Rental Cars I have known and loved (at least as far as I can remember…)

1988:  Flew to Hawai’i, got a Mazda 626 (HI plates, lol) from the Hilo airport.  This might be the first ‘imported’ car I ever drove—but in Hawai’i, American cars are the imports!  Went to pull the light switch and popped the hood, and of course it was pitch dark…

1990.  Didn’t feel like putting miles on my leaser, so got a Toyota Tercel (NE plates) and drove to Chillicothe.  It was a car.

1991:  Five year anniversary, rented a Hertz Lincoln Continental, (NE plates) and drove to Chillicothe, MO then Brunswick and Moberly chasing trains.  Saw a landspout tornado in Cameron.

1991:  ATL-SAV-ATL, Budget, Mopar sedan of some sort (GA plates) which made no impression.

1996-1997:  Took two trips to KC, each time I rented a Mopar Breeze/Stratus (NE plates).  Nice cars at the time, but they didn’t age well.

2003:  Atlanta and North Georgia, wedding, then SAV and back to ATL.  Ford Taurus, (OH plates).  Decent car, one of the millions Ford built for rental agencies just to say they had ‘sold’ the most cars of any marque.

2005:  Buffalo/Niagara Falls/Toronto/Erie.  Alamo at BUF gave us a PA plate Chrysler Sebring two-door (with two kids) and was fairly unapologetic about it.  I’ve never driven a two-door car since.

2006:  Nashville/Knoxville/NC/VA.  Enterprise Kia Sedona (TN plates).  Delightful minivan, I’d buy one today if they were still made.

2007:  Kona, Hertz Chevy Malibu, HI plates (go figure).  It was a Chevy.

2007:  New Orleans/Gulfport/Hattiesburg.  Hertz Mazda6, AL plates.  Fantastic car.  Love Mazdas.

2007:  Dallas on the way back from New Orleans.  Dodge Nitro (TX plates), Hertz knew we weren’t going far or for long so we got ‘upgraded’.  Too much car for two people, too much car for twenty.  Bird tried to play chicken with us and got absolutely destroyed on a side mirror.  No damage to the car!

2007:  Jacksonville/St Simons Island/SAV.  Hertz Toyota RAV4.  Nice car, better car for two rather than the five we were hauling.  LA plates, ironic because we had been in NOLA earlier with AL plates…

2008:  Rented a Hertz Chevy Impala from the Colorado Springs airport in order to drive up Pike’s Peak.  CO plates for some reason…

2008:  BOS/Montreal/Toronto/Buffalo.  Hertz gave us a MA plate Ford Edge with six miles onnit.  Perfect car for what we needed, and I let Hertz know about it.

2009:  Had to go to Dallas to bring a car home for my daughter.  Hertz’ ‘Green Collection’ was cheaper than a straight-up sedan, so I got a Toyota Prius for ninety miles.  KS plates.  Fine car, perfect for city driving.

2009:  Atlanta for my wife’s trade show.  Hertz Chevy Malibu, GA plates, paddle-shifter in an automatic?  No wonder why GM went BK.

2010:  Went to KC train chasing.  Hertz gave me a Mazda5, MO plates, so I was resigned to fitting in, being in Missouri and all.  North of KC, the windshield wiper shredded, so I stopped at MCI, where Hertz gave me another Mazda5, with GA plates!  That’s more like it!

2010:  Tornado chasing in S KS / N OK.  Big hail was forecast so I got a NE plate Chevy Cobalt.  Airflow was such that the mist I was driving in most of the day wouldn’t clear from the windshield, Rain-X was useless.  NO CRUISE CONTROL! Thought my leg was going to fall off.  Decent car, nothing more.

2011:  Three-day weekend to Saint Louis, Hertz Ford Fusion.  Beautiful car with lots of geegaws.  Two big for two people but I didn’t care!

2011.  Finally, a business trip.  Hyundai Elantra for five days.  New cars are so much better now than back in the day.  TX plates, of course.

2012:  Houston for a RUSH concert.  Enterprise/National Kia Optima, upper-level trim level, nice car, but I’d want something smaller.  TX plates, naturally.

2013:  Train chasing in KC.  Enterprise/National, Chevy Tahoe.  Thanks for the ‘upgrade’, but way too much car for one person.  TN plates were nice, snob factor and all.

2013:  KC again, RUSH concert and trains.  Enterprise/National Hyundai Elantra, MN plates.  Nice car, Sirius/XM.

2013: KC for trains, turned into a stormchase.  Enterprise/National Nissan Rogue, base trim level was disappointing and the KS plates were meh.  Interested in small crossovers, but I’d never buy one with this trim level.

2013:  KC for Steak ‘n Shake!  Enterprise/National Ford Taurus, fully loaded.  IA plates were underwhelming, but the car was more luxurious than a similar Lincoln!  Drove through severe thunderstorms on the way back, nice touch.

2014: KC train chasing.  Enterprise/National gave me a Nissan Altima, base level, IL plates.  Very good car, but slightly too big for consideration as a daily driver and I’d want more options.

2014:  Trains, KC and just south, Enterprise/National gave me a Mazda CX-5, AR plates!  Was glad to see this on the lot, I have no need for AWD and this was the first FWD I had seen.  Mazda still knows how to make them!  Loaded trim level, I was hoping to win the lottery so I could buy this from the agency…I like to get plates from southeastern states, and to find Arkansas on a high-end Mazda was like Christmas!

2014:  Flew into Charlotte, grabbed an NC-plate National from the Executive Aisle and drove to Knoxville.  First location where I could pick my own car, or rather my moms did, she liked the pearl paint on a 2015 Buick Verano with 1300 miles onnit.  It would have been too big if it had just been me, but it was a beautiful highway long-distance car.

2015:  Drove to Fort Hood, TX and return.  2015 Kia Sedona LX, minivan is what we needed and minivan is what we got.  I love driving to Texas, as long as the icy roads were done with before we left.  I love southern Oklahoma, too bad we drove through OK at night :-(.  LX level is damn near base, but well-appointed–the dashboard control panel is illegible during the day, and the entertainment center is too complicated to work while driving.  I would want fog lights and wifey would want butt-warmers. KS plates, ironic since we drove N-S-N through the entire state!

2015:  Another trip to KC to chase trains and get Steak ‘n Shake.  Hertz had a weekend special, which resulted in me getting a 2015 Chevy Silverado 1500, NE plates.  Way too big, and 20 MPG highway besides, but the $25 bill made up for that.  No fog lights.

2015:  First-ever drive to Chicago, to visit with friends who were going to a RUSH concert (Wifey and I weren’t going, long story).  Enterprise neighborhood lot gave us a 2014 Chevy C(r)aptiva, MO plates, 38K Mi., for crying out loud!  Tired tires, and I smelled oil whenever the transmission downshifted.  OTOH, best seats of any rental I’ve driven!

2015: Another trip to Fort Hood, another granddaughter! Enterprise neighborhood lot gave us a 2015 Toyota RAV4, AWD(!), fogs, nice car but we needed bigger. MT plates. Great gas mileage. Originally rented for one week but turned out to be two. Check engine light came on within five miles, Enterprise told us to ignore it. Tire pressure light came on, but never could figure out what tire.  This car doesn’t have a front plate bracket, so when its prepped the plate just gets screwed into the bumper cover.  In this car’s case, screwed in not-horizontally.  That’s will require some explaining come resale time…

2016:  Another trip to KC for trainchasing.  Walked through National’s lot at Eppley Airport, saw a Kentucky-plate Nissan Rogue (SEC!SEC!!SEC!!!), walked into the terminal, got that car in five minutes, no problem!  Plastic wheelcovers and no fog lights, I thought that strange because it was AWD.  However, all things considered it was a better car than the Rogue I’d rented in 2013.  None of the 12V outlets worked, so I had to be vigilant of my cellphone use.

2016:  Flew to Las Vegas.  Got a NV-plate Hyundai Elantra from National and drove it 69 miles in a weekend.  No rain, no bugs–wipers never moved.  Great car, as Elantras are.

2017: Seattle. Wifey had her eye on a Kia Soul for her next car, so we tried one out for the weekend. Violent metallic lime green. Fog lights were nice. Fantastic car–everything I needed, wifey’s not so sure. Got a year to decide…

2017:  Kansas City-ish.  Train-chasing and Steak ‘n Shake.  Enterprise local lot Hyundai Elantra, NC plates (ACC!ACC!!ACC!!!).  Saw 44 MPG @ 73 MPH regularly on I-29. Another wonderful Hyundai.

2017:  “Sex Weekend” (rrrright…) in KC.  Enterprise neighborhood lot, another Nissan Rogue.  I really like this car, although too big for us empty-nesters.  Butt warmers, no fogs, backup camera.  32 highway.  Missouri plates, not much selection so we fit in.

2017:  Bringing daughter’s belongings up from Fort Hood.  Enterprise Truck Rental put me in a Ford Transit 250 (and didn’t give me affinity points!)  Empty, the radio was useless but good enough for Limbaugh once full.  I was leery of driving a huge sled 1700 miles, but I managed.  Thankful that it didn’t rain, but 18 MPG @ 72-77 MPH was a shock.  All things equal, I’d rather had a Transit Connect.

2017:  Labor Day:  Sioux Falls this time, sex weekend=NASCAR and HGTV and you can guess who’s what.  Yet another Rogue (boo-hoo!), same trim as before, Illannoy plates.  Beautiful car.  South Dakota’s speed limit is 80MPH, and the MPG went from 34 in Iowa to 27 in SD.  Worth it.

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THE HOWS AND WHYS OF HOW AND WHY I DROVE TO MINNETONKA, MINNESOTA TO BUY A LIGHT TUNDRA GREEN METALLIC 2003 FORD FOCUS SE…

I like to write.  I like to drive.  I like to travel and I like to buy cars!  The car, among other things, is long gone.  But it was a good time…

November, in the year of our Lord 2003. I had just bought wifey a red 2003 Ford Windstar (our second), hot offa the showroom floor with only 79 miles on the clock. Just three days later, it got recalled for rear seat anchors and McMullen Ford in Council Bluffs, Iowa loaned us a Focus ZTW while repairs were effected.

Nice car. Loved the hard suspension, the acceleration was more than what I needed, cute styling, and the thing went through gas like Lara Flynn Boyle goes through Steak ‘n Shake(!)  Wifey says that she could drive a car like this from time to time, when she tired momentarily of her minivan…

A week later, I turned my 1991 Tempo into U-Pull-It Auto Recyclers. It was a good car, albeit boring. (Boring means inexpensive, and it was that…)  Now our driveway held two Windstars that got anywhere between 16-21 mpg and I sure as heck didn’t need two big-(g)a$$ guzzlers.

I had snagged a Focus brochure at McMullen and I was unimpressed with the color swatches, too small and all.  One thing I was sure of was that I didn’t need another red car with one in the driveway already. The old Windstar was silver and I was ambivalent about another car the same color.   I won’t let my wife wear beige bras, and I won’t drive a beige car! The blues were…okay…

A 35 MPH drag race…

New Year’s Eve. Alex Lifeson is getting arrested for a butt load of alcohol-related offences in Florida, meanwhile I’m spending my December 31st in Olathe, Kansas semi-clean and 100%-sober looking for Joe’s Crab Shack.

Bumper-to-bumper on 135th Street, I catch up to a Focus. Wifey: “Hey, that’s the green!”  Damned if it doesn’t look good—in the reflection of headlights and streetlights. We parallel some poor girl for three miles and 10 lights and we can’t find anything to contradict our original opinion—but it was night and all…

Next morning, we wander into Olathe Ford and find another Tundra Focus in their back lot. While it was a stick and they were closed (!) the green looked good in the daylight, too…

Put your message in a modem…

Well, Autotrader.com was still in my browser cache from my Windstar search, for crying out loud…One thing about living in Nebraska, you can find any car you want, as long as it’s red!  Couldn’t find a green one anywhere in Omaha.  There was a Ford lot in Kansas City that specialized in program cars, but green ones there flew off the lot. One weekend, there were four in the KC metro, within five days they were all gone.

Out of town?  It’d have to be in a city where I could get cheap one-way airfare, where the lot was close to the airport, and where there weren’t any relatives—I was expecting a white-knuckle, get-it-done-in-a-weekend-and-get-back-home deal.  A lot in Chicago would sell me one with 24k mi. for 9000 USD, but that was too many miles and it sold. Wasn’t too disappointed…Same deal in Little Rock.

Within a day’s drive? Places in Salina, Kansas and Sioux Falls, South Dakota that advertised themselves as Ford superstores had plenty of white/gold/tan/silver Foci. Yawn. Another thing was the fact that I absolutely had to have ABS. Three snowstorms in two weeks gave me 27 inches and that was enough to reinforce my insistence on ABS.  Hardly any Foci came with it!  Ford lots in Great Bend and Topeka, Kansas had greenies but didn’t bother to answer my e-mails.

What to do? When I get to this point, I decide not to decide and invariably things make themselves clear.  Sent one last e-mail to Morrie’s Minnetonka Ford, who had just popped one up, and turned my back on the whole deal.

Yeah. You know what happened…Melissa from Morrie’s found a green/ABS/auto/power everything, and came up with financing in a jiffy.  She was a terrier with her e-mails so wifey and I said: Let’s Do This.

Mama’s got a squeeze box…

Sequestered the kids, overdosed on Applebee’s (kids on the cell phone: “Where are you?” “Applebee’s” (Didn’t tell them Applebee’s in Albert Lea, Minnesota…!), drove like mad to Minneapolis with The Who By Numbers on the CD player, defiled a Marriott, tried out Caribou Coffee, went to Target for souvenirs.

In and out of Morrie’s in the span of 90 minutes. Took the dealership tour, (“This is our service area, which you’ll never use…”). Melissa plied us with a gross of Morrie’s keychains for the kiddies, a car warsh and a tank o’ petrol.

Hit the Big Dog outlet mall for more payola for the kids, Norah Jones on the CD playa, 31 mpg @ 70+ MPH. Minnesota keeps the plates with the car even after it’s sold, so plates mean no in-transits and no hassles by law enforcement.  7 hours back to Omaha, more Applebee’s for dinner.  Told the kids that we went to Minneapolis to get some Minnesota Wild shirts! They were pi$$ed enough already that we went to MSP and they didn’t get to go to Mall Of America. Shucks…next time!

The Tornado Magnet…

Been chasing using either the Tempo or an 88 Ranger for the past few years.  Haven’t seen gorilla hail in the past few years, so my POS beaters have been dent-free. Naturally, since I’m now going to have a new car this season, it’ll be a record hail year!

Houston 2012: Awl Bidness, Big Bridges, Too Much Food, RUSH…

Hadn’t missed a RUSH tour since about 1988, seen them a total of nine times.  This tour, not only did they give Omaha a pass, they missed KC, Des Moines, Denver…and I refuse to give Chicago my business if I can avoid it.  Had it narrowed down to ATL or HOU, but American wouldn’t let me use my miles to Atlanta.  Houston was on a Sunday which meant dirt-cheap Enterprise rentals.  And it ain’t like you have to twist my arm to get me to Texas!

Four American legs on MadDog-80s, but by way of comparison United wanted me on Regional Jets and multi-stop is more fun, anyways.  I liked United better when it was called Continental…Due to fog in Omaha, I had fifteen minutes to get from one end of DFW terminal A to the other!

Strange, last year I flew to DFW on United, this year I flew to Houston on American.  Nothing sez Ghe-tto like flying to another airline’s hub 🙂 although I did see my first Airbus A380!

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Minutes after leaving Bush Intergalactic Airport.  Kia Optima–nice car, needed to be RainX-ed but that goes for every rental car.  I don’t see why Sarah’s all gripped, She’s driven in LA and I haven’t…

First stop, Tanger Outlet Mall in Texas City.  Got out of the car and I could smell the Gulf.  Almost cried.  Marriott SpringHill Suites in Baytown.  Red Lobster for dinner, mercifully Nebraska v. Wisconsin wasn’t on the TV in the bar.

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Staying in Baytown meant I would be doing a lot more driving this weekend than necessary, but I had a reason.  I mentioned on Facebook on Sunday morning that I was going to treat Sarah to the Goose Creek Oil Field, and I wasn’t playin’.  These photos are within fifty feet of the site of the first scene in Wayne/Hutton’s Hellfighters, the best damn movie ever made.  (To be fair, a lot of reviewers absolutely hate the flick, and I can see why.  Hutton had one facial expression, and his idea of dialogue was to wait until Wayne stopped talking then go “Uh-huh” or something similar.  And lots of aggressive cigarette smoking.  A different time…)

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And this is the offshore portion of the field.  At one time, this wasn’t offshore…

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Couple views of a workover rig, the only time you’ll see anything close to a drilling rig in this old field.  Really, I had to go out of my way to find an oil field in Houston, counter to the popular opinion.

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Tanker in the Houston Ship Channel, seconds away from the ExxonMobil terminal.

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A few views of stack interchanges.  Beltway 8 is a beautiful road.

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Webster, along IH-45.  Click on the above photo and you’ll see a Steak ‘n Shake sign.  Building’s been up since February and the store still isn’t open.  Some franchisees are more equal than others, I guess.  The official line is that they want to make sure the staff gets trained, but nine months?

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Galveston.  I suppose there are prettier beaches, but this one didn’t cost anything to get to.  84F each day, gloriously humid.  The distance shot up the beach shows blowing sand and sea mist.

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Some representative views from the beach and the Galveston-Bolivar ferry.     Ships are backed out miles into the Gulf, waiting to get to the ports on Galveston, Texas City and all along the Houston Ship Channel.

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Views along TX-225, my new favorite urban freeway.  Mile upon mile of petrochemical plants, along with container docks and assorted heavy industry.  I would never get tired of this drive.  I wish I’d had time to drive it at night.

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The Fred Hartman Bridge (TX-146) in Baytown, over the Ship Channel.  I’ve seen ocean-going ship-height cable-stayed bridges in Savannah and Brunswick, Georgia, but they never get old.

DSC00037And this wouldn’t either.  The BW8 Sam Houston Ship Channel Bridge.  Built before cable-stayed became commonplace, and more impressive because of it!  Not every bridge has warning signs to tell you that it might be closed for ice or high winds.  Ice on a two mile long bridge is nothing to sneeze at, neither is fifty-mile an hour winds when you’re 150 feet up!  The most outrageous bridge since the old Chain Of Rocks in Saint Louis, but more so because you can still drive on this one…

28739_10152283708750063_1531797027_nDinner at Cheddar’s…And, finally–our view of the RUSH concert, the raisin d etter (like they say in Texas) for the whole enterprise.  High up on Geddy’s side, bass PA right in front of me, so I barely heard Al’s guitar or the strings.  Heard Neil’s drums, though…and a sucky seat at a RUSH show is still a great seat!

(Ahem, ten shows now!)

Monday, outlet mall again, Steak ‘n Shake in Pearland, Baskin-Robins in Pearland, and forty miles on BW8 to get to the airport…during rush hour…after the white-knuckle plane-change going down, we only had to go from the south side of A to the north end of C in fifteen minutes, (grumblegrumble).  Last flight DFW-OMA on a Monday night meant the plane was 25% full, we had rows to ourselves.

There will come a time when RUSH will cut way back on their touring, so I better get ready for hauls like this in the future.  I really have no room to complain, lots of my friends go cross-country to see the first show of each tour, and while I’m puffing my chest about my tenth show, more than a few see ten shows a tourI’m ready to travel…

2007: Hattiesburg, MS.

During my Gulf Coast vacation that year, Wifey and I pulled in to Hattiesburg for dinner, Outback.  She asks for a Wallaby Darned.

“Sorry, we’re all out of the mix!” our wait staff replied.  (Up until that point, I didn’t know you needed a mix…)

Wifey asks for a tall glass of Vodka, short glass of peach nectar, and ice.  Puzzled waitstaff looked on as Wifey mixed it up and took a slug.  “Just like home!”

It was a lot of vodka.  I tipped well and let them clean off the table early, because, “There’ll be some table dancing later on, whether this establishment permits it or not!”  and “We’ll name the baby after you if it’s a girl!”

 

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An hour later, a typical Mississippi summer gulf thunderstorm popped up.  Yeah, I’m a stormchaser, but I can honestly say that this was one of the top ten gullywashers I’ve ever seen.  The parking lot of the Baskin-Robins was flooded, had to wait in the car for a time until we could get in to the hotel…turned on the Jackson 10 PM News and they spent thirty seconds during the weather on the ‘scattered showers’…

So, there was this truck for sale in Sevierville, TN…

My youngest daughter needed an auto, and my aunt in Tennessee had an excess truck. I love it when a plan comes together, but I had to go get it…

Let’s see: Fly down, drive cross-country in great weather, great scenery, and through Steak ‘n Shake country besides. Absolute drudgery, I tell you 🙂

Used American AAdvantage miles, I got the routing I wanted–up and down as much as possible–OMA-DFW-ORD-TYS, and snagged one of the few domestic Boeing 777 legs any airline flies, from Dallas to Chicago. First time in DFW’s Terminal D, a shopping center with an airport built around it.

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MadDog-80 into DFW, and this was my Triple-Seven to Chicago. There is a problem with perspective here, you can’t really tell how huge this airplane is. Embraer Jungle Jet from Chicago to Knoxville, flew through thunderstorms, a fantastic amount of turbulence, and the first time I’ve seen lightning below me!

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Saturday, took a daytrip with my aunt to Cade’s Cove in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I’m more interested in the works of God, hence the landscape photos–however the works of man are interesting, too:

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Grinding wheels, in various states of creation and disintegration.

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US-441. Ten-mile traffic jam heading to the National Park, Dollywood and Gatlinburg. Absolutely horrible and unacceptable, glad I was driving against the flow. I’ll betcha it looks like this at 2 A. M.

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Tennessee River in Knoxville. Dinner at Calhoun’s On The River. Neyland Stadium in the background.

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So, after a glorious service at First Baptist Church in Sevierville with my aunt and her hubby, time to load up and head north. I had put off off RainX-ing the windshield so of course I went through two thunderstorms, one when I was going down a 5% grade on I-40 and the other when I was negotiating Nashville traffic! This is the Steak ‘n Shake in Paducah, Kentucky, along with my Red Barchetta.

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Monday morning, after doing some train-chasing in Saint Louis, drove north of Saint Charles to put the truck on the Grafton Ferry. (Take a good, hard look :-))

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Between Grafton and Alton, Illinois on IL-100. ‘Steam’ rising from the pavement after a thunderstorm–hot, humid, just like Saint Louis ought to be!

Visited my grandma in Hazelwood, then dodged more thunderstorms across I-70 to the Overland Park, Kansas Marriott, Concierge Level, they gave me the room abutting the Presidential Suite! Shame I had to leave :-(. Tuesday, more Steak ‘n Shake, more thunder (I got rained on in TN, KY, IL, MO, and KS–the sixteen miles I drove in Iowa were dry, LOL.)

Got home to Springfield, Nebraska about 4-ish, and by 5:45 P.M. my dog and I were taking my shortest storm-chase ever, about a mile in total! So both the truck and my dog have been chasing!

Illinois Terminal, new and old:

I am fortunate in that I was born and grew up in Saint Louis, by one measure the second-biggest railroad hub in the U.S., at least in the sixties. Dad had taken my brother and I train-chasing the Norfolk & Western just after the 1964 merger with WAB and NKP (I never saw any locomotives painted in their colors), and on trips across the river to see the petroleum infrastructure in Alton and Wood River, I’d come across the Illinois Terminal Railway. My impressions: This is different, and This is green! Violently so…

I was aware that ITC had one of the last electric, and also one of the last interurban operations in North America, but these had been gone about ten years before my time and I was interested enough with what I saw. ITC finally got swallowed up by N&W in 1982, but I had moved away by then and I had no way to document their last days. I was glad, however, than N&W had been the one to take them over. 1986, I took my blushing bride on a tour of (by now) Norfolk Southern yards as part of our honeymoon (!), and I saw an ITC-painted SW1500 working in Luther Yard. That was it for the green and yellow. I thought to myself that if I won the lottery, I’d make NS an offer to paint some of their locomotives, but I’m still waiting on that…

However, a guy named Terry Respondek does own a railroad, and is an ITC fan, and in April had painted a motor in ITC colors! Twenty-four years after my last encounter, Memorial Day morning found me blasting north on IL-3 through ESL and Brooklyn on my way to Granite City, looking to scour the Tri-City Port for one particular SD40-2…

I expected the railroad to be shut down for the holiday but I was prepared to be patient while I followed every track in the complex. I heard a horn nearby but unseen, which made me wonder just what was going on…and here it was!

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Lawdy, ain’t it beautiful! I talked with a couple of members of the ITC Historical Society who had moved the motor for a couple photos, hard to say what I would have found if I’d been there fifteen minutes earlier or later!

I-270 over the river to North Saint Louis, continuing my tour what what had piqued my interests in railroads long ago, this time armed with a good camera, and more importantly, a car! Norfolk Southern was shut down, T.R.R.A. practically nonexistent on the Missouri side these days, and I can see BNSF and UP in Omaha, so why bother?

Broadway south to the Mallinckrodt plant, then a few photos of what are, honestly, the ruins of the ITC. This carried the ITC into Saint Louis, not to Union Station but to their own terminal north of downtown. Both the electric and passenger operations ceased in the mid-50’s, while the freight, diesel operations continued on a life-support basis until 2002 or so.

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To a kid, this overhead to me typified the industrial plant of Old America–iron, massive, black, important. Now, not so much. Such useless reminders of days–and industries–gone by would have been demolished in a second had they been in an affluent suburb or if government money was available for urban renewal, but this is Saint Louis and no one cares much to flatten stuff when there is nothing to replace it! So, still massive, but less black and more rust, and not important:

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The McKinley bridge (used to be rail/auto, now bike/hike/autos), with the Merchants Bridge (rail-only, never been anything but) behind:

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I had every intent to hike the part of overhead trestle still in use and then over the McKinley and back, but there was no place to park my car, and to be honest the McKinley was rebuilt to be utilitarian in the extreme, not pretty at all. So, that was that, only a minor disappointment on a beautiful, hot, humid day in tha STL.

Hawai`i Island, HI 2007

Book ’em, Danno–American, Hertz, Marriott…

AA OMA-DFW MD-80 DFW-LAX MD-80 LAX-KOA 757
AA KOA-LAX 767 LAX-DFW 737 DFW-OMA MD-80

Hertz: Chevy Malibu

Marriott: Waikoloa Marriott

Within just a couple of years of our first trip we had resigned ourselves to the fact that we were going back to Hawai`i sooner or later. I was willing to wait until Kīlauea was doing something different–in 1988 it had settled down to a steady eruption which I had seen plenty of in both popular and scientific journals. That eruption is now in it’s twenty-fourth year…! I also wanted wifey to do more shopping, and to have someone for her to go shopping with, LOL…

But by fall 2006, we had run out of places to visit, no weddings or funerals on tap. At my part time job at Marriott, someone had tipped me off to a dead period between Christmas and Easter when plane fares got cheap, so here we go…After nine years, TD Ameritrade owed me a week when I wanted it, not just when it was slow in summer…

Delta didn’t want me to go to Kona, Continental wanted me to go through freaking Newark, US Airways was cheap and quick–initially, but then bait-and-switched me into a five hour layover in PHX. Only way I’d fly United was if I got a 777, but I also didn’t want to be in the air for nine hours straight. So, it was American again, second vacay in seven months. Everyone else rags on them, but I like AAs MadDog-80s, the two-seat side of the aisle works perfectly for us. OMA-DFW-LAX-KOA, nice breaks in between flights to ward off phlebitis! So MD-80s to LAX, then my first 757 to Kona.

LA was fine, the sun shined most the time…lotsa strange airlines that even Diff-Dubya doesn’t have (EVA Air, Malaysian, Aer Lingus, Korean–744s, Airbus A330s, 340s).

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Did my Rob Zombie imitation for the six hours to Kona, checking into the Marriott at what seemed to be 2AM…and then awakened at ‘630AM’ by American at LAX informing us that they had daughter’s cell phone…so since we’re up, nothing to do but head over to Hilo for Ken’s Pancakes! If we’re on vacation, then we have to hit a Walmart, Hilo Hattie’s, then to Puna for lava trees and lava flows…

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There’s a bed and breakfast nearby but unseen, this is the breakfast part of the transaction…

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The ~1790 eruptive fissure, which caused the lava trees in the first place

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Compare to this photo:
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This is entrail pāhoehoe, for obvious reasons:

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Was taking pictures at one of the Kalapana lava flows when serendipitously I turned around and looked up, there was Pu`u `O`o–honestly didn’t know I would be in position to look at it, and within ten minutes the rain had moved in…

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Hilo harbor:

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That evening, I took a few pics of the sunset and surf outside the hotel at Waikoloa:

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Supposedly turtles come up to nest, but I could excuse them for finding another place given all the activity. We did see some at Punalu`u the next day, and here’s a whale between Waikoloa and Keahole:

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Went around the south side of the island on Sunday, HI-11 to Hilo then HI-19 back to Waikoloa. That’s right–One Lap Of Hawai`i…at a wide spot in the road near South Point, the girls checked out non-native jewelry and a hippie selling roach clips, while I checked out the 1907 Mauna Loa ʻaʻā lava flow. Chock full of olivine crystals, which differentiates this rift eruption from those from the summit. The dense layer in the middle is the actual molten part of the flow, the top part is the broken-up surface, while the bottom layer was the top layer at one time, like a bulldozer tread.

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The 1907 flow resting on a late-prehistoric flow, you can tell because of the few extra years of oxidization.

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Between Naʻālehu and Punalu`u:

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Punalu`u (that pāhoehoe looks reasonably fresh, but it’s over three-hundred years old):

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You likin’ the lichen?

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Freshwater spring just a few feet from the surf at Punalu`u. When the tide comes in, the extra weight pushes on the earth, raising the water table. Since freshwater is less dense than saltwater, it’s at the top of the table and gets pushed out first. I took a sip–just like out of the tap!

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Then up the ‘hill’ to Kīlauea:

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Smellin’ that sulfur, not unpleasant to a sinner ($1 Mark Twain).

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Colossal waste of some Gilbey’s, although Madame Pele appreciated it!

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Four-thousand feet, constant wind and the odd rain shower, if you’re wearing shorts, you need to keep warm:

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The lava shield on the horizon is Mauna Ulu, built to 390 ft within five years. Upon the end if the eruption in 1974, everyone doubted that Kīlauea could top that, especially since the 1975 earthquake deflated the volcano. So Pu’u ‘O’o started in 1983 and hasn’t quit, so much for that…

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Some of the Mauna Ulu ‘brownie mix’ lava flows, from down on the coast.

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Compared to 1988, it’s a lot more of a trek to see the red rock now. Half-mile on a paved road, another quarter over new pāhoehoe, and then you’re on your own. While harder to get to, more people make the trip now, curiously. My daughters were relentless, wanting to go farther than what was reasonably safe! No tripod, still haven’t figured out time exposures on this new digicam, but one makes do…

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Monday was spent slummin’ around the hotel. Employee rates do not suck.

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Hualālai volcano, forgotten about with all the publicity Kīlauea and Mauna Loa get, but it erupted ~1800-1801 and the Kailua-Kona airport is built on the lava. The same eruption today would run into over $2b in damages, and it will erupt again:

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And in more cheery news…this lava is from near-prehistoric and 1859 eruptions of Mauna Loa. The Waikoloa hotels and shopping centers were built on these flows. You can’t even see Mauna Loa from the coast, that’s how large these eruptions were!

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South of Kailua-Kona, waiting for the flight to leave:

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I’m much better looking now:

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Mauna Loa slopes in South Kona. This is another place where you can’t actually see the rift zone from inhabited areas, another disaster waiting to happen. The last eruption in this area was in 1950, lava flowed fifteen miles in three hours! The tanks are the typical south Hawai`i method of obtaining water–catchment tanks from uphill runoff piped to houses.

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The third carry-on inspection at KOA:

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American gave us a 767 for the trip back, must have had something to do with the blizzard back east because the plane was only about 60% full. Nice plane, for what it was worth! (Glad to get the 2-across seating…) Marie Antoinette was the movie and I still can’t figure out what it was about. 82F leaving Kona, 2F upon arrival in Omaha.

From the “It’s A Nice Place To Visit” Department…

While less pressing this trip, getting from Kona to the volcano still means at least two hours on two-lane roads of varying quality. However at this point in my life, I wouldn’t stay in even the best hotel in Hilo. And $3.02 gas in Kailua isn’t that outta hand compared to $2.30 in Omaha.

There are parts of 19 on the way from Waikoloa to Waimea that look like US-136 in northern Missouri, and after leaving Waimea on the way to Hilo it resembles northern Georgia! Beautiful scenery, except hardly any places to pull off and take pictures…likewise, you can find countless pictures taken from every pulloff along the northern coast along 19, so I didn’t bother, just enjoyed the drive. Smelled so good–warm, humid, Mother Nature decomposing making that beautiful mildewy smell that reminded me of my years hitting libraries looking for old volcano books…

I knew from before that Puna was chock-full of hippies, but every state park along 137 was crammed full of druggies displaying something other than peace and love. God bless ’em… My favorite volcano watching spot, Hirano Store in Glenwood, has seen better days, losing it’s gas pumps probably due to EPA regs. And the view across to Pu`u `O`o is now blocked by trees. (Well, it has been eighteen years, Damon–how do your trees look?). Three pickups out front–three pitbulls in the beds–about three teeth on each of the drivers! (The state mammal is a pitbull. I saw one dog on my trip that wasn’t one.) Unless pitbull ownership is a compensating mechanism for shortcomings in the testosterone department (and I don’t know what weed does, so this may be more true than I thought) then there’s only one reason why your average squatter or renter needs such a dog. And this was the primary reason why one better think twice about doing some lava-flow geological research hiking–I don’t want to screw with some dealer’s stash in the middle of nowhere. If the pitbull don’t get you then the claymore mines will!

And what’s the deal with Reggae? I counted seven stations catering to dreadlocked white boys. I was looking for Country and damn glad to find it!

On balance, Hawai`i is a great place to visit–but too often and I would start to take its charms for granted while becoming bitter and cynical about what’s wrong about it! A place so beautiful should not be considered routine.

So after the Bataan Death March back home, I swore to myself that I was glad to be back home and off airplanes for a while. (After booking this itinerary, making sure we had plenty of connection time, wifey decided that next time she wanted to do a straight of a shot as possible! (Bangs head)).. So what’s waiting for me in my e-mail? Cousin getting married that fall at Saint Simons Island, GA! Well, there’s a Steak ‘n Shake in Brunswick…