Archive for August, 2009

Day 31: 8/09 Heartland Tour (final post)

Posted in Roadtrip on August 31, 2009 by roadsidenut

The last day of the trip was pretty unexciting.  Not much to shoot on I-80.  But there was a quick stop in Harrisburg, PA to shoot a few things.  Glad I forced myself to take that break.  There’s only so much that coffee and radio can do.

Across the street from a diner that I shot were these twin garages:

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Some nice details on the one at the left:

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And taking a lazy route back to the interstate, I came upon this funky sign.  Probably faux deco rather than the real thing but still fun:

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The worst part of the drive was the last hour and a half.  Traffic backed up for about an hour in NJ waiting to get into the Holland Tunnel.  Ugh.  Bad enough but torture when you have to pee.  And then the hunt for parking for about a half hour.  Ah, life in the Big City.

So, let’s recap with some of the stats of this trip.  30 days, 11,900 miles, and $1942.56 in gas.  Sparkle ran flawlessly and now has over 220,000 miles on her.  Whoever says you have to get rid of a vehicle when it has 100,000 miles must never have had the pleasure of owning an Astro Van.  Grem only ran off, what, three times?  But I came home with all four of my monsters — and managed to help reunite a fifth dog with its owner. 

The rain, yes, the rain hampered my shooting a bit.  I haven’t counted up the photos but based on previous trips, I probably have about 4500 photos for the website.  Which will take some time to get ready, research, and insert.  I’ll make Xmas my goal.  You can keep an eye on the “what’s new” page at the website to monitor my progress if you like:
http://www.agilitynut.com/whatsnew.html

Settling back into the groove here.  I’m anxious to get back to the Midwest for Part II next summer.  I have untouched stacks of maps and lists right here staring back at me.  If somebody wants to send me say $10,000, I’ll go back there next week and finish up.

If you’ve been slogging through my blog on a daily basis and will now be suffering from withdrawal, you might want to check out the more “serious” stuff — the photos taken and uploaded simultaneously over at Flickr during this trip:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/agilitynut/sets/72157621743650868/

No food photos for you (although I could’ve gotten my NYC bagel I suppose) but I took a few of the dogs this morning for you to close with.  For those of you that are not familiar with “stoops”, they are a big part of city life at least out here in the Northeast.  Used kind of like a tiny porch — people hang out on the steps to talk, eat, have “stoop sales” (like garage sales).  Anyhow, this one is one of my favorites with the leafy detail right across the street from my apt. 

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And then, this is my stoop — a larger shot to show you the worn but still nice detail on the front of it.  The steps lead up from the left to this part.  I’ve lived in this apartment for about 18 years so it’s about time I took a photo of this!

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I hope you enjoyed our trek through the Midwest.  Come join us again in the spring when we head south.  Or just maybe I can sneak in a week or two before that to take a blogable trip in the long ignored Northeast.  Til then — may your own roadtrips and trips around town be enhanced with fun discoveries, tasty snacks, and great companions.

Day 31: Home and catching up – part I

Posted in Roadtrip on August 31, 2009 by roadsidenut

Alrighty then. Getting back to our usual routine here.  The dogs were happy to run and swim in their regular “backyard” (Prospect Park).  A dreary grey day here in NYC which feels more like fall.  But since it’s Monday, there’s tons of weekend garbage leftover from the mobs on the weekend indicating, yes, it’s still summer.  Grip ate half of a submarine sandwich I think.  The other dogs ate stuff as well that I couldn’t get to in time to identify.

But back to Ohio.  Yes, last true day of shooting and there were hundreds of miles between stuff.  Although there wasn’t much for the website, I got a lot for the blog.   I think I was just happy to be using the camera outside in the sun again.  And sad that it’ll be awhile til we’re back out on the road again. 

From Chillicothe, OH:

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Road snacks from the Crispie Creme Donut Shop in Chillicothe — “since 1929″.  I saw another store with the same name in Portsmouth later.  So I’m not sure how many there were or if it was just these two.  Orange cake donut with orange frosting and, on the right, cinnamon-filled donut on the right (with chocolate and peanuts on top).  Both great.

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A reworked bulb & neon sign in Portsmouth — better than taking it down:

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and far cheerier than what they did to the Smith’s Drug Store sign downtown.  Why they painted it over, I don’t know.  The store is still there and open.

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A nice streamline / art deco style building with vitrolite tiles and details.  Also in Portsmouth:

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In Ironton, a nice former gas station with well-preserved Kelly Tires sign.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen an embossed Kelly sign before.  I love the station’s metal canopy.  The paint job makes for a nice study in blue and white with the beautiful sky & clouds.

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Surely this sign in Ironton had neon originally — but it still looks pretty like this:

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Another one from Ironton.  This corner wraparound neon signs must have been pretty rare — or at least very few survive now.  I can’t think of any others off the top of my head.

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During my research session yesterday, I came across lots of ads for these big red plastic letters.  So, for sure, they were big in the late 1950s, early1960s.  And I couldn’t resist photo-ing this store in Gallipolis with the mint condition old car in front.

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This ice cream stand is in Gallopolis.  What I like, besides the blue and white sign / blue and white weather, is the integration of the sign and table/stools.  Sparkle was allowed into the photo since she’s also white.  And, no, I did NOT sample the strawberry shortcake — but I was tempted!

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We were hugging the river that runs between Ohio and Kentucky — and later between Ohio and West Virginia — all day so there were a lot of signs, restaurants, etc. with river themes.  And the dogs got a lot of last summer dips in.  This cool paddlewheeler (is that what you call them?) model / sign was in Gallipolis:

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In Jackson, the Lazy Dog Camp Resort had several of these nicely done handpainted signs:

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A double-sided handmade sign — this was in or near Coal Run.  While some people might criticize the quality of the artwork, okay so the proportions are a little off, I find it all the more endearing.  Sure beats a plain text plastic box sign!

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So while I was photo-ing a giant elephant statue in Beverly and asking around what his story was, someone mentioned that he might have come from the buffalo farm that has those Indian statues.  Say WHAT?  So I had to go check it out.  I got some vague directions, got a little lost, got a little less vaguer directions and found it.  Dixon’s Elk Run Buffalo Farm.  The Indian statues turned out to be nothing special — less than life-size and plaster and all but one had been toppled.  Vandals, weather, time?  There was another elephant statue there, in the distance, partially submerged in a pond and grass — so I couldn’t really tell if it was related to the one in town.  But while I was busy looking at statues, the dogs were busy losing their minds over these furry beasts.  Believe me, I was extra careful opening and closing the van door so as to prevent anyone escaping.  They’d have been goners if they’d gotten in kicking or head-butting range.  A big male was already giving me Death Eye through the fence.  This one with misshapen horns seemed rather curious about me and the bouncing, noisy van.  On the way out of town, I passed a store with a fiberglass buffalo statue with a sign advertising “Dixon’s Buffalo Meat”.  Made me very sad.

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Marietta was the last stop for the day — and the last photo for today.  This was in Marietta.  I’ve seen those extended Cadillacs and Hummers — but I don’t think I’ve seen an extended mini van before.  And certainly never one with a cow paint scheme.

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Still one more brief post to come — have to go do some errands & make some phone calls.  Post-vacation necessities ya know.  So the final blog post might have to wait until tomorrow morning since I’m back at work tonight.

Day 30: St. Clairsville, OH to NYC

Posted in Roadtrip on August 30, 2009 by roadsidenut

We arrived safely home a few hours ago.  A beautiful, sunny day — wished I had been shooting stuff intead of bored out of my mind on the interstate.  I did shoot some stuff at a pitstop in Harrisburg, PA — probably post a few of those photos to Flickr tomorrow.  Not sure if there’s anything blog-ish in there since we were only there for about 20 minutes.  However, I’m still struggling to catch up here.  After this post, I’ll get the final one done tomorrow.

So this was Friday, August 28th.  I had just driven countless hours the day before from Nebraska to Ohio and gotten about four hours sleep.  But when I arrived in Cincinnati, I got straight to work.  Tod Swormstedt, the guy behind the American Sign Museum, is the former editor and publisher of Signs of the Times magazine.  He had graciously invited me to the publishing company library to have a look at old bound volumes of the  magazine. 

I only spent a few hours there but managed to do a quick flip through 1957-1961 and took a couple dozen photos of things of interest.  “Dee” did a better job than I expected.  Not quite scan quality but good enough for my purposes.  I hope to devote a full day or two on next summer’s trip to go through earlier and later volumes.

There was a lot of coverage in these magazines of old billboard signs.  Such a cultural loss that none of these remain.  The graphics and creativity were incredible.  Lots of them included giant cut-out pieces like this one:

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Many issues contained theme articles with sensory overload like this:

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I believe all three of these signs are gone.  I was mostly looking for info about and photos of signs that still exist — but some things were just too incredible not to pause and photo.

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I love those weather ball signs — you know, like the one in Flint that changed colors to tell you to expect cold or heat or whatever.
http://www.grbj.com/GRBJ/Nav/Weather+Ball+History.htm
http://www.mnhs.org/exhibits/weather/weatherball.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weather_beacon

But I had never seen one with these cute sliding panels before.

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So after Magazine Time, it was time to get together with The Man himself.  Tod gave me a tour of the museum to show me some of the new stuff that I hadn’t seen before.  And it was great to see all of it again.  I hadn’t been there since 2006.  The collection is mind-boggling with displays of signs from all eras and all media like this one:

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There are zillions of photos over at Flickr but here are some old photos at my website for now as well:
http://www.agilitynut.com/signs/oh3.html

The big news is that Tod is hard at work getting a new space ready — hopefully, the new location will open in 2012 or sooner.  It is HUGE.  Like two football fields. And TALL.  It may not look like much now — but try to imagine this space finished and filled with countless and colorful signs.  This photo only shows part of the space.  It was taken from the second floor where there are plans to have offices and a library.  At the back left in this photo, there will be an operating neon shop where local signs will be produced/repaired and restorations for the musem will be done.  The shop windows will allow visitors to observe the goings-on.

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If you love signs, this will be Mecca.  I urge you to contribute what you can to help with this exciting project — or just send Tod love notes.
http://www.signmuseum.net/home.asp

I’ll wrap up Ohio tomorrow…  I’m off to sleep in my own bed right now!

Day 28: Cincinnati to St. Clairsville, OH (but catching up with IA & NE)

Posted in Roadtrip on August 30, 2009 by roadsidenut

Today was the last real day for photo-taking and the roadside gods finally gave me a sunny day.  Of course, it was a day with lots of driving and far fewer stops than normal.  So I don’t have much to show for all those blue skies and clouds.  But it was still just a gorgeous day to wind down, reflect, and get the dogs great expanses of green and water a few more times.

I have two days to catch up on before I can post today’s photos.  And having just gone through the Thursday batch, I have already 20 photos for the blog for Thursday’s Iowa and Nebraska chunk.  Looks like I won’t be catching up tonight since it’s already midnight.  Big day tomorrow — all interstate to home.  I regret not having another two weeks for the Kansas, Missouri, and other stuff I had to skip — but it will be nice to get settled back home.  My normal work schedule is far less strenuous than these road trips.

So let’s get caught up on one day anyway.  The weather was the usual mix of grey and sprinkly rain.  The sun came out in Omaha for about an hour and that was that.  

I stumbled upon this sign in Lincoln, NE just as the day got started.  Who can resist a pouring bottle sign? 

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These signs are from Wahoo, NE:

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Normally, I don’t go out of my way to check out modern churches but this one sounded spectacular — and it was.  I wish I’d had better weather to shoot it in.  From Gretna, NE — the Holy Family Shrine:
http://www.holyfamilyshrineproject.com/index.php

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The CrossRoads Mall in Omaha, NE still has at least one mid-century touch.  This curved wall at the Sears Auto must have had a funkier font when the mall opened in 1960:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crossroads_Mall_(Omaha)

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These tents were added during a 1980s renovation:

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This sign is also from Omaha.  I believe it has always been there for Reniers Pianos.  But don’t you think there must have been something more substantial there before the vertical plastic lettered piece?  Any Omahaites, Omahans, remember what it used to look like?

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I’m pretty sure this was/is a Bank of the West (also in Omaha).  Not quite sure how much “in use” this building is.  But it had a sweet old bulb clock display (which I think was working), these neat mushroom columns, and blue and white tile.  Sorry about the hexagonal crap in this photo — forced to shoot into the sun & other angles were worse.

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Under the canopy, a rather depressing scene at the moment.  Some sort of drive-up window, peeling paint, and this “Employee of the Month” sign.  I’ve never worked for a corporation that gave you a better parking spot based on job performance — but I can’t imagine this sort of recognition makes it worth the extra effort.

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More Omaha.  I have no idea how the food is, but the Bohemian Cafe sure provides a feast for the eyes:

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Three other nearby businesses…  I couldn’t tell if the colorful window pieces were glass or plastic — more likely the latter but still neat looking.

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At Midwest Tire. Gotta love any business that puts something giant-sized on its roof.  There must be some cities that forbid it but I seem to see this sort of thing everywhere.  This appeared to be a gigantic, real truck tire.  It would have been bonus points if the tire had been fiberglass or cement, negative points and not included here had it been inflatable.

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And you gotta love a business that coordinates its product with its signage so well.  A sheet metal sign, sheet metal letters, sheet metal trim…

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Still in Omaha.  I really tried to get a decent shot of the dogs in front of the King Kong gorilla display:
http://www.kingkongfastfood.com/

But they were all so exhausted by this point that at least one or two had their eyes shut.  If only I had the photoshop skills to cut and paste the best heads from multiple photos.  Grip for some reason did not want to a) sit or b) be near the other three.  Having Grem perform her “boyfriend” trick gives her something to do — but she still has that scary “I’m sooo outta here” look.

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A giant trompe l’oeil mural — sorry, didn’t catch the name if there was one which might help explain what the heck is going on here.  Lower left is a door which gives you a sense of scale.

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Despite the condition of these signs and the canopy, the business seemed to be doing just fine.  You could smell the BBQ for blocks and there was all kinds of smoke coming from the backside.  The cute little neon sign you can just barely see (litle green one under the yellow one) reads “Waiting Room”.

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Finally into to Iowa photos now.  This from a Stanton gas station where I stocked up on coffee and snacks.  It has become my ritual on this trip to hold off on getting coffee until 4pm which is when I seem to need it most. Before that means I just have to pee more which cuts into shooting time.  This candy I had not seen before and assumed it was an Iowa thing but it looks like from the label it’s actually imported from St. Joseph, MO.
http://www.cherrymash.com/history/

Anyhow, “Cherry Mash” turns out to be a chocholate-covered cherry marshmallow-like stuff.  The sweetest thing I think I have every tasted.  It was definitely a waker-upper and I ate it strictly for that medicinal purpose.  Note to self and audience:  do not set chocolate candy on coffee cup for display purposes even for a few seconds.  Instant melt, hence no close-up.

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A little sign in a little town:  Bedford, IA (population 1,476).

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A neat building in Mount Ayr, IA (population 1,822):

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The reason I stopped in Mount Ayr — a rather unassuming post office.  I had read that their WPA mural inside was incredible — and it was.  There were also other neat interior details — the dark wood paneling, tile floors, post office boxes, counter service — sure nothing like my post office back in Brooklyn with the bullet proof glass!

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For regular followers of this blog or this trip anyway, here’s another Dairy Sweet discovery — another example of the chain with a handpainted boy (rather than the plastic version).  Also in Mount Ayr.

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The Dinky Diner in Decatur was built by Valentine (best known for their diners) in 1967.  There is some resemblance:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/agilitynut/243542597/

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And lastly, this small town, old school Hy-Vee — in Leon, IA.  I haven’t seen any other old signs like this on my trip.  I’ve gotten pretty fond of Hy-Vees as I’ve been to quite a number of them for “supplies”.

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Next catch-up blog I guess will be from home.  Still much to cover:  stuff from Sign Museum day and the stuff from southern Ohio.  I’ll try to wrap things up Sunday night or Monday morning.

Day28: Cincinnati

Posted in Roadtrip on August 28, 2009 by roadsidenut

OK — I’ve really fallen behind in getting you updates and photos.   I will have to catch up tomorrow.  I got us into Cincinnati around 11:30 after two two-hour naps.  Headed straight for the Sign Museum “library” then spent the day with Tod (the man behind the museum) seeing new acquisitions at the old space & checking out the new space.  There was even an interfamily dog romp at a dog park in Cincinnati.  Then off to dinner.  More about all this soon.  So 11pm, as tired as I am, not good for working on pictures or blogging.  Just wanted to let you know that we are indeed alive after that horrible late-night, rainy schlepp.  Tomorrow, last day to shoot — will probably just do some southern Ohio stuff & then start back on the  interstate towards home.

Day 27: Nebraska & SW Iowa

Posted in Roadtrip on August 27, 2009 by roadsidenut

All is well.  No time to play with photos, upload to Flickr or post to the blog tonight.  Lots of photos from Nebraska & Iowa to share with you but they’ll have to wait til tomorrow sometime.  Making a horrific interstate trek from central IA to Cincinnati tonight.  Stopping for a quick nap in Davenport, IA right now (11pm).  I think I have a six hour drive ahead of me yet.

By the way, more grey and rain today where I was but I hear it was sunny and beautiful back home in NYC.  I sure hope it rains all day while I’m indoors in Cincinnati tomorrow!

Day 26: Western IA & some NE

Posted in Roadtrip on August 26, 2009 by roadsidenut

The big story again today was the rain — torrential at times.  It really slowed me down and made shooting a challenge.  I’m no fool and don’t speed on country roads and pull over when visibility drops.  I’ve never experienced flash flooding and don’t want to.  It was certainly the day for it.

Here and there the rain would stop.  I did manage to get the dogs some romps in.  A big church field, a small dog park in Bellevue, NE and then an incredible dog park in Lincoln, NE. Rickman’s Run is incredible:  HUGE, gorgeously natural, a little stream, separate areas if you need them.  I read on-line that it was four acres but it seemed way bigger than that. The fencing was pretty widely spaced mesh which Grem would’ve had no problem getting through.  But I kept her busy enough with retrieving games and kept tabs on her when she was in the brushy parts.

On with the show.  This fun sign with the football reference was in Atlantic, IA.

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Lots of driving between stuff today gave the dogs a chance to catch up on sleep.  Here’s Grip running in her dreams:

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This building was next door to a restored gas station (the “Brickstreet Station”) in Woodbine, IA.  It made me contemplate how far we are from home — and if I ought not just head the other direction instead.  Not looking forward to another NYC winter.

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This photo also taken in Woodbine of what must be a modern sign — but a fun one — shows you what we were up against today.  Look at that rain pouring out the rooftop gutter and the vertical streaks.  Shot from inside the van — “Dee” barely made it outside today.

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This ice cream stand confirmed my thinking that Dairy Sweet ice cream stands must be a chain.  This is from another Dairy Sweet in Adair, IA:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/agilitynut/2410919287/
and this one in Woodbine:

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This Reddy Kilowatt-esque guy was also in Woodbine:

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and then I saw another one in Onawa, IA:

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These interesting rooftop vent thingies were on the roof of a used car lot office building in Onawa.  I assume the building was previously some sort of restaurant.  The two venty things were identical — one just chopped off from the angle I took this.

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This is an awfully swank F.O.E. (Fraternal Order of Eagles) sign and building.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen an FOE restaurant before.  There was a sign on the front door saying “General public and members without cards enter at rear”.  In Plattsmouth, NE.

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This faded beauty is from Auburn, NE:

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And that brings us to Lincoln, NE where we spent the night.  QP Ace Hardware has at least two other locations in town.  I don’t know if the others have old signs like this one:

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