Reverse Road Trip

American Sign MuseumI was part of a road trip today but it wasn’t mine. Roadie Fred Zander from Topeka, Kansas, is in Ohio visiting family north of Dayton and came down to Cincinnati for the day. Like many others, Fred has wanted to visit the American Sign Museum but its limited hours made him put it off. The ribbon cutting was yesterday. Today was the first “normal” day and Fred was among the first “normal” customers.

Although it was the Sign Museum that prompted the trip and Fred even commented that the museum alone would have made the trip worthwhile, this was also Fred’s first visit to the Queen City and an opportunity for me to do a little boostering. I think I did OK in that regard but really fell down in the picture taking department. I had good intentions and almost always had a camera nearby but, presumably since everything was familiar to me, whatever it is that makes me want to click rarely appeared. So, while I showed Fred what I believe is some Cincinnati “good stuff”, I’m going to have to tell about it with few visual aids.

Fred Zander at Roebling BridgeI met Fred at an I-75 exit a little north of the city where he could leave his car. We headed directly downtown from there and drove by Music Hall, Fountain Square, P & G headquarters, and Cincinnati’s oldest bar, Arnold’s. On the way to the 1867 Roebling Suspension Bridge, we got a glimpse of the football and baseball stadiums and the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. On the Kentucky end of the bridge, we pulled into a small lot beneath it that offers a good view of the bridge, the river, and the Cincinnati skyline. I even thought to get a picture of the skyline in addition to the picture of Fred backed by the Roebling Bridge. Before moving on, we took a look at the scenes from area history captured by large murals painted on the flood wall.

Fred and Tod at Amrtican Sign MuseumInformation panel at American Sign MuseumThen it was time for the sign museum to open so we headed back to Ohio. I actually remembered to take some pictures there. One reason may have been that the explanatory panels that stand near most signs were new to me. The text had been ready for the sneak previews but not the stands. I wish I had taken a picture of the face of one of the panels as an example. Tod wrote most or all of these and it’s no surprise that they are quite informative. Sharp eyes may have noticed the American Sign Museum sign at the museum entrance in the photo at the top of this article. That’s also been added since the previews as have some plaques and section signs inside. We were not on an official tour but Tod was always nearby answering questions and pointing out things so it was an “almost tour”.

First Sign Museum tourReal tours, which are free, are given at fixed times. Space permitting, walk-ups are welcome but tours may be scheduled and tickets purchased through the museum’s website. The picture is of the first official tour at the new location. Most of the group is on the other side of the wall.

Fred and his favorite signFred's favorite signI also got a picture of Fred’s favorite sign and a picture of Fred taking a picture of Fred’s favorite sign.

After a couple of hours at the sign museum we drove a couple of miles south to the Cincinnati Museum Center. The museum center is in the 1931 Union Terminal and the art deco building with its murals and other decorative features is something of a museum itself. We did not visit any of the three real museums there.

It was beginning to get a little hungry out so we headed over to Terry’s Turf Club. I had originally wanted to stop at Camp Washington Chili which is just a few blocks from the Sign Museum but it’s closed on Sunday. Terry’s is known for its fantastic hamburgers and huge collection of working neon signs. It’s definitely a fitting place to eat after an American Sign Museum visit. Dessert was ice cream at the 1913 Aglamesis Brothers shop just a few miles north.

Although I didn’t do a very good job of recording the reverse road trip, I did enjoy the chance to show someone a little bit of my town. Fred clearly enjoyed his first visit here and declared his intentions to return. I’m looking forward to it.

My Gear – Chapter 11
Garmin Quest

My relationship with GPS receivers took a whole new direction when I got my a Garmin Quest. Some may recall that Garmin described my previous unit, the GPS III Plus, as having “cartographic capabilities”. It did not do routing of any sort. Before buying the Quest in June of 2006, I “test drove” a friend’s GPS V which Garmin called a “versatile navigator”. I believe it was. It did routing and may have served my purpose but it had been discontinued in January and getting current maps for it was already a bit of a problem. That could only get worse. At the end of the day, I opted to spend $345 for a new Quest.

The Quest had appeared in late 2004 and there was already a Quest 2 model when I made my purchase. The difference was memory. The Quest 2 had enough of it to hold the detail map for the whole USA. In fact, that detail map, City Select North America, was preloaded onto the Quest 2. The Quest came with a CD and enough memory to hold something on the order of Ohio or Indiana, or a strip crossing two or three states. The Quest was noticeably cheaper and I wanted the CD for off-GPS routing anyway. It seemed the obvious choice.

The Quest did require feeding when on a long trip and it was possible to overdrive whatever maps were loaded but it was otherwise ideal. It had a small color screen and a speaker. Its push-button controls were very similar to the familiar ones of the GPS III Plus. I could “Find” something with it then request that it “Route to” what I’d found. It would then guide me to my destination with visual and spoken directions. It did not speak street names, as some units were doing at the time, but street names were displayed. The voice (female and always calm no matter how many times I ignored her) might say “Turn right in 500 feet” and a glance at the screen would show the street name along with the zoomed in map. Even better than the Quest telling me how to get somewhere was me telling it how I wanted to get somewhere and it telling me how to do that in real-time.

I typically don’t merely want to get somewhere. I want to get there along a specific, perhaps historic, route. I don’t want the “quickest” or “shortest” route. I want “my” route. The one I carefully plotted on my PC. In this, the Quest was a willing and capable partner. There were some issues in getting my chosen path to the unit in a form that matched its maps but the complications came from the way I chose to do things and not from any Quest shortcomings. Once a route was properly tweaked and downloaded, the Quest would visually and verbally guide me along. As a more-often-than-not solo traveler. I appreciate this deeply.

Popping the Quest from its cradle was extremely easy and sliding it into a pocket just as easy. Its twenty hours of battery meant you really could do a serious walkabout and not lose your car. Even though I eventually bought an external antenna to boost reception on rainy days, the built in one was generally more than enough. In short, the Garmin Quest was as close to perfection as any GPS receiver I’ve had contact with.

It was maps that prompted me to replace it. In 2008 I bought a factory refurbished Quest because it came bundled with the latest detail map and was priced below buying just the map from Garmin. As it turned out, not only was this the latest City Select Map; It was the last. Current model Garmin GPS receivers use a map product called City Navigator. To an outside and somewhat casual observer, Garmin appears to abandon one line of development for another more often than seems necessary or wise. Since the Quest was so close to perfect, I assumed that newer models would be evolutionary and even closer. I was shocked and a little angered to discover that current models seem to be totally new developments that in some areas are much less capable than the 2004 model Quest. In my heart I know it’s doomed to fail but if anyone wants to start a “Bring Back the Quest” petition, I’ll sign.

My Gear — Chapter 10 — Toshiba Satellite A105


Pathways and Presidents
2012 Lincoln Highway Conference

I started toward Canton, Ohio, today. That’s where the 2012 Lincoln Highway Association National Conference begins on Monday. The conference actually gets rolling — literally — on Tuesday with the first bus tour but the opening banquet is on Monday evening and I’ve signed up for a pre-conference tour that launches from Niles, Ohio, at 9:15 Monday morning. Since that’s near the far corner of the state, I figured  I ought to leave home on Saturday morning. Two full days to drive across Ohio sounds about right don’t you think?

The journal for the trip, with the first day posted, is here. This blog entry may be used for comments and questions concerning the entire trip.

Book Review
Fips, Bots, Doggeries, and More
Tracy Lawson

Fips, Bots, Doggeries, and More coverIn 1990, Tracy Lawson’s parents gave her a stack of twenty-one photocopied pages as a Christmas present. Transcribed onto the typewritten pages was the journal of her third great-grandfather’s 1838 trip from a Cincinnati suburb to New York City. In 2012, Lawson is sharing those pages and the experiences they triggered, in Fips, Bots, Doggeries, and More. The book is comprised of two sections. “Section I — 1838” contains the journal along with Lawson’s illuminating comments and notes. “Section II — 2003-2009” contains accounts of the author’s own trips along the route. Both sections are liberally illustrated with black and white photos and drawings.

The writer of the 1838 journal was Henry Rogers, who operated a successful mill in Mount Pleasant (now Mount Healthy), Ohio. Traveling with the 32 year old Henry were his wife and her parents. The miller was both literate and observant and he sets out to record “…all interesting subjects and things that come under my observation”. The journal provides a most interesting look at nineteenth century roadtripping. Henry recorded expenses and named names so we know, for example, that the group spent a night at Winchester’s hotel in Jefferson (now West Jefferson), Ohio and paid $2.50 for the privilege. That $2.50 covered bed and board for four people and two horses. Along the way, he records expenses for tolls, horseshoes, wagon tyres, and “face barbering”, etc..

The travelers picked up the National Road in Jefferson, Ohio, and followed it and its extensions to Hagerstown, Maryland. As a fan of the National Road, I enjoyed reading Henry’s descriptions and found his pre-bridge entry to Wheeling, Virginia, which required a ferry over each of the two Ohio River channels at costs of 25 and 37.5 cents, especially interesting. They passed through Brownsville, Pennsylvania, during construction of the first cast iron bridge in the United States. It doesn’t appear as if Henry realized that the bridge that would soon carry the National road over Dunlap’s Creek was the first of its kind but he described it as “splendid” while being forced to cross on an “..old narrow bridge that looked as though it would scarcely bear its own weight.” At Hagerstown, the group turned northeast and headed toward Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, then through Abbottstown and York to Lancaster. Roadies will recognize the Gettysburg to Lancaster route as the future path of the Lincoln Highway. From Lancaster, they continued northeast to Trenton, New Jersey, where they spent a little time and made a visit to Philadelphia before moving onto New York City.

The 1838 journal is accompanied by sidebars that explain unfamiliar terms or provide background for certain passages. The journal’s text is cross referenced to a set of end notes. A subsection titled “Expansions” contains short dissertations on subjects that were part of Henry Rogers’ world. These include mills, finances, politics, medicine, fashion, and more.

The author made three trips specifically to experience and research the route her great-great-great-grandparents had followed. Two were driving trips with her daughter and one was a solo fly-and-drive outing. These trips are covered in “Section II” with a blend of genealogy, personal discovery, and general history. It’s fun reading that mirrors Henry’s journal in the sense that both are straight forward reports of some relatively unscripted travel. Henry’s journal held my interest more but there is a good chance that this was because his travel was so much different from today’s. Lawson describes some of the places she stayed and ate much as Henry did and there is even an encounter with a less than savory character that is reminiscent of some of the “scoundrels and topers” encountered by Henry. But Ramada and Cracker Barrel don’t have the same zing as names like Sign of the Bear and Cross Keys Tavern.

Lawson does locate and visit several of the places mentioned in the journal including a few, such as Pennsylvania’s 7 Stars Inn, that are still operating. She also picked up some information at libraries and local historical societies though the trips were not as rich in field research as she had hoped. They were more successful, it seems, on a personal level. She was able to familiarize herself with the path her ancestors traveled and the world they lived in The mother-daughter time was, as the ads say, priceless.

That personal connection won’t be there for most readers of Fips, Bots, Doggeries, and More, but it is still an entertaining and informative look at a road trip back when thirty-one and a half cents fed a family of four and two horsepower was plenty.

There are some minor errors. Perhaps I’m just sensitized to this sort of thing but referring to US 36 as State Route 36 and saying the Madonna of the Trail Monuments were “erected … on US Route 40 and US Route 66” with no mention of the National Old Trails Road bothered me. Aside from increased knowledge of her own ancestors and the world of 1838, it seems Tracy Lawson gained some insight into heritage road trips. In the Epilogue she says “And if I were driving the National Road again, I would eat at all the restaurants that were once taverns Henry mentioned in his journal!” I hope she makes that happen.

Fips, Bots, Doggeries, and More, Tracy Lawson, The McDonald & Woodward Publishing Company, April 2012, paperback, 9.1 x 7.1 inches, 156 pages, ISBN 978-1935778196

Roads, Women, and Cars

Dayton Road MeetI’d have probably been overpowered if they had all been present at the same time, but, over the course of the weekend, I managed a “road meet”, an all female concert, and a gathering of killer cars. The photo at the right is of the “road geeks” who participated in the “road meet” which was in Dayton, Ohio.

“Road geeks” are different from “roadies”. “Roadies” are attracted to old roads and the culture around them. “Road geeks” are attracted to newer roads and to their design and construction. Neither definition is perfect and the groups certainly overlap. I’m a mainstream “roadie” and a fringe “road geek”. Most in the picture tend to be the other way ’round.

The difference is illustrated by a couple of events from Saturday. One of the participants is planning a drive to and from California in the near future. It was one of the things we chatted about over lunch. He mentioned that the return trip would be more leisurely and relaxed since they would be covering only 500-600 miles instead of the 700-800 of some of the west bound days. My target range is something like 150-200 miles a day. The other event was the “clinching” of a road. “Clinching” means traveling the full length of a road. I’ve clinched a few; Route 66, Lincoln Highway, US-62. I-675 is a quarter-circle expressway on the south east edge of Dayton that the whole group “clinched” on Saturday. I believe that’s the first interstate I’ve ever “clinched” and am certain it’s the first I’ve done intentionally.

Dayton Road MeetDayton Road MeetFor the most part, though, the differences are a matter of degree and both “roadies” and “road geeks” are very friendly people who enjoy roads and each other. There are certainly some “roadies” who would cringe at the thought of looking over the recently reworked I-70 & I-75 interchange from a park bench but I’ve now seen members of both groups roaming around the former Dixie Highway & National Road intersection with cameras clicking. The sign being photographed is the “Crossroads of America” sign. The title has no shortage of claimants but both of these intersections are legitimate contenders. The DH and the NR, clearly major highways of their day, morphed into US-25 and US-40 respectively. I-75 is the interstate era successor to US-25 and I-70 is the successor to US-40.

EG Kight at Big Song Music HouseFrom Dayton I headed over to Oxford, Ohio, for another show at the Big Song Music House. This one featured “The Georgia Songbird”, EG Kight. As she has for the other shows I’ve attended here, Lisa Biales, who owns Big Song Music House with her husband Marc, opened with a few tunes. Then EG  took the stage and, in the intimate setting that seemed to fit her perfectly, entertained us with both music and conversation that triggered many smiles and several chuckles. Of course, smiles were not restricted to the time between tunes. EGs humor frequently shows up in her songs, too.

EG Kight at Big Song Music HouseEG Kight at Big Song Music HouseLisa is close friends with both acts, Ricky Nye and Ronstadt Generations, that I’ve seen here in the past and she joined each of them a few times during their performances. EG and Lisa are certainly friends and EG produced and contributed to Lisa’s most recent CD, Just Like Honey, but it’s probably the musical similarities that makes their performing together something special. Both have powerful and clear voices, they both know their way around a guitar, and both are capable of delivering both real and lyrical winks. Lisa joined EG several times, both with and without her guitar, and the two powerful voices combined to produce some pow-pow-powerful harmonies.

Ault Park Concours d’EleganceI took an overnight break before heading out to my third event of the weekend, the 35th Ault Park Concours d’Elegance in Cincinnati. In years past, I’ve parked as close as I could (which never seemed to be very close) and trudged up the hills to the Concours. This year a friend and I took advantage of the free offsite parking and shuttle. Not a bit of trudging and the fact that the shuttle buses were air-conditioned was deeply appreciated after we had walked all over the grounds and were heading back to the car.

Ault Park Concours d’EleganceAult Park Concours d’EleganceThere were plenty of “normal” concours vehicles like Duesenburgs, and Hudsons and brass era cars such as the 1914 Packard above, but the title of this year’s event was A Century of American Power so there were also some cars on display that you might not immediately think of when you hear Concours d’Elegance. Prominent among these were 1960s & ’70s muscle cars and dragsters from the same period.

Ault Park Concours d’EleganceAult Park Concours d’EleganceAult Park Concours d’Elegance




Prime examples of Detroit muscle are the 427 CI 425 HP V8 in a 1964 Ford Galaxy and the 426 CI 425 HP (for insurance purposes) V8 in a 1963 Dodge Polara. That’s Cincinnati muscle in the third picture. The 44 CI 26.5 HP I4 in a 1951 Crosley Hotshot might not seem like a symbol of …American Power but it was a Hotshot that won, through handicapping, the first Sebring Endurance Race in 1950.

Ault Park Concours d’EleganceThis picture might make you think that texting while driving was encouraged back when the  alphabet was smaller but it is actually the push-button transmission controls in a 1958 Edsel Citation.

Carey Murdock Mansion Hill TavernThis is something of a bonus. Carey Murdock is another singer-songwriter I learned of through Josh Hisle. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee. I came close to connecting with him there last Christmas but missed and actually met him for the first time tonight as we both walked across the street to Mansion Hill Tavern. Carey had prearranged a stop at Mansion Hill as a “featured guest” which essentially means a half hour slot at a regularly scheduled blues jam with lots of musicians waiting to form groups and get some stage time. This is obviously not the best showcase situation but Carey handled it well and the crowd seemed to like him. I definitely did.

American Sign Museum Reopening

American Sign MuseumMark your calendars. On June 23, the American Sign Museum begins full five-days-a-week operation at its new bigger and taller location just a few blocks from Camp Washington Chili. There were previews on Friday & Saturday and I assure you that seeing an entire Mail Pouch barn side in a museum is not the same as seeing pictures. I’ve created an Oddment page for those previews and this blog entry simply points to that page and provides a place for comments.

This way to the Oddment.