Saturday, February 28, 2009


I'm a bit surprised to find myself posting another picture of trucks, but I love this picture.

This little bar in Rock Falls, IL apparently has no name, but it has the signs of both a Milwaukee and a St. Louis brewery, and everyone in the neighborhood knows where to find it, I'm sure.

At least two guys found the place on the early afternoon when I was passing by.

What I find so interesting is that while they both drive small pickups, the guy in the red Dodge pulls in forward under the Bud sign and the guy in the blue Ford Ranger backs in underneath the PBR sign, and I assume that they entered the establishment through separate doors.

"Hey, how can you drink that swill?"

"Hey, how can you drive that piece of crap?"

"Buy you a beer, cowboy?"

Autocar and Driver

When I was explaining the theme of this blog - the relationships between people and their vehicles, and the ways that people use and identify with their cars (and trucks), a friend asked me (she's not that into cars), "Is this going to be about how people look like their dogs?"

Well, not exactly, but kinda. People do pick vehicles that suit their personalities. Most of the time we have to infer their personalities from the car, because we don't get the chance to talk to them.

When I find them together, I like to make a picture of that.

This is an old picture, but I remember distinctly meeting this gentleman at a rest stop in southeastern Michigan. Great guy. No nonsense.

He was quite amused that I asked to take his portrait with his rig.

I'd like to meet his dog.

All images and text copyright 2009 Jeffery Blackwell

Friday, February 27, 2009

Getting Traction

I will admit, in case you couldn't tell, that I have struggled for grip getting off the line here. Thanks for hanging with me.

I believe that I have finally hooked up (in the car sense) and got my wheels pointed in the right direction. Should be a fun ride.

This blog is going to be mainly a photo blog, with my commentary about the vehicle in my pictures.

I have been taking pictures of cars since the first time I picked up a camera, and still find at least one interesting vehicle to shoot nearly every day.

Not the latest, greatest thing on the road mind you, but cars that tell us something about their owners - and about how deeply cars are embedded in our culture here in the United States.

Cars that have been used so long that they show patterns of human activity worn into them. Cars that have been cared for and cars that have been abused. Cars that have been "enhanced" or "decorated" or outright redesigned by their owners.

Sometimes I meet the owners and chat them up, but more frequently, I am left to speculate about the person who drives a unique ride. When I do talk to them, I'll share with you what they think about their vehicle and why it looks like it does.

Sometimes I may speculate about the relationship between the car and its owner.

Sometimes the vehicles speak for themselves, like this gentle, 45 year-old, not a car, not quite a truck Ford Ranchero sitting up to its rims in freezing water - hoping for a new home and a new life.

Maybe hauling around a couple of big dogs in its comfortable old bed.

All photos and words copyright 2009 Jeffery Blackwell

Thursday, February 26, 2009


You have to be impressed with someone who builds their own car.

Even if they start with a "real" car, someone who stands back and says "You know, I could do better," and then actually does it has to be admired.

My only question (well, not my only question, but the first question that comes to mind) is; if you're going to go to all this trouble - why would you paint it beige?

Anyway, hats off to all those folks who take a perfectly good (or even a not too good) car, go at it with hammer and saw, and create a unique ride.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Blue Blood

My blood is Ford Blue.

In the southeastern corner of Michigan where I grew up, almost every family has a tight bond with one of the car companies, passed from one generation to the next, and in my family it is Ford.

Besides my Dad's more than 50 years serving Ford in one capacity or another, a brother's couple of stints at the Wixom and Ypsilanti assembly plants, I can count at least 4 cousins who worked for Ford at some time. If you count the time I worked prepping cars at my Dad's Ford store, so did I.

Unless you live in SE Michigan or a city in the Midwest where cars have been built for decades, it's hard to imagine the deep sadness that hangs like a mist over these places. Fear is becoming resignation to a new reality. Which seems quite surreal.

The idea that GM and Chrysler may fade into bankruptcy is scarcely imaginable to people who have depended on those companies to support generations of their families. The fact that Ford is managing to hang on is pretty cold comfort.

This might be comparable to a native of Colorado being forced to contemplate the disappearance of the Rocky Mountains, or a New Yorker losing the twin towers from their skyline.

In Detroit, there is a palpable feeling that We Blew It, and it Ain't Ever Comin' Back.

At one time, the "Big Three" may have been in that privileged category of "Too Big to Fail", with the big banks and brokers. "As goes GM, so goes the nation." Remember that?

60 years or so ago - one generation - the American car was a wonder of style, but already the underpinnings of the eventual collapse of the American makers was built in to every vehicle.

The pain is the worse knowing that it didn't have to happen this way.

A couple of months ago, when Ford stock was down to a dollar a share, I picked some up. Had to.

The Blue Bomb - My 2002 SVT Focus

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Pilot Error

My dad was a pilot. He flew small, private planes from the age of 16, and I flew with him (as a passenger) many times.

I remember his meticulous pre-flight inspection. With the checklist on a clipboard, he would walk slowly around the outside of the plane, moving the rudder right and left with his hands. Each wing flap was moved up and down all the way to its stop. When he got inside the plane he would move them again, using the pedals.

Before every single flight, whether we would be flying cross-country or just shooting touch-and-goes right here at the airport, he would check the condition of the tires and brakes and open the cowl and get down on his hands and knees and crawl underneath the engine, looking for leaking fluids. As each item was penciled off on the list, my Dad would actually say "Flaps, check"."Tires, check."

I am sure he spoke the verbal confirmation even when he was flying solo.

Climbing inside the plane, he started flipping switches and calibrating instruments and testing radios. I don't know what it was, but one instrument always seemed to require a finger-pop to it's crystal before he was satisfied that it was working right.

I remember as I sat silently watching him, the right-side steering yoke right in front of me, thinking of all of the possible parts of this 40 year-old airplane that could fail and cause us to crash.

I also remember thinking what a huge responsibility it is to take an airplane into the sky.

Two plane crashes in recent days have had me thinking of my Dad.

Listening to the flat voice of "Sully" Sullenberger as he continuously recalculated his airspeed, glide angle and the distances to three possible landing sites, all the while in full knowledge that this was going to be a crash, my wife was amazed at his coolness. "How can he do that?", she asked quietly.

The survival of all his passengers, and the safety of those who might have been killed on the ground, were a giant buzz for this country. We revelled in the competency and the skills of Sully and the crew, the air traffic controllers and the dozens of rescue crews that converged on the river.

Then last Thursday night, also in New York, an icy plane with 49 souls on board dropped out of the sky, killing all aboard and one on the ground.

Recent analysis of that airplane's recorders indicate that the pilot may have actually contributed to the crash, due to his inexperience with the particular plane.

The whole country celebrated with Captian Sullenberger, his crew and the passengers and their families.

I can't stop thinking about the families of the Captain of Continental Connection Flight 3407, Marvin Renslow, and his copilot, Rebecca Shaw.

My Dad


whch wz agAnst d RulZ

Like most people of, shall we say, a certain age, I am a reluctant texter.

In my defense, I lack a QWERTY keyboard on my phone. (I know, right?)

I receive text messages from my kids occasionally. (And the New York Times, a bit too frequently.)

I pay $20 a month for unlimited text messaging on our three phones. My son sends or receives about 350 a month, and between my wife and I - about 20. At $.20 a pop, I did the math.

SO, IK kdz lov 2 txt

But I did not anticipate that texting while in class, as opposed to whispering or (!) passing a note, was a crime.

Apparently, in Wauwautosa, WI it is.

"The School Resource officer at Wauwatosa East High School was asked to go to room 242 and remove a student who refuses to stop texting on her phone during class," according to the Wauwatosa Police officer.

Was this a matter of:
  • A vicious High School girls' throwdown that would not be interrupted for anything, especially some rent-a-cop?
  • Despotic resistance to a new and more effective means of teenagers organizing for causeless rebellion?
  • Another case of old people not getting that, in a generation, there have been awesome advances in our bodies, especially our thumbs and our ability to do more than one lame thing at a time?
Whatever, the girl refused to give up her phone (duh) and was arrested and suspended from school for a week.

According to the article, the girl has twice since received citations for hanging around the school during her suspension.

I predict this kid will go far.