Tag Archives: elephant

Elephant seals sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Sealed with a kiss

I’ve never done Highway One in the summer, so I’ve never seen it the way most people do—choked with tourists and traffic. I prefer to see the coast highway in the winter, where the only teeming hordes to contend with are those of the pinniped variety.

Elephant seals sketch by Chandler O'Leary

The elephant seal breeding ground on the Big Sur coast is worth pretty much any detour at this time of year. Be warned, though: don’t have too many other things on your agenda that day. Because you’re going to be so fascinated (and a little freaked out) by the spectacle before you that you’re going to want to throw your plans out the window and stay all day.

Lucy the Elephant sketch by Chandler O'Leary

The mammoth of Margate

We’ve all heard of the elephant in the room, but how many people can say they’ve been in a room in an elephant? Well, last week I finally joined the ranks of those who can.

There are probably thousands of roadside attractions in the U.S.—some (like the Corn Palace, Paul & Babe, the Blue Whale and Salem Sue) are so iconic they almost transcend the genre. And Lucy might just be the queen of them all.

Lucy the Elephant sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Her story is a bit of an odd one. She was built in 1881 by a real estate developer—as Lucy was one of the taller buildings (yes, she is a building, not just a sculpture!) in town, the developer invited prospective customers to climb her staircase and view adjacent property parcels from the houdah (pavilion) at the top. Lucy, of course, became a bigger tourist draw than the local real estate market—her owner even built a much larger copy at Coney Island (Lucy’s big sister burned down in 1896).

Lucy was sold and resold over the years, and the room in her belly served as a residence, a restaurant, a business office, and even a tavern at one point. She survived visiting tourists, rowdy barflies, several remodeling jobs, a tavern fire, and many hurricanes. By the 1960s, though, she was in such a sorry state she was slated for demolition. A group of concerned locals banded together in the 1970s to move her slightly inland and restore her to her original glory—in 1976 she was designated a National Historic Landmark.

The rest, as they say, is history. Now, you know how I’m going to finish this story, right?

Lucy the Elephant sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Yep, you guessed it. The end.

Pink Elephant sketch by Chandler O'Leary

In the pink

Some of my favorite roadside attractions are the ones that are totally incongruous with the surrounding area (like finding a blue whale in the middle of Oklahoma).

Unless, that is, I’m wildly misinformed, and Iowa is actually chock full of elephants…

Elephant Carwash sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Pink pachyderm

If the Yoken’s whale is the queen of the east coast’s Route 1, then the Elephant Carwash sign surely must rule Highway 99 in the west. The restaurant inside the Space Needle can eat its heart out—this jumbo gal is my favorite spinning landmark in the Emerald City.

Elephant Carwash sketch by Chandler O'Leary