Book Preview
Hues of my Vision
Ara Gureghian and Spirit

homv_cvrThis is the second time I’ve posted a preview but there’s a difference. Hues of my Vision already exists. In my review of Ara’s first book, Freedom on Both Ends of the Leash, I spoke of the wonderful photographs that fill his blog and said I agreed with his decision to not complicate that book or compromise the photos with an attempt to include them. I half expected and wholeheartedly hoped that a photo book would some day appear. Here it is. Sooner than I hoped and at less cost with higher quality than expected.

The traditional method of publishing photo books is expensive. High quality offset printing is really only feasible in quantity which means considerable up front costs. Print on demand books require no up front outlay but have justifiably higher per unit costs. Plus, the digital printing techniques that allow print on demand publishing, while quite good, are not yet the equal of offset printing. Ara has turned to crowd funding as a way to get the cost and quality advantages of offset printing without emptying his not unlimited bank account. In essence what he is doing is using Kickstarter to handle advance orders. If 1000 or more orders are placed during the campaign, backers get an offset printed book for $40 including tax and shipping. Presumably, if the campaign fails, Ara will resort to making the book available through a print on demand facility and folks who really want the book will pay $90 plus tax and shipping for a digitally printed version.

The Kickstarter campaign is here.

Update 13-May-2015: With only eight days remaining in the Kickstarter campaign and a little less than a quarter of the necessary money pledged, the project seems set to fail. That’s a big disappointment all around but is certainly bad news for those of us who were excited about getting a hard copy of the book for $40. Even with a few days left, Ara has decided to go ahead with the backup plan and make a print on demand version available. As expected, the cost is above $90 although electronic versions are also available for much less. Ordering information is here.

It has been just over a year and a half since I posted that first preview. In it I expressed confidence that a book by Andrew Forsthoefel, possibly called Walking to Listen, “…will exist and that it will be worth reading”. I must admit that, while my confidence in its worth remains high, my confidence in its eventual existence has slipped. I still read Andrew’s blog and know that he is still traveling, though not always walking, and he is still listening. I also know that he has struggled with the book. A recent post indicated that he may be ready to dive in and see it through. I hope so.


Jefferson Highway Association Conference

ja1965It’s a logical progression. First the Jefferson Highway, then the Jefferson Airplane, and finally the Jefferson Starship. The original Jefferson Highway Association was organized in November of 1915. The current Jefferson Highway Association was organized in 2012. I’m on my way to Muskogee, Oklahoma, where the fourth annual conference of the modern JHA is to take place. I intend to drive part of the Oklahoma portion of the highway on the way to the conference and the remainder after. The centennial of the original JHA will certainly be celebrated during the conference. This is also the year of the Jefferson Airplane’s semicentennial but whether or not there will be a celebration I have not heard. I do know that I’ve not yet received an invitation.

The journal for the trip is here. This entry is to let blog subscribers know of the trip and to hold any and all comments.

Ten and Twenty Years in Cincinnati

asm10bd2This coming Tuesday, April 28, marks the tenth anniversary of the opening of the American Sign Museum. Ten events are planned to celebrate the ten years of success and growth. First up was a birthday party, complete with cake and balloons, last Sunday. Others include special hours and gifts in conjunction with this year’s Major League Baseball All Star Game which will take place in Cincinnati and a gathering of an elite group of sign painters known as The Letterheads for their fortieth anniversary.

asm10bd3asm10bd4The Texas Weiners sign is a recent addition to the museum. Most signs like this have rusted away but this one survives because the flashing sign did not meet local codes and its owner was not permitted to install it. There’s a more complete version of the story here. I know I’ve posted several pictures of “Main Street” but there’s always room for one more and this one includes museum founder Tod Swormstedt taking a break in the chair at the far right.

My Oddment page on the museum’s 2005 opening is here and other blog posts on visits to the museum are here.

kcbp2kcbp1Krohn Conservatory has been around since 1933 but 2015 marks its twentieth butterfly show. This year Butterflys of the Philippines are featured. I actually set out to attend the show on its first day, April 3, and drove by the conservatory about half an hour after opening time. All parking spots were filled and there were a couple of school buses in the mix. Drive by was all I did. The building was hardly empty when I did stop on Monday but it was not overly crowded and there were no lines. The winding marked path and large tents indicated that long lines were fairly common and an attendant confirmed that lines were the norm on weekends.

kcbp3kcbp4kcbp5I’m not much of a butterfly expert but, with the aid of labeled photos viewable at the conservatory, I can say with some hope of being correct that these are pictures of a Julia Butterfly, a Zebra Longwing, and an Owl Butterfly.

Music Review
Dead Man String Band

dmsb_i_cvrThis CD makes me smile. Not laugh. Smile. It’s not funny but it sure is fun. It opens with a scene reminiscent of Michael Jackson walking with his girl in Thriller or Brad and Janet stumbling through the rain in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Then, instead of dancing ghouls or an invitation to do the Time Warp, the stranded couple encounter the Dead Man String Band making a come back of sorts. It happens as an old man on a porch explains how death might not be exactly final for the truly obsessed and DMSB starts building a tune called “Resurrection Waltz” in the background.

The opener, like almost everything on the album, drives hard with biting guitar and pounding drums all delivered, as is the vocal, by Rob McAllister. He also wrote every tune and every word including the skits. One man albums, with one person playing every instrument through the magic of overdubbing, are not at all uncommon. One man bands, particularly hard driving rock & roll one man bands, are. Dead Man String Band is such a band and Rob McAllister is that one man.

For convenience and precision, a little overdubbing was employed in making this album but a live performance sounds, as the saying goes, “just like the record”. With a splitter and crafty finger picking, Rob pulls lead, rhythm, and bass from his hollow bodied Gretch while pounding a bass drum with his right foot. In keeping with his “all appendages all the time” philosophy, the left foot is usually banging a snare drum or pumping a tambourine topped high-hat.

Song topics tend to be a bit off center. One’s titled “Organ Donor” and another, with a bright almost ragtimey sound, talks about going to the river with “those deep water cinder block blues”. Delivery and clever writing make these tunes a lot more playful than sinister, however. The opening skit gets its own track then, after six high energy rockers, the last two tracks ease off just a bit. It’s all relative though and nothing on this album could be called low energy. The medium speed bluesy “Josephine” is one of my favorites and so is the following “Already Gone” with Chet Atkins style licks behind lines like:

You can hang me atop the tallest tree that you find.
Take my body. Put it in a sack. Throw it in the riverside.

The CD should eventually be available on line but the only way to get it at present is at a performance. That’s not at all bad since Dead Man String Band should definitely be seen as well as heard.

My own post on the release show is here and a downloadable track from the CD is here.

Green Day

fa1It’s beginning to look a lot like summer. That was basically true last weekend for my circumnavigation of Indianapolis and has become ever more true with each passing day. Yesterday I went to a favorite nearby breakfast spot, Paxton’s Grill. The food and service are always great but a wonderful bonus is the option of eating outside in warm weather. The temperature was in the fifties as I crossed the street intending to enter but, as I approached the front door, I noticed that the outside tables were set up and ready. I asked, got an enthusiastic “OK”, and took a seat on the empty patio. It wasn’t empty when I left. It was, in fact, pretty much filled.

fa2fa3The temperature had gone up as I ate which meant the top could go down when I left the restaurant and set out on a little Saturday morning drive. It was more or less aimless although I did sort of meander along the Little Miami River. When I crossed the road leading to Fort Ancient, I made it a destination. The photo at the top of the article was taken looking northwest from an overlook in the park. That’s the Little Miami River and a bridge carrying OH-350 on the right. The leafless trees may not look too summery but the green grass proves that the next season is coming our way rapidly.

fa4Morgan’s Canoe Livery and public access to the river is less than a mile from Fort Ancient. As I stood watching the water flow by, two couples arrived in a pickup truck carrying two small kayaks. I admit to being a little surprised when I realized that the two women would be traveling by water while the menfolk drove down river to meet them. I wasn’t shocked and I spent zero time questioning it but it honestly was not what I expected. As the women headed off on the rather high and rapid water, I learned from the men that the kayaks were newly acquired and that this was the women’s first outing in the new green boats. I was impressed and I was envious. I used to live by this river about fifteen miles downstream from here. I miss it. I had a canoe and a kayak and a bunch of inner tubes and I miss them, too. I chatted with a fellow who was heading off in a rented canoe for some fishing then walked up to the office to check out prices and stuff. I’ll be back.

Twenty Mile Stand Two Years On

tmhcurrent2It was two years ago today that a nearly two centuries old stagecoach stop named for its distance from Cincinnati was demolished. When I first wrote about the building in early 2012, it was still standing. That article included a photo taken from the same position as the one at right. That photo can be seen here. The row of shops in the more recent picture were there in 2012. They were just blocked from view by the old roadhouse.

tmhcurrent0The stage stop turned roadhouse turned restaurant turned night club was leveled on April 16, 2013, to make way for a convenience store. The new business opened a few months later. That’s it, a Big Mike’s Gas N Go with Shell brand gas, in the picture at left. Big Mike is Mike Schueler, president of Henkle Schueler and Associates the real estate outfit behind all of this.

tmhcurrent1Twenty Mile House, Cincinnati, OhioI don’t have a 2012 photo from the spot of the previous picture but I do have one from nearby. I’ve paired it with one taken Tuesday from essentially the same location. The 2012 shot includes the entire Twenty Mile House but the only part of Big Mike’s that shows up in the recent shot is a standalone sign. Hmmm.

tmhgoogle2012tmhgoogle2013tmhgoogleb1Here’s a different view. Thanks to Google Earth and its Historic Imagery feature, we can see what the lot looked like on August 29, 2012 (the first picture) and October 10, 2013 (the second picture). The third picture is a blend of the first two and shows a new light rectangle where a portion of the older structure once stood. That rectangle is a concrete slab containing a half dozen or so parking places. Those parking places clearly could not exist without removing a corner of one of the twentieth century additions.

tmhgoogleb2I don’t think even the most preservation minded among us cared one bit about any part of those additions but what about the original early nineteenth century building? You could say I’m beating a dead house here but I did one more thing. I outlined what I believe to be the original historically significant portion of the building and overlaid just that on the 2013 image. A slightly rough estimate of the distance between roadhouse and parking pad is 25 yards. There’s maybe 50 yards between roadhouse and gas pump or convenience store.

tmhcurrent3Big Mike’s convenience store fills most of the new building but a little space still remains. Good thing for Mike his nice big empty lawn has room for this decorative sign.

My 2012 post on the standing building is here. The 2013 post on its destruction is here.

Dandy Trail

pic08bEver wonder what it would be like to drive to a city a hundred miles away, drive half a circle around the city for breakfast, then drive the other half circle and go home? If so, you’re kind of weird but I can answer that question for you. On Sunday, I drove to Indianapolis, followed the circular Dandy Trail around the city, and met friends for breakfast in a west side suburb.

The journal for the trip is here. This entry is to let blog subscribers know of the trip and to hold any and all comments


bd2015_00The Findlay Market Opening Day Parade was a full thirty hours away and my birthday had barely begun when last week’s post went up. Here’s an update.

Last Sunday was a long way from blisteringly hot but it was reasonably warm (60s), dry, and sunny. I spent much of the day driving a familiar loop along the banks of the Ohio River. I haven’t decided whether or not the new chapeau is a keeper but I got it for almost nothing with an about to expire credit and I’m going to give it a chance.

bd2015_01bd2015_02Breakfast was had at Brew River Gastropub in Cincinnati. Even though I cringe at the word “gastropub”, I’d stopped in here one night for beer and live music and decided it was OK. It’s location on Riverside Drive and a reputation for a  good Sunday brunch made it a reasonable choice for a place to start the day. My Easter eggs came in what is essentially an omelette known as “Eggs Du Drop”. It was quite good with house-made goetta, Irish Cheddar, and green onions. From there it was east along the river’s north bank, a crossing at Maysville, and a return to Cincinnati on the Kentucky side.

od2015_04od2015_03od2015_02On Monday I parked near Arnold’s with the intention of having breakfast there as I did last year but it was simply too crowded. Instead, I stopped in at the Sports Page Restaurant for another helping of geotta. That made timing just about perfect for a one beer test of Cincinnati’s newest brewery. Taft’s Ale House had planned to open last fall but, when construction surprises made that impossible, decided to open in sync with the Reds. Today was the official grand opening and, while they didn’t make enough to cover their $8 million investment, they got a good start.

odp2015_01odp2015_02odp2015_03I had time to snoop around the staging area a bit then found myself a good spot just a few blocks into the route as the parade started. This year’s Grand Marshalls were the Nasty Boys from the 1990 World Champion Reds. Relievers Norm Charlton, Randy Myers, and Rob Dibble had a combined 44 saves as the Reds stayed in first place for the entire season. Other local sports figures were also on hand including the only Bengal in the NFL Hall of Fame (Anthony Munoz) and a key piece of the Big Red Machine (George Foster).

odp2015_04odp2015_05odp2015_06odp2015_07odp2015_08odp2015_09odp2015_10odp2015_11Here are more parade entries that are uniquely Cincinnati starting with some currently active athletes, the Cincinnati Roller Girls. Next is a float from current Cincinnati success story Pure Romance and a car from one time Cincinnati powerhouse Crosley Corporation. In about a month, a new carousel will be put into operation on Cincinnati’s riverfront and a few of the custom made figures filled a parade float. From a little to Cincinnati’s west comes the Rabbit Hash General Store and from the east comes the Cardboard Boat Museum. In the race for Most Flamboyant Cincinnatian, Bootsy Collins might edge out Jim Tarbell by a little bit but neither has been called a wallflower.

od2015_07od2015_06od2015_05I guess the closest I got to Great American Ball Park was Fountain Square and even the tail of the parade had passed by the time I got there. Cincinnati will be hosting this year’s All-Star Game and a count down sign was unveiled yesterday. I grabbed a shot of that and watched some of the game on the big screen before heading up to the City View for dinner and the rest of the game. Dinner was a ‘burger and the game was a rain delayed win for the Reds. The stadium can be partially seen from the bar. The wisp of smoke visible between the couple on the deck is from the win signalling fireworks.

bw201501bw201502The game was over but the birthday celebration had a couple more days to run. Ovenmaster Mary brought peanut butter brownies to Tuesday’s trivia gathering for some low-key great-taste celebrating. On Wednesday, I headed north to Dayton. Last year I finally experienced what many consider Cincinnati’s premier steakhouse, the Precinct. At that time, I stated that a steak I’d had at Dayton’s Pine Club remained a contender for “best ever”. I noted that more research was needed and tonight I went back for that research. The trip was infinitely worthwhile but it didn’t exactly lead to a decision. I’d ordered that Precinct steak with options while my Pine Club cut was unadorned. I had a mild sense of being slightly more impressed with the Precinct meal but realized that might be the crab meat and Béarnaise talking. Both filets were superb. In the end, I decided that debating the merits of steaks at this level or price point is like debating whether a lily looks better with silver or gold gilding. The two restaurants are different but no meat eater with functioning taste buds would be disappointed with either.

bw201504bw201503I made one more stop for birthday week. Pinups & Pints, “The World’s Only Strip Club – Brew Pub”, is just a few miles northeast of Dayton and I have, duh, wanted to go there ever since I first heard about it. The problem has been that I’m hardly ever in Dayton in the evening with free time and that’s when Pinups & Pints tends to be open. The brewery operation is an almost tiny fifteen gallon system and only a single rotating brew is available. At present, that’s Thigh High IPA which was, although IPAs are not my first choice, quite good for the style. Even though there’s no doubt that the brewery is something of a gimmick, it’s definitely not a joke. Owner/brewmaster Scott Conrad is serious about it and puts in the effort required to produce a quality product. I had intended to have just one beer but the dancers were attractive enough to make me order a second. Although two beers wasn’t enough to make the reasonably pretty dancers drop dead gorgeous, a few more might. Nearly naked women that make you want another beer that makes the women prettier which makes the beer taste better which makes the… I think Conrad might be onto something.

A Special Day

cetToday is my birthday. It happens every year about this time so I’ve come to expect it. Sometimes it’s on Reds’ Opening Day and that makes me feel extra special. This year it’s on Opening Day Eve which is still pretty cool but I have to wait a day for the parade. Friday was the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Dixie Highway Association and yesterday the 47th anniversary of the Martin Luther King assassination. Today is the 401st wedding anniversary of John Rolfe and Pocahontas. No gifts, please. It was 106 years tomorrow that Robert Peary reached (as far as he knew) the north pole. I was just two days old when Henry Ford died on April 7, 1947.

Today is also Easter. It’s quite popular in these parts so spicing up my birthday with an Easter Egg Hunt would probably be pretty easy. I’m thinking about it. Passover began at sundown Friday and is now entering its intermediate days (a.k.a. Chol Hamoed). That means participants can lighten up a little. Ramadan, which seems to be the Islamic holiday nearest my birthday, doesn’t start until mid-July. Hanuman Jayanti, a Hindu holiday was yesterday. Yesterday was also a full moon and for some a lunar eclipse. That’s certainly special and many Buddhists, in fact, celebrated the start of a new year yesterday in sync with the full moon. Tomorrow is a really special day for Mormons. It was April 6, 1830, when the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was formed in New York.

There appears to be no end to important events occurring on or near my birthday and it seems to be something of a magnet for religious holidays, too. It’s all rather humbling, really.

Addendum: I usually do better than this on fact checking but I was so sure that Easter and my birthday had  coincided a few times that I didn’t even check. Only after a couple of people asked me did I look into it and learn that this is only the second time in my life that Easter has fallen on April 5. The other was in 1953. It will happen again in 2026, 2037, and 2048 so I’ll rack up five of these if I make it to a hundred and one. I definitely should have made a bigger deal of today.

Book Review
No Room for Watermelons
Ron & Lynne Fellowes

nrfw_cvrI don’t recall exactly when or even how I first discovered Ron Fellowes’ blog. It was early on. The trip was just starting and the Old Bloke on a Bike, which is both the name of the blog and Ron’s description of himself, was somewhere in India. I followed him out of India, through Pakistan, and onto Belgium. Just the route was enough to make it an epic journey and that was merely one challenging aspect of a trip few can even imagine let alone consider attempting.

Start with the “old bloke”. It’s an accurate description. Ron was born and raised and is once again living in Australia so is eminently qualified to be called a bloke and, while 68 may not be horribly ancient in these days of increasing lifespans, it is enough to justify being called old. And the bike that the old bloke is on is far older. It was built in 1910 by Fabrique Nationale in Belgium. Ron acquired the bike around 1970 though what he actually acquired was a rusty frame and engine of unknown make and vintage. After identifying the motorcycle’s age and origin, Ron told its former owner “I’m riding the bike back to Belgium for its centenary”. Plans to ride a hundred year old motorcycle to a country half a world away might sound like something born in a bet at the end of a night of drinking but Ron was sober and serious. He had four decades to reconsider his boast but he never did. It became a goal and a dream as he slowly turned the Belgium basket case back into a running motorcycle.

Ron didn’t make it for the centenary but it wasn’t his fault. He and wife Lynne were living in Bali at the time where a convoluted and corrupt bureaucracy made it impossible to get the paperwork for the restored motorcycle together in time. Ron adjusted his schedule by two years and he and Lynne moved back to Australia to make it work. Instead of Bali to Belgium in 2010, it would be Kathmandu to Herstal in 2012.

No Room for Watermelons is the story of that 33 week 14606 kilometer trip. In one sense, Ron Fellowes makes the trip solo. Other motorcyclists may ride with him here and there for a few minutes or a few days but he and the old FN, which he calls Effie, are alone for much of the time and it is just the two of them that cover the entire route. But it doesn’t take much study to realize that the trip is very much a team effort. It is Lynne who does most of the planning and travels around on trains and buses sometimes dragging hard to find parts and supplies. And it is Lynne who, via telephone, frequently provides an outlet for a day’s frustration and injects valuable encouragement for the next day. And it is Lynne, the experienced writer, who forms blog posts, and ultimately this book, from Ron’s reports. Both names are on the book not only because both participated in telling the story but because both participated in making the story happen.

It’s a story of sights and people. Yes, there are serious dangers and insane regulations along the way and crippling problems can crop up with the old motorcycle at any time. He is nearly pushed over a cliff by a truck whose driver is completely oblivious to his presence. He learns what having a gun held to your head feels like. He suffers through hours and even days of delays while incompetent and/or corrupt officials shuffle paper. It takes an uncommon amount of ingenuity and every one of the skills learned during a lifelong career as a diesel mechanic to keep Effie operating. But mixed in with that are sights like the Golden Temple of Amritsar in India, Pakistan’s Bolan Pass, or the Bam Citadel in Iran. Modern technology not only provides that invaluable, but not always reliable, link to Lynne, it enables Ron to capture images of these and many other remarkable sights along the way. The book includes over a hundred color photographs to let the reader see a little of what Ron saw. And then there are the people.

Some of the people Ron sees on his trip were already known to him and their meetings were planned well before he left home. Others learn of the trip through the blog and arrange meetings via comments and email. Meeting each of these friends, both old and new, gave Ron’s morale a boost and often included a chance to relax and recover. Assistance with a repair or locating a needed part were also common contributions. These things often came from complete strangers as well and those were possibly even more appreciated. Food, fuel, and shelter were frequently shared and payment refused almost as frequently. Many times Ron could not even say thanks in any words that would be understood but smiles and hand shakes worked. Near the end of the book, Ron and Lynne make this observation: “Yes, there are bullies and thieves, but they are just as often found in boardrooms, offices and in schools as on the highways of Iran and the back roads of Turkey.”

nrfw1Both paperback and electronic versions of No Room for Watermelons are available through Amazon and I suppose that is the quickest and cheapest way to get a copy of this adventure. On the other hand, if you’d like something a little more personal and meaningful, signed copies can be had directly from the author here.

No Room for Watermelons: A man, his 1910 motorcycle and an epic journey across the world, Ron and Lynne Fellowes, High Horse Books, January 28, 2015, hardcover, 9.2 x 6.2 inches, 238 pages, ISBN 978-0646931418