Tourist Kitchenette

The Model T Museum has something interesting that I’ve never seen anywhere else. It’s a Tourist Kitchenette that would have been a necessity for anyone traveling a long distance during the early days of automobile travel.

Think about the days before modern automobile travel – no interstate highways or fast food restaurants and few hotel and restaurant options along America’s rural roads.

Made by Tourist Supply Company of Los Angeles, California, it has compartments for dry goods as well as cold items, providing a compact means of storing everything you need to prepare a meal on the road. It would be attached to the running board of your car and the front folds down with legs to create a table.

Ingenious, isn’t it?

I found this photo online to illustrate how it would look attached to the vehicle and opened as a table.

It seems there would be a market for something like this today. Think about the outdoor enthusiasts who need a way to stay organized while camping and nerds like me who wish to eat healthy while traveling.

It seems like everything old is eventually new again and a version of this little kitchenette would be great in the back of an SUV!

Want to learn more about my most recent trip to the Model T Museum? It’s a pretty cool place so you should click here and read all about it!

Model T Museum With Dad

A highlight of last year’s Christmas vacation was a stop at the Model T Museum in Richmond, Indiana. While I know little about cars and nothing about the Model T, I had a fantastic time touring the museum and learning from a great tour guide. The entire time, I kept thinking about how much my dad would love it there.

In my lifetime, I went places with both my parents or with my mother but rarely just with my dad. So it’s a treat to spend a day just the two of us. We set out early, zig zagging through small towns and then across the National Road into Richmond. Neither of us enjoy highways and we weren’t on any kind of schedule so it was fun wandering down roads we hadn’t seen before.

The museum didn’t disappoint. I enjoyed the tour again and he loved it, getting more out of it than I ever will. He has many of the tools and parts they’re displaying, jumbled into his own random collection of stuff. Good luck finding any of it. He’s sort of a pack rat and, while no one else can ever find anything, he knows exactly what he has.

The museum tells the story of the Model T in the context of what was happening in the country and world. It’s very nicely done and I would recommend it if you get a chance.

We also stopped at a big antique mall near Dayton that I’ll tell you about another day.

It was a good day and I’m glad we got to enjoy it together. Solo adventures are fun but it’s even better with someone you know will enjoy it.

Firehouse BBQ and Blues

I’ve mentioned before that I’m always grateful to find good vegetarian food when I travel.

There’s a place in the Historic Depot District of Richmond, Indiana called Firehouse BBQ and Blues. It has great character, good food and a couple of vegetarian options that aren’t boring old salads.

Plus, this place is a lot of fun to visit.

First of all, the building is a fantastic old stone firehouse with a mural on the side that depicts firefighters trying to catch a cat that was dropped from a second floor window. It was the city’s first firehouse, predating automobiles so the building once stabled horses that were used to pull the “fire trucks.”

Inside, you’ll find gorgeous wood floors and fun memorabilia from the city’s musical past. Another fun detailed is these great old pinball machines turned dining tables.

So back to the food. It is a bbq place so I had no choice. I had to order the bbq veggie wrap. It’s packed full of fresh veggies and black beans with a little cheddar cheese and bbq sauce. It’s absolutely delicious and filling. In my mind, bbq is meant to be eaten with mac and cheese. Theirs was just a tiny smidge dry but I forgave that flaw because it arrived in a small mason jar. I mean, really friends, how cute is that?

If you go, Firehouse BBQ and Blues welcomes kids until about 7 pm on the weekends. As the name suggests, they do have live blues music and a nice bar.

They’re located next door to a fantastic record store and across the street from the Model T Museum which I wrote about last month. Read about it here. This part of Indiana is also part of a couple of antique trails known as Antique Alley. I also wrote a little about my antiquing experiences from this trip.

The Model T Museum (It’s Cooler Than You Think)

blog t2.JPGWhat do you know about the Model T? You know – the iconic car that Ford produced during the early years of the twentieth century? People called it Tin Lizzie and it was the vehicle that opened up car travel to the American middle class, thanks to its affordability and availability.

That paragraph contains about all I knew of the Model T before last week. That and Henry Ford’s famous quote:

“Any customer can have a car painted in any color he likes so long as it is black.”

I had heard good things about the Model T Museum and hoped to stop in at some point during last week’s adventure. Making time for this was a great decision. This place is packed full of beautiful, fascinating vehicles. They have great signage that explains what’s so special about each one and about it’s place in the fabric of our history. I was also fortunate to catch a tour with one of the best tour guides imaginable, Senior Docent and Researcher Justin Mitchell.

It quickly became evident that my knowledge of the Model T was quite shallow and that there is so much more to learn than seemed imaginable when handing over my $3 admission.

blog t7The museum consists of two buildings. The first houses a nice showroom, library and gift shop. The annex, located across the street, is packed with more vehicles, including some arranged in themed rooms. One is set up like a twenties garage while another houses agricultural pieces. Work is ongoing to create more specialty rooms that will hopefully be done on my return trip.

They have many fascinating vehicles with interesting stories. Better yet, Justin is an engaging tour guide whose enthusiasm for his work is contagious. I don’t want to spoil the experience for you but want to point out that the Model T story is far more extensive than you would expect.

The collection changes periodically as vehicles rotate in and out on temporary or long term loans.  This keeps the museum fresh and exciting, providing reason for repeat visits. At this time they have fire engines, a school bus and an Australian race car. They have farm tractors, a dump truck and some of the shiniest, most beautiful passenger vehicles imaginable. They even have a small airplane!

Justin relayed stories, not just about the cars but about what they meant to people, what they still mean to people. He talked about a retired fire chief who visited and recognized a fifties fire engine that he drove many years ago.

He took the time to explain the inconvenience of stopping for gas in one particular model, given the challenging location of the gas tank and the lack of a gas gauge. This really made me thankful for the gauge on my little Hyundai and for pay at the pump on practically every corner in every American town!

Justin discussed what it meant to a farmer to have access to a kit that would transform his Model T into a farm tractor with twenty minutes worth of effort. At a cost of about $200 this kit allowed the farmer to maximize the capabilities of the family car while saving money.

blog t6.JPGOne of the most fascinating pieces isn’t very pretty but it is ingenious. At one time, you could buy a kit called “Snow-Bird” or “The Mailman’s Special” which equipped a Model T with attachments to provide mobility in snow. At a cost of about $350, it provided rural mail carriers, doctors and others who needed reliable winter transportation the tools needed to safely navigate in bad weather.

They have a car equipped with one of these mail order kits. They also have one that someone made using scrap wood from old cabinetry and other parts. It was a mail vehicle in Massachusetts, if I remember correctly, and was hand made with a little Yankee ingenuity. Like I said, it isn’t pretty but is sure is neat.

Here’s something I have learned, friends. We walk through life with specific interests, those things we know we enjoy. We like a certain band or genre of music. We like cars or model trains, books or science or polar bears or whatever it is that strikes a chord within us. And that’s what we learn about, care about and know.

But if we only learn and care about the things that we know we like, when do we broaden our horizons? What are we missing out on?

I knew little about the Model T before I met Justin and toured the museum. But I thought it was worth risking the $3 and a little time to see if there was something worth knowing from the experience. It was a wonderful experience and I had a great time. So good, in fact, I’m hoping to take my dad to visit sometime this year and I’m looking forward to seeing it all again.

This museum is about 45 minutes from Dayton and is located in a city rich in history with lots to do. There are two antique trails that start in Richmond as well as trails celebrating chocolate and wine. There are fun restaurants and opportunities to get outdoors plus it’s close to Indianapolis which is also rich in fun things to see and do.

If you like old cars or history or if you just want to learn about something new, this is a great place for you.

The Model T Museum is operated by the Model T Ford Club of America which happens to be the largest Model T Club in the world. Much of the work here is done by volunteers and through donations. Volunteers work on the cars and help with construction and other projects. Whether it’s a gift shop purchase, a few bucks in the donation box or a donated car part (or entire car), they will be thrilled to have your support.

I hope you’re fortunate to get Justin as your guide but I’m sure everyone else is great too! If you go, pay special attention to the hours. They do observe more limited hours during the winter time. Check out their website or Facebook for fun events and other information to make your visit more enjoyable.

One more thing – that famous quote about having any color the customer wants, as long as it’s black? Turns out this only applied to some years. These cars also came in gorgeous colors including red, green, blue and brown. I had no idea. 




I Ran Away From Home

blog IMG_6123_edited.jpgI ran away from home last Wednesday. With a week of vacation and no desire to be home but no place in particular to be, I did something that this overplanner wouldn’t normally do. I drove away without a real plan.

I had some maps, my phone, some supplies ( in case I couldn’t find a hotel) and my passport in case I went rogue and headed for the border. The plan was to pick up the National Road in Ohio and drive as far west as I wanted. The journey was the destination. That meant no hotel reservations, no goals and no stress.

It was amazing. 

I followed the National Road to Terra Haute, antiquing along the way, eating mostly in mom and pop restaurants, and stopping to rest wherever I got tired. The weather was beautiful the first day, horrible on day two and mediocre the rest so this wasn’t a great picture trip. But I did get a few photos I’ll eventually share here with some thoughts on special places along the way.

I’ve never done a vacation like this where I had nowhere to be and all week to get there but would absolutely do it again. In fact, it seems like something everyone should try at least once.

There are so many things that make me want to go back. Main Street America, with all its idiosyncrasies, is fascinating and I have several small research projects to answer questions from the road.  Also, I was driving the modern National Road and would love to go hunting for some of the old alignments just to see what’s what. In Indiana, the road has been expanded to four lanes most of the way and I suspect there’s a lot of interesting stuff to see off the beaten path.

Stay tuned. I want to tell you about a cool old diner, a Model T Museum, my favorite antique stores (guys, there are more antique stores than you can count out there) and several other nifty sights from along the way. Look for more soon!