Category: Roadside Stuff

A Yeti, an Art Gallery, a Kickass Road – This must be Ranchita, California

A Yeti, an Art Gallery, a Kickass Road – This must be Ranchita, California

In December of 2016, I was in California taking a week-long riding trip. I flew to LA, rented a bike and wandered about. While heading towards Borrego Spring on Montezuma-Borrego Highway, I passed a Yeti in Ranchita. Often people will ask me how I find such things. In this case, it was pure serendipity.

So was this little roadside art gallery. You just never know what you’re going to find out there in the world, do ya?

One of the patronages of St. Maurice is to the Brotherhood of Blackheads. I myself have not-so-great skin, but damned if I’m joining a club about it.

Saint Maurice

A place of subtle old fashioned
virtues an escape from …
present into a softer more
gentle way of life and opening
up to light and the weather
a sense of real luxury
the kind that cannot be
measured by monetary standards
a level of tranquility
a sweethnes[sic] of tone
an uncomplicated
round for the ongoing

Scenes from a Rainy Thursday

Scenes from a Rainy Thursday

Thursday was the reckoning. I’d enjoyed mostly dry weather the whole week prior so it was time for me to pay the toll. The rain dogged me all day long varying from mist, drizzle, frog-choker, to partly cloudy but menacing. It made for a long cold day and I wound up hopping off the road earlier than usual.

But even with the unappealing weather, I was in good spirits. I rode some good twisties, thought some good thoughts and even stopped for a couple pictures.

You could say a day of rainy riding was better than no riding at all.

Would You Like to See My Sweet Caboose?

Would You Like to See My Sweet Caboose?

Sleeping in a caboose is one of the items that has been on my life’s To Do list for many years. How it ended up there, at this point I can’t say. It’s not like I’m not a railroad fanatic or anything. No doubt I stumbled across the existence of a caboose motel and said fun! and the idea stuck around.

When I woke up on Saturday morning, I hadn’t planned on that being that day that I would sleep in a caboose. But, a few cups of coffee and 200 miles later, I found myself in the belly of the Reading caboose #21. ::shrug::


Sadly, my car isn’t as photogenic as my motorcycle.

Upon check-in at the Red Caboose Motel, the friendly desk clerk addressed me as if there were an “us,” a “you guys” and a “you all.” As you might imagine, this place is popular with families, so I don’t blame her.

“Have you guys stayed with us before?”
“Nope, first time.”
“Well, welcome aboard! Woo woo!”

Yep. She really woo-wooed, pulling the imaginary cord that sounds the horn. It’s nice when people are excited about life.

If I had to guess, a lot of solo 40-something women don’t come wheeling into the caboose motel on a Saturday night. And so I didn’t bother to correct her on my non-us-ness. About an hour later when I saw her again, she said cheerfully said, “is everything okay with you guys in your caboo… you’re alone, aren’t you. Sorry. Habit.” I’m starting to get a complex. You can’t make this stuff up.

As I said, this motel is very family friendly. It has an arcade, a silo observation tower, playground, buggy rides, ice cream and a few barnyard animals for petting.

Though I felt a little out of place with no kidlet of my own, I spent some time at the animal pens with the mini horses. As gaggles of children descended to tug on animal ears and manes – there I was, trying to telepathically communicate with the animals. I felt it was important that they knew that I was only there to love them up gently and that they should stay with me ‘cuz I love them best.

But apparently, they don’t have time for small talk, even if telepathically, when you don’t come with 25¢ worth of yum-yum pellets from the vending machine. I never seem to have any change when I actually want it.

While trying to make nice with a fuzzy gray horse, I watched the families at the other end of the corral. Looking on, I wondered why any parent would just allow their tiny toddler to put their deliciously chubby digits into some strange animals face unobserved.

Maybe I’m overly cautious, but it seems to me that when your two-year-old is touching an animal that is at least four times their size, you might want to put your fucking phone down and pay attention. I watched one dad yap nonstop on his phone while his little girl, face plugged with a pacifier, ran up and down along the fence “petting” the other mini horses. Later on, I heard crying and the words “…is a nipper,” floating above the general conversation. Oh, well.

People move in and out of my office all day tugging at my attention. Maybe if I start biting they’ll leave me alone, too.

The interior of my Queen Couples caboose looked like a tiny log cabin. It was clean and comfortable with cable, WiFi, a table to write at, a microwave, comfortable bed, and no funny smells. As nighttime inked the sky black, the wind outside picked up. The lack of insulation in the train was apparent in both the noise and the occasional draft. Not that it was bothersome, just something I was aware of. It felt like a reminder that I was sleeping in unusual quarters.

I enjoyed the novelty of my stay in the caboose. Seeing them all lined up, end to end with their candy colors brings out a child-like cheerfulness. It was worth the trip.

The Red Caboose Motel
312 Paradise Lane
Ronks, PA 17572

Tales of a Second Grade Nothing

Tales of a Second Grade Nothing

In September while heading east on the Lincoln Highway in the Chambersburg area, I stopped to snap photos of two gas pumps that were part of the Pump Parade. The first was at Shatzer Fruit Market in Chambersburg. It features a Chambersburg peach motif.

A little way down the road was the “Nellie Fox” pump in St. Thomas, PA outside of the Oak Forest Restaurant. I just caught this pump out of the corner of my eye, slammed on the brakes and made a U-ey to take its picture.

The parking lot where I turned around at the Oak Forest had a row of buildings lining the edge of the property. They were small, bungalow-type houses. As soon as I saw them a flood of emotion came over me. This little cluster of buildings was similar to the place where I spent the earliest part of my childhood amongst the creeps, the drunks, the dregs and those of us with families who were just a little down on their luck at the time. And this, right or wrong, consistently fills me with a burning shame.

Why? Why should I care about something that was beyond my control as a child? I mean, I have come a long way from where I started. And yet, those meager beginnings still mark me with a stain that no one but me can see.

Growing up, our little bungalow community was bussed to an elementary school that intermingled us with kids who were comfortably situated in the middle class. We shabby kids rubbed elbows with the children of doctors and lawyers. But in school, kids were kids. We were all the same… until we weren’t.

In second grade, I got to invite a few friends over to celebrate my birthday. It was the first time someone from school who didn’t live in my neighborhood came to my house. My school friend walked into our two-room bungalow and said, “this is it?!” and incredulously noted that her living room was bigger than my whole house, which was true. I am 44 years old now and the sentiment still smarts. I didn’t know there was anything “wrong” with my life until someone else told me so.

I’ve been sitting on talking about my feelings after seeing those stupid little houses for months. And I’ve wavered on the idea that maybe there would be some kind of catharsis, or that I might absolve myself of the guilt of feeling bad about growing up poor. So far? Not so much. Now, I feel like I should be ashamed of being ashamed because as crappy as it might have been, there are people who are or were worse off.

It would be nice if I could adopt the wistful-sounding attitude of my mother. She talks of drying out teabags on the radiator and reusing them and being “as poor as church mice,” as an affliction that was triumphantly overcome. And I confess, in truth it was. But clearly, for me, there is a scar.

Get off the cross, we need the wood.

Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch – Oro Grande, California – Route 66

Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch – Oro Grande, California – Route 66

On the gray morning of January 2, 2017, I was cruising along Route 66 through Oro Grande, California on a rented Tiger 800. Amongst the dusty scrub sat an oasis – Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch. It was glorious.

During my visit, I had the place to myself. I silently walked among the bottle trees listening to the wind make squeaking, tinkling music across the assemblages. My only wish? That the sun was out. Seeing the light reflecting through the different colored glass must be magical on a bright blue day.

The hypnotic twinkling sounds of Elmer’s:

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Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch
24266 National Trails Hwy,
Oro Grande, CA 92368
Google Maps

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