Friday, December 10, 2010

Going SLO for the New Year

Road Trippin’
with Steve McCarthy
Happy New Year! Let’s start the new year SLO. No, I didn’t say “SLOW”, I said SLO, as in San Luis Obispo. This year, I’m planning on focussing more on specific towns as destinations. Yeah, I know, Road Trips are supposed to be about the journey, not the destination, but eventually, you do arrive somewhere and having a better idea of what cool stuff is in a town that you stop in, especially if the town is worth more attention than a place to eat and a place to sleep. So, in addition to more great roads, expect more details on some great places to visit. 
Marianne and I got mid-week itchy feet a bit back (actually in November, such is the reality of deadlines and production necessities!) and it was mid-week (usually the best time for a road trip, fewer RV’s,) and we were enjoying one of our normal late fall light Santa Ana wind days. As constant readers know, we are ALWAYS up for a cruise up the coast, and that ALWAYS means 101. This time, we had an actual destination in mind, San Luis Obispo. 
For all the driving we’ve done around the Central Coast, I have to admit that SLO has always been a “drive through” or “drive around” city, which is a real shame. It’s got a great mission, wonderfully restored historic district, and great food. The surrounding area has fabulous wineries and the scenery is maybe the best in the world. What else can you want. 
On top of this, the weather turned out to be absolutely FANTASTIC! Really! WE did our usual west on the 210, through La Canada, then out the 118, getting off in Moorpark (ever notice what “Moorpark” spelled backwards is?), then the 118 to Saticoy, then the 126 to Ventura. This avoids the Dreaded Valley. We burst into Ventura to an amazing sight. EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THE CHANNEL ISLANDS WAS VISIBLE!!!! Not just barely discernible through the haze, but sharply, distinctly defined as if you could reach out and touch them. A few high clouds and a freeway’s worth of jet contrails (damn it gets busy up there in the less-friendly-than-they-used-to-be skies-TSA Pat downers must have been REALLY, uh, satisfied that day?) gave an added definition to the scene. Often, we’ll drive inland through some twisty roads, but that day, we wanted as much of the coast as we could get. It was just amazing.
SLO is only a couple of hundred miles away, so in about three hours and maybe half a tank of gas (depending) you’re there. So what is there? We arrived at lunch time and were ready for food. Exit the 101 at Marsh Street (signs tell you that this is the exit for the “Historic District”) and head into town. Marsh becomes a one way street away from the freeway and you can find public parking lots with meters (bummer, 2 hours for a buck and a quarter, bit tough to eat, stroll AND see the mission in only two hours, so-don’t tell anyone, it’s not really legal-re-feed the meter when you’ve done with lunch for a reset of your 2 hours) and walk over to Higuera St. This is the main drag. Lots of places to choose from SLO is a college town (Cal Poly SLO) and there are a lot of bars/restaurants that cater to this crowd. Funny, when I was in college, no one I knew could afford to hang out in places with $12 burgers and drink $10 shots. The glory of excess student loan money? Ah Well, durn whippersnappers! 
We decided on the Buffalo Pub and Grill.  One of the reasons we picked this one was as we were perusing the bill of fare outside, a couple of patrons were leaving and said, “Eat here, it’s great.” Unsolicited testimony from strangers is always a good sign. Never ignore it! Great choice! We managed to split one of their huge burgers (with apple wood smoked bacon and blue cheese) and fries, along with a pint of Guinness each and we were stuffed! 
Having fed ourselves and re-fed the meter, we walked the town. SLO has done a great job of restoring it’s old town. In many ways, its a cross between Pasadena’s Old Town and Monrovia’s. It’s a mix of small, independent businesses and, at the far end, newer chain stores (Barnes and Noble, GAP, and others of that ilk) in mostly newer buildings built to fit the old town look. 
In addition, right smack dab in the middle of it all is the Mission. San Luis Obispo’s example is one of the prettier one’s, and a lot has been spent on creating a nice park around it. it is well worth the time to poke around. 
As we were about to leave town, walking back to the car, we scored a bonus. McCarthy’s Irish Pub at Nipomo and Marsh. One of the Iron Clad Rules of Travel is to never, EVER pass up a place that has your name on it. Having walked off the pint we had with lunch, we downed one in this cozy, dark Namesake Bar that occupies a strangely incongruous Spanish Mission Style building. I’m betting it was once a Mexican eatery, but in California, we should be used to odd juxtapositions. 
Sated and relaxed, we set off back down the coast, got off in Pismo Beach to find gas, decided to take a brief jaunt along Foxen Canyon Road to the 154, over the San Marcos Pass and WOW! Smack dab into the most glorious sunset either of us can remember. I’m serious! Coming down the hill, we were treated to a panorama of Santa Barbara, the channel and the islands and a horizon that went on forever. If you looked just right, I SWEAR you could see Hawaii! 
As the sun was just starting it’s long slow daily dive into the Pacific, I knew there was one place we had to stop, and preyed that the timing would be right. Not racing, but not lollygagging about, we headed south, past the slowing of Ortega Hill and Summerland, Past Carpinteria, and dove off the freeway to the Old 101 at Seacliff. this is a great stretch of the Old Road, lined on one side by the tracks of the old SP Coast Route and on the other by beach houses jammed cheek to jowl, daring the Pacific to do it’s worst at high tide, and often paying for that dare. This was the kind of day that made that gamble worth it. 
We stopped just shy of the entrance to Emma Wood State Beach and OH MY GOD!  We spent at least an hour staring and taking 114 pictures with the little digital camera and staring and staring. There was a smattering of cars parked with us, the occupants doing the same as the poor lost dead souls up on the highway sped by, seemingly oblivious, too pre-occupied with Getting Somewhere to stop and marvel. The surf beat it’s steady beat, shore birds played tag with the waves, and one of Nature’s Daily Miracles played out a perfect coda for a perfect day. 

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Wow, It's been a bit. Been busy. 
OK, it’s nearing December and time to start thinking about making a list and checking it twice. I hope you’ve not been too naughty, nor too nice! That wouldn’t be much fun now, would it? Since the election noise has finally subsided, we can finally get down to serious business: Holiday Shopping! To that end, I’ve got a few ideas for all you intrepid Road Trippers out there.
I cruised the shelves of our favorite bookstore (gosh, what might THAT be?) and came up with some gems. Tina has stocked a whole bunch of goodies but these were standouts to me. First, I’m going to indulge in some shameless self promotion. Road Trippin’ ($22.95) by me is not a bad book! It’s a compilation of a lot of these columns, all cleaned up with purty pictures and more consistent directions. In addition are some of my columns that dealt with my outlook on Road Trips. If you haven’t picked up a copy for you and several for friends, you should. Who doesn’t need the allure of the open road during the dark days of winter? I also want to thank those who have bought a copy. I really appreciate your support. It makes me feel like I’ve actually made an impression and that I’m not writing to a blank wall! So enough of ME, what else is there?
Route 66 is the obvious area of Road Trips that EVERYONE does. And it seems that everyone writes about it too. Autobooks has most of these if they are in print. There seem to be three categories of Route 66 books. The first is the all encompassing Ode to the Mother Road. these wax nostalgic about the alleged good old days and how “wonderful” travel was back then. they also ignore the fact that travel back then was downright dangerous! Two thousand plus miles of two lane highway in a car with drum brakes and nominal radiators? Seriously? It was a pretty grueling trek. Still, these are good books and give us a look (albeit rosy tinted) at an important part of our history. 
The second type focusses on all the weird and funky stuff on 66, extant or vanished. Again, these books play on the nostalgia for the Mother Road. And again, they give us a terrific look at American Culture and the lives of everyday people. These two types of books focus not on the Great Leaders and Big Issues, but on what the everyday people who really make up this nation, and how they lived and traveled. Their hopes and dreams, successes and failures. 
The third type is the useful guide book. Of these, we looked carefully at two. Finding the End of the Mother Road-Route 66 in Los Angeles County, by Scott R. Piotrwski ($19.95) and EZ66-Route 66 Guide for Travelers, by Jerry McClanahan ($15.95). Get them both. There that was easy! Why? You had to ask. Each of these books are meant to be used in a car. They are spiral bound for easy reference and of a convenient size. Piotrwski’s book on LA county has more detail on the wonders of Route 66 in our own back yard. The maps and directions are easy to follow and accurate. Most of the focus is on what is still here and how to find these gems that are buried in the vastness of our urban sprawl. 
McClanahan’s book takes on the whole enchilada. It does not have really detailed information, but makes up for that in the sheer abundance of great stuff. Each town along 66 is detailed, in order, giving you an idea of what is there, or in too many sad cases, what WAS there. One of the more amusing features is the Giant Alert. Every one of those HUGE advertising statues (like the giant guy holding tires, or the giant boot, or the giant doughnut) is chronicled and you are alerted to their presence. Pretty cool idea. another great feature about this book is that you can use it front to back (if you are traveling from Chicago to LA) or for us going eastward, simply flip the book back to front and it’s equally useful! What a GENIUS idea! 
Marianne and I had a hard time picking which was the better book. The Finding the End of the Mother Road  is terrific for it’s detail, but is limited to LA country. The EZ66 guide may not have the narrative, but has all the detail anyone needs to make a real trek of discovery. I seriously recommend both PLUS at least one form the other two categories. 
Another book that caught my eye is more unusual. Constant readers will know how much I love Highway 395. It’s maybe the last of the “real” highways. Pretty much all two lanes and it still goes through the center of every town, including Carson City, NV, right past the state capitol building. I was delighted (and a bit disappointed, I want to do a 395 book myself-who needs the competition?) to find U/S. Route 395-Travel America’s “Three Flags Highway” in a Classic 1969 Porsche 912, by Michael Newlon ($24.95). In his often amusing narrative, Newton describes his epic 1300 mile journey in his beloved 912, describing his joys and tribulations and giving the reader a great sense of what is out there. He also has plenty of tips about preparing for such a journey in an older car. The book is loaded with pictures of his little white chariot at a huge variety of neat and often funky places along the way. My only problem is that he seems to over-emphasize that he did all of the “at legal cruising speed.” Really? You never gave in to the temptation to open it up somewhere between Wagon Tire and Alturas? Well, OK, his book is about cruising, not racing. I was going to insert a dig about it only being a 912 and something about how legal speed limits are about all it will do, but I won’t. Seriously, get this book. It may help you decide that taking an epic journey in your Auld Crate is not only doable, but highly advisable. 
The last book is maybe the ‘Must Have” book for any true Road Tripper. The Lincoln Highway-The Great American Road Trip, by Michael Wallis with photography from Pulitzer Prize winning Michael S. Williamson ($39.95). Route 66 gets all the press. First the hit song by Bobby Troup, then the TV series that seldom featured that highway, plus the 50s nostalgia craze and great marketing have all propelled Route 66 into the public conscience as The Road. Now I LOVE Route 66. It does embody much of what our culture is all about. but it’s not the only highway, and in fact, was not the first transcontinental road. That honor falls to the Lincoln Highway. 
The Lincoln Highway, begun in 1913 connected two of the most iconic and polar opposite sights in America. the Statue of Liberty and the Golden Gate Bridge. That’s right, New York to Frisco. The Big Apple to the Big Kiwi with a Lime Cranberry Sauce and Shaved Cumquat or what ever Friscoians call them selves. This road goes right smackdab through the center of America. The Heartland. What Both-Coasters call sneeringly, “Fly Over States.”  Thirteen States (is that a coincidence or was it planned?) and 3,389 miles. New York, Chicago, Omaha, Cheyenne, Salt Lake City, Reno, San Francisco. And what must be hundreds of little wide spots in the road that make up the Real America. 
Much of the western half parallels the first Transcontinental Railroad and there is more of the Lincoln Highway intact than there is of Route 66! This is a journey that all serious Road Tripper MUST take! 
This coffee table book has it all. A great mix of new and historic photos, postcards, shots of the weird and funky, the iconic and mundane fill this book. It’s gone to the top of my Christmas List. Santa, are you reading Ace? Can we send a copy to the north Pole? 
So, some goodies for under the tree. Treat yourself or someone else, these are essential for any Roadt Trippin’ library. 

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Dunsmuir to Eureka to St. Helena

Road Trippin’
with Steve McCarthy

OK, so we got to Dunsmuir and poked around at some great sights along the way. Now we need to get on with the next two days of our NoCal backroads trek. From dunsmuir, we’ll be trotting across more pine covered forests towards the coast. For us SoCal folks, all those pine trees give us a whole new perspective on the Golden State. I mean yeah, we have trees here. At least a few are left from the various rounds of fires, but up there, they have TREES! this section of the lower Cascades is actually a rain forest. What’s that you say? “Rain Forest? Isn’t that like jungle? In, like, BRAZIL?” Well, yes and no. Yasee, not all rain forests are equatorial jungles.
This is a Forest, and yes indeedy do, it rains here. A LOT! That’s a hint to be prepared. Especially if you drive an open car. Expect rain even in the summer. In the winter, it snows. And since we’re talking some really minor backroads, you can’t drive them in the winter. They just flat close the roads down, rather than spend the bucks to keep them open. there’s no one up there to keep them open for!
That should give you pause. If not enough people use these roads to bother to plow them in the winter, do many people use those roads the rest of the year? That would be NO! So, a bit of extra care in your driving and extra care in your preparing the Auld Crate are in order. And cell phone service? What’s that? I also hope you packed a picnic lunch because there may not be many places that actually sell food here. Unless you brought your fishing pole.
So, after wandering around such great places as Big Bar and burnt Ranch, you will reach the next night’s lodgings in Eureka. This is a neat town. It started life as a seaport for the logging industry and still performs that function today. Check out the Fort Humboldt State Historic Park & Logging Museum 3431 Fort Avenue Eureka, CA 95503-3828 (707) 445-6567. It’s got great exhibits and plenty of old equipment. It’s amazing to think of guys cutting down redwood trees as big around as your house with giant handsaws and axes! Again, I put this drive together in shorter legs so you could have time to poke around a bit.
The next treat is dinner! Actually, what I said about lunch? forget it. Don’t eat all day. You’ll need the appetite. The Samoa Cook House,  is across the bridge (head north on 101 from the motel and look for Hwy 225 to Samoa--Ya can’t miss it! I’m sure the people at the motel can tell you haw to get there as well.) in the tiny town of Samoa. this place is Legendary! In fact, constant readers will remember a while back when I held a poll on best roads, on of the questions was about favorite places to eat. This was on several lists. From their website ( “Breakfast, served family style, can include eggs, french toast, pancakes, sausages, biscuits & gravy, hash browns, coffee and orange juice. Lunch and Dinner, served family style, include entrĂ©e, soup, salad, bread, vegetable, potato, coffee, tea and dessert.” And LOTS of it! This was an actual cook house for miners up until the 1970’s and has stuck to it’s basic format of Fill the Hungry Bellies of Hard Working People. It is also worth looking at the museum on the premises. Eureka is also a neat town to explore, so walk off dinner by strolling the streets. Find the Carson Mansion at 143 M St. this place is spectacular!
So, still sated from dinner, it’s time to head back to St. Helena, or indeed home to SoCal. The rest of the trip should be familiar. It parallels Hwy 101 and takes you through the Avenue of the Giants. This side trip is not to be missed. neither are the funky tourist places along the way. Trees of Mystery, Confusion Hill, the Drive Through Tree, all of it is worth the stop. Experience how simple being a tourist used to be. Set aside your jaded 21st Century outlook, suspend disbelief and just enjoy. I recommend going back to St. Helena for the night. It will allow you time to poke around more, as well as hit some of the great wineries in the area. So, enjoy October! In November, I plan to suggest some reading material to put on your Christmas Wish List. Books that I THINK we can find at a particular store in Burbank!

The exact directions can be had by buying a copy of the October issue of ACE from There is a link at the top of this page!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Road Trippin' in NoCal

Road Trippin’
with Steve McCarthy
 I’d like to give you some details about what can be found between the Napa Valley and Dunsmuir.  First, believe it our not, prepare for lunch. We really didn’t spot any good lunch joints along the way, so this is a good trip for a picnic. Or, you can wait until you get to Portola and find food there. There’s lots of choices from pizza to burgers to cafes that should fill the bill. The great thing about the Napa Valley is (aside from the wine) the food. There are any number of foody places to stock up on cheese, bread, and salami. the Safeway in St. Helena actually has a pretty decent selection, so stock up (you really might want to have enough for three lunches!) and find a wide spot in the road, throw out the blanket and enjoy! 
NOW we can talk about breakfast. Under an hour up the road is a little town called Middletown. Not much of a place, and (surprise!) it’s halfway between Calistoga and Clearlake. On the left is a great little joint called “Beulah’s”. No kidding! This place is great! Tiny, friendly and really good pancakes! The bacon is also generous (four slices, four THICK slices!) and very tasty. The prices are better than reasonable as well. 
One of the reasons I broke this trip into fairly small chunks is that there are a number of places to stop and poke around. In Portola, as I mentioned last month) is the Western Pacific RR Museum. The Western Pacific was a smaller competitor to the Southern Pacific and Union Pacific. It had it’s own route through the Sierras along the Feather River (as opposed to Donner Pass-part of the original Transcontinental Railroad, built by the Central Pacific-and then owned by the SP) and some pretty spectacular scenery of it’s own. The museum is a tribute to this lesser know railroad and has a great collection of equipment. The really cool thing is that for $150, you can actually run a real, full size locomotive! For more information, you can check their website at How can you pass up this kind of opportunity! 
On the second day of the trip, I hope you didn’t eat all that salami and cheese. Eat breakfast in Portola and plan on a picnic at Mt. Lassen. This is the highlight of day two. It is well worth the $10/car fee to drive through. There is a very good visitor’s center at the lower park entrance and there are tables and chairs to have you lunch. I can’t really recommend the cafe there, it looked pretty average. The displays and history of the park however, are wonderful. It’s a good idea to get a map and get familiar with what there is to see. The variety of volcanic sites is fascinating! Be warned however, just up the road from the center are vents in the mountainside that spew sulfur laden steam. PEE-YOU! Drive slow through this part of the park (the speed limit is 35 mph and the rangers DO patrol!) and stop at the various points of interest. You also need to know that the road through the park is closed in the winter. They do get a bit of snow up there! The summit is around 8000’ so be advised of that as well. 
Once you get down the backside, you will continue on Hwy 89 pretty much all the way to Dunsmuir. While the scenery is gorgeous (lots of rolling meadowlands and pine trees) there are not a lot of places to stop. The drive is pretty easy, once you get out of the mountains. One of the great sights on 89 is Mt. Shasta. As you near Dunsmuir and I-5, that old volcano looms above the road right in front of you. All alone, it just thrusts up to the sky and dominates everything. If it ever goes Mt. St. Helens, we are not only in a world of hurt, we’ll lose one of the most magnificent sights in California. 
Dunsmuir is one of our favorite little towns. It’s a town created by the railroad. It was a major yard on the arduous climb up and around Mt. Shasta, but changes in both the railroad and our driving habits are killing the place. The downtown area is full of great buildings, too many of which are vacant. Poke around a bit, it is a place well worth exploring. We found a great little restaurant called “Sengthongs” that serves up a combination of Vietnamese, northern Thai, and Laotian food that is really, really good! It’s a bit on the pricey side perhaps, but well worth it. the portions are big and the selection is unusual. The husband of the chef also looks like Chuck Forward’s long lost brother! 
For a place  to stay, there is only one choice for us. The Cave Springs Motel. We stumbled across this place about 20 years ago and have made it our mandatory place to stay. There are two parts to this place, the standard motel type rooms, built I’d say in the 60s are nice and clean and comfortable. The other accommodations are  little cabins, built in 1923 and are wonderful. Sparse, no, downright Spartan, but wonderful! The owners have made a concerted effort to preserve these gems and the experience is just like travel was WAAAAY back. there is a lean to shed/carport that will fit your Model T (or perhaps a TR3) and not much else. These clapboard cozy cabins overlook the Sacramento River out the back, and you are advised to open both front and back doors to get the benefit of the breeze to cool them down. By the way, in the summer, it can get HOT in Dunsmuir! The breeze off the river is refreshing to say the least! Inside, you will find an old iron framed bed with REAL bed springs, a small kitchen with a two burner gas “stove” that you have to light with a match. No oven. There is a sink and on the back porch is a “modern” refrigerator! No room inside for one! It’s easy to get to the kitchen, by the way, because the floor slopes quite noticeably towards the cliff overlooking the river. They even include cookware and plates and utensils and a mandatory cast iron skillet. Each cabin also has a pair of those old metal “motel chairs” on the front porch and a BBQ grill and picnic table out front. The last real upgrade these places have seen was when they decided to add that new fangled thing called “Electricity.” The wiring is all exposed and the switches date from the 30s. In addition to all this luxury, the motel offers a pool and hot tub as well as a bocce ball court and horseshoes! Talk about “Old School” recreation. It may sound like I’m making fun of the place, but believe me, I’m not. The place is a wonderful throw back and is worth staying at. Everything is wonderfully relaxed. So much so that, other people staying there will say “hello” and strike up a conversation.  When’s the last time that happened at the Holiday Inn? It made me feel like I was staying at “Ollie Hopnoodle’s Haven Of Bliss” from the old Jean Shepard story, complete with swarms of mosquitos in the evening. The rates are also VERY reasonable. Under $60/night. They also have weekly rates if you are up for some trout fishing. 
So, those are some of the gory details of the St. Helena-Dunsmuir leg of this trip. Next month, we’ll take you over the hill to the coast and Eureka. Be prepared for more mountain roads and bring a BIG appetite for the Samoa Cookhouse. Till then, keep Hitting the Road! 

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Road Trip Music

“Son, you’re gonna drive me to drinkin’ if you don’t stop drivin’ that 
Hot                            Rod                       Lincoln!”
Clearly, the greatest road trip song of all time. But even as great as Charlie Ryan’s (who sadly passed away this past February at the age of 92) anthem to the hot rod is, you can’t listen to it more than five of six times on a road trip without the danger of rebellion from the shotgun seat. So what other songs are essential on a road trip? Is, in fact, music even a necessary component to a road trip? If you drive a TR3 with Brooklands windscreens that make it impossible to hear (like we do), I’m guessing no. If your idea of a road trip involves anything that is red, Italian, and has 12 cylinders, you’ve got all the music you need from the tailpipes. If the V8 rumble and blower whine make you shout to be heard, probably not. But still, in most instances, music and road trip generally go together like Guinness and mussels in cream sauce. 
Now it used to be, before the advent of satellite radio, that half the fun of a road trip was finding a radio station. Any radio station! In the bad ol’ days of AM only radio, when there were three whole stations that were deemed acceptable to teens in LA (quick, for 50 points and a free trip to Pacoima, NAME THOSE STATIONS!) if you were off in the boonies, you might be able to catch a skip off the ionosphere (or what ever sphere it is, science isn’t my strong suit) and pick up Wolfman Jack, broadcasting from his secret lair somewhere around (so it was rumored) Waco, Texas. If you were unlucky, you got Grand Ol’ Opry. I got the opportunity to demonstrate this lost art to my daughter as we were driving her newly acquired ’62 Mercury Comet home from Hemet. We were cresting the Beaumont Pass and trying the radio. It only took 5 minutes for the tubes (Yes, TUBES!) to warm up, then with that old familiar: “WEEEEEOOOOOOOOWWWEEEEUUUUUUUOOOOO” we managed to pick up something. A traffic report. For Salt Lake City! Needless to say, my daughter was impressed! But now we have multiple disc CD players, or iPods that can carry all the music of the Western World. What do you load in for that multi-day, cross country trek? 
Obviously, personal tastes play the most important role, but still, music that is maybe a bit out of your comfort zone can enhance a road trip in ways unimaginable. Time of day is also a factor. So is weather. So is the road. So is the car. The only types not allowed in my cars are Disco and Hip hop/Rap. I’m boycotting K-EARTH now that they’ve started to play the BeeGees as “Oldies.” Puh! Overall though, the more eclectic your play list, the better the experience. So here’s some of our favorites. Its far from a complete list. That would take enough space to fill several books, and ACE won’t devote an entire issue to one topic. 
For just plain cruisin’, even if its a day long drive, proper Rock and Roll is just the ticket.  After all, that’s how we all got started. Whether it was up and down Colorado in Pasadena or Whittier Blvd, or where ever, we all cruised to Rock and Roll. Windows down, arm hanging out, Just Cruisin’. Some of the best collections can be had from a local DJ everyone around here knows as LeRoy, the Milkman. You’ve probably seen and heard him at various car shows around SoCal. He puts together some amazing CDs. My favorite is called LeRoy’s Car Tunes. It’s got almost every great car song ever, including of course, “Hot Rod Lincoln.” There’s “Little Deuce Coupe.” “409,” “Mustang Sally,” and “Fun, Fun, Fun.” Pretty much what HAS to be there is there (I can’t figure out why “Dead Man’s Curve: is missing, though), but he’s included other, more obscure stuff as well: “Pink Cadillac,”  “Rocket 88,” and “Bucket T,” for starters. My next favorite of his is “Surf Tunes.” A whole CD of the greatest surfer music ever. “Miserlou,”  “Wipe Out,” “Telstar Surf!” It doesn’t get much better than that! He also has several Doo-Wop CDs available, nice for the late night cruise, when you want to dial things back a bit on a warm summer night. 
My next Rock and Roll selection is a truly varied compilation. I bought it at the Rose Bowl Swap meet, but I’ve seen the guy at other events. Its a four CD set put out by Invicta Music, Ltd., up in Quebec, Canada (of all places!). Who, knows, these may not yet be “Oldies” up there in the Great White North! Anyway, this set has 103 songs. Its at least three hours of music. Volume One begins with Willie Nelson and “On the road Again”, proceeds through Freddy Fender (“Before the Next Tear Drop Falls”), Creedence (Bad Moon Rising”),  and The Diamonds (“Little Darlin’”), before hitting Duane Eddy, Jan and Dean, and Three Dog Night. It just gets better with Volume Two. Janis Joplin and “Bobby McGee” gives way to “Sixteen Tons” and Tennessee Ernie Ford. Bo Diddley, WAR, Chuck Berry and the Eagles also show up. Three and Four are equally as mixed up. Meatloaf, The Troggs, The Boss, Foghat, and the Vogues mix it up with Howlin’ Wolf, the Doobie Brothers, and ZZ Top. Whew, makes me tired just listing the stuff. I have to tell you too, all the cuts on these CDs aren’t in my comfort zone. Neil Diamond and Glen Campbell usually get bypassed, but that’s just me. 
Now so far, we’ve stayed in an area that I’m betting is safe for most of you. Good Ol’ Rock and Roll. Let’s push the boundaries. Late at night, on a long lonely road, maybe with enough rain to need the wipers on real slow, try Jazz. Smooth, Cool, Jazz. Dave Brubeck, Wes Montgomery, Antonio Carlos Jobin. Spice it up a bit if you are really adventurous with some John Coltrain, or Miles Davis. There is something about 2 AM, an Open Road, and Jazz. 
OK, now let’s REALLY push the limits. Let’s go all out beyond what most people can deal with. It may surprise you. Opera. Yes, Opera. That-Thing-Foreigners-Do-Until-Your-Head-Hurts. In the words of Luciano Paverotti, “Controlled Screaming.” I’m telling you, there is nothing like flying down a back road with that same Paverotti belting “Vin-cher-a, Vin-cher-AA, vin-CHHEERR--ah!” at the end of “Nesun Dorma” or carving up Highway One in the fog with Maria Callas doing the Mad Scene from “Lucia di Lammermoor.” Its bloody MAGIC! Vocal Classical a bit too much for you? Fine, try some instrumental stuff. Mozart symphonies are great stuff. Not too heavy, actually hum-able, yet very satisfying. I’d suggest Ravel’s “Bolero,” but that’s not driving music, that’s parking music! 
The last genre I advise you to look into for variety is traditional Irish Music. Not “When Irish Eyes are Smiling,” or “Danny Boy,” but the REAL stuff. Try the Chieftains, especially their early albums. Its easy to tell which ones they are, they’re numbered. As in “Chieftains 1”, “Chieftains 2,” and so on. Numbers 4, 5 and 8 are my personal favorites. Other groups like Dervish, Bothy Band, or Planxty are good bets. I’m telling ya, a good fast, hard reel has just the right rhythm for slamming up a mountain road. 
Since a good sound system seems necessary for a good ride, find some good music to play on it.  That’s the beauty of modern technology, you can burn your own mixes at the ‘puter. Van Morrison, Simon and Garfunkle, the Doors, some Motown. Throw in Cat Stevens and the Beatles and the Stones with Mozart and Puccini, a touch of Cannonball Adderly, a soupcon of Charlie Parker and you’ve got the right idea. Mix it up, and keep people guessing as they try to figure you out. And like they say, if its too loud, YOU’RE too old! 

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Route 66, The TV Show

I thought I’d make a bit of a departure at this point, and do more of a review than a road trip. I found myself a Christmas present at Autobooks a couple of years ago. Its an obvious choice for something for me to review: Volume One, Season One of the ultimate Road Trip Show--Yes folks, the TV series “ROUTE 66.” I saw it and of course had to have it. Since it’s the ultimate Road Trip Show, maybe it will give you the feeling of how it was “back then.”
This is one of those shows that a lot of people refer to, but I’m betting probably never saw. At best, it’s been so long that the reality of the show has faded. To the best of my knowledge, it’s never been picked up as a retro-rerun. TV Land, Nick-at Night, et. al. are too busy showing garbage from the 1970s and 80s (but what can we expect when K-EARTH is now playing--shudder--disco as “oldies!”) to pay attention to the really great TV that was available in the 50s and 60s. “Route 66” is one of those forgotten gems. 
The premise, to remind everyone, is that Tod Stiles ( played by a very freckle faced Martin Milner, later of “Adam-12” fame) is the educated, privileged guy who had to leave Yale after his father died, leaving him penniless. The only thing he has left is his 1961 Corvette (actually, in the first episode, possibly the pilot, the car is a ’60) and a need to roam. His odd-couple buddy is Buz Murdock (George Maharis), a tough guy from Hell’s Kitchen who was raised in an orphanage. Together they roam the country, working odd jobs, getting their kicks, and along the way, changing people’s lives. The show also show cased a number of future stars such as Suzanne Pleshette, Leslie Nielson, Lee Marvin, Harvey Korman, Jack Lord, DeForest Kelly (!!) and Joey Heatherton, several getting the “Introducing” tag in the credits. There were some well known people as well, such as E.G. Marshall and Jack Warden. The cast lists were really impressive.
Now to be honest, I was a whole ten years old when the first season aired--1960 (OK, go ahead do the math), and don’t really remember much of the show. I doubt that my folks watched the show that much, and back then, only the insanely rich had more than one TV.  It was probably shown later than my bed time anyway. I do remember seeing a few episodes later on, but I can’t say I really have much more than a vague memory of it. Seeing the first few episodes were a revelation. Its hard to remember when TV drama was so, well, Dramatic. This feeling is enhanced by the fact that each episode has a Title, shown in the opening credits. Titles like “The Lance of Straw,” or “Man on the Monkey Board” seem a bit over the top today, but they give us the feel that each show is its own play. The three central characters are the same (Tod, Buzz, and the Road), and (unusual for the day) there is a continuity from one week to the next, following up on previous adventures.  Each show, however, stands alone in its own right. Shot in glorious, high contrast black and white, the show had tons of close-ups on faces that showed Character, and acting that was done by performers who started on the live stage, rather than in commercials. The feel is more like “Twilight Zone” or “Combat.” This is not a show spotlighting the light hearted hi-jinx of two dudes having a great old time, which is what we’d see today. Each episode is alive with situations that require our two heros to show far more maturity than would be expected in today’s Life-Lite society. Sure, they’re attracted to some pretty girls, but not in the openly sexual way of today’s shows. They really are young gentlemen. Of course, the TV codes of the day insured that kind of respectful yearning. 
     There is also the theme and musical score by Nelson Riddle. The title track is of course famous (it is not however the song “Get Your Kicks on Route 66”), and its meant to have the feel of wheels (knock-off wire wheels, in this case--gotta be one of the few ‘Vettes with that option!) spinning down the road, the feel of wanderlust. Which is of course the whole premise of the show.
The real stars to me are the settings. This show was shot almost entirely on location. It’s a postcard from the past that shows an America of small towns and big dreams. It’s a less crowded America that still has a pre-Vietnam War enthusiasm. Although most of the road shots seem like they are done on minor back roads, in reality, this is pre-interstate America. Main roads could be just two lanes of blacktop. Although the shots are generally composed so the real names of the towns are obscured, some locations aren’t too hard to figure out. Bourbon Street in New Orleans, shrimp boats in the gulf, Grant’s Pass in Oregon. All these places figure in the plot and form the backdrop for the drama. It’s as if the show’s creator, Sydney Silliphant scouted the location and wrote the story to fit. 
Now about this time, you may have noticed that Louisiana and Oregon aren’t on Route 66. Yeah. In fact, about the only time they are actually on Route 66 is in the third episode. The “Mother Road” was more of a metaphor for the wide expanse of the country. Each region of the US was still distinct in 1960, the commercial homogenization of America was only in its infancy, and the Highway connected far flung places that were rarely visited. It reminds me of the trips from LA to Sacramento up old Highway 99 to see my grandparents. There was distance between towns. Each town was distinct. The highway was the main street back then so we’d look for landmarks along the way that told us how far we’d come. “Water, Wealth. Contentment, Health” proclaimed the arching sign entering Modesto. The smell of olives in Lindsay, the Big Orange stands, Burma Shave signs with the punch line missing. My dad convinced that truck drivers knew the “good” places to eat. My sister, brother and I wedged firmly into our spots (well, nests) with favorite toys in reach to keep us busy. Who needed seat belts or airbags? They had to physically extract us and then rebury us at each potty stop. The hours long road games, like the geography game. (name a town, country, physical place anywhere in the world, no street names. The next person has to start theirs with the last letter of the last place, no repeats. Think that’s easy? Wait till some joker says, “Essex”). These treks ended when we crept past an accident in the tule fog. Christmas presents were scattered around an overturned 1955 Buick. 
     The show has this feeling of searching, of striving, of needing answers to life that perhaps are not really there. This is years before hippies and “do your own thing.” These are two guys who were too young for WWII or Korea, but will be too old for Vietnam. They are button-down collar and dress slacks, not James Dean jeans and t-shirt guys. They are rebels of the heart, not of fashion. They are not Brando (“What are you rebelling against?”--”I don’t know, what have you got?”) guys, they are searchers. They are knights errant on a powder blue steed, tilting at life’s windmills, but keeping to a code of honor that is their own. 
Get yourself a copy and go back in time. You’ll be ready to seek out those back roads and long shuttered main streets and try to peel back the layers of plastic and fast food that hide the America of our youth. After all, a bit of maudlin, nostalgic yearning is good for you,

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Nowhere-A rough draft of a story I wrote a long time ago.

Excuse the typos. I just redid this story after lying dormant for decades.

Stephen McCarthy

Given the opportunity, I normally avoid these things like a colonoscopy. I’m mean, they are both a pain in the ass, right? At least a colonsocopy has a valid purpose and some benefit can ensue. A full on random, roadside Vehicle “Safety” Check? No way. Not if you’re driving a 1960 Triumph TR3 with a full race cam, Weber carbs, headers, loud exhaust and Brooklands windscreens. All that Go Fast Stuff has been banned for a decade. Illegal as all Hell to get. If, however, it’s on an old car, a really old car, it means that a) you got the car and the Go Fast Stuff long before the Committee for Public Road Safety was created, b) it came on the car in the first place, or c) are gonna have to lie through your teeth to keep your pride and joy. Lucky for me,  choices a and b apply. But still, it’s a pain in the ass and is bound to ruin a perfectly great day for a drive. Not that that’s allowed anymore.
No, since the CPRS took control of all things automotive, it may not be technically illegal to “just go for a drive” but they wield the Great Club Of Morality, and such activity is “frowned upon.” To be engaged in a frivolous activity is tantamount to heresy in this new world order, and although not directly punishable, your life can be made, well, difficult.
So, there I was. Humph. Ever notice how all the best stories start that way? Usually, stories that are not, well, exactly truthful? I swear though, this is all true. Really. I guess it would be good to start at the beginning, to give you a sense of the whole affair. It was May. The rains had stopped a week earlier and there was that special crispness in the air. Not the crispness of Autumn that is a harbinger of Winter, no the crispness of New Life. New flowers, newly mown grass, Love. A prefect day for a drive.
Just after dawn, I rolled the TR out of the garage. Undoing the dzus fasteners, I tilted the bonnet up, propped it and checked the oil, water, and brake fluid. Next the tires, including the spare, followed by the lights. Although I’d done this just a few days ago, as I prepped the Auld Crate for the anticipated drive, I did it again. If pre-flighting an airplane is a good idea, why not a car? Especially an old car. There was enough of a chill in the early morning air to make me grateful for the Nomex driving suit and the leather gloves. The goggles, helmet, and face scarf would also be needed. At least for a few hours. Later that day, layers could be peeled off as the day warmed up. I put the hood down, checking to see that the fasteners locked into place, opened the door and squeezed into the seat. I made sure the gearbox was in neutral, pulled out the choke, turned the key and pushed the starter button. The motor cranked over and I pumped the gas. It coughed to life, protesting the cold, early awakening, spitting back through the carbs a bit, then settled down to that well remembered burbly, rumbly lope. The oil pressure jumped up to its accustomed 75 psi, the amp gauge showed a charge, and it would be a bit before the water temp gauge budged. The gas gauge of course showed close to empty. The night before, I’d primed things and had added just a gallon to the tank. I’d have to endure a trip to the California State Gasoline Dispensing Facility, but that was no surprise. I’d saved gas coupons all winter and had the wad of cash necessary to fill the tank. I’d have to fill again for the return leg of the drive.
As the engine warmed up, I buckled up the shoulder harness and lap belt, adjusted my goggles, and settled my butt into the seat. In with the clutch, over and back for reverse, ease the clutch out and back down the driveway. Into the quiet dawn, streetlights still glowing, first gear, we burbled slowly up the street. Shift to second, nice and easy. Even so, a neighbor’s car alarm split the air, having been frightened by the rumble of a Real Car, its screams of distress doomed to be ignored. Plenty of time to stretch things out though. Now was for the warm up. Just like an athlete, the TR needed to get the juices flowing before doing any hard work.
Luckily, the CSGDF was close to home. Even luckier, it was one of only four that was open this early. Most were limited in their hours of operation, and none were open all night. Another lost nicety of civilized life- the All Night Gas Station. I rolled to a stop at the pump and to robotically controlled dispensing arm tried vainly to find the government mandated standard filler neck. No such luck. The TR demanded personalized attention. Having beeped and buzzed in confusion, the robot arm retracted, and as usual, damn near took my head off. Damn thing would never learn. The flashing red gyrating beacon brought out the usual pimply faced, androgynous teen, hair slopped over one eye, and surly of nature, having been pried away from facebook.
“You need help?”
“Yeah, the filler is in the middle of the deck lid. You have to guide the arm into it.”
I’d had to install a dry break filler to make the TR compatible with the new technology, but had hid it under the over sized Moon filler cap.
“You have to open the cap. Yeah, that’s the release there. No, there. That’s right, now just guide it in and fill ‘er up.”
“Fill it? Really?” Momentarily, the youth was drawn out of his self absorbed petulance. not many filled a tank of gas these days. Not at twenty bucks a gallon! Fifteen of which were taxes. Fourteen gallons, two hundred and eighty dollars and half my ration coupons later, and I was off.
The sun was now up, highlighting the Gabriel Mountains (the “San” had been dropped last year. Too religious) and fulfilling the promise of a glorious day. I turned on to the “freeway” (still called free, but there was a scanner that registered your car, which on ramp you took, then which you exited, then sent you a bill) and headed for The Crest Highway (yes, Angeles had been dropped as well). I’d planned the trip to hit The Crest before the driving limit would close it. Roads like The Crest were now deemed dangerous and special sensors and gates limited access. After so many cars, the gates closed. No one knew what the limit was. Most of us thought it was a random number, generated by a frustrated, soulless bureaucrat, knowingly exercising his random bit of Power over a hated world.
Up the mountain, I gave the TR her head, setting up my driving line with care, letting her drift a bit in the corners, then powering out. No heavy braking, just a nice, smooth assault on the laws of physics and gravity. As we flogged up the hill, all my senses were assailed by Nature. The Yellowbroom and Sage were in heavy bloom and their heady, floral scent filled the mountain air. The wind rushed by, battering my face with stinging sharpness. The vibrations of the road massaged my buttocks and back. The mountain side was a riot of color: yellow mustard, gray-green oaks, purple lupines. The light and shadows dappled the roadway, and the rising sun flashed blindingly one moment, then hidden by the mountainside, plunged us into darkness. A quick slide, ice! A flick of opposite lock. Catch her, hold her, power out, WHEW. Gotta watch those dark patches. Even in May, Ice hides in the shadows, ready to trap the unwary.
I was making good time, all alone on the mountain, mostly second and third gear stuff, left, left, right, slide a bit, hold it, then left again. I was becoming one with the car. The TR had become an extension of my body. linked through the steering wheel, the accelerator, the brakes and the seat of my pants. The ultimate interface of Man and Machine. So engrossed was I in this rapture, that I was taken aback by the flashing single headlight in my mirrors. Crotch Rocket! Somebody to play with! Another Road Warrior out to tilt at the mountain. This was the twisty bit, so, by stepping it up, tossing the Auld Crate into the turns, some hard braking and harder acceleration, I could keep my opponent at bay. Four contact patches of rubber will hold the road better than two every time. He was fully laid over, just touching his knees to the tarmac as we swept around the curves. We were definitely Hauling the Mail! All too soon, the road straightened out and I pointed him by. He dialed up the wick and was past in a flash, giving me a brief wave. A noble gesture to a worthy adversary.
I turned off the Crest to the Forest Highway, on my way towards Palmdale. It’s forty miles to Palmdale, and I try to do it in forty minutes. Usually forty-five. Aw shit! I forgot to start the stop watch! Yasee, those sensors that count cars? They also record exactly which car is on The Crest and HOW LONG IT TAKES THEM TO DRIVE IT! Yep, they have an ETA on you IF you are gong the legal speed. According to CPRS, those forty twisty, ever so dangerous and deadly miles must never under any circumstances be driven in anything under One Hour, Thirty Minutes. If you trip the sensor in anything less, you get a nasty letter and an even nastier fine. No appeal. Do it twice, you lose your license. I’d gotten one. Gulp! Now the secret to beating the system is to treat The Crest like a rally stage. Race along, have fun, then stop and wait out the time. The brainiacs in the CPRS think that they can remotely rule the road, “forcing” us to keep to “safe and sane” speeds this way. What they don’t know is that driving like this in not to get somewhere fast, it’s about enjoying the drive and the challenge. The real giggle is that a car/bike friendly entrepreneur opened a cafe on the backside of the mountain. We haul ass, have fun, then take that forty-five minutes we earned to have breakfast. After waffles and bacon, we trundle nice and easy past the sensor, perfectly “legal.” The key is to have a stop watch so you know how much time to kill. This is important because the Parks Service is hooked into this system. Spend TOO LONG, and you get a bill for accessing the “Public Lands!” You’ve only got just so much leeway, hence the stop watch. Uggh. I’ll have to guesstimate and err on the side of getting the Park Service bill. It’s cheaper and they don’t pull your license!
All this was flashing through my brain as I hooked up a glorious, perfectly controlled four wheel drift around a long left hand sweeper, just that hint of opposite lock tires, JUST on the brink of squealing in protest, ready to really open her up at the exit. And there he was, a quarter of a mile up the road. Cones in the road, lights flashing, waving me down. CRAP! Hell and damnation! The gynormous yellow signs screamed “VEHICLE SAFETY INSPECTION!”  “ALL VEHICLES STOP!”  “HAVE ALL DOCUMENTS READY!”
I shut things down in a hurry, adrenaline rushing through my body, my face burning with fear. Luckily, I wasn’t totally on the edge, so could maintain a bit of vehicular decorum. No lock up, no sudden moves, and thankfully, he didn’t have a radar gun on me. WHEW!
I sedately rumbled up to the CPRS Inspector, his silver trimmed black uniform eerily reminiscent of a dark time in history. He at least didn’t have a red arm band! I shut the engine off, and the sudden silence was unnerving. The Inspector slowly approached, the morning sun glinting off his mirrored sunglasses, exercising that ages old ploy of cops and bureaucrats everywhere. “Make ‘Em Wait for You.”
“Hold it a sec, sir, I can’t hear you.”
“Ear plugs! I’ve got ear plug in my ears. Let me get them out.”
I pulled up my goggles, and undid the chin strap of my helmet. I took the helmet off and prised out the ear plugs.
“Sorry about that, sir. I have to where them. safety regulations.”
That line always gets them. Inspectors live for people who obey Safety Regulations.
“That is certainly all right sir. May I now see your documentation for this, this Vehicle.”
The distain he had for the TR was dripping from his turned down mouth. His eyes glinted with expectant rapture. He had a live one! He could just feel the violations!
I started to undo the belts and open the door.
“Please Stay In The Car, SIR!”
They hate it when they can’t stare down at you. Especially if you’re a five foot six inch Inspector.
“Sir, my wallet is in my hip pocket and I can’t get to it unless I get out of the car.”
I was firm, yet polite. I got slowly out of the car. Round one to me. Barely.
“Sir, you should always have your documentation at the ready.”
Round two to The Inspector.
I got out my wallet and removed my driving license, then unlocked the glove box for the inch thick binder of Official Vehicle Documentation. this had everything. I mean Everything! Insurance (full coverage), thirty six separate waivers and exemptions, the whole nine yards. The CPRS figures that if they require reams of documentation, no one will bother to own an old car. HAH!
“It’s all there sir.”
“Let’s see,” he was certain there had to be an omission, “where’s the smog inspection certificate for this month?”
He had opened with a major attack, lunging for the heart straight off.
“Here is the Smog Inspection Waiver for cars, uh Vehicles over fifty years old,” I deftly parried.
“Ah, I see,” he hated to admit defeat this early in the match, “How about the secondary road tax certificate?”
“Page sixty four, in triplicate, as required.”
This guy was tough, he knew all the weird ones. The ones almost everyone let slide. I knew better. I had a friend who worked for the CPRS and now, having seen the light of reason, counseled old car guys on everything necessary.
Having lovingly gone through every page of the documentation, like a VoPo on the east side of Checkpoint Charlie, he turned his attention to the Triumph. His mouth ticked up on one side in a self satisfied smirk, his hands practically washed themselves like a melodrama villain. Laser beams of light hit my eyes, having bounced off his shades. How do they do that? They’re like a weapon those glasses. He began a slow walk around the car, ruefully shaking his head at the insanity of anyone idiotic enough to own,let alone drive such an obvious Death Trap. His first actual test was with the standard ride height block. It is inserted under the car at specific locations to see if a car is dangerously low to the ground. This is really why I got out  of the car. My extra 200 pounds might just make the car too low. Round Three to me!
This guy checked everything. Lights, horn (that made him jump, no polite toot comes out of those giant Lucas Windtone horns! A proper HONK, in harmony no less), turn signals, third brake light (I mounted one to the top of the roll bar), you name it, he tested it. He also seemed to deflate visibly as the TR passed every test. then he finally spotted the Booklands windscreens. He lit up like Times Square used to do on New Year’s Eve.
“THAT’S NOT A LEGAL WINDSHIELD!”  He was giddy with delight. A Major Violation.
“No, sir, it is well within the legal definition.”
“Those things are TOO SMALL!”
“No, sir,” I countered, “the Vehicle Code states quite clearly that al that is required is a quote- Adequate Windshield mad of approved safety glass. You can see the approved symbol on each, and I assure you, they are legal.”
“We’ll see about that! Supplemental Committee for Public Road Safety Regulation 356.75 states that the tops of all windshields be no less than .82 meters from the floorboards of a vehicle.”
I was sunk. I’ve never measured the damn things. He went to his Inspection Trailer for a tape measure. I noticed that the windscreens were raked back a bit as was customary. I quickly tilted them upright and prayed. I don’t know if he saw me adjust things, but the scowl on his face was not friendly. He unrolled the tape and stuck it down to the floor boards. Using a straight edge, he leveled off the top of the screen.
“Damn,” he muttered. His steely demeanor was about to crack. His shoulders visibly sagged.
“Eighty Nine Centimeters!”
I tired not to grin.
“Ok, I guess you passed. I’ll sign your Certificate of Compliance.”
Softly I asked him, “Please also include a date and time stamp. In time as well. We don’t want to upset the Parks Service, now do we?”
He glared at me.
He filled out the necessary paper work and handed me my copy. He looked the car over again, and as he did, his feature softened.
“This is an old TR3, isn’t it? My Grandfather had one. But that was before.”
“Really, pretty cool.”
“I remember it and the ride he gave me. Would you mind if I...sat in it?”
“Nah, go ahead.”
He opened the cut down door and settled into the bucket seat, feeling its sides grip him firmly. He reached up and held the steering wheel gently, his right hand falling to caress the shift knob. He sighed a bit, then struggled to get out. Always a challenge, even for me. I got in and did up my belts. I was about to put in the ear plugs when he asked me softly,” Where ya headed?”
“WHAT? Nowhere?”
The outrage had returned. No one went “Nowhere!” Everything had a specific purpose or destination.  The very idea of driving for the sheer joy of driving was completely Alien to him. It shocked him to his very core.
“Nowhere?” He asked again, a bit more softly, almost wistfully.
He slowly removed his reflective sunglasses, revealing melancholy brown eyes. The eyes of a Basset Hound. A sad Basset Hound. He took a deep breath and asked the question he never would have asked an hour ago, in a soft, human voice, filling with the possibilities of a whole new reality.
“Hey, buddy, how do I get to Nowhere?”

Sunday, June 13, 2010

All of this would never have been as much fun without my co-driver-for-life, Marianne. She is the best of sports. Freezing, broiling, soaking, and holding it in when there just isn’t a place to stop. Not many women would put up with this with her enthusiasm and good humor for these thirty years plus. Gra mo chroi mo Mari!

Road Trippin' an Introduction
Hi, I'm Steve and I'm a Road Tripper. I've even written a book, called curiously enough, Road Trippin'. So, what is a Road Trip, anyway? A question of almost Talmudic proportions. Well then, let's talk Road Trips. Not the "Load-the-Kids-in-the-Mini-Van-Turn-on-the-DVD-and-Rush-to-Some-Far-Off-Theme-Park-Eating-Fast-Food-All-the-Way-on-the-Interstate-with-the-Cruise-Control-On-and-Yakking-on-Cell-Phone-Road-Trips;” trips that sadly confirm John Steinbeck's prediction: "soon, we will be able to drive coast to coast and never see anything." No, real Road Trips. Road Trips on back roads. Road Trips eating at Mom and Pop diners. Road Trips of odd souvenir stands and picnic lunches. Road Trips of spectacular scenery where the journey itself is the reward, and to top it off, you have to do it in a Real Car.  In my case, its a 1960 Triumph TR3 with racing windscreens, no top, loud exhaust, stiff suspension, and at times in the past, questionable reliability. Your vehicle may differ. Oh Yeah, let's make the Road Trip a LONG one. At least a couple of hundred miles in a day. Now that’s what Road Trips are about!

And, that's what this blog is about. I'm a bit new to the whole blogging thing, I'm more than a bit of a neo-luddite so if I violate any blog etiquette, or step on any toes, I'm sorry. Mostly. If you have an interest in Road Trips, and especially in my book, please feel free to visit our website for more information on the book, our fine art photography, and a listing of stores carrying Road Trippin' as well as Art Fairs and events were we will be appearing. 

Thanks for stopping by, Have Fun and Be Safe!