Final Roadtest Trip: CA & NV

In two weeks, the “kids” and I will be heading off to the Midwest. In preparation, I took one last big trip to the Central Valley and the Reno area. The van, cameras, laptop, me & the dogs seem ready for this summer’s 5-week marathon trip. I’ll be posting a few photos nightly at Instagram if you want to share the journey “virtually:”

Then, when I get home, I’ll be posting some photos in blog posts here and some other photos at Flickr as I begin uploading all the new stuff to my website.

Below, are some highlights from this “roadtest” four-day weekend. I’m lumping things into one mega post.

An Art Deco neon canopy sign & glass block entrance at the long-closed Rice Bowl in Hanford, CA:

Try as I might, I have not been able to determine if this place in Kingsburg, CA was a drive-in theatre or a drive-in restaurant. Whatever it was, it’s been gone for decades and the property below is used for trucks:

A single-sided sign in Lodi, CA mounted on the front of the building under a canopy:

This sign in Sacramento, CA was unfortunately painted over but, oh, that bottle:

This one in Sacramento, CA is missing its neon but those letters are great. Too many trees to ever get this one in the light — maybe in winter?:

This sign was originally installed in downtown Placerville, CA above the coffee shop. It’s now leaning on the building outside the El Dorado County Historical Museum next to the fairgrounds:

This place in Placerville, CA is still open but the neon appears to be broken:

This place in Loomis, CA is closed but the sign’s still hanging in there:

This former Nyack Lodge sign is behind the Shell station in Emigrant Gap, CA. It was the end of the day so the lighting wasn’t great, but hey. The sign originally read “Nyack Lodge, Herstle Jones,” putting the owner’s name in lights, literally. And there was a separate panel reading “Fine Food”:

I love faux castles and mini golf — Golfland in Roseville, CA has both:

My sidekicks in South Lake Tahoe, CA. Lots of mountains, pines, and even snow on this trip:

This place is in Reno, NV but it’s way to the south of it, actually closer to Virginia City. I think this restaurant/nightclub opened in 1969 and the sign would appear to be from then:

This single-sided sign at the Spring Water Depot in Reno, NV has been there since at least 2011. The company was founded in 1930 but my guess is that this sign is probably 1970s-ish. I don’t know if the sign is still lit but, surely, those bulbs were/are animated:

The Halfway Club in Reno, NV opened in 1937 and I believe this sign is from then:

I believe this place in Sparks, NV was built in 1960:

This motel in Sparks, NV may have been built in 1953 but this sign looks 1960s. It has been converted into apartments. If you like arrow signs, you might want to check out my “Extreme Arrow Signs” article which just came out in the SCA Journal. I’ve been writing the features for the organization for more than 15 years. You can purchase the publications individually and if you like what you see, you can become a member and get 2 Journals and 4 newsletters each year. The SCA (Society for Commercial Archeology) has been around since the 1970s and also offers roadside-related “field trips” and zoom meetings that might interest you.

This place in Hazen, NV is long gone but the sign is still there:

This sign in Reno, NV has gotta be 1960s. No matter than the coin depicted is a silver dollar (not actually a gold coin):

This place in Crystal Bay, NV had different signs in the 1960s so this sign might be from 1970s:

This dragonfly sculpture in Reno, NV was installed in Virginia Lake in 2018:

This sign in Hawthorne, NV was installed at the Hawthorne Club in 1950. It was known as the “Pillar of Light.” The club closed in 1973 and when the building was demolished in 1996, the sign was saved and moved to the city’s entrance. It fell over in a windstorm in 2017 but was restored and reinstalled the following year:

The Hotel El Cortez in Reno, NV has a great scaffold rooftop sign but it also has great Art Deco details:

A repurposed caboose in Truckee, CA:

This business in Sparks, NV has a 1960s-looking pole sign:

and it has an older (1950s?) neon sign on the side of the building behind a fence:

This junk metal horse was installed in Reno, NV in 2022. The kinetic sculpture’s legs, head, mane, etc. can be moved with cranks on the fence:

This restaurant in Virginia City, NV had opened by 1958. The round patches seem to indicate that the sign originally had neon and was retrofitted for bulbs later on:

This restaurant and casino in Fallon, NV supposedly opened in 1960. This tower sign which sits at the back of the lot looks a lot older than that:

This former neon sign in Lovelock, NV is probably from the 1940s or 1950s.

I believe this neon “Cafe” panel in Truckee, CA was built for Brown’s Cafe around the time it opened in 1944. There was a horizontal panel on top reading “Brown’s.” This is the only vintage image I can find:

There have been sooooo many sign losses in Reno, NV in recent years. I’m so glad to see this one standing firm:

Let’s close this post with one more sign from Reno, NV. There are still roughly 40 of these “Skinny M” (my term) left around the country — more photos, info, and links at my website:

I’ll be back here in July with lots of posts from the Midwest trip.

Happy Trails,
dj & the dogs

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