Friday, February 28, 2014

Flashback Friday

 Repost From Last Year On A Post 5 Years Ago 

One Sunday about 4 or 5 years ago, Neighbor Tim asked if I wanted to ride along on a trip up to Southpark Mall in Moline.  Carrie needed to exchange something and it was a very nice day so off we went.  Fast forward to newly minted 2014 and it is February and cooooold.  It seems like a good time to recount that trip and think of warmer days in the not-so-distant-future when people up north will fire up their dormant iron horses and ride again.  Now, down here, we never put them away.  The good part of that is that...well, we never put them away.  The bad news is that we rack up the miles.  

This will be a short Flashback, due mainly to the fact that nothing much happened on this trip.  We have had better trips probably, certainly more exciting ones than this trip.  But it was a trip nonetheless, and all trips on a bike are worth celebrating.  We left the mall having conducted the business and Tim suggested a run over to the Muscatine plant he was working at the time.  Since any destination is good on a bike, I said, "Let's go."

I remember the day being particularly warm and looking at the picture above, I notice this was manifest by two things:  I rolled my sleeves up, and took my helmet off.  This last little bit of friskiness is almost unheard of.  Wearing a helmet has become as rote as using my seat belt.  Both are involuntary instinctual things.   I am on my old Kawi 1500, a great bike that once started would go all day.  Getting it started was a bite sometimes.  All pieces of machinery have their own eccentricities, just like people.  My old Kawi was a workhorse once you were able to get her out into the field.  She had to be caressed and pampered when starting, but once there, she was problem-free.

We rode through places like Buffalo, Montpelier, and Fairport on Route 22 for you numbers guys.  Sex can have its drawbacks:  the next morning, ED, performance anxiety, premature embarrassment, venereal diseases and future dependents.  But, man, there ain't no drawbacks to a lazy run on a bike on great roads with friends.  Yes, it is better than sex.  I swear.

There were other bike trips with friends worth remembering, too.  Our last BFE ride, a trip to Tweety's for Bloody Mary's that ended up being a tary (tar) mess, a road flooded out somewhere outside Keithsburg, and many many others that I won't recount now.  Suffice to say they will be mentioned and highlighted in future Flashbacks if I can find the pictures.

Finally, as to the picture above, this was taken by Carrie just outside the gates of the Muscatine plant and yes, there is an ever so slight smile on my face.  I am riding on a motorcycle, I am seeing new things, and I am with friends.  That, my readers, is better than sex.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

When The Carnival Comes To Town

It was the last couple of nights for a month-long stay in southern St. Pete for this county fair-like carnival just down the street.  The chance for some good old fashioned picture taking with bright lights, loud music and the circus patina made it imperative.  

It was about 9:00 on a Sunday night and kind of chilly so the crowd was sparse.  I didn't see many older people, mostly young junior high age kids skittering from ride to ride.

The barkers were doing their best to drum up what little business could be had.  The carnival ambiance: metal-on-metal chain driven rides, the calliope music coming from speakers throughout the grounds, the bright lights twinkling on and off to lure the eyes.     

When you look at the pictures you will notice something about the ride facades.  Like most modern things the construction materials are new. No longer are the rides and panels the somewhat dingy plywood, metal and canvas constructs of our past, or in a mind's eye.  Now we have formed plastic.  Everything and everywhere the bright, spray-painted shiny plasticized motifs and themes.    

It is bright and pretty and a feast for the eyes, but somehow, I miss the canvas and old, tired faded facade I recall from my youth.  The Mercer County Fair was such a place, perhaps the only place except for the movies, where the exhibit of Frida The Frog Baby made such places magical and mysterious.  I remember dropping coin after coin into a machine that spit out old postcards of early 1900's style scantily clad women, that supposedly told you who you would marry, when I was about 10.  There was also a place where you could get baby chicks if you tossed a ring onto a pole.  There was also a tent where you could get mini-packs of cigarettes.  Yep, real cigs to little boys looking to get real adult. It was gritty, dingy, dark and about as surreal you could get for a young kid, freed from supervision, from a small town of 250.   

Now we have laws about cigarette sales to minors, and gone are the dirty skirts of freak-show exhibits, and humane treatment toward animals.  All good things.  Now we have the formed plastic or fiberglass of a modern world that becomes increasingly plastic.  The mystery is gone, or is it my youth?   

I want my carnival to have mud on the tires from a fair 300 miles away.  I want it to have the hammer marks from countless set-ups, and tear-downs.  I want my carnival to have the evil of travels not on any map, but the heart of the local Seaton Church sandwich stand with all the familiar faces of my youth.  

I want to imagine things going on behind ratty canvas walls that will illuminate the joys of adulthood.  I want the scary barkers, with their leering and yellow-toothed come-on lines.  I want the adventure that all traveling carnivals invite to a young person.  

That's not this modern 21st century carnival.  Mine doesn't exist  any longer.  It gave way to the plastic, bright, pre-formed plastic arcade and uniform lights, all working, none burned out.    

Like a beacon of excitement shining throughout the area, this tower with its ascending light scheme beckons all to enjoy its thrills.  

I like this shot best of all.  The lights of a carnival are perhaps the best thing about it:  the food is usually to greasy, the rides make you queasy, but the lights?  They shine in a way that mesmerizes.  Alas, the lights tonight were also all too modern.  They all matched.  There were all working.  

Walking by this ride I noticed there were no passengers, but it zipped along like it was filled with screaming kids.  The operator on the right just watching and bundled up. 

An abandoned bunge jump area.  Too cold, too few patrons, too late at night, the operator was no where to be seen.

A wild eyed chicken racing wild eyed horses in an empty carousel.   

A lone operator watching his empty ride.

No lines tonight.  If you ride you'll be experiencing a thrill to the senses as well as a wind chill factor.  

A pre-formed fiberglass car in a small train for smaller patrons who, by now, should be home and tucked in bed awaiting the alarm for school tomorrow morning.

This ride gives you a loop this circular monster.  Nope, not enough money to get me up there.  The Ferris wheel scared the bejesus out of me when I was 14, and I'm smarter now.  

No scuffs, no dents, or smears from years of dismantling and hoisting again.  This has no rich carnival patina:  just more shiny brightness with no past.

A mattering of people, some operators, some adults watching their kids, a sad sight at closing time.  Even the mystery of a carnival has a closing time.  

A track going nowhere, but supplying fun and diversion to kids wanting to escape the routine of daily life in the city.

An oriental dragon running the tracks with empty cars.

According to MapQuest I am 35.2 miles from the winter home of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus in Sarasota.  Now there is patina, I'll bet.

I left a little saddened not for the people-less carnival, not for the lack of picture taking opportunities, and not for the few kids who were having fun, but for myself.  Whatever happened to Frida the Frog Baby?  Or the plywood panels promising sights seen by Kings and Monarchs from around the World?  What happened to the mystery of things a young kid from Seaton saw in wonder?  What happened to me?  

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Three Degrees of Separation

Paul Harvey had a radio spot for decades at noon on WGN and other stations.  He was probably just as much a daily routine for many as brushing teeth in the morning.  His winsome style was addictive and his historical nuggets contained fascinating bits of fact that were forgotten or unknown.  He closed his segments with, the famous, "And now you know……(long pause)…..the rest of the story."
Who doesn't enjoy historical trivia?  Today I bring you a forgotten or unknown bit of history that was recently relayed to me by long-time Existing In BFE reader, Russell Foust.  Russ is a Norfolk, Nebraska resident and classmate of mine at Iowa Wesleyan College.  Russ is also a brother in the bond of the Phi Delta Theta fraternity.  And now the rest of the story… 

Dr. Thomas Poulter was a physics professor at my Alma mater, Iowa Wesleyan College.  Richard Byrd, the Antarctic explorer, yes, the famous James Byrd, picked Dr. Poulter as his second in command for his second Antarctic trip to the South Pole in 1939.  In fact, Dr, Poulter, according to Byrd said Dr. Poulter saved his life in one of the expeditions.  Before I forget I should also tell you that one of Dr. Poulter's students was a fellow by the name of James Van Allen who would later discover the Van Allen Belt.    

Dr. Thomas Poulter

After his first expedition, and while he was associated with the Armour Institute of Technology which would later become the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago.  He devised plans for the Snow Cruiser, aka, Penguin 1 for the second expedition.  

At a cost of $300,000, this behemoth also dubbed Big Bertha was the biggest single construction equipment ever built.  $300,000 adjusted to today's value would be just a tad shy of $5,000,000.  

Complete with living quarters for 5 people with ability to go a year without re-supply.  It was 55 feet long, 19 feet wide and could travel at a speed of 30 mph. The wheels and tires retracted into the body thus allowing the heat of the engine to keep the wheels from getting clogged with snow and ice.

Since crevasses are a constant hindrance this guy had unique ability to retract the front wheels and the rear wheels would push it over any crevasse up to 15 feet wide.  Them the front wheels would pop out, the rear wheels would retract, and the machine would then drag the rest of the body over the hole.

Engine anti-freeze was circulated throughout the living compartment area in various pipes to provide warmth. it also had space on top for a small biplane for scouting expeditions.

Once it was built it was actually driven 1,020 miles from Gary Indiana after it was built by the Pullman Company to Boston Wharf, where it was then loaded on a ship to be transported to the Antartcic.    

This video shows the Snow Cruiser coming off the ship in the arctic.  They misjudged the weight and planking of the bridge, but Dr, Poulter was at the helm and stepped on it and soon was on firm ground, or rather, firm ice.  

What the masterminds didn't quite get right was the tires.  Instead of tracks like a tank the Snow Cruiser had bald Firestone tires.  Tires that didn't have the ability to gain any traction in snow.  Not only that but the weight of Big Bertha made it sink some 3 feet into the snow.  It simply couldn't move around down there and it was soon abandoned.  With the world soon to wage war, other projects required funds, and arctic expeditions were moved to the back burner.  The entire expedition returned to America and the Cruiser was draped in canvas and framed by timbers to help it survive.  

Two subsequent expedition, one in the late 40's and one in the late '50's found the cruiser but it was slowly becoming encased in the glacier.  After that it was no longer to be seen and speculation is that it is either at the bottom of the Southern Ocean or encased in several feet of the ice pack.  The land is forever moving, calving and encasing things so after 70 years is probably in perfect condition at the bottom of the cold sea water which will probably keep it pristine forever.  

So, Russ Foust is the grandson of Dr. Poulter's brother thus making me three degrees of separation to the inventor of the famous Snow Cruiser.

More information can be found all over the place, just type in Snow Cruiser. 

"And now you know………the reeeeest of the story. 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Tuesday Tidbits

1.  If all goes well I will be home today.  Unfortunately, some people I wanted to see are out of the Midwest so they will have to wait for another time.  The trip was an unqualified success.  Some things I did:

A. Bartonville Asylum for the Incurably Insane
B. Saw eagles along the Mississippi
C. Saw BFE Wataga friends, BFE Aledo friends, BFE Galesburg friends, BFE Burgess friends, BFE North Henderson friends, and others who shall be named at a later date.
D. I weathered he weather.
E. Had my fill of tenderloins to last a while, along with a Jerry's pizza, the Worlds Greatest Pizza.
F. Saw Miss Maddie, Lily and Teddi.
G. Hugged Miss Frump and petted her rear end.
H. Went to my old car club meeting.
I. Applied for a job.
I. Ate at Bill's Crab Shack, Kickstand, Sully's, Brickyard, and Grandview.
J. Picked up my Illinois Millionaire Raffle ticket.
K. Spent a yucky cold day at my house in Henderson putting on downspouts and fixing flashing.
L. Went over to Cameron to see my old painting teacher.
M. Met Addie Mae, Pat's great grandchild.
N. I restocked my supply of Ray's Chili.
O. Laughed till I was crying more than a couple times.

2.  Thanks to Mark and Holly, Pat and JC for being hosts and travel companions, respectively.  I am in their debt. There is no denying that house guests can lose their appeal after a couple of days, so kudos to Mark and Holly, and Pat for putting up with me.  It was my longest stay back and in some ways the best.

3. Thanks to Carol for making a thoughtful gift for Norah.

4.  Thanks to Christopher for giving me a really nice deer shed display stand.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Addendum To Tampa Bay Automobile Museum




Lushly embroidered seats and that steering system sans wheel was awfully outmoded.

This is the 1922 Milburn.  It was an electric car and while way ahead of its time in the technology it seemed waaaaay behind the time in its overall design.  It looked like a throwback to the horseless carriage days.  In 1922 a lot of nice looking modern machines were being constructed, and this simply looked old fashioned.  It did, however, have a range of 100 miles and could go as fast as twenty miles an hour.  It was, perhaps too well built: it had a cost of three times the Ford Model T.

It boasted a kind of extended cab style seating, also embroidered. 

This was where all the batteries were stored.


In the corner of the museum is where the Milburn's battery charger sits.  Keep in mind all of these cars are fully licensed and run on a regular basis.

Chrysler, my idea of a wild design company, never had door handles like these.

Here is the plug for the battery charger.  John my most valuable host was kind enough to flip it up for me.

Original tires for the Milburn.  If you weren't sure, these were non-skid.



This was built in 1922 and in the picture below you can see that it housed seven separate radiators.  This was to insure the vehicle would keep going if others broke or were destroyed by any number of things.

The Citroen Half Track was a marriage between a truck and track system meant to deal with harsh lands.  There were three expeditions to show it off and it survived all three:  one across the Sahara, one traversing Africa from North to South, and the third from Lebanon and followed Marco Polo's Silk Road to Beijing. 


The next attraction is something that I was not too interested in, simply because it is a reproduction.  I'm not into repro's; they are fake.  A New Salem rebuilt in the 1940's is a fake New Salem built in the 1940's.  But I include this simply to let you see an almost perfect reproduction of the first moving vehicle ever designed.    


This is a steam powered military contraption that moved cannons for the French Army.  It operated with a ratchet system and while, slow, was made 100 years before real motor cars would begin to take form from various engineers and dreamers.  The original is in a museum in Paris.

Here it is in operation.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Flashback Friday

There is a novel out that has been on the Best Seller list for months called The Burgess Boys.  I have written before about Burgess, a Shangri-La nestled in the Illinois prairie.  Its on few maps and you can't really find it without a GPS or special invitation but it does exist.  Once there you are treated to unreal hospitality and a sense that you just might be amongst the friendliest group of people you have ever encountered.  

Amongst my piles of old photos that have become fodder for Flashback Fridays, I found these that provide further amplification of me assertion:  truly nice people flock together, much like BFE and Budde's.  Above are Marvin and Richard at the bar enjoying a cold one.  

Pictures of a parade of one with Marvin the Grand Marshall.  I had my old convertible over at one point in 2003 and Marvin and Richard wanted to go for a ride.  I'd like to say no homecoming queen ever looked prettier, but I won't.

Marvin was the sheriff of Mercer county at one time and while he downplays his tenure, he did look great in uniform.  

Electrical Supervisor for some Quad City firm, Richard is an encyclopedia of car minutia.  Give him a beer and he'll talk up your old car with interesting facts and funny lines for hours.  I've talked of Burgess before (go check out the blog of 4-26-13) so I won't belabor the point.  A magical place of fun, cold beer, unbelievable hospitality and the greatest people this side of BFE.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Latest Painter Painting

Well, folks, we are still at it, mixing some paints and staring at canvas.  I finished another one the other day and thought you might like to hear some of the process.  Firstly, this is from a photo I took a while ago.  She and I were going for a walk after a nice little rain.  In the photo she had on shoes but I decided to take a little artistic license and let her go barefoot.  

Step One:  I made an outline on the canvas with pencil and with very little paint and a lot of paint thinner I colored it in like a coloring book.  See, you guys thought what we did was all mysterious and magical.  DaVinci and all the Masters made outlines and colored in between the lines.  Just great big coloring books.  

Step Two:  I then painted the background.  I used Payne's Gray and some white.  I love Payne's gray for some reason.  I also enjoy cobalt blue.  

It was the front parking lot, really, and the water made the concrete dark in the area she was walking in, so that's pretty much the background I made, too.  One other thing, I didn't make sure each and every crevice and piece of canvas was painted on,  The background is roughed in, with a back and forth motion with the brush.  No particular detail needed, the focus is Norah, so nothing in the background to detract from her.      

You can see in this preliminary "wash" that I had originally planned on shoes.  You can see her sandal strap pencil lines on her feet.  I also wasn't too concerned with details yet. Her hands and feet are roughed in, this will be dealt with later.  This process is mostly to see the balance and whether it is in the picture right.

Step Three:  After the wash and you have the background, it is time to start laying on some paint and begin to detail.  The jeans are a mix of ultramarine and white, the shirt is a mix of red and blue, and the skin is a combination of cad red, burnt sienna and some ultramarine blue for shadowing.  Once I had that taken care of I moved up to her hair.  Norah has hair that changes color depending on her mood and the lighting.  I swear when she is pissed off it is fiery red, and when the sun is shining on it, it is blondish.  I have to confess that I struggled mightily with her hair.  I couldn't ever match it right.  I even put my color chart on her head when she was sleeping yesterday and even then couldn't get it.  It doesn't make the painting ruined, it just means I wasn't able to do it as well as I wanted.   In the end I settled for a combination of burnt sienna, cadmium yellow medium and some white.  

I added more definition to the hands and made some ripples in the water.  I overworked it in some areas and that is always a sure sign to just stop.  In other words, I kept adding and messing after it was finished, and when I would step back and became more dissatisfied.  

Step Four: Once you are fairly satisfied and either tired of messing or think it truly captured what your had in mind, then grab a small brush and sign it.  In this case, I signed "Grampa" and this ain't for sale.  

I have now done three in the space of just a few short weeks and will continue to paint the next one.  I have one in mind on a smaller canvas and a no idea for another one of my big ones.  Come on, brain, come up with something fun.  Until then, thanks for putting up with me.