Monday, January 31, 2011

It's a Groundhog Thing...You Wouldn't Understand

Saturday, it was all those little furry critters. The number one mid-winter day to go along with the #1 TV commercial these days, you know, "Hey you danged woodchucks, quit chucking my WOOD!!!"

I drove to nearby Woodstock, Illinois, and saw the movie "Groundhog Day" on the big screen in the theatre featured in the movie. Got my groundhog cookie and filled up on some really fine chili at the cook-off.

Of course, the movie was filmed mostly in Woodstock, not Punxsutawney, Pa.. and they still haven't forgiven Woodstock.

Then bought books I didn't need at the sale and listened to two pairs of really fine folk singers.

I didn't go on the walking tour as I've been on it many times, but I did FINALLY get my chance to eat at the site of the Tip-Top Cafe which was featured in many scenes in the movie. Never been able to fo that before.

I then made the mistake of going into the memorabilia store and attended the movie symposium.

Looking Forward to Next Year. --RoadDog

T-Giving NC-- Cruisin' the National Road-- Zanesville East

November 21, 2010

East of Zanesville, there is a great old roadside eating place called Mickey's. Good food and atmosphere.

Baker's Motel is looking worse for wear; a big old mom and pop motel harkening back to the days of US-40 travel.

Norwich is the site of the first-recorded US pedestrian traffic fatality, and not in the early 1900s as you might think. It took place in 1831 and involved a stage coach.

I also saw the Old Stone House.

You have to really wonder when driving the original alignment of the National Road (not US-40 which was much more graded and travel-friendly although not as much as the interstates) how horses or oxen pulled the stage coaches and wagons up and down those steep hills.

Of course, there were those neat two S-Bridges before I got to Cambridge. In town, I passed the Frisbee Motel. You have to wonder how it got its name. For Christmas, they had Dicken-era statues wearing real clothes bunched around most of the streetlights. Nice touch.

Drove through town past Long's Motel and picked up I-77 going south.

Drove to the first rest area south of I-70 where I had stopped one time in the past and seemed to remember a plaque honoring the crash of an old dirigible back in the 1930s.

What Did I Spy at the Rest Stop? --RoadDog

Oh Dem Baldies-- Part 3

At the Mississippi Valley Welcome Center, we were givem a piece of paper to watch local eagles in their nest on the Alcoa Eagle Cam.

www.alcoa.com/eaglecam.

Well worth a watch.


Some more info on bald eagles from Eagle Fact-Finer Statistics.


MATING AND BREEDING

** The bald eagle mates for life.

** Eagle pairs often return to the same nest year after year.

** The largest recorded eagle nest was 20 feet high, 10 feet wide, & weighed 2 tons. (I wonder how they weighed it?)

** Male & female alternate sitting on the eggs.

** Eagles often nest within 100 miles of where they were born.


HUNTING HABITS

** Fish make up 60-90% of their diet.

** Eagles can fly 30-40 mph during normal flight.

** Eyesight is 6x greater than a human's. (And they can definitely give you the ol' evil eye.)


RANGE

** Found in all states except Hawaii. (Even Florida?)

** Illinois has the largest winter population of eagles other than Alaska.

**Less than 125 active nests in Illinois. (We now have one here in the Chain of Lakes that is occupied year round.)

** Is still on the Federal threatened species list. (But definitely not as threatened as in the 60s-80s.)

Go See 'Em. Don't Cost Nuthin'. --RoadDog

Friday, January 28, 2011

No More Bears Trips for the Usual Suspects-- Part 3-- A Hard Day

We were there, almost all but "Jets" Kevin (with his inside-out jersey so as not to be mistaken for Packer colors) wearing our Bear colors. I had my good-luck Payton #34 jersey on. We're ready to yell, cheer and toast and definitely hoping out "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly" Bears would just have the first group there. But, we got the second two groups.

They were giving away a Hestor jersey and a Hawk (Packers) jersey which no one wanted. Since we had gotten there an hour and a half early to make sure the seats were reserved, we were way into our third pitcher at game time with that great rendition of the National Anthem, the roar of the field and quite a loud one in the bar, then the fly over.

Game time!!

Out vaunted defense couldn't have been uglier and then the Packers marched right down for a TD. Fortunately, they remembered who they were and Green Bay's offense only scored one more TD after that.

However, our offense was committed to the "Bad and the Ugly." Nothing. Nothing at all. Nothing to cheer about. A Big Zero!! QB Cutler was getting banged around and pretty soon, he had that "Beat Dog" look. Lovie Smith needs to learn to recognize it and take him out when he gets it as he is done.

Third quarter and maybe the Bears have discovered a flaw in the Packer defense. I'm yelling "Hanie, Wolfe!!" "Hanie, Wolfe!!" Wanting third string qb Caleb h
Hanie and rb Garrett Wolfe (NIU grad) to play. We have to do something to shake things up.

More to Come. --RoadDog

Oh Dem Baldies-- Part 2

Some More Interesting Stuff from the Eagle Fact-Finder Statistics as put out by the Iowa I-80 Welcome Center.

** The Latin name Haliaeetus leucocephalus means "white-headed" sea eagle.

** The Old English word "balde" meant white, not hairless.

** Eagles' talons and beaks are made of keratin; the same material that make up our hair and fingernails.


NEST TO MATURITY

** 1-3 eggs in a nest take about 35 days to hatch.

** 3-4 weeks they develop most of their feathers.

** 6-7 weeks they can walk.

** 3 months they can fly.

** 4 months they leave the nest for good.

** 4-5 years to become adults (white head and tail).

** Young eagles stay with their parents even after they have grown to full size; they separate when they migrate.

Still More to Come-- RoadDog

The Black Experience on Route 66-- Part 2

Two days ago, I mentioned of my interest in seeing more information on the experience that black travelers had on the Mother Road (or for that matter, any road or travel conveyance).

Author and Route 66 Roadie Kip Welburn wrote an entry on the Yahoo Route 66 e-mail group telling some information from Missouri Route 66 Association member Irv Logan, who is black. He wrote an article about those places and his own experiences along the road in the Spring 1996 edition of the Show Me Route 66 Magazine titled "Money Couldn't Buy."

His mother ran Alberta's Hotel and Alberta's Snack Shack in Springfield, Missouri, which catered to the black traveler.

The hotel was the old City Hospital and in the 1950s was doing very well. It also had a barbershop, beauty salon and a club called "The Rumpus Room."

They also owned a juke joint on 66 called the Crystal Palace which featured blues, barrelhouse and boogie.

Well, At least That's a Little Information, But Much More is Needed. --RoadDog

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Oh Dem Baldies

At the Iowa I-80 Welcome Center just over the Mississippi River, we picked up an Eagle Fact-Finder Statistics flyer. It had a whole lot of interesting facts about the bird we were looking for last week.

We had already figured out that young bald eagles did not have the tell-tale white-feathered heads. They don't get them until after their third year. So, if your're out eagle watching and see a bird the same size as a bald eagle, but without the white markings, you're looking at a juvenile.

In the air, wing beats are rather stiff and shallow and then there is a lot of gliding. When soaring, the wings are nearly flat.

Its voice is a rather weak, flat, chirping whistle, stuttering and variable. Definitely not the sound you'd expect to hear from such a magnificent bird.

Something I didn't know was that the male eagle is smaller than the female, but both are similarly marked, not like the male-female difference on smaller birds where the male is much more strikingly marked.

It's life span is generally 30-50 years.

More to Come. --RoadDog

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Black Experience of Route 66

I have been following with interest a discussion on the Yahoo Route 66 e-mail group's site (Jan. 23rd to today) about a Negro Dude Ranch on 66 out in Arizona. Unfortunately, it got hijacked into a discussion of movies filmed on Route 66.

This would be an interesting topic for a book on these almost seemingly forgotten travelers who had to put up with prejudicial treatment during 66s heydays. How did they cope? What did they experience? Would perhaps Missouri, being the most southern state along the route, be the most biased against them?

I have been involved with Route 66 since 2002 and have seen and heard very little on the black travelers.

Time for a Book. --RoadDog

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

No More Bear Road trips for the Usual Suspects-- Part 2

Liz and I were in the usual situation of having our Entertainment Book coupons about to expire at the end of October and we went to this place in McHenry, Illinois, called Firewood on Il-120.

We used to go there back when it was Diversions, a 20-something night club, but which also had NTN, our trivia game. We had a pretty good team there until the place closed, then reopened as Lenny the Legends, but that too closed.

We hadn't been back since the new place opened. They had gutted the place and upscaled considerably, but we were especially impressed with the bar area which has 20 big screen TVs. Anywhere you sit is a good seat for a game.

We thought to ourselves, "Wow, this would be a great place for the Usual Suspects if they only had some drink deals." Then, we saw an advertisement saying they had buckets of five domestics for $10 and $5 pitchers on Sundays. Here we come. What cinched it was the free pizza at half time.

Now here's a place we can call home.

We set up a Bear football get-together with the Suspects and they agreed this was the place for us and we have been back every game except Week 17's Packer game when the place was already packed.

We now have them reserve seats at the bar.

So, here we were at the NFC championship game, drinking $5 pitchers and cheering Da Bears on to the Super Bowl.

Cheering for the Bears. --RoadDog

The First Dairy Queen Was On Route 66-- Part 3

The first store at 501 N. Chicago Street (Route 66) in Joliet, Illinois, was gone by 1954 and replaced by a lawn mower store. After that, it served as a furniture, plumbing, heating and air conditioning and a potters store before Joliet restaurant-owner John Georgouses bought it in 2006.

Sherb Noble's daughter, Sue Stevens, is still in the ice cream business and own seven Dairy Queens in Kane and Kankakee counties. Her father died in 1991 at the age 82.

Actually, I'd really like to see Dairy Queen purchase the building and turn it into a museum. It would only be fitting. Companies need to respect their heritage. It would definitely be a place I would put on my must-visit list in future drives along Route 66.

A Dairy Queen in Every Town? --RoadDog

Monday, January 24, 2011

No More Bears Road Trips for Usual Suspects-- Part 1

Our cruising season came to an end yesterday with a rather inept Bear offensive effort against the Packers in the NFC Championship game. Yes, Roadies, there will be no Super Bowl trip to Dallas for us Bears.

We have a group of twenty Usual Suspects who go to a bar to watch the game unless someone has a house party to see them.

This year started off with a problem as our usual place, Baja Benny's, on Fox Lake, closed. We have been going here for many years, even back to when it was Costello's. We enjoyed the view of the lake between plays and sitting out on the deck to see the game during the fall. Free hot dogs and $5 pitchers were also attractions.

However, before the season started, Baja Benny's closed, making us some Bear orphans in need of a place to drink and cheer on our boys.

We needed to find a place with enough room for our crowd, plenty of TVs, free food and cheap drinks.

We tried several places, including the Squaw Bar on Squaw Creek in Ingleside, Cross Inn on Il-59 in Ingleside, and Da Bears Den in Fox Lake (all of these are in Illinois). There was not enough seating in the Squaw Bar. We didn't like the bartender's attitude at Cross Inn and Da Bears Den would have been perfect (how could you miss with a name like that), but they closed as well.

We Finally Found a Bears Home. --RoadDog

The First Dairy Queen on Route 66-- Part 2

Continued from January 1, 2011.

The building at 501 N. Chicago Street in Joliet, Illinois, still stands, but hasn't been a DQ for many years. (I remember seeing the Delta Queen once in Dubuque, Iowa, and seeing the DQ on the smokestack or superstructure and saying, "Hey, it's the Dairy Queen," at which point a steamboat fan took offense.)

The site, currently a Spanish language storefront church with apartments upstairs, has recently been given landmark status and a ceremony will be held this spring (if we ever get through this "forever" winter).

Founder Sherb Noble would be proud of this according to his daughter Sue Stevens, 59, of Cedarburg, Wisconsin.

The building was constructed in 1895 and housed a residence and grocery until Dairy Queen opened June 22, 1940 with a sign in the window reading "The new frozen dairy product.

It became the first Dairy Queen of today's International Dairy Queen, Inc., now owned by Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway, Inc.. Today, there are 5,700 stores in the US and around the world which celebrated their 70th anniversary last year.

More to Come. --RoadDog

Friday, January 21, 2011

Mission Accomplished: Oh, Those White Heads-- Part 2

Yesterday, January 20th, we decided to head back home by way of Starved Rock State Park in Utica where we've heard a lot of bald eagles winter.

Took I-80 east to Peru and got off to play NTN Buzztime at the BW3 (Buffalo Wild Wings), then back on I-80 for the short drive to Utica and Starved Rock. That is one really impressive lodge and we saw eagles flying along with a tree decorated with about 12 white ornaments (that's what the eagles look like sitting in it).

Also visited the Starved Rock Visitors Center and then took US-6 to Marseilles where we played NTN at the Illini Lodge. This made three new NTN sites for us this new year so far.

Then, on US-6 to Morris and north on Il-47. Had some great food at the Brownberry Inn in Elburn and then home to avoid all the cold coming in last night.

I'll go into more detail Monday.

Altogether, we saw 100 white heads, bald eagles.

A Great Tradition. --RoadDog

Tidbits: Interesting Places in the Midwest

From the Jan. 9-15, 2011 American Profile magazine.


OHIO-- The nation's oldest continuously operated manufacturer of snow fences is Kalinich Fence Co. established in 1905 in STRONGVILLE (pop. 43,858). A third generation of the Kalinich family runs the company.

Just in time for the snow.


WISCONSIN-- Whether the Badger football team wins or loses, thousands of University of Wisconsin fans stick around for the Fifth Quarter postgame show by the marching band in Madison.

This is a tradition dating back to 1977. And the Badgers have been winning lots of games these days.

Some Interesting Stuff. --RoadDog

Mission Accomplished: Oh Those White Heads-- Part 1

We got back home last night a little after 7, but ahead of this doggone cold we're having today.

We put about 500 miles on the car in these days of rip-off gas prices. Thankfully, we get about 30 mpg. We saw 100 bald eagles by our count.

A quick overview of the trip:

JANUARY 18th-- TUESDAY

Left a noon and drove the US Grant Memorial Highway (US-20) west to East Dubuque, Illinois. Had dinner at Galena, Illinois' Log Cabin, in business since 1938. Did some drinking at the VFW and Flying Horse, where we also played NTN.

Checked into Swiss Inn in East Dubuque and enjoyed their bar.


JANUARY 19th-- WEDNESDAY

Left at 8. Saw six eagles at Dubuque, Iowa, Lock and Dam. Had Hardee's new loaded biscuits and gravy. US-52 to Bellevue, no eagles. We did see nine eagles south of town.

No eagles in Clinton and too full to eat at J&D Steakhouse. Saw eagles in Princeton and lots of them at the Bettendorf Lock and Dam. Visited Credit Island and saw only one eagle but lots of cardinals.

Played NTN at 20 Club in Moline, checked into Bettendorf Ramada Inn and grazed at the Corral (as in Golden). Sat out by the pool and went to the Old Ripoff (Old Chicago) before Buffalo Wild Wings.

More to Come. --RoadDog

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Looks Like Eagles After All

We're getting ready to head out to the Mississippi River to see the eagles after all. Bad weather is predicted for the rest of the week, but we're hoping to squeeze some viewing in after all.

Planning on stopping in Galena, Illinois, to eat at the Log Cabin, and then stay at the old nom and pop Swiss Inn in East Dubuque. Like this place especially as they have a bar right in the place.

Tomorrow, bald eagles, we hope, at the Dubuque, Iowa, Lock and Dam and then driving south along the river on the Iowa side where we know of a few spots to see them. Perhaps Quad Cities tomorrow.

We'll be playing it by ear or snow after that.

Here's Hoping the Eagles and Weather Cooperate. --RoadDog

Goodbye Surf Radio

One of the stations I listen to often over the internet, 94.9 FM, the Surf, has suddenly gone off the air. It operated out of North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and I would listen to it over the airwaves any time I visited the Grand Strand.

The last couple days, the Carolina Beach Music Yahoo e-mail group has been talking about it. I discovered it was no longer there Saturday morning when I tuned in to listen to the Beach Music Top 40. All I got was that the website had been suspended.

I used to listen to Ted Bell a lot from 10-2 (9 to 1 here in the Midwest.

Of course, Billy Smith, my all-time favorite Beach Music deejay was on this station for many years until his death a few years ago.

I see that Ted Bell is now at WNMB 900 AM on the same time slot. Unfortunately, it is just oldies and I can get that pretty much anywhere.

Fortunately, I do have a lot of other Beach Music sources. I most often listen to Allen Vick on WNCT AM 1070 out of Greenville, North Carolina, in the morning.

Great Job, Surf. We'll Miss Ya. --RoadDog

Monday, January 17, 2011

Close, But No Cigar: Steak 'N Shake's 3-Way Chili

Several weeks ago, I was very excited to see in the local Steak 'M Shake advertisement that they had 5-way chili and the picture looked like that great chili they have in Cincinnati.

Since Denny Gibson introduced me to it, I have been known to go out of my way to stop at any Gold Star or Skyline (both noted for their chili) for that greay stuff. I was excited to find a couple of those places advertised along I-70 in the western part of Ohio when I'm driving that way but don't get by Cincinnati.

This last Thursday, I got the opportunity to go to Steak 'N Shake and try some. They charge $3,99 for 3-way and $4.99 for 5-way (the works). I got the 3-way. It was good, but nowhere near as good as you get in Cincinnati. The Parmesan cheese shaker just couldn't match up with the fresh shredded cheese and the beans were too big and overpowering.

But, it is better than anything we have around here so I will probably go back and have some more while awaiting my next trip to Cincinnati, probably in March is gas is not too much.

That's ok, however, i still like everything else they have.

Better Luck next Time. --RoadDog

Route 66: An All-American Road-- Part 5

Continued from Dec. 22, 2010.

From the January 18, 2009, Your Time "Route 66: Historic Road west still drives interest" by Jim Winnerman of the Christian Science Monitor.

Looking and taking pictures is part of the fun of driving on Route 66, but probably the best past is talking to the folks you meet along the way. And, I'm just talking the locals, but other people experiencing the Mother Road.

Linda Persson, from Sweden, says, "It's the people. The more people we talked to the more fulfilling our trip was."

There are the mom-and-pop diners and motels. Every so often, you can also find a stretch of original pavement. Persson said her favorite stretch was in Oklahoma. Personally, my very favorite is the stretch through Hooker Cut in Missouri by the Devil's Elbow.

Motorcycles are a favorite way to drive 66, but also vintage cars, and, of course, Corvettes. As for Liz and myself, we saw the USA in our Chevrolet like the old commercial said.

In 2008, a famous Englishman also drove the route, one Paul McCartney who used to be in that group, drove 66 when he turned 66. That would be neat, driving 66 when you're 66.

More Fun Than... Well, Most Stuff. --RoadDog

One Snowflake Too many...A Day Late

We were planning on leaving for our annual eagle watching trip today, but a wee bit o' snow changed our minds. It has been coming down all day since 8 am.

Decided not to go our slip-sliding way. That's one nice thing about being retired. We can always go tomorrow. We just have to be home for the Sunday game between Da Bears and Da Packers.

Oh, Well. --RoadDog

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Tidbits: Interesting Places in the Midwest

From the Jan. 9-15, 2011 American Profile Magazine. This column is run every so often and always of interest. Check it out at www.americanprofile.com under TidBits.


ILLINOIS: Eliot Porter, who is credited with popularizing color nature photography, was born in 1901 in WINETKA (pop. 12,419) north of Chicago.


INDIANA: Perhaps you were wondering how bars and restaurants keep their stainless steel, porcelain, ceramic and other surfaces so shiny. Developed by a chemist and first used back in the 1880s, Barkeepers Friend is manufactured by SerVaas Laboratories in INDIANAPOLIS.


MICHIGAN: During World War I, FRANKENMUTH (pop. 4,838) Woolen Mill made 66,000 pairs of woolen socks for soldiers. It is the state's oldest mill, operating since 1894.

Always Interesting. --RoadDog

Going Out Eagle-Watchin'

It's that time of the year again when Liz and I head out to the Mississippi River to see those magnificent bald eagles.

We leave early Monday.

This year, we are going to reverse the usual trio, which is to take US-20 west to Galena, Illinois, and Dubuque, Iowa, at the start. We are going south to Starved Rock in Utica, Illinois, where we will check out eagles along the Illinois River and stay in that great 1930s CCC/WPA lodge.

Then on to the Quad Cities and north to Dubuque and then home.

Hope we see eagles, but you never know. Our all-time low count was one and we have seen as many as 400. Usually, it is at least 20-30.

Lock and dams are the best viewing spots.

An Eaglin' We Go. --RoadDog

Friday, January 14, 2011

New Route 66 Signage in Carthage, Missouri

As reported in the Route 66 News, the city of Carthage, Missouri, by the western part of the state, has plans to put in place signage to help Route 66 travelers get through town.

It will be in the form of Route 66 shield stencils applied to the roadway and perhaps some signs. This is long overdue. I can't remember ever driving through that town and not getting lost and I've heard that many others have had the same problem. It is as bad as trying to navigate through Bloomington-Normal in Illinois.

Let's hope they go through with it.

There was quite a bit of discussion in the Yahoo e-mail Route 66 site about it. One person said that the stencils are great, but will require refreshing about once a year because of wear and tear when autos drive over them. Centering the stencil will help some when the tires don't drive over them.

It was noted that regular Route 66 signs are often stolen as souvenirs.

The lack of signage in this town is really going against the fantastic new signage that the Mother Road has gotten across the rest of Missouri.

A Much-Needed Thing for Carthage. --RoadDog

Make Mine an In-N-Out "4-by-4"-- Part 2

Fast Food It Ain't. You will not be served within a minute of your order. Everything is cooked after you order it.

"In-N-Out began 63 years ago (1948) in Baldwin Park, a suburb 20 minutes east of Los Angeles' downtown. Founders Harry and Esther Snyder set forth the idea of serving fresh, made-to-order food-- french-fries hand cut in the store, milk shakes spun from ice cream, beef patties that never have been frozen. This continues today and the chain boasts of not owning a single microwave or freezer."

With so many of today's chains opting for efficiency, this brings a certain degree of nostalgia. Just the environment offers that trip back in the good-old days: checkerboard design, palm tree tiles, 1950s muscle car drive-in motif. Employees wear matching short-sleeve shirts, red aprons and paper hats.

There is even inside In-N-Outers where those "in-the-know" order their burgers done in ways not listed on the board. You can order "animal-style" which means with grilled onions and patties fried in mustard (sounds real good). A "4-by-4" is four patties of cheese and four slices of cheese. "Protein-style" has lettuce in place of buns. (probably how I might order my "4-by-4).

Hope I remember these names the next time I get the opportunity to stop at an In-N-Out.

Then, Kevin Pang's order arrived, "animal-style." His lady friend got a double-double: a cheeseburger with two thin patties, topped with lettuce, tomatoes and a sauce. Kevin said he was immediately transported back to freshman year.

"Then it was my girlfriend's turn. A few bites, a few thoughtful chews. I waited for her reaction. 'It's good,' she said. Definitely not what Kevin was looking for.

Oh, well. Sometimes the best-laid plans.

If you've never had one, next time out west, stop by one.

I'll Have a "4-by-4, Protein-Style. --RoadDog

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Slammin' in Joliet

From the Jan. 13, 2011, Chicago Tribune "The Verdict is On: Joliet Slammers" by Mary Owen.

The next time you're driving Route 66, or the Lincoln Highway, or US-52, or the Grand Army of the Republic Highway US-6 in Illinois during the summer, you are whole-heartedly welcomed to take in a minor league game at Silver Cross Field and see the Joliet Slammers.

It is a nod to both hitting grand slam homers and getting locked up in the ol' Hoosegaw, the infamous Joliet Correctional Center, a perfect fit.

The new owners, who took over for the bankrupt Joliet Jackhammers, Steel City baseball, picked the name from the submissions of some 1000 people. The most popular was the Joliet Jailbirds, but the new owners decided against it.

The Joliet Corectional Center was known as the nation's toughest prisons where two inmates were squeezed into 4-foot-wide cells, tuberculosis was not uncommon and slop buckets served the purpose until indoor plumbing arrived in the 1940s.

The city is in the process of turning part of the facility into a museum and a public park.

Here's hoping that they will keep the old muffler man standing out in the outfield.


Carrying On a Route 66 Tradition. Go You Slammers. --RoadDog

Airline Gripes-- Part 2

Ot is very difficult for a traveler to go without luggage, even those who do it a whole lot, so this is a great source of money for the airlines. As a result, some people are trying to load up on carry-ons which is causing a problem in the overhead bins.

Many are mad that the airlines brought in these charges as a way to offset the huge fuel costs of several years ago. That ended, but the charges stayed. Then, when you get a fare, it never includes all mandatory charges, just the ticket.

Many couples even share a piece of luggage to cut costs.

Then, there are the check-in lines as well as the security lines and taking off your shoes on really dirty floors. Not to mention the current pat-downs and full nudity body scans.

Then there are the delays at the gates, both leaving and especially arriving, sitting for long periods in planes which are uncomfortable.

It's enough to keep you off planes, which it has in my case, even though flying to North Carolina for one person would be cheaper than driving, even with all the costs.

Go Figure. --RoadDog

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Make Mine an In-N-Out "4-by-4"-- Part 1

From the Dec. 19, 2010, Chicago Tribune "This burger has everything" by Kevin Pang.

Since I have become somewhat of a roadie person in the last several years, I became aware of this small chain out west and back in 2006, on our end-to-end Route 66 drive got my first opportunity to check out their wares. It was every bit as good as I'd heard.

So, I definitely had to read this article by another In-N-Out nut, Kevin Pang. Then, there was that In-N-Out Burger sign that gets me to salivating much like one of Pavlov's dogs.

Mr. pang says the chain has a direct memory of his college years, especially back as a freshman when he received his introduction to the burger of all burgers. His first bite was "a moment life separated into before and after."

That was ten years ago and he has moved away from the west where all 240 restaurants are located. Tucson, Arizona is a s far east as they go. There are also two or three in Las Vegas.

Mighty Good Eating. --RoadDog

A Fascinating Story at 75: The Blue Ridge Parkway--Part 4-- Growth

From the Summer 2010 Blue Ridge Digest.

When World War II began, about 170 miles were open to travel and another 160 under construction. Obviously, money was needed elsewhere during the war years and as a result, by the early 1950s, only half of the Parkway was finished.

Then, the National Park Service launched a ten-year development program called Mission 66 to have the whole thing opened by 1966. The initiative was very successful and by the target year, all but 7.7 miles at Grandfather Mountain in North Carolina was finished.

The mountain's owner, Hugh Morton, objected to the proposed construction, citing the fragility of the mountain's ecology. After years of negotiating, the revolutionary Linn Cove Viaduct opened in 1987, completing the Blue Ridge Parkway's 469-mile route.

Today, the Parkway is the nation's most-visited unit in the system with an average 16 million people a year.

But one of those has not been me. Hoping to change that this coming year if gas doesn't get too expensive.

Get Me to the BRP. --RoadDog

Airline Gripes-- Part 1

From the Dec. 19, 2010, Chicago Tribune "Chief gripe: Charging for checked bags" by Christopher Elliott.

This is going to hit me as I prepare to fly down to Fort Myers, Florida, in February for several days with a group of buddies. I used to fly everywhere all the time, but very rarely any more and this is one of the main things I am mad about. I WANT my "Free" baggage. Although I doubt it was ever free, just included in the price.

These new charges are a big reason airlines are returning to profitability. In 2008, passengers paid an extra $1.1 billion and in 2009 $2.7 billion.

A survey taken by the Consumer Travel Alliance showed that 56& of respondents said they were mad about not being able to check their first bag in at no charge. About 20% miss the "free" meals and 19% missed being able to make confirmed-seat-reservation.

And I "Ain't" Finished Yet. --RoadDog

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

T-Giving NC 2010-- Cruising Along the National Road

November 21st.

Off of I-70 and now on US-40, the National Road, in Zanesville for one of my favorite old road drives anywhere. Here, you have some really old stuff along the former early 1800s National Road as well as 1930s-1950s road culture all in one place.

Like I said, I turned off 40 too soon and crossed over the Martin Luther King memorial Bridge which is pretty its own right, but not as impressive as the famous Y-Bridge.

The current one replaced an earlier one in 1902. farther down Main Street is a unique and striking Empire Style Courthouse at 4th and Main which always reminds me of the one in Pontiac, Illinois. There were also some pottery stores (this area has lots and lots of pottery stores.

I saw a convenience store called Unky's Pointe and a Union Civil War monument.

Farther east is Greenwood Cemetery with an interesting arch entry way.

Leaving Zanesville. --RoadDog

Batavia, Illinois: Windmill Town Becomes The Energy City

From the Dec. 31, 2010, Chicago Tribune.

One of Illinois' three jewels of towns, Batavia (pop. 27,700) is located along the Fox River west of Chicago. These three towns are referred to as the Tri-Cities. The other two are St. Charles and Geneva.

I'd call it small-town living in a big town area. Batavia was called "The Windmill City" during the Industrial revolution, when it was a major producer of...you guessed it. The Fox River provided the energy for windmill production.

More recently, it has renamed itself "City of Energy." Besides the windmill connection, there is also Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory and even New Edison Energy in the industrial park which makes wind turbines.

Its downtown is on the rebound with lots of restaurants and eclectic shops. Then, there is the wonderful riverfront park and its collection of 15 restored windmills, some of which are quite elaborate.

On a historical note, there is a 1906 Frank Lloyd Wright house curently for sale at $1.55 million. Of course, there is also the sanitarium where Mary Todd Lincoln was committed.

Well Worth a Trip. --RoadDog

Monday, January 10, 2011

Lincoln Logs: Lincoln Cafe to Reopen-- Tama Bridge

Lincoln Logs-- Some new news about an old road.

1. LINCOLN CAFE TO REOPEN-- The Lincoln Highway News reports that the closed Lincoln Cafe in Belle Plain, Iowa, will be reopening soon. It has been closed for about a year and a half because of a murder.

Glad to hear this as we were fortunate to eat there several years back and they had great food.


2. TAMA BRIDGE-- From Jan. 9, 2011, Tama (Iowa) News-Herald.

Farm equipment passing over that stunning 1915 bridge east of Tama on the old Lincoln Highway, was damaged recently when farm machinery ran into the side of one rail, causing $1500 damage. It was covered by insurance, but while the repair company was looking at it, other damages due to age were discovered to a total of $4,382.

Back in 2006, another $10,675 was spent for bridge repairs.

Tama's Mayor Chris Beardon urged the council to ok the expense, which they did.

The council also ok'd the purchase of seven new Lincoln Highway banners to replace the old ones which have wear and tear. They cost $153 apiece.

The old banners will be offered for sale at a later date.

Tama's 150th anniversary will be celebrated in 2012.

So Here's Your Chance to get a Piece of the Lincoln Highway When Those Banners Go Up for Sale. --RoadDog

A Fascinating Story at 75: The Blue Ridge Parkway-- Part 3-- The Role of the New Deal

From the Summer 2010 Blue Ridge Digest.

The first 12.5 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP) was started September 11, 1935 by Cumberland Knob, North Carolina.

Most work on the parkway was done by private contractors, but several New Deal programs also got involved including the Works Progress Administration (WPA), Emergency Relief Administration (ERA) and Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).

The CCC established four camps along the route. Members worked on cleanup, planting, grading slopes for scenic effect and improved roadside fields and forests.

The WPA did a lot of work manually that could have been done by machines, but, of course, the main idea was to put men to work. They cleared brush, used hand drills for holes to place blasting dynamite and performed other manual labor. Pay was $55 a week.

The ERA did landscape work and developed Parkway recreational areas.

World War II led to the disbanding of the programs, but work was continued on a smaller scale by conscientious objectors under the Civilian Public Service program.

More to Come. --RoadDog

Friday, January 7, 2011

Brat Stop and Donovan's Reef-- NTN Cruisin'-- Part 5

Again, if you're ever near the Illinois-Wisconsin border on I-94, get off at Wi-50, go west about a quarter mile and check out the Brat Stop. It is an experience.

We played two games there and had a #9 with Roadog #15 and a #2 with Roadog #8, DBLK #15 and Parrot #18. The game was on two TVs, but no one else was playing (as usual), so between the four of us, we had five boards.

Another thing not boding well for them keep NTN Buzztime is that this late in the month, Dec. 30th, the high Countdown score was 9,870 and high Buzztime was around 8500. Obviously not many people are playing it.

We then drove Hwy-50 to Twin Lakes, Wisconsin, and played NTN at home base with six more Top twenties. Of course, Donovan's Happy Hour prices are $1.50 for pints and $2 bottles. A new offering is a pound of hot-roasted in the shell peanuts for $2.50. Now that's some more good eating.

Brats, peanuts and beer!!!

Always Fun NTN-Cruisin'. --RoadDog

A Fascinating Story at 75: The Blue Ridge Parkway-- Part 2

On Nov. 24, 1933, Interior Secretary Harold Ickes approved the "Park-to-Park Highway" as a Public Works Project.

The budget for the project was set at $16 million and New York landscape architect Stanley Abbott was hired to design it. He had a vision of a chain of parks and recreational areas with lots of viewing vistas.

Alignment of the road was chosen to start with the Blowing Rock, North Carolina, highway, over the Unaka Mountains into Tennessee where it connected with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

There was a great controversy about this choice as Asheville, NC, was facing extremely tough times due to the Great Depression and began an intense campaign to change it. They hired FDR's close friend Josehus Daniels, Ambassador to Mexico, to sway the administration to an Asheville Route and this one won out.

Construction began Sept. 11, 1935, near Cumberland Knob, NC.

I have never driven but maybe a mile of it in the past, but this being the 75th anniversary of its beginning, I'd like to check it out.

Sure Hope to Drive It This Summer If I Can Afford the Gas. --RoadDog

Goodbye World's Largest Shoe Tree

From Jan. 4, 2010 Yahoo News.

The World's Largest Shoe Tree was cut down sometime between late December 30th and early Dec. 31st by some dastardly vandals who seem to have declared war on such trees. Last summer, a well-known Idaho shoe tree was burned to the ground and I believe I read something about a Route 66 shoe tree dying.

The World's Largest Shoe Tree was on "America's Loneliest Road," US-50 about 125 miles east of Reno. I was hoping to see it at this year's Lincoln Highway Association annual meeting in that state. But guess not now.

Travelers along the Loneliest Road for decades have deposited all sorts of footwear both on and at the base of the tree. It is rumored to have gotten its start when a couple had an argument by it (probably over directions) which ended with his throwing his wife's shoes up on the tree. She followed suit with his.

But, the 70-foot cottonwood is no more. Fresh sawdust was found at the site and a memorial service is planned for February.

I Wonder If CSI from Las Vegas Will Come Out to Investigate? --RoadDog

Thursday, January 6, 2011

A Fascinating Story at 75: The Blue Ridge Parkway-- Part 1

From the summer 2010 Blue Ridge Digest.

The Blue Ridge Parkway has sometimes been called "America's Favorite Drive" and was constructed to connect the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina.

Construction began 75 years ago, in 1935 for what was envisioned to be the nation's first elongated national park built specifically for the rise of the automobile.

But, it did not come to be overnight. It was the result of a long and tedious political struggle.

It began when President Franklin Roosevelt visited the newly constructed Skyline Drive in Virginia in 1933. Virginia US Senator Harry Byrd suggested it be extended to connect the newly-created Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The president liked the idea and got the governors of Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee together and asked that they start a planning team.

More to Come. --RoadDog

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

To Brat or Not to Brat-- NTN Cruisin'-- Part 4-- The Brat Stop

Listening to Professa John Hook's yearly Beach Music Countdown on Cashbox right now. He's doing 1953. When you hear that Rock and Roll started in 1955 with "Rock Around the Clock," not so. It was alive and fine in '53, just is white folks weren't getting an opportunity to hear it.

A brat and chips will set you back $5.55. Too expensive, but if you are a bratwurst aficionado, you will pay it. It simply is the best. They use their own recipe for it and even have the bun made especially for them. It is brat nirvana.

They, of course, also have sauerkraut. I always wonder why some places sell brats but have no sauerkraut.

A brat plate costs $8.25 and includes fries, American or German potato salad and cole slaw. Thursdays it is the special at $6.95.

Beer goes for $2.50 for a stein, $3.25 a pint and a huge, heavy schooner for $3.50.

Strongly Suggesting a Stop Here If You're in the Area. --RoadDog

Filled Up the Truck Before the Gouge

Yesterday, I drove into Fox Lake, Illinois, to see "The Tourist" a really great movie. Gas was still at $3.16 ($3.15.9) for regular so topped off the tank before our NEW Evil Axis raises the price again.

The New Evil Axis consists of Big Oil, investors and the Middle East.

I was surprised to see the price still at that horribly high level on the way home. Are they going to give us a temporary break?

The last several weeks, Tuesday has been "G-Day." As in "Gouge Day!" Each time, they raised the prices anywhere between ten and fifteen cents. Then, it would drop down two to four cents before the next gouge.

Of course, they've been keep the price at $2.80 plus ever since prices were supposed to start dropping because the summer driving season was over.

These "Gouge Prices" are going to have an impact on our upcoming eagle trip in a few weeks and Florida panhandle trip in February not to mention trips to North Carolina and along Route 66 and other old roads.

We Sure Don't Need the Planned $4+ Gas Prices. --RoadDog

Ten must-See Midwest Roadside Attractions-- Part 2

Continued from yesterday.

6. ENCHANTED HIGHWAY-- Regent, North Dakota-- quirky architecture.

7. CORN PALACE-- Mitchell, South Dakota

8. PRECIOUS MOMENTS CHAPEL-- Carthage, Missouri-- giant praying hands and on Route 66 (seen it).

9. VILLISCA AXE MURDER HOUSE-- Villisca, Iowa where an unknown murdered killed a family of eight.

10. HEIDELBERG PROJECT-- Detroit, Michigan-- a giant sculpture made of trash and debris.

Just Some More Stuff to See on the Road. --RoadDog

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Going for an NTN Cruise-- Part 3-- The World Famous Brat Stop

Again, the I-94/Wi-50 intersection in Wisconsin, not far from the Illinois border is a great place for NTN fans to visit. You don't usually find four places with our addiction that close to each other (within a mile) along with motels so you don't have to play, drink and drive. Two are east of I-94 and two are west.

The Brat Stop is the best of the four. It is huge, it is rustic and it has the best brats you'll ever eat. They are celebrating their 50th anniversary "Fifty Years on Highway 50." They opened in 1961 and rebuilt after being gutted entirely by a fire in the 1980s.

The place is always crowded and you can be served on two floors. The interior decor is best described at Wisconsin North Woods.

You can watch games and play NTN on 70+ TVs.

Not Finished Yet. --RoadDog

Ten Must-See Midwest Roadside Attractions-- Part 1

From the June 9, 2010 Gadling.com by Wendy Gould.

Worth checking out for photos and explanation. I'm just listing what she figured were must-see.


WORLD'S LARGEST CATSUP BOTTLE-- Collinsville, Illinois. Seen it. Near Route 66.

DOROTHY'S HOUSE AND LAND OF OZ-- Liberal, Kansas. Saw it while driving US-54 back from Tucumcari. A must stop for Oz fans. Also a great story how Liberal got its name.

JOLLY GREEN GIANT-- Blue Earth, Minnesota

WORLD'S LARGEST EASEL/VAN GOGH REPLICA-- Goodland, Kansas.

HOUSE ON THE ROCK-- Rock Springs, Wisconsin. We've been to this one. Well worth a trip.

More Coming. --RoadDog

Monday, January 3, 2011

Going for an NTN Cruise-- Part 2-- Uncle Mike's Beers Around the World

Our first stop was at Uncle Mike's. Get off I-94 at Wi-50, go east to the frontage road and then north past all the buildings.

Uncle Mike's used to be a famous German restaurant noted for superb schnitzel, but now is Uncle Mike's which started by Lake Michigan where it still retains a site and now is out by the interstate.

It is a neat-looking place both inside and out. There is a huge bar that kind of goes off in all directions. TVs are on the outside of the bar so you either watch across the bar or have to turn around, not the best situation.

They have a huge selection of beers from around the world, many of which are on tap. You can even sign up for a Red, White & Brew Beer Tour.

The food must be good as the place was packed, even at 1 pm.


GIVE ME YOUR TIRED BOARDS

We had to send several boards back because they weren't working. The Kellehers and Liz and I had five boards between us because you have to have that many to have a shot at ranking. The bartender was not happy at all to give us that many. After that, she pretty-well ignored us.

We did have a #8 and a #1 with Roadog at #2, Lizard #3 and Parrot #5.

Beware the site locater which still has the place down by the lake.

Of course, we were the only ones playing, which is the usual case most of the time we visit other places.

I don't think we'll be back and doubt they will keep it much longer. NTN Buzztime just has no clue how to keep sites.

A Brat-in We Will Go. --RoadDog

The National Road's Impact on West Virginia-- Part 2

Cont. from Dec. 30, 2010.

Jeremy Morris, the President of the National Road Alliance in West Virginia, says that the Shepherd family of Wheeling did a whole lot to get the road to go through Wheeling (which was part of Virginia at the time). Their home still stands in the Elm Grove section of the city. They entertained many influential guests, including Henry Clay who got the money for the project passed through Congress.

Because of the road's arrival in Wheeling, there was a great influx of industry and dry good stores to serve travelers. The Labelle Nail Co. flourished and it said most homes built to the west were built using Labelle nails.

The National Road eventually ran 800 miles across six states. Only 16 miles of it run through the West Virginia panhandle.

One of the greatest engineering feats of the first half of the 19th century was the Wheeling Suspension Bridge which opened in 1849. It is the longest and oldest suspension bridge in the world.

As great of an accomplishment as the National Road was, it was soon passed over by the B & O Railroad and then in the 1900s, the automobile and highway systems.

Today, US-40 and I-70 run alongside or on the old National Road alignment.

A Stretch I Need to Check Out. --RoadDog

T-Giving NC 2010-- Still in Ohio

Approaching Columbus and radio seeking, I came across Soft Rock 93.3 playing nothing but Christmas music. is there any Soft or Light Rock station in America that doesn't switch to Christmas music come the holidays?

At Exit 79, US-42, there is a Plain City. That would have to be interesting living there. "Where do you live?" "Oh, we live in Plain City, nothing fancy, just regular."

Gas across most of Ohio was $2.70. I got gas at the Hebron Pilot station for that price. Saw a really nice rest area by Exit 132.

Got off west of Zanesville where I often spend the night at the Super 8. There is a McDonald's there as well. I was starting to get "hongry" since I didn't have my chance to eat the chili by the Indiana border. Oh well, forced to have another McRib meal . This one cost $4.66. I wonder if I could live in McRibs seven days a week?

Time for the Old National Road/US-40, a favorite stretch here between Zanesville and Cambridge.

Drove into Zanesville planning on going on that famous "Y" Bridge, but turned too early and crossed one of the rivers on the Martin Luther King Memorial Bridge, but finally found my way to the "Y" and was able to cross over the one section I'd never been on before.

National Roadin' Across Ohio. --RoadDog

Saturday, January 1, 2011

The First Dairy Queen Was on Route 66 in Joliet, Illinois-- Part 1

Frpm the Dec. 31, 2010, Chicago Tribune "Joliet makes site of 1st Dairy Queen a landmark" by Caryn Rousseau.

Joliet is known for its old prison, munitions plant, churches, that great old theater and, of course, the Blues Brothers. But, not many people know the city was also the site of the very first Dairy Queen right there on 501 N. Chicago Street, which at one time was also known as Route 66.

The former site was recently given landmark status by Joliet. This spring there will be a ceremony to dedicate a plaque at the building.

The 100+ year-old two-story peppermint green building still stands, but today is home to apartments and a Spanish-language store front church.

I'm glad the city did this. I know John Weiss has been working a long time to have the city do this, so thank you John.

Too bad Dairy Queen doesn't come back, buy it and turn it into a museum/store to mark their heritage.

Cont. Jan. 24th.

Way to Go, Joliet!! --RoadDog

Never Thought I'd Have a 1-1-11

Today is Jan. 1, 2011, which can be written as 1-1-11. Wonder how long it will take me to remember to write 2011 instead of 2010?

This is the oldest of my blogs, starting in June 2007, thanks to my niece Andrea who did it for me. I now have four blogs, which us three, possibly four more than I should have.

These things are VERY time-consuming, but I enjoy them.

My other blogs:

CIVIL WAR-- http://sawtheelephant.blogspot.com
MUSIC and ME-- http://downdaroadigo.blogspot.com
HISTORY (mostly WWII)-- http://cootershistorything.blogspot

Off We Go for Another Year. --RoadDog