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A lot has happened since my last blog, and this weekend provided the solitude for reflecting on what to include in this update.  We were heading to Pennsylvania for a turn-and-burn pickup of some more 50’s artifacts in the form of Jill’s favorite sexy blondes (Heywood Wakefield furniture) .  I would have plenty of time to ponder changes in the preceding months and how that affected Opidell’s, our home and me.  I needed the hum of the road to lull me to my Zen place, allowing me to sort out such things like the death of the Big Suburban, Jill’s obsession with mid-mod, and the addition of our new-found family friends Heywood and Wakefield.  Lots of things to sort out and lots of miles in which to do it.

We left Lexington at twelve bells, right on time (for once) and aimed the mini-Suburban east, small box trailer in tow.  You see, faithful readers, tragedy has recently descended upon the Walker Hacienda.  The Big Suburban, which has been battling a lifelong illness, due to a less than optimal performing 2007 engine, has taken ill.  The ’07 model has been reported as problematic across internet forums, and although it has performed countless times in the past, the constant addition of oil with no much as a spot on the driveway finally took its toll.  In case you are wondering, the Big ‘Bourbon is resting peacefully in the garage out of the weather.  A constant oil IV is keeping him comfortable, and a battery trickle charger is keeping its spirits up.  I treated him to a full detail last weekend while the weather was warm, but unfortunately, it’s just a matter of time.  On mechanic’s orders, he’s not being driven other than a few miles at a time in hopes of returning his oil pressure back to tolerable levels.  Likely he will be escorted to a dealer retirement home to live out his days in the care of a certified mechanic.  Time will tell.  I have spent 170,000 miles and countless hours with the big beast.  He drove all over this country and never bucked no matter how heavily loaded he was with furniture, hay, bricks and whatever needed to be hauled.

So the weekend traveling landed solely on the shoulders of the mini-Suburban, Jill’s Toyota Highlander. Although a bit more cramped, a little less outfitted and only two wheel drive, the little-Highlander-that-could would be tested this weekend with snowstorms, West Virginia Mountains, limited gas stations and my lead foot. Plus, she had to haul a trailer which added stress to the “There Can Only Be One” Highlander.

The lil’Toyota eased onto the interstate, Jill set the GPS and I stomped the accelerator achieving light speed almost immediately.  Our new pickin’ machine was off to a good start.  The weather forecast was cold but clear all the way to West Virginia.  Our final destination was near Lancaster, Pennsylvania, a little town just shy of Philly.  The reason for the trip was to pick-up a set of Champagne finished Heywood Wakefield dining chairs and to attend an auction that featured some Hey Wake.    Why drive all the way to Pennsylvania for chairs?  Well, just after Christmas Jill acquired a HW table and buffet set at a consignment shop near Chicago.  For you faithful readers you know Jill is partial to the wheat tinted Hey Wake, however this perfect condition original finish Champagne set caught her eye.  In turn, it spawned an entire mission to refinish our former “sittin’ room” into a formal dining room, complete with atomic dishes and blue and pink handled silverware. The only thing missing was the chairs.  So why not just ship the chairs? Yea, yea…I’m getting to that.

One of Jill’s occasional HW sources was a gentleman in Pennsylvania.  She contacted him.  They haggled.  And after many sleepless nights of pacing and self-loathing, she bought the chairs.  I would have paid twice as much for the items since it kept me from endless winter evenings in my non-heated garage refinishing chairs she already had acquired.  After the payment for the chairs were received, Jill arranged for a shipping company to fetch them for us.  Therein lies the problem.  The shipping company, after taking payment, suddenly and inexplicably went out of business.  Apparently the owner made off with funds with many people’s items stranded in transit scattered across the country.  Fortunately, Jill’s chairs were just marooned in Amish country, so that’s where we headed.

Here was the self-inflicted problem with the weekend.  We left at noon and had to arrive at 8:00pm to retrieve the chairs.  For those of you keeping score at home, that’s an eight hour trip and we had, well, eight hours to arrive.  Then we had to load, find a place to sleep and be rested for the next day.  The tomorrow would be equally hectic.  We would drive from Lancaster to New Philadelphia, Ohio to arrive at an auction beginning at 11:00 am.  Then depart that auction and drive the remaining four hours home to Lexington.  Quite the marathon weekend and it all had to be timed just right or we could lose out on the chair retrieval or miss the auction.

The lil’ Toyota eased onto the interstate, Jill set the GPS and I stomped the accelerator achieving light speed almost immediately.  Our new pickin’ machine was off to a good start.  The weather forecast was cold but clear all the way to West Virginia.  Our final destination was near Lancaster, Pennsylvania, a little town just shy of Philly.  The reason for the trip was to pick-up a set of Champagne finished Heywood Wakefield dining chairs and to attend an auction that featured some Hey Wake.    Why drive all the way to Pennsylvania for chairs?  Well, just after Christmas Jill acquired a HW table and buffet set at a consignment shop near Chicago.  For you faithful readers you know Jill is partial to the wheat tinted Hey Wake, however this perfect condition original finish Champagne set caught her eye.  In turn, it spawned an entire mission to refinish our former “sittin’ room” into a formal dining room, complete with atomic dishes and blue and pink handled silverware. The only thing missing was the chairs.  So why not just ship the chairs? Yea, yea…I’m getting to that.

One of Jill’s occasional HW sources was a gentleman in Pennsylvania.  She contacted him.  They haggled.  And after many sleepless nights of pacing and self-loathing, she bought the chairs.  I would have paid twice as much for the items since it kept me from endless winter evenings in my non-heated garage refinishing chairs she already had acquired.  After the payment for the chairs were received, Jill arranged for a shipping company to fetch them for us.  Therein lies the problem.  The shipping company, after taking payment, suddenly and inexplicably went out of business.  Apparently the owner made off with funds with many people’s items stranded in transit scattered across the country.  Fortunately, Jill’s chairs were just marooned in Amish country, so that’s where we headed.

Here was the self-inflicted problem with the weekend.  We left at noon and had to arrive at 8:00 pm to retrieve the chairs.  For those of you keeping score at home, that’s an eight hour trip and we had, well, eight hours to arrive.  Then we had to load, find a place to sleep and be rested for the next day.  The tomorrow would be equally hectic.  We would drive from Lancaster to New Philadelphia, Ohio to arrive at an auction beginning at 11:00 am.  Then depart that auction and drive the remaining four hours home to Lexington.  Quite the marathon weekend and it all had to be timed just right or we could lose out on the chair retrieval or miss the auction.

Back at the helm of the Highlander, she was trudging along.  The steep hills after Charleston, West Virginia gave the ol’gal some trouble.  She handled it, but not without returning to the previous gear time and time again trying to fight the trailer and gravity.  Even with the overdrive off, her constant shifting bucking against my need for a constant high reading on the speedometer caused Jill to look from her reading material to consult the going-ons.   Then the sleet came.  Little hard pellets of precipitation belted the windshield.  It slowed traffic although the track was still fast.  I kept up my speed with a cautious grip on the steering wheel.  Jill buried her head in more reading material, like an ostrich in the sand.  I could hear her mind above the pellets on the glass: “Go to your happy place.  Go to your happy place. Not much longer on the road.  He knows what he’s doing.  Go to your happy place.”

As we crested the mountain overlooking Cumberland, Maryland, my co-pilot yelled, “Look at that traffic.  Take the exit!”  Evasive maneuvers landed me on a parallel track to the off-ramp, much to the surprise of the cars trailing me.  The upcoming hillside was littered with all manners of blinking lights, signaling an accident.  Thanks to my co-pilots sharp eyes and a reckless regard for my fellow motorists, we took the exit and detoured around traffic.  Problem was, with every additional fuel stop and unscheduled route change, our arrival was becoming delayed.  Time to make up some, well, time.

Now back on the interstate, I decided to do some time traveling.  I eased the gas pedal closer to the floor as the speedometer climbed.  In case you are wondering, I’ll tell you a little trick.  In Kentucky, the speed limit on most interstates is seventy miles-per-hour.  Here’s the fun part.  If you are going ten miles-per-hour or less over the speed limit on a limited access highway, interstates (or pretty much any “limited highway” with on and off ramps) then there’s no points off your license if you get a ticket.  The general consensus of law enforcement is that there’s no reason to pull over a motorist for a “no-points” speed violation.  Other than the fine, there’s basically no incentive to issue a citation.  So, I set my cruise control at 80.  The first problem with the above-mentioned scenario is that the speed limit in Maryland is 65. The second problem is that, when you are towing a trailer with a smaller vehicle it can “push” you down the mountain.

Needless to say, I saw the cop too late.  I passed him, trying to drive casual, even singing “la-la-la” as I rocketed by. He was already pulling out, lights blazing the night sky.  Fortunately from the passenger seat I could hear a lecture series while I searched for inappropriate place to stop.  The dissertation continued until the no-nonsense officer leaned in, sternly requesting “license and registration.”  I had both presented before the last “shun” syllable left his lips.  It had been years since I had been pulled over, but, like riding a bike, you never forget. Since I was well practiced in receiving moving citations, it was like seeing an old friend I haven’t seen in a while.  Some things are nice if for no other reason than being familiar.

“You know how fast you were going?”

Ah, it was coming back to me.    “No sir.”

“83 in a 65.”

Shit, I’m out of practice.  “Oh!”

“Where you heading?”

“Huh?” He was on my 50% deaf, left ear side.

“Where you headin’?”

“Oh, up to Lititz,” Ha, ha, I said “tit” to a cop, “To buy some furniture.” Figured I would attempt to garner some pity from a fellow man.

“From Kentucky going to Lititz to buy furniture?”

I could almost hear him thinking… “Good Lord Son, we will give you police escort out of Maryland you poor bastard.”

“Stay right here, I’ll be back.”  He left.  The sermon was now replaced with a staring contest, of which I was losing.

“How much will this cost dummy?”  My supportive and understanding bride questioned.  My mind took over:  tell her less than the damn chairs you’re driving eight hours each direction to get!  No, don’t say that.  Just sit there and look dumb.  Good job…that came easy. I was contemplating my retort when the officer returned.

“All right son, I’m just giving you a warning.  Just keep your speed under control.”

WHAT!  REALLY!  “Oh, thank you sir.  I really appreciate that.”

“Ok, drive safe.”  He began to walk off when my overzealous co-pilot interjected.

“We are from Kentucky!”

What the hell is she doing?  We’re free damnit!

“The speed limit there is 70.” She belted out.

The trooper was halfway to his car when he heard the conversation aimed at him, turned on his heels and stopped in an inquisitive, “you talking to me punk” stance.  I motioned him off and waved and rejoined traffic, into obscurity.    The biggest shit-eating grin creeped up on my face.  Jill just shook her head and giggled.

“You are so lucky it’s ridiculous.”

Despite the additional fuel stops, back road detours and run-in with the law, we arrived in Lancaster just a few minutes after eight.  Immediately we noticed slow moving flashing boxes jamming every corner of the highway.  Amish.  We were in Amish-land.  In virtual harmony we looked at each other and mused aloud, “Is this guy Amish?  What if this guy IS Amish?

“Hell Jill, I can’t talk to him.  What would I say?  I mean, I curse sometimes…is he going to smite me?  I know, I know…I’ll ask who won the annual Abe Lincoln look-alike contest.  That should be a good conversation starter.”  Jill rolled her eyes at my angst.  Being in the presence of anyone so convinced of their purpose in life is intimidating. I’m too much a pluralist and a genuine smart-ass not to have questions, legitimate on not.

He wasn’t Amish, fortunately for both of us.  Our Heywood Wakefield Pennsylvania-connection was a pleasant fellow with a huge shop.  I remembered him from his eBay postings; he always posed his pet Collie with the pieces offered for sale.  We soon found out the business mascot and friend had passed away last year.  As a dog owner myself, I felt sad for his former master.  That pup was an iconic fixture in the mid-mod collecting community, more famous than I could ever hope to be.      Then the snow came.  The sky had been laboring to produce solid precipitation the majority of the journey, as we skirted in and out along the storm’s edge.  But now the havens opened and rained down huge fluffy flakes Forrest Gump would surely describe as “big ole fat snow.”

We headed toward our lodging.    Along the way we passed a hotel that had been built to resemble a steamboat, several music venues and an amateur wrestling arena.  Lancaster had obviously embraced the simple culture influence of its Amish neighbors.  On the edge of town, one sign summed up the duality of the town:  “Amish Stuff for Sale.  Lots of people sell stuff, but this stuff is Amish.”  Funny.

Our lodging for the evening was reserved at the Cork Factory Hotel.  The Cork was a good example of reuse of an old dilapidated property and turning it into something cool and viable. Revitalization at its finest.  The entry was nice.  The lobby was nice.

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Comfy haven for four hours of sleep…

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Cork Factory Hotel

But upon exiting the elevator onto the third floor, we both became oddly dizzy.  I can only assume that the hotel did not utilize its Amish craftsmen neighbors since the entire place was out of plum.  The floors were woozy, the walls crooked as a politician and signs were completely cattywhompus.  The combination of all the odd angles caused us both to grab the walls like we were on day three of a four day bender.    We dropped our bags inside and headed to the restaurant downstairs.  It was a nice place with good food.  Jill had a hanger steak and I went for the chicken with plum Marsala.  The setup was cozy and the staff was helpful without being intrusive.  I wish I could write more concerning the meal, but after nine plus hours on the road running full out, things sort of ran together.  The first beer was good.  So was the second. But ahhh, the third beer.  The third beer was truly divine.

We returned to the room and opened the window.  The heat had been set at a tropical 75, so the open window provided a nice cool breeze.  The air was crisp and still with only the faint murmur of millions of tiny snowflakes passing through it and landing softly on the ground below.  I looked at the clock.  It was nearing midnight.  Now for those of you keeping score at home, we had five hours to drive in the morning to New Philadelphia, Ohio.  In order to arrive in enough time to preview the items, we would need to leave at 5:00 am to arrive by 11:00 am. The unexpected variable to the trip was the snow.  The forecast predicted it would continue throughout the am hours until the mid-morning.  We calculated and debated. Then it was agreed…we would set the alarms for 4:15 am in order to be on the road by 5:00 am at the absolute latest.  That would allow for a little over four hours sleep.  Ugh.

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The snow began to fall…

We crawled into comfortable the bed.  The rustic sounds of old creaking timbers from the room overhead became downright annoying with such limited time to sleep.  I cursed the fate of our upstairs neighbor as I finally entered a heavy slumber.    Four a.m. came much too early, as it typically does. I continued the previous evening’s cursing of our upstairs neighbor.  I cursed Jill.  I cursed Heywood and Wakefield and I cursed myself.  I scurried to the bathroom to stare in the mirror and beg Mr. Hyde to return his body to the good doctor.  After banging around the room until the cursing subsided, I donned my clothes, awoke Jill and headed toward the truck.  We departed on time again!  Two-for-two; our personal best.

It was still snowing.  Heavy snow.  The kind of snow that ruins visibility streaking the black of night. The eyes cannot focus past the big fluffy particles just over the hood.  It looks like the bridge on the U.S.S. Enterprise after entering warp speed. Promise came in the form of a pair of golden arches just over the horizon.  We would refuel with some much needed greasy treats and caffeine.  But the promise was short-lived as that particular McDonalds was the slowest on the planet.  It was truly amazing the complete ambivalence exhibited by its employees who casually took our orders then went about whatever mundane business in which they were previously engaged, finally to remember that people were staring at them for some reason.  Only then would they return to see what was taking so long.  I wondered if they hired Amish to work the drive thru.  That would be the only explanation as to the aversion for electronic devices or speedy food.

After two corrections in our meal, we left bizarre-o McDonalds, middle finger extended at full mast.    Thanks to our time-challenged friends, we left the pit-stop behind the pace car.  In this case, the pace car was a slow moving snow plow that blocked both lanes of the highway.  We took the left position while a UPS truck was on the high side.  I wondered if a relative of a McDonald’s employee worked the snowplow as well.    After battling the elements the majority of the trip, we burst thru the clouds about half-past-nine.  Smooth sailing from here on out.  I floored the pedal, confident we would not cross paths with the Maryland trooper as we were taking an alternate route thru Ohio.

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High-tailing it through the snow!

We arrived in New Philly with approximately half-an-hour to spare, plenty of time for Jill to inspect the furniture while I reveled in my groundbreaking time.  That poor Highlander will never be the same.    The auction went smooth.  The house, a beautiful ranch style home on a corner lot, sold first.  I wandered around outside while Jill put on her game face.  I was just happy to stretch my legs for a bit.  I wandered around the neighborhood for a spell.  New Philly may have not invented mid-century modern, but it had a great collection of it.  Nearly every other house was a striking atomic ranch, all retro, all unique and all preserved.  I would love to take a tour inside some of these old museums of shag carpet, wall clocks and ugly lamps.    Even though the auctioneer was inside, he left his remote mic on, which relayed outside.  It was like listening to a basketball game on the radio.  He was the play-by-play guy and I sat huddled in the cold listening for Jill’s bid number.

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The house sells for around $115K

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There was a real cool bar with knotty pine walls in the basement. Good times were surely had here!

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The living room was classic mid century, ugly lamps, fiberglass drapes and all!

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This HW buffet sold for around $200. A good price, but Jill already had one, so she passed.

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There were two of these corner cabinets, each selling for around $600. Too much for us!

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But she did score two bookcases that we later realized weren’t even HW, but they looked the part and were worth the $60 she paid for them.

“An-a-forty-five…no fifty…now fifty five…now sixty.  Anymore?  All in, all done?  Sold to number seventy-three.  Seventy three.”  That’s Jill’s number!  She won.  Atta girl, show then New Philly boys who’s boss.    After winning the few select items she wanted, Jill paid and I loaded.  Total time at the auction was about an hour, yet another record for the weekend.  The precious chairs were carefully stacked, two by two, in the back of the Highlander while the bookcases and chairs were arranged in the covered trailer.  I wrapped them, but not especially well since they would undergo a refinishing before being allowed to consort with the other Hey Wake pieces.

Our post-auction feast is traditionally Mexican food, and this outing was no different.  The El San Jose would be our spot to dine, tell tales, and gather ourselves before heading south.  They knew we were coming as their sign read, “Fiesta Time.”  Damn right fiesta time, San Jose.   I don’t know, it made me laugh and that’s all that matters.    Queso dip, a Margarita for Jill and a Dos Equis for me, we toasted our successful trip.  We made our deadlines, miraculously, and arrived at all our destinations in one piece.  Jill was getting better at navigating.  She was also becoming more in tune to my ridiculous pilot to co-pilot requests.  I was constantly having her look-up obscure things that pop in my head.  But she tolerated it with grace, at least most of the time.

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Fiesta Time!!!

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Poor headless Burro!

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The artwork was breath taking 🙂

We headed south.  We made a quick stop in Columbus to Jill could browse Flower Child, her favorite shop in that city.  We would also swing in our favorite wine shop, across the bridge from Cincinnati and barely into Kentucky, and select a bottle for the debriefing at home.  Total mileage for the trip was just over 1,200 miles.  Total time behind the wheel would top seventeen hours.  And total sleep in the past twenty-four hours was under four hours.  But I would change that soon.

Back at home, our driveway was still covered with snow, a result of the winter storm we were barely missed on Friday.  I quickly went to work.  I unloaded our suitcases, tossed leftover Mexi in the fridge, opened the wine and unloaded Jill’s coveted chairs.  She placed them around her matching Champagne colored table, the missing pieces that completed her formal dining room renovation.

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Mission accomplished! The dining room is complete!

It looked lovely.  She promised me a hero’s breakfast in the morning, to be served on her new table and presented on her atomic plates.  I puffed my chest and sipped my beverage to a mission accomplished.  To the victor go the spoils…but not until after I get some sleep.  Good night world. Mr. Heywood and Mr. Wakefield, she’s yours tonight boys.

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A much-deserved Hero’s Breakfast, and cup of coffee, for my efforts.

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