I recently returned from a round trip to Tacoma to deliver 11 neon signs and 2 three dimensional neon/ metal margarita glasses that were 6′ tall. They were purchased by a client that has been a great customer for a few years now, THE RAM/ Big Horn Brewing Co. The total trip was just under 5000 miles. We made it there and back in 7 days of hard running. My father Richard Sanders went with me, so I’m lucky that I didn’t have to drive it myself, and it was good company.
• DAY 1- Loaded UHAUL truck Thur.7/20 and left 6 a.m. Fri. Morning with my fiancee Sarah still sleeping. Made it to Limon,Colo. by 12 a.m. 875 Miles. Went through Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado.
• DAY 2- Left Limon at 6 a.m. looking for a good Mom/Pop cafe in Denver to have breakfast. Couldn’t find one on the old highway. Stopped at one of the last WAFFLE HOUSES we would see on the entire trip. I love Waffle House, they have become a staple of my road trip experience since my childhood. I once spent 2 days at a motel in Chattanooga Tenn.eating nothing but Waffle House for breakfast, lunch and supper. When you walk in to one, everyone behind the counter says hello, it’s a welcome gesture when you’re far from home. We saw many old cars and some cool neon signs until Laramie, Wy, where all things cool dropped out of sight for the entire state of Wyoming.The one great event was picking up a unique bluegrass/ blues station on the radio. If you’ve never listened to a guy named Jerry Douglas, treat yourself to one of his albums. Saw a widfire on a mountain in Snowville, Utah. Ogden, Utah was the prettiest part of this stretch. My friend Wayne” the train” Hancock called me on my cell and said that he was in Wyoming that day too. He was heading to Jackson Hole to play a gig.Check him out at waynehancock.com, he’s the best musician I’ve ever heard, and we’ve been friends for 17 years. As friends go,they don’t get any better. Stopped for dinner in Twin Falls, Idaho. We saw the snake river canyon, where Evel Kneivel tried to jump it in the early 70’s. We were really tired, but when we tried to get a motel room we found out that the entire town was full because of the brave firefighters trying to put out the blaze in Snowville that we had passed earlier that day.We drove on through until 10 p.m. to Bliss,Idaho and found a great old motel for $49.Good people.
• DAY 3-Up at 6:30 a.m. and headed for Boise Idaho. We tried the same trick of getting off of the interstate and onto the old highway to find breakfast and this time we struck pure gold on State St. (old 44)just West of Boise. Merrit’s Scone Shack. Best damn breakfast in living memory. The entire cafe was full of the nicest people you could ever meet. The breakfast was great, and the scones were HUGE! A girl sitting by us ordered pancakes, and I swear they were the size of a large pizza. Drove 44 W. to the Oregon border. Absolutely beautiful country.Old cars, hundreds of old trucks, and dozens of cool vintage travel trailers dotted the landscape.Crossed into Oregon at 10 a.m. with full bellies and a new lease on life. I took some great snapshots of old neon signs for my collection, which now numbers more than 3000 photos. Baker City Oregon was a tiny jewell, nestled in the foothills along the Old Oregon Trail.An absolutely stunning treat to experience.There is a sign painter in Baker City that would do very well in Austin.As the vinyl sign companies grow throughout the country,the old towns are losing their local charm, but it was alive and well in this oasis. I wish i had gotten his name, but we rolled on through. We hit Pendleton at around 1 p.m.LET ‘ER BUCK! after coming off of Blue Mountain (6% grade) One of the must see’s on the trip was the Yakima Valley Museum, which houses many restored neon signs from Yakima Wahington’s heyday. It was beautiful to see the old signs, which were expertly refurbished to their former glory.The lady at the front desk was so happy to see a fellow neon afficianado that she drew us a map of the city so that we could see the neon signs that were still on the streets, some of which will be restored and placed in this amazing museum soon. Finally made it to Tacoma that night after the most grueling harrowing hour of my entire driving history.If you want to know what real pressure feels like, drive a UHAUL truck with a cargo of fragile neon signs, while pulling another car behind you down the 80 mile stretch of the Snowqualmie Mountain Pass on a Sunday evening with the local folks going 85 m.p.h. to get home after their weekend getaway. Oh yeah, it was raining like hell. I was so glad to see Tacoma. The steering wheel actually showed where my fingers gripped it. After a seafood dinner we passed out at a Motel 6, ready to deliver the shipment the next morning.
• DAY 4-Got up at 6 a.m. to arrange for the delivery. Had a great breakfast at a late 60’s era cafe called “THE LUCKY DUCK”. After our delivery, we left our happy customers and Washington State behind us. We dropped off the UHAUL and drove the car we had pulled for 2500 miles.We decided to go home through California, Arizona and New Mexico.Things were pretty uneventful for most of Oregon and California. We were doing 16 hour shifts of driving and averaging 850 miles per day, which is gettin’ it. We passed out every night and got up at 6 a.m. to go again.
• DAY 5-Although we had been on old ROUTE 66 many times, we had some great experiences on this trip. Barstow was truly amazing.We had lunch at the Palm Cafe. Chinese/ American food that was excellent.I gave a postcard that I bought in Baker City, Oregon to the mailman to mail for me. As I drove off, he was reading it with great interest. We hit I 40 like men possessed, stopping only temporarily in Kingman, Arizona to eat lunch at a place called the Lumberjack on Andy Devine St. We tried to make it to Seligman to the famous “Delgadillo’s Snow Cap” stand for supper, but as we pulled in to the drive, they were pulling away. I was sad to see that they weren’t open, but fate had better things in mind for us.An amazing thing happened in Williams, Arizona. Something that only happens a few times in a lifetime.As we pulled into Williams, the sun had just set, and both sides of the main street were lit up with the most awesome old neon signs we had ever seen. Cocktail glasses,figural bulls with “steak house” written on them and many more unique signs greeted us like old friends. It would have been a breathtaking array of neon if we had showed up at high noon, but we rolled into town at the perfect moment,just before dark, and it was magical. It reaffirmed my passion for vintage neon signs, and reminded me why I do what I do. I create vintage style signs so that other people can have this experience too.After a great meal at the only antique Dairy Queen I’ve ever seen,we pointed the headlights toward Winslow.
• DAY 6-We made it out of the room and on the road by 5:30 a.m.We ate breakfast in the car, only stopping for gas.Had a great lunch at Fred’s Place in Ft. Sumner, New Mexico.Fred’s was started by a Korean war veteran and his wife. The food, service and people were great. There was a wooden bar along one wall that was built in the 1800’s. Legend has it the BILLY THE KID had bellied up to it sometime before lawman Pat Garret gunned him down.After Clovis, New Mexico, we made it for the Texas line. Crossed it at 1:45 and I immediately relaxed. We were still far from home, but we were in Texas! Lubbock, then Lamesa( home of the “Pavarotti of the plains” Don Walser).The Sky Vu drive in theater was still playing current movies.After Big Spring, We stopped for the last night of the trip in San Angelo. We had hoped to make it in time for one of the best steaks in Texas at Zintner’s Daughter Restaurant, but we were too late, so we settled for a bucket of chicken in the room.
• DAY 7-At 6 a.m.(again) we headed for my town AUSTIN. Brady Texas is one of my favorite places, we had breakfast at the El Flamingo Cafe. After all that we had seen I didn’t expect to see much between Brady and Austin, but I was wrong.On the edge of the old business district was an antique gas station crammed to the gills with old toys, classic cars and antique motorcycles.Owner Ken Young wasn’t there, but we left him a note telling him it was one of the highlights of our trip. After Brady was Llano, where my dad and I had restored the old movie theater sign and marquee some years back. It still glows like a jewell. We made it back to Austin at 10 a.m. We had logged nearly 5000 miles in 7 days. It was a great trip, but I’ve never been happier to see home.