Archive for June, 2009

Day 7: Springfield, VT to NYC (home!)

Posted in Roadtrip on June 13, 2009 by roadsidenut

After a good diner breakfast at the Royal Diner in Springfield with my friend and some other diner photo-taking nearby, I was off for a big day of shooting in VT, MA & CT. I was feeling pretty whooped in the early afternoon & contemplated heading for home early since it just a few hours away. But then the sun came out at last. I got coffee-ed up and plodded through my list until dark. Tons of diners that I’d never gotten to before, some neon signs, some other odd stuff. And along the way, lots of good blog material for you.

Trip summary before we get to the photos: approximately 3,600 miles on this week-long trip, about $575 in gas. Came home with all four dogs — always a miracle — and Sparkle ran flawlessly. No speeding tickets or mishaps. I even managed to fake my way around with some very rusty French. I don’t know when we’ll be in Canada again and feel kind of sad about it. I fantasize sometime about a really Big Deal Canadian trip — like a six-weeker some summer — where I can get to some of the remoter regions with some great Giant Stuff on my list and see what that part of the country looks like.

We did a little exploring in downtown Springfield.  There was this neat old stained glass clock:

blog1

a great Art Deco building — the storefronts were probably much nicer at one time:

blog2

blog3

Springfield is right on the Black River.  There are lots of big old factory buildings which dumped their garbage into the river at one time.  But all that has been cleaned up now and the river is abundant with wildlife and popular with kayakers/canoers.  The town has little bridges over the river which has giant scary falls.  The dogs were fascinated.  Dogs can be a lot like 7-year old boys — “Woah!  COOL!”

blog4

blog5

I tried to convince my friend to reopen this candlepin bowling place — long closed.  Not enough candlepin bowling out there.  I’m sure Springfield could use something fun for families and a good watering hole for grownups.  This building is situated right over that crashing water which I’m told is known as Comptu Falls.

blog6

Holyoke, MA is located right on the Connecticut River.  From my map, it looks like the same water continues to flow straight down from Vermont .  So perhaps the Black River & CT River are really the same & just renamed at some point.  Anyhow, this neat, rickety wooden bridge is built over a little canal in Holyoke.  I guess a train ran across it long ago?  More old factory buildings. 

blog7

I’m not sure what to make of this sign.  Carville’s Ranch House in Hartford, CT may or may not be an old place.  The “Ranch House” channel neon lettering looked new to me — or maybe just altered/replaced.  This neon piece looks pretty old to me.  Regardless, a cowboy & cactus sign, old or new, is always worth hitting the brakes.

blog8

A magnificent rusty clock in Hartford, CT.  Gee, can you tell it was raining here?  There was sure a lot of challenging weather on this trip.

blog9

This heavily-altered, space-age diner on the Berlin Turnpike is a real heartbreaker.  This is in Wethersfield, just north of the still thriving Olympia Diner in Newington.  The sign on the door said “temporarily closed due to illness” but it looked like it had been closed for awhile.

blog10

blog11

Mr. Variety is perched on top of the Variety Homes Corp sign in Newington.    Love him!

blog12

This rusty, abandoned sign is in New Britain, CT:

blog13

and just down the block, this very nice relief piece above a not-so-nice storefront:

blog14

This is a pretty wacky place.  Wild Bill’s is a big antiques place of the non-traditional sort.  I don’t know where this guy came from but he, like the Nutcracker guy earlier in this post, is the stuff of nightmares.
http://www.wildbillsonline.com/

blog15

blog16

The sun was starting to set when I came across this nice mid-century firehouse in West Haven, CT.  After nearly a week of grey and rain, just about anything that the sun touched looked exceptional to me. 

blog17

The final stop was in Milford, CT to check out the long closed Milford Diner.  Closed since 2003, there was a sign on it saying “Intent to Demolish”.  Very sad.  As I drove a bit further, our route took us by a nice stretch of beach.  Nik & Grem were squealing with anticipation but there were huge “No Animal” signs.  Milford is a pretty upscale town.  I tried to break it to the dogs that it wasn’t gonna happen.  But less than a mile later, I noticed a big grassy, mucky beachy section behind some businesses. Good enough for us!  So it was a great way to end the trip. 

Back home now & catching up on the email pileup & other stuff while the dogs are motionless with exhaustion.  I hope you will join us again in August for a month-long roadtrip to the Midwest.   The weather & photos should be much better then.  Until then, I’ll be getting my lists & maps ready while getting all the photos from this trip up at the website.  May the roads you travel, near or far, be filled with discoveries and amusement.

Day 6: Northeast Quebec to Springfield, VT

Posted in Roadtrip on June 11, 2009 by roadsidenut

Not a lot of destinations today.  Mostly grey with just a little rain.  A few quick teases from the sun.  Lots of miles between the remaining Canadian things on the list & most of it dull interstate.  Much coffee was consumed & satellite radio was played.

I found myself enough ahead of schedule that I decided to hit Montreal one more time.  A few days ago when I was there, I was disappointed when I could not find it at the address I had.  I was then (mis)informed by someone that the Giant Milk Bottle had been removed.  That night, I looked it up at Flickr & sure enough it was still there.  So since it was just a mere two-hour roundtrip loop out of my way, I just had to go back to get it.  And then another quick pitstop in Granby to reshoot the Blanche Neige which I had blurred.

Le Madrid is the closest to an American-style tourist trap that I have seen.  Located in Saint-Léonard-d’Aston, it is right off a major highway (l’autoroute 20).  It opened in 1968 as the Moulin Rouge restaurant.  Dinosaurs and monster trucks now lure in motorists in addition to the usual offerings of gas, food & lodging.  More about the place: here.

blog5

blog2

blog3

blog1

blog4

I found a little pondy boat launching place in Saint-Georges-de-Windsor for the dogs’ final romp in Canada.  Then it was off to the border crossing which took far less time than recent experiences — only about a half hour.  Then it was on to a few stops in VT before visiting & staying with a friend in Springfield.  I took the night off from blogging & flickring — hence the lateness in getting this post  up.

While shooting the Heritage Diner in Charlestown, NH, I came upon this statue in the parking lot.  I don’t know the artist of have any info about it.  The back-to-back explorer guy & Native American were apparently carved from the same log.

blog6

blog7

Day 5: Northeast Quebec

Posted in Roadtrip on June 10, 2009 by roadsidenut

More grey.  More rain.  All day.

Spent a lot of time behind the wheel — way fewer photos than the previous days.  Loads of miles between stuff — but I got my whale in Matane! Turns out he is metal & not cement after all.  And worth the approximately 8 hours round trip just to see him.  It was a damned pretty drive anyway and I found a great spot for the doggies to cut loose.

Much woofing and running of legs in their dreams right now.  Surely, they are still digesting the sights and smells of the doggie paradise that was “le municipalité du Bic” — which is a straight shot north basically of Maine.  The water source here is a little inlet piece of the St. Lawrence River.  Popular with kayakers & such because it’s a much calmer bit.  The further I got north towards the whale, the wilder the water became.  Little ocean-like waves even.

Upon arrival at any watery place, Nik heads out to alert me to it just in case I didn’t notice.

blog5

Game on.  Fixie in her classic “throw it for him so I can bite him in the ass while he chases it down”.  But she’s too much of a wimp to chase him in the water.

blog6

I have yet to witness even a big dog that can move as fast in the water.  God bless the “red kitty Cuz” which has gotten us through every day on this trip.

P6100397

Grip is feeling mighty fine these days.  Damned good for 12 and the recent eye surgery.

blog8

Say bye-bye to that orange official retriever training toy.  Nik had put a hole in it awhile back.  As Grem considered the option of freezing cold water vs. the chicken she’d get for retrieving it, orange-thingie slowly sank into oblivion.

blog10

Beaches are just the best — all my dogs agree.  The skankier the better.  And this place had just enough standing water to create that special marinade of dead fishies, dead birdies, and decaying seaweed.  Fix found bones to chomp — god knows what that was.  And Grip consumed a seagull wing before I could get to her.  Ah well.  And apparently there were also live things just under our feet.  Grem got lots of exercise digging and fussing and doing what terriers are supposed to do.  A real break for me and the usual high stress of her likeliness to run off.  Unless, of course, the critter pops out of another hole and she sees it and gives chase.  Which would be disastrous — but kind of a risk I’m willing to live with.  Sometimes.  When there’s not a road nearby.

blog11

Obligatory group shot:

blog9

Moving on… Earlier in the day, I spotted this place in the distance from the highway in Rivière-du-Loup.  Needing gas soon, I decided to investigate.  Tackomania for sure.    This Santa looks so frightening and gnome-like.  And to top it off, Xmas music (the Christiany kind) was playing, loudly, although the place seemed to be closed.

blog1

Noël au Château looks much better at night — with a little technical manipulation. The place had a few storybook statues scattered about.  Not sure if there was a fairy tale theme here pre- the Xmas theme or if they existed simultaneously.  A Donald Duck that was partially concealed & too far away to shoot.  A weird chickeny thing.  And these guys:

blog2

Sorry for the blur.  I was holding the leashes for the heathens and trying to shoot at the same time.  Nik was sure critters were about while Grip & Grem were devouring dandelions (they love the greens & stems).  It felt like the camera was steady for the click — guess not.

Creepier still, directly across the street, at the Motel Loupi:

blog3

One more from Rivière-du-Loup, you gotta love a motel whose letters are nearly bigger than the rooms.  Je présente Le Motel Blvd. Cartier”.

blog4

Okay — time for me to join the dogs in dreamland.  Hopefully, I’ll dream about places like Bic or Matane and not about scary Santas or bears.  This place is all me and the dogs would need to be happy.  If you could transport the scene out of freezing cold Canada that is.

blog12

Tomorrow should be the final day in Canada — then, just another day or two with some stops in VT, etc. on the way back to the Big Bad Apple.

Day 4: Montreal

Posted in Roadtrip on June 9, 2009 by roadsidenut

The busiest photo-taking day of the trip — the Montreal Marathon Shoot – and it rained, POURED, nearly every minute.  Tomorrow, while I’m heading east and have very few items on the agenda, it will probably be gloriously sunny.  Ah well, I’ll find some water somewhere for the dogs and we’ll pretend we’re on a normal person’s “vacation” for awhile.  Maybe 20 minutes.

So loads of grey and streaky photos for the website, flickr and here.  Not as many blog photos as previous posts since it was really like combat outside the van.  People must’ve thought I was nuts just standing in the downpour — that crazy wet woman taking pictures in the rain!  The past few days, my camera has started acting up again.  The lens just doesn’t want to go back out after zooming in.  So I have to press-press-press the button in rapid succession.  Or just turn it off and on again.  A pain.  But after getting rained on a bit, it’s moving in and out nicely.  Just needed a little lubrication?  Just hope it works tomorrow!  I will probably be purchasing a new camera for August’s big trip.  I can’t decide if I’m just going to move up a little level or a big level.  I think I’ll keep this one around (after getting repaired) for days just like this though.

The dogs were contented prisoners for the most part.  Grip & Fix are not big on rain.  Grem really doesn’t mind but starts full body tremors after about two minutes.  Not that she wants to go back in the boring van though when there’s a chance Mom might screw up and drop a leash.  I found some big open space despite the urban setting for Nik to do laps under my control (with the help of the red kitty Cuz). 

On with the show.  A cool concept:  a self-serve bicycle rental station.  I guess this wouldn’t work in New York with all the hot shot bike thieves.  Although these bikes are so duddy looking, who’d want to steal them?

blog1

One of the high points of the day was finally getting to see the Orange Julep stands in Montreal.  One is shaped like a giant orange while the other has incredible neon (both shown at the regular Flickr stream tonight).  Lunch was from the giant orange — grilled cheese (as tasty as it looks – not) and a small julep (frothed up orange juice).

blog2

Another scary street sign.  I guess when there have been a series of accidents in an area, they put up these “Danger – Debut” and “Danger – Fin” signs.  So when you leave the “Fin” zone, you can go back to not being as careful?  I think it’s strange.  And scary.  I find myself imagining what happened - and what caused it when I’m in the zone.

blog3

This old tobacco ghost sign is not all that ghostly looking right now.  Apparently, it was recently unveiled when this giant hole in the ground appeared next door.  Note the Frenchy parking meters and “Arret” sign.

blog4

This seems to be a Montreal phenomenon – or else I just haven’t noticed it anywhere else.  Instead of the internal staircases to the second floor, the buildings (in both good neighborhoods and bad) have the stairs on the outside.  And most of these staircases from hell have some dramatic bend in them.  So far I haven’t seen any leading straight up to a third floor.  It seems scary and difficult enough — but how do they cope with the six months of ice and snow?  Or do the people all telecommute?  Surely, they must not have small children or dogs to deal with.  Just what happens if you break a leg?  I guess it’s no worse than stairs inside — but I think at least a couple of my dogs would be freaked out for a long time about it.

blog6

I need to start a collection of plastic uniform store signs after today.  I just love them.

blog5

blog7

And lastly, I had to stop to admire these neat restored trucks today.  The big badge in front tells me that they are Citroën.  It looks like they might be from the 1940s.
http://www.autoevolution.com/trucks/citroen/history/

blog8

blog9

Day 3: Watertown, NY to Longueuil, QC

Posted in Roadtrip on June 8, 2009 by roadsidenut

We covered a lot of ground today and, man, am I BEAT.  My apologies for the typos and grammatical errors to come in this post.  In case you just discovered my blog, these posts are written late at night when a sane person would be sleeping already.  No time for tweaking, polishing or proofing.  It is what it is.

Grey mixed with sun today.  A bit cooler — Days 1&2 got up into the 80s, up in the Thousand Lakes region & Canada, it got to maybe 70.   My French is coming back to me and I can stutteringly put together four or five word sentences with store clerks when I have to.

I’m slightly ahead of schedule but tomorrow starts out with Montreal.  I usually fall behind in big cities with traffic, one way streets, and just the sheer quantity of stops.  My list for Montreal isn’t huge though.  In the back of my mind, there’s a cute whale statue in Matane that I’d love to get to.  It’s about 4 hours northeast of anything else on my list.  So it will depend on how things go in the next few days whether I can make that day-long indulgence.  Old cement whales are just the sort of thing that shouldn’t be put off til another time.  They have a way of disappearing.

I really didn’t do proper research for dog parks for this trip.  So dealing with Gremlin, the “runner” of the family, has been challenging for me and frustrating for her.  Today, I came up with a “babysitting” method which means at least she can be out of the van for longer periods while I’m throwing for Nik.  Fixie is the “perfect child”, well nearly perfect anyway.  On roadtrips, she always comes the second I call her and she’s not into running much at all.  So after Fix’s initial burst of energy, I tether Grem to her and they can both go grazing.  Fix just ignores Grem’s feeble attempts to pull her since there’s a big size difference between them.

blog6

One of the nicest spots of the day — Prehistoric World in Morrisburg, ON.  The dinosaur statues were incredible enough but, in addition, most of them were installed in this incredible ferny forest.  A few mosquitos snacked on me but it was worth it.

blog4

I had never been to Ottawa before.  Only a few stops there on my list but I got a general sense of the  place.

blog5

Lots of poutine stands in Ontario and Quebec.  This truck is apparently permanently stationed here in Ottawa.  Being vegetarian, I don’t eat gravy.  I thought about the fries — but after a recent food poisoning episode, I couldn’t find the courage.

blog3

I did, however, manage to find room to sample some ice cream at Chez Ben in Granby.  Just a soft serve sundae but the “framboises” made it pretty special.  Note the weird spoon that’s actually colored as if it has chocolate on it. 

blog8

On to the signs and buildings…  This politically incorrect mammy sign was on a rooftop in Alexandria Bay, NY.  Whatever business it was associated with is long gone.

blog1

I found this sign in Ottawa pretty shocking.  [Translation from French if you need it:  "Keep an eye on your children.  This could be yours."]

blog2

A nice bit of neon from Granby.  [translation:  Comeu & Sons Plumbing & Heating]

blog7

A classic, surviving “hotel” in Granby:

blog9

And another great sign & building from Granby:

blog12

blog11

And lastly, yet one more sign from Granby.  A car springs store that was apparently taken over by the Menard chain.  blog10

Time to curl up with the doggies now — big day in Montreal and beyond tomorrow.

Day 2: Schenectady, NY to Watertown, NY

Posted in Roadtrip on June 7, 2009 by roadsidenut

Another grey day with some moments of sun thrown in to keep my hopes up.  When I checked the weather on Friday, the forecast was for rain most of the day — so I guess we got lucky — and they were wrong, again.

I made good progress but didn’t quite make it to Canada yet.  Mostly this was because of a huge glitch on I-81 late this afternoon.  There was some major accident about 1/3 of a mile ahead of us.  Everybody just parked and turned off their engines.  There were maybe five fire trucks and a dozen police cars.  After about a half hour of sitting there, a helicopter landed and presumably took someone or several people off to a hospital.  When I passed the scene, it looked like there had only been two cars — an SUV and a small car — both had obviously caught fire and were burnt-out shells.

A few more stops in NY tomorrow morning then & then we should be crossing over the border.  Many stops before Montreal so I don’t think we’ll be there until Tuesday.  Although I was nearly a French major in college, it’s been 20-something years now since then.  I’m hoping to deal alright with road signs without getting lost & whatever else I encounter in Quebec.  Never been.  So this should be a fun adventure.

Tons of bloggy photos today — let’s get the doggie ones out of the way.  I guess Fix’s “pet me” waving technique hasn’t been effective enough.  She is now sitting up in begging position and waving with both feet at me.  And how can I resist?

blog1

This photo shows my two partially-blind dogs.  Last year, Nik (on right) had a retinal detachment and so can no longer see with his right eye.  It sure hasn’t slowed him down or altered his wild lifestyle in any way.  The condition of Nik’s good eye isn’t great either so I’ll soon be shelling out about $2,000 for some “spot welding”.  Hopefully, that’ll be enough to keep the retina in place but there’s no guarantee. 

Just a week before this trip, Grip (on left) woke up one morning with a quinty, translucent-y eye.  Luxated anterior lens:  $3400 to remove the lens.  So she’ll be able to see with that eye but not focus with it close up.  Both dogs therefore have funky right eyes.  Both caused by bad genetics rather than injury.   I sure hope that’s the end of my family’s eyeball troubles.

blog4

It doesn’t take much to make this boy happy:

blog5

Caught in the act!  When I came back from shooting something today which took all of maybe three minutes, I discovered the glovebox up front open and the contents strewn about.  The liverwurst treats apparently consumed by everybody (all licking of chops).  I thought maybe I had just not closed the thing well enough.  But then later today, I witnessed Grip’s new skill.  She has figured out how to tilt her head and depress both buttons on either end of the handle to spring it open.  So no more food or gum or treats can be kept there — everything has to go back in the dog crate in the back.  And although Nik has figured out how to open that from the inside, he has yet to figure out how to open it from the outside.

blog9

Now then, on with the roadside stuff.  First a couple gas stations — the first one, a gorgeous mess, in Utica, NY:

blog2

The next building looks like a former station to me — from Chittenango, NY.  No islands but set back enough from the road to strengthen my assumption.

blog2a

At first, I was thinking this building in Auburn, NY was a former Fotomat.  But then I remembered Fotomats have pyramidal roofs.  I know I have other pointy-roofed buildings like this from upstate NY at my website.  I think these were originally ice cream stands but I’m not positive.  It’s fascinating to see the various businesses that have sprung up in these things.

blog11

And here’s a nice little collection of signs for you.  Starting with this one from Utica, NY – a bar & hotel combination.  I guess it’s convenient if you want to get smashed and then crawl off to bed upstairs.

blog3

From Auburn — probably not the original name or even business.  Neon gone & probably repainted a few dozen times.  Still, a nice little thing.

blog10

A nice old towering Sunoco sign in Canastota.  Yes, there’s still a Sunoco station below but upgraded and with one of those huge “c-mart” (convenience store) buildings.  I’m glad they let this sign stay.

blog6

While looking for the Motel 47 sign in Watertown, which must be gone, I had nearly given up before bumping into this guy.  The motel looks long closed.

blog13

From Syracuse — a great old Arthur Murray billboard above AND the still-operating dance studios below. 

blog7

Good god — this one’s a killer, ain’t it?  From North Syracuse — this sign is a little buried in the trees now.  The motel property was up for sale.  I have a feeling this one won’t be around too much longer.  Faded paint over faded paint — you couldn’t create this color sensation if you tried.

blog8

And lastly, a bit of nature — Bowden Farm in Weedsport.  It’s amazing that these corn silos (is that what you call them?) are already full when it seems like it was winter just a few weeks ago to me.  And up here, the winters are flat out nasty.  NYC seems bad enough — I can’t imagine living up here or Michigan or Chicago.  I am awed by people that can live in such places and that can make a living off the land.  It seems like incredibly hard work when compared to my typing job in the city.

blog12

Tomorrow’s post will surely not be as long.  I have a feeling things will be more complicated across the border.  So I hope this extra long post will sustain you in case I don’t make it online tomorrow night.  Gnight.

Day 1: NYC to Schenectady, NY

Posted in Roadtrip on June 6, 2009 by roadsidenut

This is the trip that we were going to take last December before the crazy snowstorms hit the Northeast.  Since this is just a 10-day roadtrip, I didn’t make a trip map for you to follow along.  I wasn’t even going to do the blog this time but decided late afternoon that I would after all.  So I don’t really have many photos for you.  But I’ll be back in the swing tomorrow.

After only about 3 hours sleep last night, I made Dumb Doggie Move #1 about an hour into the trip.  After getting Nik a big run, I let him have his ballie in the van while I got the girls out to pee & stretch.  After a few minutes, I just happened to glance at the van and saw Nik outside wandering around.  I hadn’t shut the door!  His ballie had rolled out and he was looking for it — perilously close to a busy road.  Sheesh.  Tragedy averted.

Just a few hours later, I was walking the troops at the Culinary Institute.  I bent over to pick up a poop like a good citizen and in transfering the four leashes to one hand, I could feel Grem’s skinny, girlie-hot-pink leash slip from my grasp.  She noticed that lack of tension instantly.  Pedal to the metal — she bolted down the road and around a bend.  Even though we were “on campus”, there were still lots of fast-moving cars around.  I stuffed the 3 dogs in the van and started running around and screaming her name which is pointless when she’s on a freedom binge.  I quickly notified the security personnel and other people passing by.  My first guess about where she’d head was right:  a couple people spotted her snacking near some dumpsters and stepped on the leash.  I’m sure it was some fine gourmet cuisine leftovers, too.  Damn her!  I think I’ll just tie her to my body for this whole trip.

And finally, Doggie Incident #3.  While throwing squeaky Cuz toy for Nik at a pet cemetery, he discovered the adjacent property had live chickens.  I had to climb through what is probably poison ivy (find out tomorrow I guess) to get him before there was any bloodshed.  Luckily, there was high fencing around their pen on three sides and Nik hadn’t noticed the short side just yet.  Carnage and lawsuit avoided.

So, yes, all is well so far.  Traveling with the dogs is always fun as well as stressful.  Sparkle’s running great and I’m right on schedule.  Most of tomorrow will be more New York stuff and then crossing over to Canada probably afternoon.  If you don’t hear from me tomorrow night or for a few days, it’s because I’m having trouble finding internet.  

Here then are a couple photos from this afternoon.   I love the abundance of signs a the Roxy Cleaners in Troy, NY:

blog1

The Rolling Acres Pet Cemetery in Troy was a bit of a disappointment.  Granted, I’d already been to two nice ones earlier in the day.  But this one was pretty neglected with a lot of long, overgrown grave markers and not many photos or interesting inscriptions.  This little guy on a pedestal was awfully sweet though:

blog2

I promise tomorrow’s post will be less doggie-themed and more photos than talk.  Gnight.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 100 other followers