Friday, March 24, 2017

We Are Not Afraid


A city that has survived the black plague, great fires, Jack the Ripper, Hitler's Blitz, a killing smog and the IRA will never allow its spirit to be dimmed.  

Whenever challenged London has always doubled down, drawing from its seemingly endless well of deep resolve to carry on and flourish.

The world joins a great city and nation in shedding tears for the innocent.

Roadboy's Travels © 2017

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Disasters on the Road

Lessons We Learn the Hard Way

As I recently watched television coverage of California's damaged Oroville Dam, I remembered my father making a detour on a camping trip in 1968 to show me this new "wonder".  Dad proudly noted it was the world's highest earthen dam.

I was 9 or 10 and remember thinking it just looked like a big (and kind of scary) pile of rocks.  In my mind dams were concrete and looked like the Hoover Dam.

Anyway, the recent dam failure made me recall some other "disasters" in my life. After all they come to shape us.

My first distinct (and very minor) "disaster" memory was my high chair wiggling and rocking in Oakland while my mom attempted to feed me. She just laughed and said something (which I'm guessing was "don't worry, its just a little earthquake").

I asked her about it years later and she said that while she remembered it, she was incredulous that I could.

But I did.

Disasters, whether man or nature caused, instill something profound in us.  And, for me, they have been frequently connected with travel.

At age 5 we went to Seattle's Century 21 World's Fair.  It was such a hopeful time and that fair made us feel like anything was possible.  There was a Space Needle and a monorail!  Sadly, the US long ago quit paying dues to the governing body that sanctions International Exhibitions, hence the US is now ineligible to host a World's Fair.

Anyway, when we left Seattle we aimed our red Plymouth station wagon towards Vancouver BC and I fell head over heals in love with (IMHO) North America's most beautiful city.

While there we visited a lush hilltop park named for Queen Elizabeth. Built above a reclaimed quarry, it was a peaceful place to relax. Mom and I soon found a bench in front of a row of parked cars where we sat to admire the view.

For some reason mom suddenly jerked my arm.  And, just as we stepped away from the bench, the car that had been directly behind us roared across the sidewalk, tore the bench from its concrete anchors and launched over the cliff.

Meanwhile my dad reverted immediately into "police officer mode" and leapt over the cliff. He landed and commenced running faster than I could imagine. He was the first one to where the car had hit a tree.

The driver had turned around to fasten his kids seat belts in the back seat and, instead of putting his foot on the brake, he had hit the gas. Everyone in the car was a bit bloodied, but those seat belts probably saved some lives.

Mom never could say what made her suddenly say "Lets Go!"

Lesson #1: My Dad was awesome.
Lesson #2: Mom's are telepathic.
Lesson #3: Fasten your seat belts.
Lesson #4: Trust your intuition.

Queen Elizabeth Quarry Park Vancouver
(The hillside the car traversed - it was parked in front of where the dome is today)

A few years later we visited relatives in Wichita. I loved Wichita. And, upon finding out I wanted to become an architect, I was hustled off to view some WPA mural's in Wichita's post office and listen to my dad's cousin describe furniture he rebuilt for Frank Lloyd Wright's Henry J. Allen Home (which was still in private ownership at the time).

As we drove around Wichita that day the sky suddenly went black. Our relative's quickly diverted us to a nearby tornado shelter.

Lesson #5: When nature goes off the rails, trust the locals.

Fast forward to college graduation.  After graduating mid-year in December from the University of Idaho in Moscow I returned to Seattle to set the architectural world on fire. Yeah, I was young.

And, the following May I returned to Moscow for my commencement. The next morning we climbed into my '61 T-bird and began to drive some verdant wheat fields on the way back to Seattle.

Instead we drove right into an eerie "storm" which we eventually realized was ash from Mount Saint Helen's.

As the ash got so dense that we had to turn on my windshield wipers, a local sheriff's deputy directed us off of the highway and we began an unscheduled stop in Royal City, Washington to wait for the ash choked the roads to become safe enough to once again drive on.  

I learned something important that day. The volcano erupted at 8:32 AM. It caused a 5.1 measurement on the Richter scale, triggering the largest landslide in recorded history and sent 540,000,000 tons of ash 12 miles into the sky with the force of multiple Hiroshima bombs.

Yet, it took 4 hours for emergency service notifications to reach people driving directly into it.

Lesson #6: When disaster strikes expect chaos.

Mount Saint Helens Erupting May 18, 1980

So we took up residence in the basement of a church while the thick grey dust settled in around us. And, through it all some wonderful residents of Royal City fed us, brought us cards and board games and lovingly cared for a whole bunch of complete strangers.

Lesson #7: We're all in it together; disasters frequently bring out our best.

I still own that T-Bird and I still find a few wispy remnants of grey ash whenever I have to open up its concealed spaces.

 A Dusty Bird

After a couple of years I left Seattle for Anchorage Alaska. And, over the next 5 years in the 49th state, I experienced a bunch of earthquakes. Two were 7.0. And, although our office shook, light poles swayed and power flickered there was no significant damage. We just waited them out and went home for dinner.

The ho-hum nature of those quakes was a tribute to how well Anchorage had re-engineered itself after the disastrous 1964 Good Friday quake. 

Lesson #8: Preparing for disasters is a good thing

From Alaska I moved on to San Jose California. And I arrived just in time for the Loma Prieta earthquake. This quake ended a World Series, dropped sections of the Bay Bridge and devastated Los Gatos (our new little hometown at the base of the Santa Cruz Mountains).

Multi-bazillion dollar clapboard Victorian homes "walked" off foundations and downtown LG was a wreck. It claimed our favorite Italian restaurant and left us gas and water leaks everywhere. The aftershocks rattled for days, each awakening my young daughter.

Lesson #9: Disasters expose every flaw in design and construction.

In the years that have followed my work has periodically required me to go places right after bomb blasts, hurricane's and tsunami's.  I just go and try to help do what needs to be done.

Lesson #10: It is better to experience life than to just stay at home.

Having said that, my years of travel have also made me realize how important it is to be realistic about destination choices.

While I never think twice about going to places like San Francisco and New Orleans (where epic natural disasters are inevitable), I would now rule out visiting places run by tyrants (i.e. Russia, the Philippines and Turkey).  And, with heartache, I acknowledge much of the world now puts the US in that category as well.

Roadboy's Travels © 2017

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

AA Posts New Boarding Policy

American Announces it's New "Simplified" Process With 10 Boarding Groups

Anyone who has witnessed the horror of Spirit Airlines during boarding has no doubt wondered "Why in hell anyone would fly them?". Towards the end of their boarding process is the fines and penalties phase. In a recent Denver Spirit boarding I heard the following announcement "If you try to board with an extra personal item or unpaid luggage, you will be fined $100".

Did you catch that "fined". Wow, can passenger floggings be far behind?

Today, in support of their desire to emulate Spirit's pricing and business model, AA announced it will begin using a new "simplified" boarding process next week. It features only TEN boarding groups (actually pre-boarding for Concierge Executive fliers plus 9 additional boarding groups).  Yes, truly a model of simplicity.

So expect the gate area chaos that presently exists at AA flights (now with only 5 boarding groups) to get just a bit more crazy.

Pan Am Economy Late 1960's
In an era when commercial air travel sucks so bad (as one of my friends recently expressed travel today "feels like a one-way trip to the Soylent Green factory" - go look that one up Millennials), I couldn't help adding the above photo of economy class seating from a Pan Am 747 in the late 1960's.

Of course people smoked on planes back then too. Times have indeed changed.

Some for the better, and starting next week, some for the worse.

Roadboy's Travels © 2017

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Tuesday, January 24, 2017


Roadboy's 2017 Arizona Collector Car Auction Roundup

Once again Arizona played host to five collector car auctions last week. And, that means I made my annual pilgrimage to the Barrett Jackson collector car auction at Westworld in Scottsdale.

This year the Barrett Jackson event billed itself as a "Lifestyle" event (which admittedly made Roadboy gag a little bit).

I went on Wednesday this year to avoid the rain and Friday and Saturday's expensive admission prices.

As always it was huge. Yet I did feel like there is a bit more space for the marketing of massage chairs, magnetic ion bracelets and fly-in fishing trips, and just a bit less space showcasing the Auction's signature "Salon" collection. 

No matter, there were still lots of great cars to admire, new hood ornaments to photograph and lots of greasy heart stopping comfort food to eat.

My day always begins by getting my free shirts from Ford and Chevy and is then followed by a methodical sweep through the event site. After seemingly miles of walking and ogling I eventually return to the auction floor and watch the gavel fall on car after car.

This year there were some interesting cars. The Cord Clark Gable and Vivian Leigh drove to the premiere of Gone with The Wind. A sternly aerodynamic Chrysler concept car from the 1955 Turin Auto Show entitled The Gilda. There was Justin Bieber's custom blue Ferrari (with an imperfect Carfax report). There was Burt Reynold's "Smoky and the Bandit" car and an odd Austin Princess hearse John Lennon purchased and converted for his personal use.   

At the event's end on Sunday Barrett Jackson sold over $100,000,000 worth of automobiles (1719 vehicles in all for those keeping track). And, while there seemed to be an endless supply of mustangs, camaros and corvettes all fetching top dollar, the Barrett Jackson only sold two vehicles in the million dollar price range this year.  One was an experimental Chevrolet and the other a lovely 1964 Aston Martin DB5.

Some cars (in my opinion) went for bargains early in the week and others went pretty high (a 1964 21 window VW bus fetched over $302,000). And, while it was a beautiful restoration I'll always remember as a teenager getting trapped following one too many of those oil spewing beasts as they struggled to climb through the Santa Cruz mountains at top speeds reaching 40-45 mph.

Hated that.

This year the most million dollar babies were sold at the RM / Sotheby auction at Phoenix's venerable Arizona Biltmore Resort. The RM / Sotheby auction saw 15 cars exceed the million dollar mark with top honors going to an exquisite 1939 Mercedes Benz selling at $6,600,000.

1964 Aston Martin
(Sold for $1,485,000)

Bonham's auction at Phoenix's Weston Kierland set the record for the single most expensive sale (a 1963 Jaguar D type) that sold for $7,370,000 (a world record for a post 1960's Jaguar's).

A comparison of the sale of high value cars (cars that pass the $1,000,000 mark) shows that this year's million dollar transactions dropped to $78,719,957. Which is a pretty marked decline from last years $101,757,000 in sales. 

Only Bonham's saw a jump in million dollar sales (last year $8,742,000, this year $26,840,000).

The breakdown for million dollar babies was:

Sotheby's RM 15 cars = $34,025,000 (2016 had 18 / $35,635,000)
Gooding's 9 cars = $13,618,000 (2016 had 8 / $21,287,000)
Bonham's 7 cars = $26,840,000 (2016 had 6 / $8,742,000)
Barrett Jackson 3 cars = $2,805,000 (2016 had 3 / $4,445,000)
Russo and Steele 1 car = $1,431,957 (2016 had 0 / $0)

2016 was another year dominated by Ferrari. Of the thirty five vehicles selling for more than $1,000,000, eleven were Ferrari's and six were Mercedes.

Here are my 2017 snaps...

Interior of a New $37,000 Chevrolet Bolt

 1937 Pontiac "Woody" Wagon 
Hood Ornament

 1932 Rolls Royce Springfield Phanton II
(Sold for $341,000)

 1934 Armstrong Siddeley Saloon
(Sold for $28,000)

 1955 Chrysler Gilda Concept Car
(Did Not Meet Reserve)

 1958 Austin Princess Hearse
Owned by John Lennon
(Sold for $159,000)

1957 Studebaker Golden Hawk
(Sold for $95,700) 

 1958 Bentley Flying Spur
(Did Not Meet Reserve)

 1962 Chrysler Imperial
(Sold for $40,700)

1935 Dodge Custom Roadster
Exquisitely Detailed With its Cut-Out Flame Hood
(Sold for $60,500)

A New Ford GT

For Roadboy's photos from 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 (I didn't post for 2011) just click here:

2016 Event

See you next year!

Roadboy's Travels © 2017

Monday, January 16, 2017

Emphatics at the Phoenix Art Museum

Pittsburgh's Avant Garde Boutique

Yesterday I had the chance to see a stunning fashion exhibit entitled: Emphatics Avant Garde Fashion 1963-2013.  

The Phoenix Art Museum exhibit showcased the clothing, fashion accessories and runway show memorabilia collected over a lifetime by James and Karin Legato of Pittsburgh. 

James and Karin Legato
(Photo Emphatics / Legato)

For nearly 50 years the Legato's curated cutting edge fashion to offer their clients in their Emphatics lifestyle boutique in Pittsburgh. 

They built their career they immersing themselves in design and seeking out one-of-a-kind art to wear. And, in the process, they formed lifelong friendships with some of the world's most renowned avant garde designers. The Legato's were known for treating designers with respect.  They understood that design is not linear and sometimes the creative process defies predictable time schedules. Letters from their designers demonstrate a true two-way affection.

 Karin Legato with Jean Paul Gautier
(Photo by James Legato)

The Legato's took exceptional care in serving each of their clients, taking special care to remember previous purchases and suggest how new items might coordinate with previous purchases. When a client tried on clothing at Emphatics, the shop's lighting and design assured they were afforded star treatment.

Thierry Mugler
Silk Dress and Belt 1985

The Emphatics Boutique closed in 2014 after James Legato fell ill (passing away in 2015 at the age of 71).

Avant Garde Fashion 1963-2013 

The Emphatics exhibit was beautifully curated by Dennita Sewell working closely with Karin Legato. The exhibition appeared clean and simple, yet the attention to even the smallest detail became very evident.

Displays included works by Alexander McQueen, Thiery Mugler, Claude Montana, Kenzo, Jean Paul Gauthier, Maison Martin Mariela, Azzedine Alaia, Olivier Theyskens, Maud Frizon, Issey Miyake and Kansai Yamamoto.

 Top and Shirt - Issey Miyake 1989
(Heat Pleated Polyester)

Maison Martin Margiela 2010
Rayon Crepe 

Jacket (Chamarra) 
Kansai Yamamoto 1979 
Cotton Corduroy 

Maud Frizon 1986
Suede Metal

 Skirt, Bodysuit and Hood
Azzedine Alaia 1986
Wool Knit

Claude Montana Runway Memorabilia 

Thierry Mugler 1987
Silk Satin

Runway Show Memorabilia Thierry Mugler

This show was special for me. It comes on the heels of a recent tour of Fallingwater at Bear Run PA (Frank Lloyd Wright's iconic home built by the Kaufmann department store family of Pittsburgh). 

Considered together I feel Pittsburgh has been an incubator for adventurous design.

The Kaufmann's operated Pittsburgh's famous department (whose flagship store was home to Mrs. Kaufmann's trendsetting Vendome Shops). In the Vendome shops Mrs. Kaufman carefully selected Parisian fashion to bring home and sell in Pittsburgh). Kaufmann's department store reached its zenith in the late 1950's.

Then in the 1960's, seemingly on the heels of Kaufmann's, came James Legato's new twist on avant garde design with his Emphatics lifestyle boutique. A design force that lasted right up until its closure in 2013.

We Phoenician's are truly blessed that the Emphatics collection has found a home at the Phoenix Art Museum and offer thanks to the Arizona Costume Institute, the Ellman Foundation and Jane Jozoff.

The Emphatics exhibition captures the sense of a period of exceptional creativity and energy.  An era where we walked on the moon, bought Campbell's soup can art from Andy Warhol and listened to The Beatles, Elvis, grunge and hip hop. 

Roadboy's Travels © 2017

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Travel in a Time of Increasing Uncertainty

2017 Has Landed, Guard Your Flank

Followers of Roadboy know I am a proudly contrarian traveler. When crowds go one way I tend to cast my gaze in the opposite direction. And when the crowds catch up, I move on. I consider my travel dollars will both broaden my horizons and financially support troubled local economies when selecting travel destinations.  

Rocky and Co-Pilot 
(My Travel Buddies) 
All Prepared for 2017!

When Ireland, Spain and Portugal were suffering devastating unemployment rates, I put it on my itinerary and have since fallen in love with each.

Now happily they are showing up on everyone's 2017 "Hot" lists and I say "good on 'em!"

After the WTC attacks, when otherwise rational friends announced they'd "never travel again", I planned a trip to New York City.

And, despite repeated terrorist attacks in France, Germany and Belgium, I never think twice about returning to each. Because each of these countries fiercely adheres to the rule of law.

When foot and mouth struck England in 2001, we set off for London. And, when swine flu struck Mexico in 2009, we experienced the stunning (and uncrowded) ruins of Chichen Itza.

However in 2017 Roadboy is becoming more cautious. While I'll still direct travel dollars toward natures recovering  economically (right now Iceland would be an example), I am avoiding destinations ruled by thugs & gangs and where there is no longer a  rule of law. I also avoid places that identify segments of their citizenry for ridicule and victimization.

Some examples....Russia. Turkey, the Philippines and perhaps North Carolina.

Roadboy's Travels © 2017