“A Bird in the Van”

By Bill Coccotti

Dunmore native, Robert, “Rollo” Meehan, president of the Wallenpaupack Bird Watching Club, recently unveiled his new fowl tracking van. 

Rollo has created a masterful state-of-the-art bird locating and tracking mobile command center in his retooled van. It is complete with voice recognition sensors, located along top of the Birdmobile, for all North American songbirds. Computer screens can track location and pinpoint clusters. Advanced optical cameras then transfer those images to laptops and then Rob can send copies all over the world to other Ornithologists. 

Senior secretary Bob “Bob-O” McDougal told us, “This cuts down recording time documentation and cancels migratory error by 78%.” 

They have recently spotted the rare Antioquia Brush Finch. Quite an accomplishment. Bob-o explained, “We haven’t seen that species since 1970, when we were driving home late one weekend from Kirkwood.” Rollo agreed, “It’s like it flew out of a time portal or something.” 

Bob-O added, “That night Rollo almost crashed the car on 81.” Rollo disagreed, “That’s because you pulled the wheel.” Bob-O became adamant, “No. It was Eddie who pulled the wheel. And if he didn’t, you would have rolled us off the road.” Rollo smiled at that fond memory. The boys made many trips to Kirkwood in the early 70s. 

Later that night, Dunmore natives, Brian McAndrew and myself were honorarily inducted into the bird club. Rollo explained migratory paths of swallows in relation to the global warming climate changes in the Gulf Stream. 

He confided, “Lake Genaro and around the Erdman, you see a lot of strange birds.” 

Bill told Brian, “I have no idea what he’s talking about.” Brian replied, “The only bird I know is a roadrunner. I had one in high school.” 

The ornithologists also discussed many of the feathered friends’ songs Mister McDougal had recorded. 

Bob-O said how much he loves the Elf Owl’s warble. “By far that chirp is the very best,” adding, “I have one in my cooler. A stuffed example that is.” 

Rollo rolled his eyes, “That’s a Ferruginous Pigmy Owl. Not an Elf Owl.” Rollo then played me both recordings. Truth be told, I couldn’t tell the difference.

One thing is for sure, the recorded sound on Rollo’s Bose 2.10 G sub-woofer sound system is truly operatic indeed. In fact, Rollo can imitate quite a few of those wobblers himself. Birdwatching is in his blood and it has now been carried to a whole new level. A bird in the hand, (or in Rollo’s words, “The Van”) is worth two in the bush.

Dunmoreans Travel to Mexio

By Bill Ciccotti

Just south of the border, down Mexico way, Dunmore natives Brian McAndrew and I traveled, in search of rusty gold. We boys were in search of antique automobiles. 

Robert “Rollo” Meehan had come across a good lead on some vintage muscle cars of exceptional lineage. He was willing to pay the price, but before he did, he wanted certain specifications and models.

So, we headed for  a trip to the Baja. Rollo wanted a fast, high performance muscle car that knows how to glide through the gears smoothly. And built solid enough to be able to take out a telephone pole if he had to–50s chrome and steel by Detroit at its finest. We made a call to a point man we knew, Leandro Choba. “Leo” was a contact we knew from a previous road trip and a solid individual who could be trusted.

In accordance with strict COVID-19 restrictions Brian and I had both received our two shots and were cleared to go to  Tijuana. We landed in Southern California and rented a car to drive the peninsula. Social distancing was seen in all the cantinas and the use of face coverings was consistent among patrons.

Mexico’s 775-mile-long Baja Peninsula is a magnet for travelers in search of their own slice of adventure. If you love classic cars, the Mexican Baja is a hidden destination gem. Unbelievable autos from the 1950s and 1960s motor along the cobbled streets and winding highways. 

Chevrolets, Fords, Pontiacs, Buicks, Dodges, Plymouths, and Studebaker’s cruise dirt covered magical miles. Those cars run the gamut from mint condition to downright dilapidated. 

Well-preserved cars have exteriors that shine brightly with vintage chrome and lustful new paint jobs. While the worse-off autos were barely held together with odd parts, bailing wire and mismatched scrap metal of assorted rusty shades. 

We crossed the border, met up with Leandro and three of his friends who would be watching our backs on this adventure. After a few get-acquainted rounds, we all journeyed from Tijuana down into Chihuahua, then finally to La Paz. But first, we stopped off for a few rounds in Tijuana. That chaotic metropolis can be jarring for first-time border-crossers. Leandro and his pals showed us around. 

We traveled off into destiny. And maybe had a few too many rounds along the way. Somehow, I got scheduled for a boxing match in Mexico. 

The night before I had shadow boxed with the bartender at El Dandy’s for laughs. Brian suddenly got the bright idea to set me up for a money match. Leo was all too happy to make it happen. I did not find out about the details till later. After I almost died. 

Few boxing rings are as unique as the open-air Zapata Boxing Gym, the best in Tijuana. In the excitement of the moment, I agreed to shadow box a few rounds. Tequila is a bad deterrent to common sense. My opponent, Kid Mango was the local middleweight champion. I figured, “Ok. Bob and weave. Shadow box like last night. No contact. No blood. Maybe a few good photo ops.”  

As soon as I saw my opponent lacing up for our match with blood in his eyes, I quickly declined the match Brian had set up for me. He looked too eager to punch me into another time zone, so I backed off the fisticuffs. Brian smiled, “What were you worried about Bill? I bet on Kid Mango.” What a pal. Kid Mango continued to stare evilly at me while we backed out of the gym. 

It was time to move on. 

Just 10 minutes down the Trans peninsular, there are rocky cliffs overlooking the dark blue Pacific and alluring Mediterranean type landscapes. The drive south has moments of majesty mixed with ugly, haphazard development. Ensenada, less than two hours from San Diego down the Baja California peninsula, is a lovely area. 

Beyond the souvenir shops, sombreros, knockoff handicrafts and tacky T-shirts, we found the first clues of hidden Detroit muscle. Those small towns along the Mexican Baja have become a time capsule museum for old cars.

One of the cars we looked over had a gorgeous body but when we popped the hood, it revealed a smoke chunking washing machine for its motor. It had a body like Venus and an engine like Frankenstein. Those locals who want more power fit their American classics with tractor engines.

Entering the Baja at Chihuahua, in the rugged northwestern desert of Mexico, we traveled craggy mountainous terrain and wide river valleys. The Sierra Madre mountain range, part of the continental spine that also includes the Rocky Mountains, dominated the terrain. We found no gold, but lots of chrome and steel.

A lovely Harvest Gold 1955 Bel Air was magnificent. It is super rare to find one with a 3.75″ bore x 3.0″ stroke, 9.25 to 1 compression ratio. 225 horsepower. Torque 270-foot pounds at 3600 rpm. Special high-lift camshaft, high-speed valve mechanism. Polished aluminum rocker covers. Dual four-barrel carburation, buff aluminum racing-type air cleaners, special intake manifold. Full pressure lubrication system with full-flow oil filter. High power exhaust headers and full dual exhaust system. Shielded ignition, 12-volt electrical system all in solid working order. 

They let Brian take it out around the plaza and when he pulled back in, he told me, “She handles like a dream. The Synchro-Mesh has no sponge to it. But play it cool or they will rake us over the coals negotiating price.” After tough negotiation, the car was Rollo’s. 

We kept low key and out of trouble, a monumental task for us. Because we were careful where we ate or drank, and never showed excess American money or clothing, and kept a very low profile. The only real trouble we had was along the road to La Paz. One of the local tough guy gangs stopped our car and demanded a toll payment. They had guns, knives and a hand grenade. Several dollars, a bottle of tequila and all our Santana CDs were confiscated. But we were eventually allowed to travel on. 

In La Paz we hit the motherload. Attempting to pry some of that shiny Detroit gold free, was quite an effort. But money talks and we could not believe what we were shown down a cobbled side street. A Cascade Green 1956 Corvette with numbers matching. Only 290 cars were built in this Cascade Green in 1956 with very few receiving the optional 225hp dual carb engine 5200 rpm. This Corvette still retained its factory original “GR” Coded engine. 

It has a beige interior and top, 3-speed manual transmission, Cascade Green hardtop, special two-tone paint, and wide white wall tires. We were not even looking for that one but when we called Rollo, he flipped. “Get it boys.”

A few miles out of town we got a wagon. A 1956 Chevy Nomad in fact. The “tri-five” phase of the 1950s produced some pretty good station wagons. The Nomad is the rarest of the lot with just 8,000 ever produced. Its 350 cubic-inch crate V8 was larger than other engines of the time and the two-door design makes her stand out from the pack. The improved front and tail ends give it a unique flair.

We discovered a pristine 1957 Chevy Bel Air. When we popped the hood there before us was a dirty but very fictional 265 V-8 that was bored out to 283 cubic inches, with a two-barrel carburetor and single exhaust. 

We called Rollo and he informed us, if we got it, he intended to trade out the two-barrel for a four-barrel, adding dual exhausts and boosting compression from 8.5:1 to 9.5:1 super turbo-fire 283, rated at 220 horsepower.  Howie said, “We could use Chevy’s fuel-injected Ramjet V-8s, with a hydraulic cam, and solid lifters.

It was time to celebrate and enjoy the setting of the sun. Howie set up the pickup and delivery for all the vehicles. Of course, no major money was exchanged before reliable pickup and inspection was completed by Dean-O himself. With strict documentation.

Dunmoreans Follow Governor’s Mandatory Mask Order

Dunmore buck

The Dunmore Buck directly in front of FNCB Bank at Dunmore Corners is shown proudly wearing a mask.

Last month, Governor Tom Wolf ordered that all Pennsylvanians wear a mask any time they leave their homes for life-sustaining reasons due to the current health crisis.

The Buck reminds all Dunmoreans to follow the Governor’s order, wear their face masks and practice social distancing to help combat COVID-19.

The Buck says we will be bounce back form this and remember: Go Bucks!

Ciccotti and NittanyLion***

Bill Ciccotti poses with the Penn State Nittany Lion statue in front of FNCB Bank at Dunmore Corners. Both are reminding Dunmoreans to wear their masks. The duo still have to practice social distancing…although it is difficult not to hug the Lion!

Ciccotti says “Dunmore will be back, better than ever. WE ARE Bucktown!”