ANTIQUED

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On our recent visit in a southerly direction, through Winchester, Harrisonburg and Staunton, Virginia, we happened upon various reminders of these town’s genteel and charming pasts. While the usual strip malls, big box stores and detestable chain eateries were very much in evidence, churning out their oh, so regimented and reliably bland totems to mass consumerism, we also encountered the quaint and polite charm of a by-gone era, along with the reminders of the individual American spirit that is so often overlooked today. photo ablogold9.jpg
The Scales of Justice, Harrisonburg, VA. photo ablogold7.jpg
The DIXIE Theater, Staunton, VA. photo ablogold1.jpg
Home after a hard day’s work, Winchester, VA. photo ablogold5.jpg
George’s, Harrisonburg, VA. photo ablogold2.jpg
Cleaning up in Winchester, VA. photo ablogold3.jpg
The skies the limit in Staunton, VA. photo ablogold4.jpg
When a car dealership really meant something, in Harrisonburg, VA. photo ablogold6.jpg
Now this is a home worth coming home to!

THE COLO MOTEL

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Out along the Lincoln Highway, about a half an hour’s drive from Ames, is the little crossroads community of Colo, Iowa. On our recent cross country odyssey, in route to Bozeman, Montana, we had the good fortune to stop in at the Colo Motel and Niland’s Cafe. A lovingly restored gas station, bus stop, motor court and Cafe, this oasis stands as a beacon among the corn fields and silos, within earshot of the cross country freights that sing their lonesome songs late into the night. The owners and workers here are friendly, outgoing and treat you with all the care and love that is normally reserved for long lost family. If you’re ever driving across Iowa, pull in, have a milkshake and give yourself a rest before hitting the highway again. You’ll be glad you did!
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HOSPITALITY – SAN FRANCISCO STYLE

This beautiful city has long been known for its fine dining and proximity to some of the finest vineyards in the world. The gorgeous hotels, bed & breakfasts and luxury accommodations make any Michelin reviewer sit up and take notice. On my recent visit, I set out every morning to walk this fair city, and discover for myself, from street level, the many joys that the City by the Bay had to offer in the way of potent comestibles and comfortable lodging. ….and away we go! From the Castro to the Haight, North Beach to the Tenderloin, a gentle walk on the wild side of SF.
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MIX & MATCH

Back on the road, this time to beautiful San Francisco! Thousands of images to sort through, but while we wait, let’s match the Bay area greasy spoon to the breakfast standard of bacon & eggs, with a hot cup of Joe!
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The Java House, The Pinecrest Restaurant and It’s Tops! All Tops in my book!

THE ROAD TO MEMPHIS

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Once again, the intrepid traveler and neon explorer has loaded up the trusty Retromobile and set a southwesterly course through Kentucky and on to Tennessee before making my yearly pilgrimage to Princeton and Penningtonfest! As planned, it was a long drive, but one teeming with roadside treasures and surprises galore. My trusty and loyal crew and I were rewarded with new adventures and plenty of bizarre and interesting bits of vanishing small town Americana. …and, of course, plenty of neon, lost commercial ephemera from bygone eras and interesting architecture that the 21st Century has bid a not so fond farewell to in favor of a landscape of homogenized conformity.
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What would a trip to Memphis be without a stop to Graceland. Sorry, no published pictures allowed! Elvis, Elvis!
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Historic Elmwood Cemetery in Memphis- Beautiful!
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Some cool neon in Memphis
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I just LOVED this house- Was formerly a Doctor’s office, now up for sale, but too far from anything to make it practical
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Old small town movie theaters
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Several generations of wildly diverse roadside architecture in the South
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Who knew that rural Tennessee was home to such great Deco design?

NEW JERSEY-THE GARDEN STATE

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It was a gray and dreary day as The Diner Hunter and I set out for an impromptu road trip to the Garden State. Although many folks associate New Jersey with refineries, turnpikes and the likes of someone named Snooki, we chose to view a different version of the Jersey shore, although our journey did ultimately lead us to Seaside Heights, to see the roller coaster and surrounding damage wrought by Hurricane Sandy. Once off the highway, New Jersey is home to a huge diversity of small towns, scrub pine forests and cranberry bogs. Along the way we saw our usual roadside collection of abandoned buildings, darkened neon and diners. Jersey is the repository of hundreds of diners of every shape and style and we barely made a dent in the list.
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After breakfast, Wildwood was one of our first stops. A piece of beachfront history suspended in time, every manner of so called “DooWop” motel and retro signage exists here, and their amusement park’s roller coaster rose out of the morning mist like a vision from a bygone era, a hole in the old space/time continuum.
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If you love vintage style neon, this is THE place to be-
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More retro neon in Wildwood – I need a shower, now!
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The Caribbean ( design art from the Library of Congress)
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This part of New Jersey is also home to re-purposed Muffler Men & all manner of strange creatures from the Land of the Giants- must be all those chemical mutations
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The most beloved giant of all is Lucy, The Elephant who has made her home in Margate, New Jersey since 1881.
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American Roadside architecture at its zaniest- Even the municipal offices are cool

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Pennsylvania seems to be the state that my wanderlust feels compelled to visit, so for the second time in a week, I’ve laced up my traveling shoes, cranked up the old jalopy, and headed west to the Keystone State and a new adventure out along America’s highways and byways. This was a leisurely journey, with no real destination or objective in mind, so my beautiful traveling companion and I settled for the scenic area around Lancaster county, home to a substantial community of Amish and Mennonite families, as well as Jennie’s Diner, in Ronk’s PA.
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Jennie’s is THE place to go if you have a hearty appetite and appreciate friendly service and delicious food.
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Although only a minute from strip malls and an amusement park & putt-putt golf, you’ll see the old ways practiced directly across the street from this busy diner.
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Another few minutes down the road and you’ll run into the Strasburg Railroad, and the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, always fun for young and old alike!
And darn, wouldn’t you know it ( because, after all, this is a blog about neon & diners & roadside stuff) we luckily happened upon some great old neon and motel signage along Rt. 30, The Lincoln Highway
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This is Amish country, and, as anywhere around the world, kids will always be, well, you know…..kids! The Amish are private people, and generally avoid photographs, so this was taken from a discreet and respectful distance.
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On a sunny spring day like this, all the other cultural rituals play out as well, and this wedding party in downtown Lancaster seems to be having a great time clowning around prior to the big event.Beauties every one!
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The many styles of architecture in Lancaster County
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Of course, no roadtrip would be complete without ending the day as it started…..at a great diner.

SIGNS OVER AMERICA

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The late Lady Bird Johnson was never big on the art of the roadside sign. In fact, she devoted a considerable amount of time and effort to rid America of the pox of neon signs, billboards and other bits of the art of commerce along our Nation’s highways and byways. Ultimately, we are better for it, and I applaud her efforts. Today, of course, we are smothered by the crushing weight of electronic advertising, and the simple regional attempts at exterior self-promotion lay rusting on their own walls, forgotten reminders of a less sophisticated time. Ah, but plenty of examples still remain, in small towns and cities across our great country, and I am always on the lookout, along with my fellow commercial archaeologists! Here’s a quick romp in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
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ROADTRIP EATS

PhotobucketThis week’s roadtrip was to the beautiful, yet chilly town of Newport, Rhode Island. As is my usual custom, breakfast was always at whatever diner was close at hand, a haven of coffee, bacon and homefries, served by a friendly, yet saucy waitress, in my mind at least always going by the name of Bernice or Flo. Here is a brief photo essay of breakfasts served up on the frost of those brisk New England mornings.
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It’s all about where you sit your weary butt down.
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Variations on a theme of bacon and eggs
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Al Macs ( awaiting re-opening ) Joe’s and Bishop’s