Oct 10, 2018

My 1963 Schwinn Deluxe American

This is my 1963 Schwinn DeLuxe American.  Never one to shy away from a new bike project, this one took me awhile to get started on.  The bike has been in my family for quite some time, but I personally inherited it a few years ago.  A family member's passing brought this bike to me, so there happens to be a lot of sentiment attached to it.  The truth of the matter, is that I just couldn't bring myself to even ride the bike until recently.

Earlier this year however, as I sat in my garage after finishing some projects, I began gazing upon the bike with great admiration.  After a few moments, I came to the realization that I was doing this bike a gross injustice by letting it hang from the garage rafters only to gather dust and spider webs.  I took the bike down, dusted her off, and gave the electric horn button a push in hopes that it still worked.  It did not.  I grabbed a screwdriver and opened up the frame tank to find that the battery had simply become dislodged from its holder.  A quick adjustment made it snug again, and the horn was functioning once more.  I'm not sure what to liken the sound of the horn to.  Maybe my old 73' Volkswagen Beetle?  Check out what it sounds like for yourself..

I've flip flopped on the type of restoration I want to perform on this bike.  At one point I had big plans for a complete overhaul, but the nicks, scratches, and dings make it all the more endearing to me.  It definitely looks like a bike that's had an incredible life.. its wear and tear offering up inevitable proof of this.  To me, it's every bit as beautiful as one that's been completely restored to its original condition.  I look at the bike and can only imagine what stories it could tell.

My inaugural ride was a modest six mile trek.  I could tell the bearings were virtually dry and contributed to some drag, but it was still simply a pleasure to ride.  While it functioned adequately, I can definitely feel differences between this bike and my 2010 Schwinn Cruiser.  The old school handlebars force a forward riding posture that I'm not accustomed to on my other cruisers.  The combination of  26 x 2 x 1/34 tires, thick heavy steel frame and steel rims, probably also added to the noticeable drag I mentioned before.

With exception of the saddle, rear reflector, and tires, all parts on this bike are 100% original as you'll see below.  A true testament to how things used to be built so much better back in the day.

Classic Schwinn tank with electric horn.

55 year old "Schwinn approved" grips

 55 year old pedals

Original Chrome Rear Rack

Messinger Seat
This is the original seat from this bike, and it's begging for restoration.

Faded  and well used Chain Guard

The headlight is aftermarket, so I think I'll search for an original.

Now that I live in Florida, I want the bike to stay in optimum condition for years to come.  Simply being exposed to the humidity here, can take a toll on a bike frame with scratches, nicks etc.  I think I've settled on a full repaint of the frame to help protect it.  The contrast of a weathered bike tank and  the faded original Schwinn Chicago Head Badge, may provide a nice contrast, and in turn preserve some of its personality.

I have already tore the bike down, and am currently going through it piece by piece to see what needs cleaning, restoration, or full on replacement.  I'm waiting until the humidity subsides a bit more before I paint it, but should be able to get it done by mid Fall.   I will start posting progress on the project very soon so stay tuned!

Oct 5, 2018

The Shakey's Pizza from yesteryear

As a young boy living in California during the 70s, my absolute favorite pizza parlor to visit was Shakey's.  I have such great memories of dining there as a kid, and I truly miss the atmosphere and food we used to enjoy at their many establishments. Upon walking into Shakey's, you were instantly greeted with live rag time music played by banjo players and a pianist pounding out tunes on an upright piano.  The employees wore striped shirts, arm bands, and skimmer hats, and were all very lively. There was a very welcoming, vaudevillian feel to the restaurant, and whether you were young or old, it was nearly impossible not to have your spirits immediately lifted.

 Back then we had a big family that was very social. Shakey's was one of the only places we could visit that easily accommodated families as big as ours, with upwards of 20 people.  They used to have these long wooden tables with benches that could seat the multitude of cousins, aunts, and uncles we brought with us.  I remember as the pitchers of soda and root beer hit the table, my stern old man would suddenly become more relaxed and jovial. The kids would quickly settle into the loud and festive surroundings, progressively get louder, and could do so literally unnoticed. I do remember my younger cousin getting a smack once however.  She got so caught up in the festivities and merry making that the rest of us kids were enjoying, she stood up on her chair, and screamed as loud as she could just for the heck of it.  She got a little smack to the mouth, but that didn't even phase her.  She just sat back down and started laughing at the silly things my other cousins and I were doing.

An item synonymous with the old Shakey's franchise, is the Shakey's skimmer hat.  It was an endearing souvenir that I still love to this day.  They were basically faux straw hats with a red band around them displaying the Shakey's logo.  As the evenings progressed, my old man would inevitably get a hold of a skimmer hat and wear it for the rest of the evening, often acting like a southern gentlemen, or Desi Arnaz.
 My old man in 1975 hamming it up in a Shakey's Skimmer hat 
after an evening out at Shakey's with the family.

My 1970's vintage Shakey's Skimmer hat
And there was no shortage of stuff for the kiddo's to do while our moms and dads socialized.  There was a glass window that you could look through to watch the employees making pizza's.  I recall the employees handing out kazoo's on occasion to the kids (and folks who were kids at heart) further adding to our fun.  Between the banjo and piano players music sets, episodes of the Little Rascal's, Laurel and Hardy, and The Three Stooges would play on a big screen which would quickly quiet us kids down.

In the 70's, many Shakey's had pinball rooms which evolved into arcades later in the 80's.  The Shakey's we frequented near Pomona had a coin operated horse ride that worked off of tokens.  The tokens were always free for the asking from any Shakey's employee, and I swear my cousins and I practically wore that poor horse out. I was always excited to see what kinds of cool promo items Shakey's had, that I could try and convince my Mom and Dad to buy for me.  I remember promotions offering such items as baseball cards, miniature plastic football helmets, cameras, etc.  I didn't realize it back then, but most of the items usually came free with a large pizza purchase.

Rediscovering Shakey's
I knew Shakey's restaurants in this day and age couldn't possibly be a shadow of their former self, but out of curiosity and for old times sake, I gave them a try during a trip to California in 2009.  The banjo and piano players are obviously no longer present, and no old timey movies or shorts were being played either.  Instead, there were plenty of big screen TV's broadcasting all manner of sports programming.  There was a little arcade room that the kids and some Dad's were really enjoying.  The new restaurants are family friendly with a bright open air atmosphere that feels upbeat and full of energy. The pizza has changed for sure, and is absolutely nothing like it used to be.  It was good however, and I enjoyed their fried chicken and 'Mojo Potatoes' immensely.

So in the end, I had a pleasant experience, but didn't experience the magic I remember from years past.  I'm okay with that however, as I have plenty of great Shakey's memories that will last a lifetime.  How about you?  Do you have memories of Shakey's from years gone by, or are you still making memories to this day?  If so, I'd love to hear about them!

Visit Shakey's Online 


Oct 1, 2018

Review - "Supremus Maximus" from Screamin' Sicilian Pizza Co.

There are some great things happening in the world of frozen pizza.  Consumers are demanding higher quality and healthier options, and companies are listening.  Pizza's made with all natural ingredients and no preservatives are becoming ever more available, and I for one am loving it!

Enter Screamin' Sicilian pizza.  I've sing their praises to anyone who will listen and am going to do so again.  So without any further delay, here's my review on the wonder that is the "Supremus Maximus".

Retro Dad rating..
5 out of 5 slices!

Screamin' Sicilian's Supremus Maximus is a Supreme pizza made with incredible whole milk mozzarella cheese from Wisconsin, heaping piles of rough-chopped pepperoni, enormous orbs of Italian sausage, strips of fire-roasted onions and red & green bell peppers, and black olives.

Before I cooked this pizza, I had to snap an up close picture of the toppings.  I knew this was going to be a special pie when I took a gander at the roasted peppers and onions you see above!

As soon as I pulled this beauty from the oven, I sampled a few of the roasted peppers and onions.  I was shocked to find how crispy the onions were, and how incredibly sweet the peppers tasted. 

The rough-chopped pepperoni was of the utmost quality, and I can't say enough good things about the sweet Italian sausage! Not only were the pieces huge, but the sausage is steeped with seasonings and spices that make it incredibly delicious.  I'd even go as far to say that the sausage is better than many pizzeria's out there.  No surprise, as a multitude of pizzerias use mass produced sausage bought from food distributors.  The Zesty Italian tomato sauce played against the Wisconsin whole milk mozzarella perfectly, and was laid on in perfect proportion.

What really continues to impresses me about Screamin' Sicilian frozen pizza's however, is how much they do not taste like frozen pizzas. This is largely in part because of the crust, which is usually a dead giveaway that a pizza is of the frozen variety.  Made from individually rolled dough balls made of wheat, water, olive oil & yeast, it represents a nice stone baked crust that reminds me of past homemade pies I've crafted over the years.

What more can I say?  The Supremus Maximus was a hit with my family, and once again had me ecstatic that I can dine on a frozen pizza that tastes nothing like a frozen pizza.  I have went ahead and bought a few more varieties of these pies, and will review each one as I cook them up, so keep an eye out for the reviews!

Visit Screamin' Sicilian Online

MADBALLS - Screamin' Meemie

Screamin' Meemie.. my Favorite MADBALL of all time  This one I saw on Instagram is a little rough, but I'd buy it.  A mint on card Screamin' Meemie would be an incredible find though!

Sep 28, 2018

Lazy Moon Pizza review - Orlando Florida

I've lived in the Orlando area for just over one year now and have heard local Pizza enthusiasts rant and rave about Lazy Moon Pizza, even well before I moved here.  I'm happy to say I finally got a chance to visit on my day off, and was not disappointed.

 Located in the Mills/50 district, right off of Colonial Drive.  If you blink.. you'll miss it.

 First time I've seena Bocce Ball Court in a Pizzeria.  Well.. in any restaurant for that matter.

 Cool art adorns the walls throughout the establishment.

 Behold.. The 'Boxcar Willie' special..
a Slice of Pizza as bigger than your face, and a pint of PBR

 So far, these are the biggest slices of pizza I've seen in the Orlando area.

They taste great as well! Not a New York style slice per say.. but rather, king sized hand tossed pizzas with a bolder, zestier sauce.

 If domestic beer isn't your thing.. they also have a great craft beer selection.

I immensely enjoyed my lunch at Lazy Moon.  The place was chill, and the staff also embodied that attitude.  It's quite a drive from where I live which really bums me out, because if I lived closer, it would definitely be a regular haunt for me.  I guess I'll just have to find more reasons to make the trek out to the Mills/50 District more often.

SHOWBIZ Pizza Place

Some of the fondest and happiest memories from my youth stemmed from visiting Showbiz Pizza Place. Showbiz Pizza is the now defunct sister restaurant to Chuck E. Cheese.  Like Chuck E. Cheese, the restaurant focused on pizza, animatronic entertainment, and video games, all within a family friendly atmosphere.  After my family moved from California to Colorado in the late 70s, I found myself dreadfully missing our once regular trips to Disneyland, and Showbiz was the closest thing to Disney magic you could find when living 1300 miles west of Anaheim.  

I'll never forget my first visit to Showbiz Pizza Place.  Giving in to my desperate plea's, my parents reluctantly took me there for dinner one Saturday night. We stood in line outside for the better part of an hour on a cold Colorado winter evening.  My Dad kept grumbling about the long wait, but I didn't hear any other complaints from him once we got inside.  I knew immediately as I stepped through the door, that Showbiz Pizza was my personal heaven.  After all, there was pizza (my favorite food), skee ball, pin ball, video games, and awesome animatronic entertainment!

My 1980 Billy Bob mug
To this day I can vividly remember glancing over at my parents from time to time, only to see them watching me with big smiles on their faces.  At the end of the night, my dad bought me a Billy Bob glass mug to commemorate my visit.  I loved that mug, and still possess it to this very day.  I even wrote an essay at school on the following Monday, documenting my first ever visit to Showbiz Pizza Place for which I received an A+.

The animatronic band that performed on the main stage was known as The Rocka-fire Explosion. The band featured, Fatz Geronimo the gorilla, Mitzi Mozzarella the mouse, Dook LaRue the dog, and Beach Bear.  Just to the right of the center stage was the Showbiz franchise mascot, Billy Bob Brockolli the bear.  To the left of the main stage was Rolfe DeWolfe the stand up comic, and Earl Schmerle his puppet sidekick. Billy Bob's buddy "Looney Bird" would occasionally pop up from his nest (an old oil drum full of moonshine) to offer some comic relief.

While many of my friends weren't too excited about watching the entertainment, and would high tail it straight to the arcade or skee-ball alley.   I on the other hand, would take in all I could get.  I too would spend lots of time in their massive video arcade, but also spent even more time watching the Rock-afire Explosion.  I actually remember being in the midst of playing video games, and hearing the band start up.  On more than one occasion, I would cut my games short, or deliberately make myself lose so I could head back to the dining room to watch the Rocka-fire Explosion perform.

I always loved Showbiz Pizza Place, even when it wasn't "cool" for kids my age to dig it any more.  I remember many an afternoon where I left my high school campus to go get lunch at Showbiz by myself.  I was always the only kid my age in the restaurant. Other patrons were usually Moms that were taking their toddlers or preschoolers out to burn off some energy.  I would sit alone watching the shows, and would then hit up the arcade to play a couple games of Donkey Kong or Asteroids before finally heading back to school.

Some years later when I lived on the East coast and my firstborn was a toddler, I would often take him to Showbiz for lunch. I was usually the only Dad in the restaurant surrounded by Moms.  Before moving back to Colorado in the mid 90s, I took my son to Showbiz one more time.  Little did I know, it would be the last time we would ever see a Showbiz Pizza Place ever again.  Upon moving back to Colorado, I learned that the old Showbiz I frequented as a boy was now a Chuck E. Cheese.  I searched high and low for Showbiz restaurants in surrounding cities, and even other states, but learned that all had suffered the same fate. Showbiz was the casualty of corporate unification that converted all Showbiz stores into the Chuck E. Cheese's.  That move never sat well with me, and while I tried to embrace the change for my kids.. my family eventually stopped patronizing the chain.

The magic was gone, and it was evident in nearly every aspect of the business. The entertainment in my personal opinion was replaced with a sub par abomination that had no soul or magic compared to the Showbiz franchise. As I got older and started reminiscing about my Showbiz memories, I read stories of the infamous corporate transformation.  Ex employees stated that virtually overnight, they were instructed to destroy and throw out all kinds of props, decorations, stage sets, and in some cases, animatronic characters.  However, during this dark time, many sets and Rock-afire bands were saved, and would eventually experience some of their former glory many years down the line.

Below are some corporate unification videos showing employees how to dismantle sets, characters, and instructions on what to destroy. The videos then go on to show how to replace the sets and characters with Chuck E. Cheese characters. They're actually somber videos to watch for Showbiz fans like me, and very much feels like watching someone dismantle a part of my childhood.


After some digging on the web, I found that several Showbiz enthusiasts actually own old Rocka-fire Explosion bands complete with the software to run their very own shows!  Below is a video from one such fan.  This clip even features the first performance I ever saw by The Rocka-fire Explosion back in 1980, during my first visit to Showbiz Pizza Place.  Gosh I love YouTube!


If you'd like more information about Showbiz, or would just like to reminisce, the most comprehensive Showbiz website I've found on the web is at Showbizpizza.com Also.. the documentary Rock-afire Explosion is available on DVD, and can be purchased on Amazon.  Check out the trailer here..

Order your copy at www.rockafiremovie.com


Sep 23, 2018

Sheila E concert at the 2018 EPCOT Food and Wine Festival

I've been a fan of the incomparable Sheila E. for 34 years.  She is my favorite Latin percussionist, heck.. my favorite percussionist period.  I bought her albums and had posters of her in my room in the 80s.  I bought a pair of Bongos and started teaching myself how to play them largely because of her.  I followed her career closely and watched her grow as a person and an artist.  One thing I never had the opportunity to do however, was to see her in concert.  That changed today however, as she was practically playing in my backyard at the EPCOT Food and Wine festival his weekend.

I heard 'The Queen of Percussion' was going to grace Orlando with her presence many months ago and put in for the time off to see her.  The concert did not disappoint, and was everything I thought it would be and more. My heart skipped a beat when she came down from the stage to sing a song three feet in front of us.  It melted when she brought kids up on the stage to dance with her, and told all of the girls in the audience "You can play drums too".

I wanted to record every second for posterity, but made myself put the phone down for much of the concert, because I just HAD to live in the moment.  I compiled the quick clips I captured, uploaded them to youTube, and have posted the video below.  The quality and sound isn't the best, but it sure keeps ME hypnotized for roughly three minutes and nineteen seconds!  Enjoy..