Saturday, September 19, 2015

And the rest is huskory: Looking out the window at the great state of Nebraska

I've visited 46 of the US states and can honestly say it's been a thrill to see every one. One place in particular, not normally known as a vacation destination, is the great state of Nebraska. If you're traveling by car from the east coast to the west, you know you're a long, long way from home when you get to Nebraska, and you've still got a long, long way to go. We took one of our all-time best detours when we drove a couple hours northwest off of Interstate 80 to the small town of Alliance to see Carhenge, the replica of Stonehenge made out of old cars. Well worth the trip, and the getting there really was fun. Who knew Nebraska was full of such pretty sandhills, plains with those cliche windmilly things and lonesome, melancholy small towns? People from Nebraska, I imagine, but its beauty was quite a revelation to us native New Englanders. Maybe Nebraska should be a vacation destination after all, dad gummit. Here are a few shots of our travels through the Cornhusker State, some shot from the highway, some when we got out to stretch our legs a bit. How can you not love a state whose state beverage is milk, state dance is the square dance, and state song is "Beautiful Nebraska"? Long may your goldenrod bloom, Western meadowlark sing and White-tailed deer roam.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

No need to be coy Arroyo: The small charms of Arroyo Grande, California

We had the privilege of working our way down the California coastline back in 2011 and happened upon the charming village of Arroyo Grande in San Luis Abispo County. It was a bright, sunny late morning with very few people about and it gave me the sense of an early 1960s "Twilight Zone" set; pleasant but melancholy. I love small towns like this and seeing them on long trips is every bit as satisfying as visiting the big tent-pole sights like the Grand Canyon or the World's Biggest You Name It. Small but Grande...I like that.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Futuristic presents from the past: West Palm Beach, Florida's fantastic mid-century transportation exhibit

In the 1950s, American car makers were on top of the world and autos couldn't be too heavy, aggressive-looking or laden with chrome. A vehicle was a status symbol and the more it looked like a rocket ship headed for Mars, the more we Americans liked it. Car makers would create fantastic concept vehicles with big fins, bubble tops and huge, jet-like dual exhaust pipes to test the waters of potential car buyers. If a dramatic chrome bumper treatment was a big hit, maybe next year's Buick Roadmaster would feature it. Armies of incredibly talented engineers, designers and artists put these one-of-a-kind vehicles on the auto show floor under strict top secret conditions. So top secret, in fact, that most of the brilliant drawings and models were destroyed, lest the competition catch wind of their precious ideas. Luckily for car buffs, transportation historians and mid-century hipster fans, a Mr. Frederic Sharf began preserving these items years ago and amassed an amazing collection of thousands of drawings and artifacts. West Palm Beach, Florida's Norton Museum of Art is currently exhibiting a fraction of of these pieces called "Going Places" and it features not just cars, but also planes, trains and even a hybrid car/helicopter or two, all with a tomorrow is here today theme.

The craftsmanship and technical virtuosity of the artwork is Photoshop shortcuts for these guys. The illustrations are all hand-painted and drawn in a heightened state of super-idealized reality. The future seemed so bright in these pieces, with their unrealistically perfect people and dreamy sophisticated backgrounds. If this is what life could be like in the 1950s, then surely we'd all be wearing jet-packs and driving car-planes by 1965, wouldn't we? A portion of the exhibit also features original advertising illustrations of regular, less showy cars for sale at your local Chevy, Oldsmobile or Ford dealer and again, for something as seemingly mundane as a magazine advertisement, the technique of these artworks is extraordinary. The chrome gleams, the reflections on the finish and tail lights shine and the backgrounds are packed with idealized suburban scenes or sophisticated city folks on the town. I want to be there, I think to myself when I see these.

The show will be up until January 2016, so check it out if you're going to be in South Florida. Don't let the future pass you by.

Oh, and since it's the Norton Museum of Art, I simply couldn't resist adding this.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

No more calls, we have a wiener: Some hot dogs seen along the way

It was National Hot Dog Day the other day and we'll be frank with you, we relish the opportunity to play ketchup and look back on some 'dogs we've seen while rolling down the open road. Please take a moment to see if these cut the mustard.

This brat-armed muffler man stands watch over Atlanta, Illinois on Route 66. Read our post about him here.

The Cozy Dog Drive-In of Springfield, Illinois claims to have given birth to the corn dog, and they've got this whimsical poster to let you know...

 ...and an awesome married couple of hot dogs as their logo. Read about them here.

 Tony Packo's of Toledo, Ohio has their walls covered in autographed facsimilies of hot dog buns (Burt Reynolds started the tradition). Toledo native Jamie Farr of TV's "M*A*S*H" mentioned Packos in an episode or two of the show, and the entire cast signed buns seen here.

Pink's of Los Angeles is where the celebrities like to mix with the common folk whilst dining on dogs. Here's our post.

Dillon, South Carolina's kitsch-tastic South of the Border offers hot dogs from this neon gleaming stand.

 We saw not one but three Oscar Meyer Wienermobiles in New York City's Times Square of all places...

 ...including this guy called Lil Link.

Rhode Island is quite fond of hot dogs, including this model from Providence's famous Haven Bros. cart.

There's another kind of dog in Little Rhodey called the hot weiner, or New York System, which people from New York have never heard of.  It consists of a spicey meat sauced-covered frank, dressed three at a time upon the arm of the chef (until the state health department said that was unsanitary).

We were extremely fortunate to have dined at Los Angeles's famous Tail-O-The-Pup back in 2004. It went out of business in 2005 and was put in storage until 2014, when its new owners had it moved to Las Vegas for restoration and hopes for a reopening back in LA. Bravo to them...we never sausage a beautiful place. Click here for a nice video from the Vintage LA website all about it.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Update: Hail to the chiefs: President's Park of Williamsburg, Virginia

 Presidents Park was a beautiful place back in 2007...

 ...and they even had a chunk of Air Force One.

 Today, the statues sit in a field in Croaker, Virginia. There's hope, though, because a fellow is putting up some money to reopen the attraction.

 These pictures are awesome and are credited to Christopher Smyth on the WBAL-TV website.

 I think this would make a great set for a low-budget horror flick, don't you?

One of the sad realities of taking roadtrips over many years is the mortality rate of some of the beloved places we have visited. All too often, an eccentric roadside attraction cannot stay in business or gets ordinanced out of existence. Such was the case with Presidents Park of Williamsburg, Virginia. We were lucky enough to visit this spectacular place back in its 2007 hey-day. It was a lovely, tranquil, educational, pleasingly nutty place with 18-foot busts of each U.S. president and plaques with presidential information and history. We marveled at how lush and educational it all was, and in a perfect location since nearby Colonial Williamsburg draws people already interested in U.S. history. The owners couldn't keep it going, though, and it went out of business in 2010. The busts were then moved to a farm field in Croaker, Virginia.

But there is now hope on the horizon according to a dispatch from WBAL-TV's website. A Mr. Howard Hankins paid $50,000 to have them moved again and is also paying for their restoration. He wants to find a new location in Colonial Williamsburg and reopen the park. Hooray for you, Mr. Hankins. We loved this attraction and wish you the best. Perhaps it could be a miniature golf course...a Watergate water hazard around Richard Nixon, a James K. Polk "Manifest Destiny" hole, perhaps. We need a place where Democrats, Republicans, Whigs and Know-Nothings can comingle harmoniously. I vote for that.

Click here for another good website with lots of info.