I Chose an RV Park between Lansing MI and Grand Rapids MI to Serve Both Cities


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North America » United States » Michigan » Lansing
May 26th 2015
Published: June 14th 2015
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The trip from the Indiana State Fairgrounds in Indianapolis IN to Lakeside Resort Campground in Ionia MI on Wednesday, May 20, 2015 (under overcast and threatening skies) was totally uneventful, just as I like them. I selected this campground because of its location between Lansing MI and Grand Rapids MI. Those two cities are home to the “top of the list” attractions in this part of the state. I was greeted by two youngsters who immediately informed me, “Mommy is inside. She has a baby.” Hoping that I wouldn’t encounter an immediate post-partum event, I entered the office to find the young woman, indeed, had a newborn of only a couple of weeks old. With the exception of a last minute site change because a “seasonal camper’s rig” had not yet been removed from the site I was to occupy, setup went smoothly as well.

When I was planning the first few steps of my journey as a professional tourist in 2009/2010, the abuse played havoc with the atlas I was using, and it quickly became apparent that my “planning atlas” would need to be replaced at frequent intervals. So, when I launched The Great Adventure in March 2010, I bought an atlas specifically dedicated to recording the entire journey. One of my first tasks, after setting up the rig, is to record the route in The Great Adventure atlas (as well as to transcribe any side trips I took during my previous stopover). I was quite surprised to discovery that my trek had taken me to the far northeast corner of Indiana on I-69 before crossing the state line into Michigan. For some reason, I had an image of Toledo OH (which lies just south of Detroit MI) in the northwest corner of Ohio such that the Ohio/Indiana border would be more closely aligned with Michigan’s Lake Huron shoreline. My mental atlas (which might be missing a few pages) was expecting my route to take me due north – which it did after I had travelled northeasterly to Fort Wayne IN. ‘Bout time to dig out my large, unwieldy, laminated U.S. map and take a refresher course in THE BIG PICTURE!

Thursday, May 21, 2015 found me heading eastward to Lansing to visit the Michigan State Capitol. The first state capitol was located in Detroit but was relocated to Lansing in 1847 to spur development of the western portions of
The Restoration Was Meticulously AccomplishedThe Restoration Was Meticulously AccomplishedThe Restoration Was Meticulously Accomplished

Michigan State Capitol - Lansing MI
the state. On July 13, 1787, the Second Continental Congress passed the Northwest Ordinance which created the Northwest Territory. In 1805, the U.S. Congress created the Michigan Territory which appointed Detroit as the territorial capital. Michigan first applied for statehood in 1832 although the application was rejected due to a dispute with Ohio over the Toledo Strip – a 468-square mile area that included the important port city of, ta-dah, Toledo. By 1835, Michigan, without authorization, had formed a state government. The boundaries of the state included the contested area.

Eventually the dispute escalated into what has become known as the Toledo War as militias from both “states” took up arms in the contested area. As a condition for entering the Union, Michigan was forced to accept the western three quarters of the Upper Peninsula in exchange for ceding its claim to the Toledo Strip. “Now, look here you whippersnappers, you must take all those rich iron ore deposits (that have yet to be discovered) if you wanna become a state!” A state convention first rejected the condition; however, a second convention reluctantly accepted the terms in December 1836, and Michigan became the 26th state on January 26, 1837. Detroit was its first capital. The first building to serve as the State Capitol was built in 1832 as the Territorial Courthouse and was one of the earliest Greek revival buildings in Michigan. Built at a cost of $24,500 ($580,000 in 2015), the building housed the territorial government and state legislature until 1848.

The 1835 Michigan Constitution provided that, “The seat of government for this state shall be at Detroit, or at such other place or places as may be prescribed by law until the year eighteen hundred and forty-seven, when it shall be permanently located by the legislature.” Prior to 1847, Detroit fought to maintain the capitol within its jurisdiction, but communities in the growing western part of the state had many reasons for wanting a move inland. Detroit had been occupied during the War of 1812, and the border area of Michigan between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario, Canada continued to be occupied by British troops. Proponents of moving the capital also sought to promote settlement and to grow the economy in the interior as well as to make the government more accessible to the people from throughout the state. After the decision to move the capital from
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Michigan State Capitol - Lansing MI
Detroit to Lansing was made on March 17, 1847, a hastily erected wood building was constructed in Lansing. The first capitol in Detroit became a public school and library until it burned in 1893.

Construction on the second capitol building began, as noted, in 1847. It was a simple two-story wood frame structure, painted white with green wooden shutters and topped by a tin cupola. The total cost for construction was $22,952.01 ($580,000 in 2015). The building was sold when the permanent capitol building opened in 1879. It was then used as a factory until, like the first capitol, it was destroyed by a fire (a year before the first capitol) in 1882.

On March 31, 1871, a bill was adopted "for the erection of a new state capitol, and a building for the temporary use of the state officers." The new capitol was to cost $1.2 million ($24,000,000 in 2015) and was to be funded by a six-year state income tax. Architect Elijah E. Myers of Springfield IL was commissioned to design the new capitol. Myers used the central dome and wing design found in the United States Capitol in his design and subsequently designed the statehouses in Colorado and Texas as well as the territorial capitol building in Idaho.

The cornerstone was laid on October 2, 1873, with about 7,000 Lansing residents in attendance, and the new capitol, with 139 rooms, was dedicated on January 1, 1879. The four-story structure has two grand staircases in the north and south corridors that reach the top floor. From the first floor to the third, one finds black and white Vermont marble and limestone floor tiling except for the floor of the rotunda which is composed of 976 blocks of translucent glass. The blocks vary in size so that when viewed from the upper floors, they appear to form a bowl which mirrors the dome above. Both the House and the Senate chambers have glass tiled ceilings that allow natural light to shine through etched glass panels to better light the room. These ceiling tiles feature the coats-of-arms of each state in the United States.

The Capitol Pediment, located above the main front entrance to the building, is entitled "The Rise and Progress of Michigan." It depicts a central figure, Michigan, who is dressed as a Native American. She offers a book and globe to the people
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Michigan State Capitol - Lansing MI
of her state, promising a bright future. She is surrounded by symbols of Michigan's economy, including a plow, cornucopia, and a laurel wreath to represent agriculture. Also included are symbols representing shipping, mining, and lumbering.

When it opened, the Capitol structure was large enough to host all the state agencies and departments; however, due to the growth of state government only the offices of the Senate and House leadership and the ceremonial offices for the governor and lieutenant governor remain in the capitol. The former Supreme Court chambers are now used by the Senate Appropriations Committee. The building originally was lit with gas fixtures; but, by 1900, the entire building had been refitted with electric lights. Heating and cooling equipment and communications links were also retrofitted, albeit in a makeshift fashion.

The legislature, as voted by the citizens, funded an extensive historical restoration which started in 1989 and was completed in 1992. The restoration systematically upgraded mechanical systems and improved accessibility as well as restored many of the original design elements. One of the largest phases of the restoration entailed removal of the "half-floors" that had been installed in 1969 to create 50,000 square feet of additional office
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Michigan State Capitol - Lansing MI
space. The "half-floors" had been created by dividing the 16-foot-high rooms horizontally and creating a level of rooms which could be accessed from the stairway landing. The Capitol Building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on January 25, 1971 and was designated as a National Historic Landmark on October 5, 1992.

This building is impressive! What is even more impressive is the craftsmanship found in the restoration. What is most impressive is that the people of Michigan rejected the easy option of demolition and opted to salvage the landmark. The interior restoration is complete and the exterior work is underway. Who knows! I might make a return visit to see the completed project. This living, breathing piece of art is highly recommended.

After my capitol visit, I walked to the Michigan Vietnam Memorial. Actually, there are two Michigan STATE Vietnam Memorials. The other state memorial, officially dedicated as a State Memorial on July 15, 1990, is located in Mount Pleasant MI; however, I must assume that the memorial, dedicated in 2001, on Capitol Plaza in the state capital is the official state memorial. I guess it just took those with “the power vested in me” eleven years
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Michigan Vietnam Memorial - Lansing MI
to get off their collective herd of proverbial burros to “git ‘er done.”

The Lansing monument is a steel arc, 120 feet long and 10 feet tall that is suspended 3 feet above the ground, and is inscribed with the names of the 2.654 Michiganders who died during the Vietnam War. Over 400,000 men and women from Michigan served during the war. There also is a curved seating area with 55 lights representing those killed from other states (49) and possessions (16) as well as those still missing (1). I initially did the math, figuring there were five territories to compute to the 55 lights, but quickly came up with more than five possessions. Google is an amazing creation! I had no idea the U.S. has 16 possessions – American Samoa, Bajo Nuevo Bank, Baker Island, Howland Island, Guam, Jarvis Island, Johnston Atoll, Kingman Reef, Midway Islands, Navassa Island, Northern Mariana Islands, Palmyra Atoll, Puerto Rico, Serranilla Bank, US Virgin Islands and Wake Island. Why 55 lights and not 66? If you find out, let me know! The monument is a nice yet unadorned, sanitized and unemotional tribute to the fallen and the missing. I found the memorial as lifeless as those it honors. Perhaps, that was by design.

Schoolless Saturday, May 23, 2015 found me heading for Grand Rapids MI and the Gerald R. Ford Museum. The Ford Museum is part of the Presidential Libraries System of the National Archives and Records Administration. Unlike other Presidential libraries, the museum component is geographically separate from the library/archives. The Ford Museum is in, ta-dah, Grand Rapids while the Library is in Ann Arbor MI. Despite the physical separation, the library and museum is a single institution that has a single director. While the Ford Library offers an analytic approach to our past and our government, the Ford Museum strives to stimulate learning, reflection, and a sense of democratic citizenship in an environment that provokes emotion.

The Ford Museum opened to the public in September 1981. The permanent exhibits, the essence of the museum, allow visitors to survey highlights of the lives of President and Mrs. Ford. In addition to the permanent exhibits, temporary exhibits draw upon the entire Presidential Libraries System, the Smithsonian Institution, the National Archives and other sources. The permanent collection starts with an exhibit that provides a feel for the climate of the 1970s, highlights the major events
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Gerald R. Ford Museum - Grand Rapids MI
that catapulted Ford into the Vice Presidency and then into the Presidency and concludes with America’s introduction to a relatively unknown U.S. Representative from Michigan’s 5th Congressional District.

Ford’s service in the Congress began in 1949, where he served nearly 25 years, eight of them as the Republican Minority Leader. On October 10, 1973, Vice President Spiro Agnew resigned and then pleaded no contest to criminal charges of tax evasion and money laundering, part of a negotiated resolution to a scheme in which he accepted $29,500 in bribes while Governor of Maryland. Ford was nominated to take Agnew's position on October 12 – the first time the Vice-Presidential vacancy provision of the 25th Amendment had been implemented. When Richard Nixon resigned on August 9, 1974, less than one year after Ford had been confirmed to the Vice Presidency, Ford became the President. Ford remains the only person to assume the presidency without having been previously voted into either the presidential or vice presidential office.

Immediately after taking the oath of office in the East Room of the White House, he spoke to the assembled audience in a speech broadcast live to the nation. Ford noted the peculiarity of
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Gerald R. Ford Museum - Grand Rapids MI
his position, "I am acutely aware that you have not elected me as your president by your ballots, and so I ask you to confirm me as your president with your prayers." He went on to state, “I have not sought this enormous responsibility, but I will not shirk it. Those who nominated and confirmed me as Vice President were my friends and are my friends. They were of both parties, elected by all the people and acting under the Constitution in their name. It is only fitting then that I should pledge to them and to you that I will be the President of all the people.”

On August 20, Ford nominated former New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller to fill the vice presidency he had vacated. Rockefeller's top competitor had been George H. W. Bush. Rockefeller underwent extended hearings before Congress, which caused embarrassment when it was revealed he made large gifts to senior aides, such as Henry Kissinger. Although conservative Republicans were not pleased that Rockefeller was picked, most of them voted for his confirmation, and his nomination passed both the House and Senate. Some, including Barry Goldwater, voted against him.

On September 8, 1974 (a month after taking office), Ford issued Proclamation 4311, which gave Nixon a full and unconditional pardon for any crimes he might have committed against the United States while President. In a televised broadcast to the nation, Ford explained that he felt the pardon was in the best interests of the country and that the Nixon family's situation "is a tragedy in which we all have played a part. It could go on and on and on, or someone must write the end to it. I have concluded that only I can do that, and if I can, I must."

The Nixon pardon was highly controversial. Critics derided the move and claimed a "corrupt bargain" had been struck between the men. They claimed Ford's pardon was granted in exchange for Nixon's resignation that had elevated Ford to the Presidency. Ford's first press secretary and close friend Jerald terHorst resigned in protest after the pardon. Historians believe the controversy was one of the major reasons Ford lost the election in 1976, an observation with which Ford agreed. In an editorial at the time, The New York Times stated that the Nixon pardon was "a profoundly unwise, divisive and unjust act" that in a stroke had destroyed the new president's "credibility as a man of judgment, candor and competence." On October 17, 1974, Ford testified before Congress on the pardon. He was the first sitting President to testify before Congress since Abraham Lincoln.

After Ford left the White House in 1977, the former President privately justified his pardon of Nixon by carrying in his wallet a portion of the text of Burdick v. United States, a 1915 U.S. Supreme Court decision which stated that a pardon indicated a presumption of guilt, and that acceptance of a pardon was tantamount to a confession of that guilt. In 2001, the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation awarded the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award to Ford for his pardon of Nixon. In presenting the award to Ford, Senator Ted Kennedy said that he had initially been opposed to the pardon of Nixon, but later stated that history had proved Ford to have made the correct decision.

On September 16, 1974, shortly after he announced the Nixon pardon, Ford introduced a conditional amnesty program for Vietnam War draft dodgers who had fled to countries such as Canada as well as for military deserters.
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Gerald R. Ford Museum - Grand Rapids MI
The conditions of the amnesty required that those involved reaffirm their allegiance to the United States and serve two years working in a public service job. Full pardon for the draft dodgers, however, did not come about until the Carter Administration. The program for the Return of Vietnam Era Draft Evaders and Military Deserters established a Clemency Board to review the records and to make recommendations for receiving a Presidential Pardon and a change in Military discharge status.

As a “straight as an arrow” college student from 1972-1976, I was in my political prime during Fords ascent to the Presidency and was critical of Ford's pardon of Nixon – whom I had believed a crook, in spite of his repeated denials, since I had first heard the man speak. (I kept a McGovern bumper sticker affixed to my 1971 VW Super Beetle until the day Nixon resigned.) I also felt, however, that Ford was a great man with pristine intent and felt it a mistake that he even consider becoming a candidate in the 1976 Presidential election. No matter his political skills or lack thereof, how could anybody fault a man who had never sought office at the national level? He could have walked away as the man who was the salvation of the nation in her darkest hour. By 1974, as much as I hated to admit it, I had come to agree with the opponents of the Vietnam War – we needed to cut our losses and get out. I had mixed emotions about the amnesty program but now believe it (as well as the pardon) enhanced the nation’s healing from that polarizing chapter in American history. The museum is very well done and should be included on your “must see” list.

As long as I already was in Grand Rapids, nobody that knows me would be surprised to learn that I stopped at Ada (or Bradfield) Covered Bridge in Ada MI on the way back to Ionia. Thick brush on all four corners of the 1867 landmark makes quality photography nearly impossible. The historic marker next to the bridge relates that the bridge had been threatened by high flood waters on numerous occasions and that farmers used to drive wagons loaded with stone onto the bridge to hold the structure to the foundation. Very innovative!

I also made a stop at the 1841 Fallasburg
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Fallasburg Covered Bridge - Lowell MI
Covered Bridge in Lowell MI where I found several groups of people holding picnics and fishing in a park adjacent to the bridge. Placards near the bridge relate that the road between Detroit and Grand Rapids came through what then was Fallasburg and crossed the Flat River on this bridge. Fallasburg thrived – complete with a sawmill, a grist and flour mill, a general store, an inn and stagecoach stop, a wagon shop, three blacksmiths, a tannery, a distillery, a boarding house for loggers, a post office and a school – and the population of the township reached 1,042 people by 1854. Then, the Detroit and Milwaukee Railroad selected a route that passed through Lowell, five miles to the south. The end of Fallasburg followed quite quickly.

I was glad I had visited all the top attractions on my Lansing/Grand Rapids list early in my visit, because the weather was totally miserable for the rest of my week-long stay. Other attractions I would have liked to have seen include the Michigan Historical Museum and the R. E. Olds Transportation Museum both in Lansing and the Steam Railroading Institute in Owosso MI, but I guess I’m becoming a fair weather tourist! Confession time – I was unaware of
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Fallasburg Covered Bridge - Lowell MI
the Michigan Vietnam Memorial in Mount Pleasant until I happened on it as I was polishing this blog. That attraction was well within driving distance of Ionia and would have been included it on my “must see” list had I performed more meticulous research beforehand. Lesson reinforced! Several other states also are home to multiple “state” Vietnam memorials. I have yet to find a definitive list of “state” Vietnam memorials.


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Michigan Vietnam Memorial - Lansing MI
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Gerald R. Ford Museum - Grand Rapids MI
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Gerald R. Ford Museum - Grand Rapids MI


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