Trip Peek #60
Trip #7
49 & Counting

This picture is from my 2002 49 & Counting trip. Unlike other national Corvette caravans that were focused on the Corvette Museum’s 1994 Labor Day opening, the 2003 caravans were focused on the first Corvette production on June 30, 1953. As a sort of warm up for the fiftieth anniversary celebration, a single caravan made up of a Corvette from each model year traveled from Detroit to St. Louis to Bowling Green. I don’t know why I picked a photograph of the 1954 model to represent the trip as a photo of the 1953 model appears right next to it in the journal. I drove to the museum on one day, hung around for another day of festivities then took a scenic route home along the Ohio River through Indiana on the third. The forty-nine cars in the caravan, or Historic Motorama, always traveled in model year sequence leading one of the driversto quip, “The view never changes… unless you’re the ’53.”


Trip Peeks are short articles published when my world is too busy or too boring for a current events piece to be completed in time for the Sunday posting. In addition to a photo thumbnail from a completed road trip, each Peek includes a brief description of that photo plus links to the full sized photo and the associated trip journal.

Open House at Octagon Mound

It’s not really a house and it’s never actually closed but an “open house” is what the Ohio History Connection calls each of the four days a year that tours are conducted and the general public is permitted inside Octagon Mound at Newark, Ohio. On all other days, access is restricted to members and guests of Moundbuilders Country Club who has leased the property since 1910. While that may sound disrespectful or even sacrilegious, the arrangement has provided a degree of protection that not all area mounds have received. Octagon Mound is part of the largest group of geometric mounds in the world. In addition to the octagon and an attached circle, Newark Earthworks once included a larger circle, a square, and an ellipse along with several pairs of long mounds connecting the geometric figures. The ellipse and all but a fragment of the square have been obliterated and covered over by the city of Newark. Just over forty miles to the southwest, a huge circle mound that gave the city of Circleville its name has been destroyed and buried under that city. In comparison, maybe having a few golfers wandering around isn’t so bad.

Last Monday, July 31, was an Open House day with hourly tours starting at noon. I was there in time for the first one but, after listening to the guides pre-tour comments, I stayed behind when the group headed off to enter the enclosure. The group seemed overly large to me and I thought I might do better with a later tour.

Instead I took the opportunity to look at the map the guide had referenced as he spoke then walked to a nearby observation platform. The platform allows the public to peek inside the enclosure even on days when they are not permitted inside. The picture at the top of this post was also taken from the platform. A path that runs part way around the attached circle is also always available to all and I traveled it while awaiting the next tour. A feature of the circle opposite its connection to the octagon stands several feet higher than the circle itself and has been given the name Observatory Mound. The path leads to within sight of Observatory Mound but doesn’t quite reach it. Walking beyond the path is permitted today and I continued on to the raised section.

The second tour contained nearly as many people as the first so I didn’t help myself much by waiting. I did stick with this one, however. As we paused at the opening to the interior, the guide pointed out that the approximately five foot tall mounds were at an almost ideal height for an adult human to use as sighting lines. Of course, as you can see, smaller creatures can sight along them as well if they position themselves properly. Following an overview of where we were and where we were going, the group headed across the big enclosure without fear of being beaned by a golf ball.

In the first picture we are walking between the parallel mounds that connect the octagon to the circle. The arrangement suggests a walkway. Similar pairs of mounds once connected the area around the octagon with other geometric figures in the complex and possibly with points much farther away. In the second picture we are approaching Observatory Mound and in the third most of the group is arrayed on the mound’s side listening to the guide. The purpose of Observatory Mound is one of the many mysteries associated with the structures. It may have actually been built as something of an observatory. The northernmost rising of the moon can be viewed from it through the circle, octagon, and connecting mounds. It looks as if there was once another opening into the circle at Observatory Mound so it might have been built to close the entrance. The truth is that no one knows and likely never will.

The cluster’s only other surviving enclosure, Great Circle Mound, lies roughly a mile from Octagon Mound. It is also owned by the state and it isn’t leased to a country club or anyone else. It can be visited at any time. These photos were taken near the small museum that stands near the entrance to the circle. The entrance can be seen in the second photo. A large ditch runs along the inside of the circular mound. Much of the material making up the mound was taken from the ditch during construction but there is also evidence that the ditch held water once the structure was completed. Why is just another of the complex’s mysteries.

The Newark Earthworks contain no solar alignments but there are a number of lunar alignments. This fact adds to the mystery since predicting the moon’s movements is a tougher job than predicting those of the sun and their role in daily life is much smaller. The picture of lunar alignments was taken inside the museum. The Ancient Ohio Trail website offers excellent information on the Newark Earthworks as well as other Ohio sites.

My Contribution to Science

At various points in my youth I dreamed of making major contributions to the welfare of mankind. Maybe discovering a cure for cancer or inventing an anti-gravity machine or a device for traveling through time. But chemistry and I barely became acquaintances let alone friends and my relationship with higher math and hard core physics wasn’t anything to brag about either. I had some success playing with computer software and I believe that some of what I did was actually creative but it wasn’t the sort of thing that advanced the state of computer science. But there’s still a chance. I’ve just made arrangements for my body to go to the University of Cincinnati’s College of Medicine so maybe someone will discover that cancer cure after poking around in my physical remains on the way to becoming a doctor.

Yeah, it’s definitely a long shot and that possibility wasn’t really much of a factor in my decision. That decision was based on one thing: practicality. Putting my body in a fancy box then using even a tiny bit of real estate to hold it just isn’t practical to my way of thinking. I won’t condemn those who consider this attempt at preservation extremely important but for me it seems wasteful and ultimately futile. The obvious way to avoid the fancy box and cemetery plot is cremation and that was a decision I made long ago and verbally communicated to friends and family. But even cremation isn’t free and it doesn’t happen automatically so I’ve gone beyond just telling my kids to cremate me.

I’m fortunate to have lived long enough to truly recognize that death is inevitable. We all claim to recognize that and say things like “No one lives forever” but what we’re actually thinking for much of our lives is “No one’s lived forever — yet.” Over the years I’ve come to accept that I really won’t live forever and that I probably wouldn’t like it if I did. Part of what I consider fortunate about this is that I have the opportunity to arrange a few things myself. I have benefited from my parents’ pre-planning and I’d like to spare my kids the need to hurriedly deal with some awkward decisions. They’re going to have enough trouble dealing with all those books, maps, and CDs. Arranging for my cremation while I’m still alive saves others from having to deal with either the arrangements or the cost. Doing it via a body donation saves even me the cost and the body might provide some small benefit before the fire hits. Getting even a tiny bit of use from an old man’s dead body seems like a true something for nothing.

It is not a perfect solution. The program itself is not flawless. Donors can chose between having the cremains returned or buried at a group site. The possibility exists that the specific cremains cannot be returned and “representative cremains from the Body Donation Program” are substituted. The family is informed of this but it’s obviously a big negative if something special was planned for the ashes.

The group burial site is in Spring Grove Cemetery. The site is marked but individual names are not recorded there. They are recorded by the Donation Program and the cemetery.

I recognize the value of grave markers to descendants and researchers. It’s an upside of cemeteries that even I see. I’m going with something of a compromise and intend to make use of real estate already in use by placing a plaque with my own birth and death dates on my parents’ tombstone. I also recognize that this means I’ll be taking advantage of something not available to my own offspring. Sorry, kids.

After raising the question with my daughter, I selected the return option rather than burial at Spring Grove. Even so, I’m not overly concerned about the unlikely possibility of “representative cremains” being returned. I have no sacred spots where I feel my ashes absolutely must end up. In fact, I’ve told my kids that if I die somewhere that makes getting the body back to UC overly expensive, don’t bother. Just burn me there. You’ll hear no complaints from me.

But if things do go as planned and my sons and daughter eventually end up with a bucket of ashes they’re pretty sure is me, I’ve suggested I be sprinkled along roads and rivers that have played a role in my life. A river’s current could carry those ashes some distance downstream and roadside dust that was once me could end up on the hood of a passing car in the middle of a long road trip. Both situations offer the possibility of taking me somewhere I’ve never been and that’s very much alright with me.

In You I Trust

The last few weeks have not been kind to my cars. I definitely use them (This site’s title does contain the words “road trips”.) and don’t always treat them gently but it wasn’t me this time. Both cars were violated while not moving.

On June 10, I pulled up behind a SUV that had just exited the expressway near my home then stopped at a traffic light. When the driver realized she was in the wrong lane to make a desired turn, she started backing up to switch lanes. My tiny Mazda Miata was out of sight behind her. The collision was low speed and at first glance it looked like there might be no damage but closer examination revealed a number of scratches and a fairly deep dent from a hook on the rear of the SUV. The driver was very apologetic and there was no question of fault. She would pay for all damages but would prefer to not have the police or her insurance company involved. I certainly understood that and after some conversation and an exchange of contact information I agreed. I also took some “incriminating photos”.

That was a Saturday. On Monday I got a couple of almost identical estimates and gave the driver a call. I offered to mail or email the estimates but she said there was no need and immediately sent me a check.

Just a day more than three weeks later I was waiting, in my Subaru Forester, at a traffic light in Harrisonburg, VA, when I was struck from behind. I had originally planned on driving the Miata on the Virginia trip but repairs were not quite finished when I had to leave. It was another small SUV but this time the driver was not a woman but a man with a heavy accent and a hard to pronounce name. But he was as apologetic as the lady had been and again there was no question of fault. Also, just like the other driver, he wanted to avoid police and insurance involvement. He had some connection with a body shop and initially suggested he have the car fixed there. That just was not possible, of course. My home was two states away.

I won’t pretend that I pulled out of Harrisonburg, VA, with the same confidence as when the lady and I separated in my own neighborhood and even that confidence had been kind of shaky. But, after more discussion and pictures and information exchange, I drove on with the understanding that I would call with an estimate when I got home. I’m pretty sure that my willingness to do that was aided by the fact that I had places to go and really didn’t want to hang around either. My confidence got a huge boost when, misunderstanding my schedule, he called me a few days later.

This time there was considerable difference between two estimates on the car. One shop quoted replacing a fairly big piece while the other quoted repairing it. Repairing the part made the most sense to me and I readily agreed that the lower estimate was quite acceptable. I received a check for that amount on Monday.

Some might jump to the conclusion that I believe everyone is honest and responsible. As much as I wish that were true I know it’s not and my recent trip included a couple of reminders of that as well. Just three days after the big bump in Harrisonburg I came out of a museum to find a new white stripe on the side of my car. No note under the wiper and no driver standing by to explain. Just a smear of white paint that can probably be buffed off and one gouge into metal that can’t. And three days after that I got a text message from Discover wondering if I had just made a $453 purchase from Tiffany’s. I replied ‘N’ (as in “not bloody likely”) then followed up with a phone call. Discover and other credit card operations are getting pretty good at catching this stuff. My card was deactivated immediately and a new one was in my hands in a few days.

So I’m well aware that I don’t live in a world without scoundrels and scalawags but I do live in a world where not everyone is a scoundrel or scalawag. And so do you.

My Wheels — Chapter 26
1986 Acura Legend

We were shopping for a lamp. My daughter wanted to take piano lessons and her birthday present had been a little spinet piano. A piano lamp was needed so one day she and I went shopping. We picked up a traditional looking fake brass model rather quickly and were on our way home when I decided to take a look at a recently introduced car I’d been hearing about. The new lamp arrived home in a new car.

According to a recent Curbside Classic article, Honda’s new Acura division may have actually been aimed at Buick owners. I wasn’t aware of that at the time and I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the exact Buick owner they had in mind. My Buick was a bottom of the ladder 4-cylinder Century. Of course, driving a bottom rung Buick that was already showing some quality issues in the form of detaching trim made Honda’s new upscale offering look even better. The build quality reminded me of the Audi I had owned several vehicles back which was not at all like the Chevy, Renault, Buick that had followed.

New automotive divisions need need new customers and when the smoke cleared I was driving a Acura Legend LS for about the same monthly payments as the Buick. There was a catch however. I had the Legend on a lease. A five year lease. It remains the only auto lease I’ve ever signed. One of the things I disliked was the small window for ending the arrangement. I don’t recall details and it may not have been as awful as I remember but I believe that ending the lease on either side of a one month or so window would have resulted in unpleasant financial penalties. The other thing I didn’t like was the five year part. At this point, I’d owned twenty-five cars over twenty-three years or a little less than a year per car average. Five years seemed forever. Times change of course. I’m now driving a car I’ve had for just over six years with no real plans to dump it.

That first generation Acura really was an impressive car. I described it as something that, like the Audi, was built by people who thought they might have to ride in it someday. I don’t recall ever having a mechanical problem with it. However, it was once in the shop for a long time. Piano lessons were again involved.

As I drove my daughter home from her lesson one morning we encountered a long overpass covered with ice and cars in random positions. I don’t think there had been any contact but as cars started sliding everyone stopped as best they could. This included a large ambulance on my left and a little bit ahead. Drivers had gotten out of some of the cars and were trying to flag others to a stop before they reached the ice. One of the vehicles that didn’t get stopped was a large firetruck. This was behind me and in my rear view mirror the bright red fire truck turned sideways and sliding toward me looked like the biggest thing I had ever seen. My daughter and I leaned back against the seats as the truck hit a brand new Mustang, a nearly new Cadillac, the Legend, and the ambulance. Fortunately the ambulance was not carrying a patient but ladders and other equipment was scattered everywhere.

Because of laws covering municipalities and liability, my insurance company had to cover the repair. They may have eventually recovered all or part of the cost but I don’t really know. The cost was well over $5,000 and it took months. There weren’t many Acura parts in the U.S. yet.

The picture at the top of the article was taken from the internet. I do that a lot more than I like but sometimes I just don’t have my own photos. Sometimes I do. I still have the lamp.

Trip Peek #59
Trip #123
Alternate Dixie

This picture is from my 2015 Alternate Dixie day trip. Even though I spent a night away from home. I called this a day trip since I documented none of the drive home. Two different paths between Cincinnati, OH, and Lexington, KY, were recognized by the Dixie Highway Association during its lifetime. The purpose of this trip was to drive the later of the two. It also served as an end-of-winter break. The route passes through the real towns of Independence , Falmouth, and Cynthiana and next to the faux town of Punkyville. I continued beyond where the routes reconnect in Lexington and spent the night at the Boone Tavern in Berea. I did a little research while there that including taking the photograph of the DH cotton bale sign that would be incorporated in the cover of A Decade Driving the Dixie Highway.


Trip Peeks are short articles published when my world is too busy or too boring for a current events piece to be completed in time for the Sunday posting. In addition to a photo thumbnail from a completed road trip, each Peek includes a brief description of that photo plus links to the full sized photo and the associated trip journal.

Trip Peek #58
Trip #116
2014 OLHL Meeting

This picture is from my trip to the Ohio Lincoln Highway League meeting in 2014. You are quite right if you feel that’s not typical LHA headgear. The picture was taken on the third day of the trip when I stopped at the Viking Festival in Ashville, OH. The actual meeting took place in Upper Sandusky on the second day of the trip. On the first day, on the way to the meeting, I took in both the “oldest concrete street in America” and the “World’s Shortest Street” and I ducked into Ohio Caverns, too.


Trip Peeks are short articles published when my world is too busy or too boring for a current events piece to be completed in time for the Sunday posting. In addition to a photo thumbnail from a completed road trip, each Peek includes a brief description of that photo plus links to the full sized photo and the associated trip journal.

My Gear – Chapter 20
Lenovo ThinkPad 13

Before I talk about my new computer I have to bring things up to date on my old computer. The computer being retired is a Lenovo ThinkPad T400 that I bought in March of 2009 but which didn’t appear as a My Gear item until October of 2012. At that time I was already bragging about its longevity and it is still functioning today although it’s hardy original and the ThinkPad 13 replaced it as my front line machine nearly half a year ago [12/12/16].

Those who follow my trip journal have been exposed to most of the T400’s story but here’s a summary. It was running fine six months after that 2012 My Gear article when I spilled a glass of water on it and toasted the mother board. That was less than a month before the Lincoln Highway Centennial Tour and I panicked. I rushed out and bought a Lenovo IdeaPad and had started installing the necessary software when I saw a disk-less T400 on eBay. I bought it, swapped in the drive from my old unit and immediately sold the IdeaPad (with the dreaded Windows 8) at a loss which I didn’t mind a bit. The eBay sourced computer hiccuped in Kearney, NE, and required some assistance from a local shop but otherwise served throughout the month long trip. The company that I’d bought it from listed a second identical machine which I bought as added insurance. It was a good move as it has taken all three carcasses to keep one T400 working. Display electronics and power supplies have faltered and my reports of preparation for the last few road trips including new duct tape to restrain the hard disk were not jokes.

Toward the end of 2016 I experienced a gust of common sense. Or maybe it was a gust of fear. Computer malfunctions had interfered with timely posting on multiple trips and the pile of spare parts was getting smaller. There was a big sale on at Lenovo and I decided to treat myself to a Christmas present. I futzed around with details too long and missed the end of the sale by hours. A telephone call revealed that the sale’s end was quite firm but there was another option. Units ordered but not shipped for one reason or another are sold at a discount. The person I spoke with found one very similar to what I had intended to order for even less money. The price difference was partially due to the discount and partially do to a couple of absent features. The biggest feature difference was a 256 GB hard drive versus 512. With the 320 GB drive in the T400 sometimes feeling cramped, that concerned me but it has not been an issue at all so far.

The new machine is a Lenovo ThinkPad 13 with 2.30 GHz i5-6200U processor. It has 8 GB of RAM and a 256 GB SSD. For any who don’t know, SSD means Solid State (rather than rotating) Disk. This makes a tremendous difference in the time required to power up. Other operations are also faster and it uses less power and makes less noise. Actually, it’s silent. The 13 in the model name is the display’s diagonal dimension. The whole machine is significantly smaller and lighter than the one it replaces. Contributing to the reduced weight is the absence of a CD drive. This was not even a slight problem as I already owned an external USB CD for use with the T400 which had become unreliable in CD writing.

The OS is 64 bit Windows 7 Professional. It’s an OS that is no longer being developed but will be supported through 2020. Moving to it from Vista required little relearning and absolutely no cursing.

Acquiring the new machine triggered some other software changes as well. I really like Microsoft Outlook and Word but, with no need for compatibility with an employer’s software, I could not justify the cost. I am now using Gmail in place of MS Outlook and am adjusting a little more and whining a little less each day. Open Office Writer has been installed to do MS Word’s job. It is not a perfect replacement as using it to access existing Word documents instantly shows. It seems to be quite capable, however, and I’m hoping it will satisfy my few needs for producing new documents. It will be tested as I get serious about producing another book later this year.

All in all I am quite happy with my purchase six months in. It’s smaller, lighter, and faster than the eight year old laptop it replaces and it cost less than half as much ($595 vs. $1297). I guess it only has to make it four years to prove its value but I’m thinking it’s going to make it a lot longer.

My Gear – Chapter 19 — Lumix DMC-ZS40

Lincoln Highway Conference 2017

I’m on my way to the Lincoln Highway Association’s 25th Annual Conference which begins Tuesday in Denison, Iowa. When I first decided to attend, I envisioned a slow drive of the Lincoln Highway from Iowa’s eastern border to the western side of the state where Denison sits. Events in Cincinnati prevented me from leaving before Mondays morning so that slow drive on the LH has become a much speedier drive on the interstates. I do have the eastbound route of the LH through Iowa loaded into the GPS and hope to drive all or some of it after the conference. We shall see.

The trip journal is here. This entry is to let blog only subscribers know of the trip and provide a place for comments and questions.