Book Review
Remembering Douglas Eugene Dickey, USMC
Terrence W. Barrett, Phd

rded_cvrRemembering Douglas Eugene Dickey is something I’ve done for a long time. We were classmates through twelve years of school. We weren’t super close. Not like the teammates on the football squad that broke a thirty-eight game losing streak and not nearly as close as the four other classmates who enlisted in the Marines with him but we were friends. With something like sixty-five students in our graduating class everybody knew everybody. Yes, I’ve been remembering Doug Dickey for a long time.

I sure learned a lot from this book, though. Some, like details of Doug’s time in the Marines, I expected. Some, like the story of his father’s own time in the Marines, I didn’t. The book paints a very complete picture of Douglas Eugene Dickey’s twenty year long life but it also paints a picture of his family and, to a lesser degree, his country.

Doug died in Viet Nam on Easter Sunday 1967. He died after throwing himself on a grenade to protect those around him. For this he was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. His actions were those we naturally connect with the Medal of Honor. They may have basically been the same as others who have covered grenades for their buddies but one of those buddies witnessed something that isn’t often seen. Even though we understand at some level that putting yourself at extreme risk is anything but instinctive, we tend to think of sacrifices like Doug’s as nearly so. I suppose they are to the extent that soldiers often have thought about certain situations and have at least subconsciously considered their own reaction. Doug had no doubt done that but he still had to make a decision in real time. And people saw him make that decision. He saw the grenade, looked at the wounded soldier nearby, then made eye contact with the medic who watched him make that split second decision. Then he dived.

My writing about that dive is hardly a spoiler. If you know anything about the book or about Doug Dickey you know about the Medal of Honor. That dive is the reason this book was written. It takes place on page 656. A few pages describing the remainder of the battle follow. End notes begin on page 737. In between, the story of the medal being approved and presented to Doug’s parents is told and Barrett also covers the funeral, other awards and remembrances, and several reunions of the men with whom Doug served.

Doug and his four classmates enter the Marines on page 330 which means that something on the order of half the book’s content relates to his time in the military. While covering Doug’s activities in some detail, Barrett also provides significant background. I can’t say whether or not his descriptions of some of the events of the 1960s are sufficient to paint a full picture for someone younger than me but I do know they do a good job of reviving tucked away memories. Even before Doug heads to Vietnam, activities there are reported along with his progress stateside. Barrett’s reporting of various battles and other actions is sometimes reminiscent of the body counts that were a feature of the nightly news back in the day. But many of the bodies that Barrett reports have names and most of those names have Ohio addresses. There is an understandable Ohio tilt and even a Darke County tilt to the reporting. Reading about Ohio boys being wounded and dying in Vietnam leaves little doubt about the risks that Doug and his buddies had volunteered for. Doug’s movements and activities “in country” are reported with the same level of detail as his time in training.

So what’s in the other half of the book? Doug’s pre-USMC life is there of course; School days and life on the farm. But the first couple hundred of the book’s pages tell of things from before Douglas Eugene Dickey was even born. Some of the earliest are not even directly connected to him with any certainty. Barrett writes of Dickeys in the military starting with the American Revolution. Peter Dickey, a corporal in the Union Army, was Doug’s great-great-grandfather. Whether or not Peter was a direct descendant of any of fighting Dickeys of earlier generations about whom Barrett writes is not known. I can easily imagine  Barrett discovering stories of those early Dickeys then trying and failing to trace the lineage to Doug. There are valid arguments both for and against including these not-quite-connected stories and I initially questioned them myself. But in the end I agreed with their inclusion. This book is not in any way light reading. It resembles a reference book much more than a shallow novel. For Barrett to leave out anything that his research uncovered would not be right.

Of all the fighting Dickeys appearing in this book, I think Doug’s father, Harold, is the most tragic and even heroic. He was in training when his wife died giving birth to a daughter he wouldn’t see until he returned from the south seas at the end of the Second World War. Living through that then losing a son in Vietnam is beyond my understanding. I met Harold a time or two but I knew nothing of his WWII experiences. This book that is ostensibly about Vietnam has something of The Greatest Generation in it, too.

I attended the dedication of the Garst Museum display described in the book. One speaker in particular used phrases like “gave his life for his country”. That’s a view I don’t quite buy into. I never served but not one veteran I’ve ever talked with about it really buys it either. Some noble sense of patriotism may trigger enlisting but on the ground it’s the men around you who matter. Barrett includes a quote from author James Bradley that says this quite succinctly. “They may have fought for their country, but they died for their friends.”

I recommend Remembering Douglas Eugene Dickey, USMC though not to everyone. I’m having trouble defining just who it is I recommend it to. It’s not a light read or a light carry. It’s two inches thick, weighs two and a half pounds, and contains more than 800 pages. Clearly anyone who know Doug Dickey in any way will want to read it. People working at assembling a picture of the Vietnam era will get a big boost from it as will anyone studying the impact of war on a state, a county, or a family. A lot of research went into this book. Producing it is an impressive accomplishment. Though many orders of magnitude less, reading it is not a small undertaking, either.

Remembering Douglas Eugene Dickey, USMC, Terrence W. Barrett, Phd, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, June 20, 2015, paperback, 9 x 6 inches, 826 pages, ISBN 978-1511431149


It should be noted that Dr. Barrett contacted me as he was bringing this book to completion and he has included a few paragraphs about my website and its mentions of Doug toward the book’s end.


Coincidence at Play

tcamb1I’ve yet to read To Kill a Mockingbird. I have seen the 1962 movie multiple times and now I’ve seen the play. I had hoped to read the book between learning that the play would be performed this season at Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park and actually seeing it but that didn’t work out.

The Friday night performance would be the biggest event of my week but I didn’t expect it to lead to a blog post. I anticipated that a canned Trip Peek would be published this morning. A Friday morning email got me to thinking differently.

The email was the April E-News from the Smithsonian. One of the topics was “The Scottsboro Boys” with this two sentence tease: “The case of the Scottsboro Boys, which lasted more than 80 years, helped to spur the civil rights movement. To Kill a Mockingbird, the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Harper Lee, is also loosely based on this case.”

I read the article referenced in the email and could easily see similarities between the 1931 real world incident and the fictional one Harper Lee set just a few years later. Both involved black men accused of imaginary crimes against white women and both occurred in a world where color mattered a whole lot more than truth. Later I read that in 2005 Harper Lee said this was not the incident she had in mind when writing To Kill a Mockingbird but that it served “the same purpose”. Despite there not being an official connection between the Scottsboro Boys and To Kill a Mockingbird, reading about the incident and its repercussions served a purpose for me, too. It provided an unpleasant picture of this country near the midpoint between the Civil War and today. The accuracy of that picture is reinforced by a contemporary pamphlet, They Shall Not Die!, referenced in the Smithsonian article.

tcamb2I took my seat on Friday with the Scottsboro story fresh in my mind. The stage was bare except for a single light bulb which would actually be removed at the play’s start although it would return later. The stage consists of a large circular center and a surrounding ring both of which rotate. Sometimes they rotate in opposite directions which can seem to expand the distance between actors or the distance they travel. Set Designer Laura Jellinek states that “our main goal was to eliminate any artifice between the audience and the story” and this set certainly accomplishes that. As one audience member observed during the discussion that followed the play, she briefly looked around for the jury during the courtroom scene before realizing that “we were the jury”. At its most crowded, the stage holds nine chairs for the key figures in that courtroom scene.

The discussion I mentioned happens after every performance. Anyone interested moves close to the stage to listen or participate. There were naturally questions about this specific production but there were also questions about the story. There is a sign in the lobby that I now wish I’d taken a picture of. “Don’t read books that think for you. Read books that make you think.” might not be 100% accurate but it’s close. Friday night’s discussion was evidence that this play is prompting some thinking and I’ve no reason to think that discussions following other performances are any different.

tcamb3There is also a set of blackboards in the lobby. As I assume is true at every performance, the blackboards started out empty except for a question at the top of each. By the time people started heading home, the boards were full. It’s pretty clear that some thinking is going on here, too.

It was the coincidence of the Smithsonian email showing up on the day I was set to see the play that nudged me towards making it a blog entry. There is another coincidence of sorts that I find interesting.  Each week, the blog This Cruel War publishes an article on lynchings. The article is published on Wednesdays but, since I subscribe via RSS and I seem to always be behind in my RSS reading, it is often a day or more after publication before I read a specific article. I read this week’s post the morning after my Playhouse visit. In it, the source of the series’ title, “This Disgraceful Evil”, is given. It comes from a 1918 Woodrow Wilson speech in which he calls upon America “…to make an end of this disgraceful evil.”

We don’t have to deal with actual lynchings now as much as in 1918 but there’s still plenty of crap going on. “It cannot live”, Wilson continues, “where the community does not countenance it.”

Originally scheduled to end today, April 3, To Kill a Mockingbird‘s run a Playhouse in the Park has been extended through April 9.

Book Review
History of the Dixie Highway in Allen County, Ohio
Michael G. Buettner

hdhac_cvrI could have called this a pamphlet review. That’s technically what it is. Or, since one definition of pamphlet is “a small book”, I could have called this a small book review. I decided to leave the title be but, in line with the publication’s size, I’ll try to be brief and do a small small book review.

Michael Buettner is a past president of the Ohio Lincoln Highway League. He has written several articles on the Lincoln Highway and other historic roads. This pamphlet, which he wrote for the Allen County Historical Society, draws from his 2006 article In Search of…The Dixie Highway in Ohio but only slightly. In contains details, plus maps and photos, that do not appear in the earlier article. An increased level of detail comes rather natural when the focus is on a county rather than a state.

The first several pages provide some early Dixie Highway history as it relates to the full ten state system, to the state of Ohio, and to the route in Allen County. Instructions for two driving tours follow. Both originate in the county seat of Lima. The first goes north to the county line and the other goes south. Descriptions and photos of points of interest accompany the turn-by-turn instructions.

When the U.S. Numbered Highways came into being in 1926, Allen County’s share of the Dixie Highway was essentially absorbed by US 25. I-75 subsequently absorbed much of US 25 and replaced all of it. A series of maps helps describe this sequence.

History of the Dixie Highway in Allen County, Ohio, Michael G Buettner, Allen County Historical Society, November 2015, 8.5×5.5 inches, 40 pages, available for $6 at the Allen County Museum

Book Review
Fading Ads of Cincinnati
Ronny Salerno

faoc_cvrBuying local is a good thing and so is reading local. I was able to combine the two recently. November 30 was the official release date for a new book about Cincinnati and in the early evening its author made the book and his signature available at a downtown location that appears between its covers. The book was Fading Ads of Cincinnati, the author Ronny Salerno, and the location Igby’s Bar inside a building with a fading “TWINE PAPER” painted on its side. Those two dim words are typical of the fading ads that are the book’s subject.  How could I not?

Although this was my first time meeting Salerno, I knew the name. I first spotted it on some photographs in a small exhibit near downtown Cincinnati a few years back. I wasn’t clever enough to find his wonderful Queen City Discovery blog from that prompt but I did find it eventually and I’ve followed it for some time now. Salerno loves taking photographs and he’s really good at it. He especially loves taking pictures of old abandoned buildings with a story. A third love is also apparent in that blog: the city of Cincinnati. He brings all three loves to Fading Ads of Cincinnati.

The book is the latest in the Fading Ads of… series published by History Press. About the only reference to a publisher I’ve made in past reviews is an identification at the end. Saying a bit more seems appropriate here. Until last year, the USA’s History Press Inc. was part of the UK’s History Press Ltd. It was acquired by Arcadia Publishing in the middle of 2014. All of those entities deal with local and regional topics and often use something of a formula approach. Although it is not all they do, Arcadia is probably best known for their sepia-toned Images of America books. As hinted at by the title, these books are filled with images most of which are historical. The images are selected and described by local experts who typically also provide several pages of introductory text at the book’s beginning. More often than not, these experts are not just knowledgeable but have a personal attachment and attraction to the subject. Saying that most love what they write about would not be wrong. History Press publications tend to be wordier and, although historical images are sometimes used, include plenty of modern color photos. But, just like those Arcadia books, History Press books rely on local experts for their creation and, just like those Arcadia book writers, these experts are often in love with their subjects, too. Kind of sounds like Ronny Salerno, doesn’t it?

Salerno is a good match for the Fading Ads… series. Before reading the book it had actually occurred to me that he might have had every subject identified and many photographed long before he even took on the job. That wasn’t quite the case, however. He was naturally familiar with many of the area’s old signs but not all. He conferred with other “sign hunters” and got tips from friends but he also found his own senses sharpening as he strolled through both unfamiliar and familiar neighborhoods. The result is nearly one hundred new color photos of mostly — but not entirely — old stuff. There are also several historical photos from places like the Library of Congress.

faoc_int1The photos aren’t left to stand alone. Captions describe each of them, of course, and many get multiple paragraphs of attention. Salerno has been successful in digging up many of the signs’ histories with some of the best stories coming from signs identifying local or regional companies that are no longer with us. Names like Shillito’s and Brendamour’s will be recognized by many Cincinnatians and probably some others as well. Out-of-towners might not be familiar with local landmarks like Davis Furniture (“The Friendly Store”) or the Dennison Hotel (“105 Rooms – 60 baths”) but they are exactly what I and some other locals think of when we think of “fading ads” or the more common “ghost signs”.

faoc_int2Salerno brings up the phrase “ghost signs” in the introduction and says people often thought he was writing about the supernatural when he used the term. “Fading advertisements”, he says, doesn’t have that problem. Fair enough but it’s just possible that his position also has something to do with the book’s predetermined title. “Ghost sign” slips into the book a time or two and in the final chapter Salerno more or less acknowledges the validity of both. As for me, I’m comfortable and most familiar with the term “ghost signs” (and “ghost bridges” and “ghost towns”) so I’ll just continue to think of Fading Ads of Cincinnati as a book about ghost signs.

Geography has a lot to do with the book’s organization and the bulk of the photos are in three chapters titled “Downtown”, “Northern Kentucky”, and “The Neighborhoods”. Like any city of any size, Cincinnati has official and unofficial neighborhoods with their own identities. It’s southern boundary is defined by a river that also defines the border of Ohio. In some ways, the Kentucky communities on the south side of the river are quite different from those on the north but the ease with which a cluster of bridges usually allows interstate traffic makes them often seem like Cincinnati suburbs. The prominent “John R. Green Co” sign in Covington, Kentucky, fits in this book as comfortably as the “Little Kings” sign in Cincinnati’s West End.

I mentioned that not everything pictured in the book is old. One chapter in particular shows almost exclusively new unfaded and non-ghostly signs. The photos were taken at the Cincinnati Reds’ home field and include a shot of a huge sign announcing the 2015 All-Star Game which Cincinnati hosted. The “fading ads” connection is solid and arrow straight. Those stadium signs and many more around the area are the work of Holthaus Lackner Signs, a company headed by Kevin Holthaus. Kevin is the grandson of Gus Holthaus who started the company and whose signature appears on many signs in the area including several in Fading Ads of Cincinnati. The only old sign appearing in the “Signature Legacy” chapter is a remnant of a sign possibly painted by Kevin’s great-grandfather, Arnold Holthaus.

A link at the end of this article leads to the book on Amazon. An entry on Salerno’s blog identifies other online outlets and several area stores where it is also available. Another option is to catch the author at a local bar with a faded sign but you’ll have to be both patient and vigilant.

Fading Ads of Cincinnati, Ronny Salerno, The History Press, November 30 2015, 9 x 6 inches, 160 pages, ISBN 978-1467118729

Book Review
Marking the Miles Along the National Road Through Ohio
Cyndie L. Gerken

mtmatnrto_cvrThat’s a pretty long book title. There’s a subtitle, too, which makes the whole thing Marking the Miles Along the National Road Through Ohio: A Survey of Old Stone Mile Markers on Ohio’s National Road. It’s long because it, just like the book it identifies, is accurate and precise. The book accurately and precisely locates the 175 mile markers originally set, as accurately and precisely as early nineteenth century technology and local politicians would allow, beside the Ohio portion of the very first federal highway. With all that accuracy and precision you might think this volume would be completely dry and boring but that’s not the case. Stories about the road, the countryside, and even the markers themselves lighten and soften things considerably. Color photos and maps make the book attractive.

Marking the Miles… opens with the full complement of preface, foreword, and introduction. The preface is written by Dean Ringle who, in addition to contributing much to this book, is a past president of the Ohio National Road Association (ONRA) and the current — and very active — chairman of its Mile Marker Committee. The foreword speaks of the book’s purpose and organization. The introduction is where, as wagon masters may have once said, the hoof meets the road.

The introduction is fifty pages long. It talks about mile markers in general, National Road markers in other states, and the Ohio markers as a group. It talks about differences in engraving styles and it points out some errors made when erasing a mistake might mean chiseling it out of the solid rock to create a clean surface. It provides a “where are they now” summary and discusses recent replacement programs. It tells of the incorporation of actual mile markers in a near future National Road exhibit at a Dayton Museum. And it covers much more in providing a solid background for looking at individual markers.

mtmatnrto_int1Seven of the ten Ohio counties through which the National Road passed are covered in individual chapters following the introduction. No markers were ever placed in the three westernmost counties on the route as federal funding ended near Springfield in Clark County. Each of these chapters begins with an overview of the county that includes a summary of how many original markers there were, how many remain at their original location, how many exist elsewhere, and how many are lost. Each marker is then addressed individually. With few exceptions there is at least one picture. If a given marker survives, a current photo is included and one or more historical photos are usually presented regardless of whether or not the marker is still around. Understandably, markings on many of the older stones are not exactly legible. Not to worry. Appendix B contains crisp drawings of the inscription of every marker. Markers can often be seen, accidentally perhaps, in old postcards and other photos and many of these appear in the book. Each marker’s history is given and stories about the marker or the area around it frequently add a little fun and background. Placed among the individual marker descriptions are sections of US Geological Survey 7.5 minute topographical maps showing the location of the markers three at a time. Other National Road related landmarks are often shown on the maps as well.

When the federal funding and mile marker placement stopped at Springfield, locally financed turnpikes filled the gap to the Indiana border. Known as the Dayton Cutoff, these turnpikes dipped south through Dayton and Eaton while the unimproved straight-line National Road languished. Mile markers on the eastern portion of the Cutoff mimicked those on the National Road to give the impression that the federal route went right through Dayton. Gerken includes a chapter on this and even provides location and other information about the markers.

Hard facts are without question the backbone of this book and numbers representing miles, dates, percentages and the like are plentiful. There are even several tables filled with numbers and bare facts which might justifiably be called dry. Some might also call them boring but not I. And not anyone else with a serious interest in the history of the National Road. At its most basic level, Marking the Miles… is a cataloging of every marker’s inscription, location, and fate. This is invaluable information not available anywhere else. Its usefulness to researchers is obvious but it is also of use to someone wondering about that old stone they drive by each day or the one they used to see near Granddad’s farm but which disappeared sometime in the past. Incidentally, some of those vanished markers are reappearing thanks to a grant program administered by that ONRA Mile Marker Committee I mentioned earlier.

mtmatnrto_int2Bringing all of this information together is clearly a major accomplishment but Gerken, a past ONRA president herself, says the information is only a portion of what she has collected on the National Road in Ohio. A well deserved breather follows wrapping up Marking the Miles Along the National Road Through Ohio. Nothing is currently scheduled or promised but the future could see a Gerken penned treatise on bridges or taverns or toll houses or something else. I certainly hope so. I like accuracy and precision and I also like anecdotes and insight. Marking the Miles… provides a pretty good mix.

Marking the Miles Along the National Road Through Ohio: A Survey of Old Stone Mile Markers on Ohio’s National Road, Cyndie L. Gerken, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, November 4, 2015, 11 x 8.5 inches, 338 pages, ISBN 978-1517317034

Ad Nauseam

amad1On Friday morning a friend observed on Facebook that he was getting email from every website he had ever visited that had something to sell. His situation was hardly unique. I’m rather confident that everyone with any sort of internet connection was seeing an uptick in activity on the official beginning of open season on customers. The barrage had been building as anxious hunters fired off emails and other communications telling us that their Black Friday started on Thursday or Wednesday or even earlier. This is, I assume, the same sort of time warp that allows certain drinking establishments to advertise “The world’s longest Happy Hour”. I considered emailing him some sympathy but didn’t for two reasons. One was that to do so would be to add to the tide of useless messages in his inbox. The other was that I would soon be part of the problem.

Not the email overload problem but the general advertising overload problem it is part of. In a way, I’m already part of the problem. I published my second book in early November and that apparently tripped some trigger at Amazon. I have seen occasional Amazon sponsored Facebook ads not only for the new book but also for my first book published nearly two years ago. I don’t know if anyone else ever sees these ads and it has occurred to me that perhaps the only place these ads appear is on my own Facebook pages in some strange scheme to impress me.

But even if those ads do show up elsewhere (and they sure aren’t generating a rush of orders) my involvement is indirect only. That changed yesterday when a limited ad campaign for the latest book was launched. The seed was planted several months ago when a friend told me about his experience with Facebook advertising. The pricing was reasonable and, although there was little hard evidence, his gut feel was that it had helped. He had used it to promote an event and one of Facebook’s biggest attractions to him was the ability to geographically target the ads rather precisely. That sort of geographic precision isn’t nearly as useful in pushing a book but there were other attractions and I decided to give it a try. I have no illusions of actually making money peddling paperbacks but writers do like to be read.

amad2The image at the top of this article shows the ad that appears in what Facebook calls the “Desktop Right Column”. The one at left is for the “Mobile News Feed”. Other variations appear in other channels. As can be seen in the “News Feed” version, the ads are sponsored not by me but by Trip Mouse Publishing which has its own silly story.

The “mouse” thing goes back many years to my dart playing days. We always tried to come up with clever team names though we rarely succeeded. What I think may have been the very last team I played on was called, in a fairly accurate indication of our accuracy,  the Blind Mice. My participation in a CART (the guys who used to race at Indy) fantasy league overlapped the existence of the Blind Mice. I needed a team name when I signed up and, with mice on my mind, chose “Quick Mouse”. Years later I needed a user name for something and everything I submitted with pieces of my real name was refused. The site had something to do with travel and that prompted me to try TripMouse which was accepted. In 2013, when I was setting up the Create Space account for my first book, I had to indicate whether or not I wanted Create Space to appear as the publisher. I decided not but that meant I needed to say who and there was that somewhat appropriate TripMouse name laying around. Trip Mouse Publishing was born.

I used the name in establishing an account for paying Ohio sales tax on the few books I sold directly in state but it was otherwise an essentially imaginary company. As I created my Facebook ad, I was asked to set up a business page. Although this was presented as being optional, there were things that seemed to not work well or at all without it. After a few frustrating attempts to move on, I made a Trip Mouse Publishing Facebook page. I probably should have stopped right there but I decided that, if Trip Mouse was going to have a web presence, I wanted to have control of at least some of it. I set out to acquire a domain name. I was mildly surprised to find that someone already owned tripmouse.com but absolutely flabbergasted to see that they wanted $1895 for it. I have absolutely no idea why that is especially when both tripmouse.net and trip-mouse.com were available at 99¢ for the first year. For no logical reason, I opted for Trip-Mouse.com.

It has been many years since I’ve registered a new domain name and the world has changed. Identifying Trip Mouse Publishing as a small business on Facebook probably spilled a little blood in the water, too. The result is that in addition to all the absolutely astounding deals I’m being offered on TVs, books, phones, clothes, cameras, et cetera, et cetera, I’m getting equally astounding offers for logo design, web hosting, website creation, and more. I do feel a little guilty for adding to the commercial clutter of Facebook but with every offer of a half price premium turnkey website package the guilt diminishes just a little more.

Book Review
Greetings from Coldwater
Emily Priddy

gfc_cvrI’m going to admit right up front that defending this post against my About page claim that readers will “not be seeing a review of the latest novel” is pretty much a lost cause. I proclaimed my earlier review of Cincinnatus “not guilty” on the technicality that, at five years of age, it was not “the latest novel”. That tactic simply won’t work here as Greetings from Coldwater was published right at two months ago and is Priddy’s latest offering and first novel. That I am guilty of breaking my own promise is obvious. I can only beg for leniency on the grounds that I did say I’d be reviewing books “related to something I personally like such as old roads or cars” and, while Greetings from Coldwater isn’t actually about Route 66 or classic Volvos, both have roles. Maybe I can be forgiven.

Volvos only get bit parts but Route 66 is a star. The novel’s story-line is a girl-meets-boy romance. Motel owner Sierra Goldsmith meets school principal Grant Loucks and sparks — tastefully subdued — ensue. But Grant doesn’t even show up until page 104 and there’s romance in the air almost from the book’s beginning. That romance is between Sierra and Route 66. More specifically Route 66 in New Mexico. Anyone who knows Emily Priddy will recognize that the love Sierra has for the state and its portion of the historic highway is a dead-on reflection of the author’s. There is no avoiding the fact that there is a certain amount of autofantasy (It’s related to autobiography.) in the book but it’s hardly a hindrance. It doesn’t get in the way of the story and it adds energy and conviction to its telling.

Sierra is not a motel owner when the story begins. She stumbles into the aging Tumbleweed Motel shortly after her fathers death. Her mother died years before and they had separated years before that. The fictitious Tumbleweed is in the equally fictitious town of Coldwater, New Mexico. The more or less directionless Sierra, buys the motel and proceeds to refurbish it as she learns about the small town that has suddenly become her home. Even after Miss Shirley, the previous owner, leaves the Tumbleweed, Sierra isn’t the only full time resident. She inherits/adopts Joey, the developmentally disabled resident “handyman” Miss Shirley had taken in long ago. Other businesses in the town include a garage, hardware store, and bar each with a friendly and helpful — in his own way — owner. It’s a good place for someone who, although not exactly running from her past life, is not at all eager to share it.

Not only does Priddy have the knowledge, through years spent on Route 66 and the Coldwater-like towns it connects, to paint a complete and colorful background for her story, she has the skill, from years as a journalist, to tell that story properly. I wouldn’t know a good romance story if it stuck its tongue in my ear (although I suspect that’s a sign of a bad romance story) so I can’t really say if the tale of Sierra and Grant is one. I can say that it is well written.

It is also well drawn. Several of the novel’s chapters are fronted by pen-and-ink drawings produced by Priddy. In her acknowledgements she points to the late Bob Waldmire as the influence for these. Some are indeed reminiscent of his work and add to the book’s Route 66 flavor.

There are some “Easter eggs” in those drawings and in the text. Readers familiar with the Route 66 community will have fun finding them, all readers will be treated to a well informed sense of what life beside the historic highway might be like, and some readers will really enjoy following Grant and Sierra as they deal with the baggage Sierra brings to their relationship. I guess I even enjoyed it a little myself. It is somewhat, as Joey would say, “a kissy story” but not terribly so. The girl definitely shows some love for her guy but she shows at least as much for her road.

Greetings from Coldwater, Emily Priddy, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, September 26, 2015, 9 x 6 inches, 272 pages, ISBN 978-1517049386

Road Trip Essentials Redux
A My Gear Extra

This post first appeared on June 8, 2014. It was done at the request/suggestion of a company called RelayRides. The company has changed its name to Turo and recently contacted me to request an update in the 2014 post. I made the name and URL changes then decided to reuse the post as well. Turo is a peer-to-peer car rental company. I still have not used the service so can no more rate or endorse it now than I could in 2014. What I can say is that the company seemed to honestly appreciate a mention in that original post and, unlike some other outfits, have not pounded me with additional requests since then. The current request is not only reasonable but helpful. I appreciate being given an opportunity to fix things. I will also compliment them on some very good timing.

I had already decided to queue up a “Trip Peek” for this week’s post but after rereading the original “…Essentials” post decided to reuse it instead. I like the post and everything is basically the same now as it was then. So, with only minor corrections, here it is again.


rtecolI recently received a request/suggestion for a post on “must have” road trip items. I initially blew it off but returned to it a week or so later. Since I am about to actually head out on a road trip, I need to stockpile some “dateless” (“timeless” almost, but not quite, fits) articles for posting while I travel. You know, the “Trip Peek” or “My Wheels” sort of things that have no connection to what I’m actually doing but can be posted at anytime to meet the blog’s every Sunday schedule. In the middle of generating a couple of “Trip Peeks”, I remembered the email and realized that the suggested “Road Trip Essentials” was as good a topic as any. Of course, it would take more time than a “Trip Peek” but it could be sort of a consolidated “My Gear” and it might be fun. If it also made somebody (the requester) happy, even better.

The request came from RelayRides (now Turo), a peer-to-peer car rental outfit. I’d never heard of them and naming them is not meant to endorse them but I could see that continued references to “the requester” were going to get old. Though the services offered are different, the contact from RelayRides (Turo) reminded me of a recent conversation with some friends about Uber, a person-to-person taxi service. After using Uber on several occasions in a couple of different cities, they were singing its praises. These person-to-person/peer-to-peer businesses are certainly worth keeping an eye on. The RelayRides (Turo) call was for blog posts that could tie into an upcoming “Road Trip Essentials” campaign. There is absolutely nothing in it for me except the possibility of an extra visitor or two but neither are there any restrictions or guidelines. The friendly and conversational request used playlists, caffeine, and frozen grapes as possible essentials so my list may be a little more serious than what they’re thinking. I believe everyone knows, however, that, while I take my road trips seriously, they are rarely serious trips. There was no actual suggestion that I include a collage but the word was used twice and I figured making a small one might be fun. It was.

The camera needs little explanation. If I’m on a full tilt road trip, I need pictures for the daily updates and there are other trips taken with the clear intent of using all or part of the outing in a blog entry. In addition to pictures that, if they’re not too crappy, might appear in a journal or blog entry, I use a camera to take notes. Snapping a photo of a sign or menu is a lot easier and less error prone than trying to write down what I think I might want to know later. Even when there is no advance thought of documenting any part of a trip, l want a camera near by in case some Martians land along the road or Bruce Springsteen’s car breaks down and he needs a ride.

I imagine that almost everyone now considers a GPS unit at least useful on a trip. It can keep you from reaching Tijuana instead of Vancouver and can be a great help in finding gas, food, or lodging. I do use mine to find motels and restaurants and such but I also use it in a manner that makes it truly essential. Many of my trips are on historic (i.e., imaginary) highways. They probably don’t appear on any current map or atlas and there are few, if any, signs to follow. Even if there were, I typically travel alone with no one to constantly read maps or watch for signs. What I do is plot the exact route I want to follow and load it into the GPS unit which then verbally directs me along my chosen path. Yes, it does require a fair amount of advance work and a more capable than average GPS unit.

Even with every turn programmed into the GPS, I pack guide books and maps. The GPS can fail, the situation on the ground might not match the plotted course, or my intentions might simply change. Plus, guidebooks like those in the picture provide valuable information when putting together a journal or blog entry.

The last item pictured, the cell phone, is the electronic Swiss army knife of our age. It is almost essential to everybody everyday just to talk, text, search, and email. In my case, in the context of road trips, it is also essential as a backup camera and as a voice recorder. Not too long ago, I would have included a small voice recorder in my essentials but the phone now serves to make quick notes especially while driving. I still carry a digital recorder for use when appropriate but it no longer rides on the seat beside me.

rtecabOf course, all of those accessories have their own accessories. For many years, I only bought gear that used AA batteries on the theory that I could always buy power at the corner drug store if required. I believe that happened once. I carried around a bag of nicads and the chargers to fill them in either car or motel. I eventually had to abandon that position but I still cling to the ability to recharge everything whether stopped or on the go. I now carry spare proprietary batteries and AC/DC chargers for two different cameras and a cell phone. I do not carry a spare for the GPS since I seldom operate it on battery power.

I’ll also almost always have my laptop along and some music/podcasts, and maybe, depending on departure time and length of trip, a thermos of coffee and a cooler. The cooler will have water or Gatorade and possibly a beer or two. There will probably be some carrots, or apple slices, or grapes in there, too. Next time, the grapes might even be frozen.

Book Review
A Decade Driving the Dixie Highway
Denny Gibson

addtdh_cvrI did it again. I wrote another book. It’s a lot like the other one. It’s an illustrated travelogue and, although there is no old car involved, there is an old man and an old road. That other book, By Mopar to the Golden Gate, told of a single excursion lasting a few weeks. A Decade Driving the Dixie Highway draws on roughly thirty road trips spread over eleven years. Multiple trips were pretty much required since the Dixie Highway was not a straight forward point to point road but a system that connected ten states with nearly 6,000 miles of roadway.

Road scholars Brian Butko and Russell S. Rein both contributed glowing modesty-challenging blurbs that appear on the back cover.

addtdh_int

A Decade Driving the Dixie Highway is available as a Kindle download (with color photos) as well as a paperback. Either may be purchased through Amazon and the purchase of a paperback there includes the ability to acquire the Kindle edition for a couple bucks. I’ve also set up an eBay listing in an attempt to make providing signed copies easier. I can’t offer access to the Kindle download or the potentially free shipping of Amazon but they can’t ship books with my scribbling in them.

The book was produced through Amazon’a CreateSpace and there is a CreateSpace eStore although I can’t think of any reason for someone to buy there. I do get a slightly bigger cut on sStore sales but there is no Kindle access, free shipping, or autograph. The book may eventually be available through some other channels but for now the two sources I’m suggesting are Amazon and my eBay listing.

A Decade Driving the Dixie Highway, Denny Gibson, Trip Mouse Publishing, 2015, paperback, 9 x 6 inches, 152 pages, ISBN 978-0692516966.

Signed copies available through eBay.

Reader reviews at Amazon are appreciated and helpful and can be submitted even if you didn’t purchase the book there.

Book Review
Hues of my Vision
Ara Gureghian and Spirit

homv_cvrWhen I previewed this book in April, it was with the hope that a Kickstarter campaign would result in a bargain priced offset printed version. Ara had turned to the crowd funding site to facilitate pre-ordering the book in support of a cost saving bulk order. As noted in a mid-May update to the preview, the campaign failed resulting in the price of a hard copy more than doubling from $40.00 to $92.99. That’s the bad news. The good news is that it is beautiful.

For those unfamiliar with Ara and Spirit, here’s a quick introduction. In 2006, following the death of his son, Ara Gureghian left his job as a personal chef and, accompanied by a rescued pit bull named Spirit, hit the road on Old Faithful, his BMW motorcycle. Since then, they have crisscrossed the country and spent lots of time in some of its emptier areas. Freedom on Both Ends of the Leash tells the story of those travels. Hues of my Vision contains a selection of the many photographs taken along the way.

There are 61 photographs; Each on its own page accompanied by a quote and a map. The maps mark the location and direction of the photo. The quotes are some that Ara has personally found meaningful. Ralph Waldo Emerson, Kahlil Gibran, John Muir, and Dan Aykroyd are among those quoted. Most of the quotes are unique but, whether by accident or design, a few are repeated. The paper is high quality and the pages are large. It’s a real coffee table book from a man and dog who haven’t had a coffee table in quite some time.

homv_intNot surprisingly, many of the photos are of America’s open spaces. Ara has visited and camped in some rather isolated spots and has captured some of their beauty. Canyons, lakes, and improbable shapes carved by wind and water are masterfully recorded and there are many gorgeous sunsets. A quote from Jo Walton really resonated with me:

There is a Sunrise and a Sunset every single day, and they are absolutely free. Don’t miss so many of them.

Ara hasn’t missed too many during the last nine years and I’d like to think that I’ll not be missing so many from here on out.

Landscapes are in the majority but people and buildings appear, too. Some of those landscapes make marvelous backgrounds for photos of Spirit, Old Faithful, and even Ara himself. Subjects also include other people and animals and an occasional building. In these pictures, Ara has skillfully and artfully recorded the world he has been immersed in for nearly a decade. It’s largely a natural world that most of us only catch short glimpses of from time to time. He continues to report on that world through his blog, The Oasis of my Soul.

The book is available in electronic form for about $20. Is the hard copy worth the more than $70 premium?.I thought it was and am quite happy that I have the “real book” to hold in my hands. However, with the exception of size, I believe that everything I’ve said about the print version applies to the electronic versions as well. They might be just the thing for those without a coffee table. All formats are available here.

Hues of my Vision, Ara Gureghian and Spirit, Ara Gureghian (May, 2015), hard cover, 13 x 10 inches, 62 pages