National Blues Museum

After seeing the Country Music Hall of Fame , I definitely wanted to see the National Blues Museum. Blues after all was a founding father of most music that we know and love and I was curious to see its roots. Unfortunately, although the museum is lovingly tended, there were comparatively few artifacts. It makes sense since most of the blues legends traveled and were relatively poor that few of their artifacts remain, but that left the museum with describing their work largely through the written word. Although the $15 was on the steep side for the size, I would recommend seeing it, IF you are a big fan of the blues. If nothing else the music as we walked through was great and there was a terrific gift shop.

My favorite section talked about the famous women in blues. That was amazing although I wish some of the dresses they wore (or reproductions) were on display. These women were trail blazers and were extremely brave in defying convention.

I had to join in on the fun!!!

There were some great displays showing how blues was the father of rock and roll and how many of those early musicians worked with famous blues artists to help get their sound. This went all the way to modern day artists who openly owe their success to those who came before them.

We had fun as we walked around, I just wish it had more displays, but hopefully they will receive more financial help from other museums and musicians over time and I was happy to do my part to support them. There was one terrific harmonica collection (over 900) that was donated to the museum.

And as I mentioned the gift shop was great. I bought my favorite shirt of the entire time in St. Louis there.

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The Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis

When Lee and I are traveling and come across a beautiful old Catholic church, we try and find the time to go in and light a candle for Lee’s grandmother. Although Anna is no longer with us on earth, I like to think she follows our travels and appreciates these little moments we send her way. In this case, I think she would really have loved seeing the church and personally it was the most amazing Catholic church I have ever been in.

It was difficult to capture the richness and depths of the mosaics and space, but we have done our best. The ceiling in particular was hard to get in pictures and the beautiful marble floors were as well. It was also huge, with a main room and two smaller wings both of which were available for people to pray in. Plus the outside was like a giant castle, and the entire church has heavy French influences. Let me just show you.

Along with the beauty of the different areas the ceilings and walls were full of mosaic tiled pictures. I didn’t come close to capturing them all, but here are a few we got decent pictures of. The lighting was pretty low and the ceilings were very high so we did the best we could. In person it looks like shimmering gold.

And sprinkled throughout there was sculpture. Some people might feel like it was overdone, but I actually really liked it. It’s such a large space, that it worked for me and it all blended well together.

Despite the grandeur though, my favorite part was a small sculpture garden next to the house where the people live. The house looks small in comparison to the church but is actually quite large.

The very best part was a small nook honoring Saint Philippine Duchesne. She came from France to the new world and started schools and orphanages for children. This memorial was erected by the Busch family and they built a bench where people could come and sit and talk to Phillipine. This area reminded me very much of Anna.

The next couple posts are largely museums, because the temperatures reached the mid-nineties and it was too hot to do much outside. Thankfully St. Louis has some pretty terrific museums.

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First Time at Gateway Arch National Park

The number one thing I wanted to see in St. Louis was the arch. Surprisingly I had no idea that the Gateway Arch was a national park. Since it is a goal of ours to eventually visit them all you would have thought I knew, but honestly until we saw the sign I had no idea. The fact that it was a national park and that the museum underneath had been renovated a couple of years ago made the visit even more special.

The only time I had seen the arch was from the window of an airplane and I really didn’t understand the scale until we got close. The grounds themselves are very big, going right down to the Mississippi and the arch, well I took some pictures for scale so you can see for yourself.

Look for me at the bottom of that very last picture. It was just huge and quite beautiful close up. The grounds were also very nice, although I was bummed when I learned later that the only woman on the team had designed a sculpture garden as well which had never been made. I think they should go back and put it in!

The museum underneath was really beautiful as well and very well done. They included all of the different ethnic groups who lived in the area and also included some specific portraits of real people which I enjoyed.

One of my favorite parts of the museum was information about the design and building of the sculpture. There were several designs in contention and this could have looked quite different if another one had been chosen. The chosen design was by the person who designed the tulip chair as seen below. One really interesting feature is you can ride up inside the arch but it is 5 people in a VERY small pod and after looking at it I was definitely not interested. Lee thought about it but it cost extra and he ultimately decided it wasn’t worth it to him. The movie is also extra and although we didn’t pay to see that, my sister saw it and said it was excellent.

The history of the area was also interesting, including the fact that women could vote in the territory until they became part of the United States and then they lost that right. I wasn’t aware of that. The fact that the city was on a major river made it a valuable piece of territory and I didn’t realize the city was founded in 1764.

After seeing the arch we walked down to the water and there was a really beautiful wharf area. Helicopter rides were really popular and we saw several leaving and coming in during the time we were there. I also really liked the giant statue of the explorers on the wharf and definitely recommend walking down the steps to see that area as well

This was much more than I expected it to be and totally free. We have been privileged to visit 21 National Parks so far in our travels (This number includes Grand Canyon, Great Smoky Mountains, and Acadia but that was before we started the blog). If you would like to check out the others with blog posts the links are below.

Arches

Bryce Canyon

Canyonlands

Capitol Reef

Crater Lake

Denali

Glacier

Lassen Volcanic

Mount Rainer

New River Gorge

Petrified Forest

Redwood

Saguaro

Theodore Roosevelt

Voyaguers

White Sands

Wrangell St. Elias

Zion

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Exploring St. Louis

As I mentioned in my last post, St. Louis has some beautiful architecture and one of the places I read about was the Central Library. It is an absolutely gorgeous building and a working library and Lee and I really enjoyed visiting it.

The outside of the building was beautiful. I particularly liked the little turtles that were at the base of the lamps.

The inside was absolutely gorgeous from the marble floors to the ceilings.

The newer areas were equally nice with a wonderful computer area and children’s library. Adults without children aren’t normally allowed in the children’s area, but since no kids were there they let us come in and take some pictures.

Another day we visited the Delmar Loop which is a trendy “hipster” area. One cool feature is the Stars that are in the sidewalk for famous people from St. Louis. These are not only stars but also people such as Pulitzer and it was cool looking at them as we walked around. This area is also where Blueberry Hill is, a bar/restaurant that Chuck Barry frequently played at. There is even a giant statue of him on the square along with many mannequins which are dressed by local artists. Many of the buildings were closed the day we were there (and the trolley wasn’t running) but we did have a nice lunch with some really unusual tacos at a Mexican place. Unlike the more southern cities, St. Louis is still in partial lockdown and masks are commonly seen whenever we go out.

We also explored The Hill, which is an old Italian neighborhood and stopped at a fantastic bakery. It looked like it had been in place for years and the cherry pie Lee bought was only $10!!! They also had the biggest turtles I have ever seen, but I was good and only bought four home made rolls.

Speaking of food, there are surprisingly few groceries stores in St. Louis proper and the few we saw were a company called Schnucks. They reminded me of an older Kroger and there wasn’t a Walmart to be seen in town itself. I also didn’t see any Whole Foods (there was one International Foods on Delmar Loop) and only one Target. It’s definitely a problem they need to solve if they want to revitalize their downtown because those folks need somewhere to shop. On the plus side there is a VERY nice farmers market (Soulards) that is open 7 days a week. The fruit and vegetable prices were fantastic and their selection was very good. Lee even bought some turtle meat, alligator meat, and frog legs from one of the vendors, which was fine by me but I made it clear I was neither going to cook or eat that 🙂

Lastly I wanted to mention something special Lee found on Roadside Attractions. The Gateway Geyser is right around the corner from our campground and includes a huge park along with a viewing platform to see unobstructed views of the arch. Once a day at noon they fire up the power house and create a geyser as tall as the St. Louis arch. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it was really pretty cool and if you happen to stay at the casino campground its definitely worth a trip over to see the geyser.

Next up our trip to Gateway Arch National Park.

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Meet Me In St. Louis

I had to change the title of this post, because I have flown through the St. Louis airport more times than I can count, but I have never actually visited the city and it turns out there is a surprising amount of things to do here. Like Portland the town is divided into multiple named neighborhoods and also had a HUGE city park that is twice the size of New York’s Central Park. It is also a very old city and the French influences of its settlers can be seen everywhere.

Once again we had difficulty finding a campsite for our entire stay so Lee decided on the RV Park at Draft Kings at Casino Queen. We have stayed in casino campgrounds with mixed results before, but this one was particularly attractive because it was right across the river from the downtown area and the arch. Even though our section was basically a parking lot we can see the arch from where we are staying and it turns out the 24/7 security and private gate made it completely safe and a great jumping off point to see things. We’re less than five minutes from the other side of the river. We absolutely prefer staying in campgrounds with more nature, but you can’t beat the convenience of the location for doing city activities.

Oh and as an extra benefit we signed up for their free casino card and both won $5 of free play. I doubled my money but Lee won $40 on nickel slots after playing only $1 of his free money!!! That was a nice extra benefit. The casino was really nice for a small one and had a great group of slot machines.

These pictures were taken from the roof of our camper one night.

Because we had easy access to the city we made multiple quick trips across the bridge and were able to really explore. One of our first stops was Union Station which is a remodeled train station turned into a hotel and eating venue. Turns out my sister stayed here for a conference in 2019 and stayed in the hotel which she said was really nice on the inside.

The area has a variety of kid friendly activities including a carousel, huge Ferris wheel, aquarium, mirror maze and ropes course. They even have a small Vegas style water show which starts in the evening. Each activity is separately priced (or you can buy combo tickets) but I really wanted to do the maze. I have been fascinated by the 1904 World’s Fair since I was a kid and the maze was an updated recreation of the one at the event. At only $8 it was a bargain and it was definitely the best mirror maze I have ever been in. There were even some cool alcoves that showed items that were made popular by that World’s Fair and the list of them was pretty astounding.

Just to prove we never stop being little kids, Lee’s favorite part was the machine that made whoopee cushion noises 🙂

That was so fun that I decided I wanted to try the ropes course which I thought was really great. Lee hung in there (he’s not a huge fan of heights) but I loved it, except for the zip lining which was a little scary. It is two stories and allows for multiple routes which was pretty neat.

Then we decided to go ahead and do the indoor ropes course, which was a lot of fun. After ziplining, we had a milkshake and watched the light show. All in all I thought it was a great use of converting unused space and seemed like a fun place to take kids.

It was a nice start to our learning the city, but there is something else I should mention to be completely fair. When we were driving around, we wandered into a neighborhood that was completely falling apart. Building after building was burned out and falling down in a huge predominantly black neighborhood and I was really shocked by what I saw. So much so that I did some research and learned that the city has “abandoned” these areas and allowed outside investors to buy them and allow them to fall down. Once I saw that I started seeing it everywhere and this is definitely a city in transition. There are areas where they are clearly trying to reclaim parts of the city, but others that are absolutely awful. I am not saying that lightly either. All cities have poorer sections but this was row after row of burned out buildings. You aren’t going to see many pictures of that in the next few posts, but keep in mind that it is the other side of the pictures.

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Saying Goodbye to Nashville

When I get to the end of a trip to a city I often have lots of miscellaneous pictures to share that I group all together. These are the “quick hit” visits that we squeeze in around other things and here they are. Overall I would say we liked Nashville, but personally I wouldn’t want to live there. The city is definitely going through some major growing pains and is on the brink of a major transition. That being said I definitely think it is a “must see” city. Here are a few more reasons why.

Although the Bluebird Cafe (as featured in the show Nashville) was closed to music events it was open for two hours one day to look inside and buy souvenirs. It is an incredibly small venue and you could feel the history in the room. The employees were really open about letting us walk around and take pictures and even though it was a short visit I was so happy to see it. This is something I would definitely like to do again post COVID.

When I read about the “to scale” replica of the Parthenon I wasn’t sure what to expect but it turned out to be really cool. It is surrounded by a huge lawn for live events and the day we went there were some peaceful protests happening. We chose not to go into the museum inside, but really loved taking pictures.

Really close by there was a beautiful sculpture that honored the Women’s Voter Movement. This is one of the best of these I have ever seen and I was thrilled to learn one of the main women in the Women’s Voter movement was from Nashville.

Another sculpture that is very controversial in Nashville is a huge sculpture in the middle of a main traffic circle. What I like about the statue was every face was a different ethnicity. What I thought was unnecessary was the nudity. Don’t get me wrong, in some contexts nude statues are fine, but this is a huge statue in the middle of a bible belt city and frankly I could have gotten the message without it. Probably more so as it is a distraction from the point imho.

We did see this cool bike rack near the statue though that had the spiraled cord as the place the bikes went.

We did see this cool bike rack near the statue though that had the spiraled cord as the place the bikes went.
Wil

The Grand Ole Opry was actually a place we had to go to some trouble to get to. It’s moved a few times in its history and currently is located outside of the main downtown. They have built a really nice shopping center around it (pretty smart) and even though we didn’t pay the $39 for a tour we were able to walk the grounds and take a few pictures.

While we were there I saw a Paula Deen restaurant and since Lee had never eaten there I wanted him to try it. For some reason the experience wasn’t nearly as good as the time I went with my Mom. I am not sure if it is because we are trying to watch our weight or the food wasn’t as good (the service definitely wasn’t.) The gift shop though continues to be a treat and I did pick up an old fashioned magnet egg timer.

Finally I wanted to mention that there are some benefits to staying in a fairground. The weekend before we left there was a race event and Lee decided to walk over. Turns out he really enjoyed it and for only $15 dollars he spent 5 hours watching a variety of car races. He even won a free cheeseburger on their prize wheel!

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Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage

Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage

As Lee and I travel we try to see a variety of things (National Parks, Museums, local landmarks, etc) and one thing we have added to our list this year is seeing presidential home, libraries or tombs. Really anything presidential. To be honest I was surprised when Lee mentioned Andrew Jackson was buried outside of Nashville, because I had no idea he was even from there. I wasn’t thrilled about taking the time to see his house, because I am not a fan of his, but ultimately decided to check it out and was glad that we did.

The grounds and house were extremely well kept and even though we couldn’t take pictures inside the house itself I enjoyed seeing it. Almost everything in the house is original, and the tour took us upstairs which many of them don’t do. My one complaint was they glossed over many aspects of his presidency. They dealt with his being a slaveholder head on, but they mentioned next to nothing about his forcing the Native Americans out of Florida and Georgia and being president during the Trail of Tears. This post is not meant to be a referendum on his presidency, however, I am just going to share the pictures and say I did feel the value of what we saw was largely worth the admission price.

Andrew and Rachel
Jackson was orphaned at 14 but became a military man and became a hero at the Battle of New Orleans during the War of 1812
As the Seventh President he was the very first who was “common” and he was very popular with the people.

One of the most interesting things I learned about Jackson was how supportive he was of his wife. They never had children and he was her second marriage. He adopted her relatives when she had family members die and ultimately they inherited his house. There was some irregularity about the timing of their marriage and the society women in Washington D.C. largely ostracized her, which he always felt led to her death. From everything I saw and read he was completely devoted to her and did everything he could to make her happy.

The grounds are relatively large and we were able to walk through them
My favorite thing that I saw was this spring house. Cool water from the spring ran underneath which kept it cool enough they could store food.

Unfortunately he was not a kind slave owner. He was adamantly against ending slavery because he felt it would break apart the country and when he died some years before the Civil War he did not free any of his slaves as other landowners did. According to what we read, his slaves all left the area as soon as they were freed and the only reason the grounds and house were undisturbed during the war was because both sides admired him as a military hero and former president.

Because the tours were timed for COVID, we walked the grounds first. Unfortunately his tomb was completely covered and actively being restored but we were able to see the family graveyard and peek in.

This gravestone was in the family graveyard and is the coolest tombstone I have ever seen.

I didn’t expect much from the gardens but they were actually really pretty. All local flowers and beautifully tended, it was a small area, but pleasant to walk through while we were waiting for our tour.

When it was our turn to take the tour we went in the house and right away I noticed the wallpaper. It was incredibly beautiful and hand painted and looked practically new. The house itself was built in two pieces (first the main house and then the wings) and as I stated we were able to see all the original furnishings which was really nice. Here are some pictures supplemented by some that came from our guidebook.

The tour guides were all dressed in traditional costumes, which was a nice touch.
The foyer was gorgeous, especially the spiral staircase
Dining Room
Parlor
The kitchen was a separate building. Common for the time because of fires.
The smokehouse was actually fascinating. We pushed a button and heard them explain how pigs ran wild in the fields and they would covered them in salt in one of these troughs for several months and then smoke the meat.

Again I felt the tour and grounds were worth the $25 price tag and the gift shop was a really nice one as well. Lee bought this shirt which really suits him!

Update: Turns out James Polk is buried in Nashville also and we totally missed that. Need to do a better job researching in future but this gives us an excuse to go back to Nashville!!

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May 2021 Budget

We spent $6416 this month exceeding our budget by almost $2K. For those of you who are looking at budgets to see if this is affordable, I think it’s important to note that we are spending what we are making and it is a conscious choice. If you would like some examples of what our costs looked like when we were making a lot less money I would recommend going to our budget page and checking out 2018 and 2019. For more details see below:

Campsite Fees – Those were crazy high because we are traveling the summer and chose to stay in campgrounds close to the cities we are visiting, and those are often much more expensive. We feel that the time and hassle we save on the “commute” is worth the extra money.

Clothing – We (well mainly Lee) spent a bunch of money on T Shirts in Nashville. This is definitely an example of an optional expense! (Been there. Done that. got the T-shirt. – Lee)

Entertainment – Again we spent $400 in this category which was all optional. I don’t feel so bad about this one though because we have been sitting for six months and doing very little. It’s nice making more money while we travel so we can do what we want and don’t have to quibble about cost. That being said I did pass on the Grand Ole Opry backstage tour because it was $40 per person for one hour and I just didn’t feel it was worth it to me personally. So we aren’t saying yes to everything.

Dining Out – We did OK in everything except for fast food, and again that was mainly Lee. He was spending a lot of time at our daughters house and was eating out a lot.

Groceries – A stock up trip to Costco contributed to this high ticket item. We have made some changes to our diet though so I am curious to see what happens next month. More when those results come in.

Memberships – We have a gold American Express card and that costs $250 a year for two cards. I’m not 100% sure that the annual fee is worth 100+ Amazon points we get but Lee likes having it so we have kept it all these years. We also renewed our Good Sam Roadside Assistance for $90. Speaking of credit cards, I was able to change our home address to my Mom’s in Florida which has solved a myriad of issues for us. This should also help reduce our mail service costs.

Truck Fuel – Despite traveling we have done great on truck fuel taking advantage of the TSD Logistics card.

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Johnny Cash Museum

Johnny Cash Museum

I grew up listening to Johnny Cash, and although at the time I didn’t really get what was behind the music, as I have gotten older I realize how much his music is part of the soundtrack of my life. So I was very excited when I learned there was a museum in downtown Nashville and I made visiting it a priority. We gave the museum our prime 9am Sunday morning slot (less crowds) and drove down to visit.

Unfortunately even at that time it was crowded, and since the museum itself is small and tight, I can’t even imagine what it would have been like later in the day. It was also $25 per person which I felt was really steep for what they had, and unfortunately unless you are a big fan I can’t really recommend it. That being said, since Lee and I are huge fans I am glad we went.

The layout was tight with memorabilia spread throughout. My favorite parts were these small alcoves where you could sit and watch videos about his life. I had no idea for example he was in so many movies.

They did have some nice memorabilia from his home including his family piano. Since he grew up poor the fact that they had a piano was amazing and this was part of how he developed his love of music.

The Cash family piano
Lee took this picture.

One of my favorite sections was what we wore when he won the National Medal of Arts. The award was there as well and I was happy that he was given it. It was revolutionary that he sang songs in prisons and his advocacy for convicts was life long. He also was a person who didn’t seem to care about color and many of his songs are about the disenfranchised.

Cool outfit huh. Only the Man in Black could pull this off.

There also was a small section on the movie Walk the Line. Lee and I re-watched it when we came home from the museum and it was even better than I remembered. Both Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon won Oscars for their portrayals of John and June Cash and if you have never seen the movie I highly recommend it.

They also had a nice section of Johnny’s art. Later in life he experimented with many art forms and for an amateur I thought they were really good.

My absolute favorite part though was was one of the small alcoves where they were playing a clip of Johnny Cash’s “Ragged Old Flag”. If you have never heard this in its entirety I have included a You Tube link. It’s a beautiful poem and one that still gives me chills. Despite this country’s problems I consider myself a patriot, and it is moments like this that formed that within me as a child.

You can watch this in its entirety at this link

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Lane Motor Museum

This post was written by Lee and if you like cars, you will love this one. He went on one of my work days and after seeing the pictures if we are ever in Nashville again I would definitely like to go. – Trace

I’m not really a gear head or motor head, but I do enjoy cars, especially unusual ones, and this place was a fantastic surprise!

While the entire Lane collection is over 500 cars, only around 150 are on display at any given time. The rest can be seen in a very reasonably priced vault tour ($6) on weekend. They also do demonstrations on weekends. I’m guessing there are a LOT more people there on the weekend, but it might be worth that to see the vault. The price for just the museum is only $12. It’s bright, clean, and very well laid out. I loved it.

From their website:

In 2002, Jeff Lane established Lane Motor Museum. Jeff has been an automotive enthusiast since an early age. He began restoring his first car—a 1955 MG TF—when he was a teen. His personal collection was the donation that began the foundation. Lane Motor Museum unveiled its collection to the public in October of 2003. As director, Jeff Lane continues to search out cars for the collection that are technically significant or uniquely different. The goal of Lane Motor Museum is to share in the mission of collection and preserving automotive history for future generations.

The Museum is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization.

Lane Motor Museum is one of the few museums in the U.S. to specialize in European cars. It is a working museum with the goal of maintaining all vehicles in running order. Some cars are in showroom condition, while others represent typical aging. Efforts are made to restore each vehicle to near-original specifications.

The Museum has been developed in a well-known Nashville landmark, the former Sunbeam Bakery at 702 Murfreesboro Pike. Home to the bread company beginning in 1951, the 132,000 square-foot facility was the largest and most modern bakery in the area at the time of its opening. The bakery building, outfitted for the museum’s needs but left with many of its original characteristics, has a high ceiling, natural light, and hand-crafted brick and maple wood flooring. The architectural style complements the age of the cars represented. The main floor has approximately 40,000 square feet of open space, ideal for displaying the collection.

I had a really hard time deciding which cars to exclude, so if you’re not into this stuff, just scroll past. But if you are into it, I think you will really like the post. Because there are so many, I’ve used gallery style for the photos, but you can click on any of them to see larger images. Also, for some of the more interesting ones, I have included YouTube videos. Check those out, they’re pretty cool. ESPECIALLY the one about the one man water skiing!!!

1949 Homemade Streamliner, Dayton, OH, One of a kind

1977 Urba Car “Kit”, USA, $1400

1957 Cyclops, USA, 20mph, $295

1936 Le Carabe, France, 20mph, $28

1964 Peel P-50, Isle of Man, 25mph, 200 pounds sterling

1930 Daix Piano Peddle Car, France

1935 Louvet Pedal Car, France

1953 Ardex, France, 20mph

1931 Vochet Velocar, France

1978 Citroen 2CV Amphibious “Justine”, 50mph, One of a kind

1978 Croco Amphibious, Switzerland

1987 Luaz 967M Amphibious, USSR

1964 Amphicar 700 Amphibious, Germany, 70mph land, 6 knots, $3395

1992 Hobbycar B612 Amphibious, France, 87mph, 5 knots, $45k

1964 Ski Craft GMBH, Germany, 30mph, $700

1978 SEAB Flipper 1, France, 28mph

1957 Zundapp Janus 250, Germany

1974 TVE Citadine Electric Car, France, 18mph

1960 Goggomobile Dart, Australia, 63mph, $1500

1957 BAG Spatz, Germany, 50mph, $350

1957 Messerschmidt KR200, Germany, 50mph

1963 Trojan 200, England, 55mph, $1k

1998 Canta, Netherlans, 45mph (governed), $12k

1949 Crosley Hotshot, England, 97mph

1939 Newmap Baby, France, 30mph

1958 BMW Isetta 300, Germany, 65mph, $1k

1947 Davis Divan, USA, 100mph, $1k

1934 Norris Streamliner, USA, 80mph

1945 Surlesmobile, USA, 70mph, $1k, One of a kind

1933 Dymaxion, USA, 80mph, $7600

1960 Chevrolet Corvair Futura Wagon, USA, One of a kind

1924 Red Bug

1915 Aero Sled

1932 Helicron, France, One of a kind