National Corvette Caravan arrives in Bowling Green

Day 6 29 museumFinally, after the years of planning and the weeks of packing, traveling, eating out of gas station rest stops and sleeping in so many different beds, we arrived at the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky.

Photo shows a wall of Corvettes – a collage of thousands of small pictures made into one.

Day 6 9 MuseumThe first things we saw were displays of our favourite vehicles, offering participants a ride in a new one or the chance to win one of four. Unfortunately, Canadians couldn’t enter the draw. Well, they could, but they would have to take cash. Rules forbid Canadians from bringing a not-previously-owned vehicle across the border. Continue reading

Show me the way to Bowling Green

Day 6 drivers meetingIt was up at the crack of dawn for the 6 a.m. drivers meeting in Columbia, Missouri, before heading down the road again.Day 5 Missouri 4

Photo: our fearless leader, Gary Stephen from Calgary made sure we knew what we were doing, where we were going and how to get there every single morning of the trip.

We’d had a great stop in Columbia connecting with the Missouri-Kansas Caravan. The Mid-Missouri Corvette Club and Bob McCosh Chevrolet/GM  put on a smashing party with more (you guessed it) pulled pork sandwiches at the Missouri Auto Auction Facility. Service techs and parts people were on hand for anyone needing an oil change, tire service or anything else. Continue reading

History of the 1953 Corvette #003

Day 2 Resslers 18VIN # E53F001003

The 1953 Corvette #003, was virtually hand built at the Customer Delivery Garage in Flint, Michigan on July 1, 1953. The garage at Atherton and Van Slyke Avenue was converted to produce just 300 of the 1953 models and was known as GM Pilot Assembly. It arrived at the GM Technical Centre in Warren, Michigan, on July 7, 1953. Continue reading

Holy cornhuskers Batman – this must be Nebraska

Museum of American Speed

Jessie James gang Funeral Hearse

Museum of American Speed

Dale Zimmerman with Black Rose

Day 5 speed 4 Day 5 speed 5 Day 5 speed 6 Day 5 speed 7 Day 5 speed 8 Day 5 speed 9 Day 5 speed 12 Day 5 speed 13 Day 5 speed 14 Day 5 speed 19 Day 5 speed 22 Day 5 speed 29 Day 5 speed 30

In Lincoln, Nebraska, we visited the Smith Collection Museum of American Speed. Some of us were kinda “ho hum . . . great, another car museum.” But when we got there, we were wowed.

The museum was founded in 1992 by “Speedy” Bill Smith and his wife, Joyce. It’s dedicated to preserving, interpreting and displaying physical items significant to road racing. The museum encompasses over 135,000 feet on three levels all chalk full of specialty cars and auto memorabilia.

“The vast collection results from the Smiths’ personal involvement in racing and hot rodding for more than six decades, and their lifelong passion for collecting and preserving historic automotive artifacts,” according to the website.

We met the son, Carson Smith. He said his dad started the collection when he was a kid. He was enthralled by engine technology, noting that the engines of the day were not worth their weight tomorrow.

Smith spent millions of hours  “turning over rocks” and chasing countless leads to assemble a collection of this magnitude.

Only about one-third of this massive collection is on display, including a  stunning array of history-making cars, engines, parts, toys and memorabilia. There are countless rare and one-of-a-kind items, such as the world’s oldest peddle car (from 1891) plus over 600 lunch boxes – all presented in beautiful displays and dioramas that make you feel like you’ve stepped into the past!

(Photo left is Dan under the original sign from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.)

The weird car beside up top is the actual funeral hearse of Bob Younger of the Jesse James gang

Each member of the family collected their own chosen memorabilia – the son collected lunch boxes, the wife collected cookie jars. And there were other collections of movie posters, toys of all sizes and dimensions and anything at all car-related.

I had the pleasure of seeing the one and only Black Rose (besides my own) that I’m likely ever to see. There were only 11 of that colour made. Even met the owner, Dale Zimmerman, but he said I’d have to wait in a long line to buy it – and that’s only if he ever decided to sell.

On the road again:

We also visited the Arch Pioneer Museum in Kearney, Nebraska.

It’s amazing how you can live next door to someone your whole life and not really know much about them until one day you go inside their bathroom and look in the medicine cabinet. That’s how I felt when we stopped at the Arch. Although I’d visited the U.S. countless times, lived on the border and been saturated by American TV and movies, I never really “got it” until I came to this place.

The museum is a gi-normous arch that spans over the freeway and was built as a testament to the largest volunteer migration of people in history – the hundreds of thousands who ventured across the American plains to the west seeking a better life.

The museum shows their tenacity, endurance, grief and struggles in ways few stories have related it before. Kearney is the geographical centre of the United States and some guy raised millions to create this fabulous museum.

Driving through the desolate State of Wyoming, Nebraska is a bit of a relief. Definitely greener. And yes, they have miles and miles of corn, dotted periodically with green belts of soybeans.

(When I say Belt, I’m also talking Bible Belt – signage on the highway declaring God’s love and how one should get oneself saved before Jesus comes – they’re everywhere. And three out of four radio stations are Christian.)

At Lincoln we met up with the caravan from Northern California, Colorado, Nevada and Iowa as well as the Nebraska bunch. Now must be about 500 or 600 cars.

The local club held a party for us all at the Railyard – a refurbished downtown area (kind of like Gastown in Vancouver). We got together with some Spokane friends and had dinner at a Cajun restaurant. Dan had a plate that included alligator. I had catfish and a Bloody Mary made with bacon-infused vodka. (!?)  It was so spicy, however, I couldn’t drink it. Not something I’d order again, but was worth the experience.

After the Museum of American Speed, we carried on into Missouri.

 

Winter World: book review

For a good read about the Second World War, you cannot beat Ken Follett. this is the second in his century trilogy. Someone please tell me when the third book is out.

Title: Winter World
Author: Ken Follett
Genre: Historical Fiction
First published: not sure
Spoiler Alert: Not really 

 

The second book in Ken Follett’s Century Trilogy is as much a page-turner as the first. Winter World continues the story where Fall of Giants left off, following four families as they live through one disaster (the First World War) to the next (the Second World War).

Follett personalizes the wars by bringing them up close and personal with those who had to live them. The British and Welsh family, the Germans, the Russians and the Americans – all intertwined in relationships, political intrigues and events that seem to spiral out of control.

I think one of the reasons we like to (need to) read historical fiction is to try and understand our past – how our ancestors lived, what formed their characters and what led to the way we are today. And though Follett’s stories are classed as fiction, one can easily read between the lines, knowing truth is stranger –and maybe even harsher – than fiction; hence what happens to Follett’s characters can easily be imagined as happening to people who lived through the wars.

Another reason to study history is to understand the political system that shaped us. And when you look back at the brutal Fascist and Soviet regimes, you wonder how anyone survived. It has certainly given me a brief look into the “genetics” if you will of people I know who came out of Russia or Nazi Germany or the rigid British stiff upper lips. Even the Amercians – although Follett tends to paint them in a tenderer light than the others.

In Follett’s Century Trilogy (the third book is to come), the British are archaic, the Germans brutal and the Russians, barbaric. The Americans come across as the nice-guys out to save the world; which they do, practically single-handedly without anybody else’s help. But isn’t that the way the U.S. media has recorded the past century?

In some ways, Follett really gets it right, describing situations and events that likely happened to thousands of people. He has a way of writing from within each character’s mind. It’s unique, as you get to see the thought processes behind their actions. And though not always pretty, one can almost be sympathetic.

What is clear is that human kind didn’t learn much from the First World War and didn’t improve on it much after the Second.

The third book in the trilogy isn’t out yet (at this writing). At least, I haven’t seen it. But I expect it will take us through the second half of the century and I’d half-bet Follett will begin it in the 60s, taking us through Women’s Liberation (it was a pretty major theme in both books) into the Vietnam War (Follett seems to like writing war scenes) and then maybe all the way up to Desert Storm. However, it will be interesting to see how he’d incorporate an Arab/Muslim family into the mix. But now I’m just speculating.

Anyway, the second book (according to my Kobo reader) took another 30 hours out of my life – added to the 29 hours for the first book. At $20 a pop, it was close to 60 hours of heart-stopping entertainment. Looking forward to Book 3.

 

Red China Blues

Tiananmen Mao

Bordering Tiananmen Square is the giant picture of Chairman Mao. Lana Rodlie photo

Tiananmen Square security

Just getting to the square is an ordeal. You have to walk under the multi-laned roadway through a subway tunnel. Of course, there are guards to make sure no one gets lost. Lana Rodlie photo

This is a book review of Jan Wong’s Red China Blues, but I’ve added my own photos and some insights of when we attended the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

From the book: “Tiananmen is gargantuan, the biggest square in the world. Moscow’s Red Square was intimate in comparison. Tiananen could simultaneously accommodate the entire 28 teams of the National Football League plus 192 other teams, each playing separate games. It could stage an entire Summer Olympics, with all events taking place at the same time. Tiananmen, which means Gate of Heavenly Peace is also one of the least hospitable squares in the world. There is no bench or place to rest, nowhere to get a drink, no leafy tree to offer respite from the sun. Only the one-hundred-foot high Monument to the People’s Heroes punctuates it, and after 1977, Mao’s white and gold mausoleum. Its huge lampposts are equipped with giant speakers for crowd control and swiveling video cameras’. The commercial photographers  with white pushcarts and colorful shade umbrellas are actually plainclothes police. For a modest fee, they snap photos of Chinese tourists posing in the square and mail you the pictures a week later. That way, they have your name and address, too.” Continue reading

Because They Hate

Book Review

Title: Because They Hate
Author: Brigitte Gabriel
Genre: Nonfiction
First published: 2006
Spoiler Alert: May contain some offensive material

Brigitte Gabriel witnessed first-hand how her home country of Lebanon was turned from a prosperous democratic oasis in the Arab world into a wore-torn pile of rubble. How Beirut, once the “Paris of the Middle East” was stormed and converted into a Muslim conclave which spins out suicide bombers and terrorists.  She says there will never be peace in the Middle East because Arabs believe Israel should not exist and will do anything and everything to destroy it. And they also want to kill anyone who does not adhere to their religion. They live on hate; feed it to their children from birth; and spew out lies and horror. And she warns North America to wake up, connect the dots, and recognize the evil that is infiltrating it before it is too late.  Continue reading

Fall of Giants

Book Review
Title: Fall of Giants
Author: Ken Follett
Genre: Historical Fiction
First published: 2010
Spoiler Alert: Not really

If one calculates a good book by how much reading time one gets for the money, then Ken Follett novels really rate at the top. And this one, Fall of Giants, had me mesmerized for a week (29 hours of reading time according to Kobo).

The story winds around four families: the rich aristocratic Brit, owner of a mine in Wales and his sister the Suffragette; a mining family, the father a union activist, daughter a servant at the nobleman’s house and her brother, a miner-become-soldier. Then there are the Russians – two brothers who complicate each other’s lives in unimaginable ways; the German aristocrats and a family of Washington elites. Although worlds apart, their stories weave together like a tight-knit tapestry.

Set during the decade of the Great War from 1911 to the early 1920s, the story delves into every aspect of the war – from the poor peasants, to the German soldiers, to the Russian front, and to the Americans – each with their own set of circumstances. But what really sets it apart from other rambles about the war is Follett’s ability to bring us right into the homes, boardrooms and bedrooms of his characters and into an era of class system and female subjugation. While keeping close to the facts, with a good sprinkling of real historical characters, the writer provides a real taste of what it must have been like to be a Welsh miner, a Russian peasant, or one so immersed in bondage to tradition that they allow it to bury their own humanity.

The only things I can’t figure out are: how did Follett not take an entire lifetime to write it and how could he not have spent an entire lifetime living it?

What a story! Nothing I have ever read before has made me change my political views more than this story. And maybe it was about time. Continue reading

Lustrum

Book Review

Title: Lustrum
Author: Robert Harris
Genre: Historical Fiction
First published: 2009
Spoiler Alert: No

If you’d like to transport yourself back to ancient Rome but don’t own a time machine, then Robert Harris’s Lustrum is your best bet.

Lustrum is the second book (of which is promised to be a trilogy) following the life of Marcus Tullius Cicero. The first book, Imperium, should be read before Lustrum, but it isn’t necessary to follow the story.

Cicero was a lawyer and orator who lived between 106 and 43 BC, when the government of Rome was rife with corruption, bribery, ill-morals, social climbers, greedy power seekers and people who slept with other peoples’ wives. Continue reading

Rutherfurd’s New York

Book Review

Title: New York, the Novel
Author: Edward  Rutherfurd
Genre: Historical Fiction
First published: 2009
Spoiler Alert: No

 

When I sat down to read Edward Rutherfurd’s epic historical piece on New York, I half-expected a text-book study on all the major events in that city’s history over the past three hundred years. I figured if I didn’t like it, at least I could use it as a door-stop.

I was prepared to sifon through its thousand-plus pages: the Dutch colonials, the Depression, the wars, immigration and every other event in American history; and even prepared to fall into boredom. I mean, how can one keep a single family or two interesting for centuries if they aren’t royals?

Surprisingly, Rutherfurd does it quite well. He keeps the story moving by periodically, like a ghost, dropping in and out of the  lives of ordinary people. It’s as if he threw darts at a calendar, picking up wherever his characters, or their descendants might be; then weaving their personal stories around each other and whatever hurricane of circumstances might be happening right then. But he doesn’t ignore major events entirely, only how what is happening outside affects people inside: their homes and their hearts. I liked how he had real people like Abraham Lincoln, General Lee, Caruso, Winston Churchill, the Astors, J.P. Morgan, Hemingway and Ansel Adams, to name a few, either walk right into the story or appear as distant entities who touched the lives of his characters. Continue reading