Trip Peek #4
Trip #60
Crescent City Christmas

Royal Street balconiesThis picture is from my 2007 Crescent City Christmas road trip. That was my second Christmas Escape Run and I spent a very pleasant Christmas Day in New Orleans, Louisiana. On the way down, I checked out some history in Selma and Montgomery, Alabama, and on the way home connected with road fan Alex Burr in Jackson. Mississippi. Alex rode with me for a few days as we got a decent dose of Delta Blues education. The photograph was taken on Christmas Eve on Royal Street.

I readily confess to this Trip Pic Peek not being random. I wanted something seasonal for the middle of my 2012 Christmas Escape Run and the “Peace Yall” sign has always been one of my favorites.

Trip Pic Peek # 3 — Trip #9 — Augusta Spring


Trip Pic Peeks are short articles published when my world is too busy or too boring for a current events piece to be completed in time for the Sunday posting. In addition to a randomly selected photo thumbnail from a completed road trip, each Peek includes a brief description of that photo plus links to the full sized photo and the trip journal it is from.

Christmas Escape Repeat

Delta Queen, Christmas Day 2010That’s the steamship Delta Queen pictured to the right. The picture was taken on December 25, 2010 when Chattanooga got its first Christmas Day snow fall in 41 years. I don’t expect to see scenes like that again though I am returning to the Queen for Christmas 2012. Once the holiday is past, I’ll be driving a little Dixie Highway and spending a little time in Atlanta, Georgia. I’m now on the way and spent last night in LaFollette, Tennessee. The short journal for that first day’s drive is here with the overview of the trip here. As usual, daily journals will be posted as the trip progresses. If you would like to be notified of each day’s posting, look into the available mailing list or RSS feed. This will be the only blog entry related to this trip and will serve to hold any and all comments.

Music Review
Not of Seasons
Mississippi Charles Bevel

Not of Seasons - coverI went to see Hank Williams: Lost Highway last week. The first sound that came from the stage wasn’t the voice of Hank or his mother or the cry of a pedal steel guitar. When the lights dimmed and the play began, it was the pure voice of Mississippi Charles Bevel that came unfaltering from the darkness. Bevel plays Tee-Tot, Williams’ mentor. The CD that this post claims to review is not new. It’s a dozen years old and I don’t recall ever hearing of it or Charles Bevel before last Wednesday.

I was quite sincere in writing that I’d never before heard of Charles Bevel but there’s a strong possibility that it’s not entirely true. I’ve not seen the Broadway show It Ain’t Nothin’ But the Blues but I’ve certainly heard of it. Bevel co-wrote that and starred in it so there’s a decent chance that I’ve seen his name somewhere before. On Wednesday, though, I knew nothing of Bevel’s history and was simply wowed by his voice. He wasn’t the star of the show in any normal sense but he was the cast member who impressed me the most musically and there were some fine musicians in that cast.

I made two wishes during the show and both came true. One, some of those CDs I’d seen for sale on the way in were Bevel’s and, two, he was among the cast members in the lobby collecting money for charities. Better yet, my cheap seat made me one of the last to exit and the crowd was thinning as I headed out. My reward was an autograph and a short conversation. “All the words are in there,” the singer said as he returned the signed CD, “so you can sing along.” That was my first hint that there was more to this CD and this man than just another pretty voice.

I listened to a Hank Williams CD on the drive home. When I finally listened to my new purchase a couple of days later, it was immediately obvious that this guy had some heavy-duty musicians backing him up. And with each song it became more and more apparent that he was working with some heavy-duty material, too. By the time I checked the credits, I was simply verifying what had become more than a suspicion. Behind that Wednesday night hint was the fact that Mississippi Charles Bevel had written every tune.

A closer looked at the credits revealed even more of my ignorance. More than twenty musicians appear in the credits and I didn’t recognize a one. These are not unknown musicians. They were simply unknown to me. Toss some of the names in a search engine and you’ll discover folks who have played with the likes of John Denver, Delaney & Bonnie Bramlett, The Commodores, Nora Jones, and on and on. Every performance on Not of Seasons is top-notch and maybe it’s natural to wonder how can all these people I’ve never heard of make such great music but I’m kind of used to it. There are a lot of great musicians whose names I recognize but I also know there are plenty more that I’ve so far completely missed.

It’s a big group with multiple saxophones, trumpet, trombone, and a small choir that delivers “I’m a Lover”, the upbeat opening track. Bevel actually co-wrote this song — with James Mabone — for the Staple Singers. I know it’s the saxophone that does it but Bevel’s version sounds rather Springsteenesque to me. The next tune, “Dreams”, is a little slower and just slightly exotic sounding. It made me think of early Terence Trent D’Arby and I found myself thinking of D’Arby at various other points in the CD. I don’t believe any other track equals the opener in troop size but several come close. That choir returns for three more songs and horns, various keyboards, and guitars abound. One cut has a sousaphone; Another a cello. None are gimmicks. They are there because they belong.

Bevel’s strong voice sounds great backed by a room full of musicians but it may be easier to appreciate with pared down backing. “Woman” is just him and a piano. Other tracks include little more than a guitar and/or piano.

Back in the 1970s Bevel recorded a CD for A&M but even before the big promotional tour he realized that wasn’t what he wanted. He essentially walked away to be what he wanted to be and that’s exactly what he is. And the songs on Not of Seasons are what he wants to write and what he wants to sing. Calling it blues isn’t incorrect but it’s also gospel, soul, funk, pop, and folk. The lyrics are as strong as his voice. They can be insightful.

I heard a voice speak to me
Say, come over here to the land of the free
Land of the free and the home of the brave
But I see cowards and I smell slaves

And some might make your mind swivel unexpectedly.

Lord, Jesus and sex are both friends of mine

Some are just fun.

Making love, it ain’t magic
If you don’t know what to do it can be tragic

All are delightful.

There’s a two-man live version of the title track here. The album can be found here but Mississippi Charles Bevel spends a lot of time acting these days and it’s a lot more fun to buy it first hand after a performance.

My Christmas Squirrel

cdecor1I’m not much of a decorator. When there were young’uns in the house, there was always a tree at Christmas and I even strung up a few outdoor lights once or twice but there has been nothing of that sort around my bachelor abodes. When I lived in a one bedroom apartment, I found a couple of red balls that probably came from someone’s tree and hung them from a ceiling beam. I’ve expanded on that just a bit in my current location. At some point after Thanksgiving has passed each year, I take my single armload of holiday trim out of the closet and make things all Christmasy.

The little tree is store-bought. It’s the only component in my Christmas display not made by a family member’s hand. The snow-couple on the mantle are covered soft drink bottles. My sister dives into various arts and crafts projects on a regular basis and one year she made quite a few of these. I’m guessing that the ornament with the photo of the grandsons was assembled by my daughter-in-law or maybe the oldest boy did it. It arrived just a few days before my first ever Christmas Escape Run in 2006 and I took it with me. It first hung on a tree of sorts in a room above the Under the Hill Saloon in Natchez, Mississippi.

cdecor2The star is one my Mom made of wax-coated paper. My sister and I each have five. I think Mom may have formed the stars then dipped them but I might not be remembering that quite right. She passed away in 1959 so the stars are at least 54 years old. Unlike my current piece of fake shrubbery, there was some store-bought stuff on our trees in those days but not a lot. There was popcorn we had strung while also eating a goodly amount of it and each year we carefully removed the hanging strands of tinsel (icicles) to reuse the next. The tree was definitely not fake.

cdecor3The merry-go-round isn’t exactly holiday themed but, like pretty much any toy, seems quite appropriate. I guess Dad ran out of furniture to refinish or chairs to cane or maybe he just wanted a break. Whatever the source of the urge, it resulted in the production of several of these merry-go-rounds some years back. They were populated with a variety of animals. Mine has a chicken, duck, cat, and squirrel.

The sweat of the honest makes the merry-go-round.
Dirk Hamilton, Rainbows in the Night, 1995

cdecor4I wasn’t able to get an ornament made by my newest grandson in time to include it in this post. Construction is in progress and I’ll update this post with a photo as soon as possible. For the present, I’ll just include this photo so that all three grandsons are represented.

Wesley's ornament UPDATE: January 3, 2013 – I picked up the new ornament on the way home from my Christmas trip. As promised, here it is. I’m all set for Christmas 2013.

Book Review
Route 66 Encyclopedia
Jim Hinckley

Route 66 Encyclopedia - coverE-N-C-Y-C-L-O-P-E-D-I-A
I can’t look at this book without hearing Jiminy Cricket singing. I’ve never read an entire encyclopedia (Including this one — yet) but thanks to Pinocchio’s little bitty buddy, I can spell the word.

I’ll confess to being a little leery every time I hear of a new Route 66 book. How many books does one road need? I think I was doubly leery of this ambitious project because, as Jiminy says, an encyclopedia contains “everything from A clear down through Z” and that’s a tall order. Well, Jiminy… I mean Jim seems to have done a pretty good job covering the alphabet and I’ve once again discovered that Route 66 needed at least one more book.

The encyclopedia made a good impression before I ever read a word. It’s a fairly large hardback with full color glossy pages. The book’s first page folds out to present a three panel map of the entire road lined with photos and images from postcards, maps, and brochures. It is well illustrated throughout with modern photographs from Jim and wife Judy and lots of historic images from collectors Joe Sonderman, Steve Rider, and Mike Ward. It looks like Rider, at least, also contributed some modern photos. I probably ought to mention that I personally know all those guys and Jim, too, but I don’t believe I owe any of them money.

As might be expected, the entries are in alphabetical order and the starting page of each letter can be determined from the table of contents. Only ‘X’ is a no show. ‘Q’ and ‘Z’ get one page each and ‘C’ gets thirty. The rest get something in between. There is a large letter at the outer top corner of each page to further help with locating topics. There is also an index but it is a bit unusual, at least in my experience. Rather than a single alphabetical list, there are sub-lists for people, places (further divided by state), other, and publications  It’s quite usable but it seems like it could get awkward if there were many more divisions or longer lists.

I expected to encounter some new stuff here and I certainly did. The book starts and ends with things I’d not heard of: Missouri’s Abbylee Motel and New Mexico’s Zuzax trading post. There are plenty more in between. Among the many entries that weren’t at all familiar to me are quite a few defunct businesses such as Drumm’s Auto Court in Arizona and the Premiere Motel in New Mexico, several vanished communities including Des Peres, MO,  Lela, TX, and Siberia, CA, and at least a few humans. I don’t recall ever hearing of businessman Arthur Nelson and, while it seems like I must have at least read about “father of the good roads movement” Horatio Earle, I sure didn’t recognize the name. On the other hand, a couple searches for folks I did know of came up empty but I believe that, too, is to be expected. It really isn’t possible to include absolutely everything and choices must be made. Every “Best Beatles Songs” list I’ve ever seen has left off at least one of my favs.

Route 66 Encyclopedia - sample 1This is not my first exposure to Hinckley’s work and, as I’ve said before, the man does his homework. Of course everybody knows about the Gemini Giant and it’s not too tough to learn that it was made by International Fiberglass. But learning how many cowboys the company made for Phillips Petroleum and how they managed to make some giants with beards and some without and that the company’s founder once set a world record in sailing? That takes some digging. And practically any book with 66 on the cover will tell you how Cyrus Avery was instrumental in getting the pair of sixes for the route after the desired Highway 60 designation was assigned elsewhere. Hinckley does that and also tells us quite a bit about some of his other activities such as his prior role in creation of the Albert Pike Highway and his subsequent role in helping form the U.S. 66 Highway Association. Incidentally, although I have not read every article in the encyclopedia, that is the only mention of the U.S. 66 Highway Association I found. Its post WWII spark plug, Jack Cutberth, was one of the names I thought I might see in the book but didn’t.

Route 66 Encyclopedia - sample 2Even without Cutberth, the Route 66 Encyclopedia includes an impressive number and range of articles and many of those articles go into significant depth. The writing isn’t flowery but neither is it terse. It’s lean and efficient. The goal is to get as much factual information between the covers as possible and keep it readable. Hinckley does that rather well. Moreover, I think you’d probably still get your money’s worth if you decided to forgo the text altogether and just look at the pictures.

Encyclopedia Britannica always had yearbooks. (To my surprise, I just learned they still do.) The Route 66 Encyclopedia has updates here. They can also be accessed through a QR code on the back of the book.

The Route 66 Encyclopedia, Jim Hinckley,  Voyageur Press, 2012, hardback, 11.1 x 8.7 inches, 288 pages, ISBN 978-0760340417

Dead Sea Scrolls in Cincinnati

Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit at Cincinnati Museum CenterSeveral Dead Sea Scrolls form the centerpiece of and lend their name to a major ongoing exhibit at the Cincinnati Museum Center. The full name of the exhibit, which I attended on Monday and which runs through mid-April, is Dead Sea Scrolls: Life and Faith in Ancient TimesThe “scrolls” are in that circular table whose edge is near the center of the photograph at right. They’re not really scrolls though. Not many of the things comprising what we call the Dead Sea Scrolls are. The first manuscripts pulled from caves near the Dead Sea in 1947 were actual scrolls — seven of them — but not so most of the items found since then. Those first scrolls have been described as “relatively intact”. Subsequent finds have largely been fragments of varying sizes. Pieces of parchment and papyrus containing writing were found in a total of eleven caves in the area and by 1956, when somebody decided they had found all there was to find, some 15,000 to 30,000 fragments of what are estimated to be more than 900 manuscripts had been retrieved. About 40% of the manuscripts are copies of books in the Hebrew Bible (a.k.a. Old Testament), 30% are religious documents not part of the canonized Bible, and another 30% are secular.

Ten of those manuscripts are represented in that big circular table. To help preserve them, they will be swapped out for a different ten half way through the exhibit. The actual bits of ancient writing are inside sealed climate controlled compartments. Enlargements, notes, and English translations are on the table’s surface. Attributed to the period between roughly 250 BCE and 100 CE, most of the Dead Sea Scrolls are written in Hebrew with a respectable number in Aramaic and a few in Greek or Nabataean. All those in the exhibit are either Hebrew or Aramaic. I can’t read one word. Studying the scrolls doesn’t do much for me in practical terms but gazing on documents produced two millennia ago is downright awesome.

Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit at Cincinnati Museum CenterDead Sea Scrolls exhibit at Cincinnati Museum CenterThe scrolls are the big draw but by the time most people buy their tickets, they are aware that there is more — a lot more — on display. I regret getting no pictures in the first room of the exhibit where a museum guide uses three ancient jars and walls filled with changing pictures of the region to illustrate an overview of the scroll’s discovery and a little history. From there, visitors enter a long hall with dates on the floor and some seriously old artifacts displayed along one wall. Some sense of the world that preceded the writing and hiding of the scrolls can be obtained here.

Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit at Cincinnati Museum CenterDead Sea Scrolls exhibit at Cincinnati Museum CenterNext up are some newer and larger artifacts. An accurate count of artifacts displayed is elusive but something above 600 is probably close. This is reportedly the largest exhibit ever mounted in Cincinnati. The 2011 Cleopatra exhibit had about 150 items and the Pompeii exhibit from earlier this year was just over 250. The rightmost picture is of pottery shards with writing on them. Waste not, want not.

Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit at Cincinnati Museum CenterDead Sea Scrolls exhibit at Cincinnati Museum CenterAs visitors get nearer the scroll display, artifacts seem to become a bit more involved with religion. Holders of incense and offerings are well represented and there are hints of a bit more idolatry than I might have suspected. The tall painted cylinder in the second photo is called a cult stand. It’s thought that a bowl with incense or other offerings would have been placed atop it.

Not surprisingly, no photos are permitted in the area where the scrolls are displayed. What was at least a little surprising to me was that the scrolls are not displayed in isolation. They are surrounded by more artifacts, descriptive texts, a short movie, and a stone wall. The movie and texts present some of the facts and theories about who wrote the scrolls, the circumstances of their hiding, and their relationship to the three Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The wall is basically a replica of a section of the Western/Wailing Wall in Jerusalem but it frames what is believed to be a stone from the actual wall. The three ton cube was not ripped from the wall for the exhibit. Roman soldiers of about 70 CE get the blame for that. Touching the stone is permitted and this can be a very emotional experience for some. Visitors may also insert written prayers into crevices in the replica just as is done at the real Wailing Wall. These prayers are collected periodically and sent to Israel. A nearby video screen displays a live feed from the real wall.

Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit at Cincinnati Museum CenterThe last part of the exhibit is, I believe, a Cincinnati exclusive. The Hebrew Union College here has been involved with the scrolls from shortly after their discovery. An HUC professor played a key role in the purchase of four of the first seven scrolls in response to a 1954 classified ad in the Wall Street Journal. In the 1970s, HUC secretly stored many photographic negatives of the scrolls for safe keeping. When publication of translations dragged on and on, another HUC professor published his own interpretation of many scrolls in 1991. That exposed him to being sued over copyright violations and he lost. Any 250 BCE copyright on the actual scrolls had most likely expired but the suit involved some intermediate translation work. Despite a courtroom defeat, a lot of the scrolls were now out of the bag and things have been a lot more open since then.

Pnina Shor - The Conservation and Preservation of the Dead Sea ScrollsAnd they’re about to become even more open. The picture at left was taken at a free lecture I attended at the Museum Center in November. The speaker is Pnina Shor of the Israel Antiquities Authority. The screen behind her is demonstrating a digitization project that the IAA has undertaken in partnership with Google. This is not the first time that some Dead Sea Scrolls have been digitized. The scrolls are not all owned by one entity though reporting who and where is way beyond anything I want to deal with. Lots of people have some and some are already available on line. But the IAA has a bunch and their digitization project is a big one. Estimated completion is 2016 with the first phase, consisting of a few manuscripts, going live in mid-December. The images are being recorded at 1.2 gigapixels. You’re going to need a bigger screen.

Book Review
Ten Million Steps on Route 6
Joe Hurley & Travis Lindhorst

Ten Million Steps - cover“It’s not the destination but the journey.”
“Life begins at the off ramp.”
“Getting there is half the fun.”
Most people who visit this website are probably familiar with those and similar quotes. How about “Friends don’t let friends walk the interstate”?

I and a lot of folk I know preach about taking back roads and slowing down. Joe Hurley took that idea a few million steps further and not only stopped to smell the roses, he saw them get watered and watched them grow if only a smidgen. Starting at the east end of the longest US highway that ever existed, Joe spent about eight months walking its full length. He didn’t really count each step or measure each mile but 10,000,000 of one and 3600 of the other are believable round number estimates. While Joe was walking, Travis Lindhorst, his camera wielding partner, was driving. Joe was within hailing range of sixty and Travis was twenty-seven. Perhaps that saying about wisdom coming with age is not universally true.

This is not a guide book. There are some maps but they are not of a scale suitable for navigation. They’ll show you that US 6 goes through the north part of Indiana and the south part of Nebraska but that’s pretty much the limit of their detail. And Joe does occasionally mention where he slept or ate but the mentions are neither regular nor recommendations. The book resembles a collection of newspaper columns. Some bits that now appear in the book were, in fact, published as stand alone articles during the trip to help finance it but many were composed well after the walk was over.

Hurley retired as a columnist for a Danbury, Connecticut, newspaper shortly before starting his 2004 cross country walk so it is natural that this book is a compilation of column-like articles. As I read Ten Million Steps…, I was reminded of collections I’ve read from another newspaperman, Ernie Pyle. For several years before the start of World War II, Pyle was a popular travel writer. He posted his personal human interest style observations from wherever he happened to be. Joe Hurley’s observations seem a lot like Pyles although they are 70+ years newer and organized in a single line rather than a wild scatter pattern. As presented in this book there is another big difference. Ernie Pyle didn’t have Travis Lindhorst beside him.

Ten Million Steps - sampleSometimes Lindhorst’s photos are coordinated tightly with Hurley’s text and sometimes they just represent the general area. Either way they are always wonderful additions to the story. Some would be right at home in a super-wide hardbacked coffee table book but then I probably couldn’t afford it. The fairly large format paperback with glossy pages serves the photos well in an affordable package.

Route 6 goes through big cities like Cleveland and Chicago and Hurley neither bypasses them or ignores them in his writing but most of the stories come from the small towns and open spaces in between. He talks with the manager of a bookstore in Yarmouthport, MA, an auctioneer in Foster, RI, and the manager of a tiny theater in Newtown, CT. He stops by the Harness Racing Hall of Fame in New York and a little league game in Pennsylvania. In Galton, PA, he talks with a women who tells him “I spent 16 years scrimping and saving to get out of here then I spent the next 16 years scrimping and saving to get back.” Out west Hurley looks over the remains of Topaz, a WWII Japanese interment camp and walks through a snow storm while covering the all but empty 160 miles between Ely and Tonopah, NV. In between were a lot more towns, a lot more people, and a lot more country. Two locations that Joe counted among his favorites are the Rialto Theater in the not-all-that-small town of Joiet, IL, and Glenwood Canyon in Colorado. Of the latter, Joe says, “I’ve traveled across the United States and nothing has beguiled me more than Glenwood Canyon.”

Joe and Travis and Route 6 and the Geo Metro that Travis used to drop off and pick up Joe each day all made it to California. Only Joe and Travis made it to the coast. In 1964, Route 6 was truncated and Bishop, CA, became its western terminus. Joe and Travis said goodbye to the work-horse Geo when the brakes pretty much vanished during a side trip to Death Valley. To meet their now firm end date, they left the ten year old car with a junkyard mechanic who promised to repair the car and give it to an elderly gal in need of transportation. After the run of its life, the red Geo just might be fetching groceries at the edge of Death Valley.

The current US Highway 6 may officially end just over the California line but the pavement it once followed west is still there and Joe kept right on walking until he reached the Pacific Ocean at Long Beach. West of Bishop, the former US 6 now goes by names like CA 395 and CA 14.

Back on Cape Cod, the traveling odd couple had dipped their hands in the Atlantic. At the end of the Pine Street Pier, they dipped them in the Pacific then Joe and his wife spent a couple of nights on the Queen Mary. I’m guessing that Joe spent a significant amount of his shipboard time with his feet propped up.

Route 6 is a great road. The few sections I’ve driven (MA, PA, UT) have gone through some mighty pretty country and I’m very glad that Hurley chose it for his walk. But I’ll still risk saying that this book could have been written in large degree on several roads other than US 6. Route 6 took Joe across the whole country and gave him a bigger than average sample size but the the book is not about directions and turns. It’s about people and places and steps and stories and it’s a darned good read. More information at

Ten Million Steps on Route 6, Joe Hurley and Travis Lindhorst,  Arkett Publshing, 2012, paperback, 8.5 x 11 inches, 240 pages, ISBN 978-0-9816781-6-5

Morristown 2012 Holiday Tour of Homes

Methodist Church MorristownOn Saturday I toured several nicely restored and decorated homes on the National Road in Morristown, Ohio. An Oddment page on the Holiday Tour of Homes is here.

This entry provides a place for comments on that Oddment as well as covering some “support activities”.

Twin Pines MotelTwin Pines MotelMy bed for the night was at the Twin Pines Motel a few miles east of Morristown. I had read a couple of reviews that made it sound OK and it was. It’s a clean and reasonably maintained older place with no frills but all the necessities including wi-fi. Price was about $50 with tax. There is a look at my room here.

ChapzChapzChapz is on the National Road between Morristown and the Twin Pines. I stopped there for a beer before the home tour and for a ‘burger after. Anything that looks that unhealthy just has to taste great and it did. Just as the sign shows, female bartenders and waitresses wear Daisy Dukes and motorcycle chaps. Depending on age and size that can look really hot… or not.