Day 5: Just Another Perfect Day in Ohio

It didn’t start out very promising.  Pouring rain and dark as night at 8am.  I debated about whether to stay or go.  Whether to head for Indiana.  So I just did a little organizing and threw the ball for Nik 1000 more times — and then, the darkest part seemed to be over.  So I stuck it out and it was gloriously sunny all day.  Funny, things ended the same way they started — big bad clouds rolled in right about 8pm.  The forecast was for thunderstorms all day — so I’ve just about given up on those so-called meteorologists.  

Tomorrow is a reality check.  I’m allowing myself a few more hours in Ohio — but the cut-off is noon.  Period.  Then I must hit the interstate and get us to Illinois or so.  Since there probably won’t be many photos, I might just interstate all night and do a double batch the following night.  And if it’s sucky weather when I get up, I might not even stick around Ohio.  All unknown.   But tonight — I’ve got gobs of photos for you.

We started out in Mansfield – things were still looking bleak.  I see other photos at Flickr of this sign — but none at night.  Bummer.  The neon sure looks intact:



Still in Mansfield:



On to Columbus where we were 99% of the day.  Behold the Mighty Spine!  Yes, at the Columbus Chiropractic Center.  A shout out and round of applause to the King of Ohio, aka scottamus at Flickr, who helps alert me to such things.  Yes, a spine carved from a tree.  And if that wasn’t enough — apparently that little light flashes at night to show where the pain is:



And, if that wasn’t enough — spine shaped parking lines in the lot:



Just magnificent in every way:



On to one of my traditional Columbus stops:  the Krema Nut Co.:



Part of the store inside:



windows where you can watch the candies & that being made:



This caught my eye — unfortunately, the Nut Mobile was disassembled maybe five years ago.  They sold the station wagon to a guy that really wanted to restore it.  My fave part is the cashew hood ornament:



And my loot.  Some peanut butter to take home & some nuts for the road (more exciting food shots another day, I promise):



The former Winder’s Chevrolet dealership building — now the Hubbard Grille.  The trees don’t make it easy to shoot — and yes, that’s Sparkle’s butt there on the left:



The sign is obviously new — but it may have been built in the style of the Winder sign — or at least in a 1920s style:



Loads of fun signs in town:




Out of Columbus for a bit — this is from Pataskala.   I remember one of my early roadtrips through here around 2001 when the Shamrock Motel was abandoned & seemed doomed:


Now fast forward to today.  The sign is fixed up (okay no neon but still), the motel rooms renovated…



… and the big former restaurant (now gift shop & pizzeria?) looks fantastic.  A LOT of work and money had to go into this place.  I assume there was a gas station once upon a time here as well (the place was built in the 1930s):



Ever get that feeling you are being watched?  Once in awhile, Nik peeks up from his remote location — the absolute back of the van.  I don’t know how much longer I’ll see this expression.  He’s blind in the right eye and the left eye is getting worse by the day.  I’ve been to the eye doc multiple times & it seems surgery is way too risky.  So by this time next year, he very well might be completely blind — which really sucks because he’s only about 8 and he’s so, SO, active.   His left ear, by the way, was ripped up in some kind of thorny bush while retrieving a ball.  He was stuck and just pulled to free himself.  (and yes, more doggie photos later in the trip)



Back in Columbus:



I’m assuming the name came first (someone’s name?) and the other hands came later:



My apartment’s small but I think I could make room for one of these chairs:



Firstly, I love how they painted those protective pipes the same color as the sign itself.   This sign may look familiar to you if you’already been over at Flickr & seen the Pierce Cleaners sign:


There’s also the People’s Cleaners sign in Kewanee, IL with a similar sign:

I don’t know if this was something sign shops could just buy pre-assembled or what the deal was.  I think I have seen a couple other signs like this but my brain is fried right now.

On to Springfield.  Oh, how I wish the owner of Reco Sporting Goods would reinstall the logs and the man — or even just hang the “RECO” part properly: 
Last time I spoke with him he said the rest was in the “garage”. 



Last stop:  New Carlisle.  I posted this same sign over at Flickr tonight — but some of you might like this full-night shot better.  I think I like the other one better since it shows the shape of the sign and the piano keys:



Alright then — I’ll report in tomorrow night, photos or not, from someplace hopefully other than wonderful Ohio.


Day 4: Now We’re Talking!

Sun all day long — just a wee bit of haziness at the end of the day.  Weather delightfully cool.  I’ve got nothing to complain about.  Finally wrapped up PA & made a good dent in the Ohio list.  This will be a whirlwind tour of Ohio — some Columbus tomorrow and bearing south and west.  Indiana & Illinois will be very brief.  Missouri even briefer.  I’m a day behind schedule already.

I’m late in getting settled tonight & have tons of photos.  A nice big batch to Flickr tonight — so don’t forget about that parallel universe as well:

Let’s start with this sign in Delmont, PA that I’ve been shooting and admiring for years.  I assume the sign was once much nicer.  But I’m just glad they kept the ballies on top:



From Butler, PA.  These Humpty Dumpty statues usually appear at mini golf courses.  But here he is on top of the roof of the Country Kitchen:



A super nice Art Deco building in Youngstown, OH:




From Akron, OH — a giant pizza at Luigi’s Restaurant.  I think it’s about five or six feet in diameter:



This sign in Canton, OH had neon and secondary signs originally — but at least they kept it.  Here’s what it used to look like:



Also from Canton — a pretty cheery repurposed Fotomat booth:



Sadly unexpected — this former Tastee-Freez was still swinging as the Whipple Dari Drive-in when I shot it in 2007:

Now the sign’s painted over and looking pretty grim.  Just as I was climbing back into the van after taking this shot — some guy came running — I mean RUNNING and yelling — so I just played deaf — and then I had to play blind as he nearly through himself in front of the van as I drove off.  Sheesh!  I guess it was the owner — either wanting to sell me the place — or wanting to scream at me for taking a photo.  Crazy.



Whenever I’m in Canton, I stop to check on Willie the Whale.  It’s a good distance from the road but I feel compelled to see what’s happened next.  Not good.  Willie was built in the late 1950s and is all that’s left of Mother Gooseland.  Why can’t the city move him someplace where he will get the respect he deserves?  Right now, it’s a standoff between vandals, homeless people and the City.  The City bricked up the mouth to keep people from sleeping inside — and the homeless people just tore down the cinderblocks.



From Massillon, OH — the perfect combination:  bowling and booze:



And let’s wind up with sundown in Dalton, OH.  I’ll even let some people come into my photos for a change:




I hope you’re enjoying the ride so far.  Many, many more days and nights to come.   Just to spare you the disappointment, I might be taking a night off from blogging & Flickring soon.  But I’ll make up for it with a double batch the night after.  I will probably have to do a mad scurry westward at some point to get on schedule — like a 10 hour drive after shooting all day.   If / when I do, I won’t have the steam left to be cropping & writing & all that.  This could be tomorrow night — but more likely the night after that.

Day 3: Trey and Grey

By “trey”, I mean three — as in tri-state (WV, PA and OH — although we were only in the latter for a tiny bit) — and also day three.  And, grey, well — another tediously, solidly cloudy day.  When it wasn’t raining, then it was just a darker grey.  I’m bummed.  But it’s raining in Albuquerque right now as well — so maybe it’s good I’m still here.   But I’m giving impatient thought to just flooring it tomorrow, driving west til the sun comes out, somewhere.   Although the forecast looks good for right here tomorrow.

No embarrassing mishaps to report.  Mom is getting a bit testy with all the barking.  Nik has gotten a little spoiled early in this trip and expects that he’s getting out every stop where there’s grass visible.  He ate a lot of goose poop today which gave me even more to yell about.   Grip starts barking around 4pm now demanding dinner (which should be more like 6pm).  I think with her loss of sight, she’s lost her sense of time.  Grem barks just about all day.  And Fix is the good girl — who only barks when the other ones do (“they started it!”).

So let’s begin with some intentional monochrome — a black and white building — to get you in the mood for today’s photos.  An Art Deco building in the Elm Grove section of Wheeling, WV.   Looks like a former bank to me.  There appear to be holes below the Board of Ed letters where a previous sign would have been:


I shot lots of round mid-century buildings today — I’ll spare you.  But here’s one in Wheeling.  Pink panels, blue panels, green panels… I love them all:


More Wheeling.  Now, had this been a sunny day, this magnificent sign would be appearing over at my agilitynut Flickr account tonight.  But, alas,  it’s sadly condemned to the rusty, crusty, dreary selections of my blog:


Now, I never complain (ha!) but this one really pisses me off.  Bad enough that they’ve covered the original Kresge facade — but this cheapo lithograph covering is a joke.  Completely blurry — like they planned the resolution for something one-fourth of the size — and then just blew it up all the way like “good enough, no one will notice, looks better than it did”.  Gawd.   It looks so much worse in person.  I guess they thought they were hiding an eyesore — but THIS is the real eyesore now.

And what’s been covered up:


OK, so covering things up is nothing new.  Here’s a sixties/seventies example.  And maybe it’s just now that this has that kitschy fun look to us now that it’s treasured (at least by folks like me).  But still.  Really.  If printed computer graphics are the way of the future and all craftsmanship is dead, do we have more downtowns soon to looks like super-trashed Disney Main Streets — all vinyl tarped crap?


On a less serious note.  Still Wheeling until I say otherwise.  These guys (puppets? masks?) stare down from the second floor.  Half cute / half creepy:


Shall we vote if this is a beauty or an eyesore?  I personally love it — all this and that.  1970s?  I particularly love the beam with the hanging lamp.


On to Weirton, WV.  This 1947 All Saints Orthodox Church has been gussied up with stainless.  I assume post-1947.  Almost diner-y, no?


Pittsburgh, finally.  Gotta be a modern sign — but wonderful nevertheless.  At Niki’s Pizza.  Which reminds me, the topic of my next SCA article is pizza chef signs.  That issue should be out any day now.  Shameless plug for the organization and publications.  If you’re into this roadside stuff — you wanta / gotta join.


This sign at Lucky’s Tavern has not been so lucky.  I don’t know what bar it originally advertised for — but good god, some lousy patch work here.  And I guess left unattended, those holes fill with water and the bottom gets rusty and eaten out like this.  Might make a good advertisement for all those vintage sign owners out there to keep their signs in good shape.  Like those anti-smoking ads — don’t let this happen to your sign!


Here’s a heartbreaker.  Abandoned since forever.  The New Granada Theatre.  More about the place here:


Another modern sign — but pretty cute.  The torch flashes on and off.  Unfortunately, the face wasn’t lit on either side:


On to Clairton for another flame sign.  I do have a thing for them — another SCA theme article coming up most likely (are you reading this Doug?).  The torch was out on both sides here.  I don’t get the message:

And this cute guy is over the door:


Alright then — an early night here (11 pm).  I’ll catch up on the sleep I missed last night.  And then make some big decision in the morning at sunrise — stay & shoot — or scoot off to the Midwest someplace.

Day 2: Winding up West Virginia

Hopefully, after today’s photos here and over at Flickr, you’ll understand my compulsion to finish up my West Virginia list before eventually heading westward.  Maybe it’ll moved up on your list of states to explore.  Make sure you have good brakes and tires though — they don’t call it the Mountain State for nothing.

So, I’m almost done with WV.  Ran out of daylight in Wheeling where I’ve parked hard-working little Sparkle for the night.  Just some Northern Panhandle (that skinny piece on top) to go — and then over to Pittsburgh area for a bit and then onward to Ohio.  Finally.  The big exciting-est news (you might have noticed at Flickr) — SUN today.  All day.

And one humbling 15 minute episode.  I spotted an unexpected nice canopy gas station to shoot in Harrisville.  Pulled over on the shoulder — thought I’d be fine with two wheels on pavement and two in the grass.  But, uh-uh.  Although Sparkle’s all-wheel drive, I could tell right away we were in trouble.  I gently tried reverse and forward a bit.  No dice.  It was like quicksand.  After a few minutes, Sparkle’s left rear tire was off the ground.  I wanted to get a photo for you — but I was too chicken to get back in the van to get the camera.  So then the race was on by every macho guy in town to get me out.  A trooper directed traffic while a good-old-boy in a monster truck pulled me back out just the way I went in.  Done.  So strange.  I was only maybe a foot in the grass from the pavement but that was enough.

OK then — lots of photos — and I got a late start tonight.  Already 12:30am so let’s get to it.

Starting with Morgantown.  This appears to be a former gas station dressed up castle style:


From Fairmont.  Still open.  From the company’s website, it sounds & looks like this sign is from 1936:

This two-fer — also in Fairmont:


A dome home in Quiet Dell (gotta love  name):


From Grafton — sun makes all the difference don’t it?


From Clarksburg.  A not so special mid-century bank.  Although the marble at the lower level is nice….


BUT…  the most exquisite vinyl (?) tiles above:


Also Clarksburg:


More Clarksburg.  Your vitrolite facade du jour — this time with the sign built into the glass:  Note the detail at the tops of the windows also:


Yes, more Clarksburg.  Theatre-like sign originally read “Palace Furniture”.  The store is long-gone now.  Surely there was neon or bulbs.  Note the double ladders that were used for maintenance:


Still Clarksburg.  Need I say that this drive-in is closed?  I love the extra long arrow, with the crunch:


OK, last two from Clarksburg — a nice bit of terra cotta at the downtown post office:


The Dairy Queen in Shinnston.  What made me hit the brakes was the DQ “lips” weathervane.    I’ve only seen a couple of others like this:

But what seemed especially novel to me was this backside.  A second level balcony?  Can one rent out the top floor of DQs?  Is this just a private lounge for employees?  Was it — or is it still — open to customers?  So many questions — but so little time.  I was racing the sun to get to Parkersburg so I couldn’t stop & ask what the deal was.


Final photo for the night — from Ohio (I was spilling over to Ohio for a bit en route to Wheeling).  This is in Sardis.  Nearly dark but I still had to shoot this one.  Obviously from the island, it was a gas station at some point.  Sadly, vacant now.  I like how it nearly conceals the attached house behind.


1:20 am.  That’s a wrap.

The dogs, yes, must get some shots of them soon.  In the meantime, for those of you starving to see them, you do know they have a section over there at my site?

Food.  I’ve been eating really boring & healthy lately.  But I will break down soon and get some ice cream — and yes, some pie, somewhere.  Not to worry.

Here We Go!

I hope you all brought a lot of snacks and comfortable clothes.  This is gonna be one long roadtrip.  I think 39 days straight is a record for me.  Although the focus of this trip will be on New Mexico and Arizona, it’s gonna be awhile before we get there.  I have a lot of stops in other states on the way.  Starting with this first mission which is to finish up the West Virginia stuff that I didn’t get to last month.

So, today was lots of PA & a bit of WV & MD.  Hopefully, tomorrow I can bang through the remainder of the WV stuff and some Pittsburgh area stuff.  Today was frustrating weatherwise.  Although, the rain didn’t start until 6:30 (which cut the shooting off an hour early), it was 99.9% grey from start to finish.  Grey variations — from annoying to horrible.  But if forecasters are right — there’ll be sun tomorrow.

Before moving on to the photos, I should give the yadda-yadda to the newcomers.  Yes, it’s just me on these trips — with my rambunctious pack of four little dogs.  I only post here at the blog & Flickr as “agilitynut” when I’m on the road (different photos both places).  So you are getting as near to virtual as I can make it.   And the writing is done late, late at night when I’m exhausted — so you have to pardon some bad grammar and babbling.  Fixing when I get home would be cheating!  The idea of this blog is a documentation of what goes into the gathering of photos (trials & tribulations, joys & disappointments) for my website (  What goes to Flickr & this blog is just a smidgen of what you’ll find there — all organized, researched, etc.

The photos here at the blog are all clickable (you click on them and you get a larger size).  These blog photos also appear at Flickr under the roadsidenut account — for folks that don’t like to read (ha!) or for searching by key words, sets by state and all that.

OK then — that’s out of the way.  Enough chatter!  On to today’s offerings.

Let’s start in Harrisburg, PA.  This one’s been a “reshoot in sun” on my list for a long time.  Maybe sun next time.  This one spins & says M&Z on the other side.

The Subway Cafe opened in 1948 and this sign appears to be from then.  I don’t think there is or was ever a subway in Harrisburg so I can’t explain the origin of the name.  Their website shows sequentially lit lettering but I don’t know if that’s really still the case.  There is one night photo at Flickr from 2010 which shows the sign fully lit.


Here’s another brown porcelain enamel sign — and also from 1948.  Hmm, same sign company?  Same owner?  This one is at the Pep Grill.  There’s an article about the place being put up for auction last summer — but the bar was definitely open today:


This one’s been on my to-see list for a while.  Tinyworld  in Shippensburg, PA.   Very sweet, adorable, small-scale, handmade buildings.  Maybe a couple dozen.  Here’s more about the place:

While the article mentions the cats — it doesn’t mention the peacocks strolling about — which make my dogs bonkers.  On a scale of 1 to 10 — they’re an 11.   Screaming, jumping, pandemonium in the van.   And very careful exit / entry by me.  If Nik or Grem got out, there would be peacock bloodshed I’m sure of it.   What is it?  Do they think birds should not BE that big?

That’s a little Texaco station on the right:

No sign of a train at this mini depot but there must’ve been one at one time:


Moving on to Chambersburg, PA.  A sweet (okay, I overuse the word) painted wood sign.  Maybe six feet tall:


Sun for this one in Fannettsburg, PA.   No sign of the motel that I could see:


I’m always hoping for a miracle with this place in Chambersburg, PA.   The Snak Shak drive-in from 1951, long closed.   I fantasize that there will be car hops hopping and obnoxious 1950s music blaring when I come round the bend.  But no.  It just looks grimmer and grimmer.   Paging Lincoln Highway Association before it’s too late.  Right now, a used car dealer seems to be operating on the lot.


Some good news.  The Muffler Man at the Scottyland Campground in Rockwood, PA has gotten some TLC and paint since I shot him eight years ago:

He’s also got a very deep tan now:


From Cumberland, MD.  That red vitrolite on top might indicate that this was a Newberry’s or Kresge or some other five and dime.  There’s actually a lot of vitrolite downtown here.   I really liked the curved corner entrance on this one:


Last one for the night.  Also Cumberland.  I’m a sucker for those metal awnings.


So, there you have it for Day #1.  Don’t forget to check out the other photos over at Flickr if you haven’t already:

Normal order of things if you’re interested:
8 pm-ish: answer emails & comments; crop & tweak a couple dozen photos
11 pm-ish:  upload to Flickr; more emails & comments
1 am-ish:  publish blog post (as it gets late in the trip and I get more exhausted, I finish & publish blog post in the morning)

Photos of dogs & pie later in the trip.  Any other special requests?