Monday, June 29, 2009

The Hotter N' Hell Brick Swap: 5-23-2009

May the 22nd was the Brick Swap in Hastings, Oklahoma at Tab’s ranch. My internal clock had me up before my wake-up call. I luxuriated in the cool Hampton Inn hotel room. Compared to the Motel Six where I usually stay when on the road, I feel I’m in the lap of luxury!
I shuffled off to the breakfast at 6:15, and in the lobby I’m greeted by half the members of the club who are just finishing up and preparing to get on the road to Tabs ranch for the swap set up. These are serious collectors!

Since I already knew the way, it was an easy drive out to Tab’s arriving around 7:15. The swap does not officially start till 9:00. I brought about 50 bricks out to trade from my horde. Mainly I had Graves, Southern Clay, and Metropolitan pavers with a few other oddball bricks mixed in.
After arranging my “trader bricks” on the ground I set out to see what was available. There was an abundance of yellow pavers this meeting. I’ve always been partial to yellow bricks. My head was spinning on how to incorporate a yellow brick design into the dark red pavers of the newest patio addition.

Don from St. Marys, PA had a wonderful variety of bricks. He is an old time collector with a fabulous collection. At the last meeting in Wellston, Ohio I was shocked in that the four yellow bricks he brought from Clearfield, PA had not been snapped up in the first wave. These brick have a wonderful iridescence from the salts and clays used in their manufacture. When wetted down they have a look comparable to Tiffany glass. I snatched up those four bricks, which now have a featured spot in the new patio.

Collectors have notebooks to check off the bricks they need to compare to the bricks in the swap. Coffee and donuts were on hand to keep nerves calm. There were so many great bricks to choose from. I found some wonderful spotted yellow bricks very similar in colour to my treasured Frank Lloyd Brick. After making the first loop, I planned my strategy.

The beauty of the brick swap is: no money changes hands. The bricks on the ground are there for the taking. The rule is: You have to carry the bricks yourself. No wagons or carriers allowed. If there is a special brick you want, you can “hold it” by having your toe on it when the swap officially starts at 9:00 a.m.


My “toe brick” was at Don’s display. Don had four yellow bricks in a pattern that matched the pavers I salvaged many years ago. To find patterned pavers in yellow is nearly impossible. Two of those bricks would make the perfect center of the new patio. I’m in luck in that the other bricks I’m lusting after are not that far away in a counter clockwise direction.


The car horn sounded at 9:00 and the madness commenced. I scooped up two of those yellow bricks, and then ran around the loop grabbing up other bricks I had scoped out. The bricks were deposited onto my truck bed and the cycle continued: after the first 15 minutes things slowed down. I lucked out with collecting up some beautiful and unusual bricks. I was happy to see all the bricks I brought to trade were gone.



When everyone had their bricks packed away it was time for the auction. Bricks and related items are donated to the club to be auctioned off. 100% of the proceeds go to the club to offset operating expenses. I’m usually able to find treasures here. A fancy building ornament came into my possession along with a fancy cast iron water meter cover from Fort Worth, TX. There was a heated competition between two collectors for a rare brick from Texas. It brought some $260.00.


After I paid I forget how much for the fancy water meter cover, a member asked me if I wanted some more covers. He had five more (not as fancy) on the back of his truck. But, I had to take them all!! He needed to lighten up his load! These will be good for trading.


I know I overpay sometimes at these auctions, but knowing that all the proceeds go back to the club makes it all right. I always return home with more bricks than I came with. It all evens out.
It was about 12:30 when I headed out. I plotted out a route around Dallas on the outermost beltway to get me back to I-20. Even on a Saturday afternoon the traffic was at a crawl. Fortunately there were no accidents so things kept moving.

I had enough of the highway when I pulled off the interstate at the Motel Six in Shreveport, LA. I’ve stayed here in the past. There are no good places to eat nearby. Across the road were a Truck Stop of America and a Wendy’s. Supper was a chicken salad from Wendy’s.

I want to get home. A 4:00 a.m. wake up call was put in and I was in bed very early.

My internal clock had me up at 3:45 a.m. A quick clean up and I was on the road by 4:15. Mercifully it was a fast and easy 400 mile trip home. I arrived to my little house around 10:30.
Daggy and Stumpy were glad to get out of the house and I got to work cleaning out the truck and getting organized. The house was a mess, I had mountains of laundry to do, and Billy was arriving the next day for the next road trip to the phonograph show outside Chicago leaving on Wednesday!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Back to Last Months Brick Swap

This entry was started on Thursday June the 18th. Finally I got it finished up…..

Got home from the road Monday evening. WHEW! This past month of back to back road trips has me tore up. Bill headed back to Florida early Wednesday morning, so I have my house back to myself again. First thing I did was to turn off the air conditioner! I was a nervous wreck hearing that compressor cycle all the time!

For the record let me rehash the “Brick Swap” in Hastings, OK.This entry covers Friday, May 22, 2009.

It was a 190 mile trip from Dallas to the host Hampton Inn located in Burkburnett, TX. I left the Motel Six around 10:00 a.m. I wanted to give the traffic a chance to clear out. I planned to have a leisurely trip this day. The traffic was flowing easily as I headed north. There was no rush to get to the hotel early so I poked in the little towns that were by-passed by the main road.

Business 81 into Decatur.


Decatur, Texas was my first stop. I had to stop and backtrack to get some pictures of the “Petrified Wood Station” a landmark in this Texas county seat. What a testament to the motor courts that once dotted the countryside in the early days of automotive travel. The day was heating up. I tried to put myself back in time to the 1920’s traveling to Decatur over rough roads in a Model T Ford and stopping here for gas and refreshment…..


The downtown Decatur area was under a great deal of construction. The city square proudly boasted a magnificent stone court house. I poked around in some of the antique shops actually finding a Coffeyville “Sunflower” brick. I had the shop owners fascinated explaining the brick swap I was headed to. I overpaid for the brick, but I like to think I was supporting a small business, and it gave me souvenir of Decatur.

Headed north I was getting hungry. Exiting the main road I passed the crossroads community of Alvord. On the southwest corner of the crossroad intersection I spied a café with lots of vehicles parked in front. That looks good to this boy. I pulled a “U” turn on the deserted road and parked on the side of the building. Being a local place, I felt all heads turn and look when I entered. The waitress said to sit anywhere. I picked out a spot under a ceiling fan and got a sweet tea right off the bat. It was served Texas style in a HUGE glass with LOTS of ice.

I love eating in these places. My waitress was a friendly “Texas Girl’ who called me “Hon” and told me that I had to get the specialty of the café, the hamburger plate. I’m a pushover when I get a recommendation in this fashion. My lunch turned out to be a huge burger (cooked medium rare) with fresh home cut fries. The burger was half wrapped in waxed paper making it so easy to hold and eat. What a delicious lunch. My iced tea was kept topped off….. I swear I was sloshing when I walked back to the truck!

I arrived to the Hampton Inn right around three in the afternoon. A number of my friends from the Brick Collectors Club were in the lobby. I knew what this meant; a lot of the rooms were not made up yet. Fortunately my room was ready. It was heaven to crash onto a comfortable bed in a cool room.

The gathering tonight was about 30 miles away just over the Oklahoma border at Tab’s ranch. I left the hotel after a cooling shower to rendezvous with the other brick collectors at Tab’s place.

Driving over the flat empty countryside brings home how huge this country is. I printed out the directions from Google maps for the detailed directions. Out here using the mileage between points is more accurate than trying to count on non existent road signs. Tab had a placard at the intersection of his road greatly simplifying things.

What a spread he has put together. I had a great discussion with Tab’s sister and brother in law who explained to me how Tab at age 14 went to work and began to buy up land for his own place. There was a separate building housing the brick collection. Being an old time collector this collection had many rare bricks that never turn up any more.

Burgers cooked on the grill and the fixings that normally go with them was dinner. I’m sure getting my share of beef! But, these burgers were also delicious. These get-togethers are always so interesting. There is such a cross section of people who are in this organization. One of the mottos of the IBCA (International brick Collectors Association) is “some of the nicest people you will ever meet” are members!

I left before it got dark as I did not want to be driving on the country roads at night. Before turning onto the main county road from Tab’s I had to stop and snap a few pictures. The sun going down on the expanse of prairie and a huge field of what I’m assuming are “Black Eyed Susan” flowers nearly as far as the eye can see.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Getting Back into my Routine

Thursday was a great rowing morning in the river. The humidity was WAY down. The only bad part of the row was I forgot my do-rag. By the time we were ¾ done the sweat was running into my eyes making it nearly impossible to follow the stroke seat.

I had an 11:30 appointment for an eye exam. I’m losing the dental and eye benefits of my health care plan as of July 1st. I hate seeing doctors, but figured I better take advantage of this soon to be lost benefit. My eyes have been good (I only need reading glasses) and it had been some four years since my last exam.

The exam was at a “chain” vision place. Gone are the days having the insurance covering Ophthalmologists and the like for routine exams. I had registered all my information at their on-line site to make things easier signing in. In trying to pull up the paperwork it was nowhere to be found. Their site seemed real shaky so I’m not surprised it did not save.

The optician who did the initial tests was very capable. She was my age so we had a lot in common. She was originally from Ohio so we were able to compare living between the north and Deep South. We shared a lot of common frustrations.

The doctor showed up and did the final exam. Everything was normal. My reading prescription was bumped up a bit, but my normal vision is still 20/20.

When the Dr. left, the optician explained that I could easily buy over the counter reading glasses. My insurance covers certain generic frames and basic plastic lenses to $80.00 I think. If I could put something together without it costing a fortune, I’d just as soon do that. I was warned about the lady in sales who tries to make you get every add-on possible. That lady was tied up with a customer. The receptionist and other optician were giggling behind the front desk, ignoring the customers entering the store. I’m so thankful my optician stuck with me and took care of all the paperwork.

This must be the norm in retailing now. Debbie complains constantly of how in the salon where she works the front desk is so unprofessionally run.

Back in the showroom surrounded by designer frames, I went to the meager shelf of cheap insurance covered frames. I found the perfect frames on my own. The optician who was helping me had to give her attention to this poor man whose glasses were not right. There were three other store workers huddled behind the front desk carrying on, totally ignoring the customers. This is a reason why I HATE shopping anymore…

Enough on this rant…….

I spent the rest of the day finishing up the digging and planting. I had to run the sprinkler before attempting to break up the topsoil. The ground was so dry; it was “harder than my heart”. When I was planting I was digging into mud, but it was easier than trying to break up the baked dirt. The only nursery plants I got were some knockout roses, lantana, rosemary, coleus, porchulacas, and basil. The rest I got from dividing up existing plants in the yard. This heat is real touchy for planting… hopefully everything will take.

The worst of the patio expansion started months ago is pretty well behind me now. From here on it will just be piddly clean up and organizing busy work.

Early morning in the backyard…

Today it was a humid hazy morning that Debbie and I did our morning walk in. For once we remembered to take our cameras. It never fails when we walk on the river there will be the most wonderful sunrise and we are camera-less! (I doubt if camera-less is a real word!!) The river was like glass and the sun was an orange blur through the haze. I wished I was rowing in the river instead of just observing from the bank. We have enough rowers to take out a sweep late this afternoon…..YAY!!!

Looking upstream into the sunrise from the Tuscaloosa side of the river.

Looking downstream. The dock and boathouse are located just before the bridge on the left bank.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Worn Out From the Heat




This boy is so beat up. Three back to back road trips and a house full of projects have old Jamie worn out. We are getting into summer heat now with the temperatures routinely in the mid 90’s and heat indexes in the 105°+ range. The perfect weather to sip iced tea under a cooling ceiling fan. Instead I’ve been digging and setting bricks in order to finish up the last patio addition project.

The brickwork is completed.

Debbie was so funny on our walk of the neighborhoods this morning. I was on a tear telling her of my Tuesday adventures.

The day started with a rowing session on the river. There were enough people to take out two sweeps. Our one older sweep "Big Sky Amigo" is functional but it has a lot of wood for the infrastructure. That makes it quite heavy to transport from the boathouse to the river. I helped to carry both boats to the water. We were drenched with sweat from moving the sweeps and launch before we pushed off the dock. We had a great row, doing drills concentrating on pushing back first with the legs, then opening up the back after the legs are extended, and then finally using the arms to pull back and finish up the motion. After turning around we rowed on the sixes using heavy pressure for half the strokes. I was beat by the time we got back to the dock.

I got to the Y at 10:45. I forced myself through a workout. Normally when I use the Concept II rowers I like to break down my sessions to two or three segments of 10 minutes each. After I warm up I try to duplicate times and strokes we did at the regatta, keeping the stroke rate at 33 per minute doing 1000 meters under four minutes. There was no way that was going to happen…..

Once home the bricks were sanded down and I got to work dispersing the dirt pile from digging up the new patio addition. The pile was hoed and broken up. She worst of dirt was sifted through an old screen to separate the pea gravel.

Then the grass had to be mowed and trimmed back. The back yard is finally coming into its own now.

I have a top section of an old power pole that is used as a bird feeder base and scratching post for Daggy and Stump. Its original location was in the middle of the new patio. I relocated it to the other side of the yard. It has been quite a while since our last rain. The ground is now rock hard. It took forever to dig a hole for the power pole with the two handled post hole digger

At about 6:00 I came into the house to chug down water and cool off under the ceiling fan in the bedroom. When you are drenched with sweat the cool house feels almost cold. When the air conditioner is running standing over the floor vent in the Utilkilt brings back memories of Marilyn Monroe. Mercifully, the heavy canvas does not fly up like Marilyn's flimsy dress! The Hunter ceiling fan in the bedroom was stopped! DAMN it!!! I was so pissed over this one. Back when I first bought this house in 1996 I splurged and got a Hunter Original Ceiling fan. Homo Depot had just opened up in Buffalo and at that time they only carried Hunter ceiling fans. The "Original" fan was on sale. I'm sure I have the receipt on file, but if I remember right the price was in the $300.00 range It was top of the line then, heavy as hell, manufactured to the same specks as the old fans, and the only fan that was still made in the USA. It has a constant oil bath to lubricate the works that insures many years of care free use.

The fan that stopped is a current Hunter Original fan only about five years old, manufactured in China. It is not of the same construction or quality of that first fan of mine. I need a bedroom fan so that stopped Original Hunter fan was taken down, and replaced with the first Hunter fan I bought back in 1996. That fan has been in constant operation for over 10 years with NO trouble at all.

Another project will be to tear into the stopped fan and see what needs to be cleaned out and lubricated. It is always something…..

By this time things are getting dark outside and I have not even had supper yet. Gary called. He was babbling away trying to get me aggravated in his “passive aggressive” way. Finally I had to tell him that I was doing everything in my power to keep sane controlling things I had a chance of controlling. Anything else right now I’m not messing with. “I’m hungry and need to fix up supper. Let me sign off.” was how I ended our conversation.

Hearing these stories Debbie said how all the pieces fit together. “You get so involved in these things and then when the weather heats up you get so crabby!!!” She is so right. Once these current projects get finished up I’m taking some down time to just sit back and RELAX!!!

That will include getting caught up with my poor journal. Thee are some three half written entries that need to be completed. I'm a month behind!!

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About Me

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Tuscaloosa, Alabama, United States
Retired auto worker who can now spend too much time restoring his 1922 Bungalow Home. I'm involved in a number of varied activities from collecting bricks to rowing with a masters rowing group. This blog is to share different aspects of my life on my Facebook page. I've kept an on-line journal for eight years.