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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Columbus – February 2017 – Easy Riders Bike Show

The second Sunday of February found us at the Columbus Convention Center (again), this time for the Easy Riders Motorcycle show.

Easy Riders magazine has been around since 1970, emphasizing customized motorcycles and usually scantily clad women. This show had mostly the former, with about 100 custom bikes.

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While I enjoy motorcycles, I am not normally a Harley fan, as I appreciate the speed and grace of the sport bikes. This show however did a nice job showcasing the artistic approach that the people who customized the bikes took.

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While most were stretched and chopped, with an amazing array of unusual approaches, including massive front wheels, belt drives, and an eclectic number of themes, many seemed to deal with death.

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The crowd was almost all older guys in full Harley attire, with the leather and tattoos, chains and long grey ponytails, but to each their own. While it did provide a number of interesting photo subjects, the lighting and bare set up of the convention center, couple with the relatively high price to get in ($20) makes me think this will be a once in a lifetime experience. It paled in comparison with the Progressive Motorcycle Show at the IX Center in Cleveland.

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Next door was an RV show, which other than Spiderman, provided no decent photo ops.

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Indiana – October 2016 – Weekend to the Dunes

Located in the Indiana Dunes town of Beverly Shores exist five 1933 World’s Fair houses, where once a year they have tours during an open house. I managed to get tickets to one of the Saturday afternoon tours, but to make the 300 mile trip interesting we made a number of stops.

We left early enough on Friday to make it to Knightstown, Indiana around 4:30 PM, in time to visit the Hoosier Gym. Built in 1922 it served the local high school until the 1960s, but is most famous for being the home gym of the Hickory team in the movie Hoosiers. Restored to it’s 1952 look, they have retained that look ever since.

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The great thing is the gym is a rec center and anyone can come in and shoot some hoops, which we did. The older gentleman who worked there gave us a brief tour, then tossed us a ball and said ‘have fun’. It was great, but also a reminder I haven’t shot a basketball in many years.

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We made our way to Indianapolis where we went directly to the State Fairgrounds where there is a 1939 arena, recently refurbished with the naming rights sold to Indiana Farmers Insurance. We were there for a minor league hockey game, the Indianapolis Fuel. The arena currently seats a little over 6000, with the seating bowl pitched fairly steep, offering good views throughout.

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The game against Cincinnati was competitive, with the teams competing in the ECHL, with quite a bit of checking.

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As with most minor league teams their events during breaks were amusing. First up was a couple of competitors shooting for a small opening in a board in front of the goal, which a young boy managed to do, thrilling the crowd. The other event was the chuck a puck, only this time they had a washer set up on the ice, which took a beating, even from the soft rubber pucks.

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We arrived at our hotel to find it packed with University of Iowa football fans, as they had a game the next day in nearby Lafayette against Purdue. Also staying in the hotel was a sports team from Transylvania, Kentucky, the Transylvania Pioneers. The following morning we had breakfast amongst the Iowa fans, as well as seeing them on the freeway as we were going past Lafayette as well.

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We had a few stops planned on the way to the dunes, the first being a train themed restaurant called the Whistle Stop in Monon, Indiana. The grounds outside had a number of restored train cars, as well as an old train depot. Inside they had a display of lanterns but wanted $10 to view a small room, so we passed.

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Next up was Kerstings Cycles outside the small Indiana town of Winemac. The elderly owner, Jim, had just arrived as we did. While he may move slowly he was passionate about his collection of more than 100 vintage motorcycles. He boasts there are no duplicates, and that he has everything from an Ariel to a Zundapp.

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He has the bikes grouped together, American bikes, German bikes, British bikes, and others. In addition in the back room he has a number of old cars, including an old Rolls Royce.

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Along with the bikes and cars, there is a large collection of posters, mannequins in motorcycle clothing and toys.

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Finally we arrived at Indiana Dunes State Park, which is next door to the Dunes National Lakehore. I am not sure why they don’t combine the parks, but you end up paying for the state park, and would pay a second time for the National Lakeshore, except we had our pass.

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Since we had a couple of hours to kill before our tour we went to the State Park and took a hike up and down the dunes until we reached the lakeshore. The dunes themselves are mostly covered in trees and underbrush, which surprised us as we were expecting giant open dunes like at Sleeping Bear Dunes in Michigan.

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Once at the shore you have a great view out over the greenish blue waters of Lake Michigan, but you also had the industrial view just to the west of the steel mills of Gary. The day was somewhat hazy so you could barely make out the Chicago skyline 30 miles away across the southwest corner of the lake.

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After we returned to our car we made our way to the National Lakeshore visitor center to sign in and catch the bus for our tour of the homes. Over 70 years of wind, sand, and surf have battered the five World’s Fair houses located along Lake Front Drive in Beverly Shores, but their uniqueness has weathered the elements. With the theme of a Century of Progress, the houses were built for the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair to demonstrate modern architectural design, experimental materials, and new technologies such as central air conditioning and dishwashers.

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Four of the houses were brought to the dunes by barge in 1935 by real estate developer Robert Bartlett. The Cypress Log Cabin was dismantled at the fair and moved by truck. Bartlett hoped that the high profile houses would entice buyers to his new resort community of Beverly Shores. Today the houses are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The houses have been leased to the Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana. Through this organization, private individuals or families have leased the homes for 30 years with the agreement they must rehabilitate them, normally at a costs over a million dollars.

The first home we went into was the Armco Ferro home, which is noted as the only one of the houses to meet the criteria set by the Fair Committee of building an affordable and mass producible home. This house was made out of Cleveland steel using corrugated steel panels for walls.

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Next door is the House of Tomorrow, which was designed with its own airplane hangar. It’s orgininal design had glass walls throughout, however this home is the only one still not refurbished. When we were there it was definitely a construction zone, and it appeared they have a long ways to go.

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The last home on the dune side of the street is the Cypress Log Cabin, sponsored by the Southern Cypress Manufacturers Association, to promote the use of cypress in construction. Today the harvesting of cypress trees is prohibited, so when the owners were doing their rehab work, they had to locate old cypress wood and reuse it on their project.

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Across the street is the Florida Tropical House. Designed for the southern Florida tropics, the house combines the indoors and outdoors into the living space. Large open terraces and a flamingo pink paint scheme stand out. The owners were home, and took great joy in describing their rehab effort, bringing it back to it’s original beauty. Situated on the lakefront the view both inside and out are fantastic.

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The final house was framed in steel and originally clad with an artificial stone called Rostone (Limestone, shale and alkali). Its Rostone exterior was billed as never needing repairs, but it only lasted until the 1950s. The exterior of this home was completed, but the interior was still being worked on by an eccentric old guy who chain smoked the entire time we were there.

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The highlight of this house was the Ferrari in the garage. Our tours done, with sunset coming, we made our way to Valparaiso where we spent the night.

The next morning was rainy and cool, and we had the long drive back to Columbus. The plans for this day were to hit some Roadside America sites along the way.

First up was a restored Mobil Gas Station in Plymouth, Indiana

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Next up – Mentone, Indiana and the worlds largest egg – or more appropriately a concrete model of an egg

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Continuing across Indiana we stopped in Huntington to see some college professors collection of outdoor toilets….

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Ossian, Indiana gave us a silo painted like a minion.

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Finally we stopped at the Allen County Museum in Lima Ohio, where they had a hearse collection, some beautiful wooden model houses, a locomotive, and a collection of items a doctor pulled out of peoples throats over the years.

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Also here was a mock up of the jail cell that John Dillinger spent time in.

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Of note is their collection of quartz and other stones and minerals.

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All in all a great weekend.

Troy, OH – August 2016 – Waco Fly In

Our first Saturday back in Ohio found us back in Troy, Ohio at the Waco Airplane grounds again. This time it was for the annual Waco Fly In, a day that many owners of the Waco planes come to town to display their aircraft, as well as bond with the other aficionados of vintage airplanes.

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The weather forecast was predicting rain later in the day so we got an early start, arriving in Troy around 9:30 to find a field with  8 bi wing planes. You were welcome to wander the field and check them out closer, which we did.

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A few took off with passengers as a charity fundraiser, giving me further photo ops.

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The hanger had a static display with some interesting objects and a few toys. After an hour or so we had seen it all so we moved on.

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Nearby Piqua was scheduled to have a motorcycle show, and when we got there just before noon there were a few parked around, along with some booths set up down Main Street. We went into a little restaurant someone on the street recommended, the Lighthouse, which was typical small town heart attack fare, anything you like as long as it was fried, but the help was prompt and friendly.

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The rain kept most away, but a few custom bikes were on display and had an interesting look all wet. After a brief time we gave up and called it a day.

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Cleveland – January 2016 – Motorcycles, Cars, Planes and Harvey Pekar

The International Exposition Center in Cleveland, better known as the IX Center is a 1 million square foot exhibition hall. Originally built in 1942 as a GM factory building bombers for World War II, it served for many years after that as a tank plant. When the tank plant closed it was eventually repurposed into the convention hall, complete with a 125′ tall ferris wheel that is enclosed in a glass atrium rising above the main roof.

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We have attended numerous events at this location including car shows, boat shows, RV shows, home shows and others. This day we were there for the Progressive International Motorcycle Show. Ohio, despite the cold winter weather, has one of the highest per capita motorcycle rider population in the country.

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This show featured the world’s leading manufacturers including BMW, Ducati, Harley Davidsosn, Honda, Indian, Kawasaki, Suzuki, Triumph, Yamaha and others.

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In addition to the new bike displays, there were numerous vendors with accessories. The highlight of the show was a collection of helmets painted by local tattoo artists. While we were there two of them were working on their latest creation. Another area had a collection of custom ‘artistic’ bikes.

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After the motorcycle show we headed across town to the Crawford Auto Aviation Museum, located at the Western Reserve Historical Society in University Circle on the east side of Cleveland. The Crawford was recently remodeled and I wanted to check it out.

Cleveland has a long history of auto manufacturing and it is celebrated here. Founded in 1965 it’s collection of vehicles include antique carriages, early Harley Davidson’s, a P51 Mustang Airplane hanging from the ceiling that was used in the famed Cleveland National Air Races of the 1920s and 1930s.

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It is most known for it’s collection of cars over 100 years old, as well as the aforementioned Cleveland based automobiles, including a 1932 aluminum bodied Peerless.

A recent addition is the refurbished carousel from Euclid Beach Park, an amusement park that was located along the lakeshore that closed in the late 1960s.

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It is just a short distance from here to the Cleveland Heights Library where they have a small display on Harvey Pekar. Harvey is sometimes referred to as the Poet Laureate of Cleveland, going through life with a cynical attitude and skill in writing and illustrating underground comics. He is most known nationally for his series of combative guest appearance on the David Letterman show. If you haven’t seen one try this…

He will likely either amuse you or offend you, but not both. But he is ‘true Cleveland’

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So Harvey was a loyal supporter of the Cleveland Heights library, and in reward after his death they had a small statuette made for him. We had to make the pilgrimage to see Harvey’s statue.

Having completed our pilgrimage we made our way home, stopping by the frozen Brandywine Falls on the way. After passing the ‘closed trail’ sign with everyone else, we had a magnificent up close view of the ice covered waterfalls.

Another great day road trip was now complete.

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Pickerington – January 2016 – AMA Motorcycle Museum

Our 2016 road trips started on January 2nd with a visit to the American Motorcycle Association (AMA) Museum in Pickerington, Ohio. The AMA is the largest motorcycle organization in America, with well over 200,000 members. At their headquarters in Pickerington they have a significant museum and hall of fame.

Located in an office park on the far east side of Columbus, the route in takes one past the typical exit highlights like a Cracker Barrel, Holiday Inn Express and McDonalds. Turning onto the access road you are immediately in the middle of typical suburban offices. There is little to give notice of the great collection of bikes and other motorcycling items that lie just ahead.

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Once you reach the parking lot you are greeted by a stylished Motorcycle Museum sign with an image of a 1920s dirt track racer in full lean forward. As you enter you have an immediate overwhelming view of bikes. The first one you see is a 1950s Vincent, a British made bike that was the fastest of it’s time. Everywhere you look there are racing bikes, Yamaha’s, Ducati’s, Suzuki’s and others.

Just around the corner is the Hall of Fame wall with a couple hundred plaques honoring those who have contributed to motorcycling. The wall of plaques surround  a sculpture of the same biker that is on the sign in front.

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Nearby is a display of motorcycle accessories like helmets, jackets, trophies and others with recent honorees including Jay Leno. Also in this exhibit is a 1972 Harley Davidson ridden by Dave Barr, who after losing his legs completed an around he world journey on this exact bike.

We made our way to the lower level where there was a display of 1920s Indians, which in my opinion are the coolest looking bikes ever made. I spent a considerable amount of time photographing these bikes from every possible angle. Another nearby area has a British bike display prominently featuring BSA’s and Triumphs.

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Also on the lower level were a number of cabinets of motorcycle related toys and posters. The final stop downstairs was a model repair shop.

Back on the main floor we made our way past a display showing the chronological order of the growth of the technology on bikes, primarily dirt racing bikes. Finally we saw a jet bike that at one time had the world record well over 300 MPH. No motorcycle museum is complete with one from Evil Kneivel, and this one is no different as we passed his on the way out.

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We finished our day spending an hour at Columbus Commons downtown admiring the still remaining holiday lights, but that was very anticlimactic after the motorcycles.

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Marysville – November 2015 – Honda Factory Tour

Honda of America manufacturing is centered in Marysville, Ohio, just northwest of Columbus, having started in the 1970s building lawn mowers and motorcycles, and eventually leading up to the first auto factory in the 1980s. Today the Honda factory in Marysville is a 4 million square foot facility building Accords and Accura TLXs.

In addition they have recently opened the Honda Heritage Center, celebrating their 50+ year history in North America. This center serves as a museum and tech center, which we visited a few months earlier. We are back this day to participate in the guided factory tour.

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The tour started out in a Heritage Center conference room where they gave a brief power point, complete with donuts and coffee! From there we went out to the main floor where the guide walked us through the history of the company in the well represented displays including; The second Accord to come off the line (ironically the first is in the Henry Ford Museum in Michigan), a 1971 N600, the first Honda car sold in America, C100 motorcycle, made famous in the 1960s slogan ‘You Meet The Nicest People on A Honda’.

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The tour continued through an excellent display of the cars through the years, bikes through the years, an example of race cars,as well as a jet airplane. Since this building houses the tech center you can observe some lab areas where they are improving on factory automation.

From there we were instructed to go to our cars to drive across the road to the parking lot for the manufacturing area. Not surprisingly my Audi was the only non Honda in the parking lot, but we paraded across the road, parked and headed in.

Once in the lobby we were each handed hard hats and headphones/ear protection that the guide would talk to us through. After some brief safety instructions we headed in. Unlike the Ford Factory tour in Dearborn we actually went onto the manufacturing floor. Starting in an area where they are stamping out parts from massive rolls of metal, with huge presses (running at about 150 db, which made us thankful for the ear protection), we continued throughout the entire facility.

The only area we were unable to observe was the paint shop, due to the risk of contamination. As we made our way on the tour we passed an area with robotic welders, blasting sparks close enough to us they were bouncing on the floor in front of us. We continued on past the assembly points where the interiors were installed, doors connected, and finally the engines (built elsewhere) were dropped in.

Finally we went past quality control where drivers place the new car onto rollers and perform a series of tests before hustling out and parking them in the massive holding lot. Having spent many years working in support of manufacturing the opportunity to tour the factory floor at Honda was a special treat, and well worth the wait. And best of all, it is free.

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