Just north of Michigan’s bustling Interstate 94, along Lake Michigan, is little stretch of old state road called the Blue Star Highway. The little road winds its way along the lake, curving past the picturesque resort town of South Haven, headed up on its way to the cities of Saugatuck and Douglas. Along this rambling road is Sunset Junque Shop, a chaotic, cluttered slice of American nostalgia and vintage paraphernalia waiting to be explored.
Located five miles north of South Haven, the junk shop offers an acre-sized yard bursting at the seams with the detritus of American pop culture. Neoclassical statues lean against old cabinets and fun house props; retro farm equipment and cases stocked with vintage postcards. For music-lovers, Sunset also offers a treasure trove of old vinyl LP’s from the 60’s through the 80’s. It’s a delightfully haphazard and ever-changing monument to American culture.
Whether you’re a antique lover, a casual collector or simply out for some adventure, Sunset Junque is a fun diversion from the monotony of the Interstate – a chance to slow down and step inside a little slice of America’s roadside past before jumping back into the blur of the highway. When you’ve had enough junk shopping, head back to Interstate 94 through the town of South Haven – filled with plenty of shopping, dining options, nice beaches and some great ice cream.
John Updike, as well as being one of America’s beloved, if not a bit controversial, novelists, was a traveler and a poet. Brenda’s post yesterday was a fitting tribute, but here’s a bit more. In his collection of poems, Americana, published in 2001, Updike combines the traveler’s and the writer’s eye.
The poem “Americana,” subtitled “Poem Begun on Thursday, Oct. 14, 1993, at O’Hare Airport, Terminal 3, around Six O’Clock P.M.,” is an airport musings piece. In this one he uses the airport as a place to let his mind and words ponder life. In another, he delves into the subject of an overhead luggage rack. (To read “Americana,” click on this link and scroll down.)
In other poems, Updike tackles overseas travel and descriptions of cities. About New York City, he wrote the lines “whose sheets of windows rise like dusty thunder” in reference to the skyscrapers.
New York City, according to Leon Neyfakh who wrote an article about Updike in the New York Observer, was one of Updike’s favorites.
Along with people watching and taking in the city’s sense of adventure, Updike enjoyed heading to art museums, in particular. Neyfakh was planning on taking Updike to the Miró exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art on his next visit to the city.
If you want to see New York through Updike’s eyes, sit at a restaurant table where you can look out the window and people watch. Then head to the Museum of Modern Art to see the Miró exhibit. Along the way, jot down notes on your observations. Perhaps you’ll uncover a poem in there.
For a review of Americana, click here. For Updike’s review of the Museum of Modern Art before it reopened after being remodeled, click here.
Here at Gadling we’ll be highlighting some of our favorite sounds from the road and giving you a sample of each — maybe you’ll find the same inspiration that we did, but at the very least, hopefully you’ll think that they’re good songs.
Got a favorite of your own? Leave it in the Comments and we’ll post it at the end of the series.
WEEK 4: “King of the Road” sung by Roger Miller
When my brother and I were young, our parents gave us Hummel figurine music boxes. His figurine was a small boy sitting on a fence with a bundle tied on a stick that rested on his shoulder. When the key was wound, the melody “King of the Road” played while the boy turned.
My figurine was a girl feeding chickens. Although, I dearly loved my music box– the girl looked like Heidi, that independent lass who lived in the Alps with her grandfather, I was drawn to my brother’s more. There it sat on his chest of drawers in a spot within reach.
Even before I knew the lyrics, the title of the song was enough. King of the Road. What could sound more grand?
The lyrics, though, said it all. Hitting the road without cares or worries–the thrill of being in control with each step towards the horizon. A life spent enjoying simple pleasures as long as a person can keep moving and make connections with folks along the way.
Never mind that I happened to be female–and at the time, one of the only known female travelers who got much press was Amelia Earhart–and we know how that turned out. I come from a line of women who have wandered.
Those women carried the aura of far away places, particularly Aunt Clarissa. It wasn’t the stories my great aunt told me of her time in Japan as an Army major after World War II that captured my interest–I don’t specifically remember any– it was the feeling I surmised that traveling gave her. The zippidy do dah.
When Roger Miller wrote King of the Road in 1965, he was telling the tale of a carefree traveler at the same time Miller was on the road seeking out his dreams as a singer-songwriter. After he sings in the video, Miller recalls that the song was inspired somewhere between Dayton, Des Moines or Chicago when he saw a road sign that said, “Trailers for Sale or Rent.”
What caught my attention about this version is Miller’s utter exuberance, both in his voice and his body, particularly when he belts out the third chorus and throws that fast crook in his elbow–and how the song stuck with me all day once I listened to it again.
When I think of my King of the Road experiences, the ones where this song played in my head, I am:
by myself on a bus heading to Maine from New Paltz, New York to work at a summer camp after my senior year in high school, the possibilities endless. This summer was late nights doing laundry so I could head out every weekend to places like Boothbay Harbor,Camden and Ogunquit, eating lobster and clams dripped in butter and skinny dipping in a lake with the moon shimmering across the water;
I’m walking down the streets of Arhus, Denmark, my arms swinging in stride with my legs as I head to the Viking ship museum, my entire body feeling in sync with the sidewalk beneath my feet and the breeze through my hair. I’d come alone–or if I was with someone, I can’t recall because the memory of being so in touch with my body on that day and the sense of adventure has eclipsed a companion;
I am walking away from my village into the Gambian bush to hang out under a tree for a few hours drinking tea, writing and listening to music, soaking up a bit of R&R from being the village Peace Corps volunteer. As cows grazed nearby and finch flitted and darted between the scrub brush, I regained balance;
and I am taking a friend of mine on a road trip through New Mexico so he can see how the landscape changes. As the hues of reds and browns change with each turn past Jemez as we get closer to Bandelier National Monument, we marvel at the wonder of us and our good fortune to have a car and all the time we need.
Whenever I hear that song, my feet start tappin’ and I want to head out–see new places, make new friends, visit old ones and know that the world is my oyster. What better feeling is there than being a king of the road?
Despite the lyrics, I’ve never smoked a pack of cigarettes in my life. I do, however, look at trailers with great affection.
Here’s a bit of King of the Road trivia: It’s been used in the movies: Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, Swingers, Into the Wild, Im Lauf der Zeit (In Due Time), and if you saw Brokeback Mountain, who can forget the scene where Jake Gyllenhaal as Jack, confident and full of energy, is heading in his truck to see Ennis? King of the Road was playing on the radio. Of course, that was before Jack’s hopes were dashed.
Still, the song for me is an optimistic all will work out.
Why Louisville? The jug band was founded here more than 100 years ago.
Back then, clay jugs were used to hold bourbon whiskey. When the whiskey was gone, there was an empty jug in need of a use. Blow some air across the mouth in just the right way, and there’s music. The first band appeared in 1903.
Festivals like this one give me the idea that I like people. I actually do like people, which is one reason why I travel, but washboards and jug bands are happy music–perfect for summer. Perfect for creating the feeling that people are neat.
I mentioned this festival to someone who I met who lives in Louisville and she swore that this was a well worth it event, and one that gets rave reviews. She did admit she’s been out of town each time it has occurred, but still swears by it–and she’s a music sort who travels in the circle of people who know something about music.
In case you think you might go, Friday night at the Frazier International History Museum, there’s a jug band concert featuring the Juggernaut Jug Band and the Cincinnati Dancing Pigs. Afterwards there’s a showing of the documentary, “Chasin’ Gus’ Ghost” that traces the history of jug band music.
The Dirdy Birdies Jug Band will be performing. If their music is anything like the video on YouTube, I’d say you’ll be in for a good time.
I love this sign for a few reasons. One reason is how it would look great on a T-shirt–a snippet of faded Americana if you will. Also, I am drawn to the glimpse of Superman history in each face. Which version did you grow up watching? Metropolis, Illinois does have The Super Museum. It’s not as faded as the shot of this mural by Zengrrl, although, I’m not sure exactly what’s on display. The Web site is a tad vague–but for a summer stop, it might be fun.
If you’ve taken a photo of some interesting snippet of where you have been, send it our way via Gadling’s Flickr photo pool. That’s where we find our Photo of the Day feature.