Sunday, September 30, 2012

An eccentric Odd-yssey: Scenes from Odd, West Virginia

 Odd weather we're having, isn't it?

 You get the Odd letter here every now and then.

 This Odd little dog was roaming around town.

 Odd and God: two great things that go great together

And I thought my school years were odd...

I love driving through tiny towns with unusual names that seem a million miles from anywhere just to see what they're like. On a recent trip, I had the chance to check out a town named Odd in West Virginia. Odd? Really? How very...odd. Wikipedia says the town got its name when a group of citizens met to come up with a name and after one suggestion someone said "That's odd". The town is actually not that far from civilization, actually; just a mere half hour's drive down Interstate 77 from the sizable city of Beckley in West Virginia's southeastern mountains, to exit 28 and then a right onto, yes, Odd Road. It's only about five miles to the center of Odd (the center of Odd? sounds like my life sometimes), but it seems further because Odd Road is a very windy mountain road where you don't go much faster than 25 mph, especially on a day as rainy as the one I had. You know you've made it when you get to the Odd post office (you can insert your own postal employee joke here), which is pretty much all there is to see, or so I thought. The p.o. was open and there was a delightfully friendly postmaster named Sue inside who cheerfully told me that they get quite a few curiosity seekers checking the town out, even from as far away as Australia. And she provided me with two treasured souvenirs: an Odd, WV postmark and an official Odd, WV post office ballpoint pen. Mighty neighborly in this Odd little place, I must say. She also informed me of two more Odd places to check out: the Odd Community Church just around the corner, and the Odd Elementary School, the last wooden schoolhouse used in West Virginia upon its closing in 1989. I couldn't tell if the church was still in operation or what kind of services they perform, but the abandoned Odd school looked like it was right out of a Steven King movie, especially in the driving rain of the day.

I really enjoyed being an Odd man out, and I hope to make it back some day, Odd willing.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Outstanding in their field: The Farnham Colossi of Unger, West Virginia

Left to right: Brian the beach dude, the Uniroyal Gal, George Farnham, the Midas Muffler Man, and Big John

 The Mount Rushmore of Roadside giants

Doh!  The Farnhams have a complete kiddie roller coaster track, complete with the Simpsons. 

The greater metroploitan Unger area, what the Colossi are so intently staring out at.

If ever there was a place that should be included on an eccentric roadside attraction fan's bucket list, the Farnham Colossi of Unger, West Virginia would certainly place very high. There, you'll find countless (well, I suppose you could count them) Muffler Man-type statues keeping watch over numerous other, more diminutive roadside whimsical characters that roam the property of George and Pam Farnham, collectors par excellence of eccentric over-sized roadabilia. Their collection began with one Muffler Man bought on e-bay, and, well, you know how it is when you have a hobby...sometimes you just can't help yourself. So now their yard in zoning-free rural West Virginny is a paradise of roadside giants. It's not the easiest place to get to and not exactly on the way to anywhere ("Honey, I'm going to the need anything?"), but that makes it all the more meaningful when you arrive. Buddhists have Bodh Gaya, Muslims have Mecca, and we roadside kooks have Unger. This is private property, though, so it was with great caution and respect that I tiptoed around the driveway upon arrival. Luckily for me, George came out and we chatted for a few minutes and he gave me the all-clear to explore the yard. I asked if there was a Holy Grail of highway titans he was seeking and he said he already had it. An ultra-rare Uniroyal Gal was acquired with help from the roadside gurus at, and George says he spent "way too much" restoring it with automobile fiberglass paint that is "guaranteed to last until the day you die".  And she is stunning, let me tell you. The definitive story of the Farnhams is here on the indispensible 

Here's to the Farnhams and for flying that freak roadside attraction flag high and proud and getting us to boldly go where no eccentric roadside attraction fan has gone before. Let's give them all a great big hand.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Mystery guests, enter and Sine in please

We road trip bloggers clean up pretty good. Left to right are the proprietors of FuzzyGalore, Roadside Wonders, Retro Roadmap and yours truly, Eccentric Roadside.

 Sines 5 & 10 of Quakertown, Pennsylvania, in business since 1912.

ModBetty of Retro Roadmap was there for the christening of the Eccentricmobile's bumper with one of her Retro Roadmap stickers.

At the invitation of ModBetty of the retro-tastic website Retro Roadmap, a road trip blogger summit was held last weekend at Sines 5 & 10, a 100-year-old dime store in Quakertown, Pennsylvania, and by all accounts, a great time was had by all. In addition to Mod Betty, I got to meet WendyVee of Roadside Wonders and Rachel of FuzzyGalore, all folks I've been vicariously traveling with for the last few years. It was fun putting real faces to the virtual ones and sharing a few like-minded laughs together in a cool, authentically retro, eccentric-friendly environment. Good burgers at the lunch counter, too. Hope we can all do it again some time.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Horse Whiskerer: Providence, Rhode Island's tribute to the guy sideburns are named after

There's a park in downtown Providence, Rhode Island named after Ambrose Burnside, an industrialist, inventor, senator, governor and Civil War general from Rhode Island. Two things stand out about him: he was a pretty awful general and he had one heck of a face full of hair. Militarily, he's most known for the Battle of Fredericksburg and the Battle of the Crater, two disastrous lulus that were primarily his fault. He had better luck as a fashion plate, though, because his facial hair became so famous that the term "sideburns" was derived from his name, Burnside. And Providence, being a forgiving and quirky place, has a statue of General Burnside on his horse and with his face resplendent with glorious whiskers that sits in his eponymous park.

This leads us to the conclusion that Providence is missing an eccentric roadside attraction opportunity. We propose there be a Sideburns Hall of Fame, to be erected in honor of Rhode Island's facially hirsute native son, and we've rounded up some charter inductees:

 The Beatles

 Crosby, Still, Nash & Young

 Duane Allman

 Elvis Presley

 Engelbert Humperdink

 Jerry Reed


 Ray Manzarek

 Mike Nesmith

 Michael Palin

 Neil Young (I know he's up there in the CSNY photo, but his sideburns are AWESOME!)

 The Blues Brothers

Isaac Asimov