Magnificent MarqueeChicago, IL

Chicago Theatre sketch by Chandler O'Leary

When I was in Chicago last summer, I finally got to cross a big thing off my sketching wish list: the iconic lights of the Chicago Theatre. By the time I was done, I couldn’t help but wish that every city had its name inscribed on a giant, gorgeous neon marquee. I mean, I-Heart-NY shirts are nice and all, but if I were New York, I’d rather see my name in lights.

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A watershed momentContinental Divide, NM

Route 66 sketch by Chandler O'Leary

This post is part of an ongoing series called 66 Fridays, which explores the wonders of old Route 66. Click on the preceding “66 Fridays” link to view all posts in the series, or visit the initial overview post here.

If you’ve ever done a coast-to-coast road trip, you’ll have crossed the Continental Divide somewhere. (Depending on your route, you might have crossed it more than once in the same day.) It’s easy to take for granted now, but back in the days of early overland travel, finding and crossing the divide between the Atlantic and Pacific watersheds was a big deal.

Luckily, the U.S. highway authorities still think the it’s a big deal, and want to make sure you notice it. From Montana to New Mexico, the Great Divide is well-marked wherever a road crosses it. Whether it’s a gravel goat track, a county road, or a four-lane freeway, you’re sure to find some sort of commemorative sign or plaque. And nothing tops the marker on Route 66.

Heck, the Mother Road comes through with more than just a wayfinding marker: these folks have made a bona fide roadside attraction out of river drainage. And more power to them—this is Route 66, after all. I’d expect nothing less.

Route 66 sketch by Chandler O'Leary

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A flash of finStrait of Juan de Fuca, between Washington state and Vancouver Island

Humpback whale sketch by Chandler O'Leary

After all this talk of dinosaurs, I had a hankering to show you a sketch of a real, living, breathing giant. When I witnessed this gal diving off the coast of Vancouver, all I was able to see was, well, the tip of the iceberg. But that’s okay—it was easy to picture the rest of her, swimming just below the surface of my imagination.

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Dino you are, but what am I?Cabazon, CA

Cabazon dinosaurs sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Now, I’ve seen a lot of roadside dinosaurs in my day, but for me, nothing can top the iconic giants of Cabazon, CA. For one thing, unlike some others that come to mind, these guys are beautifully crafted and amazingly realistic (and no wonder: their designer, Claude Bell, created all the statuary at Knott’s Berry Farm in the 1940s and 50s).

Cabazon dinosaurs sketch by Chandler O'Leary

For another, these dinosaurs are no mere statues: like their distant cousin Lucy, they’re buildings. And since they now house a bizarre creationist museum and gift shop (which I could not bring myself to pay money to support by entering), I think that now officially qualifies them not just as dinosaurs, but also as ducks!

Cabazon dinosaurs sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Best of all, these dinos were prominently featured in the cult classic and ultimate road trip movie, Pee Wee’s Big Adventure. When I finally got here last year, it felt like completing a pilgrimage.

And yes, of course I did the Pee Wee laugh when I got there! You don’t even have to ask.

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Extinct but very much aliveHolbrook, AZ

Route 66 sketch by Chandler O'Leary

This post is part of an ongoing series called 66 Fridays, which explores the wonders of old Route 66. Click on the preceding “66 Fridays” link to view all posts in the series, or visit the initial overview post here.

Unlike the Columbia River Gorge and the Oregon Coast, the section of Route 66 that crosses eastern Arizona is actually a place known to contain real, no-kidding dinosaur fossils. (And unique ones, to boot: there’s a large concentration of Triassic-era early dinosaur species here.)

Route 66 sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Unsurprisingly, the Mother Road in that part of the state is positively crowded with roadside attractions that fill the dinosaur niche—most of them centered around the town of Holbrook. No matter what kind of concrete dinosaur you’re into, Holbrook has something for everyone. The prehistoric portrayals range from cartoony…

Route 66 sketch by Chandler O'Leary

…to surprisingly realistic…

Route 66 sketch by Chandler O'Leary

…to absurd…

Route 66 sketch by Chandler O'Leary

…to downright hilarous.

Amazingingly (and unlike many Route 66 landmarks), every dino-themed attraction here is still in business, still trapping tourists. May they live long and prosper—while they keep drawing crowds, I’ll keep drawing pictures.

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Jurassic forestBetween Gold Beach and Port Orford, OR

Prehistoric Gardens dinosaurs sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Speaking of incongruous dinosaurs, if you ever find yourself traveling up Highway 101 along the Oregon coast, you might be surprised to see a brachiosaurus head poking up through the trees. Just like the Columbia River Gorge, the Oregon rainforest isn’t a place you’ll ever find actual dinosaur fossils. Still, there’s something about the misty hillsides and impossibly tall trees that make it easy to imagine yourself standing in a primordial place.

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Prehistoric pit stopVantage, WA

Gingko Gem Shop dinosaurs sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Remember when I posted that sketch of the Ginkgo sign in central Washington a couple of years ago? Well, I was so excited about the typography on that sign that I neglected to talk about what the sign advertised: the Ginkgo Gem Shop. On our way to Spokane that year, Mary-Alice and I stopped in to buy souvenirs: you know, petrified wood, agates with googly eyes glued to them (you think I’m kidding!), your basic roadside staples.

Anyway, the best part about the Ginkgo Gem Shop are the incongruous concrete dinosaurs that stand outside the entrance. (Note: the velociraptor below is cast from the same mold as was one I spotted along Route 66 in Arizona!)

Gingko Gem Shop dinosaurs sketch by Chandler O'Leary

I say “incongruous” because thanks to the Columbia Flood Basalts that covered much of Washington under miles and miles of black volcanic rock, you’re unlikely ever to find a dinosaur fossil in these here parts. But that’s okay—after decades of roadtripping through desert landscapes, this is exactly the sort of place I’d expect to see a concrete dinosaur.

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One if by land, two if by iceBoston, MA and Kittery Point, ME

Boston sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Even though New England was the heart of the original thirteen colonies, in my experience you’re more likely to find this type of flag flying here than this one. For me there’s no real surprise here: Boston is a city that takes its sports seriously, and the Bruins flag is as much a symbol of Beantown as the Old North Church. I can certainly relate—New Englanders are my people and hockey my sport, but even beyond that, I know what it’s like for a winning goal to feel something like a religious experience.

Bruins Madonna sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Don’t believe me? Ask Our Lady of the Slapshot here.

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Cutting-edge comfortKingman, AZ

Route 66 sketch by Chandler O'Leary

This post is part of an ongoing series called 66 Fridays, which explores the wonders of old Route 66. Click on the preceding “66 Fridays” link to view all posts in the series, or visit the initial overview post here.

In its heyday, Route 66 was a symbol of American prosperity, modernity, technology and personal freedom—not just because of the rise of the middle class in that era, but also thanks to all the new technologies that allowed more and more people to live in relative comfort. In the post-war 1920s people started buying big-ticket items on credit; after World War II, good jobs were abundant and people had even more disposable income. In both eras, many families owned their own automobiles for the first time: suddenly people had both the means and the tools to take vacations in far-off places, and Route 66 showed them the way.

And the Mother Road was lined from toe to tip with modern notions and attractions. Neon tubes, a recent invention, lined every urban commercial strip along the way. Budget-minded travelers could stay in newfangled motor hotels, and even park their cars in garages attached to their rooms. But perhaps the most important invention, the key to the Mother Road’s success, was the advent of air conditioning.

Like most vacationers do today, Route 66 road trippers tended to take their vacations in the summer. And 66 cuts its path through a part of the country with some seriously warm climates. August in the Ozarks is hot and sticky, but summer in the Sun Belt can be downright dangerous. Air conditioning became widely available in the late 1920s, just as the first alignments of 66 were being laid out. The technology wasn’t just convenient for hotels or restaurants looking for a perk to advertise; it was downright revolutionary, in that it allowed the entire American Southwest to be opened up for large-scale development.

Of course, the Southwest is littered with examples of the downsides of said development, but now that I’ve traveled Route 66 at the very zenith of a scorcher of a summer, the logic of advertising “air cooled” rooms is plain as day. I can now attest to the gratitude one feels when stepping into an icy-cool room after a day spent in 115-degree heat. And neon signs like this one, advertising such a technological miracle, shimmer like desert mirages promising an oasis just ahead.

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