Monday, November 30, 2009

A little of the history behind our Tiki Gardens t-shirt

We're pleased to announce the "just-in-time-for-the-holidays" release of our newest t-shirt! One of our favorite roadside attractions of the past, Florida's amazing Tiki Gardens.

Below is part of the history section we put together to go with the shirt.

"One of the most well known and successful attractions along the Florida coast was Tiki Gardens, located in Indian Rocks Beach. Owned and operated by Frank and Jo Byars, Tiki Gardens was a destination for more than 25 years drawing roughly 500,000 visitors annually at its peak.

The Byars began their march to the top of the Florida attraction world with $200.00 and Jo’s ability to craft jewelry from local shells. Building upon Jo’s creative skill and Frank’s natural ability to sell, they soon turned Byars Sea Jewels into the biggest operation of its kind. The next leap forward came when they purchased the contents of a closing gift shop and opened the Signal House gift shop and restaurant on Gulf Blvd. On the grounds of the Signal House property the Byars also built a small Polynesian garden as an added draw for visitors.

In 1962, after a fire destroyed the Signal House the Byars focused their energies on creating one of the most fabulous roadside attractions in Florida's history. Reopening in 1964, the Byars came back with an even bigger gift shop and expanded gardens. Tiki Gardens would eventually grow to 12 acres and include 10 gift shops, an “adventure trail” of grass huts, numerous statues of Polynesian gods, live peacocks, and Trader Franks, a 450 seat restaurant which also housed the Wiki Wiki Lounge."

To check out our Tiki Gardens t-shirt and to read more of the history we've posted please visit our website here.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Vintage Roadside bunks down at the Clown Motel

Aside from our time in Nashville at the National Trust conference we spent each night of our recent road trip in a different motel. We'd usually roll into town way past dark and by lunch the next day it was sometimes hard to remember specific details about last night's motel. Little did we know that our last night on the road would be one we'll never forget.

We began the day in Flagstaff, Arizona with the goal of making it as far north as we could. Our "must see" for the day was in Pahrump, Nevada - one of the last remaining Texaco Big Friend statues (mission accomplished). We hung around Pahrump until dark at which point we decided it was too early to call it a night so we headed north on Hwy 160 up to Hwy 95. If you're familiar with Highway 95 you'll know there's not much out there to see. In the pitch black there's even less. Well, there are deer to constantly watch for but that doesn't necessarily fall into the "fun" category. It also tends to cap your top speed at around 47 mph.

After a few more hours and only one town we decided it was time to find somewhere to call it a night. Out came the atlas and bingo, coming up was the town of Goldfield. For those of you familiar with the town please stop laughing - we'd never been there:-) Ok, strike one. Next up Tonopah. As we came into town our hopes were high based on the fact there were lights on. We took a drive through town to see what our lodging options might be. First a casino and second a very expensive chain motel. As we approached the edge of town there was one more lighted sign before what looked like miles of blackness...

"Does that sign say The Clown Motel?"

"It does"

"Um, how far is the next town?"

"Las Vegas is 215 miles behind us, Reno 240 miles ahead"

"That's really far isn't it?"

"It's almost midnight...We could ask to see a room"


We found a spot to park and asked to see a room. The gal working couldn't have been nicer and we were off to take a look at a room. The room was just fine, the rates were incredibly reasonable, and at that point we realized that not every day offers the chance to stay at a motel like the Clown. Since we had arrived quite late it would be the next morning before we had a chance to fully look around. So, here we go!

We immediately found the clown riding the chopper sign to be pretty awesome.

Above each of the beds in our room were reminders that the Clown had moved beyond pastel landscapes for artwork.

The next morning we also took a look out the window to see what the scenery was like.

"Hey, did you see what was next to the office when we checked in last night?"

"No, what?"

"I'm pretty sure it's a cemetery"


"And did you notice the hundreds of clowns in the office last night?"

"No, I was too tired"

"You're in for a treat!"

The office features the Clown Motel collection of over 300 clowns. Front and center was this big fella. Our mascot Stinky still looks a little unsure at this point.

One of the many shelves of clowns in the office.

Some of the clown artwork displayed in the office.

Clowns of every imaginable type in the collection.

I have no idea on this one.

And even more clowns!

Next door to the Clown office is the Tonopah Cemetery. It dates to the period of 1901 to 1911 and appears to contain many former Tonopah residents who were victims of mining accidents.

The cemetery seemed to be quite well-cared for and was also very peaceful in the early morning sun.

So, if you ever find yourself passing through Tonopah, Nevada and are in need of a place to stay take a look at the Clown Motel. It might not be your everyday motel but that's part of the fun of a road trip!

Jeff & Kelly
Vintage Roadside

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Vintage Roadside: Arizona to Oregon and home!

With one monster day of driving - 20 hours of exploring covering over 840 miles - we're home at last in Portland.

What a road trip! The people, the places, and the sights are unforgettable. We could head back out on the road again in the morning, but instead will wrap up this year's National Preservation Conference road trip blog with highlights from the journey home - New Mexico to Oregon.

We left off the last blog with photos from Clayton, New Mexico and kick off today's post in Gallup, New Mexico.

Driving through Gallup, we stopped by to visit an old friend still standing astride a garage just off of Route 66. (For a more in-depth look at Route 66, please take a look at last year's road trip highlighting over 50 preservation projects from Topock, Arizona to Tulsa, Oklahoma. Route 66 road trip.)

Crossing into Arizona, we stopped for longer than planned to explore two very different dinosaur-themed roadside attractions.

Taking Exit 303 heading west, we stopped first at Stewart's.

With mechanically animated creations decorated withe mannequin body parts and live biting ostriches around the side, Stewart's definitely qualifies as old school. The gentleman who works in the gift shop was great and made sure we didn't leave without receiving our free postcard and piece of petrified wood.

Just across the road by way of an underpass, we stopped next at the Painted Desert Indian Center. The dinosaurs were receiving a fresh coat of paint and looked spectacular in the sun.

Mascot sighting - Get out of there, Stinky!

Backtracking about seven miles east, we did something we've always wanted to do and took a natural beauty break to explore the Petrified Forest National Park. Friendly staff, reasonable admission ($10 per car good for seven days), and phenomenal landscape and history - we'd do it again in a heartbeat.

We had a healthy appetite after leaving the park so headed to Joe & Aggie's cafe in Holbrook, hoping to see Christopher, a friend we made during last year's Route 66 road trip. Luck was with us and Christopher was working the night shift with Steven cooking in the kitchen. Thanks again to you both for the conversation and great food!

Having dropped a little behind with our detour to Petrified Forest, we had to scoot through the rest of Arizona but did catch this final photo of the Western Hills Motel in Flagstaff.

On to Nevada with a stop in Pahrump to see one of the last Texaco Big Friends in existence followed by a night at one of the most interesting places we've ever spent the night: the Clown Motel in Tonopah (worthy of its own blog so keep an eye out for our post coming up shortly with lots of interior and exterior photos).

Up Highway 95 in Mina, we found a beautiful old sign for Sue's Motel.

In Hawthorne, we found a treasure trove of signs including Astro Wash, Joe's Tavern, and the funky Cinadome Theatre.

Working our way toward Reno and our connection home (Hwy 395 to 139 in Susanville), we took our final photos for the day in Fallon, Nevada.

Fallon Theatre:

I.H. Kent Co.:

Close to 6000 miles and 20 days logged on the road with a fantastic stop in the middle for the National Preservation Conference in Nashville and we're home at last!

Thanks again to everyone for their emails, Tweets, Facebook posts, comments and suggestions throughout our road trip - it's been great having you along for the ride.

We'll be taking a short blog break to ship orders and catch up on work in the office, but have some fun road trip follow-up blogs planned - stay tuned!

Jeff & Kelly
Vintage Roadside

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Vintage Roadside: Goodbye Oklahoma and a wild welcome to New Mexico

Housekeeping was tapping at the motel door as we posted this morning's blog, but we've landed in a new city and are back as promised tonight with a batch of new photos catching us up to date on our road trip home.

Today's post starts in Woodward, Oklahoma and ends in Grants, New Mexico. Unfortunately, things got a little dicey with the lightning and rain after Clayton, New Mexico and we weren't able to shoot any photos on that stretch of the trip. Imagining the storm in Key Largo nicely sums up that leg of the trip.

For those of you who've followed along with us on our road trip blogs before, you'll notice a familiar rhythm: a focus on preservation stories on the way out with roadside sights emphasized on the way back. If you missed our first eight days of travel, be sure to go back to read about some amazing people and places.

Westward Ho!

This defunct motel in Woodward, Oklahoma is currently for sale and comes with a bonus feature - an underground tornado shelter. So tempted...

United Supermarket in Woodward: a popular place to shop with a fantastic rooftop sign.

Found a block off of Main Street in Woodward:

And Main Street itself featuring the Woodward Theatre:

Hardesty, Oklahoma:

Best road sign spotted on the way to Guymon: "Hitchhikers may be escaping convicts."

Fantastic twin arrow drive-in restaurant sign in Guymon, Oklahoma:

We've seen a lot of fiberglass figures in our travels and Tiger Motor Company's sign-topping tiger ranks with the best.

The Longhorn Motel in Boise City, Oklahoma:

Thanks, Felt, Oklahoma 4-H - you always were our favorite!

Random roadside photo on Hwy 412 crossing the Oklahoma panhandle..."Can I keep him?"

And just before the storm settled in, the Nu-Way Cafe in Clayton, New Mexico.

We'll see you tomorrow in Flagstaff!

Jeff & Kelly
Vintage Roadside

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Vintage Roadside: A jaunt across Oklahoma

After a warm and windy drive across the Oklahoma panhandle, we stopped just east of the New Mexico border to admire a lightning storm to the south of us. It was awesome, spectacular, all of the above...and the same lightning storm and torrential downpour we would shortly have to drive through.

We had originally planned to post a blog last night, but the aforementioned weather forced us to push on, hoping to miss the chance of snow we heard might follow on the heels of the storm. After 600 or so miles of driving, we landed in Grants with the storm behind us and the thought of sleep irresistible.

Which brings us to today's down and dirty double-feature: Eureka Springs, Arkansas to Enid, Oklahoma then Woodward, Oklahoma to Grants, New Mexico.

This blog, as the last, is text light and photo heavy. If you missed out on any of the preservation stories we highlighted on the first leg of our trip - Portland to Nashville - we encourage you to check out the first eight days of this road trip. We promise, you won't want to miss them!

On to the photos -

Eureka Springs, AR - historic downtown:

Eureka Springs, AR - Basin Park Hotel:

Eureka Springs, AR - Crescent Hotel (more on this preservation story later):

Inspiration Point, just west of Eureka Springs:

Springdale, AR:
Tulsa, OK - Daylight Donuts and rush hour traffic on Yale.

Skiatook, OK:

Pawnee, OK - Birthplace of Chester Gould, creator of Dick Tracy! Mural located at the corner of 6th & Harrison.

Perry, OK:

Christmas shopping taken care of in Enid, OK:

Be sure to check out our Facebook page for a fun road trip bonus offer!

Part 2 photos through the Oklahoma panhandle and New Mexico coming later today.

Jeff & Kelly
Vintage Roadside