If you look at a map, the eastern end of Long Island, New York looks like a fish tail, with beautiful Orient Point on the northeastern tip and tony Montauk on the southeastern tip. In between the two by land lies the working class town of Riverhead, with its cool, revitalized old downtown and hardscrabble outer regions. We recently delighted upon an eccentric sight next door to our humble motor lodgings: a mural combining the unlikely duo of Vikings and billiards, painted on the back exterior wall of Billiard World, a pool table sales and service company. It is executed with wit and craft, depicting Norsemen with pool cues and darts, and a mermaid or two also thrown in for good measure. Why this unlikely combination? Could the owners be of Scandinavian heritage? Vem vet? (That's "who knows?" to you non-Swedish speakers). We just know that, as with ABBA, Ingmar Bergman movies and Volvos, it's Scandanavian, we like it and we don't know why.
I ramped up the color contrast...cue the dramatic music.
I never met a water tower I didn't like, but this one takes the cake.
I love looking at water towers on a cross-country trip. Their grand scale and proud proclamation of each hamlet's names break up the monotony of traveling through places where there isn't all that much to look at. One of my all-time favorites is this beauty from Fargo, North Dakota. The very name Fargo gives you the sense of being somewhere you wouldn't normally expect to be (unless, of course, you live here). And the fact that the eccentric Coen brothers made a famous movie with this same name adds to the je ne sais quoi. We hit it under perfect conditions: dark clouds in one direction, bright sun over the shoulder illuminating the white huge bulbous monolith and gray Times Bold lettering. Thanks, Fargo, for such an awesome water tower, so Fargo from the maddening crowd.
We had the pleasure of staying the night in the southwestern Colorado town of Durango a few years ago on one of our long, cross-country treks and were delightfully surprised at what a cool place it is. As is the case with many of our trips, we wished we had budgeted more time to see this awesome city, with its authentic old west feel and retro vibe. Much of it looks as it would have a hundred years ago to this untrained eye, and a grizzled Walter Brennan riding down the main drag saying the word "pie-annie" instead of "piano" would not have been out of place. There are lots of amusing signs and great storefront windows to peek into. All of our usual budget motel suspects were booked the night we pulled in, so we ended up staying at the General Palmer Inn, a fabulous downtown old west hotel from 1898...the kind of place you picture Wyatt Earp frequenting. We salute you Durango...you're the rootin'-tootin'-est, six-gun shootin'-est, cowboy bootinest town this side of the Rio Grande (and I don't mean Mahatma Gandhi).
That's Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Arizona, bub
Photo ops abound...
And don't forget to visit the snack bar
There's only one place in all of the USA where you can be in four states at the same time (U.S. states, that is, not states of confusion, shock, grace or decay). That would be what's known as Four Corners USA in the upper southwest, where Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Arizona gather at one quadripoint. You'd think such a cartographic wonder would be in a hugely populated area, but au contraire. It's way, way out in desolate semi-autonomous Native American land, and you have to really be up for an eccentric roadside outing to get there. It doesn't disappoint, though, and it's set up nicely, with benches, plaques, concrete markers, flags...the whole shooting match. And if you sit, kneel, or squat just right, you really can be in four places at the same time -- kind of like a geographic version of Twister: right hand Utah, left foot Colorado. There are booths surrounding the intersection where Native Americans sell their wares to help you remember this momentous occasion, along with all the awesome photo ops to make your friends and relatives back home jealous. And we love this delicious irony: this truly American landmark site is administered by the Navajo Nation Department of Parks and Recreation. But you don't need reservations.
We're huge fans of the immortal Don Knotts and wanted to give him a shout-out on what would have been his 90th birthday. We had the pleasure of stopping by his hometown of Morgantown, West Virginia a while back. Click here to read all about it.
There's an auto repair shop on the corner of South 50th Street and Causeway Boulevard in Tampa, Florida that bills itself as The Original Muffler City (not one of those ersatz, faux, or phony baloney Muffler Cities) and they have just the mascot to prove it standing out front: a wrench-wielding, Bunyanesque muffler man. How nice to see a muffler man actually promoting, oh, I don't know, mufflers. The architecture of the shop itself has a great retro feel, too, with it's bright yellow and blue lettering, stars and triangular flags flapping in the breeze. I'll tell ya, if we needed a new muffler and were in the Tampa Bay area, this would be the place we would go. It would be our muffler manifest destiny.
Just when I thought I had seen every kooky attraction our former Eccentric Roadside home base of Rhode Island had to offer, I had a delightful surprise on a trip back to the Ocean State. After returning my rental car at the T.F. Green Airport in Warwick, the skywalk coveyer-belted me past a whimsical tin man sculpture on the roof of the E & M Sheet Metal Company headquarters on Fresno Road. Little online information exists about this fellow, even from the learned scholars of all such things Debra Jane Seltzer and RoadsideAmerica.com, so I assume some mad, artistic sheet metal genius put this fine specimen together and got him up on the roof for all to admire. He makes a friendly greeter to all visitors who pass near Little Rhody's main airport, as if to say "Hey everybody, we're a little offbeat here in Rhode Island. Thanks for checking us out!" Or, in other words, Rhode Island is a little scrappy but we're not afraid to show our true mettle.
This blog is devoted to old fashioned American roadside attractions... the wonderfully big, bizarre, crazy, wacky, quirky, weird, funny, unique and mundane sites you see travelling cross-country by car in the USA, where getting there really is all the fun!