Vikings: Beyond the Legend

After a couple of aborted attempts, I finally made it to the Vikings: Beyond the Legend exhibit at the Cincinnati Museum Center. A multi-year rehabilitation of Union Terminal, the Museum Center’s home, has begun and has closed all museum areas except for the Children’s Museum, the space used for traveling exhibits such as this, and the ticket and information counter seen at right. The counter is actually the front part of the large ticket and information facility in the center of the terminal’s large rotunda. A portion of the rotunda has been enclosed to provide the pictured entrance area. That impressive rotunda with its huge murals is just on the other side of those walls. The Children’s Museum and the traveling exhibit space are both on the lower level which is what allows them to remain open. A window has been installed along the path to the lower level which allows visitors to peek into some of the emptied and stripped museum space awaiting attention.

The exhibit of more than 500 artifacts opened in November and will remain through April. It is the largest collection of Viking artifacts to ever visit North America and Cincinnati is its first stop. It also has the distinction of being the largest exhibit, in terms of physical size, to appear at the Cincinnati Museum Center. For most, the word Viking conjures up an image of a large rough looking fellow with a huge ax or sword who is constantly pillaging and burning with a little time off to guzzle mead. As the subtitle “Beyond the Legend” implies, the exhibit is intended to give attendees a somewhat more rounded view. That intention is reinforced with the advertising slogan “The horns are fake. The beards are real.”

Vikings were not a race or even a nation. In fact, they didn’t use the word to identify themselves but to identify something they did. To go viking meant to go on an adventure. Sometimes they did go viking in order to pillage and burn but often it was to trade or explore. The exhibit includes plenty of items from their peaceful farms and villages and there are many examples of fine craftsmanship and artistry. Of course not all of items found in the Viking’s Scandinavian homelands were made there. Many were obtained through trading or raiding.

Apparently raiding still forms a major portion of my personal Viking image. I looked over reproductions of clothing and was actually quite impressed by the many examples of artistic metal work but when I got home and looked at the pictures I’d taken, I found mostly weapons or heavy tools. It’s possible that they were just the most photogenic but it seems at least as likely that they simply fit my preconceived notion of the Viking world.

But perhaps even more than the beards and swords, my concept of Vikings is fueled by the visual of a sleek longship floating gracefully through a fjord. The Vikings: Beyond the Legend exhibit includes four ships. A glimpse of the 21 foot long Karl, a reconstruction, can be seen at the left side of the dim photo marking this article’s second paragraph. The first picture here is of part of a ghost ship defined by metal rivets suspended where they would have held the long ago rotted planks of a hull in place. The second is of the 26 foot Krampmacken. In the 1980s, this reconstructed merchant ship sailed from the island of Gotland to Istanbul. The last picture shows the reason this is physically the largest exhibit mounted by the Cincinnati Museum Center. At 122 feet long, the Roskilde 6 is the longest Viking ship ever discovered. The ship is outlined by a modern skeleton that holds approximately 25% of the thousand year old hull in place. This is the first time it has been displayed outside of Europe.

These are reproductions of three of the more than 3,200 rune stones have been found throughout Scandnavia. Scholars consider the Viking Age to be bounded by their destruction of the abbey at Lindisfarne in 783 CE and their defeat at the Battle of Stamford Bridge in 1066. During that time Christianity made major progress in replacing the worship of a collection of gods headed by Odin. While the rune stones were typically erected to commemorate some significant event, many include Christian components and some think they may have at least partially been advertisements for the newer religion.

Road Crew Redo

It was just about a year ago that I set out for what was supposed to be a Nashville musical triple play. After a night in Louisville, I would head to “Music City” for a night at the Bluebird Cafe, a night at the Grand Ole Opry, and a night listening to road fan favorites The Road Crew. Major snowfall kept me from the Opry and totally wiped out the Road Crew performance. I did catch three talented musicians at the Bluebird. The story of that trip is here.

I’m trying again. When snow kept me from the Opry I was told I could apply the price of the ticket to another anytime during the next year. When I learned that the Crew would be performing this Saturday, I called the Opry and managed to beat the one year expiration date by a day. Not surprisingly, prices have gone up so that I had to cough up an additional six bucks but I’m set for the Opry on Friday and the Road Crew on Saturday. Two Thursday night shows at the Bluebird were sold out.

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 #49
Trip #126
Stone Pony Picnic

This picture is from my 2015 Stone Pony Picnic outing to see Willie Nile in Asbury Park, New Jersey. The trip name comes from the fact that the performance took place at the legendary Stone Pony and the picture at right proves it. Although this was the fifth time I’d seen Willie, it was the first time I’d seen him with all members of his current band in place. Killer! The Nile show was on the second night of the six day trip and I bracketed it with a stop near Philadelphia to see a guitarist I’ve been listening to for years and a return to the Stony Pony for a tribute to the man who is responsible for a whole lot of its legend. So that took care of half of the trip and I filled out the remainder with a gay pride parade, a stop on E Street, a visit to a pretzel factory, and nitro powered beverages at a pair of breweries just 140 miles apart on the same “street” (US-50).


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 23
1972 BMW R75

For once I didn’t have to snag a picture from the internet to show what my vehicle looked like. Plus, unlike the previous My Wheels chapter, there’s no need for paid models to spice things up. The photo at right shows my future ex-wife riding my future ex-motorcycle.

I hadn’t been exactly eager to sell the Chevelle and I was less than comfortable with a truck being my only transportation. My ears perked up when I heard that a neighbor’s brother was selling his motorcycle. In some corner of my mind I’d always wanted a BMW. I started to make that seem more generic by saying I’d always wanted a touring bike but the truth is that a BMW is the touring bike I had in mind. I remember seeing my first Beemer when, as a high school junior or senior, I stepped outside the school as a shiny black one rolled past. I recall its windshield and teardrop saddlebags. The slightly futuristic looking bags might have been part of the attraction but I believe what impressed me the most was how purposeful it looked. That bike was made to go places. It may have been the first vehicle that produced the phrase “road trip” in my mind. I took one test ride on the proffered three-toned motorcycle then bought it.

The motorcycle itself was blue. The after market faring and saddlebags were white and the trunk was black. With all that luggage space and the “made to go places” thinking of the previous paragraph, you might reasonably expect me to spend the next summer touring the country on two wheels. If that’s what you expect you will be disappointed. I did and I was.

I had a nearly new van that functioned as a camper which made it a natural choice for overnight trips. It was also a good people hauler and was a popular vehicle for group outings. That left the BMW with only solo journey duty and, since I was heavily involved with the lady in the photo, there weren’t many of those of any length. I crossed the river into Kentucky several times and made it to Indiana once or twice but the BMW spent almost all of its time in Ohio where I often did take the long — sometimes really long — way home from work.

I laid it down once. I was off to visit a friend living on a gravel road. I moved slow in the ruts that previous travelers had made. It was dry and those ruts had been pretty much cleared of gravel. I let my speed creep up. By the time a gravel ridge did appear, I’d let it creep too much. I shoved the bike away from me as it went down. In my mind’s eye, it rose high in the air while spinning over and over waiting for me to slide under it and be crushed. In reality it was probably never more than a foot off of the ground and flipped exactly one and a half times. It was enough to snap off the windshield and leave scratches on both bike and rider. My scratches healed and the bike’s weren’t bad enough to worry about. A new windshield was purchased.

I also got one ticket. A small group of friends were spending the weekend at one of the group’s family cottage near Indian Lake. I was taking one of the wives on a tour when flashing lights appeared behind us. I stopped and was told I had failed to stop at a stop sign. I really believed that all forward motion had ceased for a second and the officer seemed to agree. “But your feet didn’t touch the ground”, he said. We weren’t far from the cottage so my rider simply walked back while I followed the officer to the unmanned station which he unlocked. I was able to pay the fine which means it couldn’t have been more than $25 or so. As he wrote out a receipt, I commented that if they stopped every motorcyclist whose feet didn’t touch the ground they were probably making a lot of money. He looked up with a smile that stopped just short of a grin and said, “We do alright.”

The last story is about a malfunction. The clutch cable broke on the way to visit a friend in Cincinnati. I don’t recall whether it snapped as I pulled up to the light or started to pull away and I don’t recall whether it was panicked braking or a panicked key removal that killed the engine. Whatever the specifics, I found myself without a clutch at the bottom of the last hill to my friend’s house.

Shifting a moving motorcycle is no big deal and neither is getting it into neutral for a stop. Getting a motorcycle moving without a clutch is significantly more difficult. One way is to start the engine then get things rolling enough to slip into some gear. It’s rather easy going down hill, kind of tricky on level ground, and essentially impossible going up hill. I had my choice of the latter two. There was an empty parking lot about a half block way where I could get the bike started and ride it abound in circles. The reason for the circles was to time my arrival at the the light with it being green. I failed at least once but made it on the second or third attempt.

There were a few more malfunctions and probably a minor adventure or two but nothing big. As I recall, there were some electrical issues with the bike when I changed residences. I left it in a storage area at the apartment complex I was moving from and other things in my life kept its retrieval a low priority. It eventually just disappeared.

Trip Peek #48 Trip #117 Wonderland Way

This picture is from my 2014 Wonderland Way trip. It was springtime, I had a new-to-me convertible, and I has just learned of a named auto trail that began nearby. From downtown Cincinnati I headed west along the river into Indiana. The first of two nights on the road was spent in Corydon, Indiana’s original capital, where I got to watch the arrival of the Run to the Wall motorcycle caravan. The second day brought more river scenery and a stop at the prehistoric Angles Mounds. My route home from the Wonderland Way’s western end in Mount Vernon, Illinois, was mostly expressway but l still got in a little sight seeing. The featured photo is of Wilson’s General Store & Cafe, outside of Evansville, Indiana, where I had dinner on the second night.


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.

2016 in the Rear View

The year in numbers with 2015 values in parentheses:

  • 7 (9) = Road trips reported
  • 69 (77) = Blog posts
  • 90 (59) = Days on the road
  • 2418 (1926) = Pictures posted — 323 (490) in the blog and 2095 (1436) in Road Trips

The trip count was down a little but one of them was a duesy. My 41 day 11,000 mile trip to Alaska broke all previous time and distance records and pretty much accounted for the jump in total days on the road all by itself. Pictures posted increased accordingly and posted road trip pictures topped 2000 for the first time. I did not break the 1000/trip mark however. My count for Alaska trip pics is 999. In addition to the 52 regular weekly blog posts, there were 8 reviews, 7 road trip links, and 2 miscellaneous asynchronous posts. After having three of 2015’s new blog posts among the year’s five most popular, this year saw no new posts in the top five but it was close. The most visited post in 2016 missed being published in 2016 by twenty-six days. I’ve no choice but to consider that close enough and declare it the top new post. On the other hand, after two years with none, a pair of newly minted entries appear in the the non-blog top five.

Top Blog Posts:

  1. Dancers and Prancers
    This was a late 2015 post made as a report on the Lebanon, Ohio, Christmas horse parade. The majority of pictures in the article were of horses and carriages but I don’t think the majority of traffic came from horse lovers. Cincinnati’s Red Hot Dancing Queens are responsible for half of the title and much of the traffic. I really enjoy seeing this group perform and obviously a lot of other people do too. They have been invited to participate in this year’s Krewe of King Arthur Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans. Learn more and maybe even make a donation here
  2. My Wheels – Chapter 1 1960 J. C. Higgins Flightliner
    With two firsts and two seconds, this post has made the list every year of its existence. Unfortunately (from my point of view) most of the visitors seem to come from fairly specific searches and have no interest in anything else on this site.
  3. Blog View — This Cruel War
    This September 2015 entry is a description of and invitation to a Civil War related blog that launched two weeks earlier. I hope that some of the traffic that put the post in the top five during its first full calendar year also led to some subscribers for the exceptional This Cruel War blog
  4. My Wheels – Chapter 2 1948/9 Whizzer
    A
    ppearing back in 2013 about a month after the J.C. Higgins Flightliner post, this is the first time this post has made the top five. Maybe some of the Flightliner fans are moving onto motorized transport or maybe there is an entirely separate group.
  5. Route 66 Attractions
    After three years in the top five, this 2012 review dropped off last year but squeezes into the final slot for 2016. The subject is a GPS based product for tracing Route 66.

Top Non-Blog Posts:

  1. Bi Byways
    This was the number two post for 2015 and something made the twelve year old trip journal even more popular last year. In 2015 both days of the two day trip got about the same amount of traffic but in 2016 day two had a clear edge. This belies my secret theory that the traffic was from people looking for US-66 (then being disappointed when they were served a story about OH-66). My drive along the length of Ohio State Route 66 occurred entirely on the first day so I’m back to not having even a secret theory.
  2. The 2010 Fair at New Boston
    This Oddment page about a visit to an annual recreation of the 1790s always gets a few visits around fair time which is Labor Day weekend. This year it apparently got more than a few. It was also in the 2013 top five list at number three.
  3. Alaska
    T
    he journal for that record breaking trip to Alaska made the middle of the list. Even if it is partly because there is just so much of it, I’m encouraged by new journal entries appearing to the top five.
  4. Road Crew in the Fork
    This was the first road trip of 2016 so it had the most time to accumulate views. The Road Crew is a Nashville based band known for their Route 66 related songs and concerts. I suspect the popularity of this post has something to do with their fans and their Route 66 connection even though the targeted Road Crew performance was snowed out.
  5. Lincoln Highway Centennial Tour
    Prior to this year’s Alaska outing, this 35 day coast-to-coast Lincoln Highway drive had been my longest trip. It happened in 2013 and appeared on the list at number four that year. It would be wasteful of me to miss this opportunity to mention that this trip was the subject of my first book, By Mopar to the Golden Gate, available here.

I quickly became convinced that 2015’s huge drop in visits was directly connected to search engines (particularly Google) rewarding mobile friendly sites and this site’s complete lack of any mobile considerations at all. I set out to fix that and within a couple of months had made the site “mostly mobile friendly”. Two blog posts, 2016 on the Small Screen and Mobile Friendlier, talk about the project. The website was certainly made better by the changes and they may have headed off the loss of even more traffic but they did not return things to their previous levels. Overall traffic numbers were mixed with visits dropping from 113,142 to 107,898 and page views climbing from 462,171 to 579.110. Blog views dropped from 9,191 to 8,136.  

The final paragraph of last year’s “Rear View” article, written before the mobile-friendly issue was understood, considered the idea that the popularity of independent personal blogs and journals had peaked and would proceed to decline. The last sentence, following the observation that this website had never been a big player, was “It will, however continue to be the same small player it always has been.” The semi-level traffic statistics offer at least some hope that that’s true.

Another Christmas Squirrel

Exactly two weeks ago I pulled out of my garage and waited, as I always do, for the door to close behind me. As it rolled down, I glanced up to my left to see a squirrel perched like a sentry at the peak of my condo’s roof. He or she waited as I thrashed around the car for a camera. I found one and hastily snapped an insurance photo through the window in case opening it spooked my subject. No worries. The squirrel held its position as I snapped more pictures through the half-open window. It darted down the roof’s far slope when I finally started moving the car forward.

The scene and the season connected in my mind and reminded me of my four year old My Christmas Squirrel post. The photo at left is quite a bit different from the one leading off that post but some of the key players are there. In particular, the tree, the snow couple, and the merry-go-round are in both.

My recent west coast trip provided an opportunity for a friend to tackle some sorely needed cleaning and repairs in my home. As my return would be just after Thanksgiving, she saw fit to not only expose (for the first time in years) the surface of my dining room table but to give it a Christmasy look. The aforementioned tree and snow people were joined by the basket of small stuffed critters which, while not specifically Christmas creatures, looked very much at home. I added the merry-go-round and brown bear.

The merry-go-round is one my Dad made. The figure I called “My Christmas Squirrel” in that earlier post rides on it. Other than being a toy, there is nothing Christmasy about it and my sister, who also has one, expressed surprise when I mentioned that it was among the things I displayed for the holiday. Makes sense to me, though. There’s also a connection between the bear and my Dad. Dad collected stuffed bears and had a double bed in a spare bedroom covered with them. Xavier Roberts, the guy who created Cabbage Patch Dolls, also made a series of Yonah Mountain Bears and I bought one as a gift for Dad when I stopped by Babyland General Hospital in 2004. After his death, Dad’s bears were divvied up among the grandkids and I accepted the return of the bear with the “Santa’s Favorite” bib. It is now part of my Christmas menagerie. Snowmen and squirrels and bears. Oh my!

Finding It Here

The goodies at right are what Oven Master Mary calls “a few cookies”. They certainly added some color and sweetness to a gray first day of my 2016 Christmas Escape Run. That first day ended in Athens, Ohio, and is now posted. The next two nights will be spent in Burr Oak State Park near Ohio’s version of Rim of the World. 

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.

Book Review
True Tales from a Cemetery Cop
Jaimie Vernon

I’ve never met Jaimie Vernon but we’re friends. We’re the kind of friends that didn’t even exist a dozen years ago. Yes, we’re Facebook friends. It’s because of music. Vernon runs Bullseye Records which represented the band Klaatu through part of their career. I’m a Klaatu fan and stumbled onto a related online group in which Vernon played an active role. The e-group eventually became more or less dormant but we remained e-friends in the Facebook world. I’m sharing this, not because it has anything to do with the contents of this book, but to explain how I even know of the book’s existence. I am not in the habit of chasing down either cop books or cemetery stories.

For most, I imagine the phrase “cemetery stories” is associated with tales of hauntings and the supernatural. The tales in True Tales from a Cemetery Cop are not those. I knew that going in. I’d read the earliest versions of a few of them on Vernon’s Facebook page when, still freshly amused or appalled, he related them initially. While some of the behavior documented in this book might not seem exactly natural to everyone, it is decidedly not supernatural.

Even though Vernon has written other books, including the two volume
Canadian Pop Music Encyclopedia, this was the first time I’d read anything of his beyond a few liner notes and those Facebook postings. I was happy to discover that he is a very competent writer and often a thoughtful one as well.

The book comes from Vernon’s one year stint as a security guard at Toronto’s largest cemeteries. It was a job he took to keep his family afloat through some rough times. Like many jobs of this sort, guarding cemeteries has plenty of short periods of hyperactivity separated by long periods of no activity at all. Being alone with your thoughts is something that most guards, patrolmen, and motel clerks experience but the thoughts that come while waiting for the next speeder or call for more towels are not the same as those that come in the middle of the night in the midst of thousands of people not one of which is living. Vernon shares some of these thoughts without being overly spooky or preachy.

But the “true tales” promised in the title come not from his time alone or non-existent interaction with the dead but from his interaction with the living. Sometimes it’s with living critters like raccoons who call the cemetery home but more often it is with living human visitors. The human residents present no problems at all. There are some funny incidents and some incredibly sad ones and some that are simply frustrating. Along with those lonely night reflections, the tales provide a glimpse at a job we all know must exist but which we have probably never even thought about.

Vernon’s writing is enjoyable and easy to read. He provides all the details necessary without being burdensome. He avoids specifics that could embarrass anyone although I found myself hoping some of the players were embarrassed at the very least. The book is self published and there are some “typos” that might not make it to print with a full publishing house team involved. With today’s spell checking technology misspelled words rarely get through but they do sometimes get turned into the wrong word. That has happened here in a few cases. An example is the word ‘undo’ appearing rather than ‘undue’. The rest are of the same caliber. They never prevent understanding but they might cause some readers to pause.

I won’t claim that the book made me cry or laugh but the job had Vernon doing both along with shaking his head at what some of the living consider appropriate behavior around the dead. As I was reading the last part of this book, publication of a second volume was announced. It’s on my list.

Signed copies are available directly from the author at CemeteryCop.com

True Tales from a Cemetery Cop: To Serve and Protect the Dead, Jaimie Vernon, Bullseye Publishing/CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (September 18, 2016), 9 x 6 inches, 160 pages, ISBN 978-1537138022

My Apps — Chapter 9
DeLorme Street Atlas

DeLorme Street Atlas is one of my oldest tools. I started using it in 2001. I’ve talked about it in a few posts but was surprised to see that it has never been the primary focus of a post. The reason, I suppose, is the old story of taking something for granted until you lose it. The first version I used was 9.0. There were a few more numbered revisions and a misstep into a Road Warrior version before the numeric year was used in the product name and a string of annual releases began. I didn’t grab every one. I more or less fell into biennial mode and upgraded just every other year. 2016 was to be my next planned update but plans changed. In early 2016 Garmin closed a deal to acquire DeLorme and all Street Atlas development was stopped. 2015 was the final version produced. This first post with DeLorme in the title will also be the last.

I did an earlier than planned update and purchased the 2015 version so I could have the latest possible. As I’ve written before, there is considerable overlap between Street Atlas and Garmin’s BaseCamp and it would make no sense for one company to maintain both products. BaseCamp can communicate with Garmin devices while Street Atlas cannot so the choice of which to keep is obvious.

However, even though I don’t believe that Street Atlas can do anything BaseCamp can not, I do believe there are things that Street Atlas does better or more conveniently. In some cases this really is simply my belief. When I purchased the latest version I looked through some of the customer comments and noticed that most of the negative comments were aimed at the user interface, the very thing that has kept me hooked.

For the immediate future, I expect to continue using Street Atlas for.a couple of tasks while admitting that the primary reason is nothing more than the fact that “old habits die hard”. I’m basically talking about routing and things related. Garmin seems to have eliminated all of the real problems that BaseCamp once had in this area and I accept that BaseCamp’s methods are probably just as easy as Street Atlas’s. But I have years of experience with Street Atlas and I sometimes struggle to do something in BaseCamp that I can accomplish in an instant with Street Atlas. I have plotted a few short routes directly in BaseCamp and I realize I need to switch over to it completely at some point but I’m going to continue living in the past just a little longer.

I will also continue using Street Atlas to produce the locator map posted for each documented trip. The “old habits” thing is certainly at work here but the truth is I have yet to seriously attempt to produce an equivalent map with BaseCamp so I have no idea what is hard and what is easy. I may eventually find that making my little maps is easier and quicker with BaseCamp but for the near term I’ll be posting maps that look just like they always have because they’re made the same way with the same tools.

Street Atlas is almost certainly not the only DeLorme offering that will be vanishing. It is pretty much accepted that Garmin bought DeLorme for its InReach satellite communication technology and that all other products, including maps, gazetteers, and GPS receivers are candidates for elimination. The Yarmouth, Maine, headquarters remains although the map store has been closed. Reportedly one of the conditions founder David DeLorme put on the sale was that Eartha, the World’s Largest Rotating, Revolving Globe, remain accessible to the public and so it is. The photo at left is from my 2015 visit.

The inevitable isn’t always easy to accept and sometimes we can even hold it off for a little bit. It may even be appropriate that, for at least a short while, I’ll be following decommissioned routes to abandoned buildings and ghost signs in bypassed towns with orphaned software.

My Apps — Chapter 8 FastStone Image Viewer