Unusual and offbeat stories from the gravesites of the US presidents. First stop: DC.
UPDATE 7/16: Let's add another trip!
You made the original goal in under 48 hours, which is amazing! Since our Kickstarter deadline is set in stone, let's see if we can reach a second goal for a second trip.
I'll travel to Illinois and Michigan, to see Presidents Lincoln and Ford. The entire $1150 budget looks like this:
$400 - airfare
$250 - lodging
$176 - train fare and public transportation
$50 - food
$15 - admission fees
$262.06 - Kickstarter processing fees and taxes
History is weird. Let me prove it to you.
There are five living presidents. As for the 38 who have left us:
- Three of them have had their coffins opened; one of them 140 years after he died.
- One of them is interred in a building with a Darth Vader gargoyle.
- Another became a punch line on radio and TV.
- And one more is an even bigger political force dead than he was alive - he's like the Tupac Shakur of presidents.
In Presidents Who Lie (In State) I'll visit the gravesites of each American president and write about what I learn. Some are very solemn, some have weird traditions around them, some have been the site of attempted grave robberies, some are now bigger and more memorable than the men they memorialize.
I've broken this project into 16 trips. The first road trip is to Washington, DC, where I'll see four presidents and many more memorials:
George Washington – first in war, first in peace, and sadly, first in death...
Woodrow Wilson – the man who led America through World War I is buried in a cathedral with a Darth Vader gargoyle.
William Howard Taft – don't believe the stories, America's heaviest president was NOT buried in a piano crate.
John F. Kennedy – his assassination may or may not have been a conspiracy, but choosing his gravesite DEFINITELY was.
Your donation goes directly toward this first trip – transportation, admission fees, all that kind of stuff. In fact, here's the entire budget:
- $250 - airfare
- $400 - lodging
- $100 - public transportation
- $100 - food
- $40 - admission fees
- $261.76 - Kickstarter processing fees and taxes
And for your help I'll gladly send you a memento from the trip – how about an official William Howard Taft mustache kit? (They make those, right?)
Together we can make this happen! Thank you America! And also thank you Canada, if any Canadians make donations.
See you on the road,
Isn't there a president buried in your hometown? Why not start with him?
Franklin Pierce is indeed buried in my hometown, and as you saw in the video, we have started with him. But there's no need to do a Kickstarter project to visit him, seeing as a) walking from my house to his grave shouldn't incur many travel expenses, and b) I already went there. So when I say DC is “the first trip” of the project I mean it's the first real road trip.
Isn't this just like Sarah Vowell's “Assassination Vacation”?
It's a little like her book (which is on my reading list for this project, by the way). The big difference, of course, is that she only visited the presidents who were assassinated, and then only three of 'em. And I'm going for the whole bunch.
Why not do all the gravesites in one trip and/or one Kickstarter project?
I have a day job and a family, and taking weeks or months away from either is not doable for me. At least not until I land a job hosting some sort of family vacation show for the Travel Channel.
Why not at least visit the multitude of presidents buried in central Virginia if you're already coming to DC?
I thought about doing this, and believe me it was tempting, but I think the work would suffer by me trying to cram too much visiting into too little time. Better to do two trips and really do each site justice. I've been through that part of Virginia before, though, and believe me, I can't wait to go back.
What's the total cost of the entire Presidents Who Lie (In State) project?
At least $15,000.If you all want to go for that goal, I sure won't stop you!
You're not just trying to get me to bankroll your vacations, are you?
The only place these trips qualify as vacations are on my timesheets at work. There's travel here, yes, but it's working travel for the purposes of the project. You're bankrolling a pretty cool project that's built around the travel.
So these trips aren't my vacations, but now that you know that, please feel free to bankroll my vacations too! My wife and I want to take our toddler, Owen, to Europe at least once by age five. He's one now, so you've got a little under four years.
Are you taking your family on the trips?
They're definitely coming with me for the trips to nearby sites, like in Vermont and Massachusetts – as for DC and beyond, those are a lot trickier. Aside from the issue of additional expenses, I don't know whether a one year old will understand why he's spending so much time in cemeteries. And if he does understand it, then I've clearly already warped his young mind and therefore failed as a parent. So the answer is “maybe but probably not.” For the record, my wife thinks does not like my answer.
Are you trying to visit all the sites in a year?
More like a year and a half to two years. If I did swing it all in a year I'd be fine with it, though, because I have another offbeat travel project in mind after this one wraps up, and I don't want to let it sit for too long... I'll play coy and leave it at that for now. (Any Travel Channel executives who wish to know the concept of the next project: call me. You'll love it.)
Do you have a contingency if a living former president should pass on during the project?
I think so. “Drop everything and try to go to the services” is a contingency plan, right? I actually have done some research on the living presidents' funeral and burial plans. Since all former presidents seem to live into their nineties these days, though, we could be at least a few years away from such an event. I hope so, for their sakes.
How will you document the trips?
Every which way but loose – tweets, email updates, photos, blog posts, tumblr posts, and so on. I'm hoping to record some video of each trip, too, but we'll see.
I have a really neat story about a president or a gravesite, want me to tell it to you?
Yes! Use the contact link to send it over. I would also like to hear jokes, if you know any.
I live near one of the places you're visiting, can we get together? You can sleep on my couch!
Schedule permitting, sure, get in touch and we'll see if we can work something together! Couch offers sure will be appreciated; I don't take up a lot of space and will be super quiet. I don't even need a couch or a bed, if that's the case, but I will need access to a wi-fi network. Cause I'll have lots of photos and stuff to post at the end of each day. And, obviously, cat videos aren't going to download themselves.
Oh also, can I come along with you as you visit a site?
The answer is somewhere between “maybe” and “probably.” I could use a hand or two at some of these sites. That said, I will likely linger a while at each site, so ask yourself the following: “Am I down with for spending several hours at the James Buchanan Memorial?” Yeah, I didn't think so either. Still, get in touch and we'll see if something works.
Will you visit Grover Cleveland's grave on two nonconsecutive occasions?
You're darn right I will.
Have a question? If the info above doesn't help, you can ask the project creator directly.
pledged of $1,150 goal
seconds to go
Jul 11, 2012 - Aug 10, 2012 (30 days)
Pledge $10 or more
Thanks! We'll add your name to the project website.Estimated delivery: Nov 2012
Pledge $25 or more
the above, plus Brady will send you an individual, just-for-you digital photo from the trip.Estimated delivery: Nov 2012
Pledge $50 or more
the above, plus Brady will send you a handwritten postcard from the trip. And you'll get your name in the book, once he writes it up.Estimated delivery: Nov 2012
Pledge $100 or more
the above, plus Brady will send you a gift shop trinket from the trip. And, eventually, an autographed copy of the book.Estimated delivery: Nov 2012
Pledge $500 or more
the above, plus Brady will either send you a personalized video or a phone call/Skype from the trip.Estimated delivery: Nov 2012
Pledge $1,000 or more
like the $500 level but you'll get videos or phone call/Skypes every day of the trip.Estimated delivery: Nov 2012