Creative Characters and Century Old Automobiles – The 2019 Hudson International Meet

Greetings Fellow Travelers,

A few weekends ago, I found my way to Bettendorf, Iowa with a close friend of mine and fellow traveler of the Open Road, Alan, to take in the event that is known as the Hudson International Meet. While I was only able to make two days of this event, which was held this year at the same time as the yearly function of the regional club of Hudson enthusiasts, the Big Country, I was able to take in many of the sights, the sounds, and the happenings of the Internationals. As I have been a frequent visitor of this event over the years, I was pleased to see many old friends and spend some time catching up. As with every journey, I was also lucky enough to encounter some new characters along the way and learn some of their particular stories.

This year was much like many of the ones previous, with quite the variety of events taking place over the course of the two days I was lucky enough to have in Bettendorf, which is located along the Mississippi River in Eastern Iowa. After having quite a few days of rain, it was a welcome sight to see the sun shining down, hot and bright, on the event. Every year at the Hudson Internationals, the H-E-T (Hudson Essex Terraplane) Club features a certain car model. This year, the spotlight was shined on the Essex, which I was happy to see a few of about the grounds.

As that first day went on, I found myself under the shade of an old oak tree to escape the heat. Taking a seat, I found myself in front of a 1919 Essex Roadster. As the sun was not going anywhere this day, I put to paper this automobile, hardly believing that it was 100 years old. It is an odd feeling to describe any auto on the road now at that age, as it does not seem all that long ago that you could not find one such antique that could be called a century old.

My rendition of the 1919 Essex Roadster

After leaving my shady spot, I found my way over to the swap meet before the evening’s activities were set to begin. As luck would have it, I found a couple more antique license plates to add to my collection, both originating from the East Coast – Massachusetts and New York. After loading up these finds, it was time to find my way to the evening events located nearby. As I journeyed on, many folks were hitting the parking lot to enjoy the cooler temperatures and enjoy the many fine models of antique automobiles on display. I must say, as I took in these sights, that the Hudsons of all varieties do have a style of beauty that is exciting and a joy to draw.

There were two activities that took place inside the Isles Casino Conference Center, where the Internationals were being held. The first event on that Friday evening was always one of a kind, as it was the Costume Contest/Fashion Show. It is quite the sight to see what folks come up with each year. This year those who participated dressed up as Hudson mechanics from the bygone era. There were quite a few characters who created their own interpretations of the theme and paraded across the stage for all to see.

There was one such character who stood out among the rest. A fellow by the name of Chuck, who hailed from Iowa, dressed himself as a mechanic, with his wife coming along, dressed as his service manager or his boss. As they entered, the room came alive with laughter, as his “boss” wife was leading Chuck around the room by his ear. Chuck had no choice but to go where his boss led him, as he played up the scene by wincing and acting like a man, or a mechanic, being led straight to the doghouse. One of the fellows near me added to the commentary of the scene by stating she must have caught him trying to change “a muffler bearing,” which for those who are not as versed in the automobile world, is not a part that exists. Such a scene deserved to be remembered, so I did a quick illustration of Chuck and his Boss.

No more “muffler bearings” for Chuck to change in the doghouse

The second activity in the Conference Center was the auction for Hudson memorabilia and beyond. I must say that if my pockets stretched a bit further, I would have had plenty of items coming back to Boom Town with me. However, since I did not want to end up like Chuck, I figured it was in my best interest to sit back, watch, and listen as these antiques found a new home.

Speaking of Chuck, he must have had some sense to him after all. Good ol’ Chuck, with his poor stretched ear, must have figured a way out of the doghouse as he came to bid that day. As I watched block after block come up and be sold to a deserving character, I heard Chuck come forward with the winning bid on quite the beautiful automobile to behold. His ticket out of the doghouse was an original 1957 Hudson 4-Door, or what some of us in the know call the “Hash.” Back in 1956, Hudson went in with Nash and this beauty came about, nickname and all. I could not let this moment, of Chuck and his Hash, go without a drawing to memorialize one interesting character making his triumphant return.

Saturday brought the 2019 Hudson International Meet to a close. I visited once more with many an old friend, bidding a fond journey down the road until we might cross paths again. New characters I had met also came along to give their best as I watched the parking lot grow empty as the fine automobiles found their way to trailer and to the Open Road. Before all had departed, I had the good fortune to get in a drawing of a real rare beauty, a Hudson Jet Convertible. It is said that this rarity was the only one to have ever been created. A fellow from Indiana brought this unique antique to the meet and I am grateful that he was able to bring it along for all of us to have the opportunity to see such a rare delight.

Truly One of a Kind

As I look back on my weekend filled with all things Hudson Essex Terraplane, I find myself quite pleased to have had the opportunity to visit with old characters from journeys before and to have met so many new folks at such an event. I must say that it still holds true that I have yet to meet a Hudson owner who I have not liked. The automobiles are truly a sight to behold, but the characters who own and love these antiques are equally a grand part of each journey I make along the Open Road. I hope you remember, my fellow travelers, to always make each journey its own and to live life, and meet plenty of interesting characters, by taking your own trip out on the Open Road.

From the Open Road, 

Lincoln Highway Johnny

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Reclaiming the Past from the Wild – The Black and Orange Garage Camp Cabins

Greetings Fellow Travelers,

Over the years, I have seen many a place along the Lincoln Highway that has been left to the wilds that surround it. From the concrete bridges that spanned the shallow creeks of the countryside to the many motels and cabins where weary travelers found a place to rest for the night, there is no structure built by man that is secured against the passage of time once it has been left to its own fate.

As I made my way across the great state of Wyoming many a year ago, I happened upon some old cabins next to Fort Bridger. As I observed the faded orange wooden siding and the sloping rooftops, I felt that twinge of sadness I so often find when I see these once loved places falling into disrepair. As I left to go on to the historic Fort Bridger itself, I made sure to mark the location so I could visit these former rest spots once again. Every time I found myself in that area of the Great Road, I visited these cabins and wished that there would be some character to come along and restore the buildings and grounds before nature had completely reclaimed the territory.

It was much to my delight to learn that back in 2009, just a character came along. These cabins, named the Black and Orange Garage Camp Cabins, were being restored to their former glory by the Wyoming Department of State Parks and Cultural Resources, with a member of Lincoln Highway Association, Todd Thibodeau, being the force of change for these historic furnishings. The restoration itself was done beautifully, as the crew behind the work was able to use at least ninety percent of the original materials and structures.

The structures themselves look much like they originally did when a traveler along the Lincoln Highway would come to stay the night, with each cabin featuring its own garage for those early automobiles. This was quite the feature for the time when these cabins were in their heydays from the early 1920s until 1936, when the Great Depression found its way down the road to this area of the country. While these restored cabins are not open for a current traveler to rest his tired bones from the road, they are open for any character who wishes to take a trip back in time to see how the accommodations of the past compare to those of today.

On a side note, I did see a reproduced concrete Lincoln Highway marker along the road there by the cabins some years ago. As it often happens, the featured medallion with the face of the president the road is named after was missing. I have not yet had my own opportunity to venture back to see the restored cabins in their current state, but I do hope that the missing medallion has also been restored to its home.

A glimpse back in time to how the Black and Orange Garage Camp Cabins looked in their prime.
Artwork created for the upcoming Lincoln Highway Association 2019 Conference
in Rock Springs, Wyoming.

If you find yourself journeying along the Lincoln Highway through western Wyoming, take a moment and visit the Black and Orange Garage Camp Cabins and the grounds of Fort Bridger itself. As you walk through those restored beauties, think back to the not too distant past when the wilds had reclaimed this area for its own. I can only hope that other historic sites will be as fortunate as this and will find some character to come along and bring the past back to life.

From the Open Road, 

Lincoln Highway Johnny

Torque Fest 2017

Greetings Fellow Travelers,

The open road has been a bumpy one of late, which delayed some of my travels.  But I have returned and would like to talk about an “Alternative Style” car show I visited over the last weekend.

Near the Mississippi River in the Eastern Iowa town of Dubuque, Torque Fest happens every year.  I have been attending this event every year since its inception, where it started in Farley, IA and moved around until it landed finally in Dubuque.  Torque Fest is a celebration of the early creation of the American Hot Rod and all the culture that comes with it. While traversing the grounds, Bettys are plenty with rock-a-billy setting the soundtrack to the day.  The word of event is No-Billet, meaning no fancy bells and whistles.

john wells touqe festMost of the proceeds of the event go to a medical fund called Helping Hannah, who is the daughter of the founder, Mr. John Wells.  Mr. Wells, the featured man in my drawing today, founded this fest.  When I first met him, he was a purveyor of classic car films, using those funds to help his daughter.  Now he has graduated to hosting Torque Fest once a year and Iron Invasion, a car show much the same as this event, in Woolstock, IL.

This show has a flavor for all tastes, with old time races ranging from automobiles to motorcycles to chain races, to a swap meet where you can find treasures from a bygone era.  Every year in the early days of May, Torque Fest roars and rocks into Iowa, so if you should ever find yourself on the ol’ Mississippi during that time of the year, stop by and find out what this celebration of the past can give to you.

So thank you, Mr. John Wells for another successful celebration.  The cars and the Bettys were a sight for sore eyes, with the weather and the soundtrack setting the atmosphere needed to celebrate the contraptions inspired by the past.

From the Open Road,

Lincoln Highway Johnny

To learn more about Torque Fest, visit Vintage Torque Fest.

 

 

 

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

 

It Runs in the Family

Greetings, one more time today, Fellow Travelers,

Lincoln Hwy Near Vail IA

The picture above was taken around 1913 near Vail, IA.  The fellow standing tall in the air, on top of his road grader, is none other than my own grandpa, Pat Fitzsimmons.  Pat and his crew of cousins began carving out and smoothing the roadway for the Lincoln Highway, starting their section in Missouri Valley, IA, next to the Missouri River, and working their way to Vail, IA.

Missouri Valley to Vail

 

Now, as the Google Maps image shows, it would take an average person about 17 hours just to walk that distance.  If you add in horses, grading the road, and the Iowa summer heat, this would have taken quite some time over the years.

As you can see, the Lincoln Highway runs in my blood from the beginnings of this great road and will continue to be reflected in my art and my narratives for many years to come.

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

Boone County Historical Center

collapse 2

Hello fellow travellers,

A couple days ago, on May 29th, a small tragedy occurred.  The fascade of the Boone County Historical Center collapsed, as was predicted by contractors for some time before.  The building was built in 1907 and was scheduled for masonry work mid-June, but apparently the rough Iowa winter was a bit too much for the 109 year old building.

Collapse 1

Thankfully no one was injured in the collapse, but one of our beloved relics was a casualty.  Sitting in front of the Center was an original Lincoln Highway marker, as you can see in the photo above.  The front right corner has been chipped off among the other destruction.

This particular marker was found by a good ol’ friend of the road, Ty Cassetti, just north of Boone.  Just like most of the relics, it was a buried treasure, lost in the past.  Once rescued, it was donated to the Boone County Historical Society to mark the Lincoln Highway’s heritage, as it runs through Boone.

Now, the Executive Director of the Historical Society has confirmed that the marker will be repaired along with the building, but it does leave us to question a few things. How do we protect our relics from the wear-and-tear that come with the territory in this here great nation of ours?  How do we get young people nowadays to sit up and pay attention to what’s going on around them?  All I know for sure is that we have to keep on going down this wide road.

From the Road,

Lincoln Highway Johnny

If you are interested in donating toward the rebuild of the Boone County Historical Center, please visit Boone History Center Urgent Relief.

Iowa Lincoln Highway Artist In Residence

Greetings fellow travelers.  You have all seen my Hot Rod Art style, but I wanted to give you a taste of something a little different.  As the Artist-in-Residence for the Iowa Lincoln Highway Association, I have the pleasure of creating drawings of historical sites along the landscape of the Iowa Lincoln Highway.  Most all of these drawings are taken from the early days of the Lincoln Highway.

Now think back with me to what folks experienced driving back around 1913.  These folks drove the Model-T Ford, a novelty to the common man, as was the new idea of a road trip.  The road trip caught on as a new pass-time across the nation as more people left their homes to experience new sights.  Unfortunately, the road system was not ready for this new trend and was better for the horse and buggy, not the automobile.  Long distance automobile travel was something new, as before, most had been done on the railroad lines.

Youngville Station

Youngville Station was a one-stop. A one-stop was a combination diner, hotel, and gas station all in one. The original site of the Youngville Station sits several miles west of Cedar Rapids, Iowa.  Youngville offered tourist cabins for rest at $1 per night and a cafe for eating, if you could afford a home cooked meal. If not, the cabins also provided a campsite for your dining needs. It also offered a mechanic on duty and two, state-of-the-art, visible gas pumps.

Places like Youngville usually grew up around the crossroads, spread just far enough apart so that they would bring commerce to each station and not compete with one another.

Today this site is a restored interpretive site for the Lincoln Highway in Iowa.  If you happen by Cedar Rapids, continue on and take in the wonderful history of the Youngville Station and maybe taste a little of the life folks lived many years ago.