Miles Today: 31
Miles to Date: 9,436
States to Date: 25
Poor Richard Nixon, the Rodney Dangerfield of Presidents. He gets no respect. After visiting the Ronald Reagan Library, teeming with people, upscale cafe, and Air Force One suspended in a hanger-size pavilion, I decided to visit Nixon’s Library in Yorba Linda.
The first thing the Admissions staff said was, “The permanent exhibits are closed.” Nixon’s birthplace home and the Marine One helicopter were open, as well as the gardens and personal timeline. But there was nothing juicy – nothing about Watergate – to whet my appetite. Even small things seemed to denigrate the man and his office: as many books on Kennedy and Nixon in the bookshop, and a presidential seal on the ice cream case in small convenience store that’s called a cafe.
Architecturally the library is terrific, less derivative than Reagan’s, yet appropriately formal and Mediterranean. And Nixon’s birthplace is a gem. When his parents died, Dick’s brothers kept all their original possessions knowing that Richard M. Nixon was a force whose birthplace would warrant preservation. The 1920’s kit house bungalow is perfectly preserved. And the helicopter is cool, every bit as cool as Air Force One, though ever so much smaller.
A smattering of people dotted the grand foyers and halls; I can only hope more people visit when the main exhibits are open. What I wanted most to know, of course, was how Nixon’s official memorial addressed Watergate and resignation. But whatever spin was appropriate when the library opened in 1990 is now history; completely new exhibits are being installed. When they open next year, Nixon will be reinvented yet again.
The most effective exhibit is the wall of Nixon Time Magazines. Nixon was on the cover of Time fifty-four times – more than any other person. Growing up, the man was always smiling or scowling at me from the coffee table. From the first cover, as Eisenhower’s VP choice, to the last, when he died, Nixon reflected his time. He did great things, which are now overshadowed by terrible things. He exuded confidence that was ultimately feeble.
I left the library with plenty of time to get to my host’s house, but missed a turn in Anaheim, wound up adding miles to my route and doing what I strive not to: riding at night. My mistake required me to make two sizable climbs. Fortunately Anaheim has great roads with wide shoulders, and I witnessed an incredible red sky over the basin.
The night harkened me again after dinner. My host, Reza, whizzed me through a labyrinth of freeways to the immense scrap operation for which he runs the trucking operation. Every day six trucks haul scrap from all over SoCal to the yard. A huge claw machine deposits it into hoppers, a forklift weighs and loads the metal into containers, and a bobcat compresses the mess. They work until three in the morning to fill thirteen containers a day to empty the yard for the next day’s scrap. The containers are hauled to the Port of Long Beach and shipped to Asia. We buy finished goods from China and export our debris in return. See what Nixon ‘s China diplomacy has wrought.