Archive for the ‘on the road’ Category

Suomi for Breakfast

Monday, August 25th, 2014

No attorney in view, the restaurant and bakery in Houghton, a local tradition, is the Suomi. (pronounced Sue Me) *.  The bearded busboy, a student at Finlandia University, is very polite, yet appears a raccoon with distemper.

The no-nonsense waitresses, so quick you feel their passing breeze lift the napkin from the counter; the French toast made from freshly baked cinnamon bread, exquisite. This is Paris, in denim, hiding from polyester vacations.

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Sunday regatta, looking toward Hancock, MI and the Finlandia campus

Since our first visit to the Keweenauw, 2008, the entire peninsula has become more vibrant.  Calumet and sister city, Laurium, on the verge of extinction, are now in resuscitation.  Not hip or trendy, i.e. disney, cruise ship, water park, cookie-cutter franchises.  Tourism, home-grown small business, renewed historical interest in mining, and the abundance of natural beauty trump Priceline.com or Sandals® resorts.  Credit the Pure Michigan campaign.
(full disclosure: I am not an actor or compensated spokesperson)

The entertainment choices, like most university towns, are often unique.  The Festa Italiana in Hancock boasted its headliner, “The World’s First Indestructible Italian Polka Band”, but ran out of spaghetti, overwhelmed by hungry festival goers.  The Michigan Tech Pep Band is reputed to be a techno-geek sensation, but sadly, we arrived a month prior to practice.

band“The ice bucket challenge is for wusses”

DSCN1495Laurium’s own, George Gipp, immortalized on the football field and in fieldstone by Knute Rockne and Ronald Reagan.

DSCN1486The lodge of the Keweenauw Resort, built in the early 1930’s has changed little in eighty years.  Built by the WPA to provide labor for the 80-90% unemployment among miners, it retains the craftsmans’ unduplicated charm to this day. A baked haddock sandwich, cole slaw, chips and beer never tasted better.
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Nearing our goal, the Copper Harbor lighthouse from across Horseshoe Bay as seen August 2008.  A beautiful, lonely, desolate finger into the teeth of northwest winds of Lake Superior.
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August, 2014, same view, Lynn explaining to Mrs. Wilson our first visit with Jack.

We’ve reached our goal, the genesis of U.S.41.
DSCN1830Family portrait; and a vow to one another we won’t wait 6 years to return. 

This is where snowfall is measured in feet, not inches.  Where people think hockey is an actual sport although admit never seeing the puck.  And most important, the natives regard the current frenzy, the ice bucket challenge**, as a thermal joke.  They wouldn’t consider participating unless they needed to warm up.

 

*reputed to be the best breakfast in MI by Rachel Ray, the chatty, chubby, petite Jewish doyenne of kitchen kitsch

**when will this ever end ?

 

 

©insightout2014

Copper Galore

Saturday, August 16th, 2014

The approach to Houghton, MI., along the Portage Lake Channel is attractive, not breathtaking. However, the anticipation of a week on the shore of the Keweenaw peninsula is pure oxygen.

HQ of the copper boom lasting a century from 1845-1945, it is now home to the famed engineering Michigan Technical University (formerly Mi. School of Mines) with a noted alumnus, Julie Estep PhD, the prominent rhetorician. Ms. Estep quietly manages to avoid the public limelight in Chico, CA., along with her husband, Gary, and four dogs.

Add Norman Rautiola, now living in splendor, Montecito, CA, inventor of patented keyless entry into automobiles.  He also developed the electromagnetic field which senses your approach and opens/closes doors and windows. Being the nation’s electronic valet became profitable, which Mr. Rautiola generously shares, in addition to his time and business savvy, with MTU.

In the future, sooner than imaginable, we’ll be traveling in driverless vehicles. Rest assured, his Nartron Corp. will own the patent.

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L-R, Norm Rautiola, Mrs. and Mr. Al Gebeau (Ford Motor, ret.)
Aboard the Keweenaw Star, MTU in the background

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Native copper ore, barely oxidized, MTU mineral museum

Unlike California, the planetary prune, which continues the unsustainable siphoning of the Colorado River, the Keweenaw is surrounded on three sides by Lake Superior, the deepest and largest supply of fresh water in the hemisphere.

Add these pluses:

  • birthplace of professional hockey
  • more Finns than a suburb of Helsinki
  • four times the annual snowfall of Buffalo, NY
  • pure water, clean air, no traffic
  • nearest interstate ramp 264 miles;Duluth,MN
  • Scandanavian indelicacy, lutefisk

Quoting* Garrison Keillor ” the purgatory of lutefisk, a repulsive gelatinous fishlike dish that tasted of soap and gave off an odor that would gag a goat….not edible by normal people. It is reminiscent of the afterbirth of a dog or the world’s largest chunk of phlegm”.

Lutefisk may have been solely responsible for the noticeable Lutheran inbreeding of Swedes and Finns.  Who knows?  What is important is that humans are all hybrids, just like our dogs, and you have to wonder…why can’t we get along?

Tribal battles flourish.  In northern Iraq, the Sunnis slaughter the Kurds.  In northern Michigan, factions of the Chippewa, Sault, Ojibwa tribes engage in turf battles for casino revenues.  Everybody is a loser….prisons prosper; substance abuse and depression become the fast track industries.  A solution might be to have warring factions spend a winter together, sharing firewood, skis, lutefisk, and ice fishing huts.

Population growth here remains at zero. No surprise when most activity, in or out of doors, revolves around ice. Californians may be proud of their tan lines, being on a first name basis with cosmetic surgeons, or thankful their homes have not been incinerated in a wildfire or on a mudslide headed for the beach.

No such problem in Houghton, as the natives have an unlimited supply of water to wash and wax the snowmobile in anticipation of another birth controlled winter. We, thankfully, plan a perfect summer week in the community owned waterfront RV park.  The array of local activities has us mouthing at the frost.

Don’t change the dial………

* Pontoon, Aug 2008 Penguin Books®

©insightout2014

 

Back Seat of a Greyhound Bus

Thursday, August 7th, 2014

Apology to the lyricist of “Ramblin’ Man”, we’re on US 41, imagining the early 1950s before Ike and the interstate system.  This road is a north/south noodle, perpendicular to the overly glamorized Route 66. 580px-US_41_mapHaving grown up less than a mile from 41, and only minutes from the view of Lake Michigan’s southern tip, this old highway is a mess; potholes, so deep, the water drains into the South China Sea, or at the least, burns a hole in your patience.

From the Indian Reservation in L’Anse, Michigan to the southern terminus in Miami, the most disgusting city north of Havana, the road is a life sentence with little punctuation.  Perhaps an apostrophe for NFL fans in Green Bay, but little else.  Highway tedium in search of a mood detector.  Anxiety, depression, and aggression beg for the release of serotonin, unavailable from the Walgreen’s or CVS that litter the highway.

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Headed north in Baraga County to the starting line in Copper Harbor, MI., however, is a traveler’s dream: 79 miles forward and 79 years backward in time.  Copper Harbor is in a time warp; souvenir shops with local items made of cedar, the departure dock to Isle Royale N.P., and the ubiquitous physical adventure travelers.  Helmeted.

You recognize them, shrink wrapped like colorful sausages, wearing plastic cycling shoes.  They drive an aging Volvo station wagon with kayaks on the roof and mountain bikes on the trap door.  Bumper stickers; Dukakis/Bentsen in 88, Greenpeace, ‘ I brake for mountain goats’.  With temples beginning to grey, each armed with a personal electronic device, they leave behind the fingerprints of apps, the footprints of consciousness.  No one has told them the news.

Roll over Beethoven.

We’re not ‘riding the dog’, as the title might imply.  This is the first non-medical trip in five years, the Excella awakened from slumber and performing flawlessly, taking a vacation from retirement.  Think of it as a 30 year old Airstream on a Medicare Advantage plan.

A stop for a nap in Champion, MI., pop. 297, is a highlight, the horse-pull capital of the Upper Peninsula.  The only saloon, featuring a sign, both neon and alcohol-free, was closed years ago.  The maple trees are tinged with yellow and red…fall arrives early north of 46º.

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Higley’s, dressed for Christmas

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Pretty in Pink

Headed north to Houghton, at 45 rpm, we’re off to tell Tchaikovsky the news…….

 

 

©insightout2014

The Legend of Stoney Gilliam, II

Thursday, January 16th, 2014

The dash warning light is real.  Within minutes the truck has lost  power, reducing 70 mph down to 25 mph, so I choose to turn on the warning flasher and ride the shoulder.  Sans a GPS, I can only estimate that the next town, Springerville, AZ, is fifty miles distant.  Although the very large array of radio telescopes passed an hour ago may be able to detect visitations from other galaxies in the universe, I have zero bar cell service.

For more than an hour, rumble strips, a sick engine, and a few passing cars are all that are seen and heard. 35 miles on the clock.

And then, an angel.

A white SUV slows as it passes then pulls aside and awaits the sick driver and sicker truck.  Her name is Karla, a solo road warrior, with an innate trust for a fellow traveler in distress.  I could be Ted Bundy, serial killer, in disguise, armed and dangerous, a felon preying on good samaritans, but Karla didn’t hesitate. No questions asked, she tries her cell phone, to no avail.  However, her car is equipped with On-Star®, a clever satellite service that promptly answers and offers to call a AAA wrecker.  We part with a warm handshake, and within an hour the truck is loaded onto the flatbed tow, headed for the recommended service center, Round Valley Garage, Springerville, Arizona.

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Stoney Gilliam is stoic, soft-spoken, a weathered mechanic choosing his words carefully and sparingly.  He has the rugged good looks of NCIS’s Mark Harmon.  A late afternoon gaze at the truck through piercing eyes from under an old baseball cap and the computer scope reveals a very serious NG…failed injectors at 193,000 miles.  This had happened once before, in 2008, a whisper above 100,000 miles, and a shadow past the seven year  extended warranty.  GM, sympathetic, politely punched my tough s#it card, and wished me better fortune in the future.

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dateline: Springerville, AZ

nearest big box store, Show Low, AZ, 48 miles away

closest interstate ramp, I-40, 82 miles distant

Stoney’s son drives me to the vintage, 1960s, El-Jo Motel, conveniently located adjacent to a favorite local saloon/eatery, The Safire.  Not a misspelling to be confused with the lovely blue gemstone, The Safire had once been named The Safari, but a Phoenix restaurant of the same name requested the name be changed to avoid confusion.  Fat chance.

The claim to fame for the Safire; the Duke, John Wayne, frequented the place in the 60s.  He had been part owner of a large ranch just west of neighboring Eagar, AZ.  The cheeseburger was delicious, but the seat in the  dining room booth still retained the sculpted shape of the Duke’s rump, like the trusty saddle on an old gelding.

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The Duke, after lunch at the Safire

I spend the next morning, on foot, exploring the town.  A walk to the airstrip, a visit with the ladies in the Safeway store, the local museum where everyone important was named Udall, McD’s for an egg mcmuffin, and a brief busman’s holiday at the Western Rexall.  This is a hardscrabble town with little veneer.  You don’t live here to be monetarily rich.  Five interviews with ‘locals’ were consistent.  You’ll find characters, but no drunken Toronto mayor, or a Jersey FatGov; people seem to enjoy the isolation, fresh clear air, no parking woes, no traffic, and very little crime.  Everyone knows who you are, what you drive, and where the herd of elk was last seen crossing SR 180.

Because the repair, a 14 hour task, and parts would take several days to arrive, over a weekend + the vicious storm covering most of the U.S., Stoney offers to drive me to Show Low that afternoon, both to rent a car, continue on to Phoenix, and meet my wife, Lynn, arriving by air.  He promised me, unequivocally, he would have the truck ready in a week, and would not release it until he was certain it was 100%.  Believe me, his word is gold.

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L-R, Stoney, Chas, and the mended Silverado background

Strange, this bump in the road, a major inconvenience when I needed it the least, enriched my life, reinforced my faith in the basic goodness of people, and lead to quiet contemplation on the ride on AZ-80 from above the Mogollon Rim down to the Valley of the Sun.

Becker Butte Lookout

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Straight from the pages of Arizona Highways, the breathtaking scenery is as welcome as the thirty minute stop to remove fallen rocks.

Below, a genuine American Indian princess and AzDOT employee shares stories and candy with me while waiting.

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My sincere thanks to the support team and I wish them all the best:

  • Karla 
  • The wrecker driver with a clean sense of smell
  • Stoney, Nicole, their son, and staff at the RVGarage
  • The ladies at the El-Jo and the Paint Pony Lodge, in Show Low
  • Show Low, AZ., Hatch Toyota rental rep, Jolene Dailey, for the Rav4, efficiency, and a smile that can melt gloom and lighten the room
  • Princess SummerFallWinterSpring and her avalanche stories

A trip planned to cover 1800 miles in four days had turned into an odyssey of 2400 miles, over 14 days, sleeping in nine different beds, losing seven pounds, five days of food poisoning, and a small dent in the travel budget.

It was worth it.

 

insightout©2014

The Legend of Stoney Gilliam

Tuesday, January 14th, 2014

In the rear view mirror, what once was referred to as a cold front, then redefined as an arctic blast, has now morphed into a Polar Vortex.  The weather media have fallen into the exaggeration trap of their newsy colleagues who have given us the fiscal cliff, quantitative easing, the dreaded taper and the nuclear option.

Embarking on a four day, mid-winter, cross country trip over the Great Plains is always an adventure.  I make my first overnight stop, a popular, cheap hostelry that rhymes with No Tell Kix (to avoid being sued).  This in memory of my dearly departed dog, Jack.  This chain allows pets because they place you in a room with linoleum flooring.  The bath towels, roughly the size of a diaper, have the absorbency of a sheet of cellophane.  R.I.P. little Jackster, it’s only for one night.

Miles southwest of Albuquerque, I’ve taken an L-shaped route off Interstate-25, the hard right turn westerly on lonely U.S. Highway 60, which slices through the heart of parched, west-central New Mexico. The loneliness from Socorro, NM to Springerville, AZ, 154 miles, is palpable; should this desolation escape you, do not drive, get breathalyzed.

These San Agustin plains were chosen for a radio astronomy observatory because the isolated location away from large population centers, and the partial shielding effect of the surrounding mountain ranges.  This is peculiar to New Mexico, the state known to issue driver’s licenses to extra-terrestrials.  Locals of every ilk, perhaps on uncontrolled substances, enjoy regular visits from inter-planetary friends. This gives credence to the state motto warning: Land of Enchantment.

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I have, however, taken a personal turn for the worse.  A three course tamale dinner at an upscale Mexican restaurant in Albuquerque has tasered my gut lining from the tonsils south, septum to the rectum.  Urgency rhymes with emergency.  From the glove box of my aging Silverado diesel, a spare roll of TP and bottle of hand sanitizer become my two best friends. With only a single passing car every 1/2 hour, the entire county has become a personal port-a-potty.  Toxicity without vanity, I harbor some shame that this is not a ‘best practice’ health and sanitation policy.  Here, however, only the neighborhood rattlesnake population would issue an APB, a toxic intruder alert.

Next stop, Pie Town, NM, an unincorporated bend in the road, a cult restaurant, the Pie-O-Neer, and a clean restroom.  DSCN1314DSCN1315

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Saying grace, PieTown, 1940, before dessert

I pass on America’s favorite dessert.  The combination of red chile, tamales, clostridium difficile, and cherry pie might translate into the first nuclear disaster since the Fukushima tsunami.  I opt for a single bottle of Coca-Cola to ward off dehydration.

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30 miles west, in truly, the middle of nowhere, the worst is yet to come.  The dreaded “check engine” light illuminates the dash………..

 

…to be continued

 

insightout© 2014

 

 

 

Providence

Monday, October 28th, 2013

To some, the capital of Rhode Island, to others, however, upholding the natural order of the universe, an intervention into the lives of extraordinary people.

Hence, a sequel to Baptists and Prisons, the highway breakdown part II,  so why not fashion a rap stanza;

A major setack, a carburetor crack, aint cause for (bleep) dismay,

Rent a car, raise the bar, who give a poop, meet the 190 group,

Outta that funk, got beer in the trunk,

No (delete) delay, gonna be a  great day

Dateline: Punta Gorda, Florida

Event: Mercedes 190SL International Convention

A dire bathroom warning in the Sheraton Four Points reminds me that things could be worse than songwriting hip-hop.

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From our individual launch pads, members share only two things in common; (a) title to an orphan status car of erotic design, and (b), the right to trial by jury. From the first example built in 1954 to the last, 1963, now a half century past, this disparate owner group of thirty years standing has created a timeless thread, thriving, beyond the 190SL roadsters. To the core, the individual characters, made this journey memorable.

Yes, the cars are important but they are inorganic (aside from the tanned hides of recently deceased livestock). Blasphemy alert; the cars do not have a gender, a menstrual cycle, headaches, or bi-polar depression requiring serotonin inhibition. Yes, yes, you’ve given them pet names, assigned a sex, and cover them in heated nurseries with a  diaper.  Get over it; they are just cars, with neither memory, feelings, chocolate cravings, nor requiring prophylaxis against chlamydia.  Brace yourself for taser shock, the car doesn’t know you own it.DSCN1079

Red Hot with Swiss Cheese backdrop; @ Muscle Car City

A partial list of the people, real, organic, that authenticated a weeklong odyssey, none of which would have happened without driving misfortune:

Captain Bill on Tamiami Trail who gave me the best haircut in years.

Sharing breakfast and an autograph with acclaimed Cape Cod artist, Karol Wyckoff, before 7 AM.

Having the honor of introducing Kent V., a retired American Airlines captain from TX, to John McC., retired Air Canada captain from BC.  These two looked the part; tall, handsome, distinguished, and either could perform the cameo role of Hudson River hero, Sully Sullenberger, or Leslie Nielsen in the movie, Airplane!  I knew, immediately, that John, like Leslie, was a Canadian when he pronounced ‘about’ as ‘aboot’.

Native New Englander, Henry Magno, a dedicated gearhead, and Marcia Herrara, a Nebraskan companion with encyclopedic knowledge of 3rd world infrastructure, disease, and reproductive health. Unlike most Massachusetts residents, they do not regard Rhode Island as a suburb of Boston.  Which it is.

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Scratch ‘ride in a camoflouge swamp buggy’ off my bucket list. Henry….hmmm, not so sure

Dining with legacy member and first timer Mary Anne Westphal and sidekick, Ken Lowman, refugees from Gainesville, home to the FL Gators.  This, a relief, after three dazzling hours of million dollar cars in Miles Collier’s private museum.

Catching a ride to dinner with Mike, Mary Jo, and young Joseph Herrmann, genuine Californians, the latter playing hookey while tap-dancing around middle school truancy.

In a very dark parking lot, I manage to thumb a ride back to the hotel with Hagerty rep, Jen McWhinnie, a SYT barely old enough to be my granddaughter. Without hesitation or equivocation, she offers the shotgun seat, unaware that I may possess outstanding warrants or priors as a serial killer.  Blind trust by one very cute kid.

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The Hagerty WOW factor, an unfair competitive advantage

Conference call with gurus, the two Dons and Walt Puryear, to confirm the fine points of carburetor installation with our mechanic Seth, 180 miles distant.

Depart Punta Gorda hotel, Friday, at 3:30 AM, clutching a used Solex PHH, a doughnut, and GPS.

Mark, Jerry, and  Seth, the A-Team of European Car Clinic, Ocala, FL, perform surgery on Baby Jane’s PMS and get us back on the road.

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Intensive care unit, intravenous 15W40, and skinned knuckles

Forewarned that the replacement unit might still run lean, sucking air from the resultant warping of both the intake surface and carburetor body, I was guaranteed safe passage to Indiana.  The long hill climbs in the south become a challenge to maintain 70+ mph, however the right hand lane, between semis, becomes your new best friend.

Avoiding a mirror replay of the trip south, fueled by anxiety and loneliness and robust Starbucks, I’m northbound on overused I-75.  It has the personality of styrofoam, and at each interchange, faceless motels, gas, and food too fast to be taken seriously.  Ringed in asphalt, like the excessive use of eyeliner applied to an aging prostitute.

Tifton, GA, Jericho, TN, and the mandatory stop in Corbin, KY for KFC, home to Colonel Sanders, and birthplace of the secret 11 herbs and spices; original, crispy chicken. Tastes better here, they say.

It isn’t.

A curious irony  at this convention, having attended ten over two decades, was peeling the veneer from so many delightful people.  The norm is to congregate with the familiar, the friends you’ve grown to know well, and become oblivious of newcomers.  Sans my wife, dog, and without a car, this became the best meeting ever, the result of a roadside calamity.  Divine intervention.

A future as a vulgar lyricist, i.e., challenging Kanye, Jay-Z, and Fifty Cent, is not in the wings for this contributor.  I gave up by singing, “What’s it all aboot, Alfie?” and opted for a moment of reflection in rural FL, Sholom Park.  An exquisite stoic beast three feet in length.

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Cincinnati, Indy, and home, sweet, ‘back home again in Indiana’, 2630 adventurous miles.  Home to dog, Jack, my darling wife, Lynn, reunited after ten days, we practice our flying butt bump  in the family room, as if we are in the end zone, and just taken the lead in the fourth quarter.  No small task when each of us has a vertical leap of three inches.

And no tattoos.

 

 

©insightout2013

 

Baptists & Prisons

Tuesday, October 15th, 2013

dateline: Ocala, FL

alert: minor Airstream reference

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In Pooler, Georgia, a bi-polar city vehicle, the SquadTaxi

Traveling four days in a 53 year old mercedes roadster, twelve hundred trouble-free miles on the odometer, destination Punta Gorda, southwest Florida, and I’ve hit the wall. Unable to maintain idle, stalling at every intersection, I’m now on a flatbed headed to the European Car Clinic.

Suspicious that the car is running on only 2 cylinders, of the four available, I’ll have to await the diagnosis. Here’s hoping it isn’t open heart surgery.

Having driven vintage cars for>forty years, this is, quite simply, an adventure in motoring. What the hell, write a blog. The most visited national park, the Great Smokies, is nearly suffocated by the tawdry tourism of Pigeon Forge, Sevierville, Dollywood, and Gasplingburg. However, breaking through the pea soup fog in early morning sunrise, the view from above the clouds is an ecstatic panorama in resplendent fall colors….nothing ober nor uber, and not a single waterpark to dampen nature’s splendor.

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Mountain dew (actual) at pre-dawn on the boot lid

Years since I’ve made this trip, the Blue Ridge Parkway remains a great ride. The stop in Saluda,SC, the most photographed nostalgic main street in the USA, a visual delight. A shaded park bench, a honey crisp apple from the 1890 Thompson grocery, and a half hour of girl watching…makes for a reluctant departure.

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Oldest grovery in NC, where you can still buy a bar of BonAmi®

I-95 in Georgia is nightmarish except for sighting a continuous stream of motorcycles en route to Daytona Beach for Bike Week, the southern version of Sturgis, SD. A group of vintage Porsches, all owned and driven by Belgians, is on tour, a pilgrimage of sorts, from NY city to Miami. Le Tour de Automobile. Nice cars, good-lucking guys, French accents, and gorgeous women riding shotgun.

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Oooo,la, la

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Photoshopped image of my favorite redhead on R. Luhr’s BMX bike

Pastoral setting under the Darien, Georgia bridge, from the deck of Skippers, the best seafood restaurant in a state that worships peaches.

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Shrimp boats awaiting high tide

The most common vehicle south of Jacksonville is the 400,000 off-road fleet driven by elderly, white retirees. Not the ubiquitous Lincoln Town Car, Mercury Marquis, or Ford Crown Victoria, they’re all made by Cushman and E-Z-Go.

Promised airstream reference, Nintendo character demonstrates vista view windows on an aging retrofit for travel.

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In the same Hampton Inn parking lot where the old 121 chassis is being loaded on a flat bed for the trip to the clinic.

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Tim H., tow truck driver extraordinaire, tightens the straps

The title line is a tangential reference to Florida’s two most profitable industries. Not citrus agriculture, nor discount coupon travel guide publishing, oxycodone abuse, or even freedom from state income tax; Baptist churches and incarceration facilities rank #1 and #2. If you’re searching for Jesus here in the Sunshine State, they’ve got you covered.

Before or after you’ve sinned.

Tesla : Preamble in tunnel vision

Monday, August 19th, 2013

The rosy fingers of a Saturday dawn are welcomed, late September, 2008, after the six mile drive and 2500 foot climb up the winding road of Rancho Carrillo. Named for Leo Carrillo, the Cisco Kid’s mischievious sidekick, Pancho, the ranch is an idyllic mountaintop respite from the urban torture of Orange County.

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The event, a popular cars & coffee excuse for the sybaritic motor culture in southern California, attracts a hundred vehicles of every ilk; none of which are routine, pedestrian, nor inexpensive.  The morning feature is a prototype electric sports car, the Tesla, rather sexy looking, attached to a 220 volt charging station that resembles the yacht cable on a marina pier or the type for a monster motorhome.  8007568972_d4077a73cf_cThree members of the Tesla team explain the virtue of electric cars, a century-old concept, now invigorated with advanced technology. Below, antiquated technology.

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DSCN1891The infectious enthusiasm of one, Elon Musk, a 37 y/o South African with the clipped accent of Ernie Els, is intoxicating.  Apparently now, my 190SL companions tell me, a billionaire from the sale of his popular credit card scheme, PayPal®, an unlikely visionary sipping on dark roasted Starbucks® morning blend. Referencing a possible IPO for the company in a year or two, he is impressive, yet I see only the failed ghosts of Preston Tucker, John DeLorean, Edsel Ford, and Malcolm Bricklin.

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By 9:30 AM, a local horse show commences, a gorgeous array from 4 years old to 40 years old, and the horses aren’t bad looking either.  We begin the invigorating downhill run, top down, on the legendary “zoom-zoom” road made famous in Mazda Miata commercials.  I’m smug, smiling, contemplating how laughable and foolish a stock offering would be for an unproved, limited production, six figure sports car.  Even as a dedicated gearhead, I could not, would not, embrace the fantasy. DSCN1903

 

On June 29, 2010, the stock, symbol TSLA, opened at $19.00/share.

On Friday, August 16, 2013, it closed at $142.00/ share.

The horses weren’t the only ones with blinders on that California hilltop.

 

©insightout2013

 

 

 

The 190th Day of the Year

Friday, July 12th, 2013

 

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dateline: Charlevoix, Michigan

Re: response to an editorial challenge

A ride through pristine countryside in northern Michigan, a beautiful July day, top down, with hot women as companions……lurid thoughts emerge as to how the day might unfold.  However on this day, 190th of the year, ours turned to, what else, infrastructure systems for clean water, sanitary sewers, and storm water management.

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Ever wonder about those circular grates at the base of cityscape trees?

On the shore overlooking the south arm of idyllic Lake Charlevoix, at the renowned foundry of the East Jordan Iron Works, three 190SLs convened to visit the largest manufacturer of manhole covers, anywhere.  What follows is all PG, for any reader whose mind might wallow in the gutter.  Where there is rain, molten iron reigns.

Within the twenty four hour window, the three aging 55 y/o Mercedes-Benz roadsters driven by club elders, logged a combined, astounding 1,236 miles, to meet and tour the EJ museum.  Corporate hostess, Erin Nickle, whose charm and feminine guile elevated fire hydrants, hydraulically operated sewer grates, and company mantra (durable products of high quality supported by unparalleled customer service) to a heartthrob level.  And she has gorgeous blue eyes, not that I noticed.

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Erin Nickle lectures Donald Freese, prominent steel executive & metallurgical engineer 

Treated as visiting royalty, we are afforded the opportunity to pose, along with a commemorative manhole cover, on the lawn of corporate headquarters.DSCN0505Combine the photo-op with a gourmet luncheon at the Charlevoix bridge, homemade ice cream in Petoskey, and a 56 mile escorted tour, by guides and fellow gearheads, Keith and Marie Ambs in their 1934 Plymouth coupe as the lead dog…well, it doesn’t get any better than this.

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L-R, Kathy & Don Drabik, Don & Shirley Freese, Lynn & Charles Spiher 

The moral to the story:  join up with old friends, and drive.

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The shadow of the Ambs 1934 Plymouth coupe looms large. Boyne City, MI

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L-R: Shirley Freese, Lynn Spiher, Marie Ambs, Kathy Drabik

Responding to the question; here’s some money, would you like to go shopping? Note that smiles had to be photoshopped on all four faces.

The immoral: did I mention that Erin was quite attractive ?

 

©insightout/2013

Clutching an Illusion

Sunday, February 3rd, 2013

A vintage drive is still the best conveyance for transporting a mood.  Mine, the tempo for today, will be an effort to avoid the soiling of virgins.  A 50 mile drive through scenic high desert country, Patagonia, AZ to Tubac, AZ, in a late model Chevy truck is little consolation to the original plan: driving a 1972 plain jane, Mercedes diesel sedan to visit with Airstream royalty.

Sidelined with a burnt clutch, my Snow White remains at rest, while I suffer the ignominy of public parking, internally portraying myself as the dwarf, Grumpy, at a local Santa Cruz County Car Show.

The sad princess, at home, awaiting a pressure plate, throw-out bearing and clutch slave cylinder

On the cusp of Alumafiesta 2013 in Tucson, I’m privileged to join the event planners; their last gasp of relaxation before the kick-off on Tuesday.  Forget the Super Bowl, where millions of idiots turn on the TV to watch ads, the staff of R&B Productions called an audible….”let’s go to a car show”.

On a country club driving range, a sunny 70F in early February, thousands come to view 500+ wheeled vehicles of every ilk; a ritual about wishes and memories and generations holding hands.  An antidote to future shock, a reminder that the world got along perfectly without microwaves and spray paint and gourmet coffee and cellphones and cruise control.   It is a shining sanctuary from the possible, where every street and neighborhood and architectural element is Hispanic.  The attendees, mostly upper-middle class elderly gringos, silver-haired refugees from cooler climes, are living reminders that not only is winning the only thing, it isn’t even necessary.

The ultimate example of the fin crazed madness of the late 50s, eighteen + feet of 1959 Cadillac El Dorado, precipitated this dialogue.

“When this car was built you were only this big”……..” Nahh, you’re kidding, really ?”

Constant comparison with better old days are illusory and unreliable.  An older German man has driven his ponton, ’roundbody’, 1960 Benz 190 sedan, an anemic performer with the erotic buttocks of a biergarten fraulein.

84 HP, zero-60 mph by sunset

 

Overheard at every car show, the admonition, ‘ oh look, we ( may sub family, uncle, brother-in-law, grandfather) used to have one of those.’  And yes, I, too, owned a 1958 220S roundbody sedan from 1993-2007.  We called her Daisy.  After Daisy Werthan (Jessica Tandy), in the memorable movie of an old Buick chauffeured by Morgan Freeman.  Drove it to work every day during the summers, transported my daughter to her wedding, reveled in the Teutonic precision, and lusted over the dated pre-WWII styling.  In another irony, I opted to sell Daisy because of a tempermental vacuum operated clutch that I had grown to dislike.

Daisy, at a local mausoleum, the day before she left for the Orient.

The purchaser, an Asian mall developer, shipped our jewel to Hong Kong, where she now resides, suspended on a rotating platform in the atrium of a large shopping center.  A shameful fate, I still harbor guilt that she is no longer allowed to drive.  Like having a tubal ligation before a fertility rite.

On my way home now, imagining the 2001 Silverado I’m driving is a vintage ride, I enter a U.S. border patrol checkpoint, am racially profiled, and summarily allowed to pass through quickly.  Being an anglo geezer has its perks.

 

Prompting a Yogi Berra-like thought;

nostalgia isn’t what it used to be

About the Author

Retired 1997.
Frequent travel. Loyal companions: wife, Lynn; dog, Jack.
Avocation: writing social and political satire.
Past life: three decade clinical pharmacy owner. Now in recovery.
Location: Northern Indiana, Eastern U.P. of Michigan, Southern Arizona

No telephone;
E-mail cspiher@aol.com