Zipping along on I-40 East, I saw the white geodesic ball of Area 66 come into view. “What the…?” escaped my lips as it drew closer.
There was nothing that would have stopped me from exiting the highway to get a look at this nonsense. Besides, my fingers were frozen in my leather gloves in the chilly January air. The temperature hovered in the low 40’s that morning. Warming them up was the perfect excuse for a stop.
It was still early in the morning when I pulled in. The UFO museum inside was not yet open. But I did get to walk around and take in this curious sight.
As I walked around the lot, I wasn’t sure that even if the museum were open that I’d have payed to take a look. But, I love that such places still manage to pull in enough curious customers to exist.
Between you and me, UFO-stuff freaks me out. I think if I ever saw a flying saucer or an alien, I would just die immediately.
One interesting point of note is the Ford Arizona Proving Ground sign at the entrance to Area 66. You can see on Google Maps satellite view that the proving grounds, which now belong to Chrysler, are still an active site. I wonder if Area 66 was once the entrance or if these folks just picked up the sign when Ford moved along? Or… maybe it was aliens.
Any road trip that includes a pitstop at a Mail Pouch Barn is a good day.
One of the “local” areas that I love riding my motorcycle is Duchess County, New York. Granted from where I live on Long Island, it takes a couple hours to get to get there but a good chunk of the gettin’ there is a big part of the fun.
Much of Duchess has my favorite type of riding – rambling roads that line horse and other farms, big green rolling hills, small towny towns and less traffic than some of the neighboring counties.
In addition to great riding, there are some roadside sights that I love in the county. Just up the road from Wing’s Castle is one of the southern portion of New York State’s few Mail Pouch Tobacco barns. You’ll find it on Duell Road in Stanfordville.
Though the western tier and the most northern portions of the state do have a good handful of Mail Pouch Tobacco barns, they are hard to come by in this neck of the woods. What we’ll find here downstate more often are city-based mural ads on brick buildings.
Mail Pouch Barn Relocated
A quick search around the web turned up a great blog post from Chuck the Writer with information about how this barn was actually relocated to the wonderfully named Cantagree Farm from Spring Green, Pennsylvania by former co-publisher of the Daily New and U.S News and World Report Fred Drasner. In 2003, the renovated farmhouse on the property was featured in Architectural Digest.
It makes me so happy when I am able to find information online about such sights. I hope that other curious bloggers continue to research and share their findings. Documenting the world around us is important. Keep exploring, keep sharing, and thank you!
But before I knew that muffler men were indeed referred to as muffler men, I knew that they existed in a peripheral sense. You see, we have a muffler man Indian here on Long Island. I’d passed the Elmsford, NY Bunyan many times and mini-golfed with a halfwit in Seaside Heights, NJ.
Muffler men have long been a part of my universe. They were simply waiting for me to wake up to them.
Muffler Men – The Same But Different
Now, I’m sharp enough to know that some people think my level of interest and muffler man visitation is a waste of energy. The idea of traveling around and looking at big dumb fiberglass statues that “look the same” as all the other big dumb fiberglass statues I’ve seen before is ridiculous. But who needs that kind of negativity in their lives?
Yes, it’s true that they share the same basic DNA. And yet, these same-old-same-olds do have their own personalities, if you will. Each with little details that set them apart from one another that the uninformed might not be aware of. From accessories like hats, hamburgers, eyelashes and chest hair, the giants do have their own unique flair.
It has also occurred to me that each one is infused with the flavor of their locale. They take on the vibe of their surroundings as they become infused with the landscape, neighborhood, or the personality of the owner.
You hear it all the time, “people are the same everywhere.” Hell, I’ve said it myself and meant it. But that sentiment is both true and false depending on the parameters and nuance you wrap around it. The same is true for big fiberglass people. They’re all the same, but different.
Take a moment to consider the thought process of the person charged with repainting the Uniontown, Pa. muffler man. They looked at his face, squinted their eyes and said “something is missing…”
And then someone somewhere else looked at the Lake George, NY Around the World mini-golf muffler man and said, “Yeah! Him, too! …but only on the right eye.”
Tales of Muffler Men Resurrection
When cruising around if I know a muffler man is close by, even if I’ve previously visited, I will typically stop to see what’s doing.
Over time the overall condition of the giants will change due to wind, sun, storms,… people hitting them with their cars. When you pull up to find one repaired or in better condition then when you last saw it, I’m not gonna lie – it’s kind of exciting. It’s heartwarming when someone loves what you love.
Having passed by the Hancock, Massachusetts giant a few times over the years, I got to witness his resurrection. He’d been suffering from a terrible case of the peels and it was great to see him freshly painted again.
Check out his blue bowtie – now red, nails on fleek, and sporting a fresh baseball cap.
Just look at those beautifully manicured nails!
Elmsford, New York
Another case of a giant who needed some TLC was the Elmsford, New York Bunyan. He stood armless for years. This spring (2021) when I stopped by, I was glad to see he’s got at least one ticket to the gun show again.
Sadly, the green-eyed giant is now starting to peel.
The first time that I pulled up to the House of Doors in Cheshire, Connecticut years ago I was surprised to find nothing more than a pair of muffler pants. Doh!
Saved! The muff was returned to flag holding service!
He too was little more than a pair of muffler pants for a while.
Thankfully, Long Island’s beloved giant was repaired and is back to waving at the traffic in the town of Riverhead, NY.
Muffler Men on the Move
As well-loved as muffler men are, it isn’t surprising that enthusiasts and collectors buy and move the giants from their long-term locations to new locales. Sometimes they move clear across the country.
And then sometimes, they just up and disappear altogether.
The Big White Guy of Massachusetts
This fella, previously referred to colloquially as “Plantation Man” as he stood outside of the Plantation Inn in Chicopee, Massachusetts – was sold at auction and then turned up in nearby Agawam, Mass. He stood there for a short time and is now MIA.
From Mecca to Joshua Tree, California
In 2016, I visited a muffler man who stood in the town of Mecca, California along the Salton Sea.
If you too love muffler men keep scrolling for more photos of the big guys I’ve seen in my travels. Buckle up, there’s a lot to look at!
Say, hello to Stan from Birmingham, Alabama. He’s a gemini and like lifting invisible weights. Hiiiii Stannnnn.
I’ll be honest – there is something a bit creepy about the dead black-eyed stare and drawn on mustache of the Planada, Calfornia muffler man. It’s a wee bit, I dunno,… murdery? I believe this guy may have been sold or moved.
Hope you enjoyed this trip down road trip muffler man memory lane. If you’re interested in finding out about the history of, the latest news, and location maps for muffler men, these sites are excellent resources for more information:
The other day while talking to my daughter (20), I asked her if she read any blogs. Her tepid response was a sing-songy “not reaaaallllly.” Not really. Yep, not really. Over the course of my internet lifetime things sure have changed. Traditional hobbyist bloggers are dinosaurs.
Remember when Facebook was new and “fun”? Its smoldering carcass is an echo chamber for shit politics and I don’t even know what. Useless garbage.
It’s been that way for years but now it feels like it’s on its last swirl circling the drain. I give it a cursory glance each day and more often than not find myself thinking, oh, who cares? about the majority of the crap the algorithm thinks I want to see.
Instagram isn’t too far behind on the apathy scale. Scroll, habit-scroll, habit-scroll. Most of the time I don’t want to participate. I don’t want to share. I don’t want to care. Maybe I’ve just reached my saturation point, I dunno.
So much of the Instagram experience feels phony – where bodies are displayed as a commodity under the guise of talking about van life, or motorcycles, or travel, that I just… blah. I super don’t care about anyone else’s boobs. Like, at all. If I want to see relatable or inspiring photos of women traveling, having the images served up with what?-no!-its-totally-not-intentional cleavage is such a turn off.
We’re never moving beyond the need to sexualize and titillate for relevance, are we? It works. Every. Fucking. Time.
In some way I feel like I’ve allowed myself to be numbed out, and my thinkin’ muscle to get weak. All I do is cram more of this useless nonsense into the spaces where curiosity should be toiling away. I’m slowly smothering my imagination with a walrus-lost-his-bucket meme’d pillow.
And I hate myself for continuing to participate in something that doesn’t bring me joy. Because social media definitely doesn’t do that. But, because blogs are typically passive, if I don’t leverage social media to remind people that I exist the chances are pretty good that I’ll miss out on reach opportunities. At least that’s the excuse I tell myself. I’m a whining hypocrite.
Maybe I need to reevaluate for the eleventy millionth time why I write these posts. Would it truly matter if no one read them? Is the real key to it all that the satisfaction and purpose is solely in the doing? And once the word baby flies away to the world at large, my job is over. If a post was not read by someone would I still get what I came for?
Or maybe the pendulum needs to swing wildly in the opposite direction – I should post cleavage shots next to my motorcycle and STFU. Because Likes = Love. Or something.
Don’t mind me. I’ll just be over here petting my brontosaurus.
In 2020, I spent a little time riding motorcycles in California. While there, one of my pitstops was at the Desert Christ Park. Admittedly, it wasn’t a place on my radar before I left home. But, standing in a gas station looking at the Roadside America app on my phone, I discovered that it was just a hop, skip and a jump away over a dusty hill so I decided to take a look.
While I do not subscribe to any organized religion, there are facets of Christianity that filter through my thoughts simply from exposure growing up. Messages of peace, being of service to others, and loving your fellow man hit the mark for me. But then there are many, many other things do not. So, I pick and choose and follow my own path… STRAIGHT TO HELLLLLLL!!!!
“Slap me low… too slow!” Dammit – He gets me every time!
The park is mainly clusters of stark white statues dotting a desert hillside. You follow a dusty path that winds through the scrub and Joshua trees, taking in the sights under the baking sun.
For me, the highlight of the park was this lovely building: The Stone Chapel designed by Frank Garske.
Unfortunately while I was there, it was locked due to prior issues of disrespect, so I did not get to go inside. But, even just seeing its curious facade was a treat. It looked fragile, sharp, and dangerous simultaneously. And also like it might be made of nougat.
The first time I was in Milan in 2000, I viewed Leonardo Da Vinci’s Last Supper at Santa Maria delle Grazie. Along a corridor I saw photographs of the former convent that houses the fresco after being bombed during World War II. Amongst piles of rubble the wall and the work persisted.
Could its survival be attributed to the toil of man and engineering, luck, or divine intervention? Who can say with any certainty. All I know is that those images have stayed with me for the last 20+ years. They meant something to me. They symbolized… something.
The Last Supper at Desert Christ Park? Ehhhh… while a good effort and one surely done with a pure heart, it didn’t quite have the same thoughtful, lasting effect.
What is Peter looking at through the drapes? Is he creeping on the neighbors again? “Jeeeesus, would you look at Ezekiel’s lawn? The place is a shambles!” And Thomas looks like he’s asking the guest of honor if he wants a knuckle sandwich for dinner.
::shrug:: I dunno. Family gatherings can be tough.
We often find messages and meaning differently within the same boundaries. Even if you aren’t religious, you may find that taking in Christ Desert Park is still worthwhile.