Trip Peek #68
Trip #98
South from the Crossroads

This picture is from my 2011 South from the Crossroads day trip. One of many intersections to lay claim to the “Crossroads of America” is the place in Vandalia, Ohio, where the National Road and the Dixie Highway once crossed and the pictured sign is posted. Although I imagine I’ve driven all of the Dixie Highway between there and Cincinnati over the years, it was piecemeal at best and I needed to do it in some sort of organized manner. In July I used an Ohio National Road Association dedication of an interpretive marker near the intersection as an excuse and starting point for undertaking the drive. I drove south on one of two alignments and north on the other. I was quite happy with what I’d done. However, before the year was over, I learned of a rather significant marker I’d missed because I had made a wrong turn. I would correct the error In January by driving the proper route.

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.

Magazine Review
ROUTE Magazine

The premier issue of ROUTE Magazine reached my neighborhood last week. Online chatter — from the publisher, some contributors, and quite a few anxious readers — had been building over the last few months. By the time I held a copy in my hands I’d seen the front cover and had a pretty good overview of the contents. Flipping casually through my purchase verified that this was a quality product with lots of photographs nicely reproduced on semi-gloss pages and plenty of inviting text. It also verified something that I was a little slow in realizing: ROUTE Magazine, or at least this issue, is 100% devoted to Route 66. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

The name of author Michael Wallis occupies a prominent spot on the cover. Inside he is the subject of a far ranging interview. Wallis and Route 66 have been tightly tied together since his book, Route 66: The Mother Road, was published in 1990. On one hand, there’s an awful lot of “us too” in spotlighting him like this. On the other, there’s probably a fair amount of credibility to be gained from the interview.

An interview with restaurateur Albert Okura is also listed on the cover along with a set of photographs from David Schwartz and some reminiscing by Jim Hinckley. Okura founded the highly successful Juan Pollo chain and has put his own money into saving bits of Route 66 including the town of Amboy, California. The basic story is well known in the Route 66 community but the interview shines some light on the man behind the story. David Schwartz is an extremely talented photographer living in the no-where-near-Route-66 town of Cleveland, Ohio, who is rapidly getting a reputation for capturing his love for the road in his photos. Author Jim Hinckley is responsible for the best writing in this issue with his memories of six decades of personal experience with Route 66. Some were familiar but some — especially those of Ed’s Camp proprietor Ed Edgerton — were fresh and fun to read.

In addition, the magazine contains a few nuggets from Ron Warnick’s, a “Women on the Route” article, a piece on route-side lodging, and a short form interview with former Midpoint owner Fran Houser. “Women on the Route”, written by Katharine McLaughlin, talks about Katrina Parks’ documentary project and draws information from it. There are some historic mom-and-pops (e.g., Wagon Wheel, Boots) included in the lodgings article but there are also some fairly upscale boutique establishments that don’t often appear in Route 66 listings. The Fran Houser interview appears on the end page under a “Parting Shot” label so I suspect something similar will be a regular feature.

I mentioned that I was slow coming to the realization that this is essentially a Route 66 focused publication. Posts on the magazine’s Facebook page made in the lead-up to publication included at least one Lincoln Highway and one US-50 reference and they apparently caught my eye more than they should have. Looking a little closer, I now see that 90+% of the posts were Route 66 references and all of the magazine’s posts not on its own page were in Route 66 oriented groups. Again I say there’s nothing wrong with that. I’m personally a little less interested than I would have been otherwise but there seems to be significant interest from others and the first issue does look good.

Distribution is currently through Barnes and Noble stores although it appears that not every store is carrying the magazine. Of the two closest to me, one is and one isn’t. Subscription details are still being worked out but are to be available soon at the magazine’s website, That website is not yet operational making the aforementioned Facebook page ( the place to check for status and news for the time being.

UPDATE 21-Feb-18: Only a few hours after this review was published, ROUTE Magazine announced on Facebook that the website at had gone live. The site includes a page supporting subscriptions.

Bibliophilia at the Mercantile

Despite natural first impressions, the title is one of of my most accurate and straightforward. Bibliophilia is the name of a Cincinnati Museum Center CurioCity program that was held at the Mercantile Library of Cincinnati on Thursday. The Museum Center (a.k.a., Union Terminal) is currently undergoing a major renovation and numerous events that would normally be held there are being spread around the city. The Mercantile Library is one of the city’s oldest institutions and it is with considerable chagrin that I admit to this being my first visit.

Bibliophilia exhibits included Sarah Pearce’s artistic creations and a letter press from the Museum Center. Pearce made that dress out of pages from a book of patterns following one of those patterns. The letter press was fully operational and even I managed to produce something legible with it. There was also a station with manual typewriters that attendees could use to write Tweet sized (140 character) stories and a place where they could bind their stories into pamphlets. A rather major activity was a scavenger hunt that had people prowling all through the library to answer a set of questions.

I didn’t take part in the scavenger hunt but prowled nonetheless. The Young Men’s Mercantile Library Association was founded in 1835. It lost a couple of homes to fire and moved around a bit during its first seven decades but has occupied the purpose built upper floors of 414 Walnut Street since 1904. It’s here under a $10,000 10,000 year lease that guarantees space even if the building is replaced.

The place looks exactly as a library should. In fact, it looks a lot like what it did in 1904 and some of the furnishings and many of the books predate that considerably. But there have been changes over the years. You can now be neither young nor male and still join and, even though “mercantile” is still part of the name, a connection with commerce is no longer required.

The library was recently the subject of a great Cincinnati Refined article accompanied by some marvelous photos. Check it out here.

A surprise bonus was running into a couple of travelers I hadn’t seen in quite awhile. We’ve sometimes joked online about probably meeting each other beside a narrow road in some semi-distant state. Although the Rowlands (Chris & Katherine) and I both live near Cincinnati, a crossing of paths on two-lane roads seemed more likely than the meeting in a library in the heart of downtown that happened Thursday. I tried to get a candid shot of the two of them but my attempts turned out to be the blurriest of the blurry so I asked to use a picture that Katherine took of Chris & I. Catch up on their travels and learn a lot about Reubens here.

Trip Peek #67
Trip #131
It’s a Wanderful Life

This picture is from my 2015 It’s a Wanderful Life trip. I had spent Christmas of 2013 in a state park lodge in West Virginia and in 2015 did something similar in Indiana. The park I chose was Turkey Run on the western side of the state. The suspension pedestrian bridge in the picture is on one of the park’s hiking trails. There was some rain involved in both the going and the coming but Christmas Day was dry — and cold. I worked up an appetite for the buffet by hiking a bit including crossing the pictured bridge.

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 For Morbidity’s Sake
Malcolm P. Fletcher

It’s a familiar story I’d never heard before. In no way is use of the word “familiar” meant to be dismissive. It’s just my way of acknowledging that many aspects of Malcolm Fletcher’s story are to be found in the stories of thousands of other World War II soldiers. Of course each of those stories is also unique in ways both small and large. Large happenings that make Fletcher’s story unique include the actions that earned him a bronze star and the day he watched his brother get shot and captured. Getting coffee and doughnuts from the Red Cross in February and washing clothes and shaving in May are among of the not-so-large pieces of the story that make it real. Numerous photographs, maps, and drawings — many by Fletcher himself — really fill things out. 

It’s a great story and well told but there’s no denying that the mere fact that it is being shared plays a big role in setting this story apart from most of those others. The majority of those soldiers never told their story to anyone. A relative few did write it down or record it but not many saw an audience beyond family, friends, or a veterans organization. That Malcolm Fletcher wanted to share his story is obvious. He expanded his wartime notes and produced a “diary”. The title is his. Not For Morbidity’s Sake came from the fact that, as his son Michael says in the foreword, “…he took no pleasure in telling most of this story”. Malcolm Fletcher died in 1994 and Michael, with help from his brother Mark, made publication of the diary a reality. To a large degree, this meant editing their father’s writings but they also augmented the story with information gathered from other family members, friends, and even some of the men who served with Malcolm.

As mentioned, not many World War II veterans made any attempt to share their stories. In addition, not all who did were particularly good at it. Malcolm Fletcher was. At twenty-four, he was a little older than most of the enlistees he headed to Europe with in 1944. Maybe that made him a little more observant or maybe that just came natural. Either way, his observations fed some rather good sketches and some articulate writing.

Those observations also fed some slightly philosophical thinking on the horrors of war and the brotherhood of man. He had personal experience with both. Whether the deeper of Fletcher’s thoughts came during his time in Europe or while he subsequently transcribed his notes in safety in the USA is unclear and unimportant. He was in the midst of battles where men destroyed each other with cannons, bombs, rifles, bayonets, and flame-throwers. He saw many and met a few French, Belgium, and German civilians whose world was ravaged beyond comprehension. And he was there at the end of the conflict interacting with German and Russian soldiers to learn that “These Russies are just like us.”

He was there as a strange calmness came to a devastated Europe and plans were being made to send him and lots of other men to tackle the Japanese. He was there when Hiroshima and Nagasaki were bombed and the war ended without an invasion. He came home to a world that was damaged in its own way. He stumbled. He regained his balance. He wrote his story. The basic plot may be familiar but the details are unique and personal and the telling is something special.

Not For Morbidity’s Sake: A World War II Yankee Division War Diary, Malcolm P. Fletcher, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (December 10, 2017), 6 x 9 inches, 226 pages, ISBN 978-1981114696

I know Michael Fletcher through his work as a bassist with several local bands. I’ll admit that’s it’s rather unlikely I would have found this book on my own otherwise. But, if I had, there is no doubt that I would have enjoyed it. Knowing Mike or even knowing who Mike is is certainly not required to appreciate his father’s story. On the other hand, I probably enjoyed this book more than many and it’s certain that the story is more familiar to me than most. Malcolm Fletcher’s time in the military more or less parallels that of my own father. Both probably crossed the Atlantic in the same convoy although Dad landed in England rather than France. Both were at the Battle of the Bulge and both were early crossers of the Siegfried Line.

But there were definitely big differences. Dad was a courier and spent most of his time driving a Jeep or truck. He was usually at or near the front but was not directly involved in the fighting in the way Malcolm Fletcher was. And he never talked about it the way Malcolm Fletcher did. I kind of wish he had. I’d certainly like to know more but I think his “silence” was rather typical. There were occasional, seemingly spontaneous, reminisces that provided cherished glimpses but no long stories and no writing or recording.  

Dad served with the 78th “Lightning” Division. Until about four years ago, there was an associated veterans group that published a quarterly newsletter called The Flash. Veteran’s memories were an important part of its makeup and I read many of them. There are, naturally, similarities between the stories of every soldier in every war in every location but I was thinking specifically of the stories I’d read in The Flash when I called Not For Morbidity’s Sake “..a familiar story I’d never heard before.” I wrote about the newsletter’s end in One Last Flash in 2013.   

Three Fortnights to Go

On Friday, I made my second excursion to see Buckeye Chuck with no more planning than the first and with worse timing. In 2016 I arrived long enough before sunrise to look around a little and down a free SPAM sandwich before the big event. I cut it a little closer this year and, while I did have a few minutes to wait, the SPAM (i.e., ground hog) sandwiches provided by local sponsors were all gone. To be honest, they weren’t entirely gone but the last few had been distributed moments before I arrived and all I could do was watch them disappear into the mouths of nearby spectators.

My arrival preceded sunrise by only about ten minutes and co-hosts Scott Shawver and Paul James filled the time with banter and guests including Marion Mayor Scott Schertzer. I’m guessing that Schertzer appears every year (he did in 2016) but this year he has a little extra claim to fame. Just two weeks ago, Cincinnatian Connie Pillich picked him as her running mate in her campaign for governor. Pillich is an occasional patron of the place where I eat pizza, drink beer, and play trivia. When James and Shawver polled the crowd to see who came the farthest, my shouted “Cincinnati” was the apparent winner but, because there was no one from out of state, not much was made of it. Actually nothing was made of it at all.

James and Shawver claim to alternate duties but, having only been here in two even numbered years, Shawver is the only one I’ve personally seen deal with Chuck. He bravely — it was 12 degrees Fahrenheit — stripped down to shirtsleeves and briefly studied the situation before announcing the obvious. In the bright sunlight. Buckeye Chuck couldn’t help but see his shadow and predict six more weeks of winter.

Before leaving town, I again satisfied my need for ground hog with sausage and eggs at Baires Restaurant then stopped by President Harding’s memorial. Look at those clouds and consider how much different Chuck’s prediction would have been if delivered just a short while later.