Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Back from the NRA 2012 Annual Meeting in St. Louis...

Nana and I just returned from our trip to St. Louis, Missouri to see the 2012 National Rifle Association Annual Meeting. After picking Bailey up from the boarding kennel and having a bite to eat I thought I'd sit down and tell you about our trip.

Fire from Kerr's Creek in Rockbridge Co. (Jennifer Law Young)
We left Staunton at about 9:30 the morning of April 11. We were afraid that we'd have some problems because as soon as we got on I-81 South to Lexington we saw that I-64 West of Lexington was closed due to a brush fire. We discussed going around that on US 60 to Clifton Forge but felt that if one was closed it was very possible that the other was as well, especially since the recommendation was to go south to Troutville and back up on US 220 to Clifton Forge. What a pain. This tacked another 2 hours onto our trip so I was glad I'd made that a short leg.  The rest of the drive to Shelbyville, Kentucky was uneventful.

We stayed at the Ramada and ate at the Cattleman's Roadhouse.  The motel is spanking new and very nice.  The steak was excellent and the service good.  Cattleman's Roadhouse is a very nice restaurant.  Had a good night's sleep (Grandpa was pretty tired).

The next day we got up and headed out to St. Louis.  Along the way we discovered that one of Abraham Lincoln's boyhood homes was just south of I-64.   We tried to find it but the available brochures gave no address OR directions and Nana's usual luck at getting her way didn't pan out so we didn't see it (or rather, what is remaining of it).  Nana was much more disappointed than Grandpa was.

Otherwise the drive to St. Louis was uneventful.  We had a bit of a time coming into town.  It really isn't difficult but the GPS took us right to the front of the Edward Jones Dome and we had to figure out on our own to skirt the block to 9th Street and THEN we discovered that since I'd made my reservations the hotel had left the Holiday Inn Express line and become a Ramada franchise. I'd like to note that all the staff there, but particularly David, Dwight, Andre, Susan, and especially Acie were helpful, polite, kind and understanding of such as us. I'd also like to wish Acie's mom a happy 103rd birthday in Prescott, Arkansas. While there, we had the breakfast buffet every morning (worth the $7.95 for food and drinks including coffee, OJ, and diet Coke).  We also ate the Saturday evening meal there which was a special of filet mignon, wild rice and broccoli for $10.95.  Delicious.

I'd like to note that I was told many times that they'd been having hard times in the tourist business in St. Louis. Typical was one night when the hotel had only rented 3 rooms of the 295 available. One can't make money with an occupancy rate like that.

We found a place to park and got established and then walked the 1/4 mile to America's Center (the convention center) and 1/4 mile INSIDE the center to register for the annual meeting.  After than Nana and I had an early dinner at the Dubliner, a pub on Washington Avenue in downtown St. Louis.  Pretty nice.  We sat on the sidewalk because the weather was so nice.  The inside of the pub is very much pub-like. We made it an early night and watched a bit of TV before turning in.

Edmund (in coat & hat)
Then it was a Friday, Saturday and part of Sunday at the Annual Meeting, looking at exhibits (mostly, but also talking with exhibitors), stopping to say hello to local knife-maker Edmund Davidson at the Contemporary Longrifle Association booth, and attending various functions. We attended what I think of as the big four of the "convention". Friday afternoon we attended the Leadership Forum, Friday evening we went to the Trace Adkins concert (opened by Tyler Farr), and on Saturday spent some time at the actual meeting and then to the Freedom Experience. We saw (and met some) Glenn Beck, Keni Taylor, Larry the Cable Guy, Oliver North, Bobby Jindal, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, R. Lee Ermey, Michael Baine, Ted Nugent, Eric Cantor, Trace Adkins, Tyler Farr and, of course, Wayne LaPierre and Chris Cox (the last of two whom are the only ones aside from Oliver North and Glenn Beck who elicited standing ovations as they moved down the hallways. We bought autographed books, got some swag from the exhibitors and generally helped perk up the local economy.

To address what really interested me at the annual meeting is going to take a bit... First, Nana and I went through most of the exhibit hall. I FINALLY got to hold the Browning 1911/22 and I STILL want one. We'll see. Of course I went by the Shiloh Sharps booth and drooled for a bit. Broached the subject of a $2000 rifle to Nana but got nada for a response. Saw Boge and Jeff Quinn of GunBlast.com but no other friends on the floor. Discovered that Yankee Machine (need to call Nate) no longer produces the Maxim suppressors but might have some in stock (now there will be some money). There were several collection type displays in the exhibit hall. There was Rock Island Auction's million dollar display of a multitude of absolute gorgeous firearms, the development of the sub-machinegun display, TWO Ruger displays, Parker shotguns, Marlin rifles, the Contemporary Longrifle display, and more. Sadly, it was the quietest corner of the exhibit hall.

One exhibitor was Empire Pewter Manufacturing Company of Amsterdam, NY. With an absolutely stunning selection of firearms related pewter pins they were also GIVING AWAY a really neat 2012 NRA Annual Meeting souvenir pin. I got a really nice M1 Garand rifle pin and a lever-action rifle pin that most resembles the Winchester 1876. You can contact them at Empire Pewter Mfg Co, POB 15, Amsterdam, NY 12010 or call 518-843-0048 or FAX 518-843-7050. They will even do custom pins.

Sunday we took a bit of a breather from the annual meeting and went on a tour of the greater St. Louis metropolitan area. We got to see a lot of the town including the 1904 World's Fair fairgrounds, now a city park. Of course Nana got to the Lumiere Casino and won $100. A couple of things to point out. EVERYONE, even a panhandler we turned down, was nice and polite. The city was CLEAN. Unlike other cities in which we have lived or which we have visited, we saw nary a scrap of paper on the ground.

On Monday, the 16th, we left for Marietta, Ohio to spend the night before visiting the Fenton Glass factory in Williamstown, West Virginia (just across the Ohio river). We stayed at the Hampton Inn in Marietta and it was a very nice room in a very recently built motel.  We ate almost directly next door at the Bob Evans restaurant where Laura gave us excellent service and the meal was as good as they get.  We got up at our regular time to be at the Fenton Glass place at 9 AM when it opens. 

Fenton Glass in Williamstown, WV
How sad it was.  While the gift shop and all was well maintained inside, the factory has shrunk from as many as 800 employees to 13.  We took the factory tour.  It didn't take long.  5 employees sat at their benches painting glassware (1, Robin) painting or making beads.  One gentleman was making rain-drop earings.  Production of glassware ceased in June 2011.  The company is cleaning out all old stock and putting it in the gift shop.  The tour guide said that prior to 9-11-2001 there were 24 tour guides and 10+ busses a day would arrive for tours and to buy glassware plus the parking lot would be filled.  No longer.  He is now the only tour guide and sometimes has nobody to take on the tour.  Nana and I had a personal tour this morning. 

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