This is part two of my Midland Trail series and this post will focus on West Virginia’s Capital Charleston. During most of May I spent a great deal of time in this lovely river town while visiting a friend of mine who was ill and eventually passed away. That is another story.
During my time in Charleston, I took the opportunity to drive around the town and get photos of the unique Capitol Building, a few other buildings, murals and other things. The town certainly does have its own unique personality.
Charleston is the capital and largest city West Virginia. It is located at the confluence of the Elk and Kanawha Rivers in Kanawha County. The city apparently got its start in the late 1700s and historical conjecture indicates that Charleston is named after Col. George Clendenin’s father, Charles. Col. Clendenin acquired the deed to the area in 1786. Charles Town was later shortened to Charleston to avoid confusion with another Charles Town in eastern West Virginia, which was named after George Washington’s brother Charles. Daniel Boone was a resident for a time and served on the Virginia House of Delegates.
A short drive around the area near the Capitol Building provides the opportunity to see a few murals, one of my favorite things to look for. Here are a few murals in the area…but I don’t think I found them all yet!!
Another mural I came across was on the back side of a convenience store in an alley.
Murals aren’t the only public art in Charleston. As noted in their website Public Art in Charleston, the town has promoted art works including murals and sculptures for over 13 years. While driving around town I came across one sculpture that looked oddly familiar. Titled “Hallelujah,”, the piece below is by artist Albert Paley, who made four massive sculptures entitled “Odyssey” in Council Bluffs, IA (see my post here).
Another interesting sculpture, very close by is the “Festival Delle Arti” by artist Harry Marinsky. This whimsical work of art is likely appealing to children (and adults with the hearts of children!).
More scenes from downtown Charleston include some buildings and signs. Really a fun place to visit.
I found Charleston to be a wonderful town…lovely bridges, a nice river, beautiful buildings and artwork.
Woodflock – a relatively unknown destination for those unfamiliar with Antsy McClain and the Trailer Park Troubadours. For the last six years Flamingoheads from California and other places have gathered in the Sycamore Grove campground along the Sacramento River near Red Bluff, CA to enjoy time schmoozing with Antsy and the band and each other through music, meditation, arts and crafts and food. Held every Memorial Day weekend, the campground turns into a flamingo haven.
I have traveled with Antsy McClain on a cruise to Mexico, I have accompanied him on Field Trips in Kentucky and Texas and have toured with him and the band in Washington, Pennsylvania, Texas, West Virginia and California, but I have never had the opportunity to attend the pinnacle of Flamingohead Fantasy trips…Woodflock. That is, until last week. And what a trip it was!
I departed on a non-stop flight to San Francisco from Cincinnati on Thursday. It was a nice four and a half hour flight with views of clouds until we got over the Rocky Mountains In Colorado and oh what a view. The snow covered peaks and the lakes…phenomenal. We went right over Mount Evans, where I have set foot in the past. How fun.
I arrived in San Francisco at about 11:30 AM California time and was met there by my Flamingohead friend Carla, a sweet and bouncy young lady of 70. Carla had worked out a few plans for our day and our drive to Santa Rosa, where she lives.
We left SFO and began our trip north to the city where we first visited Golden Gate Park to see the lovely mural in the visitor’s center, the beautiful flowers and a cool old Dutch windmill. The park is a beautiful inner city park with lots to see, but we had to move on to see some of the other sights. Here are a few scenes.
In 1901, John McLaren, together with Park Commissioners Adolph B. Spreckles and Reuben Lloyd, convinced the San Francisco Recreation and Park Commission to build a windmill 300 yards from the ocean. This windmill could take advantage of the prevailing winds to pump water for the park’s irrigation system. Completed in 1902 at a cost of $25,000, the North Windmill was designed by Alpheus Bull Jr., a prominent San Franciscan at the time. Over the years it has had to go through various restorations, but the blades now function, though the pump has long been removed.
Golden Gate Park runs along the coast and so there are plenty of beach scenes and birds, etc.
Our next stop was for lunch. What better place than an old fashioned diner. We stopped at the historic Mel’s Drive-in, a throwback to the 1950s both in style and cooking. Every table had a Rock-ola jukebox with 50s and 60s songs. Though working hard to change my diet, coming to this diner was risky…the meatloaf looked fabulous. But, I stuck with a large salad and a couple of rolls. No butter. Great diner atmosphere and what appeared to be great diner food.
The original Mel’s Drive-in, built in the 1940s, was used for George Lucas’ classic film American Graffiti. There are now a few in the San Francisco area and even a couple, with the trademarked name and logo, at amusement parks. Following is a brief portion of the history from their website:
Following is a brief portion of the history of Mel’s as taken from their website:
“Mel Weiss and Harold Dobbs started it all back in 1947 when they built their first car hop eatery, inspired by similar restaurants serving motorists in Los Angeles. With a staff of fourteen carhops covering a 30,000 square foot parking lot, they lured the hungry with a local radio personality broadcasting a live remote. As music reverberated through car radios in the drive-ups, the curb-stepping gals of 140 South Van Ness became a new paradigm for service.
At all hours of the day and night, crowds of patrons that fancied dining-in-your-car came early and often. It didn’t take long for the first unit to multiply into eleven! Six Mels became landmarks in the Bay Area with additional cluster achieving their own notoriety in Stockton and Sacramento. They reigned for almost twenty years, until a parade of franchised fast food outlets finally outpaced their service. As the new philosophy of “serve yourself” began to reprogram attitude about dining, Mel’s began its gradual decline.”
A Drive Down Lombard Street in San Francisco
After a good lunch and a break, we drove around town and made our way to Lombard St., the so called Crookedest Street in the World. The one-way block on Russian Hill between Hyde and Leavenworth Streets has eight sharp turns that supposedly make it the crookedest street in the world. The design, first suggested by property owner Carl Henry and built in 1922, was intended to reduce the hill’s natural 27% grade, which was too steep for most vehicles. The sign at the top recommends 5 mph. There were dozens of tourists at the top of the road, all along the crooked road and even dozens more when we got to the bottom. A fun little drive, as can be seen from the video above.
After our little brake infused jaunt down Lombard St., we then meandered around town over to Fisherman’s Wharf. Following are a few scenes from along the way.
From Fisherman’s Wharf we made our way to the Golden Gate Bridge. There was plenty of construction going on so traffic was slow going. But, once we got to the bridge the fog began to sneak in above the bridge…a beautiful sight. We crawled across the bridge, which was covered in foot traffic as well. Truly a major attraction.
Once across the bridge we found the viewing area which offered not only a spectacular view of the Golden Gate Bridge, but an expansive view of San Francisco, Alcatraz Island, Coit Tower and more. And the weather was perfect.
I was last in San Francisco in 2009 with Antsy McClain when he and the band performed at the Great American Music Hall (see video below). But we didn’t have time to stop and enjoy the bridge. So it was an awesome opportunity.
After the bridge we made our way into Novato to join another Flamingohead sweetheart, Ione, who would be lending me her RV (nicknamed IRV) for the weekend in Red Bluff. We had some great Chinese food at the China Palace and then joined together for a fun picture to memorialize the occasion.
After dinner, Carla drove us up to her doublewide trailer in Santa Rosa, CA. She Lives in Aluminum and is happy there in Lot #36 …see the video below if you don’t get it!! (Taken in 2009 at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco…video by Sumoflam)
A nice 2500 mile day!
Next post will cover Santa Rosa to Ukiah to Red Bluff!
Lexington again has new art covering some of its formerly barren walls around town as the Street Art promoting organization PRHBTN brought in four new world renown street artists to enhance the growing collection of unique murals that dot the town.
The contributing artists this year included How and Nosm (twin brothers Raoul & Davide Perre originally from Spain), ROA (from Ghent, Belgium), Andrew Hem (a Cambodian immigrant currently from Los Angeles) and MTO (a French born graffiti artist currently from Berlin). Each of these four artists have very unique styles and techniques as can be seen from their photos in this post.
Perhaps the most amazing (and controversial) is the behemoth 75 foot tall by 270 feet wide mural by MTO on the side of the Pepper Distillery Warehouse on Manchester. Titled “My Name is MO,” this piece of Street Art is stunning in its accuracy and complexity. Though MTO is more well known for painting giant murals of famous celebrities, this particular character is not one. Rather, he created a complex story that explains the creation and it is artistically presented in a video that MTO produced.
This particular massive mural has been accused of using gang symbolism. The neighboring garden center has complained that they don’t like being stared down at be this monster mural. But, ultimately was painted on private property and went through the appropriate approvals before a drop of paint made its way onto the brick and mortar canvas.
In a nutshell, this MTO mural epitomizes what PRHBTN is all about. PRHBTN is short for Prohibition, which is what many graffiti and street artists face. PRHBTN was started by John and Jessica Winters in 2011 to encourage the growth of street art in Lexington. They have invited well-known international artists to town to create new mural works on vacant downtown walls, getting support from private donors, local business and community organizations (including me through Kickstarter). They work with property owners to secure the brick and mortar “canvases.” Their goal to highlight this new genre of art is turning Lexington into a living street art gallery, as more than 25 large murals and a number of minor ones adorn many of the formerly bare walls of the community. Indeed, one of last year’s pieces, “Abraham Lincoln” by Brazilian street artist Eduardo Kobra, has drawn national attention and is a new drawing card for tourism downtown.
Adding to the collection this year is the huge mural entitled “Moonshine” by Twin brothers How and Nosm. They are known for their black, white, red and pink color schemes as well as their whimsical work. This mural does not disappoint. Painted on the four story side of the LexPark parking structure in Short Street, it is sure to be missed by those driving down the street. But, for those walking to the garage from Mill St., it is difficult to miss. Try as I might, I have not been able to track down the story behind this giant masterpiece of whimsy.
Just down Short Street, about three blocks from “Moonshine,” is another new work on the side of a building, this one by Los Angeles artist Andrew Hem. Titled “The Night Watchers,” it is the latest creation by Hem, a 2006 graduate of Art Center College of Design (Pasadena, CA), and an internationally recognized muralist. Andrew has created public artworks most recently in the Arctic, as well as Los Angeles, Chicago, Seattle, New York and London and now Lexington.
The fourth artist, ROA, was commissioned to do his mural on the side of building just off of North Limestone in his trademark monochromatic style. His dying bison is about three stories tall and is well worth a ponderous peek.
And, while in Lexington, ROA added a second piece in the Lexington Distillery District on the side of an old water tank. This giant bee appears as if it had rolled over and died.
The annual PRHBTN commissions and party typically happen in October. Apparently, another well-known Chicago-based street artist with a defined style, named Left Handed Wave, just happened to sneak into town and left his mark on the front of the same building that 2013 PRHBTN artist Odeith had painted horses on the side of. His iconic style is a signature in and of itself.
But PRHBTN was not the only group commissioning work this year. LexPark, in conjunction with the Saul Good Restaurants and a couple of other companies, brought in Appalachian artist Lacy Hale, with her brother Seth, painted a wonderfully colorful Tulip Poplar mural at the stairwell entrance to the LexPark garage near the corner of Main St. and Broadway (118 North Broadway). The Tulip Poplar is the state tree of Kentucky.
While on my quest to discover more art work in town, I came across two 2013 pieces by Dronex, Inc., a collaborative of artists headed by Myke Dronez, of Lexington, perhaps the most well known street artist from Kentucky. They have two wonderfully whimsical pieces in town (and perhaps more). The first is of a train hauling bourbon barrels and can be found in the Lexington Distillery District by Buster’s. The other is on the side of a building on Lisle Industrial Ave and is called “Stockyard Commons.” Both have the Dronex drones dotting the work.
Another fun discovery was just off North Broadway past Loudon Ave., on Washington St., which is home to the BroCoLoco Agency. They have painted a flock of migratory origami titled “Origami Tsunami” on the side of a building., apparently completed in early July 2014.
UPDATED DEC. 1, 2014
I heard a rumor that there were a couple of murals I missed in my recent whirlwind tour of Lexington. The one above is at 600 N. Limestone on the side of Progress Market. No idea who painted it and can’t locate any info. Here are a couple more pics.
Just down the street a couple of blocks is a small shop called Vintage Creations on Lime. The BroCoLoco Agency recently completed the wall art on the side (facing True Alley). I really like this one!
In fact, on that coolish day in November I actually made a whirlwind trip around Lexington to do a selfie at as many of these as I could find and get to. I managed most of them. I have created a slideshow of my “Selfie Tour” and posted it HERE. You can also see my posts from last year PART I and PART II for more details.
Custom map of locations for all of the murals and street art works in Lexington is below: