Monday, August 20, 2007

Vintage Roadside, Thunderbeast Park, Midges, The Oregon Vortex & Family!

Vintage Roadside loaded up the wagon on Thursday and headed south. The occasion was the Mrs. Vintage Roadside annual family shindig.

Never ones to pass up the opportunity for roadside entertainment we marked The Oregon Vortex as our "must" for the trip down. After enjoying a fine lunch at the Myrtle Creek Dairy Queen we headed for Gold Hill. Since it was a weekday and our summer has been more like early Fall, we thought we may have the place to ourselves. We couldn't have been more wrong - the place was packed! Upon entry we realized this was not Confusion Hill in California. The focus here is on an educational, guided tour throughout the grounds. They do have the "original" Mystery House however you don't get the opportunity to walk up the walls:-( One of the highlights of the tour is the collection of photos in the gift shop which display unexplained light "vortexes". Another neat item in the gift shop is a world map showing visitors (represented by pins) from all around the globe who have visited this season. It's clear that the appeal of a great roadside attraction is universal. If you find yourself in Southern Oregon traveling along I-5 make the time for your 45 minute guided tour. Places like this are constantly disappearing so support your local mom and pop roadside attraction.

Thursday evening found us arriving in Klamath Falls. Our route took us down Biehn Street. At one time this was a major entry road to the city. Along a stretch of just a few short blocks are some surviving examples of classic roadside architecture. You can spot two examples of the gas station with attached tourist cabin court and a little farther down are the remains of the wonderful Rock-Wood Motel. The motel has lost 2 of the 3 sections which formed a "U" around the central building but it appears someone is working to preserve the remaining structures.

Across the street from the Rock-Wood stands this sign which at one time would have glowed with neon.

Downtown Klamath Falls has some fantastic buildings and appears to remain vibrant. Many of the early 20th century buildings still display their fading Hotel signs. Below is an example - The Arcade Hotel proudly offering "Modern Heat".

At one time an auto showroom, this fantastic Egyptian-themed building appears to be undergoing a slow (and hopefully steady) restoration. The front of the building seems to be freshly painted so hopefully the owner can maintain their momentum. Egyptian inspired buildings were all the rage after the discovery of King Tut's tomb in 1922 and only a few examples remain.

Another fading sign for the Hotel Cascade. The selling point here was that every room had a bath. At this time guests were used to sharing the bathroom "down the hall" so a private bath would have been quite the luxury.

One of the nicer uses of a historic building we saw was The Creamery. In addition to serving good food and their own microbrews they've maintained this historic sign. Stop by if you're looking for a good lunch. Another suggestion would be to eat at Blondie's (a classic drive in with real ice cream milkshakes) and quench your thirst at The Creamery. Or just eat twice - Blondie's is a must.

We had a wonderful weekend catching up with family. It was great to see everyone and also to have a chance to see the entire family display their mastery of Dance Dance Revolution! How some of us missed the opportunity for dance as a career I'll never know. (I'm talking to you Jason.) So to all the family - thanks for a great weekend. Maybe next time we'll miss the world-famous midge hatch/plague:-)

Sunday found us heading north on Highway 97. We had planned on a stop at Thunderbeast Park, a classic roadside dinosaur park, as being the crowning photographic achievement of the trip. As everyone who has visited this type of attraction knows these were real dinosaurs that were turned into brightly colored concrete shells by a comet. What some may not know is that the path of this comet was used for the routing of major (tourist) highways - which explains why the majority of these parks were next to heavily trafficked roads.

As we approached we could see the roadside sloth/beast was still standing tall so we swung onto the shoulder of the road. OK, so pieces of him are starting to fall off but he's still mighty impressive. We could see rising above the fence another of his life-like brethren. This one a startling, realistic orange and yellow. Only one problem with taking photos of this classic herd - the numerous no trespassing signs and locked gates blocking access to the parking lot. Our request to photograph the dinosaurs from outside the fence was met with a resounding, extremely firm, no dice. We here at Vintage Roadside just can't understand buying a famous roadside attraction and then allowing it to slowly rot away..... R.I.P. Thunderbeast Park.

We spotted this great motel sign along Highway 97. The place looked well kept and might be worth a stay if you're in the area.

We spotted this along Highway 99 between Eugene and Corvallis. Being fans and collectors of roller skating memorabilia we thought perhaps we had found the ultimate headquarters for Vintage Roadside. However upon closer inspection of the building we decided it might be just a touch more work than we'd like to restore the building. Hopefully whoever buys it keeps it open for roller skating.

Close to home we stopped to get a photo of this great Dairy Queen sign. While the building is newer it's nice they made the effort to hang on to their older sign.

That ends this Vintage Roadside roadtrip. Next up Long Beach, Washington the first week of September.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Roseburg to Portland

  • Roseburg to Portland via I-5 - the end of the roadtrip. Not much stopping as we wrapped up the 2400+ mile trip.

Ukiah to Roseburg

Ukiah to Crescent City via Hwy 101 - Here we are along the famed Avenue of the Giants. Roadside Americana is still going strong and we were happy to stop at every attraction along the way! First up was the Drive-thru tree in Leggett. Not a lot of photo opportunities here but worth the stop.

Next stop was the "World Famous Tree House" which has an amazing history. At one time there were cabins, a restaurant and more. Now the only thing to "believe it or not" is the fact the current owners apparently never open it to the public. Based on the amount of people stopping to look it seems like the motoring public would still enjoy seeing the attraction.

The next roadside wonder was the amazing Confusion Hill. This is the way a roadside attraction should run! From the overwhelming signage to the neon lights, they know how to hook the passing motorist. We opted for the Mystery House admission and were not disappointed. This place is a true vintage roadside attraction and we hope it continues for many more decades.

Next up we have the "Famous One Log House" in Garberville. 7 feet tall and 32 feet long. It seemed amazingly comfortable inside. Also the house still rests on its original 1949 trailer. Well worth the $1.00 admission and the ice cream cones in their gift shop hit the spot.

Just down the road we find The Legend of Bigfoot. Sort of a modern roadside attraction highlighting the chainsaw carvings of the owner. Also well worth a stop. You just might gain an appreciation for the art. Plus they have a huge, fiberglass gnome that makes for a great photo!

Our next stop was in Eureka for lunch. We plotted a course for the Fresh Freeze Drive In. If you're looking for absolutely fantastic drive in food this is the place to stop. It's a little off the main road but well worth it. The entire meal right down to the root beer shake was excellent. Plus the place looks great and they have a wonderful sign. We also spotted this great looking theater in town.

Heading further north we had to stop and watch the elk along the road. They could care less people were taking pictures. Neat to see so close up.

We wrapped up the attraction tour with a stop at Trees of Mystery. We didn't make it before closing but a big part of the attraction is the 49 foot tall Paul Bunyan & Babe in the parking lot. The place looked fantastic and the next time we pass through we'll try and stay at the vintage Trees Motel across the street.

Crescent City to Grants Pass via Hwy 199 - Wow, not a road for the timid! Nice to drive through the giant redwoods at the summit however. We also stopped for a break in Cave Junction and heard the most interesting karaoke cover of Tears in Heaven coming from the bar across the street.

Grants Pass to Roseburg via I-5 - another night of arriving at the motel around 1:30 am.

Tejon Pass to Ukiah

Tejon Pass to Hwy 41 via I-5 - Not much to discuss here.

Hwy 41 through Lemoore to Hwy 99 - Here's where this day got interesting. We had seen photos of an A&W Teen Burger statue located in Lemoore. Since we own an original A&W Papa Burger statue this route was a must. Our first stop in Lemoore for directions yielded this amazing display of Volkswagen products. It looked like a car dealer time forgot! It appears to be a wrecking yard with a flair for display.

Not far from the VW display we had lunch at the White Top Drive In. Well worth pulling off Hwy 41 if you're passing through. The chicken sandwich received a "top 5 all time" rating from Mrs. Vintage Roadside. Friendly staff, clean dining area, fun architecture and great food.

Now for the reason behind the detour - Teen Burger. He looks a little rough but seems to have faired quite well considering the environment. He has however lost both feet. We're not sure what winter is like here but August was mighty hot! We were told the restaurant is open sporadically. We're looking to add a Teen Burger statue to our collection so if any readers run across one let us know.

Hwy 99 to Hwy 12 - Hwy 99 through Stockton is a treasure trove of vintage signs. Within a few blocks of each other we found the following examples. The El Rancho looked to be quite clean and well maintained. The faux bark on the St. Francis sign is a nice touch.

The next stop along Hwy 99 was what was once a true American roadside attraction - Pollardville and the Chicken Kitchen. We here at Vintage Roadside think the world needs more 80 foot signs topped with giant fiberglass critters. It's too bad this will soon be a housing development - but at least it had a nice, long run. We're bummed we missed the selling off of everything though - that sheriff rooster would have found a happy home with us! Sad to see the Palace Showboat and the great tiki inspired restaurant being leveled.

Hwy 12 to I-5 - vroom

I-5 north to Williams - cruise control section

Williams to Clear Lake Oaks via Hwy 20 - nice drive over from the valley to the mountains. While in Clear Lake Oaks we found this wonderful motor court still operating. Even though they were full for the night they offered to let us camp on the grounds. So, if you're ever in the area and looking for a true roadside lodging check out the 20 Oaks Court.

Clear Lake Oaks to Clear Lake via Hwy 53 - around the lake. We did see a fantastic old sign in Clear Lake advertising cottages and miniature golf. It was too dark for a photo unfortunately. What a great combination however!

Clear Lake to Hwy 101 via Hwy 29 - Nice drive.

Hwy 101 south to Ukiah - Hit the motel at about 1:30 am. It was a great day of roadside sightseeing.

Big Bear Lake to base of Tejon Pass

Leaving Big Bear Lake for the wedding in Lake Arrowhead we stopped to look at this great cabin sign. It was nicely animated with smoke coming from the chimney.

Frank & Lisa's wedding in Lake Arrowhead - congratulations Frank & Lisa! It was a lovely wedding along the shore of Lake Arrowhead.

Lake Arrowhead was home to the much-loved Santa's Village. Looking at vintage photos and postcards you can see this was quite the attraction. A majority of the signs and smaller items have found their way into the local community. What remains are the buildings and the Bumble Bee monorail slowly sinking back into the forest. The grounds appear to be currently used as a storage area for logging equipment.

I-15 north to Hwy 138 - didn't see much as we were passing through late at night.

Palmdale to Gorman via Hwy 138 - A lonely, straight shot at 1:00 am.

North to northern end of Tejon Pass via I-5 - Yeeeeeehawwww! Down the grapevine at 2:00 am. If you're blowing by every other car on the road you're going really, really fast. Luckily there are convenient runaway truck ramps off to the side. We hit the bottom of the grapevine at around 2:30 am and lucked out by getting the last motel room.