Roadside Oddities: Muffler Men

Readers of this blog will not be surprised that I am fascinated by weird shit on the side of the road.  I mean, I planned an entire vacation around it when I decided to drive Route 66 end to end.  One of the spectacles I am most in love with right now are the Muffler Men statues.

Now, you have seen a few of these pictures in previous posts because I included them in the Route 66 posts when I happened upon them while on that vacation. Once I started driving all over Los Angeles looking for more, I knew I was going to write a specific post on the concept, though, and I didn’t want to leave any of them out.  That way, should anyone ever want to point back to this post in the future there is a comprehensive set of all of the Muffler Men I have photographed to date in one place.  Think of it as the starting point for another one of my silly quests.

So, what are they?  This is my brief overview I give at parties, and is in no way to be considered accurate fact, lol.  If you want facts, maybe visit the Wikipedia site devoted to them or the magnificent reference site at Roadside America.   Back in the 60s, a Venice, CA company by the name of International Fiberglass started making these 18-25 foot tall statues and selling them for advertising.  At the time, much of the country was traveled by two lane highways and having a giant statue next to your business would attract people driving by to your place.  The molds for the statues were basically the same, and their hands are often positioned to hold something such as a muffler in their hands. (This is part of the appeal for me as I think it is hilarious to see the hands holding something they were clearly not made to hold, such as a hot dog.) Slight alterations to their heads or paint jobs were the real differentiating factor.   They are most commonly in the form of lumberjacks, Paul Bunyan, cowboys, generic “Dude” and the Uniroyal Gal.  Sometimes they are called mutants when they have been modified beyond the standard molds.  Advertising in this way has since gone out of fashion, but many of the Muffler Men can still be spotted, often on their third or fourth owners from when they were originally purchased.

I’d thought I start with showing you the statues I have photographed that are on the Ten Most Famous Muffler Men list.  Number one on the list is actually my favorite,  because when you think of weird stuff on the side of the road, you naturally think of Paul Bunyan with a chicken head.

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Chicken Boy lives on a roof in the Highland Park area of Los Angeles.  If you happen to be so lucky as to find street parking, he peers at you through the trees.

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Try not to look at that right before you fall asleep.  It’s just a tad on the creepy side.

The second Muffler Man on the list is the Gemini Giant, which is outside of Chicago in Wilmington, Illinois, a town along Route 66. The giant is often cited as being the most photographed of all the Muffler Men, which makes sense.  I mean, who doesn’t want a photo of a giant in a space suit holding a rocket?

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Isn’t he magnificent?!

I have also been lucky enough to see number three on the list, Tall Paul Bunyan.  Tall Paul once used to sling hot dogs for Bunyan’s in Cicero, IL, but has since been moved to Atlanta, IL along Route 66.  The day I visited it was raining, which just added to the allure of the big creep!

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His hands are so awkward in how he is holding the hot dog!  It is really part of his menacing charm.  There is a little bit of controversy in categorizing Tall Paul as a Paul Bunyan statue, as people that classify such things feel as if Paul Bunyan must have a beard, but I feel like an exception should be made here given he was originally at a hot dog stand named after him.

The last Muffler Man I have seen from the top ten list is Malibu’s own La Salsa Man.  La Salsa Man used to sell hamburgers, but somewhere along the way, he became a mustachioed Latino and his hamburger was split in half to form his Sombrero.  His tony, beach side real estate gives him a fabulous view of the California coastline.  On the day I visited, his shop appeated to be empty, however, which leaves me a little worried a developer will tear him down to build something else.   See the La Salsa Man while you still can.

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Although not in the top ten, I have seen several other Muffler Men, as I insist on stopping any time one comes into view.  They are all in varying stages of disrepair depending on the owner.  This one, on the campus of NAU in Arizona is in great condition.

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My other non-California stop also happens to be the only cowboy I have seen to date.  This one is known as the 2nd Amendment Cowboy near Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo,  Texas.  It annoys me they used the statue to make a political statement,  but I suppose it was inevitable.

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Another personal annoyance is when the statues are displayed in a way where I can’t see their whole body or in situations where the owners have piled on a lot of other kitsch.  This Paul Bunyan in Mentone, CA is a perfect example.  Where are his legs?!  And why does he have both a baseball bat and an inn sign?!

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While I would love to know the backstory for each and every Muffler Man, sometimes that is not possible.  I do plan to stop and see any I can find while I am on my travels, so hopefully there are more to come.   In the meantime, I end this post with the remaining statues in the LA area, of which I can only tell you one more story.  The race car driver used to be a golfer at the Dominguez Hills Golf Course. Porsche purchased the land and promptly built a track on it.  I was a little worried that the statue would be lost as a result, but Porsche changed his clothes and left him up as a beacon to all those that pass by on the freeway.  While I don’t recommend actually pulling over on the freeway to take pictures, sometimes you have no choice and a girl has to do what she has to do in an effort to catch all the Muffler Men.

 

 

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Stash Enhancement Saturday: Simply Gilded Subscription Box

Like a lot of paper crafters,  I hoard washi tape. I say hoard instead of use, because let’s be honest, how many rolls have I actually completely used?  One, maybe two?  That doesn’t really stop me from accumulating more, though.

After years of consuming various brands, I have found that I have some preferences that I am no longer willing to overlook.  For one, smell is important.   I am not sure what chemical reaction occurs in some washi packaging, but if I open the tube and it reeks worse than sweaty gym socks,  I’m out.  Then there is the tape that rips and tears when you try to roll it out.  Again,  no thank you.  What I am saying here is that I am a washi connoisseur.  Or just a crafty girl that knows what she doesn’t like.  One of those two things.

At some point,  I received some Simply Gilded washi in event swag.  I had heard of the demand on the resell market for SG washi, but honestly, while the washi is nice, I do not understand the people that spend hundreds of dollars on a roll.  I could buy another pair of Tieks for a couple hundred dollars!  It also appears to be scarce given the demand, which is why I enrolled in the subscription service Simply Gilded offers. High quality washi delivered right to my door every month without the headaches and for a pretty reasonable price considering all that comes in the sub!  For $29 a month at the time of this post, the box includes 5 coordinated rolls plus extras such as TN inserts, planner stickers and other assorted goodies.

I waited a couple of months to do my review because I wanted to see how consistently I enjoyed the boxes.  The first one received was a peach themed kit.  The colors were pretty, and I thought the extras were nice, too.

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In addition to the washi, the box had some cute paperclips, a pen, a bow, a TN insert, stickers, and a journal card.  Given 5 rolls of washi can easily add up to $20 on their own, the price point seemed quite reasonable.   Pictures of washi in their rolls can never do them justice, but here is a close up of them.

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Here are some close ups of the other items, too.

This month the theme was lavender,  and I love the aesthetic.

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The extras in this box included the usual TN insert and stickers, plus another bow, a zippered pouch, a note pad, an adhesive pocket, a magnet, and a journal card.  The washi is beautiful in person, which this close up will not accurately reflect, but just trust me.

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That book washi is gorgeous.  😍

So, clearly I am a fan.  Of the 4 boxes received to date, I was delighted with three and will find some items in the fourth usable.  The less loved items will be given to my other crafty friends.  I find the months that have pens or sticky notes as extras to be my favorites.

Are there any cons to the sub?  Sure.  Like any subscription service, the contents are going to be a wildcard, so you need to be okay with not loving every single box.  For instance,  the bows are cute, but I probably will not get that much use out of them.  The other con for Simply Gilded specifically is that they have a hard time keeping up with demand.  (A lot of small businesses in the community do, they are often one woman shows, after all.)  Get on the waitlist and be prepared to click fast when your opportunity to enroll comes up.  I was on the waitlist less than a month, so I didn’t find this to be an arduous process.

You can also buy SG washi without a sub.  Join the shop’s Facebook group, and watch for announcements on new releases.  Then be prepared with very fast fingers as soon as the releases go on sale.  I mean as soon.  Like right that second.  Maybe log on a couple minutes early and hit refresh until the rolls pop up, and then checkout with your favorite immediately.   Then go back for more selections if there is time.  Some sell out in a minute. I am not even kidding. It’s kind of fun, but you have to be prepared to not get everything you want.  If the excitement of that frenzy isn’t your jam, sign up for the sub and then just enjoy the guarantee that rolls will be delivered soon without the spike in your blood pressure.

Roadside Oddities: World’s Largest Paper Cup

Several months ago I took a road trip to Palm Springs.  Like I do for all drives, I did a little search to find any interesting stops along the way that might be interesting.  Having made the drive several times in the past, I had low expectations of finding anything new to me, but little did I know that I would find thrills and excitement right in the county next to mine!  And by thrills and excitement,  I mean a roadside attraction with dubious claims.

According to Roadside America, Riverside, CA is home to the World’s Largest Paper Cup!  As you can imagine, I was bubbling with anticipation.   Do I stop on my way out, getting the highlight of my trip out of the way and risk the rest of the trip being a let down, never being able to measure up to the cup’s magnificence?  Or do I wait and stop on my way home, savoring the anticipation and hitting the pinnacle of sightseeing when my trip is almost over? Decisions, decisions!

With this kind of build up, imagine my surprise when I roll on up to this stop only to discover the cup isn’t paper at all!  What kind of false advertising is this?!  I was staring at a cup, for sure, but it was a concrete cup.  I felt violated by inaccurate descriptions.  Alas, I took a picture anyway,  but my disappointment has led me to letting this post languish for months.  Behold!  It is the World’s Largest Paper…err….Concrete Cup!

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The Landmark Project: CHL# 939

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CHL# 939 Twentieth Century Folk Art Environments (Thematic) – OLD TRAPPER’S LODGE

Old Trapper’s Lodge is one of California’s remarkable Twentieth Century Folk Art Environments. It represents the life work of John Ehn (1897-1981), a self-taught artist who wished to pass on a sense of the Old West, derived from personal experiences, myths, and tall tales. From 1951 to 1981, using his family as models, and incorporating memorabilia, the ‘Old Trapper’ followed his dreams and visions to create the Lodge and its ‘Boot Hill.’

Descriptions of each landmark are from the California Office of Historical Preservation website.

Christine’s Note: This is one of those landmarks where I wonder how they ended up on the list.  I can’t figure out what historical value or example of pioneering art this falls into.  I do find part of the story about their upkeep amusing, though.  The college where they currently sit does not provide any upkeep to the statues.  Someone just magically shows up when they need a good cleaning. 

I am going to break my one picture per landmark rule and provide a couple more of the statues, just in case someone more familiar with folk art is interested.  I am not, however, going to include the two statues that portrayed Native Americans in a negative light.  Those two statues really bothered me, and I prefer not to give those any attention.

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Stash Enhancement Saturday: Oh Hello Stationery Co Greeting Card Subscription

I was vaguely aware of Oh Hello Stationery Co from the planner community.  When you are a decorative planner, you eventually hear about all the sticker makers. In addition to stickers, they carry a variety of stationery and home goods products, but it wasn’t until I randomly saw some of their greeting cards that I became intrigued.  Peeps…their cards are cute!  I mean, look at these!

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Also, true story, I bought the tent card below despite not being in a relationship right now.  I am going to hang on to it until I decide I do indeed love my next boyfriend so much it is in tents.

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That’s going to have to be a lot of love, because I don’t camp.  😉

The only problem is that I don’t ever write anyone.  I pretty much only use the post office to send gift packages to people.  I do have a couple friends that still send me cards in the mail, and I admit that I like getting them.  It’s nice to go to the mailbox and have something other than junk mail or bills in there, plus I like that my friends think about me often enough to jot some thoughts down and throw it in the mail.

How crazy would it be to start sending cards to people again just specifically so that I have a reason to buy the cards?  Because that is what I did.  These cards were calling my name! Plus, maybe they will help me actually be a better friend, too.

I ordered some cards a la carte, but I knew I needed more of these cards in my life.  Lucky for me, they have a subscription service and for only $8.95 a month you get five cards delivered right to your house.  The cards come with a variety of themes including cards with no specific theme that you can use for any occasion.  They are all blank on the inside, so you can write anything you would like.  The cards are made from thick cardstock, and so far none of the pens I have used (mostly felt tip fineliners and ballpoint pens) bleed through or even shadow.  Envelopes for the cards are included.

Here is an example of a set I received one month in the subscription.

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So if you like cute cards, check them out!  Five cards for under ten bucks is a bargain – can you even buy two for that price at the local drugstore these days?

FO Friday: P*ssy Hat

I know it seems like I actually haven’t posted a finished object in a long time, because well…I haven’t posted a finished object in a really long time.  My life was a bit unmanageable there for a bit with work and school and other obligations, but I am happy to announce that I actually finished something!  It’s my first finished object since the end of 2016, actually.

A friend expressed some interest in a Pussy Hat and I was happy to make one for him.  I started this project in mid-2017.  It has just taken me this long to find time to finish it.  The pattern is the Easy Pussy Hat by Elizabeth Morrison.  It was, in fact, easy to make, plus I had the added benefit of learning the three needle bind off, which was new to me.  I suspect this bind off will come in handy in future projects.  I made this with Hazel Knits Tempo in the Cabbage Rose colorway using US6 and US8 needles.

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I have so many WIPs on the needles, I am hoping I have found a little of my knitting mojo again and will be back with more finished objects soon.  (I don’t finish grad school until April, though, so keep your expectations low.)

Knitter in the Wild: Austin

This post is a little late in coming, but back in May I took a trip to Austin to attend Go Wild, a planner conference put on by Wild for Planners.  The conference was everything a crafty girl dreams of – amazing speakers, great swag, and rooms full of people that share your love for crafts.  I got to meet one of my craft idols, Heidi Swapp, who was one of the speakers.  You know how sometimes you meet an idol and walk away crushed and disappointed?  That so did not happen here.  I love her even more.  Her story is incredibly inspiring and I felt so lucky to be able to hear her speak.  In 2019, Go Wild will be held in Las Vegas, so I am looking forward to attending again as it will be in road trip distance for me.

While in Austin, I got to see some great sights.  As I was there for a planner conference, the first stop had to be at the planner girl’s dream store – the Erin Condren flagship store.  Peeps.  It is so beautiful!

The most amazing part of the store is a giant tree that is right smack dab in the middle of it.

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And what would a trip to Austin be without food?!  Terry Black’s for barbecue, Torchy’s for tacos, Voodoo Doughnuts for breakfast, Moonshine for some down home cooking – it was all amazing.  My friend that I was traveling with and I actually went on a food tour called “Food is my Best Friend” where they drove you around in a little electric car.  So fun!

I also made time for some bat watching under the Congress bridge, the LBJ presidential library, and of course, the murals.

This was definitely my favorite mural.  It still makes me laugh  months later.

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Being so close, I had to take a side trip down to San Antonio to see the Alamo.  It is a lot smaller than I thought!  Coming from California, where we have tried to maintain our historical missions with varying degrees of success, I was a little surprised that the Alamo was literally crumbling in some rooms.  It was still worth the walk through, however, and the grounds were really pretty.

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It was an amazing trip, and a city that I probably would not have picked as a destination without the nudge from attending an event in the city.  Totally recommend.

 

Do EPIC Sh*t Road Trip / Route 66: Arizona and California

I made it to the final stretch home!  By this time on vacation, I was pooped.  I had been on the road for coming up on three weeks, I missed my dogs, I missed my own bed, and I was tired of eating while driving.  But there were a couple of stops still on my must do list for this vacation, and the first one was I had to sleep in the Wigwam Motel in Holbrook, AZ.

You hear about the Wigwam Villages that were strewn across the country in days past, but with only three left, when you have the opportunity to sleep in one, you have to do it, right?  There is actually one near me in California, but for some reason I really wanted to sleep in the Arizona location.  Which was dumb as a single girl on the road, because I was pretty sure I was going to die once I checked in, lol.  You know the part of the movie where the killer takes his first victim that is an unsuspecting girl doing something dumb?  It could have been this night in the Wigwam.  Holbrook is a tiny, tiny town.  The Wigwam backs up to some railroad tracks behind it, and there are old cars parked in front of each of the rooms – WITH BUSTED OUT WINDOWS AND RUST ALL OVER THEM.  No worries, I thought, it’s just for old timey show.  But then I checked into my room, and the only lock on the door is the turn handle.  No deadbolt or chain to be seen.  I sat there on my bed wondering what to do, and then made it worse because I looked out my window behind the curtain, and the window was cracked.  Sigh.

I seriously thought about just forgetting the money I spent and driving the 90 minutes into Flagstaff for the night, but I felt like a quitter.  I am supposed to be a strong, independent woman, right?  So instead I just laid on the bed, not really sleeping, and looking out the window every couple hours to make sure my car was still there.   I survived!  But I was also up and dressed and back on the road by about 6 in the morning.  Take my advice and stay in the one in California.

This was my room.

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Examples of the old timey cars parked by the rooms.

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The rest of Arizona had some good sights, too.  There was Winslow, AZ, where you can find some peeps just standing on the corner of Winslow.  The town of Seligman takes decorating their strip of Route 66 very seriously.  And of course, there is the remnants of the Twin Arrows Trading post, which has been photographed along the Route many times.  I particularly liked Giganticus Headicus, which serves no real purposes other than making me laugh.

 

My favorite Arizona sight was the Lumberjack muffler man, currently sitting on the campus of Northern Arizona State University, where my oldest nephew wants to attend starting in the fall of 2018.

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The one place I did not spend anytime is Oatman, AZ, which is my favorite little ghost town on the route.  Since my family lives about a half hour from there, and as a result I go there often, I chose to spend the time I had during the Arizona leg to see things that were new to me.

After picking up my dogs and spending a couple night at my mom’s, I embarked on the final stretch home.  I have driven the California portion of Route 66 many times, and there were a few chunks of the road that were closed, so I didn’t take a lot of pics.  I did hit a few big landmarks, including the much safer Rialto Wigwam Village and Roy’s, but once I got back into LA, I drove to Santa Monica to say I hit the end and then quickly came home to my nice, soft, fluffy bed.  As a result, California gets the short end of the stick on the blog, but when you live somewhere the allure just isn’t the same.

 

It’s taken me a few weeks to get all the pics posted on here, and I have to be honest, I am still pretty tired.  While it was indeed an epic road trip, it was exhausting.  I don’t think three weeks was enough time.  Maybe three weeks would have been okay for just the Route 66 drive, but adding on the drive to Chicago to start was a bit more than I should have probably planned.  I am glad I did it, though, and the memories will last a lifetime!

Do EPIC Sh*t Road Trip / Route 66: New Mexico

The very first thing I did when I crossed over into New Mexico was stop for Mexican food.  When you are a SoCal girl and have been on the road for more than two weeks, you need some tacos!  Once tacos were in my belly, my day instantly improved.

I timed my Route 66 trip specifically so that I passed through Albuquerque during the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.  The balloon fiesta has been on my bucket list for years, so I was fairly singularly focused on the New Mexico route.  It is AMAZING to stand on the field and watch all of the balloons go up around you during a mass ascension.  I tried to get picks with the sky full of balloons, but it was difficult to fit many balloons in a frame given where I was on the ground.

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You will just have to trust me that it takes your breath away.  I did, however, get amazing pictures of individual balloons.  These were some of my favorites:

New Mexico, of course, does have other Route 66 stops.  Most are old (and culturally inappropriate) buildings shaped as teepees and sombreros.  You also pass the Continental Divide, which I was surprised was marked merely by a sign.   Unfortunately, New Mexico is also where my pretty new car had a rock hit the windshield, which left an ugly mark that resulted in me having to replace the windshield once I got home.  I didn’t sweat it too much, that is what insurance is for, after all.