Day 5: bits of NC, TN, VA & all the way home

It was an excruciating drive home.  Normally, with the anticipation of getting home and putting my life back together, I can bang out 11 or 13 hours at a time.  But last night, I was just beat and kept pulling over for naps.  I could tell it wasn’t safe otherwise.  Drove about two hours, then pulled over for an hour, repeat, times about a half dozen times.  Another nap when I got home and then off to work.  Ugh.

Anyhow, let’s wrap up.  Some stats:  five days, 2,743 miles.  I didn’t add up the gas money.  I did get one speeding ticket – no surprise yet.  Northern VA on the dreaded I-81 where if you go over the 65 limit at any point, you’re likely to encounter blue lights.  I bet half the state’s budget comes from the proceeds of that highway.  $136 for doing 80.  A “warning” ticket in NC.  Which was a relief.  Middle of farmland highway, following someone else but I was the one that got snagged.  I’m really trying to be more careful but it’s a delicate balance between obeying the law (or close to it) and actually maximizing the photo ops.  I did get tons of great photos on this mini trip.  95% of the time, fantastic sun.  I still had to ditch a lot of Western VA plans on the way home.  I’ll try to make that up next spring on the way to OK/TX. 

The temps back home here in NYC are a vast improvement:  highs in 80s with far lower humidity.  Never thought of 80s as “comfortable” til now.  On with the show —

A couple shots from Hickory, NC — a nice mid-century screen:

and on the side of a bakery building — must photo all signs with bakers and chefs:

An old billboard above the Sunbeam Bread bakery in Shelby, NC:

A perky plastic sign in Kingsport, TN:

A storefront in downtown Kingsport – you either love it or hate it:

Just across the street — a real novelty these days:  an entire store as newsstand:

A mystery building in downtown Kingsport.  Looks bank-ish.  Surely, the lettering on the sign was updated with those plastic letters.  And I’m betting that there was a clock on top:

Lots of long stretches of driving today meant much dozing for the dogs.  Grem parked on her favorite sofa (Nik) a good part of the day.  He barely noticed.

Into the hills (mountains?) in SW Virginia for things that have been on my list for years but I just never had the time.  Highway 23 which loops through there is known as the “Trail of the Lonesome Pine”.  Big Stone Gap has an old car dealership building with terra cotta letters that pays reference to this.  A vintage photo:

And in Coeburn is the long abandoned Lonesome Pine Drive-in theatre:

SW Virginia is coal country.  Banks and billboards have signs referring to the industry.  This sign is in Norton, VA:

That business is just next door to piles of coal and equipment.  Pretty depressing in terms of ecological and human impact.  Especially in light of the deaths during recent mining disasters.  And how little the industry and lives of coal workers seem to change.  

And then after a very, very long drive — back to my own and very different reality.  My personal “coal mine” in NYC — a far more safe and comfortable living.  But anything but glamorous or personally rewarding.   This trip concluded with a trek through the Holland Tunnel into Manhattan.  This photo is of the Municipal Building in Manhattan just before the turn onto the Brooklyn Bridge heading home.  The dogs go on alert with all noses in the air back at some point in NJ just before crossing the river into NY.  So by now they are all revved with the excitement of reclaiming their territory.  Add much barking, panting, whining sound effects to this photo:

And so concludes this mini trip.  I’ll be doing another mini trip in just a couple weeks.  4 days in PA.  I hope you’ll join us then for more photos & adventures starting July 2.  Then, a five-week biggie starts July 24 when the dogs and I take on the Midwest.

Meanwhile, I’m still pounding away at the website adding photos every chance I get.  There’s no way I’ll catch up by the Midwest trip but you can keep tabs on my progress here if you like:

ONE FINAL NOTE.  A friend pointed out that she didn’t know that my blog photos opened to full-sized photos when you click on them.  So maybe you didn’t know that either.  I guess most blogs don’t offer this but I think it’s an important feature.


Day 4: Nearly through North Carolina

I had hoped to bang through the NC list today and start on a wee corner of TN and get into VA.  Almost!  Tomorrow, I’ll try go get through the remainder of the western VA stuff and then scurry on home.  You’ll have to wait for the final blog chapter til Wednesday since I won’t be back in NYC til late late tomorrow (Tuesday) night.

It was another incredibly hot day.  I heard that yesterday broke 100 and that’s pre-heat index factoring.  Today must’ve been about the same.  Sparkle’s nice and cool though.  I even called my mechanic today to express my gratitude.  I think the dogs were kind of baffled today between the temperature difference between inside and outside.  I found some lakes here and there for them to romp in/around and still stay cool.

I had some emails to attend to and suddenly it’s 1am already.  How did that happen?  So let’s get on with the photos — another big batch of them.

A nice original storefront in Asheboro:

I love the Auto Bell car wash chain.  Their giant bells remind me of the bell that used to be suspended on top of the old Taco Bell buildings.  And these yellow bells are so cheery.  According to their website, the company was established in 1969.  Most of their locations are in NC but there are a few in SC and GA as well.
This one is in Concord:

A law office with a little mid-century detailing — also in Concord:

A damned shame what they’ve let happen with this former movie theatre in Albemarle:

Just up the street — what the?  Criminal!

And just across the street from those buildings — is this trio of miraculous survivors.  The storefronts of Starnes Jewelers and Satin & Lace are faced with vitrolite:

And this guy next to them has really fun & unusual overhangs (there’s gotta be a better word):

Back in Charlotte — wasn’t I just here?  Yes, a couple months ago — but it was pouring rain and I wanted to reshoot a short list of things.  Stumbled upon this place — the biggest canopy I’ve ever seen.  Ever.  Could there possibly be more of these buildings?

The only doggie-related photo today – promise!  This cool bus was parked on the Dog Bar lot.  Looks and sounds like a really fun place.  Not open when I was there but I will put on my list to visit another  time.

It’s getting to be a tradition on these roadtrips that I post a self-portrait so you can see just who this nutjob is that never sleeps & is oh so so serious about buildings, signs & statues.  And I do SO hate having my photo taken.  But now that I’ve entered my 50s, I  just give up already.  Wrinkles, grey hair, whatever.  I’ve earned all of it.  I took this one with the camera to the side of my head next to this statue that I shot on the last Charlotte trip:
It’s kind of a neat effect.  I like how it singled out the finger pressing the camera button.  But I could live without the squinting in the sun expression.

Diner lovers must be excited about this brand spanking new diner that’s being installed.  I’m not that up on modern diners but I know just enough to know that this has to be either a Starlite or a Dinermite.  I’m sure someone will chime in immediately with a comment.  I much prefer the old diners but this is sure a novelty in downtown Charlotte.  This wasn’t here at all two months ago.

A fun group of signs in Charlotte.  There are maybe a million neon ice cream signs out there — but I can only think of a couple neon pizzas.

And finally — I know some of you have been holding your breath — road snack!  This is the first ice cream of the trip despite the heat.  Actually, the first dessert-y food of the trip.  I was holding out for the vintage Wilkinson Blvd. DQ in Charlotte — and boy, was it worth the wait!    You’re looking at a Strawberry Blizzard (which is vanilla soft serve with strawberries) with adds-ons of chocolate chips & walnuts.  $4 something.  Dinner.  Wonderful.  And the dogs thought so, too.

Day 3: Hotter than Heck in NC

Perhaps I failed to mention that it’s been in the 90s every day on this trip.  Bank clocks that I saw this afternoon said 94 and 95.  So it must’ve been close to 100.  Maybe it was just as hot wherever you are.  Or hotter.  Texas?  Louisiana?  I can’t imagine!  But Sparkle’s A/C has been running just marvelously.  And I’ve kept the dogs cool with watery romps.

Yes, the dogs.  Remember them?  Some of you are waiting on photos of them with baited breath.  Others of you are probably rolling your eyes.  So here’s the big dose for this trip.  Before leaving VA this morning, I found some tidewatery spots which the dogs found skank-o-lish-ous.  Smelly & cool. Can’t top it!  Except back home where the park is one big picnic buffet right now with trash scattered everywhere.  I don’t even need to give them breakfast anymore.

One of their best romps du jour was in Hertford.  After crossing a bridge, I really had no choice.  Signs for “boat launch” are always a guarantee of a good time for all.  There’s always a nice water entry.  And the boaters are always amused by my goofy little menagerie.

Fix & Grem enjoying my tossed treats.  Today’s floating offering was bits of English Muffin.  Grip – no WAY was she going in the water past her tippy toes even in the heat.  She got caught in a teensy tiny river current a few years ago and decided that was that for swimming.

Nik, on the other hand, can never get enough of water retrieving.  This place had multiple docks for him so we had a lot of fun.  Ker-splash!  Even on impact, you can still make out his giant ears:

Did you know that Nik is actually a big dock diving champion of some sort?  Holds the record for Rat Terriers, ranked up there for small dog records with a high of 20-something feet.  We haven’t competed in a couple years because I find all the waiting around to be excruciatingly boring.  After watching the first 100 Labs jump in the water, it becomes a blur.  And I’d so much rather be working on the website.  Nik on the other hand, just never gets tired of it.  Screams like a lunatic the whole time we’re in line and hardly anyone is amused by that.

Here’s a lousy action photo from today.  I promise to take a camera course this winter because I know this fancy-ass camera CAN take good action shots.  But you get the idea through the blur.  Because I have trained Nik to do all kinds of distance stuff (back, right, left, come, out, WAY out), I can send him to the other docks to get a shot like this.  Bad as it is:

He’s actually got the form all wrong.  With some training, which I haven’t, the dog is supposed to jump UP towards the thrown toy so the dog carries in the air a further distance.  But Nik just relies on speed for distance.  Which is pretty impressive.  Also, he can’t really get traction on these wood docks (competition docks are aluminum covered with rubber matting).  So this is probably only about 14 feet or so when normally he averages about 18 feet.  If you’re curious about the sport & all, here’s some info:

Here’s the pack together.  From the ridiculous to the sublime.  While the girls are all used to (bored) with posing for the camera.  Nik can only wait so long before he demands “throw me somethin!”  Meanwhile, Grem is plotting which foreign country she will run off to when I give the “ok”.  Just a second after I had eveybody jump back in the van and slid the door closed, a cat ran by with a giant bird in his mouth.  Sheesh, that was a close one.  No amount of recall training would’ve helped me there had they seen that.

OK, now where were we?  Ah yes, buildings, signs, statues…  Back to Virginia, Norfolk to be exact, the WTKR-TV Building.  I don’t know if they are the original occupant:

That bit of canopy at the left belongs to this building across the street.  A damned shame what they’ve done to the building.  Hopefully, it’s not permanent and someone with more taste can remove that crap:

Also in Norfolk, this giant used-ta-be neon sign:

And two more from Norfolk:  an adapted Arby’s sign:

And just next door, a newbie sign — which must be spectacular at night:

Heads-up my botany buff friends out there.  It’s getting to be a tradition that I ask for at least one i.d. per roadtrip.  What’s the name of these nice flowers/bush/tree that I’m seeing all over on this trip?  There’s also a white version that I like almost as much:

In context for scale:

From the Corapeake Collision Center in Sunbury, NC — love this cool car & driver.  He has sort of an “oh no” Mr. Bill expression with his hands in the air. 

In Dunn, NC, more adorable figures at Raynor’s Muffler & Brake:

A lovely spot in Dunn, NC — I believe they call this a cypress swamp? — where the dogs did NOT get to go swimming.  Or I’m sure there would have been mayhem and murder.

Back to the dogs again for a second.  Imagine for a moment, the joys of traveling with four terriers.  Imagine the ear-splitting sounds, just inches from your ears, of one canine soprano.  Joined vocally by three other dogs, mostly just because.  All because of motorcycles.  Every couple minutes in nice weather.  Deafening, incessant.  I could break out the bark spray collar, but hey.  And just the sight of it makes Nik a nervous wreck even though I only put it on Grem, the instigator.  So, I just tough it out most of the time, and scream at them to knock it off when I need to really focus on something.  Still want to ride along with us, huh?  There’s one just ahead that will not escape the wrath of this never-weary traveler:

OK, last photo for the day. And since we have kind of a theme going today…  from Greenville, NC.  Lots of these Beagle signs around in VA & NC.  Beagle clubs & such.  Usually handpainted, metal or wood.  This one’s wood with a more goofy expression than usual.

Three blogs in one day – damn I’m tired!  But I’m finally caught up.  Nighty-night.

Day 2: A Whole Lotta Virginia

An early evening rainstorm may be a blessing in disguise.  Hopefully, I’ll be able to bang out two blogs, get some Flickr photos up and get the van organized for the next two days.

So, going back to yesterday first… let’s cut to the chase and move right on to the photos.

This one thrilled me to no end.  I’m still using the word “Wahooptie” every chance I get.  Even though I’m not sure what it means.  Like Wahoo but even more so?  This is the Wahooptie Taxi Company in Charlottesville, VA:

What a ride!

Another one from Charlottesville, or C-ville as the locals apparently call it.   Mel’s Cafe appears to inhabit a former gull-wing style cleaners.  There are lots of these in NC & VA.  They may have all been part of the Martinizing Cleaner chain originally.  Mel’s sign was probably adapted from the former business as well:

Here’s an Austin Cleaners from Highland Springs, VA:

I’ve got some other examples of these buildings from NC & VA at my site here:

This giant Lantern House restaurant sign in Richmond obviously had neon originally.  Maybe even a different name:

The Crickets Corner Jewelry & Loan sign probably also had neon originally.  Also maybe a different name & business entirely.  Still, a nice job of maintaining this cute guy.  In Highland Springs:

I’m tremendously bummed by this Richmond development.  I always pass by this place on Broad St. downtown & look to see how it’s doing.  Not good.  So finally it’s rented out to a legit business (Subway) instead of the scary pawn-shop-y businesses.  But, oh, why, WHY, did they have to destroy the original streamliney, roundy brick glass?  Here’s what it looked like just last summer:

and now:

The building was originally a W.T. Grant store and there’s still the letters, half covered up with a rubber mat, where those folks in the doorway are standing.  Sigh.

Another photo from downtown Richmond.  I hadn’t noticed this place before.  Valentino’s pizza place decked out in Italian flag colors.  But those lamps are so White Tower-y.  And the building gives me pause wondering if there’s a pun going on.  Could there possibly be a Valentine produced prefab structure under there?  Nah.  Maybe?

Those of you not familiar with Valentine diners might want to check out this site.   Various styles at this page:

In addition to their famous Little Chef Diners, Valentine also plainer buildings like the Dinky Diner — see 2nd clump from the bottom at this page:
or this:

Moving on… in Richmond, but way south on Jefferson Davis.  I sure wish I knew what this pylon building was.  Gas station?  Burger joint?  Anybody know?  I love the birdhouse & light features on top:

In Newport News, a sign I hadn’t seen before.  Must’ve been the Mariners’ Motel originally.  And surely, this had way more neon before.  One can just imagine the sailboat lit at night, maybe moving waves…

And lastly, in Hampton just past dusk, I came across this funky canopy structure.  Thanks PhotoShop for allowing me to pump up the light volume here).  I couldn’t get closer obviously because of the chain link.  The business is now “Cap City” — but it must have been maybe a burger place/drive-in or who knows.  Love the elaborate steel cables, glass, roof shape.  Must come back in the sun when the place is open. 

OK – time to get to work on today’s photos & toss some up at Flickr.  Come back here in a few hours for more!

Day 1: a Bunch of Baltimore and a Dab of DC

I said I wasn’t going to blog on this mini roadtrip.  But I’ve shot so many non-website worthy photos and it’s a dreary & dark morning here.  So what the heck.  This is just a five-day whirlwind tour of VA & NC.  An attempt to finish my list of stops that had to be ditched when I fell behind on the Southern trip in March/April.  Also, a chance to see that the van, camera, dogs, etc. are in good shape for the big Midwest trip coming up at the end of July.

I was going to post this one on Thursday night but I was literally falling asleep at the  computer.  The next day I realized I’d only gotten two hours sleep so it’s no wonder.  I left work at my normal time (2am) and hit the road at 3.  A two-hour nap at Clara Barton’s (a rest stop on the NJ Turnpike) and then straight on to the Baltimore area.  A glorious day of sun so I didn’t feel the pain til much later.  The dogs are along for the ride, of course.  In addition to some grassy patches, I stopped at the Congressional Cemetery for them.  But it was 90 plus degrees by then.  So I put an early stop to their crazed running before somebody passed out. 

OK – let’s get on with the photos since I have a double batch.

There’s a U-Haul truck perched on the roof in Tulsa:

like this one in Baltimore:

So I assume they must’ve done this above their locations in other cities.  And from the look of the platform, these trucks must have spun.

There’s an interesting new building going up east of downtown Baltimore.  It’s associated with the Johns Hopkins Hospital.  I like the Mondrian-esque glass.  The glass itself is sort of translucent.

And just down the road apiece, is the Enoch Pratt Free Library – another modern building with a somewhat similar pattern.  Even more Mondrian-y in color:

This hotel’s a car-stopper with it’s sign and detailed columns:

More Baltimore signs.  I don’t believe this place was still there:

Plastic signs are getting rarer and rarer.  That metal “hanger” probably supported a much heavier steel sign originally:

Apparently, always a supermarket — but I don’t know which one.

Just across the street is what’s left of the Ambassador Theatre:

This sign is just across the street from the Maryland Historical Society.  The clock’s not working.  I doubt that the neon still works. But I’m glad this one is still there!

I’ll  close this post with a mid-century modern building that I stumbled upon on my way to tracking down a giant pineapple.  This is the Seton Keough High School:

The sun is starting to peek through now.  I’ll try to get yesterday’s “sampler” up tonight with more stuff from today.