Vintage Neon Everywhere

Old Mojo Gas Sign - Rock Springs, Wyoming
Old Mojo Gas Sign – Rock Springs, Wyoming

Everywhere I go I see old neon.  These signs remind me of the my youthful days in the 1960s and 70s when we traveled.  Alas, for many, the only signs they see are the same unoriginal fast food, gas station and motel chain signs all over the place.  But, in the by gone days there were few McDonald’s and Motel 6 spots.  Instead, there were the little cozy motels with the old metal chairs in the front and the unique neon signs.  There were the local burger joints with their big shiny signs.  And there were the drive in movie theaters and the downtown theatres with their unique names.  Here is a trip down memory lane with neon I have captured along the less beaten paths and just a few comments, when appropriate.

OLD MOTELS

Chinook Hotel - Chinook, Montana
Chinook Hotel – Chinook, Montana

Of all of the unique neon signs, perhaps the hotel and motel signs are the most fun and bring back the fondest memories.  My first ever motel stay was in some non-descript motel in Amarillo, Texas in 1968.  At the time I was only 12.  It was exciting to sleep in a motel bed, see the paper covered drinking glasses, taste the strange tasting water, sit on the metal rockers on the front porch.  We watched the news and stock reports on the local television and ate pancakes at a local cafe before heading to our new home in Richardson, Texas (we were moving from Albuquerque, so yes, we were on Route 66 back then).

Motel Galata on US Hwy 2 - The Hi-Line - in Galata, Montana
Motel Galata on US Hwy 2 – The Hi-Line – in Galata, Montana
Thunderbird Inn in Savannah, Georgia
Thunderbird Inn in Savannah, Georgia
El Kapp Motel in Raton, NM
El Kapp Motel in Raton, NM
Covered Wagon Motel in Lusk, Wyoming
Covered Wagon Motel in Lusk, Wyoming
Kool Breeze Motel in Irving, Texas
Kool Breeze Motel in Irving, Texas
Cave Land Motel - Cave City, Kentucky
Cave Land Motel – Cave City, Kentucky
Log Cabin Motel - Ashton, Idaho
Log Cabin Motel – Ashton, Idaho
Dude Motel - West Yellowstone, Montana
Dude Motel – West Yellowstone, Montana
D-K Motel - Arco, Idaho
D-K Motel – Arco, Idaho
Wagon Wheel Motel - Kadoka, South Dakota
Wagon Wheel Motel – Kadoka, South Dakota
4 Winds Motel - Jackson Hole, Wyoming
4 Winds Motel – Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Arena Motel in Shelby, Montana  The sign is all that remains
Arena Motel in Shelby, Montana The sign is all that remains
Generic Motel Sign - Shelby, Montana
Generic Motel Sign – Shelby, Montana
Old Stanley Cour-Tel Sign (from Missouri) now at Ra66it Ranch in Staunton, Illinois
Old Stanley Cour-Tel Sign (from Missouri) now at Ra66it Ranch in Staunton, Illinois
Lays Motor Lodge sign in Kingdom City, Missouri.  Motel building is dilapidated, but the sign remains
Lays Motor Lodge sign in Kingdom City, Missouri. Motel building is dilapidated, but the sign remains
Motel in Havre, Montana
Motel in Havre, Montana
Palace Hotel - Eureka Springs, Arkansas
Palace Hotel – Eureka Springs, Arkansas
Antler Motel - Kemmerer, Wyoming
Antler Motel – Kemmerer, Wyoming
Texan Motel - Raton, New Mexico
Texan Motel – Raton, New Mexico

And to round off the trip, how about one of the more famed ones….

Sleep in a Wigwam - Wigwam Motel in Cave City, Kentucky
Sleep in a Wigwam – Wigwam Village Motel in Cave City, Kentucky

CAFES AND RESTAURANTS

Goody Goody - St. Louis, Missouri
Goody Goody Diner – St. Louis, Missouri

After a nice evening a a comfy motel, what is better than starting the day off with a great breakfast at a diner, a pancake house or a local cafe. The servings are always big, the mom and pop service is better than any fast food joint.  Of course, while on the road you can also stop for lunch and even a big dinner, in some cases even more than you can manage if you are willing to take the chance (think Amarillo, Texas!!)

Donut Whole - Wichita, Kansas
Donut Whole – Wichita, Kansas They have a giant rooster on the roof there too!
Voodoo Doughnut - Portland, Oregon
Voodoo Doughnut – Portland, Oregon
Royal Donut - Danville, Illinois
Royal Donut – Danville, Illinois
Crystal Cafe - Raton, NM
Crystal Cafe – Raton, NM
Golden Burro Cafe - Leadville, CO
Golden Burro Cafe – Leadville, CO
Presti's Bakery - Cleveland, OH
Presti’s Bakery – Cleveland, OH
Lil' Cafe - Commerce, Oklahoma
Lil’ Cafe – Commerce, Oklahoma
Irma Restaurant and Grill - Cody, Wyoming
Irma Restaurant and Grill – Cody, Wyoming
Pickle's Place - Arco, Idaho
Pickle’s Place – Arco, Idaho
Sport Bowl Cafe - Tripp, South Dakota
Sport Bowl Cafe – Tripp, South Dakota

How about some burgers for lunch?

Wimpy's Hamburgers - Dallas, Texas - I'll gladly pay you Thursday for a hamburger today....
Wimpy’s Hamburgers – Dallas, Texas – I’ll gladly pay you Thursday for a hamburger today….
Paul's Hamburgers - Kansas City, Kansas
Paul’s Hamburgers – Kansas City, Kansas
Waylan's Hamburgers - Home of the Ku-Ku - Commerce, Oklahoma
Waylan’s Hamburgers – Home of the Ku-Ku – Miami, Oklahoma
Scotty's Hamburgers - Idaho Falls, Idaho
Scotty’s Hamburgers – Idaho Falls, Idaho
Hutch's on the Beach - Hamilton, Ontario
Hutch’s on the Beach – Hamilton, Ontario
Frostop Root Beer - Ashton, Idaho
Frostop Root Beer – Ashton, Idaho
Schroeder's Drive-In - Danville, Illinois
Schroeder’s Drive-In – Danville, Illinois

Perhaps you want to try an ORIGINAL Cozy Dog….a Route 66 Classic indeed.  This one deserves two photos

Cozy Drive-In - Home of the Cozy Dog - Springfield, Illinois
Cozy Drive-In – Home of the Cozy Dog – Springfield, Illinois
Cozy Drive-In - Springfield, Illinois  The sign says it all
Cozy Drive-In – Springfield, Illinois The sign says it all

Don’t want a burger or a corn dog?  How about a Maid-Rite Sandwich?

Maid-Rite Sandwiches - Lexington, Missouri
Maid-Rite Sandwiches – Lexington, Missouri

Or perhaps some great authentic Bar-B-Q?

Bryant's Barbecue - Kansas City, Missouri
Arthur Bryant’s Barbecue – Kansas City, Missouri

And a little Ice Cream for an afternoon treat….

Zesto - near the zoo in Omaha, Nebraska
Zesto – near the zoo in Omaha, Nebraska
Another Zesto in downtown Omaha, Nebraska
Another Zesto in downtown Omaha, Nebraska
Jimmy's Ice Cream - Waldo, Arkansas
Jimmy’s Ice Cream – Stamps, Arkansas

Okay.  So this next one is not neon.  But it is certainly Vintage.  And who can resist stopping for an ice cream at a place that LOOKS like an Ice Cream?

M & M's Twistee Treat - E. Peoria, Illinois
M & M’s Twistee Treat – E. Peoria, Illinois

There are lots of places that you can get dinner…many of the old neon places are a combo bar/grill or bar/restaurant.   And many have unique signs.  Personally, I don’t drink alcohol, but I have certainly enjoyed a few good meals at some of these kinds of places.

Manhattan Bar - Leadville, Colorado
Manhattan Bar – Leadville, Colorado
Mint Bar and Lounge - Chinook, Montana
Mint Bar and Lounge – Chinook, Montana
Acoma Restaurant and Lounge - Butte, Montana
Acoma Restaurant and Lounge – Butte, Montana
Atomic City Bar - Atomic City, Idaho - no longer in business, but the sign is a classic!
Atomic City Bar – Atomic City, Idaho – no longer in business, but the sign is a classic!
Elk Bar and Good Food - Chinook, Montana
Elk Bar and Good Food – Chinook, Montana
Steaks - what more needs to be said? - near Turkey Ridge, South Dakota
Steaks – what more needs to be said? – near Turkey Ridge, South Dakota
Riscky's Steakhouse - Fort Worth, Texas
Riscky’s Steakhouse – Fort Worth, Texas
Lariat Saloon - Buena Vista, Colorado
Lariat Saloon – Buena Vista, Colorado

And let’s not forget two of the most iconic vintage neon places for travelers….

Cowboy Bar - Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Million Dollar Cowboy Bar – Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Big Texan Steak House - home of the FREE 72 OZ Steak (if you can eat it all) - Amarillo, Texas
Big Texan Steak Ranch – home of the FREE 72 OZ Steak (if you can eat it all) – Amarillo, Texas

Maybe you prefer something a bit more ethnic in the evening….

Joe Mama's Italian - Time for Fine Eats - Pittsburgh, Pennsylania
Joe Mama’s Italian – Time for Fine Eats – Pittsburgh, Pennsylania
El Fenix Restaurant - Best Tex-Mex in Texas - downtown Dallas, Texas
El Fenix Restaurant – Best Tex-Mex in Texas – downtown Dallas, Texas
Hung Far Low - Famous Chop Suey and Famous name - Portland, Oregon
Hung Far Low – Famous Chop Suey and Famous name – Portland, Oregon

Or perhaps just a late night Philly Cheese Steak?  How about two choices and they are just across the street from each other in the triangle….(I actually tried one at each place on the same evening – add the whiz!)

Geno's Cheese Steaks - Philadelphia, PA
Geno’s Cheese Steaks – Philadelphia, PA
Pat's King of Steaks - Philadelphia, PA
Pat’s King of Steaks – Philadelphia, PA

Movie Theaters, Drive-In Theaters and Music Halls

Teton Drive-In - Rexburg, Idaho
Teton Drive-In – Rexburg, Idaho

Perhaps you have had a long day on the road and need a break from motel room TV.  A visit to an old drive in theater with some popcorn and thus fuzzy little speakers hanging in your window will do ya.

Too cold outside?  Then there are some classic old movie theaters around that show some cool movies or maybe even will have a live band playing in them. Many of the old theaters are multi-purpose nowadays, but their old neon signs still draw you in and bring back the memories of 1960s childhood.

Following are a few classic looks with neon I have seen over the years as I travel the back roads of America.

 

Plaza Theatre - Glasgow, Kentucky
Plaza Theatre – Glasgow, Kentucky
Lund Theatre - Viborg, South Dakota
Lund Theatre – Viborg, South Dakota
Liberty Theatre - Vandalia, Illinois
Liberty Theatre – Vandalia, Illinois
Great American Music Hall - San Francisco, CA
Great American Music Hall – San Francisco, CA
The Blue Room - Kansas City, Missouri
The Blue Room – Kansas City, Missouri
Pix Theatre - Winner, South Dakota
Pix Theatre – Winner, South Dakota
Westside Theatre - Newman, California
West Side Theatre – Newman, California
Kentucky Theatre - Lexington, Kentucky
Kentucky Theatre – Lexington, Kentucky
Fox Theatre - Detroit, Michigan
Fox Theatre – Detroit, Michigan
Skyline Theatre - Rudyard, Montana
Hi-Line Theatre – Rudyard, Montana
El Raton Theatre - Raton, NM
El Raton Theatre – Raton, NM
Fischer Theatre - Danville, Illinois
Fischer Theatre – Danville, Illinois
Orpheum Theatre - Wichita, Kansas
Orpheum Theatre – Wichita, Kansas
Leeds Theatre - Winchester, Kentucky
Leeds Theatre – Winchester, Kentucky
Bing Crosby Theatre - Spokane, Washington
Bing Crosby Theatre – Spokane, Washington

VARIOUS AND SUNDRY OTHER PLACES

Pelo's Sundries - LeClaire, Iowa (Home of the American Pickers!)
Pelo’s Sundries – LeClaire, Iowa (Home of the American Pickers!)

Sure, I meant it when I included “Sundry” in this section.  That term seems old fashioned now, but the old five-and-dime shops had “sundry” items.  There were also the old drug stores that sold magazines, had fountains in the shop and they sold “sundries.”

I also include the “various” in here since there are a few odds and ends neon signs that I  want to include in this section.

The famous Public Market sign in Seattle, Washington
The famous Pike Place Public Market sign in Seattle, Washington
Pilgrim Cleaners in Houston, Texas.  They also do shoe repairs
Pilgrim Cleaners in Houston, Texas. They also do shoe repairs
Arco City Hall - Arco, Idaho - First City in the world to be lit by Atomic Power
Arco City Hall – Arco, Idaho – First City in the world to be lit by Atomic Power
Boring Rexall Drugs - Warsaw, Missouri
Boring Rexall Drugs – Warsaw, Missouri
The Old Drugs Store - Cumberland Gap, Tennessee
The Old Drugs Store – Cumberland Gap, Tennessee

Now, wasn’t that just a yummy adventure through the past?

Yummy House - Idaho Falls, Idaho
Yummy House – Idaho Falls, Idaho

Some roadside assistance provided by friends at……

(1979)

Sumoflam’s Guide to Planning an Offbeat Road Trip




Learn How to Get there
Learn How to Get There

I love to travel the back roads of America. I also love to see Offbeat Attractions. Of course, I must drop by those strange named towns (see photo above). But, I also want to visit historical sites, National Parks, scenic locations, covered bridges and more that may be along the way. So, in this post I will lay out the “Sumoflam Guide” and the process I go about in planning almost all of my trips. Hopefully, you as the readers will be able to glean some helpful information in your plans and do as I do…..ENJOY THE RIDE!

WHERE DO WE WANT TO GO?

Where Are We Going? (This sign in Millersburg, Ohio)
Where Are We Going? (This is in Millersburg, Ohio)

For the purpose of this particular guide, I am going to create a sample trip from St. Louis to Kansas City and back. My approach to this trip will begin at the St. Louis Arch and end up back there with very little back tracking along the way. Further, for simplicity, I will plan this as a four day round trip.

THE PLANNING “TOOLS”

Know Your Directions (Florence, Oregon)
Know Your Directions (Florence, Oregon)

Before I ever take off on a trip, I first get out the “tools” of the trade and begin mapping out a course.

  • First and foremost I go to Google Maps. This helps me see the general course I will be taking. It will allow me to hone in on probable routes, preferably off of the Interstates and perhaps even on county roads, if time allows. Obviously, my goal is NOT to take the fastest or most direct route, but to take the one that provides me the greatest mix of places to visit, sites to see and photographs to take.
  • After determining probable routes, I then go to my handy-dandy OFFBEAT ATTRACTION site – Roadside America – for the ultimate guide to the best offbeat attractions in my route area. I will provide details on this later on below.
  • There are a number of other reference sites I may visit depending on the routes and locations. I will list a number of my favorites later in this post. They include websites that cover the quirky, the offbeat, the giant/big things, National Parks and Monuments, historic sites, etc.
  • Finally, since there will likely be hotel stays along the way, I typically go to my favorite site for hotels, which is Choice Hotels. Since I am a “Choice Privileges” member, I gain points and free nights by staying in their hotel brands whenever possible. But, there are many other sites out there, so choose your favorites.
  • After mapping things out, I glean information about towns from Google and Bing. I may do a search on a town or an offbeat site to get more information, look at images, etc.
  • For many towns I may also do a search in Wikipedia. This is a great source of detailed information
  • Finally, after searching through all of those, I find my way to the numerous town websites, tourist sites, chamber of commerce sites, etc.

Isn’t the World Wide Web Wonderful?

MAPPING OUT THE ROUTE

ROAD TRIP!
ROAD TRIP!

Google Maps is an amazing tool and it is also fun. With their Street View program you can practically take a virtual trip to anywhere — from the comfort of your home. Of course, there is really nothing like being there in person.

Google now has a new version of Google Maps, which has some nice features. But, I prefer the Classic Maps version chiefly because I can include multiple destinations. Returning to the sample trip from St. Louis to Kansas City, this is what the initial search would give me on Google Maps:

GoogleMap1
New Google Maps – St. Louis to Kansas City

On the map above you can see that I mapped a trip from the Gateway Arch in St. Louis to the Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas City. It provided me with two driving routes — one direct down the Interstate and another quite a bit out of the way (if you are wanting a direct route). However, if I wanted to map an intermediate destination, I would not be able to include it and also include Kansas City. So, I will use the “Classic Maps” version by going to the settings in the upper right corner and select Classic Maps.

Switch to Classic Maps
Switch to Classic Maps

The best part of the Classic Maps view is the multiple destination selection option. With this option you can select up to 25 locations for Google to map out and create a route.

Multiple Destination Selector
Multiple Destination Selector

Following is what I used to create the ROAD TRIP! shot above:

Multiple Destination Options
Multiple Destination Options

After selecting the main destinations – in this case, St. Louis to Kansas City, it is time to dig deeper and find those offbeat attractions and other places of interest and then plug them into Google Maps.

NOW THE FUN BEGINS – FINDING THE PLACES ON THE ROAD

RABannerThe guys at Roadside America are phenomenal. They offer maps, directions and tourist attraction details as a convenience to their users. As they say it on their website – “RoadsideAmerica.com is a caramel-coated-nutbag-full of odd and hilarious travel destinations — over 10,000 places in the USA and Canada — ready for exploration.” I should note that any content from Roadside America used on my site is done so with the written permission of Roadside America. The wonderful thing about their site is that they take hundreds of user submitted photos and details and include them on the site. It is THE Honey Hole of Offbeat Travel!! If you have never visited them, check out their About Page and learn all about the great work that Doug, Ken and Mike have compiled over the years.

Roadside America Maps
Roadside America Maps

The next step in a fine back road trip is finding the unique places. The first stop should ALWAYS be Roadside America. Once on their site, click on the “Maps” link as shown above. You will get to the Roadside America Maps Page as shown below.

Roadside America Map Page
Roadside America Map Page

Since we are doing a Missouri Trip, you would click on the Missouri part of the Map (or select the state on the left hand list). This will bring up the Roadside America Missouri Page.

Roadside America Missouri page
Roadside America Missouri page

On each state page there is a ton of information….best sites, oddities, etc. There is also a small link to the Missouri Offbeat Attractions Map. Click that link and you will get the map below:

Roadside America Missouri Attractions Map
Roadside America Missouri Attractions Map

Each red pin on the map represents a unique site which you can refer to in conjunction with you Google Map trip plan. There is also an alphabetic list (based on town name) on the left side of the map. For convenience, I have circled the area from St. Louis to Kansas City to provide an idea of how many attractions there are. Bear in mind that these are predominantly the Offbeat Attractions and may not include historical museums and sites, national and state parks, scenic locations, etc.

Roadside America Map of downtown St. Louis
Roadside America Map of downtown St. Louis

When you open a state map, you can mouse over a section and double-click and the map will zoom in (it uses Google Maps technology). this will provide you with a closeup view of the area and the related pins. Click on a pin and it will pop up the Offbeat Attraction for that pin. Each attraction also has a “More” link, which, when clicked, will open up the page with details on that specific attraction. There are over 10,000 of these pages on the Roadside America site.

A typical Roadside America Attraction Page
A typical Roadside America Attraction Page

By viewing the attractions page you can find out where it is, see photos of the site, get other visitor’s comments and also see a site rating to let you know if it is “Well Worth the Visit” or just a site that may be of interest.

Roadside America iPhone app
Roadside America       iPhone app

And, while on the road, you can use the amazing Roadside America app for your iPhone.  It even has a GPS locator and will tell you the sites closest to your location on the road.  A must have for the back roads offbeat traveler!!

HONING DOWN THE ADVENTURE

Which Way Do I Go?
Which Way Do I Go?

Since the St. Louis to Kansas City trip will be a four day round trip, I typically will create a more detailed plan for each day. Since I can get actual addresses of sites along the way from Roadside America, Google and other sites, I can actually plug those into the Google Map directory. So, I will add the numerous sites from day one…initially with the sites from Roadside America. Then I will take my next step, based on those sites, and see if there are other sites of interest along the way, such as scenic views, state or National Parks, etc.

Sample Trip Day 1
Sample Trip Day 1

While adding these sites, I also create a document with the names of the places in their order. You can see from the map above that a number of places were selected in the St. Louis area. All of the locations on this map are just from Roadside America. Since Chillicothe will be the end point for the day, I will then fill in the blanks for other interesting sites along the way… As I look at the route, the following towns pop up along the way… St. Charles, St. Peters, Wentzville, Foristell, Wright City, Warrenton, Jonesburg, High Hill, New Florence, Danville, Williamsburg…and many more. I also notice that for a good part of the way I can go down Old U.S. 40 (called Booneslick Rd along part of the way and Old US 40 as well.) To me, this would be my option rather than the interstate, though, at many points it may parallel the interstate. When I hit Danville, it veers away onto some county roads, but returns to Old US 40 in Williamsburg. I will follow these roads until I hit US 54 which heads north at Kingdom City (which is an interesting place to visit by the way!!)

Kingdom City Water Tower
Kingdom City Water Tower

US 54 heads north to Mexico, Missouri, but veers off just south and turns into Missouri 22 before it goes into Mexico.  So, basically, all towns along that route are game for my search for interesting places.

GETTING TOWN INFORMATION

Mexico, Missouri
Mexico, Missouri

Perhaps one of my more unique methods of finding interesting places on the route is by using Google Maps, Google Search, Google Images, Wikipedia and miscellaneous town websites in combination.  It is almost like taking a virtual trip before I ever get on the road.  And I typically plan to hit more spots than I am actually able, but it really provides for some flexibility and it is fun.  Part of the reason for the flexibility is that you never know what you will see along the way that was unplanned.

Google Images for Mexico, Missouri
Google Images for Mexico, Missouri

Since it is halfway on the route, I randomly selected Mexico, Missouri to provide an example of how I go about finding places.  I have never been to Mexico and so, as I write this, I have no idea if there is anything of interest in this small central Missouri town.  My first step is a Google Search and then I switch over to images, some of which are above.  I didn’t really see anything that struck me there, so I went back to Google and found a website for Mexico, Missouri.  When I hit that page I immediately discovered that there is a Statue of Liberty in downtown Mexico (see photo below).

Mexico Web Page
Mexico Web Page

There are a few Statues of Liberty dotting the U.S. and it is always fun to capture them.  Since Mexico is on the route, this is a definite stop for a photo.  On further study of the Mexico website I also learn that it is the “Firebrick Capital of the World,” and that this industry has kept the town alive.  They have a Firebrick Museum with memorabilia and other items, as well as a Firebrick walk in the front.  This too could be of interest.  Being from Lexington, KY, the “Horse Capital of the World”, I also find it interesting that one of the few Horse Museums outside of the Kentucky Horse Park is located in Mexico.  It is the American Saddlebred Horse Museum and is the oldest Saddlebred Horse Museum in the nation.  This information alone would warrant a stop in Mexico as we pass by on our roundabout trip to Kansas City.

Centralia Triceratops
Centralia Triceratops

Of course, we were going through Mexico because of one of the sites we selected from Roadside America.  In this case, it is Larry Vennard’s Outside Sculpture Park of dinosaurs and other critters.  Those of you that follow my blogs know I have visited others like this in Canada, Washington and then, of course, the famous Jurustic Park in Wisconsin. (See an entire post dedicated to “Yard Art”).  This is certainly one of my passions out on the road….seeing these.  So, on this trip, I will be stopping here!!  Then, continuing west towards Salisbury, MO, there are the Scrap Metal Grasshoppers.  This too is a likely stop along the way.

Locust Creek Covered Bridge, Missouri
Locust Creek Covered Bridge, Missouri

I also have a fascination with Covered Bridges.  I have seen dozens of these old monuments to bridge building history, so a stop at the Locust Creek Covered Bridge State Park naturally is on the agenda before I finally hit Chillicothe, Missouri for an overnight stay.  By the way, Chillicothe is the “Home of Sliced Bread.”

Of course, I also explore interesting places to eat and scenic drives…and the list goes on and on.  Hopefully, this provides a piece of my mind and thought process as I plan my road trips.  The planning is almost as fun as the trip itself!!

(3626)

Car Art: Cars in art around the US




DSC_9365One of the more unique American traditions along the Less Beaten Paths is the recycling of auto parts for art. Indeed, a couple of the most famous roadside attractions in the US are made from cars. This post will look at a few pieces of “car art” that I have seen over the years and, then, at the end, I will note a few others that are out there and worth a visit from all of us — some that I hope to get to over the next couple of years.

"Spindle" by Dustin Shuler was in Cermak Plaza in Berwyn, Illinois until it was removed in May 2008
“Spindle” by Dustin Shuler was in Cermak Plaza in Berwyn, Illinois until it was removed in May 2008

Probably one of the two most famous Car Art pieces that I am aware of, this car shish-kabob called “Spindle” and created by artist Dustin Shuler (1948-2010), became ultra famous after being featured in Wayne’s World. It has also been featured in on the cover of a book (called Oddball Illinois: A Guide to Some Really Strange Places), on postcards, state tourist brochures, and maps. It was originally commissioned by the shopping center owner, David Bermant, who donated his BMW car to be placed second from the top of the sculpture.Shuler himself owned the red 1967 VW Beetle that crowned the sculpture.The foundation of the sculpture reached nearly 30 feet into the ground; the cost of erecting it was over $75,000.

Sumoflam and Spindle in September 2007
Sumoflam and Spindle in September 2007

The cars on a spike never did res well with some of the citizens of Berwyn, Illinois, and thus in 1990 they voted overwhelmingly for it to be removed. Nevertheless, the Mayor argued that it drew tourism to town and had become an icon. The owner of Cermak’s Shopping Center argued the same. But, alas, in July 2007, it was announced that the shopping center was to be redeveloped and that the site of the sculpture was earmarked for a new Walgreens store. New controversy ensued and finally, in May of 2008 the structure was taken down.

The impaled cars on the spindle, from top to bottom, were:

  1. 1967 Volkswagen Beetle, red
  2. 1976 BMW New Class, silver License Plate reads “DAVE”
  3. 1981 Ford Escort, blue
  4. 1974 or 1973 Mercury Capri, green
  5. 1978 Ford Mustang, white over blue
  6. 1981 Pontiac Grand Prix, maroon or burgundy
  7. 1980 or 1979 Ford LTD, light yellow
  8. 1981 or 1979 Mercury Grand Marquis, black
Spindle as seen from the shopping center.
Spindle as seen from the shopping center.

When I was at Cermak’s in 2007 I actually made a video of Spindle along with some of the other art at Cermak’s. Here it is….

Perhaps just as famous is the “Cadillac Ranch” near Amarillo, Texas. Like the “Spindle“, this site has had controversy and has been featured in movies, advertisements, comics, etc. It is most certainly one of the most well known Roadside Attractions in the U.S.

Cadillac Ranch as seen from Interstate 40 west of Amarillo, Texas
Cadillac Ranch as seen from Interstate 40 west of Amarillo, Texas

It was created in 1974 by Chip Lord, Hudson Marquez and Doug Michels, who were a part of the art group Ant Farm, and it consists of what were (when originally installed during 1974) either older running used or junk Cadillac automobiles, representing a number of evolutions of the car line from 1949 to 1963, half-buried nose-first in the ground, supposedly at an angle corresponding to that of the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt.

Cadillac Ranch - Amarillo, Texas
Cadillac Ranch – Amarillo, Texas
Sumoflam at Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Texas
Sumoflam at Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Texas

The cars have gone through numerous iterations…completely black, completely white, stc., when used for ads and commercials. But, soon thereafter, the tourists with the spray paint cans make their way to make their marks on the cars. So, this ends up being a “stationary attraction” always in a state of change.

Bottom of Cadillac at Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo
Underside of Cadillac at Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo

Due to the popularity of Cadillac Ranch, there have been a few imitators, none of which I have been to yet, but hope to get to sometime in the near future. These include:

VW Slug Bug Ranch – Conway, Texas

Slug Bug Ranch - this photo comes from wondersofbackroads.wordpress.com
Slug Bug Ranch – this photo comes from wondersofbackroads.wordpress.com

The Slug Bug Ranch consists of five VW Beetles buried nose first in the ground. There is also an older 1930s car on the site. As with Cadillac Ranch, people have left their mark in spray paint.

 

 

 

Combine City – Canyon, Texas

Combine Ranch
Combine Ranch – photo borrowed from Lovin Our Life Blog

This place even has their own website (see combinecity.com). According to their site, “Combine City began with one Combine Harvester planted in the ground. Over time, that solitary Combine has welcomed 13 more. In total, 14 Combines are planted, standing as a tribute to the great nature of the West Texas farmer.” Unlike Cadillac Ranch and Slug Bug Ranch, Combine City does not allow folks to come in and spray paint.

 

Airstream Ranch – Dover, Florida

Airstream Ranch - located at Bates RV in Dover, Florida
Airstream Ranch – located at Bates RV in Dover, Florida

Indeed, this is not cars…it is Airstreams, but these are a great addition to this collection. These are located at Bates RV in Dover, Florida and have been the subject for many photos in the past. My good friend, the musician Antsy McClain has actually done a photo shoot here for some Trailer Park Troubadours stuff (see below).

 

Antsy McClain - Airstream Ranch
Antsy McClain – Airstream Ranch

Like Cadillac Ranch and Slug Bug Ranch, the Airstream Ranch has not been without controversy. Neighbors have argued that it was unsightly, but, ultimately, the Tourist Attraction and Art Factors won out.

Like the other sites, this attracts tourists from all over and has been used in advertisements, etc.

The historic value of Airstreams in travel always leads to an interest in these aluminum domiciles on wheels. There are rallies all over the country and one can always see them on the road. Indeed, many are happy to be “Living in Aluminum” and following the Aluminum Rule – “Thou Shalt Enjoy the Ride”

 

Henry’s Rabbit Ranch – Staunton, Illinois

Henry's Rabbit Ranch - Staunton, Illinois
Henry’s Rabbit Ranch – Staunton, Illinois

Henry’s Rabbit Ranch is one of those iconic Route 66 stops on the back roads of America. Located just west of Interstate 55 in southern Illinois (and a short drive north of St. Louis), it lies along the old Route 66. Along with tons of Route 66 memorabilia, they have a set of buried cars.

 

Carhenge – Alliance, Nebraska

Carhenge - May 2014
Carhenge – May 2014

As with the others above, there are buried cars, but, in this case the creators of Carhenge tried to emulate the famed Stonehenge of England. They too have their own website, including a history of the Jim Reinders creation. This 1987 piece of Car Art has 38 automobiles and there are other pieces of Car Art on “Car Art Reserve”. Like the locations above, Carhenge has been the subject of numerous commercials and film productions.

All of the locations above are big tourist attractions for the back roads adventurer seeking the offbeat and quirky. But, there are many other smaller pieces of car art and/or “car displays” around the country, many of which I have had the opportunity to see. Here are a few.

Flattened Car - Cermaks Plaza, Berwyn, Illinois
Pinto Pelt – Cermaks Plaza, Berwyn, Illinois

The flattened car (called “Pinto Pelt“) is another creation by Spindle artist Dustin Shuler and is also located in Cermak’s Plaza. This too went the way of the world apparently in the reconstruction project in Berwyn’s once famous shopping center.

Art Car Museum - Houston, Texas
Art Car Museum – Houston, Texas

The Art Car Museum in Houston, Texas is dedicated to true Art Cars, those cars that have had art added to them. According to the “Art Car Manifesto“, “an art car is a motor-driven vehicle which a car artist alters in such a way as to suit his own aesthetic. In other words, the artist either adds or subtracts materials of his own choosing to or from the factory model or he may renovate an earlier model to revive a beauty and style that once was. The result is a vehicle which conveys new meaning through design, mechanical or structural changes, renovation, and/or the addition of new images, symbols or collage elements.”

Art Car Museum
Art Car Museum – Houston, Texas

The Art Car Museum website has a great Photo Gallery of some of the more unique cars featured at the museum. When I visited in 2010 the museum was not open so I didn’t get a chance to get any good car shots. But, along the way I have found a couple on my own…

Art Car at Third Street Stuff - Lexington, Kentucky
Art Car at Third Street Stuff – Lexington, Kentucky
Close up of Art Car at Third Street Stuff
Close up of Art Car at Third Street Stuff
Art Car at Melody Muffler in Walla Walla, Washington
Art Car at Melody Muffler in Walla Walla, Washington
Close up of spider on Art Car at Melody Muffler in Walla Walla, Washington
Close up of spider on Art Car at Melody Muffler in Walla Walla, Washington

Some of the more unique pieces utilizing cars as art that I have come across in my travels:

The Smoke Sax - Houston, Texas
The Smoke Sax – Houston, Texas

The Smoke Sax” was built in 1993 by artist Bob Wade of Austin, TX. It is 70 feet tall and is made of an oil field pipe, an upside down Volkswagen Beetle, beer kegs, canoe, hub caps, a surf board and chrome. Until March 2013 this was located at the Horn Bar and Grille on Richmond Avenue in Houston, TX. However, in March 2013 it was disassembled and will be eventually added to the unique folk art center called the Orange Show Center for Visionary Art. They also are the sponsor of the Houston Art Car Parade.

VW Base of the Smoke Sax
VW Base of the Smoke Sax
VW Hood Sax Valves on Smoke Sax
VW Hood Sax Valves on Smoke Sax

Clear across the country in Wolf Creek, Oregon an artist has created two Spider Bugs out of old Volkswagens. Roadside America covered these and, it turns out that these are not the only ones around. There are actually dozens of them. The website Weburbanist has a fine page dedicated to a number of these from around the U.S. including Oklahoma, Idaho, California, Ontario, Nevada, Colorado, Iowa and even in the Netherlands and New Zealand.

Spider Volkswagen - Wolf Creek, Oregon
Spider Volkswagen – Wolf Creek, Oregon
Spider Car - Wolf Creek, Oregon
Spider Karmann Ghia – Wolf Creek, Oregon

Heading back eastward one can venture into Kadoka, South Dakota, near the Badlands National Park and see a unique piece of art made from car parts, including a smashed car as a base…

"Scrappy" the Scrap Metal Buck by Brett Prang - Kadoka, South Dakota
“Scrappy” the Scrap Metal Buck by Brett Prang – Kadoka, South Dakota

Then there is the old truck with a Giant Potato on it at The Spud Drive-In in Driggs, Idaho

The Spud Drive-In - Teton Valley, Idaho
The Spud Drive-In – Driggs, Idaho

More emulation of Cadillac Ranch can be found at the now closed down Rio Brazos Music Hall in Granbury, Texas

Rio Brazos Dance Hall - Granbury, Texas (now closed)
Rio Brazos Music Hall – Granbury, Texas (now closed)
Old Trucks - Rio Brazos Music Hall - Granbury, Texas
Old Trucks – Rio Brazos Music Hall – Granbury, Texas

Commerce, Oklahoma, one of those Route 66 touristy towns has used parts of cars for advertising

Car Advertising in Commerce, Oklahoma
Car Advertising in Commerce, Oklahoma

Then there are the places with Cars on roofs and signs and walls to draw people in:

Big Daddy's Restaurant - Lake Norman, North Carolina
Big Daddy’s Restaurant – Lake Norman, North Carolina

Big Daddy’s is located in the heart of NASCAR Country in North Carolina. And to prove it they have a number of cars on their roof and on their lot.

Big Daddy's - Lake Norman, North Carolina
Big Daddy’s – Lake Norman, North Carolina

The Route 26 Mart in Scottsbluff, Nebraska touts itself as an Americana Convenience Mart and has on old finned Chevy on its roof to pull you in….

Route 26 Mart - Scottsbluff, Nebraska
Route 26 Mart – Scottsbluff, Nebraska

The Pioneer Auto Show in Murdo, South Dakota tries to draw you in with advertising some of the unique cars…

Pioneer Auto Show - Murdo, South Dakota
Pioneer Auto Show – Murdo, South Dakota

Angel’s Diner in McAlester, Oklahoma uses old cars to advertise their 60’s themed restaurant and Happy Days Motel.

Angel's Diner - McAlester, Oklahoma
Angel’s Diner – McAlester, Oklahoma

Of course, what would a Car Art post be without limos with Longhorns on their hoods??

Longhorn Limo - at Big Texan Steak House in Amarillo, Texas
Longhorn Limo – at Big Texan Steak House in Amarillo, Texas

The Big Texan Steak House in Amarillo, home of the 72 Oz steak, offers rides in their Longhorn Limos.

Longhorn Limos at Big Texan Steak House, Amarillo, Texas
Longhorn Limos at Big Texan Steak House, Amarillo, Texas

I have run across a couple of places where cars have been integrated into the buildings. Here is one example from western Oregon:

Blue Banana Espesso Bar in Lostine, Oregon
Blue Banana Espesso Bar in Lostine, Oregon

I would be remiss if I didn’t include the iconic and well known Nash AirFlyte that sits outside of Antique Archaeology in Le Claire, Iowa, better known as the home of the History Channel’s American Pickers.

Nash AirFlyte at Antique Archaeology
Nash AirFlyte at Antique Archaeology
Sumoflam with old Nash at Antique Archaeology in LeClaire, Iowa
Sumoflam with old Nash at Antique Archaeology in LeClaire, Iowa

The only Corvette Factory in the world is in my home state of Kentucky, in Bowling Green. They are also the home of the Corvette Museum and they have a nice one on a pedestal…

Old Corvette on pedestal at Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky
Old Corvette on pedestal at Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky

Finally, there are all of those old trucks and cars that scatter the landscape in yards and fields around the U.S. These can be seen on back roads and some are obviously used as yard decor…

Old Pickup in Cumberland Gap, Kentucky
Old Pickup in Cumberland Gap, Kentucky
Old truck in Sisters, Oregon
Old truck in Sisters, Oregon
Old Car with mannikin in Fletcher, Ohio
Old Car with mannequin in Fletcher, Ohio
Old Car at old gas station in Oakdale, Ontario, Canada
Old Car at old gas station in Oakdale, Ontario, Canada
Old pickup with swans in Disputanta, Kentucky
Old pickup with swans in Disputanta, Kentucky
Old car in Chester, Montana
Old car in Chester, Montana
Old cars in trees near Albatross, Missouri
Old cars in trees near Albatross, Missouri
Old truck with old signs in Bellevue, Idaho
Old truck with old signs in Bellevue, Idaho
Old car in Blue, Oklahoma
Old car in Blue, Oklahoma
Swamp Thing Chevy pickup in Uncertain, Texas
Swamp Thing Chevy pickup in Uncertain, Texas
Old truck near Rexburg, Idaho
Old truck near Rexburg, Idaho
Old car and truck in Elk Point, South Dakota
Old car and truck in Elk Point, South Dakota

I have a dozen more of these, but I think you get the “pictures.” So, get out and Enjoy the Ride and be on the watch out for those old vehicles that helped someone else Enjoy the Ride in the past!!!

Some roadside assistance provided by friends at……

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