Monday, August 31, 2009

Vintage Roadside Visits: Thrill-Ville USA

In 1974, one of Oregon's most unique mom and pop amusement parks closed. Pixieland, located near Otis along the central Oregon Coast, had captivated guests for just 5 short years. Around that same time in Salem, Oregon the Vettrus family decided to add go-karts as an extra enticement to their RV park. What followed was roughly 30 years of amusement park entertainment at what would soon become known as Thrill-Ville USA.

Sadly the park ceased operation at the conclusion of the 2007 season. While it's undeniable that we've lost another piece of roadside history we would like to thank the Vettrus family for three decades of memories.

We've noticed that over the past two years the park has been slowly emptied of rides and other fixtures. With our complete fascination with advertising mascots and their unique histories (as evidenced by our fiberglass "family" of six) we had been hoping for a chance to stop by and take a closer look at the mighty Thrill Man while he was still perched proudly on top of the sign.

Below Thrill Man greets another summertime sunset.

While the park is closed to visitors (the KOA at the rear of the property is still going strong) we were lucky enough to meet Vince, a long time employee of the park, at the gates. After talking with him about our interest in learning more about both Thrill Man and the history of the park, Vince kindly spent some time showing us around.

Remember how much fun these giant slides are? At over 50' tall all this one needs is a new coat of wax to get back up to speed.

A 1971 Jet Star Coaster that once thrilled riders in Santa Cruz, California. We're looking forward to seeing this one find a new home.

Another of the classic rides. A 1949 Rock-O-Plane. Amazing to think about just how many people have ridden this one over the past 60 years.

One of our favorites at the park. "Bulgy the Whale" is another of the great rides looking for a new home.

What amusement park is complete without its own train? We loved the streamline style of the Thrill-Ville train.

One of the biggest draws at Thrill-Ville was the giant waterslide. Standing 55 feet tall and hurtling riders down 350' of fiberglass tubes the waterslide now stands eerily quiet.

One of the things that really caught our eye were the few remaining painted signs. While items like rides and fixtures generally find new homes, many times wooden signs like these are left behind. It's easy to see why - they're worn and faded and understandably a ride needs clear signage. For us, the true value of these types of signs is simply their history. They give us a look at a time when talented sign painters created simple signs by hand.

Another great sign listing the rules for go kart ridership.

A wider look at the Jet Star Coaster - The Ripper.

Ok, we'll admit that when we asked if you remembered how much fun giant slides were we had an ulterior motive :-) Here Mrs. Roadside conducts a highly-controlled experiment in order to confirm that indeed giant slides are still awesome.

The remaining rides are currently offered for sale. If you have an interest in anything let us know and we can give you further information. Prices range from $19,000.00 for Bulgy the Whale to around $100,000.00 for the Jet Star Coaster.

Also, please remember that the park is closed and not open to visitors (there are several No Trespassing signs along with security patrols). The park is no longer safely set up for guests and we'd hate to have someone get hurt - that wouldn't be good for anyone!

Jeff & Kelly
Vintage Roadside

Friday, August 28, 2009

Tiki Oasis 2009 road trip - the long road home

Hi everyone! Apologies for the delay in getting our journey home from Tiki Oasis posted but we hope you'll enjoy the recap. We were home for just one day following Tiki Oasis before setting off on another road trip so several more updates are in the works.

Back to Tiki Oasis. Wow! What a great weekend it was. Thanks to everyone for taking time to stop by our booth and say hello. We met so many wonderful people and it was great to have a whole herd of Portlanders to enjoy the weekend with. We also hope that all of you who went home with Vintage Roadside t-shirts are enjoying your new attire!

The weekend wrapped up with more sun, great music, and Ku-Bar watching over the grounds.

Before heading north from San Diego we still had two stops to make to complete our tiki road trip from Portland to San Diego. First up was Trader Mort's at 2904 Shelter Island Drive.

Opened in 1963 and still maintaining its period tiki-style, Trader Mort's is a neighborhood liquor store that also carries a wide selection of wines, soft drinks and snacks. Outside you'll find the original tiki statue, lit torches, and more masks decorating the roof line.

The inside was clean and tidy and seemed to be doing a brisk business. We'd like to thank the gentleman at the counter for sharing some of Mort's history and letting us snap a few photos.

An outside view showing the great architecture of the building.

Just down the road from Trader Mort's is the amazing Humphrey's Half Moon Inn at 2241 Shelter Island Drive.

Another look at Humphrey's incredible architecture.

We once again took the opportunity to explore more of historic Highway 99 through central California. If you enjoy a slower trip and the chance to get out of the car every now and then, the towns along 99 offer many great glimpses of the past.

Enjoying the sunset at the Town & Country Motel in Livingston.

Defunct cafe somewhere north of Bakersfield (our road trip notes failed us on the exact location). We loved the stars on this one.

Fresno has become one of our favorite places to photograph vintage neon signs. The city still contains an amazing amount of signs in varying conditions. The Eagle Cafe is one of many that must have been amazing when it was lit. The animated neon wings make this one a treasure.

The Luau is probably one of the most well-known tiki signs in the country. Partly for being an incredible design and partly for not having a single tiki-related item left inside. While it is a shame the restaurant no longer enjoys a tiki theme, we're grateful the owners have left the sign in place for people to enjoy.

We always enjoy stopping by for a look at the Merced Muffler Man. This time we were lucky enough to spend some time talking with his owner. He let us know the Muffler Man stood for many years over a local wrecking yard. After the yard closed he spent some time flat on his back before rising once again here at the Museum. We're still looking forward to the day our very own Muffler Man proudly surveys our abode!

On previous trips we always seemed to pass through Yreka "after hours" but this time we were happy to make it in time to visit the Siskiyou County Museum. The museum has a wonderful collection of artifacts including mining items, Native American clothing, logging gear and more. We really enjoyed our visit and would highly recommend a stop if you enjoy local museums.

Medford gave us a chance for another "used to be a tiki place" photo with the Tiki Lodge. We didn't have a chance to look inside the office but the architecture and sign still provide a nice photo.

Leaving Medford a road trip tragedy struck. A car in front of us veered over into the shoulder and as they swung back into the lane a giant rock hit our windshield. Normally you cringe and look for a little star-shaped chip. Not this time. Within seconds the little star had grown from a 1/2" crack to a 3" crack. One more movie sound effect and we were looking at a 6" crack. The 100+ degree temperature wasn't helping us on this one. It was 4:30 pm and still 240 miles from home.

We keep a GPS with us for motel & drive-in locating so we thought we'd see if Grants Pass had a windshield repair facility that could help us out. Two options came up and we headed for the nearest one. We pulled into Novus Glass at about 4:45 pm. We went in and explained what had happened. Even though it was the end of a hot day Craig offered to fix our monster crack right then. We pulled into the shop and after an offer of cold water Craig went to work on what initially seemed a lost cause. Hopefully without sounding too much like a commerical, we just wanted to let everyone know of the amazing customer service we received from Craig Gostnell and his business. If you're ever in need of glass repair in the area give Craig a call at (541) 474-5646.

Happily back on the road with our freshly-repaired windshield we made one last stop at another of our favorites. The Ranch Restaurant and Lounge in Rice Hill features a dining room with stools, a restaurant area for dinner and a lounge for your beverage needs. All of the food is prepared at the restaurant and they have a local supplier who bakes their pies. We enjoyed a wonderful slice of blackberry pie on this visit. Delicious!

By the way, the Ranch Restaurant is also a giant A-frame. It doesn't get much better than that!

We hope you enjoyed riding along on this one. We have a visit to a defunct amusement park coming up soon along with road trips to the Bay Area and our annual trek to the National Trust for Historic Preservation conference. This year we'll be traveling from Portland, Oregon to Nashville, Tennessee.

Jeff & Kelly
Vintage Roadside

Friday, August 14, 2009

Tiki Oasis 2009 road trip day 3

Welcome to the home stretch of our road trip to Tiki Oasis. Today's leg takes us through Bakersfield and then on down to San Diego for the opening party at the Bali Hai.

Coconut Joe's was our destination in Bakersfield at 4158 California Ave. Although not a vintage location, there are plenty of great things to see inside. We also tried a sampling of both their chicken and tri-tip. Smoky, juicy, tangy, and delicious - we highly recommend Coconut Joe's for a great meal!

We were lucky to meet managing partner Jeff Salters whose enthusiasm for the restaurant and the food were definitely contagious (he's responsible for the tri-tip recipe). Jeff let us know that the owner is quite a serious tiki collector and has also stocked his banquet facility with vintage tiki artwork.

We were told numerous people have made offers for the vintage lighted Primo Beer clock. You can see why from the picture below - very cool!

Once we arrived in San Diego we met up with our friends Austin and Marci for dinner at the Turf Supper Club. The restaurant is an incredible time-capsule from the 1950s. Original wallpaper and artwork along with the circular booths create an atmosphere that is 100% authentic. Another unique feature of the Turf Supper Club is the fact that you grill your own meal. Great quality meats complemented with your choice of sauces made for a delicious dinner.

Mr. & Mrs. Roadside make a rare appearance in the photo section of the blog:-)

After dinner we headed over to the Tiki Oasis opening night party at the Bali Hai. The party was a blast with cocktails, music, Tahitian dancers, and a crowd decked out in their vintage finest. Did we mention cocktails?

The Goof high atop the Bali Hai.

We're making this post short today as we have a couple of seats reserved for us by the pool. It's a tough job, but someone's got to do it!

Tomorrow will be a full day with vending on the patio next to a 15 foot tall tiki bar made of spray foam followed by music and entertainment in the evening. We'll continue to post photos over the weekend as time allows!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Tiki Oasis 2009 road trip day 2

We're wrapping up Day 2 of our road trip to Tiki Oasis in Delano, CA, having logged another 379 miles and checked off three more of our planned tiki road stops. We also have a surprise for you with one unexpected tiki discovery.

Although our route to Los Angeles traces old Highway 99, we detoured south of Red Bluff to follow a scenic route through fruit and nut orchards and acres of sunflowers.

In addition to the great scenery, we were really happy to have taken the detour when we came across this sign. Rather than tell you where it is, we decided it would be more fun to throw down a challenge: can you idenify the mystery location?

We haven't come across a reference to this location in our road trip resources and would love to hear from anyone who can identify it and can share any history. It appears that the only thing tiki about it is the sign, but what a sign!

The next three stops on our road trip were all in Modesto and chock full of tikis.

Starting off the trio is Minnie's Restaurant located at 107 McHenry Ave. Parking is limited in the front so be sure to take advantage of the ample parking lot around back. If you're traveling south on McHenry, take the first right past the restaurant onto Needham St. The parking lot is on your right.

We struck gold at the back entrance with three fantastic tikis.

Back entrance

Front entrance

Back entrance

If you enter Minnie's from the back, you'll walk directly into the tiki bar. The lighting was murky, but the bar was well stocked with tiki decor. Our favorite pieces were the velvet paintings of tropical beauties. If you're hungry - for both food and more tiki decor - just walk through the bar into restaurant seating at the front. We can't vouch for the food, but there was a small group of people waiting to get in when the restaurant opened at 5:00 pm.

Just north of Minnie's you'll find the Tropics Motel at 936 McHenry Ave, now a Rodeway Inn. We didn't explore the hotel much, but did take some fun photos of the strangely headbanded tikis that populate the grounds.

On a side note, James Teitelbaum writes in his book Tiki Road Trip, 2nd Edition, that the Tropics Motel was opened by Ken Kimes who was also responsible for the Tropics Motel in Palm Springs, now named Caliente Tropics. We stayed at the Caliente this past spring and highly recommend it.

Our favorite stop of the day was the Tiki Lounge at 932 McHenry Ave. It was closed the first time we drove by, but we swung by later and were glad that we did because we got to meet Cliff, the Tiki Lounge's friendly bartender.

According to Cliff, the Tiki Lounge shifted focus about two years ago and has become a popular night spot for a young gay crowd. That shift brought new energy to the place and improved its reputation tremendously. Cliff also mentioned that the owner is very protective of the tiki decor, but recently approved a small expansion of the dance floor to meet the demands of his customers. The change is minimal with booths shifted closer to the back wall and black tiles replacing some of the carpeting.

So, there you have it, the end of Tiki Oasis Road Trip Day 2! Tomorrow should see us in San Diego just in time to meet up with friends for the opening party at the Bali Hai.

We'll continue to blog throughout the weekend and update you on the launch of our three new voodoo and tiki-themed t-shirts at Tiki Oasis.

We're also looking forward to your comments on our mystery tiki sign!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Tiki Oasis 2009 road trip day 1

Leaving Portland this morning on Day 1 of our road trip to Tiki Oasis 9, we had hoped to wrap up the day in Modesto. Instead, distracted as usual by great roadside sights and occasional circling to make sure we hadn't missed anything, we've called it a day in Red Bluff, CA.

Although guilty of meandering, we managed to visit four of the tiki-themed locations on the map we created to commemorate our first road trip down to Tiki Oasis.

Note: a number of people have emailed to ask how we chose our route and narrowed down our list of tiki road stops. As luck would have it, we recently found a pre-Interstate road map of the West Coast and, as fans of old highways, decided to trace old Hwy 99 from Portland to Los Angeles then Hwy 101 to San Diego.

With the help of some great resources including, Tiki Road Trip, 2nd Edition, and Tiki Central, we picked twelve locations along our route with distinct tiki flavor, either past or present.

We're happy to say that the first three of our twelve tiki road stops can be found in Portland: the Alibi, Thatch, and Velveteria.

One of the most striking features of the Alibi (4024 N Interstate Ave) is the enormous sign planted on the roof - a sight impossible to miss if you're driving along Interstate at night. We can also attest to the friendly staff, huge food portions, great mood lighting, and tasty cocktails.

Transformed into a Polynesian paradise in 1947 by owner Roy Ell, you can still enjoy an abundance of tiki decor including masks and shields by Oceanic Arts, carved wood tikis, and a mural of dancing hula girls.

Our second Portland stop is the Velveteria, a velvet painting museum where we've spent a number of memorable hours talking with owners Carl and Caren about subjects ranging from the history of velvet painting to the merits of unicorns versus Chihuahuas on velvet. Although not strictly tiki, the Velveteria does have a fantastic collection of Polynesian art by artists such as Edgar Leeteg and Tyree and is well worth a visit at 2448 E Burnside.

Thatch, the second Portland tiki bar on our list, is much newer than the Alibi but has a great connection with Portland's tiki past through its decor, some of which once decorated the Jasmine Tree and Portland's Kon-Tiki. You'll find Thatch at 2733 NE Broadway St.

Thatch's new tiki mug!

The last tiki stop of the day is more about the remains of tiki. A Chinese restaurant with an attached but closed tiki bar, Ming's in Yreka, CA is worth a quick look as they still have some of their original tiki mugs on display behind Plexiglas.

A little puzzled by our request to take photographs, the restaurant's host couldn't have been friendlier. We didn't stay for dinner this time, but promised to swing by on our way back.

Along with our tiki road stops, here are two more sights from the day.

Weed, CA

Shasta Lake, CA

It's going on 2:00 am now so we'll wrap it up for the day and look forward to another great batch of tiki sights on Day 2 of our road trip to Tiki Oasis 9!