Vanishing Roadside http://vanishingroadside.com Tue, 21 Apr 2015 15:12:54 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.5 Growing up in a Roadside Attraction http://vanishingroadside.com/growing-up-in-a-roadside-attraction/ http://vanishingroadside.com/growing-up-in-a-roadside-attraction/#respond Tue, 21 Apr 2015 15:12:54 +0000 http://vanishingroadside.com/?p=2214 Guest blog and true story by Tanya Ward Goodman, author of “Leaving Tinkertown” When I was a sophomore in high school, my dad, Ross J. Ward, strung a gas station air bell hose across our driveway and started charging people a buck each to walk through our back yard. That was the year that my […]

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Guest blog and true story by Tanya Ward Goodman, author of “Leaving Tinkertown”

When I was a sophomore in high school, my dad, Ross J. Ward, strung a gas station air bell hose across our driveway and started charging people a buck each to walk through our back yard. That was the year that my childhood home officially became Tinkertown Museum.

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Charging for tickets was a mere formality. My family had always lived in a museum. A visit to Knott’s Berry Farm planted a dream seed in Dad’s nine year-old brain. He told me that California was unlike anything he’d ever seen. “It was like Oz for this South Dakota boy,” he said. “I was knocked out. I wanted that.” Dad ditched school to spend hours in the Aberdeen public library researching art and the “Wild West.” He taught himself to draw and began to build his own miniature circus.

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At seventeen, Dad ran away with a real circus. He learned to paint signs and eventually became a “showpainter.” He and my mother (the girl he met while working at Rockerville, a roadside attraction outside Rapid City, South Dakota,) travelled with the carnival for several years. Together, they sold tickets to a “freak show” called “World of the Weird” and built and displayed the miniature western town Dad dubbed, “Folk Arts Village.”

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I was born in 1968 right around the time that life on the road had begun to pale for my parents. Dad and Mom bought a small cabin in the Sandia Mountains of New Mexico. Dad continued to travel, painting signs and carnival rides, returning home from each trip with more things. He collected wagon wheels, mining equipment, ice tongs, wedding cake couples, branding irons, rocks, dolls and circus posters. He traded silver concho belts for covered wagons and painted funhouses, hotdog stands and popcorn carts all over the United States.

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Dad taught my brother and me to draw, paint and whittle. He encouraged our curiosity and our creativity. We learned to roll out the background color for signs and take sandpaper to the delicate legs of wooden horses. Often, Dad would pull us out of school for a taste of life on the road. We’d unroll our sleeping bags in ride factories and carnival winter quarters and subsist on corn dogs and peanut butter sandwiches. On one trip, Dad paid me a dime a piece to paint the hooves on a set of carousel horses.

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Eventually my parents divorced and my dad remarried. My stepmother, Carla, encouraged Dad’s work on the museum and shared his enthusiasm for constructing a life of creativity and adventure.

Inspired by “Grandma” Prisbrey’s Bottle Village in Simi Valley and the work of Simon Rodia at Watts Towers, Dad began to build his own walls made of bottles and rocks. His mentor, a desert rat collector named Don Poblo told him to “gather together everything you love and then sit in the middle of it.” Dad took those words to heart and put up a building in our back yard to house the miniature Western Town and another for his miniature circus and sideshow. Over the next decade, he kept building and building, using whatever materials were available and always surrounding himself with the things he loved.

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Though we lost Dad to early onset Alzheimer’s in 2002, my stepmother, Carla Ward, continues to run the museum in his memory. “The show must go on,” Dad often said, echoing the timeless words of circus folks and carnies. I think he’d be pleased to see that, at Tinkertown, it certainly has.

Tinkertown Museum is located in the Sandia Mountains outside Albuquerque, New Mexico. The museum is open April through October from 9am to 6pm. Admission is three dollars with discounts for “geezers” and kids.

www.tinkertown.com

Tanya Ward Goodman is the author of the memoir “Leaving Tinkertown,” winner of the Sarton Memoir Award and the New Mexico-Arizona Book Award for Best Book.

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Memories of Henry’s Hot Dogs http://vanishingroadside.com/memories-of-henrys-hot-dogs/ http://vanishingroadside.com/memories-of-henrys-hot-dogs/#comments Tue, 14 Apr 2015 15:35:33 +0000 http://vanishingroadside.com/?p=2210 A true story, by Lisa Cottrell I remember going to Henry’s Hot Dogs as a kid. It was a specific window of time and circumstance, and seeing Mary Anne Erickson’s painting of the famous Henry’s sign brought the memories flooding back. It was the summer of 1980 and I was between sixth and seventh grade. […]

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Henry's Hot Dogs

Route 66, Cicero, Illinois, 40″ x 40″ oil on canvas

A true story, by Lisa Cottrell

I remember going to Henry’s Hot Dogs as a kid. It was a specific window of time and circumstance, and seeing Mary Anne Erickson’s painting of the famous Henry’s sign brought the memories flooding back.

It was the summer of 1980 and I was between sixth and seventh grade. It was the only summer that I got a pool pass, which was like a medal to be sewn to your bathing suit, a shiny badge proving that you belonged. What could feel better to a 12 year old girl? Sadly, by the year after that, there was no way I would be seen in the public arena in a bathing suit. I did not have the required boobs, or more to the point, the self-esteem, by then. I spent that summer’s mornings sleeping in, putting on makeup, and smoking; the afternoons were for watching all three ABC one-hour soap operas. And the summer before that, my first in Cicero, was spent reading enough books to win the bookmobile contest, including but not limited to all of the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew mysteries. But for the summer of 1980, days at the pool followed by hot dogs at Henry’s were the highlight!

I can’t believe that our parents would let us walk to the pool by ourselves. Not that the town of Cicero was so bad back then, and it was the daytime, but walking through the long viaduct under the Burlington Northern railroad yard was downright scary, and the only way to get there. The fact that my company was Kathy K., probably the only girl in our school scrawnier than me, was little comfort. Then again, it let me feel tougher, which I know by now I have always liked.

The viaduct was long, dark, damp, and dripping. There were lights, not all of which were ever working at the same time. There was a dark, narrow doorway coming from a stairwell about halfway through. It seemed to take forever to walk through, but you couldn’t run either. That would have been even scarier.

The pool itself was uneventful. The big treat was on the way back: Henry’s. It was the first restaurant I ever ate in without adults. This was a classic diner style joint, tiny but welcoming, it was as if your friendly old grandma and grandpa had a hot dog stand. It cost $1.03 for a hot dog and fries. I’m embarrassed to admit I used to eat my hot dogs with ketchup only, but it’s part of the memory because Henry’s ketchup had a little extra “zing” compared to the usual formula. I didn’t even mind if some got on my fries, which were loaded into the hot dog and surrounding it in the white paper lining the plastic basket. The fries were crispy and hot, salty and delicious. Henry’s also had my favorite pop—RC, perfect for washing everything down if you had the extra change. We would eat really fast, because we were always so hungry after the pool, and also still damp and freezing in the air conditioning. The walk home always felt easier.

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Route 66 Postpartum http://vanishingroadside.com/route-66-postpartum/ http://vanishingroadside.com/route-66-postpartum/#comments Wed, 01 Oct 2014 03:10:40 +0000 http://vanishingroadside.com/?p=2046 Wikipedia defines postpartum as: "A postpartum period (or postnatal period) is the period beginning immediately after the birth of a child and extending for about six weeks." Why is this word floating around my consciousness in relationship to the road I'm longing for? the great Mother Road of the US of A? I am now and have become "a child of the road", a mere few times traveler who has now driven the entire length and breadth in one shot. Read more...

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map-of-route-66-from-los-angeles-to-chicagoRoute 66 Postpartum

Wikipedia defines postpartum as: “A postpartum period (or postnatal period) is the period beginning immediately after the birth of a child and extending for about six weeks.” Why is this word floating around my consciousness in relationship to the road I’m longing for? the great Mother Road of the US of A? I am now and have become “a child of the road”, a mere few times traveler who has now driven the entire length and breadth in one shot. And I’m longing – longing for the open road. I’m part of the “all the way gang” in the Ride for the Relay – we started at the beginning in Chicago and we all traveled the entire way to the Santa Monica Pier together. Why was I choking up crying when I got my husband on my cell to tell him I had made it to the Pacific Ocean? This road has gotten inside of me and now I am a part of IT! This feeling of connectedness to a road is something I cannot explain.

I followed the lead of a dear friend who lives in LA to meet him at The Autry Museum in Pasadena and see the wonderful Route 66 show they have mounted there. GREAT idea! Just the perfect ending to my trip. Why after he left and I strolled around the gift shop did I want to buy just one more token of the road to an already to full suitcase? Why did I begin to cry as I walked out to my car and took one last picture of the sign of Route 66 that I had already left, silhouetted against the museum backdrop? This feeling of loss of connection – I can’t put my finger on it. I’m irrationally emotional and I don’t know why.

On the plane trip home I finally started reading a fun book my dear friends Phyllis and Stanley had given me at the outset, “Billy Connolly’s Route 66″ – a Scotsman with a reality TV show in Great Britain who came here to travel the road. I enjoyed his take on it – and yes – I needed more. I couldn’t let it go yet. I hung on his every word about his travels on Route 66. I wanted to be there with him again – right now.

Then when I got home, with no time yet to look over my own photos, I started delving into Michael Wallis’ classic “Route 66, The Mother Road”. I found myself fascinated more so than ever with the entire history of the road – how the advent of the automobile created a huge demand for roads in America – in the 20’s! They had to come up with something – struggles struggles between localities – old roads – what to name the roads – on and on – and finally they settled on this grand title for this road “Route 66″- and then it was “The Main Street of America” and John Steinbeck christened it “The Mother Road” during the Dust Bowl when so many devastated folks found solace traveling to Cali from OK! Then WWII – and huge rounds of soldiers and tanks and troups traversed the road. It was THE most important road in America.

And then, pause – the Interstate Highway System in the mid 1950’s and slowly slowly she turns, step by step, inch by inch – most of the dearest most dear, most important highways in our land was side stepped and all the little towns forgotten to time. This road was “left behind”- no longer relevant. And most of the towns had little to do but throw up their hands and admit defeat. (Thus the brilliance of the movie “Cars” – my fav – have to own it now ).

So how does this all fit into my story? I have been documenting and cherishing the icons of our roadside past for many years. I just couldn’t help myself – why – because I love the sensibilities – because I’m a fan of great design – because the people that created these great mom and pop businesses had a lot of heart – and the folks that helped them create their buildings – their signs were real artists and artisans – not corporate zombies using templates created by robots!

So I’m already a fan of everything that Route 66 embraces. But I think if I were to really analyze this unexplained sentimentality it would rest in the place of reverence. Because Route 66 had such an important place (in what I now see as “world history”) many many people have realized the value in preserving what is left of it. And because it has now gained value as a tourist destination (unbelievable how many people from all around the globe come to visit here), new fans are making investments to maintain and/or revitalize old failing businesses and keep the road alive for everyone to appreciate. There is something essentially “American” about the values of preserving this kitsch and camp – the “down home” authenticity that’s not stuffy or pretentious, but just plain American – that Route 66 speaks to!

But in the end – nothing can attest to my longing – maybe it’s not really “postpartum”. Maybe it’s just that the experience of being on this glorious road across America was heartfelt. There were so many aspects to it – from the mission statement of the Ride for the Relay group – to find a cure for cancer. These folks lived every day as though it was their last! and put their heart and soul into every inch of the ride too. From the passion I have for saving the imagery from our American roadside – for now in photos – some will be made into large paintings at some point in the future. And then there was the huge incident which changed the whole ride for me from just “a photo journalist having a great time – to a human being who has lost some of the most important things in my life” kind of trip. I will have to create this entire story as a separate chapter, as it certainly deserves that. In the meantime, I’ll end by saying that I now know that I am more than just a fan of a great American road (or “The Great American Roadside”). This great American road is now a deep part of my heart and soul that I will not long forget.

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Lessons from the Road http://vanishingroadside.com/lessons-from-the-road/ http://vanishingroadside.com/lessons-from-the-road/#comments Mon, 22 Sep 2014 13:50:40 +0000 http://vanishingroadside.com/?p=2033 Sunday September 21, 2014, written on the flight from LA to NY
First day of fall, autumn equinox

How perfect to return home on this day when the light and dark are equal. A mirror for the experiences I’ve had on this epic journey across America. The fellow next to me on the plane has the flight plan on his video monitor and within a few hours we have already crossed nearly half the country. I’m looking at that overview of the landscape I just traveled over many days and marveling that now in a plane that same distance is being traversed in no time.
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carSunday September 21, 2014, written on the flight from LA to NY
First day of fall, autumn equinox

How perfect to return home on this day when the light and dark are equal. A mirror for the experiences I’ve had on this epic journey across America. The fellow next to me on the plane has the flight plan on his video monitor and within a few hours we have already crossed nearly half the country. I’m looking at that overview of the landscape I just traveled over many days and marveling that now in a plane that same distance is being traversed in no time.

Just a few days ago, Jen and I were welcomed in LA by a dear friend who was my gracious host for the several days. She asked me: “what was your favorite thing from the trip?” Wow! I was dumbstruck and had no idea how to answer that question. However,in thinking more about it I had a profound realization of something I’ve experienced before on cross country trips: the miracle of how the landscape, topography, geology, geography unfolds as you’re moving through it. One moment everything around you is flat with nothing in any direction as far as the eye can see, and the next moment you spy a few rivulets emerging. Then the rivulets begin to deepen and expand and are suddenly shaping small mesas, which continue to grow into larger mesas, and eventually become enormous high plateaus, and we are tiny specs in the valley below. And as a whole, this great American landscape we call home is really something to marvel at! We are blessed to live within this “land of the free” – to be able take off and explore the grandeur of the open road – this is my biggest take away from the whole adventure.

That and the amazing lessons I learned when my bag with my precious journal and iPad went missing. Social media and Facebook are annoying to some, tolerated by others and addictive to many, myself included these days. I loved writing my daily blogs and sharing my photos and tidbits from the road on my website and Facebook page. But it wasn’t until I pulled myself together enough to write a brief post about my bag being stolen, that I truly understood the breadth of the community I’ve surrounded myself with. I received such a outpouring of love and support that I was truly humbled. People encouraged me to be strong and carry on and I really got that making it to the end and enjoying the rest of the trip to the fullest extent was what I needed to do.

I let go. I hoped for a miracle, someone would find my bag, my stuff, an angel, and I let go. I chose to be present and carry on. I even summoned up my courage to take a ride on the back of a motorcycle for the better part of the morning because “hey, when’s the next time I’ll have this opportunity?” It was amazing!

We persevered! We supported our fellow riders as they struggled with extreme heat going through The Mohave Desert. Even the trusty little Toyota Echo endured the heat and made it with flying colors all the way to the Santa Monica Pier and its new home in San Francisco. We were most grateful for that!

We said goodbye to our teammates and then Jen and I said goodbye to each other. It was poignant. This marvelous adventure had been completed successfully and now it was over. I had several great days in LA visiting old friends and doing yoga classes at the edge of The Pacific Ocean. I got a taste of the good life in Santa Monica and see why so many people love it there. But by now, I was feeling a bit homesick and ready to feast my eyes on our golden Catskill mountains and my sweet hometown of Woodstock, quirks and all.

The last day, just yesterday, I opened up my new iPad and finally went to my Route 66 page on Facebook which I hadn’t been able to log into on my phone the whole week. I opened a message there and my heart nearly stopped. A woman in Ash Fork, Arizona had found my bag and journal strewn about on the road (on Route 66)! She said they had been beat up a bit, but she was able to find the address on Facebook and wondered if I was missing something! My heart was pounding as I wrote back to her, YES YES I can describe everything I had and exactly what the journal looked like. I waited for a response. I looked her up on FB – was she a real person or another predator? I found her page and lo and behold she appeared to be REAL! And looked like a genuinely nice person! I sent her another message from my personal page thanking her and still waited for a response. And then finally she wrote back and told me that she had my iPad as well!!! Wow!

I gave her my address and told her how very very grateful I was and thanked her again. She has truly restored my faith in humanity! So now I will wait and pray for safe passage all the way around.

The lessons I learned from this great adventure on the road of life?
1) Trust – in the face of the great unknown, whatever challenge, I am supported by the goodwill of others, even total strangers. I am not alone.
2) Be open – to the miracles that are awaiting out of any experience, even those that on the face of it seem “negative”
3) Be grateful – for my good health and good fortune to be able to experience a journey so rich in every way. For my dear husband Richard who gave me his blessing to go, allowing me to feel so much more for having had this journey. For the love and support of so many who I now know really care.
4) Be willing to let go and feel the depths of my feelings. In doing so, I was able to be with the death of a dream, get support to carry on, create something new, and ultimately perhaps find the original dream all over again!
5) Continue to stay open to other insights that I haven’t begun to discover yet.

That little icon of the plane is inching closer and closer to the east coast and Richard and my sweet black lab Molly will be waiting for me at the airport and in a few short hours I will be back in the “security” of my cozy home and busy life. I will never forget the power of this journey of self-discovery on Route 66 and hope it has been enriching for you as well.

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Route 66 Ride for the Relay – Day 12 http://vanishingroadside.com/route-66-ride-for-the-relay-day-12/ http://vanishingroadside.com/route-66-ride-for-the-relay-day-12/#comments Thu, 18 Sep 2014 17:08:25 +0000 http://vanishingroadside.com/?p=2023 Route 66 Ride for the Relay - Day 12

Everyone was up early packing their bikes and mingling in the guest room of the Hampton Inn - it was a sea of green shirts - the official color of the ride this year and the team shirt for the end of the ride. Many pictures would be taken today of this group of folks dressed in kelly green!

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Route 66 Ride for the Relay – Day 12

Wednesday September 17, 2014 – San Bernadino to Santa Monica
The End of the Trail

picture of the End of Route 66
Everyone was up early packing their bikes and mingling in the guest room of the Hampton Inn – it was a sea of green shirts – the official color of the ride this year and the team shirt for the end of the ride. Many pictures would be taken today of this group of folks dressed in kelly green! I have to give big kudos to the Hampton Inn chain. We stayed in quite a number of them on our journey across the US and they really are fantastic! The one in San Bernadino not only had a lovely cocktail shindig for us on Tuesday night, but the breakfast buffet in the morning was excellent with scrambled eggs, sausage, home fries that weren’t too greasy and of course the obligatory waffles, yogurt, cereal and all the other good stuff you typically see on a Continental Breakfast.

Our meeting started a few minutes late past 8:00, but no one was in a huge rush today as we only had 70 miles to travel to the end of the route (that would take us close to 2.5 hours due to heavy traffic – welcome to LA!) This last meeting was filled with emotion. The energy in the room was just love, love, love. Many people stood up and shared how they were nervous at the beginning of the ride (felt like an outsider, wondered how they would get along with others or be accepted, afraid of the challenges of the ride, and many more). In the end, everyone agreed that the tone Rodger and his wife Sue created (along with great assistance from other leaders in the group) really allowed each person to feel embraced and taken care of.

I certainly felt a huge outpouring of caring when my bag was stolen. One especially kind woman named Linda just put her arms around me and invited me to cry on her shoulder. She promised to pray for me and the safe return of my journal. What a comfort to fall into her soft arms and be embraced by love. This feeling of looking out for one another was present each moment on the road as well. If one of the bikers pulled off to the side of the road, my new friend Gary was at the tail end and would stop to see how he could help. Everyone kept an eye on everyone else to make sure the whole was maintained. They looked out for us in our little gray Echo too and Gary loaned us an extra CB radio he had so we could stay in touch – although it often was pretty hard to hear because of static.

A really miraculous thing happened at the meeting as well. There had been a contest a few nights before regarding the blue box where all the contributions were stored from Chicago to LA – this was the money people added to the overall donation throughout the ride. We were each invited to put a piece of paper in the box with our guess as to how much was raised during the ride. I took a wild guess of $13,000. Rodger went through all the tickets to find the guess that was the closest and guess who won? ME!!! He presented me with a crisp $100 bill as the winner! I took that as a blessing to go forth and buy a new ipad, which was one of the first things I did when the ride ended – thus this blog post is being created on my beautiful new device. Hallelujah!

MA wins $100
Rodger divided everyone into smaller groups of five or six bikes for the final push to the pier. They all knew from past years that this is one of the more dangerous legs of the trip for a group of bikes trying to stay together. We tagged off with the last group and our good buddy Gary. I knew he would help us stay close to the group and watch out for us, which he certainly did. Wall to wall cars the whole way in made it very difficult at times to stay together, but we managed to keep it together and felt such a rush to see the shimmering highlights dancing on the blue Pacific Ocean! WE MADE IT!!!!! I’m getting a bit teary-eyed even thinking about it. Who knew this would make such a deep impact on me?

We all parked in the lot next to the vast sandy beach, during a record heat wave in LA – to see people of all shapes and sizes wearing every kind of skimpy outfit. We are definitely NOT in Kansas anymore! We were up the stairs and onto the Santa Monica Pier and made a bee line straight to the End of Route 66 sign – a wave of green shirts spread out all around it – my turn – my turn. Pictures snapping – all sorts of combinations of people with their arms around each other smiling and snap snap snap! One surly tourist from France pushed us all away and demanded the spotlight while he and his partner got their pictures taken there. Boy did that seem different from our state of mind!

Mary Anne and Jen make it to the end of Route 66

We slowly wended our way – sort of in a dreamy state – down to the end of the pier for our last group photo. We had each been given a flower to throw in the ocean in dedication to someone we knew who had died of cancer. I of course took a moment to send deep love and affection to Claudia Ainsley who not more than 6 weeks ago purchased 5 raffle tickets from me in her support of my ride. She didn’t even know at the time that she had cancer. And now she’s gone. I know she was my angel the whole way across the country – so I thanked her deeply for her support and pray she is at peace.

This truly was the deeper meaning of the ride for all who were present. Many tears were shed. All the miles of travel, all the adventure and great times, all the fabulous Route 66 roadside attractions were ultimately for this cause. Our group was so proud to announce its fundraising total to date of $38,777.48 and Jen and I were also thrilled that we topped our goal of $5,000. Our YouCaring site has so far logged in $4,575 and we collected $760 in personal checks made out to The American Cancer Society. People have asked me if they can still contribute and the answer is “yes”. Here is the link if you would like to donate. 

And both Jen and I would like to deeply acknowledge each and every person who has given in support of us and our commitment to help find a cure for cancer. We so appreciate your support and it’s been a pleasure having each one of you ride along with us. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

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