Down the Road

Roads and life and how roads are like life

Walking the trail

Regrowth along the trail
Kodak Automatic 35F, Kodak Gold 200

I took this photo while hiking through Cumberland Mountain State Park in central Tennessee.

The Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg Museum


I grew up in museums, thanks to my dad’s best friend running the art museum at Notre Dame. I’ve been to endless openings and I’ve walked through myriad exhibits. I know museums. They don’t intimidate me.

So I was unprepared to be stunned and overwhelmed by the Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg museum. The dizzying array of cars and the impeccable building, a time capsule of the 1920s and 1930s, quickly sent me into visual overload.

Showroom floor

This post will be short on words and long on photos. Here’s a 1923 Duesenberg.

1923 Duesenberg

Here’s a gorgeous 1931 Duesenberg.

1931 Duesenberg

And here’s a 1936 Auburn.

1936 Auburn 852

I love the interesting details on this 1934 Auburn, such as the horizontal curved vents on the sides of the snout.

1934 Auburn

Its grille is interesting, too.

1934 Auburn

This is an 810 Cord prototype from about 1936.

Cord prototype

Here’s an 1936 Auburn hearse. Just check out that long, long wheelbase!

1936 Auburn hearse

The lighting upstairs was more difficult for photography. Here’s a 1930 Cord.

1930 Cord

When faced with so many cars to see and photograph, I usually take a methodical approach. But I was so bowled over by this museum that I mostly stumbled around, photographing what I noticed. I’m not sure I saw everything! And I can see I missed some shots I would have liked to take had my wits been fully about me.


The great thing, though, is that this museum is only about two hours from home. I can go again another day — and be fully prepared for the experience.

1962 Chevy Nova

1962 Chevy Nova
Canon PowerShot S95

On language: The unfortunate nominalization of spend and ask

James Kilpatrick

James Kilpatrick

James Kilpatrick may have been best known for his syndicated political newespaper column, but I preferred his weekly column about writing and English called “The Writer’s Art.” I loved it when in his column he’d put on his virtual judicial robes and open the Court of Peeves, Crotchets, and Irks, for what followed would be a humorous, incisive invective on foibles of our English language.

Kilpatrick passed in 2010. I miss his column.

I wonder how he’d address a trend I’m hearing that dips from the well of nominalization. I’m in favor of making nouns from other parts of speech when the conversion is necessary or helpful. This is how we get useful words like investigation, which is an ancient nominalization of investigate.

But I don’t think ask and spend need to be used as nouns. To be fair, there’s precedent: etymologists have found occasional uses of these words as nouns going back almost 400 years. It’s like a recurring passing fad. But the poor dears don’t even get the whole treatment, as they are not transformed (as investigate becomes investigation). They are used as is:

Ask: What are the asks here? My ask is that you deliver the project by next Friday. Wow, that’s a big ask.

Spend: Our marketing spend exceeded budget again last month. This month, we anticipate a spend of about $1 million.

This usage makes one sound savvy, in the know. But it also pulls the punch and blurs meaning, making concrete expectations and budgets seem abstract. Ask even carries a passive-aggressive note. What happens when we say exactly what we mean?

Ask: What do you want? I want you to deliver the project by next Friday. Wow, I’m not sure that’s possible.

Spend: We overspent our marketing budget again last month. This month, we plan to spend about $1 million.

Ah, sweet clarity!

Recommended reading


Every Saturday I share the week’s blog posts that I read and really enjoyed.

R Henry, writing for Curbside Classic, shares family travel photos and stories from going on a hundred years ago, with links to Google Street View images of the same places today. Read Cars Of Our Ancestors: Our Family Legacy in Car Pictures

Shorpy is a blog of old photographs. Last week they shared a 1952 view of Main Street in my hometown of South Bend — the street packed to the gills because presidential candidate Eisenhower was visiting. Be sure to click the View Full Size link. See Liking Ike: 1952

There’s nothing like a major health scare to focus your mind on what really matters, as Jaye Watson discovered when her doctor told her, “you have a very high chance of having MS.” Read The Earthquake

The ponder seat


I was reminded of this story from five years ago as I have been driving my old lawn tractor around the yard, picking up the fallen leaves. The tractor looks a little more beat up now, and comically its hood hinges both broke and are being held in place by two Vise Grips, but it still runs well.

This is where I do my best thinking.


My tractor was a birthday gift from my wife 17 years ago – the biggest and most expensive gift I’ve ever gotten. We had a half-acre yard full of mature, prolific trees. Before the tractor, every autumn Saturday my wife, stepson, and I went at full tilt all day raking and bagging fallen leaves. Those Saturdays were brutal, and woe betide us if we skipped one. I dreamed of driving a tractor around the yard, sucking up the leaves into a catcher, my family sitting on the patio sipping iced tea and smiling brightly and waving whenever I passed.

After the tractor came, of course I mowed the yard with it every week. It didn’t take long before I could do the work on autopilot, effortlessly navigating obstacles. The world slipped away while I drove my tractor. Even the Briggs and Stratton roar faded into the background, and my mind was free to think and dream. It was time just for me. I can’t remember any epiphanies or even darned good ideas that came from my ponder seat, but when I put the tractor back in the shed I was always mentally refreshed.

I’ve downsized to about a quarter of an acre where the autumn leaves are a more bearable chore. I could get by without a tractor now, yet I clean and tune up my tractor every spring for another season. I can’t believe it still runs after this many years – I wish my cars lasted as long! As long as it keeps starting, I’ll keep looking forward to my weekly mind-renewing trip around the yard.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,452 other followers

%d bloggers like this: