Burning Gas-Moab 2

29px Jeep safari near Moab, Utah, USA

29px Jeep safari near Moab, Utah, USA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The town of Moab, Utah deserves some mention. I wrote my first post about how the town has built an economy around outdoor adventure.  Let me relate some anecdotes about our time there. I awoke early one morning, and as is my usual habit, I opened the drapes to  look out at the sunrise over the parking lot. At the far end of the lot was a brand new Chevy Silverado with dualies, and a crew cab. Hitched to the truck was a twenty-four foot covered trailer. A forty-something man was up early unloading his rock climber; a special vehicle designed and built to climb ridiculously tough terrain.  Later, after breakfast, I went to my car, and there, parked near my Death Star was the rock climber. The thing looked brand new. The young man was setting out on an adventure from the hotel parking lot. He would drive his unlicensed super-horsepower, four-wheel-drive, roll-caged, high-wheeled, wide-tired climber down the street to a trailhead. I thought this was unusual. The locals say it happens all the time.

After touring Arches National Park, we parked the Death Star on a side street and walked to the main drag. We passed a parking lot of Jeeps fitted with bench seats and special roll-bars. They were all the same color with a distinctive logo. The fleet was ready to haul tourists on back road tours through the scenic mountains. A half block further we passed a bicycle shop with mountain bikes galore waiting to buy or rent. Peg and I searched for a place to eat, and we passed many pasta cafe’s. Pasta is another sure sign of a young athletic type adventurer. Pasta is the fuel of bicyclists and hikers. We had lunch at Pasta Jay’s  and were delighted by the menu which contained many non-pasta items.

Mountain Bikes for Sale or Rent

Mountain Bikes for Sale or Rent

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I So Wanted to Go Here For Lunch, but the Menu was Too Mexican for Peg

Since Moab was a stop on our journey home after spending three and a half months in the Valley of the Sun, we did some last-minute souvenir shopping. I wanted to buy baseball caps with Moab printed on them for my male kids. We crossed Main Street from the pasta place to the T-Shirt Shop where if I couldn’t find what I was looking for it doesn’t exist on the planet. I didn’t find a hat with “Moab” printed on it. I asked the Gnarly looking kid behind the counter if he could make hats for me. “I sure can,” he said. We print anything you want on any of the hats on that rack there. He pointed at a wall display with hats in a variety of neon colors. “What about putting Moab on the hat?” He pulled out a box of ready-made appliqués and showed me several sizes of Moab. I picked one and told him to make nine hats in the flurescent orange and to add a jet black Moab to it.  I want my team to have something that will make people ask “what the heck is Moab?” The clerk rattled off a couple of meanings instantly. He said, “If you are in the Air Force it means Mother of all Bombs, and if you are in the Navy it stands for Mother of all Boats, and I can sell you a special bumper sticker that reads “Mother of all B______,” where you fill in the b-word.

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We talked to the clerk as he methodically applied Moab to the hats. We learned he was from Baton Rouge, Louisiana where he graduated from Louisiana State University (LSU) with a degree in Communications. To pay for his education he spent eight years in the military as a medic. Four of those years he spent in Afghanistan. I learned he was conservative, and he  could not openly discuss his views while at work. He whispered that most of the thirty-somethings that come to enjoy Moab are Progressive-Liberals.

Scott’s real job was to use his distinctive voice and communication skills making radio commercials. This he did from his home studio.  We became fast friends with him, and Peggy enjoyed telling him about her granddaughter who at age eighteen joined the Air Force to qualify for the GI bill.

Scott, LSU graduate, Afghanistan Vet, Tee Shirt Salesman

Scott, Afghanistan Vet, LSU Grad, and Tee Shirt Salesman

We fell in love with Moab, and will return there to spend more time. I’d love to take a Jeep tour of the back country, and to explore Canyonlands National Park on the next visit. Just maybe, I’ll take a raft trip down the mighty Colorado River, solo of course.

The ‘AV’ or Main Street America

High school gave me a freedom to explore.  Classes ended at 1:50 p.m. and basketball practice didn’t begin until 3:30,  that gave me an hour to walk up to Michigan Avenue.  It is a brisk five minute walk from the school, and up the hill to the “Av.”

The “Av,” short for Michigan Avenue, formed the central business district for the Roseland, and surrounding neighborhoods.  The “Av” and “Main Street America,” were one and the same. Walking down MIchigan Avenue between 103rd St and 115th St was the same as walking down the Main Street of Lowell ,Indiana, or Morris, Illinois. Small businesses covered both sides of the street from 107th to 115th.  There were clothing stores, shoe shops, a shoe maker, drugstores, Gately’s People Store, Walgreen’s, a small bike shop, barber shops, photo studio, and more.  Anything needed for life could be found on the “Ave”. There were restaurants, taverns, Dentists, and Doctors mixed in between and above the stores.  At the top of the hill on the corner of 111th and Michigan stood the Mocambo Night Club.

One of my favorite places was the soda fountain at Walgreen’s.  After a day in class, a coke hit the spot.  Mom shopped at Gately’s whenever she needed a special dress. Gately’s ran a bakery and food shop on the lower level.  One of their specialties was the French doughnut.  These were made on the automated donut machine.  I could watch that thing for hours.

The machine consisted of an ovular trough filled with hot cooking oil.  The start point was a dough dispenser, which plopped a ring of raw dough into the oil. The plop cooked in the oil as it moved around the oval.   A new plop followed as soon as the first was out of the way.  Once the plop reached the halfway point, a submerged basket lifted up and flipped it so the uncooked side was in the oil.  The half cooked donut continued to the end where it was again lifted and flipped out of the oil onto a tray as a fully cooked donut.  A worker arranged the finished donuts on the tray. She gave a final touch by sprinkling them with either powdered sugar, dipping them in chocolate frosting, or into plain sugar. When completed, she traded the full tray for an empty, and moved the full tray to the display case.  The process never stopped moving. Today, if you go to a Krispy Kreme donut shop you will see the same donut maker amazing people the same way it amazed me fifty-five years ago. It is also the same machine that amused me  in Hillman’s basement sixty-five years ago.

The Cianci Photo Studio was on the west side of the Ave between  at 113th.  They always featured examples of their work in the window.  High School graduation pictures were among their specialties.  When I graduated Mendel I had my studio picture taken there too.  My ugly face was one of the pictures they put into the window.  That was great from a girl chasing point of view, but I took a lot of flack from the guys.

I often visited the bike shop to look for parts to customize my bike.  There was something about the smell of the shop that turned me on.  The shop was not one of the modern sterile bright show rooms of today.  It was more like an old hardware store where the aisles and walls are stacked with shelves loaded with parts.  The difference being a hardware store didn’t have bikes squeezed into every inch of available floor space.

The owner of the shop was a gray haired man who wore an apron. His hands were black with dirt and grease.  The looked liked my hands when I cleaned my chain or rear wheel with a strong solvent.  The dirty grease gets into every pore and every fingerprint.  It was at this shop that I bought an eleven-tooth cog for my rear wheel.  A classmate from Roseland introduced me to the mechanical advantage offered by sprockets. He told me that putting a smaller sprocket on the back wheel would make the bike faster.  What he taught is correct but that “faster” also requires more torque.  Torque is required to turn the crank.  The force exerted on the pedal transmitted through the crank arm is torque.  The smaller gear required more torque, and since the crank arm is a fixed length, the force has to increase.  I found myself standing on the pedal to get enough force converted to torque to pull the chain that turned the small sprocket.

Once I got the bike moving with this sprocket, pumping continued to be harder. This extra effort got me to thinking that a bike really needs many sprockets on the back wheel. For starting from a dead stop or for climbing hills, a large rear sprocket is needed. Once you gain speed the sprocket can be smaller.  A multiple speed bike, what a novel idea(1952).

In 1972,  I bought a bike for my wife at the Schwinn shop in Evergreen Park.  I bought her a ladies model 5 speed, exactly what I had invented in 1952.  I told the shop owner that if Schwinn was smart they would add the multiple speed rear wheel onto a fat -tired cruiser.  The guy told me it was a dumb idea and that no one would buy it.

A hardtail mountain bike.

Image via Wikipedia

Two years later a kid name Gary Fisher from California put a 5 speed wheel on a cruiser and started riding it up a mountain just so he could have the thrill of coasting down at high speed.  The mountain-bike caught on, and a fad began which pumped new life into a failing bike industry.  The new sport of mountain biking became a rage.  Schwinn finally woke up in the late seventies and sold a crude mountain bike.

The Av was a major commercial area until the late sixties.  By then, shopping malls displaced Main Street.  On the Southwest side of Chicago, Evergreen Plaza became the new hot spot for shopping. One by one, the businesses on the Av closed. The street became quiet, and the storefronts boarded.

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