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

Greetings from the UK

Flooded Bonneville Salt FlatsI’ve received a fair number of email messages and even a couple of real mail messages from folks who have read my book By Mopar to the Golden Gate. Some reported an error or two but none have been negative and every one of them put a smile on my face. One, however, had me not only smiling but shaking my head in disbelief. It came from a race fan in England who wanted to be at the Bonneville Salt Flats to help celebrate the 100th anniversary of the first land speed record set there. His initial thoughts were to fly to the east coast of the US and dash across the country to the event. His wife thought attending the festivities was a fine idea but not so the “dash across the country”. She wanted to see more than a few expressways. They discovered the Lincoln Highway Association website and, in his words, “that was that… the LH was perfect”.

Detailed route planning, it seems, did not go much beyond that. There wasn’t much time and I have the impression that this pair of Brits is rather spontaneous as well as adventurous. After all, the idea of going to Bonneville had been hatched while watching a TV show about the upcoming centennial. He got a copy of By Mopar to the Golden Gate a few days before they left and started reading it on the flight to Newark. I was certainly grinning broadly as I read that but then came the line that led to the head shaking. “Your book was our guide as we did the 2500 miles to Utah”, he wrote.

Surely he can’t mean that, I thought. The book certainly was not intended to be a guide book and I could not now imagine it being used that way. There are no real directions and no maps with resolution much finer than the average county. Eventually, though, I think I understood. From the online map and other sources, they had a pretty good idea of the highway’s course and roadside markers, beefed up in spots for last year’s Lincoln Highway Association Centennial, were quite helpful. The couple wasn’t trying to follow every inch of the old highway. They wanted to get to Bonneville and following the general route of the Lincoln Highway was an entertaining way to do that. The book is about the LHA Centennial Tour which stopped mostly at major highlights so highlights are essentially what appears in the book. It provides a list of some major spots that define the Lincoln Highway and that is the sort of guide that was meant.

Reading the following paragraph gave me more of an ego boost than is healthy but it’s really the road and not the book that prompted the praise.

Denny we had a great time we met fantastic people in all kinds of small towns we stayed in some really cool places such as the Virginian in Medicine Bow and were guided by you and the Valiant mile after mile. We lost the markers from time to time but always got back on track.

Sadly, rains and flooding caused Bonneville’s Speed Week to be canceled (Which is why I started this article with a picture from the book of our similarly flooded out 2013 stop.) but the drive saved the trip. Ian and Caroline are planning to return to the US for Speed Week and the rest of the Lincoln Highway in 2016. Plus, a colleague borrowed and read the book and is now starting to think of his own Lincoln Highway trip.

By itself, By Mopar to the Golden Gate cannot actually guide anyone along the Lincoln Highway (for that I recommend Brian Butko’s Greetings from the Lincoln Highway) but maybe it can identify some highlights along the historic route and introduce it to some folks who know little or nothing about it. I’m ending this with the sentence that ended Ian’s email. It makes me grin every time I read it.

So thank you Denny you gave me a plan and we have had a blast, driving on red brick Ohio lanes and seeing seedling miles (after filling up with gas at the garage) dirt roads drive ins and a sense of adventure.

Trip Peek #26
Trip #62
Original OH LH

pv42This picture is from my 2008 Original OH LH trip to attend the Ohio Lincoln Highway League annual meeting in Galion. The route initially announced by the Lincoln Highway Association, now known as the Proclamation Route, included the cities of Kenton and Marion. When a revised route was announced a few weeks later, the route was moved to the north and these cities dropped. I decided to take a look at Ohio’s part of the Proclamation Route on this drive which is how I ended up in Kenton where this Gene Autry Mural is located. The drive continued through Marion and other Proclamation Route towns. The manufacture of Gene Autry toy pistols is a big part of Kenton’s past and that’s why the big mural is there and why there used to be an annual Gene Autry Days festival. As I prepared this post, I learned that the 2013 festival was the last.


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.

Summits to Salt Flats
2014 Lincoln Highway Conference

pic02bI am now en route to the 2014 Lincoln Highway Association conference in Tooele, Utah. I will eventually pick up some new-to-me LH on the way but it will take a another day to get to the planned start of the trip in Denison, Iowa.

On Saturday, as I prepared the framework for this post, I accidentally hit “publish” instead of “save”. I immediately “unpublished” it but some email alerts were sent. I apologize for any confusion that created. This time it’s for real.

The trip journal is here. This blog entry is to make blog-only followers aware of the trip and to provide a place for comments.

Book Review
The Narrow Road
John Jay Abbott

Narrow Road coverThis book could be called a near opposite of the one in my most recent review. That one contained lots of information and was well researched but not so well written. The Narrow Road: An Adventure on the Lincoln Highway tells me little that’s new and involved almost no research but is fairly well written. Yes, I do have variety in my reading.

I’m sure no one will be surprised to read that I sometimes visit Amazon and type “Lincoln Highway” into the search box. I used to do it to see if there was anything new that I hadn’t heard about but recently I’ve been doing it to see where my own book appears. The Narrow Road popped up in the search results and was not only “something new that I hadn’t heard about”, there were similarities between it and my book, By Mopar to the Golden Gate. Abbott’s book was published on December 17, 2013, mine on December 27, and both were travelogues of full length drives of the Lincoln Highway during its centennial year. Abbott lived far from the coasts, in Springfield, Missouri, so that, like me, he had to start his journey with an eastbound drive to New York City and end it with an eastbound drive back home. Beyond that, however, the similarities peter out quickly.

Abbott knew next to nothing about the Lincoln Highway before setting out to drive it. He was between jobs but had a little money in the bank. The recent death of his mother left him with no obligations and a cross country drive seemed like just what he needed. He more or less stumbled on the Lincoln Highway when he started looking for a route to connect the east coast with Route 66 which he knew about not only because of its own fame but because it ran through his home town. I think the coincidence of the Lincoln Highway’s 100 year anniversary and his own opportunity to run free for a bit clinched the decision to follow this newly discovered piece of history. He explains, “I didn’t go with any preconceived ideas. I learned just enough about the route to find my way.”

Amazon’s description of the book includes “…a travel narrative in the tradition of Travels with Charley“. I don’t doubt that’s what Abbott was going for but Steinbeck had a couple of decades of living and a shelf full of best sellers on the forty-three year old so that his “careful reflection and discovery” (also part of the Amazon description) ran a little deeper and carried a little more weight. One bit of discovery that, at least in my opinion, Steinbeck and Abbott share is the discovery that they don’t really like road trips. Neither says this, of course, but neither seems to be having the time of their life during their journey. I reviewed another book in the Travels With Charley tradition, Long Way Home, last year and the writer of that one, Bill Barich, seems to enjoy his trip a lot more than either Abbott or Steinbeck.

Steinbeck had no practical limits on time or money. Barich definitely did. Abbott’s time might not have been limited itself but his clearly restricted budget did certainly limit the amount of time he could spend running around with no income. Restaurants and motels were luxuries. Abbott ate a lot of canned fruit and peanut butter. He camped quite a bit and spent several nights sleeping in the homes of people contacted through a website. Both the camping and the home sharing contributed stories.

When Abbott left home, he was committed not only to the full coast to coast road trip but to producing a book about it. That commitment may have made him a little more observant and definitely kept him on the lookout for subject matter. More than once he noted that an encounter provided “something worth writing about”. Things observed and people encountered are written about and are sometimes used as launch points for essays on whatever enters Abbott’s thoughts at the time. None of the observations are particularly enlightening or the essays especially insightful but I enjoyed them — largely, I think, because they were quite different than my own observations and essays on a very similar trip. I believe this was Abbott’s first big road trip and I suspect part of my enjoyment of the book came from telling myself that some of Abbott’s thoughts were the thoughts of the typical first timer.

In the first paragraph, I described this book as “fairly well written”. I added the “fairly” qualifier because the writing, while extremely literate, has some issues. Or maybe it just has one issue. Abbott doesn’t exactly repeat a thought but neither does he let go of one easily. There were times when the same thought was expressed in so many different ways that I wondered if it might be some sort of writing exercise.

The Narrow Road: An Adventure on the Lincoln Highway, John Jay Abbott, December 17, 2013, Kindle ebook only, 388 KB, ASIN- B00HESQC2G

We Have Ways of Making You Talk

Ohio Lincoln Highway League West meetingWhen the Lincoln Highway Association was reborn in 1992, Ohio’s organization took the form of three chapters operating as a “league”. However, until late last year, that was on paper only. In October, a West chapter was formed to join the existing East and Central chapters and Larry Webb was elected its first president. Larry knows my cousin who lives in Van Wert and one day she mentioned my recently published book to him as something he might be interested in. He ordered his own copy and gave me a call after he’d looked it over a bit. He asked if I was making presentations related to the book and I answered, “No, but I probably should be.” He then offered up the recently formed chapter as “guinea pigs” at their next meeting on February 18. Although I put him off for a bit, I eventually agreed and found myself asking, in a conversation with myself, “Just what have you gotten us into now, Bunkie?”

During my working days, I had spoken to a few small groups but was never very comfortable with it and it was a long time ago. The book in question is By Mopar to the Golden Gate which tells of a cross country drive on the Lincoln Highway which is why a Lincoln Highway Association group was interested. It contains a lot of photos and I had taken many more on the trip so that’s where my planning headed. A few pictures would help a bunch. Not only would each one reduce my speaking requirement by a thousand words and give the audience something to look at, they could be my notes. With a little time to refresh myself on dates and such, I could rattle on about some pictures I’d taken without a teleprompter or learning a lot of new stuff.

I started browsing through my pictures and, at the same time, started looking for a way to present them. Larry had told me a projector and screen would be available that I could (hopefully) run from my laptop. I looked at a few slide show programs and ended up settling on OpenOffice Impress, a free PowerPoint-like application. It allowed me to add information (reminders) to photos as well as create non-photo slides to provide other information.

I made a pass through the photos picking out candidates. I reduced this rather large list to about 125 photos that I thought might be good for some presentation then to about 50 that I thought would be good for this presentation. I recorded myself going through things a couple of times to get a handle on the length and to determine where my memory was going to need more help than a photograph provided. I made up a couple of slides with some general statistics and other items. I decided I was as ready as I was going to get.

When I’m on the road, leaving a motel is often a slapdash sort of thing. Half the time I’m packing up the power supply while my computer is doing its shutdown on batteries. As I got ready to leave home on the day of the presentation, I took no short cuts and made sure everything shutdown in the right sequence. I drove to Van Wert and, as soon as Larry arrived, carried my computer in and turned it on. “Gotcha!”, it said. Or something along those lines that meant things are not right and I’m going to run a disk check. It ran the check, it fixed a thing or two, and it completed powering up. All was well and any risk of me becoming too relaxed during the evening was effectively eliminated.

Main Street Van Wert adAll really was well. Not only did the computer function properly, so too, within limits, did I. The audience of approximately twenty-five was just about perfect. They knew enough about the Lincoln Highway to be interested but not enough to be bored. There was even applause, which is something I’m not at all familiar with, at the end and their interest was further demonstrated through several very good questions. It remains to be seen whether I do any more presentation of this sort but I survived this one and even enjoyed it. For me, the primary purpose was to get some experience and not to sell books but I did sell some. Four copies were sold and a few more placed on consignment with the canal museum in Delphos. Add to that the fact that I arrived in Van Wert early enough to take advantage of a $1 pie sale at Balyeats (apple) and that I spent the night and chattered away the next morning with friends who came to the presentation and I count this as a darned good trip.

Trip Peek #14
Trip #31
OH Lincoln

April snow in OhioThis picture is from the my 2005 OH Lincoln road trip. The trip was centered around my first ever Ohio Lincoln Highway League annual meeting and marked the first time I drove Ohio’s part of the Lincoln Highway from end to end. Starting, on April 22, in East Liverpool, I spent three days getting to, and a little beyond, the Indiana border. The first day was gray, the second wet, and the third white. Clouds and rain are pretty common for late April but snow is definitely not. Day two actually started with very light and very brief flurries then day three began with snow on the ground. Intermittent flurries continued throughout the day and provided the scene captured in the photo.

Trip Pic Peek #13 — Trip #56 — Indy Sixty-Two


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.