In the United States there are 25 submarine museums, and with my recent vacation to Cleveland, I can now check another submarine off of the list of those that I have visited. (Click the picture for an enlarged- readable view)

As of June 12, 2016 I have toured 13 out of 25 submarines

As of June 12, 2016 I have toured 13 out of 25 submarines


The USS COD (SS-224) is a Gato class WWII submarine that was constructed by the Electric Boat Company in Groton, Connecticut and launched into service on March 21, 1943.  COD endured 7 war patrols and a total of 221 men called her home during those 7 war patrols.  The sub was decommissioned in 1954 and placed in reserve.  The COD was returned to the Great Lakes, by way of the newly opened St. Lawrence Seaway, to serve as a naval reserve training vessel in Cleveland, Ohio where the COD resides to this day. 


 A very busy attraction, the COD sits in Lake Erie and is a short walk from the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame and the Cleveland Indian’s Progressive Field downtown.  On the National Register of Historic Landmarks, the COD is open to visitors from May 1st through September 30th from 10 am to 5 pm.  

COD Memorial


Each submarine I have visited has something unique about them and is presented in different ways.  The COD’s hull and deck have been preserved.  This submarine does not have a modified visitor access door such as the COBIA or U-505 do.  Visitors to the sub have to climb down a vertical ladder through a hatch to the forward torpedo room in the same manner than the men did during the war.  


I call this the “lived in” sub.  The museum curator chooses to display the submarine as if it were still on active duty during the war.  It’s as if the crew were still on patrol because throughout the sub you will find personal artifacts such as towels, blankets and pillows on the bunks, stuffed bunk bags, cans of food in every nook and cranny, dishes on the tables in the Mess, clothes hanging out to dry in the Engine Room as well as photos of the men who worked in these compartments.  Seeing the sub this way brings to life the picture that this was not only a weapon of war,  but also a place of employment and a home away from home for the brave submariners.  

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Area 51 Drive Thru

One place I never had on my agenda for vacation destinations last week, was Area 51.  It didn’t even come to mind when I thought of Nevada, so when we headed North out of Las Vegas to spend the weekend in the mountains at a friend’s house….. that’s exactly where I thought we were headed… to a friends house.  It wasn’t until I saw the GPS and noticed we were on Extraterrestrial Highway !





It was shortly after then when I looked up and I SAW AN ALIEN !!!!!



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It was a kooky little store inside a metal shed that sold a lot of T-shirt with UFOs and sci-fi related items.  Probably in a metal building so as to keep the aliens from sucking people out and into their space ship. 

Just beyond that we reached the small town of Rachel, Nevada




The history of Rachel is that it was a town that grew up around a tungsten mine, which closed in 1988.  The town of 500 quickly dwindled to around 50 today. It became a hot bed of activity for UFOs and quickly became a destination for fans and believers.  Area 51 and the Air Force’s top secret base.  We think this was the road to Area 51, but it’s obviously not going to be marked. 



We made a loop around a ranch in the main area of Rachel before continuing on our journey.   In my defense, I usually take pictures and look at them later.  I didn’t see that this sign said photography prohibited.


 It was exciting at the time, but I became a big baby chicken when we considered driving up the road to Area 51 the next day on the way home.  I really got freaked out and didn’t want to go.  I was afraid that if were were stopped by the feds, they might be having a bad day and not just let us turn around. So for now this was exciting enough for me.  


This is a funky video that I had seen several years ago, but still like to watch.  I know that guy was confusing Air Force 1 with Area 51.  That’s what makes the video even more hilarious. 

Hackensack, New Jersey- USS Ling

Whenever I am going somewhere on vacation, I always check to see if there is a submarine in the area to tour.  In 2013, I was making my first major trip to the East Coast for the Davy Jones Memorial Monkees Convention in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  I went to the submarine museum website and found that Hackensack, NJ is the home or (more correctly stated and you’ll see why) final resting place of the USS LING 297.  The submarine museums website said that LING still had all the batteries and was the last sub to patrol American shores in WWII. 

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The USS GROWLER is in New York, but I wasn’t brave enough to venture into New York City.  Also in Fall River, Massachusetts is the USS LIONFISH.  I toured it in March 2014, but that is a different post another Tuesday. 

I only had 3 days in New Jersey so I needed to make sure ahead of time everything I would need to know about visiting the LING so I went to their website.  Something just didn’t seem right.  After the experience I had in Seattle where I was searching for a submarine that was no longer there, I wanted to make sure this info was up to date.  No one would answer the phone or my emails.  So I did what I could to find someone in the area to help.  I work at City Hall in Milwaukee so I decided to reach out to the local government in Hackensack.  I wound up corresponding with Mr. Albert Dib, Legal Analyst, Local Historian.  He did some research and found an article stating that the USS LING and the museum sustained substantial damage as a result of Hurricane Sandy.  He even went to far as to drive by the property and snap a picture of the the sign stating that it was closed.


Photo courtesy of Albert Dib

I was very grateful for his help, and needless to say, disappointed.

I did go to the property anyway and took a look around, even though all I could do was stand at a distance from the USS LING with a fence separating us like a prisoner and its visitor.  The museum was a trailer and the entire museum park was in a small grassy area, next to the Hackensack River in what appeared to be the back end of a shopping center parking lot.  It was not a fitting location for a WWII hero.  

I didn’t have to look far to see the damage from Hurricane Sandy.  Other displays in the yard were broken in two, such as the case with a torpedo and missiles and a propeller on its side.  On display as well is a World War II Japanese suicide torpedo, a German defense submarine and Vietnam War-era riverboat.

Sadly, when I returned again the following year in March of 2014, it still didn’t appear to be open but it had been cleaned up.  I hope something happens eventually to help the museum as there should be a better way to preserve this WWII submarine, although the information sounds bleak about the ability to raise funds to remove the LING from the Hackensack River.   

These are the photos that I took.  Please take a moment to view the short slideshow. 

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Springfield, Illinois

visitor bureauSpringfield is the capital of Illinois and the one time residency of Abraham Lincoln prior to his Presidential election.  I’ve journeyed to Springfield twice and know I will go back again one day.  The area around the Capital and near the Lincoln historical sites has a very small town atmosphere.  (In fact, I had a hard time finding an open restaurant on the weekend past 2 pm.)

For those whom have read my prior blog posts, you know how I got here.

amtrak spg

I had a lot of things on the agenda for 3 days.  I walked everywhere I had to go, so I was limited as to what attractions I was going to see. 

museum 1The big draw to Springfield is President Lincoln’s grave and the new state of the art Presidential Museum and Library.  You weren’t allowed to photograph any of the exhibits so you’ll have to check out the museum website for a peak at the exhibits.  What makes this such a unique museum is the life like wax statues throughout the exhibits as well as the holographic 3d and 4d technology of the movies shown.  The museum takes you though Lincoln’s early life in the log cabin, through his years in the practice of the law and the ups and downs of his presidential years- including death.  What made this an emotional museum for me was the figures because it made them so lifelike.  You could feel the sorrow of Mrs. Lincoln by looking at the mannequin and the frustration of the President during the Civil War.

The walk from the museum to the gravesite at Oak Hills cemetery was at least 3 miles.  The new mausoleum that houses Lincoln’s remains is relatively new.  They used to keep him in a smaller gated crypt below a hill in the back of the cemetery. Now he has a tall oblique similar to the Washington Monument in DC, with all kinds of statues surrounding the inside and outside.  They say it’s good luck to rub Lincoln’s nose, and you can see many people have.

tombnose grave

In the downtown area they have preserved the Old Capital building and furnished it with period pieces.  This is where he gave one of his famous speeches on “The House Divided.”  The same furnishings is true for Lincoln and his partner Herndon’s Law Office where he practiced law from 1834-1852.

old cap law

The street in which Lincoln’s home is located in a 4 block National Park area.  This is the only home that Lincoln ever owned.  You are allowed to go inside.  The other buildings and homes on these blocks are restored with some containing additional exhibits inside.  It’s a beautiful place to stroll though and relax.  spg home

The old train depot is where he gave his final speech in Springfield before he left for Washington DC.  He never returned to Springfield again except for when his remains retuned for internment.

depot 1

For those wondering, I could only find one visible sign of the Simpsons in Springfield and that was a cardboard cutout of Homer in a 2nd floor window.  In my opinion, Illinois is where the Simpsons lived.  I could easily see Bart skateboarding on the sidewalks outside Lincoln’s law office, and Lisa playing her saxophone on the steps of the Chamber of Commerce.

Buffalo, New York

I love to travel and see new places. When I plan a vacation it’s usually around something historical that I want to see. I either get to my destination by train or driving. I don’t know how people got around before GPS. It’s the one modern invention I couldn’t live without. I remember the horrors of Mapquest directions and having to be told to turn on “un-named road” or just not knowing where to go as was the case when I got lost returning from Niagara Falls. I have a friend who is like a human GPS and has a strong sense of direction.

My first train trip was in 1997 and I have been on the train 1-2 times a year since then. I love keeping the tickets as souvenirs. Over the years as society attempts to go paperless, Amtrak has followed as well and gone to using smart phone screens or computer paper print-at-home tickets. They do still have machines at the station where you can purchase on the spot and a ticket will print out. Alas, they don’t have any fancy logos or color ink anymore. I’ve toyed with the idea of designing my own ticket that I can print out to use as a memory of my trip in place of these generic tickets.

Here are a few ticket stubs from some of my favorite trips. You can also see the steady increase in the cost of long distance passenger travel.

amtrak tickets

I always travel 1st class or in sleeper accommodations as it’s referred to these days. That means I get my own private room with a bed and a window, as well as access to a shower facility and free meals. I traveled coach on a long distance train twice and that was more than enough for me. That was from Chicago to Charlottesville, Virginia and another time from Chicago to Memphis, Tennessee.

I’ve had people tell me that I should go into the travel and tourism business because of the interesting attractions I find to go to. Travelpod website ( is great to blog your trips via photographs. I have already made up a few trips on that site as well.

I have made trips to places more than once, but this isn’t always the case.  In 2005, I persuaded a co-worker to travel with me to the Buffalo, New York area to visit President Millard Fillmore’s grave. The vacation planning stages are as follows.

  1. Find a location
  2. Determine if there is an Amtrak route to that place
  3. Search for attractions in the same area
  4. (Optional) Enlist travel buddies

I saw Millard Fillmore’s grave in Forest Lawn Cemetery in Buffalo, NY and then his home in East Aurora. Millard Fillmore is one of my favorite Past (Passed) Presidents. While the information out there on Fillmore swings from him being labeled as one of the worst presidents to basically no information because he didn’t want any of his papers preserved. He was a private man, who worked hard to overcome a harsh childhood. He did so by serving the people of New York in the State Government. He was humble and said he would serve (Vice-President) because the people wanted him too; not for his own selfish reasons. Gee, I kind of made him out to sound like a superhero there. J

The next day we took a boat trip on part of the Erie Canal through the locks in it city of Lockport. That was exciting to experience how a lock actually works. Construction on the Erie Canal began in 1814 and was completed in 1825. It connected the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean.

Also in Buffalo was a military park where I toured my first submarine- the USS Croaker as well as the Little Rock and Sullivan cruiser ships. The Croaker was manufactured by the Electric Boat company in Groton, Connecticut during WWII. Information on the USS Sullivans directly from the website, “USS The Sullivans, named for five brothers who lost their lives in the Battle of the Solomon Islands when their ship sunk, is an excellent example of the Fletcher class, the largest and most important class of U.S. destroyers in World War II. The Sullivans served with distinction in WWII, took part in intense combat in the Marshalls, Carolines, Mariannas, and Philippines, rescued many survivors from downed planes and damaged or sinking ships, and earned nine battle stars for her service. The Sullivans also served in the Korean War, the Cuban Blockade and assisted in the rescue efforts for the nuclear submarine USS Thresher.”

I toured the (Ansley) Wilcox mansion where Teddy Roosevelt was inaugurated on 9/14/1901 at 3:30 pm in the library, following President McKinley’s assassination. The house where McKinley died no longer stands, but we drove past the site where the Milburn home was.

Next we traveled to Jamestown, NY where Lucille Ball was born. There is a small Lucy-Desi Museum which also has replicas of the Ricardo’s apartment rooms as well as the Tropicana TV show sets. I Love Lucy has been one of my favorite TV shows since I was a little kid. It was actually the 2nd time that I got to see the apartment sets, as they had been on a traveling tour.

The last location was Niagara Falls. It was in the middle of a bad rain storm so I only got to see Canada for about 15 min before we ran back to the United States. We parked in America and walked across the border (a bridge over Niagara Falls) into Canada. That’s when it began to rain again so I didn’t get to see hardly anything. However, considering everything that I just listed above, this trip was pretty full.

I guess that just means, I’ll have to put it on my list as a place I would like to visit again.  Here is a slideshow of a select photographs from the 4-day whirlwind tour of Buffalo

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I made a big decision a little while ago.
I don’t remember what it was, which prob’ly goes to show
That many times a simple choice can prove to be essential
Even though it often might appear inconsequential

I must have been distracted when I left my home because
Left or right I’m sure I went.
Anyway, I never veered: I walked in that direction
Utterly absorbed, it seems, in quiet introspection.

For no reason I can think of, I’ve wandered far astray.
And that is how I got to where I find myself today.

Explorers are we, intrepid and bold
Out in the wild, amongst wonders untold
Equipped with our wits, a map and a snack,
We’re searching for fun and we’re on the right track !

—– Bill Watterson

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