Picture perfect

Every once in a while I run across a recycled gas station that really impresses me.  This little gem in West Palm Beach, Florida, is a perfectly maintained, classic two-bay station, complete with two outside-access bathrooms.

Go here to see my entire collection of repurposed gas stations.


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My old apartment is a beer store

Some of you may know that 50 years ago I lived in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

I inhabited a nice, ground-floor apartment in the middle of the old commercial heart of the city and lived there happily for two years, thriving on the teeming city life around me, the friends I had in town and my job at Haile Selassie University.

I visited Addis Ababa last November for the first time since then.

The three-story apartment building I used to live in is still standing, so far at least spared from the demolition of most of its nearby neighbors for the building of a park.

The bottom floor, where my apartment was,  has become a beer store.  Appropriate I guess, given the amount of beer consumed there during my tenure.

To read about my visit to Ethiopia with my daughter Jennifer and look at the photos, go here.


Around my old neighborhood in the Piazza area. This is the liquor story that now occupies what used to be my ground-floor apartment.


Around my old neighborhood in the Piazza area. Here I am, standing in front of the beer store that is now where my kitchen and living room used to be in this 3-story apartment building.


Around my old neighborhood in the Piazza area. Another view of my apartment building. House to the left of it was the landlady’s.

If you would like to see more photos from my visit go here.

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Eyeball to eyeball on Lake Osborne

I really don’t have to travel to see wildlife in action.  This happened yesterday in my backyard.  (All photos by Ron Haines)


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Two more…right under my nose

I found two more recycled gas stations down here in South Florida the other day on my drive up US 1 in West Palm Beach to go to the gym.

They’ve been under my nose for a long time, just waiting for me to realize what they are.


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I am all set for my chess-playing grandchildren when they visit in February, thanks to


The Grands on their home field. (Photo by Ryan  Ford)

the creative and energetic woman who drew my name in the Haines Secret Santa pool this season.

What you are looking at below is a totally hand-made chess set fashioned from an assortment of nuts, bolts and other small items.

And that includes the board, which came home from the hardware store as a blank piece of square tile.

Who is this marvelous person, you ask? It’s Kristen Haines, wife of nephew Ben and daughter-in-law of brother Roger.

And, she says, she did it all with only ONE trip to Lowe’s! Now that’s organization and planning, that’s what that is.

I can hardly replace a light bulb without at least two trips.

Thanks, Kristen.




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Two Mr. Bigs

The term Mr. Big around my house is a reference to the very large, orange iguana that hangs out on the dock in the backyard.  That’s what we call him.

He’s the king of the dock.  Or was until a week or so ago.  Another Mr. Big entered the picture and apparently my dock isn’t big enough for two Mr. Bigs.

Sue saw the battle.  I wasn’t home.  Lots of tussling, someone hung off the edge of the dock over the water for a while and there appeared to be an injured leg.  One of them slunk off and the battle was over.

Fast forward to just the other day. The second one reappeared again.  There was a brief tussle and one of them went into the water.  It all happened before I got the camera out.

But later on, they were back both back and I was able to get the photo below.  Unfortunately, the interloper decided not to push things and soon left the yard.

But one of these days I hope to have a great video of an epic battle to share with you.



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Elvis slept here…maybe

Cheap hotels can be a very mixed bag.  I usually try to find something on my road trips for under $40 a night and feel positively profligate if I spend more than $60.

That attitude has netted me some interesting extremes;  all the way from an old but clean and well-tended facility in Oklahoma that offered a coupon for a complete two-egg breakfast at a nearby restaurant in the morning to a scruffy establishment in Maine where the room temperature never got much above 60 in January and the morning pastries looked stale even through the cellophane.IMG_7626c

I’m not sure I’ll ever top the Sands Motel in Grants, New Mexico, though.    It was Where Elvis Slept.

I got the Elvis suite, Room 123, complete with sign on the door, photos on the wall and a framed copy of the “Affidavit for Application for Marriage” to Priscilla Beaulieu nailed up next to the mirror.

Yes,  $35 a night plus tax got me the room that Elvis supposedly stayed in the night before he went to Vegas to marry Priscilla.


True, or just a good story?  I don’t know for sure, but it seems a stretch.  The motel doesn’t claim much.  No signs around, no yellowed newspaper clippings.  “You’ll have to check the records,” was the response when I asked if there was any proof.

Questions of the two local papers yielded me no responses at all, much less anyIMG_7684c substantiation.  The county historical society said it had no confirming documents. And an account of those times from Marty Lacker, a co-best man at the wedding, says that Elvis and his entourage stayed in Palm Springs the night before the wedding.

So another great story wobbling I’m afraid.

Grants, named after three brothers named Grant who garnered a contract to build a railroad through the area in the 1880s and built a work camp there, is not a stranger to celebrities.

Bob Hope, traveling through Cibola County by train, was stranded there by a snowstorm back in 1946.  One of the teachers at the high school convinced the comedian to put on a show for the students.

The Von Trapp family stayed in town in the late 1940s and sang at the local Catholic Church.

And Vivian Vance of I Love Lucy fame and her husband had a vacation cabin nearby.   She was from Albuquerque, just 80 miles away, and her brother lived in Grants.  Rumor had it she was going to retire there, but she never did.

On a more somber note, Liz Taylor’s husband Mike Todd was killed near Grants in a plane crash in 1958. His plane iced up during a thunderstorm in the mountains southwest of town.

Grants is also home to an airway beacon, a rotating white light sometimes with red andarrow 37A St George Utah green signals atop a tall tower.  Next to the tower was a large concrete pad in the shape of an arrow.  Back in the early quaint days of airplane navigation there were some 1500 of these in the US, marking airway corridors for pilots to follow.

Meanwhile, if any of you Enquiring minds out there wants to dig into this Elvis story deeper, let me know what you find out.


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