Let’s Race Some Cardboard

cbr24_00New Richmond’s 24th Annual Cardboard Board Regatta took place on Saturday. It would have made a great Sunday morning blog post but that slot was already taken by the Beatles concert anniversary (It Was Fifty Years Ago Today). I have done two posts on a single day before and it would have worked as a Sunday evening post but I just didn’t have the time to get it together. When I realized that wouldn’t be possible, I considered not doing any post at all but decided that photos of what the organizers describe as “corrugated chaos” deserve to be seen. With time available, a Monday evening post came together. I’ve posted previous regattas (tag = Cardboard Boat Regatta) so won’t say much about the event beyond reminding readers that all of these wonderful watercraft are made of nothing but cardboard, duct tape, paint, and creativity. More information can be found at the Cardboard Boat Museum website.

I won’t say much about the pictures, which I’m posting as a gallery, either. I will just draw attention to a couple of interest. Each year the pros at the museum build a boat that is raffled off as part of a turnkey race entry. Water Wars was this year’s raffle boat. The last photo shows the start of the race for the prestigious “Cardboard Cup”. Any boat that raced earlier and still survives may enter.

It Was Fifty Years Ago Today…

bcftic…that the Beatles finally got to play — at Crosley Field. I was there. I was also there the day before when they didn’t get to play. Thinking about that weekend still brings a smile despite details having seriously faded from many of my memories and others turning out to be dead wrong. I have no souvenirs or photos. The ticket in the image above isn’t mine (It’s from RareBeatles.) but I once had eighteen of them.

Tickets went on sale in April as my freshman year at the University of Cincinnati was winding down. Someone down the hall from my dorm room was a friend of Joe Santangelo, the younger brother of concert promoter Dino Santangelo. That was certainly lucky but was not nearly as miraculous as the fact that I had money at the end of the school year. Joe could provide third row tickets and I had a hundred dollars. I bought eighteen at $5.50 each. That was face value. No service charge. No handling fee. No Ticket Master. I’m not certain but I’m thinking that the money may have come from a few weeks of wearing a stinky T-shirt and letting people sniff my armpits. Proctor and Gamble often used students in product tests. I participated in a couple and their completions marked some of the few time I actually had cash in hand in those days.

I sold fifteen of those tickets for as much as ten dollars a piece. It was my only serious scalping venture and I remember minor feelings of guilt at selling something for nearly double what I’d paid. I also remember that I didn’t like being a salesman and it showed in my lack of total success. When August 20 arrived I still had three tickets in my possession. Two were for me and my date. The third was left over inventory.

Yes, I had a date but it hadn’t been easy. School was out and I was back in Darke County with the concert about a hundred miles away. None of the few girls I had any sort of contact with could or would go. As I recall, Micky was the friend of a co-worker. What I do recall vividly is picking her up. This was in the final days of my 1959 Chevy co-ownership. The sky was clear and the sun was shining as I pulled up to her house with the top down and those big white fins spread out behind me. The Troggs’ Wild Thing was playing on the AM radio as I turned off the car and headed to the door to meet a girl I’d only talked with on the phone. There is simply no denying that the Beatles and Troggs can make you feel cool even when you’re not.

I can’t remember when the top went up. Maybe we made the whole drive with the car open or maybe we closed it to help with conversation and to keep Micky’s hair in place. It’s really strange what details stick and which disappear. At the stadium it quickly became clear that I had little chance of selling my extra ticket. The concert had not sold out and the scalping scene that we know today did not yet exist in any case. I ended up giving it to the usher who showed us to our seats near first base. No one ever appeared for the seat so he may very well have the souvenir that I don’t.

When the rain hit, someone magically produced several big plastic sheets and everyone in our section tried to form some shelter. Attempts to dump pools that collected without drenching someone weren’t always successful and waterfalls could appear at any time where sheets came together. But I don’t remember anyone becoming the least bit angry. We were all wet and arms got tired as we struggled to hold that plastic above us while hoping against hope to hear the music we had all come for. The huddled masses under that plastic may have been soggy and disappointed but we were having fun and laughing. Maybe it was because we were all younger. Maybe it’s because the world was.

I recall Micky having a good time and laughing along with everyone else and there was a solid reason that she couldn’t return the next day. Even so, we never saw each other again. I suppose that a pair of two hour rides separated only by sitting in the rain for two hours might not be the ideal first date.

Fortunately my buddy Dale was able to make it and the two of us headed to Cincinnati for the rescheduled concert. We didn’t quite make it in time although I’m not 100% sure when we did make it. Combining our sketchy memories with author Scott Belmer’s “the best we can figure” sequence of opening acts and songs from The Beatles Invade Cincinnati, I think we must have reached the ballpark about the time the Cyrkle took the stage. Belmer lists the sequence of acts as the Remains, the Ronettes, the Cyrkle, and Bobby Hebb and he thinks the Cyrkle opened their set with Red Rubber Ball. I recall hearing that song before we reached our seats; Maybe even before we entered the park. So we probably caught part of the Cyrkle’s set, all of Hebb’s, and missed the Remains and Ronettes completely. Besides doing their own short set, the Remains were the backing band for both the Ronettes and Hebb so we would have at least seen them perform. Had we seen them open we would probably remember them much better. Something that I only learned in putting this post together is that they began the show with Hang On Sloopy. It wasn’t the Remains that had put the song on the charts the preceding fall. That was the local band the McCoys who Dale and I both knew rather well. We might have actually remembered that if we’d heard it.

I have learned that at least one of my memories was absolutely wrong. For many years I told people that the Beatles had opened with Paperback Writer and that the opening harmonies sounded very non-harmonic. Every account I’ve seen says they opened with Rock and Roll Music and Paperback Writer was their tenth and next to last song. I obviously misremembered the sequence but I’m sticking by the non-harmonic part. I think there may have been some speakers along the base lines and we could hear the music to some degree. There was stiff competition, however, and I think I watched the screaming and crying girls in the stands nearly as much as I watched the show on the fairly distant stage. Neither Dale nor I screamed or cried and I don’t think Micky would have either. Of course, we’ll never know for sure.

The Beatles flew directly to Saint Louis to perform that evening. Four more shows (New York City, Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco) completed the tour. They never toured again. Crosley Field served as the Reds home for three and a half more seasons before being replaced and demolished. In 1988 a replica of the field was constructed in the Cincinnati suburb of Blue Ash. Later today, the fiftieth anniversary of the concert will be celebrated there. (The Beatles At Crosley – 50 Years Later!} The weather looks promising so maybe I’ll put the top down on the Miata, crank up Wild Thing on the iPod, and see if any of the chicks at the Senior Center want to go.

ADDENDUM 28-Aug-2016: There’s a post on the anniversary celebration here.

Advice: Take It and Leave It

tass1I’m talking about travel advice and I’m really talking about one particular website. It’s a site, TripAdvisor, that I’ve used and fed for many years. We are, in a sense, nearly the same age. The first trip I documented on the web began in August, 1999. TripAdvisor was founded in February, 2000 and has become one of the best examples of crowdsourcing on the internet. An even better example, Wikipedia, defines crowdsourcing as the “process of obtaining needed services, ideas, or content by soliciting contributions from a large group of people”. TripAdvisor collects, vets, and organizes millions of reviews on motels, restaurants, and attractions. There are, of course, other crowdsourced collections of reviews. Yelp and Google are two that I use now and then. Google’s reviews are entwined in their maps feature which makes them unavoidable/convenient. I have nothing negative to say about Yelp or Google or any other rating service but TripAdvisor is the one I’ve come to depend on.

In the old days (i.e., five years ago), while it wasn’t unheard of for me to use TripAdvisor to help select motels en route, that selection was much more likely to happen before a trip started. My most common use of the site once I’d left home was to pick a dinner spot after checking into a motel. On that latest trip, selecting and booking motels one or two nights ahead became standard procedure. This was usually done from from another motel but I accomplished it from a roadside turnout using my phone on a couple of occasions. The phone actually became the default device  for selecting a dinner spot while the laptop booted up. That’s a screen shot from the mobile app at the top of this article.

The target of that latest trip was Alaska by way of Canada. Territory that was, once Cincinnati was a few hundred miles behind me, totally unfamiliar. Shortly before setting out, I’d told a friend that one of the things I was looking forward to was spontaneously picking each night’s lodging as was common on my earliest trips. In those days, I would start looking for a place to stay in the late afternoon and, if an appropriate independent failed to appear on the two-lane I was driving before I was really done for the day, I could usually find an acceptable Super 8 or some such in the cluster at a nearby interstate exit. Had I really thought this through before departing I’d have realized what became quite apparent within a few days on the road. Traveling in western Canada and Alaska is not at all like traveling virtually anywhere in the USA. For one thing, no matter how many lanes make up the road you are on, it is probably the only one available. There is no interstate with all sorts of services paralleling older and less popular roads. Not only is there essentially just one path, as it moves to the north towns become fewer and each night’s stop more predicable. Of course, that’s true for everybody which means those towns can fill up. Almost without realizing it I fell into a pattern of selecting each night’s motel from the one previous. TripAdvisor was always involved in the selection and sometimes in the booking, too.

The lists that TripAdvisor produces can be sequenced by things like composite user ratings or price. List position is important but not nearly as important as reading at least a few reviews. I’m always a little leery of reviews that stray wide of the pack regardless of the direction of the straying. I also discount reviews where it seems that the writer may have had a problem with a third party booking agency or a single employee that tainted their opinion of the actual motel. As someone who favors independent mom & pops, learning something about the owners can be a help. On the other hand, while knowing whether a motel allows both dogs and cats or just one or the other is crucial to many travelers, I have neither and couldn’t care less.

I mentioned booking through TripAdvisor which was a new thing for me. A third party actually does the booking. For all but one of my bookings this was Booking.com. The exception used GetARoom.com. The only hiccup was one of the Booking.com reservations went missing but the motel wasn’t full and I was able to book on arrival. I think I’ll still book directly more often than not but being able to book a room immediately after making a pick can definitely be convenient.

tass2It really was the realization that I had used TripAdvisor so regularly on the Alaska trip that made me think of doing a post to thank and praise them but it is also a chance to talk about my part in the crowd that’s doing the sourcing. I don’t know when I first used TripAdvisor but I know it was well before I submitted my first review in August, 2008. I obviously warmed to it slowly and submitted just one review per year in 2008, 2009, and 2010. The gates finally opened with a western Lincoln Highway trip but I think it was a couple of trips later and a desire to boost a mom & pop motel in Michigan that got me to thinking differently and belatedly post several reviews from the Lincoln Highway outing.

So now I’m a regular contributor. It’s how I pay for the advice I take. But even now I do not review every place I visit. I only review chains if there is something that makes a particular motel or restaurant different from others in the chain. I do not post negative reviews. That doesn’t mean I’ve never met a meal, museum, or motel room I didn’t like. It’s simply that I see no reason to spend time and energy writing a review for them. That’s the same reason I don’t post negative reviews on this blog. I submitted photos with some of my early reviews but I soon quit. TripAdvisor has the right to use uploaded photos however it sees fit without crediting the source in any way. Sorry but that’s not for me. My member page at TripAdvisor is here.

A Tenderloin Tasting

edi01I was invited to join a few road fans at a new-to-me drive-in on Wednesday and that’s just what I did. Although I was not even aware that Edward’s Drive-In existed it has long been an Indianapolis, Indiana, fixture. It opened in 1957 as a Dog ‘n’ Suds. When owner Herb Edwards later went independent he gave the restaurant his own name. A 1978 tornado and a 2006 fire led to significant changes and additions so that the place looks quite a bit different and is a whole lot bigger that the original root beer stand. However, the curb service that was available in 1957 is still offered today.

edi02Indiana is known for big pork tenderloin sandwiches and Edward’s was among the first to serve the popular bun busters. From the beginning the meat was pounded into shape and breaded on site and that’s still the case today. The current menu is fairly large but the three things in the picture are what people are most likely to associate with Edward’s Drive-In. The tenderloin is good and certainly holds a place in Indiana tenderloin history but it’s not the best I’ve ever had. The hand-dipped onion rings just might be. The tasty house made root beer is perfect for washing it all down.

edi03The neon trimmed entrance makes a nice spot to photograph dinner companions Dean Kennedy, Jenny McGinnis, and Jennifer & Pat Bremer. Good food tastes even better when seasoned with good conversation.

Annie’s (Parade is) Back

aop16aLast year what was said to be lack of interest but which can probably better be described as lack of agreement sidelined the Annie Oakley Days Parade in Greenville, Ohio. This year it was back and seemed to be just as popular and nearly as big as it ever was. The return of the parade was announced quite some time ago and right before my last visit to Greenville, some six weeks ago, it was announced that the Grand Marshalls would once again be relatives of mine. Several years ago a cousin and her husband had filled the roles. This year it would be an aunt and uncle.

aop16baop16cShortly after the color guard swung around the corner and the parade started down Broadway, the Grand Marshalls rolled by in a white carriage. Uncle Dean and Aunt Arlene had their youngest grandsons with them but Sam and Charlie weren’t really into that smiling and waving thing. They did, however, keep a sharp lookout on both sides of the carriage to prevent any and all surprise attacks.

aop16dKatie Hurd, Miss Annie Oakley for 2016, won her title the old fashioned way — with a gun. Contestants didn’t attempt to gun each other down but, like the real Annie Oakley, demonstrated their shooting skill by firing at a target. The shooting starts at 25 feet and the distance is increased until only one shooter hits the baloon target baloon. That happened at 100 feet. Hurd wears two sashes because she also won this year’s Best Costume competition.

aop16eaop16faop16gMany local businesses supported and participated in Saturday’s parade. There were also plenty of cars. The Darke County Jeepsters are personal favorites. Their matching red vehicles appear in many parades. The parade also contained quite a few Shriner units.

aop16hIt’s certainly fitting that Buffalo Bill Cody rides in Annie’s parade. The long association that the two had benefited them both greatly.

My Wheels – Chapter 21
1979 Chevrolet G10

chevvanThere are surely better pictures of this van around but this was all I could find as I wrote this post. It was my first new vehicle and one of only two that were custom ordered. A friend who worked at a dealer in Cincinnati handled the order. It had a 305 CI V8, 3-speed automatic, air-conditioning, cruise control, and no interior. By no interior I mean it had a basic driver’s seat and nothing else. I stopped on the way home from picking up the van and bought a pair of “captain’s chairs”. I sold the single stock seat back to the dealer for a few dollars.

chevvan1I clipped that opening shot from the photo at left. I’m helping my sons with a Christmas present so it must be late December which makes the van, delivered in September, just a few months old. The “conversion” may have started but I’m sure it had not progressed very far. Fletcher did eventually solo and so did Cris.

Calling what I did to the van a conversion stretches the definition of the word a bit. I covered the floor with plywood and the walls and ceiling with cheap paneling. That paneling went over scraps of insulation retrieved from a furnace manufacturer’s dumpster. Four inches of foam on a raised platform in the back served as a bed. I never did get around to carpeting the interior but that was probably for the best. Another thing I never got around to was seat-belts. The factory seat had a belt attached that went away with the seat. Mounting belts to the replacements was not recommended. What was supposed to be used were extra long belts bolted to the floor. That never happened.

This was a recreational vehicle. It made several camping trips to the Smokies and other nearby spots. It made one trip to Missouri and another to San Diego. In 1982 it attended the Knoxville World’s Fair.

At the time of the World’s Fair trip, all three kids were living with me full time. We were going on to visit friends in Alabama after our one day at the fair so the boys’ bicycles were hung on a rack on the front and the girl’s tricycle was stowed inside. The daughter and youngest son spent the night before in the van to avoid the need to wake up for the early morning departure. We had a great time at the fair although some of us got exhausted quicker than the others. Megan and I spent the last part of the day on a bench while the brothers ran around getting stamps on their fair passports. We were all exhausted by the time we reached a campground south of Knoxville. We were also pretty dirty from the hot day and looking forward to showers. That’s when we discovered we had no towels. Well, most of us had no towels. Only Fletcher had remembered this most important item (Douglas Adams would have been proud of him.) and after he had showered and dried the rest of us did the best we could with the no longer dry Star Trek beach towel.

In 1983 or ‘4 the van entered a new phase in its life. I attended my first of thirteen consecutive Indianapolis 500s in 1981. It was with a group who had several years experience camping at the track and charging into the infield on race morning. Parts of that charge resembled a demolition derby so most of the vehicles used were confirmed beaters. From its time as camper and all purpose transporter, the Chevy van had more than its ahare of dings and scratches but was not yet a beater when it was pressed into service as an Indy car. After a few years, I fully embraced the van’s participation in the annual event and built a deck on its top. Standing atop vehicles to watch the race was standard procedure and the deck made that easier and safer. The deck was made of something like 2x8s on edge and screwed to the gutters with plywood across the top.

I think it might have been the same year that the deck went on that the ignition went sour. A friend removed the ignition switch from the dash and ran new wire to it. It dangled from the dash and worked just fine. Track officials seemed to come up with a new rule or two every year and after several years with the sturdy deck in place, they decided it had to be removed. At that point there was only one person riding with me and, with screwdrivers and a hammer, the two of us ripped the deck off as quickly as we could.

The dangling ignition switch eventually gave out and I replaced it with two wall switches. One turned on the ignition and the other operated the starter. It was a pretty good anti-theft device although the possibility of any one stealing the van at this point was awfully slim. A blown freeze plug interrupted our last drive together. I nursed it home where it sat until a trade opportunity came along.

Trip Peek #42
Trip #27
High Speed Privies

pvd12This picture is from my 2004 High Speed Privies day trip. This wasn’t the most spontaneous trip I’ve ever taken but it’s close. The destination was Penn’s Store which, despite it being the oldest continuously operated family store in the country, I first heard of just three days before heading there. The occasion was the commemoration of the store getting its first outhouse. That was in 1992. The store is known to have existed at least as early as 1845. The annual celebration is called the Great Outhouse Blowout and includes. along with plenty of music, outhouse races. Racing, unlike other outhouse activities, involves teams and lots of cheering.

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 #41
Trip #5

pv3This picture is from my 2001 T2Tampa trip. The trip was an attempt to retrace a trip that my great-grandparents made in a Ford Model T in 1920. The picture is of the remains of a Florida sugar mill, established in 1830, that my grand-parents visited in 1920 and which were still an attraction in 2001 and even on my most recent visit in 2012. It was a great trip and unquestionably one of my most memorable but it is almost embarrassing to look back and realize just how little I knew about old roads. The route, pieced together from my great-grandmother’s letters and my shallow knowledge of 1920s highways, ran from Ohio, to Tampa and Miami in Florida, then back home through Washington, DC. As enjoyable as it was, it tops the list of trips I’d like to do again because I think I could plot a more accurate route and I know I would look at things with a more appreciative eye.

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.

My Wheels – Chapter 20
1972 Audi 100 LS

audi100My friends had a red one that really impressed me. They were antique dealers and the car had been part of an exchange involving furniture. “If another deal like that ever comes along”, I told them, “I’ll take it.” It did and I did.

That red Audi 100 LS was a two-door automatic. I think it was a year or two newer than the white four-door four-speed that I bought after it was swapped for an armoire. It was the build quality as much as anything that impressed me about the Audis. I commented more than once that it felt like the car was built by people who thought they might have to ride in it someday. The photo is from the internet. That’s not my car but it’s close. The only obvious differences are the fog lights and wide European style license plate area.

The car came with two invisible flaws. The first was a failing second gear synchronizer which, although it couldn’t be seen with eyes, was instantly apparent with a drive. Surprisingly, perhaps, it was almost instantly relegated to a mere inconvenience. Matching engine and gear speed was actually quite easy. With a brief pause in neutral and a restrained throttle blip, a shift to second was usually completed without even double-clutching. It quickly became second nature to me. The other flaw appeared infrequently but was much more than an inconvenience and was, at least indirectly, involved in the Audi’s demise.

The issue was carburetor icing. Under the right conditions, something in the carburetor would freeze and prevent the car from running. There were only a few time that this behavior left me stranded but, since those right conditions consisted mostly of wet and cold, the strandings made an impression. I can’t claim that my sources were all that reliable but, after some consulting and reading, I came to believe that the cause of my troubles was a warped plate in the carburetor. This was known to occur now and then and trigger the symptoms I was seeing. Whatever it was I was reading indicated that replacing the factory unit with a Weber was the thing to do.

The Weber carb and some other bits had to be ordered which in those days meant snail mail in both directions. I half recall starting the installation then delaying it to get one more connector or something but the swap was eventually made and the car ran fine but not for long.

audiwreckIt’s not at all clear to me what happened but, as is obvious from the photo, it wasn’t good. That really is my car. The official story is that I was drunk and lost control. I also lost my license for several months. I don’t dispute the official story but neither can I confirm it.

What I remember is this. I finished the carburetor swap and set out for a test drive. I stopped at a bar, had one drink, and left for home. I came to in a hospital emergency room. The police dropped me off at home.

Friends I had chatted with at the bar confirmed that I had left after one drink. The location of the wreck was between the bar and my home but not on the most direct route. My blood alcohol level was above the limit though not by much. It’s possible that I stopped at another bar, had another drink — or more — and was headed home from that second stop. It’s also possible that I didn’t take the shortest path home because I was trying out the new carb and that the one drink, scotch & ice, was responsible for my BAC. Even though mentioning it may seem like excuse hunting, it’s possible that something in the newly connected throttle linkage failed and contributed to the accident.

I’ll never know for sure what happened but I will forever be thankful that no one else was involved and that the only damage was to me, my car, and a little landscaping.

Trip Peek #40
Trip #25
Bi Byways

pv15This picture is from my 2004 Bi Byways trip. The two byways involved were the Miami and Erie Canal Scenic Byway and the Maumee Valley Byway. On the first day I drove the full length of OH-66 which includes the entire Miami and Erie Canal Scenic Byway. The second day was filled with driving the Maumee Valley Byway then getting home from northern Ohio. I got to ride a canal boat on both days. Both were on what are now very disconnected segments of the Miami and Erie Canal. The first ride took place near Piqua, Ohio, and the second near Toledo. The photo was taken on the second day as the boat approached a working lock which we would actually pass through.

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.