Day 35: OK & the Interstate

I finished up Oklahoma around 1pm and hopped on the interstate.  Have landed in Terre Haute, IN — roughly halfway through the 20 hour trip home.  I’ll post the final batch of photos, stories, stats & all that from home on Sunday.


Day 34: Tulsa – hell yeah!

And a GLORIOUS day of sun it was — from start to finish.  I really didn’t mind retracing my path from yesterday all over Tulsa and shooting every single thing again since everything looked so much better.  Now come on, those of you that say things look just as nice, just different, in the grey.  “Moody” and all that.  You gotta admit — huge difference, way better!  Since it’s late and I’m exhausted, let’s just move on to the sign-fest from today:

Pause for information.  When I was here at this Daylight Donuts in 2006, I chatted with the owner about this sign.  I was told that the landlord was going to tear it down and build a new sign for this and the other stores on the property.  Only a matter of months.  I made a panic-ed call to Tod at the American Sign Museum.  He couldn’t take it at the time.  I’ve been relieved to see other people’s Flickr photos of it many times since then.  I asked about it today and was told it’s protected now by the historical society in town.  The owner wants to restore it but it’s $20,000.  She’s thinking about doing a fundraiser — I urged her to contact me for help and suggestions about that.  I worry that this one’s just going to collapse from rust one day like so many others do.  There used to be a third pole with a star on top — but the city cut it off for power lines:

A modern but cool sign downtown — never seen a neon baked potato before:

For font lovers:

I went to the Stokely Event Center where the owner has a big sign collection.  I put a couple other photos up at Flickr tonight — but I’ve got about a couple dozen other photos that will have to wait until I get home & add everything to the website:

While most of the signs are vintage, this one from the Metro Diner isn’t.  It was a very popular place on Route 66 and I’m sure a lot of people wondered what happened with this sign when the place closed:

Also dozens of gas station signs there:

The dogs and I finished up Tulsa and moved on a bit.  These two signs are from Pryor, OK.  I’m assuming this one was an office supply place before switching over to computers:

And this one probably had a vintage clock and a different name before a makeover:

I feel like I really got to know Tulsa pretty well on this trip after being somewhat stranded there by the weather for three days.  When I was here five years ago, the downtown was bustling and driving and parking was a nightmare.  This time, downtown seemed almost abandoned.  Lots of new developing going on and businesses open but just hardly any car or pedestrian traffic.  I found great places for the dogs to run:  the Arkansas River (multiple spots), the Joe Station Dog Park in West Tulsa, the huge parkish field near the Fire Alarm Building, and the bike trail near Electricity sign.  I spent a lot of time in the Starbucks parking lot on South Peoria for the wi-fi signal.  I almost feel like I lived there for a while!  I’ll miss Tulsa, and Oklahoma, and Texas.  But I couldn’t handle the summers here I’m sure.

Moving northeastward now — finishing up OK and starting the interstate haul towards home.  I’m going to try to make some stops along the way to grab some photos and then post ’em when I arrive home.  I hope to check in with you next from Missouri someplace.

Day 33: Time-out in Tulsa

Off to the Chevy dealer at 7am to get poor, broken mirror replaced.  Plus wanted to get steering weirdness checked out.  And while I was there, I noticed a tire low & a nail in it.  Steering thing determined to be idle arms and some other thing.  They wouldn’t be able to get parts til Friday and they swore it wasn’t dangerous to drive it like this.  So I’ll wait til I get home for that.  $377 I think it all was — and I was on my way around 11 am.

Well, sort of.  The grey turned to rain immediately before I could even get down the block.  So I figured it was a sign.  I decided to spend the day organizing/cleaning the van & napping.   Maybe planning some quick photos I could take along the interstate on the way home.  The sun would tease me every couple of hours with about two minutes of brightness and then fade behind the clouds again.  After a good long nap and big doggie romps, I couldn’t stand it anymore.  I figured I’d turn the day into a practice run, dress rehearsal for tomorrow.  And maybe get lucky and get a few decent enough shots.

Here’s Grem gazing off at the skyscrapers in the gloom wondering why we’re just sitting around.   Nah, probably just watching for squirrels.  And the iPhone (and all the other sources I’ve checked) promising nothing but sun for tomorrow.

So I limped on into downtown — happy to have my mirror back.  I never noticed this guy before.  Not my era but still impressively ornate:

Never saw this one before either.  A miracle it hasn’t been updated.  Love the giant chrome-y letters and those windows:

Two earth-shattering bits of news to me.  I hadn’t known that the Chase Autobank had closed (see Flickr photos tonight) and that this building next door is also now vacant.  I remember going into this place to check out the interior and the people who worked there were all proud and smiley over the building.  Now, they’ve moved across the street.  I can only hope this place finds some loving owners.  The tiles are all looking a bit rumple-y now especially behind the building.

For the curious that want to know more about my “system”, here’s the map of downtown that I used today (and will be using again tomorrow).  For me it’s way better than any GPS system could be — all clearly laid out.  And then I just cross out stuff as I shoot it.  That way I don’t miss anything.

Same thing for the accompanying list — X things out as I shoot them.  The list is pretty much the order of shooting for the stacks of maps.  But for something dense, one-way streets and such, the map makes it easy to change the order of things on the fly.

There’s a page over there on the right of this blog called “how-to-plan a roadtrip” if you want to know more about all this.  I really don’t use the stickies on the road though anymore — they just end up falling off.  So I draw big pen circles to replace the stickies before the actual trip happens.

Around 6 pm, the sun came out for the last hour of the day.  While I was taking this very photo.  I snapped in the grey gloom and walked 10 feet towards the van when I felt the bright warmth and RAN back to get this shot:

Since I’d had a big nap, I got to spend a little time and energy shooting a bit of stuff at night.  Now it’s nearly 2am so I’ll feel the pain tomorrow.  But not if the sun comes out!

More Tulsa tomorrow.  And then hopefully onward and eastward.

Day 32: On to Tulsa – for better or worse

The day started off promising enough in Bartlesville.  I waited about an hour after sunrise and the sun came out.  Beautiful.  Hardly a cloud in the sky.  But that was short-lived.  By the time I got to Tulsa, the clouds got thicker.  By afternoon, hardly any light penetrating and another big whopper of a thunderstorm around 5pm that ended today’s shooting.  Damn.  So while I shot loads of things on my list, I’m not satisfied since there are no blue backgrounds or pop & shadow from sunlight.  So I haven’t even tossed those maps with the hopes that things will improve and I’ll shoot all those things, seems like hundreds of places, all.  over.  again.  I keep hearing rumors of Thursday being nice.

As if the weather wasn’t a bummer enough, I totally demolished my driver’s side mirror.  That has really rattled my nerves and put me in a funk. Sparkle has pretty big and expensive mirrors.  I know from getting them creamed by hit & runner in NYC.  About $200 for them.  I’ve learned to always fold them in after parking.  But this time, it was me.  While I was carefully backing up from a tight spot and trying not to hit the car behind me, I didn’t notice the pole next to me and just massacred the mirror.  Not just breaking the glass but the whole plastic everything just broke.  So it sort of made me extra on edge, how just little things can completely wreck your car, your trip.  And I can just barely drive without checking that mirror.  Crazy Tulsa traffic and I need to be making quick decisions, U-turns, etc.  So… I’m thinking if the weather is crappy tomorrow, I’ve GOT to get this taken care of first thing.  I’ve got my goal set on a Chevy dealer in town that opens at 7 am.

Lots of fun grassy spots for the dogs today.  It was only in the 70s so we didn’t need rivers or lakes.  Even when Nik was running hard, there were still lots of puddles from all the rain we’ve been having.  I left the driver’s door open for a second today in a parking lot and Grem hopped out.  Instead of bolting like she would have a year ago, she just stood there like “oops, I probably shouldn’t be out here”.  And instead of panic-ing and yelling at her like I would have a year ago, I just calmly faked like I had a treat between my fingers and picked her up — and immediately gave her cheese galore in the van.  Whew!  I’m very careful where I let her run — anywhere near a road with her is VERY dangerous.

OK – a slew of photos.  Of course you’re only seeing the decent ones here and at Flickr tonight.  Lots of grey monotones.  I think it was especially rough emotionally because I was all happy in Bartlesville, only to be let down again.  Instead of A photos, I’m stuck with lots of B- and C- photos.

As promised, here’s a photo of the six sodas that I picked up back at POPS in Arcadia:

I noticed this one in Bartlesville — and a couple of others in Tulsa.  So I guess they must be everywhere.  They’re like a half-sized Arby’s hat.  So I guess they are still producing them since these were all at modern looking buildings.  This one in Bartlesville I saw last night as well and the animation / chasing bulbs was all working just like the bigger, old signs:

More from Bartlesville.  I don’t think I’ve shown any vitrolite storefronts on this trip yet — so here’s one.  Must’ve been a jeweler’s originally.  The color is like a light salmon — don’t know that this photo shows that very well:

Moving on to Nowata.  This place now operating as Burns Propane but they’ve left the sign alone:

These signs are at Cotton-Eye Joe’s Barbeque in Claremore.  I don’t know how vintage, or not, they are.  I’m thinking 1970s or newer:

And now in Tulsa for the remainder of this post.   The Greater Union Baptist Church.  Looks pretty 1960s or 1970s.  But a confusing plaque said something about 1986.

A couple of next-door-neighbor signs:

These might disappear when a new tenant is found.  Carpet City is gone:

I don’t know what to make of this one.  Had to have been some sort of restaurant, right?  I don’t recognize that steeple or roof at all.  Anybody?

For Stu-Jo back in San Antonio — this one’s for you — and for anyone else listening in carefully enough to wonder about these dormer window stations.  I don’t know what oil company built these:

I don’t know what supermarket used this sign originally.  There was a vacant Piggly Wiggly next to this sign.  It looks clean enough that hopefully the next business will reuse it instead of replacing it:

This one’s sure been tampered with a lot over the years.  Like a woman with too much plastic surgery.  Time to strip this one down and repaint & re-neon.  Do people still have VCRs these days?

I remember when (just a few years ago) this place was still a Tastee-Freez.  Now that it’s a used car lot, the ice cream piece just seems silly.

and the building painted black as if in mourning.  This is not the proper fate for an ice cream place:

This one needs an overhaul:

This was previously American Cleaners — at least they’ve kept the sign & brick glass.  Wish I had a better photo of what the sign looked like originally:

OK — enough depressing signs and me ranting about crappy weather.  Here’s the kids — obligatory photo-op with the Golden Driller.  They look so different from 2006:

Didn’t have Gremlin yet, Grippie had her svelte summer coat then (she still has her thick winter coat now), Fixie not so grumpy then & Nik always squinty & serious.  Now he’s just a complete nutjob.

So if the weather is crappy, maybe I won’t take ANY photos at all tomorrow.  I’ll just sit somewhere and pout and spare you even a posting.  No, I’ll check in regardless.  And try to be upbeat.  But it damn well better be pretty on Thursday!

Day 31: Waiting on the Sun in Northeast OK

Yes, another weather-challenged day here.  Aggravating rain all day until around 3pm.  I thought for a moment there that the clouds might part and I’d get some sun.  But that only lasted about five seconds.  So, I’m futzing around in the northern nether regions of Oklahoma since I think I’m slightly ahead of schedule.   I even did a few Kansas stops today that I had to skip last summer when I was running short on time.  I figure Tulsa will probably take me two days tops, and then the rest of OK northeast of Tulsa about two days.  I have five days before I really need to split and hit the interstate for home.  So I’m trying to be patient so I can do Tulsa right — with sun.  And leave you all with a bunch of pretty pictures that will make you want to book your next vacation in Oklahoma of all places.

Got the dogs some grassy fields today.  I’ve had wet socks and shoes most of the day to prove it.  I think I’m out of clean socks at this point.  No time for laundry.  Still have underwear and tshirts and that’s what matters, right?  Nik took off under a barbed wire fence for some chickens squawking in the distance — somehow, miraculously, he came back to me before there was some horrific scene and possible lawsuit.  Grem was luckily on leash at the time.  Otherwise, it would’ve been a disaster as they are some dynamic duo when given the opportunity to work together.  Fixie watches from the van most of the time because she doesn’t like getting wet.  And Grip is getting a big Mr. Magoo-ish — wandering off and either not hearing me calling her back or pretending not to.  So I always have to keep one eye on her and usually go pick her up and bring her back to our area.

Time for the show.  Let’s start with Blackwell, OK.  This sign would be more fun and not so dreary if… you know… there was SUN.  Yes, I’m getting kinda pissy about it:

From Anthony, KS — I don’t know if sun would help this one.  Some paint perhaps:

Also from Anthony, the remains of their drive-in:

Back in OK for the remainder of this blog post.  This sign from Ponca City.  The dealership gone — a vacuum store below now:

In Pawnee — the building is vacant now.  Shoot ’em while you can folks — this one will likely disappear soon:

Jim’s Place in Barnsdall — a cute cottage station surrounded by a big gas station sign collection & some other stuff.

This is one incredible sign:

And I don’t know how old the Indian at this place is — but I love his expression:

Let’s jump ahead to Bartlesville where the dogs and I are calling it quits tonight.  This place has been closed for years but the sign is still in place.  The top part used to revolve.  Now, moves partially in the wind:

Late in the day, and shadowed by the building — this sign is really a deep navy blue.  Another business gone but the sign miraculously in place.  Jay’s Automotive is now in the space:

How about some mid-century stuff in Bartlesville.  A cool little building.  I have no idea what it housed originally:

A little strip mall:

I’m fantasizing that the sun will return tomorrow morning and I’ll be able to reshoot all the Bartlesville stuff.  And then zip on into Tulsa… with some caution.  I forgot to mention that I got a ticket yesterday in Hennessey, OK.  A total speed trap as I saw someone else get busted not even a minute after the cop was done with me.  It really seemed so like most of the highway-ish roads — not in town yet — which are 60 or 65.  This was 45 and I never even saw the sign.  So he showed mercy and made my 65 speed into 55 on the ticket.  But it was still $169 — a buck cheaper than my Texas ticket.  So now I have one expensive souvenir from each state.  Magnets or beer cozies would be nice, but hey, in the end, I’d rather have more photos.

Day 30: Creeping along in Northern OK

Just the most ridiculous day to be trying to take photos.  Pouring rain, thunderstorms, all day.  Rain sort of stopped around 5pm but still very dark.  So, I did what I could.  At one point in Stroud, it was just so torrential, I pulled over for a two-hour nap.  Not like me, but it was that futile.  Luckily, most of my shooting was a) in remote areas and b) buildings rather than signs.  Signs really need light to make them pretty whereas buildings are more straight documentation.  Although blue & clouds always help!

The dogs were a bit nuttier today from not enough exercise.  I did what I could but I just didn’t feel like standing in the rain while the sniffed around.  I was getting wet enough from trying to take photos.  It really takes time all that wiping of the camera and maneuvering the van into just the right spot so I could shoot from inside when it was pouring.  But I wasn’t pushing for any world’s records today.  Just pouting and plodding through my list on auto-pilot.

A bit of Route 66 stuff today as well as small cities north of OKC.  This place in Arcadia, POPS, was built just after I was here last.  Quite a fun little place.  Warning turn your volume off for their website:

An ultra modern gas station (the prices were the highest I’ve seen).  Even the bathrooms were pretty fancy.   There’s a cafe, the usual gas station type convenience items with a HUGE inventory of sodas from all over the country. I stocked up on a six-pack of assorted sodas I’ve never seen before.  Maybe I’ll get a photo tomorrow of them if the weather’s better.  I’ll probably hang onto them until I get home.  POPS giant bottle has gotten a lot of press.  The bottle is lit (LED tubing) and animated at night:

And the building itself — with bottles visible in the windows.  It really is quite shocking to have something this modern in the middle of farmland:

As I was gas-ing up, I noticed this van parked nearby.  The name of “Sit Means Sit” immediately sounded like bad news to me.  I doubted that this was positive, reinforcement-based training:

I took a peek at their website — and sure enough the first thing I noticed at their website was this $210 dog collar.  Hoo boy.  What that means folks — and I don’t think it’s clear from the video that I watched about 3/4 of the way through before I got an error — is that the dogs are getting shocked.  You would sit, too, if you were getting shocked for not sitting.  What I think is happening in the video is the dog is being “taught” forced to pay attention to the owner OR ELSE he/she will get shocked.  By the “teacher” with a remote control to the collar.  Jesus!  Don’t get me started.  Not the topic for this blog, I know.  But really, there are no quick fixes for changing behaviors — dogs or humans.  Would you put one of these collars on your kids?  If you ever have a “problem” you want to deal with, please take your dog to someplace that uses clickers and cheese — not torture devices.  For humane, relationship-building approaches to dog training, may I recommend watching “It’s Me or the Dog” (Victoria Stillwell) and NOT “The Dog Whisperer” (Cesar Milan).

Now, where was I.  Oh yeah, buildings, signs & statues.  While in Arcadia, I took a peek at this house that was built to look like a Phillips 66 station:

Speaking of Phillips 66 stations, I stopped to check on the one in Chandler.  This one’s looking a bit shabbier than the last time I saw it.  I see they’ve recently switched the sign pole.  Why?  I like the one lying on the ground much better (foreground second photo).

Had to shoot this one in Cushing:

Another abandoned Fotomat but not as shabby as the one in Oklahoma City.  This one is in Guthrie:

In Stillwater, I was trying to find a building and asking the locals about it in a Walgreens.  I never did find that building but I did run into the Easter Bunny!  Purchasing a chocolate bunny.  Very bizarre.

Plans for tomorrow for more Northern OK stuff.  If the weather continues to suck, I’ll skip Tulsa for a day or two and shoot the stuff east of there.  It looks like better weather later in the week.  Let’s hope!

Day 29: OKC Wrap-up (the photos)

Since it’s absolutely pouring — thundering & lightening — I’ll consider it a blessing and catch up with my posts.  So, instead of complaining about the weather, let me whine for a minute about some brainless sign installations.

First candidate:  the Faucet Parts Center.  There is just no way to get a clear shot of this one.  I assume this was earlier on a pole by the road.  Maybe road widening.  And then moved here between these posts.  Dammit!  I’m big on faucet signs — for more see this page:

Next up.  When Beverly’s moved, they were kind enough to bring along this incredible Chicken in the Rough sign (still animated) — but did they have to shove it in the window like this?  I understand they probably weren’t allowed to display it outside (cities are funny like that — any plastic LED crap you want — but not neon fer godsakes).  But couldn’t they have made it a solid sheet of glass — or put the damn sign somewhere else inside where you can actually photograph it & see it clearly?  And if you want to experience the heartbreak of what the whole sign used to look like in its old location:

OK, now that I’ve vented.  Here’s one of the most memorable stops of the day.  I noticed this hawk (don’t know what kind) on top of a gas station canopy.  He/she let me get fairly close.  I wondered if maybe it was a female with chicks up there:

But after a couple of minutes, I realized he/she had some poor animal up there.  Maybe a pigeon?

A fancy shape — but a cheap, disrespectful reuse.  Not to say that maybe one day, if left in place, it might be done up better.  Does anyone have a vintage-ish photo of what this sign once looked like?

OKC seems to have had a love affair with rocks for a while.  Seemed to be all the rage to use them as building material — or as fill-in altering material.  Here are a couple pretty skanky fill-in examples:

And this poor, magnificent Borden’s Dairy building that I shot the day before the rest of the photos in this post (ah, remember the sun?).  Imagine how beautiful it was with windows instead:

A forlorn, former Fotomat (film developing drive-thru store for those of you too young to remember).  The windows are broken.  I don’t think anything good or bad will happen with this one any time soon.  Not exactly an area being overrun with new development.

A car wash cutie:

This must have been another cute one.   Does anybody know or have a photo of what this sign looked like before the cheap alteration?

A couple other former beauties:

An incredible Streamline Moderne building with that sign above which I’m not including here (you’ll have to check in the website later for that photo & thousands of others).

While this sign is not in use, it’s in perfect condition and has at least been painted an optimistic yellow.  It’s really a work of art just like this!

A nice mix of eras here:

A couple of photos from cities west of OKC.  This modern sign is in Mustang:

And this impressive grain elevator with great bulb signs front and back — in Yukon.  I’m glad they haven’t slapped on the bit about Yukon being the hometown of Garth Brooks — which is mentioned everywhere else in town:

And since today is Easter…. sadly, this was the best I could come up with — a Quik Print rabbit sign in Oklahoma City:

And one more modern sign — from the Stockyards in OKC.  You needed another cowboy sign, right?

With that, I’ll all caught up!  OK pardners — I’m about to saddle up here in Edmond and head north.   Get ‘er done.  Whatever I can come up with in this miserable weather.  Rain is still coming down still but skies a bit brighter & lightening has stopped  Time to stall a bit — with a fried pie for breakfast.   A lemon one just waiting in the pantry (dog crate).

Day 29: OKC Wrap-Up

What a difference a day makes.  From glorious sunshine to miserable grey skies all day.  I think I made more stops today than any day so far on the trip and so will be reshooting nearly all of it at some later date.  Kills me.   I got the Flickr photos up from today but I’m just too fried to write the blog right now.  Maybe after I get a few hours sleep.  In the meantime, I’ll give you just a couple teasers.

I wanted to give you some kind of Easter image, since tomorrow is Easter, but have found just nothing in the past few days.  Best I can offer is a Quik Print rabbit:

And then, yes, another cowboy.  This one is a modern sign at the Stockyards in Oklahoma City — urging you to come back tomorrow for the rest of today’s installment:

I’m all done with OKC and will be moving on to cities north and east.  Probably land in Tulsa in a couple days.  A week from now, I should be torturing myself on the interstate heading home.

Day 28: OKC & Elsewhere (the photos)

OK — lots of work ahead of me and I’m feeling completely wiped out.  So let’s just dive right into the pictures from yesterday and then if I have enough steam, another post with today’s photos much later tonight.

First off — the reason I’m so backed up from taking the night off from posting.  The get-together with Lynne’s Lens:

I’ve admired her photos of mid-century buildings, signs, etc. from afar for years now.  She’s also been kind enough to supply me with some photos for articles I’ve written.  So, we got together for Mexican at the Iguana Mexican Grill in downtown OKC:

That’s Lynne on the left and a couple of her pals on the right (her hubby was taking the photo).  Me, second from left, modeling a dinosaur t-shirt that I scored in Glen Rose, TX on this trip:

and for those of you that must see the meal I consumed.  A super burrito & margarita.  Yummy.  A real big-deal celebration for me.  And great to meet people who share my passion for buildings & such.

Let’s go even further back in time to yesterday morning in Shawnee.  From S&S Auto:

This Thrif-T-Wise Pharmacy is in Ada:

Another car-on-a-stick from Lexington at Top Line Auto & Marine:

And between Top Line & the Sunshine Tabernacle in Lexington: this VW Spider which has been around since at least 2003.  It was produced by Wilson’s Volkswagen:

In Norman — this pretty little Art Deco number.  Does anyone know its original use?

Moving on to OKC for the duration of this post.  I’m guessing those text panels were originally neon, maybe even another name.

An Art Deco Buick dealership repurposed as lofts:

A star accent on the George’s Liquor sign:

This one absolutely broke my heart.  Here’s what this sign looked like when I shot it in 2006:

And today:

One last sign for this post and then I’ll start whipping up some photos from today.  Just a couple of doors down from the Sheet Metal sign — a mysterious milk bottle & glass sign.  I don’t think there’s a business affiliated with this sign anymore — so go see & shoot it now while it’s still around:

Day 28: Gorgeousness in OKC & Elsewhere

Sun all day — the forecasters were completely wrong and I couldn’t have been more thrilled about it.  Like finding a $100 bill on the ground.  I finished up the areas to the south and east of OKC and got about halfway through the OKC stuff as well.

The windshield wiper thing was an easy fix  — though I haven’t had any opportunity to really give it a good test since it was sunny today.  The Chevy dealer didn’t carry wiper blades and sent me down the road to an O’Reilly car parts store.  The guy there replaced a clip — FREE OF CHARGE — and I was on my way.

I’m going to make you wait for the blog & Flickr photos until tomorrow night since tonight was my big Night Off.  The first one of the trip — and possibly the only one.  Mexican food and a much-deserved margarita.  Met up with a Flickr pal that I’ve never actually met in person before.  More about all that tomorrow night.