Saturday, August 29, 2009

Meanwhile, back at the Cadillac Ranch

Our trusty Subaru Forester bowing at the altar of Roadside Gods.

I felt like posting a real eccentric roadside icon today and went digging through the Eccentric Roadside archives and found pictures from our 2004 visit to the Cadillac Ranch of Amarillo, Texas. If you've never heard of this place, you're just not paying attention. Here's a little history from wikipedia:

Cadillac Ranch is a public art installation and sculpture in Amarillo, Texas, U.S. 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 (most notably the birth and death of the defining feature of early Cadillacs; the tail fin) from 1949 to 1963, half-buried nose-first in the ground, at an angle corresponding to that of the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt. The piece is a statement about the paradoxical simultaneous American fascinations with both a "sense of place" — and roadside attractions, such as The Ranch itself — and the mobility and freedom of the automobile. It was originally located in a wheat field, but in 1997 the installation was quietly moved by a local contractor two miles (three kilometers) to the west, to a cow pasture along Interstate 40, in order to place it further from the limits of the growing city.

I admire the eccentric principals of its creators for first building it and then moving it to preserve its roadside je ne sais quoi. I read somewhere that a Cadillac dealer wanted it as its backdrop and he was going to locate his dealership in front of the Ranch and that was why the Ranch was moved -- to keep it in its own unpolluted flat farm environment. I'm not sure if that's true but it makes for a good anecdote.

A loving tribute was paid to the Ranch in the movie Cars. If you haven't seen that movie, by all means do. We give it 5 out 5 Eccentric Roadside Idaho Potatoes.

Even though it's not on public land and you have to drive down a dirt access road to get there, people from all over the world visit it in droves. It's one of the few public places where graffiti is encouraged. When we were there I asked another tourist to snap our picture. When I thanked him he cheerfully said "anytime." So I guess this means any time we're at the Cadillac Ranch, he'll take our picture. Very generous of him.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Incomparable than hold up roadside oddities and undiluted options from

Of march there is zero peculiar or singular about relaxing upon a chair though if it was a country’s largest chair we ought to consider twice.

Though primarily there were talks about pulling a site down thoughcurrently signs upon a hinterland of locale right away proudly brand Alliance as a “Home of Carhenge.”

WaterFire’s a single hundred stimulating bonfires, a perfumed smell ofsavoury timber smoke, a flickering firelight upon a arched overpass as well as a lively song are a contingency see for those formulation to revisit Rhode Island.

A Google blog alert pointed me to an unintentionally funny post on a blog called They had the good taste to mention some great eccentric roadside attractions like Alliance, Nebraska's Carhenge, Anniston, Alabama's World's Biggest Chair and my own Rhode Island's Waterfire. What makes it funny is the bad translation from whatever native language it originated in to English. Here's the intro:

If we are finished with upon eighth month beaches, parks, mountainous country as well as mountains, how about a eighth month exploring a incomparable than hold up roadside oddities? If a answer is a resounding “Yes” we have a undiluted options for you.

It always tickles me when the translation is so far off you can't even guess what they really mean. Personally, I'm all about "incomperable than hold up roadside oddities," though, and they do have some good shots, so check them out. Borat couldn't have said it better.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Tripping the lights fantastic: New York City neon

The trend these days in well-lit places like Times Square and the Las Vegas Strip seems to be toward big screen projection signs and less about old-fashioned neon, but give me the bent gaseous tubes any day. Luckily, there's still plenty of neon to be admired and gawked at in the Big Apple. We were in New York for a couple of days and I couldn't get enough of the bright lights just within a block or two of our mid-Manhattan hotel. They barely scratch the surface of all the great neon New York has to offer that you could spend weeks photographing. To me there are no bad neon signs. I love them all... the perfectly maintained ones, all bright and glowy; the older ones beginning to fade with age; and the sad ones with letters burned out pining for their glory days. Start spreading the news.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Ticked off in Lyme, Connecticut

It's beautiful in Lyme, Connecticut.

A little tick can cause a lot of trouble.

If you get a rash like this, see a doctor quick.

The debilitating illness Lyme Disease is no joke, especially to the residents of Lyme, Connecticut who have the dubious distinction of being this awful malady's namesake. According to the Connecticut Department of Health, the history of Lyme disease in Connecticut began in 1975 when a cluster of children and adults residing in the Lyme area experienced uncommon arthritic symptoms. By 1977, the first 51 cases of Lyme arthritis were described, and the Ixodes scapularis (black-legged) tick was linked to the transmission of the disease. Today, people are familiar with the bulls-eye rash that occurs from tick bites and now know to seek immediate medical attention, but the diagnosis and treatment of Lyme disease has been very controversial and some doctors refuse to acknowledge the disease exists even to this day. But what about the people of Lyme who are stuck having this blot on their town's reputation? The area couldn't be a more picturesque and charmingly New England place. They've got farms, quaint buildings, pretty tree-lined streets and a beautiful location on the Connecticut River. Are they to blame for all of us having to tuck our long pants in our socks while dousing ourselves in Deet every time we mow our lawns or work in our yards? Lyme disease is everywhere; they just happened to have the doctor that noticed it first. Let's not kill the messenger here.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Webster, Massachusett's Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagogg-chaubunagungamaugg: It's Chargoggagoggmanchauggagogg-chaubunagungamaugg-ariffic!

They've got a funny name but it's very pretty there.

An eccentric lake calls for an eccentric vehicle,
and sure enough we saw this Amphicar go by.

They must have the world's most winded cheerleaders:
Give me a C! Give me an H! Give me an A! Give me a G! Give me some oxygen!

Webster, Massachusetts is a fine community just over the northeastern Connecticut border and they sport one of the best eccentric roadside attractions going. They have a lake with a long name. A really long name. A really, really, really LONG name, as in
Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg.
It's the longest place name in the United States and 6th longest in the world. The name comes from the native Nipmuc Indians and loosely translates to "Fishing Place at the Boundaries -- Neutral Meeting Grounds". I get the feeling that the Nipmucs had a Chief Shecky who thought it would be funny to remove all the spaces between the words when he told the white guys what the name of his lake was. "We may get pushed off this land but you'll be stuck with a body of water that goes by an unpronounceable name with 45 letters. Jokes's on you, paleface!" CBS News' eccentric people and places reporter Steve Hartman (I want his job) did a fun piece about this place. Check it out:

Watch CBS Videos Online

Friday, August 14, 2009

Indianapolis' muffler man: Bendo there, done that

You can get a great view of the stands of the Indianapolis Speedway
just by driving down the main drag. Cool!

Jim Gaffigan: "I'm from Indiana.
I know what you're thinking: Indiana...Mafia."

On our last roadtrip, we passed through the great city of Indianapolis on our way from Illinois to Louisville and, due to time constraints, could not spend as much time there as we had hoped. Indiana seems to be underappreciated as a travel destination and this reminds me of what Hoosier comedian Jim Gaffigan said about his home state:

A guy came up to me after a show and said, 'Indiana? I drove through Indiana once.' I said, 'Yeah, I remember you. It was on the front page of the newspaper: Guy drives through Indiana.'

Maybe Indiana is just on the way to somewhere else for most people but we like it a lot and what we saw of Indianapolis in a just few short hours was great, especially if you like eccentric roadside attractions like muffler men and formula racing-themed pizza parlors. Ralph's Muffler Shop is home to Mr. Bendo, a bearded, red-shirted specimen of muffler manhood with arms in a weird "Heil, Fuhrer"-type pose. It's funny to see a muffler man in front of a muffler shop without him holding, oh, I don't know... a muffler, but muffler men are rugged individualists and prefer to go their own way. Ralph's is only three miles from the Indianapolis Speedway but I didn't know that until we were right in front of the track waiting for a red light to change and could hear a race in progress from the street. Quite a thrill. I'm always amazed when some famous landmark you've never been to winds up being smack dab in the middle of town. This was also true at Churchill Downs in Louisville.

According to, there are several muffler men with the Mr. Bendo moniker, but I haven't been able to find out where the Bendo name comes from. If any muffler man aficionados out there in blogosphereland could solve this mystery, please chime in. I'll Bendo-ver backwards to give you credit (that joke took a long time to come up with and it still stinks).

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Our cup runneth over: Lexington, Kentucky's Dixie Cup water tower

I love looking at water towers while driving around the country. They come in all shapes, sizes and styles and every one is a gem, especially the ones that proudly announce the name of their community in big letters for all to see or ones that have a bit of whimsy painted on them. A particularly awesome tower is in Lexington, Kentucky, a town with a few other great eccentric roadside attractions (see previous posts). On the property of the Georgia-Pacific plant is a water tower in the shape of a giant Dixie cup. In 1958, the Dixie Cup Company decided to have their tower function as a giant beacon of corporate branding and the cup water tower was erected. I've read that the current owners, Georgia-Pacific, wanted to take the tower down but the city wouldn't let them because the tower serves as a navigation device for the nearby airport. I'd love to hear a tape of the air traffic control booth in this area: "Roger, niner, you're cleared for landing. Bring her in just past the Dixie cup." If Georgia-Pacific was upset about this you wouldn't know it because they do a nice job of maintaining the tower and it really does look like a Dixie cup. Corporate America should be commended for maintaining classic roadside attractions like these, and I ain't just whistling Dixie.