Wednesday, March 30, 2011

This neck of the Woods: Warwick, Rhode Island Applebee's tribute to James Woods

The Warwick, Rhode Island Applebee's, aka James Woods Central

Jimmy's a mainstay on Rhode Island-centric "Family Guy"...

...and let's hope he's getting a cut of the profits from this.

Here's a picture of Jimmy from the mid-60s when he was a senior at Pilgrim High School (not James Woods High School) of Warwick, Rhode Island. (Providence Journal photo)

The interiors of the Applebee's restaurant chain are festooned with nostalgic bric-a-brac to make you feel like you're eating in a friendly neighborhood bar and grille. To your left, a poster of a '59 Corvette. To your right, a photo-montage of Marilyn Monroe and James Dean. And in the corner, a shrine to James Woods. James Woods? The guy that plays those edgy loose cannons in the movies and on TV? That James Woods? Yes, that James Woods, at least at the Warwick, Rhode Island Applebee's. James, or Jimmy as he is known around here, grew up and went to high school in Warwick before hitting it big in movies like "The Onion Field," "Casino," "Once Upon A Time In America," "Salvador" and "Ghosts of Mississippi" (those last two earned him Academy Award nominations). They're proud of their Jimmy in Warwick, and he has stayed close to his Rhode Island roots over the years, campaigning for his brother Michael's bid for local office. Sadly, some years later, it was Jimmy who also appeared in a Rhode Island courtroom and won a settlement from a local hospital when his beloved brother was misdiagnosed and died while being treated (the money was given to Michael's children). On a lighter note, Jimmy has also been featured numerous times on TV's "Family Guy," where the kids go to James Woods High School in the fictitious Rhode Island town of Quahog. It seems fitting that a hardworking underdog of a state like Rhode Island would have Jimmy, known for playing psychopathic nutcases and otherwise unlikable characters, as a favorite son. You do us proud.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Out there in TV Land: Rigby, Idaho, birthplace of television and other delights

Rigby's Philo T. Farnsworth invented television, and they want you to know about it.

The smaller the town the bigger the hair, they say.


You should have seen the one that got away.

Alrighty, then.

Of all the atomic-themed quilts out there, I like this one best.

I'm guessing they're father and son.

One of our absolute favorite things to do on road trips is to seek out little museums and historical societies in small towns across this great land of ours and the small eastern Idaho town of Rigby certainly fits this bill grandly. Rigby calls itself "the birthplace of television" because of local resident Philo T. Farnsworth, who imagined the concept of television while plowing potato fields before inventing the vacuum tube television display. A tribute to Farnsworth can be seen at Rigby's Farnsworth TV & Pioneer Museum, a converted former motel that also houses the Jefferson County Historical Society. Inside you'll find all kinds of small town historical gems: photos of big-haired piano-playing ladies and fishermen with their prize catches, local criminology artifacts, books about breastfeeding, and much, much more. Places like this with their "Hey look me over" attitude make driving fun and America great. "All the lovely (sic) people...where do they all come from?" Rigby, that's where.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A hole lot of fun: Moab, Utah's Hole N" The Rock

There was a time in America when a young married couple could buy a mountain of rock, excavate 50,000 feet of sandstone out of it singlehandedly and set up housekeeping. And that's just what Arthur and Gladys Christensen did in the 1940s and 50s with The Hole N" The Rock outside of Moab, Utah. Inside are fourteen fabulous rooms arranged around huge pillars. A fireplace with a 65 foot chimney drilled through solid sandstone, a deep french fryer, and a bathtub built into the rock are among the attractions. A guided tour costs only $5 and is well worth it to see the original furnishings, some rather tattered-looking stuffed animals and Arthur's crude yet earnest portraits of Jesus. A fine giftshop, petting zoo and other roadside delights dazzle you in the parking lot. You can't miss it coming down the highway as HOLE N" THE ROCK is painted in large white letters that can be seen from miles away (the incorrect punctuation after the N only adds to the charm). Unfortunately they don't allow rogue pictures of the inside to be taken, so be sure to check out their website for the official owner-sanctioned views. Rock on, Arthur and Gladys, rock on.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Martha My Dear: Blackfoot, Idaho's former Uniroyal Gal

You better not tick Martha off, or there could be hell to pay!

Back in 2006 while we were cruising down State Highway 91 on our way to the Idaho Potato Expo, the beloved roadside icon seen on the masthead of this blog, we had an unexpected delight: a giant female fiberglass statue beckoning drivers-by to stop at Martha's Cafe for some (no doubt) delicious eats. She's stupendous! She's colossal! She's got a big wristwatch! Not realizing it at the time, we had stumbled quite accidentally across what some eccentric roadside denizens consider the holy grail of highway kitsch attractions: a Uniroyal Gal — leggy amazons created in the 1960's by the Uniroyal Tire Company as advertising gimmicks and considered sisters to the more plentiful highway Muffler Men. Only a dozen or so remain today, it is reported, most of which have been made over to better represent their new owners after Uniroyal discarded them. Martha went from being a tire gal to a waitress and from a brunette to a blond. The definitive place to learn more about these awesome creatures,, reports that Martha has been temporarily taken down for repairs and a makeover and should be back up before the end of summer 2011. Let's hope they don't make her over too much because she's one groovy chick, baby. The original Gals were said to be have been inspired by Jackie Kennedy, so ask not what your amazon advertising icon can do for you, ask what you can do for your amazon advertising icon.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

A bridge too far: London Bridge of Lake Havasu City, Arizona

For the record, London Bridge isn't falling down at all.

Aloha, Gov'nor: Hawaiian shaved ice at London Bridge in Arizona

Thames the breaks: Beautiful Lake Havasu

A lot of people think this is London Bridge, but it's actually Tower Bridge and it's still back in merrie old England.

So you're trying to develop an off-the-beaten-track area of Arizona into a desirable retirement community at the same time the city of London, England is replacing it's iconic but worn out London Bridge. Hmmm...

London Bridge, originally constructed in London in 1831 and stretching across the River Thames, has resided in the southwestern Arizona town of Lake Havasu City since 1971. Not structurally sound enough to carry the weight of its busy London traffic load, it was put on the market and sold to American entrepreneur Robert P. McCulloch in 1968 for $2,460,000. The bridge was then taken apart and each brick was numbered so it could be shipped and reassembled in Arizona as a tourist attraction. The bridge was rebuilt over the canal that connects Lake Havasu and Thompson Bay and was rededicated (with no less than Bonanza's Lorne Greene present) in 1971 as the centerpiece of an England-themed village. Some reports say it is now Arizona's second most visited tourist attraction after the Grand Canyon.

We were there in 2004 on a blistering 110-degree day, so we didn't do much hanging around. I wish I had taken more pictures but I suppose that's just water under the bridge now.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

I can see for miles and miles: Eccentric Roadside turns over 100,000

Like this blog, our car has also turned over 100,000. I wish cars still had those old-fashioned odometers where you see all the numbers rolling over. Digital odometers don't have the same drama.

Here's where we were when our car turned 100,000. A bit mundane for such a momentous occasion.

There was this bit of eccentricity at a nearby McDonald's, however.

We're a society that honors round numbers and so we must note the fact that the little hit-counting widget on the upper right side of this blog has turned over 100,000. Like a good used car, this number may not be completely accurate, though. It was added some time after we started this blog so we just kind of guessed at where we would be hitwise at that juncture. This counter also seems to be at odds with Google's blog stats feature, which thinks we get quite a few more hits. But we do like the fact that it looks like an old-fashioned dashboard odometer and it is an apt metaphor for a roadside travel blog.

We were outside Akron, Ohio on one of our long road trips in 2009 when our trusted vehicle, a Subaru Forester, itself turned over 100,000 miles. I recorded this momentous occasion and the rather mundane scenery that was present. How great it was to be on a trip at this time rather than picking up a prescription at Rite Aid or taking a load of garbage to the dump.

Thanks to everyone for giving this blog so many hits. You've provided us many, many smiles to the gallon.