Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Roadside Attractions – The Wisconsin Dells

Wisconsin Dells - Mt. Olympus - Trojan Horse

The Wisconsin Dells are a place of inspiring natural beauty. So I hear.

However, when you’re in Wisconsin and you say “The Dells”, most people assume you’re talking about something other than the miles of fantastic gorges the Wisconsin River has carved out of its sandstone banks over the centuries.

Something like one of the 20-odd waterparks that cover 70 acres. Or Monster Truck rides. Or the famous amphibious WWII Ducks.

Maybe the upside-down (not kidding) full-sized replica of the White House. (I have no idea what’s inside.)

Something like a five-story-high model of the Trojan Horse, with a roller coaster going through its belly.

Wearing a Halloween costume. (I guess it’s supposed to be a mummy of the Trojan horse?)

All words and images copyright Jeffery Blackwell 2009

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Salmon and Turquoise - 1959 Ford Galaxie Fairlane 500

1959 Ford Fairlane 500 - copyright Jeffery Blackwell 2009

Driving along an unusually straight stretch of one of our local highways yesterday, I just caught a glimpse of this gentleman out stretching the legs of his 500.

The low autumn sun and dry roads apparently lured them out for perhaps the last ride of the year...

It got me thinking about some of the color combinations that were popular in the 50s – like salmon pink and turquoise. These colors evoke Native American jewelry and pottery from the West and obviously caught the imagination of a nation that, thanks to the Eisenhower administration’s construction of the Interstate Highway System, was now able to drive out of town and right into the most remote parts of the country.

And enjoy the ride through a turquoise-tinted windshield.

All words and photos copyright Jeffery Blackwell 2009

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

K's Korners - Trading Post and General Store

K's Korners - cafe - copyright Jeffery Blackwell 2009

It’s difficult to describe K’s Korners, but when it materialized out of the fog in front of me just east of Rock Falls, IL, I really had to stop and take some pictures.

K's Korners - signage - copyright Jeffery Blackwell 2009

It was early on a Sunday morning, and K’s was not open for business yet. (Contrary to the “Yes, We’re Open” sign that was held on the tailgate of a pickup truck with a wooden carpenter’s clamp.)

The entire place had a surreal quality about it, and to be honest, I felt uncomfortable the whole time I was shooting there. Although it’s not exactly a junkyard, I had the constant feeling that there might be a big ugly dog around somewhere.

K's Korners - Trading Post and General Store

What K’s is, as you can see, is an establishment on the corner of two rural roads in northwestern Illinois where you can seemingly buy or sell anything including, but no doubt not limited to; gold, aluminum cans, aluminum boats, pre-owned luxury cars, “antiques”, breakfast, lunch and bottled beer (to-go or on a stool at the saloon), lotto tickets, live bait and also experience the “Mini Museum” or perform Karoke on Saturday night.

And, there’s a Drive Thru.

Did I mention the caboose?

K's Korners - used vehicles for sale - copyright Jeffery Blackwell 2009

K’s represents American entrepreneurship at a basic level. This particular intersection gets a very high volume of traffic, and K obviously decided he (or she) could divert a percentage of those vehicles into an establishment that offered something for the tourist, gambler, local lunch crowd, metal speculator, Muskie fisherman and the aspiring Country singer.

I’ll have to go back sometime when they’re open.

Ks Korners - Saloon - copyright Jeffery Blackwell 2009

All words and images copyright Jeffery Blackwell 2009

Friday, October 9, 2009

Skinny Tire Burnout

Foggy Burnout - copyright Jeffery Blackwell 2009

Early one Saturday morning while visiting Doc down in Illinois, I was out driving around in the fog when I came across this scene.

If you went to high school in a small town, like I did, you know what this is picture’s about.

Friday night, car full of kids, a forgiving wall of corn on one side of the road and a never ending field of soybeans on the other… What could happen?

Well, there’s that one big tree.

I have to wonder. Has dad noticed that his rear tires are wearing out so much faster than the fronts?

All words and images copyright 2009 Jeffery Blackwell

Friday, October 2, 2009

The Nissan Cube - Strangely, Cool

Nissan Cube - rear quarter copyright Jeffery Blackwell 2009

Certainly one of the more interesting designs around these days is the Cube from Nissan. If you are into car design you should go to their site and take a look at the Cube from all angles.

While reminiscent of the Scion Xb in that it looks kind of like it’s still in a shipping crate, the Cube is unique. The rear glass wraps around the corner of the car, but only on the passenger side. While this kind of asymmetry is a hallmark of French design, it’s just striking to American eyes. We love our sense of balance, and I’m sure many people find this effect quite strange. Which is why it should appeal to those who think strange is cool.

The other body feature that looks strange (or cool) is the extreme beveling around the window openings, which are very rounded. The effect is quite toy-like, almost whimsical. It’s hard to take this car seriously.

Inside, there is a “ripple” theme, inspired by the waves from a raindrop falling onto the surface of a still pond. This effect is incorporated into the headliner and, along with 20 variables colors of interior lighting, is touted to evoke a zen-like state of mind, something akin to the Japanese sand garden. A bonsai tree on the dashboard would not look out of place.

Anyway, I always appreciate a design that stakes out some new design ground and the Cube pushes a bit.

I shot this one while it was still atop the transport truck. Actually, from this angle and crop, the back end of the Cube looks like the front end of a cab-over semi tractor.

Nissan Cube - photo copyright Jeffery Blackwell 2009

All words and images copyright Jeffery Blackwell 2009