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About the Author
Gary McKechnie

Gary McKechnie
  • Entertaining Media Guest
    Watch Gary in:
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  • Featured in USA Today, Southern Living, Orlando Sentinel, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Denver Post, Dallas Morning Herald, Southwest Airlines, Lake & Sumter Style, Orlando magazine, Road Trip, CNN, CBS radio and newspapers and magazines across America.
  • Two-time Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism Award Winner
  • Benjamin Franklin Award Winner
  • Cunard Line (Queen Mary 2) Insights Series Speaker
  • Booklist Selected Author
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An Entertaining Presenter

Having followed in the footsteps of Charles Kuralt, Gary's own epic travels have given him an unparalleled education in our nation's history, culture, and pastimes. Visit AEI Speakers to arrange for Gary to share with your group fascinating stories of American humor, heroism, and inspiration.

READ: Gary's Road Trips

Prairie Hog
Vacationing for a Living

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Midwest

Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan,
Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, Wisconsin

Midwest Highlights

Harley-Davidson
ANHEUSER-BUSCH FACTORY TOUR
St. Louis, Missouri

Every year, Americans drink the equivalent of 67 billion cans of beer, double that if you factor in frat houses. A trickle of it’s coming from microbreweries, a flood of it from regional breweries, but a whole gullywasher’s streaming out of the Anheuser-Busch factory in St. Louis, Missouri.

Harley-Davidson
HARLEY-DAVIDSON
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Of the several hundred companies that manufacture motorcycles, most Americans can name just one: Harley-Davidson.

Even motorcyclists devoted to their own brand can deny Harley’s renown or resilience. Born in a Milwaukee shed, the motorcycle corporation managed to weather the Great Depression, a sullied reputation, and disastrous management, and each time it rebounded until it established itself not just as a decent motorcycle, but something better.

Harley-Davidson is America’s motorcycle.

Planes lined up at Air Show in Oshkosh, Wisconsin
OSHKOSH AIR SHOW
Oshkosh, Wisconsin

Americans have never been content to stay put. Whether it’s work or a new home or vacation, we like to go different places. Perhaps that’s why folks invested so much effort into aviation. Planes get us places faster than nearly anything.

But it’s not just speed we love. There’s something about the style, innovation, boldness and mystique of aviation. To celebrate this, each July pilots and aviation enthusiasts land in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, to display in the air and in the fields everything from classic warbirds to cutting edge aircraft. You’ll see nearly the entire history of American aviation here – and you won’t have to pay extra for a pillow.

Indianapolis 500
INDIANAPOLIS 500
Indiana

The Indianapolis 500 holds the pole position as America’s Great Race. Each May on the Sunday before Memorial Day, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway hosts the largest one-day sporting event in the world. In addition to a quarter-million fans in the stands, another 100,000 are camped out around the infield. So even if NASCAR has lapped the Indy Racing League in terms of television viewers and marketing, from a standpoint of pure Americana the Indy 500 remains well in the lead.

Tom Sawyer's Fence in Hannibal
HANNIBAL
Missouri

The town of Hannibal was to Mark Twain what the sled Rosebud was to Charles Foster Kane. In lives that were elevated to stratospheric fame and included great disappointments, they never forgot these links to their childhood.

Everyone, especially those of us who had the good fortune and the good sense to grow up in a small town, has their own Hannibal; a place where we can recall the wonder and simplicity of being a kid. The difference is that none of us will ever be able to recall those years with the same vividness, perspective, and humor as Mark Twain... So that’s why you’re going to his hometown.

Mall of America
MALL OF AMERICA
Bloomington (Minneapolis), Minnesota

Most any convenience store carries the staples we really need. Specialties items? A strip mall should suffice. Outfitting a house? The local mall could have it all. But what if your shopping list includes a flight simulator? A wedding chapel? A miniature golf course? That’s when you head to the Mall of America.

Soap Box Derby
ALL-AMERICAN SOAP BOX DERBY
Akron, Ohio

“It’s all for the kids.”

That’s what a local told me. He had volunteered at the All-American Soap Box Derby for more than 30 years and had seen the glory days of the races and had kept coming when other fans were diverted to malls and movies. But every year he was back because he enjoyed watching parents and their kids working together on their derby cars, sharing the butterflies that come with competition, and meeting after the race to hug because the kid scored a victory or had simply run a good race. He also worked at the run out past the finish line where he consoled kids who finished second and third. They thought they had lost. He knew better.

Branson Missouri
BRANSON
Missouri

Something’s missing in Branson, Missouri. You won’t find trams or monorails or robotic characters. There are no fairytale castles and it’s a challenge to find high-priced tickets, overpriced concessions, or long lines. Although it lacks the flash of Disney and Vegas, no one seems to mind. In the Ozarks of southern Missouri, you’ll find something even better than fireworks and flashing lights. A Great American Vacation.

Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri
GATEWAY ARCH
St. Louis, Missouri

You may have seen it on postcards and stamped on coins, but only when you stand near the banks of the Mississippi River and look at the towering Gateway Arch does it truly project the boldness and spirit of America’s pioneers and the unlimited horizons they followed. Simple and symbolic, the flawless design of this enormous span of steel recognizes the role St. Louis played as America’s portal to the west.

Greenfield Village
GREENFIELD VILLAGE
Dearborn, Michigan

What if you grew up in a place that you really enjoyed and then somehow, through a combination of your talent and the times, made an enormous fortune but also managed to erase the world you knew? Once you had satisfied your own needs, wouldn’t it be something if you could recapture not just traces of your own past, but those of your friends?

That’s just what Henry Ford did.

At Greenfield Village he preserved the past so that every day is yesterday.