Earth Hour 2009: Watt’s the use?

As I begin typing here at my well lit desk in the middle of “Earth Hour 2009”, I felt compelled to comment on this non-event. Looking at the Earth Hour web site, you’ll find a bunch of participants with pictures of themselves on Flickr holding candles. I’m really thrilled they feel better about themselves. I’m not posting to rip on the entire green movement….it’s the phonies I have issues with.

I have friends on both sides of the political aisle who call themselves green. Fortunately they don’t ram it down anyone’s throat. Even though I’m not the greenest person around, they have my utmost respect. Why? Because they walk the walk. A couple of friends went solar  in their Tulsa home. Yeah, I’ve got a few CFL’s in my house, but I also have my share of the time tested incandescent bulbs. I’m a little old school when it comes to my light bulbs. But as I mentioned, I’ll run a few CFLs to push down my light bill a bit. So my purpose in using a CFL is strictly for monetary reasons.  Just something about the warm glow of an incandescent bulb that a CFL can’t compare. Plus, it’s a part of historical technology that I’ll do what I can to keep from disappearing.

But, back to Earth Hour. I’ve got a bit of a problem with this whole concept. It appears to be a whole lot of symbolism and very little substance. I saw a sign tonight at an eastside coffee bar touting Earth Day and to come in & celebrate at 8:30. I can only guess they shut down the lights & had candles burning. And I imagine they, like just about every other participant of this “glowious” event blew out the candles and flipped the light switch to the on position at 9:30:01 pm.  I’d love to ask some of these people that if it’s soooo right to flip your light switch off and live by a candle, then why not do it 24/7/365? What, not practical? Hmmm??? Then what was the point of your little vigil tonight? Was it just to tell yourself “I care”? Feeling a little trendy, are we? Yup, that’ll get it done.  Talk to me when you throw enough solar panels on your roof to make your light meter run in reverse or start repurposing and recycling in a meaningful manner. Otherwise, don’t throw your shoulder out patting yourself on the back.


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Indianapolis Motor Speedway Motel: 1963-2009

This week, demolition crews will knock down the final wall of the 96 room Brickyard Crossing Inn, originally dubbed the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Motel, which was abruptly closed by the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in December.

(courtesy Indianapolis Motor Speedway, circa 1966)

Opened in 1963 outside of Turn 2, the IMS Motel was never an architectural masterpiece, but it had plenty of memorable guests during its 45 year tenure on West 16th Street. Many celebrities throughout the years attended the Indianapoolis 500 and most of them stayed at the IMS Motel, given the fact today’s upscale hotels in Indianapolis didn’t exist in the 1960’s. Names like James Garner, Jim Nabors, and Paul Newman  made it their home while in town for the Greatest Spectacle in Racing. Many a driver stayed there during the entire month of May, most notably 4-time Indy 500 winner AJ Foyt, who typically passed on the luxury motor homes for a comfortable room at the motel.


Newman’s roots with the speedway and the motel run deeper than his celebrity. He filmed many scenes from the 1969 movie “Winning” at the speedway and the motel, co-starring Robert Wagner and his on-screen and off-screen wife Joanne Woodward. Probably the most memorable scene from the movie was when Newman’s character, Frank Capua, returned to the motel after leaving Gasoline Alley and caught Woodward and Wagner (his team mate in the movie) “in the act” in Room 212.


When I found out the motel was going to be leveled, I was hoping to be able to get access to the room so Jennifer & I could get current day photos of the room and do some side-by-side shots from the movie, much like we do on our Road Trip Memories blog. I went straight to the top and wrote a letter to IMS president Joie Chitwood, but to no avail. I got a nice “Sorry Charlie” e-mail from the IMS public relations department a few weeks later. Hey, I tried! Hopefully Joie enjoyed the issue of American Road magazine that I sent him along with my letter. 😉  The last photos I took from there during demolition, Room 212 was still hanging on….although gutted and broken.

Newman was a fixture at the speedway for decades and became a car owner in the 1980’s for Mario Andretti. He made his final appearance at the speedway during qualifications for the 2008 Indianapolis 500, just four months before losing his battle with cancer to watch his rookie driver, 19 year old Graham Rahal, qualify for his first 500.


The other more notable guests to stay at the motel were none other than The Beatles during their 1964 tour. Legend has it that during their stay in Indianapolis, fans were tipped off they were staying downtown at the Essex House Hotel. Their manager then put all four in one room at the IMS Motel.

Thus ends a piece of the history of the century old Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The adjoining Brickyard Restaurant and Flag Room Pub remain open for business with no plans of closing. The future of lodging at the speedway is uncertain. With the Town of Speedway undergoing a major redevelopment plan coupled with a struggling economy, it might be a while before anything transpires, but early indications are there’ll be a more upscale hotel and conference center sprouting up near the site of the former IMS Motel. But whatever replaces the IMS Motel, it’ll have a hard time matching the history and lore of what stood before it.


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Milton the Monster of Kentucky…

Funny how things get unlocked from deep within the bowels of our memory banks. Jennifer & I were down in Madison, Indiana  last weekend shooting some then & now photos from the 1958 movie Some Came Running, starring Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Shirley MacLaine, which was filmed in and around the Madison area.

We had several screen shots from the movie that we brought with us so we could recreate various scenes how they look 51 years later. As a Rat Pack fan, it was VERY cool standing in the same spots where Frank & Dino stood. We were talking about one scene this morning that was filmed at the end of the movie across the Ohio River from Madison in a cemetery. She asked me if the location of the cemetery was still considered Milton, KY, which I believed it to be, and that opened up a vault in my brain where I sung the end of the Milton the Monster cartoon…”I’m Milton….your brand new son”. I have no idea where that came from, but I do remember seeing it in reruns back in the 70’s. Fortunately, someone uploaded the opening of Milton the Monster on YouTube.

I must admit, my rendition of that end was spot on!

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Back in my saddle…

Having one car and combining that with the work schedules of two people can be quite the juggling act. Just leaving an extra 10 minutes in the morning so we’re on time for work can make things seem like a Chinese fire drill around the house at 7:40am. Such has been the case the past 2 1/2 weeks while my beloved Civic has been in the body shop.

As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, my Civic was assaulted in the parking lot of a hotel we were staying in near the Indianapolis airport. Today I picked it up from Speedway Body Shop and as expected, I couldn’t be more happy with the work they did. It went from this mangled mess….

to this finished product:

And now that pesky lock works like it’s supposed to! The window also cranks better than it ever did. I won’t go as far to say this unfortunate incident was a blessing, but well, it’s in better shape than before the attempted break in, so I’ll take it! I just about had a stroke when they gave me the invoice (all paid for by the good folks at American Family Insurance). I was told last week that the door panel had to be replaced because after they worked on it, the new handle wouldn’t fit right, so they went ahead and got a new/used door panel. That added another $291 to the grand total of $1,938.14. Ouch! That’s half of what I paid for the car 2 years ago! But they did a great job and I really like the little extra things they do, like washing the entire car after they were done, as well as vacuuming it and doing the windows. It’s those little things that sell me.

So now my world is back at center. Today was a very good car karma day. I got my car back looking better than it has since I’ve had it, and I went into the license branch this morning and got my new IMS plates for both the Civic and the Corvair.  halloffameIn an amazing sight never witnessed before, I walked in the door, got both registrations, paid and out the door in 20 minutes. Even more to this record setting performance is that when I walked in, I didn’t even need to go to the counter to get a number. As I approached, one of the clerks at the multitude of desks waved me over. What!? I didn’t need to sit and wait for my name to be called? I don’t think this event of biblical proportions will ever be witnessed again. But if you wish to witness where it happened, just head to the Indiana BMV branch on South Emerson Avenue in Beech Grove. You’ll have time there to reflect…while you wait for your name to be called.  😉


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Understanding the mentality of a thief…

Life has a way of dealing an intersting hand of cards at times. It’s amazing how various events can spawn other events to occur. And my oh my did that happen to me. Last weekend Jennifer told me she thought the water heater wasn’t working, as our hot water was more luke warm. A couple of years ago we had the same problem with this four year old Whirlpool.

The pilot wouldn’t stay on and it needed a part replaced called a thermocouple. Don’t ask me what it is….all I know is that it has something to do with the pilot (it’s a gas water heater) and keeping the burner lit when heating the water. When it fails, the gas shuts down and thus, no fire, thus, no hot water. I was able to replace the thermocouple in ’07 and all was well….until last weekend.

Since it was around 8:30 Sunday night, I had no chance of getting another thermocouple to replace the apparent faulty one. Needing her hot water, Jennifer booked us a room through priceline for the night until I could get to Lowe’s and get a new thermocouple after work Monday. As has been our “luck” with priceline lately, we got a room at one of those extended stay hotels. This one was about 10 minutes away near the Indianapolis International Airport. All went well that night and a good night’s sleep was had. Monday morning I thought I’d leave early since I was going to take a different route into work and didn’t know what the traffic pattern might be for the morning rush. I gave Jennifer a kiss goodbye (we both drove) and out to my car I went. Then I saw it.

Sometime during our stay at the hotel, some kind soul tried to gain entry into my Civic to rummage through the empty Coke cups, window washer fluid, maps, Corvair club t-shirt and other assorted junk that I had in the back seat. It’s the same stuff everyone accumulates in their back seats this time of year when it’s too cold to clean out your car. Well, I don’t know if they got spooked or realized none of the items were worth going after or just couldn’t get in. However, the door was still in the locked position, so I know they never got in. That lock never did work right anyway. I always had to lock it with the key, as the interior lock wouldn’t work. I have my suspicions they were going after the thermometer that I have on my dashboard. It’s just about the same size & shape as a GPS unit, so maybe they realized at sometime during the attempted entry that the device was going to tell them the temperature and not directions.

I informed the front desk folks what happened and they called IMPD for me while I went back to the room and told Jennifer the bad news. Her car was fine, as she parked right next to the front entrance of the hotel. Upon leaving, I spoke with IMPD and made my report. It’s seldom they’ll send an officer for something like this…it’s usually all done over the phone these days. After the front desk guy came out to fill out his report for their corporate office…reminding me they’re not responsible for damages…I climbed in through the passenger side to leave, as the driver’s door would not open from the inside or outside. Uggh! Getting this butt over a console in a Civic is not the easiest of tasks, but I managed and off to work I went. After getting in touch with my insurance company, I then got in touch with Ben Hughes, the manager at Speedway Body Shop. We dealt with them last summer after Jennifer had her accident. The work they do is second to none. Her Corolla went from this…

to this….

The guys there at Speedway do a fantastic job. My oldest brother suggested them last summer after he had taken a couple of his cars there over the years. We weren’t disappointed. Due to the 12″ of snow we received Tuesday and Wednesday, I wasn’t able to get my Civic in until Friday morning. Ben called Friday afternoon, and this “little” job has an estimate of $774.17. Fortunately, it’s covered under my $0 deductible comprehensive, so I won’t have to fork over any of my own money. I’ll get a new coat of paint on the door as well as a handle, lock, etc, etc. They pried on it pretty hard around the handle and there’s a chance they might even have to replace the outer door skin if they aren’t able to get the handle to fit right.

So there it is…a product of poor scouting by a thief. Heck, I’d have been happy if they’d just have smashed the window to get what they wanted. I can’t think it was the car itself. Even though Hondas rank high on the theft list, I can’t believe anyone would want a ’98 with 183,000 miles on the odometer.  Then again, trying to figure out what a thief thinks is an exercise in futility anyway.

Oh yeah, and yes the water heater got fixed. I found out they no longer make thermocouples for that unit and due to a class action lawsuit, Whirlpool has to give out replacement kits to make them work right. So after contacting 9 different Lowe’s in the area, I finally found one that had the kit. It was installed Tuesday by one of my brothers who “plumbs” for a living and we’ve got hot water once again.

All of this just so I could get a new door lock for my car. 🙂


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Some days it just isn’t worth it…

Everyone has their limits. Mine is about 8″. Having a 17 mile drive to work can be a challenge even during the summer, but when Ma Nature drops 9″-plus of snow on those 17 miles, well, that’s where I draw the line. I have a tendency to get agitated rather quickly during certain situations, and driving in snow is one of them. And it typically involves other people around me who are the source of the agitation, not the snow itself. For example, last night we had about 4″ of snow on the ground for my drive home. I’ve got a “snow route” that I take when the weather gets bad that avoids the interstates and takes the side streets through town. I took great strides in finding a route where there was minimal human presence and succeeded. I had no problem at all with the snow covered roads…it was rather easy, given the conditions.

However, when we get dumped with nearly 11″ as we did from yesterday through this morning, not even a good route to work is worth it. I really thought the forecasters would miss this one like they usually do. They said 4-8″…..we got a tick under 11″ here at the house. They still missed the mark.

After waking up to this, I realized….Nah. It would’ve taken a half hour just to unearth the car and get it out of the driveway….into the court that wasn’t plowed. Fortunately I scheduled today off work “just in case” they got the forecast right…or worse.

But all is not lost. This Sunday it’s February and we’ll likely have one or two of those “teaser” days where it gets up in the 50’s or 60’s….just warm enough to remind us that Spring is just around the corner. And with that will come those evenings out on the patio for a cookout or sit by the fire pit or just gaze at the flowers Jennifer’s planted. When those days come, this will be long forgotten….

….and this won’t.


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Have a Happy, Healthy, and Prosperous 2009…

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Losing an old friend…

Saturday was a melancholy day for me. The RCA Dome/Hoosier Dome was imploded at 9:36am. Opened in just 1983, it seemed like a lot of money wasted. But, it was the smallest stadium in the NFL and in today’s sports business, you need arenas and stadiums with all the latest bells & whistles to compete. With the possibility of the Indianapolis Colts moving to Los Angeles, the leaders of Indianapolis chose to break ground on a state of the art stadium in 2005 complete with a retractable roof.

I remember well when the Hoosier Dome was under construction. I took a greater interest in it due to the fact that my dad worked there during its construction, doing plumbing work.

 The dome was never the most architecturally pleasing structure to look at with it’s putty colored exterior and white inflated roof, and it didn’t do much to enhance the Indianapolis skyline. I could imagine anyone flying into or out of Indianapolis saw it as a big bandage while looking down at it.

But, it held a lot of events there over it’s 25 year run. I recall my own events I watched there: 

–The 1984 Olympic basketball team game

–My first Colts game when they played the St. Louis Cardinals who had Neil Lomax at quarterback

— My high school football team won back to back state football championships there with some guy named Jeff George at quarterback

–Watching the IU basketball team practice there in 1987 on their way to the NCAA Championship

–Watching my old grade school through high school chum Jeff George suit up for the Colts in the early 1990’s

–Seeing Rev. Billy Graham there ten years ago

–Watching a Speedway High School football game there on a Saturday morning a couple of year ago

–And the last time I was in there on February 5, 2007 during the Colts Super Bowl victory celebration

Make no mistake, the new Lucas Oil Stadium is a thing of beauty, as you can see.

 And I’m sure over the next 25 years I’ll have some memories to report then as well. But anytime we are forced to “move on”, you can’t help but feel a little nostalgic for what you must leave behind. So long, old friend.


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Roadside USA: Route 66 and Beyond

Just in time to use with those Amazon gift cards you’ll get for Christmas comes a new offering from seasoned photographers & authors Jim Ross & Shellee Graham.

Roadside USA: Route 66 and Beyond is a 64 page book consisting of 30 detachable postcards of various roadside images from Route 66 and other historic highways across the U.S. Available in January 2009, it promises to whet your roadtrip appetite with images of classic cars, motels, and plenty of neon.


This will be another “must have” for your roadside collection on your bookshelf. Having known both Jim & Shellee for close to ten years now, they both possess an attention to detail and pursuit of exellence that makes anything they touch turn to gold. I have no doubt this will be more of the same.

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Gene Barker…No, Bob Autry….You decide!

Every Christmas season when radio stations turn on their Christmas play lists during the weekend, I hear umpteen times throughout the holiday season Gene Autry’s singing of “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer”.  I look forward every Christmas to hearing all the classic Christmas songs from the days before I was around…Nat King Cole, Burl Ives, Autry, Johnny Mathis, Frank Sinatra, and my favorites from the Vince Guiraldi Trio. It wasn’t until just a few years ago that when I’d hear Autry sing Rudolph, something just clicked: “Wow….That’s Bob Barker singing!” The more I heard it, the more I pictured Bob singing into the little skinny microphone he held on “The Price is Right”. I did several Google searches to see if I was the only one hearing this, and apparently I was as there was not one entry on Google mentioning the eerie likeness. After I brought up this finding to Jennifer, she began to hear it as well. So I guess at least I’m not alone in what I’m hearing!

So here we go…..Here’s a clip of Autry’s tune from You Tube. Click on the video, and “scroll on down” to the picture of Bob below it and tell me that isn’t Bob! 

So, what do you think??? And here’s audio of Bob himself so you can get both videos going at the same time to judge side by side:


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