Trip Peek #43
Trip #108
LH Centennial Kick Off

pv86This picture is from my 2012 LH Centennial Kick Off trip. On September 10, 1912, a meeting was held in Indianapolis, Indiana, which would ultimately result in the formation of the Lincoln Highway Association. The LHA was incorporated on July 1, 1913, and a big party was planned for the upcoming centennial so why not celebrate the centennial of the get together that started it all. Although they couldn’t quite match the date, that is essentially what the Indiana Chapter of the LHA did and I was there. The 2012 event was held on September 22 in the same building as the 1912 event with an actor playing the role of Carl Fisher, the man who called that first meeting. In addition to the “reenactment” at Das Deutshe Haus, we got to visit several historic automotive related sites in Indianapolis.


Trip 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 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 associated trip journal.

Book Review (not really)
A Prayer for Owen Meany
John Irving

apfom_cvrI’m not really going to review this twenty-seven year old book that I’m guessing thousands of professional reviewers have written millions of words about. When I first read it, more than two decades ago, I thought it was one of the best books I had ever encountered.  A recent re-read only reinforced that. The re-read was prompted by plans to attend a performance of a play based on the novel. I’m going to say some things about that performance but this really isn’t a review of it either. In fact, I find myself stumped in trying to explain just exactly what this is. What ever it is, it was triggered by my recent experience with a book and a play.

From the moment I saw that Cincinnati’s Playhouse in the Park would be presenting A Prayer for Owen Meany I wanted to see it. I knew nothing about the play but recalled how much I loved the book. As is often the case, I recalled my love of the book better than I recalled the details of it and decided that reading it again would be a wise move. I reserved a digital copy at the library but the Playhouse’s announcement had obviously given others the same idea. The waiting list was long and it moved slowly. It became apparent that I might not even receive a copy before I saw the play let alone have time to read it. I turned to Amazon where money solved the problem. A little more money provided a new experience.

When I purchased a Kindle version of the book, I was given the option of adding an audio version from Audible for a few dollars more. I bit, thinking that it might help me get through the book before showtime. It did. The two versions were synchronized so that I could listen as I walked to a nearby restaurant, read while I ate, then listen some more as I walked home with Kindle picking up where Audible left off and vice versa. I don’t think it will become my default method of “reading” but it is a very effective way of using all available minutes to move forward.

So I finished the book and made it to the play. I have no illusions that a play or movie can be a complete replacement for a well written book but I do know that a well done play or movie can sometimes cut through minutia while preserving a theme and making it more easily accessible to more people. This was not, in my opinion, one of those times.

First, in defense of the production, the Playhouse cast and staff did an admirable job in staging and performing a complex script. Second, in defense of the playwright, the novel itself is certainly complex with loads of characters and locations, multiple time periods, and a narrator whose inner thoughts sort of fuel the whole thing. That this is built atop a doubly volatile core of both politics and religion no doubt makes a stage adaptation quite challenging.

I’ve just one knock on the production. The acting was excellent as was the use of space. The flying, however, wasn’t so good. The script (I assume) calls for Owen Meany to go airborne several time in a Mary Martin/Peter Pan sort of way. The problem was that, before each lift-off, actors spent on-stage time connecting the support apparatus to Owen’s body. The audience was left with a more vivid memory of the preparation than of the “flight”.

That aspects of the novel needed to be eliminated in a stage play goes without question. I don’t even question screenwriter Simon Bent’s choices of what to eliminate. Big stuff from the book that didn’t make it to the stage include John Wheelwright’s three cousins, his lengthy comments on the Iran-Contra affair, and the removal of his finger to avoid the draft. The armadillo that soloed on the cover of the first edition didn’t make it to the stage either. Nor did Owen Meany’s time as The Voice or his conflicts with school administration that cost him scholarships and led to his enrollment in ROTC. I recognize the fact that to include these or some of the many other things eliminated might have complicated things beyond reason. Whether or not the simplification made the play accessible and understandable to anyone unfamiliar with the book is not for me to say.

I expect things to be simplified when a book goes the the stage or screen. Not only must things be eliminated but sometimes thing must be simply changed. Changing the armadillo to a ball and glove makes sense. Adding the Lenny Bruce scene as a device to express some inner thoughts is reasonable. But why change the day of Owen’s death? I don’t think it’s particularly important in the book. There it is July 8 and a follow on to Independence Day but is not, as far as I can tell, otherwise significant. If there is a purpose to changing it to March 31 in the play, it’s lost on me. And it’s irritating.

The majority of comments on the Playhouse’s Facebook page are positive. Some are glowing. Only a few are really negative. Some mention language, others the flying apparatus, and some give no reason at all. It would not have surprised me if people who had not read the book found the play hard to follow but that doesn’t seem to be the case. I only spotted a couple of comments suggesting that. More common are comments from people who intend to read the book now that they’ve seen the play. That’s a good thing, I think, because I believe they’ll find that a picture — even a moving picture — isn’t always worth a thousand words.


Added 21-Sep-2016 8:00: A Prayer for Owen Meany begins with the narrator stating “I am a Christian because of Owen Meany.” Questioning then embracing faith is the book’s most basic theme. What I’ve personally questioned is my attraction to a book whose message seems so different form what I believe. Skillful writing and the fact that it makes me think must be the reasons. The following quote from John Irving makes me much more comfortable with my admiration for a book that seems almost an endorsement of Christianity.

I’m not religious. In writing “A Prayer for Owen Meany,” I asked myself a fairly straightforward question — namely, what would it take to make a believer out of me? The answer is that I would have to meet someone like Owen Meany. If I’d had Johnny Wheelwright’s experience in that novel, I would probably be a believer too. But I haven’t had that experience — I only imagined it.

 

Cannonball Lunch Break

mccb16_01It was just over a week ago, on the tenth, that ninety old motorcycles pulled out of Atlantic City, New Jersey, and set off for Carlsbad, California. Yesterday, most of them pulled into Dodge City, Kansas, where the riders get a day of rest before continuing west on Monday. This is the 2016 version of the Motorcycle Cannonball and these motorcycles are not just old; They’re very old. And that, of course, is one of the reasons only most of them made it to Dodge City. The newest of the entries was built in 1916 and stuff happens when hundred year old machines are called on to perform mile after mile and day after day. The photo is of event leader Dean Bordigioni on his 1914 Harley Davidson. I’m fairly certain that Dean is not using his cell phone to see if he needs to bring home milk. My guess is that he’s making use of its GPS function or possibly just checking the time. The modern technology that keeps riders safe and on course can seem like it’s from a very different world than the technology propelling them.

The first Motorcycle Cannonball took place in 2010 and I was a spectator as participants approached and departed their overnight stop in Chattanooga, Tennessee. My journal for that outing is here. The competition has been held every two years since then but I completely missed both 2012 and 2014. This year the route passed through Ohio with a lunch stop at Powder Keg Harley-Davidson just a few miles from my home. That’s where all photos in this post were taken.

mccb16_02Bordigioni wasn’t the first rider to reach the lunch stop. He was just the first to reach it after I did. I had missed the arrival of Jeff Tiernan. That’s his 1913 Henderson in the picture with Bordigioni’s Harley behind it. The Cannonball is not a race. It is an endurance run with points awarded based on miles traveled. The motorcycles are divided into three classes with lower classed motorcycles ranked higher than others that have covered the same distance. Bordigioni started and ended Tuesday in first place by virtue of being the only Class I (single cylinder, single speed) entry to cover every mile. Tieman started the day tied (I believe) for fourth and end the day tied (I believe) for third.

mccb16_05mccb16_04mccb16_03The bulk of participants arrived over the next half hour or so. Most were in small groups of five or six. A few riders took advantage of the stop to make adjustments or small repairs but most headed inside for lunch and a seat that didn’t bounce.

mccb16_06mccb16_07mccb16_08What space the competitors didn’t require was filled to overflowing by other motorcycles. Modern Harley-Davidsons comprised the majority but other brands were represented and many spectators arrived on decidedly non-modern machines. There were plenty of HDs among the older bikes and I’ve included a picture of one along with a Triumph, a BSA, an Indian, and a good looking “snortin'” Norton.

mccb16_11mccb16_10mccb16_11Here are a few more or less random shots of riders returning to the road after their little break. That first one isn’t all that random. Doc Hopkins’ 1916 Harley-Davidson is hooked to the only sidecar in the Cannonball which makes Dawn Hamilton the only passenger. The other photos are of Rick Salisbury on a 1916 Excelsior and Australian Chris Knoop on a 1915 JAP.

mccb16_12Yeah, this photo is out of sequence. It’s not a Cannonball entry and I don’t know who the rider is. It’s a HarleyDavidson but I don’t know its vintage beyond knowing that it is too new to enter this year’s competition even if its owner wanted to. I’m posting it as the day’s last picture because I really agree with the assessment of the guy riding sidecar. Thumbs up Cannonballers and Powder Keg  HD. Nicely done.


Dean Bordigioni on that 1914 H-D was still leading when what I take to be 72 entries arrived at Dodge City yesterday afternoon. 22 competitors have covered every mile and have perfect scores. Among them are Jeff Tiernan and Doc Hopkins who are mentioned in the article above. Jeff is listed in 4th and Doc’s in 16th. Also mentioned above are Rick Salisbury and Chris Knoop who are currently listed in 53rd and 46th respectively. All the riders appear to be having entirely too much fun, sore butts and all.

Cincy Got Rail

csclaunch01It has been said that Cincinnati is a place where big ideas come to die. That may not be entirely fair but neither is it unfounded. Especially when the big idea involves public transportation. The biggest of the deceased big ideas is the subway. Tunnels were dug in the 1920s but death came before any track was laid. The streetcar line that opened on Friday barely escaped a similar fate. On Friday morning Cincinnati photographer/writer Ronny Salerno’s blog post consisted of a brief personal recounting of the steps leading to today’s launch which in turn provides a pretty good overview of the history of the big idea itself. The original big idea, a multi-county and multi-state transit system, has been repeatedly beaten and bashed but a downtown streetcar was a small part of that big idea and it is now a reality.

csclaunch02csclaunch03csclaunch04Another big idea that faced serious opposition before becoming reality was the revitalization of Washington Park. The new streetcar line passes on two sides of the park and that is where a little ceremony was planned. I guess it wasn’t too little because, when I arrived about an hour early, the 450 car garage beneath the park was already full. I parked several blocks away and took the picture at the top of this post as I walked back. The presence of every local media outlet was another indication of how big this event was to the city. After a stirring fanfare by trumpeters from the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, I moved around the crowd to watch the proceedings from the rear.

csclaunch05Of course the rear wasn’t the best spot for photos but I managed. One of the first to speak was John Schneider. Schneider is a developer and planner whose support of this project earned him the nickname “Mr. Streetcar”. Each speaker introduced the next and as Schneider finished up his remarks he noted that one of his few regrets was not getting autographs from all of the dignitaries present at the streetcar groundbreaking. He had the shovel he had used with him and he intended to correct his error beginning with the next speaker, Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley. That’s Schneider on the left and Cranley on the right. Cranley was  a very vocal opponent of the streetcar and campaigned on a promise to end its construction. Only the fact that it would cost more to abort than complete kept him from making good on that promise.

csclaunch06csclaunch07Past mayors Mark Mallory and Roxanne Qualls were next. Both are long time supporters of the streetcar and, not surprisingly, were roundly cheered by the crowd who had come to celebrate its opening.

csclaunch08Another nine speakers followed the current and former mayors but their remarks, which were largely thank-yous, were brief and the presentations wrapped up roughly an hour after they started. Several small balls were then tossed into the crown in preparation for a digital “ribbon cutting”. Anyone catching a ball earned a seat on one of the bicycles standing by the stage. The bicycles were provided by Red Bike, Cincinnati’s rental/sharing service, and each had an electric generator under its rear wheel. When sufficient power was generated, a large screen turned red and confetti shot from it. There were actually two such screens. I never did get a view of the cyclists and barely got my camera pointed toward the screen in front of them when the confetti erupted. When that happened, I heard a noise behind me and turned to find an identical screen flashing red and spewing confetti. That screen was free of the tight crown near the bicycles and pretty much ignored. I was at the right place at the right time but I sure wasn’t facing the right direction.

csclaunch09csclaunch10csclaunch11With the screens red and the confetti fired, dignitaries began boarding the cars and I moved to the corner to watch the first filled streetcar depart. Officially this new mode of transportation is named the Cincinnati Bell Connector. Cincinnati Bell ended arguments over if and when the system would become self-sustaining by purchasing ten years of naming rights for $340,000 per year.

csclaunch13csclaunch12Once the several car loads of special guests completed their circuit of the 3.6 mile route, the Connector would begin carrying the general public and people started lining up almost as soon as the speeches were over. I spent a little over an hour in the park’s cool shade before getting in line and I should have waited even longer. Another half hour passed before I boarded a car and it wasn’t the one in the first picture. In order to pick up riders at other stops, cars left Washington Park about one third full. I reached the door just as the car reached its quota. Suddenly I was first in line.

csclaunch14The car I did board was completely filled by the time we reached the Banks which is where I got off. I snapped the picture at left then walked down to the Moerlein Lager House for a Connector beer and a commemorative glass. I then re-boarded at the same stop and completed the circuit (plus a little) to reach Rhinegeist Brewery for a Traction beer and another commemorative glass. As planned, I ended my initial streetcar experience here and headed to my car parked nearby.

The opening weekend when rides are free and various businesses have special offers and activities provides no real indication of how popular or successful the Cincinnati Bell Connector will be. My own impression was positive and I fully intend to make use of it in the future. I also overheard several others express similar feelings. It’s going to be a while before we know whether or not those impressions, intentions, and feelings will lead to success but at the moment it sure doesn’t look like an idea that came here to die.

ACDs Seen

acds01Three of America’s most revered marques of the early twentieth century were manufactured in Auburn, Indiana, and the town celebrates that fact every year. The 2016 Auburn Cord Duesenberg Festival is the sixtieth. It has been going on for over a week but is almost over with the wrap-up taking place today. I have thought of attending the festival for a long time but a recent Dennis Horvath blog post reminded me of just how big the event is and got me to seriously thinking about finally making it there this year. Tentative plans for other Labor Day Weekend activities kept attendance from being a certainty but both schedule and skies were clear when the weekend actually got here so Friday morning I headed toward northern Indiana.

acds02acds03acds04I reached Auburn during staging for the Factory Test Route Tour. The pair of Cords pictured at the top of this post formed the front row and another Cord sat in the rear. I walked to just beyond the police motorcycle escort then watched the group set off to follow the twenty-eight mile course that the Auburn Automobile Company once used to test new cars.

acds07acds06acds05Of course the tour’s start point was the company’s headquarters which is now the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum. Window shoppers can easily identify at least some of the cars.

acds08acds09This was my second visit to the museum where the building, the cars, and the presentation combine to make this one of the finest automobile museums I’ve ever seen. Over a hundred cars fill the museum and, while they are mostly Auburns, Cords, and Duesenbergs, other interesting and significant cars are also displayed. Office areas with various exhibits are also part of the museum.

acds12acds11acds10Being right next to a world class museum no doubt helps with traffic but it does expose you to some tough comparisons. My first impression of the National Automotive and Truck Museum was not helped by the fact that cars for the auctions that are an important aspect of the festival filled a significant portion of the museum. This meant that many museum vehicles were relocate and displays compressed. On the other hand, the museum’s truck collection does include some truly interesting vehicles.

acds13acds14A downtown Classic Car Cruise-In ended my first day ever at the ACD festival. There were plenty of beautiful and interesting classics parked along the streets but, after seeing all those pre-war ACDs, hot-rods, muscle cars, and ’50s & ’60s classics didn’t hold quite the attraction they might otherwise. The vehicle I found most interesting was a Corvair camper. It is not a converted van but a factory built shell mounted on a pick-up bed.

acds17acds16acds15Saturday started with a pancake breakfast at the National Military History Center. There are actually two museums here and today ten bucks got you breakfast plus admission to both.

acds18acds19acds20The day’s main attraction for me was the Parade of Classics. The 1912 Auburn Town car in the first picture was featured in this year’s festival poster. I had expected downtown to be jam packed for the parade but, except for the courthouse lawn, the area wasn’t crowded at all. There’s an awful lot going on in town this week and the parade isn’t the only place these cars can be seen but that still surprised me.

acds23acds22acds21One of the places to see the cars is around the courthouse square where they all park immediately following the parade. The cars are roped off but you can still get mighty close and all those shiny ACDs are mighty pretty.