My Gear – Chapter 3
Garmin GPS III Plus

The Garmin GPS III Plus was pretty high-end for a personal GPS in 1999. In July of that year, this baby set me back a whopping $355. Some rather detailed maps could be downloaded to it and it could tell you where things were relative to where you were but it couldn’t tell you how to get there. I’m fairly certain that there was a GPS IV that offered routing but I can find nothing online about it. Today’s web claims that the earliest GPS of this style that did routing was the GPS V. The GPS V was described as a “versatile navigator”. The III Plus merely had “cartographic capabilities”. I always thought of it as an automatically scrolling map.

I added a cable that allowed me to simultaneously connect it to the car’s 12 VDC cigarette lighter and to a computer’s RS-232 port. It was another one of those “computer in the car” things that rarely got used. I used the 12 VDC power almost constantly and I used the computer connection frequently but seldom at the same time. The frequent use of the computer connection was because the unit really wouldn’t hold much more than a day’s worth of maps and my end of day tasks often included refreshing the maps in the Garmin. Throw in a little expressway travel and it was entirely possible to “over drive” the loaded maps in a day. I did not buy an optional mount for the unit and got by quite nicely with a bit of velcro on the console.

You could select cities and other points of interest and the III Plus would point toward them and tell you how far away they were. If you chose one to “Go To” it would continuously report the remaining distance and time. Since the distance was “as the crow flies”, it and the time to go were only meaningful if the road between here and there was a straight one. I’m not really sure what it used to calculate that time to go; A rolling average speed is my guess. You could string together multiple way-points in what the III Plus called routes and it would provide total distance and time numbers based on straight lines between the way-points. This was essentially a fancy hiker’s handheld unit with the aforementioned “cartographic capabilities”.

The GPS III Plus led me to a style of navigating I called “jagging”. When I wasn’t following a specific route, like Historic Route 66, I would plug in a destination then head toward it. At each intersection, I’d make the decision of which way to go based on the direction of the destination from that point. You might think that would result in the shortest path but real roads are neither particularly straight or aligned squarely with others. “Jagging” put me on some interesting roads I might never have traveled otherwise.

My Gear – Chapter 2 — Toshiba Libretto

The three items at the heart of my road trip tool kit are a digital camera, a portable computer, and a GPS receiver. My first such set, the one used on that 1999 Route 66 road trip, consisted of this Garmin receiver along with the Agfa camera and Toshiba sub-notebook described earlier. Future purchases would be upgrades or replacements.

The blog post about the 100th trip pointed to a collage of 100 thumbnails representing them all. Just looking at that collage would bring a smile to my face for the first dozen times or so. But then I got questions about what the subjects were or what trip they represented. I knew all the answers but I quickly realized that the collage could really be improved. When an individual image appears on the home page, the subject and the trip it is from are identified beneath it. Clicking on the picture goes to the associated trip report. I decided that it would be cool if the collage did the same thing so now it does. Hovering over a section of the collage will reveal trip number and name and the identity of the subject. Clicking will take you to the trip report. Try it out here.

Feedburner? Fuhgeddaboudit.

Two months ago, when this blog was just a couple of weeks old, I made a post confessing to underestimating the power of a WordPress plug-in to provide email notifications. In this one, I’m confessing to overestimating the ability of Feedburner to do it. Technically, I suppose I didn’t actually overestimate its abilities but I think I overestimated its dependability and relevance. At the time of that first confession, I switched to the plug-in and stopped promoting Feedburner. I didn’t worry about any subscriptions already in place and assumed they would just keep going. That assumption was reinforced by the fact that my own test subscription continued to work. I was in “set it and forget it” mode regarding Feedburner.

Then, just a few days ago, I was doing some general website maintenance and decided to look in on my Feedburner account. It must still be there — at least one subscription is working — but I can’t login to it. Google bought Feedburner back in 2007 so you would think that all the “moving” associated with the change in owners had occurred long before I came along in 2011. Guess not. is redirected to a Google address where I am invited to “Claim your feeds now” and I’ve tried. One needs to submit one’s Feedburner username and password to do that and I’m told that those I’m submitting are “incorrect”. My note keeping isn’t the best and my memory’s worse so I suppose that’s possible. But when I enter an email address to recover my forgotten password, I’m told it is “not found”. I’m pretty sure I know my own email address so I’m suddenly not so ready to believe that all of the problem is all on my side of the screen.

Google offers some FAQ style “help” for Feedburner but there is no contact information for support. Of course, actually reaching support for anything Google related is a challenge but Google does provide forums where we can “talk among ourselves”. They are divided by product or service and there are more than forty of them. There is one for “Web Search”, and for “Toolbar”, “Picasa”, “Google Earth”, and so on. Tellingly, there is none for Feedburner. Using that Google “Web Search” thing to dig around the internet turned up several indications that Google’s acquisition of Feedburner may not have been such a good thing for Feedburner users.

I’m sorry. Had I initially understood that I could provide email notification of posts directly, I’d never have embraced Feedburner. Now I can’t even login to let go. Plus I have no faith that any Feedburner subscription other than my own is working. At least one certainly is not.

I recalled that long time trip report reader (and sometimes much appreciated proofreader) Laurel Kane had subscribed following my first blog post. At that time I could still login to Feedburner so I’m pretty sure things started off OK. I dropped Laurel a note and learned that she hadn’t seen email from my blog for a long time. I know that there were only four or five subscribers back when I could see my Feedburner account and I doubt that any have been added since I dropped the link from the blog page. If, by some strange means, any of those are still working, I strongly suggest unsubscribing. I am officially announcing that The Blog At Denny G’s Road Trips and Feedburner are no longer pals.

Anyone desiring email notification of new blog posts, should enter their address in the field to the right of this blog’s home page and hit “Subscribe”. That’s regardless of whether you were an original Feedburner subscriber or not.

I’ve been kind of struggling with the relationship between this blog and the trip reports. Here is what I’m currently thinking. The blog is not confined to road trips. I intend to post to the blog at least once a week on Sunday. I want to have a blog post associated with each trip or oddment to provide a place to comment on that trip or oddment. To date, when I’ve been on the road on a Sunday, I’ve posted something trip related as a sort of placeholder. This has resulted in multiple blog posts for a trip and some are rather silly. From now on, each Sunday post will be a “real” one and each trip or oddment will get a single post. If something occurs during the week that I think interesting and I have time to write it up, that will be the Sunday post. If not, I’ll use a canned article like those in the “My Gear” series. When a trip starts on a Sunday, there just might be two posts for that day. I’ve always said that once a week was the lower not upper limit.

My Gear – Chapter 2
Toshiba Libretto

Toshiba Libretto CT50My first portable computer was a Toshiba Libretto 50CT. This was a truly small machine for its day with a weight of 1.87 pounds (with battery) and dimensions of 8.27″L x 4.53″W x 1.34”H. It had a 6.1″ screen, a 770 MB hard disk, 16 MB of RAM, and a 75 MHz Intel Pentium processor running Windows 95. Perhaps its most unusual feature was the built in pointing device. It’s a button to the right of the screen that you move with your thumb while your fingers fall on two buttons on the back of the screen for “clicking”. It may sound awkward but was very natural and I liked it. Toshiba called this AccuPoint and claimed it as a trade mark. A search for it today shows it as the registered name of brand of hunting scopes.

I was kind of shocked when I looked back and saw that I paid $535 for a used Libretto in June of 1999. I guess that price was at least partially justified by the inclusion of a CD drive that connected through and was actually powered by the Libretto’s PCMCIA slot. In July I shelled out another $85 for a 12 VDC cable.

I had visions of using the computer in the car but that didn’t happen much. I planned on having company for that first trip but circumstances had me driving alone much of the time. Then, when I did have a partner, there were other things to do plus I quickly learned that reading a computer screen in a sunlit convertible isn’t all that easy. The only time I recall actually producing anything while moving was when replacing a damaged tire had us on the road after dark cutting deep into editing time but making the screen usable.

Like the Agfa 780c camera, the Libretto did its job. I used it to retrieve photos from the camera, edit them, then upload them to the website along with text that was also produced on the Libretto. It also handled my email and web browsing. It did not, however, do all of those things at once. Some tasks filled that 16 MB of memory and others were just slow. Editing photos was both. As I switched between tasks, RAM became fragmented so that there might not be enough available to load some program. Somewhere I obtained a memory defragmenter program and I recall using it often to let me start the next task on the Libretto.

I used the Libretto for just a few trips then sold it, via eBay, for $317. By then I had acquired another PCMCIA CD but it required AC power. I offered the purchaser his choice and he went for the newer and faster AC unit. The CD would be very useful with my next computer and I still have it. I also have a Libretto 50CT. My friend John, who was the driver during that one mobile edit session, gave it to me when he bought several retiring units for about $25 each. It is running Windows 98 but is otherwise just like the one I had in 1999. I fired it up to check some things as I wrote this and the audible clicking of its hard disk as it booted sure brought back memories and my thumb felt right at home on the AccuPoint.

My Gear – Chapter 1 — Agfa ePhoto 780c

The First One Hundred

Juan DelgadilloDirk HamiltonI arrived home from a road trip on Thursday and proceeded to wrap up the online report for it just like I’d done ninety-nine times before. This was my 100th trip; A seven day 1200 mile affair that involved both expressway and two-lane, reached some big water, used mom & pop as well as lower echelon chain motels, and included a little live music, along with diners, narrow roads, long bridges, and old buildings. All in all, a most typical trip.

Collage of thumbnailsWrapping up a trip includes selecting a single image to go into the pool from which images are selected randomly for display in the upper right hand corner of this site’s home page. Appearing at the top of this blog entry are Juan Delgadillo from the first trip and Dirk Hamilton from the 100th. Click the thumbnail to the right for a collage of all one hundred.

EDIT 30-Oct-2011: The collage has been replaced with a clickable version linking each thumbnail to its associated trip report. 

The 100th trip wasn’t supposed to be quite as typical as it was. Most of its miles were supposed to be aboard a train that was cancelled at the last minute. Only one of the 100 trips has used a train for actual transportation and that trip also involved a commercial flight and an aircraft carrier. That’s atypical with a capital ‘A’. Just flying would have made that trip fairly unusual. Only eight of the first 100 trips involved an airplane.

So just how typical was that 100th trip? It clearly had many of the typical components. In addition to those listed in the first paragraph, there was some old concrete pavement, some standing stone bridges plus the remnants of one; Some museums, some art, some historic landmarks, and a lighthouse. It did not have any brick or dirt roads and there were no meetings, ceremonies, or banquets. At seven days, it was a little above the 4.74 day average. The longest of the first 100 was last spring’s Lincoln Highway Association Conference outing of 25 days. There were twenty single day trips.

The 100th trip went east whereas more trips have gone west than any other direction. The score, using Cincinnati as the hub and applying some fairly unscientific judgement calls, is west 35, east 24, south 21, and north 20.

The journal for the most recent trip is considerably denser than that first one in 1999. There are more words and a lot more pictures. The 16 day 1999 trip averaged about eight pictures a day. The just completed seven day trip averaged over 22 per day and that’s just the pictures accessed through thumbnails. Throw in those accessed by links embedded in the text, of which there were none in 1999, and the average goes above 25 per day. But the reporting of the 100th trip seems to be the current norm. Its precise averages are 25.43 per day total and 22.57 for thumbnail style only. The corresponding numbers for that record setting 25 day trip are 25.68 and 22.24.

A hundred trips in twelve years is an average of about eight a year but those first few years were pretty sparse. 1999 and 2000 had just one documented trip each and 2000’s was a day trip. The count leaped to three in 2001. The biggest years were 2004 and 2007 with 13 each. 2011 has seen eight so far. Even now, despite what some may think, I don’t really document every time I leave the driveway and there were certainly some undocumented trips in those early years.

I know there are plenty of other ways to slice and dice those 100 trips. I kind of wish I had a record of the mileage for each but I don’t. Nor do I have an accurate measure of the fun I’ve had though I’ve estimated it at infinity plus or minus two. The next 100 will surely go beyond that.

A Trip to the East

I’m on the road again so this entry will basically be a hook to hang comments on. I saw Dirk Hamilton, the subject of last week’s blog entry, last night though I didn’t arrive in DC on a train as planned. The train was canceled so the outing has turned into a more typical road trip. I got in a little bit of National Road on the way east and plan to go home on US-50. I’m curently in Ocean City. The trip journal is here.

Thug of Love

Thug of Love was Dirk Hamilton‘s fourth and (so far) last major label album and it makes a great title for a blog entry. Thug… wasn’t Dirk’s last album by any means. There have been at least ten more and the count keeps rising. But now, as then, too few people know about Dirk Hamilton and that includes readers of this website. If you know me personally, there’s a good chance you’ve heard me mention his name or play some of his recordings, but if you know me only through this website, you could only have seen his name on my “Favorite Links” page or noticed the single quote or my visit to a venue I associate with Dirk. No Road Trip or Oddment has involved Dirk himself though I guess it would have been technically possible.

Dirk Hamilton, Chris Cella, Bradley Kopp, and Denny GibsonI’ve been a huge fan since hearing Dirk’s first album at a friend’s house around 1977 but I’ve hardly ever seen him. I don’t believe he’s played in Cincinnati to this day. Dirk recalls doing a show in Dayton but that may have been before my conversion or maybe I just wasn’t paying attention. In any case, the first time I ever saw Dirk was in December of 2000. That was a decade after his self imposed exile from recording ended and two after his drive to stardom veered off course. It was in San Antonio, Texas. My girlfriend Chris and I had flown into Austin where we would see a second show two nights later. Dirk was accompanied at both of these shows by the excellent guitarist (and just generally nice guy) Bradley Kopp. That’s Dirk, Chris, Bradley, and me in the photo from that first show in San Antonio. I assure you that, despite looking disgustingly uptight in the picture, I was enjoying the hell out of meeting my idol after twenty some years.

So, theoretically, I could have documented that trip on this website. The site existed but contained only that first Route 66 trip and a day trip to Dayton. I’m pretty sure I still thought of it as something temporary.

SEXspringEVERYTHING CDIf I had documented it, a highlight of the trip would certainly have been something that happened at the show in Austin. With Bradley producing, Dirk had just completed recording a new CD. I knew of it and was quite disappointed to learn that it wasn’t yet available and wouldn’t be released until the end of January. Bummer, I thought. Missed it by that much. I’m pretty foggy on whether it was before or after the show or during a break between sets but at some point Dirk sat down beside me and slipped something my way under the table. Holy crap, I thought when I realized it was a copy of the unreleased SEXspringEVERYTHING. The disk had a plain white stick-on paper label and was in a bare-bones clam-shell case. I imagine it was created by Dirk or Bradley earlier that day. We had nothing to play it on until reaching home two nights later. The hour was late but there was no way I could sleep without hearing the entire CD. Of course, Dirk had played several of the new songs live but it was still a thrill to hear the studio versions and there were others that were completely new to us. I tried playing the CD just now after scanning it for the picture but no luck. The ten year old CD-R has simply faded to blank. But it sure was cool to listen to it back in 2000 and it still means a lot to me. It may now be nothing but a mute piece of plastic but it’s a very cool piece of plastic and I’m hanging on to it.

I’ve seen Dirk live once since then. It was less than a year later when I was visiting a friend in Dallas and Dirk was opening for someone at a coffee shop sort of place nearby. I’ve kept my library up to date with the new CDs and a concert DVD and there have been a couple of near misses but that night in Dallas in 2001 was the last time I’ve actually seen Dirk. That’s about to be remedied. Next Saturday I’ll see Dirk perform at a house concert in Jessup, Maryland. I’ll be there as part of a Road (partially railroad) Trip and expect to have a panel or two from the concert as part of the trip report. Somehow that fact seemed to justify making a blog entry out of ten year old events.

The show I’m attending in Jessup is one of a handful Dirk is doing in the eastern US. Friday’s concert at Tupelo Music Hall in New Hampshire was simulcast over the Internet. I watched, of course, and got a screen capture of Dirk and long time sideman Don Evans. I’d love to see Don but he won’t make it to Maryland.

I used phrases like “self imposed exile” and spoke of veering “off course” without elaborating. Bits and pieces of the Saga of Dirk can be found around the web but a very good and recent version is here.