We had the pleasure of staying the night in the southwestern Colorado town of Durango a few years ago on one of our long, cross-country treks and were delightfully surprised at what a cool place it is. As is the case with many of our trips, we wished we had budgeted more time to see this awesome city, with its authentic old west feel and retro vibe. Much of it looks as it would have a hundred years ago to this untrained eye, and a grizzled Walter Brennan riding down the main drag saying the word "pie-annie" instead of "piano" would not have been out of place. There are lots of amusing signs and great storefront windows to peek into. All of our usual budget motel suspects were booked the night we pulled in, so we ended up staying at the General Palmer Inn, a fabulous downtown old west hotel from 1898...the kind of place you picture Wyatt Earp frequenting. We salute you Durango...you're the rootin'-tootin'-est, six-gun shootin'-est, cowboy bootinest town this side of the Rio Grande (and I don't mean Mahatma Gandhi).
That's Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Arizona, bub
Photo ops abound...
And don't forget to visit the snack bar
There's only one place in all of the USA where you can be in four states at the same time (U.S. states, that is, not states of confusion, shock, grace or decay). That would be what's known as Four Corners USA in the upper southwest, where Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Arizona gather at one quadripoint. You'd think such a cartographic wonder would be in a hugely populated area, but au contraire. It's way, way out in desolate semi-autonomous Native American land, and you have to really be up for an eccentric roadside outing to get there. It doesn't disappoint, though, and it's set up nicely, with benches, plaques, concrete markers, flags...the whole shooting match. And if you sit, kneel, or squat just right, you really can be in four places at the same time -- kind of like a geographic version of Twister: right hand Utah, left foot Colorado. There are booths surrounding the intersection where Native Americans sell their wares to help you remember this momentous occasion, along with all the awesome photo ops to make your friends and relatives back home jealous. And we love this delicious irony: this truly American landmark site is administered by the Navajo Nation Department of Parks and Recreation. But you don't need reservations.
We're huge fans of the immortal Don Knotts and wanted to give him a shout-out on what would have been his 90th birthday. We had the pleasure of stopping by his hometown of Morgantown, West Virginia a while back. Click here to read all about it.
There's an auto repair shop on the corner of South 50th Street and Causeway Boulevard in Tampa, Florida that bills itself as The Original Muffler City (not one of those ersatz, faux, or phony baloney Muffler Cities) and they have just the mascot to prove it standing out front: a wrench-wielding, Bunyanesque muffler man. How nice to see a muffler man actually promoting, oh, I don't know, mufflers. The architecture of the shop itself has a great retro feel, too, with it's bright yellow and blue lettering, stars and triangular flags flapping in the breeze. I'll tell ya, if we needed a new muffler and were in the Tampa Bay area, this would be the place we would go. It would be our muffler manifest destiny.
Just when I thought I had seen every kooky attraction our former Eccentric Roadside home base of Rhode Island had to offer, I had a delightful surprise on a trip back to the Ocean State. After returning my rental car at the T.F. Green Airport in Warwick, the skywalk coveyer-belted me past a whimsical tin man sculpture on the roof of the E & M Sheet Metal Company headquarters on Fresno Road. Little online information exists about this fellow, even from the learned scholars of all such things Debra Jane Seltzer and RoadsideAmerica.com, so I assume some mad, artistic sheet metal genius put this fine specimen together and got him up on the roof for all to admire. He makes a friendly greeter to all visitors who pass near Little Rhody's main airport, as if to say "Hey everybody, we're a little offbeat here in Rhode Island. Thanks for checking us out!" Or, in other words, Rhode Island is a little scrappy but we're not afraid to show our true mettle.
This is what we didn't see: any of the 110 outlandishly decorated themed guest rooms. This was shot by photographer par excellence Tom Meinhold. Visit his website, whydon'tcha.
We didn't make it inside the spectacular Fremont Theatre, either...
...or the Sunset Drive-In. Oh, well.
Pepe has a cool old sign...
...and we did do some laundry at the Launderosa, probably my favorite laundromat name of all time.
Back in 2011, we took an incredible cross-country trip from Rhode Island to California. The original plan was to visit San Francisco for a few days and then head to Yosemite National Park. Even though we arrived in S.F. in mid-May, Yosemite was snowed in to the point of only one road to the park being open, leading us to change our plans on the fly, which can be both disappointing (No Yosemite? Boo!) to exciting (let's go down the Pacific Coast Highway. Yay!). We visited the extraordinary Hearst Castle in San Simeon and then decided to head a bit further south to Pismo Beach (and all the clams we can eat), looking for a motel for the night along the way, which happened to be in the sunny central California coast town of San Luis Obispo, which translates to Saint Louis the Bishop for all you non-Spanish speakers like me. We wished we had the correct amount of time to spend seeing this wonderful place, especially the Madonna Inn, known the world over for its eccentrically over-the-top decorated guest rooms. After checking in to our hard-to-acquire motel (the entire area was booked because of a big wine festival weekend), I drove around just to see what I could in our all-too-short stay and was able to wander around the lobby and coffee shop of the Inn, both of which did not disappoint this eccentric roadside attraction fan. This place will have to be a tent-pole destination for some future trip for us. S.L.O. has not one but two retro movie delights, as well: the Fremont, a 1942 palace saved from the wrecking ball due to public outcry, and the Sunset Drive-In. We hope we make it back here some day, but in the meantime nos vemos en nuestros sueños, San Luis Obispo.*
*I used an internet translator so hopefully this means we'll see you in our dreams San Luis Obispo and not something like bite the wax tadpole.
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!