My Contribution to Science

At various points in my youth I dreamed of making major contributions to the welfare of mankind. Maybe discovering a cure for cancer or inventing an anti-gravity machine or a device for traveling through time. But chemistry and I barely became acquaintances let alone friends and my relationship with higher math and hard core physics wasn’t anything to brag about either. I had some success playing with computer software and I believe that some of what I did was actually creative but it wasn’t the sort of thing that advanced the state of computer science. But there’s still a chance. I’ve just made arrangements for my body to go to the University of Cincinnati’s College of Medicine so maybe someone will discover that cancer cure after poking around in my physical remains on the way to becoming a doctor.

Yeah, it’s definitely a long shot and that possibility wasn’t really much of a factor in my decision. That decision was based on one thing: practicality. Putting my body in a fancy box then using even a tiny bit of real estate to hold it just isn’t practical to my way of thinking. I won’t condemn those who consider this attempt at preservation extremely important but for me it seems wasteful and ultimately futile. The obvious way to avoid the fancy box and cemetery plot is cremation and that was a decision I made long ago and verbally communicated to friends and family. But even cremation isn’t free and it doesn’t happen automatically so I’ve gone beyond just telling my kids to cremate me.

I’m fortunate to have lived long enough to truly recognize that death is inevitable. We all claim to recognize that and say things like “No one lives forever” but what we’re actually thinking for much of our lives is “No one’s lived forever — yet.” Over the years I’ve come to accept that I really won’t live forever and that I probably wouldn’t like it if I did. Part of what I consider fortunate about this is that I have the opportunity to arrange a few things myself. I have benefited from my parents’ pre-planning and I’d like to spare my kids the need to hurriedly deal with some awkward decisions. They’re going to have enough trouble dealing with all those books, maps, and CDs. Arranging for my cremation while I’m still alive saves others from having to deal with either the arrangements or the cost. Doing it via a body donation saves even me the cost and the body might provide some small benefit before the fire hits. Getting even a tiny bit of use from an old man’s dead body seems like a true something for nothing.

It is not a perfect solution. The program itself is not flawless. Donors can chose between having the cremains returned or buried at a group site. The possibility exists that the specific cremains cannot be returned and “representative cremains from the Body Donation Program” are substituted. The family is informed of this but it’s obviously a big negative if something special was planned for the ashes.

The group burial site is in Spring Grove Cemetery. The site is marked but individual names are not recorded there. They are recorded by the Donation Program and the cemetery.

I recognize the value of grave markers to descendants and researchers. It’s an upside of cemeteries that even I see. I’m going with something of a compromise and intend to make use of real estate already in use by placing a plaque with my own birth and death dates on my parents’ tombstone. I also recognize that this means I’ll be taking advantage of something not available to my own offspring. Sorry, kids.

After raising the question with my daughter, I selected the return option rather than burial at Spring Grove. Even so, I’m not overly concerned about the unlikely possibility of “representative cremains” being returned. I have no sacred spots where I feel my ashes absolutely must end up. In fact, I’ve told my kids that if I die somewhere that makes getting the body back to UC overly expensive, don’t bother. Just burn me there. You’ll hear no complaints from me.

But if things do go as planned and my sons and daughter eventually end up with a bucket of ashes they’re pretty sure is me, I’ve suggested I be sprinkled along roads and rivers that have played a role in my life. A river’s current could carry those ashes some distance downstream and roadside dust that was once me could end up on the hood of a passing car in the middle of a long road trip. Both situations offer the possibility of taking me somewhere I’ve never been and that’s very much alright with me.

In You I Trust

The last few weeks have not been kind to my cars. I definitely use them (This site’s title does contain the words “road trips”.) and don’t always treat them gently but it wasn’t me this time. Both cars were violated while not moving.

On June 10, I pulled up behind a SUV that had just exited the expressway near my home then stopped at a traffic light. When the driver realized she was in the wrong lane to make a desired turn, she started backing up to switch lanes. My tiny Mazda Miata was out of sight behind her. The collision was low speed and at first glance it looked like there might be no damage but closer examination revealed a number of scratches and a fairly deep dent from a hook on the rear of the SUV. The driver was very apologetic and there was no question of fault. She would pay for all damages but would prefer to not have the police or her insurance company involved. I certainly understood that and after some conversation and an exchange of contact information I agreed. I also took some “incriminating photos”.

That was a Saturday. On Monday I got a couple of almost identical estimates and gave the driver a call. I offered to mail or email the estimates but she said there was no need and immediately sent me a check.

Just a day more than three weeks later I was waiting, in my Subaru Forester, at a traffic light in Harrisonburg, VA, when I was struck from behind. I had originally planned on driving the Miata on the Virginia trip but repairs were not quite finished when I had to leave. It was another small SUV but this time the driver was not a woman but a man with a heavy accent and a hard to pronounce name. But he was as apologetic as the lady had been and again there was no question of fault. Also, just like the other driver, he wanted to avoid police and insurance involvement. He had some connection with a body shop and initially suggested he have the car fixed there. That just was not possible, of course. My home was two states away.

I won’t pretend that I pulled out of Harrisonburg, VA, with the same confidence as when the lady and I separated in my own neighborhood and even that confidence had been kind of shaky. But, after more discussion and pictures and information exchange, I drove on with the understanding that I would call with an estimate when I got home. I’m pretty sure that my willingness to do that was aided by the fact that I had places to go and really didn’t want to hang around either. My confidence got a huge boost when, misunderstanding my schedule, he called me a few days later.

This time there was considerable difference between two estimates on the car. One shop quoted replacing a fairly big piece while the other quoted repairing it. Repairing the part made the most sense to me and I readily agreed that the lower estimate was quite acceptable. I received a check for that amount on Monday.

Some might jump to the conclusion that I believe everyone is honest and responsible. As much as I wish that were true I know it’s not and my recent trip included a couple of reminders of that as well. Just three days after the big bump in Harrisonburg I came out of a museum to find a new white stripe on the side of my car. No note under the wiper and no driver standing by to explain. Just a smear of white paint that can probably be buffed off and one gouge into metal that can’t. And three days after that I got a text message from Discover wondering if I had just made a $453 purchase from Tiffany’s. I replied ‘N’ (as in “not bloody likely”) then followed up with a phone call. Discover and other credit card operations are getting pretty good at catching this stuff. My card was deactivated immediately and a new one was in my hands in a few days.

So I’m well aware that I don’t live in a world without scoundrels and scalawags but I do live in a world where not everyone is a scoundrel or scalawag. And so do you.

My Wheels — Chapter 26
1986 Acura Legend

We were shopping for a lamp. My daughter wanted to take piano lessons and her birthday present had been a little spinet piano. A piano lamp was needed so one day she and I went shopping. We picked up a traditional looking fake brass model rather quickly and were on our way home when I decided to take a look at a recently introduced car I’d been hearing about. The new lamp arrived home in a new car.

According to a recent Curbside Classic article, Honda’s new Acura division may have actually been aimed at Buick owners. I wasn’t aware of that at the time and I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the exact Buick owner they had in mind. My Buick was a bottom of the ladder 4-cylinder Century. Of course, driving a bottom rung Buick that was already showing some quality issues in the form of detaching trim made Honda’s new upscale offering look even better. The build quality reminded me of the Audi I had owned several vehicles back which was not at all like the Chevy, Renault, Buick that had followed.

New automotive divisions need need new customers and when the smoke cleared I was driving a Acura Legend LS for about the same monthly payments as the Buick. There was a catch however. I had the Legend on a lease. A five year lease. It remains the only auto lease I’ve ever signed. One of the things I disliked was the small window for ending the arrangement. I don’t recall details and it may not have been as awful as I remember but I believe that ending the lease on either side of a one month or so window would have resulted in unpleasant financial penalties. The other thing I didn’t like was the five year part. At this point, I’d owned twenty-five cars over twenty-three years or a little less than a year per car average. Five years seemed forever. Times change of course. I’m now driving a car I’ve had for just over six years with no real plans to dump it.

That first generation Acura really was an impressive car. I described it as something that, like the Audi, was built by people who thought they might have to ride in it someday. I don’t recall ever having a mechanical problem with it. However, it was once in the shop for a long time. Piano lessons were again involved.

As I drove my daughter home from her lesson one morning we encountered a long overpass covered with ice and cars in random positions. I don’t think there had been any contact but as cars started sliding everyone stopped as best they could. This included a large ambulance on my left and a little bit ahead. Drivers had gotten out of some of the cars and were trying to flag others to a stop before they reached the ice. One of the vehicles that didn’t get stopped was a large firetruck. This was behind me and in my rear view mirror the bright red fire truck turned sideways and sliding toward me looked like the biggest thing I had ever seen. My daughter and I leaned back against the seats as the truck hit a brand new Mustang, a nearly new Cadillac, the Legend, and the ambulance. Fortunately the ambulance was not carrying a patient but ladders and other equipment was scattered everywhere.

Because of laws covering municipalities and liability, my insurance company had to cover the repair. They may have eventually recovered all or part of the cost but I don’t really know. The cost was well over $5,000 and it took months. There weren’t many Acura parts in the U.S. yet.

The picture at the top of the article was taken from the internet. I do that a lot more than I like but sometimes I just don’t have my own photos. Sometimes I do. I still have the lamp.

Trip Peek #59
Trip #123
Alternate Dixie

This picture is from my 2015 Alternate Dixie day trip. Even though I spent a night away from home. I called this a day trip since I documented none of the drive home. Two different paths between Cincinnati, OH, and Lexington, KY, were recognized by the Dixie Highway Association during its lifetime. The purpose of this trip was to drive the later of the two. It also served as an end-of-winter break. The route passes through the real towns of Independence , Falmouth, and Cynthiana and next to the faux town of Punkyville. I continued beyond where the routes reconnect in Lexington and spent the night at the Boone Tavern in Berea. I did a little research while there that including taking the photograph of the DH cotton bale sign that would be incorporated in the cover of A Decade Driving the Dixie Highway.


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 #58
Trip #116
2014 OLHL Meeting

This picture is from my trip to the Ohio Lincoln Highway League meeting in 2014. You are quite right if you feel that’s not typical LHA headgear. The picture was taken on the third day of the trip when I stopped at the Viking Festival in Ashville, OH. The actual meeting took place in Upper Sandusky on the second day of the trip. On the first day, on the way to the meeting, I took in both the “oldest concrete street in America” and the “World’s Shortest Street” and I ducked into Ohio Caverns, too.


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.