While in Fort Worth visiting my sister in late February, I decided to make a trip to Haltom City, Texas to check out some of the old retro neon signs, old hotel signs and things like that (having been referred by fellow travel blogger, author and friend Tui Snider). While I was doing so, I decided I would just check in on my handy-dandy RoadsideAmerica.com app and see if there was anything of interest in the area. One of the places that came up in Haltom City was the DFW Elite Toy Museum. I had a an hour or so to kill and it looked interesting, so I decided to find my way over there and give it a visit, especially since Roadside America had this tagged as a “Needs Research” location. And, moreover, it is a FREE musueum!!
From the location where I was in Haltom City, the route took me through a number of salvage yards and junkyards and a bumpy, pot hole filled and muddy road. I thought to myself “there must be something wrong.” Eventually the road led me to turn left and there were a number of small warehouses and building, many of which were associated with the nearby salvage yards. Unknowingly, I ended up passing the location just because nothing in there seemed to be what I would consider “museum-like.” I went back to RA app and looked again and it noted that the museum was in a building with an ice cream cone on top. Voila! There it was, the building with neon ice cream cone on top.
I got out of the car and walked in and my eyes were engulfed with some really beautiful scale model cars and even a Batmobile. I talked to one of the ladies there and they sent me to the back and there was a giant room full of a variety of sizes and ages and shapes and types of toy cars. Most of them were larger scale metal cars. There were even some toy cars that pre-dated World War II from Japan and Germany.
There were some handmade custom Rolls Royce’s and other hand made toys, many that appeared to be quite expensive. As I perused through all of the display cases, I saw dozens and dozens of unique vehicles and was amazed at everything that was there in this little hidden gem in the middle of Haltom City, Texas.
As if that wasn’t enough, I went into the next room and the first thing I saw were too beautiful Ferrari sports cars. And there was another car in a bubble. This is an air controlled plastic garage for the vehicle that was in there. Turns out that this car was called a Bugatti. This one’s a 2008 and the lady told me it was worth $1.8 million! I had heard of a Bugatti before but I had never seen one in real life and I really didn’t get to see it very well through the bubble either. Fortunately, the owner sent me a photo of the car before he placed it in the bubble.
The DFW Elite Toy Museum was created by owner Ron Sturgeon, a self-made millionaire. When Ron was 17, his father died and he inherited a half-interest in a rusty VW bug and $1500. He also became homeless. Ron started off in the salvage business, with his company called AAA Small Car World in 1978 after humble beginnings fixing a few small cars while driving around in an old VW Bug and living in a trailer. He had started by repairing cars, but then realized he could make more money selling the parts of salvaged vehicles. By the mid-1990s he had over 150 employees and a multi-million dollar business. A voracious reader, in a way you could say he read and learned his way to earning millions. He has also written a number of books, some of which are available at the museum including Green Weenies and Peer Benchmarking.
Ron began collecting his toy and model cars in the 1980s and today has amassed over 3000 of them. He is especially known for his rare Driving School Model collection which is probably one of the largest such collections in the world. He also has a number of other rare collectibles such as a custom-made one-of-a-kind 1928 Mercedes Benz SSK 1/2.5 scale model, some rare Japanese Nomura Dream Cars, a 1950s Ventura Alfa Romeo C6 2500 Spyder and many more. Sadly for me, I only had an hour, which provided plenty of time for photos, but little time to learn about the cars. I hope to make another trip in the future with four hours to learn more. Below are a number of photos of many of the unique items in the museum. There is another room dedicated to dogs and dogs in cars that I didn’t have any time to look at. You can see dozens of photos of the massive collection on the DFW Elite Toy Museum Website.
Ron has not limited himself to Toy Cars. He has a number of other collectibles including an original “Thing T. Thing” prop from the Addams Family TV show, and a few other oddities.
My experience overall was “overwhelmingly surprised and happy” after my visit here. I am grateful to Ron’s staff for all of their kindness and assistance (such as opening the case for a better photo of the Batmobile — which I DID NOT touch.)
Hello all! Just wanted to announce that I am in the midst of writing my FIRST BOOK (in a planned series of 12) – Titled “Less Beaten Paths of America: Unique Town Names,” the book is all about a number of unique named places I have been to on my numerous travels along the back roads of America. The cover art is currently being designed by my good friend Antsy McClain, who is not only an amazing singer/songwriter/storyteller, but also a very accomplished graphic artist. I also want to thank my friend and fellow travel writer Tui Snider for her divine advice on self-publishing.
I hope to have the book available by mid-October and will be doing a pre-order promotion later this month. If YOU would like to be included on all promotions and announcements please email me at the NEW official email for the book: firstname.lastname@example.org This will be my official email list.
So many of you have suggested I write these books — I hope you’ll support me!! Thanks always to all of you!!
I am enriched by people. They inspire me, they teach me, they bring me joy.
I have often been told that I have never met a stranger. And it’s true. I am unabashed around people. Whether it’s joking with a person in line at a grocery store or interacting with the person at a table next to me in a restaurant, I always feel comfortable.
The same goes with my travels. I have been blessed to have met hundreds of unique individuals from all walks of life.
The diversity of people enriches us.
Unlike my other posts in this series, I am stretching far beyond the boundaries of back roads in America. This post will take the reader to Japan, the Philippines, Canada and beyond. As a tour guide in Flagstaff I got to interact with 100s of nameless tourists from all over the world. Working in Japan in the late 1980s, I met more unique folks from the far corners of the earth.
First off, there are the “random people.” The people I have photographed on the streets while traveling. Here are a few, including some from the Philippines during my trips there in 2007. From the loneliness of street people, to the unique shots I would see from the car as I drive by in some small town, these people add color.
For years, I have worked and often traveled with singer/songwriter Antsy McClain to many parts of this country. I have been blessed to meet many wonderful musicians, some very well known, others not so well known. Many I have gotten to know well…not as musicians, but as people.
Many of the musicians I have met are genuine. They are such neat people…not pretentious at all. It is nice to talk to them about life. One of them, Bobby Cochran, who played guitar for Antsy for a few years, was also the lead guitarist for the band Steppenwolf in the 1970s. I saw him as a fan back in 1975 and never imagined I would be traveling on the road with him talking religion, politics and life.
Another Antsy fan I met in Lethbridge, Alberta. Crafty Jack is a carpenter and master luthier. I spent two days with he and his sweet wife “Little Debbie” back in 2008. He taught me and my son about guitar making and took us on a nice adventure to Vulcan, Alberta to learn about Star Trek. Also, while in Lethbridge we enjoyed a dinner with him and Debbie in a converted water tower. What a trip! Our visit with him was out of this world!
I have spent time with Crafty and Debbie in California and also on a cruise to Cancun. We strolled the historic site of Tulum in Mexico together. So blessed to know these great folks.
Along the way I have become close friends with many Antsy fans. These “Flamingoheads,” as they are called, are also a diverse and lovely flock of folks. Some have become lifelong friends.
A couple of these Flamingoheads took great care of me on a visit to California in 2015. “Christmas Carla” and “Princess Ione” provided housing, touring and transportation for nearly a week. I got to know them, not as fans of Antsy, but as the real people they are with their unique life stories.
My travels across Canada and the US have led me to others. Take, for instance, Oliver Zuder, a BBQ pit master from Ontario. I met him at Camp 31 BBQ in Paris, Ontario in 2013 and we became friends soon. I went to BBQ competitions to watch him and his brother Davor make people smile with satisfaction.
In the past couple of years, Oliver has started a new BBQ business called Uncle Sam’s BBQ, also in Ontario. We keep in contact and my mouth waters every time I think of him.
Crisscrossing the country I have met and chatted with cafe owners and shop owners. Their colorful stories enrich.
I have also had my brushes with celebrities in my travels. As a tour guide in Arizona in 1983, I once met Alice Cooper in a restaurant parking lot in Sedona. We talked Golf and politics for 30 minutes. No selfies, no autographs. Just two people chatting. On another occasion, I was attending a solar conference in Kobe, Japan in 1991. At lunch I sat with some other non-Japanese from Norway. We chatted a while and then I was introduced to Morten Harket, who I immediately recognized as the lead vocalist for the group A-ha (Take on Me). He happened to be a huge advocate of solar energy. We talked about many things. No pictures or autographs. Just enriching conversation.
One of my fond memories was being on the road for three days in Kyushu, Japan as the personal guide and interpreter for Olympic gold medalist Nadia Comaneci. I spent hours listening to her harrowing escape from the Communist regime in Romania. Though a national hero, she was also a prisoner to dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu. Fascinating stuff.
Back in August 2010 I watched the first episode of the TV show Swamp People. Already an avid traveler and travel writer, I became fascinated with the show, which featured Gator hunters in Louisiana. One of them, Troy Landry, was quite a character. I told my wife “one day I am gonna track him down and meet him.” In 2015 I did just that. I visited his bait shop and crawfishing facility in Pierre Part, LA. He happened to be there buying loads and loads of crawfish from fishermen. We talked and chatted for 30 minutes or more while he worked. Friendly and outgoing, and totally good natured, he told stories of Gator hunting, told me about the crawfishing business and the let me “choot him” in a selfie.
On another roadtrip, this time into Iowa, I visited the small town of LeClaire, on the Mississippi River. This was the home to Antique Archaeology, the Antique shop made famous by the hit TV Show American Pickers. While there in that hot July afternoon, I was told that Danielle Colby, one of the cast members, was around and was always happy to meet fans. She is the tattooed friendly gal that works with the pickers on the show. During my visit, I learned that she had her own business creating unique clothing and had a shop across the street. I went over there and we chatted about her work, her roller derby hobby and her work as a burlesque dancer. She welcomed a selfie too.
Not so famous, but just as unique, was my opportunity to meet 80 year old Clyde Wynia, the creative mind behind the amazing Jurustic Park in Marshfield, WI. This former attorney turned his welding passion into a unique menagerie of metal creations, including giant dragons and small spiders. He gave me a personal tour and told some amazing stories.
I also can’t forget to mention my encounter with “the one and only JFK,” James Frank Kotera, the Twine Ball Man of Lake Nebagamon, WI. (See full story and video HERE.)
My travels have also led me to chance meetings with individuals with similar interests. And social media, especially Facebook, has extended that opportunity.
On a trip to Wyoming in 2013, I stopped at a place called Hell’s Half Acre. A unique geological formation, it was a must see photo stop for me. I struck up a conversation with a young hot shot photographer named Derek Ace, from Madison, WI. We hit it off and I got his contact info. Derek and I have been Facebook friends ever since and I have been enlightened and enriched by his amazing photography, especially his desert works and his off the chain shots of abandoned buildings, rusted cars and sundry other forgotten treasures left behind. See his Rural Ruins page for some great photos.
As an avid blogger of quirky things, I had a chance virtual encounter via the web of Texas Travel blogger Tui Snider. We exchanged notes about offbeat and quirky places in Texas and soon became good Facebook friends. On a subsequent trip to Texas in 2013, I finally met this amazing individual and her husband Larry at their gothic-accented home in Azle. Besides quirky things, Tui is also fascinated by the paranormal and has also become quite the expert on cemetery gravestone symbolism. She has published numerous books and articles. I count her as a dear friend.
Through Tui I have met ghost tour guide Shelly Cumbie in Denton, TX, who has provided many fascinating stories. I have also become a virtual friend of writer, blogger and podcaster Teal Gray.
Teal has actually done a live podcast interview with me on her internationally syndicated podcast. She also recently write an article about my travel blogging and photography for the Dallas Entertainment Journal (see the link here)
The podcast can be heard in its entirety here:
Even my local staycation trips have led me to fascinating new friends, such as local bird and nature photographers and enthusiasts. See some great photos by the members of the Jacobson Park Photographers Group which I started on Facebook. (see the site)
I have also had the opportunity to meet local chefs that have been on Food Network competitions such as Cutthroat Kitchen or Guy’s Grocery Games. Ranada Riley, co-owner of the Lexington Diner, was one of these. Her “amazing” hairdo and unique cooking style have made her a local celebrity. But there is so much more to her beyond the cooking, whether it be her faith, her love for life or her diverse lifestyle. Meeting her in person and then following her life through social media has been a great adventure.
What more can I say? People bring me great joy and it is so fun to meet new folks every week!