2011 Washington DC Trip
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Monday , June 6, 2011 7:14pm
Greetings from the East Coast. We are currently on the buses headed towards Colonial Williamsburg. After a few glitches to start our trip, things have smoothed out quite nicely. Both groups were on-time and raring to get underway. The drive to SFO was unusually light as was the business at the ticket counter (At UsAirways anyway, I’m not sure about the Delta.) We arrived with plenty of time to spare before our connection so we grabbed a little breakfast and waited for our plane to arrive from Seattle. It pulled in a little bit late but still should be able to leave on time, that is if the cleaners were not blindfolded with both hands ties behind their backs. Still, we should only be a few minutes late once we actually start boarding (he says optimistically). Silly boy. Once we are all onboard we still sit and sit…and …finally the Captain comes on the PA system and you can tell he is, well, let’s just say “Not Pleased.” It turns out that our plane was “randomly” picked for some ultra-special security inspection, which had been completed, but whoever did it neglected to sign the form and we cannot leave until that person is located and comes back to sign the form. Over an hour late we finally push out of the gate. Yippee, on to Baltimore! Awwwwww, but the travel Gremlins are not done with Kenilworth yet.
As soon as they announce it is okay to use our phones, I call the other group and tell them to load up and we will catch up with them at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing BEP). Unbeknowst to me at the time, they to had a little trouble traveling of there own. It seems when they arrived in Baltimore they got to sit on their plane for a while…in the gate because they couldn’t get the jetway started. As we arrived at baggage claim, the first bus was pulling away from the curb. Unfortunately, whole they were waiting for us, the second driver was concerned that his bus was acting like it was going to overheat. No problem, while we wait for our bags, put on our shorts, give away some trivia prizes (No…San Francisco is not a state!) Tony goes and exchanges our bus…..(Dang, this one doesn’t have WiFi). This puts us further behind but its better than standing on the side of the highway next to a broken down bus….Great job Tony. Meanwhile, Anne and Karen are schmoozing the BEP to extend our timeline for our reservation as we race from Baltimore to the BEP. Despite all of our best efforts we cannot make it to the BEP in time. We arrive as the first group I finishing their tour so we all head over to the National Shops (Food Court) for lunch.
Despite the morning snafu’s spirits are high as we head over to the Washington Monument. What a view! From 550 feet up you can see the entire city and beyond. As each group came off the elevator I went around to each set of windows to help them pick out the main sights…places such as the White House, the Lincoln, Jefferson, World War II, Vietnam, and Air Force Memorials as well as the future tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King which is under construction (due to open in August).
After coming back down we say farewell for now to Karen and Anne (They will join us again on Wednesday.) and over to Quantico, Virginia to tour the Marine Corp Museum. This site is fairly new and quite impressive. Inside they have Huey Gunships, a Skyhawk fighter jet along with numerous troop transports, tanks and howitzers. All of them are placed into full size, walk through diorama’s that really put you into the experience. I particularly liked the simulated LST landing complete with actual footage of the Marines assault of Iwo Jima. It really came alive.
The Marine Corp Museum closed at 5:00pm. Our next stop is dinner at the Golden Corral which is less than 30 minutes away in Fredricksburg. Our appointment is at6:00pm. No, seriously, it is not a problem that you are early. Welcome, come on in and relax. To say the Golden Corral is a buffet doesn’t serve it justice. The food is great and the variety of choices is fabulous. There’s steak, beef ribs, pork ribs, prime rib, bourbon chicken, sweet and sour chicken, etc…and that was just the meat counter…not to mention a taco bar, incredible desserts, soups, salads, ice cream and all the mac n cheese and French fries the kids could eat……..what a feast! Gotta go…I’ll finish this up tonight.
Monday continued…..(12:13am Tuesday morning)….. Dinner ended rather quickly….The kids decided they were done and just got up and started to walk out…all on their own…past the bus drivers who were still sitting in the restaurant…long before we needed to go. Soooooo, we all got up and loaded the buses. This meant we were gonna be an hour early for the ghost tour and since that would mean going before it was dark that wasn’t a good plan so we moved tomorrows side trip to Yorktown to this evening. Not really the most exciting spot but I did give a history lesson on each bus about the surrender of Cornwallis after being surrounded by the Americans and the French which brought about the end to the Revolutionary War. It really does make it more real when you can see the location that we learned about in class and again from the bus.
After the quick tour of Yorktown, its on to the ghost tour. We split up into three groups and wandered through the campus of the College of William and Mary and the streets of Williamsburg. Since it was so late when we got back to the hotel I didn’t really get much of a chance to hear about the other two guides but the group I was with had probably the best storyteller I have seen on this trip. He was great. Not only did he tell us the “official” stories but added a sighting of his own. Wow! His story was the exact same story I described two years ago. Very spooky….but REALLY cool! Be sure to ask your kids about this evening. They were exhausted but listening so intently to the stories….jumping at every cue thrown at them by the storyteller. The only downside is our story teller ran long so it was really late by the time we hit the hotel. Everyone is checked into their rooms and the guards are in the hallway. Wake up call, 6:00am, breakfast at 7:15am, on the bus at 8:00 and on to Jamestown. Good night. Mr Eklund
Tuesday June 7, 2011 Day Two
After a very long, but fun, first day followed by a 6:00am wake up call I was amazed at how many kids were already out in the hallway ready to go when I went knocking on doors at 6:30 to wake up those who had slept through the wakeup calls. We had a nice breakfast at the hotel, went back up got our bags and loaded the buses, ready to enjoy the day. First stop today is the recreated glassblowing industry at the Jamestown settlement. Using pretty much the same techniques that have been employed since 1608, we watched glassblowers create magic with glass. Some of the students were so impressed that they thought it would be a fun career, even with the four year training period.
Next stop the Jamestown Settlement itself. This is where America really began. Founded in 1607, Jamestown is the first permanent British settlement in America. Lead by three great tour guides we saw how the Native Americans were living when the British arrived and how the two groups got along together…and at times, how the didn’t. It was quite interesting how much cooler it seemed outside after crowding 30 of u inside an Indian hut. It definitely was warm today. Not overly so but for those of us not used to humidity, the complaint index rose with the temperature. Hopefully they are becoming acclimated to the climate since it is supposed to get hotter as the week progresses. At the Jamestown settlement they have recreated the fort, complete with docents in period clothing, using period tools, creating period products, and generally becoming a living history. After going through the Powhatan Indian Village, the replica’s of the three ships used for the crossing (imagine 4 months below decks with 50 other guys in a ship smaller than our tour bus…and you are not allowed to go up on deck! From the docks its through the fort where we saw/heard a musket being fired, learned about imposts and exports and even went to church before touring the museum with our guide. In addition to learning about this great historical site we also discovered the favorite accessory item of teenagers (the hooded sweatshirt) is a fine example of inappropriate attire on a day like today.
After an unintentional driving tour of the College of William and Mary (second oldest university in the United States…after Harvard) we stop to have lunch in the school cafeteria. Two things regarding lunch…one, they sure didn’t have food like this when I went to college (Cal State Northridge) and two, Rueben Sandwich (Awesome!). Great lunch!
Next up, a daytime tour of Colonial Williamsburg. We were at many of the same places that we saw last night but they sure looked different during the daylight. Once again we have some excellent guides to show us the sites. In the Capitol we put Ms. Barrosa on trial for murder. She was found guilty and sentence to hang but we didn’t test out the rope when she received a pardon from the Governor. We drew water from a well, learned how to make a barrel from a coopersmith, learned how to make a longbarreled rifle from a gunsmith and even toured the Governors Palace. The coolest part…all of t was being done and shown as if it was 1775! So cool.
Time to eat again (I told you, even the boys would have plenty to eat.) Tonight…PIZZA. Plenty of deep dish Chicago style pizza and plenty of salad with ice cream brownies for dessert. Nice to sit and relax, enjoy our meal before the drive to our next Hotel, the Crown Plaza in Tysons Corner, Virginia.
On the way to the hotel need to take a potty break at a huge, and very nice, rest stop. At least that what the kids were saying but I think there were more kids that bought more soda than there were kids who needed a pit stop. Back at the hotel after two long days…bed check a few minutes early to get rested up for a big day tomorrow. Expected temperature….100 degrees. Good thing a big chunk of the day will be inside. Yak at cha tomorrow……Mike EKlund
Wednesday June 8, 2011
Hmmmmmm….wake up calls work better when you actually get up when you pick up the phone. Some of the boys had a life lesson today. Fortunately we still made it to Ford’s Theater in time for our appointment, but just barely. Ford’s Theater has been refurbished to look almost like it did the night Lincoln was assassinated. (Well, all except the seats and the carpeting.) What a tragic story. The Civil War had just ended yet a southern sympathizer named John Booth thought he could throw our country into enough turmoil to save the south by killing the man who was undoubtedly our best president. In addition to completely refurbishing the theater they have also added a pretty cool museum underneath. Here we saw the actual gun Mr. Booth used to commit the murder. We know it was the saw gun because in the ranger talk we heard while seated in the theater, he told us that Booth had dropped the single shot derringer to grab his knife when President Lincoln’s guest in the box made a grab for Mr. Booth. We didn’t get to go to Peterson House, where they took Lincoln to die, because it is closed for renovations. Apparently, the park service bought the place next door and are going to knock through the wall to add to the exhibit. Guess you better come on the trip again next year.
Next we had a real treat. While driving to our next stop we got stuck in some serious traffic. We sat through the same signal about 6 or 7 times but it was worth it. Turns out we were waiting for a presidential motorcade to drive by. While we were waiting, I got a call from our congresswoman. Pretty darn cool if you ask me! Not something you see everyday back home.
Here's the rest of the places we visited today. The cold I have been trying not to catch since Monday caught me. Sorry, Ifeel crummy and need some sleep. I'll try to update this tomorrow.
Here's the rest of the places we visited today. The cold I have been trying not to catch since Monday caught me. Sorry, I feel crummy and need some sleep. I'll try to update this tomorrow.
****** Wednesday Continued
After the excitement of the motorcade, its through the construction zone (one of many) to the Einstein Statute. All of the kids climbed in his lap for a group photo. If someone could email me their copy I will see if I can get it blown up and hang it in my classroom next year. From here we walked across the street to the Vietnam Wall and Memorials. Very subtle but also extremely overwhelming at the same time. Simple black panels sunk into a long “V” shape with thousands of names of those who lost their lives in this conflict carved into the wall. At least two members of our group took this opportunity to make a rubbing of a loved one’s name. In addition to the Wall, we also had a chance to see the two other Vietnam Memorials. One depicting three soldiers and the other dedicated to the nurses. On to the Lincoln Memorial which is located right next door. This is such a beautiful tribute to our greatest president. His statute has quite a view, looking out across the reflecting pool and the World War II memorial to The Washington Monument. A stunning view indeed. Unfortunately, the reflecting pool is currently empty while it is being rebuilt but it looks like they are add a series of lights or fountains the length of the pool. This will really look nice once it is completed. We finished up the Memorial tri-fecta with the Korean War Memorial. A number of kids noticed and commented about the looks on the faces of these 16 full size sculptures. You can really feel the tension these soldiers must have felt as they walked across a rice paddy in the middle of a war zone. This has always been one of my favorite sites because it looks so realistic.
Time to eat again, this time in one of the worlds largest offices, the Reagan Trade Center. This place is so big they have their own food court…as well as security inspection to get into the building. Unfortunately, we hit this place during the noon rush hour so it was packed, although if the kids were adventurous enough to try something other than Subway or a burger, the wait really wasn’t very long.
After lunch we walked a block and a half to the MALL (no not a galleria, shopping mall, this is the mall in DC where the Smithsonian Museums line both side of the grass mall. Over the next three and half to four hours the kids had a chance to visit (in their groups) the American History Museum (some highlights: C3PO from Star Wars, the lunch counter from Woolworths, an Original flying DUMBO from the ride at Disneyland, Julia Child’s Kitchen [did you know she was also a spy?], the actual flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the Star Spangled Banner, and so much more), the Natural History Museum (some highlights: the Hope Diamond, dinosaurs, rocks and gems galore, and just about every animal [stuffed] that you can imagine) and the Air and Space Museum (some highlights: a moon rock you can touch, Apollo 11 space capsule, an Airbus flight simulator, the front section of a Boeing 747, a Ford Tri-Motor and DC-3 suspended from the ceiling, etc. ) There are other museums in the space as well but as far as I know there were not any groups that went to the Art museums along the way.
Tonight was an early dinner at a seafood place called Phillips Restaurant. Not great but not terrible either. We have been to worse and we have been to better. Every year we try out a new place or two. Some are keepers and others not so much. This one had some great shrimp and they treated us great but not my favorite restaurant. Probably not on the keeper list but ya never know until you try. Besides, dinner was not the focus of the evening…that honor goes to the Twilight Tattoo. What a fantastic event!!!! Be sure to ask your kids about this show. Good thing they are too young to sign up for the Army or I might have some explaining to do when we get home. If this show doesn’t make you proud to be an American I don’t know what will. PLUS, they were streaming the performance live on-line and a lot of us sent messages to loved ones to watch and we were all surprised when they turned the camera on us! Woo Hoo! Kenilworth was on TV during the Tattoo. Afterwards everyone had a chance to meet the soldiers. What an inspiring evening.
When the tattoo ended, we had time to for last stop. On the way back to the hotel we made a stop at the Marine Corps Memorial. This huge statue depicts the Marines and one sailor raising the American Flag atop Mt. Saribachi during the battle for Iwo Jima. After a very long, and tiring day its back through a major construction zone again to get back to our hotel to finish off another fantastic day. Sorry my update is late but I couldn’t write it because I was working on Friday’s big surprise until I couldn’t stay awake any longer
Thursday June 9, 2011
We knew today was gonna be a scorcher. It was already 85 degrees at 6:00am. (Turns out we broke a record that has stood since 1887 of 102 degrees.) Its that early day I warned everyone about, the dreaded 5:00am wake up call so we will be first at Mount Vernon.Once again, it was a good move. Not only were we almost the first ones to go through the house but we were able to go through before it got really hot. After touring the mansion we spent quite a bit of time in the Education Center / Museum / and gift shops. We really saw the importance of getting there early. Those that went straight from the house tour to the film went right in to the next showing. Those that didn’t listen to Ann and chose to go through the museum first discovered a huge line to get into the theater. The docents said it was the biggest crowd they had ever seen. (Funny that was the same thing we heard at the Tattoo last night.)
Next was an early lunch at the Old Country Buffet. Personally I wasn’t to excited to see this place because it was not the greatest in the past but I was assured that it was better. Sure enough, the new manager has really put some effort into the place. Most of the kids I talked too liked it better than the Golden Corral, which I think is pretty good for a buffet. I have to admit, this was the first time I have been to this restaurant when the soft serve ice cream machine stopped working before I had some. I actually got to have some ice cream today…with hot fudge…and it was really good.
The reason we had lunch early was our tour of the Capitol was next at 1:10pm. We had to hustle up the hill in the heat to make it on time but was it ever worth it. The new visitors center has a theater that show an inspiring film before a guide takes you on the tour. The tour operates with a headset that allows you to hear your guide without having to strain yourself to listen and avoid the other tours around you. We had two of the best guides ever. They were both really knew their stuff and were really funny too. Following the tour, Dana, an intern for Rep Lynn Woolsey, took us into the House of Representatives Gallery. Unfortunately the House was not in session but we did get to see inside the place and learn how everything works. Not to mention, the building is air conditioned, which might explain that one of the statues in Statuary Hall is a tribute by the state of Florida to the guy who invented air conditioning.
After touring the capital, we had to make the long walk back down the hill. (The walk is really long because of security concerns which mean the buses can’t get very close to the building. Probably a good idea but a pain non-the-less, especially when it is so dang hot. The good news is the long walk, in addition to taking us to the bus, it also took us to Grants Monument which is where we had our group photo taken. These large photos are included as a part of your trip and will be available in a couple of weeks. I will send out a Newsflash when they arrive and meet you at school one day to pass them out.
Back on the bus, drenched in sweat, we thought we would go indoors to the National Archives but it was closed. It seems their air conditioning was working properly so they shut down. I guess its better for the documents to keep all those warm bodies out of the building it was a bummer. Instead we went to two outdoor memorials that featured a lot of shade, The Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial and the Thomas Jefferson Memorials, both of which had construction going on around them. They are currently building a tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King next to the FDR and repairing the Tidal Basin wall next to the Jefferson. (Did I mention there seems to be construction going on pretty much everywhere?) We walked between the two which is our normal route and fortunately, with all the shade it wasn’t horrible but shade can only help so much when its 102 degrees outside. Time for a bit of a break. We were going to go straight to the Pentagon City Mall to le the kids eat and shop and generally take a bit of a break. Since the logistics for visiting the Air Force Memorial were much easier on the way to the mall than they were on the way home we decided to make a quick stop at the Memorial on the way to dinner. I am so glad we did. At the Memorial was a group of World War II veterans on a Hero’s Flight journey. This is a program that honors these American Heros with a free trip to Washington DC to see all of the tributes we have for our military. Some of us met a very nice gentleman in a wheelchair who served our country as an Army paratrooper during the D-Day invasion when he was 18 years old. It was nice to see these two generations taking a moment to appreciate each other. I was very proud of our Kenilworth kids. They truly appreciated these brave men. Right up there with the Twilight Tattoo on the tearing up scale.
The mall wasn’t as crowded as we have seen it in the past. There are a lot of choices to eat but it was interesting to see how they were dealing with a crisis. Their main escalator was broken and as a result they had security guards guiding people coming from the outside away from the mall. Turns out we had to go down an escalator and then back up through the METRO station to enter the mall. The other interesting thing to see was how energized the kids became in the mall considering how much they were dragging from the heat moments before. Go figure.
One last stop before calling it a day, the World War II Memorial. I wish we had been there earlier in the day. It turns out the Hero’s Flight group had placed a wreath at the Memorial in the morning. We did time it perfectly to see the lights come on in the fountain. It was absolutely beautiful. End of a long day…………………. Nighty Night…….Possibly a big surprise tomorrow.
Friday June 10, 2011
What a wild, wacky, weird and wonderful day. After yesterday’s record breaking heat we were looking forward to a day only in the high 90’s. After another hotel breakfast, packing our bags, loading them on the buses and its off to a very special treat. After more ups and downs, yes’s and no’s, maybe and maybe not’s than I care to imagine, we actually have an appointment for all of us to go into the White House. After picking up Karen and Ann we head over to the South Lawn of the White House to take some pictures and check out Mrs. Obama’s garden. Before you know it, it is time to go through the security line to get into the White House. As you know, we had to provide lots and lots of info and the way things have gone this far ya know its not gonna be smooth sailing, and sure enough, it wasn’t. Standing in the line, in the quickly heating sunny day, we find that our group in not in the guards appointment book. No appointment=no entry. Text messages flow back and forth, assuring us not to worry but for now get out of line so it is back out to the street waiting for our list to arrive. Finally, our list shows up and we all pass through the first security checkpoint…well, everyone except Mr. Bradley. Fortunately we he was able to convince the Secret Service agents that he simply neglected to turn in his paperwork on time and wasn’t a Russian spy so they let him join us. (See why I had all those deadlines!) And so…into the White House we go! This place was sooooooooooooooooooo cool. As we traveled from room to room we saw so much presidential history. We saw where the president meets with foreign leaders, holds dinners for over 100. Where Paul McCartney, Stevie Wonder, and Alica Keys (among others) played piano on an extremely old original Steinway Piano. The ballroom where Princess Diana danced with John Travolta and probably the coolest thing of all…the actual portrait of George Washing that Dolly Madison insisted be saved before fleeing the White House and the British burned it down in the War of 1812. Sorry we didn’t bring home any photos but no camera’s were allowed. What a treat and thank you so much to Suzanne Greva for helping make this happen.
Next it is on to Arlington National Cemetery. The hike up the hill is strenuous any day but with today’s heat, wow, what a workout. The sweat was pouring as we made it to the Kennedy’s gravesites. We continued on the gravesite of America’s greatest hero…Audie L. Murphy. Some day I will make through Audie’s story without crying but today wouldn’t be the day. To see the whole story, check out the film To Hell and Back, where Audie plays himself. Excellent movie about a real role model (remember my promotion speech?) As if that wasn’t inspiration enough, next we made it over to the Tomb of the Unknowns to watch the changing of the guard. Between the Twilight Tattoo, Audie Murphy and the changing of the guard we definitely got our share of proud to be an American tears this week.
Now that we have hit the heat of the day the hike back down the hill was almost as hard as the hike up but away we go because there is so much more to see and do. Next up, lunch in Union Station. This is still and actual working train station as well as a mall with lots of restaurants to choose from for lunch. After a bite to eat it is time for our last site of the week. We make the short drive down Pennsylvania avenue to the Newseum, a museum dedicated to the News. Unfortuantely, are added White House stop took a lot of our museum time away (but well worth the trade off). This museum features a 4-D film about news reporting, a huge section of the Berlin Wall, a glass elevator that hold about 50 people, Ted Kazinsky’s cabin, the actual newspapers of the day for almost every major event in the past two hundred years, the top of one of the World Trade Center towers, not to mention an opportunity to put yourself into an actual news video as the reporter. The exhibit on Hurricane Katrina was incredible…took up almost the entire sixth floor.
Unfortunately, we had to cut this visit short cuz it is time to head off to the airport. Group one heads out first and gets into a pretty serious traffic jam. Tony, takes care of group two by letting them know to take another route and soon enough, despite staggered start times, both buses approach the airport at about the same time. By the way, every drive we take, Ann and Karen, Tony and Thomas (the drivers) and I are giving a driving tour as we go. There is not enough time to go everywhere but I think we give the kids a pretty good taste of DC.
Anyway, we are at Baltimore Airport with two and a half to three and a half hours to check in and get onto our flight. From Group two (as far as I know) its smooth ailing and the arrive home relatively close to their scheduled arrival time. For group number one, its quite a different story. As we approach the ticket counter to check in USAirways’ computer system breaks down. As the line grows and the passengers get angry the ticket agents shrug their shoulders and say there is nothing they can do. This goes on for a couple of hours. Finally, about a half hour before our flight is due to depart they decide to start writing baggage tickets by hand (something I had suggested an hour and a half earlier). They also finally decide maybe they should do something about the 100’s of passengers in front of them who are going to miss their flights and start hand writing boarding passes. Unfortunately, they didn’t seem to think we were that important because they seemed to drop working on our tickets to help everybody else who walked up to the counter. They kept giving us a few passes at a time, promising that they would not leave until we were all onboard. When the last 21 on us finally cleared security and made it to the gate, the door was closed and plane was pushed back. Not good.
We spent the next hour or two trying to fix the mess. Unfortunately, there were no flights on any airline that would get us home tonight…and nothing available out of Baltimore in the morning either. The only option for all of us together would be a non-stop out of Philadelphia in the morning so that’s what we are doing (as I write this).They booked the flight, ordered a bus (for the 2 hour bus ride). They gave us some vouchers for dinner (the only choices still open-Subway Sandwiches or Dunkin Donuts), Booked us hotel rooms (the Sheraton…really nice). Gave us vouchers for breakfast in the Philly Airport, and got us to the hotel. Worldstrides sent over two guards for the hallway and all we had left to do was try and get some rest before our 3:00am wake up calls. (Makes that 5:00am call for Mt. Vernon seem like no big deal.) Even though the whole mess was extremely stupid, the gate agent and supervisor did their best to fix it.
Anyway, despite the flight home fiasco, this was a fantastic trip. The kids had a great time (even the group stuck for an extra day..a couple even commented that they were the lucky ones because their trip was longer.) As usual, Ann, Karen, Tony, and Thomas were awesome. Thank you so much for contributing to the tip fund. We left tips and thank you cards with our hosts. They liked you as much as we did them. They request us just like we request them each year. Speaking of each year, you are all invited to join us again next year. That trip will be quite different. Instead of Jamestown and Colonial Williamsburg we will head to Gettysburg and up to Philadelphia (this time after the sun comes up.) Many of the sites during the week will vary as well. Let me know if you would like a registration packet.
The group photos we took in front of the Capitol will be ready in a couple of weeks. I will send out a Newsflash when they arrive and come down to Kenilworth to pass them out. In the meantime, thanks again for joining me on this journey. I hope you had a wonderful time. Enjoy your summer and best of luck in high school in the Fall. Michael Eklund
WOW! What a great surprised greeted the arrival of our bus this afternoon. Applause and everything. I am so humbled that you thought so much of this trip. I am so glad you let me take your children to experience our heritage. They may be exhausted but I know they will be talking about what they have seen for years to come. Thank you so much for the kind welcome home and the extremely generous thank you’s. I appreciate everything soooooo much. Yours truly, Mike Eklund