Some time around midday I pulled us off of the BRP around Roanoke, Virginia. When we finally stopped at the first traffic light we’d seen all day, Kenny looked at me quizzically and slowly said, “um,… wherrrrre are we going?”
Foolish boy. After all this time, he still has to ask?
I happen to have the GPS waypoint file-y thing-a-ma-bob from Roadside America. So, Satan’s Compass (GPS) had hipped me to the fact that there was a muff in our midst. Actually, I’m lying. I knew it was there before we even left New York. I’m weird like that.
During the night I’d been awakened by rain pouring down the gutter drainpipe outside. It sounded like a steam train was chugging by our bedroom window with big whooshes of wind tearing through the trees. Of COURSE there was a monsoon in the wee hours of the morning we were heading out on the road.
True to form, when Kenny and I pulled away from our driveway a wet mist hung on the air. It wasn’t until we got moving at highway speeds that the rain started to fall.
Thankfully our time in the wet was short lived. By the time we’d made it into Pennsylvania the sun had already begun to elbow it’s way through the clouds. Make way, coming through, people on a road trip here!
At our first gas stop I smiled at Kenny and said, ‘Well, I’d rather get the rain out of the way now rather than on the good stuff later.’
We jettisoned our rain gear and enjoyed sweet sunshine for the rest of the day.
The goal for Saturday was nothing more than to get us within striking distance of the roof of the Blue Ridge Parkway in Waynesboro, Virginia for the following day. That meant there was time to dilly-dally and look at ridiculous things along the way – things like shoe houses, Mail Pouch tobacco barns, elephants, dinosaurs and a little love thrown in for good measure.
Our first stop of the day was at the Haines’ Shoe House. After wishing and hoping for years to see it, it would have been criminal not to stop at the boot on Shoe House Road. Yes, that’s right. Shoe. House. Road. I find it’s best not to dwell too hard on the fabulosity of those three words strung together. Your head could explode from greatness.
While we were milling around in the heel, Kenny bought me a ceramic shoe house Christmas ornament (which survived the entire trip), a postcard and a sticker. He’s really a keeper.
Painted barn advertising has a special place in my heart. I can’t say for sure why, but I get a warm, fuzzy feeling inside whenever I see something like the Totem Pole Theater – Mail Pouch Tobacco barn. It’s so… so… Americana. This particular barn actually has a Mail Pouch ad on the other end as well, but it’s mostly obscured by the overgrown trees.
For an extra bonus, the barn is just across the street from Mr. Ed’s Elephant Museum. As the name implies it is a museum full of elephants and well maybe not so expected, CANDY! They’d suffered a devastating fire in 2011 but have risen from the ashes and are back in business showcasing their elephantine goodness.
You know, there is no shortage of weirdos in the world. Nowhere is that more apparent than when you get out into the more rural parts of the States. The backroads offer a special place for kooks to showcase their wares, to express their kookiness and kitschy eccentricities. You just never know what you might find out there.
With about 500 miles on the clock for the day we packed it in at Staunton, Va. The first hotel we pulled in to was kind enough to warn us that a coal train passed behind it 4 times a night so we opted to move along to a quieter spot.
With a windburned face and sun-tired eyes after dinner and a beer, I collapse into a heap and slept the sleep of the righteous. Sweet dreams of the Blue Ridge Parkway danced in my head.
Day 1: Long Island, New York to Staunton, Virginia
Finding a roadside treasure while riding my motorcycle is one of the simple joys in my life. There is a happiness that only spotting a 15 foot fiberglass cauliflower can bring. Am I right?
From the Road in 2011:
Bigfoot – Happy Camp, California
While riding along on CA96, I was excited to see the school bus icon on the GPS get closer and closer to the town of Happy Camp. I knew this awesome giant was in town and I couldn’t wait to see him. He was more impressive than I imagined he’d be.
There are other celebrity shoe trees out there in the world that are more “popular” than this one on CA36. Sadly, several of these perennial favorites have fallen victim to soleless vandals. (See what I did there?)
I had no idea this shoe tree existed so you can imagine my surprise when we found this baby in all of it’s shoe-filled glory.
This fella relocated from Dunsmuir to Hat Creek. In the process he got some spiffy new clothes and a very smart looking cowboy hat. I’m sure that after all of those year of standing at Daily Drivers’ Auto Care, a change of scenery was nice.
It seems that we were able to get an audience with Big Mike shortly before he was sold and taken down. I don’t know where he’s headed but it’s nice to know someone cared enough to take him home instead of sending him to the big fiberglass dump in the sky.
The Big Duck is one of my favorite things about Long Island. Now at 80 years old, it is also one of the greatest surviving examples of programmatic architecture. I find it nearly impossible to ride past it without stopping for a photo. Did I just hear Kenny mumble, “I know”?
One hot summer day in 2011, I was stuck in a line of traffic crawling along at 35mph behind a giant hotdog. Seeing this totally psyched pachyderm on the side of the road gave me a chance to get out of the conga line of cars and off my hot motorcycle.
House of Doors Muffler Man – Cheshire, Connecticut
One of the last times that I stopped in to see the House of Doors Muffler Man, he was nothing more than a pair of pants standing there. He has since been put back together and is proudly holding his American flag.
Yellow Submarine Oil Tank – Shelter Cove, California
The Yellow Submarine tank was a really nice surprise. When Kenny and I pulled into the parking lot of the Inn at the Lost Coast in Shelter Cove, it was sitting in the front yard. It is painted on all four sides.
There are several many people in my life that might argue that I am a weirdness magnet. But, what would that say about them?
Am I really a magnet -or- do you think that just maybe when I am riding my motorcycle I try to be hyper-aware of my surroundings? Strangely enough, I prefer to think that weirdness looks for me. My Gramma used to say that ‘water rises to its own level.’
A few weeks ago, while riding around in Westchester County we passed this charming red building. I think it was once an antique or consignment shop.
Cute, but easily passed by. That is unless something glistens in the sun and catches your eye.
When the shadows start getting long, that’s when I start missing home. I continuously walk the line of having the curiosity of a person who likes to wander and one whose heartstrings reel them back home. Those two facets of a life can be hard to manage.
I’d wound my way around to the edge of Catskill park. This was where things started to get “familiar”. These were the roads where I cut my teeth riding.
I have to believe that everyone who leaves home finds themselves gripped by moments of loneliness. When you’re standing on the side of the road drinking things in with your eyes and there is no one to turn to and say, Did you see that? or to share an unspoken, knowing glance with – that divide can feel immeasurable. Those moments can feel like an eternity. Being “close” to home made it all that much harder.
Gripped by my own sentimental weakness, I began my decent from the atmosphere and started working towards home.
In many ways it felt like a failure that I wasn’t able to work past my suddenly overwhelming homesickness. But, the idea of sleeping in my own bed started to push those clouds away. There was just the pesky matter of already having 450 miles on the seat for the day and a solid 200 more if I wanted to head home the “un-fun” way.