Archive for March, 2010

Day 20: Finishing up MS

Posted in Roadtrip on March 31, 2010 by roadsidenut

Lots of sun, lots of miles and finally we’re just barely into LA for a few days.  Tomorrow, starting off with a long list for New Orleans.  I’m three days behind schedule and will probably fall further behind in this state based on the size of my stack.  No tickets or mishaps today.  MS drivers like to drive fast on the interstate.  I found myself doing 95 with the pack at one point and decided to back off.  I’m comfortable at 75 or 80 — but I think 90 is a bit much.  Safety-wise and trooper-wise. 

The dogs got to play on the beach in Gulfport towards the end of the day.  Lots of post-Katrina construction still going on so there are lots of worksite-adjacent doggie opportunities to run on the white sand.  The water was definitely warm and everybody enjoyed getting wet.  Lots of sand in the van which always makes me happy.

12:30 already and I’m fading fast.  So here are today’s blog-worthy finds.  Painted wall ads in Vicksburg:

South of Vicksburg — this neat bus / ship.  I don’t know if this was a one-of-a-kind or if there were a fleet of these used for tourists.  Super neat either way:

Lots of great architecture in these old Delta towns.  The sidewalks in Natchez seemed ancient – loved them:

This seems a strange claim to fame to me:

The rest of today’s photos are from Hattiesburg where I had a bunch of stuff to shoot.  I don’t think I’d ever been to this city before.

The skeletal remains of a drug store sign:

One good thing about traveling in Spring is that the trees haven’t filled in yet, obscuring signs such as this one for Gus’ Cafe:

A strange building.  At first glance, it looks like one of those trompe l’oeil murals — but no, the entrance is really recessed like this:

You can’t help but look when you pass something like this — and I couldn’t help but shoot it:

This appears to be a recently demolished building and freshly uncovered tobacco ad.  The colors still pretty vibrant:

Last one before I crawl off to bed.  Taco Sombrero in Gulfport appeared to be just another semi-fast-food Mexican restaurant in Gulfport.  But these nice mariachi figures were installed above their plastic box sign:

Day 19: Back at it in MS

Posted in Roadtrip on March 31, 2010 by roadsidenut

Lots of miles between cities with just single stops.  Lots of radio, coffee, and gum needed to tough it out.  Then ended the shooting for the day in Jackson which was photo (and traffic) rich.  Just another day of perfect weather.  Tomorrow, I hear it may be in the 80s.  Should be back at the Gulf beaches tomorrow for the dogs.  Today, they got by with big dirt fields and a couple ponds.

Got my first, and hopefully last, speeding ticket of the trip.  On an absolutely straight stretch of highway with nothing but farmland.  Clocked me at 79 in a 55.  Have to call the court to find out how much I owe.  Whatever.  I figure MS can really use the money.  And I’ve been speeding like mad for 19 days now and it’s gotten me probably another hundred stops in.  Just part of the travel costs.  The trooper had a real racket going.  As soon as I pulled away, he made a U-turn and immediately put his blue lights on someone else.  He must make a fortune.  I’ll try to simmer down a little and keep it at 10 mph above the speed limit or hide in the middle of a pack of fast-movers.

I made a quick trip across the border to Helena, AR for some stuff.  One thing was an old Coca-Cola bottling plant:
But, according a couple people that I spoke with, the roof and a wall collapsed a month ago and it was reduced to a pile of bricks.  Sure enough, that’s what I witnessed.  All the more reason folks to get out there with your cameras to see and document things because you just never know when they’ll be gone forever.

This sign is in Helena:

This one in Clarksdale:

This abandoned movie theatre in Clarksdale:

The former Taborian Hospital in Mound Bayou.  I had the dogs out for a pee on leashes here and they were going nuts sniffing along the walls, digging, screaming.  I think the building is loaded with rats:

Who knew there was so much Art Deco / Streamline Moderne stuff in MS?  This neat Hostess Cake building is in Greenwood:

This sign was in Belzoni.  I have no idea what it was before it was a thrift store.  It has a terrific zig-zaggy shape:

A couple nice embossed plastic signs from Jackson:

This place in Jackson is still in business:

I understand that it’s been raining for days now back home in NYC.  Hopefully, this will cheer up some of my pals — soon – very soon!

And two more from Jackson to close out this post.  Usually, it’s Gripper that barks at statues.  The other dogs seem to know instantly when something is real or not.  But Grip obsesses about it til we’re gone.  She’s even gone into barking fits over advertisements with people on them (billboards, buses).  Nik is usually only freaked out about men in uniform or men carrying big things.  But this thing sent him over the edge:

And this one sort of sent me over the edge.  This Obama head (right?) is about six feet tall and in front of an art studio / gallery.

Day 18: Mostly Memphis

Posted in Roadtrip on March 29, 2010 by roadsidenut

Day 18 – boy, that sounds like a lot!  Still another 13 days to go.  Which will be enough.  This is really exhausting stuff.  It would be far saner to do this for five or six days at a time, then take a day off to just chill somewhere.  But, no, not possible for me.  You never know what will be gone the next time you’re passing through.  What weather will befall you on the next trip.  so I’m obsessed with getting as many shots as possible from daybreak til sunset, every single day, rain or shine. 

Speaking of shine — it was an absolutely gorgeous day from start to finish.  Only a few clouds — of the pretty white kind.   Even the traffic in downtown Memphis was minimal – strange for a Monday I think.  I hit some annoying slow traffic in the afternoon outside the city.  But I’m finally perched back on the MS border ready to dive in again after completing everything in that little Memphis corner.  At least I will have gotten some TN stuff done if I have to ditch plans somewhere in AR and get back to Real Life.

The dogs got to cut loose at Shelby Farms.  A super fun place with a huge pond that was warm enough for swimming (them, not me).  Even though there aren’t fences, or minimally so, Grem was too busy hopping in the grassy fields and finding critters holes to dig in to make me worry about her taking off. 

I stopped off in Senatobia, MS before tackling Memphis.  I was hoping to check out this sign:

But alas, look what this church has done to it:

While many Central Park fast food stands are still open, it seems most have been turned into other businesses.  I thought this might be just a candy-apple-only place — which would be kind of bizarre.   But despite the name, I didn’t even see it on the menu.  This is in West Memphis, AR:

Also in West Memphis — unbelievably cute signs:

Nice rooftop letters in Memphis:

A poorly concealed former Burger Chef:

I’ve been seeing lots of flowering trees and daffodils lately.  Today, was the first tulip sighting (Memphis):

This is from the Puck Building in Memphis:

Here are a couple in Memphis that I’d like to know more about.  What was this building used for before it was this church? (south of downtown)

And this sign (north of downt0wn). The letters under “Your Future Learning Center” seem to spell out Angelo’s maybe in script at the top.  But that’s probably not the original name anyway.  The framework is what’s most interesting.  It looks like either a basket of laundry or a big bowl of popcorn.  Or else I’ve been looking at way too many old signs lately:

More signs from Memphis.  An example of what I call “Neon Extensions” signs (with separate neon bits that are mounted off the face of the sign itself). This one has both a bell and an arrow (now broken):

No sign of a hardware store in this strip mall.  Glad they left this hammer alone.  Green is a very cool and unusual color choice:

I was looking for a “fist & thumb” sign elsewhere today and came up dry.  Then elsewhere, I came up with this.  So they must’ve been used by a chain.  A chain of what I have no idea.  I guess the thumb is used like 1950s bulb pointing arrow:  this way to the whatever-it-was store:

This one I liked a lot.  Appears to be old just nicely kept up:

Last stop of the day was at the Dixie Memorial Pet Cemetery in Millington, TN.  It wasn’t too exciting for me since what I look for are old grave markers with real photos and unique, touching inscriptions.  This was more modern and generic.  No photos and mostly just pet’s names/dates.  However, a couple things “got” to me.  There was a special section just for Memphis police dogs.  This was just part of the group:

And this marker had me gulpy and weepy.  I don’t believe in heaven or an afterlife — but if there is one, I do hope someone will throw balls for my dogs til I get there:

Day 17: Moving on to Mississippi

Posted in Roadtrip on March 28, 2010 by roadsidenut

About half the day was spent wrapping up NW AL. Vast distances between shots and a late start. The rain was pouring and the sky was pitch black for at least the first couple hours when the sun should have been out. The weather continued to be mixed — rain with brief periods of sun. I hear tomorrow should be way better which is great since I have tons of stuff planned in the Memphis area.

This afternoon, during a sunny break, I found a big field for the dogs to cut loose in. There were some big hay bales and I thought I’d get you a group shot. I got Fixie and Grem up there and Nik and Grip were about to join them. Just as I was hoisting Grip up, Fix and Grem hopped down. Which was very unusual. I quickly saw why: ants. Thousands of them. Poor Fixie ran immediately off to the van which always has the big door open. She wasn’t coming back out for nothing. Licked at her feet for almost an hour afterwards and kept shooting me those “When are we going HOME?” looks. Grem must’ve been bitten just as badly but she’s not one to dwell on such things. Never licked at her feet — much more important things to focus on. I found out later that these were fire ants. And upon Googling now, I guess I should’ve been far more concerned: “Fire ants may cause serious allergic reactions and anaphylactic shock. Watch for excessive swelling, hives, trouble breathing, fast breathing, weakness, pale gums, vomiting, diarrhea and collapse.” Other sources say the bites can even result in death. Jeez. Fixie seems perfectly fine now but she’s probably going to be a bit reluctant about the next family portrait.

This photo gives you an idea of how my day began. I always shoot neon flame signs — even modern ones.  I believe this was in Muscle Shoals, AL:

This guy was definitely in Muscle Shoals.  I think he might be one of these guys — but missing his lower body:

Another Muscle Shoals stop.  My first true donut stop of the trip (the modern Krispy Kreme place the other day didn’t count).  I got three donuts.  And they are gone.  I do share them with four dogs though!  May I recommend the maple frosted with pecans.  They have four fillings which you can choose from and they fill your donut to order.  Also you can choose between peanuts or pecans as your topping.

I don’t know what the deal is with this sign in Florence, AL.  There was no Pepsi plant nearby but there was a sign shop so I suspect it’s theirs.  This thing is huge and revolves.  It’s on an enormous pole and impossible to miss:

Trowbridge’s Ice Cream Bar is in downtown Florence.  It’s been there since 1918.  Not open on a Sunday morning but I shot through the glass for you:

This sign is on North Wood Avenue in Florence — hence the cute faux wooden plank for the sign:

This sign is from Russellville, AL.  Looks like a reworked oldie to me – or, more likely, a nicely done replica:

The King Drive-in is also in Russellville:

Another drive-in from Alabama — the Blue Moon Drive-in is in Gu-Win (between Guin and Winfield).  I’ve seen other old screen towers with living quarters and offices — even one with retail space — built into the lower backside.  But this one takes the prize for multiple units:

Last stop in AL was in Northport where I encountered this giant hammer sign:

There were several stops in MS but it was all “meat” (website-worthy) and no “potatoes” (blog material).  But I’m sure I’ll have lots of TN & MS stuff for you tomorrow.

Day 16: Birmingham and Beyond

Posted in Roadtrip on March 27, 2010 by roadsidenut

I made a lot of progress today.  It really helped to hit Birmingham on a Saturday when there was basically no traffic whatsoever.  So now, just a bit more Northwest AL tomorrow and then on to MS.  Hopefully, I can bang through that state in three days as well.  We’re officially around the bend — just past the halfway point of this trip.  It feels like I’ve been at this a month already.  I think it’s all the rain and killer goals I’ve set up for myself each day.  Plus I’m still a little stressed about the key situation.

The weather was even more beautiful today than yesterday.  I didn’t get the dogs nearly as much exercise as they would’ve liked.  Will have to make it up to them tomorrow in some more rural-ish areas.  It’s also time for another oil change — passed the 6,000 mile mark for this trip today. 

Lots and lots of signs for you today so let’s get to it.  I already uploaded a bunch to Flickr but still have lots of “lesser” signs for the blog.  For those of you that are interested in such things, here’s the order of my nightly “homework”:
* check and answer emails; respond to Flickr comments
* crop & tweak photos for Flickr & blog
* upload photos to Flickr
* write the blog post

So that’s why I don’t get to bed til well after midnight and the blog posts will always be a rough draft.

Aha!  So that sign that I posted for you last night from Selma was not unique.  There must’ve been a chain that used these.  What chain though?  This one was in Sylacauga:

Sylacauga calls itself the “Marble City”.   According to their website, the city is constructed on a solid deposit of the hardest, whitest marble in the world.  Many famous buildings around the country have been faced with it, including this mid-century bank:

A massive sign from Talladega — still in business:

A colorful Masonic sign from Anniston:

The rusty crusty Van Thomas sign was looking extra nice in the sun:

This “Lounge” sign is in Pell City or just a hair north of it:

This painted wall sign in Birmingham appears to be authentic:

Another wall ad in Birmingham.  There are still uniform shops in the building:

Three “rusties” from Birmingham:

I really like this one a lot.  The delicate hand over the razor wire.   Is the hand holding a business card?  It would help to know the original use of the sign I suppose:

And lastly, I’m drawing a blank about this one which is west of downtown.  Was this a Jack’s restaurant?  Hopefully, Mr. Hollis or another Birmingham-er will identify this place:

Days 14 & 15: A Better Day in ‘Bama

Posted in Roadtrip on March 27, 2010 by roadsidenut

Well, after the lousy weather yesterday and then the technical difficulties getting internet access last night, today was a complete turnaround.  Pretty skies, zippy connection, tired dogs — what more could I ask for?

Yeah, yesterday was depressingly ridiculous with pouring rain.  Huge distances between stuff in southern Alabama that ate up a lot of time.  Many disappointments as well — giant concrete tomatoes replaced with an inflatable strawberry, neon signs replaced with plastic ones, buildings replaced with vacant lots.  Many of these destinations were too remote so I couldn’t do the pre-check at Google or Bing maps to make sure they were still there.  And then there were some really bad road signs (lack of) compounded by lousy directions from locals that ate up even more time.  And far too rural to make the backroads or mis-roads profitable in terms of things of shoot.

Anyhow – let’s see what I did manage to find & shoot despite the challenges.  Lambert’s Cafe is quite a famous restaurant in Foley, AL — best know for their “throwed rolls”.
Their huge building has this neat painted artwork on the side of it.  This is only a partial view — with a closeup of my favorite part (with the projecting roll):

I don’t think this sign in Mobile, AL was all that old – but I can’t resist a giant shoe or boot.  This is at the Mobile Shoe Hospital:

An interesting castle-y building in Mobile.  Can anyone chime in with what was originally here?

Another one from Mobile.  Cute as hell — and my favorite color:

Finally, around 7pm in Dothan, AL, the sun came out.  This dreary abandoned gas station was made cheery by the near-sunset reflecting on it:

OK – moving on to today.  I was close enough to the GA border to justify a quick trip over to Columbus and Pine Mountain.  I assume this is not the original sign (channel lettering) but I’m guessing that it’s a recreation of what once was here.  I’ll have to research later – unless some Columbus-ites can inform us now what the deal is:

This water fountain is also in Columbus.  Entitled “Fit for Man and Beast”, it contains three bowls at different heights for humans, horses and dogs:

More Columbus.  The name “Sputnik” sent me into a quick U-turn.  Not much Sputnik-y about it though except for the doo-hickey about the “i”.  Still, I shot it because I liked the painted darts and beer can and just the general mix of the colors of brick & paint.

I’ve been studying A-frame restaurants for some time and this one has me stumped.  Maybe it never was a restaurant.  But I think it’s too big to be one of the chains.  Columbus-ers, can you help with this one?

Back across the border, here’s a sampling from Roanoke, AL.   I guess the mural helps the situation.  Maybe.

This place next door is still open.  I hope those vitrolite tiles can hang in there til the economic stimulus reaches Roanoke and the missing ones can be replaced:

This was some sort of weird complex of police buildings.  There were maybe four of these things:

It was hard to tell if this garage was still in business.  But I liked how the blue and white matched the sky. 

After shooting in yesterday’s deluge – I just wanted to shoot anything.  How about some weeds?  Well, that’s probably what they are — but to me they were interesting, pretty flowers.  My botanist pals out there – can you identify these for us?

And the weather just got nicer and nicer as the day went on.  The right light and clouds can make a pile of poop look pretty.  Well, almost.  Here’s an adorable sign in Montgomery.

The dogs were digging the sunny interior as well.  Here’s Grem also soaking up the heat from her very tolerant pal:

A couple shots from Montgomery.  Note to self:  splurge on a telephoto for the August Midwest trip.

This one had shade on both sides but I shot it anyway.  I’m in favor of this never being “restored”:

And last one for the day.  I had never been to Selma before and thought it was really great and interesting.  Cast iron balconies and interesting buildings & signs.  This sign fairly modern but I thought it was very clever.  Perched way high so you wouldn’t mistake it for a real stoplight — and also about twice as big as the real thing.  But still, drivers are so programmed to look at stoplights, how could you miss this thing?

Day 14: A Whole Lotta Nothin in Alabama

Posted in Roadtrip on March 25, 2010 by roadsidenut

11pm and I just finally got on-line — and this connection still truly sucks.  Super slow and freezing.  It was a low-volume photo day anyway with way too many miles.  So let’s just call it a night and I’ll have to catch up tomorrow night.  I could use a couple hours extra sleep anyway.


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