The Lope: July 2005

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Big Trip, July 31: Cowboys and Indians

We awoke in the bunkhouse of the Big Texan; we were in the back section.

The whole dining room is an internet hot spot...

...and our best reception was in the NE corner. As Ace's valet and driver, I outfitted myself in a retro shirt appropriate for a journey from the Texan to a wigwam motel. The sunglasses were utilitarian...really.

Ahh, Texas!

Hooters always has this billboard by the main Big Texan sign. I wonder how many times it has caused vacationing dads to secretly wish they hadn't promised the family dinner at the Big Texan.

The American Quarter Horse Heritage Center and Museum has a neat building. Notice the landscaping on the multiple roofs.

Its almost impossible to pass the Cadallac ranch.

I'm afraid our grafitti did not last long. One of my traveling companions drove back this way about two weeks later and discovered the cars had been painted pink for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

I can't get enough of the Midpoint Cafe sign at Adrian, TX. You may remember that the cafe is located on the midpoint of Rt66 between Chicago and LA. I'd first entered it in May.

Inside the cafe, framed pictures show previous Adrian cafe's, some of which are part of the history of the present establishment.

This pair of friendly British tourists was on a Rt66 motorcycle trip.

Gotta say hi to Midpoint Pete.

The Midpoint is famous for it's ugly crust pie. Ace's entourage gave it a rousingly positive review.

An unpleasant reminder of the risks of roadtrips.

I'd seen this shot in May, but had not been able to stop to get it. This is Glenrio, TX, right on the New Mexico border. Glenrio, you may remember, is a ghost town.

We zoomed past Tucumcari, NM, which was fine since I'd photographed the heck out of it two years ago, and my favorite place, The Blue Swallow Motel, was out of business anyway. This is Tucumcari mesa; hence the huge "T" on it.

New Mexico has the only cool-looking lottery signs I've ever seen.

Long abandoned, the Rio Pecos Truck Terminal in Santa Rosa, NM still grabs my attention.

The East end of Rt66 in Santa Rosa has a nice cache of cool buildings and signage.

I always love seeing the Native American Zia symbol used in tasteful, yet modern ways.

Many of the overpasses in New Mexico are nicely decorated.

Like "The Thing" in Southern, AZ, the Jackrabbit Trading Post in NE AZ, or Wall Drug in South Dakota, Clines Corners of central NM has a jillion signs along the road.

Clines Corners is not a town; it's just a big store...years ago the owner managed to talk the map companies into listing him, and Clines Corners is on every New Mexico map I've seen.

The El Comedor "rotosphere" in Moriarity, NM, was restored via a grant from the New Mexico Rt66 Association through the National Park Service a couple years back. The motor that turns each hemisphere against the other as well as rotating the whole thing was not working this day; I hope it still does. The only rotosphere I've seen comparable to it is at Joe's Spirits in Memphis, TN, and last I saw, it was broken. I shot this one working at night two years ago and really should post the pics. It was like the Sputnik mother ship to which all other Sputnik balls reported.

Dairy Queen seems to dominate the Southwest the way Stuckys used to.

I-40, West of Moriarity, with old 66 on the right.

Mesas...can't get enough of them.

The black material by the roadside is lava from an ancient volcano; Rt66 and Hwy 40 cut through it from about McCartys to Grants, NM. The lava flow is called “The Malpais,” and I've read that it means “Evil Country.” It occurred between 1,000 and 2,000 years ago, making it quite recent in geological terms. Locals have told me that, according to Navaho legend, the lava is the blood of a giant who was slain by twin war gods in the Zuni Mountains.

I like this: "dust storms *may* exist"...then again, they may be figments of your imagination?

This fellow waits patiently with us in an I-40 traffic jam, behind an accident. Meanwhile, traffic on Rt66 (just a few yard away, yet unobtainable) zipped by.

We tried a place I'd never stopped before, Earls in Gallup, NM. It was pretty good.

Nice older-looking decor, althought the building dated from the 1980's, I believe. The business itself was much older than the location.

I'd never seen this sort of sign before.

One of the goals of this trip was to stay in the Wigwam motels in Holbrook, AZ and Rialto, CA. I'd already stayed in the third surviving one in Cave City, KY. We pulled into Holbrook after nightfall.

We arrived just in time for me to get this tripod shot. The light streaks behind the wigwams were left by the BNSF Westbound mainline.

The old cars on the property belong to the owner.

John Lewis now owns and runs the Wigwam Motel; he's the son of the original owner, Chester E. Lewis, who built it in 1947. John had stayed up to check us in.

Of the three extant Wigwam Motels, only this one has these ceramic lamps for sale. I didn't buy one as they were $29.99 and we had miles to go with our already voluminous luggage.

The lobby and an adjacent room of the Wigwam held a nice exhibit of artifacts, including this huge dinosaur bone.

We had two wigwams, one with two beds...

...and one with one bed.

The rooms, at least the ones we stayed in, were equipped with some of the original furniture; I'd seen very similar pieces in the Cave City, KY Wigwam Village #2.

The bathrooms were small but had everything you need.

The owner turned off the neon shortly after we arrived. He'd kept it on for a bit as a courtesy to me. Afterwards, I savored the quiet of the place and crept around to shoot a few more time exposures by the light of security and street lights. I could set up a tripod in the middle of Rt66 with no cars visible either direction while I contemplated the history of the place.

As every student of roadside America should know, wigwam motels were the brainchild of Kentuckian, Frank Redford. Redford grew up in the second decade of the 20th century and was enamored of the silent film, The Great Train Robbery. In later years, he was struck by the structural similarity of a cone-shaped ice cream stand he'd seen on a trip to California, and tee pees he'd seen in South Dakota.

By 1933, he'd built a gas station in the form of a 60 foot wigwam; by 1935 he had expanded the idea to a row of wigwam-shaped motel cabins and, thus, Wigwam Village #1 was born in Horse Cave, KY. In 1937, Redford built Wigwam Village #2, which still stands in Cave City, KY. It's the first place I ever saw a touring jackalope.

Redford eventually made deals with other motel enterpreneurs, trading his blueprints and expertise for the right to extract the dimes from coin-operated radios in the five other Wigwam Motels that were built around the country. In addition the the one in Cave City, KY, the other two surviving Wigwam Motels are #6, which I'm photographing as I think back on all this, and #7 in Rialto, CA, in which I hope to sleep two nights from now.

And so, because a boy nearly a hundred years ago was crazy about a nickelodean cowboy and indian film, I'm standing in the middle of a silent Rt66 with a digital camera gazing affectionately at the motel wherin reside two friends and a jackalope.

I had to have one more train streak shot before I went to bed. this was another BNSF Westbound.

Close your eyes, sleep in a wigwam and dream of Indians.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Big Trip, July 30: Too Much Steak

As you can see from the ceremonial passage under the former Glass House over I-44, Ace is off on another Westward trip. It's a slightly complex trip, really: off to California to finish Rt66 from Needles to LA, a week in LA sampling the art, culture and architecture, then a cruise to Mexico. Total trip time: 24 days; this is day one.

We started at Joplin, MO and our plan was to blast across Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico using Hwy 40 at warp speed, stopping only when neccesary until we reached Arizona where the newest members of Ace's driving entourage...

...would be able to sample some of that state's natural beauty before exiting to Rt66 in CA and taking it all the way to LA. If you've followed this blog, much of the territory prior to Seligman, AZ will look familiar. We'll try to show you new aspects of it, though. After Needles, CA, it'll all be new territory.

Of course, ya gotta eat, so we tried the Rock Cafe at Stroud, OK.

We'd never used a bathroom there, and so had missed the fact that the whole thing is pleasantly graffitied. Here's where John Lasseter, founder of Pixar Studios, drew Buzz Lightyear and Woody. Several of our Rt66 contacts have recently told us that Pixar did a research trip across 66 for the upcoming movie "Cars", but the Lasseter drawing is from 2001; I wonder if he was researching that early or if he's just a fan of the old road.

Note and picture added when re-editing in 2007: Yes, Lasseter was indeed reseaching Route 66 in 2001. As a matter of fact, Rock Cafe owner Dawn Welch (below) became the basis for the "Cars" character "Sally" the Porsche. She really looks much better than this, we caught her on a very busy day.

On out in Hydro, OK (love the name) we paid respects to the Rt66 business that is best known as Lucille's, closed since the death of Lucille Hamons in 2000. Lucille ran the business for 59 years, surviving the death of her husband and the opening of Hwy 40 to become a much-beloved matron of Rt66. Lucille's is on the National register of Historic Places and a sign that advertised an accompanying motel court is now in the Smithsonian Institution.

Lucille's is a great place to see a curbed section of old 66.

66 is seductive; whenever we'd exit onto it for some reason, it was difficult to tear ourselves away and get back on hwy40. This is a stretch between Hydro and Weatherford.

Driving and photography are not mutually exclusive activities, despite what more sensible people say. My passengers love it. Just check out the look of confidence.

Many of the pictures of signs, buildings, the road, etc., on this trip were shot through the car windows. Stopping was often impractical, especially in the urban areas. Many of the photos downright sucked and were deleted, but some were good enough to be informative.

The windmills in the mirror were part of a wind farm in Western OK. The things are huge.

Not too far away, new derricks were going up. The juxtipositions were thought-provoking on this gasoline-concious trip.

Some things are so cool, you just have to stop and see them again and again. The Tower Conoco Station in Shamrock, TX is one of them.

Note added in 2007: As you may have read before, and doubtlessly will read again, this building was the inspiration for "Ramone's House of Body Art" in the Disney/Pixar movie, "Cars."

On a day when we were paying over two dollars a gallon for gas, the Tower pumps were frozen at $34.4.

It is my understanding that the grant which allowed the station to be restored stipulates that no commercial business can operate within for ten years...I think thats about eight years from now. Until then, the Shamrock Chamber of Commerce holds special events inside. I hope I get to see a nice little diner open up inside, someday.

A sliver of the Blarney Stone is displayed in a Shamrock city park.

And an appropriate mural adorns a pharmacy.

But I think my favorite sign in all of Texas is "RATTLESNAKES EXIT NOW", a remnant of the long-defunct Regal Reptile Ranch at Alanreed. Someday I hope to catch this sign with some nice clouds or a sunset behind it; parhaps that'll be when I visit the Devil's Rope Museum at McLean on a future trip, where I've read some artifacts of Regal Reptile Ranch are preserved.

Just West of here, near Groom, is the leaning Britten Water Tower, last surviving element of the Britten U.S.A. Truck Stop.

It's not a high-tension power pole, its the (formerly) largest cross in the Western Hemisphere near Groom, TX. The 190 foot iron and sheet metal construction is sponsored by the Knights of Columbus and was the tallest until one at Effingham, IL beat it by eight feet.

I had stopped here before to shoot exteriors, but had never been in the gift shop. Does anyone else find it odd that the baby Jesus seems to select a crucifix?

Adult Jesus regards the exit.

Its nice to know that Rt66 guidebooks have percolated into so many niches.

There are twelve stations of the cross statues outside. When I first saw this place, about three years ago, there were was a group of people flagilating themselves as they walked around them. I haven't seen that on any subsequent trips.

In nearby Groom, the Blessed Mary's restaurant serves up Tex-Mex.

We finally pulled into the Big Texan Steak Ranch and Motel in Amarillo, TX for the night

I always love the feel of this place.

Ace's waitress served him up the usual medium steak.

I use the Big Texan gift shop as a barometer for the popularity of classic tourist trap paraphenalia. In May I bought Mexican jumping beans and "rattlesnake eggs" here...last year it was a backseat driver's license...before that it was a nodding Armadillo for the back window. None of those were present this time, but I was happy to see these rattlesnake heads. I didn't want one, mind you, its just that my world, and my vision of the ideal Western road trip, requires that they be available somewhere like this.

I hadn't noticed this fine lenticular in the hallway before; I don't know if its old or not, but the nice thing it that it looks like it *could* be.

I'd been to the Big Texan a few times before, but had never seen the spectacle the place is famous for: the challenge of eating a 72 oz steak, with all the trimmings, in one hour. Do so, and it's free; fail, and it's $50.
Watching someone attempt this task had an odd effect on me. Its not like it's a noble cause or anything...its not like it's for charity...its not Chariots of Fire or Rocky...but, nevertheless, I was part of the following, and even Ace rooted for this guy. Maybe it was his positive "I'm gonna conquer this piece of meet" attitude, or maybe it was just a celebration of American excess at the end of a day watching Winnebagos pass wind farms.

It's exactly what it looks like; there are referees for this ritual who make sure, among other things, that the contestant does not trim too much meat away with the fat.

It was looking so good, but with about seven minutes left, I began to fear for the lad.

I should really point out that a Big Texan Steak is quite good...I just don't think most people should try to eat a 72oz. one in an hour.

After the spectacle of the steak, Ace made another friend.

Before turning in, I took a dip in the Texas-shaped pool as practice for snorkeling in Mexico.

I drifted off wondering if this piece of paneling looked more like a tiki face or Frankenberry.

If you'd like to see more pictures of these locations, check out an earlier blog entry from a trip made in May of 2005, three months before this one.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

A Land of Pina Coladas

Ace just arrived home from Puerto Rico. Here's a snap of him enjoying a Pina Colada at the bar in Old San Juan that supposedly invented the drink in 1963.

Here are some others...looks like he had fun.

It looks like he made some friends.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Scotty, we'll miss you

James Doohan, 1920 - 2005

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Starfleet Exam

Ace got his annual physical from Starfleet Dr's Crusher and Bashir (aka. Gates Mcfadden and Alexander Siddig) at Starbase 21's Trek Expo 2005 in Tulsa. Of course, jackalopes being masters of disguise, he wore appropriate Starfleet uniforms (Star Trek the Next Generation for McFadden, Deep Space 9 for Siddig) so neither would catch on that he wasn't just an ordinary fan.

Robin Curtis played Saavik in Star Trek III; she is a particularly outgoing and friendly woman. She now lives in Cazenovia, NY, sells real estate and works on refurbishing her 1830’s house.

Of course, a good costume is essential to blending in with the classic Star Trek actors.

Grace Lee Whitney was the Yeoman Janice Rand in the first season of the Star Trek. Remember the tall blond hairdo as seen in her action figure?

Back in the 1960's, Bobby Clark donned a green lizard suit to play the Gorn in the "Arena" episode of Star Trek. Watching "Arena" as an adult, The Gorn was more like a 1950's B-movie monster than a credible threat, but when I was ten years-old he was the second-coolest lizard (Godzilla was the first). As for Clark, its fun to hear him talk about the plethera of roles he had in almost any classic TV show you can think of. Also, he's always polite and his autograph prices are quite reasonable.

Anthony Montgomery from the recently cancelled "Enterprise."

Robert Walker, Jr. is one of those ubiquitous charactor actors who has had lots of regular work. His claim to fame in Trekdom is that he played Charlie in the "Charlie X" episode of Star Trek.

Jeremy Bullock was Boba Fett in "The Empire Strikes Back" and "Return of the Jedi". He also played in two roles in Doctor Who episodes. He has very reasonable autograph prices and really seems to enjoy chatting with fans. Bullock collects Boba Fett stuff and knew more about this doll than I did. Ace the Jedilope held the 12" bounty hunter at bay.

Peter Mayhew played Chewbacca in four Star Wars movies. I've never found him to be a particularly responsive person.

Erica Durance is Lois Lane in Smallville. Superlope found her charming.

Tony Amendola has a recurring role on Stargate SG-1. Those of you who got our Halloween card last year may remember that the Vampirelope was created when Ace was kissed by "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" actress Mercedes McNab last year and that he is master of the meaner things of the Earth - the wolf, the bat, the Republican (with apologies to Mr. Stoker). The evil creature may have made a rare non-Halloween appearance because Amendola also played a demon in Angel.

Tricia Helfer plays Cylon Number Six on the Sci-Fi Channel's Battlestar Galactica. She's on the cover of the July 10-16 TV guide. It's pretty hard for a jackalope to disguise itself as a cylon, so Ace wore a silver leather sci-fi collar by Justin Reichert of McPherson, KS.

And now for a different robot. Bob May was the man inside the Lost in Space robot in the 1960's.

Funnily enough, a jackalope in a silver leather thing is no more cheesy than many a Lost In Space villain. Remember, this was the series that gave us a man-size talking carrot.

"worst juxtiposition of charactors, ever"

The comic book guy adorned a table shared by author Kevin Dilmore, a former Kansas journalist. Here, Dilmore shows an interested fan the Orion slave girl centerfold in an issue of Star Trek Communicator.

Of course, no sci-fi convention would be complete without fans in costume. At least thats what we hope this is; otherwise, Ace is being assimilated. Look for a Borgalope next year.

Ace seems to have developed a fetish for exams from pretty doctors. Here, a member of a local fan club does the honors. She made her costume, btw.

This guy had Ferengi speech and gestures down pat. It might have been fun to take him to the Tulsa flea market and watch him negotiate.

Dark Lords of the Sith abound at such occasions.

"Master Yoda, what must I do to understand the wonder of the Force?"
"Go, you must, antlered Padawan; find beautiful women, you will."

Its good to be the 'Lope.

See also Trek Expo 2008
and Trek Expo 2009 Guests Announced.