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Mid-West Road Trip!

Peoria, Illinois

"Will it play in Peoria?!?"

1000 miles west of New York City! 

drove at high speed here to photograph a friend’s wedding, in the Hall Of The Grand Army Of The Republic. You had to be a Union veteran to be a member, and the last one here was gone by 1945. So these days they preserve cannon balls stuck in pieces of trees and brick, and portraits of Lincoln, Grant, obscure generals hang on the walls, and light streams in through ornate Edwardian stained glass. 

yesterday stopped off in Brook Park, Ohio, home base of the Marine battalion that just lost 20+ dead in Iraq. a odd memorial has collected on the fence, flowers, photos, a Purple Heart medal, american flags, GI Joe action figures, recruiting posters, votive candles, and hand-written notes. a steady stream of people came and went, to leave a momento or to contemplate. tyler drove up in a rented red ford mustang, and we ate a cherry pie from the Wonder Bread outlet store next door.

corn fields, sci-fi wind mills, the pungent stench of summer livestock, on two-lane US route 24. a state trooper in Indiana pulled me over as i was passing everything on the road. one word query from him: "Speeding?" no point denying anything, so i replied, "yeah, i was going 65 or 70" (in a 35 or 45 zone)….so he let me off with a warning. no ticket. maybe the "God Bless America" bumper sticker works, after all!

Dinner last night at a Mr. Weenie: Breaded Mac And Cheese. What do you think this is?

It is globs of macaroni and cheese dipped in batter, and deep fried, like a chicken mcNugget. except that inside it is macaroni and cheese and not chicken. Amazing. I think they have stuff like this in Amsterdam.

all right, that’s enough from Peoria. next stop: THE RUINS OF DETROIT

by [a former member] at 2005-08-06 23:13:58 UTC (ed. Mar 12 2008 ) Peoria, Illinois , United States | Bookmark | | Report spam→

Hey Alan just a heads up. Get a map of Detroit 1st thing. Many freeways are being intermittently closed and you will have to take surface streets. Also Michigan Avenue is really torn up so that is not a good alternate for I94. Don’t forget to cuise Grand River and Gratiot, Grand Blvd is a nice trip too, and of course Woodward. BE CAREFUL. Don’t make any rude gestures(guns) and look both ways at ALL intersections(crack) green light or not.

by [former member] | 07 Aug 2005 11:08 | Brooklyn, United States | | Report spam→
Ah!  more posts from Alan on the road in America.  Excellent. I am looking forward to reading the ensuing installments.

by Jon Anderson | 07 Aug 2005 11:08 | St Domingo, Dominican Republic | | Report spam→
I want to do one of those road trips and photograph Americana!!!!Chris Milian

by Chris Milian | 08 Aug 2005 07:08 | Albany NY, United States | | Report spam→
Nicole’s has family in detroit. One cousin is a police officer. Let me know if you want to get in touch with them.

by Aaron Lee Fineman | 08 Aug 2005 16:08 | Brooklyn, NY, United States | | Report spam→
I was traveling old rt 20 here in ny and it seemed like a ghost  road.Old little cabins and barns and hotels falling down scattered the roadwy. Ever since they put the thruway  in
these once popular highways are not used much anymore. Chris Milian

by Chris Milian | 08 Aug 2005 16:08 | Albany NY, United States | | Report spam→
Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan:

Left Peoria with my friends Clark and Aimee — Clark is a would-be entrepeneur of wind — so we visited the wind farm at Mendota, Illinois. THIS IS THE FUTURE! antique little-house-on-the-praire buildings dwarfed by gigantic windmills lazily twirling in the almost dead air. buzz of insects, and above, white propeller blades, each one big enough to cut a brooklyn brownstone in half. more than sixty of these modern, spanish built, windmills cover several square miles of farmland. I felt a bit like Don Quixote.

Then said good-bye on a lonely intersection, their car off towards Chicago, and on the spur of the moment I decided to take the long road around the upper peninsula of michigan to Detroit, through wisconsin. very hot, but not humid at all. car getting almost 30 miles to the gallon, which makes all the difference with prices hitting $2.80 a pop.

Pulled over again in Wisconsin, and again let off the hook with a warning. It must be my good looks and suave charm that saves me. But then was woken up at 1 am while in a campground, the ranger had his flashlight in my face and for a moment i thought that he would put me in an orange jumpsuit and on a video (bad dreams), he snidely wrote out, yes, another warning, to make sure that i would pay in the morning. what did he think i was going to do, sneak out at 5 am? but in fact, it would have been worth it, because they charged me $20 the next day. for sleeping in the car and using their shower. bad news, wisconsin.

stopped at the PESHTIGO FIRE MUSEUM. where said town, on the VERY SAME DAY as the Great Chicago Fire of eighteen-seventy-something, was destroyed in a gigantic forest fire that killed a thousand people. Cheerful signs point the way to the “MASS GRAVE.” the museum itself is in an old church, the altar being replaced by a triptych mural of the town Before, During, and After the Fire. The usual collection of old bridal dresses, old typewriters, old news clippings, and in this case, lots of blackened burnt pieces of something that are labelled, “Burnt Bible,” “Burnt Blueberries,” “Piece Of A Burnt Barn” and so on.

i was expecting a lot of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. It has a mythical ring to me, you know, like how “East Pakistan” became “Bangladesh” or in East Malaysia there are still head-hunters, or how Staten Island is part of yet not New York. I imagined primeval forests and fearsome loggers looking like Bosnian Serbs, bristling with beards and automatic weapons, weird wildlife, and above all, lonesone emptiness.

No such luck! It is RV and camper country. wholesome families everywhere. looking at me oddly. traffic jams on Rte. 2. Clouds of mosquitos. So I sped through and finally have reached St. Ignace, the northern side of the Straits Of Makinaw. Will visit roadside attractions and cross the great bridge tomorrow.

Aaron, email me with the info. Maya, just tried to call you. Call me 917 309-8866. Ben, it sounds like you are describing Baghdad or the checkpoints of Gaza and the West Bank, not Detroit!!!

by [former member] | 08 Aug 2005 19:08 | Peoria, Illinois, United States | | Report spam→
Oh gimme a break, there aren’t as yet any reported RPG or roadside bomb atacks. I’m serious about the look both ways thing. As for rude gestures, well ya pays yer money and ya takes yer chances. Seriously, look both ways.

by [former member] | 08 Aug 2005 20:08 | Brooklyn, United States | | Report spam→
Outside Flint, Michigan

Was on Interstate 75, on the mobile phone with a friend in New York, and she vectored me into a Starbuck’s, here on the strip mall outskirts of Flint, Michigan, so I could check email, listen to Bob Dylan over the loudspeakers, and all of a sudden be in the ultra-post-modern world of cappucino and espresso again.

The biggest difference in making these road-trips now is the almost ubiquitous cell phone covergage; most of the interstates and even large swaths of the countryside are all well covered. so i cruise along, chat on the phone, and glance at the map. maybe it was better and more focused to be truly alone; but the temptation to talk is irresistable.

Woke up this morning to fog over the Mackinac Straits and lazily wandered through the tourist town of St. Ignace. And I found what I was looking for, the “Castle Rock,” a rock formation that juts up 200 feet above the forest, a classic “roadside attraction.” I was there 19 years ago, and remember the impressive view of the seemingly endless Upper Peninsula woods, the vaguely 1950s gift shop reminiscent of a scene from Nabokov’s “Lolita,” the enormous statues of Paul Bunyan and the ox Babe.

A very strange and melancholy feeling, to be back at a cheesy tourist spot, almost twenty years later. The view this time, still pretty, was not nearly as stark and infinite as I remembered. Perhaps the world truly has gotten smaller, as well as my brain getting older. In the shop, a teenage girl with braces (why do all these girls have braces, and not the boys?) sold me some postcards and, like an old man, I thought as I turned away that she had not yet been born the last time that I was there. Trite. Meaningless. Time to move on.

So I crossed the great bridge, the Mackinac Bridge, which connects the Upper and Lower sections of Michigan. Yeah, they fought over this crossing in the French-and-Indian War, and the American Revolution, and the War of 1812. Just like Constantinople, a few meters of water separating Europe and Asia. Or, not really.

Had a little race down the highway, a white Chrysler driven by a girl wearing sunglasses came in right behind me as I was passing some slow SUV, and for the next hundred miles we went neck to neck at between 80 and 95 miles an hour. luckily no state troopers to keep score, and finally I ran out of gas, almost.

Central Michigan has a lot of trees. I visited the site of a CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) camp where the plaques explained how the New Deal re-forested what had been a land made barren by logging.

by [former member] | 09 Aug 2005 15:08 (ed. Aug 9 2005) | Straits Of Mackinac, Michigan, United States | | Report spam→
don’t you remember easy rider alan?

ps. nicole’s friends and rest of family live in the windy city.
call me on my cell if you want to get in touch with someone there.


how far ya headed?

by Aaron Lee Fineman | 09 Aug 2005 15:08 | Brooklyn, NY, United States | | Report spam→
don’t you remember easy rider alan?

ps. nicole’s friends and rest of family live in the windy city.
call me on my cell if you want to get in touch with someone there.


how far ya headed?

by Aaron Lee Fineman | 09 Aug 2005 15:08 | Brooklyn, NY, United States | | Report spam→
much thanks to Aaron for hooking me up with the Detroit Police:

I walked into the 5th Precinct in the deep east side of Detroit, and within five minutes was cruising with Officer Randolph. However, Detroit’s police cars are in worse shape than the average Humvee in Baghdad, so we had to trade in the first cruiser for another after mechanical trouble. At no point did their computers seem to work, either. There are only 1700 cops for a city of almost a million people. Between the three shifts, weekends, sick days, vacations, and other assignments, that means there are only 300 or so cops on the job at any given time. and they are all pretty tired from having to work second jobs to make ends meet.

The highlight of my embed was watching them arrest a man for stealing screen doors off of people’s houses. That’s right, screen doors. First he blamed it on his brother, and then said brother showed up and was trying to make excuses for him until he realized that he was being scape-goated. at which point he told the police to take the guy away. also there was a girlfriend pretending to be wife of same brother, until actual wife showed up. officer randolph was very amused at his day’s work, compared to a triple homicide by gunfire, and a fatal stabbing in a school, that were some of his other recent cases.

Gated communities with manicured lawns stand side by side with dilapidated neighborhoods, trash litters the parks, downtown is still a ghost town with abandoned skyscrapers and pot-holed streets. Affluent Windsor, Canada, is a few hundred yards across the river. Ben Hoy can give the better and more accurate description, but I don’t think it would be wrong to consider Detroit absolutely the most destroyed and decrepit major city in the United States. There once was a Chinatown of sorts, but now all that’s left is a boarded up restaurant with an old neon sign, “Chung’s.”

by [former member] | 14 Aug 2005 23:08 | Straits Of Mackinac, Michigan, United States | | Report spam→
Alan: your journey-words are evocative, fascinating. I know I’m not alone in thinking aloud,“…looking forward to having the opportunity to view the photos!” Enjoy the rest of the trip & glad we virtually can too; vicariously.

by Didi S. Gilson | 15 Aug 2005 00:08 | New South Wales, Australia | | Report spam→
300! shit I thought it was 400! I hope you’re not wasting too much time at red lights. If you want some real fun go cruise the Lodge at about 4am at 100 miles an hour but shift into N if the motor blows and roll up the nearest ramp. Don’t hang out down there waiting for help.

by [former member] | 15 Aug 2005 05:08 | Brooklyn, United States | | Report spam→
Glad to hear that you had an interesting time with my cuz.
Can’t wait to see the pix.
Hope you are using your leica.

by Aaron Lee Fineman | 15 Aug 2005 06:08 | Brooklyn, NY, United States | | Report spam→
OHIO STATE FAIR: Columbus, Ohio

They say that this is the largest state fair in the USA but what struck this road weary photographer was, the ABSOLUTE LACK OF BEER at said venue. A helicopter giving rides buzzed overhead every three minutes, a thousand pound pig (named, “THE ASSASIN”) slept peacefully in his pen, I ate a funnel cake with some friends that I rendezvoused with (they were coming from Mississippi) and we tried our luck shooting out red paper stars with air rifles. But, NO BEER. NO ALCOHOL, I didn’t realize that Ohio has not yet repealed Prohibition. The charms of children with “LOST CHILD” tags tied to their wrists, the sight of people coming down a gigantic slide in burlap sacks, the protection of an Ohio state trooper with TWO automatic pistols on his belt, all this left us thirsty and vaguely depressed, so we fled to a downtown bar and slowly recovered.

NEW YORK: Steven Vincent’s Funeral

I rushed back to New York on the spur of the moment, through the Ohio and Pennsylvania night, to go to Steven Vincent’s funeral which filled an East Village church with hundreds of mourners. At the end of the service, a tremendous round of applause filled the hall. I felt it was the right thing to do, having known him briefly, but intensely, in Iraq only two short months ago. I hope that it was good for his family that someone who had spent time with him in Basra came. We buried him in Greenwood Cemetary in Brooklyn, probably our most beautiful cemetary here.

But I didn’t want to end my road-trip prematurely, so I got back on the road, headed west again, back to Ohio.

by [former member] | 19 Aug 2005 20:08 (ed. Aug 19 2005) | Pittsburgh, PA, United States | | Report spam→
It must be said that the 1991 Toyota Camry is performing nicely. 169000 miles and counting. it begins to shake a bit at 100 mph, but anything under that is a smooth ride. Gas prices, however, are escalating steeply from one day to the next on this trip. I realize that the car is truly a lot more fuel efficient at 60 mph than at 90. at least 15% more mileage, in fact, while going slower. A painful choice!

I was supposed to meet another friend for another leg of the journey, in Cleveland, Ohio, but exhaustion finally overcame me and I fell asleep in a Youngstown, Ohio, parking lot while she hitched a ride from the airport with a Pakistani indie rocker. Alana knocked on my car window, and she took over the driving. For the first time in two weeks I get to be the passenger.

We meandered down to East Liverpool, Ohio, on the foggy and rain-soaked banks of the Ohio River. I seem to recall that there was a big battle here in the 1980s over the construction of an incinerator or some such environmental monstrosity, and the town has the battered rust belt appearance so common through this part of the world. The only attraction, a Museum of Ceramics, was closed, perhaps indefinitely.


by [former member] | 20 Aug 2005 06:08 | Pittsburgh, PA, United States | | Report spam→
So, the only thing that can make Alan slow down is fuel efficiency?

by Aaron Lee Fineman | 20 Aug 2005 10:08 | Brooklyn, NY, United States | | Report spam→
My last road trip was in a 4 speed 1974 Datsun Z. This car sings at 95 mph, 18mpg at 95. and if yours has the back seats these can double as a six pack cooler for those long days of cruising the beaches.

by [former member] | 21 Aug 2005 07:08 | Brooklyn, United States | | Report spam→
Here are the facts: at 60 mph or so, my 12 gallon tank can sometimes eke out as many as 350 miles. That’s 29 mpg, not bad for a 15 year old car. At 85 – 100 mph, which, let’s just all admit it, is the way to go, that falls to around 270 miles, or 22 mpg, which is actually a 25% reduction in fuel efficiency. Over the course of 4000 miles, which is approximately how much I’ve driven this month, that a difference of 45 gallons of gas, or $120, at $2.75 a gallon. Basically that’s two nights in a nice Holiday Inn somewhere that I could have stayed, had I taken it easier. There you go.

PITTSBURGH, PA, is, in this photographer’s humble opinion, a totally dead town. Sidewalks rolled up at 5 pm. Beautiful Art Deco buildings and lots of bridges. We wandered to the top of the Cathedral Of Learning, an Ayn Rand skyscraper at the University of Pittsburgh. 50 Cent and G Unit were in town and Alana was a bit disappointed that we didn’t go. Instead we ate in an old diner, cruised around the bad part of town on the plateau above downtown, and drank a bit and played darts. A motorcycle club in a big empty parking lot entertained us with loud noises and riding on one wheel, that kind of thing. Mostly just slept, yes, in a Holiday Inn.

ROUTE 30 winds gently east through Pennsylvania and is in fact a nice two-laner of the old school. We explored an abandoned farmhouse, and I was about to salvage (loot) an ancient rusting lock off of a crumbling wood door, but Alana felt some bad vibrations in the place and persuaded me to leave it untouched. Purely by chance, we came across the Flight 93 Temporary Memorial in Shanksville, in a big open field with an official National Park Service guide who explained to us the last chart of the flight path on the morning of 9/11, and showed us the mound next to the woods where the plane came down and exploded. Two enormous abandoned cranes stand above the site, as it had been a strip mine until the ’90s. A gigantic pile of junked and wrecked soda vending machines at a scrap metal yard marks the road to the site.

Just for the fun of it, I saw a “runaway truck ramp” and decided to test it out. I gunned the engine and charged up, pretending to be an eighteen-wheeler completely out of control. I actually got about three quarters of the way up until I realized that we were digging ourselves into several feet of soft gravel. That’s how it works, like driving into mud or swamp. The front of the car was half buried into the ground, and there was no way to get out! My momentary pleasure was replaced by sheepish shame as Alana looked at me the way a mother looks at a particularly and maliciously misbehaved little boy. All attempts to dig it out, to reverse, or to push ended in failure. I was starting to rehearse stories to the state police (“I took a wrong turn…I thought it was the road to Wal-Mart…”) when a car pulled up, driven by a bemused local gentleman and his wife. He accepted my admission that I wanted to see “if these ramps work, you know,” and together pushing and Alana delicately working the reverse gear we got it back down the hill. I am very indebted to this good Samaritan who advised me that I “could just be on my way now and not try any more tricks like that, you hear?”


by [former member] | 21 Aug 2005 12:08 (ed. Aug 21 2005) | Pittsburgh, PA, United States | | Report spam→

A quick glance at various historical markers and maps showed that, as we were driving east on Route 30 towards Gettysburg, we were in fact retracing the path of Robert E. Lee’s Army Of Northern Virginia on their march towards the decisive moment, during those fateful days of late June, 1863. So in that spirit we camped as the sun set, about fifteen miles short, in order to arrive at first light…

…which didn’t quite work out that hard core, we slept late and lazily arrived at a “visitor center” to listen to a lady volunteer describe how nobody was sure exactly where Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address except that it was in the cemetary. Then we started the “auto tour” which is 18 miles long, you drive from one position to another.

It’s all very pretty, Pennsylvania classic American countryside, and hard to imagine the blood and carnage. Really all you see are the thousands of monuments, to individuals, to regiments, to brigades, each one explaining in exhaustive detail how “on this spot the men of the 3rd North Carolina ate lunch, and drank tea, and were then wiped out.” Going up on Little Round Top which rises above the field, they explain how the Union snipers mowed down wave after wave of Southern infantry. There is a statue there of a Union officer (killed in action, of course) with a shiny bronze nose, because apparently it is good luck to rub it. So we did.

the oddest monument is the “copse of trees” which they call the “HIGH WATER MARK OF THE CONFEDERACY,” the deepest point of penetration by Pickett’s Charge into the Union lines, and where they were stopped. A bus filled with US Army officers in uniform pulled up, and we took advantage of the military guide, who explained what happened there in the language of modern war: envelopment, obliques, casualty rates of junior officers, and so on. The “copse of trees” is completely encircled by a black, haunting fence.

Three hours later we were back in New York.

by [former member] | 22 Aug 2005 15:08 | New York, NY, United States | | Report spam→

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Jon Anderson, Photographer & Writer Jon Anderson
Photographer & Writer
Ocala Florida , United States
Chris Milian, Photographer/Aerial,All Chris Milian
(albany ny aerial photographer )
Albany Schenectady Troy Ny , United States
Aaron Lee Fineman, Photographer Aaron Lee Fineman
New York City , United States
Didi S. Gilson , Writer, Photographer Didi S. Gilson
Writer, Photographer
Anna Bay, Nsw , Australia


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