Archive for March, 2011

Day 6: To the Beach & Back (Eastern TX)

Posted in Roadtrip on March 31, 2011 by roadsidenut

A big day of driving and playing and sunning and shooting here.  The day started with the usual dismal grey skies but then segued into sun around 10am.  And it got hot for a change!  I think low 80s at one point.  I understand it’s snowing back home in NY — sorry to be missing that (not).

The dogs got to run on the beach.  Not like I had a choice really.  Nik was a screaming maniac when he spotted those crashing waves on the beach in Galveston.  Found a remote spot & cut ‘em loose.  Grem found a dead dehydrated fish that I got out of her mouth fairly quickly.  Then she found some chicken bones which I did not.  Everybody got wet (including me) and the van got sandy – and I did not care.  Sparkle still has her mechanical “issues” but about 85% of the time, she runs perfectly fine.

Getting a late start here because I indulged the dogs at the end of the day for another good run.  The sun was waning anyway so I decided to check out a doggie park (our first one of the trip) in Sugar Land — the  “Pawm Springs Dog Park”.  As promised by the reviews, five acres and a big pond.  A good time was had by all.  This review talks about mud & such but everything was nice and grassy today:
http://www.doggoes.com/parks/texas/houston/sugar-land-memorial-dog-park


On with the photos.  Well after midnight and I’m beat.   This gas station sign in Beaumont has been repainted since I saw it last in 2006.  Then:

and today:


Still in Beaumont.  I really don’t know the story about why this sign is mounted sideways.  The hotel’s been abandoned for years.  This is, need I point out to my loyal fans, an opal glass sign.  Translucent letters that were lit from behind by bulbs, yadda yadda.

 

I’m koo-koo about these glass letter signs.  Very, very few of them out there.  Keep your eyes peeled for them and let me know if you find any!  As luck would have it, just a few blocks away, I found another one in Beaumont.  This was one of the best surprises of the day.  The letters are in perfect shape — even more rare:

 
I tried to find “Swampy” in Orange, TX a few years ago and gave up.  A photo of him from the TX Roadrunners site from 2005:
http://www.txroadrunners.com/images/pics/GemTrailsOfEastTexas2005/Orange/Swampy.jpg

Doing more research, I found I’d been looking in slightly the wrong place.  Finally found him this time!  Well, what’s left of him anyway.  Disassembled and missing all that Spanish moss that made him so charming.  The guys there said they might fix him back up again some day.  It looks like he might even have been animated!

Let the guys know at American Airboat know how much you want to see Swampy brought back to life!

A couple shots from Port Arthur:

Some Art Deco from Baytown (I’ve no idea what this bldg was originally):


The sun was great by the time I got to Galveston.  I’d like to tell you some good news about the Martini Theatre — but I can’t find any:
http://cinematreasures.org/theater/19217/
and
http://galvestondailynews.com/story.lasso?ewcd=60e00eadb3913868


More Galveston.  This store is long gone — but so glad the sign is still there:


From another store-that’s-no-more:

At first, it was the Great Dane statue that caught my eye.  And at that very moment, the real-deal “Hunter” came outside.  The woman (owner of dog and statue) began dressing the statue for Easter.  Rabbit ears were soon to follow this necklace.  I asked if “Hunter” ever jumped the fence.  Just once to see kids at the school across the street and then he stood there like “now what?”.  Never has done it again.


Still in Galveston.  Love the colors and shapes.  Across the street from the beach:


This grotesque and tacky statue has been around so long that he’s growing on me.  He’s been here since at least 2005 and probably much longer than that.  “Surfboard Shark Man” is cement and has withstood a few hurricanes.  So that alone makes him an important local icon:


One more for the night from near Houston.  This sign is in Stafford.  I passed the sign at night later on but couldn’t get across the crazy fast lanes to shoot it again.  The sign is lit by the bulbs from above — and the light in the wheels are lit in a chasing pattern making them appear to spin.  What an old-fashioned thrill!


We’ll be tackling Houston tomorrow.  A big packet of paper-clipped, heavily-dotted maps.  With Sparkle’s cooperation, it should be a prolific day.  The forecast is “sunny and warm”.

Day 5: “Bumps” & “Pops” in Northeast TX (round 2)

Posted in Roadtrip on March 30, 2011 by roadsidenut

The “bumps” would be the illness that Sparkle still has.  Like an annoying sneeze.  She’ll go for hours acting normal, then act like any moment she’s going to break down.  Her sickness was most apparent this morning.  Then maybe 5 hours went by with total normalcy.  Then some intermittent bucks for no particular reason.  Not accelerating, not on a hill, not a particular speed, no clue.  The idle seemed pretty much fine all day except for some in the morning.  I give up trying to figure this one out!

I just hope she hangs in there tomorrow since it’s supposed to be gloriously sunny.  The “pops” are because I finally have some photos with color.  Around 2pm, the sun finally came out.  Grippie started panting since she’s the only dog with a longish coat — and it’s thick from NYC winter.  I got down to my tshirt for the first time.  Windows were lowered.  Dogs smelling bayouesque mucky rivers here and there and letting me KNOW.  Ah, YES!  This is why we came.  Tomorrow, we should hit Galveston and I will find these buds of mine some white sand to run on.

On to the photos then.  While leaving Tyler this morning, I was thrilled to come upon this building. I only know of one in GA & a few in  CA that are left.  This was originally part of the Dari-Delite chain.  Surely, there must be more of these quirky a-frame buildings out there so keep your eyes peeled.  More info & photos at the bottom of this page:
http://www.agilitynut.com/eateries/chain.html

(Yes, I did get a couple donuts to show my support.  But they were really bland & not very photogenic.)

A mystery solved.  This building was on my list and I had forgotten about it.  “Kickerz” (coffee shack) in Whitehouse.  So that’s what that other hat-building was that I posted at Flickr last night.  Evidently, there is one other out there in Gresham like this.  Only the Tyler location is closed.  Another location near some hospital that is newer & not a hat.  These buildings are modern — chain started 2003-ish.


Here are a couple signs from Palestine:

 

In Henderson — maybe this was an omen of things to come?  At the Tans & Hands Fitness Center:

 
I went in this lovely florist shop to ask about a sign I could not find (and it seems is now gone).  This place was originally a jewelers, from the 1920s.  Rayford Florist moved in around ten years ago.  The owner replaced some of the broken vitrolite (or maybe Carrera glass since it’s black) which came from Thibodaux, LA & cost a fortune.  The interior still has the original 1920s fans.  And some nice wooden display cases from the 1940s.

 
This chicken sign is from Center.   ETPS stands for East Texas Poultry Supply.

 

This one is from Nacogdoches.  This is supposed to be a portrait of the owner.  It doesn’t look like they are selling produce anymore though.  More of an open-air junk shop.  Unless the produce is brought out on weekends.

 

This one is from Lufkin where there was both Sun and Pines.  Lovely pine trees around this part of Texas which I didn’t expect.

 

More stuff from Lufkin:

 

I posted the glamour shot of this theatre over at Flickr tonight so here’s a close-up of the sign which has recently been restored:
http://www.ci.lufkin.tx.us/ms/pinestheater.htm


… and what they’re doing to the inside.  The City is spending more than $1 million to restore the theatre.

 
Food — as promised.  Since those donuts sucked both taste-wise and aesthetically, I was on the prowl.  Bingo!  I hadn’t expected that Valentine diner in Lufkin had become a bakery.  So I got a couple special cookies.  I’ll tackle the giant blackberry Linzer tomorrow.  I had the chocolate this afternoon which was great:

 
A couple more signs from Lufkin — sun makes all the difference:

 

And one more from Lufkin — at the Johnnie A-1 porta potty business… these neat storage or office building.  Those triangular parts apparently can be fitted with glass (or was it plastic?) as you like.  Neat!

 

Tomorrow, if Sparkle’s up for it, which I think she is, will be Beaumont, Galveston, etc.  Then we should arrive in Houston where we’ll be for maybe two days.  Think sun!

Day 4: Northeast TX (round 1)

Posted in Roadtrip on March 30, 2011 by roadsidenut

Where’d the sun go?  I was counting on Texas to break the grey spell.  But I think that won’t be til later this week.  Every wonderful thing I shot today would have been 100 times nicer with some light and blue skies.  Another time, retrace the miles, and hopefully half of this stuff will still be here.

Just as I prepared to leave Texarkana and head for smaller towns, a new mechanical problem.  At stoplights or parked and idling, sometimes Sparkle acts like she might stall out.  Not that bad but obviously not quite idling right.  But pulls out just fine, drives fine, shifts fine.  Except for sometimes, a mild buck, like you’ve run over something, and repeatedly sometimes when going up a hill.  Very much like the Fort Wayne ordeal I had last summer.  Oxygen sensor and some other sensor.  Three lost days on that trip til it was resolved.

So, I spied a Chevy dealer from I-20 in Texarkana and backtracked.  I described & demo-ed the problems for the head mechanic.  Basically, he said the problems weren’t really identifiable until the check engine light comes on.  There are too many things that could be causing it and the problems aren’t bad enough.  Besides, he wouldn’t be able to get to it til tomorrow.

After having driven all day, hundreds of miles, it seems the problems are only noticeable once in a while.  Haven’t gotten worse — if anything, slightly better.  Strange.  But I’m learning to live with the stress.  It’s not like I’m driving through the Mojave desert or in the wee hours of the night.  Most people would probably not even notice the problem.  So I will push on until something happens.  I just hope it doesn’t happen on a sunny day!

Dog report.   Everybody’s good.  Lots of longhorns & even buffalo to bark at today.  Nik got to entertain a pack of kids who were terrified of dogs at the beginning.  But after 20 minutes of throwing balls for him, they are probably asking their moms for a dog right now.  Nik’s goal is to have every person in America throw a ball for him at least once.  Will you help him with his dream?

On with the photos — lots of ‘em!  Yes, the Rabbit.  Where to begin.  The Texarkana rabbit is a true roadside icon.  He’s been around since the 1940s and was one of those “pull-the-car-over Marvin” type devices.  As if the airplane on the roof wasn’t enough!

He wore a saddle so he could be used for photo-ops.  Originally, he was covered with fur.  Later, I’m zooming ahead here, the place was Big Daddy’s Pawn but the rabbit remained.  The last time I saw him was in 2003:


And then, he disappeared.  BUT, with some digging from my new pal mojavegirl, he has been found  We were able to rendez-vous with the living legend this morning.  He’s at a storage place about a mile away from his original location.  The owner is planning on restoring him, possibly with fur, and installing him in front of a hardware store.  He already has the new saddle ready to go.

His captivating blue eyes….


… and the back that’s supported thousands of tourists over the years:


And, ACK! another photo of me — caught in the act by mojavegirl:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/mojavegirl1216/5571373112/

More about the Rabbit here — from 2000 but still interesting:
http://archiver.rootsweb.ancestry.com/th/read/TXBOWIE/2000-07/0963500944

Here’s a shot of the long-closed Big Daddy’s from today — photo taken from where the rabbit would have been:


Moving on….  the Jefferson General Store (naturally in Jefferson) is a wonderful little market and cafe.  There’s also a pretty nice sign collection inside.  Just a sampling:

Just north of Marshall proper is this cool guy at Ellis Home Decor.  He’s made entirely of clay pots:


In Marshall, I went to check on what’s left of the Santa statue at the former Christmas Land:


He’s been missing his head for years but otherwise he’s still there.  No trace of his head or face.  The cast-off pieces are just his arm and part of his hat.  He’s fiberglass over wire mesh.  To understand the gigantic scale, note the cinder block between his feet:

A photo of him with his head & some more info here:
http://www.roadsideamerica.com/tip/14346

A couple shorts from Kilgore.   Just how much mid-century goodness can you pack into one building?  poles, pylon, recessed windows, plate glass windows, varying planes…  Anybody know what was here originally?

What’s left of the Kilgore Drive-in south of town:


From Gladewater — I don’t think I’ve seen a Sprite sign like this before:

From Canton — fun homemade signs:


Also in Canton — imagine how nice this gate sign would have been with sun & clouds:

From Tyler — lots of preservation work going on downtown:


Also these building-less facades which have been saved.  I don’t know what the plans are:

And finally, last photo for the night, also from Tyler.  Reminding me that I have not had any donuts yet on this trip — and that it’s time for some dashboard photography (my loyal blog followers know what I mean):

Lots more NE TX tomorrow — working our way zigzag fashion southward towards Galveston & Houston.   San Antonio, Austin, Dallas, Amarillo… all a long way off yet.

Day 3: Tennessee, Arkansas & TEXAS – oh my!

Posted in Roadtrip on March 28, 2011 by roadsidenut

Finally, we’ve arrived in Texas.  Only a day late so far.  Hoping to devote 3 weeks to TX & then 2 weeks to OK and then scurry back home.  If I get more behind, I’ll lop off El Paso and bits of western TX so that I can give OK a fair chance.  The dogs & I will be doing some AZ & NM next year so I can hopefully finish up TX stuff then.

Some sun today!  Though it sounds like weather will still be iffy here in TX for awhile. Some rain & thunderstorms in the forecast for tomorrow.  Sparkle running fine.  The dogs got lots of exercise here & there.  A church with an enormous bit of land.  And then in North Little Rock, their first bit of swimming in six months.  I thought it might be too cold but they thought it was great fun.

Even though a good percentage of the time was on I-40 and I-30, still managed to get a bunch of shooting in.  Tonight’s batch is Flickr-heavy and blog-light.  I hope you’re following along both simultaneously.  I know it’s a lot to ask!

Let’s get to the photos since I have an early date with a rabbit (that’s the tease to make you come back tomorrow night).  The day began in Jackson, TN — anxious to get going and no time to wait for the right light:


Onward to Memphis for a few more signs:


I assume this bottle used to spin but hard to tell now:

This one’s huge — maybe 15 feet?  Not sure of the age — but it could be 1960s:


Couldn’t resist this photo op.  Downtown Memphis with cars racing around but Nik’s a good little boy and does what mama asks.  For those of you that don’t know, Nik is ball-obsessed so the tennis ball seemed like a good choice.  There were also basketballs, baseballs & others.  The balls were super slick – I guess from other people posing on them — or to discourage that, not sure which.  So Nik had to struggle to stay on this thing.

On to Arkansas.  There was a carefully orchestrated rendez-vous for this photo.  The folks in North Little Rock that are restoring this mug have this it out in Carlisle, at a remote farm, right now. So all the stars had to be in alignment for this mug viewing & shooting.  Anyhow, I thought it would be good to get the shot of me out of the way (always one per big trip).  My shirt makes me look 20 pounds heavier than I am but there you go:

Oh, and if you’re unfamiliar with Frostop, here’s the scoop:
http://www.agilitynut.com/vessels/mugs.html

Went a bit out of my way for this one in Arkadelphia and then the sun was all wrong.  Here it is anyway — a great combo of everything:  spinning clock, sunbreakers on the left, granite (I think) tiles on the front — and the deer head.  I peered inside to see if there was more mid-century goodness.  Pretty muddled, but I saw a GIANT real deer head in there.   Eeeek!  Maybe this bank was originally named First Deerhunters of Arkadelphia or some such.

Last one for the night.  This one from Texarkana, TX.  Kinda famous for being the sign NOT to photo.  Seems the owner of the motel FREAKS when people try to shoot it.  I was all prepared & then nothing happened.  Maybe he was running an errand or in the bathroom and not at his post.  Anyhow, this sign has also been messed with a lot lately.  At some point, the Two-State became the Tri-State.  But more recently, the star and arrow removed:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/jlmiller/2435209634/
Don’t know if that was to discourage photographers.


Time for some rest.  The Texas marathon begins.

Day 2: Grey Day in TN

Posted in Roadtrip on March 27, 2011 by roadsidenut

No snow or rain but not a speck of sun all day long.  I’m counting on Texas to turn up the heat and blue skies for us.  So prepare yourself for bleak and dreary photos.  And I’ve got a ton of ‘em.

No Sparkle news which is a good thing.  I’ve been thinking my tight-turn thing (see yesterday’s posting) might be something to do with steering & not tires at all.  Maybe my next oil change I’ll have done at a real garage instead of my beloved Jiffy Lube so they can have a look-see.  For now, no noises, no problems — just a little funny feeling when I turn super tight with the steering wheel cranked all the way to extremes.  So in those situations, I’m just going real slow & easy.

Dogs are all good.  Settling down some.  Some big fields and hills for a decent amount of running.  Nik spending more time snoozing at the back of the van & less time trying to steal my soda bottles.  Grem sleeping more instead of scouting for any reason to bark.  Grip & Fix, my seniors, are easy-keepers.

Let’s get cracking.  Some real downers in here but I feel it’s my obligation to inform you.  And motivate you to get out there and shoot more and often.   Let’s start with this little heartbreaker in Wytheville, VA at the start of my day.  A mom & pop hardware store — picture tells it all.  That way everywhere now.  Store owners of a certain age, retiring or passing on, with no kids interested in carrying on the biz.  These plastic letters are installed over vitrolite:

In Abingdon, VA — I’m glad this motel has kept its sign — but barely.  They’ve replaced this nice font and corrugated plastic with modern crap.  And botched up the pine tree.  I’m gonna give them the benefit of a doubt and assume there was wind damage or something and not some desire to update.  But covering up the sign’s nice poles makes me suspicious.  And they’ve lost the nice little boxes as well.  Dammit!

Horrible photo from 2003, on an equally miserable day, but you get the idea of this sign’s former look:

It’s taken me a few years to find this one in Abingdon.  Still a car wash — but now they’ve covered up some of the bubbles with a sign for another business that shares the lot.  This photo shows it a couple years ago when it still had neon:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/esywlkr/3670233460/


Another from Abingdon.    Not sure what’s happened here.  Vandalism?  The letters are okay on the other side.  Though the sign could really use some paint.  And the message read that it was opening in spring.  Let’s hope.  The place is listed on the National Register of Historic Places — but as we all know, that doesn’t mean much.  Things can still wither and die or be demolished.

A few more from Abingdon.  Finally, some good news.  Well kinda.  The motel which was in Chilhowie is gone but at least the sign was saved & restored & relocated.  This is over at RC’s Storage where the now restored Robert E. Lee Motel sign is:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/agilitynut/4709455718/

Autel is old sign speak for “auto motel”.  Here’s this bit about the restoration of this sign:
http://www.edandmarthabiggar.com/neonclass.html
I’ve been a big fan of Pal’s for years — but never actually eaten anything there.  They have these modern but wonderful buildings with the giant food around Tennessee — and a couple other special ones.  Click on the city at their site for photos of each one:
http://www.palsweb.com/locations.htm

So, anyway, someone recommended their “cheese rounds” so I thought I’d give them a try.  Not bad!  Like a tater tot but better.  A nice crisp shell, and a contrasty soft middle.  Wish there’d been more cheese though.  But still a great little snack on a miserable cold day.  Lousy blurry photo because I forgot how fussy Dee is about close-ups.  She takes them much too literally and decided to focus on the bag instead of the food.  Must remember to do wider photo and then crop.

From Bristol, TN.  Last time I passed through, I remember speaking to the jewelry store owner and telling him how much I loved his sign and the display windows and all.  And now, obviously, he’s gone and so’s the store.  At least the windows & terrazzo are okay & the sign is probably safe behind this new one.  Here’s what I hope is still underneath:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/hellsdonuthouse/866047472/

A couple ghost signs from Bristol.  This one safely tucked away in an alley.   Out of the sun.  And probably not public enough that the locals will feel compelled to “restore” (repaint) it and ruin it:

And this mysterious one.  Looks like tobacco?  And looks like it’s a nice one — if only a skilled restorer could remove that white paint:

Happy to report that both of these signs’ businesses are still open.  I’m sure these twins have been well-documented at Flickr.  But maybe less so the plastic sign — which I find the nicest — so I’ll give that one the close-up:

I made a promise to myself last weekend after going to reshoot two Phillips batwing stations in NJ — and finding them both gone — that I’d start shooting all of them, everywhere, no matter how shabby.  This one’s in Bristol:


The Twin-City Drive-in in Bristol — still open, whew!:


What’s left of the Woodzo Drive-in in Newport, TN.  That’s the ticket booth in front.  This is the best view possible now what with shrubbery & all:

More from Newport.  I don’t know what this used to be.  Maybe restaurant — since it sits in the middle of the semi-circle of cottages now known as the Shamrock Apts:


Ugly as hell now — but you know from the blue butt that this used to be a Tastee-Freez like the guys at this page:
http://www.agilitynut.com/eateries/tastee2.html

Still in Newport.  A funky-fun car wash:

Who knew — I didn’t — that tombstones could be fun — at White’s Monument Co:

I don’t think I’ve seen a Colonial Bread sign like this before.  It’s at an outlet place in Knoxville.  From the motor-box below, you know that it used to spin:

And last one!  Also Nashville — Mack’s Pest Control:


Tomorrow, should wrap up Tennessee & sprint across Arkansas.  Hopefully, get to that Texas sunshine.

Day 1: Highs and Lows in Virginia

Posted in Roadtrip on March 26, 2011 by roadsidenut

As my loyal followers know, these trips usually begin at 3am after I get off work.  I napped for about a half hour in Hagerstown, MD til the sun was right for my first photos.  And then plowed through many miles of interstate with some pit stops to break up the drudgery.  I made it to Wytheville, VA.  Had hoped to get to Tennessee.  But ran into complications with the van.

Although I road-tested the past couple weekends, I noticed today that when making very tight circles in parking lots, it felt like the front tires were kind of kerklunky vibrating a bit.  And maybe vibrating a bit odd on the straight interstate but not sure.  So I stopped at a place in Front Royal.  Got another alignment (just had one with new tires two weeks ago).  The mechanic said the tires were starting to wear on the insides and were toed in.  With wait time, that ordeal took about 3 hours — the sunniest part of the day.

And the tire thing still seems not quite right to me.  Maybe not so bad but still there.  So all I can do it obsess a bit to make sure it doesn’t get worse.  Hopefully, I don’t need more new tires by Texas!  So, after the alignment deal, the sun went away and I was forced to shoot in sucky grey the rest of the day.  But tomorrow sounds even worse.  We’re supposed to get SNOW here in Virginia tonight and most of the day tomorrow.  So I might just ditch my VA plans and head for TN or wherever this stuff clears up.  I hear it’s in the upper 80s in Texas right now.

But!  Yes, it’s great to be back on the road and I got to see a lot of stuff that’s been on my list for a long time as well as some fun unexpected stuff.  The dogs are thrilled to see motorcycles & cows again.  Dogs Gone Wild.  Mucho barking all day.  Found some office parks and abandoned motel sites to cut them loose.

On with the photos — not so many since I was interstate-ing for the most part, and sitting around at the tire place.  But there will be tons to come over the next five weeks.  I’ll get some food shots soon, promise.

From Hagerstown, MD where the sun came up & the shooting  began.  A tire store — today’s theme I guess.  This sign according to the owner is from around 1958.  Very rare to see these Goodrich letters now.   10 separate signs really:

Just down the street, a neat concave-front building.  Probably always auto-related, possibly a gas station as well:

 

From Waynesboro, VA.  I think I saw three of these red plastic arrow laundromat signs today in different cities:

 

From Lynchburg — I understand this was “Jumbo’s” originally:

More Lynchburg — a strange mid-century tower elevator thingy with mirror glass:

 

Some Spring color to break up there grey.  So, SO nice to see these after the horribly long winter we’ve had:


And a little more color from Lynchburg:

Triple combo shot:  Sparkle (the van), cherry tree (I think) , and neat MCM bldg with red panels:

and with his buddy the red panel bldg. across the street:


Alrighty – time for some sleep!  Hopefully, I’ll be more coherent & have a bigger batch of photos tomorrow night if I can get out of the path of the snow.

 

 

 

Counting down

Posted in From Home on March 22, 2011 by roadsidenut

 

Texas + Oklahoma = five-week roadtrip starts Saturday.

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