A New Sign on an Old Trail

Greetings Fellow Travelers,

As I sat along the ol’ Lincoln Highway, Highway 50 nowadays in Nevada, I thought to myself what those pioneers of old must have thought when they encountered their very first automobile. What a sight it must have been when they saw those new machines as they traveled east to west along the newly discovered route of the Lincoln Highway, but was known to the local pioneers then as an old wagon trail.

While the industrial age prevailed on the Eastern seaboard of the States and things changed quickly, the rural Western states, such as Nevada, knew the old life and grew slowly until after the first World War. So I dedicate this drawing of an old sourdough and his donkey to the thoughts and ideals of the past and how it once was and never will be again.

best-burro

From the Road,

Lincoln Highway Johnny

Thunder Mountain

Greetings from the Open Road,

Hello again, it has been a while since we last had some correspondence. Today I bring you another illustration from the Lincoln Highway in Nevada.

Travelling what is known as Interstate 80 today in Nevada is a long and sightless journey.  So when you are lucky enough to run across an oddity, such as Thunder Mountain, it grabs your eye and your attention. I bring to you today a rough drawing, dedicated to a man’s beliefs and his talents.

thunder-mountain

Frank Van Zant, an eccentric character from Oklahoma, followed many paths of employment in his lifetime.  From preacher to aspiring sheriff, Mr. Van Zant found his Waterloo when his truck broke down in the middle of Nevada.  He took one look around and fell in love with this barren, wild area.  He was reborn on that day as Chief Rolling Mountain Thunder, which gave him a strong path to his self-declared heritage (in actuality, he was mostly Dutch).

 

Over the years, Mr. Van Zant constructed a roadside attraction which drew interest among travellers, and with his “heritage” and beliefs, he drew visitors far and wide who were in search of enlightenment and the Chief as a guru.  His fame lasted just over a decade, because times changed, so does public opinion.  Thunder Mountain fell into disrepair, with Mr. Van Zant falling into a deep depression.  Sadly, he was unable to recover from this state of mind and left his world of his own accord in 1989.

When travelling on Interstate 80, aka the Lincoln Highway, take a few minutes while you pass through Nevada and visit Mr. Van Zant’s, or Chief Rolling Mountain Thunder, monument. Maybe there you will also come across some ghosts of the past or gain some enlightenment.

If you would like to learn more about Thunder Mountain, please visit Thunder Mountain Website.

From the Open Road (with a little sand in my eyes),

Lincoln Highway Johnny

Bumpass Hell Pit

Greetings Fellow Travelers,

While on my travels of the Lincoln Highway, I have ventured off the beaten path many times to learn and see more about the history of our great nation’s past. These journeys have led me to learn about some of the characters who used the nation’s natural and man-made beauty to make a buck or two.

One such character was Kendall Vanhook Bumpass, a miner who worked in the Sierra Nevadas in the 1860s. Mr. Bumpass, discovering the beauty of a thermal area near Mt. Lassen in California, decided to try to turn a dollar by leading folks up to the area.

Bumpass Hell Pit

On a fateful trip with a newspaper reporter, the excitable Mr. Bumpass made a grave mistake. He stepped through the crust of a boiling mud pot, badly scalding his leg. The ghastly injury later caused him to loose that same leg.  Unfortunately Mr. Bumpass’ brief turn as a tour guide entrepreneur ended almost quickly as he began.

MT Lassen Bumpass HellToday this beautiful geothermal area is named after the poor miner who lost a limb, and a few dollars, to his own personal “hell.”

As I sat on top of the lookout above Bumpass Hell, the sun was fading into the trees and I decided to sketch the character of Mr. Bumpass in honor of his attempted exploits that ulimately ended in failure. Though Mr. Bumpass did fail in his venture, we must never forget that it was these types of characters who built the West and our past, creating the great nation we have today.

From the Road,

Lincoln Highway Johnny

To learn more about the area of Bumpass Hell, take a gander at Bumpass Hell.

 

Indian Scout

Greetings Fellow Travelers,

By now we know I am a fan of things on four wheels, but I have been known to cut down to just two.  I like anything of the bygone era, especially when related to transportation.

Today, I bring you a picture of a Native American who was a horse wrangler for Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show, sitting atop of an Indian motorcycle.  How do I know this?  My grandpa, who you all have met, knew him and worked with the man behind the inspiration as a wrangler as well.

Best Indian

Pat Fitzsimmons, to me, Grandpa Pat, was a shirttail relative of Buffalo Bill Cody. His sister was married to Ed Cody, Buffalo Bill’s half-brother.  Pat befriended Buffalo Bill, who asked him if he wanted to join up with the show and participate.  My Grandpa decided to help by wrangling the horses and livestock for the show.

As a young man, Grandpa traveled to many different states with the show, curious about new places and new experiences.  By this point in the story of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, the show stayed in the mainland of the good ol’ USA and did not travel abroad as it once had.  My grandpa told me of a story of a Native American who worked as a fellow wrangler.  As he had a form of dwarfism, he stayed behind the scenes.  Grandpa always said the Indian’s facial features were stoic and reminded him more of a Native American Chief than some of the other Indians who were in the show. This fellow told my grandpa that he was saving his hard earned money up to buy a motorcycle, an Indian Scout.  To this, my Grandpa replied earnestly that he figured he would have one someday soon.

Several years down the road, after Grandpa had left the show, and went back to farming and ranching in Vail, IA, he took a trip to Omaha with his cattle.  During this trip, he came upon a rare sight, an Indian riding an Indian motorcycle.  The man on the motorcycle recognized Pat and pulled alongside, stating triumphantly that he had bought his Scout.  They shared the rest of the afternoon, talking of old times and enjoying a few brews.

This picture is dedicated to Grandpa’s friend and his accomplished dream of an Indian Scout motorcycle.

From the Road,

Lincoln Highway Johnny

 

Hobart Brown and Kinetic Art

Greetings Fellow Travelers,

Hobart 2

I would like to introduce you to Mr. Hobart Brown, the Glorious Founder of the Kinetic Sculpture Races in Northern California (and beyond) which, to this day, starts in Arcata, CA and ends in Ferndale, CA.

Hobart Brown

I met Hobart back in the late 70s while I was studying at the College of the Redwoods in the Art Program.  Hobart had an art gallery in Ferndale, CA, full of his specialty, metal sculptures. His biggest activity was the Kinetic Sculpture Race, which involves large moving works of art that must be hand or food operated only and must be capable of going over a variety of terrain.

I befriended Hobart and went to many of his art openings on Friday nights over the course of two years.  He was kind enough to let college students bring one piece of art to showcase on those nights. These gatherings were often similar to costume parties or masquerades.

The last time I visited with Hobart, he was plagued as many of us are by the ailments of age, with severe rheumatoid arthritis affecting him.  However, he kept in good spirits, focusing on his work to keep him going. Unfortunately, the world lost Hobart in 2007.  However, his legacy lives on around the world through the many kinetic sculpture races that occur every year and through the artwork he leaves behind.

Hobart

Lincoln Highway Johnny presenting his artwork to a fellow Kinetic enthusiast at the Kinetic Sculpture Museum in Eureka, CA.

The drawing above is a tribute to Hobart and his creation, the Original People Powered Bus:

From the Road,

Lincoln Highway Johnny

If you would like to learn more about the museum, please visit Kinetic Sculpture Museum, and to learn more about the races Hobart inspired, please visit Kinetic Universe and Wiki of Kinetic Races.

Blue Ox Millworks

Greetings Fellow Travelers,

Hope the day is treating you well.  Below I have another Lincoln Highway Johnny original, a drawing of Eric Hollenbeck, owner, educator, and a bit more at Blue Ox Millworks in Eureka, California.  I have known Eric since my lumber days in the late 1970’s on the North Coast of California.

I could introduce and talk all about Eric and his work, but I think it may be better to come from him:

After the 1960s were over, a lot of “people of the 60s” moved into Northern California from the Bay Area and beyond.  Many of the folks were artisans, or just hippies who fancied themselves as some, and I have found that most of the people I have known from this area have a certain unique quality that breeds the mentality of North Coast of California. I’m not sure if it is the breaking waves on the coast or the tranquility of the Redwoods, but I do know one thing. The area breeds the artisan and the artisan creates the atmosphere of the area.

Blue Ox

My drawing honors Eric’s creation, a wooden bus he crafted himself.  He used to drive it through Rhododendron Parade in Eureka, CA.  The bus recedes at the Blue Ox Millworks today.  This drawing is a tribute to Eric, his bus creation, and all his many talents he continuously gives to the community.

Eric and Blue Ox

Above is a picture with Eric Hollenbeck and myself, Vagabond Road Artist Lincoln Highway Johnny.  Eric is holding the drawing above, which couldn’t quite stand up to the rare North Coast sunlight. Until next time, Fellow Travelers.

From the Road,

Lincoln Highway Johnny

If you would like to learn more about Eric and his work and his company, please visit Blue Ox Millworks – Eureka, CA.

A Journey into a Bullet-Ridden Past

Greetings from the open road.  Today I bring to you a relic from the bygone days of the Lincoln Highway in Nevada.

Now you may be wondering, why did ol’ Johnny post some pictures of a piece of cement?  I asked myself what this was back when I found it in 1978, on a unique road trip from Eureka, CA to Green River, WY.  This trip was to reenact the route of the early day fur traders who took this route on horses, which my buddy Wayne and I did in 1978.  This journey took us three and a half weeks just going the one direction, with a little “help” from the BLM (Bureau of Land Management in Salt Lake City).

This relic was found in a low-lying area, in between Ely and Eureka, Nevada on Highway 50.  We were travelling on the north side of the current US 50, on what seemed to be an old trail or maybe a remnant of the old Lincoln Highway. We stopped for the night, made camp, and fed and watered the horses and mule. After the animals were taken care of, I journeyed out to look for dried sagebrush to make a fire for the night.

I came upon this relic on my search for fire fuel.  I showed it to my buddy, Wayne, and we were intrigued by the bullets, the lead that was seemingly shot into it.  The stone itself seemed to be a large piece of soapstone, which is not common in Nevada. I stashed the relic alongside our camp to come back and get it at a later time.

After the rendezvous in Green River, Wyoming was over, and we sold away our transportation, I returned to my hiding spot and retrieved the relic.  Now, my mission was to find out what secrets this stone held.  I talked to several old timers in that area, from Ely and Eureka, to see if they had any input to what I had in my hand.

The only story I could get was… During the early days of travel, there was a lack of one distinct thing: firewood.  If the trail needed to be marked, journeymen would use stone structures to warn people of washouts and other road hazards.  If they were to use wooden road marks, travelers would cut them apart and use them for firewood, as that is what they needed, thus endangering fellow travelers along the way.  The old timers believed that this apparent piece of a road marker was most likely broken off from a taller structure.  One old timer told me he faintly remembered stones like this lining washes next to the road.

I asked about the bullets, which seem to be .32-.36 caliber lead, and learned it may have been a few different things, from seedy characters who passed by over the years or maybe a cowboy, practicing his target shooting.  Whatever the story of the bullets really is, it truly is a neat piece of Lincoln Highway history.

From the Road,

Lincoln Highway Johnny

Vote for the B.E.E.R party today!

vildaWith it being the season of blowhards and wannabes contending to change America, here is the real candidate for the job!  Les Vilda, a historical educator from Wilber, Nebraska, is the candidate for the B.E.E.R, Biologically Engineered Experimental Reindeer…or whatever, party. If he is elected, he will rid this country of its worst enemy, skunked beer.

If any of you have the opportunity, check him out on YouTube or at his website, Have Donkey, Will Travel

You go, Les!  (a.k.a. Dr. Rabbi).

From the Road,

Lincoln Highway Johnny

Hot Rod Art

Greetings from your Vagabond Road Artist, Lincoln Highway Johnny.  I figured it was about time to join the technological world and get my art out of the house and onto the road.

As I said in my “About,” my style was inspired by the original Big Daddy Ed Roth, which is what you will see on here. Here is one of my first drawings in his style.

The Step-Down Hudson, from 1948-1954, had a unique design which made it easier in turns, as it had center-line steering, which was a state-of-the-art design for that time.  It’s powerhouse was a 308, Twin-H Power, Flathead 6 engine. On the dirt tracks of America, the only other car that even had a chance to keep up was the Oldsmobile 88.  The Hudson brand won many a race on the early dirt tracks, and this drawing is dedicated to that wonderful machine.

hudsons racer

I hope you enjoy and come on back for more.

From the Road,

Lincoln Highway Johnny