Southern Trip Wrap-Up

First some interesting (I hope) stats and notes.  Sparkle now has 243,429 miles on her.  I logged 13,429 miles on this month-long trip.  There were 52 visits to the pump costing $2,228 for gas alone.  The only mechanical glitch was the “key thing” (trouble getting the key out of the ignition and, towards the end of the trip, tricky to turn the key to start).  Sparkle’s in the shop now to determine if my regular mechanic can fix it or if I need to go to a dealer (which is pain in the butt in NYC).  These Astro vans were built to run and run.  I wouldn’t hesitate to buy another when this one dies but Chevrolet stopped making them in 2005.  Maybe they ran TOO good for Chevy to keep making them?

Other expenses:  I got three tickets on this trip.  I forgot to mention a couple of them in my exhausted delirium.  I did blog about the speeding ticket in MS.  The officer has still not “turned in” the ticket although it’s been 3 weeks.  So I have to keep calling the court back to find out the fee.  He has a year to turn it in.  What a ridiculous system!

I got stopped for “careless driving” in Iowa, LA.  That’s a new one to me!  Better than “reckless driving” I guess.  It was one of those everyday situations where some guy is making a slow, really slow, turn onto a side street on the right.  Like 1 mile per hour.  So you look, and there’s nobody coming from the other direction, no one else around, and you pull over to the left and pass him.  Calmly, carefully, no big deal.  Well, the cop must’ve been up a tree or hiding behind a rock because there was no one else around that I could see on this four lane road.  He said that I used the turn lane to pass.  And I guess that alone is “careless”?  Careless to me implies doing something stupid and somewhat dangerous.  Not at all what I did.  The bill for that one:  an astounding $203.  Unbelievable!

In Lexington, TN, I got another speeding ticket.  I was doing  58 in a 45.  A long straight line over a hill, barely urban, the cop must have been way at the bottom with radar gun catching the car after car as they crested the top of the hill.  I was even following someone but he picked me.  Lexington charges a flat rate for speeding of $41 — regardless of how many miles over the speed limit.  Far more fair than the “careless” ticket.

The dogs are zonked.  Strangely quiet and motionless around here.  Nobody gets up when I leave the room.  Here’s a shot from the “house of beds”:

They were thrilled to be back off-leash in Prospect Park this morning.  Although the warm weather we’re having now means Mondays are hell for me (and delightful for them) since there are sloppy picnic-ers’ remains everywhere.  Rib bones, chicken bones, apple cores, banana peels, cake, and other indistinguishable junk all embedded in the acres and acres of grass.  Plus big plastic bags full of food that the parks dept. hasn’t picked up yet.  One poke of a noise and the dogs get an astonishing “sampler”.

OK, on with the last day’s photos.  Just a few since all I did was finish up Louisville and then hit the interstate.  I have a LOT of eastern KY and TN to do at some point.  Hopefully, I can sneak in some KY into this summer’s trip and then the TN into next year’s spring trip. 

How about a farewell batch of signs from Louisville:

One of the most beautiful days of the trip to be taking photos and it was KILLING me that I had to hop on the interstate at 10am to get home by midnight: 

More fluffy clouds in this combo shot.  These photos were taken near Churchill Downs — an area big on liquor and horses:

A close-up of the parking sign (and clouds):

And one more fun one — perhaps this place had a more exciting name originally like “Atomic Cleaners”:

So, that’s it for this trip.  I hope to meet up with you all again for another month-long trip starting July 24.  The dogs and I will be taking on the Midwest — focusing on MO & KS but there will be lots of other states as well.  I’ll be flickring and blogging nightly for that trip, too.  There may be a few posts between now and then.   But mostly I’ll be hunkering down to get several thousands photos into the website and working my butt off to pay for these trips.  Thanks for sharing the journey!


Day 31: Home Safe

The dogs and I arrived home at 11:30 pm.  Man, that was some drive.  741 miles of interstate according to Google but it felt like twice that.  We’re all completely thrashed.  I do have a handful of Louisville photos for you which I’ll try to get up tomorrow.  Zzzz.

Day 30: Racing through Kentucky

This always happens on these trips. As exhausted as I am, I don’t want to go home.  Especially when the sun is shining and I have stacks of maps and lists yet undone.  A sane person would have hit the highway today and been halfway home by now.  But I was determined to knock out stuff around Louisville so that I can focus on the eastern part of KY next spring.  I still have a few more stops in and around Louisville for tomorrow morning.  I’m tempted to dawdle a bit more in KY as I have some stuff that I really wanted to get to on this trip.  But it’s an 11 hour drive from Louisville to NYC.  So I’ll give myself a cut-off of no later than noon before I hit the interstates in a big way.

Grassy lots today for the dogs.  Nik and Grem were very disappointed when they could clearly see the gigantic river(s) from Paducah and Louisville today — and didn’t get to go!  As exciting as these trips are, I think we’re all more than ready to be home.

A few shots from Paducah.  It looks like they removed the vitrolite panels above the shop to add those air vents?

I love the way the zigzags of the lights and roofline complement each other:

There’s got to be a name for this style roof but I’ve never heard of anything.  The lollipop style sign is great, too:

Moving on to Henderson — love the way the parts of this building are stacked:

So this must have been a gas station originally — though I’ve never seen one of this design before:

An awesome Art Deco building:

A trio of signs from Owensboro:

Over to Bardstown:

And later, finally, into Louisville.  A couple detail shots from Stephens Drugs:

Right next door, this neat barber shop & beauty salon:

No food shots tonight — but I can give you a modern pickle sign from Louisville.  The place features fried pickle chips.  No, I didn’t get any:

And last one from Louisville — to go with the other parking signs I blogged about in New Orleans a week ago or so:

The next “wrap-up” post will be from home with more photos from the final day.  I can’t promise it’ll be Monday but it should be no later than Tuesday night.

Day 29: Blue Skies in Kentucky

What a difference a day makes – cloudless & sunny all day today.  And chilly enough to keep me energized for the shooting sprint from central TN to western KY.  Tomorrow will be the last full day of shooting.  I’ll work my way eastward through KY until I run out of sun.  Then, I will probably get a jump-start on the interstate push towards home.  If I blog tomorrow night, it’ll be a quickie.  Then I’ll give you a double-dose of photos from home on Monday.

This sign in Goodlettsville, TN would not have looked nearly as wonderful if I’d shot it yesterday:

I’m pretty sure this sign is an oldie.  It’s in Cross Plains, TN at the Thomas Drug Store in which has been there since the 1920s:

This liquor store is in Bowling Green:

Another great sign from Bowling Green:

This appears to be a former Gulf gas station in Glasgow, KY.  I have no idea why they put that weird roof on top & back.  Is that an attempt to mansard-ize it, make it less ugly & gas station looking?  Or could it have some attic-like purpose or cover hideous air conditioning units or something?

Uh oh.  I have some bad news for those of you that are familiar with the Star Motel in Cave City, KY.  Those of you that don’t know it, here’s what the sign has looked like since forever:

I spoke with the owner and he said that the sign was falling apart.  The faces will be replaced with backlit plastic.  He saved some of the neon stars and might replace them.  But it’s not sounding likely to me.  This is heartbreaking.

On a cheerier note, how about this guy from Cave City.  He shares the parking lot with an ancient mini golf and a sports bar:

This building in Cave City is from 1970 and was originally known as Big Mike’s Treasure Chest.  It was decorated as a Treasure Chest (a photo of it in the book “Well Built Elephant”, p. 86).  When the shop closed, the building was donated to the city.  They moved it and now use it as a welcome center.  A shame that it no longer has the fun details though:

A nice Art Deco building from Horse Cave, KY:

My westward route towards the end of the day took us over a very pretty stretch with lakes (including “Land Between the Lakes”).  Had to stop for the dogs of course.   Nearby, I stopped to shoot the neon sign at Belew’s Dairy Bar in Aurora.  As I was doing so, the owner called me over for a free milkshake.  They hadn’t opened for the season yet but he was there testing out the equipment.  The shake was super thick and filling — that was dinner.  The dogs loved it, too:

The last city for the day was Paducah where I ran out of sun and will have to resume tomorrow.  I got a couple of shots for you of some odd sculptures from a neighborhood with galleries.  I can’t quite figure this one out.  Is that Obama (the ears) or just a freaky Santa?

And a pair of grazing giraffes:

Day 28: More from Gloomy TN

Not a minute of sun today.  Dammit.  I shot so many wonderful things and will have to retrace my route again one day in sunnier conditions.  Here’s my approach to weather:
* sun – shoot as fast as you can – it may not last
* grey – shoot & grumble
* rain – shoot & curse
* snow – park & cry

I know — some of you are waiting on dog photos — here’s just one then.  This is from a typical pull-over & let ’em rip break.  This is what the crew looks like as they wait for me to get my act together (treats, toys, get Grem’s special collar on, etc.).  They’re waiting for the big “ok” which means they can leap out of the van for exploration and retrieving:

Nothing special about this photo — just a typical selected spot that’ll work for us.  It extends further left and right and behind than this photo shows.  Just about any place that has new development (box stores, fast food, etc.) has nearby undeveloped fields.  Sometimes with grass — sometimes just a mix of weeds and dirt — which is also fine:

I haven’t given you any food shots in a while either.  So here’s a classic donuts-on-the-dash shot — TN lists & maps — had to load up on the sugar & calories for an intense day in Nashville.  These donuts were from a Shipley’s in Madison.  Maple nut (so-so) and Bavarian-filled (better but not all that remarkable):

On with the “important” stuff now.  This huge sign is from Clarksville:

Also from Clarksville — evidently a converted barn.  The sign referred to it as “Skyline Lanes at The Barn”:

Lots of interesting mid-century modern stuff in downtown Nashville — including this:

One of the Jim Reed car dealership buildings in Nashville must have originally been a nice oldie.  The only thing peeking through now that I noticed were these two columns:

More Nashville.  The Sunshine Shop could use a little TLC:

This guy and an old printing press are installed as a pole sign at Midtown Printing:

It’s hard to miss this place:

Their sign:

It’s truly a miracle that the Fox’s Donut Den sign was saved, restored & reinstalled.  It seemed doomed when the mall decided to “update”.  As you can see, the mall is one of those big & bland designs — at least this one has some stone incorporated.  But all the other signs are backlit plastic & dull as hell.  The developers “let the people decide” whether to keep the old sign or create a new “replica”.  The vote was overwhelmingly in favor of the old sign.  I posted a close-up of the restored sign over at Flickr tonight:

This sign is from the Ragland Bottom Motel & Restaurant in Sparta.  It was hard to tell if either enterprise is really still in business:

This sign in Nashville — at the factory where Mrs. Grissom’s Salads are produced:

And so, when in Rome, and since I’d never had the product before, I made a special stop at a Publix supermarket just to pick up some Mrs. Grissom’s.  There was also a jalapeno-added variety but I stuck with the classic as depicted on the sign.  I got a new type of Wheat Thin cracker (Ranch, new to me anyway) to accompany.  Sensational combination it turned out.  I was really expecting the “salad” to be gross.  But it was sweet, not too sweet, and tasted very much like the cheese in the classic holiday cheese & nut ball.  I might have to get some nuts to go-with tomorrow since this container is going to last awhile.

Day 27: Slow Going from AR to TN

We didn’t officially arrive in TN until around 4pm.  Grey, gloomy, a bit of rain — barely saw the sun at all today.  Tomorrow, lots of stops planned in and around Nashville and I’m hoping for some improvement.  Torrential rain coming down right now at midnight as I write this.  And thunder which has Fixie terrified & trembling.

The dogs got lots of brief random runs.  Conveniently, there was a big grassy field right behind the oil change place that I stopped at today (marking the 9,000 mile mark on this trip so far).  Some big ponds — glad we are out of the gator-worry zone.  It seems like there aren’t as many motorcycles in AR as there are in other states so it’s been noticeably quieter inside the van.  Except there are still plenty of cows to set the family off.  We even saw a camel today!

This faded, partial tobacco ad was in Jonesboro, AR:

This sign was in Paragould, AR – the place still in business:

This place in Holcomb, MO though is long gone – not even a building on the lot:

I can’t resist old soda signs.  This one in Kennett, MO is embossed:

This place was in Blytheville, AR — had to include it (since I live in NYC):

I had heard that this sign in Jackson, TN was gone:

So I went to check it out to be sure.  I found this replacement sign:

I spoke to a guy working there & he said the old one was “falling apart” and it sounds like it was taken to the dump.  He said that it was going to cost more to repair the old sign than to buy a new one.  So that’s what they did.  Bummer.

Another from Jackson — This appears to be one of those old Art Deco era billboards.  Somewhere along the line, someone added knobs and a speaker to make it more radio set looking:

According to a local, this place was originally a funeral home.  It started out as just a house (see part of that way in the back left peeking out at the top) and then was expanded and remodeled to this look:

This restaurant is in Parsons, TN.  I love this sign for the neon arrow at the bottom:

Which brings us to where the dogs and I have settled for the night — Hurricane Mills, TN — home of Loretta Lynn’s Kitchen.  This neon guitar is above the restaurant’s plastic sign.  I’m not sure if the supporting pieces were inadvertently lit by the glow of the guitar’s neon or if they need to be painted out (with black paint):

Day 26: Almost Through Arkansas

I thought we’d be able to make it to TN by tonight.  But twisty backroads in the Ozarks ate up a lot of time.  Glorious weather – hope I done AR proud.  Good to see a lot of stuff I’ve seen before that’s still hanging on.  And other stuff that was “new” to me on this trip.  The dogs got a couple good runs in at a grassy lot and the AR River.  They seemed pretty beat today.  We’ll all be happy to be home.  Four more days of shooting and then a mostly interstate day.

In addition to shooting old stuff, I do have new stuff on my list that I often check out.  Today, there were a couple contemporary churches on my list both by the same architect, E. Fay Jones.  The Mildred B. Cooper Memorial Chapel in Bella Vista and the Thorncrown Chapel in Eureka Springs.  I’ll include one photo of each & some links if you’re interested in knowing more about them.

Cooper Chapel:

Thorncrown Chapel:

I thought this was maybe just a golf resort — but doing a little Google search, Holiday Island is an actual city:

Apparently, this fun place in Eureka Springs has been closed for more than a few years.  It probably won’t be around too much longer since it’s on a huge lot at a very busy intersection.  It’s hard to imagine anyone with bucks reopening this restaurant with this hillbilly imagery:

This hillbilly sign in Green Forest reminds me a lot of this one in TN:
I’m betting that this one once had a swinging arm.  And maybe even a moving leg as well?

This place also had this fun sewing machine sign as well:

Another fun sign — this one (actually several signs as one) in St. Joe:

The Ozarks are really big on stone-faced buildings.  I believe this is also called giraffe stone because of the pattern.  This barber shop in Batesville looks suspiciously like a former gas station to me:

Another example from Clinton:

And lastly, the Sutterfield Stone Yard in Leslie sells tons of different kinds and sizes of rocks and stone slabs.  This neat super skinny A-frame with attached fountain gives you an idea of what you can do with the stuff.  It also doubles as a supplies shed:

Day 25: All Over the Place in Arkansas

Well, I guess it was only the western half – but still, it was a lot of territory for one day.  With another big push tomorrow, I might be able to wrap up AR.    It was about a 50/50 mix of sun and clouds.  Which is way better than rain.  Pretty hot and humid (80s?) and the dogs got relief in the Arkansas River two or three times. 

We went to the dog park in Burns Park in North Little Rock.  Even though it was plenty big, Grem pretty much immediately scurried sideways under the fence to the more woodsy area.  But her recall has improved quite a lot and she came right back under when I called her.  A two dog limit but we were the only ones there which seems to be the case in the middle of the day on weekdays at these places.  There were kiddie pools and nicely maintained.  But after just a few minutes, we headed over to the boat launch with river access which was a lot more fun for everybody.

Let’s move on to the photos as I’m falling asleep at the keyboard here (after midnight).  This faded beauty is in Crystal Springs:

I saw all the tourists doing it in Eureka Springs.  So I figured I’d fill up the dogs water jug with the “special water”.  The fine print describes the mineral breakdown.  The water came out of the spigot hot!

There are razorback hog images everywhere you go in Arkansas.  Statues, signs, cars…

At one of my stops, I found this razorback hat on the shoulder.  More or less clean so I adopted it.  I don’t wear hats except for my wool husky hat in winter.  But this one was just so goofy that I wore it for a while (in the privacy of the van that is).  It only made my head hotter.  I think I’ll abandon it somewhere before I leave Arkansas.  Or maybe I’ll just keep it and use it as a camera protector if the rain starts up again.

Two views – one more serious, one more goofy.  I think my camera distorts things when shooting close up.  I don’t think my nose is really this big.  And even my face shape is slightly off.  Sort of a fish eye effect — but what the heck.  I’m 53 and kind of past worrying about my appearance.

This place was in Fort Smith.  It looks like it might have been a drive-in restaurant originally.  But maybe it was always this Little Mexico garden statue type place:

And while in Fort Smith, I had to pay a visit to Mr. Peanut.  I’ve shot him before but couldn’t remember if he had neon on him.  Since it was getting dark, I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to shoot him if that was the case.  But no neon.  I let the dogs have one last run for the day around his base.  I saw the dome cameras nearby and expected someone to come yell at me any minute but they didn’t.  Nik is visible with blue toy at far right bottom:

Day 24: Leaving Louisiana

Another steamy day today.  Must’ve been in the 80s at least.  Grey for most of it making for dull flat photos.  Which didn’t matter as much to me today since I had a “date” in the middle of the day.  It made the shooting time sacrifice easier to take.

I got together with Warren Milks — the genius that invented and produced Roto-Spheres:

Warren is 87 now and I don’t know how much longer he’ll be around.  I took him to lunch and as it turned out, not only was today Easter (and he had no plans) but it was also his birthday.  After lunch, I took him to Starbucks (where he’d never been before) and went on-line to show him a bunch of things.  He’s old school and has never used a computer.  So I showed him a bunch of photos that people have taken of his signs and how they gush and marvel over them.  I hope I convinced him that he’s a celebrity — a household name among sign-lovers.  I showed him a video of how the one in Salt Lake City works, the fake Roto-Sphere in Broussard that I shot a couple days ago, and Neo-Lectras which he’d never seen.  I also played the Playhouse 90 video which we had all concluded must have been the inspiration for his signs.  Nope – he said it was more like a toy commercial.  So I guess we will just never solve this mystery.

Anyhow, I got some shots of Warren at his place.  In one corner, he has some neon potted plants which he created.  Not sure when because he has no sense of time (Alzheimer’s is setting in).  At first he said 3 months ago, then he said 3 years ago.  And it was probably more like 15 years ago.  He also created the neon portrait of his grand-daughters on the upper right.  And he made the other piece above left (though I didn’t get an explanation of what it represented).

He also had another one of these potted-neons (my term, not his) of a bunny for Easter in the front window:

In the garage, he had a piece that he never finished – a lower torso of a woman:

And this sign he created as well – no idea when but probably at least 15 years ago:

It was great to see him and I’m sure this was big, fun event for him — the crazy woman from New York with the four nutso dogs.  I respectfully tied my guys up in the back of the van (which really pissed them off) for transporting Warren to/from lunch.  Warren’s wife of many, many years passed away about six months ago.  So that’s gotta be really, really tough.  When I met them a couple years ago, she seemed to be the real driving force of the duo.  A little tough of Warren I’d say.  But it makes me very, very sad to think that this guy had no plans for his birthday and no longer goes to church.  It doesn’t sound like he has much, if any, social life.  From the sounds of it, he spends most of his time sleeping.  Doesn’t like TV, doesn’t have any hobbies.  I think I’ll start calling him more often just because.  He has two sons but I don’t know how well or often they are looking after this guy.

OK then – here’s some of the stuff I shot today.  This sign was in Many, LA.  I am totally mystified as to how a heavy steel sign, this high up, can get damaged like this.  I don’t think hurricanes can do this — unless maybe a car got picked up and thrown at the sign:

This wild looking building, also from Many:

A bunch of photos from Shreveport — which has loads of interesting stuff.  I’d love to know what this sign advertised for.  There’s a seafood place on the lot now:

A big honker downtown:

A couple cool Streamline Moderne beauties, down on their luck.  No idea of original use for either of them:

This one at least is in use:

After my get-together with Warren, I headed into AR.  Didn’t get much done but I’ll be digging in for about three more days.  I’ll close with this sign in Texarkana on the outskirts which I hadn’t seen before:

Day 23: Round the Bend in Steamy LA

A significant milestone today as we began the slow journey northward toward home.  Still another week left to go though.  I should have time for 3 or 4 days in AR, then maybe 3 days in TN & KY, and then the usual mad dash home.  East TX didn’t make the cut this time.  I’ll just have that much more to do next spring.

Hoo-wee, was it hot today!  The day started out dark & foggy/cloudy but was already humid and sticky by 10am.  It was in the low or mid 90s depending on which bank clocks were right.  I only turn on the A/C when necessary and today wasn’t one of those days.  Sparkle’s working hard enough running 12 hours per day.  And I want that full Southern Experience.  The dogs toughed it out.  Fixie was the only one really panting though:

I did some water jug dousing and kept an eye out for a stream.  As I came over a bayou bridge in Jennings, I saw a big river and thought that might be a good doggie swimming hole opportunity.  I asked a guy at a repair shop if there might be gators back there and he said there very likely were.  But if I went to that pond over “they-uh”, he was sure it was gator-free.  It was his boss’ house/property and they were away.  Pond Paradise!  Score!

Moving on to the signs and buildings…  This nice oldie is from New Iberia:

This neat guy was at A-1 Radiator in or near Erath.  He was built in 1992.  He used to function as a fountain.  The hose coming out of his belly used to be a bit lower — but the town didn’t like that:

A couple nice buildings that were on opposite corners from each other in Opelousas.  Both vacant as are most things on this block.  Abdulla’s looks like it was probably a department store:

The Rice Theatre in Crowley is a frequent subject for photographers:

It was also selected by these girls for this local sidewalk chalk painting contest.  Most of the other kids seemed to be doing just abstract stuff.  So I hope these girls win and go on to become historical preservationists.  We need to start enlisting the next generation!

Another great building in Crowley — difficult to photo because of trees and sun:

In Lake Arthur, I did a quick U-turn for this castle-styled birdhouse.  But upon closer inspection, is it a phony birdhouse?  The windows all seem blocked:

Despite the siding and other alterations, this building is still a head-turner.  Also from Lake Arthur:

An abandoned sign in Lake Charles:

This place is in Leesville:

This wacky car was on the roof of Paul’s Paint & Body just west of Alexandria.  Although it seemed life-sized, I couldn’t tell if this was three-dimensional or not:

So, it seems the taco shop mariachi band figures that I shot the other day and included here were mass-produced.  I ran into these guys in Alexandria:

OK – so I have been seeing these daiquiri places since Florida I think.  I don’t know what to make of them.  I guess they are non-alcoholic since so many of them offer take-away, drive-thru options.  Perhaps a local can explain this phenomenon and obsession with daiquiris.  These places come in all sizes and shapes — from low-life, ugly-dirty to cutesy, mall-y modern.  This one I include since it’s a repurposed gas station in Leesville: