Thursday, June 30, 2011
June 28: Before leaving North Bend this morning I paid another visit to William Henry Harrison's tomb to learn more about America's fastest dying president. Harrison bit the big one after only one month in office, contracting pneumonia during a lengthy and rambling inauguration speech given in the rain. Only the constitutionally challenged one, Alexander "I'm in Charge" Haig, can claim a shorter reign.
Since he didn't have enough time in office to actually accomplish anything, Harrison's main contribution to the presidency comes from his campaign. The battle of 1840 between he and Martin Van Buren is considered the first modern presidential race.
Harrison's handlers defined him as a hard-drinking frontiersman who resided in a rustic log cabin. E.C. Booz, from whom the word booze is derived, distilled a special brand of whiskey, Log Cabin, just for the campaign. In actuality, the candidate rarely drank and lived in a mansion. Much like the "man of the people" millionaires involved in politics today I daresay.
Once I shook my torpor I made quick time to Elizabethtown. Here the America Discovery Trail splits into north and south sections, beginning a period of frustration for me. Instead of stabbing westward, I will be spending the next few days going north, with the Indiana border taunting me just miles to the east the whole way.
I finished just a small portion of that section today, for early in the afternoon I had an appointment with Dawn, a friend of my mother's whose husband is an officer currently serving in Iraq. She picked me up promptly and took me back to her home in Indianapolis.
On the way we swung by the picturesque little town of Oldenburg. Oldenburg was originally settled almost exclusively by German immigrants and evidence of those roots are omnipresent there. Most noticeably, all the street signs are in both German and English. The main feature of the town is a huge Franciscan nunnery, one of the largest in the nation. "Sister Act III" would have been filmed there, but thanks to the prayerful intercession of the Oldenburg nuns that crisis was averted and no such film was produced.
After a quick trip to see Dawn's daughter Sarah's mad riding skills and a swing by their house to alleviate my stench somewhat, we headed into Indy. The famous racetrack was our first destination and I posed in front of the Indianapolis 500 Hall of Fame, wondering what it was like for Mario and Luigi Andretti to kiss the bricks and drink a pasteurized dairy product.
Dawn took me next to the center of downtown, whose growth has exploded in recent years. I saw Lucas Oil Stadium (host of the 2012 Super Bowl), Conseco Fieldhouse, NCAA headquarters, and the Indiana State Museum.
Most appropriately, we visited the Medal of Honor Recipients Memorial, which sits astride a lovely canal across from the NCAA offices. Every individual who has earned the medal is listed here and you can learn the story of each soldier's heroism on a computer kiosk located at the site.
For dinner we continued the German tradition in Indiana by dropping in at Rathskeller, a biergarten of the highest order, at least to my uninitiated American eyes.
Rathskeller provided us with terrific beer, incredible food, and a great name for my next heavy metal band. I imbibed an Arrogant Bastard Ale and dined on a wurst platter and chicken cordon blue fingers. The spicy mustard served with the sausages shot through my nostrils like dragon's flame - not at all an unpleasant sensation. Overall the meal hit the bull's eye and, along with Dawn's enthusiastic and affable company, put a fine exclamation point on my day in Indianapolis.
9 miles/844 miles total