Bye Bye Four One Two Five

dg4125This week I lost something I’d had for forty years. In 1974 I contacted United Telephone of Ohio to arrange for a phone in my first post-divorce home. It was a rental unit in a trailer park near Morrow, Ohio. Few things say noncommittal like renting a mobile home. Unlike the big outfits such as Cincinnati Bell, United couldn’t assign me a number when I placed the order. “We’ll have to see what works,” I was told. What worked was (513) 683-4125. I carried the number through another United Telephone served address plus three different addresses in Cincinnati Bell territory. On Thursday, the land line associated with it was switched off and, for the first time in four decades, (513) 683-4152 became available for reassignment. Here’s how it happened.

Sometime after I moved into (really just returned to) Cincinnati Bell territory, mobile phones and the internet were invented. Maybe they weren’t actually invented at the exact same instant but it was close. I got on the internet fairly early and used my Cincinnati Bell telephone to connect to service providers like Prodigy and Compuserve. I was hardly an early adapter of mobile phones but did get in early enough that I started with a clumsy bag phone from Ameritech that plugged into the car’s cigarette lighter. While my home phone stayed with Cincinnati Bell, I sequenced through a small collection of vendors for my internet and mobile needs. Cincinnati Bell got my internet business when they brought DSL to my door around the turn of the century. They got my mobile business toward the end of 2008 with a really attractive bundling deal. With me being too lazy to change on my own, things might have stayed that way forever if Cincinnati Bell hadn’t decided they didn’t want my — or any other — mobile phone business.

Last April, Cincinnati Bell announced that they were selling their mobile phone business to Verizon. In recent years, they had gotten into digital TV, home security, and some sort of energy management. Apparently those products were considered to be the company’s future and the wireless component of the company was no longer wanted. Wireless customers would not automatically be moved to Verizon but we needed to go somewhere by February.

I didn’t rush into anything. I causally quizzed some friends about their own experiences with wireless vendors but I had not made any real plans. Then, on Thursday the 25th, I walked by a nearby Cricket store that I hadn’t even realized was there. A friend who uses Cricket is reasonably happy with the service and it was one of the possibilities I was seriously considering. I stepped inside. I could use my existing phone by buying a $10 SIM card, an appropriately sized service plan was reasonably priced, and there was no long term contract. It would be month-to-month just like that trailer park rental back in ’74.

I left without signing on but by the next afternoon had pretty much decided that was what I wanted to do. That’s when the decision making process got a step input. Maybe something got jammed into it or maybe it just wore out but, whatever the cause, my phone’s USB connector broke. The phone still worked but it could not be plugged into a charger. I own two batteries and an external charger so I technically had the means to keep the phone going but it would hardly be convenient. I considered it for awhile but quickly decided that buying another phone would be a better move. I had no spare time on Saturday so I just made sure my two batteries were charged and continued on with life. By Sunday I had come up with the idea of repairing the phone and had located a repair facility not too far away. On Monday, I stopped in.

Replacing the USB connector would cost about $60. I was leaning toward going for it when the technician asked if the phone had been unlocked. I know next to nothing about unlock codes and had blindly been assuming that the “if available” which Cincinnati Bell appended to every reference to them did not apply to me. It did. I learned that codes were not available from Cincinnati Bell for most phones older than two years and, when I visited the nearby Cincinnati Bell store as suggested, I learned that my nearly three year old phone was among them. For $30, the repair shop could unlock the phone with an electronic lock pick or some other magic.

Without their own wireless service to sell, Cincinnati Bell stores have become agents for Verizon. I had some concerns about Cricket coverage in some spots I’ve been known to visit and, since the cost of moving my existing phone there had just jumped from $10 to $100 ($10+$60+$30), I decided to look into what Verizon had available. I liked it and left the store with a suitably sized and reasonably priced service plan and a new $50 phone. Sensing that this would be a good opportunity to drop my virtually unused home phone, I also made arrangements to do that while in the store but that didn’t take and had to be repeated before the dial tone went away on Thursday.

To my surprise, the standalone internet connection is exactly the same price as it was as part of the “cost saving bundle”. The monthly Verizon charge is less than what I have been paying for a similar plan at Cincinnati Bell and the land line voice charge is simply gone. I’ll be saving about 50 bucks a month and a lot of aggravation checking caller ID to see which marketer or politician I won’t be talking to. All in all, I think I’m going to like being homephoneless.

Hail! Hail! Rock ‘n’ Rail

octrainAmtrak has a simple but incredibly effective way of avoiding scenes like this at its station in Cincinnati. Eastbound trains are scheduled to depart at 3:27 AM; Westbound at 1:23 AM. That’s AM as in “ante meridian”, as in “before midday”, as in “middle of the night”, as in “dark as a black cat in a coal mine”. That would seem to be sufficient discouragement but, just to be on the safe side, Amtrak frequently misses those times by sizable amounts. On rare occassions, they might even cancel a train a day or two before departure as they did for me in 2011.

I made it this time though not exactly as planned. Between the time I left home and the time I reached the station, the Amtrak Cardinal had gone from 8 minutes late to 3 or 4 hours late. It finally pulled out of Union Terminal with me on board at 8:03 — a mere 4 hours and 36 minutes behind schedule. It was no longer dark. My plans for the evening are clearly demolished but I still have hopes for the rest of this trip to Washington, DC. A Saturday concert remains on the agenda followed by a couple of days roaming around the National Mall before heading back home on Wednesday.

The trip journal is here. This blog entry is to make blog-only followers aware of the trip and to provide a place for comments which are very welcome and appreciated.

Taste of Tarbell

tot01According to this blog’s “About” page, it may contain “just about anything other than politics or religion”. This post is a clear violation of that description but I feel it’s a fairly minor one and I’m hoping that it is one that can be forgiven. There is no question that Jim Tarbell is a politician but he is a lot more than that and Tuesday’s “Taste of Tarbell”, the event that marked the start of his campaign for Hamilton County Commissioner, seemed to be more than a political fundraiser.

Jim Tarbell has been a member of Cincinnati’s City Council and has owned two Cincinnati legends, Ludlow Garage and Arnold’s, on the way to becoming one himself. He lost a 2010 bid for a county commission seat and his late decision to run this year forces him to do it as a write-in. Specific reasons for the decision can be easily learned elsewhere. They are not the reasons I attended the campaign launch. I attended because Jim is someone who loves Cincinnati and Hamilton County and who I think will do his best to do what is right for them. That and the fact that it was a darned good party.

tot02The Comet Bluegrass All Stars were nearing the end of their set when I arrived and I caught just the last few notes of something that Katie Laur was singing with them. They did one more song but I was chatting through most of it and got no pictures. There was a cash bar and a pair of impressive layouts of a great variety of food brought in by friends. That encouraged mingling and chatting and it wasn’t until Ricky Nye, who I’d been doing a fair amount of that chatting with, sat down to play that I got my first picture.

tot04tot03Though I missed the actual announcement, I picked up on the migration and asked enough questions to learn that everyone was wanted in the main hall for a photo shoot. Several photos were taken of the mass of people, including me, wearing masks like the one shown at the top of the article. After that, Jim delivered some speechifying and a little harmonica playing. A tune with Katie Laur was planned and she joined Jim at what seemed like the right time but Jim wasn’t quite done talking. It was not an outrageously long speech but, after a couple of minutes, Linford Detweiler got the biggest laugh of the night when he brought out a chair for Laur. At the proper time, Brad Meinerding joined Jim and Katie for The Tennessee Waltz which, as Jim explained, was apropos of nothing but “we like it”.

tot05tot06With that, Jim and about half the crowd headed back downstairs for more mingling while those that remained were treated to a rather intimate performance from Over the Rhine. Meinerding stayed on stage to help Linford  and Karin perform about a half dozen songs beginning with Meet Me at the Edge of the World.

Lasse die Guten Zeiten Rollen!

ofjpAttending a John Prine concert in the middle of America’s largest Oktoberfest may have been the highlight of my week but it wasn’t the only musical event involved. Honky tonk ribbon cutting came before and Revival rocking came after. Here, in the order of their appearance, are the things that filled the last week of summer for me.

Early this year, Outlaw Magazine, which is about music rather than law breaking, launched something called the Last Honky Tonk Music Series. Taking its name from a song by singer-songwriter Wayne Mills, who was shoot and killed in Nashville last December, its purpose is “Sustaining the Artists, Sustaining the Venues, Sustaining the Community”. Every state is to have at least one venue in the series and Ohio now has two.

lhtrc02lhtrc01On Thursday, John Nawrocki and I attended the ribbon cutting ceremony that launched the first Last Honky Tonk Music Series performance at Friend’s Backyard Grill in Clarksville, Ohio. Clinton County officials help owner Rhonda Friend cut the ribbon.

lhtrc05lhtrc04lhtrc03Once the “formal” stuff was out of the way, Dallas Moore got on with the honky tonking. By pure coincidence, I’d seen — but not heard — Dallas about two weeks ago at Ohio’s other Last Honky Tonk Music Series location, Win Place or Show. By another, perhaps not so pure, coincidence, that was only the second time I’d stopped at Win Place or Show in the last few years and Dallas was setting up on both occasions. Of course, both stops were to enjoy the outside deck on sunny afternoons which is why I make no claims regarding the purity of the coincidence. That first time, more than a year ago, gear for the whole band was being carried in and I made sure I was gone before they got plugged in. On the most recent stop, it would be a solo performance but I still ate and left. In hindsight, I wish I had stayed. I have seen the Dallas Moore Band in the past and have not enjoyed them very much. On Thursday I discovered that I do enjoy Dallas as a solo performer. I’ll definitely hang around the next time I encounter him alone and I might even give the band another listen some day.

ofz01The John Prine concert was Friday. I got my ticket a long time ago and, because it would be in downtown Cincinnati, even had some vague plans about going down early for dinner and strolling. A few days ago, when I finally got serious and realized that the concert coincided with the first day of Oktoberfest Zinzinnati, those vague plans became very solid and darned near perfect.

ofz04ofz03ofz02Cincinnati’s first Oktoberfest, at least the first of the current run, took place in 1976. With attendance in excess of half a million, it is considered the largest in the United States. I haven’t been to Oktoberfest Zinzinnati in several years and when I did go it was likely to be on Saturday or Sunday afternoon. It turns out that Friday evening, with a somewhat smaller crowd, is a much better choice. The only things missing, besides the Saturday afternoon World’s Largest Chicken Dance, are the carnival rides which don’t get turned on until morning. That not only keeps the number of tikes down but prevents a regrettable tilt-a-whirl ride with a belly full of goetta and Hudy.

ofz05Anchored by Fountain Square, Oktoberfest Zinzinnati occupies five blocks of Fifth Street. A few blocks to the south, the Christian Moerlein Lager House has their own party going on under an immense “authentic Munich-style Oktoberfest tent” they call ÜberDrome. It looks like I captured Moerlein’s commander-in-chief, Greg Hardman, in my picture although I didn’t realize that until I was editing the picture for posting. I’m guessing that many stick with one place or the other though the walk between Fifth Street and the Lager House isn’t all that much longer than the walk from one end of the ÜberDrome to the other.

jp03jp02jp01I got back to Fifth Street with just enough time to add a bit of strudel to the goetta and Hudy before heading inside. John Prine‘s voice isn’t quite what it was in the ’70s; very few are. I’m sure his recent bouts with cancer haven’t helped but the funny songs are no less funny and the touching songs are possibly even more touching. He’s definitely still got it. That’s Amanda Shires, who opened the show, singing with John in the third photo.

bella1bella2bella3Just like Prine and Oktoberfest, I prefaced my third show of the week with a party. This was a birthday pawty for a Great Pyrenees named Mia Bella. I understand that Bella was even greater (by several pounds) at the time of the party than when the poster was created. There were beef, vegi, and turkey hot dogs, each with its own cooker, along with paw and puppy patterned pastries. Note that Hudepohl fits in at smaller gatherings just as well as at big city festivals.

simo01The third show was in the Revival Room at Southgate House Revival in Newport, Kentucky. I first saw JD Simo in Nashville in 2009 and have been looking forward to seeing him again ever since. He was a hired gun in 2009 but has been fronting his own trio, SIMO, for about three years. They have been here once before but I just could not get to that show. This time I made it and was every bit as blown away as I expected to be. The only thing disappointing was the crowd.

simo02simo03simo04I don’t believe there was ever more than forty people in the audience. That made it nice for those of us that were there and the trio sure didn’t slack off because of it but this guy deserves to be seen and heard by a lot more people. In 2009 he impressed me in Nashville where remarkable musical talent fills every stage and sidewalk. In Newport, there were times when I thought I might be having a 1968 Jimi Hendrix flashback. I don’t mean that JD imitates or sounds like Hendrix but seeing the virtuoso guitarist fronting a driving power trio naturally triggers comparisons with Hendrix, Cream, James Gang, Mountain, and the like. SIMO handles the comparisons well.

WACO Homecoming

waco01Troy, Ohio, was once home to the most successful airplane manufacturer in the world. That manufacturer, WACO Aircraft Company, ceased production in 1947 but the city keeps the memories alive with Historic WACO Field at the south edge of town. A museum, learning center, and runway see action all year long but the annual fly-in brings in quite a bit of extra action, particularly for the runway. I attended this year’s fly-in on Saturday, the middle of its three day run.

waco02waco03waco04The dozen or so WACOs parked on the ground made a colorful and impressive display. I have the feeling that there were more of the planes here on my first visit to the fly-in in 2006 but I can’t quantify that and a dozen WACOs is still a lot of WACOs.

waco06waco05There were plenty of “don’t touch” reminders but attendees were otherwise free to walk among the airplanes for up close viewing. Only after I got home and started to prepare this post did I realize that it is likely that not all of those gorgeous planes I admired were vintage. It had somehow escaped me that the WACO Aircraft Corporation of Battle Creek, Michigan, started building reproductions of the WACO YMF in 1986. The reproductions have the word “classic” in their logo so I should have been able to easily identify them if I’d only known to look. On the other hand, it was probably better not knowing and believing that all those great looking machines were older than me.

waco07waco08waco09A tremendous increase in museum space since I was last here means that several airplanes, including some that were displayed outside in 2006, are now displayed under cover. Maybe that contributed, just a bit, to my sense of fewer WACOs on the field.

waco12waco11waco10A big attraction is the availability, for a fee, of rides in the open planes. Passengers, two maximum, sit in front of the pilot. These pictures show a vintage (no “classic” in the logo) WACO taxiing from its spot among the other aircraft, gaining speed down the grass runway, then smoothly rising above the corn. My guess is that that’s a buddy and not a paying passenger in the front compartment.

waco13waco14waco15I’ll close with a 1993 WACO Classic YMF (I learned that later.) coming in with a pair of happy customers, seat backs in the upright position, sitting up front.

Making Peace with Linda

lindarOn my most recent road trip, I drove through both Tucson, Arizona, and Tucumcari, New Mexico. I did not drive directly from one to the other. A dozen days and even more towns separated my time in those two cities so that I did not, as the line in that song says, go “from Tuscon to Tumcari”. Of course that little detail did not keep references from being made by others or prevent me from mentally humming one of the greatest bits of alliterative road trip poetry ever:

I’ve been from Tucson to Tucumcari
Tehachapi to Tonapah.

The words are from Willin’, a song on Linda Ronstadt’s 1974 album “Heart Like a Wheel”. But it’s not a Linda Ronstadt song. Not only didn’t she write it. She did not, as might be said of some of her other covers, “make it her own”. In my view, that would be impossible. Linda might sing “I’m drunk and dirty, don’t you know” beautifully but it’s not remotely convincing. I can accept Lowell George, the bearded Little Feat guitarist who wrote Willin’, as the sometimes law skirting truck driver the song is about. Linda Ronstadt? Hardly.

I know that sort of stuff doesn’t bother everyone. Sometimes it doesn’t bother me all that much either. Other times it bothers me a lot. Sometimes (just once actually) it bothers me to the point of rather sincere hatred. Here’s how.

Little Feat recorded Willin’ a couple of years before Ronstadt did and I believe I heard that version first. Or maybe I heard them both about the same time. Whatever the case, I knew of both and, while I thought it silly for this sweet voiced young girl to claim she’d “driven every kind of rig that’s ever been made”, I was not particularly upset about it. I bought “Heart Like a Wheel” and her 1976 “Greatest Hits”. Then came ’78.

Warren Zevon’s “Excitable Boy” was released in January of 1978. It contained Werewolves of London which got a lot of air play and my attention. The name was not entirely unfamiliar to me (I read liner notes.) but the music was. I bought “Excitable Boy”. I went to see Zevon live. I bought the only other Warren Zevon album readily available. Titled “Warren Zevon”, that other album had some tunes on it that I had heard before. There was Hasten Down the Wind, which Ronstadt had recorded and used as the title track of an album she released in 1976. And there were a couple of songs that had appeared on Ronsadt’s “Simple Dreams” album. One was Carmelita, which, despite the Willin’ like gender mismatch and the ill fitting drug references, Linda had performed admirably. The other was Poor Poor Pitiful Me. That’s where the trouble started.

Even though Linda’s covers of songs like Willin’ and Carmelita challenged my imagination a little, they presented the material accurately as well as beautifully. Not so her version of Poor Poor Pitiful Me. I had heard Linda’s version quite a bit but readily admit that I had never paid a lot of attention to the lyrics. I thought it a catchy little tune about someone with a little bad luck. Now I heard the song directly from its creator and it wasn’t like that at all. As much as just about any song that Zevon has written, Poor Poor Pitiful Me is filled with dark edged humor. Its calls for pity are clearly facetious. Its characters about as scary as they are seductive. None of this is visible in Ronstadt’s version. Part of it is gender related. When Warren complains that “These young girls won’t let me be”, you can hear the wink in his voice. When Linda makes a similar complaint about “These young boys” you simply believe her. Linda singing about the Yokohama boy who “threw me down” asking “Please don’t hurt me Mama” doesn’t seem humorous at all. When Warren says the same line to a girl who threw him down, that audible wink is very much in evidence. Actually, he didn’t sing about Yokohama at all in that studio recording. Instead there is a verse about a girl who asks Warren if he’d “beat her” which would have definitely been tough for Linda to use.

This was just too much for me. Here the sweet voice and gender change did not just challenge my imagination. It altered the meaning of the song entirely. I saw it as an intentional and criminal act to disarm Zevon. The relatively minor changes to Carmelita also became more sinister as I started viewing them as part of the plot to suppress Zevon’s art. In my mind, Linda Ronstadt suddenly changed from a talented singer to a despised creature who sucked the soul out of songs and turned them into sugary pablum. My outrage might not have been justified but it was certainly sincere. I truly disliked this woman. I’ve only recently learned that one of the things that sent me over the edge just wasn’t true. I have read that, according to Zevon himself, the “beat her” line was ad-libbed in the studio. Except for the gender change, Linda had sung the verse as written.

Although that last discovery makes my near hatred seem even sillier, it really played no part in my getting over it. Time naturally caused it to fade but I’ve actually dredged it up and erased it. I was always a little ashamed of it and am glad it’s gone. In the end, all it took was a close look. That look started when I first met one of Linda’s nephews and became a little more serious when I met a brother and another nephew. Linda’s brother Michael J and his sons Michael G and Petie perform as Ronstadt Generations and have been mentioned on this site a few times. At my first meeting with Michael J, I remember wondering if he could tell I despised his sister. I also remember thinking that he was a really nice person and that his sister probably was too. Unless he has well disguised mind reading skills, Michael J has no idea how I feel about his sister. She has never been a topic in any conversation I’ve had with any of the Ronstadts but the contact did make me revisit those ill feelings from the 1970s, realize how ridiculous they were, and dump them.

I still don’t like Ronstadt’s version of Poor Poor Pitifil Me at all and I’m not all that fond of her rendition of Carmelita either. For me, Willin’ is and will always be a Lowell George song and not a Linda Ronstadt song. But some people really like her versions and I’m guessing that George and Zevon have been financially helped more than hurt by them. I’m quite happy over the fact that I can now admit to myself that Linda’s version of Hasten Down the Wind is at least as good as the original and that her recording of Blue Bayou, while I personally will never pick it over Roy Orbison’s, is pretty darned good.

That’s the cover from Linda’s year old autobiography pictured at the top of this article. I’ve used it for two reasons. One is that it is what I would use if reviewing the book (which I’m not) so I probably won’t get sued over it. The other is that it’s a face that’s not easy to connect with smuggling “smokes and folks from Mexico” or being “all strung out on heroin on the outskirts of town” and maybe that will support my point about ill-fitting songs a little. I have not read the entire book but scanned through it to learn that Linda actively sought out Lowell George in order to learn and record Willin’. On the other hand, Poor Poor Pitiful Me, was not only not appropriated in some dark plot to gentrify Warren Zevon, but was pressed on Linda by mutual friend Jackson Brown.

Trip Pic Peek #25
Trip #59
Thanksgiving 2007

pv42This picture is from my 2007 Thanksgiving weekend trip to Nashville, Tennessee. This outing actually started with a ferry ride across the Ohio River and visits to a few spots in Kentucky including the Jefferson Davis Monument. In Nashville, I took in shows at both the Ryman and the Bluebird and ate breakfast at both the Loveless and the Pancake Pantry. I also visited two car museums on the trip but only one, Lane, was in Nashville. The other was the Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky, where I stopped on the way home. The photo is of the Bellsouth Tower (a.k.a. “Batman Building”) taken through a large ring gear displayed in a park across the Cumberland River.

Oops! (6-Sep-14) Part way through a road trip, I realized that I did not have enough posts in the queue to cover the trip. The random trip selector came up with the 2007 Thanksgiving trip and I hastily put a post together in a motel room. But once I was home and able to pay a little more attention to what I was doing, I discovered that this had already been posted as a Trip Peek in June, 2013. At least my descriptions were similar.


Trip Pic 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 trip journal it is from.

My Wheels – Chapter 13
1966 Suzuki

suzuki1966Dates from this period are a little fuzzy but I think it was not long after the Falcon Futura breathed its last that I acquired the Suzuki X-6 Hustler. A friend had bought it new then gave me a good deal on it when he went to New York to work his way to Europe as he had done once before. The working passage never quite came together and he returned after a few months and I offered to return the bike. He declined and I’m pretty sure part of the reason was pure kindness as he knew how much I was enjoying it.

The X-6 was a rather advanced and interesting motorcycle. The ‘6’ in the name referred to the unusual for the time 6 speed transmission. The engine produced 29 HP from only 247 CCs. It was a 2 cycle but had an oil injection system so that fuel did not have to be pre-mixed as with most 2 cycles. A top speed of 90 MPH was advertised and, while I never quite reached that, I did have mine above 80 MPH.

A friendship that continues today was started partially by this bike. John Nawrocki and I worked at the same company and he had an X-6 Scrambler. The Scrambler was an almost identical motorcycle with up-swept exhaust and a few other modifications for off-road use. It seemed natural for the two of us to ride our Suzukis together despite the fact that John’s bike was bright red and mine a sedate black.

I worked downtown and parked the Suzuki on the sidewalk in front of the building whenever I rode it. After work one day, I stepped outside to see a policeman checking parking meters or something similar. Although I had reason to duck back inside, I quickly decided it was too late and nonchalantly mounted the bike. Either helmets were not required at that time or they were and I had one. Either way, I was not in violation of a helmet law. Before I could start the bike, however, the officer approached and asked, “Where’s your eye protection?”

I don’t think I even knew about eye protection being required but I sure didn’t have any and my unsatisfactory response to that first question led immediately to another. “Let me see your license.”

The license thing was what had made me think about ducking back in the building. A law requiring a motorcycle specific endorsement on drivers license had been passed some time back and I didn’t have one. I was cited but got my endorsement before my court date. That plus a promise to wear sunglasses got me off with just court costs.

I rode the Suzuki quite a bit although the longest trips were probably several sub-100 mile rides to Darke County. One day the drive chain broke and I pushed the bike just a little over a mile to a Honda dealer. I doubt I could push a dead motorcycle much more than a yard today. I bought the needed replacement link but had no money to pay for installation. I did it on the sidewalk beside the shop with tools that a mechanic, careful not to actually hand me anything, laid just outside an open door. Kindness like that is remembered a long time. Then one day the engine just died.

This time it stayed by the side of the road while I hitched a ride home then went with the band I was in to audition an organist. Once that was over, we could pick up the bike. The audition did not go well (He was much better than us.) and we couldn’t muster the energy to unload the equipment so we could fit in the bike until the next day. By then, the bike was gone.

About a year later, at something like 2 AM, the phone rang. It was a policeman calling to tell me the Suzuki had been found. I was pretty sure that, after the bike being gone for a year, I could have waited until daylight for the news but the police were so excited about recovering a stolen motorcycle, which NEVER happens, they just had to call me immediately.

I think I got the bike started — I remember something about the coils — but I don’t think it was ever quite right again. Before long, it was one of the pieces involved in a car purchase.

Trip Pic Peek #24
Trip #44
Labor Day Loop

pv29This picture is from my 2006 Labor Day Loop trip through southern Ohio. I started out tracing the Ohio River eastward to meet some friends in Portsmouth. From there, we visited a couple of blast furnace sites from the Ohio Valley’s heyday as an iron producer. The photo is of the completely restored Buckeye Furnace. Little remains at most sites beyond a stone chimney if that.


Trip Pic 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 trip journal it is from.

My Wheels – Chapter 12
1961 Falcon

falconfutura1961The 1961 in the title is something of a guess. I know for sure it was a first generation Falcon Futura. The first generation of Falcons ran from 1960 through 1963 with the bucket-seated Futura introduced in 1961. I believe mine was a ’61 but I guess it’s possible it was a year or two newer. If, however, you judged the car’s age purely on its condition, you would be challenged to believe it was a maximum of ten years old when I bought it in 1971 for $35.

When the Dodge went off to get its transmission fixed, I needed transportation for a couple of weeks. A friend of a friend had a friend with a car for sale that might make it that long. No guarantee, of course. At some point in its life, my car must have looked like the dark blue ’61 in the photo but it wasn’t on my watch. There was no evidence of a major collision but there had obviously been plenty of small ones and rust was a major player in the color scheme. The interior was a trifecta of torn, shabby, and faded. I remember that all or most of the fancy Futura console was present but it was not actually attached to anything and sort of bounced around the drive shaft hump as it saw fit.

The first problem I had was getting the title transferred. The seller was a college student from Louisiana. He had lived in Cincinnati for a few years but, because license, taxes, or something else cost more in Ohio, had never transferred the title. When I went to a title office in Ohio, I was turned away because of some time limit. Then someone suggested that if we got the title notarized out of state, we might get away with claiming it was done while the guy was on the way to Ohio to deliver the car. We found a cooperative notary in Kentucky then got a new title in Ohio without a hiccup.

The Falcon did its job until the Dodge came back then stayed around in a part time role. At that point in my life, I knew lots of people with cars that were not 100% dependable and who might need a loaner now and then. The Falcon was almost perfect for this since it did provide the desired function but did it in such a way that no one was tempted to delay the repair of their own car any more than necessary. The car met its demise while on loan.

One of the car’s many quirks was a temperamental ignition interlock. The transmission was a column shift automatic. Like most cars of the day, the Falcon’s transmission had to be in “park” in order to start the car. More often that not, it had to be extra deep in “park”.  ‘P’ was all the way to the left; reached by pushing the lever up. When I got the car, the cast metal casing was already cracked from all the shoving on the lever to get the starter to engage. The crack grew. The car’s last driver had the lever come off in his hand as he pressed it upward. I retrieved the plates, left the signed title in the glove box, and waved goodbye to the best $35 car I ever owned.