My Wheels – Chapter 1
1960 J. C. Higgins Flightliner

JC Higgins FlightlinerThis wasn’t exactly my very first set of wheels but it was the first with any sort of brand identity. There were probably three wheels in my very first set and they might very well be on the vehicle shown here. That’s the photo I use for my summertime “on the road” Facebook profile picture. The tricycle was followed by a peddle tractor that had its front wheels welded back on at least a time or two due to high speed crashes at the end of the sidewalk and a dimly remembered tiny bicycle with training wheels. The first two-wheeler that actually allowed me to hit the road was a 24 inch girls bike.

It was purchased at an auction or some other sort of sale and was very used. Dad made some repairs and we (at least I thought I was helping) painted it a dark purple. The color wasn’t carefully chosen because it was my favorite. It was carefully chosen because it’s what we had. That the bike was made for a girl barely registered with me. At first I could hardly reach the pedals from the seat and spent a lot of my riding time standing up. The lack of a horizontal bar turned out to be a major advantage. I eventually grew into then out of the 24 incher. A slightly older aunt had retired her 26 inch bicycle and it became mine. That was great initially but, as I became a teen, riding that light blue girly bike became less and less attractive. “Sure,” my Dad said. “You can have a new bike. All you have to do is pay for it.”

I set my sights pretty high. It took close to a year but through odd jobs and, no doubt, some gifts, I eventually accumulated enough to buy a shiny new bicycle from the Sears catalog. I couldn’t afford the Deluxe Flightliner with chrome fenders and “torsion spring-action fork” but I could afford the regular Flightliner and I’d still get dual headlights and a rear carrier that sorta kinda had fins. It came partially disassembled in a big box. Unpacking that bicycle and putting it together was the most exciting thing I’d ever done.

I rode it to the nearest town once in awhile but that was more than three miles each way and took some planning. I didn’t need a destination, though. That bike spent a lot of time going nowhere in particular on Ohio 49. During the summer, when school was out, my sister and I spent a lot of time at our grandparents. Somehow I frequently talked Dad into wrestling the bike into the trunk so I could ride it around the extremely small town where they lived.

J. C. Higgins FlightlinerThis is not a picture of my bike but one from the internet that looks pretty much the same. At some point I removed those headlights I’d lusted after to get the look of a big air scoop. The “fins” were pretty handy for tying down packages but not so popular with passengers. I moved on to motorized transport in 1962 and the two year old Flightliner lost its spot near the center of my world. Embarrassingly, I can’t even remember whether I sold it then or later. It would be 1979 before I’d buy another new vehicle.

Jim Grey rescued me again. OK, maybe rescued isn’t exactly right but only because I didn’t need rescuing at the precise moment he planted the seed for this series but I will someday. Back in August of 2012, when I had no post ready by my self imposed Sunday deadline, Jim gave me an idea for a series of articles that require very little time to prepare and can be used at any time. That was the start of the Trip Pic Peek series. Recently, he unknowingly gave me another idea. First, he turned me on to the Curbside Classics automobile website. I subscribed to the blog and find I read about half of the posts. Then Jim did a series of Curbside Classic posts himself as a guest blogger. He wrote about cars he had owned in the sequence that he owned them. That was the seed. His articles were fun to read and I’m guessing they were fun to write. I decided to start my own series along those lines though I won’t go anywhere near the depth of some of the Curbside Classic posts and, as you can see, I’m not limiting myself to cars. Trip Pic Peeks will remain the true safety net since they can be produced in just a few minutes. Like My Gear and My Apps, My Wheels articles can be prepared and stockpiled as time permits. This third My… series should come in handy as My Gear and My Apps approach the present and temporarily peter out. The first car is just a couple chapters away.

My Apps – Chapter 5
Life After Frontpage Express

When Frontpage Express went away it left a big empty spot in my tool box. FPE was what I initially used to create, edit, and preview webpages. It also allowed me to manage the collection of pages that made up my website and upload the site to the remote server. Microsoft stopped bundling FPE with Internet Explorer at version 6 in 2001. It didn’t immediately disappear but I realized that I best be looking for a replacement. There was, of course, the full blown Frontpage but it was complicated and pricey while my website was simple and I was cheap. Complicated and pricey seemed to describe every all-in-one web tool so I ended up dealing with the four aspects of website management separately.

File Upload

Somewhere inside every web site is an FTP (File Transfer Protocol) server and that is the most basic way to upload files. All versions of MS Windows includes a command line FTP client and I’ve often used that to upload files. I’ve also used some of the fancier FTP clients with graphical interfaces and more powerful features. At some point, MS Windows Explorer became capable of creating FTP connections so that copying to or from a remote file system can be done with the same drag-and-drop cut-and-paste operations as purely local transfers. That’s the way I’ve done uploads for years.

Source Editing

CSE HTML ValidatorFor at least a couple of years, I maintained the website with the NotePad text editor packaged with MS Windows. The general structure of the website and the layout of the pages had been established with FPE. Adding a new daily page or even a new trip consisted of copying an existing page and modifying it. NotePad handled that just fine. It did not, however, provide much help. There was no spell checking and no syntax checking. Around 2004 or 2005 I started using a program that did both. That program was the free “Lite” version of CSE HTML Validator. It helped tremendously and after a couple of years I purchased the “Standard” version with more powerful error checking and support for CSS and PHP in addition to HTML. These are simply additional programming languages used in webpage authoring. I doubt that many readers of this blog are also writers of HTML but for any that are, CSE HTML Validator is a very good tool worth checking out.

Preview and Testing

WAMPServerAs long as I was just dealing with pure HTML, simply pointing a browser at a webpage file was all the preview I needed. Then one forgotten but fateful day I added some PHP or some server side includes and the limits of that method became immediately obvious. Fortunately, by the time I reached this point, many others had already passed it and establishing a local web server was fairly easy. Although my very first web hosts were MS Windows based, I had rather early on switched to Linux. This was not a philosophical or technology triggered switch. It was pure economics. The most common web hosting rig in the world is the Apache server running on the Linux operating system and that’s where the bargains are. It’s cheap because it’s common and common because it’s cheap. To round things out, most of those host providers include, among a mishmash of other tools, bells, features, and whistles, the PHP language preprocessor and the MySQL data base.

Duplicating this common Linux based server model on an MS Windows machine is called WAMP (Windows Apache MySQL PHP) and I’m sure it was pretty messy once upon a time. For me, it was as easy as installing an integrated package from those really smart and generous folks in the world of Open Source. There are several WAMPs available. I’m using the one from WampServer. I like it and have experienced no real problems with it but I’ve no experience with the others so can offer no sort of comparison.

Link Checking

Xenu's Link SleuthWhen I wrote that Frontpage Express “allowed me to manage the collection of pages that made up my website”, what I had in mind was link checking; Verifying that my little piece of the web was coherent with no loose strands leading to no where and no important somewheres with no strands leading to them. The Standard version of CSE HTML Validator, which I own, checks links in individual pages. The more expensive Professional version does this for full websites and other collections, too. The Lite version does neither. I can justify the price of CSE HTML Validator Standard but not Professional. I use the free Xenu’s Link Sleuth. This powerful program checks every internal and external link in a website and produces a full report of errors. It even throws in a complete site map.

As I’ve said before, there are lots of higher level web authoring tools out there that weren’t even dreamed of in 1999. I am not suggesting that anyone start running a website the way I am. What I am suggesting is that, if you are doing or are considering doing anything similar, these are some pretty good tools to do it with.

My Apps – Chapter 4 — Serif PhotoPlus

Book Review
Indiana Cars
Dennis & Terri Horvath

Indiana Cars coverYes, I am late to the party. This book on Indiana’s automotive history was published in 2002 but, since it’s about old cars, none of the history has changed and the cars have only gotten older.

I learned of and purchased the book when one of its authors performed guide duty on a tour that was part of the Lincoln Highway Centennial Kickoff in Indianapolis. On that tour, Dennis Horvath took us to many of the city’s automotive landmarks and this book contains all of those and more. Though few might consider Indiana Cars light reading, it is certainly interesting reading. Dennis knows automotive history. And he really knows Indiana automotive history.

There is a tremendous amount of it. At one time second only to Michigan in automobile production, Indiana has been home to more than 400 vehicle brands. Some are still widely recognized — Stutz, Studebaker, Duesenberg. Other, such as Lexington, Flandermobile, and Empire, are pretty much forgotten outside of hardcore automotive circles and the pages of this book. Similarly, Indiana had plenty of automobile pioneers. Louis Chevrolet, Harry Stutz, and Eddie Rickenbacker are fairly well known; Guys like Elwood Haynes, Charles Black, and Louis Schwitzer not so much. They’re all there in Indiana Cars.

There is an introduction and “A General Overview by Decade” to get things started. That overview begins in the 1890s. It talks of the overall automotive industry and Indiana’s role in it. There are lots of numbers. It was this I had most in mind when I said that some folks would not consider the book light reading. Statistics are necessary, of course, in showing growth and relationships. The Horvaths do a good job of presenting them but they are still numbers. Numbers don’t make for exciting reading but they make for a good reference book and that’s a role Indiana Cars plays quite well.

Indiana Cars sampleOnce the background is set, the book moves onto the various manufacturers. Not every mark ever built in the state is covered but there are sizable sections on what the Horvaths consider “Significant Automobiles”. The reading isn’t so dry now. There are fairly lengthy articles on the likes of Duesenberg and Studebaker and shorter ones on others. The book is well illustrated with photographs and clippings from period literature. Facts are seasoned with entertaining anecdotes. Joe Cole got his first car running and took off without installing the brakes. Lack of fuel finally stopped it after many laps around Monument Circle in Indianapolis. In 1891, Charley Black’s six-block drive in a Benz included crashing into both a surrey and a shop window. Those were the good old days.

Trucks built in Indiana have a section as do military vehicles. Many of those pioneering Hoosiers who put Indiana near the front of the early automotive development are covered, too. Appendices include listings of all Indiana cars, major milestones, and other items.

Indiana Cars excels as a source of information  The book most likely contains the answer to whatever questions you may have about the automotive industry in Indiana. Car nuts will find it entertaining. They and history buffs will find it educational. Those in neither group may find it a wee bit dry.

Indiana Cars: A History of the Automobile in Indiana, Dennis E. Horvath and Terri Horvath,  Hoosier Auto Show & Swap Meet Inc. (printed by Jackson Press), 2002, hardback, 8.8 x 11.2 inches, 198 pages, ISBN 978-0964436459

Something’s Brewing in Cincy

Blank Slate BreweryCincinnati has breweries. It used to have a lot of breweries and they used to be bigger. Maybe the glory days when more than twenty breweries operated in the Queen City won’t be returning but the count is definitely increasing. Most of those 20+ breweries simply didn’t recover from the Eighteenth Amendment. A few — Hudepohl, Shoenling, Wiedemann, Burger — did and were going strong when I came to town in 1965. But one by one they closed and all were gone by the end of the century. An exception of sorts is the former Shoenling Brewery now owned by Boston Brewing and used to produce Samuel Adams and other brands for a company headquartered nearly 800 miles away.

Christian Moerlein BreweryIn 2004, Greg Hardman started putting his money and his considerable energy where his heart is. Using contract brewing, he brought brands like Christian Moerlein, Hudepohl, and Shoenling back to Cincinnati shelves and taps. A major goal was reached in February of 2012 with the opening of the Moerlein Lager House on the banks of the Ohio River right next to the Roebling Suspension Bridge. An even bigger goal is about to be reached when beer starts rolling out of the Moerlein Brewery in Cincinnati’s Over The Rhine. The building on Moore Street began life as part of Kaufmann Brewing Company, spent many years as a Husman’s Snack Foods potato chip plant, and more recently served as the Great Hall for the annual Bockfest. The photo at left was taken during an open house in late November as things eased ever closer to an actual opening. As I stood in the full and noisy hall, I planned this post — sort of.

My actual thoughts on that day were of a brewery that had been operating in the Cincinnati area for several years but which I’d never visited. Visiting that brewery became a priority. There were issues, however. Tours are offered but only on Saturdays. My December Saturdays were already filled so it wasn’t until the new year started that I could get serious. By then my thought had expanded to include other breweries in the area. In fact, the brewery that had triggered the plan would actually be the last one I would visit during three days of peace and brewski.

Triple Digit BreweryTriple Digit BreweryI started on Thursday with a stop at Triple Digit on Dana Avenue. The brewery is part of Listermann Manufacturing who has been supplying home brewers since 1991. They have been brewing themselves for several years and I’ve enjoyed some of their product in local restaurants. The taproom is rather new, though. Until last spring, an Ohio taproom required its own licence in addition to the brewery license. Removal of that requirement was a real boon to smaller operations like Triple Digit. I tasted a few brews and walked out with a couple of bottles of Chickow! Very good stuff.

Arthur'sArthur'sLunch at Arthur’s was next. That it was fairly close and more or less on my path were good reasons but there were two better ones. One is that on October 23, Arthur’s began “Proudly serving only Local Draft Beer!!!”. Most of the nationally distributed stuff is still available in bottles as is a wider range of local brews but each of the six permanent taps dispenses only beverages brewed in the Cincinnati area. A very cool and classy move in my opinion. The long standing Tap Tuesday’s could be construed as a technical violation of the “local only” rule but it is certainly a reasonable one. There is a single standalone tap that gets a keg from some smaller brewery every Tuesday. As it has been in the past, this will sometimes be a local product and sometimes not. This week it had been from a small brewery in Portland, Oregon. Hard to fault them for that. The second “better” reason was to try the beer coming from the tall diamond shaped tap. It’s Fork in the Road, an India Amber Ale from Blank Slate Brewing Company. That would be my next stop but I knew there was no tasting room or much chance of seeing anymore of the brewery than the mailbox. That’s it at the top of the article. More good beer. If you find Fork in the Road on tap, take it.

Fifty West BreweryFifty West BreweryThursday’s last stop was at the Fifty West Brewing Company on Wooster Pike, a.k.a. US Highway 50. Anyone who looked for the six taps in the picture from Arthur’s may have come up one short because the Fifty West handle is sideways and hard to see. The company is pretty new. The taproom is just seven weeks old but going gangbusters. I started with a Brewmaster’s Choice flight then, on a neighbor’s recommendation, did a pint of something else. My favorite was the Horse & Buggy Scotch Ale but, at 8.3% ABV, it wasn’t something I could just guzzle.

Valley VineyardsValley VineyardsOn Friday afternoon I drove up to Valley Vineyards near Morrow, Ohio. They’ve been making some well respected wine here for over forty years. I’m not much of a wine drinker but did attend some of their earliest wine festivals when I lived near by. I’ve been wanting to revisit the place ever since they added the Cellar Dweller nanobrewery a little over a year ago.  The one word description “refined” came to mind as I worked through the seven member flight and the word seems fitting for an operation with the experience behind it that this one has. Although the offerings fill the full range from an American Light to an Irish Stout each is rather middle-of-the-road for the type. That’s not at all a bad thing. I’m sure Valley’s goal was to provide a range of high quality and pleasant brews without jarring palettes. Well done. Perhaps it is also fitting that my favorite was the middle of the lineup Dead Dweller English Ale.

Rivertown BreweryRivertown BreweryFriday’s second and last brewery was Rivertown in Lockland, Ohio. The taproom is open only on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday with tours available Friday and Saturday. They charge five bucks for the tour but it includes a beer and a souvenir glass. Since most beers are $5, they’re really giving you a glass to take the tour. Rivertown Brewery is only a couple of years old but quickly overcame some early quality problems to become one of the area’s more successful breweries. One of the beers I’ve tried and liked in the past is Roebling Porter. At the brewery I got to try it the “right way” with nitrogen delivery and liked it even more.

Mt Carmel BreweryMt Carmel BreweryOK. Here it is. The place that got me thinking about visiting local breweries last November. Mt Carmel Brewing  has been producing beer in this 1924 farm house since 2005. They have been offering tours on a regular basis since that change in Ohio law allowed them to open a taproom last spring. It’s not a big place so a tour doesn’t take long but it does provide a good feel for how the place operates. Improvements and expansions have occurred as the business grew and more are planned. Production is the top priority but things like more parking for taproom patrons are also in the works. As Mt Carmel brews have appeared on an increasing number of area shelves and taps, their Amber Ale has become a favorite of mine.

Visiting these five taprooms made it clear to me that brewing is pretty healthy in Cincinnati. Although my timing was accidental, it was also extremely appropriate. Next Saturday, as a prelude to Cincinnati Beer Week, six sold out “Taproom Trolleys” will visit most of the same places. The buses will not go to the remote Valley Vineyards but will stop at the Moerlein Lager House and Rockbottom Brewery. I beat the crowd but just barely.

2012 in the Rear View

The year in numbers (2011 values in parentheses):

  • 5 (8) = Oddment pages posted
  • 8 (9) = Road trips reported
  • 52 (21) = Weeks of regularly scheduled Sunday blog posts
  • 77 (31) = Total blog posts
  • 76 (69) = Days on the road
  • 2254 (2058) = Pictures posted — 388 (96) in the blog, 131 (141) in Oddments, and 1735 (1821) in Road Trips

Twenty Mile Stand in the Rear ViewAvailable blog statistics kind of suck. At least they do for WordPress Jetpack statistics on a self hosted blog that is only a portion of a website. One issue is that the most popular “page” is almost certain to be something called “Home page / Archives” which is a swirling mix of the multiple pages displayed at the blog’s root or the multiple pages that satisfy a search. I have AWStats generated numbers for the entire site, including the blog, but those have some problems, too. For one thing, counts include all of the individual pages appearing in the previously mentioned “Home page / Archives” many of which are not actually viewed. For another, AWStats numbers include blog page references that I’ve made myself in creating and maintaining the blog. I try to keep these to a minimum but eliminating them completely is not possible. In the end, though, I do believe the relationship of the numbers is meaningful even if the numbers themselves aren’t all that precise. So here are the top five blog and non-blog entries and I’ll follow the lists with some overall numbers.

Top Blog Posts:

  1. Twenty Mile’s Last Stand
    Article on an endangered historic building that drew some interest locally.
  2. The World is Singing in Cincy
    Report of my one day visit to the 2012 World Choir Games held in Cincinnati.
  3. The Long Drive
    Book review posted in November of 2011 that was 2011’s top post.
  4. Scoring the Dixie
    Discussion of my own attempts to keep track of what parts of the Dixie Highway I have driven.
  5. Route 66 Attractions
    Review of a GPS based product for tracing Route 66.

Top Non-Blog Posts:

  1. Sixty-Six: E2E and F2F
    Trip journal for Route 66 End-to-End & Friend-to-Friend trip to the festival in Victorville, CA.
  2. Tadmor
    Oddment page on a 2006 visit to the ghost town of Tadmor. I believe traffic is largely from Wikipedia.
  3. American Sign Museum Opening
    Oddment page on the 2005 opening of the American Sign Museum. Traffic almost certainly due the the museum’s reopening at a new location this year. A blog entry on the reopening ranked eighth.
  4. Sixty-Six the Hard Way
    Trip journal for drive on US-44 and US-22.
  5. Lincoln Highway Conference 2012
    Journal for trip to the 2012 Lincoln Highway Conference in Canton, Ohio.

The entire website had 91,233 visits and 337,996 page views last year which is a goodly increase from the 43,213 visits and 227,060 page views of 2011. Jetpack tells me the blog had 5,965 views in 2012 though I’m not sure if those those views and AWStats’ page views are the same.

When I reviewed 2011, I had just completed my 100th documented road trip and had made a clickable collage of the teaser images. In that post, I waffled on whether or not I would extend the collage with subsequent trips. I decided it was a good idea and completed trips are now added to the collage when they’re added to the Trip List. This is just one of the things covered in an FAQ page that was added last year. Yep, extending a collage and adding an FAQ page were the big changes for 2012. And I’m probably not going to get very jiggy in 2013 either.