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American Roadside Architecture - Catch it Before It's Gone

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On 12/7/2018 at 4:18 PM, roadhound said:

Exit O

Along Interstate 40, at the state line between Texas and New Mexico, sits "Exit 0."  On the south side of the Interstate sits the Route 66 ghost town of Glenrio but at the exit itself there are 2 abandoned service stations on the Texas side of the state line. It was 1980 when the Interstate bypassed Glenrio and shifted traffic north of the town. It is also likely that sometime around that time period that the two service stations were built.  Not sure when they serviced their last customers but today they are left abandoned and exposed to the elements.

glenrio.jpg

Abandoned Standard\Chevron station in Glenrio, Texas
glenrio-SC119123-5D05289.jpg

Pump islands at the abandoned Standard\Chevron station in Glenrio, Texas.
glenrio-SC119124-5D05291.jpg

Wild sunflowers at the site of an abandoned Texaco station in Glenrio, Texas.
glenrio-SC119125-5D05294.jpg

Abandoned Texaco station in Glenrio, Texas.
glenrio-SC119126-5D05298.jpg

 

Roadhound

http://rick-pisio.pixels.com

Thank you for posting those 'Exit 0' photos.  I've driven by them about a half-dozen times over the past 30 years.  Never have checked out what is left of Glenrio.

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MGA707, I have a few photos from Glenrio that can be seen HERE. A true Interstate Ghost Town. It's definitely worth a stop and a quick look around if you pass through the area again. Be careful though, there is one residence on the east end of the town that does have dogs. Made me think twice about poking around too much. 

Rick

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Glenrio

Glenrio was mentioned in the previous post and I came to the realization that of all the ghost towns that I have been to this tiny town along an abandoned section of Route 66, straddling the Texas-New Mexico border, is probably the most complete example of abandoned roadside architecture in its natural state of slow decomposition. Glenrio was a town that existed because the road was there and ceased to exist when the road was gone.

This link from the National Park Service gives a much better summary of Glenrio's history than I ever could.

https://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/route66/glenrio_historic_district.html

 

My two visits to Glenrio where of two extremes. The first time was in the month of May and it was pouring rain. The old dirt road to the west was a slippery mess and would have been impassable without four wheel drive.

I mean it was off the road, slide into a ditch, impassable.

At various time I could feel the back tires of my 4x4 lose traction, or sometimes it was the front, and there were brief moments of panic when both would lose traction and my truck felt like it wanted to swap ends before regaining traction and straightening out. 

The mud that splashed up along the running boards, into the wheel wells, and throughout the undercarriage might have been slippery to drive on but it hardened into concrete.  Ten dollars in tokens later at a truck wash in Santa Fe and I got most of it off. Even today, 4 years later, my drive shaft and rear axle are stained with the color of the New Mexico mud, which my truck wears with pride.

In the town the skies were dark on that first visit and the air was quiet except for the sound of the raindrops ricocheting off the asphalt and soaking my pants below the knee.  It wasn't hard to imagine a 54' Chevy Coupe from Texas pulling into the newly built Texaco station for a fill up, it's wipers leaving streaks along the windshield. The driver, perhaps a traveling businessman on his way west with a load of his product in the trunk, might stop at the Longhorn Cafe for a bite to eat and to wait out the storm before getting back on the road headed towards Albuquerque, or Gallup, or maybe even Los Angeles.

My second time through Glenrio was 4 months later in late August and the feeling couldn't have been more different. The air was already stifling even at the early hour of 9:00 am. I grabbed my water bottle and camera and began walking the 4/10 mile length of the town working up a sweat in the process. Broyles Gas Station, the Longhorn Motel, the State Line Bar all looked like they longed to have the clock turned back to before that morning in 1975 when the barriers were removed and traffic was now riding on the brand spankin' new interstate, bypassing the town. It was hard to imagine anyone ever living there.


State Line Motel and Cafe

glenrio-SC118654-5D04661.jpg

 

Broyles Gas Station. The wood and adobe building was built in 1925 as a Mobil Gasoline franchise.

glenrio-SC119114-5D05263.jpg

 

The Little Juarez Cafe. The Art Moderne-style diner was built in 1952 and remained opened until the town was bypassed in 1975. 

glenrio-SC119117-5D05273.jpg

 

A 1968 Pontiac Bonneville waits for a fill up at the Glenrio Texaco station next to the Little Juarez Café on the Texas side of town.

glenrio-SC119119-5D05281.jpg

Roadhound
http:\\rick-pisio.pixels.com

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Rick,

I have been inattentive to my disadvantage! Your photos and description are superb! A place I didn’t know existed! Of course 1975 is practically yesterday when viewed from my chronologically advanced years, but the photos and story are pure gold.

The days when I reasonably expected to visit these places are past, so I depend on younger eyes and pens keyboards :) to tell the stories for me and others to enjoy!! Thanks! Great job! Now when is the book?

Dave

Keep the Show on the Road

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On 12/20/2018 at 6:12 PM, Keep the Show on the Road! said:

Rick,

I have been inattentive to my disadvantage! Your photos and description are superb! A place I didn’t know existed! Of course 1975 is practically yesterday when viewed from my chronologically advanced years, but the photos and story are pure gold.

The days when I reasonably expected to visit these places are past, so I depend on younger eyes and pens keyboards :) to tell the stories for me and others to enjoy!! Thanks! Great job! Now when is the book?

Dave

Keep the Show on the Road

A book? That seems like a lot of work. Although, I have contributed to the the works of others over the years and would be more than willing to do so again if asked. It's still a thrill to pull a book of the shelf, see a picture that looks familiar, then realize that my name is listed underneath as the photo credit.

 

 

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Montoya

This building is another I don't expect to see standing should I have the opportunity to pass through New Mexico again. It was 1962 when Route 66 passing through Montoya was relocated to where I-40 is now and the building as well as the entire town was bypassed. You can see and hear the traffic passing by 200 yards to the south of the old highway on the interstate, and at some point in the past a lot of them must have stopped for a cold beer because when I got there they were all out and I could have really used one about then.

Abandoned store in Montoya, New Mexico

montoya-SC119034.jpg

There's not a lot of information that I could find about the building itself but based on the location, overall footprint, and remaining signage I assume it was probably a gas station with a small store attached. 

Getting to the location is easy if you know which exit to take off of the interstate. However, if you just filled up in Tucumcari and have settled in for a couple of hours of driving toward Santa Rosa and points west, or vice versa and you are heading east, you might blink and miss the crumbling roofless adobe brick structure 200 yards north of the interstate.

My journey to Montoya took place in 2015 and started west of Montoya at an exit called Newkirk. I'm not sure if Newkirk can be called a town anymore, but, there is a filling station with a small store and a few old buildings to be seen there.

My wife and I were heading from Santa Fe and bound for Tucumcari for the night. Her mother's maiden name is Montoya and thanks to ancestry.com she new that some of her ancestors had settled somewhere in New Mexico at some point in time but nothing more specific than that. Perhaps this town was a family connection. It was also one of the few times that I could remember her showing some enthusiasm about one of my ghost town stops. It was an improvement over the subdued tolerance that I usually got.

We drove a few miles on the frontage road east out of Newkirk and just before crossing over the interstate we turned left onto a dirt road. The dirt road lasted for about a third of a mile before it turned onto a section of cracked and broken asphalt. As I was explaining to my wife that the section of roadway we were now on was Route 66 between the years of 1926 and 1936 the sagebrush became more plentiful and the road started to get less and less visible. Before long I was completely in the sagebrush and unable to see any sign of the road. 

1926-1936 era roadbed heading east towards Montoya

montoya-SC119028.jpg

I walked ahead for a few yards and found a cow path in the sagebrush that lead to a service road that ran alongside the railroad tracks. It didn't take to much whacking with the machete to clear the path and once on the service road I made my way to the bottom of the hill and back onto the frontage road that continued east into Montoya.

It was difficult to tell if my wife was more thrilled with the road we had taken to get there or what could be seen of Montoya. She could have been expecting a bit more from the namesake town I suppose. But one thing is for certain, she had to have been impressed by my ability to turn a 10 minute drive on the interstate into a 90 minute long off road adventure that required the use of a machete.

I finally got my beer later that day when we went out for dinner in Tucumcari. 

montoya-SC119033.jpg

Roadhound

http://rick-pisio.pixels.com

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Rick,

Brings to mind a couple of lines from a favorite song:

But there's nothing so lonesome, so morbid or drear
Than to stand in a bar, of a pub with no beer 

Great image and story.  I believe many women don't fully appreciate sagebrush,  old buildings, and remote roads.....but then I may be wrong.  John and  Alice Ridge of Yellowstone Trail fame seem to share a common love of the old road.  And while I have not actually asked Becky, she might be another.  My wife is not a member of the club, but she is willing to let me rave on.

Keep the Show on the Road!

Dave

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On 12/31/2018 at 4:14 PM, Keep the Show on the Road! said:

 

 I believe many women don't fully appreciate sagebrush,  old buildings, and remote roads.....but then I may be wrong.  John and  Alice Ridge of Yellowstone Trail fame seem to share a common love of the old road.  And while I have not actually asked Becky, she might be another.  My wife is not a member of the club, but she is willing to let me rave on.

Keep the Show on the Road!

Dave

I knew there had to be someone out there that could relate to my situation. Overall though, the pluses outweigh the minuses by far.

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Rincon Cafe

Driving north out of the Salinas Valley town of Gonzales on the old alignment of US 101, Alta St. as the locals call it, you are quickly surrounded by lettuce and spinach fields. A mile north of town, just before the road turns into an overpass and on ramps, sits the boarded up structure of the Rincon Cafe. The northern end of the building looks to have once been a single bay garage while out front was where the gas pumps sat. The barely visible outline of the letters spelling "Norwalk Service" above the gas station's front door are a clue to the buildings past but still don't reveal what brand of gasoline was once sold there. The cafe on the southern end of the building  looks like the type of place John Steinbeck might have stopped at for bacon, eggs and a cup of coffee.

rincon-SC120108-5D07457.jpg

Roadhound
http://rick-pisio.pixels.com

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Q. How long can an adobe building survive before you consider it a pile of dirt?

Another example of a building I will be surprised to see standing if I pass through New Mexico again.

A few posts ago, while describing the route I took to get to Montoya, I mentioned getting off the Interstate in a place called Newkirk. In Newkirk, at the intersection of the I-40 off ramp and the old Route 66, is a Phillips 66 station that is still in business. If you follow Route 66 east a few hundred yards from that Phillips 66 station you'll find the abandoned adobe structure of the Wilkerson's Gulf gas station. Built in 1910 when the town was still primarily a railroad town, it had a front row seat to the traffic on Route 66 until 1964 when the Route 66 roadbed was relocated south where the current westbound lanes of I-40 are. In 1985 Route 66 was replaced completely by I-40 and in 1989 Wilkerson's pumped it's last gallon of gas.

Since then it's adobe walls have been slowly returning back to the earth.

Wilkerson's in Newkirk

Roadhound
http://rick-pisio.pixels.com
http://www.rwphotos.com

 

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I'd wager that the abandoned house in the above photo at one time was the home of Mr. and probably Mrs. Wilkerson.

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Quote

I'd wager that the abandoned house in the above photo at one time was the home of Mr. and probably Mrs. Wilkerson.

The building just behind Wilkerson's in the photo was a small building with "Figural Bottles" painted on the window. I'm not sure what a "figural bottle" is but the building itself looks lie it may have been the office of a gas station at one point in time. I haven't found much information on it. There may have been a single wide trailer behind the gas station that is peeking into the right side of the below picture. 

newkirk-SC119040-5D05083.jpg

Since we've already explored most of what I saw in Newkirk there was one other building that caught my attention. A little further east on the main road was a building that looked like an early motel with small rooms next to garage ports. I haven't been able to find much information about this building either but it looks to be from an early era of automobile travel.

newkirk-SC119041-5D05087.jpg

I didn't explore much more of Newkirk other than what was easily accessible from the old highway. There are still residents in Newkirk and I have read that the crime along that stretch of the Interstate is high, as high as 1 in 7 vehicles passing through are involved in illegal activity. The residents there have a reputation of preferring to shoot first and ask questions later so I kept to the main road, quickly took my photos, and moved along.

To orient ourselves with layout of Newkirk I present the screen grab from Google Earth:

Newkirk Map.jpg

At the top left corner is the UP railroad tracks running on the north side of town

The road running up the left side is NM 129

The brown line is the 1936-1964 path of Route 66

The red line is the 1926-1936 path of Route 66

Just below the bottom of the image, south of town is I-40

 

Roadhound

http:\\rick-pisio.pixels.com

http:\\www.rwphotos.com

 

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Ah my young friend….figural bottles must be bottles that are in the shape of figures….most probably female humans, but also deer, dogs, cats, and other figures. My wife did small sculptures in plastic clay and called them figural art so I am an authority!!! :) I imagine business may have been a bit slow.

 

Don’t all motels still have open parking garages between the rooms….when did that design go away? Time flies….but when I was a kid, that was the basic design.  Early era....Indeed!!

 

Who conducted the survey to determine 1 in 7 passing cars was on illegal business? It must have been a doctoral study based on survey forms filled out at local bars…..I love it.

 

Aside from my snark, great photos and terrific dialog. This is the stuff of real road tripping!! Great stuff.

 

Dave

 

Keep the Show on the Road!!

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Ha Dave, you're entitled to a little snarkiness! And about you being the expert on figural art, well, that figures. 

All my facts come from thorough research on the internet so they must be true. The Google never lies.

To give you an idea of some of the weird stuff that I was reading about before I went to that part of New Mexico this is a youtube video I recall seeing before that road trip. Cuervo sits on I-40 about 9 miles west of Newkirk, I had just stopped there before getting to Newkirk. I didn't show this to my wife before or after that trip but while we were in Cuervo she refused to get out of the truck to look around.

Rick

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Roadhound, the above video is certainly disturbing and downright creepy.  Wonder if there is anything new on this since this news video from 2014?  Got to say I was a little taken aback by the, shall we say, 'lackadaisical' response by the police officer interviewed.

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Neon Arrows

Of all the roadside architecture probably nothing beckoned to the traveler more than well lit neon signage. The warmth and glow of the neon could make even the dodgiest of places look decent. Add in a theme that appealed to the restless kids in the back seat, with some animation, and you had a double threat. The Arrow Motel along State Route 68 in Espanola, New Mexico may have had that appeal. A close look at the neon tubes would indicate that they were synchronized to turn on and off to give the appearance of the bow string being released and a neon arrow flying through the air.

After sitting vacant since 2000 the Arrow Motel was demolished on Jan 3, 2017 after a prolonged legal battle between the city of Espanola and the owners of the property who had refused to clean it up. The sign reportedly has been relocated to the Glorieta Station redevelopment in Albuquerque, NM. 

SC117914-5D03731.jpg

 

Roadhound

http://rick-pisio.pixels.com

http://www.rwphotos.com 

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Rick,

 

Great image and it brings to mind my early days. I thought getting old would take longer! :) But I sure recall the days in the late 40's through the 60's when neon ruled.

 

As a kid, and before I got my license in the mid 1950's, I'm not sure that those fancy signs attracted my parents when we were on road trips. I suspect they figured if the place had a fancy sign, it would cost too much!

 

What I recall most was that Mom wanted it to be clean and quiet, and my sister and I wanted a grassy play area. Many of the places were along railroad tracks, so it wasn't easy to find quiet. I don't know why motels snuggled up to the tracks, unless the land was cheaper, and of course the roads tended to follow along railroads.

 

I have a few shots of motels in the early 60's after I started taking movies and stills. And Dad was something of an early adopter with slides. But when a single photo cost the equivalent of a few dollars in today's money, you didn't take a lot of pictures of motel signs!!

 

It was an entirely different business model because motels were mom and pop affairs. There was no such thing as today's cookie cutter chain motels. Each night was an adventure to find a good place to stay, and part of the fun of travel. With today's consistent look alike, clean and well appointed motels I bet I could be blindfolded and still locate everything on the property.....even if I might scare a few people with the mask.

 

Thanks for the great photos....I really appreciate them!

 

Dave

 

Keep the Show on the Road

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Thanks Dave, I always enjoy and appreciate your comments. I bet you've got a lot of great photos in that archive of yours. Do you recall what film your father was shooting back in the day?  I hope it was Kodachrome because then there is a good chance that the slides still have an image on them.   

Some of the comments that I add to go along with the photos are from the perspective of a man now in his 50's recalling what he remembers of the vacations with his parents and imagining the experience from his parents perspective based on his own experience years later with his own family...if that makes any sense.

As a kid in the late 60's and early 70's I certainly remember coming into a town's main street late at night, after driving all day, and passing by the motels all lit up with neon. Mine and my brother's first reaction was always to the sign, sometimes dad would pull in and other times it was "no, not that one." We had other criteria too. My brother wanted a swimming pool, I wanted a resturaunt nearby, and mom just wanted it to be clean.

Typically we would pull into the parking lot and my dad would get out and ask to see a room while we waited in the car. Sometimes we would stop at 3 or 4 motels before he found one that he was comfortable with, and my dad isn't a picky person. Sometimes we would have to take what was available and make the best of it. My last vacation as a passenger in my parents car was in 1978, by then they would look first to the major chains.

By the time I was traveling with my family in the late 90's through the 00's I would look to the chain motels as well. By then the mom & pop motels were pretty rundown and not desirable for a family. By the time we took our last trip as a family in 2012 we had settled on one or two major chains. The Best Western chain seemed to be preferred, the rates were reasonable and they provided a free breakfast. When your doing a 2 week drive saving $20 or $30 a day on breakfast for a family of 4 adds up. 


Rick

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Rick,

 

Terrific description of your experiences, and they brought back similar reflections. Your descriptions are worth saving. The era of the Mom and Pop is obviously over, and your description of the transition is valuable.

 

I try to explain to my grandchildren the differences between a travel experience where individuals were the driving force rather than corporations. Is it better now? It sure is.

 

The bed I sleep in, and the room I enjoy in even a moderately priced motel is twice as nice as in most Mom and Pop places. Who sleeps today on a mattress laid on a wire spring base metal bed frame, or watches black widows crawl in and out of the ceiling lamp fixture? Of course they were not all that bad, but your description of stopping at several and sometimes making a desperate choice is true.

 

Older is not better, but different, and more varied, less predictable, and much more personal. But what is personal is also variable, while what is corporate is standardized. And I miss the 25 cent a ride Magic Fingers Vibrating Beds....:)

 

I better explain Magic Fingers. The company produced a vibrating motor that attached to the aforementioned bed frame, and placed a coin machine on the night stand. You put your quarter in the slot, pushed down the lever, and got five minutes of relaxing vibration. Just the thing for the weary road traveler!

 

Dave

 

Keep the Show on the Road

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Gees, my memories of the Mom and Pop travel business of the late 40's and the 50's come back. We never saw a pool, but I remember the two headed calf in the store window just down the street from the motel in Garberville, California.

 

And I not only remember Magic Fingers, but rooms that featured pay radio. Drop your two bits in the radio and you could listen to an hour of the news on AM. No FM in those days. KGO in San Francisco was a 50,000 watt station. At sundown local stations had to shut down, so 810 on the dial could be heard in Oregon, Washington, etc. It was our connection to home! And even stations in Tijuana came in loud and clear on the road.

 

Microwave, refrigerator, TV......HA. Vending machines, hot breakfast, all night front desk, sundries in case you forgot your razor,.... HA HA. Pillow top mattress, shampoo, hair dryer, air conditioning, mints on your pillow, cookies, etc, etc..... HA HA HA.

 

Yap, the good old days.

 

Dave

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KFI Los Angeles at 640 on the AM dial was another 50,000-watt clear channel station, so I'm sure you were able to hear them at night as well.  As well as 1520 KOMA in OKC, who came in all over the western US at night.  But I digress..

Got a sample of those bygone days last summer in Raton NM.  All of the eight or so chain motels were full due to forest fire evacuations, so we would up at a place I believe was called the Maverick Motel.  An absolute time warp 'Mom and Pop' place straight out of the 1950s.  Room (one of 12) was clean and quiet, but definitely 'no frills'.  Even had one of those  old-fashioned tiny free-standing bathroom sinks.  And a tiny stall shower!  At least the AC was good and not too noisy.  Mattresses were thin but not too bad.  We slept well!

Edited by mga707

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MGA,

Terrific!  Yes KFI was another beacon in the night!  And a station in SLC.  Who today can imagine the satisfaction of pulling in one of those  "old friends" from your home town while somewhere on the road in the great American "outback"  at night. Those old AM stations were as American as apple pie, and brightened many a dark road.  Heck if you bought your car in So Cal or the Bay Area, KFI or KGO was labeled right on a push button.

But you actually had to turn a knob to tune in most stations.  No one today realizes the hardships!!! :)

And while Rick was looking for the pool, I was asking Dad for a quarter

 

Dave

Keep the Show on the Road!

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Geez, I leave for a couple of days and come back to arachnid flashbacks, mutant cattle, and fond remembrances of thousand finger massages. My parents never gave me the quarter so I'll never know the euphoria that a thousand finger massage can bring.

For the record it was my younger brother that wanted a pool, my desire was a restaurant nearby not only so that we didn't have to drive any more but also so that I could get a hamburger and fries. I don't know why it was but hamburgers on a road trip were always bigger, juicier, and tastier than anything I could get at home. It didn't matter what town we happened to stop in it was always the case.

MGA707's comments about the Mom & Pop motel in New Mexico reminded me of our stay at the Blue Swallow Motel in Tucumcari. It had all of the warmth of a good bed & breakfast (without the potpourri) along with the nostalgia of 50's roadtrip. The room we had was immaculately restored and clean, clean towels and bed linens, plus modern conveniences like wifi and flat screen TV's. The rate was extremely reasonable, if I recall, and the person I gave the credit card to when we checked in was the owner. It captured the nostalgia of the era with modern convenience thrown in. My wife was so impressed she forgave me for the machete adventure on our way to Montoya earlier in the day.

I know of a few Mom & Pop type motels that have been restored and are operating but they are mostly along Route 66. Besides the Blue Swallow the Munger Moss in Missouri, the El Trovatore in Kingman, and the Wigwams in San Bernardino and Holbrook come to mind. I wonder if there is much of a market for that type of road trip motel nostalgia outside of the Route 66 corridor? 

Roadhound

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I have wondered for at least twenty years (I am slow to resolve these questions) whether there could be a special book, publication or web site just for mom and pop motels that was sort of a review and guide.

 

There may be one, but my original idea was that it be distributed at the registration desk, or even in the room, free. Then those inclined to favor those unique places of character and personal attention would know where to stop next. I suppose mom and pop restaurants could be featured as well.

 

The mom and pop places would pay for advertising and naturally promote the distribution and awareness because each gained when all handed them out. You see that model sometimes in the antique business.

 

So there is a way to fund retirement.....but I am too long retired to want to start now!!! :)

 

Dave

Keep the Show on the Road

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