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.

Common Ground on the Hill 2017

A trip that will culminate at Common Ground on the Hill near Baltimore starts with a train ride in West Virginia and an Independence Day celebration in Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia.

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

My Gear – Chapter 20
Lenovo ThinkPad 13

Before I talk about my new computer I have to bring things up to date on my old computer. The computer being retired is a Lenovo ThinkPad T400 that I bought in March of 2009 but which didn’t appear as a My Gear item until October of 2012. At that time I was already bragging about its longevity and it is still functioning today although it’s hardy original and the ThinkPad 13 replaced it as my front line machine nearly half a year ago [12/12/16].

Those who follow my trip journal have been exposed to most of the T400’s story but here’s a summary. It was running fine six months after that 2012 My Gear article when I spilled a glass of water on it and toasted the mother board. That was less than a month before the Lincoln Highway Centennial Tour and I panicked. I rushed out and bought a Lenovo IdeaPad and had started installing the necessary software when I saw a disk-less T400 on eBay. I bought it, swapped in the drive from my old unit and immediately sold the IdeaPad (with the dreaded Windows 8) at a loss which I didn’t mind a bit. The eBay sourced computer hiccuped in Kearney, NE, and required some assistance from a local shop but otherwise served throughout the month long trip. The company that I’d bought it from listed a second identical machine which I bought as added insurance. It was a good move as it has taken all three carcasses to keep one T400 working. Display electronics and power supplies have faltered and my reports of preparation for the last few road trips including new duct tape to restrain the hard disk were not jokes.

Toward the end of 2016 I experienced a gust of common sense. Or maybe it was a gust of fear. Computer malfunctions had interfered with timely posting on multiple trips and the pile of spare parts was getting smaller. There was a big sale on at Lenovo and I decided to treat myself to a Christmas present. I futzed around with details too long and missed the end of the sale by hours. A telephone call revealed that the sale’s end was quite firm but there was another option. Units ordered but not shipped for one reason or another are sold at a discount. The person I spoke with found one very similar to what I had intended to order for even less money. The price difference was partially due to the discount and partially do to a couple of absent features. The biggest feature difference was a 256 GB hard drive versus 512. With the 320 GB drive in the T400 sometimes feeling cramped, that concerned me but it has not been an issue at all so far.

The new machine is a Lenovo ThinkPad 13 with 2.30 GHz i5-6200U processor. It has 8 GB of RAM and a 256 GB SSD. For any who don’t know, SSD means Solid State (rather than rotating) Disk. This makes a tremendous difference in the time required to power up. Other operations are also faster and it uses less power and makes less noise. Actually, it’s silent. The 13 in the model name is the display’s diagonal dimension. The whole machine is significantly smaller and lighter than the one it replaces. Contributing to the reduced weight is the absence of a CD drive. This was not even a slight problem as I already owned an external USB CD for use with the T400 which had become unreliable in CD writing.

The OS is 64 bit Windows 7 Professional. It’s an OS that is no longer being developed but will be supported through 2020. Moving to it from Vista required little relearning and absolutely no cursing.

Acquiring the new machine triggered some other software changes as well. I really like Microsoft Outlook and Word but, with no need for compatibility with an employer’s software, I could not justify the cost. I am now using Gmail in place of MS Outlook and am adjusting a little more and whining a little less each day. Open Office Writer has been installed to do MS Word’s job. It is not a perfect replacement as using it to access existing Word documents instantly shows. It seems to be quite capable, however, and I’m hoping it will satisfy my few needs for producing new documents. It will be tested as I get serious about producing another book later this year.

All in all I am quite happy with my purchase six months in. It’s smaller, lighter, and faster than the eight year old laptop it replaces and it cost less than half as much ($595 vs. $1297). I guess it only has to make it four years to prove its value but I’m thinking it’s going to make it a lot longer.

My Gear – Chapter 19 — Lumix DMC-ZS40

Lincoln Highway Conference 2017

I’m on my way to the Lincoln Highway Association’s 25th Annual Conference which begins Tuesday in Denison, Iowa. When I first decided to attend, I envisioned a slow drive of the Lincoln Highway from Iowa’s eastern border to the western side of the state where Denison sits. Events in Cincinnati prevented me from leaving before Mondays morning so that slow drive on the LH has become a much speedier drive on the interstates. I do have the eastbound route of the LH through Iowa loaded into the GPS and hope to drive all or some of it after the conference. We shall see.

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

Trip Peek #57
Trip #88
Lincoln Highway Conference 2010

This picture is from my 2010 Lincoln Highway Conference trip. This was my first Lincoln Highway Association Conference and part of the reason I was able to attend was that it was my first year of retirement. Immediately prior to the conference in Dixon, IL, I attended the Route 66 Festival near Joplin, MO, and drove directly from one to the other. Among the many things I learned was the difference between a festival and a conference. There were a couple of bus tours, a couple of group dinners, and a day of presentations. The picture is from the awards banquet. Brian Cassler had recently become an Eagle Scout by preparing some Canton, OH, Lincoln Highway bricks for use in a display in Kearney, NE. Bernie Queneau traveled the Lincoln Highway as an Eagle Scout back in 1928. Brian chose Bernie to share his award with and is shown pinning the badge on the 98 year old Queneau. This “pair of Eagles” photo is one onf of my favorites. Bernie is a Lincoln Highway legend who remained active in the association until his death at 102.


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.

Concert Review
Paul Simon
Riverbend Music Center

A couple of recent posts spoke of how “I’m not moving like I used to.” Neither am I going to concerts like I used to. I still like live music and often catch both local and big time performers in smallish venues but when it comes to large venues and super stars, I’ve become pretty selective. I don’t like the large crowds and the various hassles that go along with them. I don’t like the large ticket prices. Adjusted for inflation, the third row Beatles ticket I bought for $5.50 in 1966 would cost $41.64 today. My twenty-first row seat at Saturday’s Paul Simon concert was more than twice that ($91.50) though that might be justified. The sound system did seem much improved over three Vox amplifiers and some microphones. But most of all I don’t like the outrageous and unavoidable fees that are stacked on top. Those fees added more than 25% to the Simon ticket. How the hell did we let that happen?

So when I do attend a big crowded high-priced musical affair you can bet it’s someone I really want to see. It’s probably someone I’ve wanted to see for a long time but just never quite managed so that seeing them has become something of a bucket list item. In fact, there’s a pretty good chance that the performer and I are both within kicking range. That was the case with last summer’s Steely Dan concert and is the case with a Van Morrison show I’ll be attending this fall. It was the case with Paul Simon.

Maybe Paul’s lost a little vocal range or can’t kick as high as he once did but how would I know? He delivered every thing I hoped for. The songs he played came from every part of his career and I knew almost all of them as did almost all of the audience. The eight piece band made me think of a cross between the Mothers of Invention and the E Street Band. They weren’t quite as tight as the E Street Band but the range of instruments and the levels of talent were pretty close. And they weren’t as loose as the Mothers but they did show a ton of flexibility. Everybody played multiple instruments — even the drummer played a mandolin at one point — and they were all good.

Paul played an acoustic guitar for “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard” and when the song ended a stage hand approached with a solid-body electric and they swapped. As Paul was strapping the new instrument in place he responded to shouts from the foot of the stage with “You want to hear it again?” The acoustic guitar came back and Paul and the band delivered another rousing verse or so. Maybe he’s done that before. Maybe he does it a lot. But it seemed spontaneous and we all loved it.

There were two encores. Paul had carried a baseball cap on stage and it hung on his mic stand through most of the show. I believe he carried it off with him at the end of the first set but might be wrong. I know he did after the first encore because it was on his head when he and the band came out for the second. He held it up and explained that the lower case ‘e’ on the hat represents the Half Earth Project which will receive all profits from the current tour. I am only slightly familiar with the project, which proposes to dedicate half the surface of the Earth to nature, but do not doubt its worthiness. In  my mind, both the project and Paul’s contribution connect with “How much is enough?” One species doesn’t need or benefit from manipulating every inch of the earth. One rock star doesn’t need or benefit in any real way from grabbing every dollar on earth. Paul and many musicians continue to perform long after banking enough money for several lifetimes because that’s simply what they do and folks like me and the road crews appreciate it. Wouldn’t it be a great thing if more people accepted that there really is such a thing as enough. The band did three songs in the first encore and four in the second. Then Paul brought them all to the front of the stage for a bow. Many shook hands with fans before walking off . Paul remained on stage alone.

He picked up a guitar and stepped to the mic. “Anger is addicting,” he said, “and we are becoming a nation of addicts. Look around and see who the pushers are.” That’s what I remember and what I recorded on my phone as I left my seat at concert’s end. Another review has it slightly different and there are reports of other variations at other concerts. He then ended the show with “The Sounds of Silence” which I’d been waiting to hear live since 1965. When it was over he moved a few feet to his left and stood the guitar in front of him. He seemed to study the crowd as he allowed the crowd to study him. After a few moments he moved to the other side of the mic and did the same thing. Aloha.

Star Wars Costumes

I may have missed attending a traveling exhibit at the Cincinnati Museum Center in the last several years but, if I did, I don’t remember what it was. The museum brings in world class exhibits which I very much appreciate and enjoy. I was, however, rather wishy-washy about Star Wars and the Power of Costume. Still am to some degree. My initial lack of desire came from a lack of familiarity. I guess I’ve been sort of wishy-washy about the whole Star Wars movie franchise beyond the first one. I feared that not knowing all the details of the full story would make it impossible to appreciate the exhibit. That turned out not to be the case at all. My current wishy-washiness comes from the price. As a museum member, attending the exhibit on Friday cost me $17. The regular adult admission is $24 or $16 for age twelve and under.

As I purchased my ticket, a fellow who had just emerged from the display and the fellow printing my ticket, had a brief discussion about how much they had each enjoyed it. One aspect they both liked was that the organization is by “type” rather then chronological. Once inside I very much appreciated that too. Having things displayed chronologically either by story line or movie release sequence (They’re different, you know.) wouldn’t have helped me at all and would likely have confused me.

There are small clusters of similar characters such as androids, empire soldiers, and rebel fighters.

Sometimes a single pair of related costumes are displayed together. Here a couple of different Princess Leia outfits are combined and Chewbacca and Han Solo stand side by side in front of a hyperspace image.

And, of course, some characters seem to just belong alone. Darth Vader masks used for specific scenes are displayed nearby. Bits of Jedi wisdom are projected on the wall behind Yoda.

The last room in the exhibit contains many of the Star Wars toys manufactured by Kenner and tells the story of how the Cincinnati based company ended up with the contract that nobody wanted. The line was incredibly successful and revolutionized the marketing of movie based toys but did not keep the company from being merged into Hasbro in 2000.

I was honestly quite surprised that the exhibit actually made me want to see all nine Star Wars movies. I saw the first Star Wars movie and thought it was great despite feeling that George Lucas had really ripped off Dune author Frank Herbert. I also saw and enjoyed the second and possibly even the third but I don’t think so. Then the whole prequel/sequel thing made me lose interest completely. Now that the story exists in its entirety, my curiosity is coming into play. Besides the more than sixty costumes, the exhibit contains many informative panels and videos. They remind me of something I already knew which is that Lucas borrowed from and/or honored many more science fiction and adventure stories than Dune and he seems to have done a better job presenting the essence of Dune than anyone who has actually used the name. I don’t see myself doing an all day or more binge but maybe I’ll finally get around to watching what everyone’s been talking about for years.


Now I’m going to invent a additional Cincinnati connection. A panel in the Star Wars exhibit states that some of the areas costume designers studied were World War II, Vietnam, and Japanese armor. Cincinnati is home to a serious collector of Japanese armor and the Art Museum has many pieces in its collection. Dressed to Kill, an exhibit of much of this armor, ended about a month ago and I’m going to turn this into an opportunity to post a couple of pictures I took there with my phone under less than ideal lighting. And now I’m going to turn this into an opportunity to mention that all the other pictures in this post were taken with my pocket Panasonic and the lighting for most wasn’t all that good either. Here’s hoping you won’t judge them too harshly.


Traveling exhibits like Star Wars the Power of Costume, are possibly even a little more important now than normal since they and the Children’s Museum are the only public spaces that remain open during the restoration of Union Terminal. Since my last visit. a large window has been opened into the rotunda that permits a view of a portion of the murals there. Reconstruction is scheduled to be completed in the fall of 2018.