31 August 2009

Eine Kleine Rockmusik

One of the things I'm forced into doing in the fall and winter is going to the symphony. I guess there are worse things to do, but the concerts are on Sunday afternoons, which here in the land of the free is when most of the NFL games are on. I like to watch the games live. Well. Part of the deal I got when I signed up. Although our symphony, in fairness, did do a pops concert with the music of Led Zeppelin this spring-and it fairly rocked.

I got to thinking about how many classical pieces have been played by modern musical groups, and there are a fair amount. Certainly more than a few bands have or had a heavy classical influence-the Moody Blues, ELO, and Emerson, Lake, and Palmer come to mind right away.

Probably some musical purists have hearing the old classics played on (horrors) an electric guitar or a synthesizer. There is, after all, a reason those old 17th and 18th century composers didn't write music for synthesizers-they didn't have them. Otherwise, they'd have jumped on the things. They were the rockers of their time and would have embraced the newest innovations in music.

Here are a few bits I've run across. You've heard most of them, I'd guess-but I'm going to put them up anyway. There are plenty of other blogs should you desire deep, meaningful content.

I remember that we had this tune on a 45. Apollo 100's version of Bach's Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring. A bit dated (it sounds like The Partridge Family might have recorded it). I have read that Bach considered the baroque music of his time an imperfect form of the art and he experimented with many different styles he thought better. In fact, I believe he was quoted as saying-

-Wait for it...

"If it ain't baroque, don't fix it!"

All right. I'll be here all week. Tip your waiter. Try the veal.

Johann Pachelbel was what we'd call a 'one-hit wonder' today. It was, however, a good one-the pastoral Canon in D. Korean guitar player Lim Jeong-hyun has his popular version which is a nice piece of work. I should play so well. I wish I'd have been born with musical talent instead of good looks.

One of the more well-known classical works is Beethoven's Fifth Symphony with its 'dit-dit-dit-DAAAH' opening. You know where this is headed, don't you? Sure you do. Get your 70s funk on for Walter Murphy (SFMurphy's less talented brother, I believe) and his Big Apple Band.

Frederic Chopin composed the Heroic Polonaise, Op. 53, in 1842. I can't hear the work without thinking of Monty Python's biographic epic 'Oliver Cromwell' (Lord Protector of England/Puritan/Born in 1599 and died in 1658/September/Was at first /(only)/ MP for Huntingdon/ (but then) /He led the Ironside cavalry/At Marston Moor/In 1644/ And won)...You know the rest.

A personal classical favorite of mine is Modest Mussorgskiy's 'Pictures at an Exhibition' (Картинки с выставки), which is a suite of short works with a common theme of a walk through an art exhibition. Emerson, Lake, and Palmer covered the suite in 1970, and did a great job in my opinion. I've never actually met anyone that claimed to like ELP- odd that they sold a fair amount of records. Someone bought those albums-so fess up.

The band Yes opened many of their shows with an excerpt from Igor Stravinskiy's Firebird Suite, which was named by his peers when they saw the muscle car he bought with the proceeds
from his performances.

"Firebird, sweet!"

Amazing the stuff you can learn by reading this blog.

Finally, Chaikovskiy's March of the Wooden Soldiers from The Nutcracker received a reboot for honky-tonk piano, titled Nutrocker, back in 1962 by the band B. Bumble and the Stingers. Several other groups have done the song, but we'll close with a truncated version by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

I know there are a lot more classical works out there done inna rock style, but this is enough for one post, I reckon. Never turn up your nose at classical music-it might just show up on the charts sometime!

yankeedog out.

30 August 2009

Some street iron pics

I'm a bit tired after the weekend, so here's pictures from the car show in Rochelle the weekend before, to complete the automotive trifecta.
If I recall, this was a 1953 or 1954 Dodge, but right now it escapes me. Feel free to correct me-there were some eras that all autos looked pretty much the same, and the early 1950s were such a time.
A sharp 1963 Chevy Impala, white with a red interior. The Impala was a fairly popular model for Chevrolet-decent power and speed, but big enough to be a nice family car as well.

1956 Plymouth Belvedere. When you think of the great vehicles of the 1950s, odds are good that there isn't a Chrysler Corporation product on the mental list. Don't know why-I suspect Chrysler's vehicles were comparable in quality to Ford and GM. The vehicle style is OK but nothing special-possibly why 1950s Chryslers don't appear at too many car shows.

But by the 1960's the company got it right with big muscle cars like this 1969 Dodge Charger R/T. One expects Bo and Luke Duke to show up and drive it away.

It wouldn't be a cruise or car show without a Camaro, and I do like the 1969 SS. The new Holden Camaro is cool, but I like the old small model myself.

The 1957 Chevy Bel Air-one of the finest looking vehicles ever to roll out of Detroit. You'll see several '57s at most shows, and they all look great, from the stock family car to the heavily modified street rod. Most of the owners of stock vehicles have taken care to match the pastel pinks, greens, and blues so prevalent in 1950s styling. An awesome set of wheels!

This 1923 Ford hot rod would be fun to drive around! It even sports 1923 Illinois license plates in addition to a modern-day tag in the back.

I've never seen one of these-a 1953 Studebaker coupe with a truck bed. I've seen plenty of Ford Rancheros and Chevy El Caminos-cars playing at being pickup trucks-but I didn't know the fellows in South Bend built a line of these! Cool!

Ahh, here we go! A 1984 Hurst/Olds Cutlass, the high performance version of my beloved Cutlass line! A beautiful bit of iron. I'll trade this guy my car for his, if he's up to do so. He likely isn't. Ah well...

A big, heavy 1958 Chevy Impala-5,000 lbs of American steel. These early Impalas just look monstrous compared to, well, nearly any car on the road today.

Another '57 Chevy-this one a Nomad station wagon. The Nomad was, of course, the wagon version of the Bel Air, and a bit rarer car. It's astounding to look under the hood of the older cars-no emission controls, electronics, or sensors-just an engine that you can repair yourself if you have some mechanical knowledge. Things have changed some in fifty years.

Last and possibly least, a 1970 AMC Gremlin. The Gremlin was supposed to be a light, fast machine with a fair-sized engine. In reality, they were an uncomfortable car to ride in and the styling left something to be desired. The back seat had zero legroom-I know this because I had to wedge myself in to one of the damn things when I was 12 years old and my friend George's parents (proud Gremlin owners) drove me into town-a seven mile long trip that felt like seventy miles. A car whose time came and went.
Enjoy the vehicles!
yankeedog out.

27 August 2009

How much is enough?

I wanted to take a break from the cars to ponder something I saw this morning.

There was a billboard advertising the MegaMillions multi-state lotto, and Friday's jackpot is $324 million dollars. For those of you in the Southern Hemisphere, that equates to...let's see, divide by 3, carry the 6...a helluva lot of money in anyone's currency. Even after a giant chunk of taxes is taken out, that's a lot of money.

I dunno. That's way more cash than I'd like to have. Since it becomes public knowledge (at least here) who wins these big jackpots, I suppose you could kiss your privacy goodbye. Got friends and relatives? You will after news of your big windfall gets out-and every one of them wants a piece of the pie.

I'd have to think that one would have to worry about family members being kidnapped for ransom. Add the cost of personal security for the immediate family.

Every charity would hound you even more mercilessly than they do now. Oh, and don't forget about retaining a lawyer, a financial planner, and an accountant. Best retain two of each so one of them doesn't get the idea to fudge the books or rob you blind.

Still enamored of winning that kind of money? Thought not.

I heard recently about a fellow from Kentucky who won a big lottery. He had some issues with the law before he won his prize. He moved to Miami, where he fell in with some more people that had legal problems. Long story short, he pissed away all of his money. At the end, he was living in a storage unit (essentially, a rented garage) in Miami. More than a few people win the lottery and end up miserable and bankrupt not long after.

Would I like to win a big lottery? Sure. I think I could get by with $2-3 million. That amount spread out over 20 years would be around $100-150,000/year. It'd force a person to keep working, but it'd be a good cushion in case of medical or crisis issues, and one could have enough to take a trip or do something cool in a given year. I think you'd be well-off but you'd still have to budget a bit.

I'm curious-and feel free to pipe up on this-for one person or family, is there a difference between, say, $100 million and $200 million? Doesn't it get to the point where it's only a number, an amount you can't reasonably spend in one lifetime? Maybe not, if so many people end up bankrupt a few years after the big winning ship pulled into port.

Perhaps I'm not terribly bright, but in a lot of ways it seems like a huge amount of money is more trouble than it's worth. Perhaps that's why wealthy families keep the cash 'in the family'. After a generation or two, the family members get wise to all of the tricks and loopholes necessary to hold on to the giant mountain of money.

At the rate I'm going, I doubt I'll have to worry much about winning a lot of money. That may not be a particularly bad thing.

yankeedog out.

25 August 2009

Autos of the famous and infamous

Part 2 from Historic Auto Attractions. I should possibly add 'allegedly' to some of these, but they're still well worth a look. Some of the pictures are blurry due to taking a shot in a dark room of a car behind a glass case. C'est la vie...

A 1932 Studebaker driven by John Dillinger during one of his 'wealth redistribution' tours of the the first part of the Great Depression, before his early death outside the Biograph Theatre in Chicago in 1934.

The 'One Piece At A Time' Cadillac as described by Johnny Cash. This was a pretty cool merging of a lot of different styles of Caddy. Appears to the genuine article-really, how many of these can there be out there?

The staff car of one Colonel Harland Sanders, founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken. Somewhere the ol' Colonel is rolling in his grave-grilled chicken? C'mon! Who wants that? If I'm going to KFC, I'm going full throttle-Extra Crispy, potatoes and gravy, and coleslaw. We all gotta die of something...

One of the fleet used by the British Royal Family-a Bentley, I'd guess. Sharp car-nearly as cool as Colonel Sanders' machine above.

This 1934 Packard was used by Iosif Vissarionovich Dzugashvili, better known by his stage name, Joseph Stalin, leader of the Soviet Union and high in the point standings for Most Murderous Dictator of the 2oth Century. See-in worker's paradise everyone has opportunity to drive big Amyerikanski car-just some have more opportunity than others. And Glorious Leader have best opportunity of all!

A 1937 Cadillac limousine used by President Franklin Roosevelt before WWII. A heavy machine, but not quite the armored command vehicle masquerading as a limo that the current President uses.

Not to be outdone, Emperor Hirohito's state car was...a Datsun? Nope-he had a Packard as well-a 1935 model. Must've been hard to get parts after 1941. Ironic that the Navy PT boats that were so devastating to Japanese coastal shipping were powered by engines built by...you guessed it-Packard!

Nikita Khrushchev, bad-mannered Ukrainian and successor to Stalin in the Big Armchair in the Kremlin, traveled in this 1961 Chaika (Seagull) limousine toward the end of his term. Looks a bit like a Ford to me, but a rare auto to see in America!

This 1956 Cadillac is called a 'parade car' and was modified for use by the Secret Service in presidential motorcades. Note the running boards along the sides and the rear bumpers for agents and guards to hang on the vehicle. I'd guess this vehicle has been slightly up-armored and had extra radios and storage for small arms as well.

This 1961 Continental was used by President Kennedy-not on that fateful trip to Dallas in November of '63, but at a troop review at Ft. Stewart in 1962. It is, however, quite similar to the limo used by the late President on that day. These were, obviously, the last open-topped limousines used the US presidential detail-the limo used these days is more tank than car, with heavy armor, NBC system, and bullet-proof glass, plus a motorcade that has vehicles rumored to have concealed multibarrel guns and anti-aircraft missiles.
Those are some of the unique vehicles I saw over the weekend. Next we'll show classics and vintage American iron for some serious cruisin'!
yankeedog out.

23 August 2009

Show Cars (no, really-cars from shows)

Yet another interesting weekend here at the Lodge.

We got Mom's last animal (a cat) out of the house. We gave her to The Better Half's sister who lives in Cincinnati, but due to some fortuitous circumstances she was coming back from the University of Wisconsin this weekend and we arranged a dropoff in Rochelle. The transplanted cat and new parents appear to be doing well.

Anyhow, when we were in Rochelle there was a car show in town due to some festival or other. I have several good pics of those vehicles for later in the week.

We had planned to go to an auto museum up in Roscoe, IL (north of Rockford-Steve the Beer Guy from Atlanta will know where this is, most likely. The rest of you can Google the place if you're interested) called Historic Auto Attractions. They have an assortment of autos (and, one suspects, some replicas) from various TV shows and movies, in addition to some cars used by historical figures.

Many TV shows, of course, had several vehicles of a type available at any one time for filming so it's quite possible that some of the iron pictured actually saw some film time. I don't know how many Dodge Chargers were used during the run of The Dukes of Hazzard, but I do know it was a significant number-I saw a lot of those jumps end up with the General Lee's front end crumpling.

Ready for the tour? Sure you are.


There was an Indy Car racer raised in Roscoe-what's her name-Danielle? Diane?-I don't remember. Anyway, this was one of the cars she used in the 2005 season, her rookie year. She might make something of herself some day.

A 1924 Fordson tractor, built by the Ford Motor Co. I think Ford used this same light gray for their tractors for the next 40 years. This vignette reminded me of the intro to 'Green Acres'-they should've put a three-piece suit on the farmer and he'd look like Oliver Douglas!
Everyone sing along-you know the tune!

Green Acres is the place to be
Farm livin' is the life for me!
Land spreadin' out so far and wide
Keep Manhattan, just give me that countryside!

New York is where I'd rather stay
I get allergic smelling hay!
I just adore a penthouse view...
Darling I love you but give me Park Avenue...

Ahem. Moving right along...

I'm pretty sure this is a replica TV Batmobile, but this is still my favorite of all the Batmobiles, although the 'Tumbler' from the last movie is in the team photo. The car was based on the Lincoln Futura concept vehicle of the late 1950's.

Atomic batteries to power! Turbines to speed!

Yep. I'd drive this around the city, siren blazing-an Ecto-1 modified 1959 Cadillac ambulance! Who ya gonna call? Ghostbusters! One of my favorite movies, but like Caddyshack, plagued with a truly godawful sequel.

One of the Ford Galaxie cars used in The Andy Griffith Show, done up with the Mayberry sheriff's star. The car also sported a signature from actor/comedian Howard Morris, who had a semi-recurring role as hillbilly Ernest T. Bass. Now, since it's a lot of Australians that visit here, I don't know if you all have seen the show. Some of the humor may not have translated perfectly-it's kind of an 'American' show. Clue me in.

The Family Truckster from National Lampoon's Vacation, possibly the most realistic portrayal of a family vacation ever put on film. The Family Truckster, actually a heavily modified Ford LTD station wagon, was a perfect representation of some of the poorly designed and built crap emanating from the factories in Detroit in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Love the eight headlights and four taillights! Even got the 'Honky Lips' from their time in St. Louis.
'I need directions...'
'What, fo' free? Five dollars!'
I do remember that bile-green shade on the various Ford marks back in the day. Bad.

One of the three Ford pickups used on Sanford and Son. I still enjoy watching the show, even though it's over 30 years old now. Redd Foxx-one of the best of the 'party' comedians of the 1950s and 1960s. He did some great stuff, although his vocabulary in those routines would have made a Marine blush. Like to hear some 1970's funk? Here's Quincy Jones' theme to the show.

Next to the truck were wax dummies of Fred Sanford and Aunt Esther (actors Redd Foxx, whose real name was Fred Sanford-handy, that-and LaWanda Page), enemies on the show; actually great friends and fellow St. Louis natives-Page was also an accomplished singer and dancer in the black clubs prevalent in the 1940s and 1950s.
Aunt Esther has her purse cocked and ready to hit Fred-Fred has his fists up in his flailing style. I can see the dialogue now:
FRED: Look out! It's 'Attack of the Killer Godzilla'!
ESTHER: 'Fred Sanford, you ol' fish-eyed fool...!!
Good stuff, yeah? Next we'll do some historical vehicles. Hope you enjoyed!
yankeedog out.

18 August 2009

Strange advertisements (and are there any other?)

All right. I'm going to try to institute a new rule here and not leave depressing or sad posts up all that long-in this case because of advertising. Not adding ads to the blog, but ads I've run across of late.

We've got a strip club in the area that features, of course, an Amateur Night. If you've got one of these establishments in your area (or frequent one yourself-hey, no big deal to me), you've heard something like this:

Ever wondered what that girl next door looked like? Or the secretary at work? Or that nurse at the doctor's office? (Well, I'm a normal human male, but it isn't obsessing me, so-no, not necessarily.) Come to Hotpocket's Gentleman's Club for Amateur Night and see them take it all off for you and your friends! Watch them compete for the $250 first prize!

Bring your wife, your best friend, your sister, your...

Hey, now, hold on there!! Who in the hell's taking their sister to the strip club!?! Is it me or is that just not right?

Seriously, I've heard that commercial several times and that's pretty close to how it goes.

Our morning radio team found some actual TV ads out there for some, hmm, rather interesting products. Amazing, some of the products that get hawked on the airwaves in this country. And these products, and the people that come up with them and market them, are what makes America the greatest country in the world!

The BackUp. I guarantee this would work better than a burglar alarm. Just don't have kids or pets or clumsiness in the bedroom.

The Hawaii Chair. It's just like riding in the back of a deuce-and-a-half over the Rocky Mountains!

The Shake Weight. For women only (I kid you not-that's what it says in the ad). I think it's called 'The Shake Weight' because 'The Handjob Trainer' probably crosses the decency line. Seriously, this is a good arm exercise, but...I dunno. This just ain't right.

Aspray. This is a product and commercial that if all of us got together with a few cases of beer, we'd come up with. Quite possibly the oddest commercial this year!

HairLites. For hair highlighting, or so I'm told. I don't know how hair highlighting works. Looks like a power roller to me. Might be worth having this just for painting woodwork around the house. I read in Fine Scale Modeler about using a similar method for weathering a 1/35 scale Panzer IV, so this might do the trick.

Potty Patch. Yeah, this'll work. So you're going to have a small patch of Astroturf that reeks of dog piss in the house. A dog is not a cat.

Cool stuff, huh? And all yours for just $19.95. And if you call now, we'll send you TWO of each product-'cause they're clogging the warehouse!

Makes one nostalgic for Mr. Microphone...almost.

yankeedog out.

16 August 2009

Drill, ye tarriers, drill...

Fun weekend here.

Seems Dad's place has a problem with water coming in during storms. Not a trickle of water, mind you, but flowing-with gravel washing in, which in my world indicates a hole. Now where he lives is at the bottom of the bluffs along the river and the river itself, so the water table is fairly high relative to the house.

What would be done in a perfect world is to raise the house, build up the grade, and put in a poured foundation with impermeable membrane and proper tiling and drainage. The house isn't worth doing anything like that, frankly. So my brother and I got together with another guy to bodge together something makeshift 'upstream' from the house. We put in a perforated stretch of 4" tube, wrapped in a tube, and surrounded it with a bed of gravel. It's set up to run down a slope and God willing and the creek don't rise, run out the open end. I wasn't able to get up there until Sunday, by which time my brother had a trench dug for the pipe. They did a pretty good job cutting a slope for drainage-the rule of thumb is 1" drop per 10 ft of length which is...I don't know in metric. Figure it out yourselves. They were sighting with a transit and stake and getting confused on the numbers. OK. I've had surveying class. First thing is to get some stuff down on paper so you know what the hell you're doing. Second thing is to measure from the same surface at each point. Once the Engineer Corps got there and straightened the numbers out it went well. After that, a glorious morning of shoveling gravel and heavy old river bottom dirt, which is like clay.

The theory is that next time it rains heavily, a lot of the groundwater after a storm will percolate through the gravel bed, make its way to the the drain pipe, and run out the end.

Will it work? Beats me, Lieutenant. I'm a doctor, not a hydrologist. Not sure it can hurt, though.

The games continue on every space of the board. I'm going to vent so if you don't care to read it, skip to the end of the chapter.

My mother has gotten to the point-and maybe it happens to a lot of people of a certain age and condition-where she wants me to take charge of affairs-unless the result doesn't suit her purposes at that time. Then I'm to spend all kinds of time coming up with alternatives and calling up people for services which may or may not be needed.

Some of the latest incidents have gone like this:

She wants me to call, say, a government office to check on some finance from my stepfather's death. After talking to a customer service person, they ask to talk to my mum, and she ends up talking to them anyway.

She manages to work the phone to call me.

The latest incident involves getting an auctioneer to dispose of some of the stuff they'd accumulated. We talked with a guy about that this weekend and we had a good plan that would be very time-and-labor efficient. Today she calls and doesn't want to do this.

Reckon what I'm going to have to do is tell her that she's free to dig up some auctioneer in the phone book, round up some people to get all the stuff to take to wherever it's to be auctioned, and take care of this herself. But quit wasting my time with doing all the fiddly work, because I'm not doing it.

I suspect that will put the kibosh on her disrupting progress. We both can't lead-and I'm the one that can see well enough to read the phone book and drive a vehicle.

Why am I beginning to feel like Norman Bates?

Honestly, each time I go to the old hometown, I come back depressed. Most of you have figured out that I can hit low points, and they're starting to get deeper and more frequent. I rarely find a lot of joy in anything these days. The baseball season has been a chore to slog through. Blogging is a bit hit-and-miss. I don't really feel like writing or talking to anyone that much. A lot of the stuff I like doing has become blah as well. We've got a men's fastpitch softball tournament going in town this week. We went to a couple of games, and about the only thing I can think of is what I should be trying to get done for someone instead of wasting time there (though, as an aside, I didn't know so many New Zealanders played softball. We watched a team, nominally from near Des Moines, Iowa, that had 6 Kiwis on it. Paging Doc Yobbo...please elaborate on the prevalence of your countrymen on the baby diamonds.)

Any women reading this? Is this what it's like to raise kids, run a house, and hold down a job? And you don't go nuts? Youre better men than I am, Gunga Din...

I dunno. Perhaps when things get all squared away, I'll feel a bit better. I hope so anyway. I'd just like some of the people in my life to think a bit and don't mess with the battle plan. Events will always conspire to do that anyway. Oh, and getting back to a 40 hour work week would help too. Any time the economy wants to get going would be good. What a bloody mess.

Well. I suppose things could be worse, though. Shouldn't complain, I guess. And I have to say it felt good to move some dirt around. Good for the soul.

yankeedog out.

11 August 2009

Roadtrip '86-A riposte at Therbs...

It's been a pleasure to read the account from our man Therbs about his travels in Europe back in the day, along with the allegedly Clumsy Natalie's trip through SE Asia. Good stuff, and recommended reading for all.

A lot of folks, especially from the Southern Hemisphere, seem to have the urge to trudge across Europe, sit and drink in their off-hours, and stay in cramped little bunkrooms with others of the same age and hygiene level.

When I graduated from school, we had an organization that would help us do the same thing. It was called the United States Army. In addition to all of the above, we could get the opportunity to blow up and/or shoot stuff. And if I could have gone in as a major, and I wouldn't have borne than a passing resemblance to John Candy's character in Stripes, I might could have gotten in on all that.

So in honor of everyone who's been on or are planning a long trek, I present the first of what could be a series on the Great American Roadtrip of 1986, every word of which is completely and totally true, at least as I remember it.

1986: Me and my friends Stevo, Zeppo, Rocko, Jimbo, and TC decided we were going on a road trip across America to find ourselves and get that one last big fling out of our systems before settling down and becoming marginally productive members of society. We planned a journey across the length of the nation. It was going to be great. We’d pick up some booze and chicks along the way and live the big life. A grand plan-until we pooled our money and realized how much money we had among the six of us.


OK-looks like we go as far as $125 will take us. And we could stretch that out some by camping out, eating roadkill, and selling blood on occasion.

We packed all of our gear in my often-trusty Renault Alliance, L’Attracteur des Femmes, and set out from our old home town in northwest Illinois. It was a beautiful morning on that first day. We determined that we’d get on the road at the crack of dawn.

As we all know, any group of people vowing to do anything ‘at the crack of dawn’ won’t get going until 10:30 in the morning at the earliest. My group was no exception. We came close and might have made it if we hadn’t had to help Jimbo. Seems his parents had a piano that just had to be moved to the second floor of their house, their garden weeded, the back gate fixed, and the garage painted. Amazing, the way Jimbo puts chores off until the last minute. He really needs to work on not procrastinating, and I told him as much.

‘Yeah’, Jimbo said. ‘I’ll get right on that-later’.

By the time we got his tasks squared away, it was 1pm. Better late than never. We loaded up the car and pulled out of his driveway, with the soundtrack to This Is Spinal Tap blasting out of the factory-installed speakers. We drove through town looking for all the world like a portable horde of refugees. Amazingly enough, some folks actually came out and waved good-bye to us.

‘That’s weird’, TC said. ‘Everyone’s waving good-bye, but it looks like relief in the faces of those two people we just passed.’

‘Yep’, I replied. ‘Those was your parents’.

I’d hoped that when we hit the road, we’d settle into the kind of deep intellectual conversations we were famed, we who would become leaders, nay, moguls, in the petroleum service, agricultural product preparation, and design fields.

‘How do they do it?’ Stevo asked.

‘How do who do what?’

Stevo held up a bag of peanuts.

‘How do they salt them in the shell?’

‘They hire a little man.’ Rocko said. ‘He’s related to the Keebler fucking Elves. How the hell should we know how they salt the damn things?’

I piped up.

‘You better not be getting any peanut shells in the car! I cleaned out the frickin’ back seat the other day!’

‘Looks like you shoved it all on the floorboard’, TC said.

‘Hey, Rocko, I heard you finally got it on with Velveeta Ramshekel the other night down at Marquette Park. Big Al said he knocked on your window with a flashlight when he saw the car rocking.’

‘You’re a fuckin’ drillrod, Zeppo! She’s my cousin!’

‘Hmm. ‘Inbred’ is such an ugly word. I prefer ‘closed-cycle eugenics’. Jimbo spoke up, only to receive a smack upside the head.

As the guys started in, I realized that the discussion wasn’t going to be as intellectual as I’d hoped.

Beer, I thought, that’ll calm them down. No it won’t, Other Brain Half thought. One time a drunk Zeppo tried to stab Jimmy Randomnutz with scissors during a particularly wicked game of Uno. Oh, yeah, First Brain Half replied. Better try a diversion.

That was the great thing about both Brain Halves-they’d argue a bit and come up with a solution. In many ways, I suppose I should have listened to them more often.

In all the rush to prepare for the trek, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I’d forgotten something, but couldn’t remember what it was.

‘Which way we headed?’ TC asked. TC had the uncanny ability to get lost in his own apartment. It was a bit later in life that he joined the Navy and became a navigator on a frigate, proof that the military carefully examines a person’s skills and experiences then places that person in a field that is the direct opposite.

‘Well, I’ll tell you’ I replied. ‘We’re going to East Dunleith to…Ambassador’s Gentlemen’s Club! Remember when JP came home on leave and talked the place and the dancers up?’

That got everyone’s attention. No doubt a suave, debonair bunch like us would likely turn the heads of the dancers!

‘I know a shortcut that’ll get us there before you can count out your ones!’ Now I knew every highway, road, and cowpath in this part of the state, and could lose anyone, including occasionally myself.

We ground over the gravel, over hills and creeks and past one old farmer on a worn-out Allis-Chalmers who I’m sure didn’t see other people on a monthly basis. We went behind the ordnance depot and past Veeblefetzer’s Landing. The road narrowed to something approximating a wildlife trail in the New Guinea jungle. The trees and brush started to encroach on the twin ruts.

‘Y-you sure th-this is a road?’ Stevo asked. The ruts started to go up a bluff. The drop on the left went straight down to the river, and on the right was the bluff with a series of old lead mines hewn into the rock. I put on my best tour guide voice as we approached the summit.

‘Now, we’ll be going down Holy Crap Hill, named by the first person to take a wagonful of lead down it. You’ll see that despite the name, it really isn’t all that bad. All it takes is a steady hand and…’

The Renault picked up speed on the descent. 5, 10, 15…

‘…a light touch on…’

20, 25, 30…

‘…the brake…’ I mashed the brake pedal. Clear to the floor. Now I remembered what I’d forgotten! The master cylinder on the car needed to be fixed! Oops!

35, 40, 45…

Someone was trying to drive up the hill towards us! OK, think, think! The guys were starting to become a bit concerned.

‘WE ALL GONNA DIE!’ they chorused.

50, 55, 60…

It was Zeppo who saved the day.

‘I know! I saw something on MacGyver the other night! Or, I think it was MacGyver, but it might have been The Fall Guy. No, it was MacGyver…’

I remembered as I pulled the emergency brake handle out of the console and furiously pumped the brakes that the first thing to do in an emergency was to remain calm.

‘JEE-SUS, MAN! SPIT IT THE FUCK OUT!’ I yelled calmly.

‘See, he was on this plane that was in a dive, hurtling toward the ground…’

60, 65… and the other driver was plodding forward inexorably.

‘And what he did was…’

‘BAIL OUT!’ Rocko screamed. Stevo and TC threw the back doors open and jumped. It was the damnedest thing. Those doors being open acted like a speed brake on an airplane and slowed the car down to a crawl. That and putting the old Alliance into the rut that passed for a ditch to avoid the other driver.

‘…open the doors on the plane and used them like a speed brake. You guys saw that one? Guys?’

Stevo, Rocko, and Jimbo picked themselves up from the road, none the worse for wear. The other car pulled to a stop on the hill, red and blue lights flashing...

Red and blue lights? I saw the big ‘SHERIFF’ on the white Caprice. Who the hell ever heard of law enforcement coming around here? Maaan....

Out of the car emerged a tall fellow with slicked-back gray hair. It was Deputy Guenther. We all knew him from high school when he moonlighted as a school bus driver. He showed his good humor on the very first day carting us to vocational school when he said ‘I was told not to take any shit from any of you!’. He was a real joker.

‘Well, well. I mighta known it was you fellas in that junk heap.’ He looked right at me.

‘Thought I told you about taking that mobile accident out on the public roads! You punks are gonna drive me to drinking…’

‘We can’t’ TC piped up as he got to the car. ‘Yankee put the car in the ditch.’

‘Don’t get cute…’ Guenther warned.

‘He isn’t.’ Zeppo whispered. Guenther pretended not to hear him. The deputy let out a sigh, rubbed his temples, and shook his head.

‘You’re lucky I was headed toward Old Man Peschang’s cabin to see if he wanted to go fishing this weekend. You clowns grab your gear and get in the car. I’ll drop you off back in town, although I oughta make you walk back.’

We all piled into the cruiser, older but wiser…well, older, anyway. Our great road trip suffered a bit of a setback, but there were a lot of great endeavors in human history that didn’t work out so well on the first try-the invention of the airplane, the first rockets, my asking Kimberly Muesli to prom. But it doesn’t mean we’d give up. No sir. We were young, determined, and not smart enough to listen to good sense or do anything like planning or preparation. That was what made this country great-it’s a land of people that do first and think later!

Eventually we’d get the road trip rebooted. But I’ll leave it here for now.


And it really happened just like this. Honest. I reckon it's not a quick fling on the Riviera, but we weren't all that cosmopolitan. You want that, go check out my mates Therbs and Clumsy. Now they know how to live!

yankeedog out.

09 August 2009

Here in my car I feel safest of all...

The second half of our foray into Iowa was a stop at the Antique Car Museum of Iowa, in Coralville, which is adjacent to Iowa City. Although ACMOI might not be worth a special trip to the Midwest, if you like antique autos and are in the area, it's worth a stop.

Here's a 1903 Cadillac. Although it's 106 years old, it looks ready to go. I think the top speed was probably about 15 mph (25 kph), but in those days that was a good clip for a horseless carriage. Considering that most country roads (and a lot of city streets) were literally wagon ruts, 15 mph was probably fast enough.

A 1909 Reo, the same folks that brought you the Reo Speed Wagon light truck (as opposed to REO Speedwagon, the band). 'REO' were the initials of the company president, Ransom E. Olds. His company was later merged with several other small automakers to become General Motors, and his legacy was the Oldsmobile Division of GM, which lasted into the late 1990s.

A 1915 Ford Model T, the vehicle which made auto transport available to the masses. There were Model T cars, pickup trucks, and some were equipped with a PTO for running farm equipment. Over 15 million T's were built over 15 or so years. They were cheap, simply constructed, and robust enough to handle most roads of the time-a formula for a winning design.

A late-era Model T, I believe. Even Ford was forced to enhance the design to take advantage of the rapidly-evolving automotive technologies of the day.

A representation of a service station from the 1920-1950 era. You could find a station like this in most every town in the nation, and along most highways. One can almost see the station attendant sitting in a chair in the front of the station, drinking a bottle of soda pop and shooting the breeze with a couple of kids on their bikes or with some older guy just killing time.
Anyone remember when you could go to a gas station and the attendant would come out and pump the gas, wash the windows, check the tire pressure, and check the oil? And the station had a couple of garage bays where the mechanic would do oil changes, lubes, tire changes, and tune-ups.
No, really. Such places existed.

I think this was a late 1930s Auburn, built, strangely enough, in Auburn, Indiana. Auburn was one of the multitude of auto manufacturers that struggled through the Great Depression and were pretty much done by the end of it. What small automakers survived the Depression didn't make it through World War II, though many companies did receive military contracts to utilize their machinery and skilled workers.
The car caught my eye because I suspect that blue was a rare auto color for that era.

Fast forward to 1958, and the Ford Skyliner with retractable hardtop. Ah, the era of chrome and tailfins and 7000 lb cars! Hey, gas was 15 cents a gallon and there was plenty of it.
In the 1950s, the unveiling of the new model year autos was something of an event-just like the opening day of a major sport season. People gathered around auto dealers waiting to see what the new cars would look like. The cars may have been fuel hogs, and there were very few safety features in them, but there was a style to them we definitely don't see today.

A 1956 Cadillac 4 door. The Caddy grew some in the 50+ years since the 1903 version. The '56 model has the beginnings of tailfins, that peculiar fad of 1950s auto design which would culminate in the truly massive fins of the 1959 Cadillacs, which could have been used as auxilary fuel tanks or flotation devices or auxiliary spy equipment (smoke screen, machine guns, oil slick) pods. Cool cars!

A 1957 Ford Thunderbird, Ford's answer to the Chevrolet Corvette. Anyone who's seen the movie American Graffiti likely remembers the scenes of a young Suzanne Somers driving around Modesto, California in a white '57 T-Bird, teasing Richard Dreyfuss's character throughout the film.
I personally like this color better than that white. The 1973 Suzanne Somers would've looked OK in this, too.

Finally, a 1941 Buick Special. One can see the 'toning down' of the chrome and extras on American autos in the 1940 and 1941 model years as the country geared up for war production. The few cars produced for the 1942 model year were quite austere, with flat basic colors, wooden bumpers, and blackout lights. Only a handful of automobiles would be produced from 1942 to 1945, and most of those went to government/military use-everyone else 'made do' with what was available. Only in the 1947 and 1948 model years would Detroit come up with new designs to replace the late 1930s/early 1940s models.
There were a number of other kinda interesting cars at ACMOI, which I'll toss up on here another time. Hope you enjoyed the pics and accounts. If you didn't, well, tough.
yankeedog out.

06 August 2009

Big Wheels A' Rollin'

Every once in a while, you just have to take a bit of rest and recreation time, and after most of the weekends this summer taking care of familial stuff, we took a Sunday afternoon to see a couple of local attractions.

This post features a trip to the Iowa 80 Trucking Museum. Those of you that were around last year in the JS days may remember my pics from the Trucker's Jamboree. If not, we'll recap.

Iowa 80 started out in 1962 as a simple Standard Oil gas station just off Interstate 80 near Walcott, Iowa. Over the years, the place has grown into a 220 acre (89 hectare) complex for truckers and long-distance travelers, featuring restaurants, motels, truck repair shops, showers, lounges, and even a dentist. Iowa 80 is billed as the 'World's Largest Truck Stop' and it might well be. You can even buy a few sticks of jerky, a big bag of chips, and a 32 oz. cup of extra-strength coffee-your classic truck stop fare!

Last year, a small museum/exhibit shed opened on the grounds, so we stopped to see it. Rather a nice display for its size.

Of course, I'll provide some mood music for your truck viewing pleasure. Read on, kids...

A 1934 GMC semi-truck with a livestock trailer. This model even has a 'sleeper', which isn't much more than a thin mattress on a plank. Quite nice, if your previous job was on a submarine-and a long way from today's 'comfort cabs'.

A couple of old Texaco ('Always Trust Your Car To The Man Who Wears The Star') gas pumps from the 1920s to 1940s era. Note the price on the pump on the left: 12.9 cents/gallon (about 4.5 cents/litre)! Those were the days. The cheapest gas I remember was 32 cents/gallon-not when I was of driving age, though!

Something unique, from the 'Everything Old Is New Again' file. This is a 1911 Bowman electric truck-battery powered, it could go about 50 miles (90 km) on a charge. Most likely, plenty good to make deliveries in a decent-sized town. This particular model did dairy delivery and it has in effect a big 'icebox' behind the driver's seat.

And now we're exploring going back to battery-powered vehicles. Guess those people weren't the dummies we might have thought!

A 1939 International pickup truck. International Harvester made trucks and sport utility trucks into the 1970's. My dad had an International pickup from the 1950s and they were a good vehicle. Eventually IH got out of the light truck business to concentrate on their farm equipment and heavy truck lines.

A 1936 International owned by the US Government and used for calibration of weigh scales. It looks a lot like an early-war military 'Deuce-and-a-half' (2.1/2 ton truck), specifically a bomb-hauler used at airfields, and I have no doubt these vehicles were likely the 'prototype' vehicle for the GM, International, and Studebaker trucks used by most of the Allied nations in WWII.

A unique vehicle-a Ford Model A Snowmobile done up in US Postal Service colors. Note the skis and duelie tracks-perfect for those rural northern winters, in those days when the snowplows did the country roads infrequently-or not at all. I've never seen one of these-but it sure looks like it'd be a blast to drive on a snowy day!

Finally, a factory-fresh 1959 Diamond T cabover. It has most of the features of a modern semi, but a lot more chrome! Even truck designers back in the 1950s loved their chrome. Back in the day, the average motorist would have seen a truck like this doing a cross-country run. Nowadays this size of vehicle would be a yard donkey or short-haul truck-most semis are twice this size!

And that's another YD Virtua-tour. Please exit the blog in an orderly manner.

yankeedog out.