The Lope: April 2007

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Where is Ace Jackalope? (episode 14)

Never let it be said that we at The Lope are unresponsive to reader requests. Here's a new WiAJ for you.

I know, I know. You're thinking this is too easy.

It would be if I were only asking what city Ace is pictured in. But this is a two-parter.

In addition to telling us where Ace is, can you tell us why the statement made by the picture isn't really true?

Friday, April 20, 2007

Dances with Ducks

This is one of those posts that kept getting back-burnered until I thought it'd look terribly out of season - I mean, it's full of snow after all, and it's Spring already. Yes, it is Spring and by nearly a month. As I write this, the date is April 20, but it just snowed a few days ago so I guess I'll run this. And so, not so distantly out of season after all, I bring you a snow-blanketed day back in January, a jackalope and much mayhem over a loaf of bread.

That fine and frosty January day - after a trip to the cemetery and before zoo and the movie - I went down to Hutchinson KS' Carey Park in search of anything cool and snowy. I wasn't disappointed as I soon found this flock of Canada Geese with a few ducks mixed in.

The day was heavily overcast and I normally don't like that, but the snowy landscape made it look as if someone had taken White-Out to the mundane parts of the scene and left us with a set composed only of forms for our winged actors.

As I watched the geese, three things occurred to me:

1. Geese either cannot read, or they just don't care.

2. A flying goose in a certain position looks like a Klingon bird of prey.

3. Other than that useless bit of geek insight, I know little about waterfowl.

So, I decided to put in a few minutes over three different days to photograph some of the birds and learn about their species.

I needed them close enough to photograph but didn't want to be at the center of a feeding frenzy, which is pretty much what happens when you approach them with bread. The dinosaur-to-bird theory gains credence with me when I'm at the center of a Velociraptor-like pack of these beasties, so I needed a partner. Toward this end, I enlisted the aid of Ace Jackalope to do the feeding while I hung back with a telephoto lens.

Geese aren't the smartest things in the world...or maybe they're just suspicious of small red intruders in the same way that pigeons are supposed to avoid plastic owls. I actually had to lead them to Ace by creating the proverbial trail of bread crumbs.

On each of the three days we tried this - at first - some would approach Ace but veer off after a closer look at his front. Sometimes the same birds would take the bread readily when approaching him from the back. I wondered if his eyes, nose, etc., might fit into whatever mental template they have for other animals, at least enough to cause hesitation. That's pure speculation on my part, by the way, and I would point out that the same birds readily take food from the humans in the area.

In any event, it took several minutes for some of them to be as comfortable taking the bread when approaching Ace from his front or side as they had been from his back.

Eventually, apprehension gave way to the realization that a free meal was at hand.

Still, some geese would linger and regard him, though I haven't a clue as to whether they were thinking "threat?"..."food?"...or not thinking at all and just standing there. This shot reminds me of a moment from one of the Aliens movies when Sigourney Weaver is face-to-face with an alien.

We tried several methods of placing the bait.

But antler-mounted bread proved to lead to toppled jackalope, as this duck demonstrates. Still, I got something from this shot that I wanted to illustrate. See the claws on this duck? It's a Muscovy, and the talons enable it to grab tree branches, where it roosts.

As a matter of fact all of the ducks that approached Ace were Muscovies, and they tended to be more aggressive than most of the geese and all of the Mallards. This is not surprising since, according to wikipedia, they are a very aggressive species.

According to Oklahoma State University, Muscovies (I've also seen it spelled "Muscovys") originated in Brazil and are the only domestic ducks not derived from Mallards. They are not migratory, are often ex-pets or descendants of same, and tend to compete with local populations.

Muscovies vary widely in appearance, and cross-breed with local populations, creating sterile offspring called "mule ducks" which can further decrease local species productivity.

They are also bred deliberately for food in some areas, and are said to be stronger-tasting than Mallards.

The variety of coloration in Muscovies really threw me off when I tried to identify the various ducks.

As a matter of fact, it wasn't until a few days later when we visited Hutchinson Zoo Curator Kiley Buggeln that we were able to ID the ducks. I still remember the slight sneer in her voice when she said "Muscovy" as if she were referring to Al Bundy having just moved into the neighborhood. It was really quite amusing.

Back at the nearby Carey Park pond, Mallards were present, but had little interest in procuring bread from a jackalope.

Mallards are one of those taken-for-granted life forms that, had you never seen one, would seem quite exotic.

As to the geese, You can see how "goose-neck" lamps got their name.

Eventually, I got the shot that I wanted, one which I could appreciate the dinosaur-like gait of the beasts, and the thunderous power - on their scale - of their approach. An aesthetic bonus is that the head and neck look like they are emerging from a dusky tornado of feathers. You can really see how the circular overlap of feathers streamlines the animal.

Check out the teeth. No wonder kids cry when they're bitten by these things in petting zoos.

As the geese gained bravado and sought more to compete with each other for Ace's bread, more incidents like this aggressive knock-down occurred.

It became safer to have a little elevation in order to keep the beasts from approaching him with so much momentum. Even so, the light was getting low as the sun went down, and shutter speeds, longer.

It was that simple, saturated color time of day when the snow is blue from skylight, in contrast to the last red rays of the sun.

Time to go home.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

But it's April!

"Thunder snow" and "snowball storm" were two of the terms used to describe the barrage of barely-frozen white stuff that slush-pelted attendees of the annual Mennonite Central Committee Sale (MCC Sale) this past Friday evening, April 13, in Hutchinson, KS.

The wind was strong enough that even opening an umbrella was a challenge. This was a far sight from the conditions under which we attended the sale last year.

The "people movers" - tractors that usually haul covered trailers in which people can ride - were not used at the sale venue, the Kansas State Fairgrounds, Friday night. I speculate that the management may have been concerned about slush on the steps of the trailers.

This Kansas City Chiefs helmet-like umbrella looks cool, but seems impractical for two people.

There is a certain irony to the sunflower symbol on the Sunflower Pavilion under such conditions.

The snowflakes were huge; they reminded me of the fake snow that movie nit-pickers love to point out. I, myself, have mentioned that the snow in Fellowship of the Ring was large enough to look really fake when it landed on an actor. I stand corrected.

Inside the Cottonwood Court, the German Buffet experienced low attendance Friday night due to the storm, but recovered to a degree Saturday.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: some of the best food just isn't photogenic. In the middle of the tray is borscht soup. Clockwise from left is pecan pie, veggies, plum moos, sausage with verenika (cottage cheese dumplings with ham gravy) and bohne beroggi (warm pastry with a sweet paste inside and a thin drizzle outside).

This friendly server is dishing out the gravy for verenika. When she runs low, she'll raise the little flag for a refill.

And there was so much pie!

Ace, disguised as an area farmer, went out in the snow to check out a portable building called the "Borscht Buggy". We never discovered its purpose, but it didn't turn out to be a giant borscht dispenser.

From here we had a view of the thermometer display on the grandstands. We never saw the temperature go below 31 degrees, but the snow came down in such profusion that it stuck on most surfaces, creating a nasty slush.

But people came anyway.

Some appeared to like the snow.

Others simply bowed against it...

..protecting their cargo as best they could.

Personally, I was loving it. It was another one of those times in which nature throws us a treat - like a special effect to enjoy. This is the tower atop the 1915-vintage "Ye Old Mill" water dark ride, my favorite part of the fairgrounds. I regularly have fun with Ye Old Mill as a foreground for weather. It was not, of course, in service today.

I wondered just how slick the fairgrounds slide would be.

After a slushy walk about a block away, I ducked into the Domestic Arts Building.

There, I found these railroad caps for $2 a piece; they went home with me.

Having just finished a trip through the Southwestern US, largely along the BNSF mainline, it was nice to find this cap with a BNSF locomotive embroidered on the side.

In one of the Sunflower Pavilions, all sorts of stuff was sold in the general auction.

Every year I see things of remarkable workmanship, like this bird made of several inlaid woods.

This intricate wheat straw marquette, in the image of the 1887 Warkentin House in Newton, KS, was made by Marie and Martha Voth.

This kicksled was made and donated by Brian Ediger of Newton, KS.

Edigar illustrated the use of his device with this photo of the kicksled in use (albeit not in its natural environment) and an explanation that such sleds are used to transport people and cargo over frozen landscapes in Norway, Sweden and Finland where they often take over the role of a bicycle, easily attaining speeds of ten MPH when pushed by someone wearing shoes made for traction. The operator pushes with one foot while keeping the other on one of the metal runners.

Ace had his picture taken by a situationally-ironic "Let it Snow" sign that was part of a doll display. He didn't hang around long, so as not to be accidentally sold.

This is a 1950 Chevrolet pickup. In the background is a niftily kitschy child's play tee pee.

This model train layout was built by Richard Schmidt of Newton and auctioned for only $100. Read its story here.

Man, had I been there when it was auctioned, I might have bought it. I'd have kept the motorized and lighted sucker rod oil pump...

...and this cool art deco gas station, then re-donated the rest of the layout. I'm not sure they'd go for that, though.

This Lionel Santa Fe locomotive #2343 set brought substantially more - over seven hundred dollars, I heard. According to an MCC press release, the entire general auction brought in $49,244.75.

And again...pie! Yes, pie! Pie was also sold here...pie made by the loving hands of Amish or Mennonite (I can't tell which) women...

...pie made from recipes ancient and honored.

I am reminded of a pie blog that I like. That's right a pie blog kept by one, Johnny Dollar. I've never met the man, but the words offered at the top of his blog read like a secret greeting and counter-greeting for surreptitious pie lovers entering some sort of pastry speak-easy: "pie is good" and "eat pie."

The contrasts available in people-watching were amusing.

After calling it an evening - a mid-April evening - it felt rather odd to have to clean one's car of snow.

Saturday we returned - in much better weather - ate again and checked out the auctions. The quilt auction is the main event of the MCC Sale and brings in dealers form as far as the east coast. Because of my interest in tiki stuff, I noticed this quilt of a Hawaiian design. According to a page on the MCC website, it was quilted by Bethel College Mennonite Mission Quilters, North Newton KS, and sold for $4,200. I was there when it sold, and people cheered at the price it brought.

I was surprised to read in an MCC press release a few days later that the quilt auction actually did very well at $127,324, which was up from last year's total of $98,000

Last year, a few of you expressed interest in seeing more quilts. I would direct you to the quilt gallery of the MCC website. I did shoot a few; this 47" x 84" comforter went for $150.

This nice minty-looking 69" x 76" comforter was made by Lena Doerksen of Dodge City, KS. It sold for $75.

This teddy bear throw was made by Jan Brown of valley Center. It sold for $175. It's too cute...really...I mean that literally.

Back in the Domestic Arts Building, we ran into pysanky egg artist Janet Regier, whom we featured last year. Aside from demonstrating the art herself, she was displaying work by other artists, including this egg Volkswagon by Nebraska artist Grace Adam.

It even has a little muffler.

Horses don't have mufflers. Was that an awkward segue or what? It was raining by this time - Saturday afternoon - but not snowing.

We didn't see as many Amish as usual, but did find this nice buggy as we were leaving. The site of these things, on occasion, is one of the perks of traveling in Central Kansas.

Friday, April 13, 2007

The Beginning of Route 66

It's as much an ending as a beginning, really. But I suppose the ghost of manifest destiny and the leftover "whoosh" of the dust bowl migrants compels me to think of Route 66 as an east to west journey. Ride along for an evening, won't you? We'll stop for a giant hot dog later, I promise.

First part of the Ace does Illinois Route 66 series

This is a time-line of the first few hours of a five-day trip on Illinois Route 66 I took this past summer with Ace Jackalope and my lovely significant other. It was July 5 and we had just finished up a four-day stay in Ohio with a big July 4th the night before. We dashed from Dayton to Chicago, arriving just in time for the afternoon rush hour.

After a photo mission at the Brookfield Zoo, we drove south through the community of Riverside, encountering this castle-like structure - not on Rt66 - but worth a look because we'd see more of this sort of architecture.

I am noting the time stamp on my photos so that others driving this route can get a rough idea of the time needed to drive this section of the mother road on a weekday evening. Although most of the pictures in this post were actually shot from a moving car, we did stop a few times for better photos and twice for food, so your mileage may vary. This reminded me of a day in August of 2005 in which we sought to race the sun across the Mojave on a California stretch of Route 66, but in the case of Chicago, neon eye candy compensated for losing daylight views of buildings.

We were approaching Il66 from north of Lyons and decided to use the remaining hours of the day to scope out the Chicago area so we turned east and began what felt like an ascent up Ogden Avenue toward Chicago and the beginning of the mother road. I don't know if anyone but another Rt66 "roadie" can appreciate this, but I was really excited as I'd never seen any of Il66 at all and it was my last unexplored state for that route.

We started this trip with more and better maps and guidebooks than I'd had for any of my previous Route 66 trips. For this particular stretch, my main navigational aid and post-trip research aid was a hot-off-the-press copy of David G. Clark's "Exploring Route 66 in Chicagoland." I'll refer to Clark in this post when I've gleaned information from his book. I also used "Traveling The New, Historic Route 66 of Illinois" by John Weiss and "Route 66: EZ66 Guide for Travelers" by Jerry McClanahan, which I'd picked up at the Munger-Moss Motel earlier in the trip. The Illinois maps at the "Route 66 Web & Atlas" website of Stefan Joppich were also helpful, when printed and stapled in order. One caveat to the reader: we didn't have time to actually read the Clark and Weiss books cover to cover, having gotten Clark's right before the trip and Weiss' while already on it, and could have benefited by doing so; we missed a few cool things by just having time to look at the maps.

6:43 PM: Our first bit of IL66 pavement was in Lyons, west of Chicago. Ogden runs SW to NE and cuts a diagonal swath through maps of the Chicago area, accounting for much of Rt66 in the Chicago area, which is darn convenient for navigation. This photo was a case of "shoot it now, figure it out later" in that I wondered about the name "Plank Road Inn." Post-trip research showed that the name harkens back to the Southwestern Plank Road - literally, a road made of stringers and planks - that helped enable the Chicago of the 1848 to become accessible over the oft-muddy prairie soil that mired wagons. The Southwestern Plank Road was the first of several plank roads radiating from Chicago and initially ran from Chicago to Lyons, terminating at Ogden and Joliet Road, just a few blocks from here. Yep, part of what eventually became Route 66 must have looked like a boardwalk.

6:59 PM: This was the first visual link between what I'd read about and what I was actually seeing; I chose it for the initial photo of Ace Jackalope on Illinois Route 66. This Route 66 sign, between Wisconsin and Maple Avenues on the south side of Ogden, normally has backlit glass bricks but it was apparently being worked on. The very 66-proud city of Berwyn has these at both ends and we'd see a working one tonight on the way back through here.

We saw a lot of American flags on this trip; I thought this was a nice pairing of icons.

7:06 PM: Berwyn's Toys, Trains and Models had the first cool neon sign I'd see on IL66.

Berwyn's is at 7025 Ogden Avenue, the corner of Ogden Ave and Wenonah, in - of course - Berwyn. I was reminded of Original Whistle Stop train store in Pasadena. I think it's neat that there are model train stores with nice neon signs in the suburbs at both ends of Route 66.

7:20 PM: I sometimes photograph buildings that aren't that interesting to me, but that reader emails have taught me are appreciated. Such is the case with anything that looks like it might be an old service station. This is Cassidy Tire and Service, 7000 West Ogden, the SW corner of Ogden and Home Avenue in Berwyn.

7:22 PM: Route 66 Beverage, 6847 Ogden Ave, Berwyn, is a liquor store, not the bottling plant for the Route 66 soft drinks, as I'd first hoped. There is a Route 66-inspired mural of the U.S. painted on the side of the building.

7:32 PM: Richmond Electric, 6416 W Ogden, Berwyn. You never forget you're on Rt66 while on this stretch of Ogden through Berwyn. How could you, with all those attractive blue RT66 banners hanging from the light poles?

7:34 PM: The next town on our voyage toward Chicago was Cicero, where we found Robin Hood Mufflers on the south side of Ogden at 61st Court.

7:36 PM: Henry's Drive-in was our first food stop, and the giant hot dog sign made a nice photo-op with Ace (top of post). I'm impressed by giant food; I'm just shallow that way. Of course, ya gotta eat at any place with giant food. I mean, that's just a basic rule of roadside exploration...right? Henry's is at 6031 W Ogden Ave, Cicero, on the south side of Ogden, west of 60th Court.

I'm told this was a standard hot dog for the area. Believe it or not, there's a wiener under the pickle spear and fries.

You know you're in a big city when you see enigmatic stuff spray stenciled onto parking blocks and such. Maybe there was some local significance or perhaps someone was just crazy about pirates.

8:01 PM: This is a railroad overpass just east of Henry's. I liked the sculpting at the left end.

By the time we left Henry's at about 8:05 PM, we could see the orange glow of the westering sun glinting off the skyscrapers of Chicago to the NE, as we gazed up Ogden.

8:10 PM: I google the names of businesses when I compose posts like this one. Usually they are pretty much what I expect, but Seguin Auto Marketplace Used Cars at the corner of Central & Ogden Avenues in Cicero turns out to be a place where your donated or consigned car is used to help adults and children with disabilities. I've found some references to Robert Andreas as a Republican Committeeman in Cicero, but I don't know if it's the same one as mentioned on the sign.

8:10 PM: This nice bit of vertical neon belongs to All Brake, 5551 W Ogden Ave, Cicero, on the south side of Ogden, west of 55th Avenue. I've read they've been in business since 1936.

All Brake also has this neato neon sign.

And they have a type of glass brick I had not seen.

8:11 PM: These industrial tanks were on north side of Ogden across from All Brake.

8:22 PM: Cindy Lyn Motel is at 5029 W Ogden in Cicero. The few reviews of it I've seen have been positive. I got a better photo of the next day, which I'll use in a later post.

8:26 PM: I can find no online references to the Skylark Lounge; I liked the brickwork around it.

8:26 PM: An unidentified building close to the Cicero/Chicago border. I wasn't going to include this because of the blur; then I got an email from a model railroader telling me he searched my blog for building ideas and I figured this would be a nice older industrial building.

8:27 PM: Lou Malnati's Pizzaria, 3859 W Ogden Ave, Chicago is a Chicago-area pizza chain. Note the castle-inspired architecture at top. According to Clark, all profits from this store go to local schools in the North Lawndale neighborhood.

8:27 PM: The Castle Car Wash, 3801 Ogden, is at the east end of the same block as Lou Manati's. It dates from 1925 - before Ogden was Route 66 - and was originally a gas station. Here again, is a castle.

There's a good article on the Castle Car Wash by Dave Clark on an Illinois Route 66 Association page. The Castle Car Wash was not always known by that name and may not always have been a castle. Clark suspects that original owner John J. Murphy, who owned the place for at least 40 years, may have made the alteration in the 1940s.

You can see a borderline; maybe this shows two eras of the building. After Murphy's ownership ceased, the building was S&B Standard Service, then Gas City and eventually the Castle Car Wash. It is closed now and preservationists are concerned for its future. Anyone out there need a castle? Sure, you know you do.

Maybe part of the lettering is missing, but it looks to me like it reads: " consist of.."

Why, oh why did I not have Ace's medieval attire handy?

8:39 PM: It was growing dark by this time and shutter speeds would be just long enough to introduce some blur from the moving car. We had to budget our stops though, as it was usually a bit of problem to find a place to park, it'd been a long day already and we hadn't even checked into our motel. This ornate structure, is the Douglas Park Auditorium at Ogden and Kedzie Avenues, Chicago. It was built in 1910.

8:43 PM: Though I did not do justice to it, I rather liked the center part of this Firestone store at 1301 S Western Ave, along Ogden Avenue. There is a clock in that small red circle, I got a better shot the next day.

8:45 PM: Willie's Auto Repair at 2363 W Ogden Ave, Chicago, is dwarfed by the surrounding buildings. I bet it was an old service station.

8:53 PM: Lu-Lu's at 1000 S Leavitt Street, on the north side of Ogden, looked interesting.

I couldn't resist a "peek in" shot.

Murals on the side of LuLu's furnished a bit of color.

8:57 PM: Ferrara and Company Pastries, 2210 W. Taylor Street, isn't technically on Route 66 but it's close, being on a side street just off the north side of Ogden. I was drawn to it by the sign. The company was founded in 1908 and although this is not the original location, it sounds pretty neat according to a Chicago Tribune article. Too bad it was closed at the time we passed by.

9:16 PM: My Lovely Significant other had a hankering for a Chicago-style pizza, and why not? We sated this desire at the nearby Bacci Pizzaria, 2248 W Taylor Street. It's a small chain with 14 locations in the Chicago area; this one was about a block and a half off Route 66. According to their website, we were in Little Italy.

I usually shoot food pictures before I start to eat, but forgot and took a bite.

9:35 PM: We were back on 66, heading northeast up Ogden. If you like good cityscapes, I recommend this spot. It's by a mass transit station on a bridge along Ogden. The view is looking east toward downtown. Part of the mass transit system, as well as the Eisenhower Expressway, (Interstate 290) runs underneath.

If you move over to the northeast of the station, there is a small area of concrete with no fence where you can set a camera for short time exposures. You won't even need a tripod if the bottom of your camera will set flat on the concrete.

9:45 PM: Very soon after the I-90 crossing, Route 66 turns off the diagonal Ogden Avenue and goes east onto the one-way Jackson Blvd for the remainder of its eastward run. I can imagine the feeling of mixed excitement and loss of people traversing the whole of Route 66 from California to here. As it was, I had the rest of Illinois 66 west of Chicago to look foreword to. The first structure I saw that interested me was the Rosemoor Hotel, 1622 W Jackson Blvd.

I loved the "Transients and Permanents Welcome" sign. Doesn't the bellboy look wholesome?

9:55 PM: We wandered about a block off-course for Old Saint Patrick's Church, 700 W Adams Street. Adams is also Route 66 but on the westbound one-way route a block to the north of Jackson Blvd. I couldn't resist stopping for a picture as soon as we saw it. The church was dedicated Christmas morning in 1856 and there is quite a bit of history information at their website.

9:59 PM: This is a view east toward the Sears Tower from a park across from St Patrick's. The Sears tower is Chicago's most noted skyscraper, and it's on Route 66 between Adams and Jackson Streets. It was built in 1973 and was the world's tallest building until 1996. The local ABC TV affiliate has a set of webcams atop it.

10:06 PM: Moving one block to the south, back to Jackson heading farther east, we encountered the neon sign for the Athenian Candle Company, 300 S Halstead Street. The Athenian Candle Company is the retail outlet for The Luck Shop, a store selling "lucky spiritual goods and cultural heritage products." According to Clark, the building housed a cafeteria in the 1920s and 30s.

The south side of the sign was not working, which is too bad considering the nice background buildings.

10:08 PM: The New Jackson Hotel, 768 West Jackson Blvd, is caddy-cornered from the Athenian Candle Company. The building is currently a residential hotel and houses at least one restaurant.

10:11 PM: This area of the loop is "Greek Town", noted for Greek restaurants and such. I believe this Venus belonged to a restaurant of the same name at 820 West Jackson.

10:16 PM: Lou Mitchell's, 565 W Jackson Blvd, is a Chicago and a Route 66 institution; it has been in place since 1923.

It is not open much after lunch, but we decided to come here for breakfast the next morning.

10:33 PM: Well, here it is (roadie "here it is" pun intended) - the sign near the corner of Jackson Blvd and Michigan Avenue that marks the eastern end of Route 66 - almost 2500 miles from the western end we'd visited last year near Santa Monica Pier. But you can't believe everything you read, even on official signage. To be perfectly accurate, this sign is actually two blocks west of the real end of Route 66.

Although Route 66 once did end here, that hasn't been the case since 1937, when the eastern end of 66 was moved two long blocks east to the intersection of Jackson and Lake Shore Drive ( Hwy 41). I do not know why the sign is here instead of in the correct place - perhaps Chicago authorities don't want people stopping at the busier Lake Shore Drive intersection? The last two blocks between the sign and the Jackson/Lake Shore Drive intersection were blocked off for the "Taste of Chicago" festival when we were there so we could not drive it.

10:35 PM: We turned left onto Michigan and left again onto Adams Street, just one block from our previous eastward path on Jackson. We were now moving west on the one-way Adams. Near the corner of Adams and Michigan is this "Begin" sign for Route 66. This is another little complication; like the other end of Route 66, which we'd seen 11 months prior, this one takes some explaining. Route 66 was originally not here; it was on Jackson Street when Jackson was two-way. But when Jackson was made one-way heading east back in 1953, Adams, of necessity, became the westward Route 66 route until it hits Ogden Street after leaving the Chicago loop.

10:39 PM: We drove around in circles a few times at the end of Route 66, so the time stamps are less relevant after this. On one of those circles we passed the Chicago Art Institute, 111 S Michigan Avenue, which is on Michigan Avenue near Adams Street.

It's amazing how much clarity you can get in a picture taken from a car at night.

10:40 PM: A bus passes by a neat blue sculpture.

10:42 PM: Part of "the L" - Chicago's mass-transit system.

10:44 PM: building detail on Adams

10:46 PM: We passed The Berghoff restaurant at 17 West Adams was a Chicago institution for 107 years.

The original business is now closed but the sign remains and the building is used for The Berghoff Cafe and Artistic Events, both ventures run by the original owner's great grand-daughter.

After this, we decided to call it a night and head back to our hotel east of Chicago and north of route 66 for the night. We had, after all, started the day near Dayton, Ohio. We drove 66 from the loop all the way back to Lyons where we had to turn north, but didn't see any lit neon to pursue until we reached Berwyn.

11:14 PM: On our way back to our lodgings west of Chicago, we passed through Berwyn again and basked in the neon and incandescent glow of the working Route 66 sign west of Lombard on the north side of Ogden.

The little incandescent light bulbs chase in sequence over the top of the sculpture. Colored floodlights behind the glass bricks light from the bottom in red, yellow, green and blue.

The green light behind the glass bricks is not as bright as the blue light, which is the next and last in the upward sequence. To get the green to show up, I had to shoot before the blue turned on.

It had been a long day that had started near Dayton, OH, and ended with a trip down much of Chicago-area Route 66. We'd return the next day and see more of it in daylight.

I'd like to thank:
Mia, for admirable urban commando driving
Rayne for the sweet hotel deal
Patsy and Steve for furnishing on-the-road info support
and Dave Clark for info used in this post

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Spring Ice

Oddly cool weather brought the juxtaposition of ice and greenery to this stretch of Interstate 44 near Arlington, MO, this past Saturday, April 7.

I find the stalactite-like ice particularly appropriate because Missouri is "the cave state." The ice is on the north wall of the south side of a roadcut on this part of the interstate; the view is looking southwest.

This curvy bit of I-44 is used by Route 66 aficionados because RT66 is discontinuous in this area, requiring a brief stint on I-44 to make the jump.

Sunday, April 08, 2007


Yes, the sky is really that color. It often is in New Mexico, where rain seeks the ground but sometimes does not find it. This rain is called "virga" and backdroped our afternoon about three weeks ago at the cemetery of Capia de Santa Rita de Cascia (Santa Rita Chapel) at Bernal, NM on an old alignment of Route 66. The beautiful metal Jesus is a monument to Pedro and Virginia Sandoval.

Floodlights send shadows of the cross into a rainy sky at the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ near Groom, Texas, between Interstate 40 (left) and Route 66.

I had seen the same sort of effect when passing Groom in the fog some days earlier, but could not stop. So, this night, after leaving my travel companions in Amarillo, I drove 40 miles to Groom, hoping that rain would furnish the same effect.

It did, although raindrops splashing onto the lens were a problem.

That's no small cross; it's 190 feet tall and was erected in 1995. As mentioned in a post a couple days back, which was dedicated to the crucifix, I'd been here before, most recently in July of 2005. I kept the tripod low and behind a swell in the ground to hide most of the ground clutter.

And here is the cross in its surroundings of TV or radio towers, etc.

The next day, trucks pass the cross in the westbound lane of I-40.

You'd think that 190 feet of stature would make this the biggest cross in the good ole US of A. But, no.

It turns out that things are not always bigger in Texas, this cross at Effingham, IL has eight feet on the one at Groom, at a total height of 198 feet. It was completed in 2001 by the Cross Foundation. We shot it in June of 2006, after coming upon it by surprise on a road trip.

I'm not sure why organizations build huge crosses, and I don't know if the Effingham one is a case of "my cross is bigger than your cross" or not. Maybe not...apparently the folks from Groom supplied the people in Effingham with their architectural plans. The Cross Foundation says that if it were two feet taller, it'd have fallen under FAA regulations and would have needed a red light at top.

With all due respect, I like the humble metal Jesus in an out-of-the-way cemetery in New Mexico better.

Lastly, I'm sure I have all sorts of cross pictures, but I only have one neon cross photo handy. I shot this back in 2003 or so in Denison, TX. I'm afraid I don't know the name of the church, but when I saw it, I couldn't help but think of the scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail in which a knight sees a similar structure with a grail-shaped beacon. I don't know why.

By the way, if you think the cross shadow in the clouds looks like the Bat-signal for Jesus, you might be right:

Apparently, he has returned and is coaching the Pittsburg (KS) State Gorillas; at least that's what this Joplin Globe headline from Good Friday suggests. Of course, they're referring to a local coach, but I just couldn't resist posting it.

Have a Happy Easter, everyone!

Saturday, April 07, 2007

More Easter Stuff

Easter weekend is here, and I thought I'd toss in a few things that relate to the more popular Easter-time stuff I've posted.

Of course, Ace had a little adventure with Easter confections last year, and that's been popular.

Before that, he'd shown a not entirely socially acceptable attitude toward the decoration of Easter Eggs.

However, I compensated by showing how it's done in a feature on an artist who does pysanky eggs.

We looked at death, and confirmed what every man knows - she's a woman, at least according to the Penitente Brotherhood.

I previously shared my life-long fascination with images inspired by the enigmatic stone heads (moai) of Easter Island, and since then, I've encountered a few more. Last fall, in a post called Northwest Tiki, I detailed a visit to Seattle and Portland. While there, I paid a visit to Seattle's lowbrow art gallery, Roq La Rue, and saw an art show called Tiki Art Now. This moai lamp base is not listed in the program, however an employee of the gallery tells me it was made by Seattle artist John Hawkley.

A couple days later, we checked out Portland's vintage tiki restaurant and bar, The Alibi, where these moai-esque beauties light the way.

The Alibi also has this cool moai-inspired fountain.

Last October, I finally got to photograph a real Easter Island moai, although quite out of its original context.

The islanders of Rapa Nui apparently called this moai "Hoa Hakananai'a." The crew of the HMS Topaze, which collected it in 1868, thought the name meant "Stolen or Hidden Friend." It is now in the British Museum in London; read about it here.

The crew of the Topaze reported that the statue was originally painted red and white, but that the pigment was washed off by seawater during its transportation. There is a book available on the expedition called "Remote Possibilities: Hoa Hakananai'a and HMS Topaze on Rapa Nui."

I was particularly delighted in that this moai has inscriptions on the back, though they may have been added much after its creation.

According to the British Museum, "the back of the head shows a bird flanked by ceremonial paddles. The centre of the back is carved with a 'ring and girdle' motif, as carved on many wooden figures from Easter Island."

I'm curious about what appears to be a face - a moai face, at that - inscribed at the upper right.

There is nice commentary on the statue here and here. And in case you are wondering why I choose Easter to note moai stuff, Easter Island takes it's name from the fact that it was "discovered" by a Dutch ship on Easter day of 1722.

Before leaving London, I paid a visit to Trader Vic's, where I lusted over the moai-legged bowl at top in this photo, but its cost was 30 pounds. Since that'd have been about $60, I didn't bring one home.

Last month, I was able to shoot a better photograph than I had before of a moai statue at The Drift, a tiki bar in Scottsdale, AZ

As for bigger testaments to the public's one-time love and current subculture interest in the heads of Easter Island, I think the moai at Magic Carpet Golf in Tucson, AZ, is a grand statement.

According to Kelly, who has worked there for several years, the railing at top was installed after a 1968 suicide. She says a man jumped after his girlfriend broke up with him. There are so many things that could be said about that, but I'll leave it alone

A long stairway leads to the top.

You can even pause to look out the moai's nose.

This is the view north from the top of the moai. The course is for sale; however, local business community members tell me that the price being asked places the property in no immediate danger of sale.

(Update, February 5, 2008: Magic Carpet Golf has been sold to a car dealer and is closed. The future of its obstacles is in question.)

And finally, victory is mine! Or at least an Nth-generation Trader Vic's moai bowl is mine. I stopped into Scottsdale's Trader Vic's a bit over two weeks ago and made a deal for this bowl at $30 - half the cost of the one in London I'd regretted not getting.

Happy Easter to all of us! - See ya with another post tomorrow.

For more London stuff, see other posts from our An American Jackalope In London series:
More Easter Stuff - Easter Island moai (stone statue) in The British Museum
Good Friday - Crucifix tombstone in Highgate Cemetery and a crucifix at a church in London.
St Patrick's Day Megapost - Celtic crosses in London's Highgate Cemetery.
Red, Gold and Almost Gone - Includes photos of London's Chinatown.
Why Jackalopes Don't Play Soccer - Battered Buckyballs litter London.
Christmas Leftovers - An October shopping trip through Harrods, Selfridges and Hamley's, with lots of Christmas decor pictures.
Spamalot - We go to the Monty Python-based play and meet Tim Curry
London Trader Vic's - A visit to London's oldest tiki bar
Where is Ace Jackalope? (episode 13) - The game is afoot!
Werelopes of London - Lycanthopic jackalopes stalk places mentioned in the Warren Zevon song, plus a few pictures of the London Underground.
Dracula's London - A Halloween tribute to Bram Stoker using London locales implied in "Dracula"
Where is Ace Jackalope? (episode 9) - Mind the Gap

Friday, April 06, 2007

Good Friday

It is Good Friday, the day on which Christians reflect upon Christ's crucifixion. On this day we offer our Christian readers a selection of photos from the last couple years which we hope you will enjoy. The one above is from a July, 2005 visit to the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ near Groom, TX, between Interstate 40 and Route 66.

This crucifix stands outside a church in London at Bryanston and Old Quebec Streets, at least it did as of when I shot it last October. I was aware only recently that "crucifix" and "cross" are not interchangeable words. A crucifix is an image of Jesus Christ on the cross, while a cross is...well, a cross. Incidentally, the loincloth he wears is called a "perizonium."

Here's a crucifix tombstone in the lush, overgrown (and rainy that day) environs of London's Highgate Cemetery, also from last October. For the benefit of genealogists, I note that this tombstone marks the graves of Maria and Mathias Kallenborn, who died in 1928 and 1930, respectively.

And here, thousands of miles away, is nearly the same image in the stark, windswept landscape of St. Patrick's Cemetery in Chapman, Kansas, USA, last May Day. Notice that in the last three photos, the posture of Christ's head is the same - fallen to his right. I looked into this a bit, but found no scriptural basis for it (which doesn't mean there isn't one). A look at Wikipedia's listing for "crucifix" reveals four more crucifix photos...all with Christ's head to his right. I don't know if that is a coincidence or not; perhaps all are based on an older artwork used now as a reference. Perhaps someone more knowledgeable can comment and shed some light on this.

Here's another statue in St. Patrick's Cemetery in Chapman, Kansas.

And here's another of Highgate's tombstones. See some of Highgate's crosses as well as more of Chapman, KS in our recent St. Patrick's Day post.

Last month in the Desert Botanical Gardens of Phoenix, Arizona, I noticed this Crucifixion Thorn (Castela Emoryi), which is native to the Southwestern United States and Northern Mexico. It's not as thorny as the The Thorny Orange Tree (Poncirus trifoliata) of China, but evocative of a crown of thorns, nevertheless. Some of you might find this Wikipedia article on the crown of thorns and its supposed relic remains interesting.

Speaking of plants, the Dogwood Tree, seen in the photo above in its white and pink flowering forms at left and center, is the state tree of Missouri and produces the state flower of Virginia. As of today, it is already past its peak flowering period in Missouri, which is unfortunate for the small town of Neosho, MO, where a dogwood tour scheduled for two weekends from now has been cancelled because there'll be nothing left to see. This is because of the double-whammy of unseasonably warm temperatures of late (global warming?) and the current arrival of freezing temperatures and snow in April.

Why mention dogwood? Because of the Christian fable that the cross upon which Jesus was crucified was made of the tree, which, legend holds, was larger and stronger at the time. Afterwards, Jesus is said to have altered the form of the tree into its thin, twisted-branch form such that it could never be used for this purpose again.

The petals of its flower are said to represent the four arms of the cross, stained with his blood.

Of course, Good Friday, like many Christian holidays, has pagan roots, but is most identified in Western culture with Christianity. Some Christians even de-emphasize the day; uncomfortable with the pagan origins of both Good Friday and Easter, they also point out the contradiction between Jesus being dead three days and nights, while there are 48 hours between Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

Whatever your beliefs, we at "The Lope" wish you a happy and safe Easter weekend. Enjoy what company you may have, contemplate whatever makes you more of what you wish to be, and appreciate every moment.

Well have other related posts this weekend.

If you care to see other posts which feature pictures from our London trip, check out An American Jackalope In London:
More Easter Stuff - Easter Island moai (stone statue) in The British Museum
Good Friday - Crucifix tombstone in Highgate Cemetery and a crucifix at a church in London.
St Patrick's Day Megapost - Celtic crosses in London's Highgate Cemetery.
Red, Gold and Almost Gone - Includes photos of London's Chinatown.
Why Jackalopes Don't Play Soccer - Battered Buckyballs litter London.
Christmas Leftovers - An October shopping trip through Harrods, Selfridges and Hamley's, with lots of Christmas decor pictures.
Spamalot - We go to the Monty Python-based play and meet Tim Curry
London Trader Vic's - A visit to London's oldest tiki bar
Where is Ace Jackalope? (episode 13) - The game is afoot!
Werelopes of London - Lycanthopic jackalopes stalk places mentioned in the Warren Zevon song, plus a few pictures of the London Underground.
Dracula's London - A Halloween tribute to Bram Stoker using London locales implied in "Dracula"
Where is Ace Jackalope? (episode 9) - Mind the Gap

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

A Smoky Night in Winslow

One in awhile while on a road trip, we run across real news. On the 21st of last month (March, 2007) we were driving eastbound through Winslow, AZ, on route 66 when we noticed emergency vehicles blocking Rt66 and a plume of smoke just beyond La Posada, the restored Harvey House at which we usually take dinner while in Winslow.

The smoke was coming from a burning wooden railroad bridge under the busy BNSF main line; railroad traffic to and from the busy port of Long Beach, CA, was affected for hours. Winslow police apprehended at least one young boy related to the incident; you can read about it in the Winslow News.

You can see smoke in the street lights outside the Brown Mug Cafe, across from La Posada. It was time to eat something, and we'd never tried this place, so, in we went.

We'd been curious about the Brown Mug before, and I'm a sucker for a place with a well-maintained neon sign. Actually, the sign was unlit on its east side, but as Route 66 is a pair of one-way streets through Winslow and the sign was lit on the sign you'd see approaching it, I don't suppose it matters.

It was a nice little cafe, with an apparent cast of regulars. Occasionally, the air in the cafe smelled strongly of burning creosote from the bridge fire, but customers seemed to take this in stride.

Our hostess thought Ace was cute and wanted to know more about him.

I don't have the knack for photographing food attractively, especially on the spot, but this was good stuff. The menu was mostly Mexican, with some mainstream American thrown in. I'm actually not a fan of Mexican food while at home in the Midwest, but it seems so much better prepared in the Southwest that I sample it often while there.

Ace donned his Blade Runner, coat to check out the booth where Harrison Ford once sat. That's Harrison Ford the actor, you know.