Spotted Roadside: Water Tower


Somewhere in Virginia (I wasn’t navigating!)

 One thing that I associate with my travels in the midwest and my days living in North Carolina are gigantic water towers, like the one in the picture above. Often times, towns each have their own water towers, which are adorned with the town name or something to that effect. When I moved to Vermont, I noticed a lack of water towers (though there is one on the University of Vermont campus, which is the only one that immediately comes to mind. Anyone else?). So whenever I’m on the road in other parts of the country, it’s a familiar landscape feature – a good landmark for distance and geographic location. Do you like water towers?


Pop Quiz Follow Up

Preservation Pop Quiz and Answer. To give you a better image of the underground telephone line markers/posts that you’ll see along the road, here is a picture of one without the faded plaques.

Click and zoom for detail.

Keep your eyes open!

Preservation Pop Quiz Answer

Last week’s Preservation Pop Quiz asked you to identify this feature:

The clue was that it’s seen on the side of the road, and frequently, at least up here in Vermont. Most guesses related to highway markers or survey markers. That was my first guess, as well, but when I looked closer there were no indications of road markers. Instead, it looks like this:

Admittedly, the quiz did not show that side of the post. Now that you’ve seen it, any guesses?  How about this one?  To answer some likely questions: it is constructed of concrete. The plaques are metal and yes, have long since faded. Some of these that I’ve seen on these Vermont highways have crumbled or cracked. Others are missing the bottom half of the concrete posts, revealing the one metal reinforcing rod.


What has faded? The bell telephone logo. These concrete posts identify utility lines along the road. While they look oddly similar to highway markers, I have not seen any with that would indicate as such. Have you?

So what are they? Telephone utility line markers is my best guess. All of these concrete posts that I have seen have similar plaques and faded bell telephone symbols. What do you think? Are you in agreement? Or do you think it’s something else?

Preservation Pop Quiz

Now that I’ve noticed these on the side of the road, I can’t stop noticing them. Maybe it’s an obvious feature to many, but it took me a while to realize what it is. What is your guess? And how often do you notice these?


Roadside Friday Links

Chilliwack, BC, Canada is losing its dinosaur theme park, Dinoland, which was originally affiliated with Hanna Barbara and named Bedrock City (who else loves The Flintstones!?) You can watch a video of its history and catch some Flintstone images here. The park will close forever on September 6, 2010. Why is it closing? The owner decided to sell the property for financial and health related reasons. Dinoland has the claim as “North America’s only cartoon dinosaur town.” Though it was only 35 years, roadside culture and amusement seems like it’s losing a bit of history.

The United States actually has a few Flintstone related parks: Flintstone’s Bedrock City in Custer, South Dakota and Bedrock City in Valle, Arizona. There is also Dinosaur Park in Rapid City, South Dakota.

These Friday links so often seem to be roadside related. I couldn’t hide my obsession if I tried, so I might as well continue on today’s inadvertent theme.

On that note, abandoned interstates intrigue me and crack me up at the same time, like the I-189 interchange in Burlington that has been sitting there for decades. I’ve heard that the tallest filing cabinet in South Burlington is a monument to the amount of paperwork the interchange and road extension, dubbed the Southern Connector or the Champlain Parkway (another post for another time).  You would expect to find an abandoned old road, but an interstate? Apparently it’s rather common. Check out “Why the Lost Highway” and this page of abandoned freeways. The site itself is quite dated, but still entertaining.

Parkways and carefully designed highways are some of the most enjoyable. What will happen to the Pasadena Freeway and the Merritt Parkway? See this NY Times blog post. The Merritt Parkways is also on the National Trust’s 11 Most Endangered Places List for 2011. How do we adapt historic roads without destroying their character?

Is anyone attending the Historic Roads 2010 conference in Washington, DC from September 9-12? Please share! One attendee, Heidi Beierle has been cycling from Oregon to DC and chronicling her adventures along the way in the effort to research the impacts of bicycle tourism on rural communities. Talk about dedication!  Check out her blog and see her route.

Need more roadside fun? Of course. Check out the blog Go BIG or Go Home, for a family’s adventures as they travel to everything giant. I LOVE it.

Have I actually run out of new roadside photos to share? How about an old one?

The 2006 Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD. Photo by Sarah O'Shea.

Summer corn, yum. Funny story: the restaurant that was supposed to have the best corn ever, located next to the corn palace, actually ran out of corn and we didn’t get to have any. It figures. Anyway, happy weekend! Happy Labor Day!

Giant Crosses

South of Knoxville, TN

If you’ve never seen a giant cross before, know that you can find many throughout the United States landscape.  The photograph above was sent to me by Libba Roberts, a new friend who has already learned of my odd roadside obsessions.  Its location is just south of Knoxville, TN in Royal Blue, TN. Thanks, Libba!  On my travels, I have also seen a giant cross in Effingham, IL and Edmond, OK.  There is also one in Groom, TX and Huntsville, AL. 
The cross in Effingham, IL is the largest in the western hemisphere.  According to the Cross Foundation website: The Cross Foundation has completed a 198 foot Cross at the intersection of Interstates 57 & 70 in Effingham, Illinois. This site is intended to serve as a beacon of hope to the 50,000 travelers estimated to pass the site each day.  See this link for photographs of the cross.  (They are copyrighted.)
The reason for the cross in Groom, TX has more of a forceful statement. From the Road Wanderer website. 
The Groom Cross is located between Interstate 40 and old Route 66 going west out of Groom, Texas. It was built by Steve Thomas of Pampa, Texas in 1995. Mr. Thomas, disgusted with the huge billboards advertising XXX pornography locations along I-40 wanted to make a public profession of faith along the Interstate. Originally he wanted to put up his own billboard with Bible verses but could never find the appropriate verse. Instead, inspired by a cross built by a rancher in Ballinger, Texas, Mr. Thomas knew that he would build a cross. Built on private property donated by Chris Britten to avoid legal issues with the ACLU at a height of 190 feet, the Groom Cross is reported as being the biggest cross in the northern hemisphere. Recent additions to the area around the Groom Cross include a memorial in memory of the victims of abortion and a replica of Calvary, with steps leading to the crosses, and a replica of Christ’s tomb. The Stations of the Cross were just completed and feature life-sized sculptures of the events leading to Christ’s crucifixion. The Groom Cross is fast becoming a roadside pilgrimage site with the number of travelers visiting the site increasing exponentially.


Groom, TX photograph from Wikipedia Commons.

So, if you happen to pass a giant cross on your roadside adventures, know that it’s not really uncommon.  It’s not historic, but it’s definitely Roadside America.  Generally, no matter how strange something appears from your windshield, there is a reason that it exists.  Half the fun is finding out why and the other half is just taking a photograph to share the wacky site!