Day 10: The Battle Between Good & Evil in Colorado

Today was all about remote eastern stops in Colorado.  A very low volume day.  And then the rain clouds moved in upon us in the afternoon.  All day long I could see the black clouds hovering over Denver.  Big green patch on my iPhone indicating thunderstorms in and around Denver.  So, no rush to get there!  To the west, beautiful white clouds — the benevolent, non-interfering with the sun type.  To the east — horrors — sci-fi movie scary.  The dark clouds chased us all day and ultimately triumphed.  Hopefully, it will be better tomorrow.  Tonight, those clouds have either exhausted themselves or moved on.  I know the crops and livestock here all need the rain so I won’t whine too much.

So, a very quick sampler for you tonight.

From Sterling where the day began.  Shooting into the sun so the background is wiped out.  I’m assuming mid-century but not positive:


From Brush, CO — the Kozy Kort Motel.  I don’t know what the purpose of that top mesh covering was.  But evidently, it’s been there a long time.  This undated eBay postcard shows the sign when it was green and still had the TV panel:$(KGrHqF,!ksE7!N-quvbBO8VWQcVY!~~60_57.JPG


From Fort Morgan.  Apparently, one pole sign was not enough.  The other one there to the right has a more modern AAA-approved sign.  I can’t imagine that the second sign was built for that.  Must’ve been some other “announcement”?  Like “pool” or “color TV” or something?


And then.  Here they come.  In Simla, while shooting the mid-century elementary school.  Sinister, no?  (the clouds — not the buildings!)


So.  We are parked for the night here in Brighton — with big plans for the Denver area for the next two or three days.  The forecast for tomorrow looks good — fingers & toes crossed.


Day 9: Buh-Bye for Now, Nebraska

We had a swell time in Nebraska these past couple of days.  Today, we left with a whimper though.  All grey pretty much all day.  And then late afternoon, Colorado gave us a wet welcome.  Turned into torrents so I had to call off shooting around 6pm.  But it’ll be good to get a couple more hours of sleep tonight.  I’m nearly two days ahead of schedule — so I’ll be taking my time.  If it rains, we stop and wait.  And I’m not going through the massive amounts of Denver area stuff unless we’ve got sun.  We should be in Colorado for at least a week.

The dreary day began in North Platte.  I even waited out holes in the clouds for nearly two hours.  Playing in the river with the dogs.  But the sun just never happened.    You can see the dilemma in the background in this shot.  The Hub sign appears to be reworked or refurbished.  The sign company signature lower right is modern.



Still in North Platte.  The “Scout” panel appears to be backlit plastic.  Looks like it always was:



From Paxton.  It’s hard to tell if this has always been the Ole’s Big Game Bar.  That lightning bulb makes me suspicious that this was originally an electric company or some such sign originally.



From Ogallala.  This one has a lot going on!  The letters must have been neon originally.  The background has a very cool 3-D ribbon-like design:



I had never been to Alliance before — so I felt compelled to go check out Carhenge while there.  I dunno.  Didn’t do it for me — but I know a lot of people adore it:




This work of art in a front yard in Alliance appealed to me more:



In Angora.  I don’t know what this building was — cafe, part of a motel? — but it was both pretty and sad there all alone.



In Minatare — apparently, long closed:



Let’s pause to give thanks to Sparkle.  More than 4,000 miles so far on this trip — and nearly four weeks to go.  More than 322,000 miles on her and I don’t give it a second thought.

This is at Lake Minatare.  I just beaches where you can drive on the sand.  Yes, the kids got to run and swim.  You can just barely make them out waiting in the van in this photo:



A bunch of stuff from Scottsbluff.  I’d never been before so that’s always super fun for me:



I had to patronize Scotty’s (see Flickr photos tonight).  Went with the grilled cheese and onion rings.  The small portions suited me just fine.  I think this was about $3.  The white bread was super crunchy and buttery at the same time (how’d they do that?).  And the onion rings were crunchy tasty.  Onions are supposedly toxic to dogs — but I always give them a bite of everything I eat.  They say dogs have less taste discrimination than we do (made up for with their better hearing and sense of smell).  But I don’t believe it.  You should see their faces light up when they get fried anything.



A couple more signs from Scottsbluff:



From Bridgeport.  A supermarket chain — but I’ve never seen their adorable signs in person before:



From Sidney — not much left here — but still beautiful.  Looks like it said “Bowl for Health” on top:



Also Sidney.  I had read that the Wilson & Tobin drug store would be taking their signs with them to their new location at installing them there.  I’m not real pleased with the results.  Here’s the old location:




And one more — to prove we made it to Colorado — and  just before the major downpour.  From Julesburg.  This sign has me scratching my head.  I stared at it quite awhile.  Surely, it must be repurposed.  But the letters appear to have been cutout & possibly backlit.  I don’t know — too tired to agonize over it right now.



Alright — pull out all the stops for us with your travel and weather gods.  Enough grey & rain.  I’m eager to get serious tomorrow.


Day 8: Nuts About Nebraska

Ever have one of those days where everything goes right?  Me neither!  But it was pretty damned close today.  99% sun, AC to keep us meat locker cool despite upper 90s outside, lots of planned and unplanned subjects to shoot, happy & healthy dogs…

I’ve been to Nebraska several times before — and done a fairly thorough job, so I thought.  But I’m always adding more stuff to my list from my research and it all added up to quite a lot of stops yesterday and today.  Tomorrow, I should be able to wrap up and get to Colorado.  About a day and a half ahead of schedule!  Which always makes me nervous that something will go wrong.  But let’s not jinx my good fortune.

It’s nearly 1am — and I have tons of photos for you.  The day started in Lincoln.  Here’s a nice mid-century building that I hadn’t noticed before.  Love the little fins and the asymmetrical use of glass:



A “classic” rooster in Lincoln.  If you can’t get enough of them either — I have dozens more at my website:



A couple of signs from Lincoln — the metal on this one appears to be brand new — probably a replica of an older sign:



And an oldie — though maybe the plastic part was a later substitution.  And even the text doesn’t quite fill the space right and the panel shows signs of patching.  So probably a different name originally.



Moving on to York.  I’m thinking neon originally — and then a very nice refurbishing job after removing it.  This one’s monster big so I give the owner credit for fixing instead of replacing with a junky plastic sign:



Don’t you love happy endings?  I’ve stopped by the Shady Bend in Grand Island for years.  The long-vacant building was surrounded with weeds.  I peered in the dirty windows to imagine what must have been.  It just seemed doomed to crumble eventually.  Then, I read that someone actually bought and fixed up the place.  Now, the weeds are gone and it’s a very nice little restaurant.  More info here:


The entrance area features original cabinets — the restaurant is to the right:



More from Grand Island:



And another success story.  The Grand Theatre in Grand Island is being restored:

I had read that Tim Dunn, the master of vitrolite, was going to be restoring the facade.  So… when I pulled up and saw the two cranes, I suspected one of the guys must be him.



Sure enough — I was flattered that Tim came down to meet me when I hollered up at him.  Some of you may recall my blog coverage a couple of months ago of the restored Quarrier Diner in Charleston, WV.  Yep, Tim worked on that:

and the Ritz Theatre in Talladega, AL:

and countless other theatres, storefronts, and interiors.  Here’s his website with links to info & photos of some of his other projects:




And here’s a shot of the new replica sign with the cranes down for the matinee:



It seems about half of the Sinclair stations in Nebraska have the dinosaurs on their roofs.  The stations seem so modern that I suspect these statues are still being produced:





One more from Grand Island — the Antlers Motel:



From Hastings:



From Minden — Harold Warp’s Pioneer Village.  I finally stopped & went INTO this place rather than just shooting the sign/building and scurrying on.   There was an old carousel there that I needed to shoot for the website.  The building might look car showroom-y — but it was actually built for the museum.



There are collections of all sorts — entire buildings moved here, guns, victrolas, printing presses, you name it:

Definitely worth the $13 or so.   Lots of old cars — dating all the way back from classic 1950s/1960s to Model Ts or As. But the one that stopped me dead in my tracks was this Amphicar.  I’ve never seen one in real life before — it seemed so small and adorable.  They were built to be driven on land and water.  Here’s more about them:


Note the propellers in back:



And I never knew there was a Valentine diner here.  It was originally installed in Kearney, NE in 1947.  It was moved here in 1953:



One more from Pioneer Village:  this truly neat sign:



Lest you forget about my roadtripping buddies — time for a swim in the Platte River in Kearney.  Gremmie motors towards a floating biscuit chunk:



Fixie tells me how she feels:



Grippie with lots of spring in her step — 15 and blind and doesn’t give a damn:



Meanwhile, Nik’s out there, nearly blind himself, totally missing the toy that is inches from his head.  Luckily, he knows right/left, come/back so I can direct him to the target:



The new vision challenge has not diminished his obsession with retrieving one bit:



On to Gothenburg — I guess this qualifies as a scaffold sign even though it’s not on a rooftop:



From McCook — I practically stood on Sparkle’s roof for this one — and still couldn’t get the entire bottle in the shot:



And finally, a photo-op from Gothenburg.    Note the “Headin’ West” which is appropriate for this trip — and the days yet to come (nearly four more weeks to go folks!):








That’s a wrap.  Hope you enjoyed this deluxe post.  I can’t promise this many photos every night.   I know I have to shoot some gooey desserts or some kind of food for you.  Any other special requests?


Day 7: Prairie Perfection

Yes — quite a busy and beautiful day.  Gorgeous skies all day long.  Pretty white clouds that never blocked the sun long enough to mess with my lighting.  Temps in the mid-80s — which feels like nothing when you’re used to 100.  Only put the A/C on a tiny bit in the afternoon.  Sparkle is running like a champ.  Got all my Iowa stuff done & got through the Omaha list.  Back on schedule despite the whole A/C fiasco back in Illinois.  Planning on arriving in Colorado on Monday — or sooner.

Grip and Fixie both have a little diarrhea — maybe from the heat yesterday or from some funky water source they were wading/eating in.  I’ll try to be more careful with my swimming choices.  A couple of “accidents” in the van while I was interstate driving.  Glad I had my giant spray bottles of Fantastic & Febreze on hand.  But I think I might need something stronger for these situations.

On to the Iowa stuff.  From Des Moines.  This is actually a much longer sign — but this is the only part of the sign that could be shot on the sunny side this morning:



More Des Moines — the French Way Cleaners building:



And this sign in Des Moines — how could I have never seen or heard of this Plaza Lanes sign before?  It’s absolutely incredible.  Unfortunately, impossible to shoot in the morning.  Here’s the non-sunny side from today.  Yes, rather like the Sheridan Lanes sign in Tulsa — but far bigger and spans much of the roof.  I don’t know if it’s still lit and has animated rolling bowling balls & crashing pins.  Really a gigantic work of art.



From the sunny side —  a couple of detail shots from far, far away.  The clarity is decent considering that (thanks, Dee!):



Three signs from Boone, IA:



This one features a leaky faucet — don’t know if the neon still works.  If you like plumbing & faucet signs, I have this little page:



From Harlan, IA:



Detail of the sign:



A few shots from Woodbine, IA.  This drug store still in business — since 1916:



Last time I was here it was POURING rain, for HOURS — so my photo of this sign was terrible.  Glad I got a do-over in the sun.  I’m assuming this is a modern sign — but maybe not:




One more from Woodbine — a detail from the Dairy Sweet sign:


This giant sign is from Logan, IA.  The sunny side of the sign was mostly missing — like it had been ripped away in a storm.  Sparkle makes a cameo appearance:



A rusty crusty from Missouri Valley, IA.  The bottom reads “Clean N Comfy”:



Across the river and into Nebraska.  From Omaha — this, er um, very masculine sign:



And last one for the night — from Omaha.  Not sure if it was a car lot or a used car lot associated with this sign originally.  Love him.  How can you look at him and not feel thoroughly happy?



OK, come on back tomorrow for lots more Nebraska.  And don’t forget — lots more purty photos over at Flickr every night:

Day 6: Illinois & Onward

So, I think I must have lost my mind last night.  This morning I was still on edge from Sparkle’s perceived bucking (misfiring) in the wee hours of the morning when I drove around a bit.  I even called a Chevy dealer service tech this morning at 7:30 am to get his opinion — even though I’d been driving for an hour with no problems.  With no symptoms or check engine light, he said no point in bringing it in.  I think it must have just been little bumps on the road.  It happened to me before in Iowa once.  My blood drained out of me when it happened about twenty times in a half hour and I took it to a dealer.  The tech drove it around & couldn’t find anything.  So I drove him around and would say “THAT!” and he’d say “WHAT?” — multiple times.  It was frustrating — but hilarious in retrospect.  So today, 13 hours of driving and not a sneeze from Sparkle.   Yes, I’m delirious with paranoia.  Must be it.  Maybe more sleep tonight will calm my nerves.

Weather not so perfect.  Magnificent at times — but then grey at least 75% of the day.  I’m just happy to be shooting again and don’t care so much about perfect backdrops and reflections.  At least finally making progress towards Colorado.  Didn’t make it out of Illinois til about 5pm but the Iowa list is very short and I should bang through it tomorrow and get into Nebraska.

The dogs got real lakes and rivers today — not the man-made stuff like yesterday.  In the upper 80s — a real break from the 100s!  Grippie, blind as she is, managed to find dead fish bones AND some kind of small horseshoe crab to much on.

Only 11:30 but I’m beat.  Let’s get to it.

From Kewanee, IL in the grey & gloomy.  Apparently, this sign had neon and spinning blades originally:



Moving on to much later in the day — in Milan, IL:



From Rock Island, IL.  A local told me that this was originally “The Cavern” a bar.  The door led to stairs to the bar below ground.   It has been there since at least the 1970s and was green as long as he could remember.  It’s no longer in use.  There’s a bar next door but the buildings are not connected.



From Moline, IL.  This was a windmill at one time.  Beyond that, I don’t know:



From Rock Island.  Tree problems with this one — the best angle I could get:



A modern sign — but worthy of inclusion.  From Bud’s Skyline Inn in Moline, IL:



Lagomarcino’s in Moline — since 1908.  Some history:

There had just been a killer 10-minute rainstorm before these photos.  This side of the block lost power.  Lagomarcino’s was closed because of that — but the folks were nice enough to let me in to shoot a few photos.  The  woman I spoke with said these storms & power losses happen about three times a year.



And last subject for the night — from Muscatine, IA:



Alright — in bed now at midnight — yippee!   Iowa & hopefully Nebraska for you tomorrow night.


Day 5: Up and Running!!

Farewell Firestone and Orland Park!!  I was there 7 am and outta there by 8.  Seems the “doghouse” (the big box in the middle console where the access to everything mechanical is) was not put back right.  You score again guys!   So, since it wasn’t tight,  the noise & hot air was coming at me after yesterday’s “repair”.  I told my saga to Firestone “Consumer Repairs” today — a very nice guy who actually apologized and was very compassionate.  There’s a chance, sounds like a good one, that I’ll get reimbursed for the $788 A/C repair bill back in Albuquerque since that’s where this mess began and was first botched.  I should know within 48 hours.

The weather was cooperative as well today.  I got 12 hours of shooting in — for the most part in the sun.  It was a killer: 104 degrees or so.  The only times I let the kids romp was at water sources.  I found two big lakes at deserted corporate parks.  I sometimes worry about chemical treatments — but when I see birds, frogs and fish all frolicking — I figure we’re okay.  I only stay about 15 minutes because I figure beyond that is time enough to be noticed and have the cops arrive.

It’s already past 1 am because I wanted to be properly positioned for tomorrow’s last leg of Illinois.  If things run smoothly the rest of the trip, I still have another big chunk of Chicago area to come on the way home.  But I’m calculating that we should be in Iowa by noon at the latest tomorrow.

So let’s roll with the pictures.  From Forest Park — only 77 — but it was around 9 am… before it got “red hot”:



Back in Chicago — the hands have fallen off this temperature clock.  A one-time spinner with the other side having a time clock.  There must’ve been something else to this sign to the right of “Bakery”:



More Chicago.  Extra points for the bulbs — extra points for the house shape:



Usually these plastic food signs are so unappetizing — this one’s rather nicely done:



This one’s a real downer.  The 50 foot tall Kiddieland sign was once a thing of pure glory and delight:

and a night shot:


When the amusement park closed in 2009, the sign was put up for sale.  Eventually, it was donated to the Melrose Park Historical Society.  They vowed to restore and reinstall it someplace.  Well, they have, sort of.  But, it’s a real heartbreaker.  Volunteers for the group worked on the sign — removing the neon and patching things up & repainting themselves.  They meant well.  But the results are nothing short of tragic.  The detail on the figures is gone.  The neon on the “Kiddieland” part of the sign was replaced with little cheapie bulbs.  The pole looks to be PVC pipe.  And the top of the sign is missing entirely.

Originally, the boy and girl had neon on only one side of the sign so the figures would appear to be chasing each other around the revolving pole.



What’s left of the sign today in the Melrose Park Library parking lot.  Flat and lifeless.  All the blood’s been sucked out:



Here’s a surviving sign in Melrose Park — even lit during the day:



I went to check on the Little Miss in Aurora — it had been a few years.  I held my breath — yep, still there!!


A little washed out from the sun — but still a fine specimen.  Still a bit of her weathervane left.  More about these signs towards the bottom of this page:



And since it was 100+, I had to show some support.  Rather than shooting in the sun, I chose to pose this shot on the fifty-year-old stainless window counter.   I went with a Blizzard instead of my standard Peanut Buster Parfait.  What a mistake.  It was tasty but so filling I haven’t eaten anything else since and I feel like I’ve gained five pounds.  And that was a small.  I think there was something smaller like a mini or a kids — which I would recommend instead.  How do people even eat the bigger sizes?  This was from their chocoholic menu — something called Candy Shop with little miniature candies in it.  Very cutting edge — this flavor just came out this month:



From Morrison — the only thing left of this drive-in theatre is the sign:



A happy Dutch fella in Fulton:



And last one for the night.  Sometimes in my relentless attempt to squeeze as much as I can into a day, I have finish up with some crappy washed out photos.  Even though this one will be un-useable for my website really, I can share it with you here.  This is a former Studebaker dealership in Mendota.  That’s the moon over there on the left.  No photoshop-ing here — just my usual autosetting with the flash:



Tomorrow big plans for Iowa.  But…. in the course of writing this post, I did some driving around and have experienced several startling “bucks” from Sparkle.  From experience, I think this misfire could be a spark plug or wire — or some sensor.  Which means I might have more annoying downtime very soon.  Crap.  A recurring nightmare.  I just had all the wires replaced in El Paso a couple of months ago.  There’s also the possibility that it could be cheapie gas.  I had just filled up tonight with some gas from Casey’s which said in big letters how much ethanol or whatever.  But I have used that stuff before with no side effects.  So I’m not sure if I should stick to big cities for a while in case I need to dive into a dealership.  Or whether I need to get the “check engine” light first and just need to follow my list as if nothing is happening.  Too big a decision for 2am.  I probably just need to drive a bit in the morning & see how minor or major this thing is.  Stay tuned…

Day 4: Still Stuck in Chicagoland

There are worse places to be stuck.  Far worse weather to be stuck in.  I’m sure you all have your own horror stories.  And I don’t really want to rant every day here at this blog.  Not really what you came here for.  But it’s the dark side of being out here on the road.  So, let’s get this tale out of the way.  (Rant ahead — extra photos for compensation)

The day started dark & dismal — after enough storms for power outages and downed trees last night.  Fine with me to have crappy weather since I was foolishly thinking I was going get the A/C fixed up and be on my way.  I showed up at the Firestone at 10:30 so they could start disassembling Sparkle for the AC hose.  They called at 11 when the part didn’t arrive.  It would be there at 3pm, they promised.  So I not so happily went on my way.  Got some shooting done, thank god, and back to my new home base at 3.  Finally, around 6, they said it was done.  I went to drive off, didn’t even get to test the A/C because by the time I got a block down the road, it sounded like a jet engine in the passenger seat.  Jesus.

Turned around immediately and back to the shop — “oh, the mechanic just left”.  Does anyone roadtest their work before they give it to the customer anymore?  This happens to me at home as well with my own mechanic — makes me NUTS!!  So the only mechanic left was some young guy I guess that specializes in oil changes or maybe tire rotation.  And the guy at the counter who’d been dealing with me all day was not apologetic in the least.  Saying stuff like “it happens”.  Firestone headquarters will be getting a call from me tomorrow for what it’s worth.  Maybe they’ll give me a coupon of some sort for 5% off my next $1000 purchase?

So — not only do I have this LOUD sound blasting at me — but without the AC on, the fans (which are not turned on) are blowing HOT air at me.  Making the 95 temps inside Sparkle more like 120.  Nice.  So, back to the shop tomorrow at 7am when there will supposedly be two, count ’em two, real mechanics on-hand.  Please, say a prayer that I can get out of that godforsaken place by noon.  These half days and quarter days of shooting are killing me.  I ought to mention that while the dogs and I tried to cope in the waiting area all. freaking. day — it was sunny out.

Thanks for listening.  On with the show.

Some of you may remember hearing about this Tin Man being taken down after a whole bunch of flak from the City (Oak Forest).  I’ve got a photo of him in storage here:

Well — last year, King Plumbing won the battle & got him put back up.  He looks happier than ever, doesn’t he?  Master of his domain!  It’s so nice to be KING!


This sign from Oak Forest.  So grey out it was almost like night:


Some of you may be familiar with “The Spindle” sculpture that was at Cermak Plaza in Berwyn, IL.  It was a local fixture and tourist attraction from 1989-2008.

When it was dismantled, the three top cars & the spindle itself were saved.  However, I doubt we’ll ever seen them again.  BUT — it looks like LKQ A-Reliable Auto Parts in Blue Island has provided us with a mini tribute anyway:


Also in Blue Island — sun would really have been nice…


This giant of a sign in Crestwood.  The place has been around since 1975.  I’m glad those rocks are there to protect this thing.


From Bridgeview.  I’d love to know what this sign originally promoted with those polka dots & all that.  The used car lot is empty.  Looks long empty.


From Chicago, officially.  Another huge one.  The width of just the “MOTEL” panel must be twenty feet wide:


More Chicago.  This one’s a stunner:


Chicago rocks in so many ways.  Maybe my favorite city.  But I could never live here because of those winters.  And I don’t really have favorite cities or states.  I like tiny towns just as much.  But anyway — back to rocks.  And something that seems unique to Chicago:


And also seems unique to Chicago — or at least far more abundant than any other place — those decorative glass blocks.  I’ve never seen some of these shapes before:


Time to add a little Art Deco to the mix.  Sad to see what’s become of these beauties.

Detail shot:


An odd mix of Deco & hand-painted sign-ery.  I love heroic depictions of labor — are they making a pipe for plumbing or what?


A sequin sign!  Or that’s what I call them anyway.  They have gotten so rare.  Used to be one in Brooklyn near me — all silver spangles that blew in the wind and nearly caused me to crash a few times while admiring.  Safely, gone now.



A detail of the “sequins” — more like dog tags I guess:


And a terrazzo detail from the Sequin Building (my preferred name over the Western Building):


And one more for the night — from Berwyn.  I love this guy’s expression.  Especially with that sunny side up yellow behind him.  It makes me think cake can fix anything.  Or at least any funky mood — like the one I had most of the day today.


Wish me luck tomorrow morning!  I’m fantasizing that they can fix my Turbo Jet within a couple hours and I can wrap up this Illinois chunk tomorrow and get going with Iowa.

Day 3: Déjà Vu All Over Again

Ooofa.  What a challenging day.  Frustrating, disappointing, infuriating.  Remember that remark about how icebox cool it was in the van yesterday?  Well, guess what.  Loyal blog followers can already see it coming.  Yup, the A/C broke again.  I’ve actually started padding these trips with two extra days for mechanical problems.

Let’s start at the beginning of the day.  Pouring rain in South Bend.  A leisurely hour napping in a parking lot while the locals dealt with scary rush hour madness.  Then, the torrents stopped and I ventured off to shoot in the grey.  I usually don’t shoot inflatables but this Godzilla at a used car lot was super cute:



And then off to wrap up the rest of Indiana — the sun came out for a little bit.  At Portage Liquor (in Portage) – this cool spinner sign.  This particular style I haven’t seen before.  Although this one doesn’t  spin anymore (broken and city would never allow it).  The owner said he had another one in blue stashed out back.  Unfortunately, the sun was directly behind the sign from every angle — so this is the best I could do.



And then in the skeeviest of skeeve neighborhoods in Gary, the dogs and I could take the heat no more.  It was only maybe 9am and already near 90.  Turned the A/C knob for relief.  Nothing.  Tried variations of on/off, front/back, low/high.  Nothing.  Tried the acceleration foot off the pedal to see if blower would kick in.  Blower the same but only hot air coming in.  Off to Illinois to the closest Firestone.  A wise move since the last time the A/C got worked on was that Firestone in Albuquerque just two months ago.

After an hour and a half there, they figured out that their freon machine was on the fritz.  So I had to go to another Firestone a few miles away.  There for another couple of hours — til the figured out it was the same part that I had replaced in ABQ:  those $800 hoses.  Turns out it was a lousy installation and there was rubbing enough to create a hole and leaking.  They would replace for free.  Which is good — but they couldn’t get the part til maybe Friday.  FRIDAY?!  After my freaking out — and a bunch more phone calls — the part should arrive at 11am tomorrow.  So my troubles and the time waste-age are still not over.

By then it was 3 pm and more than half the day was gone.  For nothin.   Nothin actually fixed.  And I’m not feeling especially confident.  What if the wrong part comes?  What if that’s STILL not what’s wrong?  I hear Iowa (the next state coming up) is 110 right now.   But what are my options?  I even called the Chevy dealership across they street — they were booked up til August 2, appointments only.  What the?  So the Firestone guys filled up the freon temporarily for me and said they could hear it hissing.  They pessimistically predicted it would probably last maybe a half hour.  And with Chicagoland at 99 degrees today —  that would be that — and off to the hotel we’d go as fast as Sparkle could fly.

But actually, the A/C held out til around 7pm — and I got some shooting in which helped get me out of my funk and stress.

From Wilmington — the Van Duyne Motel:




A close-up of the wooden fish piece — which looks pretty vulnerable (wooden peeling apart) & might just fall off tomorrow.  Evidently, there was some neon something there before the fish (different or same name of motel?).



From La Salle, IL:



E.F. Budnik’s in Lemont — a pharmacy, cigar shop, etc. from 1922.   It closed in 2010 but the interior still had lots of original cabinetry, a giant steel cash register, and display cases.  Very sad.  Here’s more about the place:



And, finally, here’s how we roll at night.  After a long, hot day this Motel 6 is like a four-star hotel.  All I need to crank out these Flickr uploads & blog posts:  Diet Coke, the laptop, and lists.  Nik lets me have the front third of the chair.



Alright then — better luck tomorrow.  The Firestone guy said the repair would probably be two hours.  Which probably means four.  And we’ll see if the part really arrives magically at 11am.  The forecast for the next few days sounds pretty miserable — thunderstorms, showers, and relentless heat.  But I wouldn’t bet one penny on anything they say.

Day 2: Ohio – check!

Hectic and hot (90s) today.  But Sparkle is running fantastic and the A/C is keeping us icebox cool.   A full day of sun!!  The dogs got some romps in Lake Erie — and managed to find some dead fish.  Luckily, only Grem actually rolled on the fish — and she spent enough time in the water afterwards that the smell is mostly gone.

I got through my Ohio list which puts me slightly ahead of schedule.  Which I’m gonna need I think since I just glanced at the Illinois packet.  Even without Chicago proper in this batch, it’s probably at least two days worth of stuff.  Just a few stops in Indiana tomorrow and I’ll get to work.  Landed late here in South Bend and it’s already 1am after dealing with emails and such.  Glad I got a decent night’s sleep last night.


Let’s start with this Malley’s Chocolates sign in North Olmsted — looks like it was a “spinner”:


And on to Cleveland — this sign’s been recently restored — here’s a shot from 2009:

Now lots of protective plastic to protect the neon:


The Steve’s Lunch sign could use some re-habbing — though the neon still seems to be working:


So much to love here.  Pink is an unusual color choice for an auto-related business, no?




I finally got to shoot the Whippy’s sign.   Apparently, the artist’s intent was for the boy to point at the ice cream — but it sure looks like he’s flipping off potential customers:


A beautiful ghost sign in Oberlin.  I have no idea what motel it advertised for originally:


Also in Oberlin — here’s a vintage view of this one when it was still on the pole and had more text:

and it looks like it was the Bee-Vin before that:


On to Sandusky — this trio is located at the Best Budget Inn:


Also Sandusky:


In Toledo — I always passed on shooting this one because I thought it was probably modern.  But now I’m not so sure — and the sign has grown on me.  It’s triangulated (with three panels) so it’s visible from just everywhere:


And lastly, let’s pay tribute to Swan Cleaners in Port Clinton — and just as importantly — the business that kept the signs and facade (yup, that’s peachy vitrolite):


2 am — not bad!   I’ll meet up with you tomorrow in Illinois.  Night….

Day 1: Back on the Road

And so begins the summer trip.  37 days ahead.  The focus will be Colorado and Wyoming.  But before we get there — there will be about a week of other states.  A couple of days in Indiana & Illinois, a couple in Iowa, a couple in Nebraska, etc.   The rough sketch of the route is here:

Before we get to today’s photos — a few notes for the newbies on the bus:
Each night on these trips, I post about a dozen photos to Flickr ( and then about a dozen other photos here at this blog.  These photos are clickable — clicking on them with your cursor will open them to a larger size.  For more info about how I plan these trips, manage traveling with four dogs, all that — see the special blog pages — links over there in the right column.  Also, info about the website in general at the “About” page:

OK — since I left you on the last trip, I’ve been trying to squeeze in overtime at work and planning for this trip.  I also managed to get about a week’s worth of photos (four more weeks to go) from that spring trip up at the site — you can always follow my progress & see where/when I’m heading next at this page:


Alright then — enough links & information — I’m working on two hours sleep so it’s time to get to the photos.

The trip began as they always do — immediately after work.  Since I work nights, that means I leave home at 3am.  Drive til about 5am and find a quite place to park for a couple of hours then get back on the road.  With jumbo coffee.  Construction on the Brooklyn Bridge meant I had to detour through the Lower East Side of Manhattan to get to the FDR.  I grabbed a few shots on the way:



Some “sanity stops” off the interstate for a bit in Pennsylvania.  This is from Benton.  The angle was not my doing — the sign is really leaning like that:


On the roof of the Creekside Family Restaurant in Orangeville, PA.    There is a little ice cream stand round back:



How about some storefronts in Williamsport, PA.  Sadly, this camera shop (established 1935) is closed now:




Franco’s (probably not the original name) next door — still open.  Unfortunately, the hanging sign was apparently updated — pretty hideously:



Really neat stationers — still open (established 1899).  The place has a great interior that wouldn’t shoot well through the glass (too early for them to be open):



And on to Ohio.  This one from Lansing — the used car lot still open.  However, the neon cars on this sign seems to be stuck on Car #1.  The cars are protected behind plastic.  This sign has probably been reworked numerous times — still crazy fun like it is:



A couple of signs from Dillonvale:



And lastly for the night — the Neil Armstrong Memorial Park centerpiece in Warren, OH.  I was actually quite into the whole Apollo space program as a kid.  Glued to the TV set for the moon landings and walkies.  So, seeing this mini replica of the lunar lander was kind of a thrill for me:



The dogs were in their usual fine start-of-trip form today.  Deliriously happy and barking like mad.  It takes about 3 days for them to settle into a groove, start napping, and stop thinking that every time I put the van in park that they’re getting out for some big party.  Although the forecast was for “mostly sunny” — the sun didn’t come out at all until 4:30pm.  I don’t know why I even bother to look at the weather predictions at this point.  Although there were lots of grey crappy photos, it was quiet a pleasant relief (70s?) from the heat wave we’ve been having back in NYC for weeks (90s).

Alright — I hope this post was somewhat coherent.  It’s midnight and I’m toast.  Ambitiously hoping to finish up Ohio tomorrow. Stay tuned….

dj & the dogs