PCH: Roadside Stops and Detours

The invasion began in 1962. Through the mid 1960’s until 1974 many areas of the U.S.A became the land of giants. Enormous fiberglass men, some twenty feet tall, stood over muffler shops, miniature golf courses, tire stores, and other venues. This population explosion of big men occurred because businesses with them became hugely successful immediately after installation. Back in the 1960’s you could order one for as little as $1,800. With added features and accessories–maybe a hamburger, golf club, or lumberjack ax, and other ad-ons including various garments, hats or facial hair–the price could be as much as $2,800. The basic big man ordered in quantity by a franchise chain could be purchased for a mere $1,000 a unit.

There was a female version produced as well. She was rendered with features resembling Jackie Kennedy. The tall figure had a removable dress and wore a bikini bathing suit underneath.

The giant in the above photo was called Malibu Man. He was a hamburger chef towering over a burger joint on Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) in Malibu. Steve Dashew the entrepreneur behind these big men took special satisfaction with this particular model. It was coincidentally built next to where his ex girlfriend lived. “I thought she’d appreciate the remembrance.”

The figure still stands, but perhaps in a most revealing sign of the times, he is now called Salsa Man. He sports a mustache, wears a sombrero, and has a serape over his shoulder. The hamburger has been replaced by a tray of Mexican food. [1]

This is a detailed replica of Villa dei Papiri, a Roman villa in the town of Herculaneum, which was buried by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D. Much of the ancient sight was visible only by camera inserted through shafts drilled in the solidified volcanic flow. The man that could afford such a venture was J. Paul Getty. His Museum overlooks the Pacific Ocean in Malibu, just off of PCH.

The gardens, the beauty of the architecture, the gorgeous bluff overlooking the Pacific makes the J. Paul Getty Museum (Now simply called The Villa) a soul soothing place on earth. It reopened in February of 2006 after nearly 12 years and $275 million dollars of remodeling. The museum previously housed both ancient and modern art. Then a second Getty Museum was built in Brentwood to house the modern collection. The Malibu museum closed to reconfigure for the ancient collection and to install teaching/educational facilities.

The original version of the museum was completed in 1974. Getty was living in England at the time and died before he could make the trip back to view his creation. The sorting out of his estate took until 1982 when the J. Paul Getty Museum became the world’s most richly endowed exhibition. Getty bequest 1.2 billion dollars for his art house. [2]

Another monument achieved by extreme wealth is Hearst Castle. This is the magnificent Neptune swimming pool, an architectural masterpiece surrounded by fourth-century Roman columns, Italian bas-reliefs, and contemporary statues from Paris.

The pool is lined with marble quarried in Vermont. The pool was enlarged twice after the original was completed in 1924. The pool as it is today was completed in 1936. As big as it appears, it is some 60 feet shorter than an Olympic size pool.

Hearst Castle in San Simeon is exactly half way between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Either city is two hundred miles away.

This being a “house” with 165 bedrooms and 41 bathrooms, there are 5 different tours offered. Ticket prices range from $20 to $30 for adults. Well worth every penny. Well worth repeat visits to experience all five tours–which I haven’t done yet. But it is on the agenda. [3]

There’s something enchanting about the mix of scents from the ocean and the red woods of Big Sur. The calming peace and quiet found here attracted the likes of Henry Miller, Jack Kerouac, Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, Orson Welles and Rita Hayworth, just to mention a few. And a few of them stayed here at Deetjen’s Big Sur Inn. I had noticed the sign on many a trip through Big Sur. When I finally gave it a try, I found myself a new favorite place to stay.

Helmuth Deetjen, a Scandinavian, settled in the quiet secluded Castro Canyon of Big Sur in the 1930’s and built this barn. Today it is the reception office and dining room of the Inn.

The rustic guest cabins were built by Helmuth in the manner he learned in Norway. The cabins trail up and are tucked into the pastoral canyon.

The rooms are quaint and cozy. There are no televisions, stereos or phones in the rooms. Cell phones do not have reception at Deetjens. Children under 12 are only allowed if the occupants rent all the shared rooms and walls of a freestanding cabin. You get peace and quiet here.

Wood burning stove, copper kettle and ornate chair. Deetjen’s has a time travel feel. It is easy to imagine the atmosphere of the 1930’s here.

A garden paradise is one step out the door. [4]
References and links

1. http://www.roadsideamerica.com/muffler/index.html

2. http://www.csmonitor.com/2006/0203/p15s02-alar.html


3. http://www.grandtimes.com/hearst.html


4. http://www.deetjens.com/home.htm


Territory known today as southern Arizona and northern Sonora Mexico was originally Pima Indian territory, the Pimeria Alta. Their settlements nestled along various river tracks. Thus the name “Pima,” given by the Spanish, indicates “river people.” The natives had an agrarian society that mastered irrigation with diverted river water. Growing corn, beans and squash. They were artisans. Pima made baskets with their distinctive coil construction and geometric patterns which are highly desirable to this day. Their architecture used bent tree saplings to form dome shaped structures. They had their own government, political hierarchy, and means to defend themselves or attack outside forces.

But in the end they were no match for the Spaniards.

A church has been present at Tumacacori since 1753. The structure as it exists now, San Jose de Tumacacori, began in 1800.

The Jesuit Missionary Priest Eusebio Kino (1645-1711) first met the natives at Tumacacori in 1691. He was an educated man that came to devote his life to Missionary work. In the league of Spaniards entering New Spain for such work, he was the “kind” Padre. He took into account Indian ways. He skillfully taught during his 24 years in the region. The Pimas were receptive pupils in learning about wheat, livestock and fruit trees. He presented Christianity by means of pageantry and ritual rather than dogma. He offered communion and baptized children but then also taught many practical skills. He built other missions. He also established and mapped supply routes throughout the region. He was a “good” soldier of souls for the church and Spain.

The circular mortuary chapel at Tumacacori.

The Pimas were gently “tamed” under Kino. But some 40 years after Kino, Spain administered the region far more harshly. Pimas found themselves in slave labor at mines and ranches. They rebelled in 1751. At no point were the Apaches agreeable to foreign occupation. Their insurgency had been continual. A presidio built at Tubac was the result. But Apache attacks continued until the late 19th century as the territory transitioned from Spainish domain to independent Mexico, and finally to the U.S. in 1853.

The grave sites are only from the late 19th and early 20th century. Evidence of mission era graves has vanished.

The Soto Family lived in Tumacacori at the turn of the century.

The weathered soft curves of Tumacacori clay walls cast interesting curvaceous shadows.

Tumacacori National Monument is located 45 miles south of Tucson and 19 miles north of Nogalas. It came under protection of the U.S. Forrest Service, and later the National Park Service, by executive order of President Theodore Roosevelt in 1908.


From the comfort of air conditioned automobiles the wonders of the Mojave Desert are viewed much differently today than in the times when names such as Death Valley and Funeral Mountains were chosen for these locations.

A lady meditates amongst the mineral deposits of Death Valley known as Artist’s Palette.

I’m not sure prospectors of olden days spent much time meditating here in the other- world beauty of Death Valley. Recreational communing with nature would have been an unimaginable concept to them I would think. Livelihood if not existence here was tough business. Prospector Jack Keene scratched around the Funeral Mountains without success for some 8 years. But his dogged persistence paid off. He and fellow digger Domingo Etcharren hit pay dirt –gold– on the Death Valley slope of the Funeral Mountains in late 1903. Their 1904 claim was named “Wonder.” Both sold their claim for $45,000. The yield of the mine –gold and silver– was estimated at nearly a million dollars. It was part of the “Bullfrog” lode that created the city of Rhyolite.

The Keane Wonder Mill. The raw ore was deposited here from mine buckets delivered by a tram wire. Ore was crushed then pulverized before the valuable elements were separated mechanically, chemically, by slurry and wash.

Domingo Etcharren went on to buy a store in Darwin. Jack Keane returned to his homeland Ireland where he landed in prison after a sentence of 17 years for killing someone.

In 1908 the mine site had a house, an office building and a cookhouse. There were plans for an ice house as well. By 1909, 50 men were working at the mill and the mine. Work also began on a cyanide mill used for separating gold from rock.

The Wonder Tram.

The mill and tram were powered by gravity. With an elevation drop of 1, 300 feet from mine shafts to mill, loaded ore buckets traveled a descent of about a mile pushed by gravity on a tram wire stretched between eleven towers. The energy generated not only sustained the tram but pumped water, operated an ore crusher and the mill. The self sustaining power concept seems to be a technology applicable today somewhere, somehow.

“Old Dinah” a steam engine tractor used to haul Wonder ore to the train line at Rhyolite. On the third trip, the tractor blew a flue and was abandoned on the spot. Now it commands tourist attention at the Furnace Creek Ranch.

Keane’s Wonder mine shut down in 1912 with the announcement it was tapped out. It started up again in 1914 but went went idle once more in 1916. It restarted in 1935 to rework the tailings with Cyanide. The Chemical was stored in these large tanks.

The mine closed again in 1937. The next interest in Wonder came in 1940.

The tram was refurbished. Machines retooled and geared up. But operation was not meant to be. In 1942 all usable gear except the tram was moved to other mines. In 1972 the abandoned mine site came under the protective reach of the National Park Service.

Ghost Town

Rhyolite. It was once the third largest city in Nevada. Boomtown it was. Between 1904 and 1908 she was the queen of mining towns. Not just your ordinary canvass and wood makeshift structures. Rhyolite was solidly built with obvious intentions of staying around awhile. It boasted all the cosmopolitan features. Water and power. There were forty-five saloons, an opera house, an orchestra, a number of dance halls, a slaughterhouse, two railroad depots, and three public swimming pools serving as many as 10,000 residents.

Looking out the school house window openings to the town. The Cook Bank building, left. Overbury Building (jewelry store), center. General Store, right.

Two things killed Rhyolite. The gold mines tapped out. City investors pulled out when the national economy turned sour. By 1911 the population was down to 675. In 1916 utilities were shut off. Boomtown became ghost town.

Cook Bank Building

This substantial structure of 3 stories cost $90,000. It had marble floors imported from Italy, mahogany woodwork, electric lights, telephone and inside plumbing. Various interior components and fixtures were sold off when Rhyolite shut down. Staircases, banisters, floors, etc., live on today as parts of various buildings scattered through the region.

General Store

Rhyolite is perhaps the best known of all ghost towns. Likely the most photographed. It has served as a set for numerous motion pictures and music videos.

Train Station

Three Railroad lines came through Rhyolite. The Depot today appears in use by someone. The structure seems restorable to me.

Bottle House of 1906.

The walls are completely made of glass bottles. The house has lived on through the years as a tourist attraction. However upon my visit I didn’t see any caretaker. It seemed closed up.

The Eggmen

John Lennon’s famous quote “Before Elvis there was nothing” could especially be said about Giotto di Bondone (1266-1337). When the glory that was Rome faded into the Middle Ages, art became highly stylized and flat dimensionally. Naturalistic perspective and depiction vanished. At the precipice of The Renaissance Giotto nearly stands alone in his discarding the centuries old framework of painting and art. Not since Roman times was the human form naturally depicted. He reinvented soft rounded deep modeling effects using light and dark values. Giotto marks the turning point toward The Renaissance. The above Madonna and Child is in Firenze’s Uffizi Gallery.


Giotto was also an accomplished architect. The Bell Tower at Santa Maria del Fiore, Firenze, is his. He never saw the completed work. He died three years after construction began. It took more than fifty years to build.

Giotto’s bell tower is sublime. But the grandiose architectural element of Santa Maria del Fiore is the celebrated dome by Filippo Brunelleschi. The achievement can not be over stated. Architectural dome engineering and construction know-how died with the Romans. It wasn’t until Brunelleschi closely studied the Roman artifacts first hand (especially the well preserved Pantheon in Rome) that architecture was reinvented. Being this was unexplored design in its day, Brunelleschi faced a counter current of resistance and opposition. The Guild of Wool Merchants who sponsored and over saw the project wanted to know just how in the world such a large dome could be accomplished. Brunelleschi asked the members of the committee to demonstrate to him how they would stand an egg on the table. No one could. “Impossible,” they said. With that, Brunelleschi cracked the end off the egg and proceeded to stand the shell on the table. When the members of the committee protested that any one of them could have done that, Brunelleschi explained that was exactly his point. If he told the committee how he planned to execute his concept, all would claim that they could have done it. After several months of arguing, the committee allowed him to proceed and work began on the dome in the summer of 1420.

The Pantheon, Rome, A.D. 118-25. Besides its position as one of history’s greatest architectural masterpieces, its survival from ancient times to modern day Rome is miraculous. Step in from the noisy hot streets of Rome to a cool calm quiet atmosphere where time seems frozen. You may almost hear the distant whisper of Marcus Aurelius. That the structure is so well preserved is a testament to Roman engineering and master building. One can only ponder a question; if the Pantheon had not survived into Brunelleschi‘s time, how long to reinvent such engineering from scratch?

Locals simply refer to Santa Maria del Fiore as “Il Duomo.” It remains to this day the most iconic Feature of Firenze. A site on the landscape still commanding the most attention.

Michaelangelo’s David, Firenze Italy.
Michaelangelo went to school, so to speak, with The Duomo before designing Saint Peters in Rome.

Another source of Michaelangelo’s admiration was Lorenzo Ghiberti’s Doors of the Baptistery, Firenze.

Michaelangelo fondly referred to them as “The Gates of Paradise.”

The doors consist of ten panels. Each frame depicts a scene from either the New or Old Testament. Ghiberti used a painter’s approach to composition but used his sculpture and architectural skill to create enormous visual depth. As an architect, Ghiberti was the only other considered candidate besides Brunelleschi for designing the dome of Santa Maria del Fiore. And Brunelleschi was a possible choice for the commission Baptistery doors. Much competition for the prized jobs during The Renaissance.

The Gates of Paradise have been removed from the Baptistery and have undergone restoration. Replicas are there now. The originals will be kept indoors under a protective transparent encasement after completing a world tour. They maybe coming to a city near you.

Smithsonian Magazine has a complete story of the restoration and history of these magnificent panels.


Love A Parade

Firenze (Florence), Italy. That cradle of The Renaissance and birthplace of modern Western Civilization. Trove of priceless art and architecture. It is only natural to view the parade of Calico Storico (Historic Soccer) with its Renaissance costumes as a quaint colorful and charming affair. In perfect fitting with all that is great with Firenze and Italy at large.

But I truly didn’t grasp what I was looking at. When I heard “Historic Soccer” I figured this was in some way akin to modern soccer.

It is not. These are mean nasty tough guys that play a sport that makes rugby look like a game of paddy cake.

A recorded date of 1530 is affixed to the beginning of Calico Storico, but it actually goes as far back as the 1400’s.

The child will not be participating. Nor will the older members of the parade. Only men in their 20’s and 30’s have the bodies capable of enduring the punishment suffered in this “sport.” A later day rule prohibits criminals from participating to somewhat mitigate blood letting.

A good wholesome church function? The four major churches of Firenze each sponsor a team. Here the white team is sponsored by Santo Spirito.


The ball isn’t kicked in this version of soccer. A heavy leather bladder is hauled through a maul and melee across a field. The “goal” is to heave the ball over a 4 foot wall at either end of the grounds. Players literally wrestle, shove and bare knuckle punch or slug. It is part “Fight Club,” carnal demolition derby in some semblance of a ball game. By the end players are near naked from gear being ripped to shreds. Bruised, bloodied, dirty, sweaty and spitting mud. A splendid time for all!

The Netherlands of Van Gogh and Hitchcock

If you discover the tourist hubbub in Amsterdam not to your liking escape easily by heading north a short distance to the Waterland.

The Waterland is a region of lakes, canals, ditches, dikes, and drawbridges. Once a land of bogs, it was first drained for practical use in the middle ages. Today peace and quiet with lots a fresh air and unspoiled scenery characterize this region.

With little change here in 400 years, the sites are similar to ones inspiring Vincent Van Gogh.

A creaky wooden windmill recalls Hitchcock’s Foreign Correspondent (1940).

Joel McCrea discovering sinister activity in a Dutch wooden windmill.

Ten small towns and villages dot The Waterland. The proper experience here is by bicycle on the narrow dike roads. The villages have their shops. Cafes offer Dutch cuisine.

Dairy farmers welcome bicycle tourists to view hand made cheese production. Samples offered of course.

Breakfast At Venezia

Daybreak at Basilica San Marco, Venice. Workers hose and scrub the Piazzetta.

Gondolas on the Grand Canal looking toward Punta della Dogana

Gondolas under protective drape.

Gondola Captains await their customers.

But the “streets” of Venice were quiet.

The milk man makes his rounds. Two men (left) walk and talk politics.

A chef with fresh produce in hand for the morning fixins stops to talk futbol with a friend.

The ladies lament grocery prices have never been higher.

The morning commute in Venice is either by foot or boat.

Pedal Power

At the train station in Amsterdam there is a remarkable three level parking structure.

It is all bicycles. Everybody rides them. Youngsters, housewives, fully suited businessmen, and seniors. This is indeed a foreign sight to tourists whom worship their SUV chariots. The tourists frequently fan out into the bicycle streets thinking these are extra sidewalks. “Watch out assholes!,” I heard one yell in his Texas twang as a slew of bicycles nearly clipped his fanny. He was clueless about the right of way and what he was doing.

I don’t suppose I should “talk.” I was nervous to find myself driving a car on a bicycle street in Stockholm. Afraid at any moment I’d be facing a head on collision with a flock of bicycles. My course was corrected though without incident.

Stockholm. The ever present bicycle anywhere people gather.

I got to peddling myself when I reached Copenhagen. At first I tried the civic bicycles. These are for everyone to use at their convenience. You unlock it by inserting a token or coin into the lock box on a rack. When you are finished with the bicycle you re-lock it to a designated rack and your coin is returned to you. It works pretty well except if you leave the bicycle unattended someone will take it. There is a minor industry of people taking these bikes and getting the coin for themselves.

Biking to market, Stockholm.

The civic bicycles are built to be sturdy. Not comfortable or quick. My Innkeeper in Copenhagen suggested I shouldn’t torture myself with those “old slugs.” He had a nice bicycle available for rent, so I took up the deal. What a pleasure. I did all my sightseeing in Copenhagen by bicycle.

When I got to Amsterdam, the first thing I did was rent another good bicycle. It really makes a difference in the way you see and interact with a city.

I liked this experience so well when I got back to the USA I purchased a basic but nice city bicycle. I put on a rack and saddle bags. I do most of my marketing by bicycle. Trips to the library, bank, what have you. Sunshine, fresh air, and burned calories. Not a bad deal.

Oui, oui, oui…City of Lights

Las Vegas is a town that took the Disneyland approach of replicating familiar world wide sites as “themes.”

Some will say the Las Vegas Strip is the epitome of a synthetic environment and monument of greed. Others may point to a strange if not extreme kind of beauty.

At any given moment I relate to either sentiment.

My stay in Las Vegas, August 13 and 14 was at Hotel Paris. Besides the obvious iconic miniature Eiffel Tower and hotel marque in the form of a hot air balloon, the facility is faithful to the theme down to the smallest details.

I was struck by the number of guests in the lobby, restaurants and elevators I heard speaking French. Apparently, oui, this is home away from home for many a French tourist.

The intensity of summer heat in Las Vegas isn’t apparent in photos. Imagine, though, after a short time in the sun my camera became too hot to touch.

Dusk provides only some relief from the heat. At least one can hold a camera without burning the fingers. Here is Hotel Bellagio. The immense fountain is one of the seven wonders of the entertainment world. Fountain jets are seemingly capable of shooting water nearly as high as the hotel itself. The water blasts and light effects are timed and synchronized to music played over a superb outdoor sound system. Sinatra is most typically played. But I’ve heard orchestral pieces and popular movie themes played as well. It is simply impossible to walk by without stopping during a performance.

I’d say The Flamengo is better displayed in a video clip. One of the more recognizable landmarks and light displays of The Strip.

Ballys and Paris are effectively one hotel. One traverses from one property to the other without stepping outdoors. Ballys is an older hotel, formerly the MGM. At another site a new MGM Grand was built after the old facility was stigmatized. On November 21, 1980 A fire killed 84 people and injured 785. At the time it was the second worst hotel fire in modern U.S. history. Ballys however seems to thrive and flourish. 1980 is now considered olden times. A growing population of people born after 1980 check in. Guests unaware of the tragic event.