Summer Trip (CA, WA & OR) – Day 1

I just got home from my big trip of the year.  10 days of racing around Washington & Oregon with my lists and four dogs.   I put 5,111 miles on good ol’ Sparkle and blew $871.41 on gas alone.  There were a couple of mechanical “events.”  A frayed ignition coil wire brought me and my pack to a sudden halt in 100+ temps  just north of Coulee City, WA.  After a few hours, a $160 towing bill and $86 fix got us back going again.  In Spokane, there my catalytic converter needed its third repair of the year.  No one can figure out what’s causing the trouble.  After about 4 hours and $666, we were back on the road.

I’ve got about 1,000 photos from this trip ready to crop & tweak for the website.  It may take me until winter to get them all up.  For now, I’ve got a sampling of photos from each day for this blog and my Flickr account.

After nine hours of driving and coffee, it was Willits for the night.  This sign is much more appealing at night than by day:


From the patched neon tubing holes, clearly there was different text on the sign panels originally:


Another sign from Willits:


An a-Frame coffee kiosk in Fort Bragg.  There was a HUGE line of cars:



Here are a few signs from Garberville:




From Fortuna — love the neon gas flame:

A few signs from Eureka:


At the AA Bar & Grill:


Also in Eureka — here’s my photo of the Bob Crivello sign from 2008:


Around 2014, the sign came down during a windstorm.  The owner has been unable to find a neon shop to fix the sign.  It lays in the back parking lot for now:




One last photo for this post — also from Eureka.  This nice oldie stands next to the service shop for Northwood Hyundai and Chevrolet:


I’ll be posting more posts this weekend.  Hopefully, wrap things up in the next week or two.  You might also want to check out other photos from this trip being added simultaneously as I make my way through the batches:

Back with more photos very soon,

dj & the well-traveled dogs

San Diego Road Test (part 2)

Here’s the wrap-up post from this weekend’s trip.  You can assume all the photos in this post are from San Diego unless I mention otherwise.  I haven’t seen one of these gas station islands with overhead lights in a very long time.  I assume the thicker pole to the left supported a sign:

The last time I was by this site, maybe a year ago, it was a vacant lot.  The property is being developed as a hotel.  Now, finally, the recreation of the former Top’s Supper Club entrance structure which was built in 1939 is going up.  After 1964, the building housed other restaurants until it was demolished in 2014.  This photo shows what the place looked like originally:


And here’s what’s there now.  I already see some subtle discrepancies.  The tower’s base doesn’t match, nor does it have those nice concave contours, the windows on the front don’t look right, and some of those streamline-y edges on the right now looks like sharp-edged blocks.  Better a recreation than nothing at all I guess.  That hotel part built behind it is pretty hideous:


The former Casino Theatre in San Diego was built in 1913.  It was remodeled in the 1930s to this Art Deco look:


The building now houses a Ghiradelli Chocolate store.  The marquee was adapted:


The sign is lit at night but I didn’t backtrack for it.  Here’s a photo from Joe Wolf:

The Star Motel is boarded up but this sign is still hanging on:


This circa 1940 building was given a new paint job last year.  Here’s my photo from 2014:


And yesterday:


I believe this building previously housed a credit union.  That round thing on the left was a deposit vault of some type I believe.  The building now houses an Islamic Center:


I hung around at dusk to check on the lit/not lit status of a few signs.  I was disappointed that the former Loma Theatre sign was only half lit:


Here’s what the sign looks like on a good day:


On the other hand, the Golden West Hotel sign is looking grand:


If you would like to see more photos from this trip, head on over to my Flickr stream where I’ve uploaded another small batch:
The next set of posts will be in August following a two-week trip to Oregon and Washington.  The trip starts at the end of July and, yes, of COURSE the dogs are going.  Maybe I’ll finally throw in some long overdue photos of them in one of those posts.

Happy 4th of July!

Debra Jane & the dogs

San Diego Road Test (Part 1)

Sparkle has been plagued with nearly continuous “ABS” and “check engine” light dash displays for the past three months.  After trips to various mechanics every week, I thought it might have been resolved.  But, no.  The “ABS” light came on after about five hours of driving on this trip and stayed on pretty much the entire time.  Sparkle runs perfectly fine but the light annoys the heck out of me.  I’m doing my best to get everything squared away as perfect as can be for the Oregon/Washington trip coming up in a couple of weeks.  But it might be time for the black tape.

Anyhow… Here are some Los Angeles & Orange County goodies.  Post #2 will be for the San Diego stuff.  Let’s start off with one of my fave dairy store chains.  The Alta Dena Dairy stores have cuter buildings but these Rockview Dairy stores deserve attention.  The barn-like buildings and 1960s(?) signs are a welcome sight in a land of modern Starbucks, Burger Kings, etc.  Their survival must be attributable to the fact that lazy Southern Californians don’t even have to get out of their cars to get their drinks & snacks.

Here’s a nice example in West Covina:


Here’s a close-up of the cow head with air brushed body:


And the barn roof style sign (note the cow-spotted painted pole):


Here’s another location in Whittier with a different style barn building:



I’m told that the fiberglass cow is a recent addition:



The Friendly Hills Bowl in Whittier opened in the 1950s.  It closed in 2015 and developers have promised to preserve the building and the sign for the retail complex that’s soon to come.  I’ve heard that the sign would be reworked (what, like “SHOP”?) but according to this article, it won’t change:

Here are some of my photos from 2013:



The sign has been removed temporarily.   Attached to the fabric-covered chain link fencing is a sign about a BevMo coming soon.  I guess bowling is passé.  Glass half full that the rocks & entrance are being preserved.  Here’s what the sign looked like yesterday:



Some better news — I was thrilled to see the Coffee Pot Building in Long Beach is being restored.  Here’s one of my photos from 2013:


It was built in 1932 as the Hot Cha Cafe.  Restoration began last year and here’s what it looked like yesterday:





The Doughnut Hut in Burbank might have been a former Foster’s Freeze or some other burger stand.  I’ll have to do some building comparison later on:



Signs!  I know that’s what you want.  How about the Jolly Jug Restaurant sign in El Monte?  A sign on the door says they’ve been there since 1947.  This sign’s gotta be 1960s though:


And a close-up of the kinda creepy jug-headed guy:


From Azusa — the black paint was a nice blue until earlier this year:



The Astro Motel in Culver City:



The Pike restaurant in Long Beach.  I can’t find vintage photos but I assume the sign had neon originally:



OK, let’s end with a couple of signs from Pasadena.  Allied Auto Supply did have neon inside the channel letters originally:


Yes, a STILL operating record store.  I love the script on this one:


Part 2 with the San Diego stuff coming up later today.  In the meantime, you might want to see some other photos from this weekend which I’ve uploaded to Flickr:

dj & the dogs

Three Days Near the Bay (pt 2)

Here’s a sampling from the rest of the Memorial Day Weekend trip.  Although I shoot lots of buildings & statues, it seems my blog followers are mostly interested in signs — so that’s what I’ll provide you with!

Let’s start out in Napa with a unique neon arrow:


A few more signs from Napa — too early in the morning for this one, the nice red porcelain looks washed out:


This one’s hidden on a used car lot office:


A modern sign but nicely done:


In the middle of nowhere in Middletown at an antiques store:


At the La Hacienda Mexican Restaurant in Cloverdale:


Four signs from Ukiah:




Maybe my favorite of the four.  You just don’t see rolls of film represented in signs anymore:

From Santa Rosa:


At Analy High School in Sebastopol (where the sports teams are known as the Tigers):


I wouldn’t be surprised if that tiger was created by Patrick Amiot whose sculptures are scattered all over town.  His studio (and residence?) is located at Renga Arts in Sebastopol.  These modified vehicles/trailers are visible from the road:




A sampling of the signs in Petaluma:





The last town on this trip was Forestville – which looks quite like this mural (mountains and vineyards):


and, lastly, this unusually shaped Oddfellows sign:


That wraps up this sampling of photos.  There are more photos (different ones)  over at Flickr from this trip:

And I’ll be busy adding lots of other photos to my website ( for the next month or so.  The next trip will be the year’s biggie:  a two-weeker at the end of July.  That’ll be more Northern California but mostly focusing on the Oregon and Washington stuff that I didn’t get to last summer.

Til then — happy trails!

Debra Jane & the dogs

SoCal bonus post

Before I move on with the next batch of the Bay Area photos, I nearly forgot that I set these photos aside for a post.  Just some stuff close to home.

From Summerland — Sandpiper Liquors:


Next to the liquor store is this curious former phone booth with beach rocks.  Beach shrine?  Don’t know…

Next to the baseball stadium at UC Santa Barbara — about five feet in diameter:

From Goleta:



From Paso Robles:


From California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks  — barrel vaults galore:


From a little L.A. trip — a a tiki peaked office and striking paint job:

The West Hollywood replica diver (built before the one at MONA in Glendale) sign has returned!  The story of these divers at my website about halfway down this page:


This “Hotel Californian” sign has also miraculously been restored and reinstalled.  Here’s my photo from 2008 where it sat for many years:

and from a couple weeks ago:

A couple of signs from Buellton:



And, lastly, from Paso Robles:


Okay — back to cropping & prep-ing the Bay Area North stuff.  Stay tuned.

Three Days Near the Bay (pt 1)

The dogs and I got away for Memorial Day Weekend.  Loads of traffic, of course, but worth the pain.  Long days with all day sun and I racked up a few hundred photos (and blew nearly $300 on gas).  I haven’t been north of San Francisco since 2008 so it was a real treat to shoot the stuff on my list and reshoot stuff I haven’t seen since then.

Let’s get to it!  The Monterey Lanes, naturally, in Monterey:


From San Jose:


I don’t know what the original tenant was at what is now “Emmy’s” — but I’m glad at least a few owners have let the sign live on.  From San Francisco:

This flower shop in San Francisco is long gone but this ripple tin sign remains:


A few more signs from San Francisco:


These two signs at the same parking garage:




A recently uncovered bank mosaic in Sausalito thought to be gone — the story:


From Mill Valley:


And, lastly, from Vallejo:


Lots more to come from last weekend later tonight or tomorrow.  In the meantime, I’ve just uploaded some other photos at Flickr:

Bye fer now,

Debra Jane


Sign Geeks & the O.C.

Last night, I went back down to Glendale for the Grand Opening of MONA (Museum of Neon Art)’s second exhibit.  This one featured a sampling of the museum’s vintage sign collection and photos from the sign-crazy, nationwide “club” known as the Sign Geeks.  It was quite a special event.  I got to meet lots of folks who share my passion for signs, buildings, etc.


Both of these signs were originally displayed at the L.A. County Fair in Pomona — now part of MONA’s collection:


This parking sign is a recent acquisition from downtown L.A.:


This sign is from the former Papoo’s Hot Dog Show in Burbank — gone now but MONA saved at least two of the signs:


I don’t know where this one came from. Killer:


A couple of sweet advertising signs:


Some unlit beauties were also displayed:


I was so happy to see this opal glass & applied letter sign from downtown L.A.  A replica of this sign was created and now hangs on the Bendix Building in its place:


The photographers’ stuff was all displayed on identically-sized canvases, 3 per photog with a little identifier next to each column.


More than 50 photographers were represented.  I think most of them came to the event.  I met folks from Texas, Tucson, Connecticut, Northern California, and elsewhere.  I wish I could have talked to all of them.  Here’s one person that I’ve known from Flickr for about 10 years — Devil Doll:


I really enjoyed watching the photographers doing what they love doing best:  taking photos:


OK — just a couple of other signs before we move on.  This cocktail glass is owned by MONA’s VP and super nice guy, Eric Evavold:


I don’t know where this BBQ sign came from but the flashing bulbs are crazy wonderful.  I stood next to it for far too long yapping with someone and felt like a pig roasting on a spit.  Those bulbs put out a LOT of heat:


If you’d like to read more about the show, here’s a little article from the Opening:

Okay, put on your sunglasses and let’s go outside.  I took some photos in Orange County and elsewhere before heading home today.  This sign in Anaheim originally advertised for a Lucky supermarket.  Too bad about the backlit plastic letters and, no, the panels on top no longer revolve.  But that rocket-shaped sign post is still wonderful:


How about a couple of religious rockets?  Here’s the Salvation Army in Long Beach:


… and the Judson Baptist Church in Carson:


I love this top-heavy roof at Martha’s Donuts in Lakewood.  I don’t know what was here originally but the little strip mall behind it has a similar hat-too-big look:


I didn’t have donuts there but I did stop in at this place in Redondo Beach.  I remember Handel’s Ice Cream from roadtrips in Ohio.  The company now has 3 locations in California.  This is the Heavenly Hash which was fairly heavenly on a summer-like spring day.  Since I’m vegan in my “real life”, I think the ice cream that I allow myself on roadtrips tastes even better than it did in years past.  I hear Ben & Jerry’s is making vegan ice cream now — but I can’t imagine how you can replicate the marshmallow goo & creaminess:


I’ve wanted to shoot this silly guy for years but never found myself in the Valley at the right time of day.  Finally!  This topiary, ivy Poodle Arch is in North Hills:


Speaking of dogs… Yes, I know I haven’t tortured you with any photos of my beasts lately.  So, how about this.  My pal Geoff took this slow-mo video with his drone in Carpinteria last weekend.   My 16+ year old dog, Fixie, doesn’t do these long beach walks anymore so she’s not present.  But my other three kids enjoyed themselves chasing and barking at that motorized alien in the sky:


Alright, I’ll close out with two more signs from Long Beach.  This one’s for all you fans of crazy green (I am!) and Comic Sans.  Not sure what biz was here originally but at least the mammoth steel panels are still there:


I’m a sucker for shoe-shaped signs.  I’ll have to do an SCA article about them one of these days.  But here’s a nice home-spun shoe AND key at Mill’s Shoe Repair.  The key was wood and the shoe might have been as well.  The hand-painted sign also a plus:


If you want more signs, more buildings, click over to my Flickr stream where I’ve posted some other photos from last night and today:

I’m not sure when the next roadtrip will be but I’m hoping to get a couple of weeks off this summer.  Probably a little 3-day weekend trip before that though.  Stay tuned.

Happy trails,

dj & the dogs

MONA Weekend (Pt 2)

OK, I’m back with the conclusion to last weekend.  I forgot to include this night shot of the Alex Theatre in Glendale, CA to the Saturday post:


I tried to shoot the sputnik on top of the tower but the neon was flashing so quickly that I only got blurry or partially lit photos.  So, I’ll just drop in this photo which I took during the day in 2012:



I’ve got a thing for “Happy Bear” signs.  If you’d like to see loads of them & info about the bears, have a look at this page which I created a few months ago:

This is just a small one in Corona.  I was a bit disappointed that the palm trees were shading it — will have to reshoot in the afternoon sometime:


This location certainly takes pride in their Bear mascot with these sweet painted window signs:


Time to throw a couple of mid-century modern buildings into the mix, no?  These great canopy marks the entrance to the Continental Arcadia Apartments (in Arcadia):


The Sepulveda Medical Building in Los Angeles is visually overshadowed by the still fairly glorious, former Loyola Theatre next door.  But it has noteworthy mcm details — including a nice mosaic caduceus which covers a door:




The El Coyote in Los Angeles has been around since 1931.  The restaurant moved to this location in 1951 and these well-maintained signs are from then:



The Del Rio Lanes in Downey opened in the late 1950s.   Sure, the sign has been crapped up with backlit plastic and that LED message board.  But you can still imagine the neon that was there originally.  Glass half full.



I believe this intact beauty in Azusa dates to 1967:


One of the highlights of the day was getting to see the restored interior of Clifton’s Cafeteria in downtown L.A.  Part of Clifford Clinton’s chain of theme restaurants, this one was built in 1935 and is the sole survivor.  If you search on-line, you’ll find loads of articles about this place’s history and vintage postcards of the incredible interior and exterior.  So, I’ll just throw in a few photos here to entice you:


Lots of taxidermied animals, a waterfall, a giant meteorite… I could go on:



and incredible terrazzo in front of the restaurant:


I’ll end this little “sampler” blog post here and get back to adding some of these and lots of other photos to my website.  I’ll be doing a little Long Beach area trip soon.  I’m not sure where I’ll be heading for this summer’s vacation yet.  Stay tuned!

dj & the dogs

MONA Weekend (Pt 1)

I took a little drive to the L.A. area this past weekend to take some photos and attend the Grand Reopening of MONA (the Museum of Neon Art) in Glendale, CA.  I know it’s been awhile since I’ve posted.  Although I haven’t been taking many pictures this winter, I’ve been busy behind the curtain working on the website (  I finished adding maps throughout my website.  I’m also adding loads of links to things that I haven’t gotten around to shooting yet. So, if you have favorite sections, you might want to check them out so that you can add more stuff to your own to shoot lists.  You’ll find lots of blue boxes full of links all over the place.

On with the show!  Here are some highlights from Saturday.  Sunday will be the next post.  I got around to shooting a Mrs. Chapman’s Angel Food Do-Nuts that’s escaped me until now.  I have three other examples at my website here:

This one looked much like the others (yellowish) until last July when it got a makeover for 4th of July which has become permanent:


Next door to this place is a former ice cream stand which became a taqueria between 2008 and 2011.  I’m so glad they kept the cone!  I’m pretty sure from the building design that this was a Dairy Queen:



Here’s what the sign looked like in 2008:

This Green Forest Car Wash is located south of downtown Los Angeles.  I understand the chain has other locations with dinosaur statues.  I drove by a smaller one somewhere this weekend and noticed one of the dinos had an animatronic neck:



Although the letters are now backlit plastic, at least the great shapes of the sign have been preserved:



Here’s another place that’s been on my list for awhile.  This is a former Famous Amos cookie store in Studio City:


Here’s a vintage photo of what the locations looked like originally:


There’s another former Famous Amos location (the first) in Hollywood but it’s pretty boxed up and unrecognizable (Bossa Nova).


Signs.  I know you’re waiting for the signs.  Here’s one that’s basically impossible to shoot since you have to shoot from a distance and it never sees the sun — the Fox Normandie Apartments which is west of downtown L.A.  The sunny side of the sign doesn’t have neon.

This business was south of downtown L.A. — long gone but the sign remains:


This is the original El Cholo restaurant sign from 1931 inside the Santa Monica location:


This beauty is in L.A., just east of Beverly Hills:


It is accompanied by this nice A-frame:


These two are on the same building — also in L.A., just south of West Hollywood.  The businesses are long gone.  The sign on the right which has, unfortunately, been messed with originally advertised for the Spanish Kitchen:

Now, on to the day’s main event:  MONA’s big Glendale debut.  Yes, that’s a replica diver on the roof and a replica of the Clayton Plumbers sign on the right — both which, I think I’ve covered at this blog before.  If you want more info, I cover the diver sign at my website here:

and the Clayton sign here:


Inside, you’ll be greeted by the former Green Frog Market sign from Bakersfield.  The double-sided sign is animated.  The frog tips his hat and the text flashes between “Howdy” and “Folks”.


This camera sign was originally located in the Little Toyko neighborhood in downtown L.A.:


While there were several vintage signs on display, the focus of this opening exhibit was on modern, sculptural neon from many different artists:







I’ll be back on Saturday with a Part 2 post with some more goodies from L.A.  In the meantime, I have also posted some other photos at Flickr from this day’s shooting:

dj & the dogs

Day 14: Washington Wrap-up

The last day of the trip.  For those of you that are into stats & facts, there were 16 days on the road which included the two days of grueling nothingness all the way up to Oregon and then back home from Washington.  I drove about 5,500 miles on this trip and I spent about $1,260 on gas.  My gas mileage was probably even worse than usual due to running the A/C all day, nearly every day.  Poor Sparkle.  Gas was nearly a dollar cheaper in Oregon & Washington than it is in California. So, that helped a little.  I took about 1,800 photos which will find their way to my website over the next few months.  What I post to this blog and Flickr is just a sampling of the photos taken each day.

Let’s start this final batch of photos in Ellensburg.  This sign is lit and animated at night with “Auto Glass” and “Seat Covers” flashing sequentially:


Also in Ellensburg — the former New York Cafe, a Chinese restaurant:



I believe this place in Gleed was built last year.  While not vintage, I’m always thrilled to see the tradition of giant stuff is still alive.  I’ve got loads of giant coffee pots at my website here:


I stopped by the Yakima Valley Museum in Yakima to see if there had been any new additions to the Neon Garden.  There were a couple of new vintage signs — but what really caught my eye was this guy.  Earlier in this trip, I was stunned to find that the three giant cow heads in Puyallup were gone.  Evidently, the Fairgrounds remodeled the entrance around 2012 and the cows disappeared.  I was hoping that this was one of the missing statues.  It’s a dead match.  However, it seems this guy came from a place in Yakima.  For a variety of cow heads like this, there are more at my website:


While I was at the museum, my pal Andy showed me a photo of one of the signs in storage.  It’s a blurry photo since I just shot it from his computer screen.  But you can see what a giant stunner this is.  It was originally located in Yakima.  The fish are installed over a metal grid meant to simulate a net.  The boat is a mechanical element.  It is separate from the text panels and physically rocked back and forth over the neon waves.  Andy has been working with the city to find a place to install it, nothing definite yet, since it’s too large to install at the museum.


Yakima still has lots of wonderful old signs.  These Bear Alignment signs are still scattered all over the country.  This one is a little crude looking,  I kinda like his Mickey Mouse ears.  For info about these signs and more examples (larger and neon examples), I’ve got a bunch at this page:


More signs in Yakima:



Still Yakima — a modern sign but still wonderful:


Still in Yakima:



Moving on to Union Gap.  This sign was restored sometime after 2010:


These giant shaved ice Tropical Sno stands used to be all over in Washington, Idaho, Utah — and maybe elsewhere.  Now, they are far and few between.  I believe there are still several in Spokane but I didn’t get to check up on them on this trip since I didn’t make it that far East.   This one is in Richland:


These two signs are also in Richland:



This adapted Norge Ball is also in Richland — at the Uptown Cleaners.  I’ve got a couple of pages of Norge Balls from around the country here:


This repurposed A&W Drive-in is in Pasco:


Also in Pasco:


At this point in the trip, it was Friday afternoon and I was due back at work on Monday morning.  I was ambitiously still heading north and east to Spokane when Sparkle developed her misfire issue.  So, that changed everything and I turned right around and began my journey home.  Most of Saturday was spent killing time at the Firestone in Kennewick.  But the new plugs & wires resolved nothing and we were bucking through most of Oregon.  Then the symptoms went away and we had a smooth 800+ mile trip home.  Go figure. Saturday night’s goal was to get our butts into California.  Several coffees later, I stopped in Yreka for a four hour nap.  I was thrilled to find two of my favorite signs there still lit even though it was the wee hours of the morning.  This one is is a Federal Electric sectional sign from the early 1900s.  More about these signs at my page here:


I shot this sign at the beginning of the trip during the day:


So, that’s it!  I hope you enjoyed tagging along on this trip.  Don’t forget there are still loads of signs & other stuff in addition to these posts over at my Flickr account:

I’m going to hunker down for a few months getting all the photos from this trip up at my website.  So, worry not if you don’t hear from me until next year.

Happy trails,

dj & the dogs