Sixty Six:
End-to-End and Friend-to-Friend

Route 66 decalTomorrow, July 26, I start down Historic Route 66 for the third time. The reason, or excuse, for this trip is to attend the 2012 International Route 66 Festival in Victorville, California. For the first two trips, in 1999 and 2003, I didn’t even know there was such a thing as an International Route 66 Festival but since then I’ve attended six. The journal for the drive and the festival will be here. It will include the drive home which I expect to be largely on US-70 and US-80.

As I prepped the website for the trip, I added an FAQ page which might help in understanding the site. That page is here.

This blog entry is here to handle comments and questions regarding the trip.

Reverse Road Trip

American Sign MuseumI was part of a road trip today but it wasn’t mine. Roadie Fred Zander from Topeka, Kansas, is in Ohio visiting family north of Dayton and came down to Cincinnati for the day. Like many others, Fred has wanted to visit the American Sign Museum but its limited hours made him put it off. The ribbon cutting was yesterday. Today was the first “normal” day and Fred was among the first “normal” customers.

Although it was the Sign Museum that prompted the trip and Fred even commented that the museum alone would have made the trip worthwhile, this was also Fred’s first visit to the Queen City and an opportunity for me to do a little boostering. I think I did OK in that regard but really fell down in the picture taking department. I had good intentions and almost always had a camera nearby but, presumably since everything was familiar to me, whatever it is that makes me want to click rarely appeared. So, while I showed Fred what I believe is some Cincinnati “good stuff”, I’m going to have to tell about it with few visual aids.

Fred Zander at Roebling BridgeI met Fred at an I-75 exit a little north of the city where he could leave his car. We headed directly downtown from there and drove by Music Hall, Fountain Square, P & G headquarters, and Cincinnati’s oldest bar, Arnold’s. On the way to the 1867 Roebling Suspension Bridge, we got a glimpse of the football and baseball stadiums and the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. On the Kentucky end of the bridge, we pulled into a small lot beneath it that offers a good view of the bridge, the river, and the Cincinnati skyline. I even thought to get a picture of the skyline in addition to the picture of Fred backed by the Roebling Bridge. Before moving on, we took a look at the scenes from area history captured by large murals painted on the flood wall.

Fred and Tod at Amrtican Sign MuseumInformation panel at American Sign MuseumThen it was time for the sign museum to open so we headed back to Ohio. I actually remembered to take some pictures there. One reason may have been that the explanatory panels that stand near most signs were new to me. The text had been ready for the sneak previews but not the stands. I wish I had taken a picture of the face of one of the panels as an example. Tod wrote most or all of these and it’s no surprise that they are quite informative. Sharp eyes may have noticed the American Sign Museum sign at the museum entrance in the photo at the top of this article. That’s also been added since the previews as have some plaques and section signs inside. We were not on an official tour but Tod was always nearby answering questions and pointing out things so it was an “almost tour”.

First Sign Museum tourReal tours, which are free, are given at fixed times. Space permitting, walk-ups are welcome but tours may be scheduled and tickets purchased through the museum’s website. The picture is of the first official tour at the new location. Most of the group is on the other side of the wall.

Fred and his favorite signFred's favorite signI also got a picture of Fred’s favorite sign and a picture of Fred taking a picture of Fred’s favorite sign.

After a couple of hours at the sign museum we drove a couple of miles south to the Cincinnati Museum Center. The museum center is in the 1931 Union Terminal and the art deco building with its murals and other decorative features is something of a museum itself. We did not visit any of the three real museums there.

It was beginning to get a little hungry out so we headed over to Terry’s Turf Club. I had originally wanted to stop at Camp Washington Chili which is just a few blocks from the Sign Museum but it’s closed on Sunday. Terry’s is known for its fantastic hamburgers and huge collection of working neon signs. It’s definitely a fitting place to eat after an American Sign Museum visit. Dessert was ice cream at the 1913 Aglamesis Brothers shop just a few miles north.

Although I didn’t do a very good job of recording the reverse road trip, I did enjoy the chance to show someone a little bit of my town. Fred clearly enjoyed his first visit here and declared his intentions to return. I’m looking forward to it.

Pathways and Presidents
2012 Lincoln Highway Conference

I started toward Canton, Ohio, today. That’s where the 2012 Lincoln Highway Association National Conference begins on Monday. The conference actually gets rolling — literally — on Tuesday with the first bus tour but the opening banquet is on Monday evening and I’ve signed up for a pre-conference tour that launches from Niles, Ohio, at 9:15 Monday morning. Since that’s near the far corner of the state, I figured  I ought to leave home on Saturday morning. Two full days to drive across Ohio sounds about right don’t you think?

The journal for the trip, with the first day posted, is here. This blog entry may be used for comments and questions concerning the entire trip.

Signs of Summer

Fountain at Cincinnati Museum CenterThe fountain in front of Union Terminal, a.k.a., Cincinnati Museum Center, runs all summer and is turned off all winter. Therefore, one sure sign of summer in Cincinnati is the turning on of the fountain. That happened Friday at 10:30 AM. I had kind of hoped to see the stepped pools below the fountain go from bare concrete to a series of waterfalls right before our eyes but it wasn’t quite that dramatic. Whether the pools were primed in the interest of time or whether the standing water was simply left over from some secret testing I cannot say, but they started the day ready to overflow at the slightest provocation.

Fountain at Cincinnati Museum CenterFountain at Cincinnati Museum CenterFountain at Cincinnati Museum Center




I still think bare concrete morphing to cascading waterfalls would have been cooler but watching the fountain go from zilch to a spurt to a full spray wasn’t bad.

Day in Pompeii CharacterDay in Pompeii CharactersAll the kids, and there were plenty, were properly wowed and they also enjoyed the characters on hand to promote the ongoing A Day in Pompeii exhibit. I’ve seen the exhibit and it’s a duesy. University of Cincinnati Professor Steven Ellis, along with several UC students, has been instrumental in the current excavations in Pompeii and that was instrumental in making Cincinnati one of only four US cities hosting the exhibit. As you can see, security was tight.

The weather was obviously quite nice for the events at the fountain but Friday was just one of several consecutive near perfect days. Perfect not only for fountains of water but for fountains — or taps — of root beer. I made it to three different root beer stands on three of those near perfect days.

Jolly's Drive In, Hamilton, OhioJolly's Drive In, Hamilton, OhioOn Thursday it was the Jolly’s on the west side of Hamilton, Ohio. Back in 1938, Vinny Jolivette opened an A&W Root Beer franchise in Hamilton. He built this place in 1967 and, casting off the A&W identity, used the family name to inspire a new one for the restaurant. It’s west of the Great Miami River on Brookwood. Somewhere along the line, they added another on the east side of town on Erie. That one has a cooler sign but this one still makes its own root beer and that trumps the sign. The two remain officially connected (The car side signs carry both telephone numbers.) but are managed somewhat separately by two brothers. There is a third Jolly’s in Tiffin, Ohio, that was started, also as an A&W, in 1947 by Vinny’s brother, Roy, and it seems there was a fourth somewhere in Indiana (possibly Bloomington) but I know very little about it.

The Root Beer Stand, Sharonville, OhioThe Root Beer Stand, Sharonville, OhioI stopped by The Root Beer Stand in Sharonville, Ohio, on Friday afternoon. It started life in1957 as an A&W then went independent in 1982. It stopped using carhops in 1972. Originally built and operated by the Rideour family, it moved on to its second and current owners, Scott & Jackie Donley, in 1990. The Donleys have kept everything pretty much the same and that definitely includes making the root beer using water from their 280 foot well. Claims that “it’s something in the water” may very well be true here.

Neil's A&W, Union City, OhioNeil's A&W, Union City, OhioI got my Saturday root beer fix at the A&W in Union City, Ohio. Despite this being a place I frequented as a teenager, I know few details of its history. I do recall that is was owned by a fellow named Smith in the 1960s and that he operated a used car lot right next door. I have vivid memories of sipping root beer and drooling over a black 1956 Thunderbird that sat in that lot when I was about seventeen. At some point, it became Neil’s A&W Drive In and so it remains today. Curiously, this place doesn’t show up on a the official A&W website nor does it have its own site but it does have a FaceBook page.

All three of these places make their own root beer using at least some of the original A&W equipment. Guess that stuff was made to last. All of them taste great and I’m guessing that the recipes are all the same or similar. The Root Beer Stand has its special water and both it and Jolly’s serve their brew in chilled glass mugs. I love ’em both and I do tend to dislike chains but “real” A&Ws (Not stuffed-into-a-corner-of-a-gas-station A&Ws.) are pretty cool and it’s hard to beat an ice covered mug.

Neil's A&W, Union City, OhioJolly's Drive In, Hamilton, OhioI’m guessing that some noticed the slightly red convertible in the center of the Root Beer Stand photo. That’s my 1963 Valiant and plans to drive it to Darke County and the A&W at the border led to the warm up visits to Hamilton and Sharonville. The 200 mile round trip was the cars longest outing since the cold drive home from Cambridge in early 2011. She done good. These pictures show her at Jolly’s and Neil’s.

Flipdaddys: Burgers & Beers... & BrunchI recently learned that the neighborhood Flipdaddy’s does brunch on Sundays so I walked over this morning to check it out. It was quite good. I’m always dismayed but rarely surprised to find myself alone on a restaurant’s patio. But, with the thermometer at 74 degrees, I was a little bit surprised today. Lots of people just don’t like any temperature I guess. To be fair, one couple and their home from college daughter did venture outside to eat. That was it. The restaurant was fairly busy inside but just one other outside table was ever used all the while I leisurely worked through my bacon & eggs and slowly sipped my Magic Hat dessert.

Sixty-Six the Hard Way

66 the Hard WayThis trip has been a tough one to get started. It has its roots in some decade old thoughts about driving US-22 end to end that morphed into plans for combining that with a drive of US-44, the only other surviving twin-digit even-numbered US highway. I’ve had it penciled in a couple of times then had it all down in ink at the end of last summer. The route was plotted and motels booked for some of the key dates. I had my voucher for a one day dash-in dash-out tour of Boston to separate the eastbound staging from the westbound drive. The ink, however, was not waterproof. At least not waterproof enough for a hurricane. When it became apparent that Hurricane Irene and I were headed for the same spot at the same time, I played the gentleman and let the lady have it all to herself.

Plans for a spring time reschedule have been a little slippery but they’ve finally been tacked into place and I am now on the road. The cover page is still here where it’s been since last year’s.almost trip but now the first day is posted and there’s more on the way. A couple of days heading east, a day in Boston, and a couple on the cape. Then it will be back home on US-44 + US-22 — a.k.a, 66 the hard way.

This blog entry is to provide a landing spot for comments on the trip.

Bunkin’ with Unk

Powell Airplane Mail BoxAn uncle who spends much of the winter in Florida was kind enough to invite me to stay with him for a few days. So there’s a road trip involved with a journal for it here. There will be some exploring on the Dixie Highway though when or how much I don’t know. I fully intend to be lazy and enjoy the warmth so it’s possible a daily report might consist of nothing more than a close up shot of a thermometer. Feel free to use this blog entry for comments related to the trip.

South from the Wrong Turn

Dixie Highway markerWhen I learned that the state of Ohio contains a monument to Robert E Lee which I’ve driven right by without even seeing, I decided to spend a clear (but very cold) day investigating. Missing the monument was partly the result of some wrong ideas about Dixie Highway routing which I also tried to correct. The one day trip report is here. Related comments may be posted to this blog entry.

The First One Hundred

Juan DelgadilloDirk HamiltonI arrived home from a road trip on Thursday and proceeded to wrap up the online report for it just like I’d done ninety-nine times before. This was my 100th trip; A seven day 1200 mile affair that involved both expressway and two-lane, reached some big water, used mom & pop as well as lower echelon chain motels, and included a little live music, along with diners, narrow roads, long bridges, and old buildings. All in all, a most typical trip.

Collage of thumbnailsWrapping up a trip includes selecting a single image to go into the pool from which images are selected randomly for display in the upper right hand corner of this site’s home page. Appearing at the top of this blog entry are Juan Delgadillo from the first trip and Dirk Hamilton from the 100th. Click the thumbnail to the right for a collage of all one hundred.

EDIT 30-Oct-2011: The collage has been replaced with a clickable version linking each thumbnail to its associated trip report. 

The 100th trip wasn’t supposed to be quite as typical as it was. Most of its miles were supposed to be aboard a train that was cancelled at the last minute. Only one of the 100 trips has used a train for actual transportation and that trip also involved a commercial flight and an aircraft carrier. That’s atypical with a capital ‘A’. Just flying would have made that trip fairly unusual. Only eight of the first 100 trips involved an airplane.

So just how typical was that 100th trip? It clearly had many of the typical components. In addition to those listed in the first paragraph, there was some old concrete pavement, some standing stone bridges plus the remnants of one; Some museums, some art, some historic landmarks, and a lighthouse. It did not have any brick or dirt roads and there were no meetings, ceremonies, or banquets. At seven days, it was a little above the 4.74 day average. The longest of the first 100 was last spring’s Lincoln Highway Association Conference outing of 25 days. There were twenty single day trips.

The 100th trip went east whereas more trips have gone west than any other direction. The score, using Cincinnati as the hub and applying some fairly unscientific judgement calls, is west 35, east 24, south 21, and north 20.

The journal for the most recent trip is considerably denser than that first one in 1999. There are more words and a lot more pictures. The 16 day 1999 trip averaged about eight pictures a day. The just completed seven day trip averaged over 22 per day and that’s just the pictures accessed through thumbnails. Throw in those accessed by links embedded in the text, of which there were none in 1999, and the average goes above 25 per day. But the reporting of the 100th trip seems to be the current norm. Its precise averages are 25.43 per day total and 22.57 for thumbnail style only. The corresponding numbers for that record setting 25 day trip are 25.68 and 22.24.

A hundred trips in twelve years is an average of about eight a year but those first few years were pretty sparse. 1999 and 2000 had just one documented trip each and 2000’s was a day trip. The count leaped to three in 2001. The biggest years were 2004 and 2007 with 13 each. 2011 has seen eight so far. Even now, despite what some may think, I don’t really document every time I leave the driveway and there were certainly some undocumented trips in those early years.

I know there are plenty of other ways to slice and dice those 100 trips. I kind of wish I had a record of the mileage for each but I don’t. Nor do I have an accurate measure of the fun I’ve had though I’ve estimated it at infinity plus or minus two. The next 100 will surely go beyond that.