Book Review
History of the Dixie Highway in Allen County, Ohio
Michael G. Buettner

hdhac_cvrI could have called this a pamphlet review. That’s technically what it is. Or, since one definition of pamphlet is “a small book”, I could have called this a small book review. I decided to leave the title be but, in line with the publication’s size, I’ll try to be brief and do a small small book review.

Michael Buettner is a past president of the Ohio Lincoln Highway League. He has written several articles on the Lincoln Highway and other historic roads. This pamphlet, which he wrote for the Allen County Historical Society, draws from his 2006 article In Search of…The Dixie Highway in Ohio but only slightly. In contains details, plus maps and photos, that do not appear in the earlier article. An increased level of detail comes rather natural when the focus is on a county rather than a state.

The first several pages provide some early Dixie Highway history as it relates to the full ten state system, to the state of Ohio, and to the route in Allen County. Instructions for two driving tours follow. Both originate in the county seat of Lima. The first goes north to the county line and the other goes south. Descriptions and photos of points of interest accompany the turn-by-turn instructions.

When the U.S. Numbered Highways came into being in 1926, Allen County’s share of the Dixie Highway was essentially absorbed by US 25. I-75 subsequently absorbed much of US 25 and replaced all of it. A series of maps helps describe this sequence.

History of the Dixie Highway in Allen County, Ohio, Michael G Buettner, Allen County Historical Society, November 2015, 8.5×5.5 inches, 40 pages, available for $6 at the Allen County Museum

The Brewery’s Neighborhood

sahdoc15_00Neighborhood taverns may not be as common as they once were but they are hardly extinct. Traditional beer towns like Cincinnati, Saint Louis, and Milwaukee have them and I’m sure they’re not alone. Once upon a time, some of the neighborhoods in those beer towns had a neighborhood brewery. A precious few do so today. One that does is the Saint Anne’s Hill Historic District in Dayton, Ohio. That’s the neighborhood brewery at right. It’s the Fifth Street Brewpub, the first co-op brewery in Ohio and the second in the nation. Today patrons come from near and far and even the owner/members are a widespread bunch but the founders who had the idea and made it happen are neighbors. They did it to save a little history and to put some more life back into their neighborhood. The rest of the Saint Anne’s Hill pictures are posted in sequence but this was taken at the end of the evening as I approached the brewpub for a little R&R after a guided walk around the neighborhood. There’s something of a “bonus” in the photo. The contraption at the very top is part of the rigging for the overhead wires that power Dayton’s electric trolley buses. Dayton is one of only five US cities operating electric trolley buses. The others are Boston, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Seattle.

sahdoc15_01Saint Anne’s Hill was hardly lifeless even before the brewpub opened in 2013. A downward slide that had started with the Great Depression and World War II was halted in the early 1970s as a modern sort of pioneer started restoring some of the elegant old houses in the area. A some point, residents began offering tours of homes decorated for Christmas to raise funds for community projects. The biennial tours continue to be offered in odd numbered years. They begin at this 1869 house which is now the High Street Art Gallery operated by the Dayton Society of Painters and Sculptors.

sahdoc15_02The area’s original heyday was in the early twentieth century and tour guides dress in the height of period fashion. That’s our tour guide, Jack, under the top-hat. There were eight homes on the tour and Jack told us about each one before we entered. In the picture we are learning about a house on High Street built by a family named Bennington in 1890.

sahdoc15_03sahdoc15_04sahdoc15_05The tour’s appeal comes from the wonderfully restored historic homes themselves as well as beautiful Christmas decorations both inside and out. Two, three, or more trees are a big part of each home’s charm which meant there were many great looking trees to chose from. The trees shown here were chosen largely because their photos came out OK and I won’t attempt to identify the houses they were in. In addition to the Bennington house this year’s tour included a 1902 house also on High Street, an 1886 house on McLain Street, 1900 and 1853 houses on LaBelle Street, and 1855 and 1865 houses on Detoit Street.

sahdoc15_06In addition to telling us about each home we entered, Jack provided information on several other houses as we passed. This house, on what is now Detoit Street, was built by Eugene Detoit in 1838. It is the oldest house in Saint Anne’s Hill and one of the oldest in Dayton.

sahdoc15_07sahdoc15_08sahdoc15_09Different homes participate in each year’s tour with one exception. The 1869 Bossler Mansion is always the final stop and that is where we were treated to some incredible bread pudding as were all the tour groups in previous years. The mansion’s thirty rooms were once divided into thirteen apartments. During tour weekend, the second floor holds a gift shop filled largely with items made by local craftsmen. The last photo is the view from the cupula atop the mansion.

This was the second time I’ve taken a tour of decorated historic homes. The first was in 2012 in Morristown on the National Road.


zns02zns01Saint Anne’s Hill is something over thirty crow miles from where I live. A holiday display that has been getting a lot of press is much closer. The World’s First Zombie Nativity Scene, which has been covered by the New York Times, CNN, and the BBC among others, is about a half dozen miles from my door. Most of the big time coverage was triggered by threats by the township to fine the owner up to $500 per day. Officials have always claimed that the threats were because of zoning violations and it seems they were even if that might not be what initially caught their attention. A day or two before I took these pictures on Friday, the display had been made smaller and a roof that extended upward a few feed removed. The township says it’s now good to stay.

Even though it was the threatened fines that brought the world wide attention, most reports focused on the “non-traditional” nature of the display. Fair and balanced Lou Dobbs called it an “obscenity” and said “I think if you’re going to mock a religion, I’m thinking they should have chosen the Islamic religion to see what would happen.” Lou and company notwithstanding, my sense is that defenders out number those who are upset and that, after two years of what some would call oppression, a new local Christmas tradition has been established.

Book Review
Fading Ads of Cincinnati
Ronny Salerno

faoc_cvrBuying local is a good thing and so is reading local. I was able to combine the two recently. November 30 was the official release date for a new book about Cincinnati and in the early evening its author made the book and his signature available at a downtown location that appears between its covers. The book was Fading Ads of Cincinnati, the author Ronny Salerno, and the location Igby’s Bar inside a building with a fading “TWINE PAPER” painted on its side. Those two dim words are typical of the fading ads that are the book’s subject.  How could I not?

Although this was my first time meeting Salerno, I knew the name. I first spotted it on some photographs in a small exhibit near downtown Cincinnati a few years back. I wasn’t clever enough to find his wonderful Queen City Discovery blog from that prompt but I did find it eventually and I’ve followed it for some time now. Salerno loves taking photographs and he’s really good at it. He especially loves taking pictures of old abandoned buildings with a story. A third love is also apparent in that blog: the city of Cincinnati. He brings all three loves to Fading Ads of Cincinnati.

The book is the latest in the Fading Ads of… series published by History Press. About the only reference to a publisher I’ve made in past reviews is an identification at the end. Saying a bit more seems appropriate here. Until last year, the USA’s History Press Inc. was part of the UK’s History Press Ltd. It was acquired by Arcadia Publishing in the middle of 2014. All of those entities deal with local and regional topics and often use something of a formula approach. Although it is not all they do, Arcadia is probably best known for their sepia-toned Images of America books. As hinted at by the title, these books are filled with images most of which are historical. The images are selected and described by local experts who typically also provide several pages of introductory text at the book’s beginning. More often than not, these experts are not just knowledgeable but have a personal attachment and attraction to the subject. Saying that most love what they write about would not be wrong. History Press publications tend to be wordier and, although historical images are sometimes used, include plenty of modern color photos. But, just like those Arcadia books, History Press books rely on local experts for their creation and, just like those Arcadia book writers, these experts are often in love with their subjects, too. Kind of sounds like Ronny Salerno, doesn’t it?

Salerno is a good match for the Fading Ads… series. Before reading the book it had actually occurred to me that he might have had every subject identified and many photographed long before he even took on the job. That wasn’t quite the case, however. He was naturally familiar with many of the area’s old signs but not all. He conferred with other “sign hunters” and got tips from friends but he also found his own senses sharpening as he strolled through both unfamiliar and familiar neighborhoods. The result is nearly one hundred new color photos of mostly — but not entirely — old stuff. There are also several historical photos from places like the Library of Congress.

faoc_int1The photos aren’t left to stand alone. Captions describe each of them, of course, and many get multiple paragraphs of attention. Salerno has been successful in digging up many of the signs’ histories with some of the best stories coming from signs identifying local or regional companies that are no longer with us. Names like Shillito’s and Brendamour’s will be recognized by many Cincinnatians and probably some others as well. Out-of-towners might not be familiar with local landmarks like Davis Furniture (“The Friendly Store”) or the Dennison Hotel (“105 Rooms – 60 baths”) but they are exactly what I and some other locals think of when we think of “fading ads” or the more common “ghost signs”.

faoc_int2Salerno brings up the phrase “ghost signs” in the introduction and says people often thought he was writing about the supernatural when he used the term. “Fading advertisements”, he says, doesn’t have that problem. Fair enough but it’s just possible that his position also has something to do with the book’s predetermined title. “Ghost sign” slips into the book a time or two and in the final chapter Salerno more or less acknowledges the validity of both. As for me, I’m comfortable and most familiar with the term “ghost signs” (and “ghost bridges” and “ghost towns”) so I’ll just continue to think of Fading Ads of Cincinnati as a book about ghost signs.

Geography has a lot to do with the book’s organization and the bulk of the photos are in three chapters titled “Downtown”, “Northern Kentucky”, and “The Neighborhoods”. Like any city of any size, Cincinnati has official and unofficial neighborhoods with their own identities. It’s southern boundary is defined by a river that also defines the border of Ohio. In some ways, the Kentucky communities on the south side of the river are quite different from those on the north but the ease with which a cluster of bridges usually allows interstate traffic makes them often seem like Cincinnati suburbs. The prominent “John R. Green Co” sign in Covington, Kentucky, fits in this book as comfortably as the “Little Kings” sign in Cincinnati’s West End.

I mentioned that not everything pictured in the book is old. One chapter in particular shows almost exclusively new unfaded and non-ghostly signs. The photos were taken at the Cincinnati Reds’ home field and include a shot of a huge sign announcing the 2015 All-Star Game which Cincinnati hosted. The “fading ads” connection is solid and arrow straight. Those stadium signs and many more around the area are the work of Holthaus Lackner Signs, a company headed by Kevin Holthaus. Kevin is the grandson of Gus Holthaus who started the company and whose signature appears on many signs in the area including several in Fading Ads of Cincinnati. The only old sign appearing in the “Signature Legacy” chapter is a remnant of a sign possibly painted by Kevin’s great-grandfather, Arnold Holthaus.

A link at the end of this article leads to the book on Amazon. An entry on Salerno’s blog identifies other online outlets and several area stores where it is also available. Another option is to catch the author at a local bar with a faded sign but you’ll have to be both patient and vigilant.

Fading Ads of Cincinnati, Ronny Salerno, The History Press, November 30 2015, 9 x 6 inches, 160 pages, ISBN 978-1467118729

Dancers and Prancers

lhp15_01The last time I was at a Lebanon, Ohio, horse parade was in 2011 and it was part of what I called a trifecta. On three consecutive weekends I attended horse parades in Greenville, Springfield, and Lebanon. This year Greenville held their 12th annual Hometown Holiday Horse Parade on November 21. I missed it. As happened in 2011, an open weekend separated the Greenville and Lebanon parades but I have found no evidence of Springfield filling it. The 2011 parade was their first and it may have been their last. Pictures in this post are from the 27th annual Lebanon Carriage Parade held yesterday, December 5.

lhp15_02lhp15_03Lebanon actually has two parades and a sizable street festival to go with them. The Red Hot Dancing Queens, who I’ve seen on a few other occasions, were part of the pre-parade entertainment. They are indeed red hot and seem to always have every bit of fun that the law allows.

lhp15_05lhp15_04Lebanon has both a daytime and nighttime parade. The nighttime parade, which was the one I attended in 2011, is harder to photograph but electric lights on the carriages and and horses do look cool. Obviously I attended the daytime parade this year and it’s just as obvious what is being celebrated.

lhp15_06lhp15_07lhp15_08I haven’t seen an official count but there must have been just about 100 entries. I recall seeing tags in the 90s with a few carriages behind them plus I spotted a pair of entries wearing A and B versions of the same number. There may have been more.

lhp15_11lhp15_10lhp15_09The posted photos show just a small fraction of the entries. There is absolutely nothing scientific about their selection. They are merely some that I like. Since I have no idea who any of these people are, I can’t really be accused of slighting anyone. Ignorance can be useful.

Book Review
Marking the Miles Along the National Road Through Ohio
Cyndie L. Gerken

mtmatnrto_cvrThat’s a pretty long book title. There’s a subtitle, too, which makes the whole thing Marking the Miles Along the National Road Through Ohio: A Survey of Old Stone Mile Markers on Ohio’s National Road. It’s long because it, just like the book it identifies, is accurate and precise. The book accurately and precisely locates the 175 mile markers originally set, as accurately and precisely as early nineteenth century technology and local politicians would allow, beside the Ohio portion of the very first federal highway. With all that accuracy and precision you might think this volume would be completely dry and boring but that’s not the case. Stories about the road, the countryside, and even the markers themselves lighten and soften things considerably. Color photos and maps make the book attractive.

Marking the Miles… opens with the full complement of preface, foreword, and introduction. The preface is written by Dean Ringle who, in addition to contributing much to this book, is a past president of the Ohio National Road Association (ONRA) and the current — and very active — chairman of its Mile Marker Committee. The foreword speaks of the book’s purpose and organization. The introduction is where, as wagon masters may have once said, the hoof meets the road.

The introduction is fifty pages long. It talks about mile markers in general, National Road markers in other states, and the Ohio markers as a group. It talks about differences in engraving styles and it points out some errors made when erasing a mistake might mean chiseling it out of the solid rock to create a clean surface. It provides a “where are they now” summary and discusses recent replacement programs. It tells of the incorporation of actual mile markers in a near future National Road exhibit at a Dayton Museum. And it covers much more in providing a solid background for looking at individual markers.

mtmatnrto_int1Seven of the ten Ohio counties through which the National Road passed are covered in individual chapters following the introduction. No markers were ever placed in the three westernmost counties on the route as federal funding ended near Springfield in Clark County. Each of these chapters begins with an overview of the county that includes a summary of how many original markers there were, how many remain at their original location, how many exist elsewhere, and how many are lost. Each marker is then addressed individually. With few exceptions there is at least one picture. If a given marker survives, a current photo is included and one or more historical photos are usually presented regardless of whether or not the marker is still around. Understandably, markings on many of the older stones are not exactly legible. Not to worry. Appendix B contains crisp drawings of the inscription of every marker. Markers can often be seen, accidentally perhaps, in old postcards and other photos and many of these appear in the book. Each marker’s history is given and stories about the marker or the area around it frequently add a little fun and background. Placed among the individual marker descriptions are sections of US Geological Survey 7.5 minute topographical maps showing the location of the markers three at a time. Other National Road related landmarks are often shown on the maps as well.

When the federal funding and mile marker placement stopped at Springfield, locally financed turnpikes filled the gap to the Indiana border. Known as the Dayton Cutoff, these turnpikes dipped south through Dayton and Eaton while the unimproved straight-line National Road languished. Mile markers on the eastern portion of the Cutoff mimicked those on the National Road to give the impression that the federal route went right through Dayton. Gerken includes a chapter on this and even provides location and other information about the markers.

Hard facts are without question the backbone of this book and numbers representing miles, dates, percentages and the like are plentiful. There are even several tables filled with numbers and bare facts which might justifiably be called dry. Some might also call them boring but not I. And not anyone else with a serious interest in the history of the National Road. At its most basic level, Marking the Miles… is a cataloging of every marker’s inscription, location, and fate. This is invaluable information not available anywhere else. Its usefulness to researchers is obvious but it is also of use to someone wondering about that old stone they drive by each day or the one they used to see near Granddad’s farm but which disappeared sometime in the past. Incidentally, some of those vanished markers are reappearing thanks to a grant program administered by that ONRA Mile Marker Committee I mentioned earlier.

mtmatnrto_int2Bringing all of this information together is clearly a major accomplishment but Gerken, a past ONRA president herself, says the information is only a portion of what she has collected on the National Road in Ohio. A well deserved breather follows wrapping up Marking the Miles Along the National Road Through Ohio. Nothing is currently scheduled or promised but the future could see a Gerken penned treatise on bridges or taverns or toll houses or something else. I certainly hope so. I like accuracy and precision and I also like anecdotes and insight. Marking the Miles… provides a pretty good mix.

Marking the Miles Along the National Road Through Ohio: A Survey of Old Stone Mile Markers on Ohio’s National Road, Cyndie L. Gerken, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, November 4, 2015, 11 x 8.5 inches, 338 pages, ISBN 978-1517317034

Ad Nauseam

amad1On Friday morning a friend observed on Facebook that he was getting email from every website he had ever visited that had something to sell. His situation was hardly unique. I’m rather confident that everyone with any sort of internet connection was seeing an uptick in activity on the official beginning of open season on customers. The barrage had been building as anxious hunters fired off emails and other communications telling us that their Black Friday started on Thursday or Wednesday or even earlier. This is, I assume, the same sort of time warp that allows certain drinking establishments to advertise “The world’s longest Happy Hour”. I considered emailing him some sympathy but didn’t for two reasons. One was that to do so would be to add to the tide of useless messages in his inbox. The other was that I would soon be part of the problem.

Not the email overload problem but the general advertising overload problem it is part of. In a way, I’m already part of the problem. I published my second book in early November and that apparently tripped some trigger at Amazon. I have seen occasional Amazon sponsored Facebook ads not only for the new book but also for my first book published nearly two years ago. I don’t know if anyone else ever sees these ads and it has occurred to me that perhaps the only place these ads appear is on my own Facebook pages in some strange scheme to impress me.

But even if those ads do show up elsewhere (and they sure aren’t generating a rush of orders) my involvement is indirect only. That changed yesterday when a limited ad campaign for the latest book was launched. The seed was planted several months ago when a friend told me about his experience with Facebook advertising. The pricing was reasonable and, although there was little hard evidence, his gut feel was that it had helped. He had used it to promote an event and one of Facebook’s biggest attractions to him was the ability to geographically target the ads rather precisely. That sort of geographic precision isn’t nearly as useful in pushing a book but there were other attractions and I decided to give it a try. I have no illusions of actually making money peddling paperbacks but writers do like to be read.

amad2The image at the top of this article shows the ad that appears in what Facebook calls the “Desktop Right Column”. The one at left is for the “Mobile News Feed”. Other variations appear in other channels. As can be seen in the “News Feed” version, the ads are sponsored not by me but by Trip Mouse Publishing which has its own silly story.

The “mouse” thing goes back many years to my dart playing days. We always tried to come up with clever team names though we rarely succeeded. What I think may have been the very last team I played on was called, in a fairly accurate indication of our accuracy,  the Blind Mice. My participation in a CART (the guys who used to race at Indy) fantasy league overlapped the existence of the Blind Mice. I needed a team name when I signed up and, with mice on my mind, chose “Quick Mouse”. Years later I needed a user name for something and everything I submitted with pieces of my real name was refused. The site had something to do with travel and that prompted me to try TripMouse which was accepted. In 2013, when I was setting up the Create Space account for my first book, I had to indicate whether or not I wanted Create Space to appear as the publisher. I decided not but that meant I needed to say who and there was that somewhat appropriate TripMouse name laying around. Trip Mouse Publishing was born.

I used the name in establishing an account for paying Ohio sales tax on the few books I sold directly in state but it was otherwise an essentially imaginary company. As I created my Facebook ad, I was asked to set up a business page. Although this was presented as being optional, there were things that seemed to not work well or at all without it. After a few frustrating attempts to move on, I made a Trip Mouse Publishing Facebook page. I probably should have stopped right there but I decided that, if Trip Mouse was going to have a web presence, I wanted to have control of at least some of it. I set out to acquire a domain name. I was mildly surprised to find that someone already owned tripmouse.com but absolutely flabbergasted to see that they wanted $1895 for it. I have absolutely no idea why that is especially when both tripmouse.net and trip-mouse.com were available at 99¢ for the first year. For no logical reason, I opted for Trip-Mouse.com.

It has been many years since I’ve registered a new domain name and the world has changed. Identifying Trip Mouse Publishing as a small business on Facebook probably spilled a little blood in the water, too. The result is that in addition to all the absolutely astounding deals I’m being offered on TVs, books, phones, clothes, cameras, et cetera, et cetera, I’m getting equally astounding offers for logo design, web hosting, website creation, and more. I do feel a little guilty for adding to the commercial clutter of Facebook but with every offer of a half price premium turnkey website package the guilt diminishes just a little more.

Book Review
Greetings from Coldwater
Emily Priddy

gfc_cvrI’m going to admit right up front that defending this post against my About page claim that readers will “not be seeing a review of the latest novel” is pretty much a lost cause. I proclaimed my earlier review of Cincinnatus “not guilty” on the technicality that, at five years of age, it was not “the latest novel”. That tactic simply won’t work here as Greetings from Coldwater was published right at two months ago and is Priddy’s latest offering and first novel. That I am guilty of breaking my own promise is obvious. I can only beg for leniency on the grounds that I did say I’d be reviewing books “related to something I personally like such as old roads or cars” and, while Greetings from Coldwater isn’t actually about Route 66 or classic Volvos, both have roles. Maybe I can be forgiven.

Volvos only get bit parts but Route 66 is a star. The novel’s story-line is a girl-meets-boy romance. Motel owner Sierra Goldsmith meets school principal Grant Loucks and sparks — tastefully subdued — ensue. But Grant doesn’t even show up until page 104 and there’s romance in the air almost from the book’s beginning. That romance is between Sierra and Route 66. More specifically Route 66 in New Mexico. Anyone who knows Emily Priddy will recognize that the love Sierra has for the state and its portion of the historic highway is a dead-on reflection of the author’s. There is no avoiding the fact that there is a certain amount of autofantasy (It’s related to autobiography.) in the book but it’s hardly a hindrance. It doesn’t get in the way of the story and it adds energy and conviction to its telling.

Sierra is not a motel owner when the story begins. She stumbles into the aging Tumbleweed Motel shortly after her fathers death. Her mother died years before and they had separated years before that. The fictitious Tumbleweed is in the equally fictitious town of Coldwater, New Mexico. The more or less directionless Sierra, buys the motel and proceeds to refurbish it as she learns about the small town that has suddenly become her home. Even after Miss Shirley, the previous owner, leaves the Tumbleweed, Sierra isn’t the only full time resident. She inherits/adopts Joey, the developmentally disabled resident “handyman” Miss Shirley had taken in long ago. Other businesses in the town include a garage, hardware store, and bar each with a friendly and helpful — in his own way — owner. It’s a good place for someone who, although not exactly running from her past life, is not at all eager to share it.

Not only does Priddy have the knowledge, through years spent on Route 66 and the Coldwater-like towns it connects, to paint a complete and colorful background for her story, she has the skill, from years as a journalist, to tell that story properly. I wouldn’t know a good romance story if it stuck its tongue in my ear (although I suspect that’s a sign of a bad romance story) so I can’t really say if the tale of Sierra and Grant is one. I can say that it is well written.

It is also well drawn. Several of the novel’s chapters are fronted by pen-and-ink drawings produced by Priddy. In her acknowledgements she points to the late Bob Waldmire as the influence for these. Some are indeed reminiscent of his work and add to the book’s Route 66 flavor.

There are some “Easter eggs” in those drawings and in the text. Readers familiar with the Route 66 community will have fun finding them, all readers will be treated to a well informed sense of what life beside the historic highway might be like, and some readers will really enjoy following Grant and Sierra as they deal with the baggage Sierra brings to their relationship. I guess I even enjoyed it a little myself. It is somewhat, as Joey would say, “a kissy story” but not terribly so. The girl definitely shows some love for her guy but she shows at least as much for her road.

Greetings from Coldwater, Emily Priddy, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, September 26, 2015, 9 x 6 inches, 272 pages, ISBN 978-1517049386

The Art of the Brick

aotb01“Remember”, says Nathan Sawaya, “it all starts with one brick.” Sawaya is the artist responsible for all those LEGO® sculptures currently on display at Cincinnati’s Museum Center in “The Art of the Brick”. I failed to do my homework before visiting the exhibit on Monday though I actually think that might have helped as much as it hurt. Since I’m writing about it, I’m obviously not advocating that everyone attend with the level of ignorance I had but I can’t help but think my off target expectations caused me to be more impressed with some aspects of the exhibit than I would have been otherwise.

aotb02aotb03aotb04Museum mailings on the exhibit included “Make & Take” and “Harry Potter Building Part” promotions. Apparently those “fun & games” promises made more of an impression on me than the word “art” in the title. What I expected, I suppose, was a collection of technically impressive structures. My misconception was not immediately apparent as things started off with items that were either flat or fairly shallow base-relief. Most were copies of popular works which more or less supported the idea of “technically impressive”.

aotb07aotb06aotb05Next up were some fully 3-dimensional copies of some 2- dimensional works of art. These were followed by reproductions of some familiar 3-D sculptures. The technology was more complex and the results more impressive but it was still, you know…

aotb08aotb09Then things changed. I don’t really know what Sawaya had in mind when he chose the word “metamorphosis” to identify a particular subset of his work but I do know it fit what I experienced. When I first entered the exhibit I didn’t even know that it was the work of one man. I learned that during the introductory video. I now realized that the word “art” in the title was no accident. Venus de Milo and friends were essentially the last “reproductions” in the exhibit. Sawaya’s vision would pretty much rule from here on out. An athlete is captured mid-stroke in Swimmer. Facemask is a self portrait.

aotb12aotb11aotb10That Sawaya is a talented artist as well as a skilled technician becomes even more apparent in his “Human Condition” collection.

aotb13aotb14As Sawaya notes, Yellow is probably his best known piece. Its ability to grab attention gets it featured in plenty of ads and brochures. Full frontal shots are everywhere and oblique views aren’t uncommon. This “dark side of the moon” shot is a kind of rare, however. Sawaya also notes that it gets that attention from both young and old. For adults he conjectures that it is seen as a “cathartic ‘opening one self up to the world'” and for kids he thinks it’s “Probably because yellow guts spilling onto the floor looks cool.”

aotb15I know this isn’t very artsy. I guess it might even be considered a reproduction of sorts but it’s not a reproduction like that reproduction of Michelangelo’s David. In this entire exhibition made of children’s building blocks, this is the only piece that was made specifically with kids in mind. It isn’t life size but it is big — over six feet tall and a tad under twenty feet long — and it is certainly technically impressive. 80,020 pieces they say.

aotb16aotb17aotb18One more big surprise awaited. It’s a collaboration with photographer Dean West called “In Pieces”. The first picture shows a group of items constructed from LEGOs by Sawaya. The surrounding walls are lined with photographs in which the items are combined with people and other real-world elements. For example, the red dress can be seen being worn in the picture beyond it.

aotb20aotb19These two pieces near the very end of the exhibit may require a little explaining. Cincinnati was once the pork packing capital of the world. Porkopolis borrows the city’s one time nickname and flying pig mascot. Sawaya made the piece specifically for this exhibit. Hugman is the name of a style of sculpture that Sawaya likes to install in various cities he visits. The three shown here are special in that they are made of bricks by visitors to other exhibits. I may have even found one signed by an unknown relative. “The Art of the Brick” differs from most temporary exhibits at the museum by not only permitting but encouraging photos, even flash. That might be apparent simply by the number of photos in this article. That much appreciated photo policy made the purpose of that empty pole obvious to me even though it wasn’t exactly spelled out.

“The Art of the Brick” is at the Museum Center through May 1 and is definitely recommended.

Road Trip Essentials Redux
A My Gear Extra

This post first appeared on June 8, 2014. It was done at the request/suggestion of a company called RelayRides. The company has changed its name to Turo and recently contacted me to request an update in the 2014 post. I made the name and URL changes then decided to reuse the post as well. Turo is a peer-to-peer car rental company. I still have not used the service so can no more rate or endorse it now than I could in 2014. What I can say is that the company seemed to honestly appreciate a mention in that original post and, unlike some other outfits, have not pounded me with additional requests since then. The current request is not only reasonable but helpful. I appreciate being given an opportunity to fix things. I will also compliment them on some very good timing.

I had already decided to queue up a “Trip Peek” for this week’s post but after rereading the original “…Essentials” post decided to reuse it instead. I like the post and everything is basically the same now as it was then. So, with only minor corrections, here it is again.


rtecolI recently received a request/suggestion for a post on “must have” road trip items. I initially blew it off but returned to it a week or so later. Since I am about to actually head out on a road trip, I need to stockpile some “dateless” (“timeless” almost, but not quite, fits) articles for posting while I travel. You know, the “Trip Peek” or “My Wheels” sort of things that have no connection to what I’m actually doing but can be posted at anytime to meet the blog’s every Sunday schedule. In the middle of generating a couple of “Trip Peeks”, I remembered the email and realized that the suggested “Road Trip Essentials” was as good a topic as any. Of course, it would take more time than a “Trip Peek” but it could be sort of a consolidated “My Gear” and it might be fun. If it also made somebody (the requester) happy, even better.

The request came from RelayRides (now Turo), a peer-to-peer car rental outfit. I’d never heard of them and naming them is not meant to endorse them but I could see that continued references to “the requester” were going to get old. Though the services offered are different, the contact from RelayRides (Turo) reminded me of a recent conversation with some friends about Uber, a person-to-person taxi service. After using Uber on several occasions in a couple of different cities, they were singing its praises. These person-to-person/peer-to-peer businesses are certainly worth keeping an eye on. The RelayRides (Turo) call was for blog posts that could tie into an upcoming “Road Trip Essentials” campaign. There is absolutely nothing in it for me except the possibility of an extra visitor or two but neither are there any restrictions or guidelines. The friendly and conversational request used playlists, caffeine, and frozen grapes as possible essentials so my list may be a little more serious than what they’re thinking. I believe everyone knows, however, that, while I take my road trips seriously, they are rarely serious trips. There was no actual suggestion that I include a collage but the word was used twice and I figured making a small one might be fun. It was.

The camera needs little explanation. If I’m on a full tilt road trip, I need pictures for the daily updates and there are other trips taken with the clear intent of using all or part of the outing in a blog entry. In addition to pictures that, if they’re not too crappy, might appear in a journal or blog entry, I use a camera to take notes. Snapping a photo of a sign or menu is a lot easier and less error prone than trying to write down what I think I might want to know later. Even when there is no advance thought of documenting any part of a trip, l want a camera near by in case some Martians land along the road or Bruce Springsteen’s car breaks down and he needs a ride.

I imagine that almost everyone now considers a GPS unit at least useful on a trip. It can keep you from reaching Tijuana instead of Vancouver and can be a great help in finding gas, food, or lodging. I do use mine to find motels and restaurants and such but I also use it in a manner that makes it truly essential. Many of my trips are on historic (i.e., imaginary) highways. They probably don’t appear on any current map or atlas and there are few, if any, signs to follow. Even if there were, I typically travel alone with no one to constantly read maps or watch for signs. What I do is plot the exact route I want to follow and load it into the GPS unit which then verbally directs me along my chosen path. Yes, it does require a fair amount of advance work and a more capable than average GPS unit.

Even with every turn programmed into the GPS, I pack guide books and maps. The GPS can fail, the situation on the ground might not match the plotted course, or my intentions might simply change. Plus, guidebooks like those in the picture provide valuable information when putting together a journal or blog entry.

The last item pictured, the cell phone, is the electronic Swiss army knife of our age. It is almost essential to everybody everyday just to talk, text, search, and email. In my case, in the context of road trips, it is also essential as a backup camera and as a voice recorder. Not too long ago, I would have included a small voice recorder in my essentials but the phone now serves to make quick notes especially while driving. I still carry a digital recorder for use when appropriate but it no longer rides on the seat beside me.

rtecabOf course, all of those accessories have their own accessories. For many years, I only bought gear that used AA batteries on the theory that I could always buy power at the corner drug store if required. I believe that happened once. I carried around a bag of nicads and the chargers to fill them in either car or motel. I eventually had to abandon that position but I still cling to the ability to recharge everything whether stopped or on the go. I now carry spare proprietary batteries and AC/DC chargers for two different cameras and a cell phone. I do not carry a spare for the GPS since I seldom operate it on battery power.

I’ll also almost always have my laptop along and some music/podcasts, and maybe, depending on departure time and length of trip, a thermos of coffee and a cooler. The cooler will have water or Gatorade and possibly a beer or two. There will probably be some carrots, or apple slices, or grapes in there, too. Next time, the grapes might even be frozen.

Book Review
A Decade Driving the Dixie Highway
Denny Gibson

addtdh_cvrI did it again. I wrote another book. It’s a lot like the other one. It’s an illustrated travelogue and, although there is no old car involved, there is an old man and an old road. That other book, By Mopar to the Golden Gate, told of a single excursion lasting a few weeks. A Decade Driving the Dixie Highway draws on roughly thirty road trips spread over eleven years. Multiple trips were pretty much required since the Dixie Highway was not a straight forward point to point road but a system that connected ten states with nearly 6,000 miles of roadway.

Road scholars Brian Butko and Russell S. Rein both contributed glowing modesty-challenging blurbs that appear on the back cover.

addtdh_int

A Decade Driving the Dixie Highway is available as a Kindle download (with color photos) as well as a paperback. Either may be purchased through Amazon and the purchase of a paperback there includes the ability to acquire the Kindle edition for a couple bucks. I’ve also set up an eBay listing in an attempt to make providing signed copies easier. I can’t offer access to the Kindle download or the potentially free shipping of Amazon but they can’t ship books with my scribbling in them.

The book was produced through Amazon’a CreateSpace and there is a CreateSpace eStore although I can’t think of any reason for someone to buy there. I do get a slightly bigger cut on sStore sales but there is no Kindle access, free shipping, or autograph. The book may eventually be available through some other channels but for now the two sources I’m suggesting are Amazon and my eBay listing.

A Decade Driving the Dixie Highway, Denny Gibson, Trip Mouse Publishing, 2015, paperback, 9 x 6 inches, 152 pages, ISBN 978-0692516966.

Signed copies available through eBay.

Reader reviews at Amazon are appreciated and helpful and can be submitted even if you didn’t purchase the book there.