Twenty Mile’s Last Stand

Twenty Mile House, Cincinnati, OhioThe first time I entered the Twenty Mile House it was smaller and younger and so was I. I was in my twenties so perhaps could even be considered young in absolute terms. Not so the building. The part on the right was built in 1822. Some or all of a building that stood here in 1804 might even be included in there somewhere. The road was smaller then too. It was small enough that cars parked between it and the building where those shrubs are now. The main entrance was through a street facing door that has long been locked and sealed. Some details of the first time I stepped through that door remain clear. The bar was against the far wall. I’m not entirely sure what was to my left; Probably some tables and chairs. I don’t recall the huge fireplace that I now know fills the east wall so am guessing that it was covered at the time. To my right was a jukebox and a hardwood dance floor that sat on top of the “normal” floor. Les Paul & Mary Ford’s version of How High the Moon was playing. That recording is almost as old as me.

Twenty Mile House, Cincinnati, OhioThe building started out as an inn and stagecoach stop some twenty miles from the center of Cincinnati. It seems to have been successful in that role. And it must have been somewhat successful as some sort of road side stop as the stage route became Montgomery Road and Ohio Route 3 and the 3C Highway and US Route 22. I don’t really know whether the outside of the building changed much during its first century and a half. I do know it hasn’t changed in any material way in the many years since. The inside, however, has changed considerably and additions have been made until the structure I remember from the early 1970s makes up maybe a third of the total. A recent sales flyer includes a diagram of the building in which I believe the area labeled “Bar & Lounge” is the original structure. Perhaps there is a version of the “Peter Principle” that applies to restaurants. Something like: “A successful eating establishment will expand to a size just beyond what the customer base can support.” This was an extremely successful restaurant and night spot through the seventies and eighties. That’s when the additions were made and every occupant since then has had that huge capacity — and overhead — to deal with.

Twenty Mile House, Cincinnati, OhioIn my mind, the sprawling additions have been a factor in the failure of various restaurants to make a go of it but it’s hard to say just how big a factor. The most recent tenant may have actually found all that space attractive. That was a business called Red Rock Tavern and it advertised itself more as a music venue than as a restaurant. It didn’t last long but it left its mark. They painted the building red. Some previous tenant had mounted a scrolling electric sign board on the corner of the building. It’s still there in the picture in the real estate flyer. The Red Rock folks painted around it so that removing it left a scar like stripe. Rumor has it that the kitchen was pretty much stripped at the same time.

The red paint and the grey “scar” provide an ugly building to go along with an ugly situation. Speedway, the gas station chain, found the location, if not the building, attractive. They want to demolish the building and put in a gas station and convenience store. An offer was made but there was a hitch. The property is at the corner of Columbia Road and US 22. There is an entrance on both roads but Speedway stated that it needed an entrance from Columbia much closer to the corner than the existing one. That would be a violation of Warren County access management regulations. The existing entrance is, in fact, closer than current regulations permit but was grandfathered in. This is truly a safety concern in the minds of many and the county engineer has refused to grant an exception.

Beyond this it gets pretty muddled. Apparently the county commissioners and possibly even the Deerfield Township commissioners have the power to overrule the engineer. They haven’t done so and have become the target of a lawsuit by Jeff Black, the building’s owner. They have also become the target of many local residents who feel they should buy the building to preserve it or somehow otherwise firmly block the development. I have no idea how all this fits with the fact that, late last year, Speedway submitted plans that omitted the entrance change.

I’ve come to the game embarrassingly and frighteningly late. I heard of the situation months ago but did nothing other than sign an electronic petition. I marked my calendar for a zoning committee meeting a couple of weeks ago but blew it off for something else. On Tuesday I did attend a township commissioner meeting but it was almost immediately apparent that the meeting was rather meaningless in regards to the fate of the Twenty Mile House. It was a chance for residents to relate how much they liked the old building and tell how its destruction would be a great loss but the commissioners had already come out firmly against buying the property which seemed to be the only method available to them to actually prevent the proposed demolition. For the record, I am not a resident of the county or township involved. I live at the edge of Hamilton County. Warren County and Deerfield Township are two streets and 300 yards from my front door.

Twenty Mile House, Cincinnati, OhioI can’t even guess at what might happen next. I only know that I’ll be watching. I suppose that part of the reason for making this post is the hope that it might get a few more people watching, too. Several articles here offer glimpses of what has already transpired and the post and replies here offer glimpses of what once was. The petition I mentioned is here though, like almost all online petitions, it has no legal standing. I am aware of two Facebook connections. One is a fan page which may signal its attitude in its title, Save 20 Mile House – Boycott Speedway. The fact that there has so far been only something to be against and nothing to be for can be seen in the name. The other is a group whose name, Friends of 20 mile house, is less abrasive. Fans of the page and members of the group overlap heavily. Hopefully someone will come up with a better plan than lying down in front of bulldozers. On the other hand, I attended that commission meeting with a sixty year old Deerfield Township resident whose mother, knowing his feelings on the matter, cautioned him to “not get arrested”. It could happen.

UPDATE: 27-Mar-2012 – As reported here, Speedway has withdrawn its offer to purchase the 20 Mile House. That is merely a short reprieve as the historic building is still for sale and financial pressures on the current owner have not gone away. Taking advantage of the breather, the previously mentioned Friends of 20 mile house Facebook group has formed a non-profit corporation using the name Friends of The Twenty Mile House. This will allow fund  raising and provide focus for locating and assisting preservation minded purchasers.

UPDATE: 1-May-2013 – Time ran out for the Twenty Mile House. The property was sold in March, a demolition permit issued, remaining fixtures were sold in an online auction, and, on April 16, the building was leveled. A blog entry on the demolition was posted here the next day. The order for destruction came from Henkle Schueler & Associates who plan to build a Big Mike’s Gas n Go at the location. In justifying the unpopular action, the company has used silly phrases like “its historical significance can be measured in the physical location, not in its structure” and referred to the gas station as “a place for those traveling through the area to refuel and gather provisions” and called this a continuation of past use. I think they may have invented the phrase “functionally demolished” to describe a building with furniture and fixtures removed. The idea that Henkle Schueler thinks people who cared about the place believe this is insulting. The idea that they may actually believe it themselves is frightening.

Air Force Museum

C-141 Starlifter and YC-125B Raider at Air Force MuseumThe National Museum of the US Air Force is about 35 miles away from my home. I drive by it at least a couple of times a year. Almost the instant I retired I told myself I’d get up there soon on a weekday and avoid those weekend crowds. So, over two years after telling myself that and well over two decades after my last visit, I made it to the museum on an unseasonably warm February Friday. I’ve posted an Oddment page here. Comments may be made to this blog entry.

Music Review
No Agenda
Ryan Kralik

No Agenda CD coverI was pretty much prepared to not like this. I only became aware of Ryan Kralik when he recorded a cover of Neil Young’s “Ohio” with Josh Hisle but I’ve certainly heard of him a lot since then. Actually, heard from him a lot would be more accurate. In order to download that “Ohio cover, I signed on to his mailing list and that led to becoming Facebook friends. Down these two funnels, Kralik has poured a steady stream of promotional messages. The first were about the “Ohio cover, then they were about this album, and now they are about an in process tour. I’ve no particular problem with guerrilla marketing of this sort. It may lack the punch of a full page ad in Rolling Stone but, for cash strapped artists, it beats a blank and can be fairly effective. But the primary goal of Kralik’s messages seemed to be connecting his name with the better known musicians who had helped with the recordings. The basic idea is no doubt good but when that seemed to be about the only thing Kralik had to tout and I’d heard it too many times, it became off-putting. There seemed to be far too much grasping at coattails involved. I became irked rather than piqued.

So I kind of hoped to just ignore the album but knew that wouldn’t be easy. In an idle moment a few days after a streaming preview became available, I gave it a listen. It didn’t suck. It sufficiently didn’t suck that I ordered it under some special edition half price offer. That was in late November. It arrived sometime between January 27 and February 6. I was out of town so can’t really nail down the delivery date but I clearly had a couple of months for negative thoughts to grow. This was not the result of simple laziness. The delay was caused by production problems but it was still a delay and it did nothing to endear Mr. Kralik to me. Some of that guerrilla marketing talked about the packaging so I kind of knew what to expect. The CD itself is made to look like a vinyl record complete with (printed non-spiraling) grooves. It is inside a standard cardboard CD sized sleeve. That sleeve is in one side of what looks like a folding double LP jacket (for 7 inch LPs) along with some stickers, tickets, and such. The other side of the jacket holds a very nice booklet with lyrics, pictures, personnel, and most of the other things you want to know about a CD but aren’t always told. That booklet, all by itself, counterbalanced a whole bunch of the negativity I’d developed. The remainer was knocked off by the music.

Those names that Kralik dropped with wild abandon early on are all here. Dave Krusen (Pearl Jam) is on three tracks. Rick Rosas (Neil Young, Joe Walsh) is on two. Michael G Ronstadt appears three times and Josh Hisle once. Josh and Michael I know from their solo stuff along with their work with Lost in Holland and Ronstadt Generations. Some of these guys and a couple of others get the occasional music credit but the lyrics are all Kralik’s. So are the vocals.

The music begins and ends with ukulele tunes. Another resembles something the Ramones might have done. That’s quite a range though No Agenda does not hit much of the space in between. The two uke songs and another tune, “Me and You”, which might actually be a love song, are kind of slow and kind of quiet. The remainder are all driving rockers. Kralik is no opera singer but he doesn’t try to be. He doesn’t push his range in delivering the topical and witty words he has written and it sounds right. “The Egypt Riot”, that Ramonish tune I mentioned and which is my favorite on the CD, could almost be too topical. The big time protests in Egypt came and went while No Agenda was being birthed but songs that capture a moment, like the aforementioned “Ohio”, are often good things. Maybe “The Egypt Riot” does that. I’m not sure.

When Rosas and Krusen aren’t around, Keith Lowe and Jeff Strainer do admirable work on bass and drums and Pete Jive contributes some nice guitar to those two ukulele pieces. Kralik’s guitar can be heard on almost every track and it’s solid but it is James Holsapple who adds the bright work here. I particularly liked what he does on “The Setting Sun” where he deservedly gets co-writer credit.

I’ve named three songs and there are five more. Yep, eight songs, totaling about thirty-two minutes of music. Maybe that’s not unusual today. I really don’t know. I certainly wouldn’t mind if there was more music here and that would not be the case if the music sucked. It doesn’t.

Check it out here.

Scoring the Dixie

1923 Dixie Highway with my scoreTraveling a scenic old road is indeed its own reward but keeping track of which ones you’ve traveled is kind of fun, too. In most cases that’s pretty easy. Very easy, in fact, if you start at one end or the other. If you don’t make it all the way, just remember where you left the road and pick it up there next time. Starting your first drive in the middle complicates that just a bit as do alternate alignments but even piecemeal drives and multiple alignments seem rather simple when compared to the web that is the Dixie Highway.

The original idea may have been to connect Chicago and Miami but not much more than a month after the Dixie Highway Association’s first meeting, the route was split at Indianapolis and approval of a route connecting Detroit, Michigan, with Dayton, Ohio, soon followed. The “highway” had two mainlines essentially from the very beginning. Routes connecting the two mainlines also existed from the get go and more were added over time along with loop routes to pass though or attract traffic from cities not otherwise on the Dixie. Robert V Droz, whose excellent US Highways site I reference a lot and praise as much as I can, identifies ten connectors, four loops, and a bypass. By my count, the 1923 Dixie Highway Association map on the right (which I originally obtained from the Droz site but which appears elsewhere on the web including Wikipedia) shows just seven connectors and two loops.

This discrepancy somehow escaped me when I decided to use the map for score keeping. It slapped me in the face when I started planning my most recent road trip. That trip was to visit an uncle in Lake Alfred, Florida, and DeLorme identified a road a few hundred yards from his driveway as Old Dixie Highway. This was clearly part of the Tampa – Saint Petersburg Loop described by Droz but was just as clearly not shown on the 1923 map. That didn’t affect my trip taking but would affect my score keeping.

I plotted the entire loop before I left home but didn’t have much hope of driving any more of it than the section east of Tampa. As things turned out, I was able to drive the full loop on my way home but didn’t know how I was going to record this fact. On that map at the top of this article, sections of the Dixie Highway that I’ve driven are marked in green. It shows my “score” through the end of 2011. The section between Orlando and Haines City was new for me and I could mark it on the map but not the also new-to-me big loop between Haines City  and Ocala.

My Dixie Highway MapSo I abandoned my short lived experiment with score keeping via the old Dixie Highway Association map and, using DeLorme Street Atlas, drew up my own “map” of the Dixie. I put “map” in quotes because, although all the important connections are shown, there are a lot of straight lines and skipped cities. I believe the polite term is “streamlined”. This is what I now intend to use to record what portions of the Dixie Highway I’ve driven. As part of the journal for any trip involving some new-to-me Dixie Highway, I’ll include an updated version with all the sections I’ve driven shown in green. The current “score”, through the Lake Alfred trip, is here.

ADDENDUM 17-Nov-2015: On July 22, 2015, I wrapped up the described score keeping by completing at least one pass of all known segments. On November 5, I published a book chronicling those passes. A brief “review” of that book, A Decade Driving the Dixie Highway, is here.

My Gear – Chapter 7
Canon Powershot A75

Canon Powershot A75Late in the spring of 2004, the lens on my A20 zoomed its last. As I recall, it was stuck somewhere in the middle of its range. It still took pictures but the lack of zoom was irritating and the permanently protruding lens made it awkward to pocket. Besides, there had been three years of progress since my last camera purchase and I was ready to take advantage of it.

I had been quite happy with the A20 so I went for what was essentially the current model equivalent. But those three years had not only added about a million pixels, available manual controls, and video recording to the camera, they also shaved more than a hundred bucks off the price. The A20 had cost $384 in 2001. The A75, in June of 2004, was $276.

The lens was the same 35mm-105mm zoom and the recording media was still Compact Flash. More importantly, power still came from standard AA batteries. I owned several gadgets — GPS, voice recorder, FRS radios — that used AAs and I owned a couple fist fulls of rechargeables along with an AC/DC charger. Plus, in my mind, it was crucial to use standard batteries so I could grab fresh ones at any gas station if necessary. In my five years with the Powershots and seven years with an AA powered Garmin, I think I did that maybe twice with the cameras and once with the GPS. Of course, the GPS was usually powered directly from the car so one set of batteries was almost always being charged.

I guess it was this camera that got me to thinking that digital photography might actually have a future. Until now, I figured digital cameras were great for pictures to post on a website or email to friends and relatives but film was still needed for any kind of printing. The A75 couldn’t produce magazine cover images but a 3×5 or 4×6 print looked just fine.

My Gear — Chapter 6 — HP Pavilion ze4000