‘Eaglemobile’ turns plenty of heads on highways

 

Mike Cheshack, 87, of California stands in front of his Eaglemobile.  (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Mike Cheshack, 87, of California stands in front of his Eaglemobile. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

DOVER — Little did Mike Cheshaek know that when he took a six-week trip to Alaska in 2000 with his wife Gloria and a couple of her classmates what a lasting impact it would have on his life.

It was in Alaska that Mr. Cheshaek, 87, saw eagles soaring through the sky and he became immediately enamored by the raptor, distinguished by its white head and tail, piercing eyes, hooked beak and powerful talons.

Then, three years later, it happened.

Charles Scarpato takes a cell phone photo of the Eaglemobile in front of the Speedway Café in Dover on Thursday.  (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Charles Scarpato takes a cell phone photo of the Eaglemobile in front of the Speedway Café in Dover on Thursday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Mr. Cheshaek discovered a porcelain eagle head in a gift shop somewhere along the highway while traveling with Gloria and he thought to himself, “That reminds me of our trip to Alaska and it would look pretty good on top of my van.”

“We looked at it and it was $39.95 and I didn’t know if I wanted it or not. So the wife says, ‘Get it … If you like it, get it,’” he said. “Well, I didn’t know if it would mount anywhere because it had a big flat base.

“So I went out and looked at the van and I could see it was pretty flat [in the middle of the roof above the front windshield] and I said. ‘By God I’m going to get that eagle head,’ and that’s how it started.”

Now the Cheshaek’s van is covered inside and out with around 200 eagles, proudly mounted on nearly every square inch of the vehicle.

A small sign on the left side of the van proclaims, “I’d rather be soaring with the eagles that flying with turkeys.”

The Cheshaeks’ unique mode of transportation caught the eyes of several passers-by as they were celebrating their 70th Dover High School class reunion with former classmates at the Speedway Café on DuPont Highway on a sweltering Thursday afternoon.

Nine members of Dover’s Class of 1946 attended the luncheon out of what was a graduating class of 56. Three others still living were too ill to attend.

The back doors of the Eaglemobile are filled with eagles in Dover on Thursday.

The back doors of the Eaglemobile are filled with eagles in Dover on Thursday.

“That van’s all right,” said Saxton Lambertson, celebrating the reunion. “It certainly gives everyone something to talk about.”

Gloria Cheshaek has grown accustomed to all of the attention the van, with all of its decorations attached, generates.

“We get a little bit more attention on the highway than most,” she said. “People move over for us.”

The Cheshaeks drove cross the country from their home in San Jose, California, to attend the reunion.

Along the way, they traveled through Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine — three northeastern states where they had never been — to up the total number of states they have visited to 49. Hawaii still awaits.

During their journey to Dover, the Cheshaeks also stopped in the Normandy Beach section of Brick Township, New Jersey, and participated in a Fourth of July parade with the “Eaglemobile.”

Every time they go somewhere in their van they are sure to attract attention.

“At about 65 mph just about every car takes a picture, or every other car takes a picture … it’s just unreal,” said Mr. Cheshaek, a U.S. Army veteran.

It has been 16 years, and a lot of miles, since that trip to Alaska changed his life.

“In the year 2000 this van was naked, there was just a black gorilla on the back,” he said. “I’d see some eagles here and I’d see some there and I started getting some for my birthday. They just kept on coming.

“I’ve never lost any eagles so far and we’ve put over 4,300 miles on the van since we left home.”

Whenever Mr. Cheshaek gets into his van he said it takes him back to some great memories.

“The eagles that I saw in Alaska really impressed me and then there’s the fact that it’s our national emblem,” he said. “You put those two together and I was hooked.”

Undoubtedly so.

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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