Columbus – December 2018 – Franklin Park Conservatory Holiday Lights Revisit

Keeping with the annual repeat visits this weekend, we stopped by the Franklin Park Conservatory for their Holiday Lights exhibit.




The professional division gingerbread house winner.




They have a mix of traditional holiday floral with the the permanent displays.




Chihuly glass.




More floral close ups.








The center hall was all decked out for the season.




The other halls had interesting lighting on the plants.






Outside near the glass blowing studio were additional glass ‘trees’.




The Children’s Garden had the largest display of lights.







The glass block steps in the Palm House were lit.




Additional glass pieces outside on a courtyard.





Afterwards we made a brief stop at a park downtown for additional lights.










Hawaii – November 2018 – Day 21 All Good Things Must Come to an End – But Not Without Chocolate First

Day 21 – our last day in Hawaii. What better way to end it than going on a tour of a cacao farm and a chocolate tasting event!

We arrived at Garden Island Chocolate just as the rain had ended (for the moment). After signing a waiver we headed over to the first tent where Brittany, our hostess for the morning, had a display of their locally grown tropical fruits.




Gracing the side of the tent was a great spiderweb.




Koa, the owner, explained how the cacao husks grow and contain the beans.




He then demonstrated how they open the husk with a machete and extract the beans. We however were given hammers to whack them to crack them open.





We sampled the beans – they did not taste like chocolate, that comes later.




We left for a tour of the farm where we examined some various different cacao’s growing.




They come in all colors.





Cross pollination is a big deal – ‘pure’ beans are much harder to come by and therefore more expensive.




That waiver we signed – mostly for the risk of getting bonked in the head with falling coconuts.




Not sure what this is – but who cares – chocolate is coming soon.




There was also a nursery on the grounds with some great flowers.








What does a Coke bottle have to do with this? Urban legend says it is shaped after the cacao, but many dispute this.




After we tasted about 20 different chocolates (and had a great chocolate high going) Brittany made us some hot chocolate for that cold Hawaii morning (it was about 78 and humid).




The entire event was great fun, with many others in the group feisty and sarcastic. We learned something, had some great chocolate and stayed mostly dry.

Thanks to Brittany for being such a great hostess.




After a long traffic jam we made it to the Lihue Airport to be greeted by Santa.




After our short flight to Honolulu where, thanks to American Airlines being totally without any sort of customer service as they moved us from our original flights for no apparent reason (despite the fact I booked the flights and secured seats 8 months earlier).

When I protested their continued response was always ‘no idea why, too bad, nothing we will do for you’. Way to go American Airlines, you suck.

Now with 6 hours to kill we hung out in the Honolulu Airport, where they at least have some nice art.




And amazingly, inside of security, a Chinese and Japanese Gardens.






Eventually our flight left and after 2500 miles of open water – the California coast!

After another 4 hour layover in Phoenix, we finally made it to Ohio in the late afternoon. While the travel home was a bit of a let down, the trip itself was an amazing success.

We had numerous other flights, hotels, rental cars, restaurants, parks, cruise ship and many many more things that all went off without a hitch (even with a bump in the rental car).

The people of Hawaii were pleasant to us at all times, anxious to share their culture and ways, and generally understanding of the thousands of tourists who clog their islands on a regular basis.

If you haven’t been to Hawaii – I highly recommend it, but get off the main tourist spots – there is so much more.







Cleveland – November 2018 – A Traditional Zoo

The Cleveland Metroparks is one of the best parks systems in the United States, circling Cleveland in what is known as the Emerald Necklance

One of their main features closer into the city is the Metroparks Zoo, only 5 miles from downtown Cleveland.

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While much smaller than the more famous Columbus Zoo, in my opinion it is nicer in that there is far less commercialization.

The Metroparks Zoo does have a number of themed exhibit areas including the Rain Forest.  This building, as the name indicates, brings together the plants and wildlife of the jungles.

This little guy is a Golden Lion Tamarin, a highly endangered animal from Brazil.

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The bird below is a Scarlet Ibis. The zoo found it was losing it’s natural color, until they added shrimp to it’s diet.

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A Capybara. While he was in his controlled habitat here, we once had the opportunity to meet one up close in British Columbia. The Capybara is known as the world’s largest rodent, but they seem pretty cool to me.

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Bornean Orangutan. So much for that vegetarian diet keeping weight down – this guy can weigh over 300 pounds.

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The Emerald Tree Boa. 8 feet long with fang like teeth!

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We left the Rain Forest and headed up through the main section of the zoo, stopping to check out the elephants.

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Cleveland has some ravines, and the zoo is built in, and up above one. After the hike up the hill we made our way to the Primates, Cat & Aquatics indoor habitat (with some outdoor space as well).

The Mandrill below is a large monkey, weighing up to 80 pounds.

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One of the many Lemurs.

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This cat like animal is known as a Fossa, from Madagascar. Those in the animal business apparently debate if it is more like a mongoose or a cat.

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More Lemurs – the is time Ring Tailed. This is the most common Lemur.

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Another Lemur – I tried to have a staring contest, which I obviously lost.

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But it was time to move over to the Aquatic side of the house. Our first tank we came to gave us this great view!

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And more…

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We headed back down the hill to the African Savanna section for lions…

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And Zebras

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Our final section was the Wilderness Trek. As I always note on trips to the zoo, I am always torn by being in the presence of such great animals, and the fact that they are stuck in cages. But as with the Tamarin without some conservation some breeds would be totally lost.

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Chicago – September 2018 – Slow and Low Festival

Our car weekend continued with something radically different than the others, but still very cool.

Chicago’s west side neighborhood of Pilsen has since the 1980s been primarily a Mexican neighborhood. The Slow and Low Festival celebrates the culture and art of the lowrider  culture and community of Pilsen.

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They emphasize it is not just a car show, but a celebration of the culture.

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As a car fan I was really looking forward to the show, knowing it would feature great restorations and modifications, yet be different than the other shows, and it did not disappoint.

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I was expecting all low rider cars with hydraulics and hoping cars, but was pleasantly surprised by the number of sedans from the 1930s and 1940s.

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All had high quality restorations with some added characteristics.

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They lined the (closed) street for about 1/2 mile.

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Most of the people belonged to car clubs, many of which were located in the suburbs.

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And yes, there were a number of rides with the tiny wheels and crazy hydraulics.

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The paint jobs were stunning.

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Why use a jack when you have  hydraulics to lift the front tire off the ground.

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Check out the wheels on this Chevy.

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The thermador car coolers use the cooling qualities of vaporization to transfer heat out of the car.

Popular in the southwestern states and Mexico, it was featured on a number of the cars and trucks at the Slow and Low.

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A conga line of cars.

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Notice the great ironwork on the grill. There were a number of bicycles on display using this same technique.

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Eyebrows? We had a great time checking out the cars and the Slow and Low Lowrider festival.

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Auburn, Indiana – September 2018 – It’s a Dusey of a Car Show

Our car weekend continued on Saturday morning. As previously noted the small city of Auburn, Indiana was home to three of the most iconic car companies of all time, Auburn, Cord and Dusenberg.

The Auburn Automobile Company started out, like many, making carriages before moving over to cars around 1900. Along the way they purchased other car manufacturers including Cord and Dusenberg.


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The factory and offices are still in existence in Auburn, serving as museums.

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Each Labor Day weekend they have a festival where a few hundred of the cars make their way back to Auburn.

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You see them parked at the museum.

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Their sleek 1930s style are unrivaled.

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Nearly all of the cars present have been restored.

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Most of the cars today pale in comparison when it comes to styling.

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An old faded Coca Cola sign painted on a building provides the prefect backdrop as we transport back to 1935.

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On Saturday morning the local park featured all of them getting ready for a parade.

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Coupes, sedans and ragtops were all represented.

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While a number of them were from out of state, most were from Indiana.

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A roadster with the rumble seat.

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A lot of bling on the front for lights.

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A few of the owners had period dress for the day (at least the hat was).

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This was the year of the Speedster.

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The cars were separated in judging from fully original (or restored) and modified – as this one has been.

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The park was filled with them.

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Another Speedster

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Dress to match the car.

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The park was a great setting for the display, much better than the streets – better backgrounds.

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The Cords are known to have some of the first retractable headlights ever.

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An earlier Auburn model.

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A Supercharged Auburn (as most Speedsters were).

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What a beautiful morning in the park with so many amazing cars.

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For this guy, he could just hang out on the running board of his Dusey!

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Mansfield, OH – July 2018 – Elektro The Robot

Mansfield, Ohio is a mid sized city in north central Ohio. It is most famous for the historic Mansfield Reformatory, which was used for the filming of Shawshank Redemption.

Also in Mansfield is their local museum, housed in a 1800s Soldier’s and Sailors Home.

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Mansfield was once home to a division of Westinghouse that built home appliances. At one point in the 1950s over 8,000 people from Mansfield worked for Westinghouse.

Without a doubt the most interesting thing ever developed and built for Westinghouse in Mansfield is Elektro, the Robot.

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Elektro was designed by Joseph Barnett for the 1939 World’s Fair in New York City. He is credited with being the first true robot ever built.

With voice commands he could walk, talk and count on his fingers. Built out of gears, cams, motors, vacuum tubes and a photo electric cell, one of Elektro’s stranger talents was the ability to smoke a cigarette.

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When we arrived in Mansfield we were greeted by Scott Schaut the curator of the museum, and expert on Elektro. When I asked why he wasn’t in a museum in Pittsburgh, the home of Westinghouse, Scott replied ‘over his dead body’!

Scott has re-created Elektro with modern resin’s and other components. The original is on the left, with the recreation on the right. There was once a dog named Sparko but he was lost to time.

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Also within the museum are some exhibits on the Westinghouse products built in town.

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Including a roasting pan.

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The museum has other local interest items scattered throughout.

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While much of the museum has a military feel to it, they also have some local minerals on display, along with more eclectic items.

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As part of their military display they have a very large model airplane collection.

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While most are military, they have some of the early airplanes like the Wright Flyer.

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The models are very detailed in the presentation. Scott said it best when he said, we are the museum for Mansfield but 90% of the people that walk through the door are looking for Elektro – just like us.

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Bradford, PA – May 2018 – Zippo Lighters

The Zippo Manufacturing company produced the first Zippo lighter in 1933 in the small northern Pennsylvania town of Bradford. The company continues to this day producing their quality product, guaranteed for life.

They ceased doing factory tours a few years ago, opting instead for a small museum and store. As you arrive you are greeted by their ‘Zippo Car’, as well as some of the coolest street lights you will ever see.




An American flag adorns the entrance.





Made out of hundreds of Zippo lighters – many with artwork.





Other displays showcase their company history.





Zippo has always made lighters as tributes to various people, organizations and events. The ones below were made for the Apollo space missions.





A series of Rolling Stones lighters.





As noted there are no factory tours, but they do have the repair shop at this facility. It was unfortunately unused as it was the Friday before a holiday weekend.





If they can’t fix it they will replace it. A display case showed some of the un-repairable ones





If you find yourself in Bradford, Pennsylvania (which is tough – it is far from any cities) check out the Zippo Museum.