimen until about 6, meeting up with Heller for breakfast at about 8, and walking to ANA headquarters, arriving there at about 9. Our meetings on the second day included the participation of the heads of the 10 operational areas into which the organization’s activities are roughly grouped. The last of these sessions was still under way when I excused myself at about 5:30 to walk back to the Antlers, where local ANA member Henry Mitchell, son of one of my early hobby friends, the late Ralph A. “Curly” Mitchell from Fullerton, Calif., was to stop by and pick me up for dinner, Our destination was Luigi’s, a neighborhood Italian restaurant that’s been around for over 50 years, calling it a day at about 8.
It was about 5:30 on Thursday morning when I headed out for my walking regimen, again meeting up with Heller for breakfast at about 7:30. This time we parted ways at about 8:30, he heading back to ANA headquarters for a bit before catching a late morning flight home, while I had a 9:30 appointment to meet up with the lawyer prior to my scheduled 10 o’clock deposition. Free of the deposition at about noon, I headed off walking, stopping at La Baguette on Pikes Peak for a bowl of black bean soup for lunch, followed by a Rocky Road at Josh & John’s ice cream parlor next door, before heading up Nevada to visit with ANA vice presidential candidate Tom Hallenbeck at the Hallenbeck Coin Gallery.
It was about 2 o’clock when I took leave of Hallenbeck’s inviting shop – started by his father, ANA past-president Ken Hallenbeck, roughly twenty years ago – walking the two blocks over to ANA headquarters. I spent the balance of the afternoon – from about 2 to 5 o’clock – engaged in discussions of a series of ANA issues and concerns with Shepherd.
After returning to the hotel, at about 6, I walked downhill about two blocks west of the Antlers for dinner at Giuseppe’s Old Depot Restaurant. The restaurant occupies the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad’s historic old 1887 depot, when it was built at a cost of $16,000, remaining in service until passenger trains were discontinued in 1971, 101 years after the railroad was established. Giuseppe’s in this location dates from 1973; I was pleased with my Rocky Mountain trout finished off with a raspberry sorbet.
With my homeward bound flight not scheduled to leave until 11:45 a.m., I had plenty of time to work in another morning constitutional, heading out at about 6 o’clock. While I took my time having breakfast and packing my bag, it was still only about 10 by the time I arrived at the airport. Heading straight to the boarding area after discovering at check-in that my flight was posted for a delay, I ended up getting re-booked on an earlier scheduled flight (7:30), which was still on the ground. It ended up departing at 11:15, arriving at O’Hare at 2:30 p.m., leaving me with ample time for lunch/dinner at the Chili’s in concourse “F” and a shoe shine, prior to catching my 5:05 departure for Appleton, which put me back home by 7.
Thus drew to a close a 30-day travel odyssey that carried me from Iola to Cabo San Lucas, Orlando, Colorado Springs and points between, enriching the breadth of my experience with life, the ANA and the hobby community.