23 May 2006
The official WT06 FAQ

When does the World Tour actually happen?

It begins on 12 June, and continues for somewhere between two and three weeks.

What makes it a World Tour, exactly, since you're not leaving the States or anything?

Two things: it's awfully damned long, and much of it is through relatively unfamiliar territory.

How long is "awfully damned long"?

I expect somewhere between 4500 and 5000 miles.

You've done this five times before. Why do it again?

Because I can. More to the point, it's good for me to get out of town, and it's good for my car to get a serious workout once in a while.

Will you be blogging every day?

That's the plan, anyway. You can still read the reports from 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, and 2005. I have Wi-Fi capability, I carry a spare CAT 5 cable, and if all else fails, I have a dial-up.

What's the shape of this year's route?

Still vague and inchoate, though it's headed toward the south and east; there is a definite Dixieland flavor.

How much of this is copied from previous World Tour FAQs?

Rather a lot, actually.

Usually you start these in July. What's different this year?

They haven't said so, but 42nd and Treadmill is probably wondering just why it is I've always ducked out of their pet July projects; this year I'll actually participate in them.

Is there any chance you'll say "Screw it" and not go home?

I would have to be extremely fortunate, in the winning-lotto-ticket sense, or extremely smitten, in the "I've been waiting for you all my life" sense. Don't count on either of these actually taking place.

Note: Feel free to post additional questions in the comments box, or by mail if you'd rather.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:33 AM)
31 May 2006
Points on a curve

Okay, here's the deal: I have seventeen days (plus or minus one) to cover as much of the South as I can, with two criteria in mind: to meet up with readers, should they be interested, and to avoid endless stretches of Interstate, which won't be interesting.

Projected boundaries: Nothing north of Richmond or south of Orlando, or within 40 miles of New Orleans. (Otherwise, I could be looking at 6,000 miles, which is a bit much.) Either inbound or out (not both), this trip must go through Nashville.

Otherwise, things are pretty much open to suggestion at this point.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:00 PM)
10 June 2006
Which way will he go?

More or less this-a-way, sorta counterclockwise, subject, as always, to change without notice.

World Tour '06

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:27 PM)
12 June 2006
For lo, it beginneth

Oil changed and tires rotated?  Check.
Mail and newspaper stopped?  Check.
Trip odometer reset?  Check.
Random Lights feature activated?  Check.
Wireless phone juiced up?  Check.
Every last Microsoft patch installed on notebook?  Check.
Ice maker in fridge shut off:  Check.
A/C reset to balmy 83 degrees:  Check.
Warning given to readers that updates and comment approval will be even slower than usual for the next two or three weeks:  Check.

Then that's that. The next post will be from Texas — or Arkansas, depending on which side of the road the hotel is on.

Update, 6 pm: Well, actually, it wasn't.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:10 AM)
Abort, something else here, fail

Coalgate, Oklahoma — 114.5 miles

Omen, n. A miraculous sign, a natural disaster, or a disturbance in nature that reveals the will of the gods in the arena of politics or social behavior or predicts a coming change in human history.

6:16 am: In the words of Don Martin, "SPROING KZIT KZIT." As the button scurries across the wooden floor, I shrug. It's just pants, fercrissake. So I carry one fewer pair than I'd planned. It's no big deal.

8:15 am: Out the door.

10:00 am: I did remember to pack my Dopp kit, didn't I?

10:15 am: Well, this is settling into a nice, easy — OMGWTF!!?!

D'oh!

A deer.

A female deer.

Upside: Knocked her all the way to the opposite shoulder, clear of traffic.

The wreck of the old '00Downside: See photo. That oddly-shaped shadow is, or was, ethylene glycol.

You want to know the following: I'm fine.

You do not want to know the following: The price of a 114.5-mile tow.

Now I am going to order a pizza, crank the A/C all the way down to 72, and go quietly to pieces.

Who was it who said "Wait 'til next year?" Besides me, I mean.

Permalink to this item (posted at 5:32 PM)
13 June 2006
In review, as it were

Random bits from the Day of Wreckoning:

  • Number of good ol' boys who stopped to offer assistance: 6
  • Number of good ol' girls: 2
  • Of these eight, number who were driving trucks: 8
  • Elapsed time from impact to first apparent buzzard reconnaissance: 1 hour, 39 minutes
  • Available cell-phone signal, in bars: 0, sometimes 1; hit 2 long enough for me to call 911, Triple A, and the insurance company
  • Time before the state Department of Wildlife Conservation arrived to investigate: 2 hours, 15 minutes
  • When I had expected them to investigate: Sometime today
  • Impact on my driving record: None, says the Highway Patrol; it is recorded as an "incident"
  • Impact on my insurance premium: To be determined — next billing is in November — though I expect at least a 25-percent increase
  • Total length of Oklahoma State Highway 3: 616.5 miles
  • Length of 3 I've driven: 344.1 miles
  • Length of 3 I'd have driven had I been able to complete yesterday's route: 497.1 miles

And one pertinent quote from one of the good ol' boys, on the subject of mortality:

If it's not your time, it doesn't matter what you do. And if it is your time, it doesn't matter what you do.

It would appear that it wasn't my time. I once attempted to quantify this:

[T]he number of times you cheat Death equals the number of times you cross his path — minus one.

I continue to be one up on that scythe-wielding son of a bitch.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:33 AM)
27 July 2006
Shakedown cruise

For the first time ever, I actually had to Shell out more than three bucks a gallon; admittedly, Gwendolyn prefers the high-test stuff, which is about twenty cents more than regular, but I was hoping I could still find something below the $3 threshold, inasmuch as $2.96 or thereabouts was the going rate for it this past weekend.

And later today, she'll polish off rather a lot of it, as we're headed up to Kansas City to make up the much-delayed last leg of WT06, which will be spent visiting my children and their children. I trust you will all behave yourselves in my absence.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:06 AM)
Without incident

Independence, Missouri — 379.5 miles

There are darn few back roads between OKC and KC that I haven't tried, and besides, this is just a quickie jaunt, so I took I-35 north, which becomes the Kansas Turnpike once over the state line. (Easy to spot, too: the road improves by an order of magnitude.) The usual practice is to exit at Emporia (mile 127), where 35 veers away from the Turnpike, and it occurred to me a few miles short of there that I've always done that, so today I stayed on the Turnpike, thinking that most of the big trucks will have already gotten off.

Which was true, at least through Topeka, where the Turnpike joins up with I-70, which by all accounts is twice as bad as I-35. It was today, anyway, but this was due to a combination of extensive construction work and (dare I say it?) rain. If nothing else, I learned something about Gwendolyn's aerodynamics: her front end is spotless, while there's gunk all around her trunk.

And whatever the airflow, it seemed to help, since I made it on a single tank without the Dreaded Orange Light coming on. I'll figure MPG some other time. Right now, I need to shake off the effects of driving for six and a half hours.

Oh, and Toll Report: Kansas Turnpike, $8.75. Note that if I'd driven straight through, instead of taking a couple of side trips (Wichita and Emporia, the latter for lunch), I might have saved a quarter or two.

Addendum: Or I might not. It is indeed $1.75 to Wichita East (Kellogg Avenue) and then $3.50 to Emporia, which is $5.25, instead of $5 for the whole 127 miles; however, they hit me for only $3.50 for the Emporia-to-KC leg, bringing the total to the proper $8.75.

Permalink to this item (posted at 4:24 PM)
28 July 2006
Give me down to there

Hair today, gone tomorrow? Leila Cohoon just laughs. She knows better. And she'll tell you the story of an archaeological find: a mummy from ancient Egypt, dug up with its hair — its hair style, even — still in place after all these years.

Leila's Hair Museum, and that is the name of it, is located on a busy boulevard in Independence, Missouri, and it's about the only place on earth devoted to the fine art of hairwork: wreaths, decorative items, jewelry, made partially or completely with human hair, sometimes wound about the thinnest of wire.

This practice sounds somewhat, well, colonial, and indeed it was fairly common in the days of the American Revolution, persisting for a century afterwards and then falling into desuetude. But forming hair into objets d'art goes back as far as the Renaissance, maybe before; the oldest documented piece in the Museum, a brooch with a strand of hair inside a crystalline case, was made in Sweden and dates to 1680.

The pieces I found most interesting were the family wreaths: often in the overall shape of a horseshoe (for easy updating), hair from family members was twisted into flowers or leaves, attached to the framework, name and dates affixed, and the process repeated for subsequent generations. (Example here.) This was slow, painstaking work: one young girl spent two years assembling a wreath. Another wreath consists entirely of one woman's hair; her mother began the construction at her birth, and continued to collect samples for the next forty-five years.

The jewelry is remarkable in its own right. Sometimes the hair is a structural component; sometimes it's ground to a powder and used as a pigment. Those of us who have grumbled about split ends will shake our heads in disbelief, but it's true: hair, treated well, is darn near indestructible. (Leila's hint: Quit using those shampoos with the same pH as drain cleaner, fercryingoutloud.) More than 2000 individual pieces of jewelry — watch fobs, bracelets, rings, brooches — are presently in the collection. I was fascinated by the "funeral rings," built upon a lock of the decedent's hair, sent to relatives far away who could not attend the burial services. They are simple and unadorned, but they speak volumes.

It's probably not too hard to understand why hairwork of this sort died out: it's labor-intensive and then some. Still, there are a handful of hardy practitioners still out there. (Here's a contemporary birthstone wreath by Melanie Mead.) And Leila Cohoon, seventy-five, her own hair of course impeccable — she also runs the Independence College of Cosmetology and must therefore set a proper example — is the true keeper of the flame, or at least the flame-colored tresses. (I did not think it proper to suggest that there seemed to be a lot fewer blondes in the 19th century.)

Leila's Hair Museum is at 1333 South Noland Road in Independence, a block and a half south of 23rd Street. It's open 9 to 4 Tuesday through Saturday, and admission is a mere $5, or about a third of what I pay for a haircut. Photography is not permitted, though the Lawrence Journal-World has a small gallery of photos from the museum, taken last fall. And you know, any museum in which both Daniel Webster and Phyllis Diller are represented simply demands your attention.

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:10 PM)
An idea we should steal

You know what was playing at the Englewood tonight?

The Wizard of Oz. Munchkins and all.

Not going to happen at home, though: the chain operators in Oklahoma City fear that someone might actually miss out on a chance to see You, Me and Dupree.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:38 PM)
29 July 2006
Heading back

Even a two-day trip is good for you, and I do believe I needed this one. (No comment from Gwendolyn, though I noticed she'd delivered 27.5 mpg on the outbound half of the route.) I should be back at the old stand around dinnertime, if not before.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:21 AM)
And that was the end of that

Dustbury, Oklahoma — 808.2 miles

Okay, not much by World Tour standards, even if you add in the 114-plus miles before The Incident, but it's still a pretty fair drive, and today the skies were fair and some of the scenery was pretty. I took US 71 south from Kansas City, and much of it is being rebuilt to accommodate the bazillion-percent traffic increase that tends to accompany flight to the burbs. In fact, the Missouri Department of Transportation appears to be in full-tilt construction mode. I found this posted at a rest area, and some of it is a tad incomprehensible:

MoDOT poster

I think — I hope — they don't have the proofreaders out there operating heavy machinery.

Kansas City now has a Jack FM — KCJK, 105.1 — and it's definitely a different mix from the one vended under Jack's name here; the Oklahoma City station would never, ever play "Funkytown."

Speaking of radio, I sampled "The Sound," KTSO 94.1 in Tulsa, and you know, I think I might have believed the "family-friendly" claim made for their mostly-Seventies playlist had they not thrown in both Rod Stewart's "Tonight's the Night," a song about defloration, and Stephen Stills' "Love the One You're With," a song about opportunistic infidelity. (No, I will not bash "Imagine" here, even though they played that too.)

For no particularly good reason, I took a side turn in Davenport to get the feel of their infamous Brick Broadway, from 6th Street down to the railroad tracks. The brickworks ceased operation some time in the 1920s, and I detected the presence of some non-brick material filling up an occasional hole. Still, it's a whole lotta bricks, and 20 mph is about all you can stand on it, especially with the dips at each intersection. Gwendolyn actually complained about one of them, and it's not like her to kvetch. They're promoting this with signs along old 66; I still think the biggest attraction in town is Dan's Bar-B-Q.

There was a letter in The Kansas City Star yesterday wanting to know how come the spread between grades of gasoline, a dime for so long, had suddenly surged to 15 cents. That I don't know, but it was still a dime the last time I filled up, in Bristow. (Still 27 mpg.)

Toll report: Will Rogers Turnpike (state line to Vinita), $1.50; Turner Turnpike (Tulsa to Bristow), $1.00; total $2.50; grand total $11.25.

We now return you to your regularly-scheduled tedium.

Permalink to this item (posted at 4:34 PM)
The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

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