Lincoln Highway Conference 2017

I’m on my way to the Lincoln Highway Association’s 25th Annual Conference which begins Tuesday in Denison, Iowa. When I first decided to attend, I envisioned a slow drive of the Lincoln Highway from Iowa’s eastern border to the western side of the state where Denison sits. Events in Cincinnati prevented me from leaving before Mondays morning so that slow drive on the LH has become a much speedier drive on the interstates. I do have the eastbound route of the LH through Iowa loaded into the GPS and hope to drive all or some of it after the conference. We shall see.

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

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.

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.

Trip Peek #45
Trip #112
American Songline in Hayesville

pv40This picture is from my 2013 American Songline in Hayesville trip. During the Lincoln Highway’s centennial, singer Cece Otto performed a series of concerts along the highway including one at the historic opera house in Hayseville, Ohio. I centered a three day trip around the concert by preceding it with a Carey Murdock concert in Van Wert, Ohio, and following it with a visit to the Columbus Zoo. Cece documented her centennial concerts with a 2015 book which I reviewed here.


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

Trip Peek #43
Trip #108
LH Centennial Kick Off

pv86This picture is from my 2012 LH Centennial Kick Off trip. On September 10, 1912, a meeting was held in Indianapolis, Indiana, which would ultimately result in the formation of the Lincoln Highway Association. The LHA was incorporated on July 1, 1913, and a big party was planned for the upcoming centennial so why not celebrate the centennial of the get together that started it all. Although they couldn’t quite match the date, that is essentially what the Indiana Chapter of the LHA did and I was there. The 2012 event was held on September 22 in the same building as the 1912 event with an actor playing the role of Carl Fisher, the man who called that first meeting. In addition to the “reenactment” at Das Deutshe Haus, we got to visit several historic automotive related sites in Indianapolis.


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
The Jefferson Highway
Lyell D. Henry Jr.

tjh_cvrIn its preface, Lyell D. Henry Jr. suggests that this book is something of a compromise. The reason is that he once set out to write about every detail of the Jefferson Highway and the association behind it. That’s a lot of details and, especially with no known central source for records or maps, a formidable task. Henry says he “…settled on writing a book that would open with a general accounting of JHA’s early pursuit of the entire highway but then narrow its focus to the highway through Iowa.” The Jefferson Highway: Blazing the Way from Winnipeg to New Orleans is indeed a book of two parts. The first four chapters cover the history of the organization responsible for the entire highway; The last three tell the story and describe the route of the road in Iowa. The scale may be less and the focus may be narrower than what Henry once had in mind but, within that narrowed focus, there is certainly no detectable compromising of accuracy or completeness.

The Jefferson Highway was one of the more significant named auto trails of the early twentieth century. The association promoting it was created in November of 1915 and the highway, like all named auto trails, effectively ceased to be when the Numbered US Highways were established in November of 1926. A modern day Jefferson Highway Association formed in 2011.

The featured players in those first four chapters are men at the top of the Jefferson Highway Association. Men like its founder, Edwin T. Meredith, its first General Manager, James D. Clarkson, and a few others. Likewise, the routeing discussions and decisions presented are those affecting the basic overall course of the highway. Particularly with this being the first book written on the Jefferson Highway in many decades, I thought this a sensible approach. Other leaders and other decisions certainly played important roles in specific states or regions and many that affected Iowa are discussed in the last three chapters. Henry writes that he hopes others will undertake similar projects for the other seven Jefferson Highway states in the near future. When they do, the first four chapters of this book could serve as a foundation. As someone without much knowledge of this highway’s history, I saw them as a sort of JH primer.

The second portion of the book is organized as a north to south driving tour with tales of the various routeings and the points of interest beside them woven into the driving directions. There is no denying that one reason Henry writes about Iowa is that it is his home but it is a very reasonable choice for other reasons as well. JHA founder Edwin T. Meredith was an Iowan and the crossing of the Jefferson and Lincoln Highways at Colo, Iowa, gave the state as good a claim as any to being the “Crossroads of America”.

I’ll readily confess that few of the mileage measurements or specific turning instructions really registered with me as I read those last three chapters but I know they will be invaluable when I someday set out to drive the Jefferson Highway. That doesn’t mean those chapters were boring or should be skipped. Descriptions of the many small towns along the way are certainly interesting and Henry provides quite a bit of road and roadside history, too. An example that I particularly enjoyed was learning, for the first time despite driving through it a few times on the Lincoln, just how Iowa’s “Crossroads of America” escaped becoming the “Cloverleaf of America”.

The book is well illustrated with black and white photographs and drawings. Some of the photos are historic but many, particularly in the three “road tour” chapters are quite recent. A majority of these, though far from all, were taken by current JHA treasurer, Scott Berka.

There were hundreds of named auto trails when numbered highway made them all obsolete. Some were little more than a line on a map and some were outright scams. Without question, the JHA was one of what the outfit responsible for those numbers, the American Association of State Highway Officials, called “reputable trail associations”. It’s good to see it getting some twenty-first century literary attention.


Book Review
An American Songline
Cecelia Otto

aas_cvrCece’s a singer… and a traveler and now a writer. Cece (I know the book cover says Cecelia but few actually call her that.) has been singing since childhood. As an adult, she has spent a goodly amount of time singing professionally as a classically trained mezzo-contralto and there was travel, both in and out of the US, involved. Then, just as the career should have been accelerating, a stumbling economy resulted in it instead being sort of paused. Cece used the time to attend workshops and other activities to help in focusing her future. One workshop involved identifying, in a short amount of time, “…five projects you see yourself doing…” and one item on her hurriedly produced list was “singing travelogue”. No one, including Cece, was quite sure what that meant but it sounded intriguing and, before long, she was on her way to defining a real world project that included a coast-to-coast concert tour, a CD, and this book.

The word “songline” was already part of her vocabulary. Songlines, or dream-tracks, are paths across Australia that indigenous people navigate, and have navigated for centuries, by the singing of songs.The songs are a mix of geography, mythology, and history and that sounds a lot like a “singing travelogue”. Cece chose the Lincoln Highway as the path for her “singing travelogue”. She traveled it during its centennial in 2013 with performances along its entire length. Unlike the Australian songlines, there isn’t really a song or even a set of songs that will guide travelers along the Lincoln Highway but Cece compiled a repertoire of tunes that mention the highway or were performed along it during its 1913-1928 heyday. Some new original Lincoln Highway related songs appeared in her concerts, too.

At one level, the book is a travelogue of that 2013 trip from New York City to San Francisco. Multiple outings are spread over six months. There are descriptions and photos of the same roadside attractions and interesting people and places that folks on vacation might encounter because, when possible, Cece is a tourist enjoying the sights. But sightseeing is definitely secondary. The purpose of the trip is the series of concerts and getting to each of them and being healthy when she gets there is her primary focus. Therefore, the book is also — perhaps mostly — a behind the scenes story of a do-it-yourself solo concert tour. Of course, getting to and performing concerts involves interesting people and places, too.

The book’s organization basically follows the road with states that the Lincoln Highway passes through providing most chapter names. Two notable exceptions are “Loss Along the Lincoln Highway”, which talks about events and thoughts that have absolutely nothing to do with geography, and “Love Along the Lincoln Highway”, in which Cece’s husband, Dan, shares his thoughts on the project that separated the recently wed couple for extended periods. The “singing travelogue” concept is brought to the printed page by beginning each chapter with the description of one of the songs from the tour.

An American Songline has plenty of dates and places and people but it also has emotions. Not only does Cece describe towns and venues, she shares the feeling of singing in those venues when she hasn’t seen her husband in a month and she talks about performing when the recent death of a friend is on her mind and after being surprised by a familiar but unexpected face in the audience. Being behind the scenes sometimes gets personal.

As a sort of “full disclosure”, I’ll mention that I first met Cece at the 2011 Lincoln Highway Association Conference when An American Songline was still a dream. I saw her perform at the concert in Hayseville, Ohio, as well as at other LHA events including the centennial in Kearney, Nebraska. Like Cece, I headed west from Kearney and, although I did not attend the advertised concert, spotted her name in lights along the way. I took some pictures but have never had an opportunity to use them… until now.

aas_sign

An American Songline website.

An American Songline: A Musical Journey Along the Lincoln Highway, Cecelia Otto, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, June 11, 2015, paperback, 8 x 5.2 inches, 318 pages, ISBN 978-1514317822

Trip Peek #33
Trip #95
2011 OLHL Meeting

pv75This picture is from my trip to the 2011 Ohio Lincoln Highway League meeting in Ashland, Ohio. The meeting took place on the second day of the four day outing. The Lincoln Highway cigar box was part of a memorabilia display at the meeting. I worked in a tour of the nation’s only metal whistle manufacturer on the way to the meeting and stopped at the former Ohio State Reformatory and the Armstrong Air & Space Museum on the way home.


Trip Pic 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.

An E-book Cometh

kindle_bmttggSometimes hordes of fans demand an e-book version of a publication which prompts the publisher to pull out all the stops and produce one immediately. Sometimes one or two people casually ask about an e-book version and probably forget about it by the time one appears a year or so later. One of these sentences describes my situation perfectly.

It’s not too tough, of course, to figure out which one. It was just a little over a year ago that By Mopar to the Golden Gate was published as a paperback. I was immediately and understandably asked if an electronic version was or would be available and I had my answer ready. Nope, I said. It was too much work. I suspect those who asked were as surprised by my answer as I had been surprised to learn that making a document completely comprised of digital computer files available to electronic readers wasn’t simply a matter of checking a box and clicking a button. After all, I had published through Amazon and anyone somewhat familiar with their collection of services might be more inclined to believe that than those knowing nothing at all about them. The Kindle side of Amazon’s website clearly states “Publishing takes less than 5 minutes and your book appears on Kindle stores worldwide within 24-48 hours.” That’s not a lie. It’s just not the whole story.

Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) is Amazon’s e-book publishing component. There really is a button that will transfer a book produced through Create Space, Amazon’s hard copy publishing arm, to KDP in “less than five minutes” and I don’t doubt in the slightest that it would be “on Kindle stores worldwide within 24-48 hours”. It will even be readable if — and here’s the rub — it is formless and free flowing. Most are. Most, in fact, are 100% text. Fiction, they say, is what drives e-book sales. If, on the other hand, your book has, say, 160 or so carefully sized and positioned photographs, it’s a different story.

This topic came up recently in an e-versation with a couple of friends heading down the self publishing trail. The discussion benefited from some expert insight that reinforced the fact that, for certain books, there is no single box to check or magic button to click. And it prompted me to revisit the issues I’d ran away from a year ago, work through them, and produce an electronic version of By Mopar to the Golden Gate.

The central issue — it can’t really be called a problem — is the variety and flexibility of e-readers. Content designed for a specific sized sheet of paper just doesn’t get along well with all the different hardware variations and the ability of users to customize things like font style and size. Publisher types talk about two styles of e-books, reflowable and fixed layout, both of which are pretty much described by their names. Reflowable documents make few or no assumptions about the devices used to display them. When a bigger screen is available, more of the document is displayed on each “page”. If the user selects a larger font, less is displayed at one time but the entire document will ultimately flow across the screen if the user just keeps scrolling. That’s different than with a fixed layout document. It may be possible to zoom the display so that characters are larger and more readable but zooming magnifies a portion of the “page” and other portions may never be seen by scrolling. If you’ve ever used an e-reader for something digitized by capturing an image of each page, you’ll immediately understand. Reading a zoomed fixed layout document can sometimes seem like reading a billboard with a jeweler’s loupe.

kindle_bmttgg2Other than correcting a couple of spelling errors, absolutely no text was changed in generating the e-book. The same pictures are in the e-book as in the paperback with essentially the same dimensions. I did utilize color versions so they ought to look a little prettier on some devices. To make things reflowable, I unhooked the pictures and their captions from fixed positions on the pages and placed them between paragraphs. If you think of the sizing and positioning of a book’s non-text elements within the text as design, then what I did was undesign the book. To be honest, there wasn’t very much “design” in it. I placed pictures where I thought they looked good and I chose sizes to spotlight those I particularly liked or to allow some to be grouped together. Design is too kind a word. At best what I did was layout. I arranged some block images so that they looked alright, appeared near any text that referenced them, and didn’t disrupt that text too much. But other books truly are designed and their designers agonize over scaling and placing elements so that a page — a physical page with fixed dimensions — looks good and works well. That sort of design is no better accommodated in the e-reader world than my clunky picture layouts.

At present, the electronic version of By Mopar to the Golden Gate is available for Kindle through Amazon and Nook through Barnes & Noble. Whether it ever goes to other platforms or distribution channels is undecided. It’s my impression that software supporting one or both of these formats is available for most devices. At Amazon, By Mopar to the Golden Gate is part of the MatchBook program which means that all past and future purchasers of the print version can get the Kindle version for just $1.99. I haven’t yet figured out how to provide Kindle versions on the cheap to those who purchase the book elsewhere but I’m working on it. Click on the images below to go shopping.

amzkindle bnnnook