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.

Another Christmas Squirrel

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

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

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

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

Finding It Here

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

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

Eleven Eleven

nov11Friday’s date was eleven eleven. I spent the day at the 2016 Los Angeles Route 66 Festival where the ninetieth anniversary of Route 66 was celebrated. November 11, 1926, was when the United States Numbered Highway System was officially approved so US 66 did indeed come into being on that date but so did another 188 routes. I’ve always thought the big deal some folks make of Sixty-Six’s “birthday” to be somewhere between silly and chauvinistic. Sort of like New Hampshire celebrating its independence — and only its own independence — on the Fourth of July.

I try not to let it bother me. Route 66 has become the most famous member of that class of ’26 and it’s rather doubtful that a birthday party held for any of the others would draw much of a crowd. That doesn’t mean they should be totally ignored, however. For my part, I wished some of my homies, like US 22 and US 36, a happy 90th too. They were “born” the same day as US 66 and are among those that still survive ninety years later. Officially US 66 does not. It didn’t quite make it to fifty-nine. A date that US 66 has all to itself is June 27, 1985, the day it was decommissioned.

nov11bThere is no question that November 11, 1926, is an important day for road fans. It really is a sort of “The king is dead. Long live the king.” moment as the birth of the US Numbered Highways meant the death of named auto trails. They did not instantly vanish, of course. Some of their support organizations continued on for a few years and the Lincoln Highway and National Old Trails Road associations managed to erect long lasting roadside monuments well after the numbered highways took over. Establishing the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956 on June 29 was a somewhat similar event but a significant difference is that, while the act authorized construction of limited-access interstate highways that were more efficient than the existing US Numbered Highways, it didn’t replace the existing system or directly eliminate any of the routes. November 11, 1926, is a unique delimiter in US transportation history that is as notable for what it ended as for what it started.

nov11aBut November 11 was an actual national holiday well ahead of the creation of the United States Numbered Highway System and it marked something more meaningful than identifying one nation’s roads. When I started to school in 1953, November 11 was known as Armistice Day. During the next year, the name was officially changed to Veterans Day although people around me didn’t start using the new name immediately. Nor did they immediately embrace the new definition. Armistice Day marked the anniversary of the end of The Great War on November 11, 1918. It began in England but soon spread to virtually all the allied nations. Two minutes of silence — one minute to remember the 20 million who died in the war and a second minute to remember those left behind — at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month was an important part of the day. Things started changing when the world had another “great war” and had to start numbering them. England and many other nations changed the name to Remembrance Day to include those lost in both conflicts and, as I mentioned, the United States changed the name to Veterans Day. This may be when we began observing a single minute of silence on the day or maybe it was always that way in the US. We observed one minute of silence at the festival.

Veterans Day really is different from Remembrance Day. The US already had a day for honoring those killed by war. The country’s Civil War had given rise to Decoration Day which was eventually renamed Memorial Day and became a day to honor all persons who died while in the military. Many people seem to have great difficulty understanding or at least remembering the difference in these two holidays. It’s not terribly harmful, I suppose, but running around on Memorial Day and thanking the living for their service does show a lack of understanding and detracts from the sacrifices the day is intended to honor. So does using the day to recognize all of our dead regardless of whether they even served in the military let alone if they died in that service.


And just one more thing, ‘leven ‘leven, as she learned to say very early, is also my daughter’s birthday. It’s a date she shares with Demi Moore and Leonardo DiCaprio among others. I know Meg doesn’t want to appear the least bit presumptuous so if Leo or Demi want some help with the candles next year, I’m pretty sure she’d be willing.

The Brewery’s Neighboring Neighborhood

hufftour01Last December I took a tour of decorated homes in Dayton. Those homes were in the Saint Anne’s Hill Historic District where Fifth Street Brewpub is located and they were decorated for Christmas. On Friday evening I toured some homes in a nearby neighborhood that were decorated for a nearby holiday. The holiday was Halloween. The neighborhood was Historic Huffman. Like Saint Anne’s Hill, the Huffman district was once in decline and is experiencing a come back with the restoration of many deteriorating homes. Seven houses took part in this year’s Spirit of Huffman Tour. There are photos here of the three most Halloweenish.

hufftour02hufftour03hufftour04For the first home we visited, the tour is not so much a call to decorate as an oppertunity for the owner to display his incredible collection of Halloween related items. Those shown here are just a tiny portion.

hufftour07hufftour06hufftour05This is one of the “works in process” on the tour. A Dayton ordinance allows individuals to initiate foreclosure proceedings on abandoned houses by paying the expenses. This particular house was acquired for $1200. It was in sad shape and had been stripped of wiring and plumbing but did contain a surprising amount of furnishings including a Baldwin grand piano.

hufftour08hufftour09hufftour10The last house on the tour was not only wonderfully restored and decorated, it offered both entertainment and refreshments. Once we had all assembled in the area between the home and the large carriage house, three witches, who had remained entirely motionless as we gathered, delivered a flawless and dramatic reading of the caldron scene from Shakespeare’s Macbeth. As the scene came to an end, a lady emerged from the carriage house. Surprised by the crowd, she explained that she was doing research on the 1947 Roswell incident and the aliens that were rumored to have been brought to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base from there. There had been some recent sightings, she said, but had barely managed to warn us before we experienced a sighting ourselves.

hufftour11I followed the tour, as I did with last year’s Christmas tour, with a visit to the neighborhood brewery.

Trip Peek #37
Trip #109
Christmas Escape Repeat

pv87This picture is from my 2012 Christmas Escape Repeat trip. The repeat in the title is due to my spending Christmas where I had in 2010 aboard the Delta Queen in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The picture is from the New Year’s Eve celebration in Raleigh, North Carolina. I’d thought of ending a year in Raleigh ever since I’d learned that a giant acorn was “dropped” from a crane to mark the occasion. The two holidays anchored the trip with the Chickamauga battlefield, the city of Atlanta, and a little Dixie Highway filling some of the spaces in between.


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 #36
Trip #39
Tennessee Turkey Trot

pv25This picture is from my 2005 Tennessee Turkey Trot trip when I ran away from home to spend Thanksgiving in Nashville, Tennessee. It was the first time I had attempted a full fledged holiday escape and was just a little tentative. The photo is from my night at the opry. Each winter, the Grand Ole Opry returns to its original home at the Ryman Theater for several shows. I got a great seat for one of those shows along with a picture with “Minnie Pearl”. Other Nashville area attractions I took in included Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage and the Country Music Hall of Fame. The escape seemed to go well with no one actually cursing me when I was close enough to hearing range and other Thanksgiving and Christmas escapes would follow.


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 trip journal it is from.

Happy Easter Island

eiflagLast year 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 295th 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) is still more than a week away. I hope you’re looking forward to wishing everyone a Happy Easter Island Anniversary as much as I am.

Ohio Predictions

ghd2016_01If I’d had any confidence that I would actually attend a Groundhog Day event this year, I might have posted a canned article last week and saved the Happy Imbolc piece for today to be fleshed out with the latest news. But the truth is that I wasn’t sure I would make it to Buckeye Chuck‘s dawn pronouncement until just minutes before I was on the way. I was noncommittal when I went to bed on Monday. If I woke up in time and in the mood to go, I would, but I set no alarm clock and told myself that sleeping through the whole thing would be just fine. I awoke at 4:04, four minutes past what I had decided was the ideal departure time. There was slack in that ideal time but I waffled for a few minutes before finally deciding to go. I hit the shower and then the road and reached Marion, Ohio, right about 7:00. The photo of Buckeye Chuck in his cage was taken at 7:03.

ghd2016_02The gathering in Marion isn’t nearly as large as the one in Punxsutawney but it is respectable. Radio station WMRN has been offering localized groundhog predictions since the late 1970s when Charlie Evers started sharing those provided by groundhogs in the neighboring woods with listeners. That led to a naming contest that produced the name Buckeye Chuck and Evers was instrumental in getting the Ohio legislature to proclaim Buckeye Chuck the state’s official groundhog in 1979. The original Buckeye Chuck was present today, patiently posing for photos. Evers has moved on but is still a force in the area with a show on radio station WWGH.

ghd2016_04ghd2016_03A WMRN Groundhog Day tradition is providing free ground hog, in the form of Spam sandwiches, to everyone present. That’s Buckeye Chuck’s current partner and translator, Scott Shawver taking the first bite of his. I had my own which I consumed with less ceremony but possibly more enthusiasm.

ghd2016_05ghd2016_06Broadcasting from the stage near Buckeye Chuck went live at 7:15, just a few minutes before Shawver bit into that sandwich. Sunrise was at 7:41. The time in between was filled with the reading of a couple of proclamations, including one from Marion Mayor Scott Schertzer and assorted banter from Shawver and co-host Paul James. When they began wondering about who had come the farthest, I thought I might be in the running but the first question, “Anyone from out of state?”, turned up a couple from New Jersey. They visit a different groundhog each year. Last year it was General Beauregard Lee near Atlanta, Georgia, and they have been to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania “many times”. Clouds continued moving steadily on and by the time the sun popped over the horizon the sky was pretty much clear. Buckeye Chuck saw his shadow, an indicator that six more weeks of winter should be expected, instantly.

ghd2016_07The mildly disappointed crowd dispersed rather quickly although some took advantage of the daylight to get a better view or a better picture of Buckeye Chuck while Shawver and James wrapped up the program. I dawdled a bit before walking to the car. Deciding to drive to Marion was as far as my morning planning had progressed. Just before climbing into the car, I asked the only person standing nearby if he knew of a good place for breakfast. “No,” he said with a laugh, “I’m from Cleveland.”

ghd2016_08Scanning signs and storefronts as I drove back through Marion,I spotted a likely looking place near the center of town. I took the photo as I left. The street in front of Baires Restaurant was completely empty when I arrived. A guy at the counter and another in a booth were drinking coffee and chatting with each other when I entered. Service was somewhat slow but the lone woman on the business side of the counter seemed pretty busy in the cooking area so I didn’t think too much of it. The first person to enter after me was a fellow on a walker. As he worked his way into the seat next to me and against the wall, I asked, thinking it might be easier, if he would rather sit where I was. “This one’s got my name on it,” he laughed and he meant it. He pointed to a small brass plate on the back of the swivel stool marking it as his regular seat. The cook/waitress immediately appeared with his grapefruit which I had noticed her preparing earlier. My food arrived as I chatted with my new neighbor and learned that the restaurant normally opened at 8:30. It was not yet a quarter past when I entered and what I took to be slow service was more than I had a right to expect. Now that the place was officially open, a number of people entered with new folks greeted, usually by name, by those already there. As I paid my bill, I joked with the person I now realized was cook/waitress/owner about me busting in early and she grinned. “Oh, you’re alright.” In case there is any question, I had sausage & eggs.

ghd2016_10ghd2016_09One of the reasons I had been so nonchalant about possibly sleeping through Buckeye Chuck’s emergence was that I had a Plan B. The day’s big event at Boonshoft Museum of Discovery, where I’d watched a groundhog named Rosie make her prediction in 2013, was aimed toward a much younger crowd and was scheduled for a comfortable 10:00 AM. I hadn’t even thought about it after starting toward Marion but I got curious as I was about to select “Home” on the GPS, and tapped Boonshoft instead. When I did, I realized that, without the breakfast stop, I probably could have worked in both Chuck and Rosie. Since it made the time to home only slightly longer, I proceeded to the museum. The last load of attending school children were about to climb aboard their bus when I arrived. Rosie’s appearance had taken place more than forty minutes earlier but I coud see the official result. She agreed with Chuck.

Not many did. Punxsutawney Phil predicted an early spring as did all the other U.S. groundhogs on my short list consisting of Staten Island’s Charles G. Hogg, Illinois’ Woodstock Willie, and Georgia’s General Beauregard Lee. The only groundhog of note that I found agreeing with Chuck and Rosie lives in Canada but not all Canadians are of the same mind, either. In Ontario, Wiarton Willie sided with the Ohio rodents in predicting more winter while Shubenacadie Sam claims an early spring is on the way in Nova Scotia.


imbolc2016As stated in last week’s post, I had no plans to be awake at 4:30 AM Thursday. That was when Imbolc, the midpoint between Winter Solstice and Vernal Equinox, occurred this year. Neither did I have plans to assure that I was asleep at that time but that seemed the most likely and it is indeed what transpired. I didn’t miss it by too much, though. The picture at left was taken at 5:22, a mere fifty-two minutes past Imbolc. Admitedly I can’t prove it but I strongly suspect that the view from my bed was pretty much the same at the magic moment as it was less than an hour later.

Happy Imbolc

gknob2010Groundhog Day has long been one of my favorite holidays. In fact, attending America’s biggest Groundhog Day event in Punxsutawney, PA, was among the first things I did with the newly available time that retirement brought. The photo at right was taken at 4:58 AM, February 2, 2010. Sunrise was more than two hours away and the temperature was four degrees Fahrenheit. I had a good time and I’m glad I went but the experience did not lead to plans for an annual return. Standing outside in pre-dawn single-digit temperatures is something I prefer to discuss in past tense only.

I credited my original fondness for Groundhog Day to a belief that it had no religious connections and was basically folklore that had been adopted by some Pennsylvanians largely to promote silliness. While both of those claims are sort of true, there is more to it. I started to doubt the “no religious connections” when I discovered that America’s Groundhog Day shares its February 2 date with Christianity’s Candlemas. But sharing a date doe not a connection make and there are no direct ties apparent between Groundhog Day and any of the three events (presentation of the child Jesus, Jesus’ entry into the temple, and Mary’s purification) Christians attribute to the day.

February 1 is also a day recognized by Christians. It is the day that Saint Brigid of Ireland is reported to have died and is celebrated as her feast day. Before Saint Brigid was born (in 451 they say) a Gaelic festival was celebrated about this time to honor a goddess also named, perhaps by coincidence though probably not, Brigid. I have to say “about this time” because man-made calendars had not yet taken over and feast days were not yet tied to specific numbers on pages. Brigid’s was associated with a point halfway between Winter Solstice and Vernal Equinox called Imbolc which happens near the beginning of what we call February. In 2016 it occurs at 4:30 EST February 4.

Without donut shops and corner diners, it isn’t clear where ancient Irish farmers gathered to talk about the weather but it’s a safe bet that they did. Around Imbolc, the coming spring would have been a big topic. Farmers without donut shops and cable television are quite observant of their environment and they no doubt noticed that bright clear days in the middle of winter were usually a little colder than cloudy ones. With Imbolc being the most “middle of winter” you can get, giving some special significance to the weather on that day was likely fairly natural. That’s about as close to science that the groundhog and shadow story gets.

I’m guessing that making a determination at sunrise was also fairly natural. Even if those early farmers were capable of determining Imbolc’s exact moment — and I’m not saying they weren’t — in those years when it did not occur during the daytime they weren’t about to get up in the middle of the night to see if the sun was shining. The crack of dawn probably seemed about right.

So there really are no direct connections between Groundhog Day and religion and there is plenty of silliness in its fairly recent (1887) use to bring fame to a small Pennsylvania town but its timing is firmly linked to the workings of the solar system and there is a tiny bit of logic in it being a day to make weather predictions. If nothing else, the days around Imbolc are most likely the coldest of the year meaning there’s a good chance that it’s all up-thermometer from here.

My 2010 Punxsutawney visit is here. I will, as usual, celebrate Groundhog Day on Tuesday by consuming pork sausage at some point. I have no plans to be awake at 4:30 Thursday to observe Imbolc.