Monroe’s Magnificent Mile

Solid Rock Church, Monroe, OHHustler Hollywood Store, Monroe, OHMonroe, Ohio, is a city of 12,000+ that sits on I-75 about halfway between Cincinnati and Dayton. A little more than a mile of the expressway lies within the city limits. The southern boundary is right where the northbound ramp of exit 29 begins. Turn left from that ramp and you’ll find one of Larry Flynt’s Hustler Hollywood stores doing quite well. Something of an entirely different nature is doing well at the northern edge. There the Solid Rock Church sits just east of the expressway and east of the Monroe city limits. The huge church with its electronic billboard is definitely hard to miss but it was even more of an eye catcher when the King of Kings statue stood there. The statue attracted national attention while it stood and I’m sure the eyes of the world were on Monroe, Ohio, when lightening struck it in June of 2010. A different but similarly sized replacement is due to be completed by the end of this year and the frame is already in place. Apologies for the dark and crappy picture I took from the expressway.

Treasure Aisles Flea Market, Monroe, OHTreasure Aisles Flea Market, Monroe, OHSo what lies between Monroe’s offerings of sin and salvation? Shopping. Lots and lots of shopping. Facing off across the interstate are two humongous flea markets. Treasure Aisles is on the west side inside the Monroe limits. They say this pirate themed market is where the barrrgain hunters go. There was live music inside although it neither looked nor sounded particularly nautical and there was an optional gun & knife show which I skipped.

Traders World Flea Market, Monroe, OHTo the east and, like the church, just outside the city limits, is Trader’s World. The theme there might be “jungle”, though “Jungle Jim’s” seems even more accurate. Both the area’s one of a kind grocery and Trader’s World have a lot of large animals prominently displayed plus lots of stuff with no jungle connection at all. Trader’s World has murals inside and out, there’s no shortage of things to look at overhead, and antique cars and wagons are displayed in several of the unoccupied booths. No live music that I found.

I drive this stretch of I-75 a lot so have often driven by all of these sights. All four have huge signs and while the Hustler store isn’t visible from the expressway its tall sign is. For the others, the signs almost seem unnecessary since pirate flags, roofs full of giraffes, and a 62 foot Jesus are all fairly successful attention getters. But despite getting my attention over and over, they never got me to stop until yesterday. I was driving by on Thursday when I was struck by the fact that this is exactly the sort of thing I chide others about: Not stopping at attractions in your own neighborhood. Maybe flea markets, churchs, and porn shops aren’t typical roadside attractions but they are using time honored tourist trap techniques to make passers-by aware they are there.

So I visited both flea markets on Saturday. I bought some Brita filters at Treasure Aisles and a slice of pizza at Trader’s World. I haven’t decided if I’ll also visit the church and the porn shop but if I do, I’ll probably hit both of them on the same day to see if I can spot any parishioners picking up DVDs on the way home.

Although they ever so slightly miss the limits of the actual “Magnificent Mile”, two sites just south of the city add to its magnificence. One is the recently opened Cincinnati Premium Outlets which caters to upper crust bargain hunters not yet ready to mingle with giraffes or pirates. The other is LB Ranch. LB is Lawrence Bishop who is not only a very successful horse trader but the founder and Senior Pastor of the Solid Rock Church. Photos of his ranch and his church abound on the Internet but I’ve always been fond of his silo. Before the big Jesus and the elephants and giraffes came along, the horse topped cylinder was the biggest attraction along this stretch of interstate. At one time the horse fell over but remained atop the silo on its side. It was returned to an upright position sometime in the last year or so but appears to be on its last leg.

My Gear – Chapter 1
Agfa ePhoto 780c

Agfa ePhoto 780c cameraThere has always been some hardware associated with my road trips. In order to update a website, I needed some sort of computer and, if I intended to include photos in those updates, I needed a digital camera. GPS has also been part of the mix from the beginning. A computer, a camera, and a GPS receiver have been my travel companions on every trip but they have changed at least as much as I have though in different directions. While I’ve gotten weaker and slower and balder, they’ve become more powerful, faster, and more loaded with features.

Noticing changes in electronic gear occurs fairly frequently. It’s unavoidable when something new enters my toolkit but I also think of it at random times like when I upload a decent sized picture in less time than it used to take to upload the tiniest of thumbnails. I thought about it in some detail in August of 2009. It had been exactly ten years since my first road trip post and I was on another one. I commemorated the first trip by posting a picture and some musings on each day’s tenth anniversary. I think the idea for something like this series of articles was born then though I didn’t quite realize it and I had no idea of the form it would take. The “series of articles” I’m talking about will be a set of blog posts talking about the various bits of gear I’ve used in maintaining This is the first. Others will appear, in sequence but not consecutively, as space and time permit.

Arcadia, OK, Round Barn 1999In July of 1999, I bought an Agfa ePhoto 780c from on online outfit called uBid for $185.99. What I got for that nearly two hundred dollars was a zone focus 350 kilopixel (Does that sound better than 0.35 megapixel?) camera that stored JPGs on an included 2 MB Smart Media card. The standard resolution was 320×240 but it also offered 640×480 and 1024×768. That last resolution was produced by extrapolating those 350 kilo-pixels into 0.786 mega-pixels and I’ve always assumed that is where the model number came from but don’t really know. Click on the picture above for one of those full resolution photos from 1999.

I also carried a Nikon 35mm pocket camera for “real” pictures but the Agfa did the job it was hired for giving me a way to post pictures on the same day they were taken. Back in the twentieth century that seemed pretty cool .

The camera came with Agfa’s Photowise software which allowed me to copy photos from the camera and edit them on my Toshiba Libretto (the subject of a future post). The interface was RS-232 serial and none too fast. I soon developed the habit of immediately firing up the copying when I checked into a motel then heading out to dinner while the photos flowed through the wire. On my return, I’d select and edit the photos, prepare the web page, and start the upload — assuming I could actually connect with my 10¢ a minute dial-up.

The journal of that first trip is here. It is the only trip where I truly relied on the Agfa. The ten year reminiscences begin here. Look to the right side of the page.

There’s Something Happening Here

Two years ago I didn’t even know who Josh Hisle was. Now I believe I can call him a friend. I first went to see Josh perform about a year and a half ago in response to some very complimentary chatter in the local blues society’s online group. Between the time of that chatter and actually meeting Josh, I realized that I had heard of him before. I’d seen the CNN report on a guitar playing Marine in Iraq but hadn’t really connected that with Cincinnati. Josh lives in Indiana but it’s in the corner that is often claimed as part of Greater Cincinnati. He did two tours in Iraq. One as a gung ho young dude with no personal attachments and one as a more contemplative husband and father. His music was an important part of both tours. That CNN report is here.

That first time seeing Josh was sort of like getting the sampler platter at a BBQ joint. No, it was more like getting the sampler platter at a Burmese sushi Tex-Mex gelato Cajun pizza BBQ joint. In the years between Ramadi and that night in Rising Sun, Indiana, Josh had performed head-banger heavy metal, soft acoustic folksy stuff, blues ala country, country ala blues, and every other musical genre that he could hook on to. That evening contained tastes of just about all those flavors.

The show was supposed to be sort of a shakedown for Josh and cellist Michael G Ronstadt who were about to start a tour as the two-piece group Lost In Holland and, to a certain degree, it was. The two of them played a fair amount as a duo but they also played as the point men of just about every permutation of musicians that could be concocted. It was great fun, great, music, and showed off both Michael and Josh as extremely talented and versatile musicians. I saw that show as part of a short trip and wrote about it here.

I was impressed and went to see Josh several more times. That sense of variety continued as I saw him alone, with Lost In Holland, Ronstadt Generations, and other mixes of people. It became something of a joke that I never saw Josh twice with the same lineup. On Thursday I saw another pre-tour shakedown.

Lisa Biales & Doug Hamilton, OCAC, Miami, OH, Sep 8, 2011Lisa Biales began the concert at the Oxford Community Arts Center solo but brought up violinist Doug Hamilton after a few tunes. Josh joined them for a couple of songs before Lisa and Doug finished out the first half of the show. Lisa is both musician and actress and the evening was something of a sendoff for her as an actress. She has a significant role in Francis Ford Coppola’s Twixt and would head to Toronto the next day for the movie’s premier.

Josh Hisle, OCAC, Miami, OH, Sep 8, 2011But it was Josh who was there for the shakedown. Singing in a war zone brought the Marine to the attention of Neil Young who was working on a documentary. That was 2008’s CSNY/Déjà Vu which Neil asked Josh to appear in. Josh said yes and that soon led to meeting the ‘C’ & ‘S’ & ‘N’ parts of the group, too. When the ‘S’ guy, Stephen Stills, needed an opener for an upcoming tour, he turned to Josh. Once again Josh said yes, and on Thursday he shared with the OCAC audience the songs he will draw from when he begins the tour in October.

Josh Hisle, OCAC, Miami, OH, Sep 8, 2011It’s a powerful collection of songs including a couple written or completed specifically for the tour. His time on stage with Stills will permit playing only a portion of the set we heard Thursday but it won’t be the same portion every night. He will mix it up depending on location, audience, and probably his own mood. Josh is very aware that getting to present himself and his music at sold out Stephen Stills concerts is a valuable opportunity. He’s not going to waste it. He will be doing his portion of the show alone but will return to the stage each night to sing Love the One You’re With with Stills and his full band. Not only will that give the audience a little reminder of the guy that opened but it’s got to be one hell of a thrill. Good luck, Josh. Go get ’em, buddy.

Today is the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. Every form of media — TV, radio, papers, Internet, etc. — is filled with reminisces and other commentary. I’ve nothing to add but making a blog post today without at least acknowleding the date doesn’t seem quite right, either. So I’ll point to what I wrote on the first anniversary when memories and emotions were more powerful. Yes, we’ll never forget but our memories may change. That nine year old piece is here.

DH Up and DH Down

I did, I did make it to Sault Ste Marie. Both of them. I spent one night in Sault Ste Marie, Michigan, at the end of the Dixie Highway East Mainline and a few hours in Sault Ste Marie, Ontario, on the Canadian side of the border. And I followed the Dixie Highway, in the form of the Northern and Midwestern Connectors, home, too. That’s where I’m at now, home, but, with today’s journal yet to be posted, I’m going to make this extremely brief. There are now eight days posted here and the ninth and final day should be there by Monday morning.

I apologize for having such minimal blog posts on these last two Sundays but I think that’s just the way in will be during road trips. I must be off.