G La Brea Tar Pits G Dinosaur Diamond Prehistoric Highway G Route 66 Oil Tour AMERICAN ROAD
VOLUME IX NUMBER 1
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VOLUME IX • NUMBER 1 • SPRING 2011
American Road Magazine • PO Box 46519 • Mt. Clemens, Michigan • 48046 • Phone (877) 285-5434 • Fax (877) 285-5434 • www.americanroadmagazine.com
20 Jurassic Lark: Driving the Dinosaur Diamond Prehistoric Highway
Editor’s Rambler “Here Be Dinosaurs”
Pack your loincloth and your Jurassic maps. The Dinosaur Diamond loops 512 miles through Utah and Colorado, catching small towns, sandstone arches, and fossilized bones in its jaws. • CRAIG & LIZ LARCOM • JILLIAN GURNEY
Letters from Our Readers.
42 American Road’s Dinosaur Drive From Oregon’s Caveman Bridge to Ontario’s Extinction Theatre, and Oklahoma’s Dinovator to Florida’s brontosaurus-shaped garage, we visit twenty-four of North America’s premier prehistoric sites. • ENSEMBLE
68 Boiling La Brea Thousands of years before the dawn of freeways and film studios, one area of Los Angeles captured all it encountered in bubbling black pools. • TONY CRAIG
Write-of-Way Who’s Driving? Contest
10 Friends in the Fast Lane: Road Event Retrospect Pontiac Museum Preserves Auto’s Past. Lincoln Highway Buy-Way Always a Bargain. Munger Moss Brightens Mother Road Night.
12 Memory Motel
Cave Springs Motel, Dunsmuir, California. • CRAIG & LIZ LARCOM
14 Tunnel Vision: News Around the Road
80 Destination: Dinosaur Land Located midway between Winchester and Front Royal, Virginia, Dinosaur Land thrills not because it wows with technology, but because it awakens a child’s imagination. • MARK A. VERNARELLI
Mercedes Pens. Saving Mesa’s Historic Spa. Fan Takes Frogger Too Far. US 50 Loses Its Shoes. Seal Ordeal Along US 101. US 2 Electric Avenue.
61 Think Big!
Claude Bell’s Dinosaurs, Cabazon, California. • ERIKA NELSON
67 Diner Days
Roadside Diner, Wall, New Jersey. • PETER GENOVESE
34 One to 101
“Peabody’s Way-Back Machine”
Aim your time machine at the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History to see what some call “the Sistine Chapel of evolution.” • PETER GENOVESE
62 Drive the Old Spanish Trail
Off Interstate 10, in the middle of what looks like West Texas wasteland, lies a spring-fed pool—an oasis of the desert. • JOHN MURPHEY
74 Route 66 Kicks!
“Duke of Oil”
In Oklahoma and eastern Texas travelers can’t swing a hard hat without hitting an oil or gas well. The Duke of Oil shares a tour. • JERRY MCCLANAHAN
84 Thinkin’ Lincoln
“Brittle House on the Prairie”
Thomas Boylan’s “Dinosaurium” gave him an edge against other gas stations between Medicine Bow and Rock River, Wyoming. • CRAIG & LIZ LARCOM
90 America’s Playgrounds
The Flintstones. • TONY CRAIG
88 Inspection Station Tripledge® Green Wiper Blades. Haunted Wisconsin. In Remembrance of You. The Complete Civil War Road Trip Guide. Ionic Clean® Washing System. Motion Performance: Tales of a Muscle Car Builder.
94 Advertiser Index 95 Park Place Your Curbside Calendar
96 John Claar’s Hitching Post Road Gifts & Souvenirs
Take volcanic activity, a twelve-mile lake, and a tropical ecosystem. Add time. The result? A national monument in Florissant, Colorado. • ALLAN BURNS
79 Hollywood Boulevard
98 American Crossroad Puzzle “Reinventing the Wheel”
THOMAS ARTHUR REPP Executive Editor & Art Director REBECCA REPP General Manager
ge finds most of us faster than we anticipate. Plodding, it comes on crinkled feet, making remarkable time for something determined to slow us down. The passing of years turns all into dinosaurs. We take a little longer to wade into our morning coffee. We chew our leaf lettuce with less resolve. Behind us, the world fills with younger chattering animals, beating their briefcases and peeling their pencils, frantically climbing toward their day in the sun. Fine, says I, let them have their bananas. Old doesn’t mean extinct. And often the oldest means achieve the best ends. As proof I cite American Road. We conceived this magazine to look back through the decades—toward the two-lane highways, small towns, and mom-and-pop motels and diners that make road travel an engaging experience. At the same time we embraced an idea older than the wheel: that every road tells a story. Rehashing simple route directions would never suit our audience. Presenting lifeless lists of facts would also fail to please. We needed writers who could unravel the meaning in each mile. How did we do? Readers can weigh the evidence: You hold in your hands the first issue of our ninth volume—an issue we informally call our “Dinosaur-Sized Edition.” It contains some fifty-percent more pages than the issues of our earliest era. Our lead feature—“Jurassic Lark: Driving the Dinosaur Diamond Prehistoric Highway”—explores the largest scenic byway we’ve showcased to date, a rocky, rolling romp 512 miles in length that loops around Utah and Colorado catching compelling destinations in its claws. Travelers can weigh the provocative wisdom of naturalist Edward Abbey as they stroll around the sandstone circles of Arches National Park. They can find a fossilized tooth as a volunteer digger at Mygatt-Moore Quarry near Fruita, Colorado, and consider an ossified diplodocus femur at Dinosaur National Monument. “American Road’s Dinosaur Drive” appears as our latest ensemble piece. Eleven of our best authors investigate twenty-four dinosaur-famous sites around the US and Canada, from the one-of-a-kind archaeopteryx fossil at Wyoming’s Dinosaur Center to the toothy mouth of the megalodon display at North Carolina’s Aurora Fossil Museum. Astute eyes might note two Jurassic giants missing from the tally: California’s La Brea Tar Pits and Virginia’s Dinosaur Land earned independent places among our antediluvian features. Atop this bedrock our department editors toss additional alluring bones. They visit the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History, San Solomon Springs, Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, and the Lincoln Highway’s Fossil Cabin. “Route 66 Kicks!” author Jerry McClanahan goes so far as to shape a fossil-fuel tour of the Mother Road through Oklahoma and eastern Texas. Now, there’s a slick kick. On occasion I encounter younger or inexperienced writers who simply can’t grasp my reptilian resistance to cutting corners. “Why work so hard?” they jabber at me. “Conserve time. Craft fast. Come on. We’ll buy you a banana daiquiri.” My reply never varies. “This is American Road,” I remind them. Here be dinosaurs. And we still have a lot of life left in our tails.
Executive Editor G ON OUR WINDSHIELD: A metal chromosaur—a sculpture crafted from car bumpers—stands at the Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Museum in Grand Prairie, Texas. See story on page 49. OPPOSITE PAGE: The Dinovator inside the Sam Noble Museum at Norman, Oklahoma, brings riders eye to eye with an apatosaurus. See story on page 43. Photographs by Craig & Liz Larcom.
ALLAN BURNS ROBERT KLARA WILLIAM ZINKUS Editors GUY COOK Webmaster FOSTER BRAUN Podcast Co-host CAT CUTILLO JILLIAN GURNEY CRAIG & LIZ LARCOM LYNN MILLER CURTIS OSMUN LYNN SELDON MIKE SEVON KARRAS STRASBURG LEEDA TURPIN Roadside Contributors PETER GENOVESE JOE HURLEY JERRY McCLANAHAN JOHN MURPHEY ERIKA NELSON ALICE & JOHN WM. RIDGE MARK A. VERNARELLI Department Editors STEPHANIE FERNANDEZ MICHAEL GASSMANN Associate Graphic Designers LYNN MILLER DAVE PRESTON Product Reviewers TONY CRAIG AMY C. ELLIOTT Staff Photographers ROBERT C. CLAAR Roadside Consultant TRACY WAWRZYNIAK Circulation LYNETTE NIELSEN Hitching Post Sales JENNIFER & PAT BREMER Online Forum Moderators
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AMERICAN ROAD (ISSN 1542-4316) is published quarterly by Mock Turtle Press, LLC. Included in EBSCO Publishing’s products. Copyright © 2011 by Mock Turtle Press. All rights reserved. Printed in the USA. Printed on recycled paper.
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KVSBTTJD! DRIVING THE DINOSAUR DIAMOND PREHISTORIC HIGHWAY
CRAIG & LIZ LARCOM •
WITH ADDITIONS BY
TERMINUS: Vernal, Utah (Circular Route) DISTANCE: 512 miles (plus side trips)
Visitors here not only see a variety of dinosaurs on display, they can step outside and meet the rocky landscape that once encased these bones. Quarries along the route invite the curious to see how dino bones are excavated. And for those who want to get dirty, a Colorado museum even offers visitors the chance to go into the field and dig for themselves.
Connecting this dinosaur glory are roads famous in their own right. The Dinosaur Diamond incorporates sections of US Highways 6, 40, and 50. Segments of early, obsolete roadbed—particularly portions of old US 6 and 50 between Green River, Utah, and the Colorado border—tickle old-road archeologists. 191
Fort Duchesne Myton
Cleveland I C E RIV E
Dewey 128 313
Thompson Springs Crescent Junction
as there ever been a byway with as much rock and roll as the Dinosaur Diamond Prehistoric Highway? Probably not. After all, the route rolls for 512 miles on a loop that highlights rock, rock, and more rock, in the form of fossilized dinosaur bones, mountains, steep canyons, and soaring arches. And that 512 miles doesn’t include the Dinosaur’s optional four “legs.” Missing from the official route are 470 miles of roads labeled “excursions,” which extend from each corner of the diamond-shaped core. Spinning out and back to the rest of the sites—no less interesting than those along the diamond itself—brings the total to nearly one thousand road miles. That’s the kind of grand scale that matches the humongous critters that once lived in the neighborhood. Like most dinosaur destinations, the twostate route in Utah and Colorado inhabits blue-sky country. That’s no fluke. Gray, rainy skies make for a thick layer of plants on the surface of the land, which cloaks any fossils that might be lying about. The barren, eroding landscape of the semi-arid West exposes plenty of rock, revealing new dinosaur fossils each year. Owing to a strong showing of Jurassic rock, the Diamond rings with legendary names from the annals of dinosaur discovery. Dinosaur National Monument and ClevelandLloyd quarry, places of unsurpassed Jurassic dinosaur concentration, head the list. From sources such as these, the lands of the Dinosaur Diamond have populated many a dinosaur museum in distant places. The Jurassic dinos dominate local museums, too.
Dinosaur Diamond Prehistoric Highway • 550 Jurassic Court • Fruita, Colorado 81521 • (800) DIG-DINO • dinosaurdiamond.org
24 Sites That Bring Out the Road’s Inner Reptile…
Wall, New Jersey BY PETER GENOVESE
he Roadside Diner in Wall, New Jersey, is one of the most beautiful diners in the state, with its distinctive red railroad-car-style roof, yellow awnings and trim, and immaculate Silk City interior. The diner can be seen in John Sayles’ 1983 movie Baby It’s You. The booths and counter of the eatery’s classic interior appear on the cover of Bon Jovi’s 1994 album Cross Road: 14 Classic Grooves. Oh yeah, and there’s a dinosaur outside. The fearsome-looking green stegosaurus sculpture was built by Jim Gary, who before his death in 2006 was the nation’s preeminent dinosaur sculptor. Gary, who lived in nearby Farmingdale, made his dinosaurs out of leaf springs, oil pans, rocker arms, and other car salvage materials. His traveling exhibition, Twentieth Century Dinosaurs, toured the world from the late 1970s through 2004. And he was a huge fan of the Roadside Diner. “He would come in here three times a day to eat,’’ says owner Demetris “Jimmy” Gerakaris. Gerakaris rescued the classic diner from near oblivion in 1998. The quality of the food had slipped, and a fire had damaged the vintage Silk City structure the year previous. Gerakaris and his wife, Toula, spent three months fixing the place up, and the food’s much better. Gerakaris is a quiet, friendly man who pops out of the kitchen frequently to ask customers whether their food is okay. He’s the only person permitted in the kitchen besides his dishwasher. “I work alone,’’ he explains. “I don’t let anyone else make the food. If you want a tuna salad, I make it to order. If you want a burger, I make it to order. I do it—no one else.’’
The Roadside is homey and comforting in a way the shiny new multimillion diners will never be. Dig the painted food on the wall: burgers, fries, and Coca-Cola, Maxwell House can, cup of coffee, and plate of pancakes. The real-life pancakes, nice and fluff y, are a good place to start on the menu. The omelets are recommended, especially the International (bacon, mozzarella, American, Swiss), big and refreshingly free of the greasy texture of most diner omelets. Pork cutlets are the most popular dish. Gerakaris is an old-school guy. He may offer French fries and cheese fries, but you’ll never find disco fries—that late-night favorite of high school kids—on his menu. (They’re fries smothered with gravy, if you’re not from Jersey.) In many ways, he’s a symbol from an earlier era—much like the dinosaur statue that stands outside. Living as we do in this modern age of plastic food and impersonal service, we can’t help but champion a place like the Roadside Diner where genuine rarities survive. G
Roadside Diner • 5016 State Route 33 & 34 • Wall, New Jersey 07727 • (732) 919-1199 • theroadsidediner.com • Photographs by the author.
A LO N G O N E LO S A N G E L E S AV E N U E , L I F E I S T H E P I T S
BY TONY 68
SEEING THE ‘SAURS IN VIRGINIA’S PREMIER PREHISTORIC PARK
omewhere back there, behind the gift shop counter, blowing around in the gale-force whirlwind of nostalgia between the moccasins, Civil War memorabilia, and miniature animals, Lynn Tevalt can be heard rattling off a list of superstars she’s met. There was comedian Dickie Smothers, golf legend Lee Trevino, and the gang from Sesame Street, who came to tape a show on “D for dinosaur.” When she emerges from the 1960s time warp—and comes up for air from the ceramic dolls, Nativity globes, and wind chimes—Lynn sums up her nearly seventeen years of working for Dinosaur Land at the northern tip of Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. “A lot of people who visited years ago come in with their kids and grandkids,” she says pleasantly. “People from foreign countries come in. You meet a lot of interesting people.” Built by Joe Geraci in 1963—and today run by his three daughters—Dinosaur Land stands at the intersection of US Highways 340 and 522, seventy miles west of Washington, D.C. The Shenandoah Valley’s many Civil War skirmishes remain alive today in books, folders, and memorabilia inside the largest section of the three-room Dinosaur Land gift shop. Equally prominent are t-shirts, Native American items, candy, cedar Bible cases, earrings, and, yes, dinosaurs.
MARK A. VERNARELLI SPRING 2011