Stopping for gas is a necessary, albeit mundane, task while on a long road trip, especially depending on how much diet soda you've consumed along the way. We strive to enjoy every second of being on the road, though, and have sought out some pretty awesome petrobilia -- sometimes well-preserved antiques, especially along Route 66 in Illinois, but more often than not the melancholy, decaying, abandoned filling stations of yesteryear, often left to rot like so many bald tires. So here, without further ado, is proof that there's no fuel like an old fuel.
...featuring the world-famous Mai Kai Mystery Bowl (these last two pictures are from the tiki gods at theAtomicGrog.com)
Dinner is served...
...and don't forget the gift shop, featuring these tiki-tastic salt and pepper shakers.
Now on with the show!
That's real fire, you know. Ouch!
Audience participation. Bring on the Mai Tai's!
Come back and see us real soon!
Even though we've traveled thousands of miles across the USA, we've never made it to Hawaii. And if we never do, we think we've found a worthy surrogate -- the Mai Kai Polynesian Restaurant of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Dating back to 1956, it's been Dole-ing out (as in the pineapple) powerfully intoxicating exotic drinks from ceramic coconuts, tiki heads and rum barrels to go along with the (mostly) Chinese food and thick steaks on the menu and the South Pacific native dancers' floor show. Originally located in an empty field along a then-two lane stretch of Route 1, it's lush acreage is now surrounded by the hustle and trafficy bustle of outer Fort Lauderdale sprawl, and its old-timey oasis-like feel is quite refreshing. Easter Island-like sculptures mingle among the flaming torches, lush palms and waterfalls of the Mai Kai's grounds with a thatched tiki roof on their A-frame and retro neon sign thrown in for good measure, hearkening back to the glorious post-World War II era when America was gaga for all things South Seas. They've expanded many times over the years but the fun, 1960s retro vibe (when tiki was at its "peak-i") has not been lost. You can dine outdoors, or go for a Zombie, Mai-Tai or Sidewinder's Fang served by pretty bikini-topped, sarong-bottomed waitresses at the Molokai Lounge. But for the full Mai Kai experience, you must take in the Polynesian Islander Revue, the longest running Polynesian dance show in the continental U.S. Pretty girls shaking their hips in grass skirts? Got 'em. Beefy guys in warrior paint walking on fire? Got 'em. A rockin' hula band with Hawaiian drums and ukuleles? Got 'em! And all for only $12 a head more than your meal. For devoted fans of tiki, this place is mecca. For everyone else, we say "Be there. Aloha."
If you're going to emulate someone, you could do a lot worse than the great Burt Reynolds, you know.
Eccentric Roadside recently moved from its home base in Rhode Island to Bradenton, Florida, and then a couple of months later to southeastern Florida and I think I speak for the blog when I say, boy are we tired of moving. We're slowly getting acquainted with our new region, called South Florida by the natives, and the eccentric roadside wonders it has to offer. Case in point: Don Bailey Flooring, a chain of carpet and flooring stores from Miami to Deerfield Beach. What's so eccentric about a flooring store, you ask? Well, the sign, for one. It depicts its namesake, Mr. Bailey, posed ala 1972 Cosmopolitan magazine centerfold Burt Reynolds. As a non-native driving past their Fort Lauderdale emporium, I really had to do a double take. Now there's something you don't see everyday, I says to myself. Turns out Mr. Bailey went into the flooring store business the same year the Cosmo centerfold was published and his borrowing of the idea for his corporate identity turned his business around and made him a controversial local celebrity. Burt's people saw it and complained that Bailey had taken his head and put it on Burt's body, which Bailey disputed. In 1988, the city commissioner in nearby Miramar tried to get Don to cover up and remove his signs and billboards, but she stopped complaining when Don donated the carpet for Miramar's youth center. To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the sign in 2012, Don, then 78, posed again in his Speedo, looking, well...we all get old, you know (check out a video here). But good for him for seizing the day, or, bare with me here, carpet diem.
If you look at a map, the eastern end of Long Island, New York looks like a fish tail, with beautiful Orient Point on the northeastern tip and tony Montauk on the southeastern tip. In between the two by land lies the working class town of Riverhead, with its cool, revitalized old downtown and hardscrabble outer regions. We recently delighted upon an eccentric sight next door to our humble motor lodgings: a mural combining the unlikely duo of Vikings and billiards, painted on the back exterior wall of Billiard World, a pool table sales and service company. It is executed with wit and craft, depicting Norsemen with pool cues and darts, and a mermaid or two also thrown in for good measure. Why this unlikely combination? Could the owners be of Scandinavian heritage? Vem vet? (That's "who knows?" to you non-Swedish speakers). We just know that, as with ABBA, Ingmar Bergman movies and Volvos, it's Scandanavian, we like it and we don't know why.
I ramped up the color contrast...cue the dramatic music.
I never met a water tower I didn't like, but this one takes the cake.
I love looking at water towers on a cross-country trip. Their grand scale and proud proclamation of each hamlet's names break up the monotony of traveling through places where there isn't all that much to look at. One of my all-time favorites is this beauty from Fargo, North Dakota. The very name Fargo gives you the sense of being somewhere you wouldn't normally expect to be (unless, of course, you live here). And the fact that the eccentric Coen brothers made a famous movie with this same name adds to the je ne sais quoi. We hit it under perfect conditions: dark clouds in one direction, bright sun over the shoulder illuminating the white huge bulbous monolith and gray Times Bold lettering. Thanks, Fargo, for such an awesome water tower, so Fargo from the maddening crowd.
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!