The trip up U.S. 31 is trippy, too, with interesting semi-abandoned farmhouses, a row of scaled-down power-generation windmills and other oddiments south of Kokomo; there even used to be a strange Navy-type turret pointing a set of twin AA-type guns across the highway!
Little did I know that north of Kokomo, as the land becomes more rolling, the roadside oddness increases, too, from the looks-like-an-oversize-shooting range at Grissom (right smack next to the Miami Correctional Facility Do Not Pick Up Hitchhikers, so it's probably Off Limits) to a neat little air museum I'd overlooked (must schedule road trip with Tam, etc.!) to a pair of hobbit-houses built into hilltops (fatalistically facing the airbase; they're so close, facing away wouldn't've helped so why not point south and pick up some sun?) and a giant yellow rocking chair (no, really). Plus the AA turret reappeared: now it's at a garden-statue center! (Alas, I missed that shot. All of the road-image photographs were taken without using the viewfinder -- just point and click!)
Photos, to the extent they came out,
I did find some interesting things at the hamfest: 1940s tube sockets, "doorknob" oscillator crystals, a telegraph key, etc. Some of that will be showing up at Retrotechnologist
Stopping at the antique mall, I found a very nice Stanley bench or machinist's level, all steel and still true, at least on a quick test.* Passed up a couple of nice telephones (candlestick and wooden wall-type), an early Remington Noiseless (not a suppressed shotgun, a typewriter) and a nice-looking but incomplete (missing bobbin assembly) Singer Featherweight folding sewing machine ($295, not a terrible price. I'd buy it if I had any idea how to replace the missing bit). They generally have a decent assortment of hand tools; this time a nearly-complete set of Winchester-branded, general-purpose straight-blade screwdrivers showed up, scattered artistically through a couple of cases and optimistically priced at $45 per each! Don't know when they were made; by appearances and wear, between 1930 and 1955, maybe.
There were plenty of other tools, from old soldering coppers to well-worn, still useful examples of drivers and wrenches and the usual linseed-oiled, wobble-jawed Ford wrenches. Also a surprising lot of large wooden planes, jack or smoothing planes to judge by length; the use of these is probably somewhat mysterious to many modern woodworkers, who just send boards through a powered planer, zzip-burrrr, done. I really should pick one up, a big plane that is, as I don't have any really large smoothers and it's not too difficult to judge condition and resharpen the blade. I passed on an alligator wrench, an idea almost lost in time and perhaps it should be. Still, they're neat when they're not gnawing the corners from hex-shaped fasteners. (Old-time ones were generally built for square fasteners, the modern one actually fits hex and is worth carrying).
Spat rain the whole time up and back and the Hot Needle Of Inquiry (a/k/a a $2000 '03 Hyundai Accent) got terrible gas mileage. Perhaps it's time for a new set of spark plugs.
* How can you tell an old spirit level is on the level? Find a surface it thinks is level, then turn the thing end for end. Bubble still centered? Still good, then. A similar self-comparison trick is used to check old squares; I'll leave the details as an exercise for the reader.