Hotels and Motels, Rest Stops, Restaurants

The Orange Roofs

Those orange roofs.  I never had any problem spotting one of them from the back seat of the dark green four door Mercury we’d take our family road trips in. Howard Johnsons, and those orange roofs, meant one of two things: 1. Ice cream. 2. Motel with a swimming pool.  As soon as I spotted one, I’d cross my fingers and hope with all my might that we’d pull in for one of the other. Or both.

Howard Johnsons was that kind of a place for a little girl like me. No matter how I looked at it, it always meant fun. I know now my parents loved the restaurants because the food they served was always good no matter what location we stopped at. They also knew us kids would spend hours expending energy in the swimming pools at the lodges if we decided to spend the night at one, making us much more agreeable to spend hours on the road with the next day. Howard Johnsons was a win-win for our entire family.

The Howard Johnson’s empire began in 1925 when Howard Deering Johnson started his first soda fountain in a drugstore he bought in Wollaston (Quincy), Massachusetts. He purchased that drugstore after his father died and left the family with $40,000 in debt.

There’s a bit of a debate as to where the recipe for the now famous ice cream came from – some say it was his mother’s recipe, others say it was purchased from German immigrant, William Hallbauer, who owned an ice cream shop in Quincy. Whoever the original source was, Johnson added more butterfat to the ice cream recipe and purchased a special freezer to help keep it “exceptionally” smooth. Word got around quickly about that excellent ice cream. That $40,000 debt was gone within three years.

“I think that building my business was my only form of recreation. I ate, slept and thought of nothing but my business.” – Howard Johnson. 

And that’s exactly what he did over the next several decades –  giving us a “Landmark for Hungry Americans” along the highways.

Oh those orange roofs….


Sources and further reading about the history of Howard Johnson’s:
There Will Soon Be Just One Howard Johnson Restaurant Left in the United StatesFortune Magazine, August 24, 2016
The Last Howard Johnson’s In The Universe –
A History of Howard Johnson’s by Anthony Mitchell Samarco 

Essays, U.S. Highways

Highway Signs Added to Faded Highways on eBay Today

I’ve added a couple of vintage U.S. Highway signs from my own collection to Faded Highways on eBay today. I’m not sure how old they are. Both signs are scratched, beaten up and bruised but this just means they hold a lot of character, right? Both are authentic and were actually used on the highways.

If only these old signs could talk, I’d be all ears…

Click on the image to be taken to the eBay listing for this authentic Highway 51 road sign.

U.S. 51 was one of the original 1926 U.S. Highways and ran from Hurley, Wisconsin south through Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi and Louisiana. At one point it was over 1300 miles long. I’m not sure which of the states this sign was used in. It’s all metal and measures 36” x 36”.

Click on the image to be taken to the eBay listing for this authentic Highway 99E road sign.

This one was used along the highway in Oregon. Highway 99E was the part of U.S. Highway 99 that ran from Portland to Junction City, Oregon. U.S. 99 was an original 1926 U.S. Highway, and traveled over 1500 miles from Washington State south through Oregon and California. It was decommissioned in 1972. This sign measures 30” wide x 42.5” tall and is in used vintage condition.

There’s a lot more pictures at the eBay listings! These auctions end Sunday, November 26, 2017.

Book Reviews, Essays

Book Review – John Baeder’s Road Well Taken

John Baeder’s Road Well Taken
by Jay Williams
Copyright 2015, Vendome Press New York
272 pages

John Baeder’s Road Well Taken on:
Amazon | Indiebound | Goodreads

Look at the picture on the cover of this book. It precisely illustrates the vanishing roadside culture us roadside junkies would prefer to be in, right? Now look again. The old cars, the signs, the building? Not a photograph. It’s a painting. One that comes from the thoughtful mind and astounding talent of master photorealist painter, John Baeder. If you have never seen John Baeder’s work I assume you’re as surprised as I was when I first saw this book in the bookstore. Even now, my heart speeds up when I see it. Baeder’s paintings are nothing short of magical and this book is filled with them.

Yes, I am a big fan.

“Baeder is at heart a communicator who is amazingly effective when he has an opportunity to present his art in conjunction with essay and anecdote. His interest in national identity could be expressed only in personal, mythic terms.”  – art historian and author, Jay Williams

This is exactly what we get with this book. Thank goodness.

I bought this 10 x 10 inch book back in April of 2016,  and it’s been following me from room to room ever since. Every page is filled with Baeder’s incredible images coupled with his own words as well as Williams’ heartfelt, conversational text. It never fails to cheer me up and make me smile. I love this book. John Baeder’s Road Well Taken provides an escape into the place where that roadside culture and sense of community converge. I love spending time there. This book is the story behind these paintings that Baeder has graciously given us over the past 40 years.

When I bought this book I was not aware of John Baeder. That’s a shame and I’m ashamed to admit it.  I was aware of the “diner consciousness” movement his paintings provoked, but knew little about the man and his art. Before the diner paintings he might be most known for,  Baeder gave us powerful documentary-style photography inspired by the FSA photographers, he collected and continues to share his photographs and images of the vanishing hand-lettered signs he has found in his travels and he has always been a steward of the American roadside culture I am so consumed by. He has painted many, many scenes from small-towns and cities throughout the country and I feel right at home in every one of them. Needless to say, today, I am VERY aware of and VERY grateful for John Baeder. With this book,  the books he himself has written,  his website and his Instagram feeds (@johnbaeder and @gmmebbq) John Baeder has become a pretty big deal around here. I wouldn’t hesitate to call him an inspiration.

This book is a biography of John Baeder’s passion. He communicates his respect for the values of  roadside culture with every incredible painting. The still-lifes inspired by 17th, 18th and 19th century European still-life artists using north light and the vintage 1930s and WWII military airplanes that came later offer that same respect and admiration of subjects from the painter. Anyone that has even a remote interest in roadside culture, art, and/or painting would find great value here. I learned a lot in these pages about history, painting, John Baeder, even about myself. Jay Williams is an excellent writer, and I’m grateful he included so many quotes from Baeder himself. It’s enlightening to see how Baeder was affected by these places and the photographs and postcards from them and how they came to fruition later in his painting. It’s not a chronological book, but it is logical and covers the 40+ years of his artistic career from Atlanta to New York to Nashville.  It begins just before Baeder decided to become a full-time painter. At the time, he was the Art Director at New York City’s largest advertising agency, McCann-Erickson. As a former employee of a Chicago ad agency, I felt an instant connection to Baeder when I read that. I wasn’t an art director, but because of that experience, I know that the art director position he held was a very big deal and probably paid very well. To leave it behind and pursue a passion like painting is just one way Mr. Baeder inspires me.

I also felt a connection when I read about his postcard collection and his love of photography. I love these things too, and we have a similar (i.e., the same) interest in subjects. As I read through the book, more than once I said to anyone who was listening, “Me too! I do that too! How in the world did I not know of him before?!” Like I said, it’s a shame I didn’t.

The chapters of this book take the reader on an authentic roadside journey through the midcentury America that existed before the interstates. All of it through Baeder’s unique eye – his thoughtful, creative, unique eye – and his mega-talented ability to preserve these moments of our history. Photography and photographers, especially of the documentary genre, along with color-saturated linen postcards inspired Mr. Baeder, but his “respect for the culture of the common folk” is, in my opinion, what elevates his paintings in the hearts and minds of viewers.

“Baeder was concerned with “the humanistic implications of roadside architecture.”

It’s a simple explanation, but true. When I see the paintings I feel this. It’s exactly what makes them so special and what makes me feel so attached to them.

The largest section of the book is of course devoted to the diners. John Baeder started the diner preservation trend in the late 70’s when he drew attention to diner history with his paintings. He became an expert in diner culture when he crossed the country on “diner hunts” that were meant to inspire his art. He “created paintings that enshrined diner values,” says Williams. “He was very interested in their place in American culture.” There are well over a hundred of Baeder’s diner paintings in this book. Every time I stop and look at one I see something I didn’t see before. The detail, lighting, sharpness in each image amazes me.

After relating the “Final Diner Series” in Baeder’s career, Williams touches on what has come after. I’ve come to thinking of them as “bonus chapters” because they’re filled with subjects I didn’t expect when I first picked this book up. “The Still Lifes: An Inner Road Trip” is the chapter filled with the story behind the images of vintage cars, books, fruits and other objects Baeder has done since the diner days. The next chapter, “Taking Wing on a Higher Road” is filled with the monochromatic military airplane paintings he’s done recently.

The book is printed on sturdy paper with a design that does the images justice. Well, as much justice as a small reprint of an original painting of a 60″ x 72″ canvas can do.  It’s beautiful. I love getting lost in it. Author Jay Williams has written several essays on art and has developed and managed dozens of exhibitions for art museums and universities during his career as a curator. Williams curated the four-museum retrospective of Pleasant Journeys and Good Eats Along The Way: The paintings of John Baeder while he was curator at the Morris Museum in Augusta, Georgia.  John Baeder is a “captivating, complex, multifaceted” man and Jay Williams has done a great job of telling the reader why he feels like that. I appreciate that, but it’s John Baeder himself that makes this a book to hold on to and read often. He loves his subjects as much as we do.

Further reading:

After reading John Baeder’s Road Well Taken, I found Postcard America: Curt Teich and the Imaging of a Nation 1931-1950, by Jay Meilke, copyright 2016 from the University of Texas Press. It’s an excellent book about Curt Teich Chicago and the linen postcards that inspired Mr. Baeder. It references him several times which lends it a lot of credibility considering the size of Baeder’s collection of these cards.

“He found enchantment, awe and important artifacts of American culture in the creative tension between the postcards photographic realism and their surreal treatments,” says Williams.

Books by John Baeder:

Diners (1978)
Gas Food and Lodging (1982)
Diners Revised and Updated (1995)
Sign Language (1996)
Pleasant Journeys and Good Eats Along the Way: The Paintings of John Baeder (2007)

John Baeder’s Road Well Taken
Amazon | Indiebound | Goodreads

Auto Trails, Stories from the Trails

Scenes along the Sunset Highway in Washington State

The Sunset Highway  was once the main thoroughfare across the middle of Washington State.  It was born from a variety of Indian and wagon roads and became the most direct route to Puget Sound for farmers and other businesses. It was approximately 300 miles long.

It was 1913, when the Washington State Highway Board officially designated the Sunset Highway as a primary state road starting at the Pacific Highway in the west, over the Snoqualmie Pass in the Cascade Mountains, through the Yakima River Valley, through Wenatchee, Waterville and Spokane to the Idaho border in the east.  The Sunset Highway and the National Park to Park Highway shared the road over the 3,000 foot Snoqualmie Pass. In 1923, part of the Sunset Highway became Washington State Highway 2, and later in the 1920s, U.S. Highway 10 shared the road too. Highway 10 ultimately became a part of the transcontinental route between Detroit and Seattle. The route of the Sunset Highway moved closer and closer to the route of today’s I-90, which has ultimately replaced it and the highways it became over the years.

Over the years  a growing automobile population and road improvements led to many businesses catering to the auto traveler springing up and lining the highway. Especially east of the Cascade mountains. Below are postcard scenes and other images of landscapes, motels and restaurants along the route from the days of the Sunset Highway and later when it was replaced by Highway 2 and U.S. Highway 10.



Sources and further reading:

Sunset Highway on Faded Highways
Sunset Highway at History Link
The Spokesman-Review (Spokane)
Washington’s Sunset Highway by Chuck Flood – Arcadia Publishing’s Images of America Series, August, 2014

Places, Stories from the Highways, U.S. Highways

Highway 61 – Bob Dylan Way, Duluth

“Highway 61, the main thoroughfare of  country blues, begins about where I began.” – from his memoir,  Chronicles, Vol 1 – by Bob Dylan
Back in 2006, the city of Duluth, Minnesota dedicated a 1.8 mile route through its downtown to its hometown boy, Bob Dylan. The Bob Dylan Way  just happens to be a part of the old U.S. Highway 61 (now the Scenic North Shore Drive and State Highway 61), which Dylan himself says in his 2005 memoir, Chronicles, Vol. 1 is “where I began”. It’s also the title to his sixth studio album, Highway 61 Revisited.

Bob Dylan was born Robert Zimmerman at St. Mary’s Hospital on East 3rd Street in Duluth on May 24, 1941. While he moved 75 miles away (along U.S. 53) to Hibbing at six years old, Duluth holds the highway that means so much to him.

“I always felt like I started on it, and could go anywhere, even down in to the deep delta country. It was the same road, full of the same contradictions, the same one horse towns, the same spiritual ancestors. It was my place in the universe, always felt like it was in my blood.” – from Chronicles, Vol. 1. 

In Duluth, there are three artistic manhole covers designed by three different artists dedicated to Dylan’s life along the route:

This Yin and Yang guitar manhole cover was designed by Mark Zapchenek and can be found in front of the Fitger’s Hotel at 600 E. Superior St.
Artist Laurel Sanders, inspired by Dylan’s song “Subterranean Homesick Blues”, designed this manhole cover with a pair of boots, a hand lighting a candle and a guitar. It’s installed near the Duluth Depot at the corners of W. Michigan St. and S 5th Ave. W.
This manhole cover was designed by graphic artist, Heidie Geyer and made by David Everett out of melted radiators . This one is at the corner of 13th Avenue East and London Road.

Armed with information about the project on the internet, we walked the streets of downtown Duluth to find these on a recent stay in Duluth. Since Hubby is a big time Dylan fan, it was a fun walk in what we think is a great town.

Today, Highway 61 runs over 1500 miles in nine states (it’s been decommissioned in Illinois) between New Orleans and Wyoming, Minnesota where it turns into State Highway 61 and follows the shore of Lake Superior to Grand Portage, Minnesota. Highway 61 is also known as the “Blues Highway” and is chock-full of music history throughout the route. I can vouch for this being a fantastic road trip by the way, and one that can be seen and heard about through Dylan’s songs on Highway 61 Revisited.

Further Reading:

September 14, 2010 – Artists bring Dylan’s music to manhole covers destined for Duluth – MPR News –


Bob Dylan  | Rolling Stone 

The Late Voice – Google Books

The Cambridge Companion to Bob Dylan – Google Books

Hotels and Motels

The Del Tahquitz Hotel – Palm Springs, California


Del Tahquitz Hotel Palm Springs, California – Linen Postcard street view

I picked up a couple of pretty linen postcards last week of the Del Tahquitz Hotel in Palm Springs, California. That led me, as these purchases usually do, to find more information about this lovely place….

Fritz Ridgeway, silent film actress, builder of the Del Tahquitz Hotel

The Del Tahquitz Hotel, named after the nearby Tahquitz River Canyon, was originally an ode to the Pueblo Style of architecture that silent filmactress, Fritzi Ridgeway, loved so much when she built the hotel in the late 1920s. It was part of the Palm Springs’ transformation from a “health resort” for respiratory patients to an exclusive winter resort for the wealthy.  The Del Tahquitz was built at the corner of Palm Canyon Drive and Baristo St. in Palm Springs. Ridgeway loved American Indian styles and decorated the Del Tahquitz with Indian art she had collected on her travels. The hotel officially opened on November 28, 1929.


The Tahquitz’s Saddle Bar X with its saddle bar stools.

Ridgeway sold the hotel after just a year (or more, depending which source you  refer to) to Tom and Wilberta “Billie” Lipps.  Under their watch, the hotel became known for a variety of things like the Saddle Bar X (A western bar with bar stools made from saddles)…..

Pool deck at the Del Tawquitz

…the pool and nude sun bathing at the rooftop solarium. Among other things. Like an ice rink floor in the dining room? I couldn’t find a picture of that….

By all accounts, the Del Tahquitz was a favorite place for pilots ferrying airplanes to the Palm Springs Air Field during World War II. The Ferry Command, as they were known, loved the place. Especially Billie, who became “mom” to them whenever they visited. She was the first female president of the California Hotel Association but her main love was taking care of her “boys” in the Ferry Command. Many of those pilots corresponded with Billie until her death, at age 96, in 1991.

Courtyard at the Del Tahquitz

The Lipps sold the hotel in 1946 to M.A. Charleston who sold it again in 1960 to the Santa Fe Federal Savings and Loan. They demolished it soon after they purchased it to make way for their new headquarters.

This is the back of one of the postcards I bought last week. I couldn’t find any reference anywhere to the J. H. Norman who is listed as owner of the Del Tahquitz here.

Sources and further reading: – A USA Today newspaper.

Resorts of Riverside County by Steve Lech, Arcadia Publishing  – Google Books

City of Palm Springs Citywide Historic Context Statement

This is Palm Springs Blog – (hasn’t been updated since – Online University of California image archive.

Lobby at the Del Tawquitz
Guest room at the Del Tahquitz Hotel
Dining room at the Del Tahquitz
Lobby Sketch
The Del Tahquitz
Book Reviews, Essays

Cookbook Review: Route 66 Cookbook – Comfort Food From the Mother Road

Route 66 Cookbook, Deluxe Edition: Comfort Food From the Mother Road
by Marian Clark
Copyright 2003 (Originally Published in 1995)
Council Oak Books
272 Pages
The paperback version appears to be out of print, but is available at used book stores and at Amazon. The hardcover version is currently in stock at Amazon.

Marian Clark travelled Route 66 many times to collect the recipes included in this cookbook and it shows, she knows her stuff.   There are several recipes from several restaurants from every state the highway travels through. This cookbook is an ambitious labor of love for the author and a lot of fun for the nostalgia-loving reader as well as the home cook. As Michael Wallis says in the introduction, “Eateries on 66 are as varied as their owners.” And that’s exactly what Marian Clark has curated with this collection.

We begin in Chicago and end in California, just like the highway itself. Recipes from Navy Pier in Chicago to the Santa Monica Pier in California are here. From ethnic foods like Mexican Squash to pure American diner staples like French toast and any one of a dozen or so burgers, they’re all here. And pie. There’s a lot of pie. 2400 miles of food divided by state. As an avid home cook and lover of food,  I can’t think of a better way to experience a place than it’s food and Marian Clark has given us quite a Route 66 experience. I’ve taken road trips on the Mother Road several times, but have not had the pleasure of eating in many of the places along it. I appreciate having these recipes! There are dozens of interesting mini-histories written about each restaurant and the towns they’re in that make this an adventure in food culture.  The restaurants  all have a description with them that includes its relationship to the highway too, like if it’s still there or how it came down if it’s not. Using old postcards to illustrate the book makes it all feel exactly right. Marian Clark is a terrific writer. You can tell she loves her subject and that makes all the difference.

Some recipes are restaurant-sized (i.e. huge) but all have been scaled down for home cooking. I found it interesting to see those big recipes though and how these cooks prepared their food for the mass of visitors every day. For instance, the first ingredient in the Palmer House Hilton French Quarter Seafood Gumbo? 2 quarts of oil.  No worries, a more manageable Gumbo recipe for us home cooks is right next to it but I love that these are included.

I feel right at home and comfortable with these recipes and have had a lot of fun cooking them. All the extra nostalgia and history makes me feel like I’m right there at the restaurant out there on the road. I’ve come across a handful of typos, but I haven’t found one in a recipe yet. In fact, the only negative I have for this book is that the index is horrible. Actually, there are two indexes, one by recipe and one by restaurant. One of the first things that caught my eye in the book was the Banana Cake from the U Drop Inn in Texas. I didn’t write down the page number when I saw it, thinking I’d be able to find it again in the index, and couldn’t remember what restaurant or state it was in. The index wasn’t helpful in finding it by simply looking up “Banana Cake.” (I never did find it in the index until I had the name of the restaurant) I had to go through each page (albeit gladly) to find it again. This time I marked all the recipes I wanted to try first. Problem solved.

Some of the recipes we’ve tried so far:

Black Bean Salad or Salsa

Bean Salad or Salsa, p. xx – from Molly’s Landing, Catossa, Oklahoma

It’s also good as a quesadilla filling, which has turned out to be our favorite way of eating it (with some Monterey Jack cheese). Many of the ingredients in this recipe came from canned vegetables, making it easy to mix together, but I can’t wait to try it with farmer’s market produce. It’s a pleasure to eat. It feels fresh, has a crunchy texture and made more than enough for other uses or leftovers.

U Drop Inn’s Banana Cake

Banana Cake, p. 110 – from the U Drop Inn, Shamrock, Texas

I’ve been eyeing this cake since I first saw this cookbook in our local library a year ago. It screams “traditional diner food”  to me. I finally got to try it last week and I’m happy as can be with it! I know this might sound funny but I love that it’s a sheet cake baked in a 9 x 13 cake pan. I can just see it sitting on my grandparents’ kitchen countertop, with that sliding metal lid on it, waiting for our arrival. Grandpa always had a cake in that thing and this cake lives up to that sweet memory. It’s funny how food can bring up memories you thought were long gone. Anyway, I will probably add another banana to this cake next time, but other than that it’s sheet cake paradise. I can remember hating not enjoying caramel frosting on anything back in the day, but I sure enjoyed this one. We’ll definitely make this cake again. And again. Delicious.

Potato Pancakes

Potato Pancakes, p. 2 – from Polka Sausage and Deli, Chicago

I put Hubby in charge of this one. After all, he is the potato master at our house, and he was up to giving these a go. We both thought they were good, but I have to be honest, I wanted them to be a little crispier. Hubby reminded me that they’re pancakes, and not hash browns, and I accepted that. Sort of. We served ours with apple sauce and homemade rhubarb ketchup (the only way to go for these, in my opinion). I’m sure Hubby will make these again, he really loves them.

Meiki’s Route 66 Fettuccini Alfredo

Fettuccini Alfredo, p. 97 – Meiki’s Route 66 Restaurant, Oklahoma City

We don’t eat much Fettuccini Alfredo around here, but I had to try this because pasta of any kind brings back good memories from road trips. I’m not sure why, but it does and this one lives up to those memories. Once again it was a good eat and so simple to make.

I am loving how the recipes in this book bring back such good memories of road trips we’ve taken, says a lot for them.

The La Fonda French Toast

French Toast, p. 140 – from LaFonda, Santa Fe, New Mexico

It has been years since I’ve had French toast anywhere. Not sure why, because it’s one of my all time favorite things. I had some leftover Apricot Fennel bread that was sort of a bust for other uses, but it was absolutely perfect for French toast. This took just a few minutes to make and it was amazing. Great texture, nice flavor and yeah, it reminded us of a diner breakfast out on the road.

It doesn’t get any better than this!
There are so many recipes left to try, we’ll be cooking from it for years to come. This cookbook is a treasure!