My Wheels — Chapter 29
1991 Geo Storm

In the previous My Wheels chapter I mentioned that the motorcycle it featured passed through my hands  sometime in the period around my second divorce. The same was true of the subject of the chapter before that. The Mazda, the Yamaha, and the wife all came and went while the leased Acura remained. Eventually, however, even it went away. In the fall of 1991 I found myself in need of a car with nothing to trade-in and with credit not all that good in light of the recent divorce.

I’d enjoyed driving the Mazda and, with the family down to just me and my daughter, thought I’d go for something sporty. The Mitsubishi 3000GT had recently been introduced and I really liked its looks. I picked out one I wanted, took it for a quite satisfying test drive, then quickly discovered the credit issue. I simply couldn’t afford the car.

The Isuzu based Geo Storm had appeared at Chevrolet dealers about the same time. It was kinda sporty, kinda fun to drive, and a lot cheaper than the Mitsubishi. My credit was good enough for a blue Geo Storm GSI 5-speed coupe.

Even as I closed the deal, I considered it something of a stop gap. The Storm was a step down from the Acura I had been driving and, more importantly, from the Mitsubishi I wanted. I intended to move on just as soon as the smoke and ashes from the divorce cleared a little. I became more serious about doing that as I quickly realized how wrong I had been about my transportation needs.

Sure, there were now only two of us in the household I headed, but I hadn’t considered the fact that teenage girls hardly ever go anywhere alone. My chauffeuring duties weren’t all that heavy but when I did need to deliver or retrieve my daughter, she was usually accompanied by a friend or two. The storm could handle three teens and me for short distances but that was its limit. In hindsight I was better off realizing this for the price of a Geo rather than the Mitsubishi I’d targeted.

The worst of the impact of the divorce on my credit was over about as quickly as the marriage. I was able to up-size in less than a year. As a result, I really have no stories about the Storm. It did its job even when overloaded with teenagers, and I really had no problems with it at all. My problem free experience made finding an article titled “Famously Unsafe: Geo Storm” a huge surprise.

I found the article (It’s here.) as I searched the internet to refresh my memory for this post. I dived into it expecting to learn of major flaws or failures that I had somehow miraculously avoided. Turns out that the car wasn’t particularly fragile or uncontrollable but supposedly had a reputation I was unaware of. The only hard fact I saw to support this is, “The NHTSA actually rated the Storm as having the most aggressive drivers in its class.” In other words, the “unsafe” reputation came from the car having more than its share of owners who overdrove their and the car’s capabilities. The article ends by referencing the Storm’s “tendency to attract morons”. Nolo contendere.

Santa Z’s Legacy

Here’s a Christmas display that looks a bit more traditional than the one in last week’s post. And it doesn’t just look traditional, Zapf’s Christmas Display is a definite Cincinnati tradition with decades of history. In 1970, Bill “Santa Z” Zapf marked the first Christmas in his new home with some outside decorations and the house has been the site of an ever growing holiday display every December since then.

Bill died in 2008 but his son, known as Billy, keeps the tradition going. Billy was busy replacing some lights in his father’s name when I stopped by in the afternoon, but he still offered up a friendly hello and chatted a bit as he worked. It’s obvious that Billy gets a lot of pleasure from the display and a good deal of that pleasure comes from the memories it triggers. Memories of his dad and the time the two of them spent creating and maintaining the glowing wonderland.

Yes, there is a normal nativity scene among all those figures. I’m including both day and night views of the nativity because that’s what I did last week but it’s an undeniable fact that this is a display meant to be enjoyed at night.

In early December, Cincinnati Magazine published their Top 5 Holiday Light Displays. All five are commercial or municipal operations. Described as “…your average neighborhood light display…on steroids”, Zapf’s received the lone Honorable Mention. Four of the top five have fixed admission prices and the fifth requests donations. Although it might no be as obvious, the Zapf family does too. There is a “Thank You Box” by the porch and the North Side Bank and Trust accepts donations to the Keep Santa Z’s Lights On fund. Electricity isn’t free.

The porch itself is packed with smaller decorations including one that hints at the Zapfs receiving a well deserved Major Award.

The display is located at 2032 W Galbraith Road. A recent Channel 5 story on the display is here.

I Can Drive Twenty-Five

I’m off to Georgia and I’m driving an entire US highway to get there. I’ve had the idea of driving all of US-25, which now ends/begins at the Ohio River, for several years. As I was weighing ideas for this year’s Christmas Escape Run, I finally took a look at what was at its other end and I liked what I saw. Brunswick, where the highway actually ends, has some history and so does nearby Jekyll Island.

This entry is to let folks who subscribe only to the blog know about it as well as provide a place for comments. The journal is here.

Time of the Season

It was fun while it lasted. Jasen Dixon set up The World’s First Zombie Nativity Scene in 2014. He says he almost didn’t bring it back this year and definitely won’t next year. The display faced legal challenges and a certain amount of outrage during its first two years but it seems things were fairly quiet last Christmas season. From the beginning, the display had at least as many fans as detractors, and, while the number of those in favor has increased, the number of those actively opposed has fallen dramatically. For some it was a practical matter. After 27 misdemeanor charges and $13,500 in fines were dropped early last year, Sycamore Township officials decided “It’s not worth the expense…”.

In 2015 I included a couple of daytime pictures of the Zombie Nativity in some comments tacked onto a Christmas time blog post. This year I snapped both day and night shots. I ended my 2015 comments with the observation that I thought “…a new local Christmas tradition has been established.” Whether or not you think that was right depends on whether or not you think the word “tradition” has any business being associated with something something that lasts just four years.

The title for this post comes from a 1968 hit song from the band The Zombies. I listened to a lot of stuff from them back in the day but I’d been smitten by zombie music long before. I remember singing along to this Kingston Trio recording from an older cousin’s collection as a pre-teenager. In searching for that 1959 performance I discovered a really cool one by Rockapella and another by the great Harry Belafonte.

Seventy-Six Years After

Thursday was the seventy-sixth anniversary of the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor. On the day following the attack, President Franklin Roosevelt called December 7, 1941 “a date which will live in infamy” and it does, even though public events marking the day are decreasing. That’s to be expected as the number of people with personal memories of the day gets a little smaller each year and other horrible events occupy the memories of following generations.

The town of New Richmond, Ohio, holds a Pearl Harbor Remembrance event each year on the Sunday preceding December 7. When it began, about thirty years ago, approximately twenty-five Pearl Harbor survivors attended from the surrounding area. For my first time there, in 2011, just three remained and only one, Joe Whitt, was healthy enough to be there. The others have since passed on while Joe, at 94, continues to attend the event and share his memories.

This year I also attended an event on the actual anniversary of the bombing. The VFW Post 7696 event at West Chester Township’s Brookside Cemetery was the only one that turned up in an online search. Things began with a recounting of key events surrounding the attack.

A Soldier’s Cross ceremony followed. A bayoneted rifle is thrust into the ground then “dog tags” are hung from it. Boots are then placed in front of the rifle and the cross completed with a helmet placed atop the rifle. The event concluded with a rifle volley and the playing of Taps.

This year’s Pearl Harbor Remem-brance Day was  a little bit different for me by virtue of having visited Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial for the first time in the spring. The opening photo of the Arizona’s anchor is from that visit as are the three on the right. My journal for the visit is here..

The singing of a familiar medley of service songs was part of Sunday’s activities in New Richmond. As the songs associated with each of the five US military branches was performed, veterans of the branch stood. It seemed to me that close to half of the crowd stood at some point. Later, one of the speakers asked all WW II veterans to raise their hands. I counted three including Joe Whitt.

Trip Peek #64
Trip #40
Memphis & MO

This picture is from my 2005 Memphis and MO trip. This was an outing cobbled together to fill the time between Christmas and New Year’s but which ended up extending a couple of days into 2006. The picture is of Billy Tripp’s Mind Field in Brownsville, Tennessee, which I was seeing for the first time. I have seen it several times since then and watched it continue to grow. This was also the first time I met fellow road fan Alex Burr in person. He still lived in Maine at the time but was visiting Memphis when I passed through. From Memphis, I followed US-61 to Saint Louis and spent New Year’s Eve with Route 66 friends in Rolla, Missouri, at a motel/restaurant that is no longer with us. Even sadder, one of those friends is no longer with us, either. Another first for me was a stop at John’s Modern Cabins on the way home.


By coincidence, this Trip Peek was randomly selected for publication just days after another visit to Billy Tripp’s Mindfield. The journal for the most recent visit is here.


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.