Sunday, August 9, 2015

Futuristic presents from the past: West Palm Beach, Florida's fantastic mid-century transportation exhibit

In the 1950s, American car makers were on top of the world and autos couldn't be too heavy, aggressive-looking or laden with chrome. A vehicle was a status symbol and the more it looked like a rocket ship headed for Mars, the more we Americans liked it. Car makers would create fantastic concept vehicles with big fins, bubble tops and huge, jet-like dual exhaust pipes to test the waters of potential car buyers. If a dramatic chrome bumper treatment was a big hit, maybe next year's Buick Roadmaster would feature it. Armies of incredibly talented engineers, designers and artists put these one-of-a-kind vehicles on the auto show floor under strict top secret conditions. So top secret, in fact, that most of the brilliant drawings and models were destroyed, lest the competition catch wind of their precious ideas. Luckily for car buffs, transportation historians and mid-century hipster fans, a Mr. Frederic Sharf began preserving these items years ago and amassed an amazing collection of thousands of drawings and artifacts. West Palm Beach, Florida's Norton Museum of Art is currently exhibiting a fraction of of these pieces called "Going Places" and it features not just cars, but also planes, trains and even a hybrid car/helicopter or two, all with a tomorrow is here today theme.

The craftsmanship and technical virtuosity of the artwork is Photoshop shortcuts for these guys. The illustrations are all hand-painted and drawn in a heightened state of super-idealized reality. The future seemed so bright in these pieces, with their unrealistically perfect people and dreamy sophisticated backgrounds. If this is what life could be like in the 1950s, then surely we'd all be wearing jet-packs and driving car-planes by 1965, wouldn't we? A portion of the exhibit also features original advertising illustrations of regular, less showy cars for sale at your local Chevy, Oldsmobile or Ford dealer and again, for something as seemingly mundane as a magazine advertisement, the technique of these artworks is extraordinary. The chrome gleams, the reflections on the finish and tail lights shine and the backgrounds are packed with idealized suburban scenes or sophisticated city folks on the town. I want to be there, I think to myself when I see these.

The show will be up until January 2016, so check it out if you're going to be in South Florida. Don't let the future pass you by.

Oh, and since it's the Norton Museum of Art, I simply couldn't resist adding this.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

No more calls, we have a wiener: Some hot dogs seen along the way

It was National Hot Dog Day the other day and we'll be frank with you, we relish the opportunity to play ketchup and look back on some 'dogs we've seen while rolling down the open road. Please take a moment to see if these cut the mustard.

This brat-armed muffler man stands watch over Atlanta, Illinois on Route 66. Read our post about him here.

The Cozy Dog Drive-In of Springfield, Illinois claims to have given birth to the corn dog, and they've got this whimsical poster to let you know...

 ...and an awesome married couple of hot dogs as their logo. Read about them here.

 Tony Packo's of Toledo, Ohio has their walls covered in autographed facsimilies of hot dog buns (Burt Reynolds started the tradition). Toledo native Jamie Farr of TV's "M*A*S*H" mentioned Packos in an episode or two of the show, and the entire cast signed buns seen here.

Pink's of Los Angeles is where the celebrities like to mix with the common folk whilst dining on dogs. Here's our post.

Dillon, South Carolina's kitsch-tastic South of the Border offers hot dogs from this neon gleaming stand.

 We saw not one but three Oscar Meyer Wienermobiles in New York City's Times Square of all places...

 ...including this guy called Lil Link.

Rhode Island is quite fond of hot dogs, including this model from Providence's famous Haven Bros. cart.

There's another kind of dog in Little Rhodey called the hot weiner, or New York System, which people from New York have never heard of.  It consists of a spicey meat sauced-covered frank, dressed three at a time upon the arm of the chef (until the state health department said that was unsanitary).

We were extremely fortunate to have dined at Los Angeles's famous Tail-O-The-Pup back in 2004. It went out of business in 2005 and was put in storage until 2014, when its new owners had it moved to Las Vegas for restoration and hopes for a reopening back in LA. Bravo to them...we never sausage a beautiful place. Click here for a nice video from the Vintage LA website all about it.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Update: Hail to the chiefs: President's Park of Williamsburg, Virginia

 Presidents Park was a beautiful place back in 2007...

 ...and they even had a chunk of Air Force One.

 Today, the statues sit in a field in Croaker, Virginia. There's hope, though, because a fellow is putting up some money to reopen the attraction.

 These pictures are awesome and are credited to Christopher Smyth on the WBAL-TV website.

 I think this would make a great set for a low-budget horror flick, don't you?

One of the sad realities of taking roadtrips over many years is the mortality rate of some of the beloved places we have visited. All too often, an eccentric roadside attraction cannot stay in business or gets ordinanced out of existence. Such was the case with Presidents Park of Williamsburg, Virginia. We were lucky enough to visit this spectacular place back in its 2007 hey-day. It was a lovely, tranquil, educational, pleasingly nutty place with 18-foot busts of each U.S. president and plaques with presidential information and history. We marveled at how lush and educational it all was, and in a perfect location since nearby Colonial Williamsburg draws people already interested in U.S. history. The owners couldn't keep it going, though, and it went out of business in 2010. The busts were then moved to a farm field in Croaker, Virginia.

But there is now hope on the horizon according to a dispatch from WBAL-TV's website. A Mr. Howard Hankins paid $50,000 to have them moved again and is also paying for their restoration. He wants to find a new location in Colonial Williamsburg and reopen the park. Hooray for you, Mr. Hankins. We loved this attraction and wish you the best. Perhaps it could be a miniature golf course...a Watergate water hazard around Richard Nixon, a James K. Polk "Manifest Destiny" hole, perhaps. We need a place where Democrats, Republicans, Whigs and Know-Nothings can comingle harmoniously. I vote for that.

Click here for another good website with lots of info.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Death Valley's Borax Museum: Chock full of minerals!

Death Valley is an eccentric roadside attraction unto itself. People look at you funny when you say you're looking forward to visiting there, but it's a stunningly beautiful place and home to a really swell offbeat museum. The Borax Museum sits in the oldest structure in Death Valley, a house constructed in 1883 by F.M. "Borax" Smith, founder of the Pacific Coast Borax Co. If I ever decide to have a nickname, I think "Borax" would be a pretty cool one. Borax, or sodium borate, is a non-toxic laundry product that could also clean and deodorize virtually anything in the house. In the late 1800s, a large deposit of it was found in Death Valley by a small-time miner, who made a fortune when he sold it to a San Francisco businessman. The location was so remote and ungodly hot that 20-mule teams were needed to haul the borax to a more hospitable processing location. People of a certain age are familiar with this scenario from the popular radio and TV series "Death Valley Days," at one time hosted by Borateem-pitchman and future president Ronald Reagan. The museum is in the Furnace Creek development of Death Valley and features lots of photos and artifacts and a friendly gal that will tell you all about them. A lot of sweat and toil was put into this product that's mostly forgotten today, but Borax may make a comeback as a green alternative to regular detergents. So stop in and see The Borax Museum... mule be glad you did (and that's not an empty pumice).

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Some-fin in the way she moves: The Wreck Bar mermaid show of Fort Lauderdale, Florida

The cruise ship-shaped B Ocean Resort Hotel, home of the Wreck Bar

Yo, ho, ho

Those windows behind the bar look out onto the hotel's pool...I mean lagoon.

The crowd watches, enthralled.

You can meet and greet the gals afterwards on dry land.

 Robert DeNiro and Billy Crystal filmed a scene for "Analyze This" here.

We've already blogged about Weeki Wachee, the spectacular retro mermaid attraction on the gulf coast of Florida, but hold on to your dorsal fin. There's another old-timey live sea nymph show on the east coast of the sunshine state. Every Friday and Saturday, Fort Lauderdale's Wreck Bar inside the B Ocean Resort, a hotel once known as the Yankee Clipper and shaped like a giant cruise ship, puts on a retro-tastic mermaid performance. The Wreck, fashioned after a pirate ship interior, looks out through windows behind the bar at the hotel's pool. It's not uncommon to see hotel guests frolicking and, er,  adjusting themselves in the chlorinated paradise during the non-showtime hours. That all changes at 6:30 on Fridays and Saturdays during the hippest, splashiest happy hour this side of Atlantis. The fabulous Marina Duran-Anderson, or MeduSirena as she's better known, and her pod of Aquaticats, lively gorgeous gals dressed as mermaids, put on a thrilling aquatic performance that would make Esther Williams proud. It takes a lot more than just holding your breath to put on a great 30-minute mermaid performance. MeduSirena and her school of 'maids have to keep in top physical condition and must suffer both sore muscles and the burn of chlorine-drenched eyes (Goggles? On these gals? Not on your nelly). Let's hope they're getting paid more than scale. And the beauty of all of this: the show is free. That's right... not one clam, sand-dollar, fin, doubloon, coconut, fish, (s)quid, piece-of-eight, or frogskin (I've got an internet slang thesaurus and I know how to use it). So if you're in Fort Lauderdale, harken back to a time (the 1950s and 60s) when there was no better way to spend an early weekend evening than by downing a couple of mai tais while watching an alluring mermaid show in a cozy wrecked ship-themed watering hole. It's mer-vana.