NR to LH on the DH

Dixie Highway MarkerEven though it’s about 8:00 AM in Ohio, I’m counting this as my Sunday afternoon post because, as we all know, it’s 12 o’clock somewhere. I started a road trip yesterday and have that first day posted. If you’ve watched the website closely, you may have seen my plans to head east on Saturday in order to drive US-44 and US-22 back home. However I’ve decided that Provincetown just ain’t big enough for both me and Irene so I’m substituting a drive on the Dixie Highway’s eastern mainline. On the first day, I traveled from the National Road in Vandalia, Ohio, to a little beyond the Lincoln Highway in Beaverdam, Ohio.  I think I’ll reach the northern end in Sault Ste Marie, Michigan, and may even slip into Canada briefly. I’ve even thought of driving the western connector back through Indianapolis but I’m not 100% sure of any of that. The journal is here.

Not only will this satisfy my commitment for a Sunday post, it will satisfy my commitment to have at least one blog entry per road trip so there is a place to hang comments. Hang ’em here.

A Better (IMO) Email Approach

I wasn’t really satisfied with the end-of-day mailing provided by FeedBurner but I convinced myself that it was the best available. I have since learned of a way to offer real-time mailings on every post and I’ve now made that available. What some could see as a negative is that this newly installed method will send only a pure text excerpt of the post with no pictures. I see that as yet another advantage.

People with less than whippy quick Internet connections don’t like being surprised by large emails and, when traveling, I am often one of those people. At those times, getting a short message that lets me know something exists then lets me access it on my own schedule is much preferred. With this change, I am now emailing unto others as I would like to be emailed.

Since there is no reason to kill them, the FeedBurner feeds will remain and existing subscriptions will continue to function. However, new FeedBurrner subscriptions, can only be made through this site’s FeedBurner page. Email subscriptions entered through the blog will now be to the new mechanism which will deliver a pure text excerpt of each new entry shortly after it is posted. If you want to switch, just unsubscribe from FeedBurner and subscribe here.

EDIT 30-Oct-2011: Although existing Feedburner subscriptions may or may not continue to function. no longer actively supports Feedburmer and the subscription page referenced in the preceding paragraph no longer exists.

I have also added links for the Entries and Comments RSS feeds simply to make their existence a little more apparent. The Entries RSS currently contains the full post but I’m a little uncomfortable with that. I opted for publishing the full post rather than a summary because that’s what nearly, but not quite, all of the blogs I’ve subscribed to do. I’m now having second thoughts. Even though I subscribe to those blogs via RSS, it is funneled through Outlook and eventually looks a lot like email. Of course, an RSS feed converted to email looks exactly like email because that’s what it is. There have been a few times when I’ve turned off RSS feeds because of a slow connection so I’m feeling a little guilty about larger than necessary RSS entries and am tempted to switch to just publishing summaries. FeedBurner emails have contained the full posts simply because they are just a repackaging of the RSS feed so changing the RSS will change FeedBurner. If anyone has any thoughts on this, I’d love to hear them.

The new email mechanism is a WordPress plug-in called “Subscribe2”. I’d looked at it when I first set up this blog but erroneously decided that it wouldn’t work for me. When I asked a cyber-friend what he was using on an installation similar to mine, that’s the answer I got and a second look revealed my error. Note that I said the installation was similar to mine; Not the blog itself. The Civil War Daily Gazette is about 1000% better than this blog will ever be and is a tremendous source of Civil War information. There is a new well written and researched post every day telling of events exactly 150 years ago. I suggest that anyone with even a little interest in America’s Civil War take a look.

Water Cardboarding

1992 must have been a fertile time along the big river in southwest Ohio. As noted in last Sunday’s post, the annual Cincinnati Blues Festival was just held for the 19th time. Yesterday, the 19th International Cardboard Boat Regatta took place just a few miles up river from Cincinnati. I don’t know what triggered that little rash of event birthing at Ohio’s southern edge. Maybe Iron City Brewing up in Pittsburgh had a big spill or something. Or it might just be lucky coincidence that got these two wonderful events going in the same summer.

RoadsideAmerica at Cardboard Boat Museum, New Richmond, OHIt was definitely a coincidence that I stopped by New Richmond’s Cardboard Boat Museum last month on the day before was to arrive for a photo shoot and interview. This is the world’s only cardboard boat museum and the driving force behind the annual regatta. Of course I eagerly returned the next day for a chance to see Doug Kirby & Ken Smith in action. I’d submitted a few photos to the site and exchanged some email with Doug but had never met either of these fellows. For me, it was kind of like meeting Tiger Woods would be for a golfer. The report produced from the visit is here.

Cardboard boats waiting for race, New Richmond, OH, 2011Cardboard boats with mechanical assist, New Richmond, OH, 2011Now that the name dropping is out of the way, I can move on to yesterday’s regatta. Even though I’ve heard of it for years and watched many after the fact reports on local news, this was only the second year I’ve attended. New Richmond is one of those river towns that, in recent years, I tend to end up in during semi-aimless weekend drives. I naturally started popping into the museum whenever I saw it open and last year actually knew of the race date in advance. I used the 2010 race as the starting point of my Blue Ridge Parkway drive. As I recall, there were about fifty boats last year. That record was shattered by this year’s fifty-five entrants. There are different heats for juveniles and adults and for single and multiple person crews. Boats with “mechanical assistance” make up their own distinct class.

Broken cardboard boat, New Richmond, OH, 2011By rule, the boats are constructed of nothing other than cardboard, tape, and paint. The paint is critical though there is nothing special about it. The same basic house paint that keeps water from soaking into your wooden siding keeps it from soaking into cardboard. Of course, should water somehow find its way in, the cardboard reacts even quicker than peeling wood siding. By using different crews, many boats run in more than one heat. Some run in less than one heat.

Cardboard Man finish, New Richmond, OH, 2011After all the various class competitions are finished, any surviving boat with any crew can compete in a wide open free-for-all with the winner taking home the prestigious Cardboard Cup. In previous years, the Cardboard Cup race was the last of the day but this year a new event was added. This double length race would seriously test the stamina of any individual with the nerve to try it. Rather than the single downstream pass of the 200 yard course that makes up every other event, this race required entrants to paddle the course in both directions. The picture shows Sam Richmond about to cross the start/finish line to become the first recipient of the Cardboard Man title.

The Cardboard Man title is clearly out of my reach. In fact, almost everyone in a boat expended a lot more energy than I’d ever consider. The lone exception was the fellow who played steel drums while his wife propelled their craft. Now that’s a gig I think I could handle.

Steel drum cardboard boat, New Richmond, OH, 2011

Rest Home for Dummies

I’ve decided that one of the circumstances resulting in extra blog posts, is posting to the base website. I won’t make a blog entry for every daily update of a road trip but I will do at least one for every trip and Oddment addition. What happened was I realized that, if I wanted to allow feedback via the blog and I’m the only guy who can start something here, I better do it for trips and such even if they don’t line up very well with the Sunday afternoon schedule. So here’s the first “extra”:

Just south of the border, in Fort Wright, Kentucky, there’s a wonderful but unpretentious looking place where retired ventriloquist dummies go to finish out their days — quietly. Click here to see the page on my first visit to Vent Haven Museum.

A Musical Weekend

If I had introduced this blog a week earlier, the Cincinnati and Lebanon blues festivals could have been the subjects of last Sunday’s post instead of the “Hi, I’m a blog” thing. The downside of doing it this week is that it’s not near as timely. The upside is I’ve had a week to figure out how to include pictures.

The Cincinnati festival is a two day affair that fills Friday and Saturday evenings starting around 5:00 PM. Lebanon’s event is Saturday only with a start time of 11:00 AM. Both end sometime just short of midnight. Why these two festivals — just thirty miles apart — are held on the same weekend each year is something of a mystery but don’t expect it to change any time soon. Cincinnati was there first. This year was Cincinnati’s 19th and Lebanon’s 13th. So it was Lebanon that caused the collision but they always seems to have all the crowd they can handle and little incentive to move the date. Lebanon’s festival is free. Cincinnati’s isn’t. I suspect Cincinnati’s Saturday crowd is lessened a bit by the freeby up the road but the Cincinnati event is locked into its slot in the venue’s full schedule and couldn’t change if it wanted to..

Some years I’ve gone to neither and some years I’ve gone to both. Other years I’ve gone to one or the other. This was a “both” year. Cincinnati certainly has the bigger festival. It is spread out not only over two days but over three stages. There is a local stage featuring runners up from the local Blues Challenge. The winners, who will represent the Cincinnati Blues Society at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, open the main stage. After that, it’s filled by national and regional acts. The third stage is alway boogie woogie piano on Saturday and something else on Friday. Last year it was the music of New Orleans. A tribute to the Ludlow Garage, a venue that brought big time acts to Cincinnati in the ’60s & ’70, was held there the year before. This year it was rockabilly.

Moreland & Arbuckle, 2011 Cincinnati Blues Festival

In theory, acts get better and better as the day progresses and peak with the headliner. I frequently find, however, that my own ranking doesn’t quite match the program. That was definitely the case on the main stage Friday. I was most impressed by Moreland & Arbuckle who were third from the top — right after the local openers. I had heard they were a two piece band and was surprised to see the drummer. Then, when they started playing, I was convinced there was a fourth member and walked across the front of the stage looking for a bass player behind the speakers. Nope. Dustin Arbuckle sings and plays killer harmonica while Aaron Moreland plays bass, rhythm, and lead on a single fretboard. Aaron does play “normal” guitars but I liked him best on his custom made four string cigar box with the top string set up specifically for bass work. The program says otherwise but I believe that is Kendall Newby on drums. His talents are a match for the other two.

Teeny Tucker, 2011 Lebanon Blues FestivalOn Saturday, I went to Lebanon in time to catch the last four acts. Most of the artists here can be considered local but local includes Cincinnati, Dayton, and Columbus and many bands from all of those cities do a lot of traveling. The Blue Birds Big Band, last year’s Cincinnati Blues Challenge winners, would close out the night but the main draw for me was the lady in the picture, Teeny Tucker, who was on just ahead of them. I had seen Teeny do a few songs in a Columbus bar during a benefit and I was looking forward to seeing her in control of the stage and with her full group. That’s one powerful and soulful young lady.

I saw a lot more good musicians than the ones pictured here and I know there were plenty I missed. There was real top notch blues talent on the stages of Cincinnati and Lebanon last weekend. I can’t say a bad thing about any of them but, baby, you know what I like.

Moreland & Arbuckle, 2011 Cincinnati Blues Festival

Hello again, world.

Two very legitimate and possibly obvious questions are “Why a blog?” and “How is that different from what you’ve been doing?” I probably can’t answer either of those questions to everyone’s satisfaction but I’m going to try by tackling the “How…?” question first.

I never refer to as a blog. I know some people do and I’m OK with that but my idea of a blog is something different. Web stuff does not need to be produced by things like WordPress or Blogger to be a blog but the stuff that WordPress and Blogger produce are certainly blogs. In my view, if it looks like something that could have come from WordPress or Blogger it might be a blog. If it doesn’t, it probably isn’t. My trip reports definitely have some similarities with blogs. The biggest one being that both have chronological entries. But a multi-day trip report at is treated as a unit and tied together with a “cover page”. If it’s big enough, there might also be some other pages related to just that trip. Maybe you see the difference and maybe not. The truth is that there is no rigid definition of the word “blog” that precisely distinguishes what I’ve been doing from what Gizmodo has been doing so it’s a good thing that I’m not trying to convince you that I haven’t been blogging but just explain why I don’t think I have.

What I’ve just added and what you’re now reading is clearly a blog. It qualifies as “something that could have come from WordPress” by coming from WordPress. It will have a single chronological flow of entries which will be archived monthly and which can be commented on. That last bit is starting to get at the “Why…?”.

Ever since that first reported trip in 1999, I’ve looked for ways to interact with readers. I received some emails throughout that trip which led to some one-on-one conversations and that made me want something more. In 2002 I added a guestbook. People could post and I could answer but the conversation either ended with that single exchange or became one-on-one and private. A forum seemed like a good idea so I added one just before my 2003 Route 66 trip. There was some initial interest and some folks signed up but there was very little activity. I retired it not long after I returned home. I tried again in early 2010. Again there was some interest and even a small flurry of activity though it soon faded. The forum is still there but it’s been more than seven months since anyone other than me has posted. A blog won’t permit others to start conversations but it will permit them to comment on ones I’ve started and it may be more familiar and accessible. I haven’t removed the forum yet but I intend to shortly.

The other “accessories” will stay. Namely the guestbook, the newsletter, and the home page RSS feed. There’s already some overlap there, especially between the newsletter and RSS feed. Now there will be some more. On the other hand, some misuse should go away. Both the newsletter and the RSS feed were intended to be ways that people could learn of road trip related activity without repeatedly visiting the site to see if something had changed. But I’ve used them for decidedly non-road trip stuff, like web server issues, because there was nothing else. Now this blog should handle things of that sort and the feed and the newsletter should be left to their intended function.

Most of the overlap between the newsletter and the RSS feed is intentional. The newsletter came first and when I added the feed I received some email from concerned and potentially disgruntled subscribers asking if they had to change. They remained gruntled when I assured them that I was definitely keeping the newsletter and was merely giving them another option. I hope to do the same with the blog. RSS is automatically produced by WordPress but email is not nearly as natural. For that, I’ve gone to FeedBurner, a service that lets people sign up to receive RSS feeds via email. A widget was available for subscriptions to the blog’s post feed and I included it. To make that work, I had to register the feed at FeedBurner and I registered the site’s other feeds as well. Those are the existing RSS feed from the home page and the blog’s comment feed. A new page, accessible here and through the “FBurner” link on the home page, supports signing up for email delivery of any or all of the three feeds. FeedBurner delivers email once a day so any “real-time” aspects of the original RSS feed will be lost but it’s there if you want it. As previously mentioned, FeedBurner email of the blog’s post feed can be subscribed to on the blog’s main page plus email of comments on individual posts can be subscribed to via the post itself. Of course, all RSS feeds can be subscribed to directly through any reader you may be familiar with.

EDIT 9-Jan-2016: As of October 2011, no longer actively supports Feedburmer and the subscription page referenced in the preceding paragraph no longer exists. This edit finally makes note of that and removes the obsolete link.

The most important thing to stay is everything else. I am not changing the way I do trip reports or post photos. I’m merely adding something new to the site and you can completely ignore it without missing a thing. Oops, that’s not exactly what I meant to say. Hopefully I’ll have some things in the blog that are worth reading but you can ignore it without missing anything you’re seeing now.

Blogs should be fed regularly and I hope to feed this one at least once a week My goal is to have something posted every Sunday sometime between noon and midnight. See you next week.