2017 in the Rear View

The year in numbers with 2016 values in parentheses:

  • 9 (7) = Road trips reported
  • 73 (69) = Blog posts
  • 66 (90) = Days on the road
  • 1896 (2418) = Pictures posted — 284 (323) in the blog and 1612 (2095) in Road Trips

Things are more or less back to normal after last year’s extra long (and extra exotic) Alaska trip boosted the days and pictures counts significantly. The number of blog posts was nudged upward by 2017 having 53 Sundays. The regular weekly posts were augmented with links for the nine road trips and eleven reviews. In a flip-flop from last year’s summary, two new-for-2017 blog posts made the top five while no new-for-2017 trip journal entries did. The Hawaii trip was closest at number ten.

Top Blog Posts:

  1. Remembering Timmy
    The most visited post of 2017 was also the saddest. Musician and friend Tim Goshorn died in mid-April just weeks after being diagnosed with cancer. Tim and brothers Larry and Dan put the Goshorn name in the top tier of the Cincinnati music scene and Tim and Larry became nationally known as members of Pure Prairie League. That fame and the fact that he was just such a wonderful person had a lot of people sharing memories on the internet. In this post I shared some of mine.
  2. My Wheels – Chapter 1 1960 J. C. Higgins Flightliner
    The first post in the My Wheel series maintains its perfect top five record with a third second place ranking to go with two firsts. Visitors appear to continue to come through specific searches with no interest in anything else on this site. But I still appreciate them.
  3. Book Review — The World from My Bike
    This is the other 2017 post in the top five. It’s a book review that is here due to the author’s popularity and because she shared the review with her own followers. Anna Grechishkina is not yet a famous author but she is becoming well known as a traveler. This is her first book and it’s filled with photos and thoughts from her not yet complete motorcycle ride around the world. It’s certainly impressive and I’m betting there will be at least one more after she completes her journey and is back home in Ukraine.
  4. Scoring the Dixie
    This post about keeping track of driven sections of the Dixie Highway placed fourth when it was published in 2012, was third in 2015, and is back at fourth for 2017. I’m sensing a slow increase in interest in all old roads including the Dixie Highway. In the year’s closing months, there was even a slight uptick in the popularity of my own Dixie Highway related book, A Decade Driving the Dixie Highway, as sales rose from abysmal to anemic.
  5. Ohio’s Revolutionary War Battle
    This 2012 post appears in the top five for the second time. In 2013, when it ranked fourth, I attributed its popularity to the bicentennial of the War of 1812 and the post’s mention of names associated with that war. This year I have no theory at all.

Top Non-Blog Posts:

  1. Ohio Barn Dance
    Both of this year’s top two non-blog posts are mysteries to me. The most visited journal entry is a rather simple 2007 day trip on some scenic southern Ohio roads. The name comes from the fact that several old barns were passed along the way. In researching 2017 statistics, I discovered a big goof. Trip Peeks are blog posts that I publish when I have nothing better. Each one references the journal of a randomly selected road trip. A Trip Peek for Ohio Barn Dance was published in 2017. In fact it was published twice. First on October 22 and again on November 26. How that happened I don’t know but it did. It’s tempting to say the journal traffic is the result of the double posting but it clearly isn’t. For one thing, Trip Peeks never generate enough interest to account for anything near what this entry saw. Besides, the surge appears to have started back in April long before the first Trip Peek posting.
  2. Bi Byways
    I don’t understand this 2004 two day trip coming in second in in 2017 any more than I understood it coming in second in 2015 or first in 2016. The byways involved are the Miami and Erie Canal Scenic Byway and the Maumee Valley Byway and all of OH-66 is included.
  3. Tadmor
    This is an Oddment page about an Ohio ghost town. After ranking first, second, and first in the first three “Rearview” posts (2011, 2012, 2013), it dropped out of the rankings but reappears for 2017.
  4. Alaska
    he journal for that long 2016 trip to Alaska was number three last year and hangs on to number four this year.
  5. Finding It Here
    This was a three day Christmas Escape Run that never left Ohio, but it was the last trip of 2016 so had all year to accumulate enough views to claim fifth place.

Once again, overall traffic numbers were mixed. Visits, which dropped slightly last year, increased from 107,898 to 138,047, while blog views dropped again, going from 8,136 to 7485. Page views were nearly unchanged with 579,110 for 2016 and 578,893 for 2017.

Though it didn’t make the top five, the highest ranked new journal entry, My Fiftieth: Hawaii, marked a significant real word milestone for me. As the title suggests, reaching Hawaii meant I could now claim to have visited all fifty states of the union. It also provided a pretty good reason to write another book. That book, 50 @ 70, celebrates reaching fifty states and seventy years of age at the same time. Unlike my previous two books, 50 @ 70 isn’t associated with a particular road (or any thing else) so doesn’t even get attention from niche road fans. Sales need to increase a bunch to be considered abysmal. Anemic is probably out of range. 

My Wheels — Chapter 29
1991 Geo Storm

In the previous My Wheels chapter I mentioned that the motorcycle it featured passed through my hands  sometime in the period around my second divorce. The same was true of the subject of the chapter before that. The Mazda, the Yamaha, and the wife all came and went while the leased Acura remained. Eventually, however, even it went away. In the fall of 1991 I found myself in need of a car with nothing to trade-in and with credit not all that good in light of the recent divorce.

I’d enjoyed driving the Mazda and, with the family down to just me and my daughter, thought I’d go for something sporty. The Mitsubishi 3000GT had recently been introduced and I really liked its looks. I picked out one I wanted, took it for a quite satisfying test drive, then quickly discovered the credit issue. I simply couldn’t afford the car.

The Isuzu based Geo Storm had appeared at Chevrolet dealers about the same time. It was kinda sporty, kinda fun to drive, and a lot cheaper than the Mitsubishi. My credit was good enough for a blue Geo Storm GSI 5-speed coupe.

Even as I closed the deal, I considered it something of a stop gap. The Storm was a step down from the Acura I had been driving and, more importantly, from the Mitsubishi I wanted. I intended to move on just as soon as the smoke and ashes from the divorce cleared a little. I became more serious about doing that as I quickly realized how wrong I had been about my transportation needs.

Sure, there were now only two of us in the household I headed, but I hadn’t considered the fact that teenage girls hardly ever go anywhere alone. My chauffeuring duties weren’t all that heavy but when I did need to deliver or retrieve my daughter, she was usually accompanied by a friend or two. The storm could handle three teens and me for short distances but that was its limit. In hindsight I was better off realizing this for the price of a Geo rather than the Mitsubishi I’d targeted.

The worst of the impact of the divorce on my credit was over about as quickly as the marriage. I was able to up-size in less than a year. As a result, I really have no stories about the Storm. It did its job even when overloaded with teenagers, and I really had no problems with it at all. My problem free experience made finding an article titled “Famously Unsafe: Geo Storm” a huge surprise.

I found the article (It’s here.) as I searched the internet to refresh my memory for this post. I dived into it expecting to learn of major flaws or failures that I had somehow miraculously avoided. Turns out that the car wasn’t particularly fragile or uncontrollable but supposedly had a reputation I was unaware of. The only hard fact I saw to support this is, “The NHTSA actually rated the Storm as having the most aggressive drivers in its class.” In other words, the “unsafe” reputation came from the car having more than its share of owners who overdrove their and the car’s capabilities. The article ends by referencing the Storm’s “tendency to attract morons”. Nolo contendere.

Santa Z’s Legacy

Here’s a Christmas display that looks a bit more traditional than the one in last week’s post. And it doesn’t just look traditional, Zapf’s Christmas Display is a definite Cincinnati tradition with decades of history. In 1970, Bill “Santa Z” Zapf marked the first Christmas in his new home with some outside decorations and the house has been the site of an ever growing holiday display every December since then.

Bill died in 2008 but his son, known as Billy, keeps the tradition going. Billy was busy replacing some lights in his father’s name when I stopped by in the afternoon, but he still offered up a friendly hello and chatted a bit as he worked. It’s obvious that Billy gets a lot of pleasure from the display and a good deal of that pleasure comes from the memories it triggers. Memories of his dad and the time the two of them spent creating and maintaining the glowing wonderland.

Yes, there is a normal nativity scene among all those figures. I’m including both day and night views of the nativity because that’s what I did last week but it’s an undeniable fact that this is a display meant to be enjoyed at night.

In early December, Cincinnati Magazine published their Top 5 Holiday Light Displays. All five are commercial or municipal operations. Described as “…your average neighborhood light display…on steroids”, Zapf’s received the lone Honorable Mention. Four of the top five have fixed admission prices and the fifth requests donations. Although it might no be as obvious, the Zapf family does too. There is a “Thank You Box” by the porch and the North Side Bank and Trust accepts donations to the Keep Santa Z’s Lights On fund. Electricity isn’t free.

The porch itself is packed with smaller decorations including one that hints at the Zapfs receiving a well deserved Major Award.

The display is located at 2032 W Galbraith Road. A recent Channel 5 story on the display is here.

I Can Drive Twenty-Five

I’m off to Georgia and I’m driving an entire US highway to get there. I’ve had the idea of driving all of US-25, which now ends/begins at the Ohio River, for several years. As I was weighing ideas for this year’s Christmas Escape Run, I finally took a look at what was at its other end and I liked what I saw. Brunswick, where the highway actually ends, has some history and so does nearby Jekyll Island.

This entry is to let folks who subscribe only to the blog know about it as well as provide a place for comments. The journal is here.

Time of the Season

It was fun while it lasted. Jasen Dixon set up The World’s First Zombie Nativity Scene in 2014. He says he almost didn’t bring it back this year and definitely won’t next year. The display faced legal challenges and a certain amount of outrage during its first two years but it seems things were fairly quiet last Christmas season. From the beginning, the display had at least as many fans as detractors, and, while the number of those in favor has increased, the number of those actively opposed has fallen dramatically. For some it was a practical matter. After 27 misdemeanor charges and $13,500 in fines were dropped early last year, Sycamore Township officials decided “It’s not worth the expense…”.

In 2015 I included a couple of daytime pictures of the Zombie Nativity in some comments tacked onto a Christmas time blog post. This year I snapped both day and night shots. I ended my 2015 comments with the observation that I thought “…a new local Christmas tradition has been established.” Whether or not you think that was right depends on whether or not you think the word “tradition” has any business being associated with something something that lasts just four years.

The title for this post comes from a 1968 hit song from the band The Zombies. I listened to a lot of stuff from them back in the day but I’d been smitten by zombie music long before. I remember singing along to this Kingston Trio recording from an older cousin’s collection as a pre-teenager. In searching for that 1959 performance I discovered a really cool one by Rockapella and another by the great Harry Belafonte.

Seventy-Six Years After

Thursday was the seventy-sixth anniversary of the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor. On the day following the attack, President Franklin Roosevelt called December 7, 1941 “a date which will live in infamy” and it does, even though public events marking the day are decreasing. That’s to be expected as the number of people with personal memories of the day gets a little smaller each year and other horrible events occupy the memories of following generations.

The town of New Richmond, Ohio, holds a Pearl Harbor Remembrance event each year on the Sunday preceding December 7. When it began, about thirty years ago, approximately twenty-five Pearl Harbor survivors attended from the surrounding area. For my first time there, in 2011, just three remained and only one, Joe Whitt, was healthy enough to be there. The others have since passed on while Joe, at 94, continues to attend the event and share his memories.

This year I also attended an event on the actual anniversary of the bombing. The VFW Post 7696 event at West Chester Township’s Brookside Cemetery was the only one that turned up in an online search. Things began with a recounting of key events surrounding the attack.

A Soldier’s Cross ceremony followed. A bayoneted rifle is thrust into the ground then “dog tags” are hung from it. Boots are then placed in front of the rifle and the cross completed with a helmet placed atop the rifle. The event concluded with a rifle volley and the playing of Taps.

This year’s Pearl Harbor Remem-brance Day was  a little bit different for me by virtue of having visited Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial for the first time in the spring. The opening photo of the Arizona’s anchor is from that visit as are the three on the right. My journal for the visit is here..

The singing of a familiar medley of service songs was part of Sunday’s activities in New Richmond. As the songs associated with each of the five US military branches was performed, veterans of the branch stood. It seemed to me that close to half of the crowd stood at some point. Later, one of the speakers asked all WW II veterans to raise their hands. I counted three including Joe Whitt.

Trip Peek #64
Trip #40
Memphis & MO

This picture is from my 2005 Memphis and MO trip. This was an outing cobbled together to fill the time between Christmas and New Year’s but which ended up extending a couple of days into 2006. The picture is of Billy Tripp’s Mind Field in Brownsville, Tennessee, which I was seeing for the first time. I have seen it several times since then and watched it continue to grow. This was also the first time I met fellow road fan Alex Burr in person. He still lived in Maine at the time but was visiting Memphis when I passed through. From Memphis, I followed US-61 to Saint Louis and spent New Year’s Eve with Route 66 friends in Rolla, Missouri, at a motel/restaurant that is no longer with us. Even sadder, one of those friends is no longer with us, either. Another first for me was a stop at John’s Modern Cabins on the way home.

By coincidence, this Trip Peek was randomly selected for publication just days after another visit to Billy Tripp’s Mindfield. The journal for the most recent visit is here.

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.

Book Review
Transforming Cincinnati
ArtWorks Cincinnati

It would be nearly impossible to spend any time at all around Cincinnati and not notice that its mural population has been increasing. I’ve noticed but I didn’t understand. I didn’t understand that ArtWorks Cincinnati, a name I sometimes noticed being associated with a new mural, wasn’t just a company hired to paint some pictures on some walls. I started to understand that aspect of Cincinnati’s murals just a little when ads for Transforming Cincinnati started to appear that included pieces of the back story. At that point I thought I understood the book’s title but, as I learned when I attended the big premier nearly two weeks ago, that was probably what I understood the least. The official launch took place on November 18 at a “Book Premier & Artist Signing” hosted by Joseph-Beth Booksellers. I attended with the idea of getting a copy with a few autographs in it. I got so much more.

Part of the back story I was starting to hear concerned Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory challenging ArtWorks to create murals for each of the city’s 52 neighborhoods. That was in 2007 and ArtWorks was already well established. Their previous projects included 2000’s Big Pig Gig where 425 full sized fiberglass pigs were decorated and displayed around Cincinnati. For those who don’t know, Cincinnati was once the largest pork-producing city in the world and was known as “Porkopolis”. In the decade since they accepted the mayor’s challenge, ArtWorks has completed 147 murals in 37 neighborhoods.

That is essentially what I knew when I arrived at the launch. John Fox, the book’s editor, served as MC for a panel of artists who answered his questions and told some stories. Thinking I understood the book’s title, I expected to hear about how a mural had transformed an ugly building or brought some brightness to a dreary corner, and how all those murals worked together to transform the city. I did hear a little of that but I also heard about how the projects had transformed people. It wasn’t long before I grasped the connection between ArtWorks and “creative job-training”. The fact that I don’t live in Cincinnati proper is the only excuse I have for not seeing this earlier. ArtWorks doesn’t just go into a neighborhood and paint a mural they think is cool. They work with the neighborhoods to design a mural that is appropriate and they do it — and create the mural itself — with the help of young apprentices. When possible, those apprentices come from the mural’s neighborhood. As ArtWorks founder Tamara Harekavy explains in the book’s introduction “These usually are the teens’ first paid jobs, certainly the first time they’ve been paid to make art.” That is creative job-training in every sense of the word.

As I listened, it became apparent that it wasn’t just the teen apprentices who were transformed. Designers, project managers, and teaching artists were all affected by the projects. Even famed nature artist John Ruthven, who helped reproduce his painting “Martha, The Last Passenger Pigeon” on a six-story building, talked glowingly of working with the teens and seeing his work on such a giant scale. The mural was painted in 2013 when he was 89. That’s Ruthven on the left side of the photo. Tamara Harekavy is on his left, then mural artists Jonathan Queen and Jenny Ustick, and book designer Christopher A Ritter.

So what about the book? All I’ve talked about so far is my buying experience. Well, it’s a fairly large format (9 x 12) photo book about murals. Therefore the bulk of its pages are filled with pictures of murals and more pictures of murals. These are typically accompanied with the names of everyone involved and that includes the Youth Apprentices. But there are also descriptions (and pictures) of the process, extra information on some murals, and a couple of maps showing mural locations. Many of the mural pictures are, as might be expected, an accurate as possible recording of the actual mural and nothing else. Others show a considerable chunk of the mural’s surroundings. This is something the book’s creators made extra effort to do since the murals are intended to fit into and enhance their locations. There are also several fold-outs that provide wonderful four-page views of selected murals including the aforementioned “Martha, The Last Passenger Pigeon”.

Transforming Cincinnati, ArtWorks Cincinnati, Orange Frazer Press (November 2017), 9 x 12 inches, 160 pages, ISBN 978-1939710-765
Available from ArtWorks CincinnatiOrange Frazer Press, and in store at Joseph-Beth Booksellers Cincinnati.

Trip Peek #63
Trip #57
Ohio Barn Dance

This picture is from my 2007 Ohio Barn Dance day trip. It was a rather spontaneous drive along some southern Ohio back roads prompted by some surprisingly warm weather. The drive culminated in a ferry crossing to Augusta, Kentucky, where a B&B Riverboats excursion was paused. The name comes from a number of barns, including four with Mail Pouch advertising on their sides, that I passed along the way.

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.