Trip Peek #57
Trip #88
Lincoln Highway Conference 2010

This picture is from my 2010 Lincoln Highway Conference trip. This was my first Lincoln Highway Association Conference and part of the reason I was able to attend was that it was my first year of retirement. Immediately prior to the conference in Dixon, IL, I attended the Route 66 Festival near Joplin, MO, and drove directly from one to the other. Among the many things I learned was the difference between a festival and a conference. There were a couple of bus tours, a couple of group dinners, and a day of presentations. The picture is from the awards banquet. Brian Cassler had recently become an Eagle Scout by preparing some Canton, OH, Lincoln Highway bricks for use in a display in Kearney, NE. Bernie Queneau traveled the Lincoln Highway as an Eagle Scout back in 1928. Brian chose Bernie to share his award with and is shown pinning the badge on the 98 year old Queneau. This “pair of Eagles” photo is one onf of my favorites. Bernie is a Lincoln Highway legend who remained active in the association until his death at 102.


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.

I’m Not Moving Like I Used To
— Places I’ve Lived (Part 2)

The reason that I only began my sophomore year in that old apartment building that ended last week’s Part 1 post was that I got married the day after Christmas 1966 and the bride and I moved into an apartment at the rear of this building near campus. We had almost no furniture and I remember laying on the floor of the empty living room watching news of the Apollo I fire on the tiny black and white TV my wife brought from her home.

In the mid-1960s, the Forum was one of Cincinnati’s newest and fanciest apartment complexes with a bar and restaurant that attracted both residents and non-residents. It was definitely a rather posh address for a poor college student. My wife’s sister and her husband had been among the earliest lessees and had arranged a honey of a deal. The long term lease that was part of that deal became a big negative when the husband was offered a major promotion in New York. To avoid significant penalties, they arranged for my wife and me to take it over and we found ourselves in some pretty classy digs. The in-laws had literally gotten in on  the ground floor.

I finished my second year of college and started my third but the discovery of a pregnancy in the family made continuing unrealistic. I got a full time job and my wife started shopping for houses. I recall sort of dragging my feet and pushing for just a larger apartment but she found an offer I couldn’t refuse. A middle aged couple had just moved to their dream home and were dealing with two mortgages. We bought this three-bedroom house in Pleasant Ridge on land contract. After two years, we converted to a normal mortgage with payments of $137 a month. We spent about five years here and this was our home when both sons were born. The oldest was ready to start kindergarten when the marriage was ready to end.

I spent several weeks with friends then rented a trailer in a park near Morrow, Ohio. I figured that renting a mobile home was about as non-committal as you could get. I can’t be completely certain that this is the very trailer I lived in but I believe it is. There was no storage shed when I was there and the deck is much more substantial than the steps I climbed and it’s possible that another trailer has replaced the one I rented. That means it’s possible that a second of my homes is gone but this looks to be old enough and it seems quite likely that it’s my old home box.

A co-worker had found this place a few years back and when he moved out another moved in. When he moved it was my turn. First time visitors seemed to always have trouble finding it despite being told it was “right under the bridge”. They just didn’t believe it. The bridge passing overhead carries US-22 and OH-3. The address was on the Old 3C Highway which predated the bridge and its numbered routes. The Little Miami flows under the bridge and was our front yard and playground. The four apartments can be seen better in this view. The large one on the right is where the owner and eventually an onsite manager lived. I lived in the rightmost of two apartments on the second floor and there was another smaller apartment below. This is where I lived when my kids came to live with me and for a few weeks the four of us shared the suddenly tiny apartment. They got the bed and I got the couch and the last place in the line for the single bathroom. When we went looking for a place to move, the only thing I cared about was having my own bathroom.

This place in Loveland won me over with a bath in the master bedroom and decent rent. Like many rentals, it was adequate but nothing special. The location was close enough to my job to not be an issue. Although the bedrooms were small, everybody had one and, most importantly, I had a bathroom.

While living in the rental house, I left the corporate world and went to work for a startup. This would not ordinarily be the time to buy a house but there was Cincinnati Milacron stock in a profit sharing account that I had to do something with when I left. I decided that using it for a down payment on a house was the thing to do. After considerable shopping, we moved into this eleven year old split-level where everybody again had their own bedroom even though one was officially called a den. The boys’ early school years had been split between a number of locations and they didn’t like it. I also knew that my sister had not been overly pleased at changing schools for her last few years. That had been part of the discussion in moving to the rental but was an even bigger part of the purchase decision. I stayed here until the last kid was out of school which puts it in second place on my length of residence list. My second marriage started and ended here.

This is where I’ve lived for twenty years now. The kids and wives were gone and I was ready to stop mowing grass and raking leaves. A buyer appeared for the house and I bought the second unit in a condominium in the process of being built. Construction targets were missed and I had to negotiate with my buyer for a late departure from the house. The two week delay still wasn’t enough and I spent a couple of nights in a motel and a couple of weeks in the master bedroom with furniture stored in the garage while workmen completed the rest of the unit. There are two bedrooms and the second bedroom initially held a left over bed from the house. My daughter eventually reclaimed that and I’ve never replaced it. I do have a large airbed so guests can be accommodated but just barely. Condo fees take care of cutting the grass, raking the leaves, and clearing the snow. I have no pets to feed or plants to water so nothing dies if I’m gone for awhile. Works for me.

So, after having eight homes in twenty years, it took me nearly thirty years to add another eight and the count’s held steady since then. As things now stand my lifetime average is 4.375 years per location. I really don’t like to move so that number is pretty much guaranteed to increase. In fact, the odds are good that I’ll stay right here until I’m carted off to a nursing home or a crematorium.

I’m Not Moving Like I Used To — Part 1

I’m Not Moving Like I Used To
— Places I’ve Lived (Part 1)

“Of course not,” I can almost hear you say. “You’re a creaking old codger on the verge of decrepitude. You’re lucky you can move at all.” While that’s certainly true, it isn’t what the title refers to. The sort of moving this article is concerned with is the changing of residences and I recently realized that I’ve occupied my current domicile longer than any other. I moved in over the Memorial Day weekend of 1997 which means I’ve been here twenty years. That’s two decades, a full score, a fifth of a century. The times for second and third places are just thirteen and twelve years.

The photo at the top is of the first place I called home. It’s a house Mom bought in 1945 while Dad was overseas. I don’t know when it was built but it was old enough to need new siding when Mom bought it. She personally covered it with that fake brick tar paper that used to be fairly common. That covering remained through my high school years when a classmate lived there. Since then it has obviously had the siding replaced and it has been painted at least a couple of times. I recall it being blue for several years. The porch and garage were added long after I lived there and I’m sure there have been other upgrades as well. The house was never high class but it apparently is of pretty high quality. It looks better now, seventy-two years after Mom tacked on her tar paper, than at any other time in my memory. It’s in Woodington, Ohio, which is the birthplace of Lowell Thomas. Lowell’s former home has been moved to the grounds of the museum in the county seat. Plans to preserve and relocate my former home have yet to materialize.

While I was living in Woodington, my maternal grandparents were living on a farm just around the corner. Sometime before my third birthday, the generations swapped places. I doubt it was a real trade but some sort of family arrangement resulted in my grandparents and about five of my aunts and uncles taking our place in the village while we three moved into the house pictured at left. My sister arrived not too long after the move. The house is certainly no younger than the one I started out in and could be considerably older. The barn and other out buildings are gone and a large garage has been added. Like the house in Woodington, this one is looking better than it ever has.

We weren’t long at the farm. I recall Dad once reminiscing about the move with the comment “I guess I thought I wanted to be a farmer.” My sister was born in March and by winter we had moved to the house at right in the nearby village of Hill Grove. We were there for the “Blizzard of 1950”. The northeast corner of the state was hit the hardest but all of Ohio got lots of snow and frigid temperatures. In Columbus, Michigan won a trip to the Rose Bowl by beating Ohio State 9-3 in a game with 5° temperature, 40 MPH wind, and not a single first down by either team. During the worst of the cold snap, our whole family slept in the living room with my baby sister wrapped up in a dresser drawer. The Facebook “on the road” profile picture I use for wintertime trips was clipped from this photo taken in front of this house. A little more of the house — and sled — can be seen in this photo. It’s been well treated by subsequent owners and falls into line with the others by looking better now than then.

I think we only spent the one winter in Hillgrove before moving into the village of Ansonia. I’ve referred to both Woodington and Hill Grove as villages but they are technically “unincorporated communities”. Ansonia was a real official incorporated village. with a population of 877 in the 1950 census. Our house was directly across the street from the American Legion and the school athletic fields were at the end of the street. In high school I would march past this house on the way to and from every home football game. It was newer than my previous abodes and, while I don’t know that it looks better than when we lived there, it looks at least as good and has clearly had some caring owners including someone who added the garage and connector.

This is the place that’s currently in third on my length of residence list. It occupies a two acre plot in the midst of large farms about three miles west of Ansonia. We moved here in the summer of 1953 and Dad remarried (Mom died in 1959) and moved in the summer of 1965. Those dates exactly bracket my school years. Initially my sister and I shared one of the two bedrooms but that was quickly seen as a problem. Dad was both clever and handy and first divided the room with a wall that included storage with my bed on top. Step two was enclosing a porch area on the back of the house and moving me into it. It’s visible in this photo of the other end of the house. The third and final step was finishing the attic and squeezing in a stairway. I spent about seven years sleeping on the other side of that window near the peak of the roof.

2015 article on Dabney Hall talks about the faded bricks and old AC units hanging in the windows. It is now the oldest residence hall on the University of Cincinnati campus. When I lived there in 1965 it was, at five years old, one of the newest and there were no signs of air conditioning anywhere. Shortly after my 1974 divorce I dated a girl a few years younger than me who had a friend a few years younger than her who lived in Dabney and we attended a party there. By then what had been an all male dorm was co-ed with refrigerators and microwaves in every room. I marveled at the changes but it’s hard to say whether the presence of girls and fridges would have kept me in school longer or led to me dropping out sooner.

This is the house Dad moved to after remarrying when I was about to leave for college. I spent the summer between my freshman and sophomore years there and it is where my stepmother still lives. Not visible in the picture is an attached brick workshop, added in the 1970s, where Dad spent a lot of time re-caning and refinishing furniture.

This is the location but not the building where I began my second year at UC. The aging apartment where my friend Dale and I lived has the distinction of being the only one of the sixteen places I’ve lived that is no longer standing. This seems particularly astonishing in light of the fact that the three earliest of my homes were all pretty old when I lived there. The pictured building is a nursing home so it’s at least possible I could return there someday.

Because of its length, I’m spreading this subject over two posts. As mentioned in the first paragraph, I’ve called just one place home during the most recent twenty years of my life. The eight residences covered in this post filled the first twenty for an average of roughly two and a half years each. I’ll get to the second eight next week.

I’m Not Moving Like I Used To — Part 2

Trip Peek #56
Trip #17
Phoenix III

This picture is from my 2003 Phoenix III trip. This was the third of three business trips I made to Phoenix, Arizona, between September and November 2003. I extended each with a few days on my own. It was a technique I used whenever I could to get a little vacation far from home with the only costs being meals, motel, and car rental for the days I wasn’t working. I headed to Tombstone via Tuscon and checked out Biosphere 2 on the way. I was in Tombstone for the annual Clanton Rendezvous. On my return, serious traffic congestion prompted me to turn onto AZ-77 which led to AZ-79. In 1940, Tom Mix died in an accident on this road and the picture is of a nearby monument to the popular actor.


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.

Happy Easter Island

This post first appeared last year. I’ve brought it back, with date appropriate updates, due to its uncommon concentration of useful historic facts.

 
eiflagTwo years ago I noted with surprise that Easter and my birthday have coincided only twice in my lifetime. But it has happened several times outside of my lifetime and that includes 1722 when Dutch sailor Jacob Roggeveen came upon a tiny South Pacific island which the residents may have called Rapa. Whether they did or didn’t mattered not a bit to Roggeveen who decided to call the island Paaseiland. Dutch Paaseiland translates to the English Easter Island. The island is now part of Spanish speaking Chili where it is known as Isla de Pascua. Its modern Polynesian name is Rapa Nui.

hcafeiheadThe opening image is the Isla de Pascua flag. The red figure represents a reimiro, an ornament worn by the native islanders. At left is an image more commonly associated with Easter Island. The island contains nearly 900 statues similar to the one in the picture. I’ve never been to Easter Island and have no pictures of my own although there are plenty to be found around the internet. This photo is one I took of an imitation at the Hill County Arts Foundation near Ingram, Texas.

The true significance of the statues, called moai, is not known but we do know that they once outnumbered inhabitants by roughly 8 to 1. The island is believed to have once held about 15,000 people. A number of factors reduced that to maybe 3,000 by the time Roggeveen came along. Contributing causes were deforestation, erosion, and the extinction of several bird species. The population probably remained around 3,000 until 1862 when Peruvian slavers began a series of raids that resulted in about half of that population being hauled away. The raiders were somehow forced to return many or perhaps most of those they had captured but they brought smallpox to the island when they did. Tuberculosis arrived just a few years later and disease, violent confrontations, and a major evacuation reduced the human population to just 111 by the late 1870s. There are currently 887 moai on the island. In the past there may have been more.

Today is the 296th Easter Sunday that Easter Island has been known by that name. The population has grown considerably and is now around 6000 which must make for a much happier island than when barely a hundred hung on. Of course the actual calendar date of the naming (and my birthday) passed more than a week ago. I hope everyone remembered to wish their friends and family a Happy Easter Island Anniversary.

Trip Peek #55
Trip #10
A Few Indiana Towns

This picture is from my 2003 A Few Indiana Towns day trip. The picture is from Columbus, Indiana, which was the trip’s destination. The town is known for its architecture and painting these vents to look like a pipe organ is the kind of thing that makes the place interesting. Other Indiana towns visited along the way include New Trenton, Cedar Grove, Brookville, Metamora, Oldenburg, and Versailles.


Trip Peeks are short articles published when my world is too busy or too boring for a current events piece to be completed in time for the Sunday posting. In addition to a photo thumbnail from a completed road trip, each Peek includes a brief description of that photo plus links to the full sized photo and the associated trip journal.

Trip Peek #52
Trip #43
The National Road at 200

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


Trip Peeks are short articles published when my world is too busy or too boring for a current events piece to be completed in time for the Sunday posting. In addition to a photo thumbnail from a completed road trip, each Peek includes a brief description of that photo plus links to the full sized photo and the associated trip journal.

Book Review
Vigilante Days and Ways
Nathaniel P. Langford

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Trip Peeks are short articles published when my world is too busy or too boring for a current events piece to be completed in time for the Sunday posting. In addition to a photo thumbnail from a completed road trip, each Peek includes a brief description of that photo plus links to the full sized photo and the associated trip journal.

French Toast and Battle Ax Plug

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

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

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

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

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

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

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