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.
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:
Winter has settled in with its icy temperatures here on Long Island. There hasn’t been any riding for me in many, many weeks now. For the most part, I haven’t missed it. I suppose the love for it is a state of mind more than anything else. I’ve been keeping myself occupied with other things instead.
While I haven’t done much exploring lately, I do have a million photos and 10’s of thousands of miles in exploration to fall back on. I figure maybe it’s time to blow the dust off of some of them.
This afternoon, I found myself watching The Mothman Prophecies for the millionth time. It was never well received critically, but I love the movie. There is some conceptual thread that runs through it, that makes me unable to turn away when I come across it.
Maybe it’s the idea of a harbinger of news; that there is something that “knows” more that we do. But when it comes down to it, would I want to know the future? If it were only the good stuff? Maybe.
John Klein: “What do you look like?” Indrid Cold: “It depends who’s looking.”
Seeing the Mothman would likely make me shit my pants.
Alexander Leek: “The nocturnal butterfly. In ancient cultures, the moth represents a form of the psyche, or the soul immortally trapped in the hellish death realms”. Mothman. Well, that’s what the Ukrainians called him. Rough translation of course. There were a hundred sightings in Chernobyl when the nuclear pump went down. Galveston, nineteen sixty-nine, just before the hurricane. They saw it. But seeing isn’t always believing.
In the last decade I found myself in the town of Point Pleasant, West Virginia – the real life town on which the move was centered – a couple of times. In the 1960s, there were many sightings on the Mothman in the area preceding the collapse of the Silver Bridge.
Point Pleasant has embraced their most popular cryptid with not only a museum and statue, but also a festival celebrating all thing Mothman.
Being able to explore on a motorcycle has been such a blessing in my life. Finding myself in small town, taking in unusual sights and sipping at a cup of Americana has been an incredible education about people and life.
Everyday I count my lucky stars that I am fortunate enough to have been born and live in a place in which we have such roadside attraction gems as the International Banana Museum. What a wonderful world.
In January of 2020, once again my chance to go inside and peruse mountains of banana-themed wares slipped through my fingers. My only option was to slip around the side of the building to see if there was anything… appealing… to look at.
And while not being able to run my fingers across DIY knitted banana cozies was disappointing, seeing the magnificent artwork painted on the outdoor restrooms was a consolation.
It wasn’t until that very moment that I realized how healing a newspaper reading banana with fart-lines sitting on a toilet would be to my tired soul. But, it was.
Look at how happy that guy is. We could all learn a thing or two from him.
After snapping these photos, I… split.
Until we meet again AGAIN, International Banana Museum. Hopefully the third time will be a charm.
As of 2018, there is a new guy in town, the Joshua Tree Muffler Man – Big Josh.
Where is the Joshua Tree Muffler Man?
You can find Big Josh the Joshua Tree Muffler Man outside of The Station, in the town of Joshua Tree. It is just east of the National Park entrance.
The Station 61943 29 Palms Hwy Joshua Tree, CA
In December of 2016, I traveled south along Route 111 on my way towards Salvation Mountain near the town of Mecca, California. At the time, the only thing on my mind was racing the setting winter sun so that I could have enough time to visit the attraction.
To my surprise, a muffler man came in to view as I motored along. All decked out in his cowboy finery, he was a handsome surprise.
Fast forward to 2017. The Mecca Muffler Man was sold and removed from his perch along the Salton Sea.
After being out of sight for almost a year, in 2018 he returned to view with a spiffy new paint job in the town of Joshua Tree. You’ll find him now a hop, skip, and a jump from the World Famous Crochet Museum standing outside of The Station.
In addition to his spiffy new livery, he’s also got himself a new name: Big Josh!
Say hello to Big Josh – The Joshua Tree Muffler Man.
Big Josh the Joshua Tree Muffler Man stands outside of The Station, welcoming visitors from far and wide with his rugged, handsome exterior.
His newly painted orange shirt, blue jeans and cowboy hat are a nice sartorial update. And, they do a good job of protecting his delicate skin from the ever-present sunshine of the desert. No one likes a wrinkly muffler man with age spots. Truth.
The Station 61943 29 Palms Hwy Joshua Tree, CA
Unfortunately, The Station wasn’t open when I stopped by. Based on my peek through the window, it looks like they have a few items that I would have enjoyed.
Come for the muffler man, stay for the Gay Bikers for Jesus.