Down the Road

Roads and life and how roads are like life

The ponder seat

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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.

MyTractor

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.

Auburn reflected in the Cord

Auburn reflected in the Cord
Canon PowerShot S95
2014

A visit to the National Auto and Truck Museum

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As long as I’ve been online — and that’s 25 years now — whenever a virtual community thrives, it eventually wants to meet in person. The community at Curbside Classic, the old-car blog for which I write, is no exception. I had to miss last year’s inaugural meetup, but I didn’t want to miss this year’s meetup since it was set right here in Indiana.

Auburn, Indiana, was the site of the Auburn Automobile Company, which made high-luxury automobiles under the Auburn, Cord, and Duesenberg names from the early 1900s through the Great Depression. Today, the Auburn factory and office buildings are museums. The factory houses the National Auto & Truck Museum, while the offices are home to the Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg Museum. This post is about the former; I’ll write up the latter soon.

The 810 and 812 Cords were radical automobiles for their day, featuring front-wheel drive and an independent front suspension. This 1937 Cord 812 is painted in Indiana State Police livery because it was used in the fleet, although I’m not clear on what it meant to be a “safety car.”

1937 Cord 812 Supercharged Sedan

Auburn, Cord, and Duesenberg were luxury makes. This 1929 Auburn Model 8-90 was not targeted at the Ford Model A demographic.

1929 Auburn Model 8-90

Here’s this car’s radiator cap and hood ornament.

Radiator cap

The museum had a handful of the namesake cars right up front, where the lighting was terrible. I shot RAW all day, though, and that let me to bring several washed-out photos to life, such as this one of a 1936 Auburn 654.

1936 Auburn 654

I never found the card teling what year this Auburn 851 is.

Auburn 851

That didn’t stop me from taking this detail shot. Here, the room’s lighting worked in my favor: the source was behind me.

Air inlet

I’m a sucker for dark-blue cars, like this 1931 Auburn 898A sedan.

1931 Auburn 898A sedan

The rest of the museum is filled with cars made ostensibly in the spirit of Auburn, Cord, and Duesenberg. As a native of South Bend, I was drawn to this 1965 Studebaker Wagonaire, despite it having been built in Canada after the South Bend plant closed. That thing in the back is a refrigerator, showing the Wagonaire’s retractable roof.

1965 Studebaker Wagonaire

One of my favorite cars of all time is the step-down Hudson. Here’s a 1951 example. The difficult lighting continued in this part of the museum.

1951 Hudson

I’m always happy to come upon an Avanti, especially when it’s from the Studebaker years. This one was built in 1963.

1963 Studebaker Avanti

I’m not sure how a 1959 Buick LeSabre captures the Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg spirit, but it was good to see this basic black Buick nevertheless.

1959 Buick LeSabre

This Kaiser was wedged into this spot, making it hard to photograph. It’s an unusual Kaiser, in that it was built in 1962 — seven years after the last Kaiser automobile was built in the United States. Apparently, automobile production continued in Argentina. This car was built for Henry J. Kaiser himself.

1962 Kaiser Manhattan

The basement of the museum was filled a huge selection of International Harvester trucks, which were built in nearby Fort Wayne. I didn’t photograph any of them, but I did photograph this 1968 Ford LTD. My mother’s mother’s mother had one in dark blue. I rode in it a couple times.

1968 Ford LTD

Several other cars dotted this basement. I was completely smitten by this 1948 Pontiac Silver Streak.

1948 Pontiac Silver Streak

My girlfriend fell in love with this 1951 Nash Healey — the first one built. She would look good in it. I’m confident I could never afford it.

1951 Nash Healey

I barely scratched the surface of this museum with my photographs. It was such a large collection it was hard to take it all in! This means I must return another day.

Whachamahoozit

Toy rocking chair
Yashica Lynx 14e, Kodak T-Max 400
2014

Captured: Toy cars

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Toy cars

I used to put together plastic model cars when I was a kid. I had probably a couple dozen of them on a shelf in my room. But the models always required some level of detail painting to look really good, and I had neither the steady hand nor the patience to do a good job of it. Also, I never found a paint that came anywhere close to looking like chrome. While I enjoyed putting the models together, when I realized I was never going to make them look fully realistic I gave up the hobby.

These nicely painted model cars are among thousands of model and toy cars on display at the National Auto & Truck Museum in Auburn, Indiana. I visited a couple weeks ago at the annual meetup of Curbside Classic, the old-car blog to which I contribute. We also toured the Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg Automobile Museum next door, which displayed an overwhelming array of gorgeous automobiles. I’m sure I’ll share more photos and stories in the days to come.

Recommended reading

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Every Saturday I share the posts from my feed reader that I liked the most.

Writing for 52 Rolls, Peter DeGraaf loaded some Fujifilm Velvia 50 into a 1950s Olympus rangefinder and got some wonderfully colorful results. Read Olympus Chrome Six – Here and There

I am always super impressed with the images Mike Connealy gets with his 135mm Mamiya lens on his Pentax Spotmatic. Just check out the photos he got of some Flamenco dancers. Read Flamenco in the Plaza Vieja

Octogenarian blogger David Lacy tells a sad tale from his 14th year, in which he slid down a rock pile and eroded more than the seat of his pants. Read Climbing Fool’s Hill; and Coming Back Down Again

In yet another sign that film is catching on again, John Smith’s local camera store has started stocking more film. Read It warms my heart

Erik Parker is a Lutheran minister. He reflects on the hoopla surrounding the iPhone 6 and why he wants to avoid hoopla as a way of attracting people to the church. Read iPhone 6 and Why Churches Should Stop Trying to Get People to Come

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