My Wheels – Chapter 24
1983 Renault Alliance

There was a time when I was truly smitten with this car. Others were too. It was Motor Trend‘s “Car of the Year” and it was included in Car and Driver‘s “10 Best”. Many were the automotive writers who praised the first offering from AMC under Renault ownership. That experts praised the little car certainly influenced my opinion but I recall that I sincerely hought it was physically attractive. Yeah, that’s the kind of smitten I’m talking about.

Much of the praise that the gurus heaped on the car had to do with its economical operation and good value pricing. Recent changes in my job, living arrangements, and family size brought on the need for an efficient people hauler so maybe I just fooled myself into liking the looks to make the super practicality palatable. Whatever the full thought process was, I was quite proud of myself when I bought a shiny new dark gray four-door four-speed.

For many the shine wore off quite quickly. Mechanical problems were fairly common and rust often appeared quicker than it should. In 2009 Car and Driver actually apologized for putting the car in their “10 Best” list twenty-six years earlier. I don’t know that Motor Trend or any of the other publications that had climbed on the Alliance band wagon delivered their own apologies but neither do I know of any that actively defended their 1983 behavior.

My own problems were minor. The coil sometimes arced in wet weather until I upped the insulation by applying an ugly wad of electrical tape and a starter connection vibrated loose — twice!.

I guess I really didn’t have the car long enough to get hit with rust or any more serious mechanical issues. In their apology, Car and Driver point out that one of the first acts of Chrysler after taking over AMC in 1987 was “the mercy-killing of the Alliance”. My personal Alliance had been the target of its own mercy killing two years earlier. For the first time ever I was at the wheel of a car when it was totaled and it wasn’t even slightly my fault.

I was the last in a line of cars stopped at a light in heavy rain when I was rear-ended by a teenager driving with his mother on a learners permit. The Alliance was advertised as having reclining seats although what they really did was lean back as a unit like a rocking chair. When the other car hit, my seat completely “reclined” so that I was momentarily nearly flat on my back. Then my car was pushed into the one in front of me and I sprang upright and cracked a rib against the floor shift. I’m not sure of specifics but I understood the the boy and his mother had minor injuries of about the same severity and that there were no injuries at all in the car in front of me. I was obviously quite lucky that my injuries weren’t worse and I maybe I could even be considered lucky for being spared the pain of watching my Car of the Year rust away.

My Fiftieth: Hawaii

More often than not, I wait until the first day of a trip is past and the journal for that day posted before making an entry here. Not this time. One reason is that most of the first day will be spent flying so there may be little or nothing worth reporting. Even if there are things to post, I may not have the time or energy to do it in a timely manner. The fact that all that flying involves six time zones won’t help. There are certainly enough potential problems with the first day’s journal post to justify doing the blog post a little early but I must admit that the timing just might be affected by my own excitement.

That the destination is Hawaii accounts for some of the excitement but hardly all. I have previously visited forty-nine of the United States as well as the District of Columbia which means that Hawaii will complete the set. That’s a pretty big deal to me and the fact that I’ll be celebrating my seventieth birthday while I’m there is kind of a big deal, too.

In addition to the special occasions it contains, this trip is different than most in the degree of planning involved. Flying is required which means that start and end dates had to be firmly nailed down in advance. Same thing with hotels and rental cars since a full hotel or a sold out rental fleet isn’t something I want to deal with on an island. So, although I’ll be able to exercise spontaneity at meal time, I pretty much already know where I’ll be and when I’ll be there. Tomorrow, March 23, I head off to spend six nights each on Oahu, Maui, and Hawaii (The Big Island).  

The journal for the trip is here. This entry is to let blog subscribers know of the trip and to provide a place for comments.

Trip Peek #53
Trip #96
Hail, Hail Rock ‘n’ Roll

This picture is from my 2011 Hail, Hail Rock ‘n’ Roll trip. As you probably suspected, its selection is not at all random. In anticipation of an approaching trip, I had just finished scheduling this blog’s next few posts when I learned of Chuck Berry’s death. I immediately thought of the only time I had seem him and, with the scheduling of posts fresh in my mind, of posting a “Trip Peek” of that 2011 trip. Even as I began to do it, I was unsure about whether or not breaking with the random selection of “Trip Peeks” is proper. I did it once before when I picked a Christmas related “Trip Peek” to appear during a Christmas road trip. If I can break the sequence for a Christian holiday, I can sure as hell do it for Rock ‘n’ Roll.

Berry was doing one show a month in 2011 and I had secured a ticket to the May 25 event. As the date neared, my father, two years Berry’s senior, was hospitalized and it seemed likely that the trip would not occur. But Dad’s condition improved a few days before the show and I went ahead with my plans. The idea was to spend two or maybe three nights on the road with some time on Route 66  in Saint Louis on the way to the show and some time on the National Road as I returned. The first day went pretty much as planned culminating in an extremely satisfying concert in the Duck Room at Blueberry Hill. Somewhat to my surprise, Berry was on stage for the entire show and performed almost all of his familiar hits. The featured photo was taken near the end of the concert when Berry invited adoring ladies from the audience to join him on stage.

Dad’s health took a turn for the worse during the night and I headed directly home in the morning. He died one week later.


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.

Trip Peek #52
Trip #43
The National Road at 200

This picture is from my 2006 The National Road at 200 trip. In 1806 Thomas Jefferson signed legislation authorizing the first piece of what became known as the National Road. My personal celebration of the 200th anniversary of that event consisted of driving the Historic National Road Byway from Baltimore to Saint Louis. Preceding that was a two day drive from home to Washington, DC, and the celebration of the USA’s 230th birthday in the nation’s capital. The Historic National Road Byway is something of an expanded version of the National Road as was, in some sense, the National Old Trails Road. When named auto trails were replaced by numbered highways, the NOTR was commemorated with a Madonna of the Trail statue in each of the twelve states it passed through. Maryland’s Madonna was erected in Bethesda on a spur of the NOTR. When I stopped to visit it on the way to DC, I was shocked to find it absent. A water line break had undermined the statue and threatened to topple it. It had been moved for safety and to allow repairs. After continuing on to DC, I learned where the Madonna was stored and drove to see her early on the Fourth of July. The statue and base had been disassembled and the Madonna was standing directly on the ground so that I could get a photo standing next to her. It’s a picture that will forever be one of my favorites.


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.

Herding the Wheel Horses South

When a guy with a couple dozen fifty-year old tractors connects with a guy who twice drove from Cincinnati to Los Angeles to get to Kentucky, anyone expecting completely sensible behavior is likely to be disappointed. The guy with an aversion to direct routes is me. The guy with the vintage tractors is Terry Wolfe who first appeared in this blog back in 2014. As mentioned then, Terry collects Wheel Horse tractors. The tractors appear in the Old, Strong, and Fast and A Pretty Fair Week blog posts. Terry exhibits regularly at shows in Portland, IN, Greenville, OH, Arendtsville, PA, and elsewhere. A big show in Florida has long been on his radar but that was a little too far away for regular travel companions including his wife. He suggested it, the dates fit my calendar, and on the morning of February 19 we headed south with a herd of seven Horses in tow.

Although I thought about it, I decided long before departure that I would not attempt a daily journal on this trip. I did Tweet a few photos and comments and hinted at the possibility of a summary blog post. I was far from certain that would happen but here it is: an eight day trip in a single blog post.

We spent Sunday night in a motel south of Atlanta. On Monday we reached my Uncle Eldon’s place near Lake Alfred, FL, and stayed there overnight. Stops here appeared in trip journals in 2012 (Bunkin’ with Unk) and 2014 (Christmas Escape 2014). That’s Terry and Uncle Eldon tossing bread to fish and birds in the last picture.

Our destination was about thirty miles further south at Flywheelers Park where the Florida Flywheelers Antique Engine Club holds several events each year. We drove the final leg on Tuesday and hit the right gate on the second try. The afternoon was spent unloading the tractors and erecting the canopy which was a welcome shelter from both sun and rain over the next few days.

I knew that a high school friend spent a good chunk of each winter in the general area and sent a text during the ride down to see if she was nearby. Tammy and husband Vic weren’t just nearby, they already had their trailer set up in Flywheelers Park and would be part of the show’s flea market. They found us as we were unloading and extended an invitation to dinner which was a pretty cool way to step into an unfamiliar show. Then, a couple of days later, they took us along on a grocery shopping trip to Avon Park. The dinner, the chauffeuring, and the general advice were much appreciated.

The show opened on Wednesday and so did the clouds. In fact the rain was quite heavy at times but the sandy Florida soil dried rather quickly between downpours. We managed to do some sightseeing during the rain-free periods. Terry had selected two of the Wheel Horses for on site transportation and we toured the grounds in style.

Literally hundreds of normal looking golf carts were pressed into service as shopping and sight-seeing vehicles but many of the people carriers were truly part of the show. I saw the single-axle machine occupied and in motion on several occasions but never when I was able to get a picture.

There are quite a few permanent buildings in the park. Many, particularly those in an area called The Village, are made to look like businesses of yesteryear. The show itself is huge with an extremely wide range of vendors and exhibitors. Despite Oliver being the featured brand this year, the largest array of a particular tractor I saw was this field of John Deeres.

Anyone who has seen some of my TripAdvisor reviews may have noticed that I often mention convenience, cleanliness, and comfort in rating my accommodations. With the tractors outside, our bunks in the trailer were certainly convenient and, with some fairly thick air-mattresses, reasonably comfortable. Cleanliness not so much. Breakfast each day was bacon and eggs prepared over a Coleman with other meals usually coming from a grill. The pictured meal is Friday night’s steak dinner. While at first glance, the flashlight illumination might give the appearance of a romantic candle-light dinner, what really happened was that we fired up the generator and turned on a drop light so that two old farts could see to eat.

We cheated just a little on the tear down and were essentially ready to roll when official closing time arrived on Saturday. We made it across the Georgia line for the night and home at the end of a long Sunday. As you can see, there was an unplanned stop on the way but I helped speed things along by staying out of Terry’s way. The reason for the vibration that he had occasionally felt was no longer a mystery. So, yeah, this trip was notably different from most in my recent past but, except for the tractor herding bits, it wasn’t something totally new to me. I’ve done a fair number of destination oriented road trips and will undoubtedly do some more. There was even a period when I did a decent amount of tent camping and another with frequent van camping. My most recent tent camping was a couple of night in Rocky Mountain NP back in 2011. What we did last week was quite similar to my van camping. I enjoyed the differences between this and my typical trip and I don’t at all rule out doing it again. On the other hand, I make no promises or predictions.

Book Review
Vigilante Days and Ways
Nathaniel P. Langford

This book was first published in 1890. The link at the end of this article points to a version published barely a month ago. Despite it being well over a century old, some think it worth reading and someone considers it worth republishing. Why others consider the 127 year old writing worth reading I cannot say but I know why I enjoyed it. It’s filled with stories I’ve watched unfold on TV or in a movie theater or read as fiction. Those tales of frightened town folk, evil bullies, crooked sheriffs, and cowardly henchmen that thrilled me in my younger days were all legitimate. The basis of many plots played out in the numerous TV westerns of the 1950s and ’60s can be recognized in the real world events that Langford documents. This book is filled with characters very much like the assorted outlaws encountered by the horse riding heroes of my youth. Men similar to some of those heroes are also present although they don’t stand out quite as clearly. Few real world heroes wear a pair of pearl handled revolvers and a white hat.

The edition I read was published in 1996 by American & World Geographic Publishing. The front cover is pictured above. On the back in an excerpt from the introduction that Dave Walter wrote. He speaks of the “flowery, often melodramatic Victorian prose”. He calls for it to “be relished rather than disdained”. I agree but I have seen reviews that call it distracting so it’s clear that the “relish” is in the eye of the beholder. To me it adds yet another layer of authenticity to the first person accounts. I guess I just plain enjoy reading about villains who “vociferated” in a land that “swelled gradually into a circumference of heaven-kissing mountains”.

By definition a vigilante is without legal authority. Today, in most of the world and certainly in the USA, that is universally and entirely a bad thing. That was not quite the case in the Montana Territory of the 1860s and 1870s. Yes, US laws technically applied but enforcement was at best sparse and often non-existent. This was especially true in the instant “cities” that sprang up around gold and silver discoveries and those “cities” attracted plenty of men ready to do their prospecting with a gun rather than a pick and shovel. So, even if you want to call all vigilantism a bad thing, there can be no argument about it being the lesser of two evils when the other is rampant robbery and murder. Langford was a vigilante and is undoubtedly a key participant in many of the events he documents although he never identifies himself. He doesn’t, in fact, identify many of the vigilantes and it seems likely that the only names mentioned belonged to men no longer living at the time of writing.

Yes, it’s an old book filled with archaic Victorian prose and characters that you might think of as stereotypes. But its stories were recent history when written and those characters weren’t stereotypes but prototypes. If names like Alan Ladd, Randolf Scott, and Glenn Ford bring back pleasant memories, you just might like this book.

Vigilante Days and Ways, Nathaniel P. Langford, Independently published (January 20, 2017), 9 x 6 inches, 411 pages, ISBN 978-1520424460