Dec 27, 2011

Elf Duty...

Claire Weatherly finds out that this is HER Autoharp!
Back in late November I had an email from an old friend, Jim Weatherly, a former Huntsville resident now living in St.Paul, Minnesota.  Margo and I were good friends of the Weatherly family (Jim and Anne) before they moved north and they honored us by asking us to be their children's (Christopher and Claire) Godparents.  Jim contacted me to let me know that Claire had asked for an Autoharp for Christmas.  He needed advice on what to buy.

I began by telling him in no uncertain terms to not buy a new one.  All production was shipped overseas in the early 1980's -- first to Japan, subsequently to Korea and then China.  I have worked on some of these later models and wouldn't take one as a gift.  I certainly would never recommend that someone buy a new one.  I told Jim to look for a US-built 1970's vintage Autoharp in good shape and that if he found one, I would restring, reconfigure, and rebuild it.  The quest began.  After a couple of unsuccessful bids on eBay, Jim finally submitted a successful bid on a 1970's Berkshire model 15-chord B-style Oscar Schmidt Autoharp.  He had it shipped to me.

When the instrument arrived around the 5th of December, I inspected it thoroughly.  It still had its original strings and they were all intact.  You can tell the original strings by the way they were attached to the tuning pins and wrapped around the pins.  The instrument smelled "fresh."  It had not been stored in a mildew or mold-infested environment.  The finish was remarkably untouched.  The felt dampers on the chord bars appeared brand new and had never been attacked by moths.  The only condition issue I found was a minor delamination of the maple pin block at the top of the Autoharp.  This is easily repairable.

I ordered a new set of strings and they arrived in a few days.  Although I was concerned that the string quality might have suffered over the years, the new strings turned out to be top-notch.  They were all precisely cut and the windings on the wound strings were all tight.  There were no "buzzers."  (Sometimes the windings will be loose at the end and cause a wound string to buzz when played.)

Gluing the pin block
I removed the old strings and thoroughly cleaned and polished the instrument.  Then I glued the area of delamination and let it dry for 48 hours.  In the meantime, I rebuilt the chord bar assembly.  I glued the return springs into the chord bar holders so they won't "escape" the next time someone disassembles the chord bars.   To make it a little prettier, I covered each chord bar with a printed duct tape strip in a blue abstract pattern.

One issue that every Autoharp player faces is the decision of what chords to include on an individual instrument and how to arrange them.  I chose an arrangement suggested by Evo Bluestein, a remarkable Autoharp player from Fresno, California.  He markets a custom-built Autoharp called the Evoharp, and the 15-chord model has its chord bars arranged (from the tuning pin end to the anchor bar end) as follows:  Fmaj, Dmin, C7, Cmaj, Amin, G7, Gmaj, Emin, D7, Dmaj, Bmin, A7, Amaj, F#min, E7.  With this arrangement, the Autoharp may be played in the major keys of C, G, D and A, and the minor keys of D minor and A minor.  It's a good flexible selection of chords and the pattern is such that each chord "set" is the same for any given key in which the instrument is being played.  

After reassembling the Autoharp and relabeling the chord bars, I tuned it several times over the next few days to stretch and stabilize the strings and fine tune it.  It turned out to be a fine sounding instrument, brought back to life.  It will provide many years of service.

Claire had no clue that she was receiving this gift.  I met the Weatherlys for lunch at Jason's Deli in Huntsville.  When we informed her that this was her Autoharp, she was totally speechless.  I felt that my Elf Duty was time well spent.

Dec 18, 2011

Further Progress on the Tajmadog...

Faithful Sidekick Monty Love came up to Tennessee on Saturday and we made significant progress on the dog palace.  It's always fun learning as you go!  We finished the vinyl siding and metal cladding on the porch and gable end.  Unfortunately, I had miscalculated some of the material requirements so we ran out of certain vinyl components.  Thanks to Monty from me and the pups.

Dec 11, 2011

Nov 24, 2011

A Memorable Thanksgiving...

It was Thanksgiving, 2004.  Mary Ann and I had been married for four months.  We wanted to do something special.  That's when I heard a review on the radio (I think it was NPR) of a "different" way of preparing the turkey.  It was described as having a rich flavor and producing very moist, tender meat.  What could be better?!?  Here is the recipe that we decided to try:

10-12 pound turkey
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon celery salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon pepper
1/3 cup milk or cream
1 cup water

  • Heat oven to 325°F
  • Prepare turkey for roasting.
  • Combine peanut butter, flour, paprika, salt, celery salt and pepper.  Stir until blended, adding enough milk to make a medium paste.
  • Spread paste over entire turkey, covering well.  Place on rack in roasting pan.  Add 1 cup water to pan.
  • Bake at 325°F for 3-4 hours or until meat thermometer registers 180° to 185°F.  Baste every 30 minutes with pan juices.
  • Note stuffed turkey requires 30-45 minutes more roasting time.
Our experience didn't exactly match the description I had had heard on the radio.  We combined the peanut butter, flour, paprika, salt, celery salt and pepper just as directed and added milk to form a medium paste.  We coated the bird generously and placed it on the rack in the roasting pan, adding water in the bottom of the pan.   With those preparations completed, we began to roast this tan-coated beauty.

The first thing I observed was that as soon as the bird began to warm up, the coating slid off like frosting on a warm summer day and formed a mound of goo in the roasting pan.  Very little remained on the bird.  That didn't seem to match the descriptions that I had heard.  This was supposed to form a delicious golden crust on the bird's skin.  We continued cooking.  I basted that bird every half hour just as I was supposed to.  The smell didn't seem to be encouraging.  The heat of the oven on the bottom of the roasting pan seemed to be burning the collected goo.

At the end of our allotted four hours, we retrieved the results from the oven.  The bird was inedible, the pan, encrusted with black tar, was practically uncleanable, and the entire house smelled like peanut flavored charcoal.  It was a less than successful experiment.

I have since learned that the recipe was originally published in The Black Family Reunion Cookbook (Recipes & Food Memories™), published in 1991 by the National Council of Negro Women.  I'd still like to try turkey cooked this way by someone with sufficient "soul" to make it work.

Nov 4, 2011

Balloon Man

Garrett Cashman aloft with his cluster balloons - Life Magazine, September 20, 1954
 In 1954, Life Magazine published the picture shown above with the description, "Fulfilling an old dream, Garrett Cashman, 26, lashed 60 weather balloons to a bicycle wheel and a plywood seat and soared over Albany, N.Y.  At 6,200 feet, the sun's heat began popping his balloons, and he sank gently to earth, to answer charges of flying without a license."

It began on September 9th.  As described by Lawrence Gooley, a purveyor of upstate New York Popular history, "The people of Alba­ny, NY, looked skyward on Sep­tember 9, 1954, not believing what their eyes were seeing.  High above, 26-year old Gar­rett Cashman was fulfilling his childhood dream of soar­ing among the clouds. A grape-like cluster of 60 gas-filled balloons car­ried him slowly, silently, majesti­cally across the sky.  With only a light wind, Cashman stayed aloft for hours, enjoying the sun­shine, the spectacular view, and the exhilaration of achieving his life’s desire.

He rose into the clouds, and then broke free of them at 3,000 feet. When he reached 6,200 feet, the heat of the sun began expanding the bal­loons, causing some of them to burst.

Not a problem for Cash­man, who cut several balloons free, dropping in a controlled descent, and landing near Valatie, 21 miles from his launch point.

… Cashman was immedi­ately arrested by police.

Receiving dozens of re­ports, they had followed his progress down both sides of the Hudson River. He was charged with being an unlicensed pilot and operating an uncertified and unregistered aircraft.  For lack of $100 bail, Cash­man was taken to Albany county jail.

Hundreds had watched his flight as word spread, and both cops and onlookers now marveled at the seem­ingly fragile contraption that had carried Cashman so far. He weighed 140 pounds; the machine weighed 40 pounds; and he carried 30 pounds of sand.

Cashman had been seated on “a piece of ply­wood, 15 inches square, mounted on a spoke-less bicycle wheel swinging beneath two bunches of war surplus rubber bal­loons. Each was six feet across and contained 113 cubic feet of gas.

“An opened parachute was slung between the two clusters, just in case.” What seemed like insan­ity to everyone else was pure heaven to Cashman."

I remember vividly reading about Garrett Cashman in the Schenectady Gazette and the Schenectady Union-Star, our local newspapers.  I romanticized about how exciting it would be to try the same thing.  At age 14, my dreams didn't always coincide with my parents' goals.  I didn't get to go ballooning for many years, and then it was in a hot-air balloon in Mississippi.

In 1957, my friend Roland Racko ran for Vice President of our high school class.  Inspired by Garrett Cashman's ballooning adventures, we decided to float some giant weather balloons over the high school with banners promoting Roland's candidacy.  They did draw attention as we had anticipated and Roland won the election.

In later years, I read of Mr. Cashman's continuing ballooning adventures.  He tried repeatedly to get a balloonist's license and finally succeeded in November of 1954.  He appeared at Daytona's Speed Week in 1955.  He would ascend on a tether to promote business openings.  He would sometimes launch from the site of a carnival or race track and simply fly with the wind.  He reached altitudes of over 19,000 feet hanging beneath his helium or hydrogen filled balloons.  He descended by popping them with a slingshot, knife, or gun.  At one point, he was involved in promoting Ringling Brothers' Circus.  And while all this was happening, he invented things ranging from parachute brakes for downhill skiers to an indoor hickory barbeque broiler.
In 1976, Oscar Barker wrote about Garrett Cashman, Airman Extraordinaire in the Troy Record newspaper, "...that memorable morning when police and newspapers began receiving frantic telephone calls from the public – a man was dangling from a bunch of huge balloons as he floated a few hundred feet above the Capital District…Like a chase scene by the Keystone Cops, police and reporters tracked the strange craft down back roads and through fields...In the giddy months that followed, Cashman became a national news figure. Offers came in for him to perform with his beautiful balloons at fairs and the like….Especially memorable was the way the balloonist maneuvered his craft. He’d pull out a slingshot and, using fish-line sinkers as ammo, would puncture a weather balloon or two to descend somewhat.
They don’t make them like Garrett Cashman any more…which is a shame."

Nov 2, 2011

Heroic Ancestor...

My Great-Grandfather George Neddo enlisted in the Union army on October 2nd, 1861.  He lived in Whitehall, New York, very close to the Vermont line.  When he heard the call, he rode his horse 42 miles up the route that is now Vermont highway 22A to Middlebury, where he enlisted.  He served until being mustered out honorably on October 28, 1864.  I have read the history of his unit, Company A of the 6th Vermont Infantry Regiment, many times.  The toll taken by disease is even worse than the losses suffered in battle, which were themselves appalling.  I marvel that he made it through the carnage.  And to his credit, he rose from Private to the rank of Captain (at a time when a unit's officers up to the rank of Captain were elected).  He engaged in the following battles:
Warwick Creek, Va.
April 6, 1862
Lee's Mills, Va.
April 16, 1862
Williamsburg, Va.
May 5, 1862
Golding's Farm, Va.
June 27, 1862
Golding's Farm, Va.
June 28, 1862
Savage's Station, Va.
June 29, 1862
White Oak Swamp, Va.
June 30, 1862
Crampton's Gap, Md.
Sept. 14, 1862
Antietam, Md.
Sept. 17, 1862
Fredericksburg, Va.
Dec. 13, 1862
Marye's Heights, Va.
May 3, 1863
Salem Heights, Va.
May 3, 1863
Banks Ford, Va.
May 4, 1863
Fredericksburg, Va.
June 5, 1863
Gettysburg, Pa.
July 3, 1863
Funkstown, Md.
July 10, 1863
Gainesville, Va.
Oct. 19, 1863
Rappahannock Station, Va.
Nov. 7,  1863
Wilderness, Va.
May 5, to 10, 1864
Spottsylvania, Va.
May 10 to 18, 1864
Cold Harbor, Va.
June 1 to 12, 1864
Petersburg, Va.
June 18, 1864
Welden R. R., Va.
June 23, 1864
Reams's Station, Va.
June 29, 1864
Fort Stevens, Md.
July 12, 1864
Charlestown, W. Va.
Aug. 21, 1864
Opequan, Va.
Sept. 13, 1864
Winchester, Va.
Sept. 19, 1864
Fisher's Hill, Va.
Sept. 21 and 22, 1864
Cedar  Creek,  Va.
Oct. 19, 1864

Needless to say, I'm honored and proud to be George Neddo's descendant.

Oct 24, 2011

Village of Providence Car Show

Monty's car on left parked next to Winston, my 1932 Plymouth
Winston and I went to a Sunday car show at the Village of Providence, a small commercial and residential district on the West end of Huntsville.  I met Monty Love in his 1950 Chevrolet sedan delivery and we drove to the show together and parked in adjacent spots.  The hosts were raising money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation and, judging by the crowd, they succeeded.  We represented one of the oldest cars in attendance, although there were a couple of modern reproduction '32 Fords with big V-8's in them.  I did see a 1924 Studebaker sedan and a couple of Model T hot rods.  Bottom line was that there were LOTS of muscle cars.  And somebody forgot to tell some folks to keep their stereos turned down.  At one point it sounded like a woofer competition.
A 1952 Pontiac with a period-correct restored teardrop trailer - Very Nice!
We saw Fred Scarborough, who was exhibiting his beautiful Jaguar convertible, with his wife Carolyn and daughter Caitlyn, also Clint Rankin and his lovely bride Sarah celebrating their one-year anniversary.  Oh, by the way, we won a door prize -- a $20 gift certificate to the Mellow Mushroom pizza restaurant.  The weather was delightful for a Sunday outing and Winston made it home.  What more could I ask?

Oct 16, 2011

Flagship Detroit

Between June of 1936 and April, 1946, American Airlines took delivery of 94 DC-3's from Douglas Aircraft Corporation.  These were the pride and joy of the young company; the "Flagships" of their growing fleet.  On March 2, 1937, Flagship Detroit became part of that fleet.  It served the airline until 1946, after which it served as a Mexican executive aircraft, a cargo hauler (including some cargo of an illicit nature), insecticide spreader, and training aircraft.  In September, 2004, it was purchased by the Flagship Detroit Foundation from Eastern Mennonite University.  The stated goal of the foundation was to restore the airplane to its initial configuration as a passenger airliner in order to "Preserve the legacy of one of the most popular aircraft in American Airlines history."
Winston with DC-3 in background

Yesterday I heard that the Flagship Detroit, NC17334, was to be flying out of the Madison County Executive Airport.  That is only about 12 miles away.  I decided to drive Winston, my 1932 Plymouth coupe, to visit a 1937 airplane.  And besides, the weather was perfect for an an afternoon drive.

The restored airplane is stunning.  It is now the oldest flying DC-3 in the world.  The pictures tell it all.  Coincidentally, Deron Shady and son Daniel were there and had taken a flight.  I also ran into Paul Brinkmeyer, a gentleman I used to work with at Camber.  He is now a medevac pilot.  Small world...
The restored interior -- The height of luxury in 1937!

Oct 14, 2011

Another '32 Plymouth...

Jim Brackbill with his "new" finer 1932 Plymouth Model PB sedan

When I bought my 1932 Plymouth roadster in 1999, part of the deal was that I would acquire a 1932 sedan parts car and remove it along with the roadster.  I brought the car to Huntsville and placed it in dry storage.  I debated what to do with the sedan, which was far too deteriorated to be worth restoring.  The most likely scenario was to eventually build a boattail speedster using parts from the sedan and hand crafting a boattail body.  I even had corresponded with a gentleman on the west coast about doing an overhead valve conversion to the Plymouth 4-cylinder engine.  This fellow has gone over 120 miles per hour driving such a vehicle.

Then one day, I ran across a fellow on the Jalopy Journal Web site who had acquired a 1932 Plymouth coupe body and needed a usable chassis.  It was a perfect use for the sedan.  We corresponded, struck a deal, and he sent payment, sight unseen (I had sent lots of photographs).  This week, Jim Brackbill drove down from Pennsylvania, towing an empty trailer, to pick up the car.

As with all such adventures, there were a couple hiccups.  His trailer needed a few repairs after the bouncy trip so we took it to Russell Welding for the needed repairs.  Mr. Bud Jolly was highly recommended by Dan Shady and he did a beautiful job of repairing the trailer.  When Jim and I arrived at the warehouse, the car was barely visible behind a mountain of stored flooring materials!  Fortunately, Jim knew how to drive the forklift that was available and we soon had the car out of its long storage and on the trailer.

I called him up yesterday and was glad to hear that he and the car made it safely to PA.  Now I can't wait to get progress reports on the new "build."

Oct 6, 2011


J-101 in its current colors (2011)
The New York Automobile Salon in December, 1928, displayed all the latest car designs.  Perhaps the most impressive was the new Model J Duesenberg.   The car on display was a silver and black dual-cowl phaeton with coachwork by LeBaron.  It was the first and only Model J that had been completed in time for the salon show.  The chassis sold for $8,500.  Coachwork would add several thousand more to the price tag.  It was like nothing ever seen before and became the start of a legend.  Perhaps no other car in America's love affair with cars evokes the same awe as the Model J Duesenberg.  The car on display became the personal car of August Duesenberg, the younger of the two brothers who designed and built it.  It would remain in his possession until his death in 1955.

J-101 made headlines in the late 1960's when it changed hands for the then-unheard-of price of $235,000 at an Atlanta auction.  My brother and I were both car enthusiasts and I remember discussing that sale with him at the time.  We simply couldn't imagine anyone spending such a fortune for an automobile!

A few years later, probably about 1975, Bill and I went to Hershey, Pennsylvania, for the annual Fall meet of the Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA).  We had a large trailer load of Lincoln-Zephyr parts to sell in the flea market.  As is often the case, it decided to rain on Saturday and the flea market area (unpaved in those days) became a quagmire.  We braved the storm, standing by our table of goodies hoping to sell some parts to pay for the trip.

On Saturday afternoon, a distinguished-looking older gentleman dressed in a yellow slicker and hood approached our table.  "Do you have any Lincoln Model K parts," he asked.  I admitted that Model K Lincolns were a little rich for my blood.  "Do you own a Model K?" I asked.  He replied that he had several.  (The Model K Lincolns were all hand built, all recognized as full classics, and were very expensive cars.)  I asked what other cars he might own.  He described a collection of nearly 40 cars -- Cadillacs, Packards, Rolls Royces, Bentleys, Pierce Arrows, Lincolns, Marmons, Chryslers, and a Duesenberg.  It was an impressive collection.  We inquired what year and body style the Duesenberg might be.  "I own J-101," he answered.  Bill and I were speechless.  What were the odds that we would ever meet the owner of J-101!?!

In spite of the downpour, this fine gentleman took the time to tell us the story.  His name was Walter Spilsbury and he lived in Huntington Station, New York.   He had learned of the Duesenberg sale several months before it took place and had told his secretary to remind him when the auction was to occur.  He told us that he went to work one morning and his secretary reminded him that the auction was to take place that very day.  He hopped on a jet and went to Atlanta.

As he related it to us, he simply got caught up in the excitement of the moment and the next thing he knew, he had bought the car.  At this point, he had not even informed his wife that he had gone to Atlanta.  She was home "dying Easter eggs with our two small boys."  Shortly after he bought the car a newspaper reporter from Long Island's Newsday called Mr. Spilsbury's residence and asked his wife what she thought about her husband having set a new world's record for buying the most expensive car up to that point.  She told the reporter that he must be mistaken; her husband was at work in New York City.

It was a great story as he told it.  He graciously invited Bill and me to come to his home to visit his collection and even drive the Model J if we were so inclined.  He was a most gracious individual.  We never did take him up on his offer, however.

J-101 ended up in the William Harrah collection in Nevada and upon his death was sold to General William Lyon.  I believe the car now resides in the Lyon Air Museum on the west side of the runway at John Wayne Airport in Orange County, California.  It is still a car that is an important icon in American automotive history.
I feel really blessed that I encountered, on a rainy field in Hershey, one who was privileged to serve as its caretaker.

Sep 30, 2011

The Full-Service Library...

In the early 1970's, my sister-in-law, Joan, went to work as a part-time volunteer in the public library in Pass Christian, Mississippi.  The head librarian was a young Filipina named Linda.

At that time, a number of parents were complaining that the library still had sex-related books on the open shelves.  They were concerned that their teenage children were gaining access to books that were perhaps intended for a more adult audience.  A group of parents asked Linda if she would please put the "sex books" behind the main desk where they could be kept under tighter controls.  She accommodated the parents' request.  She then put a note in the card catalog in the location of the subject "sex."  "For sex, see Librarian."

Sep 25, 2011

Saturday Construction Project...

About 25 years ago, I built a deck for our dogs to lounge on.  They probably view it as a sentinel station since their primary job is to guard the property.  Over the years it finally gave way to the elements.  It was falling apart.  So, over the last three weekends I have removed the old deck and constructed a new one:

Alien Invasion...

A strange formation of alien spacecraft has landed on my front lawn.  I think they seek water after our recent rains.  Not to worry.  I have been standing outside greeting them, "Gort! Klaatu barada nikto!"  They will know we are peaceful and mean them no harm.

Sep 18, 2011

Redneck Rumble, 2011...

Yesterday, Monty Love and I drove up to Lebanon, Tennessee, to attend the Redneck Rumble.  This is a car show that has taken place at a local fairground for the last 5 years.  I expected a lot of traditional hot rods and was quite disappointed.  Most of the show was taken up with so-called Rat Rods, which I find pointless and ugly.  Ah, well.  You can't win 'em all...

We did see a 1950 Chevy Sedan Delivery, the same model that Monty uses as a daily driver, that was exquisite!

Sep 14, 2011

Pascagoula Incident...

I saw this news article today: "
..(Reuters) - Charles Hickson, the Mississippi man who claimed he was abducted and probed by aliens while he was fishing with a friend in 1973 and never backed off the story despite the ridicule he endured, has died.

Hickson, 80, died last Friday of a heart attack, his family said on Tuesday.

Hickson, then 42, was fishing with 19-year-old Calvin Parker Jr. on a pier near Pascagoula, Mississippi in October 1973 when they said a cigar-shaped UFO with flashing blue lights suddenly appeared above them.

A door opened up, the two men later told authorities, and they were pulled into the craft by aliens, who paralyzed them, examined them on a table and then let them go.

Although Hickson was reluctant to share the story -- he said all he and Parker wanted to do "was go fishing" and he feared people would "laugh me out of Jackson County" -- he and Parker eventually went to local police and reported the incident.

"They weren't lying," the chief investigator for the Jackson County Sheriff's Department told reporters at the time. "Whatever it was, it was real to them."

As word of their claims leaked out, Hickson and Parker became minor celebrities, celebrated by believers in extraterrestrial life but derided by skeptics.

In 1974, after wire services picked up the story, Hickson appeared on a number of national TV programs, including The Dick Cavett Show.

In 1983, Hickson wrote a book about the incident called "UFO Contact at Pascagoula" with William Mendez. (Reporting by James B. Kelleher in Chicago)

I happened to be working for Ingalls Shipbuilding at the time of the UFO incident.  My office was in the refurbished "port warehouse building" that was only a couple hundred yards from where Hickson and Parker were fishing.  And one of my colleagues, Jerry Shaver, had gone to school with Hickson.  According to Jerry, "Charlie Hickson is one of the finest men I've ever known.  I promise you that he would never tell a lie."

I always thought the story was fascinating.  I still do.  There's a more complete description of the incident in an interesting article in Wikipedia.

Sep 10, 2011

Winston Gets a New Oil Filter!

The picture above is of the type of oil filter that the 1932 Plymouth was originally equipped with.  It was the first year that oil filters were standard equipment on the Plymouth.  The whole canister is disposable.  There are brass pipe fittings that go in both the upper and lower ends of the filter.  These attach to steel tubes that attach to a supply point and a discharge point on the engine's oil system.  And the whole thing was held in a clamp on the driver's side of the engine.  When I bought the car 49 years ago, these filters were readily available and cost a couple of dollars.

The last time I was able to buy one in a car parts store was about ten years ago.  Wix still listed the filter in their catalog at a cost of about $26.00!  I bought one and then they were gone.  I started buying them on eBay, but the price kept escalating.  You have to change the filter every 1,000 miles, so even if you don't drive the car a lot it can still add up.

Last year, I read the following ad in the Plymouth Bulletin, the magazine published by the Plymouth Owners Club:

"Oil Filter: Cast aluminum, replaces the old tin throwaway type that has a 1/8" NPT fitting at each end.   4-1/4 diameter 6" long; unscrews to replace neon filter inside;will work with any engine that filters just the bypassed oil.  $165 plus shipping.  Joe McGinnis, 234 Deer Foot Road, Blairsville, GA 30512, Tel: (706) 781-2805, email"

  Now, Winston sports a brand new filter with the same old appearance.  What a concept!

Sep 4, 2011

Great Race 2012 Has Been Announced!

According to the Hemmings Motor News blog,  "Not only will the Great Race return for 2012 after its successful relaunch earlier this year, but it will also go international, with a tour of the Great Lakes that will take participants north of the border into Canada."

The precision rally for vintage cars will start in Traverse City, Michigan, on June 23rd.  It will end a week later in Detroit.  According to the Great Race Website, "
it will run north along Lake Michigan to the Upper Peninsula, cross into Canada at Sault Ste. Marie (where locks join lakes Superior and Huron), then travel east along the north shore of Lake Huron, south toward Lake Ontario and east toward the crossing back into the United States at Thousand Islands, then back west along the south shore of Lake Erie and toward its finish line in the Detroit area.  In all, the race will cover 2,000 miles, cross four states and one Canadian province, and afford sights of all five Great Lakes.  

Scheduled stops along the way include the Pierce-Arrow Museum in Buffalo, New York; the National Packard Museum in Warren, Ohio; and the Automotive Heritage Museum (the last Hudson dealer) in Ypsilanti, Michigan.

The Great Race is open to all vehicles from 1969 and earlier.  The entry fee for the Great Lakes Great Race will be $4,000 for private entries and $5,000 for corporate entries.  A $500 discount is available to any team that pays a $2,000 deposit by Sept. 18, 2011, and the balance by Dec. 31, 2011."

Here's my guess on a possible route:

Aug 30, 2011

Frog Follies 2011...

If you've ever read through my Great Race Web site, you might have seen the following entry from June 20,  2001 (the year we went from Atlanta to Pasadena): "In Evansville, we had a greeting party!  It seems that Analda Anglin’s parents live not far from Evansville, and they had been waiting patiently for our arrival.  They even had cold drinks and snacks!  The four of us ate together and had a nice chat, after which we had to leave for our next timed segment.  Our thanks for the great Evansville fan club!"

That day, Analda's mother mentioned to me that I might enjoy coming back to Evansville in August for something called the Frog Follies.  She said it was a car show that had been hosted by a local hot rod club for a number of years.  I recall thinking that the last thing I was going to want to do when I got home was to drive a couple of hundred miles to attend a local car show!!

Fast forward a few years.  I got involved in the design and building of a hot rod.  I became a frequent visitor to several hot rod related Web sites.  I began to read reviews of the Frog Follies by many attendees from several states.  They all raved about the hospitality, the setting, organization, size, variety and quality of the cars.  It turns out that this is a car show of importance, especially to folks with pre-1949 vehicles.  So this year, after careful consideration, I and Monty Love (faithful sidekick) decided to attend.  We didn't decide to go until early August, but we were fortunate to find a few rooms still available.

It is a terrific event.  We will undoubtedly try to attend again in the future.  I wish I had listened to Analda's mother back in 2001...

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Aug 4, 2011

A Real American Hero...

Chip Ramsey, a few days ago, in Afghanistan (photo courtesy L. Dowling)
For several years, I worked with Chip Ramsey.  He was a hard working, competent fellow and a helluva nice guy.  He was also a member of the Army National Guard and a card-carrying patriot.  Some of you may remember that when Mary Ann and I participated in the 2006 Great Race, we carried an American Flag.  At every stop, we asked people to write notes of thanks to our service men and women on the fabric and to sign them.  We got hundreds of notes and signatures.  The flag was sent to a unit in Iraq where it was proudly flown in the war zone.  That was Chip Ramsey's idea and he made sure the flag made it to Iraq.  He was that kind of American.  He left last November for his second tour in Afghanistan, after having previously served in Iraq.

I heard today that on August 4th a sniper's bullet ended his too-brief life.  He was 41.  He leaves a widow, Mary, and two small children behind.  And our nation is much poorer for his passing.  Good bye, Chip.  We will miss you.  There are no words to express our gratitude for your sacrifice.  Rest in Peace, my friend.

Jul 23, 2011

Thoughts of Lake George...

Lake George
During the 1940's, my family rented a place at Lake George for the entire month of August.  The cabin was on Basin Bay and was named "The Birches."  It was owned by a family in Albany from whom my parents rented it.  I recall what a big deal it was to get ready to go on our annual vacation.  You'd think we were driving to the West Coast!

Both gasoline and tires were rationed during the war years.  My father would be careful to save up enough gasoline ration coupons to be able to put gas in our 1940 Chevrolet for the trips up to Lake George and back.  He would join us every weekend after spending the first week.  So the car made a total of 4 or 5 round trips.  The distance from our house in Schenectady to the cabin was about 60 miles, so the total driving involved each August could amount to as much as 600 miles, a distance that might involve lots of gasoline ration coupons.  Gasoline was a commodity that was rationed according to "differential coupon rationing."  The amount allowed to various individuals was based on need.  My dad was a dentist and therefore had a so-called "B" ration sticker which authorized him to buy eight gallons of gasoline per week.

The Birches, Basin Bay, Lake George, New York, as seen from the lake

My sister and brother and I always looked forward to going to Lake George.  I can still recall the strong scent of the balsam firs that surrounded the cabin.  The place was populated by dozens of chipmunks that were tame enough to eat out of our hands.  The decor of the cabin, a two-story structure with a couple of upstairs bedrooms, was early hand-me-down.  My parents always had a house full of guests.  We kids slept on swings and hammocks on the screened in porch.  At night, even in August, the temperature would drop to the 60's.  We had a dock and a lapstrake fishing boat with a 16-horsepower outboard.  We swam and fished and explored for a whole month.  I can't imagine a more wonderful place for kids to experience a summer vacation.

El Lagarto, piloted by George Reis
The other day, I was reading an article on the H.A.M.B. about the styling of early competition speedboats.  It reminded me of a memory from Lake George that I hadn't thought about for many years.  A gentleman named George Reis had a prominent home on the lake.  His claim to fame was that he was a veteran boat racer whose career dated back to 1916 when he took third-place in the Gold Cup.  My interest in Mr. Reis was because he owned an incredible boat named "El Lagarto," -- the lizard.

El Lagarto's
 remarkable career began inauspiciously with an eleventh-place performance in the 1922 Gold Cup at Detroit as Miss Mary II.  Designed and built by John Hacker as a V-bottom displacement-type of boat, she measured 25 feet 10 inches in length with a 5-foot 6-inch beam and originally used a 150-horsepower Peerless engine.   Reis purchased El Lagarto from original owner Ed Grimm in about 1925.  He named the craft after his brother's estate in Palm Springs, California, which was named "El Lagarto" because of an abundance of lizards in that vicinity.  George installed a rebuilt 621 cubic inch Packard engine and used her as a pleasure craft on Lake George for several years.  These huge Packard six-cylinder engines produced around 260 horsepower.  In 1935, Reis piloted El Lagarto to a record 72.727 miles per hour in a one-mile trial on Lake George.  That stands as the fastest straightaway speed ever attained by a restricted Gold Cup class boat.  He occasionally entered her in free-for-all races against such local contenders as Jolly Roger, Falcon, and Hawkeye.

On Sunday mornings, we would hear the roar of El Lagarto's engine as it approached from the north.  We kids would run to a favorite vantage point to observe the spectacle.  Down the lake she would roar at speeds of seventy miles per hour -- unheard of in the gasoline-rationed society with a national highway speed limit of 35 miles per hour!*  We'd see her vanish to the south, soon to return on her homeward leg, still throwing up a rooster's tail 30 feet into the air.  What a spectacle!  And it repeated nearly every weekend.

After Margo passed away, my good friends Forrest and Sue Frueh from Norman, Oklahoma, invited me to join them for a few days at Lake George.  Sue's family had had a place on the lake when she was a little girl.  It was a perfect getaway.  The smell of balsams flooded my mind with memories.  One day we drove up to Basin Bay and The Birches is still there, looking unchanged since the 1940's.  And I thought I heard the echoes of a long-remembered racing boat.

* On 1 December, 1942, 
Gas rationing and a 35 mph speed limit on all roads that had been in effect along the East Coast for 7 months was extended nationally to conserve gasoline and rubber.  That speed limit remained in effect until 15 August, 1945, when it was raised to 50 miles per hour.

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