Midwest Trip Wrap-up

Sorry to make you wait.  Lots of distractions and stuff needing attending to since I’ve gotten home.  The heat continues here in NYC — 90s and humid.  What a long summer it’s been!

Let’s move on to the trip stats.  I took about 5,000 photos on this five-week, 14,660 mile journey.  Spent about $1,500 on gas.  I don’t keep track of hotel/food expenses.  Only got one ticket ($140 in IN) and two warnings (IL & KS, free!).  I certainly deserved more speeding tickets but I’m not complaining!  Thanks especially to KS & MO where I was doing 80 mph on a regular basis.  That was a big time saver.

About three days of shooting were lost early on during this trip for mechanical repairs — a grand total of $979.72 (O2 sensor & wiper module, cam sensor & distributor, and A/C fix).  Plus three oil changes.  Not bad for a van with 263,000 miles on her.  I’m hoping for another 100,000.   These Astros are tough!

And now, for the final batch of photos.  Back in time to Day 26 in Indiana and Kentucky.  These neat foam statues were affixed to the side of Mr. Muffler & Brake Center in Owensboro, KY.  I’m told they hold brake tools & parts.

This guy was modeled after the guy in the photo below who was nice enough to give me that big smile:

Another photo from Owensboro.  This Mid-City Plaza sign sure looks like an adapted Frisch’s sign to me.  The shapes are right but the top part would have been red (not green) porcelain enamel.  Here’s an example from Ohio:
Frisch's Big Boy

Very cool lights at the Holiday Drive-in in Rockport, IN:

Also in Rockport.  It appears that H&B Kustoms is now J&M Fireworks:

Oh dear, I’m not finding this one in my notes right now so I can’t tell you where it is.  I just liked the combination of this one:  the painted business name & roosters, the old plastic dairy products sign, and the building’s false front.  I think this was a Mexican restaurant now but I’m not sure:

I’ve posted at least a couple Dog N Suds signs over at Flickr earlier in this trip:
Dog n Suds

Here then is an example of an adapted DnS sign in Dale, IN:

I can’t think of any neon signs with representations of cigarettes.  Cigars, yes, but not cigarettes.  This is at Carefree Cheap Smokes at the Marengo, IN exit off I-64.

A pretty blue porcelain sign in New Albany, IN:

Another one from New Albany:

Pretty summer flowers in New Albany.  Out of my league here – zinnias?

Still in New Albany.  I can’t think of any signs still around with representations of moonshine stills:

I came upon this VW van in Jeffersonville.  My first van, more than 30 years ago back in California, looked just like this.  It was probably the same year, also white, but missing the artwork of course:

Sparkle poses, respectfully, in the background.  The bumper sticker made me laugh:  “Honk if Parts Fall Off”:

Apparently a combo house / business in Louisville.  I was going to take some photos of the other side of this place where there’s similar chaos but the owner was giving me death glares.  I’ve already gotten yelled at twice on this trip by crazies and just didn’t feel up for it today.

Moving on to Day 37, Sunday.  I gave myself a firm deadline of noon.  But I was a naughty pony and kept shooting til 3pm.  Which meant not arriving home around midnight.  But instead — snoozing for a few hours at a truck stop, running the dogs in NJ in the morning, facing some rush hour City traffic, and napping a bit later on.  But I’m none the worse for it and maybe 100 photos richer.

This octagonal building is from Lexington.  Now the “Standardbred Stable of Memories”.  After poking around on-line a bit, it turns out this was built in 1882 and used for floral displays on what was then a fairground.  There’s a trotting track right behind this building now.  The dogs had a great time barking at all the real and fake horses in Kentucky.

A couple more photos from Lexington.  A Chicago style sign hanger.  I don’t think I saw many (or any) of these in Kentucky:

This sign looks soooo familiar.  Perhaps it was mass-produced?  I’m tempted to say it was a car dealership but that might be way off.  I’m counting on you Lexington-ers to identify this one.

Last stop of the trip and last photo for this blog post marathon.  After a few stops in Winchester, KY I gas-ed up and picked up this soda for the long road home.  It was Ginger Ale-y and great.  Produced right there in Winchester.  Pronounced “A late one”.  More about it here:

And so concludes what was an awesome trip.  I hope you enjoyed sharing the highs and lows.  The dogs and I will be hitting the road again in March for a similar-sized trip focusing on Oklahoma and Texas.  I will probably do some quickie trips & blog posts between now and then.  I’ll also be hard at work adding stuff to the website.  You can follow my progress at the “What’s New” page:

Thanks for posting comments and giving positive feedback during the trip.  I looked forward to that after a long day of driving & shooting.  I hope that these posts have inspired you to take more roadtrips and photos of stuff near and far.  Have a great summer – what’s left of it – and that appears to be a lot!

26 thoughts on “Midwest Trip Wrap-up

    • I do feel pretty dead most of the time. My regular non-road schedule is pretty ridiculous tiring also — so it’s not that much of a stretch. I’ve thought about ditching the blogging end of these trips which would be far healthier. But I’m glad I’ve gone that extra mile when I look back at the stuff that got its moment in the spotlight in these posts. Most of these things won’t appear at my site and don’t appear at other people’s Flickr streams — and they might just disappear any minute. So I feel like I’m racing the clock in a lot of ways to record things and alert other people about them. Thanks for all your comments. It is energizing to know folks with similar tastes are following along.

  1. I agree with Jim….I really love it all. It’s hard enough just keeping up on reading it, much less writing it… thanks a bunch

    • You’re welcome! The writing part of it is pretty lame I think. Written on far too little sleep to be anything award-winning. I just hope that the photos are interesting enough to compensate for it — and that maybe you guys are reading this on just as little sleep so that you don’t notice the writing part.

  2. Aw, I feel like we just came home too. Always nice after a long time away, but a bit melancholy b/c it means it’s over. You did a fabulous job of making time, shooting photos and taking care of your pups and those of us who can’t seem to manage to get more than a week off at a time are envious of your situation and dedication. I’m not sure what my plans are for tomorrow, so I’m in complete admiration that you already know what you’re doing next March. Thanks as always for taking us along on the roadtrips we wish we could take, being so diligent about blogposting daily, and for documenting the vanishing roadside for us now and future generations!

    • I’m glad you’re enjoying following my trips. One of the reasons that I’m so obsessed with traveling is because you just never know when your situation will change (health, jobs, all that). I can’t imagine only getting two weeks off a year. Sounds like slavery. Most of the time that I’m taking off, I’m not getting paid for. That’s partly why I’m eating on the cheap most of the time on the road.

    • Ah good — my instincts were correct: a Chrysler “Forward Look” sign. There must have been others built. Now I’ll be scratching my brain to see where I’ve seen this before.

  3. I am also in awe of your stamina! Debra Jane, I did a little math, and you averaged 431 miles each day… wow. I didn’t count the 3 days you were “way-layed in Fort Wayne.” (could be a country song, eh?)

    To put it in perspective, this July I did 2,000 miles in 6 days and I am still exhausted. I haven’t even organized my photos yet. Heck there’s photos still in the camera that I haven’t put on my computer yet! And 3 rolls of film: I’ll get into the lab “soon.”

    I don’t know how you do it, but like the other folks here, I am awfully glad you do. This stuff is vanishing quickly. Things I meant to shoot last year are gone today.

    Do not underestimate your writing talents! You have written fabulous and interesting trip diaries here. It is one of the richest treats for me to read your blog each morning, and when you are on the road I think of you often during the day, wondering what you’ve stumbled onto, and hoping you and the pups are safe and sound. My favorite highlights of your trip this summer were the art deco buildings in Kansas, and of course the always-fascinating Cairo Illinois.

    • It felt more like 1,000 miles per day to me. But a few hundred sounds about right. I cut a pretty efficient path from city to city and within cities — so there’s not much zigzagging. 2,000 miles in six days is a lot. Part of what keeps me sane and maximizes the amount shooting is that I just bang down my organized list with maps. I don’t have to do anything but drive and shoot. So I can still get phenomenal amounts of stuff accomplished with just 20% of my brain working (a normal day on the road).

      Since I do Flickr & the blog nightly, it also means I keep the photos organized as I go. I download the day’s stuff to a separate folder, within a trip folder, within a yearly folder. So when I get home, I just copy that trip’s folder from the computer to my two freestanding hard drives (always good to have backup). I keep the photos on the memory cards til I’ve got everything cropped, tweaked and up at the site. But I have a pretty much clean computer (just a few days’ worth of stuff that I’m working on at a time). Computers and hard drives can go bad — so I like to keep the computer empty — and two hard drives with every photo I’ve ever taken. More than you wanted to know but it might help somebody with organization and save heartache!

      I really appreciate your compliments. Part of my compulsion to squeeze as much as I can into these trips is the vulnerability of all these signs/buildings/statues. Torn down, remodeled, or moved to somebody’s basement. Too often just before a trip or just after one, shit happens.

      • About computer backups: In addition to the backup drives I keep at home, I also have a 1TB drive that is teeny tiny in size. (Western Digital My Passport, $119 at Costco). I keep that in my safe deposit box at the bank! I only update it once a month or so. If the house burns down, at least I’ve got most of my files at the bank.

        When I think of the cool neon, googie, and art deco that I used to admire daily, I have so much regret that I didn’t photograph them before they disappeared. The Kona Lanes in Costa Mesa is my biggest regret. Passed by it every day for 10 years, then one day: poof. Now it’s a vacant lot. I thought it would be there forever. Also the kooky 60s theme motels across from Disneyland, all of a sudden they all went away and became boring and generic.

        I share your sense of urgency, but I do not have your energy! So I am grateful that you are capturing these individualistic places that make the world So Not Boring.

  4. you know i’m a stats geek, can you give us a ROUGH idea about the breakdown of the 5000 pictures?

    maybe percents, rounded to tens or 5s??
    Make website –
    Make blog –
    Bad photos, scrapped –

    how many pictures of each sign do you take, on average?

    I used to have the problem where I hated taking photos and “wasting” photos, but not that i have digital, I don’t feel it as much, but I’m still hesitant at times to take more than two.

    • 99.99999% of the photos I take get used at either the website or the blog. On the road, I take on average about 150 photos per day (more some days, less other days) so that’s roughly 1,000 per week. A crappy weather day might be 50, a heavy-duty city day might be 300 photos. About a dozen photos each day are taken specifically for the blog & use them all. Bad photos? Not really any. Since it’s digital camera, and I’ve been doing this a long time, I know exactly what I want, where to put the sun and I don’t debate about the best angle. On any given stop, I’m there for a matter of seconds. Unless it’s a carousel or pet cemetery or mini golf of course. They get multiple shots — but all very quick.

      So, I might drive an hour out of my way to take a photo of a sign – and take one shot. Autofocus means I trust my camera — never blurred. And I pretty much zoom in and crop the photo tight as I’m taking it since I know that’s what I want in the end. More detail that way. Each photo will still get cropped and brightened/sharpened just a hair before I upload to flickr/blog/website. That’s one of the reasons I’m up so late while I’m on the road.

      I might drive an hour for a building and take two definitive shots (frontal and semi side view) – both get used at the site. Speed and planning — all formulaic — means I come home with the maximum amount of places & photos. Does that cover it?

      For some folks, their aim is arty-ness. So they might take all kinds of angles of subjects, from way below, from way on the side, etc. But for my purposes, I’m going for pretty much straight documentation — mostly frontal shots. Sometimes I will shoot two photos of a sign if it’s noteworthy in terms of scale (including the pole or a bush) or has important details that deserve separate photos.

  5. “Sparkle poses, respectfully, in the background. The bumper sticker made me laugh: “Honk if Parts Fall Off”:”

    LOL! No wonder my Consumer Economics professor in high school claimed the two worst cars ever built were the Ford Pinto and that VW van from the hippie era.

    Sad to see another trip and photo log come to an end. Now I have no excuse but to catch up on FlickR.

    • That’s odd that your professor would say that. The VW Bugs & van that I had were very reliable and cheap to maintain. Don’t know much about Pintos. I know Gremlins always got a lot of bad press. And Corvairs.

      Glad you enjoyed the trip.

    • Thanks! You must’ve been one of the quiet ones at the back of the bus. I’m glad you had a good time. Hunkering down to attend to the website. Come on back for the spring trip. Texas and Oklahoma should be fun. Haven’t been to either state for many years so I’ve got lots to cover (“new” old stuff, reshoots). And it’ll be a “dry heat”, right?

      • hahaha yes, I am a quiet one in the back of the bus. I’ve been following along and chiming in here and there for a couple years now, though, and there’s no minimum of “oohs” and “aaahs” from my side. Especially over the theatres…. many times I show my husband a photo of a lonely old theatre and exclaim “Let’s go save it!”. One of these days hopefully we’ll get the chance to.

      • I figure a lot of people that tag along don’t comment. I probably wouldn’t have the courage myself. The quiet people probably have the most to say or the most interesting questions. As for theatres, I hope you’re following the simultaneous Flickr (agilitynut) account since that’s where I post most of them. Loads more for the website (you’ve been to that section I assume). There certainly are tons of them that need your help. It pains me to see them become churches and bookstores — but I guess keeping the facade & marquee is better than nothing.

  6. Dear Princess of Roadside Architecture:
    Hi, Debra. Thought I’d let you rest up a bit & have other folks comment to you before I bugged you again. As another former “quiet back of the bus” member, now it seems I won’t shut up. First let me get the compliments out of the way: Sis, I’m finally able to say I’m in AWE of you, girl. OK, enough of that. After egging you on about Pinwheels, it seemed the time for me to get some. It had been a REALLY long time, so I was a little let down. While still good, they didn’t match my memories.Oh well. I only hope the next time I have an eclair from Beard Papa it won’t let me down. It’s been about a year for that. Deelish.

    As a fellow Nikon follower, I want to quiz you more:

    Now that you are home, maybe you can be specific about what lens(es) you got for Dee & returned. What did you expect to gain from them, & how thay failed . Plus, what size/speed SD cards are you using? Did you use a tripod for any shots, or all handheld?
    Did you have a backup camera with you?

    2 comments from me to you: I hope you always have the neckstrap around your neck. I hope you’ve abandoned putting the lens cap on/off.Waste of your precious time.A UV filter on the front is all you need, IMHO.

    Again, thanks for the infotainment you have provided. I for one appreicate all the “rockitecture” & hyperbolic paraboloid roofs I can get. Plus cool neon signs. And giant people. And, well you know.All the rest.
    Hope you & the pups miss any nasty weather from Earl,which thankfully is now downgraded. That’s all, Folks! Take care, DJ.

    • Oooh — lots of questions. I’ll do my best considering the late hour since otherwise your comment will likely get lost in life’s shuffle. Working loads of OT right now… Thanks for all the compliments — can never get enough of those (can anybody?). If you haven’t consumed the entire batch of Pinwheels, that’s how I like them best — the chocolate gets an extra crunch to it (and contrasts better with the softie marshmallow).

      Nikon: The lens I have is pretty standard I think 18-105 (I think). I have the numbers written down in my files for the other lenses that I bought so if you HAVE to know, I’ll look them up. But anyway, I was trying to get a lens that had better clarity for far-away details. The salesfolks (Abe’s of Maine & Nikon) swore I’d get better picture quality — but I didn’t. The $$ lenses had less range — maybe got a bit closer — but when you cropped & compared the photos of the lens I have now & those, absolutely no difference. So I saved a bunch of money. One of those lenses was $2000 I think. And I didn’t like the gigunda size of the lens either. Esp. for what?

      I don’t know what size / speed HD cards I’ve got. I think they’re SD — 64mb? 64-something. I think. I usually seem to fill up one card and move to another on these trips. No battery questions? I usually only need to recharge once on these trips & it just takes a couple hours with the cigarette lighter charger. Always have a spare waiting.

      I used my tripod for the first time on this trip. A night neon shot — scrutinized the handheld from the tripod & couldn’t tell a bit of difference! So maybe non-auto-setting might have improved — or the remote which I didn’t have handy. Well, I need a course, obviously. I said I would use my previous camera as backup, but I confess, I haven’t been bringing it with me. I usually wish I had it once a day since it fits better through chainlink.

      I hardly ever use neckstrap. But I have a firm grasp at all times. I have fallen a couple times and always land with camera in the air – maternal instinct. Years and years of horses where you never, ever, never let go of the reins. I lost my lens cap on this trip — the 3rd one lost now. I’m gonna buy a dozen. It’s a necessity with all those slobbery nosy dogs of mine. I took about 3 photos that have doggie schmeary on them. I can snap the cap back on really quick as I’m walking back to van without even looking at it. Always a UV filter — and I’m always freaking out about any schmeary linting anythings on real lens or filter. Constant wipey with microcloth.

      Still no sign of Earl here. A little rain would sure feel nice. Hope I covered things. Nightynight.

  7. Dear Debra Jane,
    So, are you saying the Pinwheels are better STALE? Didn’t understand exactly. I do know PEEPS are better stale.
    Camera stuff: Please do look up what lenses you got & returned. My trying to guess just ain’t working, & I gotta know! Sorry.
    I think you must be using 64mb SD cards, since I’ve only seen two 64GB SD cards, and they are over $200.00 each, so I guess that ain’t what you got. Don’t know what quality/image size Dee is set up for so can’t guess how many shots you get per card.
    I did’t mention batteries because unless you take lots of flash shots, the charge lasts quite long.
    OK, it’s your camera, but I’ve gotta say that this thought got stuck in my head and I REALLY couldn’t fall asleep:


    I need the security of a strap . I’ve had times where my gear would have taken a dump without one !

    No need to hurry or respond if you want/need to sleep.Dear, I understand.

    P.S. OK, I hope you get rained on, if that will make you happy.

    • No pinwheels need to be crispy not stale. The fridge makes the chocolate shell & cookie crunchier. Peeps probably get crunchier outsides when stale? I prefer my marshmallow IN something though — like Rocky Road ice cream.
      Memory cards — geez, just this morning, saw Gremmie chomping on something — a big counter surfer and she can jump HIGH despite her size. Fearless. Anyhow, she had a memory card little plastic box in her mouth and my blood drained from me. Luckily, the card was untouched — it was just the plastic box she wanted. So those are VERY high now. And I do have the photos all saved to my hard drives, etc. Still.

      Cards: SD HC 8GB. So much for the “64” I remembered. I’ve got three of them which is more than plenty since I reformat ’em once the photos are all up at the site and on my hard drives. I usually fill one and part of another up on a big trip. I don’t shoot TIFFs (or is it RAW?) like my co-worker insists I should. Just regular JPGs is fine for me, the site, and publications. My co-worker says she can tell the diff. between jpg and RAW — but I don’t believe her.

      Straps: Keep in mind that I rarely wear my seatbelt either. I live life on the edge! Camera straps annoy me. Might be a woman thing — hate it flopping all over on my boobs. Just feels goofy & stupid. And I’m in and out of the van and would more likely hang it up on something and send us both crashing to the ground.

      Lenses: Purchase #1 was a Nikon AF-S 18-200mm 3.5-5.6G DX ED VR II w/UV filter was $850. Sucked — or at least not what I wanted. Barely got closer to faraway subjects than what I already have. And then of course, not useful in terms of all purposeness. Purchase #2 was Nikon AF-S 70-200mm 2.8G ED VR II w/ filter $2,424. No big diff in resolution (like none) at far off bldg details. You could get in closer to farway stuff but once you crop down shot from my present lens — no visible difference between the two lens outputs. Plus I hated that (telephoto?) monster in terms of trying to shoot anything but faraway stuff. You have to stand like 25 feet away to shoot comfortably what you can shoot from 5 feet away with my present lens. I’m very happy with what I’ve got for now (18-105 3.5-5.6G ED, whatever that means).

      Earl never happened here. A little wind, no rain. But delicious 70 degree temps today!

  8. Why didn’t you say put the Pinwheels in the fridge in the first place? I have done same & will see what happens. Again, haven’t had many Peeps either but have read that stale is preferred by some.

    More boring camera questions:

    Is there a reason you got a SLR vs a regular compact?
    Since you seem like you need more telephoto cababilities, did you look at any compact megazoom cameras before deciding on SLR instead?

    Please keep your SD cards away from the beasties.Not good for them.I only had one dog when I was a kid and he really liked the rawhide chew stuff.Probably tastes better than plastic.

    Thanks for filling me in on your rejected lenses. I was very surprised you thought the 18-200 SUCKED. That lens is a very popular one with Nikon owners(I don’t have one).Is it just because it goes only to 200?

    Oh yeah, one more thing I keep forgetting to ask you. On Flickr, in “the old days”, you used to have the EXIF data displayed. Not being a member, is that something that is a pain to display (takes more tiime for you), or what? I like to check that kind of stuff when it is there.

    OK, enough messing with your head. Sorry no rain but glad you like the cooler temps.Hope you have more of them. Let you know if the Pinwheels improve. Take care…Princess

    • SLR vs. compact? I dunno. I read a LOT of reviews, etc. Sounded like really good lens quality, blah, blah. And being able to add a telephoto someday or a special wide angle or whatever, sounded good. The telephoto thing at this point in my life is not all that important. My former Olympus camera which wasn’t SLR was a great little thing but I guess I wanted a “real camera” this time. I was loathe to leave Olympus since I’ve had them all my life. But their similar camera just didn’t sound as good.

      Grem has a plastic addiction. Witness her “customization” of one of my flash drives on one of my previous trips:
      modified flash drive
      Luckily, she preferred the plastic case to the card itself this time.

      Well for the money, the 18-200 sucked – cuz I saw NO difference in the side-by-side comparison of image quality. The whole reason for the purchase. I shot a lot of stuff, different light — and gave it a fair assessment. Yeah, maybe I needed more than 200. Maybe I’ll test another day, another year.

      EXIF data: Easy to display or not — no work on my end. Seems it’s all automatically recorded by the camera. I took it off cuz it just seemed so weird. Geeky but in an invasive way. One guy was really weird/upset about it and acted like I was hiding something by not displaying it. Nearly demanded that he had to know. So weird that I’m not putting it back. But it really doesn’t matter since I’m an Auto-Setting-Gal. And I’m just an email query away.

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