Cincinnati – October 2017 – Cyclocross

A ‘cyclocross’ (cross country bicycling racing) was held on a cold Sunday in the Cincinnati suburb of Fairfield. The event took place throughout the streets and fields of a park.

With teams from throughout Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana and beyond the pits were filled with an impressive collection of tents, trucks and bikes while the technicians readied them for the races.

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There were numerous classes, including this one the start of a multi-group female race. This race had under 23s and over 35s.

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Miles of blue tape outlined the course up and down throughout the park.

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Some racers were more bundled for the cold weather than others.

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Famed baseball player Satchel Paige had a quote ‘don’t look back someone might be gaining on you’ – clearly she didn’t head his advice.

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A sand pit results in some small jumps, although nothing like a BMX track would yield.

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It did however cause some of the racers to get a bit off course.

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Given Halloween is near a couple of riders dressed for the occasion, like the human taco.

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A few got hung up on a small hill and had to dismount.

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Racing to the finish.

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Cleveland – March 2017 – Piston Power

This mid March Sunday was another cold, dreary one, so the decision was made to go to yet another car show. This one was back at the IX Center in Cleveland, but the thought was ‘better than sitting around the house’.

Billed as the Piston Powered Show, it turned out to be far far more than a car show. Their motto is ‘anything with a piston’, but in reality there was even more than that.

Among the categories seen: Classic Wood Boats from the 1940s and 1950s, Airplanes, Motorcycles, Bicycles, Trucks, a huge collection of cars, custom vans, small train maintenance cars, model building competition, art competition, a large display that someone made with matchsticks, a bumper car made into a go cart, a small soap box derby hill with racers, old campers, construction equipment, military equipment and one lonely snowmobile.

After 6 miles of walking around this massive hall, we went home agreeing this was one of the best shows we had ever seen.

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New Bremen, OH – March 2017 – Bicycle Museum of America

The very small town of New Bremen, Ohio sits in far western Ohio, not far from Indiana. It is a very unlikely place for a world class bicycle museum, but it is there, the Bicycle Museum of America. 

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The museum’s content was purchased by Jim Dicke, who owns Crown Equipment Corporation. Crown’s primary business is fork lifts, and business must be good because it allowed Jim to purchase the collection from the Schwinn family which had displayed it on the Navy Pier in Chicago.

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Among their holdings is the oldest existing bicycle in America, built in 1815. Their collection of pre 1900 bikes is amazing. Also of note is the collection of bicycles that challenged standard engineering, including direct drive bikes, one with a massive gear in front, spikes for riding on ice, and many others.

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The first floor has the showpieces, a collection of 1800s bikes including some high wheeled ones.

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On the upper level is a nice display of Ohio made bicycles, as well as some Whizzers.

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The day we were there they opened the lower level where they store the others not normally shown. While impressive, it pales in comparison to the quantity that we saw at Bicycle Heaven in Pittsburgh. This is no way takes away from the stunning collection upstairs. It is clear Bicycle Heaven has the quantity, this museum has the quality. Both are well worth a visit, and spectacular in their own way.

This was our second visit, and I am certain it won’t be our last.

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Arcata, California – Spring 2016 Road Trip – Day 8 – The Best Festival Ever

After breakfast we hopped into the car for Arcata, California for the Kinetics Festival. The event coordinator gave us spectator pins and tips where to watch the parade of kinetic sculptures. The kinetic sculptures are human powered vehicles decorated to race on road, water and sand.

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The event starts with a parade around the town square then takes off to race down the street for the first leg of the race, continuing for miles until they reach the bay then paddle through water and then down a sandy dunes before ending in Eureka.

One primary requirement is that the vehicles must carry all needed items for the race with them. The sculptures were wildly decorated and some theme-related, designed from a bicycle and transformed into a giant, dragon, shark, bug, volcano, or anything imaginable. Men dressed as green mushrooms named their sculpture Funguys who had a great time as they paraded around the square.

The festival started 47 years ago in Arcata by a man who wanted to have good clean, silly fun and is the largest kinetics festival in the country. There are other small kinetic festivals but people travel from around the world to participate or see it in Arcata.

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The parade of the participants varied in costume. The sculpture of the Organ Trail had a heart on the front of a peddled covered wagon and its peddlers dressed as 19th century pioneers. Santa Grinch cycled around the square. We also saw an Adopt-a-Pet sculpture with dogs ready for adoption, trilobite, mailmen, CHIPS imitators and so many more.

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We stayed to view the sculptures until a whistle blew at noon and a 1950’s police car and old fire engine led the start of the race as the sculptures peddled quickly out of the square and down the hill onto the street course. Some sculptures began to fall apart but it was all for fun anyway.

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Roadside America offered our next stop so off to McKinleyville to grab lunch at McDonalds and see the world’s tallest totem pole. The world’s tallest totem pole is located behind the Safeway grocery store in McKinleyville. A sign posted the totem pole as 160 feet tall. Carved by Ernest Pierson and John Nelson from a single 500-year-old redwood tree in 1961, the totem pole weighs 57,000 pounds, and sits on a base that weighs over two tons. Even so, at least four other poles have laid claim to beating it but this totem pole claims it is the tallest since it is carved from only one tree. The totem pole carvings are painted brightly colors also. The town pulls down the totem pole every few years to repaint the carvings.

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A ninety mile trip took us two hours to reach Trinity Dam, an earth dam in Shasta Trinity Whisky Recreation Area. The government built the dam creating Trinity Lake. Trinity Dam is composed mainly of river gravel and local rock, rising 538 ft from its foundations. A hydro-electric plant is located at the base of the dam. The Trinity Dam provides flood control and water to the Central Valley essential for farming.

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Beneath the water of Trinity Lake, lies old Trinity Center – its homes and commercial buildings – now an underwater ghost town. In its day, Trinity Center was a major stop on the only road from San Francisco to Portland. But all that washed away when the government built Trinity Dam and flooded the valley and the towns of Trinity Center, Stringtown and Minersville.For decades, residents were so bitter about the dam that they tore down signs and misdirected tourists for what the government dubbed Clair Engle Lake, named after a U.S. senator. It wasn’t until later that the government changed the name to Trinity Lake.

Also nearby we stopped in the small, abandonded town of Shasta. Six miles west of Redding on Highway 299 a row of old, half-ruined, brick buildings of Shasta, once the center of the county before Redding passed it. Among the buildings are an old Shasta County Courthouse, now housing historical exhibits The town is unrestored with brick ruins of the building, along with a few standing buildings.

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On our way to Shasta Dam we saw two roadrunners cross the street. These birds are too quick for us to get a photo of them.

Shasta Dam is the eighth tallest dam in the United States. Parking the car, we bypassed the closed visitor center and walked out onto the dam.

From the midpoint of the dam we had a spectacular view across the reservoir with 14,000′ high Mount Shasta looming in the distance.

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Our hotel for the night was in Redding, California. The hotel had a house cat named Jack who welcomed people to the hotel. Jack was left by a family who could not take him to their new home so was adopted by the hotel. The cat lounges in the foyer and the front door of its new permanent home.

Going into town, we stopped at their famous Sundial Bridge is a well known spot in Redding.  It is a pedestrian bridge that resembles a sundial made of tall cables to hold it up with glass panels as its floor giving a clear view of the river below leading to the Turtle Bay Exploration Park and the botanical gardens. The Sundial Bridge is the first of its kind and is the tallest working sundial in the world.

We crossed the bridge for a walk through the botanical gardens, however the gardens were disappointing because they was so unkempt. The lack of rain here does not provide the gardens with the lush green look of so many gardens we have seen in the east.

Afterwards we went into downtown Redding for dinner at Woody’s Brewery, an excellent choice with good atmosphere and food.

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Western Pennsylvania – March 2016 – Chainsaws and Groundhogs

The second full weekend in March was very warm and snow free so we decided to make a run to Western Pennsylvania for a few sights. But first we made a stop in Warren, Ohio to check out Dave Grohl Alley. Dave was born in Warren, but moved to Washington DC at a young age. Still Warren is proud he was born there and have a Dave Grohl Alley in downtown Warren, next door to a Burger King. The display is pretty cool, and since he specialized in Grunge rock being in a grungy alley somehow seems appropriate.

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We continued our drive until we reached Clarion, Pennsylvania where we spent the night. Early the next morning we were on our way to Ridgway, our destination, for the annual Chainsaw Carvers Rendevous. This event draws artists from all over North America and Europe, well over 100 different artists. We arrived to the sound of chainsaw and the smell of wood, nothing like chainsaws in the morning.

The festival had been going on for a couple of days so there were already a number of completed carvings, with each artist displaying their work in their own booth. The booths lined 3 streets for about 10 blocks. If they weren’t blasting away with a chainsaw they were more than happy to talk about their works, and their story on how they got into chainsaw carvings. Amazingly everyone I shook hands with had all of their fingers.

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We spent a long time talking with a couple of the competitors who had come down from Ontario. They said it is easier to get chainsaws into America than it is to get guns into Canada, which makes total sense to me.

While there were plenty of bears and eagles, the collections didn’t stop there. In the first block alone we saw two squirrels fighting with light swords, a horned/winged female with two giant serrated knives (which I can’t even begin to give a name to what she represented but I know I wouldn’t want to meet her live), a Sasquatch,  a knight and a crab.

There are two primary objectives to the festival; win the competition and sell their work. They start with a large block off wood, carve the basics with the chainsaw and then do the finish work with Dremel tools. Depending on the intricacy it takes them anywhere from 1 to 4 hours, or more.

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The contestants were all very happy about the March weather in North Central Pennsylvania, as it is usually brutally cold, earning the town the nickname of Fridgway. After spending a few hours wandering the streets we headed on, but very satisfied we made the long drive to Pennsylvania for a bunch of chainsaw people.

Our next stop, about an hour away, was Punxsutawney,  home (of course) of Phil, the prognosticating groundhog. The town clearly plays it up to the hilt, with fiberglass Phil’s decorated as different characters displayed around town. The real Phil has a home in the local library, where you can go see him anytime, which we did. Having lived in Pennsylvania previously we knew that the Groundhog Day movie itself wasn’t filmed there (it was filmed in Illinois), but it still a nice little town and well worth a visit. Someday I will go freeze my tushie off and get up at 4 AM to see a rodent pulled out of a tree stump, but that will have to wait until another year.

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Our day ended in Latrobe, home of Arnold Palmer,Pittsburgh Steelers training camp, Mister Rogers and the Banana Split. Having lived there it is always interesting to stop by when we can. We went to the highest rated restaurant on Tripadvisor, only to discover someone in Pennsylvania is doing a poor job of rating, because it wasn’t good, but at least before we went we stopped at the Four Seasons Microbrewery, which was excellent.  Our hotel in Latrobe had a nice little Arnold Palmer display of old golf equipment.

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The next day we drove into Pittsburgh for a couple of Roadside America sights, starting with a McDonald’s in Irwin that was the birthplace of the Big Mac, complete with a mini McDonald’s museum. From there we went down to the South Side to see Fredasaurus Rex, a fiberglass dinosaur decked out like Fred Rogers. Also in Pittsburgh was a collection of quirky looking musicians sculptures, a growing vertical garden up the side of a skyscraper, and a randomly place 10′ pole at a 60 degree angle with little people glued to the top of it at Carnegie Mellon University. With all of those engineers you think they could get it level.

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The highlight of our morning in Pittsburgh was a stop at Bicycle Heaven. Founded in 1996 by someone who found a bike in a junk pile, he started selling used bikes and collecting vintage ones, ending up with over 3000 bike scattered in a number of garages. In 2011 he took over an old industrial building on Pittsburgh’s northside, and now it is one of the largest bicycle museums in the world.

We roamed the multiple levels of bikes stuffed absolutely everywhere. Interspersed with the bikes were various collections or art works made out of bike parts, including a chain of gear shifters. One room was full of tires and inner tubes, the walls covered in forks and seats. They even had a day glo room where all of the bikes and parts were painted in day glo paint lit up by black light.

The collection featured a number of bikes with advertising from various companies; Oreo Cookie Bikes, Volkswagen, Rolling Rock, and a Pittsburgh Steelers bike. The latter was in a large display of Pittsburgh sport memorabilia including nearly 100 bobble heads, statues and photos. A stop at Bicycle Heaven is very highly recommended.

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Not far from Bicycle Heaven is Randyland, in the Mexican War Streets area of the northside. Randyland is an explosion of color in a courtyard and sides of some old row houses. He purchased a number of the abandoned buildings in 1996 to start Randyland. According to an article on Randy, he is sort of like Mister Rogers on speed. Unfortunately Randy was out the day we were there, but a volunteer was hanging around and let us in.

One complete wall is a 40 foot high mural with dinosaurs, butterflies, giant ladybugs, waterfalls, mountains, two moons, a castle, and birds. There are planters made from sewer pipes; plastic pink flamingos and parrots amid the banana trees; old metal lawn chairs hang from a fire escape, and mannequins just hanging around.

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The entire place is painted in bright colors, as though a giant PPG can puked over the entire place. Having seen this neighborhood in the old days, it has taken a bright turn for the better with Randyland.

Before we left town though we stopped by Jerry’s Records in Squirrel Hill. If you are a music fan, and have any appreciation at all of records you must go to Jerry’s at least once. Jerry, who used to bear an amazing resemblence to Jerry Garcia, has the upper floor of a strip of businesses. The building must be strong because there are nearly a million records in stacks and stacks of shelves. We were lucky on this day as Jerry was in the house, even posing for a picture. But alas it is time to leave the Burgh.

A scenic route home took us through Steubenville to find a Dean Martin mural, amazingly (and sadly) painted on the side of a Kroger store. How can you paint a mural of arguably the coolest person ever from Ohio on the side of a damn grocery  store? We moved on to another ‘cool Ohioan’ landmark, Clark Gable’s childhood home in Cadiz, but it was closed.

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Our last stop home was in the tiny little town of Peoli, home of Cy Young’s eternal resting spot. His grave is adorned with old baseballs people leave as a tribute. We stood in the drizzle admiring this as the Amish buggies would roll by. I could only wonder what those people think of some crazy people standing in a cemetery looking at a headstone full of baseballs.

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Columbus – June 2015 – Wheels and Roses

Early June found us at the historic Fairfield County Fairgrounds for a car show. This was a great place to host the show as the walkways were paved, there was lots of shade, and the backdrop of the old barns added to the atmosphere.

The featured cars this year were station wagons. A couple of the participants even had travel trailers that matched the wagons. Other highlights included the Model A club.

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Later that afternoon we came back into town, to the near west side for the Franklinton Bike Races. The afternoon of racing included both men and women’s races.

The setting gave great views of the racing as well as the skyline of Columbus. In addition, the course took them through a couple of railroad underpasses, adding to the various angles of the racing action.

As we returned home we stopped at Whetstone Rose Gardens, as we had heard ‘the roses were out’. Apparently most of the photographers in Columbus had heard this as well, as about 2/3rds of the people there were taking pictures. While at first we had fun taking photos of the roses I quickly got bored and had more fun taking photos of people taking photos of roses.

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The day was a lot of fun, and really showed the diversity of events available in the area, with motor heads, bicycle fanatics and photographers.

Western Ohio -March 2015 – Amazing Find in Small Town Ohio

Looking at a map I realized I had been in all but 8 Ohio counties, 7 of which were contiguous throughout western Ohio, so I mapped out a day trip to go through those counties, and see some sights along the way, mapped mostly with Roadside America attractions.

First stop – Urbana, Champaign County – Just to the east of Urbana was a berry farm that was supposed to have a rock sculpture of Iwo Jima. It was in reality just a pile of rocks – bust. Next stop was the airport that has a museum, and they did have a nice old airplane out front. On the way through town we passed an old house that had a slate Ohio State roof, as well as a coffee shop called the Teabaggers! Just west of town in the appropriately named Westville in a historical marker for Harvey Haddix, who once pitched a 12 inning perfect game for the Pittsburgh Pirates only to lose in the 13th (and which elicited a letter from a fraternity in Wisconsin that said ‘Dear Harvey – tough shit’)

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Second Stop – Troy, Miami County – A local family, the Hobart Brothers, made a fortune, mid-20th century, their welding products company, and have shared with the community by funding many buildings and art projects, including an arena and participatory sound piece for its welded metal sculpture park called the Sound Chamber

The structure, a “hybrid of cultures,” is related visually to pagodas and conceptually to ceremonial drum huts of the Mandailing people of North Sumatra. Visitors to Sound Chamber animate drum gongs and kalimbas with their hands; they use mallets and sticks to draw music from tone rods, musical rasps and mbira, flat steel strips clamped to a resonating surface.

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Third Stop – Greenville, Darke County – Greenville is the hometown of Annie Oakley, and there is a statue as a tribute to her in a small park at the south end of downtown. Her burial spot is a few miles north of town. A mural on the wall of a nearby building honors Zachary Lansdowne, the Commander of the Airship Shenandoah, a bit of a dubious distinction as it crashed when it got caught in a storm’s updraft pushing it too high and causing it to explode.

Today Greenville is most known as the home of Kitchenaid Appliances. On the main street of town there is a company store that sells their products, gives demonstrations and has a small museum in the basement. We brought home a mixer, which has paid dividends since in the form of cookies and breads.

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At the north end of Greenville is a small restaurant with a drive through that has become a ‘gum wall’, with thousands of people sticking their used chewing gum on it.

Fourth Stop – New Bremen, Auglaize County. New Bremen is the home of Crown Equipment Corporation, makers of fork lifts. The owners of this company are big bicycle fans and a few years ago were able to purchase the Schwinn Bicycle Museum in Chicago and move it’s contents to this small Ohio town, where they have added their own. The result is a World Class museum of bicycles.

As we drove up and parked we noticed a car with Kentucky plates parked out front with 2 high wheeled bicycles on the back, just a precursor of views to come.

The museum has over 300 bicycles including the oldest bike in America, the Draissine built in 1816, and another from 1819, the Hobby Horse. The entire first floor had bicycles from the 1800s and very early 1900s, as well as advertising posters, display cases with small items, including a collection of 1910 wrenches, and a High Wheel bike with steps up to it you can sit on for a photo opportunity.

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As you make your way to the second floor you pass a collection of contemporary, ultra light weight mountain bikes and racing bikes. The mezzanine level has bicycles used for military purposes, complete with machine guns mounted to them. Another display on this level includes motorized bicycles, mostly Whizzers.

The top level dedicated to bicycle making in Ohio, along with many of the Schwinn items. There was the obvious tribute to the Wright Brothers, along with Roadmaster. The Schwinn portion had numerous items, including original shipping crates.

The Bicycle Museum of America is easily one of the top museums not only in Ohio, but throughout America.

Fifth Stop – Delphos, Allen and Van Wert Counties. We had stopped in Delphos to see the Postal Museum, but it had been closed as the owner had been called back to his home in Dublin on some sort of emergency. Fortunately, the local man we met on the street that gave us this level of detail was able to recommend a nearby café for lunch.

Baked to Perfection is primarily a bakery but they do sandwiches as well. As we enjoyed our sandwiches you could smell the baking, and we watched the owner decorate a wedding cake. The Postal Museum was a bust but lunch made up for it.

Sixth Stop – Defiance – Defiance County. Defiance is the home of Fort Defiance, used during the ‘Indian Wars’ of the early 1800s. It sits as the confluence of the Auglaize and Auglaize Rivers, which when we were there were in flood conditions.

The park that is situated where the fort was offered a bit of history on the place on plaques, but overall it wasn’t noteworthy.

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Seventh Stop – Gilboa, Putnam County. This stop was a very brief stop to pose next to a giant bull near some silos.

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Eighth Stop – Kenton, Hardin County. In the 1930s the Kenton Hardware Company, came upon hard times. The toy manufacturer was the only industry in Kenton, Ohio. In 1936, the company received a contract to produce Gene Autry repeating cap guns. The Gene Autry cap gun became the most wanted toy in America! Besides bringing back all their workers, they had to hire considerably more as shifts were added to meet the huge demand.

Autry’s visit to Kenton on August 8, 1938 remains a high spot in local history, and as a tribute they painted a giant mural on a downtown building. Tells you how exciting Kenton is.

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And thus ended our western Ohio day trip, leaving only 1 Ohio county to visit.