I love the irony of the word modern. It's an old-fashioned word (first recorded in 1585!) used to describe something new, futuristic and fresh. I also love seeing the word in a business's name that's obviously been around a long, long time. Here are a few examples we've spotted:
This is the headquarters of Modern Design and Construction of Providence, Rhode Island, a commercial and residential design and construction company that's been around since 1932. They've done a great job of keeping up the original 1930s signage and logo on their building, which is nothing short of awesome and that makes me smile every time I pass it on my way to work.
Here it is back in the day.
The Modern Diner of Pawtucket, Rhode Island dates back to 1940 and holds the distinction of being the first diner in the country to be accepted by the National Register of Historic Places...
...and it's also a retro-tastic place to get some ham and eggs and a cup o' joe.
New Haven, Connecticut is famous for its pizza and one of the very best pizzerias is Modern Apizza (pronounced "Modern ah-beetz" by the natives). Thank you Joe Shlabotnik for this photo.
They've been around since 1934 (photo from tommy: eats)...
...and you don't have to take my word for how good it is. Just ask Steven Spielberg.
We passed the Modern Snack Bar of Aquebogue, New York on a recent trip to Long Island and fell in love with their sign. They've been around since 1950 and want you to know they're much more than just a snack bar.
We didn't have time to sample their fine eats, but the sauerbraten sounds intriguing and their famous mashed turnips are available by the pint or quart.
We're not exactly sure what business this beauty was promoting, but it was especially poignant in its decaying state in the Las Vegas Boneyard. They preserve vintage Las Vegas signs there, which is, well, a modern miracle.
On our last big trip, we were tooling down the road in southern Colorado toward Mesa Verde National Park when we spotted an eccentric roadside attraction favorite: some really big arrows. They were attached to the Mud Creek Hogan Gift Shop property of Mancos, and while were disappointed the shop was closed, we feasted our eyes on these telephone pole projectiles, all sticking in the ground at the same angle, as if shot by a giant mutant tribe of not-so-friendly Indians from a faraway bluff in New Mexico, or maybe even regular Mexico. Big roadside geegaws like this recall my grandparents' era of road travel, when you needed some big attention-getter to pull folks off the road to buy your trinkets. And these arrows are particularly nice, with tee pees, a fake horse and a poetic stretch of land in the backyard. Do we love this place? And how. Check out some other roadside arrows we've seen here.
Perhaps the residents who live on beautiful nearby Lake Hayward had something to do with scaring gawkers like us away from their pretty private oasis.
Google doesn't want you to Go Here either, although they think it's East Haddam and not Colchester.
Sometimes, on the way home from visiting family in Connecticut, we'll get out the GPS and see if there are any eccentrically named streets or villages along the way. On an alphabetical street search through the town of Colchester, a real quirky entry came up. Don't Go Here. Don't Go Here? Is this a joke? This we gotta see. The GPS took us down pretty country roads and past signs for the Devil's Hopyard State Park and then, at a pleasant but extremely nondescript address, our Tom Tom announced "you have reached your destination". We have? All that's here is a country road and somebody's driveway with an ordinary house at the end of it. Why can't we go here? Does a celebrity live here? Is there an ancient Indian curse on this land? Did the GPS go a little funny in the head? When we got home, I went to the interweb and sure enough, Google has it on their map, too, but there's nary an explanation anywhere. If any Nutmeg Staters out there know what this is all about, we'd love to know. Of all the places we've been told not to go to, this is one of the nicest.
Eccentric roadside attraction fans don't need to be told what a Muffler Man is, but for the unenlightened, here's a brief explanation, courtesy of the standard-bearers of the cult, roadsideamerica.com: Beginning in the 1960s, fiberglass characters 18-23 feet tall were created by the International Fiberglass Company of California as attention-getters for gas station chains. Often, the big guys' hands were bent to hold a car's muffler, so the statues came to be known as "Muffler Men". Over the years, hundreds of the Men were discarded or repurposed, making them rare and now a core audience of eccentric roadside fans like us stalk them and check them off in our little books like bird watchers spotting a yellow-bellied sapsucker. But we couldn't do it without Roadsideamerica.com, who have really gone into scholarly (and hilarious) fine detail, charting over 200 MMs in the USA and telling their stories in graphic and non-sugar-coated detail. Here are a few we've seen along the way:
East Los Angeles, California
North Platte, Nebraska
Joliet, Illinois (you can only see the front of this guy if you're inside the Joliet Jackhammers ball park)
Magnolia, New Jersey
Royal Mount, North Carolina
Tucson, Arizona. If you click on this one you'll see a nice retro trifecta: A Nash Metropolitan, a cool old neon sign, and a fine MM staring out at Glenn and Stone Streets.
Blackfoot, Idaho. The Muffler Man's sexy (are even rarer) cohort, the Uniroyal gal.
Anyone out there want to buy a really old country store in a charming little village? A place we blogged about last year has made the national news recently. Gray's General Store of Adamsville, Rhode Island, who bill themselves as the oldest general store in the country, has closed. They've been around since 1788 and the same family has run the place for seven generations, but the current owners can't keep the place going and are taking offers. It's a bit of a fixer-upper but it's still great, loaded with typical bric-a-brac and it's a shame to see it go. Here's our original post.
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!