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 followed one too many of those oil spewing beasts as they tryed to climb through the Santa Cruz mountains at top speeds of 45 mph.

This year the most million dollar babies were sold 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 Kierland set the record for the 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. 

Bonham's saw a big jump in million dollar sales (last year $8,742,000, this year $26840,000).

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 economies suffering 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

Friday, December 16, 2016

A Toast to 2016 - Looking Ahead to 2017


2016 was an amazing year.

And, I'd have to say it was the time spent in my journey's that kept me sane.
You see, luckily, much of my travel this year took me to places that didn't pander to the self-absorbed, national embarrassment that was America's 2016's presidential election.  I simply was able to ignore it for large periods of time.

Indeed, I found that the rest of the world was both amused (and deeply troubled) by America's fixation on the daily doses of irrelevance we were dished out, while the candidates completely ignoring melting polar ice caps.

It was brought home no more than 10 steps from a typical coed restaurant restroom in Spain. That is where I heard a fellow from our tour group emphatically telling our Spanish guide Carlos how "crazy" politicians in the US were "forcing men to use women's bathrooms and vice versa", it was  "so unsafe and disgusting!"

I stopped mid-step, looked back over my shoulder at the patient, yet incredulous Spaniard and thought "Yes, Carlos he means just like that safe, clean restroom I just left. The one simultaneously being used by men, women and kids."

When will Americans grow up?

But enough of that.

My 2016 highlights included a few weeks spent in amazing Singapore and 2 weeks spent in Barcelona and bicycling through Spain's beautiful Costa Brava.  

Later I was able to experience Frank Lloyd Wright's architectural masterpiece "Fallingwater" in Pennsylvania. 

There was also a rainy weekend spent in the Chicago Art Institute and a return to (one of my favorite cities) Toronto.

Business travel included multiple trips to Washington State, Oklahoma, Montana, Virginia, Southern California, Florida, Hawaii and Colorado. 

Yes indeed, 2016 was a great year in travel. 

And, it kept me sane,

So where is Roadboy going in 2017?

First off is a springtime visit to San Francisco. Then in May I'll return to Ireland for a week (including the Giant's Causeway) and follow that with a week in London (to enjoy a new season of West End plays!)

In the fall, there will be a week long "Low Country" bicycle tour from Charleston SC to Savannah GA. Another return to Mrs. Wilkes Dining room in Savannah is eagerly anticipated!

Scattered in between will be a gaggle of business trips to Washington, Colorado, California and Florida.

And how will Roadboy travel in 2017? 

Well, I'll be using Air BNB's more and conventional hotels less. I'll rent fewer cars and use more public transport / Uber and LYFT.

I'll be clearing my browser cache daily and changing all my passwords regularly. 

I'll travel with my passport and credit cards comfortably residing in new RFID protected sheathes.

And, after a recent sobering conversation with a cyber security expert, I'll continue to stay the hell off of social network sites.

As always, my travel goals will be to learn more about the people, history, culture, food, flora and fauna of this amazing planet. And, while traveling I'll be praying each day for our newbie president, hoping he doesn't tweet us into World War III.

Stay tuned!

Roadboy's Travels © 2016

Monday, November 28, 2016

The Sharing Economy Meets Travel

Repairing a Broken Travel Industry One App at a Time

The world of travel is experiencing a seismic shift. Quite simply the way we travel is changing rapidly and a bunch of huge travel industry players may soon find themselves staring into the abyss of irrelevancy.

They are the new Polaroid.

Why? Lets begin by assessing the state of the conventional travel industry.

Domestic Airlines
I speak as a 2 million mile flier with lifetime platinum status with over a million air miles banked in multiple airline FF accounts.

• America's domestic airlines view passengers as a materials handling problem.
  Airline's focus on finding more profitable ways to ticket and transport human cargo.

• Airlines openly disregard passenger expectations of decency, comfort and civility.
   American Airline ads recently blamed eroding service on their customers.
• Airline mergers have reduced competition & capacity and led to higher fares.

• Airlines are rewarded for adding fees like pollen in the spring.
  United's share price recently soared after announcing fees to use overhead bins.

• Domestic airlines go political in lieu of competing with superior airlines.
  They demand access to foreign markets and block foreign airlines from US markets.

• Airlines change rules on loyalty programs faster than I change socks.
  The changes never favor passengers.

• All of the above is 10 X's worse on Spirit or Allegiant Airlines.

Here I also speak as a lifetime platinum traveler with millions of hotel miles in various accounts.

• Mega mergers consolidate reservation networks and crush independent hotel chains.
  Marriott and Hilton have clearly taken a page from WalMart. 
  Move in and kill off local competition.
  Try some great local chains: Room Mate (Spain) / Citizen M (Paris, London, NYC).

• Reduced competition = rooms that cost $79 / nt. in 2008 now cost $150 / nt.
  Hotel rates skyrocketed during a period of near zero inflation.

• And, like airline bag fees - hotels keep dreaming up new fees.
  Resort fees, amenity fees, parking fees, early check-out fees, internet fees etc.

Rental Cars
My clients are taxpayers, so I am a car rental hoe. I have no loyalty. I rent from the agency that offers the best price coupled with a skip the counter program.

• Every novice rental car customer faces a shit storm of up selling at the counter.

• Rental agencies love hiding extras.
  Like the "emergency road service" fee added automatically at Thrifty SLC.
  Rental agencies play "Where's Waldo" and novice renters get fleeced.

• Rental agencies quietly dream up new zingers like the LDW (loss damage waiver).
  A renter damaging a car is liable for lost revenue during the repair of a damaged car. 
  That may sound fair....but....
  Renters have no way of determining how long it (should have taken) for repairs.

The Government
• State and local governments tax the crap out of rental car / hotel customers.
  Travelers pay for everything from convention centers to Cactus League baseball in AZ.
  Seattle frequently rack up more taxes & fees than the actual daily car rental rate.

• Despite rising traveler complaints, consumer watchdog protections are disappearing.
  Travelers are left to  fend for themselves. So learn your rights.

They're so icky!
• Taxi fares remain stupidly high in most major markets.

• In key markets (Vegas) taxi monopolies appear wired.
  Far be it for Roadboy to suggest that kickbacks might be the culprit.

• Expect "check engine" lights, smelly stained seats & broken credit card readers.

• Many cab drivers are lost.
  Try turning off their Google Maps or Waze and see where you wind up.

In sum, as the conventional travel / hospitality industry now offers frightening levels of ambivalence toward customers, so travelers have responded by seeking other options.

And by increasingly abandoning conventional travel offerings via new app based services they are frequently liking what they find.

So what is the future?

Long Distance Transport
Although most Americans have never heard of Europe's Bla Bla Car, more than 4,000,000 Europeans use this app each month to arrange long distance rides (averaging 200 miles). Put in perspective every month more travelers ride share on Bla Bla than use EuroStar and Jet Blue combined. We'll surely see something similar in key markets like the NE.

Despite all my banked hotel points I now frequently opt to save my points (for emergency trips) and opt for Airbnb accommodations.

Airbnb delivers me an entire home, located right where I want to be. I can get a full kitchen, wireless internet and a washer and dryer. And, frequently, they come with hosts that offer a "locals only" perspective on the cities and neighborhoods they love.

It becomes a trade: tiny overpriced hotel rooms with daily maid service vs. entire homes with a built-in concierge. All at prices that are typically far less than even moderately priced, limited service hotels. But be very careful. AirBNB cancellation policies for high demand areas can be onerous if you need to cancel in an emergency. Also don;t go looking for customer support from AirBNB.  There simply isn't any way to talk to a human being about key policies etc.

Rental Cars / Taxis
Nowadays, I rigorously avoid renting cars for business whenever I can. Instead I opt for light rail, Uber and / or Lyft. No more fighting for parking spots, mad dashes to refill gas, watching for local speed / radar traps and toll roads.

And, so far nearly every Uber I've experienced provided a clean car with a friendly, competent driver. And (I contend) everyone is far safer when travel transactions are cashless.

When I rent a car for pleasure trips I first check to see if my destination has Silvercar. Silvercar only rents Audi A4's at $69 / day or less. There is no counter, you go straight to the car and check-in using your app.

So as fast buck private equity owned hospitality providers feed shareholder greed, the sharing economy is expanding to provide new opportunities to exploit the void the travel dinosaurs so willingly create. And, frequently adventurous travelers emerge as big winners.

Roadboy is selling his retirement funds if they contain conventional hospitality industry players.

Roadboy's Travels © 2016

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Hospital St. Pau - Barcelona's Other Architectural Masterpiece

Cycling Dali's Landscapes in Spain - Day 11

Well I've been meaning to write the last installment of my trip to Spain for a long time. So today seemed like a good time to do it.

The final day of the main tour was spent by the sea. And, there is nothing more wonderful than a full nights sleep by the sea to leave you feeling good about life. And having the chance to sleep in made it even better.

At 11:00 we gathered together for final transport back to Barcelona where we'd enjoy one more day and night before returning home.

To an architect Barcelona is a visual candy store. During the turn of the century when the world's major cities were choking themselves with the unsanitary by-products of the industrial revolution, Barcelona was embracing the implementation of Ildefons Cerda's visionary city plan entitled L'Eixample.

The L'Eixample plan stressed a grid filled with mid-rise superblocks served by wide streets and boulevards. At every intersection of streets you find vuilding corners tapered (chamfered) back at 45° angles to offer light and visibility.

The concept encouraged natural ventilation, smooth traffic flow while allowing natural light to flood public spaces. Although (sadly) many have been filled, each superblock was initially configured to contain a quiet green space in the center.

The plan delivered the sweet spot of urban density sufficient to support mass transit, yet is very walkable and lacks the claustrophobia inducing high rises of many major world cities.  

Aerial View of Barcelona's L'Eixample District

This short trip back to Barcelona allowed me almost a full afternoon to make a final architectural pilgrimage to visit architect Lluis Domenich i Montaner's Art Nouveau masterpiece Hospital St. Pau. i Montaner is the architect that designed the magical Palace of Catalan Music and supervised the 1888 Barcelona World Exhibition.

Hospital St. Pau
Although the origins of this hospital can be traced back to 1401, the hospital we see today began with a legacy from Catalan banker Pau Gil upon his death in Paris in 1898. Construction on the hospital began in 1902 and continued for a period of 28 years.

An integral part of L'Eixample, Luis Domenech i Montaner designed Sant Pau at a 45° angle using 9 L'Eixample blocks. The initial plan included 48 buildings and occupies a prominent location at the end of one of L'Eixample's few boulevards set at an angle to the grid. At the other end of the diagonal boulevard is Gaudi's Masterpiece the Sagrada Famillia. The site is on a hillside, so each building is gently embedded into the hillside.

The completed hospital has 27 buildings, 16 of which are Modernista. Of the 16, 12 were designed by Domenech i Montaner prior to his death in 1928. The remaining 4 were completed by his son Pere Domenech i Roura.

Sant Pau was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1997 and reopened to tours after a remarkable restoration in 2014.

Sant Pau was designed as a monumental city within a city. The hospital is organized as a campus arrayed along a linear spine. The multi-building design was conceived to assure there would be restful, healing green spaces providing views and furnishing fresh air to each of the patient wings.Each wing devoted to treatment of a specific medical specialty.

Each wing is connected by over a kilometre of tunnels where patients could be moved out of the weather along with supplies, laundry, medication and meals.

A Section of St. Pau's Tunnels

At the center of the campus is The Operations House. The building is oriented to maximize glare-free northern light in its three operating rooms. There is a main operating theater flanked by two small theaters (one exclusively for men, the other for women). 

The Operations House included modern sterilization, radiology and photography equipment and was the central storehouse for all the doctor's various instruments and tools.

The Main Operating Theater Today

 The Main Operating When it Was in Use
(Note original window sill heights)

Each of the spacious patient wings features high arched ceilings and each filled with natural light.

A Patient Ward

Patients in Each Ward Had Access to Circular Reading / Sitting Rooms

Sculpture is Integrated Throughout Sant Pau's Design 

As a center for research and training the main administrative building is a showpiece of art infused architecture. Every detail from structural columns, lighting and ceiling tracery down to its window handles are exquisitely designed and crafted. Much like his Palau, Sant Pau demonstrates the architect's mastery of glass, ceramic mosaic, metals and brick.

The Hospital Administration Building

 Rich Mosaics Adorn Stair Lights

The Graceful Ceiling of the Admin Building 
Features Stained Glass Skylights

 Typical Window Handles

Similar to many of Barcelona's buildings of the era, the wrought iron fencing and gates are also works of art.

 Angels at Each Gate

The restored site is now being re-purposed as a center of knowledge devoted healthcare, sustainability and education.

Each visit Barcelona affords me another opportunity to peel back additional layers of this wonderful cities rich architectural heritage.

The particulars:
An architectural tour de force, Hospital Sant Pau is still undergoing vigorous restoration and re-purposing so not all buildings are available to tour.

While Gaudi's buildings are overrun with tourists Sant Pau offers a blissful place. Staff on hand are very helpful and the site is easily accessed having its very own Metro stop. There is an admission charge for its self guided tour. Guided tours are also available as well. Check online here for times and current admission charges.

Roadboy's Travels © 2016