Trip Peek #54
Trip #74
Easter Weekend 2009

This picture is from my Easter Weekend 2009 trip. I found the VW Rabbit in appropriate holiday garb on the second day of the three day outing. The trip was something of a catch-all with some old roads, a stop at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, and a stop at Pymatuning Reservoir spillway “Where the Ducks Walk on the Fish”. A highlight of the trip, and one reason for its direction, was a Patrick Sweany concert with his father, “Hot Tub” Sweany. accompanying him on washtub bass.


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 24
1983 Renault Alliance

There was a time when I was truly smitten with this car. Others were too. It was Motor Trend‘s “Car of the Year” and it was included in Car and Driver‘s “10 Best”. Many were the automotive writers who praised the first offering from AMC under Renault ownership. That experts praised the little car certainly influenced my opinion but I recall that I sincerely hought it was physically attractive. Yeah, that’s the kind of smitten I’m talking about.

Much of the praise that the gurus heaped on the car had to do with its economical operation and good value pricing. Recent changes in my job, living arrangements, and family size brought on the need for an efficient people hauler so maybe I just fooled myself into liking the looks to make the super practicality palatable. Whatever the full thought process was, I was quite proud of myself when I bought a shiny new dark gray four-door four-speed.

For many the shine wore off quite quickly. Mechanical problems were fairly common and rust often appeared quicker than it should. In 2009 Car and Driver actually apologized for putting the car in their “10 Best” list twenty-six years earlier. I don’t know that Motor Trend or any of the other publications that had climbed on the Alliance band wagon delivered their own apologies but neither do I know of any that actively defended their 1983 behavior.

My own problems were minor. The coil sometimes arced in wet weather until I upped the insulation by applying an ugly wad of electrical tape and a starter connection vibrated loose — twice!.

I guess I really didn’t have the car long enough to get hit with rust or any more serious mechanical issues. In their apology, Car and Driver point out that one of the first acts of Chrysler after taking over AMC in 1987 was “the mercy-killing of the Alliance”. My personal Alliance had been the target of its own mercy killing two years earlier. For the first time ever I was at the wheel of a car when it was totaled and it wasn’t even slightly my fault.

I was the last in a line of cars stopped at a light in heavy rain when I was rear-ended by a teenager driving with his mother on a learners permit. The Alliance was advertised as having reclining seats although what they really did was lean back as a unit like a rocking chair. When the other car hit, my seat completely “reclined” so that I was momentarily nearly flat on my back. Then my car was pushed into the one in front of me and I sprang upright and cracked a rib against the floor shift. I’m not sure of specifics but I understood the the boy and his mother had minor injuries of about the same severity and that there were no injuries at all in the car in front of me. I was obviously quite lucky that my injuries weren’t worse and I maybe I could even be considered lucky for being spared the pain of watching my Car of the Year rust away.

My Fiftieth: Hawaii

More often than not, I wait until the first day of a trip is past and the journal for that day posted before making an entry here. Not this time. One reason is that most of the first day will be spent flying so there may be little or nothing worth reporting. Even if there are things to post, I may not have the time or energy to do it in a timely manner. The fact that all that flying involves six time zones won’t help. There are certainly enough potential problems with the first day’s journal post to justify doing the blog post a little early but I must admit that the timing just might be affected by my own excitement.

That the destination is Hawaii accounts for some of the excitement but hardly all. I have previously visited forty-nine of the United States as well as the District of Columbia which means that Hawaii will complete the set. That’s a pretty big deal to me and the fact that I’ll be celebrating my seventieth birthday while I’m there is kind of a big deal, too.

In addition to the special occasions it contains, this trip is different from most in the degree of planning involved. Flying is required which means that start and end dates had to be firmly nailed down in advance. Same thing with hotels and rental cars since a full hotel or a sold out rental fleet isn’t something I want to deal with on an island. So, although I’ll be able to exercise spontaneity at meal time, I pretty much already know where I’ll be and when I’ll be there. Tomorrow, March 23, I head off to spend six nights each on Oahu, Maui, and Hawaii (The Big Island).  

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

Trip Peek #53
Trip #96
Hail, Hail Rock ‘n’ Roll

This picture is from my 2011 Hail, Hail Rock ‘n’ Roll trip. As you probably suspected, its selection is not at all random. In anticipation of an approaching trip, I had just finished scheduling this blog’s next few posts when I learned of Chuck Berry’s death. I immediately thought of the only time I had seem him and, with the scheduling of posts fresh in my mind, of posting a “Trip Peek” of that 2011 trip. Even as I began to do it, I was unsure about whether or not breaking with the random selection of “Trip Peeks” is proper. I did it once before when I picked a Christmas related “Trip Peek” to appear during a Christmas road trip. If I can break the sequence for a Christian holiday, I can sure as hell do it for Rock ‘n’ Roll.

Berry was doing one show a month in 2011 and I had secured a ticket to the May 25 event. As the date neared, my father, two years Berry’s senior, was hospitalized and it seemed likely that the trip would not occur. But Dad’s condition improved a few days before the show and I went ahead with my plans. The idea was to spend two or maybe three nights on the road with some time on Route 66  in Saint Louis on the way to the show and some time on the National Road as I returned. The first day went pretty much as planned culminating in an extremely satisfying concert in the Duck Room at Blueberry Hill. Somewhat to my surprise, Berry was on stage for the entire show and performed almost all of his familiar hits. The featured photo was taken near the end of the concert when Berry invited adoring ladies from the audience to join him on stage.

Dad’s health took a turn for the worse during the night and I headed directly home in the morning. He died one week later.


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 #52
Trip #43
The National Road at 200

This picture is from my 2006 The National Road at 200 trip. In 1806 Thomas Jefferson signed legislation authorizing the first piece of what became known as the National Road. My personal celebration of the 200th anniversary of that event consisted of driving the Historic National Road Byway from Baltimore to Saint Louis. Preceding that was a two day drive from home to Washington, DC, and the celebration of the USA’s 230th birthday in the nation’s capital. The Historic National Road Byway is something of an expanded version of the National Road as was, in some sense, the National Old Trails Road. When named auto trails were replaced by numbered highways, the NOTR was commemorated with a Madonna of the Trail statue in each of the twelve states it passed through. Maryland’s Madonna was erected in Bethesda on a spur of the NOTR. When I stopped to visit it on the way to DC, I was shocked to find it absent. A water line break had undermined the statue and threatened to topple it. It had been moved for safety and to allow repairs. After continuing on to DC, I learned where the Madonna was stored and drove to see her early on the Fourth of July. The statue and base had been disassembled and the Madonna was standing directly on the ground so that I could get a photo standing next to her. It’s a picture that will forever be one of my favorites.


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.

Herding the Wheel Horses South

When a guy with a couple dozen fifty-year old tractors connects with a guy who twice drove from Cincinnati to Los Angeles to get to Kentucky, anyone expecting completely sensible behavior is likely to be disappointed. The guy with an aversion to direct routes is me. The guy with the vintage tractors is Terry Wolfe who first appeared in this blog back in 2014. As mentioned then, Terry collects Wheel Horse tractors. The tractors appear in the Old, Strong, and Fast and A Pretty Fair Week blog posts. Terry exhibits regularly at shows in Portland, IN, Greenville, OH, Arendtsville, PA, and elsewhere. A big show in Florida has long been on his radar but that was a little too far away for regular travel companions including his wife. He suggested it, the dates fit my calendar, and on the morning of February 19 we headed south with a herd of seven Horses in tow.

Although I thought about it, I decided long before departure that I would not attempt a daily journal on this trip. I did Tweet a few photos and comments and hinted at the possibility of a summary blog post. I was far from certain that would happen but here it is: an eight day trip in a single blog post.

We spent Sunday night in a motel south of Atlanta. On Monday we reached my Uncle Eldon’s place near Lake Alfred, FL, and stayed there overnight. Stops here appeared in trip journals in 2012 (Bunkin’ with Unk) and 2014 (Christmas Escape 2014). That’s Terry and Uncle Eldon tossing bread to fish and birds in the last picture.

Our destination was about thirty miles further south at Flywheelers Park where the Florida Flywheelers Antique Engine Club holds several events each year. We drove the final leg on Tuesday and hit the right gate on the second try. The afternoon was spent unloading the tractors and erecting the canopy which was a welcome shelter from both sun and rain over the next few days.

I knew that a high school friend spent a good chunk of each winter in the general area and sent a text during the ride down to see if she was nearby. Tammy and husband Vic weren’t just nearby, they already had their trailer set up in Flywheelers Park and would be part of the show’s flea market. They found us as we were unloading and extended an invitation to dinner which was a pretty cool way to step into an unfamiliar show. Then, a couple of days later, they took us along on a grocery shopping trip to Avon Park. The dinner, the chauffeuring, and the general advice were much appreciated.

The show opened on Wednesday and so did the clouds. In fact the rain was quite heavy at times but the sandy Florida soil dried rather quickly between downpours. We managed to do some sightseeing during the rain-free periods. Terry had selected two of the Wheel Horses for on site transportation and we toured the grounds in style.

Literally hundreds of normal looking golf carts were pressed into service as shopping and sight-seeing vehicles but many of the people carriers were truly part of the show. I saw the single-axle machine occupied and in motion on several occasions but never when I was able to get a picture.

There are quite a few permanent buildings in the park. Many, particularly those in an area called The Village, are made to look like businesses of yesteryear. The show itself is huge with an extremely wide range of vendors and exhibitors. Despite Oliver being the featured brand this year, the largest array of a particular tractor I saw was this field of John Deeres.

Anyone who has seen some of my TripAdvisor reviews may have noticed that I often mention convenience, cleanliness, and comfort in rating my accommodations. With the tractors outside, our bunks in the trailer were certainly convenient and, with some fairly thick air-mattresses, reasonably comfortable. Cleanliness not so much. Breakfast each day was bacon and eggs prepared over a Coleman with other meals usually coming from a grill. The pictured meal is Friday night’s steak dinner. While at first glance, the flashlight illumination might give the appearance of a romantic candle-light dinner, what really happened was that we fired up the generator and turned on a drop light so that two old farts could see to eat.

We cheated just a little on the tear down and were essentially ready to roll when official closing time arrived on Saturday. We made it across the Georgia line for the night and home at the end of a long Sunday. As you can see, there was an unplanned stop on the way but I helped speed things along by staying out of Terry’s way. The reason for the vibration that he had occasionally felt was no longer a mystery. So, yeah, this trip was notably different from most in my recent past but, except for the tractor herding bits, it wasn’t something totally new to me. I’ve done a fair number of destination oriented road trips and will undoubtedly do some more. There was even a period when I did a decent amount of tent camping and another with frequent van camping. My most recent tent camping was a couple of night in Rocky Mountain NP back in 2011. What we did last week was quite similar to my van camping. I enjoyed the differences between this and my typical trip and I don’t at all rule out doing it again. On the other hand, I make no promises or predictions.

Book Review
Vigilante Days and Ways
Nathaniel P. Langford

This book was first published in 1890. The link at the end of this article points to a version published barely a month ago. Despite it being well over a century old, some think it worth reading and someone considers it worth republishing. Why others consider the 127 year old writing worth reading I cannot say but I know why I enjoyed it. It’s filled with stories I’ve watched unfold on TV or in a movie theater or read as fiction. Those tales of frightened town folk, evil bullies, crooked sheriffs, and cowardly henchmen that thrilled me in my younger days were all legitimate. The basis of many plots played out in the numerous TV westerns of the 1950s and ’60s can be recognized in the real world events that Langford documents. This book is filled with characters very much like the assorted outlaws encountered by the horse riding heroes of my youth. Men similar to some of those heroes are also present although they don’t stand out quite as clearly. Few real world heroes wear a pair of pearl handled revolvers and a white hat.

The edition I read was published in 1996 by American & World Geographic Publishing. The front cover is pictured above. On the back in an excerpt from the introduction that Dave Walter wrote. He speaks of the “flowery, often melodramatic Victorian prose”. He calls for it to “be relished rather than disdained”. I agree but I have seen reviews that call it distracting so it’s clear that the “relish” is in the eye of the beholder. To me it adds yet another layer of authenticity to the first person accounts. I guess I just plain enjoy reading about villains who “vociferated” in a land that “swelled gradually into a circumference of heaven-kissing mountains”.

By definition a vigilante is without legal authority. Today, in most of the world and certainly in the USA, that is universally and entirely a bad thing. That was not quite the case in the Montana Territory of the 1860s and 1870s. Yes, US laws technically applied but enforcement was at best sparse and often non-existent. This was especially true in the instant “cities” that sprang up around gold and silver discoveries and those “cities” attracted plenty of men ready to do their prospecting with a gun rather than a pick and shovel. So, even if you want to call all vigilantism a bad thing, there can be no argument about it being the lesser of two evils when the other is rampant robbery and murder. Langford was a vigilante and is undoubtedly a key participant in many of the events he documents although he never identifies himself. He doesn’t, in fact, identify many of the vigilantes and it seems likely that the only names mentioned belonged to men no longer living at the time of writing.

Yes, it’s an old book filled with archaic Victorian prose and characters that you might think of as stereotypes. But its stories were recent history when written and those characters weren’t stereotypes but prototypes. If names like Alan Ladd, Randolf Scott, and Glenn Ford bring back pleasant memories, you just might like this book.

Vigilante Days and Ways, Nathaniel P. Langford, Independently published (January 20, 2017), 9 x 6 inches, 411 pages, ISBN 978-1520424460

Trip Peek #51
Trip #18
Big E, DC, and the Cardinal

This picture is from my 2004 Big E, DC, and the Cardinal trip. The trip appears in my top ten “Decent” list and it certainly deserves to be there. The Big E in the title is the USS Enterprise, the world’s first nuclear powered aircraft carrier. My youngest son was serving aboard the huge carrier at the time and I was privileged to be part of a three day Tiger Cruise as she moved from Florida to her home port at Newport News, Virginia. With no military experience of my own, those few days sleeping and eating with my son’s crew mates was quite educational even though it was a spruced-up danger-free family-style version of life at sea. All airplanes were removed from the carrier before we civilians came on board but a few returned to provide landing and take-off demonstrations. The photo shows a S-3B Viking being launched.

After a couple of days in Newport News with my son and his family, I took a train to Washington, DC, and checked out a few museums and monuments. The Amtrak train that runs between Chicago and New York City is named the Cardinal. It provides Cincinnati’s only passenger rail connection and it carried me home at the end of the trip.


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 Apps — Chapter 10
Garmin BaseCamp

It looks like Garmin BaseCamp first appeared in 2008. I don’t recall when I first downloaded it but I do recall that it sucked. I use Garmin hardware and Garmin software is required to communicate with it. BaseCamp was the intended replacement for their MapSource program and, while I was hardly a fan of MapSource, at least it didn’t crash or hangup too often. Early BaseCamp did both somewhat regularly and its user interface was no more intuitive to me than MapSource’s. I put off switching as long as I could but the day came when I was forced to replace a program I didn’t like at all with one I disliked even more.

We’ve come a long way, BaseCamp and I. It has added some features that I suspect were initially put there to distract me from the frequent blowups and it quit blowing up as much. For my part, I’ve become more familiar with the interface and more tolerant of its oddities. I’m fairly comfortable with the arrangement of lists and folders that once mystified me and I’ve even plotted a few short trips entirely within BaseCamp. In fact, I’m pretty much ready to concede that my preference for creating routes in DeLorme’s Street Atlas now comes mostly from familiarity and not from any real superiority. BaseCamp’s ability to geotag photos using recorded tracks is quite convenient and the display of geotagged photos is very usable although I remain irritated by thumbnails hiding map details like town and road names.

Of course, personal preferences and peeves will soon be meaningless. Garmin acquired DeLorme in 2016 and Street Atlas development has already ceased. The 2015 edition is the final one and it is no longer available from DeLorme although a downloadable version is currently still available from Amazon. Necessity is the mother of many things but I am glad that it didn’t become necessary to rely on BaseCamp much earlier. BaseCamp has grown into a capable product and the necessity of becoming more familiar with it will eventually be a good thing. Other good things could come from the acquisition if DeLorme developers move to Garmin and bring some of those things I like with them. I’m not counting on it but it could happen.

My Apps – Chapter 9 — DeLorme Street Atlas

French Toast and Battle Ax Plug

Carl Graham Fisher, the primary mover and shaker behind the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and both the Lincoln and Dixie Highways, had lots of stories. One in particular is popular among road fans and was originally told by Fisher to partially explain his interest in improving roads and their marking. I’ve heard and read multiple versions of the story and am totally unequipped to distinguish embellishments from additional accurate details. So here’s a version of the story which I believe to be true at its core and possibly in some of the details, too.

Fisher and some friends had taken a day trip from Indianapolis and were returning in the dark and rain. They came to a point where three roads joined together but none of them could remember which they used earlier in the day. After some inconclusive discussion, they noticed a sign which they thought might indicate which road led back home. It was mounted high on a pole and unreadable in the dark and wet. It was somehow determined that Fisher would climb the pole to read the sign. Some say he climbed the pole once and had to return to the ground for matches. Some say that the first few matches sputtered or were doused by the rain. Some say that it was his very last match that provided a glimpse of the sign’s message. All versions agree on what that message was. Hoping for the name of a town or other landmark, all he saw was “Chew Battle Ax Plug”.

Prior to Tuesday, that funny and revealing story supplied 100% of my knowledge of Battle Ax Plug. On Tuesday I was on my way to Greenville, Ohio, and had left home with enough time in the schedule to try out a new restaurant on the way. I jogged off of my normal path to reach the town of Arcanum. It is a small town in the county I grew up in but I don’t remember much about it and doubt I ever knew all that much. I’d heard good things about the restaurant’s food but knew almost nothing about it beyond that. It was quite a happy surprise to see the big Battle Ax sign that heads this article on the side of the building housing the restaurant. I’ve since learned a little more about the brand.

Battle Ax Plug was the very definition of a “loss leader”. Between 1895 and 1898, US tobacco companies were embroiled in the “Plug Wars”. Another aptly named combatant was the Scalp Knife brand from Liggett  and Meyers. The American Tobacco Company lost about a million dollars a year with their Battle Ax brand but emerged from the wars with approximately 90% market share. The fading slogan on the sign’s ax head is “A GREAT BIG PIECE FOR 10 CTS.” Those were, back in the day, fighting words.

The building behind the sign has its own story and it’s a great one. Built by John Smith in 1851, it housed the family store until 1985. At its closing it was the longest operating family owned business in Ohio. It began as a typical general store offering an assortment of dry goods but eventually meat, produce, and other grocery items were added as were men’s and women’s clothing.

Yes, I certainly got distracted but I did eventually make it to breakfast. One of the places where I’d heard good things about Old Arcana was Ohio Magazine which named their French Toast the best in the state. The magazine quotes co-owner Leslie Handshoe-Suter calling the toast “decadent” and it certainly is. The full name is Bourbon Praline French Toast. Following the meal — and some really good coffee — I chatted with chef and co-owner Jeff Besecker about the menu, the business, and the building. Jeff pointed out the building’s owner, Angie, sitting at one on the tables and I also chatted with her and a table mate who had worked in the store that once filled the entire building. Angie operates Smith’s Merchants which shares the building with the restaurant.

When I first saw the round windows in the Smith Building, they made me think of the round openings I had seen in electric train power stations. When I later learned that the electric powered Dayton & Union interurban once occupied the gravel path in the left half of this picture I’d have almost certainly grasped the power station theory even tighter if I didn’t already know that it wasn’t at all possible. Before I even spoke with Jeff, I’d learned from my waitress that the windows were original from the 1850s and from Jeff and Angie I learned that the building was in constant use as a store during the interurban’s coming and going in the early twentieth century. Headquarters for the Arcanum Historical Society is just out of frame to the left of that last picture. It’s open on some Saturday mornings so I think I’ll come back, learn some more about this town I grew up near, and try another item from that inviting breakfast menu.