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

3-Day NoCal Trip

The weather gods were with me on this trip giving me three sunny days. The Bay Area can be very “iffy” with that coastal fog, er um, I guess they call it “marine layer” these days. Gay-tor is running great. In May, I’ll give her the final roadtrip test with a 4-day Reno trip. Then, I’ll have my mechanic look her over, top to bottom, before the June Midwest trip.

Let’s start this post in Salinas, CA with this bar. I’m not sure which was first Jaime’s or Jesse’s. Probably Jaime’s and then there was a repaint at some point under the neon.

The wooden cocktail glasses at the entrance are sweet:

The daylight was nearly gone in Pittsburg, CA but I got these two oldies at the same place. I can’t find any postcards or vintage images to show what this pole sign looked like originally:

This market in Petaluma, CA has a cool building and a couple of signs:

This sign in San Francisco could use some paint and neon but I’ll include it anyway:

This no-name car wash in San Leandro, CA has wonderful plastic balls:

With the canopy above, I don’t think it’s possible to ever get this sign in San Francisco fully lit by the sun. But I believe it is lit at night. And it’s the cocktail glass that really matters here:

Another nice San Francisco sign:

This one is in Oakland, CA:

This one is in Berkeley, CA — not the right time of day but the paint is pretty faded anyway:

In Pacifica, CA — part of the U-Save Liquors chain in central and northern CA:

In Paso Robles, CA — this sign was recently restored:

A brand new, gateway arch sign in Salinas, CA. No neon but hey:

Moving on to some non-signs. This incredible, prefab gas station in Guerneville, CA looks like it was converted into an office with a residence behind it.

This Hilton in San Francisco was built in 1971 as a Holiday Inn. The entrance canopy which connects to a nifty pedestrian bridge will be demolished soon. More about that here:

This building in San Francisco was constructed for a Cala Foods supermarket in 1960:

Unfortunately, the interior was remodeled:

The Magic Village toy store in San Jose, CA was built in 1974. It now houses a Chuck E. Cheese:

This former gas station in Fremont, CA was restored in 2021 for a car-loving social club. I don’t know if it was ever a Flying A station or if that new sign and pumps are just decorative:

This mid-century modern station is in Santa Rosa, CA. I’ve never been able to find the build date or architect but it is truly special with its use of concrete and wood:

This “crown roof” (my term) Denny’s from 1969 in Petaluma, CA was closed for a few years recently for “remodeling.” Fortunately, it was a gentle rehab with the zigzag panels on the roof replaced with these flat ones. But hey: they left the roofline and the stone:

This cow in Petaluma is on the roof of the Petaluma Creamery:

And lastly, this classic loop-de-loop at the Golfland in San Jose, CA is the biggest I have ever seen. And I have shot hundreds of mini golfs around the country. It’s about four feet tall and most of the putters’ balls would stall out around the top of the loop. I think this is one of those obstacles where you just have to whack the ball as hard as you can:

More photos from this trip over at Flickr and Instagram:

I’ll be back in a few weeks with stuff from the Reno trip.

Happy trails,
dj & the dogs

Mini Trips – Back on the Road!

I’m coming back out from winter hibernation and eager to get back on the road. I took a couple of back-to-back weekend trips here in Southern California and I’ve got some photos to share. I’ll be heading to Northern California in a few weeks and then there will be a Reno trip in May. All this is a test to make sure that my van, cameras, and laptop are ready for the biggie summer trip. In June, the five-week trip will focus on the Midwest (Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, etc.).

I’m adding the full batch of photos from these two weekend trips to my website ( now which is my main focus. I’ve also uploaded different photos from these trips over at Flickr:

Let’s start with this detail from the recently discovered and restored Adohr Milk Farms letters in Pasadena, CA:

The Covina Bowl in Covina, CA has been converted to condos but they preserved the entrance and sign:

During the adaptation, the sign was returned to its original look:

The sign looked like this for decades:

The Acres of Books building in Long Beach, CA was built in 1924 as a market. After earthquake damage, it got this streamline look in 1936. The bookstore was here from 1959-2008:

The building remained vacant until it was demolished around 2020, preserving the facade. It looks like it’s finally done:

Catalina Liquor in Los Angeles, CA has a bunch of fun quirky signs:

The nicest of which is directly above the entrance. However, it’s now been tagged and the panel has a big hole. I fear this one won’t be around much longer:

These giant books mark the entrance to the Children’s Library at the Cerritos Library in Cerritos, CA:

This sign at George’s Drive-in in Riverside, CA was recently “restored.” But I have to say that I’m disappointed even though any attempt to preserve signs is a good thing. It was repainted entirely red. It looks like those are new clear bulbs in the circles but I’m skeptical that they chase like they must have originally. The neon was restored but they did a sloppy job with the connecting wires putting them on top of the panels instead of moving those inside the panels:

The sign was previously blue with the insides of the circles in red. You can see the text has also been changed from “Tacos Fries” to “Fries Shakes.” Note that in the new red version, the letters are not outlined but just single stroke on top of the letters.

What’s odd is that there are photos at George’s Instagram account that show the sign fully lit in 2020:

This is what the drive-in itself looks like:

I wish I knew what the sign looked like originally. I did find somewhere that the drive-in opened in 1955 and the sign went up in 1957. However, George’s Instagram and other articles say they opened in 1974. Surely, this sign is from the 1950s. So, maybe this wasn’t the drive-in’s original name. There was an identical sign in San Bernardino, CA which has been further remodeled and doesn’t look like the StreetView image below anymore. I did find an old advertisement online from 1957 with the right address and listed the place as Ted’s Shortstop Drive-in. So, perhaps George’s was a Ted’s Shortstop originally – but I find no evidence of that.

The Hollywood Tower Apartments (in Hollywood, CA) was built as La Belle Tour in 1929. The name was changed in 1942. This sign looks 1920s or 1930s to me. So, it was most likely built then and the raised letters were changed. Either that, or this pole sign was built in 1942 in the style of the original sign:

This neon diver sign was installed at West Hollywood Park (in West Hollywood, CA) in 2021. This sign was based on the 1950 Virginia Court Motel sign in Meridian, MS. That sign was removed in the 1990s and saved by a collector. It was restored and loaned to the Museum of Neon Art in Los Angeles. The original sign was replicated before it was sold to another collector. The replica was displayed at the West Hollywood “On Route –66 Lights” exhibition. It was put in storage and then temporarily installed at the West Hollywood Pool in 2016. If the sign looks familiar, yes, a second replica was created in 2014 and is displayed on top of MONA’s roof in Glendale, CA. More neon divers can be found at my website here:

The West Los Angeles Civic Center Bandshell in Los Angeles shown below was designed by Albert Criz and built in 1965:

This sign in Los Angeles was built in 2015 for the Mama Shelter hotel:

The Le Trianon Apartments in Los Angeles were built in 1928. I believe this scaffold sign was installed then or soon after. It was definitely there by 1937:

This repurposed Denny’s building and sign from the 1960s are in Fontana, CA:

The Office Bar in San Diego, CA opened in 1948. This sign was built around 2010. I’m assuming the “Bar” in the circle at the bottom alternates with the martini at night:

The Royal Food Mart in San Diego opened in 1944. That sign has gotta be from then or soon after:

This place was a GREAT stop for me AND the dogs. Orbit got some cholla stickers in a foot but I was able to hold him down and get them out quickly. There are dozens of these sculptures in Borrego Springs, CA in the middle of the desert. And you can drive your vehicle around on the sand and let your doggies run free safely. Here’s some info about the place:

The Hotel Churchill in San Diego was built in 1914. There is a giant rooftop sign (I posted a photo at Flickr) from the 1940s which was removed and restored during a building restoration in 2015. That sign went back up in 2016. This sign was created at the same time based on historic photos:

The Convention Center at the Town & Country Resort in San Diego was built in 1969. These orange, black, grey & white tiles had been covered up for decades. They were uncovered around 2020:

Also at the Town & Country Resort, this 15-foot-long diver sign was built and installed in 2020 at the Lapper poolside bar. She is named “Thelma.” Although she’s referred to in articles and by the resort itself as “neon,” obviously that’s cheesy LED strips. But she does look pretty at night anyway:

This nifty midcentury modern building complex (a big round building on the right) houses the Imperial Irrigation District in El Centro, CA:

It was a big walk to get to this (and no dogs allowed on the beach ☹) but I finally toughed it out. This is the Bell Beach Pavilion (aka Mushroom House) in La Jolla, CA from 1968. It’s right on the beach. The homeowners have access via a 300-foot tram elevator down the cliff behind the house:

They repainted the statues in Morongo Valley, CA when Willie Boy’s became Spaghetti Western last year. The horse is now a bright blue:

Last but not least is this place in La Mesa, CA. I posted the incredible rooftop sign at Flickr but this sign is also nice:

Wong’s opened in 1966 and has an incredible interior as well.

That’s it. I’ll be back here in a few weeks with another post from Northern California.

Happy trails!
dj & the dogs

Website Updating: Mid-Century Modern Buildings (Part 2 of 2)

And here it is! My last post from this grueling annual updating project. The past two months, I’ve obsessively combed all approximately 3,000 pages at my website ( and checked every link and map to get things as current as possible. Here’s the last bit of news below from the Mid-Century section.

The First United Methodist Church in Corinth, MS was demolished this summer:

This former Amy Joy Donuts building in Bedford Heights, OH was demolished last year. It had been vacant since 2015 and last housed New Orleans Seafood:

This building in Hurst, TX:

has been painted black — or I guess it could be a very dark blue:

This former Sav-on Cleaners in Houston, TX has been demolished:

The American Motor Inn Motel in Snyder, TX was closed and being remodeled last year. The diamond features are gone now:

It was part of a chain with locations in at least Texas and New Mexico. Many of the locations, like this one in Big Spring, TX (long gone) had giant signs:

Most of the Jif-E-Mart convenience store locations in San Antonio, TX are very run down now. But this recently adapted location looks pretty nice as a H&R Block tax office:

This lovely bank building with cast concrete screens in Wenatchee, WA was vacant in 2018. Last year, it began housing retail space — guess what color they painted it?

You guessed it! Dark gray. Okay so making buildings as drab as possible instead of tearing them down is, I guess, a glass half-full:

The Rosa Flower Shop building in Monroe, WI is gone now:

There you go! The next time you hear from me in these posts, it will be “good” news since it will be things that still exist. That probably won’t be until the spring when I start my roadtest-roadtrips to test Gator’s mechanical shape for the big, five-week summer trip to the Midwest.

Happy trails,
dj & the dogs

Website Updating: Mid-Century Modern Buildings (Part 1 of ???)

Let’s start on the biggest and final section. I’m hoping to wrap up this project by the end of the month. I’m about halfway through the approximately 500 pages.

The former Ortega’s Indian Market souvenir shop dome building in Lupton, AZ is gone now:

This building in Los Banos, CA is gone now:

This former Suzuki Motorcycles dealer in Santa Fe Springs, CA had been boarded up for many years. The building is gone now:

This former Salvation Army Chapel in Miami, FL has been demolished:

This Jiffy Food store in Perry, FL

was vacant and had been painted when the Google car drove by in June. A shame that the original diamonds are covered but at least the zigzag roof is still there:

This supermarket in Marshalltown, IA has been replaced with a boxy, modern version:

Weller’s Dry Cleaners in Silver Spring, MD closed about a year ago and these great panels have all been painted beige:

An equal or greater crime is what they did to the sign. At least they left the clock. From this:

to this:

The former Safeway in Red Bluff, CA has been demolished:

The YMCA Building in Davenport, IA was demolished was last spring:

The Totem Bowl in Marshalltown, IA closed in 2016. now houses Wayward Social. Although the place still has bowling, these tile murals are gone:

The former First Federal Savings & Loan in Kewanee, IL

now houses Regional Media. Those original panels are gone and the sign has been replaced. The same shapes were repeated inside for the stairs, teller windows, etc. Such an unforgiveable, historical shame. And, of course, today’s fave paint color choices seem to be either beige, grey, or black….

This Illinois Central School Bus building in Gary, IN is gone now:

I’ll be back soon with more.

Happy trails,
dj & the dogs

Website Updating: Signs (Part 7 of 7)

Let’s finish off the Signs section with this mega post.

This sign in El Campo, TX is gone:

This sign in Greenville, TX is gone now:

This Masonic Lodge sign in Greenville, TX is also gone:

This motel in Laredo, TX was demolished in 2022 and this sign is gone now:

This sign in Longview, TX is gone now:

This only-one-left “Associate Store” 7-Eleven sign in New Boston, TX had only a single panel for years but it’s gone now:

This sign in Paris, TX is gone now:

This restaurant in Tyler, TX has been closed since 2013:

The letters are falling over now:

and the pole sign is at a mysterious and dangerous lean:

This Catfish Parlour sign in Austin, TX was created by Evan Voyles of Neon Jungle in 1973. That location closed about a year ago and the sign is gone:

This modern sign in Austin, TX is also gone now. This location closed in 2019:

This sign in Dallas, TX:

is now missing the arrow and looks like it’s hanging on by a thread:

These signs in Dallas, TX are gone now. A restaurant soon to take its place:

In October, this sign in Woods Cross, UT was removed. It will be installed in a customer’s backyard and will supposedly be visible from the Woods Cross City Hall:

This sign in Ogden, UT is gone now. The motel was demolished and a fast food restaurant is being built:

This sign in Ogden, UT is also gone now:

Diamond Lil’s in Salt Lake City, UT closed in 2013. In 2021, the building was destroyed by a fire. It was recently demolished and the sign is gone now:

This sign in Bluefield, VA is gone now. The Cotton’s letters are still on the building:

This sign in Pullman, WA is gone now:

The Italian Kitchen sign in Spokane, WA is now in a private collection:

This midcentury canopy and the sign in Yakima, WA are gone. A furniture store is there now.

This sign in Poynette, WI is gone now:

This sign in Milwaukee, WI is gone now:

And that’s a wrap! I’ll be back soon enough as we start on the Mid-Century Modern Buildings section.

Happy trails,
dj & the dogs

Website Updating: Signs (Part 6 of many…)

I think there will be one more post after this one. Only 55 more Sign section pages to comb!

This motel was demolished in 2015 and this sign in Olean, NY is gone now:

This sign in Dayton, OH is gone now:

This sign in Hamilton, OH is gone now:

This sign in Ironton, OH is gone now:

This sign in Woodward, OK is gone now:

The Hi-Lo Club closed in 2022 and these two signs in Oklahoma City, OK:

have had the neon and bulbs removed while the building is being remodeled:

This sign in Oklahoma City is apparently gone. The company might have moved to Yukon, OK but I don’t know if they sign was moved there:

This former neon sign in Jenkintown, PA was moved just a few feet away in 2022 when the store expanded. Supposedly, during the moving process, it fell apart:

The owners had the sign replicated with aluminum panels. It now has LED tubing instead of neon. The reader board and three rods are gone now:

This sign in Ligonier, PA was replicated after this 2007 photo:

The new sign from 2013 looked very nice. But the pole became unstable and it was put in City storage in 2022. Hopefully, they’ll get it back up.

These Rexall signs in Mount Olive, NC are gone now:

This sign in West Columbia, SC:

Had this interesting vinyl cover when the Google car drove by in September:

So, here’s an interesting local article:

If you are anywhere near there, there will be a relighting on January 10:

Here’s the “tease” for the about-to-be-uncovered restoration:

This sign in Milan, TN is gone now:

This neon extension “girl pig” was on top of the Brad’s Bar-B-Q sign in Moscow, TN. A Mexican restaurant is there now and this sign is gone.

That’s quite enough for one post. Be back soon.

Happy trails,
dj & the dogs

Website Updating: Signs (Part 5 of many…)

Moving on with lots of “N” states. This sign in Omaha, NE might be gone now. It fell over a couple of months ago during high winds and was removed. It’s not known yet if it will be repaired or scrapped.

This sign in Lebanon, NJ is gone now:

The rocket sign in Alamogordo, NM:

now has letters for the loan company behind it:

This sign in Artesia, NM is gone now:

This sign in Las Cruces, NM:

has been horribly adapted:

Truly heartbreaking. The Premiere Motel sign in Albuquerque, NM:

has been turned into this crap with plastic letters:

The original corrugated plastic panel on this sign in Gallup, NM:

has been replaced with this one:

This sign in Boulder City, NV:

has been replaced with this one for the Dam Roast House & Browder Bookstore:

The 7/11 Motor Lodge in Reno, NV was demolished and this sign is gone now:

Let’s close with two bits of good news from Las Vegas, NV. This sign was removed earlier this year as the motel is being converted into apartments. The City of Las Vegas has the sign in storage and will restore it and reinstall it somewhere:

Google Street View is now showing the recently restored Par-a-Dice Motel sign and it looks fabulous. It’s located in the Las Vegas Blvd. median just south of the Shalimar Hotel. I can’t wait to see/shoot it in June!:

Back very soon with more. I’m going to try to wrap up the Signs section this weekend.

Happy trails,
dj & the dogs

Website Updating: Signs (Part 4 of many…)

Still about 150 pages to go for this section but here’s some more news.

This bar in Chelsea, MI closed in 2019 and the sign is gone now:

The Moose Lodge in Hibbing, MN

was destroyed by a fire in 2020. However, the sign was moved to the ground on the side of the street where the building was. The lot seems to be in use as the “Moose Event Center” now:

The Maplewood Wine Cellar in Maplewood, MN building and sign are gone now:

This sign in Motley, MN is gone now:

The Dari-ette Drive-in in St. Paul, MN closed in 2020:

The neon has been removed and the sign has been painted over:

This sign on the left in Chillicothe, MO is gone now:

This sign in Independence, MO is gone now. The motel was demolished for a combo coffee & car wash place:

The sign originally had a nice horse and rider detail, a AAA logo, and lower neon panel:

This sign in Kansas City, MO is gone now:

The text panels on the sign at the same place:

have been painted black and the neon removed:

This sign in Mount Olive, NC is gone now:

This summer, the Pink Motel sign in Cherokee, NC was replicated. It looks pretty nice! The “Cable TV Pool” on the lower panel seems to be gone now. The Google car hasn’t been there yet but I managed to find this photo here:

Back soon with more!

Happy trails,
dj & the dogs

Website Updating: Signs (Part 3 of many…)

I’m about halfway through the signs section now and I’ve got more than enough to report for one blog post.

This sign (and the entire building) in Canaan, CT are gone now:

This sign in High Springs, FL was looking pretty shabby in 2020:

But now… it’s been plasticized and renamed:

This sign in St. Petersburg, FL was apparently hit by a car last spring and then removed:

This rooftop sign at Rayco Upholstery in St. Petersburg, FL is gone now. The pole sign is still there:

This sign in Breese, IL is gone now:

Both of these signs in Centralia, IL are gone now:

This sign in Rantoul, IL and the motel itself are gone:

This fun sign in Indianapolis, IN had sweet little bubbles and a stirrer clock:

It’s now been adapted with this crappy remodeling:

It looks like this sign at Happy the Glass Man in Lexington, KY is gone now:

This sign in Louisville, KY is gone now:

This sign in Baton Rouge, LA is gone now:

This sign in Minden, LA is gone now:

The sputnik at this cleaners in Houma, LA is gone now. The sign is still there, with broken tubing. From the blue tarps on the roof, it looks like this business got battered by a recent hurricane:

This sign in LaPlace, LA:

was apparently also damaged by a hurricane:

This sign in New Orleans, LA is gone now:

This sign in New Orleans, LA is also gone now:

This sign in Shreveport, LA is gone now:

The Texan Family Restaurant chain had at least six locations in Michigan with these signs. This sign in Saginaw, MI was the last one left. It closed in 2018 and by 2019 the cowboy panels were gone and all that was left was the metal frame that held them:

Better than nothing though — Baldwin’s Smokehouse BBQ has moved in and added their twist to the sign:

Back soon with more signs.

Happy trails,
dj & the dogs