A Blog Along The Lincoln Highway

All of this is about a public TV project about one of America’s great roads, and we’re hoping you might enjoy reading about some of our behind-the-scenes work. I’m Rick Sebak, and I write most of the tales. Bob Lubomski is our cameraman. And Glenn Syska has been traveling with us recently. He made the video blog entries in 2008. Back in 2007, Jarrett Buba did all that. A RIDE ALONG THE LINCOLN HIGHWAY first aired on PBS on October 29, 2008 at 8 PM. Check with your local PBS station to find out about repeat broadcasts. Or go for the DVD at www.shopwqed.org.

A Blog Along The Lincoln Highway header image 2

Saturday night at the Car Store

October 21st, 2008 ·

Our finished program, the final edit with final sound mix, the high-res-ed show with captions for the hearing-impaired, the complete 56-minute-and-46-second HD master tape has been at PBS for a month.  We sent it to our trusty post-production house called Pillar To Post in Virginia on September 17 if I remember correctly.    And yet I still dream about re-editing stories, adding and subtracting sound bites, changing everything and starting over.  I swear the other night in my dreams (my nightmares?) I actually booked Bob and Glenn to go out with me and get another story.  I worry about the program a lot, even when it makes no difference and nothing can be changed.dsc00049slimtoad.jpg

Back on September 20, there was the first public showing of A RIDE ALONG THE LINCOLN HIGHWAY on the wall of an interesting restaurant and bar called the Road Toad out on Route 30 near Ligonier, very close to Idlewild Park.  There was a Pennsylvania Lincoln Highway Road Rally that day, and after all the rally-ers ate dinner, we tried to have a surprise sneak preview (!) of the show, but the technology wasn’t cooperating, and it might have been a complete bust, but two good friends, dsc00056slimmindy.jpgMindy and Rodney Crawford persevered, and they figured out a way to project my DVD from a laptop onto the makeshift screen on the bar wall, and it was OK.  People who stayed around got the gist of it, and it seemed OK.  Butko was there and wrote it up on his blog.

But still I dreamed of re-edits and new narrations, and maybe I should rearrange all of the Utah story.

Then this past Saturday night, October 18, there was a party out in Sewickley (one of Pittsburgh’s toniest suburbs, about 12 miles down the Ohio River from the Point) at the Sewickley Car Store, a Porsche Audio BMW dealership dsc00031scarfone.jpgowned and run by a cool cat named Joe Scarfone, and we showed the program to a crowd of about 200 of our closest friends and neighbors.   It was good.  A nice relaxed atmosphere.  Food and drinks.  Lots of talk.  Plenty of WQED folks mingling with car lovers, members of our dsc00004mikekim.jpgPittsburgh History Club, Sewickley celebrities like Michael Seate and Kim Love.  There were reporters from the Tribune-Review and the McKeesport Daily News, and some really great friends of Joe.dsc00003daily.jpg

There were rows of white folding chairs in the BMW showroom that was converted into a theatre for the evening.

My sister Nisey and her man Bill Scott drove over from Columbus, Ohio, dsc00024niseypeg.jpgto escort my mom, Peggy, to the party, and Carole Karn, one of my teachers from the eighth grade who has been a great friend ever since, came with them.  dsc00028group.jpgBrian Butko was there too with his wife Sarah and some friends from West Mifflin.  He was gathering pictures for his Lincoln Highway News blog.

Our cameraman Bob Lubomski and his wife MJ brought family, friends and their next door neighbor who remembered riding the Lincoln to and from school as a girl, long before there was a Pennsylvania Turnpike.

Editor Matt Conrad was there too with a young woman named Bridget Ferris who impressed us all.   Jolene Holderny from our business office (looking quite nice and relaxed on her first night out after having a baby earlier this year) came with her husband.  I wanted to invite her because she’s left several nice comments on this blog.dsc00013slimmer.jpg

Joe Abeln and his wife Lex showed up too.  Joe helped Bob on the road on the last shooting day of the project, when I stayed in the editing room, and he’s worked on many of my programs in various capacities over the last 21 years.  I hadn’t seen Lex in years, and she looked great.

So did Merritt Holland Spier who was a producer back in the Golden Age of Local Programming at WQEDdsc00022tighter.jpg in the late 80s and early 90s.  She and her husband Dave had attended the big Lung Association event the night before that Merritt had helped organize, and I think they were relaxing tonight.

Our composer and amazing musician friend Buddy Nutt came with his girlfriend UkuLizzy who I met one Saturday several months ago at the Children’s Museum when I first met Buddy.  I didn’t take a picture, but they were the best dressed couple at the event.   “Casual Chic” was the attire specified on the invite.

I met lots of people like Marion Schmidt Hutchison and her husband Wes who had too many nice things to say even before we rolled the tape.  dsc00007foj.jpg

Then they blinked the lights and veryone sat down.  Joe Scarfone made a few welcoming comments, then I tried to thank him for his excellent hospitality.  And I wanted to thank Linda Wagner from our Underwriting Department who had the initial idea of trying to pair us up with the Sewickley Car Store.  It was an ideal place to show a program about the Lincoln Highway.  Only a Packard dealership might have been more appropriate, but there aren’t many of them around anymore.  Big thanks to Linda and to all the folks at WQED who worked with her and the Car Store and its ad agency, Integra Marketing Group, to put this all together.

I didn’t want to ramble too long, but I also wanted to recognize certain people in the audience, like the Altizers who drove over from near Bedford, from their Lincoln Motor Court cottages, places featured in the show.  dsc00032smaller.jpgI could have gone on for a while.  There were too many people to thank and whenever you start listing people, it’s hard to stop.  Who did I forget?  I forgot to say that Brian Butko was there too, the man who first told me about the Lincoln Highway, back in1992 when we made a goofy travelogue called The Pennsylvania Road Show.

Anyway, I finally asked everyone to please hold any applause (if they were so inclined) until after the closing credits so we could be sure to hear Buddy sing “Goin’ All The Way” as the credits roll.  [A special nod to Paula Zetter and Kevin Conrad and Matt Conrad who worked together to make these some of my favorite credits ever in one of our shows.]

Then there was a small glitch when the show first started, or the audio did.  There was just a big blue screen, but the guys in charge of the AV machines and Paul Byers from WQED fixed things lickety split and we started over, with pictures this time.  Thanks to Paul, head of our Engineering Department, we projected the program onto a screen with a high-definition projector, and the images were extraordinary (especially from my front row seat.)

It is so interesting to sit and watch a show with an audience after watching it for months in a quiet editing room.  You don’t want people to talk too much but it was fun to hear giggles and gasps and oohs and wows as the stories unfolded.  I heard a woman behind me whisper to her husband, “Oh, she’s gorgeous!” when Carissa Altizer came on screen at the end of the show.

I was surprised at how much the crowd seemed to love Richard Gradzinski’s dry delivery and cool comments at his beautiful little gas station in Grand Island, Nebraska.  And I was glad to hear everyone react to the story of Esther Oyster and Bernie Queneau at the end of the show.  It went all right.  Everyone laughed when the cow runs from the flying DVD in the “To get a copy of this program” announcement, and then everyone listened to Buddy’s song while the credits rolled.  TV producers don’t often get to hear such reassuring applause.

Then there were goody bags to hand out and more food and drink to take advantage of.dsc00017meandjoe.jpg  I stayed longer than I ever expected to, schmoozing, checking out the totally cool, bright red and tiny 1957 BMW Isetta that Joe had parked in the front of the showroom.  Joe’s wife was really kind too and asked me to sign the welcome poster that was on an easel right beside the Isetta.  Who knows?  dsc00021joeandis.jpgMaybe we’ll figure out a way to do such a premiere party again sometime soon.

I had a blast.  And I’m just hoping the event may settle my brain and I won’t dream of re-editing anymore.

[NOTE:  If you didn’t follow the links, be sure to see what Brian and Joelene wrote about the party on their blogs.]

Tags: Road Diary

10 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Joelene // Oct 21, 2008 at 8:51 am

    I am laughing at your dreams about re-editing and going out on more shoots!

    The movie was great. Have I told you that yet? I was thinking of you listening to the crowd’s reaction as it played out, hoping you’d realize how much we were all truly enjoying every second of our ride on the Lincoln Highway. It was a great night!

    Thanks again for including us. We had a wonderful time!

  • 2 Art Hoffman // Oct 21, 2008 at 4:17 pm

    Waiting with anticipation down here in Texas!

    Thanks Rick!

  • 3 Chuck Verrett // Oct 21, 2008 at 7:42 pm

    what a great time we all had, we are proud to have worked with you on this project and hope to do something cool with you and the QED folks again.

    PS: Thanks for mentioning my agency, no one mentions the agency.

    Chuck Verrett,
    Integra Marketing Group, Inc

  • 4 Joe Comm // Oct 21, 2008 at 10:16 pm


    In a way, although I know it’s wrong to think so, it’s refreshing to hear that a professional such as yourself has second thoughts and dreams of reediting his work.

    I’ve recently dabbled in writing a fiction novel about Rock Springs Park, a now defunct amusement park in Chester, WV, that once bordered The Lincoln Highway. (Shameless plug noted.) Even after half a dozen revisions, I find myself rethinking and questioning almost every part of it.

    But one thing is for sure, Rick. Your local history programs have really shown me it’s the people that matter in these stories. Sure, there are cool sights and amazing artifacts and interesting histories to each one, but they are nothing without the personal accounts of those who were touched by them. Don’t get me wrong. I love your narrations. Your voice is perfect for these tales. But the thing you do best is let the local people tell the story.

    I haven’t seen the Lincoln Highway show, yet, but there is a moment in the promo that lets me know it’ll be a blast. That’s the shot where the woman says sheepishly, “I just thought it was 30. Route 30. That is what it is, isn’t it?” Classic stuff, Rick!

    I’ve said it before, here, and I’ll say it again. I can’t wait!

    Joe Comm

  • 5 Bruce Butgereit // Oct 22, 2008 at 1:03 pm


    When traveling, I often look for unique historical locations or sites along the way. I’m not sure what led me to choose to take the old Lincoln Highway to a meeting in Gettysburg, PA this past Saturday, but I am so glad something (fate, destiny, or luck) did. I also believe that the animated movie “Cars” was an inspiration as I am old enough to have seen what happens to the small town that gets by-passed by the new freeway.

    Traveling from Grand Rapids, MI, I picked up the highway in Fort Wayne, IN. Using some maps I had found online that pointed out various sites of markers and original sections of road thru Ohio and then the publication put out by the Pennsylvania Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor, I spent three days getting to Gettysburg (9 hours by toll-road) and spending three of the best days of my life exploring this historic treasure. On the way home, I backtracked several areas in PA just to get the “full affect” of the road.

    I ate at several of the diners and coffee shops along the way and had conversations with folks who treated me as if they had known me forever. I couldn’t help but feel as if I had been transported back in time – to the early days of this road and the America that doesn’t exist any more except in certain places.

    My friends comment that the trip sounds “cool” and want to see the many photos I took of the highlighted sites along the way but also the old abandoned gas stations, diners, and motels that still dot the landscape.

    I am looking forward to seeing the PBS documentary and will be sure to tell my friends about it. Thank you for sharing your passion about the Lincoln Highway.

    Bruce Butgereit

  • 6 Bob Chase // Oct 23, 2008 at 12:17 am

    · Sitting at my computer way out west in the San Francisco Bay Area enjoying your description of the premier showings of A RIDE ALONG THE LINCOLN HIGHWAY. How you ever condensed the Lincoln Highway into 56 minutes and 46 seconds is a miracle. So now your story is complete and ready for the world to see. Congratulations! I can hardly wait another week to see for myself. I know it will be wonderful and will allow me to relive my ride across America on the LH. Everyone I know has been alerted to the time and their local station.

  • 7 Rick // Oct 23, 2008 at 8:38 am

    Hey, Bob!
    Thanks for all your help and patience with us as you zoomed across the country on your MP3 motor-trike. You and Buddy were both such good sound-bite generators that your story could have been a lot longer in the show. Everything zips by. But when you say “It’s my favorite road,” you sound so totally honest that I love that moment.
    And I have to hope our paths will cross again someday.

  • 8 Joe Comm // Oct 29, 2008 at 9:29 pm

    My wife wants to take a summer and make the Lincoln Highway our family vacation. My son got a text message from a girl who said her whole family watched the show because he’s such a big fan of the LH. And, I got my wish when at 8:54; the Chester Teapot appeared on my TV screen.

    Thanks Rick! Loved the show!

  • 9 Art Hoffman // Oct 29, 2008 at 10:05 pm

    Thanks Mr. Sebak!!

    That was very satisfying! More like GREAT!! Thank you so much!

    I keep thinking that someday I’ll get to make some of these great road trips that you get to make and see the sights you get to see. Hasn’t happened yet but I am ever hopeful. So right now I am content to drive Hwy. 80 down here in North Texas for the annual yard sale in October looking for roadside relics.

    Will have to watch this many times over the Winter.

    Thanks again – A great job well done (as usual) and a lot of interesting facts, places and people!

    Art Hoffman

  • 10 Rick Sebak’s Blog » The Show At The Showrooms // Aug 2, 2009 at 11:49 pm

    […] I saw Joe Scarfone, one of our hosts and obviously a really good friend of WQED, because this was the second soiree he’s hosted at his beautiful car dealership, and I started talking to people as we walked in […]

Leave a Comment