The Conch Republic, Key West 2019

I wonder how many visitors to Key West realize they are visiting an island that was once a foreign nation.

According to my local friends, the US Border Patrol, in 1982, set up a roadblock and inspection point on US-1 just south of Florida City. Vehicles were stopped and searched for narcotics and illegal immigrants. The Key West City Council complained repeatedly about the inconvenience for travelers to and from Key West, claiming that it hurt the Keys’ important tourism industry. The City Council’s complaints went unanswered by the U.S. federal government, and attempts to get an injunction against the roadblock failed in court. As a form of protest Mayor Dennis Wardlow and the Council declared Key West’s independence on April 23, 1982. In the eyes of the Council, since the U.S. federal government had set up the equivalent of a border station as if they were a foreign nation, they might as well become one. As many of the local citizens were referred to as Conchs, the nation took the name of the Conch Republic.

On April 23rd Mayor Wardlow was proclaimed Prime Minister of the Republic, and immediately declared war against the United States. The Conch Republic Flag was raised over City Hall and the schooner Western Union, under the command of Captain John Kraus, went forth into the harbor and attacked the Coast Guard Cutter Diligence with water balloons, Conch fritters, and stale Cuban bread. The Diligence fought back with fire hoses and thus commenced the Great Battle of the Conch Republic. Prime Minister Wardlow surrendered and demanded foreign aid (which they are still waiting for).

Although the US government never recognized the independence of Key West, the border checkpoint was closed and the Conch Republic was born – at least as a marketing strategy.

In 1995, it was reported that the 478th Civil Affairs Battalion of the United States Army Reserve was to conduct a training exercise simulating an invasion of a foreign island. They were to land on Key West and conduct affairs as if the islanders were foreign. However, no one from the 478th notified Conch officials of the exercise.

Seeing another chance at publicity, Wardlow and the forces behind the 1982 Conch Republic secession mobilized the island for a full-scale war (in the Conch Republic, this involved firing water cannons from fireboats and hitting people with stale Cuban bread), and protested to the Department of Defense for arranging this exercise without consulting the City of Key West. The leaders of the 478th issued an apology the next day, saying they “in no way meant to challenge or impugn the sovereignty of the Conch Republic”, and submitted to a surrender ceremony on September 22.

The Conch Republic actively maintains an Army, Navy, and Air Force whose primary duties are to help re-enact the Great Sea Battle of 1982 and the retaking of Fort Zachary Taylor. The Navy comprises no fewer than 10 civilian boats and the schooner Wolf under the command of Admiral Finbar Gittelman.

Admiral Finbar Gittleman

The Army consists of the 1st Conch Artillery, garrisoned in Fort Taylor. The Conch Republic Air Force has more than a dozen appointed aircraft in its fleet.

The Conch Republic celebrates Independence Day every April 23 as part of a week-long festival of activities involving numerous businesses in Key West. The organization — a “Sovereign State of Mind”, seeking only to bring more “Humor, Warmth and Respect” to a world in sore need of all three according to its Secretary General, Peter Anderson — is a key tourism booster for the area.

Through their website, the Republic issues souvenir passports. These are issued as souvenirs, but some have evidently bought them in the mistaken belief they are legitimate travel and identity documents.

The Conch Republic is alive and well in Key West. When you visit Key West you see all kinds of references to the “Conch Republic.” Most tourists write it off as a quirky nickname. Very few of them understand the Conch Republic is real – well, sort of.

As a result of my volunteer work on the Coast Guard Cutter Ingham Museum it was my honor and privilege to be certified as a Deck Officer in the Navy of the Conch Republic. Yes, Key West is a unique place to visit and I encourage you to put it on your list of places to explore!

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Return to Paradise, Key West 2019

Our favorite place to spend the winter is the Sigsbee Island RV Park – part of Naval Air Station Key West. We enjoy the warm weather, water activities, and the community of friends that we have made over the years.

This year didn’t start off very good. We arrived late on December 29th and set up in “dry camp” where we have no hookups and have to use our generators for electricity and fresh water tanks for water. This is normal and was not a problem. However, we soon discovered that our generators didn’t want to run very well and our water pump was broken – not the kind of thing you want to discover at 7:00 at night. But the next morning I was able to trace the electrical connections to verify that it was the pump that was bad and we ordered a replacement. Then I turned my attention to the generators. I was surprised to have problems with them. We have owned our two Honda generators for over seven years without any problems. They are almost indestructible, you can fail to perform scheduled maintenance and they still run fine. I drained the carburetor bowl, and changed the spark plugs. I watched several YouTube videos and took the carburetor apart to clean what I could, and still had problems. Finally I contacted a nearby small engine repair guy and had him tear the engine down and give it a good cleaning. Eventually I discovered that a switch on the fuel cap had been turned to OFF and that was preventing air from entering the fuel tank and, eventually, smothering the engine. I hadn’t touched that switch in seven years and it never occurred to me to check it. Well, while it was a frustrating two days, I learned a lot more about these generators and they should run fine for another seven years!

All of this did not prevent us from participating in a Sigsbee Island tradition, the New Years Day Polar Plunge! A large group of hardy campers braved the “freezing” 76 degree water temperature and simultaneously plunge into the “bone chilling” waters of the Gulf of Mexico. This is followed by clam chowder and mimosas as we celebrated a new year in Key West.

A couple of days later our pump arrived and it was simple to install as I ordered the exact same pump, I didn’t even have to replace fittings. However, while it was simple it was not easy. The pump is installed in a very small space with an even smaller access hole. This required me to wedge myself into one of our storage compartments and twist and stretch like a contortionist to get everything hooked up. The good news is I was successful and we could now use our fresh water system. Frankly this is the only major system we have had to replace in seven years, so not too bad.

We discovered that we had friends from previous years on either side of us and we quickly became engaged in the local social scene. A friend of mine from my National Guard years in Michigan was in the park with his wife and we made plans for a sunset cruise on the Appledore Star, a two-masted schooner. The Appledore Star is our favorite sunset cruise and we wanted to share this experience with Ed and his wife, Ruth. It was a perfect night with clear skies, smooth sailing, and plentiful appetizers and drinks. We even saw a green flash on the horizon

A bunch of us musicians (yes, me too) enjoy going to Open Mic night at the Geiger Key Marina and have a lot of fun practicing our musical skills before a live audience. The Marina bar is right on the water and offers good food, making it a great night out.

Key West offers an annual Half-Marathon as a fund raiser for local charities. Our small military community embraces the military value of “selfless service” and supports this race with a host of volunteers that work in the registration process, as course marshals, as bicyclists making sure that racers with problems get help quickly, and manning water stations along the route. Last year the weather was cold and windy and this year it was wet and windy, making it a challenge for both racers and volunteers.

There is always something going on in the park, one example is the Sigsbee Shuffle. In the past this has been groups of forty campers moving, as a group, through four or five sites to share food and drinks and meet new friends. Because of some changes in the management this didn’t happen last year, so this year a bunch of campers put it together on their own. There was no forty person limit this year and approximately 140 campers moved from site to site. The organizers did an outstanding job and it went without a hitch. The finale was a performance by the No Name Band, a combination of campers and Key West locals. I was fortunate to be asked to open for them while they were doing their final set up. I’ll let you know when I get my recording contract, but don’t hold your breath!

We have more than a month remaining on our stay and we are looking forward to even more opportunities for fun and enjoyment.

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The Skydiving Santas of Cocoa Beach – 2018

There are plenty of things to see and do in the Cocoa Beach area. One of my favorite Cocoa Beach Christmas traditions is the Skydiving Santas. For the third year in a row the Air Sports Parachute Team has organized local area skydivers to put on this special event. More than 100 people dressed as Santas, Elves, and Grinches skydived near the Westgate Cocoa Beach Pier on Saturday, Dec. 15. The skydiving Santas were attempting to set a Guinness World Record by organizing the largest formation of flying Santas in the world, according to the event organizers.  The Old Saint Nick parachutists attempted to land on a giant inflatable Santa chair, a Santa sleigh, and other objects.

The show was set to start at 11:00 and we got there at 10:00 to make sure we had a good spot. The weather was “iffy” with overcast skies, possible rain, and chilly. That made for a light turnout and good seats for all. We were right on the edge of the drop zone directly across from the Santa sleigh – great spot!

Shortly after 11:00 the first plane passed overhead and dropped its first stick of jumpers. As a former Army paratrooper I loved every minute. The winds aloft were tricky and a couple of the skydivers landed in the Atlantic Ocean instead of safely on the beach. On later passes the aircraft corrected its track and everyone made dry landings.

The Santas, Elves, and Grinches were working hard to land on the sleigh or the chair. I was impressed and amazed at the chances they were taking to hit the targets. Fortunately we did not see anyone get hurt and they were really entertaining. Unfortunately a front moved through the area and the rain started. It looked like it was going to last for a couple of hours so we called it a day. It was too bad as I could have watched for a lot longer.

If you are ever in the Cocoa Beach area in mid-December check it out!

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Universal Studios and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, 2018

Patrick AFB is not far from Orlando and we decided that a trip to Universal Studios was in order. We had seen the advertising for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and that was our primary motivation and goal for our visit. When we talked to our daughter, Elisabeth, she thought it sounded like a great idea and asked to come along. So why not? We told her we would pick her up at the airport in Orlando.

We bought our tickets at the Information, Travel, and Tickets (ITT) office on base and borrowed a couple of guide books at the base library. After we picked up Elisabeth and returned to our hotel, we made our plan for visiting the park.

We took the shuttle from the hotel to the park each morning, certainly more convenient and cheaper than driving and parking. Our first stop was Diagon Alley to buy a Wizard’s wand. Ollivander’s has all kinds of wands, including those used by each of the Harry Potter wizards. Elisabeth bought herself an interactive wand. Within Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade there are spots where you can use these interactive wands to cast spells. Fortunately for these new, unskilled wizards there were experienced wizards nearby that could offer assistance.

All of the guide books commented on how well the buildings in Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade match the descriptions in the Harry Potter books, and they were more than accurate. We felt like we were in those magical places. This feeling was enhanced by watching visitors of all ages dressed in Hogwarts wizard robes.

In addition to the rides and casting spells with Elisabeth’s Wand, we sampled authentic Butter Beer and a couple of shows.

I think the best show was the light show at Hogwarts Castle.

If it wasn’t for Elisabeth I might have been content with just visiting The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. She wanted to do all of the rides and that worked for us. Universal Studios did an excellent job in designing their rides. With the combination of roller coaster type vehicles with 3-D projection, the result is a wild ride that puts you right into the movie. In addition to Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey (hold on to your stomach for this one), the Hogwarts Express, and Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts, we rode Fast & Furious, the Rip Ride Rockit, Jurassic Park River Adventure, MEN IN BLACK Alien Attack, Revenge of the Mummy, Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon, and more. I couldn’t get many pictures because we weren’t allowed to take cameras on the rides.

Some shows are special during the holidays, like the “Grinchmas” performance.

After three days in the park we drove back to the Manatee Cove RV Park. From there we played in the waves of the Atlantic Ocean, paddled our kayaks with the dolphins at Haulover Canal in the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, and watched some great sunsets over the Banana River.

Sunday found us driving Elisabeth back to the airport in Orlando. We’re already looking forward to seeing her and the rest of the Washington State family in June.

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Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge is located due east of Titusville on Merritt Island in Brevard County, Florida, and occupies 140,000 acres, with the Kennedy Space Center.

The refuge traces its beginnings to the development of the nation’s Space Program. In 1962, NASA acquired the 140,000 acres of land, water, and marshes adjacent to Cape Canaveral to establish the John F. Kennedy Space Center. NASA built a launch complex and other space-related facilities, but development of most of the area was not necessary. In1963 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service signed an agreement to establish the refuge and in 1975 a second agreement established Canaveral National Seashore. Today, the Department of Interior manages most of the unused portions of the Kennedy Space Center as a National Wildlife Refuge and National Seashore.

The refuge contains over 1000 species of plants, 117 species of fish, 68 amphibians and reptiles, 330 birds, and 31 mammal species, of which 21 species are listed as endangered by the state of Florida or by the US federal government. Until 1962, there had been little development in the area because of the high number of salt marsh mosquitoes. Public access is normally permitted, and several state highways run across the refuge. The refuge provides hiking and driving trails for visitors, with opportunities for observing wildlife without causing disturbances; most of the wildlife can be seen by a casual visitor. An observation deck is provided near the drawbridge that carries State Road 3 over the Haulover Canal, in the northern part of the refuge, since manatees frequently congregate there. Boating is permitted on the waters around and within the refuge, and provides an opportunity for observing the wildlife. There are facilities for launching pleasure boats at several places. (Source https://www.fws.gov/refuge/Merritt_Island)

On Wednesday before Thanksgiving we drove to Haulover Canal. This is the spot where the Intra-Coastal Waterway (ICW) crosses from the Atlantic Ocean into the Indian River. We launched our kayaks at the boat launch near the drawbridge on State Road 3. The boat launch basin had pods of manatee and dolphins. They were all over the place! After we spent quite awhile watching and taking pictures of them we started to paddle towards Mosquito Lagoon.

The tide was coming in and we paddled against its strong current. We saw several boats transiting the canal as a part of the ICW, it was fun to imagine living fulltime on one of these boats instead of our RV.

There were birds everywhere. We paddled right under some osprey resting in the trees above the canal. We saw blue heron fly from the shore and rest up in the trees. We had never seen them rest in trees like that as they are more of a wading bird. At the mouth of the canal we saw a flock of pelicans diving for fish. They are comical to watch. They fly gracefully above the water then dive in what looks like a controlled crash into the water.

After a short stop on the canal bank for a quick snack we headed back to the boat launch. It was definitely a faster and easier trip back with the rising tide pushing us. Back in the boat launch basin the manatee and dolphins were waiting for us. While we were being careful and trying to stay away from the sleeping manatee, once in awhile one would swim right up to us and dive under our kayaks, just a little thrill.

It was a long drive from the campground to the Wildlife Refuge, but worth every mile of it. It’s almost ironic that this wildlife refuge is a result of the development of the Kennedy Space Center. Space Age technology is supporting the preservation of nature and protecting the environment.

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Major Surgery as a Full-time RVer, 2018

One of the concerns that have been expressed by many full-time RVers in their blogs and on Facebook is medical treatment. That is one of the reasons that I wanted to write this post. Also many of my friends have or may face the same problem that I did and this is for them as well.

For many years my knees had been bothering me. I attributed this to my ninety-nine military parachute jumps and hundreds of miles of running. I tried treating myself with ice and exercise without success before I saw an orthopedist, Dr. Steven Drayer. Dr. Drayer had successfully repaired my wife’s broken ankle years ago and has performed thousands of joint replacements. He advised me that I had worn out the cartilage in my knees and had bone on bone impact in some areas. He treated me with shots to cushion the knees and advised me that I was a prime candidate for partial knee replacement surgery. For the next few years I stopped running and started walking. The shots helped a lot, but I was still experiencing aching pain and it was certainly taking a toll on my quality of life. Finally, last fall Dr. Drayer said he wasn’t going to give me shots for the rest of my life and we needed an end game. I decided to go with the surgery and we tentatively planned to do it this summer (2018).

If you look close at these before the surgery x-rays, you can see the bone on bone contact.

Pat and I determined we had to be in one spot for about three months so I wouldn’t have the physical stress of packing, hitching up, and moving. We made arraignments for a three month reservation at the Lansing Cottonwood Campground. Cottonwood is a nice RV park and a convenient 15-20 minute drive to the hospital and Dr. Drayer’s office.

I was presented with many options, but chose to have both knees done, two weeks apart. I had originally planned to have them done one month apart, but Dr. Drayer was having surgery done on his shoulder and would not be available until July. When I asked about a two week interval, Dr. Drayer said it depended on how well I could tolerate pain. Given that we wanted to be heading south by early fall, I opted for the shortest possible interval of two weeks.

Dr. Drayer uses MAKO Robotic-assisted Surgery and is one of the pioneers in this method. He told us that it results in less trauma and blood loss, and a shorter healing time. In preparation for the surgery I had to have CT scans of both knees, and an exam by my primary care doctor to clear me for the procedure. Other preparations included stopping some of my normal medications and starting new ones, and washing with an antibacterial soap for five days.

For both surgeries we arrived at Sparrow Hospital in Lansing at 5:00 in the morning. After I was prepped and met with the Anesthesiologist and Dr. Drayer I don’t remember much as I was sedated through the whole procedure. On the first operation (the left knee) he removed the diseased bone from my femur and replaced it with titanium and replaced the underside of the kneecap with titanium. Two weeks later he only had to replace the underside of the kneecap, as he determined that there was plenty of good bone and cartilage remaining on the right knee to make any additional repair there unnecessary.

Everyone talked about using a walker, but no one said it was a requirement. I opted not to get a walker, but to use crutches that I already had. This turned out to be a good decision as the close quarters of the inside of our trailer would have made a walker impractical. It was easy to get around with the crutches and I never regretted that decision.

Getting back from the hospital was an experience, climbing in and out of our pick up truck was quite the effort, especially after the second surgery with my left knee not fully recovered but still the stronger of the two. Also getting into the trailer was an effort. It takes five steps with a nine-inch rise to get inside. Fortunately I had used crutches before and knew the drill, but it was still an effort. However if you look at almost any house with a porch, it would have been almost the same situation.

The surgery was the easy part; after all, I slept through that.

Now the hard part began – the rehabilitation. The skeletal part of my knees was better than it was before, but the trauma from the surgical procedure was painful. After all Dr. Drayer had cut open my knees to the bone with a six inch long incision, sawed away part of the bone, fastened pieces of titanium, and stitched it all back up again. I was prescribed a narcotic (Percocet on the first operation and Norco on the second) as well as prescription level (600mg) Ibuprofen to help me handle the pain. Pat was initially concerned of the possibility of addiction until a nurse told us that as long as there is pain, the pleasure part of the brain does not respond to the narcotic (That’s my layman’s explanation anyway). For the first several days, Pat took charge of my medication until we had a system in place.

I had met with my physical therapist, Sam, before the surgery and he had laid out a series of exercises to begin the day of surgery. You don’t want to wait on these exercises, the sooner you start and the more dedicated you are, the better your recovery. I know people who had undergone knee surgery and had heard good news and bad news. From their stories I determined that the best outcome was a combination of a good surgeon and dedicated physical therapy. I felt Dr. Drayer was the best surgeon I could find, I trusted him, and I was determined to be the best patient Sam had ever had.

The physical therapy exercises were simple, but tough. I knew I had to push myself and I did, I felt pain in almost every exercise I did. I was concerned how much I should push myself, and I talked to Sam about it. He encouraged me to push myself as much as I felt I could and I would know if it was too much. I knew rehab would be tough, but I didn’t realize how much time I would have to commit to it. Here’s the deal – the exercises take about an hour. After the exercise I’m suppose to ice the knee with the Iceman machine I got from the hospital for an hour. Every two hours I’m suppose to walk, then ice for another hour. So let’s say I start exercising at 8:00 in the morning, I’m icing by 9:00, then walk at 10:00, and ice again. This cycle then repeats all day long. I never realized that rehab would be a fulltime job!

A week after the surgery I had my first appointment with Sam. I think Sam is a great therapist, but I also think most therapists are masochists at heart. Every time I met with Sam he gave me a workout, and I gave as good as I got. One of the slogans in the Infantry is “Pain is weakness leaving the body.” Also a line from the Ranger Creed is, “Quit is not a Ranger word.” With these lines repeating themselves in my mind I attacked the exercises, making sure I was doing them properly and completing or exceeding the number of repetitions Sam wanted. I paid close attention to what Sam did in our sessions and modified my own workouts to get the same effect.

Oh, I had my share of low morale. After the second surgery I was trying to do the straight leg raise and, no matter how hard I tried, I didn’t have the strength to lift the leg. I had to put my exercise strap around my foot and lift the right leg with my left foot. As the days went by I no longer had to lift with my left foot, and a few days later the strap became unnecessary – Quit is not a Ranger word.

My walking went from 15 minutes of walking around the inside of our trailer to one and then two laps around our loop in the campground. A week after the second surgery Sam told me to only use one crutch instead of two. A couple of weeks later I began using one of my trekking poles as a cane. Finally, at six weeks after the first surgery I only used the cane when I went walking on the uneven gravel road of the campground, and did without it the rest of the time. I celebrated our anniversary on August 25th by putting the cane away and going without it. During this same week, Sam and I agreed to reduce our therapy sessions from three per week to two. Seven weeks after the first surgery I was able to walk two and a half miles. Like I said you have to push yourself.

Dr. Drayer had told me about a patient that, eight weeks after surgery, was off her pain medication and performing at about 80 – 90%. Because of that I focused on eight weeks of therapy, but as time went on I began to view the eight weeks as a minimum. That seemed to be more realistic. Over Labor Day weekend I felt I turned a big corner. I started doing the step up exercise on a twelve inch stool instead of on a seven inch rise step and used the stool for what Sam called a walk through exercise. That definitely ramped up the effort. I did a two and a half mile walk on Sunday that felt great, very little pain in my knees (Yes, I was still taking Ibuprofen but you can tell the difference.).

Oops! The next week, while doing one of my exercises I may have strained a muscle and it hurt-bad! Of course I continued to push through and the pain just got worse. I started limping and that got me concerned. When I saw Sam for my appointment on Monday he told me that I needed to rest and put ice on it. I continued to exercise while applying ice when I was done, but the pain wasn’t going away. When I saw Sam on Thursday he said I don’t seem to do well with “R words” like Relax and Rest. This time I took his advice and backed off on the exercise, just doing a few stretches and using weights on the other knee. After three days I was already seeing an improvement. I guess the lesson here is you need to push yourself, but you also need to back off when necessary. Trust your therapist and follow their instructions.

I met with Sam for our final session on September 18th and he certified that I no longer needed formal therapy. By the way, this was exactly eight weeks after the second surgery; I guess I was right on schedule! Later that week I met with Dr. Drayer on Friday for our final checkup. He was very pleased with our results and had positive comments on the range of motion I had achieved.

I asked him about resuming activities like running. He said I could do anything I wanted, but cautioned that there could be some negative consequences. He said that if I resumed a serious running schedule that the titanium attachments could become lose and another operation would be needed to correct that. His advice was to stick to walking, or running on a treadmill as it provided more cushioning, but would not recommend running on a sidewalk or trail.

I still had some pain, and Sam and I discussed what exercises I should continue. Both Dr Drayer and Sam suggested that it could be months before all the pain is gone.

It’s now almost four months since the second surgery and things are still improving. I continue to exercise for strength and flexibility, and ice my knees after each workout. The good news is that I can go for ten mile bike rides and four plus mile walks, and I plan to build on that. There is still some pain and stiffness but it is less every week. Yeah, I get discouraged, I wish this pain and stiffness would just disappear one day. I am not known for my patience. However, I passed the point of no return the day I showed up for the first surgery, so I continue – Quit is not a Ranger word.

Was it all worth it? I think so. Before the surgery I knew that the pain would only get worse in the future. Now I can feel the improvement and it should get better. So, thank you Dr. Drayer, Sam, and the best nurse I ever had, my wife, Pat.

 

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Kentucky Horse Park, Lexington, KY – October 2018

We stopped in Lexington, KY mainly to see an old friend of mine from my National Guard days. Bill Weber was my Operations Sergeant when I was the Operations Officer for Company F (RANGER) 425th Infantry. Bill had lived in Michigan, but moved to Kentucky for his job. Living in Kentucky didn’t stop him from serving in our unit. Every month he would drive to Michigan on Friday and then drive back on Sunday. Talk about dedication! I always considered Bill to be a special friend and it was great to have dinner with him and his wife.

We decided to stay at the Kentucky Horse Park Campground for two nights to break up the trip and, on the spur of the moment, decided to visit the Horse Park.

The Kentucky Horse Park was created in 1978 in order to host the World Three-Day Equestrian Championships. After this event, the Horse Park administrators realized that it had to make changes in order to continue to operate. They now host various events and shows from Wednesday through Sunday. The park is also the headquarters for more than 30 national, regional and state equine organizations and associations

We were delighted to discover that the Kentucky Horse Park gives serving military members and veterans a 50% discount on admission. We began our tour at the International Museum of the Horse, a Smithsonian Affiliate. The museum is the largest and most comprehensive museum in the world dedicated to exploring the history of all horses and their impact on human civilization. Through its ever-growing library and archives, it also serves as a resource for scholars and researchers throughout the world. I was very interested to see the roles in which horses were used over the centuries.

Partway through our tour of the museum we left to see the Hall of Champions. Champion horses that have finished their careers have been acquired by the Horse Park and stabled on the grounds. Thoroughbred legends Da Hoss, Funny Cide, and Go for Gin, as well as American Quarter Horse Be A Bono, Standardbred Trotter Mr. Muscleman, and Standardbred Pacers Staying Together, Western Dreamer, and Won The West are shown in daily presentations. We were able to see them in their stalls and then they were presented to the group in a viewing arena where we learned about their race history and, in some cases, their studding history. These horses were absolutely amazing, talk about thoroughbreds!

After this Pat went to watch the Parade of Breeds and I returned to the museum. With music, narration and interaction, humankind’s six thousand year partnership with the horse is brought to life in the Parade of Breeds. From the rare Marwari to the iconic American Quarter Horse, breed representatives perform in hand and under saddle. During the summer season, breed representatives perform in colorful attire that evokes the culture, time period, and customs of their native land. At the museum one of the most intriguing exhibits was the one on the Arabian Horse. I was fascinated by how the Arabian evolved to perform in a desert environment. However, what impressed me the most was that Arabians are used to breed other horses, but no other horses are used to breed Arabians in order to keep the breed pure.

We took a brief horse-drawn trolley tour that showed us even more of the park and we learned about the variety of shows that take place every Wednesday through Sunday.

On our way out we visited the memorial of Man o’ War, probably the most famous race horse in history. On June 6, 1919, ridden by Johnny Loftus, Man o’ War won his first race by six lengths, crossing the finish line at a canter. He showed his desire to be a front runner and never liked to have any other horse in front of him. Legend has it that upon seeing him in action, a spectator asked a groom, “Who’s he by?” The reply was “He’s by hisself, and there ain’t nobody gonna get near him.” He ran only in expensive stake races for the remainder of his career.

His sixth race was the Sanford Memorial and the only defeat of his career. A bad start left him with a ten length deficit and, once he caught the pack, he was boxed in. He was beaten by a horse ironically named Upset, whom Man o’ War beat on six other occasions. In spite of this lone defeat, at the end of his two-year-old season he was selected Horse of the Year.

Not only did he win 20 of the 21 races he ran, but he sired a string of horses that went on to be champions themselves, such as War Admiral, a Triple Crown winner who is also buried in the memorial.

There are many great things to see in Lexington, KY, don’t forget to include the Kentucky Horse Park in your plans.

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