My Gear – Chapter 6
HP Pavilion ze4000

HP PavilionDespite this seeming to be the most expensive computer I’ve ever owned, I remember very little about it. Oh, I definitely remember owning it and its painful demise. I just don’t remember any technical details about it. I do remember that its purchase was triggered by the need to replace a desktop PC.

Prior to buying this for what is now an unbelievable $1369 dollars in February of 2004, I did all my heavy lifting on some sort of relatively bulky desktop unit. I recall a Compaq and an Acer and there were other forgotten workhorses on my desk over the years. (The first was a Radio Shack IBM XT clone but that’s a whole different story.) The small size and low power consumption required for portability come at a price and a big crude tower offered a lot more compute power than a laptop at a lot less cost. Though the old Portege remained adequate and would still see action after the HP arrived, it was straining. When the current desktop developed some major problems, I decided to invest in a machine capable of handling everything.

I know that model number in the title isn’t exactly right. ze4000 was the designation for a family of computers with many members. I think mine might have been a 41xx but I’m not even sure of that. I’m relatively certain that it had a Pentium 4-M running Windows XP but at what speed I don’t know and I have no idea on the hard disk or memory size, either. Whatever the numbers were, they were big enough to handle all of my needs. Since the purchase of the HP, no desktop computer has entered my home.

Saying that I did all of my heavy lifting at home isn’t entirely true. I did do some of my day job at home and used my own computer for some serious word processing and software development. I also did all of the route plotting and as much photo editing as possible at home. But, of course, the bulk of the photo editing had to take place in motels as I traveled. Resizing a photo is pretty processor intensive. So is rotating one. Compared to the Portege, which was OK at both jobs, the HP was lightening fast. Lugging around the relatively heavy HP seemed justified by the difference in time spent prepping pictures for upload.

But all that lugging took its toll on the HP. In the fall of 2005, it began shutting down at inopportune times. In what was a sort of last hurrah for the Portege and a definite testament to its portability, I took both computers along on a west coast fly-and-drive trip in case the HP became unusable. After determining that it was motion that killed the HP, it became a tabletop rather than laptop computer. The Portege did see some use on that trip but most of the photo work was handled by the HP on a hard surface using light keystrokes.

Back home, I babied the HP through a few more months but finally went for some professional help. Even the pros were initially stumped but a second visit turned up a crack in the motherboard. Curing it would require replacing the board at a price approaching that of a new machine. The HP ze something-or-other was done.

My Gear – Chapter 5 — Toshiba Portege 300CT

Bunkin’ with Unk

Powell Airplane Mail BoxAn uncle who spends much of the winter in Florida was kind enough to invite me to stay with him for a few days. So there’s a road trip involved with a journal for it here. There will be some exploring on the Dixie Highway though when or how much I don’t know. I fully intend to be lazy and enjoy the warmth so it’s possible a daily report might consist of nothing more than a close up shot of a thermometer. Feel free to use this blog entry for comments related to the trip.

Tricked into Breakfast

I was tricked (probably by myself) into going downtown on Thursday. A story on the morning news told of artifacts unearthed by an ongoing major development of the Cincinnati riverfront, The Banks. It mentioned the articles being transferred to the Cincinnati Museum Center’s Research Center and gave a time of 9:30. Somehow I read into that the idea that the artifacts would actually be on display for the day. By the time I learned I was wrong, I had enjoyed a delightful breakfast,

Annabel's Restaurant I thought seeing the artifacts would be good and decided that, if I was making an earlyish trip downtown, I ought to take in a new breakfast spot. Annabel’s doesn’t have its own website but has been getting rave reviews at places like Yelp and Urban Spoon. In addition to praising the food, almost all of those reviews mentioned a crowd and a long wait. But many also mentioned brunch and quite a few also mentioned Sunday. Although brunch is certainly not restricted to Sundays or even weekends I hoped that the reviews were and I now think that likely.

Annabel's Restaurant Annabel's Restaurant - Faux ToastAnnabel’s is small. Reviews that talked of a wait almost always mentioned this. There is seating for exactly two dozen people. Today, three two-tops to the left of the picture were full or, in the case of mine, half full, as was a two-top to the right. The restaurant is open 9:00 to 2:00 Thursday through Sunday. One of those reviews suggested getting there at 8:00 AM on Sunday to be sure of a seat. I suggest getting there just about whenever you feel like it on Thursday. No long wait for me but the food was just as awesome as the reviews claimed. I had the Carrot Cake Faux Toast which the menu describes as “French toast without the French” and which I describe as delicious. As I told the waitress, I was almost as impressed with the honey/syrup server as I was with the food. The top bit lifts off of the bottom bit and pressing the lever dispenses syrup through a hole in the bottom. Even if it dripped, which it didn’t, it would drip into the base and not in your lap. Brilliant!

The Thursday evening news also had a segment on the artifacts. Some of the items, such as nineteenth century bottles, were shown but the segment ended with a clear message that, though a public display of the artifacts is planned, that’s not yet the case. The morning version might have been somewhat misleading or I might very well have mislead myself. In either case, on Thursday morning I found myself on the west side of downtown Cincinnati in need of a new plan. Not a problem. Some conflict had interfered with recent plans to visit an exhibit at the nearby Betts House so that became a perfect substitute.

Betts HouseThe Betts House was built in 1804 using brick made on site. It started as a two-room farm house and grew to a two-story eight-room residence as the city grew around it. The house that was once far beyond the settlement’s boundaries, now has to include the qualifier “downtown” in its claims. The website identifies it as “the oldest residential structure in the downtown Cincinnati area”. The house was restored in the 1980s and opened as the Betts House Research Center in 1996. The “Research Center” part of the name came from plans to establish a reference library in the house but that turned out not to be feasible. Director Julie Carpenter calls the Betts House a “museum without collection”. The house itself is certainly a worthwhile exhibit and it usually has something else, like a photo or painting exhibit, going on, too.

Betts House - Big Shake ExhibitIts current exhibit is The Big Shake – How the 1811-1812 New Madrid Earthquakes Rocked the Ohio River Valley. When I first read about the exhibit I wanted to see it but I really didn’t make any particular connection with the house. I thought of it as simply a display and a space coming together. The exhibit — and Carpenter, who organized the exhibit and provides an introduction — soon straightened me out. Though the series of earthquakes was centered more than 300 miles away near what is now New Madrid, Missouri, they were huge. The tremors were not just felt in Cincinnati; They did some damage. No large structures were destroyed but houses were severely shaken and chimneys were toppled. A brick summer kitchen behind the Betts House was made unusable and it’s felt that a toppled chimney was the likely cause. So the house is a survivor and a rare one. Other area structures certainly survived the earthquake but they didn’t survive the two centuries of progress that followed. In that, the Betts House is alone. It is a most appropriate setting for this exhibit which provides information on earthquakes in general and the New Madrid Earthquake in particular including its connection with the Betts family.


Olive, an urban diveOlive, an urban diveOn Saturday the 14th, I stopped in another new eatery that had been on my list for awhile. It’s Olive, an urban dive in Dayton, Ohio, and, yes, it really was once a Wympee’s. I never ate there when it was actually part of the Wympee empire but I did eat there a few times while it was an independent diner/’burger joint. The outside may look the same but the inside, as photos on the restaurant’s website show, has been totally redone. The menu is slightly Mediterranean but everything else is local. “local over import, labor over convenience and service over everything else” is their published motto and I can vouch for the service part. The service was excellent, the food quite good, and the prices OK. That local streak extends through the music, too. It comes, at an unintrusive volume, from an iPod (or something similar) that contains nothing but local performers. A nice touch that I particularly liked.

South from the Wrong Turn

Dixie Highway markerWhen I learned that the state of Ohio contains a monument to Robert E Lee which I’ve driven right by without even seeing, I decided to spend a clear (but very cold) day investigating. Missing the monument was partly the result of some wrong ideas about Dixie Highway routing which I also tried to correct. The one day trip report is here. Related comments may be posted to this blog entry.

My Gear – Chapter 5
Toshiba Portege 300CT

Toshiba Portege 300CTHaving blown nearly 400 bucks on a camera, I returned to the used market for a laptop and picked up a Toshiba Portege 300CT for $251 in June of 2001. A 1.5 GB hard disk was standard for this model but this unit had been upgraded to 4.1 GB. It also contained the maximum 64 MB of memory. The processor was a 133 MHz Intel Pentium. It was running Linux when I got it but I installed Windows 98 almost immediately.

The 12 VDC power supply I had purchased for the Libretto worked just fine with the Portege. I had plotted my version of my great-grandparents’ trip using Microsoft Streets & Trips and planned to actually use the Portege in the car to follow the plotted route. In theory, the Garmin III Plus GPS I owned could be used to drive Streets & Trips (CORRECTION: My recollection was wrong. While Streets & Trips was used in some of the planning, it was almost certainly DeLorme’s Street Atlas that was used with the GPS in the car.) and I had the cables to make all the power and data connections but the result was a tangle of wire that was truly scary in the small cockpit of the Corvette. So, for $167, I bought a Hyperdata GPS unit specifically to connect to the computer. This was a brand new model that was powered through its USB connection thus simplifying cabling just a bit.

The 2001 Florida trip is the only one that really made use of this setup. My girl friend, Chris, navigated the entire trip with the Portege on her lap with a pillow for insulation from the heat of the computer. Chris never complained and even stayed with me for another four years before moving on so the trip didn’t really end our relationship. I’ve a strong suspicion, however, that stunts like that are part of the reason I no longer have a girl friend.

My Gear – Chapter 4 — Canon PowerShot A20

Signs on the Move

Sign Museum Entrance - pig and genieOne phase of Tod Swormstedt’s dream came true in 2005 when the American Sign Museum moved into a warehouse on Essex Place in the Walnut Hills section of Cincinnati. The next phase is coming true as it gets ready to move out. The warehouse was not the ideal location but it did its job and provided a home for lots of signs and a shrine for lots of sign lovers. Signs come in all sizes and one of the site’s shortcomings was a lack of height for some of the larger specimens. Many set in a parking lot across the street exposed to weather and vandals. That’s not a problem at the museum’s new home about 2 1/2 miles away in Camp Washington. The former factory’s 42,000 square feet will accommodate many more signs in general and its 28 foot ceilings allow the tall guys to get out of the rain. In addition to “normal” museum exhibits, visitors will get to see the sign restoration shop and a working neon shop. In fact, the neon shop, Neon Works of Cincinnati, is already operating there and has been for roughly two years.

The Camp Washington site was initially acquired in 2007. Renovation of the building and installation of new exhibits progressed while the existing museum operated as usual. No more, though. It’s time to start moving. Yesterday, January 7, was the last hurrah for the Essex Place location and a grand hurrah it was.

American Sign Museum Open HouseAmerican Sign Museum Open HouseThe museum announced the closing and accompanying “Done with the Old. On to the New” open house about three weeks ago through its email list and a week ago through Facebook. Apparently a couple of hundred people responded by registering for the event. Then, on Friday, the Cincinnati Enquirer ran this article and registrations skyrocketed. Registration was not required and no really accurate counting took place but it’s safe to say that over a thousand people visited what many consider Cincinnati’s best kept secret on Saturday. These photos were taken after 4:00 when things were thinning out. (The Cincinnati Bengals lost last week but, because some other teams lost, too, backed into the playoffs and a 4:30 game. Football fans left the museum to position themselves in front of a TV. The Bengals backed out of the playoffs by losing again.)

Sign Museum Director Tod SwormstedtIt takes more than two men and a truck and a weekend to move a museum but Tod and crew think a couple of months should be enough. They have targeted April 28 for the Camp Washington Grand Opening which will be exactly seven years after the Essex Place Grand Opening. I was there at the original and I fully intend to be there for the sequel. With the new location, the huge jump in space, and increased hours, I don’t think this place will be a secret much longer.


Even though this was my last visit to the sign museum on Essex Place, I’ll probably be back to the building. The museum’s co-tenants, Essex Studios, remain and their Art Walks will resume in the spring. A large number of talented artists from a wide range of disciplines fill the studios and make the Art Walks a cross between a visit to a museum and a festival. It’s another Cincinnati secret I recommend.

Essex Studios SignEssex Studios SignThe Art Walks are in the evenings, however, so it may be a long time before I again see the building in sunlight. Therefore, I figured this was a good time to present this lesson on how a small difference in perspective can make a big difference in perception.


Me with Karen & Bill McKibbonAfter the museum, I met Canadian roadies Bill and Karen McKibbon for dinner at their hotel. The McKibbons both work in the school system which gives them a great chunk of time off in the summer and a pretty decent one around Christmas. They use that time in well planned road trips documented here. We’ve followed each other’s travel online for quite awhile but had never met. The closest we came was when I chased them out of the country in August but they crossed the border at Sault Ste Marie five days before I did. Today they were passing through Cincinnati on the way home from the sun and sand of South Padre Island, Texas. It’s always good to turn cyber-friends into real friends.

Book Review
Oklahoma Route 66
Jim Ross

Oklahoma Route 66 coverI like this book so much that I have three copies of it. Well, maybe not three exactly but more than two. I got my first in 2007 in anticipation of an Oklahoma trip. It didn’t take me long to discover that the copy was flawed and it didn’t take much longer for a replacement to be provided. A printing error had caused many pages of that first copy to be omitted, duplicated, or otherwise jumbled. The replacement, with all pages present and in the right place, was quite an improvement. This second edition is also an improvement though not that drastic. With it’s accidental mishmash of pages, that first copy was essentially unusable. Every other copy of first edition Oklahoma Route 66 was eminently usable. The second edition is even more so.

The book’s organization is essentially unchanged from the first edition, Michael Wallis’ “Introduction” has been replaced by a “Foreword” written by Jerry McClannahan and Ross’ own lead in, which was once called a “Foreword”, is now a “Preface”. But, as Shakespeare might say, an introduction by any other name would still introduce and both Jerry and Jim do just that. Jerry helps to establish Jim’s credentials in a fun to read couple of pages then Jim fills in a little of the space between the two editions. He also explains, just as he did in the first edition, that this is literally a book about the road. Roadside attractions and Route 66 personalities are not entirely ignored but they are secondary. The route itself is the book’s focus.

Where did it go and when did it go there?

Jim Ross is really good at digging out answers to that question as well as communicating them. It is in communicating the route’s changing course that this edition’s biggest single change, color, really pays off. As Ross says himself in that preface, it is “…nice for the photos, but especially helpful with the maps.” Photos and other images are used extensively throughout the book. Some are newly acquired and in color though many are the same ones that appeared in the previous edition but now printed in color where applicable.

I don’t believe that any maps have been added to this edition though many have been revised to reflect changes on the ground or better understanding of past alignments. There are, of course, quite a few “past alignments” to be dealt with. In the earlier edition, dealing with them meant annotations on black and white maps. It worked. The information was certainly there and it could be extracted with a little reading and thought but it is so much easier when a green line marks the original alignment and other colors mark later alignments.

The maps appear in a section titled “The Tour”. It follows those introductions and short sections on the road’s history and construction and an explanation of the maps. “The Tour” is the heart of the book and it does indeed serve as a guide for an east to west tour of Historic Route 66 all the way through Oklahoma. Driving instructions are for what Ross calls a “through” route. This means that dead-ended abandoned stretches are not included. They are shown on the maps, however, and described in the text so someone set on finding every possible inch of Sixty-Six can do so. The text also describes the communities along the route and some of the landmarks in between and it usually provides some interesting history on those communities and landmarks including some that no longer exist. The tour is well illustrated with photos and other images and they are not just filler. Ross is as well known as a photographer as he is an historian. His own current photos are mixed with some by others and quite a few historic ones from various archives. “The Tour” of Oklahoma Route 66, even in an armchair, is far from boring.

Oklahoma Route 66 second edition, Jim Ross, Ghost Town Press, October 2011, paperback, 9 x 5.9 inches, 220 pages, ISBN 978-0967748177

2011 in the Rear View

Summarizing a year with statistics is a popular thing to do so here are a few from this site:

  • 1 = Blog added.
  • 1 = Forum deleted
  • 8 = Oddment pages posted
  • 9 = Road trips reported
  • 21 = Weeks of regularly scheduled Sunday blog posts
  • 31 = Total blog posts
  • 69 = Days on the road
  • 2058 = Pictures posted — 96 in the blog, 141 in Oddments, and 1821 in Road Trips

Perhaps conspicuous by their absence are numbers on visits and views and other activities by folks other than me. One reason is that I’m not particularly proud of them or anxious to reveal just how small this website’s reach really is. Another is that statistics for both the blog and the overall website are incomplete. The website is missing some days in November and at least one other period earlier in the year. The statistics package for the blog didn’t get installed until November although the blog itself was launched in August.

The Long Ride Cover - ReverseSo now that I’ve explained why I don’t like to post viewer stats, here are some hidden in a paragraph for folks who bother to read outside the bullet list. For 2011, the entire website had 43,213 visits with 227,060 page views. The most popular page was the Oddment entry on Tadmor. Its 894 views are undoubtedly the direct result of someone (not me) putting a link to it in the Wikipedia article on ghost towns. The blog has had 685 total views. The book review of The Long Drive was the most popular entry with 123 visits. Ego makes me remind you that the blog numbers are from just two months.

The next to last documented road trip of the year was my 100th. I marked the occasion by making a clickable collage of the teaser images displayed randomly, one at a time, in the upper right corner of the site’s home page. A link to the collage now appears below the teaser image. I meant this as a one time thing when I created it but in the days since have thought about adding subsequent trips to it. Maybe I will. Maybe I won’t.

There was a big change in the stables in 2011. The first road trip documented on this site was at least partially prompted by the acquisition of a red Corvette convertible. Since then, though other vehicles have been used and the convertible became a coupe and turned blue, a Corvette has been my primary road trip vehicle. As 2010 ended, I made a purchase intended to provide me with a fifty year old car for the Lincoln Highway’s centennial in 2013. I brought the 1963 Valiant home on January 3. Before too long, the Pontiac Vibe was sold and, in April, the Corvette was replaced by a Subaru Forester. Capital ‘P’ practicality replaced capital ‘P’ performance. Of course, I sometimes miss that Performance and all around Pizzazz but the AWD Forester is capable of taking me places a Corvette never could like the unpaved Pony Express/Lincoln Highway route around Dugway, Utah, that I drove in June. And I once again have a red convertible.