What's davintosh? Mostly just the random ramblings of a hopelessly distractible… Hey, what's that?

RIP: Ray Manzarek

Filed under: Favorite Things,Fun!,Old Things — dave @ 2:27 pm 2013/05/22

Yesterday marked the passing of legend, Ray Manzarek, keyboardist for The Doors. I’ve been listening to some music from The Doors, and am just blown away by Ray’s musicianship, and the way he was able to work so seamlessly with Jim Morrison. Amazing stuff.

I might have to break down and get a DVD or Blu Ray or three of Doors performances. It’s easy to forget how good these guys were, and how bad many current performers are in comparison.

Acquired — Argus C20 Camera

Filed under: Fun!,Gadgets,Old Things — dave @ 8:12 pm 2012/07/03

Here’s something kinda fun; an Argus C2, my newest old camera find.

I picked it up for cheap at a local thrift store a while back, the latest in my decades-old penchant for old cameras. I think my collection — if it can be called that — started with my grandmother’s Brownie Hawkeye, which somehow ended up in my possession — I have no memory of exactly how — after she passed away.

I actually used that camera for a time; it didn’t produce terribly high-quality photos, but it was kind of a novelty in the day when Instamatic cameras were more the norm and 35mm cameras were the hot thing. Eventually it became more & more difficult to get film for it, and even more difficult finding a lab to process the film & make prints, so… On the shelf it went, along with some flashbulbs. How many people remember using flash bulbs?

From that start, I’ve been adding to the collection by keeping an eye out for old cameras at rummage sales, antique stores & thrift stores. There are now (I think) a couple dozen of them, plus some assorted light meters, lens filters, flash units, cases, etc… There are a couple of old movie cameras in the bunch, and a Polaroid camera or two. The newest “antiques” I have are a very early Fuji digital camera and an Apple QuickTake 100; in computer lifespans, they ought to be considered antiques by now. Finding a working computer they could interface with would be the big challenge now, so by that measurement, they qualify.

I was glad to find the Argus C2 though; I had another one like it years ago but gave it and a nice light meter to my brother-in-law as a Christmas gift. That was well before the ubiquity of digital cameras, and he actually got a fair amount of use from it (which was better than the shelf duty it served at my house!) The new(?) C2 is in slightly better shape (from what I remember of the old one), probably due to the heavy leather case and padding that came with it. It’s a heavy camera, built back in the day when heft meant “durability” and “quality”.

When I look at the old cameras, especially the 35mm cameras, I can’t help but admire the craftsmanship that went into them. These things were designed & built long before CAD was ever even thought of, and probably assembled by hand. The glass in the lenses was ground using really old-school technology, and even the tiniest metal parts… who knows how they were manufactured. Most were made of metal, with a smattering of paper products for the bellows and leather to dress them up a bit. It’s a wonder to me that the softer parts on these cameras have survived so many years in such good condition. Some of the lower-end cameras from the ’30′s – ’50′s used Bakelite for their cases; today’s cameras are mostly plastic with some metal, and lots of silicon for the electronics in them. If you were to drop one of the older cameras, chances are it would get scuffed up a bit but keep working; if it didn’t work you could often take it somewhere to get repaired. Today’s cameras — especially the under-$100 cameras — are for the most part disposable. Getting one repaired would cost more than replacing it.

For all the benefits and niceties of the older cameras, it would be hard to go back to film. The digital camera was really a game-changer in a lot of ways. In the mid-1980′s I spent a pile of money on a Canon T70 35mm camera and a couple of lenses for it. I could take some decent photos, but I never really put in the effort to learn all the tricks because with film you’d have such a time gap between when you set up a shot and when you’d see the result, not to mention the cost of the film and developing. With many digital cameras you can enable most all of the same controls as with a nice 35mm camera, but with digital you can see your results almost immediately.

That said, I still haven’t taken the time to learn many tricks with them; it’s mostly just point & shoot. Someday…

A Drive On The Meije

Filed under: Cars!,Fun!,Old Things,Travel — Tags: , , , — dave @ 11:17 pm 2011/12/10

That’s pronounced “my-ya” (except the second syllable in Dutch sounds different.) The Meije is the quaint little road that leads to my sister- and brother-in-law’s dairy farm near Bodegraven in The Netherlands. I became very familiar with the road during our visit there in May this year; very beautiful place.

Sorry for the soundless video; I did add a few comments along the way as I drove, but the camera’s mic didn’t pick it up very well. One of these days I’ll take the time to figure out how to add commentary and a soundtrack, but until then the visual aspect is all we get. Use your imagination!

Meije is also the name of a collection of homes, a church, a school, and a coffee shop that could maybe be called “a village” but I’d stop short of that (if you watch through to the end of the video, Meije is where I stopped recording & turned the car around.) But the road is what most people in the area think of when they hear the word. Le Meije also happens to be a peak in the French Alps, but I doubt the folks that live along the Meije in Holland hear much about that one, nor care much about it.

As roads go, the Meije is about as narrow as they get, with barely enough room for one-way traffic, but it still accommodates two-way traffic. Making matters worse more interesting is the fact that many of the houses have hedges & fences right up to the road, and in other places there is a drop-off one one side or the other with water at the bottom; no good-old-fashioned WPA ditches like you find in South Dakota! When another vehicle approaches from the opposite direction, both drivers have to move as far to the right as possible. Often though you’ll find yourself head-to-head with a truck or tractor, and there just isn’t room for both of you; in those cases it’s customary for the smaller of the two vehicles to back up and into a driveway to allow the other to pass by. I had it happen once, but thankfully, most cars are small and there are lots of driveways and several bump-outs along the way to make it a little easier.

This photo features het Potlood, (the Pencil) which is a water tower that services the village and the homes along the Meije. It’s a well-known landmark that can be seen from many miles distant; very unique bit of architecture!

The area is historically a farming community. Most all of the houses along the road were at one time farm houses, but the area is becoming slightly more urban, or bedroom community-ish; with the popularity of the road, many of the houses are no longer occupied by farmers. Even though the working farms are fewer these days, their presence is unmistakable, evidenced by the “dairy farm” odor… There’s no escaping the smell of cows and their, um, byproducts. It’s no wonder when you consider how many head of cattle inhabit the area and how the the farmers deal with the waste from all of them.

From what I gathered, most of the houses along the Meije were built in the early 1900′s, and display similar construction methods; brick exterior, timber roofs with either tile or reed (thatch) roofing. Many of the buildings, while quaint & charming and all that, aren’t much to write home about on the inside. The soil in the area is very soft, and as a result the foundations of many homes aren’t very stable. Dick & Michelle’s house has wall that has settled considerably, and I saw several other buildings along the road that appeared to have off-kilter walls or the whole house was slightly askew. That doesn’t seem to bother the owners though; they keep their places up as would any fastidious Dutchman. Some are definitely nicer than others, and some residents put a great deal of effort into the gardens along the road, which only adds to the enjoyment of the drive. There are few basements, for obvious reasons.

The GPS unit that we borrowed showed that the area was about three meters below sea level. About 27 percent of the Netherlands is below sea level; it’s land that has been reclaimed by the building of dikes to push & hold back the sea. The area around the Meije is part of that reclaimed land, and is about as flat as a pool table. The different properties that line the road are separated by canals rather than fences. Most of the canals I saw were about three meters wide and probably about that deep in the center.

It had been fairly dry in the months preceding our visit, so the water level was down a bit, but there was always plenty of water in the canals and plenty of waterfowl around; ducks, geese, swans and storks. One interesting thing with the canals along the road; on the north side of the road (left in the video) is a larger canal that connects to a small lake, and the water level is several feet higher than the canals on the south side of the road. I suppose the road acted as a levee separating the two. In many places the canal runs right next to the road, which required bridges to be built on many driveways to allow access. Some of the homes even sported drawbridges at the road! How cool is that?

When viewing the area from above, as on Google Maps or Google Earth, you can see that the canals run parallel to one another to form fields in the shape of long rectangles. It was surprising to me to see how many farms & homes were packed along the road; in rural parts of the US there can be pretty large distances between farm places.

The Meije is far from the coast and any sizable dikes, but one day Yvonne & I did trek northward to visit the towns where her mom & dad lived when they were younger. Her mom lived in the town of Andijk, which is pronounced “on-dike” and is very literally built right on — or inside — the dike. I was pretty amazed at the dike; it’s an earthen structure that rises a good 30 feet or more from the road’s surface at its foot, but on the other side the water is only about 10 feet below the crown of the dike.

This is two photos stitched together (rather poorly; the light was very different in the two exposures and I couldn’t get the clouds quite right!) to show the difference between the two sides. The town would be completely submerged if not for the dike. A tremendous degree of confidence in the integrity of the dike is on display in Andijk; there are two 100-plus year old churches within a stone’s throw of the dike as well as several hundred homes.

This is getting a bit long… I started writing the post a month or so after returning, but kept adding a little bit here & there, even though I didn’t intend for it to turn into a travelogue. It really was a great trip, especially our time spent touring Germany. And our day trip to the Swiss Alps… Pretty sure Heaven will look very much like what we saw there! Didn’t enjoy the language problem though; will not be returning to Europe until I know a enough German and Dutch to get by. Will have to post some more photos sometime.

The FridgeCouch

Filed under: Just Stuff,Old Things — Tags: , , , — dave @ 10:18 pm 2011/09/10

Saw this on Treehugger yesterday; very cool…

Cool Couches Made From Recycled Fridges

The fridge couch — well, someone out there had to finally marry the two. Created by Canadian designer Adrian Johnson, these customized ultra-retro seaters are made from vintage refrigerators and salvaged car seats that he rescues from local junkyards. Johnson’s apparent mission: “To go where recycling hasn’t gone before.”

Speaker-integrated comfort: the 535i No Frost. Specs: Black leather 1988 BMW 535i back seat with fold-down arm rest in Harvest Gold 1980 GE No Frost refrigerator with dark walnut and oak shelving, swinging freezer door side table, storage cabinet and iPod-compatible Philips sound system.

And to think… I have a spare back seat from my 528e in the basement that’s just begging to be put back into use like this. Now; where to find a junked fridge?

The Star Spangled Banner — The Other Verses

Filed under: Favorite Things,Fun!,Just Stuff,Old Things — Tags: , , — dave @ 11:53 pm 2011/07/03

The Star Spangled Banner is one of the most well-known songs in the US. It is after all our National Anthem. But did you know that what we hear sung before a baseball game is actually just the first verse of a much longer song?

Verse 1:
Oh, say can you see by the dawn’s early light
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars thru the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

Verse 2:
On the shore, dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream:
‘Tis the star-spangled banner! Oh long may it wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Verse 3:
And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion,
A home and a country should leave us no more!
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps’ pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Verse 4:
Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war’s desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav’n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: “In God is our trust.”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

The other three verses aren’t quite as, um, nice or politically correct as the first, which may be part of the reason they aren’t sung often and thus not as well known, but they hold a lot of meaning, and reflect more fully the Christian faith that was prevalent among the people in days past who first sung it. The gentleman in this video apparently hadn’t heard of the other three verses but learned verse 4, thinking it was the second of two verses. He does have a great singing voice.

I don’t remember ever hearing about the other verses until just recently. Last year I bought a pile of old books at a rummage sale, and tucked into one of them was a really old & tattered leaflet of Civil War battle songs that was assembled and printed by The Lion Coffee Company; near as I can determine from the contents of the booklet, it was printed not long after the Civil War. It was a bit torn up, had had a new cover added to it at some point so was missing some of its original content, and was held together with some string. Pretty cool stuff; lots of songs I’d heard and sung before, but some that I’d never heard of and others, like the Star Spangled Banner, that had verses that were new to me. I’ll share more of the contents of the booklet later, but couldn’t resist showing off one of the pages just a little!

Our Own Bridge To Nowhere

Filed under: Old Things,Politics,sioux falls — Tags: , , — dave @ 11:01 am 2010/08/23

The Yankton Trail Bridge has been a landmark in Sioux Falls for a long, long time. The bridge gets its name from the trail & stage road connecting the settlement that became Sioux Falls, SD, to Yankton, SD, which was then the capital of Dakota Territory. A small remnant of the original trail remains on the grounds of my alma mater, The University of Sioux Falls. I have no idea when the bridge on the trail was built over the ford; it’s looked pretty old as long as I remember. According to the bridge’s page on Bridgehunter.com (don’t you just love the Internet?) it was built in 1895, and is Pin-connected, 9-panel Parker through truss design.

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Up until the 1970′s, when a much bigger bridge was built over the Big Sioux River at Western Avenue, southbound traffic on the gravel road heading south out of Sioux Falls went over that bridge. The Yankton Trail Bridge was then handed over to the Sioux Falls Parks & Recreation Department, and saw limited use from vehicle traffic entering & exiting Yankton Trail Park. Years later the park’s traffic flow was redesigned, a newer bridge built a little further downstream, and the Yankton Trail bridge was relegated to strictly foot & bicycle traffic. The bridge remained essentially unchanged from its original Pratt Truss design, but the Parks Dept. added a plank deck over its open mesh deck; being able to see through the deck you’re walking or riding over is a bit unnerving, so the plank deck was a welcome addition. At least to me!

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True, the Yankton Trail Bridge is somewhat useful for bike trail users, but with two other pedestrian-friendly bridges within about 600 yards in either direction, it is a bit redundant. There isn’t a lot of historic significance attached to the bridge, so it’s something of an anachronism.

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This spring we noticed that construction had commenced on the bridge, and we watched as it continued through the summer. Work on it was just recently completed; the original stone and masonry abutments were removed and new concrete abutments were built, new decking and railing were installed. It looks very nice.

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Last week though, I ran across this little tidbit on the city’s website…
(more…)

What Changes Will The Next 18 Years Bring?

Filed under: Computers,Cool Technology,Geek,Mac Stuff,Old Things — dave @ 10:01 am 2010/03/23

I was digging through my Sitemeter visitor stats a few days ago, and noticed again with a bit of wonder that one of the posts that consistently sees a fair bit of traffic is the one about the 68000 dash 30fx computer I have at home. The dash 30fx a monster of a Macintosh clone that was built without Apple’s blessing in the early ’90′s. The manufacturer got away with it by building the computer around the logic board of a IIfx purchased from Apple. The IIfx was no slouch in its day, but the 30fx stepped things up to the next rung, but at a high price.

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You can read more about that relic in the old post, but seeing a bump in interest on that page made me wonder whether some of that traffic might be driven by some new chatter about those computers. So I did a little searching, and came up with several Google Books hits that I hadn’t seen before. One of them was a Network World article from June 15, 1992:
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The part that got me…

The network had to be Ethernet-based in order to accommodate the Macintosh equipment. But the bandwidth constraints of a conventional Ethernet LAN were insufficient for transmitting images ranging from 100M to 300M bytes in size.

That’s a blast from the past. I remember the days of 10baseT ethernet all too well, when pushing a 100MB file over an AppleTalk network would take a matter of minutes, and 300MB… Start the transfer and go take a coffee break! It makes me feel a bit old. The digital prepress shop described in the article sounds amazingly similar to to our shop at CCL where we used the dash 30fx along with a IIfx, some Quadra 950′s, a LaserWriter, a couple of Sun SPARCstation 2s (which served as raster image processors (RIPs) for a DuPont Crosfield imagesetter). Our operation was a lot smaller than the one described in the article, as we only had one Crosfield — they had ten. They may have had more equipment, but still dealt with the same constraints in moving data around the network.

I started work for CCL in 1991, and moved to the graphics department about a year later. I worked in traditional stripping, proof & platemaking for a while before transferring to the digital art department. Not long after getting in the door, the department’s tech guy decided to venture out on his own & started a digital imaging company. I was “promoted” to fill his shoes, providing tech support for the department in addition to my regular duties. In that position, one of my first tasks/learning opportunities was to move a couple of pieces of equipment around in the department, which involved making a couple of changes on the old thinnet daisy chain network. I started the job on a Friday afternoon after everybody else had left, and could not get it working again. Thinnet was as quirky as it gets; throughput may have been slow, but reliability & configuration flexibility were awful. That made the speed less of an issue I guess.

One of the projects my predecessor had started but hadn’t finished was upgrading the network in the department to 10Base-T twisted pair ethernet. The network drops were in place and most of the pieces were there, but we were still waiting on a few last pieces so we weren’t quite ready to pull the trigger on it. The trouble I had that evening helped me decide we were ready enough, so I blasted forward with the 10Base-T and figured I’d deal with the missing pieces afterward. I didn’t see much hope in getting the thinnet working, so even if I spent the whole weekend finishing the project up, I figured I could spend the same time with the thinnet and still end up with a slow dodgy network that might still not work. That turned out to be one of the best decisions I ever made. I had everything installed and working in less than an hour (after screwing around with the thinnet for four hours just trying to get it to work.) The few devices still on thinnet stayed on a little sub-network, with a Mac bridging the two segments. We limped along like that for a week or so until the rest of the equipment showed up, but just having things working — and working at five times the previous network speed — made it more than worthwhile. My boss was impressed!

I learned a lot on that first 10Base-T ethernet network; the 10 megabit speed in AppleTalk, combined with those early machines made image processing pretty time consuming. In 1992, pushing a 100MB file around the network indeed took a while, plus disk space was very expensive, so all kinds of extra work went into making things as compact as possible. Even on the state-of-the-art RIP running on that 90MHz Sparc 20 workstation, an eight-page layout literally took hours to process before it would begin imaging. A lot of times, we’d set up a layout, send it to the RIP and let the RIP chew on it overnight; if we somehow made a mistake somewhere along the line (it happened; not often, but it happened) we’d have to fix the foible & start all over again. Even before the job went to the RIP we’d examine the Quark, Illustrator & Photoshop files trying to find places we could streamline things a bit; Photoshop images that were scaled and/or rotated in Quark or Illustrator would take extra RIP time, so we’d take the time to re-do those files in Photoshop so they would be placed at 100% with no rotation.

Now though, eighteen years later, with RIPs running multiple 3GHz processors (with multiple cores), 4GB of memory, and gigabit ethernet, that same eight-page spread takes a matter of minutes to send to the RIP and for the RIP to process it. And modern operating systems, gigabit ethernet NIC’s and faster hardware make file transfers of several gigabytes pretty much a non-issue. Then there is disk space; one of the first purchases I had to make was a 1GB SCSI hard drive to replace one that had died in a Macintosh Quadra 950. I don’t remember exactly what I paid for it, but I know it was in the neighborhood of $1,000. Now you can buy a 1 terabyte drive for under $100! So with disk space so cheap and network transfer speeds so fast, the time we spent trimming file sizes and optimizing placement seems a total waste.

The years I’ve spent in this business have pretty much flown by At this point in my career, I’m probably in it for the duration. But thinking about how much things have changed since I started back in 1992 really makes me wonder what kind of changes and improvements the next 18 years will bring; cheaper, faster, smarter…

The Texaco Fire Chief Helmet

Filed under: Fun!,Gadgets,Old Things — dave @ 1:15 am 2009/12/06

Somebody at work was complaining the other day about feeling like she hadn’t accomplished anything that day because she spent all her time “putting out fires”. I could relate; I have days like that pretty regularly. But with Christmas approaching, the thought occurred to me that it’d be fun to get her a toy fireman’s helmet as a gag gift, and that led me to remember one of the coolest toys of my childhood, a Texaco Fire Chief helmet.

TexacoHelmet1

This was not just any plastic toy hat; it had an adjustable head strap, and a microphone with an amplifier and speaker built into the front of the helmet. I don’t remember when I got the helmet; probably a Christmas gift that kinda blended in with all the other gifts, not leaving any distinct memories. I also have no idea what happened to it, but I’d bet it was jettisoned back in 1977 when my family moved from the house I grew up in — a lot of stuff disappeared during that move. By that time I had pretty much outgrown that toy, but these days I’d sure like to have it back, just for old time’s sake. I do remember being frustrated with it not working, but if I had it now, I bet I could get it working again.

TexacoHelmet8

I found several helmets like mine up for bids on eBay (of course); the one pictured was in particularly good condition, and had some great photos (that I could actually borrow; it’s eBay is making it pretty tough to link or directly download images from auctions these days.) I’m really tempted to bid on it.

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The Jumanji Stampede

Filed under: Just Stuff,Old Things — dave @ 9:55 pm 2009/09/18

The family & I just finished watching Jumanji again — that is a fun movie, and one of my all-time favorites! But the scene that gets me is the first stampede… Alan (Robin Williams), Sarah (Bonnie Hunt), Judy (Kirsten Dunst) & Peter (Bradley Pierce) duck down a hallway to get out of the way of the stampeding animals, allowing us, the audience, a view of the animals running past the hallway.

Every time I see that scene reminds me of a fevered dream when I was a kid. I was sick with the flu or something and had a fever. Sleep was sporadic, and I kept dreaming — or more likely hallucinating — that huge animals were running down the hallway past my room making an enormous racket. It seems to me that I had this dream more than just once as a kid… And I know of at least one time as an adult having a fever and getting that déjà vu feeling. Very unnerving. But this movie scene is as close to what I saw in my mind’s eye as anything else.

Pardon the crappy video; it’s all I could find online, and looks like someone stuck a video camera in front of a TV to capture it. If you really want to experience it, rent the movie; it’s worth it!

Sleep In A Wigwam!

Filed under: Fun!,Old Things,Travel — dave @ 4:09 pm 2009/05/27

On our Kentucky visit last week, we intentionally drove some of the two-lane highways when traveling between the sites we visited, and the rural Kentucky scenery made the longer drive times very worthwhile. After our Mammoth Cave tour we had dinner in Cave City, KY, then drove Highway 31W back to Elizabethtown. Not too far down the road we happened across a very special sight, the Wigwam Village Inn.

The sign welcomes visitors to stop and “Sleep in a Wigwam”, and offers fifteen teepee-shaped rooms, complete with modern amenities, arranged in a semicircle around the main teepee in the center. The name of the place confused me a little, as the term ‘wigwam‘ is usually associated with a dome-shaped hut used by Native Americans, while the structures in the Wigwam Village were more like tipis… I won’t argue semantics with them though; wigwam or tipi, they are definitely cool!

The history of the Wigwam Village Inn is interesting; turns out that the one we saw is one of seven that were built some 70 years ago, and they even have a tie to South Dakota!

Wigwam Village Inn No. 2 began as a dream of Frank A. Redford in the early 1900s. Frank’s inspirations in this dream were a popular ice cream shop shaped like an upside down cone and authentic teepees he’d seen on a Sioux reservation in South Dakota. His dream became reality in 1935 when construction on Wigwam Village #1 was completed in Horse Cave, Kentucky. Realizing he’d hit upon a popular idea, Frank patented the design with the US patent office in 1936.

Wigwam Village Inn #2 was completed in 1937 in Cave City, and five more were built over time in Alabama, Florida, New Orleans, California, and Arizona… Of the seven original Wigwam Villages, only three remain: #2 in Cave City, Kentucky, #6 in Holbrook, Arizona. and #7 in Riallto, California. Wigwam Village #2 is an impressive sight and is truly a monument to one man’s American dream that came true.

When we saw it, my first thought was, “This is where they came up with the idea for the Cozy Cone Motel in Pixar’s Cars!” Sure enough, the website for the California Wigwam Village confirms that thought. And it fits right in with the Route 66 theme in Cars, because that Village is located right on the real Route 66.

When we drove by the Village in Cave City, I knew it was pretty cool, and I’m glad I at least stopped to take pictures. But had I known that the place was this old and unique, I definitely would’ve at least stopped in the gift shop. Next time I’m in Kentucky…

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