Tag Archives: back roads travel blog

A child holds on tightly as they weave their way between the cones towards the donkey jump on Lincoln Avenue. Photo Credit: Rory Clow
It’s fun and games in the street when the citizens of Steamboat Springs come out of hibernation.

Have you ever seen a marching band ski down the Main Street of your town? We’re gonna venture to say NEVER…

For the citizens of Steamboat Springs, a northern Colorado town bordering Medince Bow-Routt National Forest, it’s a sign that it’s time to come out and play. What first began as a way to help the locals combat cabin fever during the long mountain winters, has since developed into a series of snow-themed events to both entertain and energize the community. 

For four days in February, (6th-10th 2019) neighbors bundle up and head to Lincoln Avenue for what is considered the oldest continuous winter celebration west of the Mississippi, the Steamboat Winter Carnival. 

It’s a celebration on the Main Street of America’s winter playground and we won’t let you miss it! Here’s what you’ll experience.

Locals ride their horses down Lincoln Avenue in downtown Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Photo Credit: Rory Clow

WHAT TO EXPECT

Snow. Lot’s of it.

The snow that falls in Steamboat Springs is referred to as “champagne snow” — a phrase that was coined in the early 1950s by a local rancher who said the snow tickled his nose like champagne. (The powder is so good that Olympians from across the country come here to train!) For the citizens here, snow is no burden, but the best way to play!

“Skijoring”, a local sport of a skier being pulled up and down Lincoln Avenue by a horse. Photo Credit: Rory Clow

Witness unusual events like skijoring, the donkey jump, and adult show-shovel races.

You’ll quickly realize that many of the events are fueled by actual horsepower — because even they deserve to stretch their legs in the winter! These mighty steeds get in on events like “skijoring”, a local sport of a skier being pulled up and down Lincoln Avenue by a horse. There are also adults seated on snow shovels which are tied to the back of, you guessed it, horses, for snow-shovel races. Trust us — the sight of this will make you forget about your numb face and fingers!

If you’ve got some little snow bunnies that you travel with there are a few events for kiddos too! The donkey jump (a crowd favorite) is a small ramp that can reach a distance of 40 feet! Local kids are eligible for the dog sled race where they’re pulled by their family dog down Lincoln Avenue.

Dogs and dads pull the little ones during the winter carnival celebration. Photo Credit: Rory Clow

Illuminated mountains and watch for the famous Lighted Man.

When the sun sets, everyone heads to the slopes for the Night Extravaganza on Howelsen Hill where you can expect to see daredevils jump through flaming hoops, skiers with flares parade down the mountain. Finally, the last one down the slope is the Lighted Man, a person of local lore. This skier descends the mountain wearing a 70-pound battery powered LED light suit, sizzling sparklers and a backpack with Roman candles shooting off his back just as the closing ceremony (a bright fireworks show) begins. 

LEFT: LED skiers make their way down the hill RIGHT: The famous Lighted Man descends wearing a 70-pound LED suit with Roman candles. Photo Credit: Rory Clow

Community camaraderie

We can all benefit from local events whether we live there or not. Joining others in celebrating their traditions and history helps us learn how we can be better in our own community. Because being neighborly is more than just a wave between shoveling snow or washing the car — it’s actively participating and celebrating everything that makes our towns unique.

Pack a bag of our cold weather gear and we’ll see you on you in Steamboat Springs, Colorado February 6-10, 2019!

Click HERE for more Winter Carnival details

 
Winter Carnival closing ceremonies always include fireworks signaled by the Lighted Man. Photo Credit: Rory Clow
 

Steamboat Springs isn’t the only place with cool traditions and unique Main Streets! Here are a few more of our other favorite towns we’ve explored on Two Lanes:

 
 
 
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In 1871, taking advantage of the Homestead Act, Mary Rickman Anderson and her husband David paid the $10 fee and headed out across Kansas to claim their 160 acres. The family’s first home was a sod house, so poor that their children slept in beds suspended from the cellar rafters – the only way to protect them from snakes and insects. After David’s death the following April, Mary, and her eight children had to work extra hard to keep their land but they did, and eventually, they built a new home from limestone found on their property. And 18 years later, in 1889, Mary finally had full ownership of the farm after she made the final $8 payment on the land.

LEFT: Francesca Catalini outside an abandoned building. RIGHT: The 1889 home of Mary Rickman Anderson and her children
LEFT: Francesca Catalini outside an abandoned building. RIGHT: The 1889 home of Mary Rickman Anderson and her children

This is just one of the many stories that Francesca Catalini, 32, uncovers every day as she documents the histories of the disintegrating structures across the Kansas prairies.

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LEFT: This mill produced flour from 1875 to 1941 along the Cottenwood River. RIGHT: Church of Lost Springs from 1821.

“I moved from Colorado three years ago to a small town just outside Wichita,” explains Francesca. “Out west, I was accustomed to shooting mountains and old abandoned mining towns. My first week in town I began exploring the Two Lane backroads. I’d drive for miles with stretches of nothing then suddenly happen upon a crumbling building in the middle of nowhere. Like a moth to a light, I’d find myself outside my car, knee deep in prairie grass, with my camera clicking away.”

The only problem: When she was ready to post her photos on Instagram, Francesca had no idea how to caption the images. Rather than resorting to a worn out cliché about “the road less traveled,” she took prints of her photos and began knocking on the doors of the neighbors and farmers nearby to see what they knew about these ruined buildings, information she could use to caption her art. What began as a hobby has now evolved into a full-blown preservation project as Francesca works to save the stories of the small towns and settlements that dot the Kansas prairie.

“I’ve come to find that farmers know everything. If you consider generations of the same family cultivating the same soil for all those years, you can bet stories have been handed down about the area.”

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At its peak in 1910, this Kansas ghost town had 21 residents. It was just a small stop along the railroad, but the town couldn’t have been more alive. Above city hall, there was a dance floor. On the weekends a band would play up there, the music spilling out into the streets. All that remains is this farmhouse.

On top that, Francesca uses “old school” research tools like the library, microfilm, genealogy books, newspapers, and the local historical society to help identify the subjects of her photos. Her favorite method is simply approaching the locals in town and starting a conversation — a concept that to some may seem as archaic as the structures in question.

“Strangers don’t talk anymore. I feel like we look down at our phones more than we look into the eyes of the people on the streets. I can’t tell you how many times these chance encounters have led to introductions with relatives, teachers, and community members who’ve helped me understand the impact of these places when they were in their prime. Sometimes simply asking about them brings back an appreciation for the soul of the town”

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Silos and ghost signs RIGHT: Lawrenz Feed Co. in Wellsville, Kansas dates back to 1884

The clock is ticking on the race to save these stories because many of the storytellers Francesca interviews are nearing the end of their lives. They hold the keys to the area’s history, and she feels keenly the responsibility to gather and preserve their memories about the places that shaped them.ve their first-hand experiences about the places that shaped them.

“Many of these places have little to no documentation and sometimes they’re 100-years-old. The unstable state of the structures with their sunken roofs, creaky floors, and remote locations can be intimidating. The current rundown state of general stores, churches, post offices, and mills should not dictate or lessen their significance. Their stories are radically important to the thread of the town. I never want people to walk past an old building, not knowing its role in the community.”

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LEFT: Fetrow General Store was a popular place to buy penny candy in 1927. RIGHT: an eerie mill rests in rust on the back roads of Kansas

Francesca hopes that her photos and their stories will inspire others to get curious about old buildings in their own state and beyond.

“Your personal experiences in your hometown give you roots there. What’s even more incredible to me is how a place that holds no ties to you, can latch on and make you feel part of it. It’s the emotional connection to the story that leaves a lasting impression. With each picture, every conversation, it’s my hope that I can take these memories and preserve them as an inclusive piece of local history through my lens.”

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In 1917, the Santa Fe Railroad laid its tracks right through the middle of this farm. At one time there was a lumber yard, two grocery stores, several houses, two elevators, and a depot. Today the land is still farmed, but the town is a ghost.

 Classic Antique Archaeology Target Logo embroidered on the front

 

 

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JT and Kasey sitting around his dad’s Buffalo Sound sign they preserved and turned into a table for guests

Buffalo Soul is a one-of-kind vacation rental that delivers an authentic Music City experience unlike any other

When in Nashville, there are certain staple experiences that you make sure not to miss. They often include, in no particular order, hot chicken, meat and three, and honky-tonking on Lower Broadway. There’s no shortage of live music in the crowded bars, the sold-out Bridgestone shows, or out in the elements at Ascend Amphitheater, but what they lack is an eye-to-eye connection to the artist.

This is a gap that Mike’s friend and recording artist JT Hodges and his wife Kasey aim to close by bringing folks closer to the music. For those Two Lanes travelers looking to have an authentic Nashville experience away from crowds and cliches, check out Buffalo Soul — a unique house rental where intimate performances from artists and singer-songwriters are an optional part of your stay.

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Living room/ singer-song round space

It’s never fun trying to cram your crew into a cheap downtown motel. (No one wins when they draw the shortest straw and end up on the sleeper sofa for the weekend.) At Buffalo Soul, there’s plenty of room to keep everyone in your group together to fully enjoy your vacation, a couples retreat or a big birthday celebration. Rent a room or the entire place! JT and Kasey want Buffalo Soul to be your “roam away from home”.

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LEFT: Suite for rent RIGHT: Buffalo accents in guest bathroom

“People visiting Nashville know that they can buy a ticket to The Opry or Ryman, rock out for a few hours, and then go home,” says JT. “At Buffalo Soul, we’re taking guests beyond the final bow by demolishing that fourth wall, giving them one-on-one time with the artists and songwriters before the show over some drinks or with a fire in the backyard after,” explains JT. “One of our goals, along with our partner, Todd Baldree, is to make the artist to fan relationship stronger and closer than ever before in today’s new music landscape. Millions of people are searching for new music experiences and I’m here to tell you, Buffalo Soul Music Row is a live mixtape performance that will give an authentic, personal experience. It’s the real Nashville”

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Photo taken by a Buffalo Soul guest of a performance with JT Hodges and his singer-songwriter friends, Chris & Lolly and Josiah Siska

The name Buffalo Soul pays tribute to JT’s dad, who opened Buffalo Sound Studios, the first multi-track recording studio in Fort Worth, Texas. The sign that welcomed artists like Michael Bolton and Delbert McClinton for two decades is now preserved under glass as the dining room table.

“Dad was inspired to name his studio after honeymooning with my mom in Santa Fe and feeling the ground shake while the buffalo would run past them,” says JT. “He said you could feel the power and spirit of them in your bones…similar to the way good music gets in your soul. Buffalo Soul was born to honor my father, our combined passion for music and the desire to create impactful new experiences for people.”

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LEFT: Vintage advertisements RIGHT: Famous Buffalo Sound Studio sign

Buffalo Soul is a 3,500 sq ft 1927 Tudor house located in the Edgehill neighborhood across from Belmont University and just a stone’s throw from Music Row. This historic street in downtown Nashville is where folks like Little Big Town and Sheryl Crow are always dipping into meetings with their labels and recording new music. It’s a place that’s familiar to JT and Kasey who have both worked in the industry for years.

“This is about giving back to an incredible music community in Nashville,” says Kasey. “We want people to come here whether they’re an artist or not, and enjoy an unforgettable musical experience without having to put on their boots.”

When you rent out Buffalo Soul, you can get ready upstairs in one of the three guest suites. (The entire house is artfully decorated by Misti Fahr of Design Hive Nashville.) Each room has been outfitted with subtle music markers, like snare drum and guitar wall hangings. Then come downstairs and gather around the glossy Baldwin upright piano for a singer-songwriter round curated by JT’s artists and singer-songwriter friends.

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LEFT: “Room to Run” Dobule Suite with snare drum accent wall hangings RIGHT: Custom Buffalo Soul wall-art

“We’ll set up a show in the living room generally, but if the weather agrees, our guitar-shaped patio is great for acoustic fireside performances,” says JT. “When you look out from one of the upstairs bedrooms you’ll see the full shape! The sound hole is a fire pit, the neck is a splash pad, and the headstock is a picnic table. Kasey worked for Gibson for eleven years so she wanted to honor that in a creative way while also giving Buffalo Soul its iconic shareable moment.”

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Guitar-shaped patio in the backyard

Forgot to mention one more incredibly unique element in the house — the studio in the basement. While Buffalo Soul entertains all sorts of groups from weekend retreats to photo shoots or anyone who wants to be near Music Row or simply loves live music – the studio is reserved for those who are inspired to record.

“If Bruno Mars comes into town and wants to lay down some demos then he can rent out the house and have the privacy and exclusivity to do so — that can be his own Buffalo Soul experience,” says JT.

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Artists, Josiah Siska and Olive Faye working with JT in the studio at Buffalo Soul

“The music industry has changed with technology. People are consuming music at a faster rate yet furthering that disconnect between the fans and the artists,” says Kasey. “Back then you’d know who they were, you’d study their album art while holding a tangible copy– there was an intelligence about who the artist was and an appreciation for that. Buffalo Soul is special in that we’ve created a place where the artist and consumer will make a very personal connection. Our hope is that intern that connection will facilitate or rekindle an appreciation and value for the art and the people that make it”

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Writing room next to the studio

Follow Buffalo Soul Music Row on Instagram and watch their progress on their second location in Leiper’s Fork, Tennessee!

Book your stay at Buffalo Soul

Photos by Meghan Aileen

Photos by Paige Rumore Photography

 

Go roam the Two Lane back roads of America with Mike’s American-Made adventure brand. This chopper tee travels well and has something cool on the back. TAKE A LOOK

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On June 30, 2018, Antique Archaeology hosted their 2nd ever Kid Picker Flea Market in downtown LeClaire, Iowa where the roles were flipped and the kids were the vendors and the adults were the customers. A total of 31 kids between the ages of 6 and 17 traveled with their families from all over the country to sell their antique/vintage/handmade treasures to the public—despite the sweltering heat index of 106 degrees! That didn’t stop the crowds of locals, tourists, Mike Wolfe, and his family, from coming out to support these young entrepreneurs.

Below are moments captured during Kid Picker Flea Market 2018 by LeClaire photographer, Kevin E. Schmidt/Maquoketa Studios.

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The event kicked off with a motivational speech from the American Picker himself. Holding his 6-year-old daughter, Charlie, in his arms, Mike spoke to the crowd about celebrating a child’s mind and why it’s important to encourage a kid’s interest in collecting treasures, especially in the disposable/tech-saturated generation they’re growing up in. He also spoke directly to the kids urging them to follow their picking passions because they’re the ones who will be responsible for telling the stories of American industry and history for the next generation.

063018-LeClaire-KS-051Mike declared the Flea Market open with a loud yell as the kids ran down to the levee along the Mississippi River. They assumed their positions at their booths which they had decorated themselves with homemade signs, business cards, and displays.

063018-LeClaire-KS-054Picks ranged from traditional rusty gold and vintage advertising to toys and furniture.

063018-LeClaire-NS-010During market hours, local businesses hosted events, bike races (provided by the River Valley Optimist Club), food and drinks (provided by Big Dave & Holly’s), a history exhibit of the telephone (presented by the Buffalo Bill Museum) and an upcycled craft with old keys (presented by Unique Creations and Fancy Pants Boutique) made possible by the donation of the members of Picker Nation. Even the LeClaire Fire Department fire truck came by to deliver some sweet relief from the heat with a bit of water.

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Mike stayed for the entire event walking around visiting each booth, asking questions, and buying picks.

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Flea market goers enjoyed LIVE music from Finding Home — a kids only family band.

063018-LeClaire-KS-032Even Mike’s daughter Charlie had a booth set up with a little help from her Grandma Rheta, (Mike’s mom!)

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The weather was hot, but the crowds were out in full force searching for their new favorite treasures.

063018-LeClaire-KS-050Mike added this foam gator head to his collection of oddities like Wolfe Boy, Gypsy Gramma, Oddfellows skeletal bust.

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The Twilight, a lavish Victorian riverboat and LeClaire gem, chauffered Kid Pickers and their families on cruises up and down the Mississippi River all afternoon.

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The Kid Picker class of 2018 group photo!

For details of the event and inspiration on how to host one in your town visit Antique Archeology’s Kid Picker Flea Market Page 

 

Take this Antique Archaeology hand thrown mug to your backyard fire or on your weekend camping trip!

 

 

 

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“A nod to the past and an eye to the future…”

Welcome to The National Exchange Hotel in Nevada City, California. You’ve just checked into one of the oldest hotels in America. If the ornate velvet walls of this place could talk, there’d be enough material to produce the next big Netflix docuseries. Stories about famous guests like Mark Twain and Black Bart swimming in the mountain spring-fed pool in the courtyard, the legendary lore of gold-hungry hopefuls exchanging their finds in the tunnels beneath the lobby floorboards, and presidents like Hebert Hoover and Ulysses S. Grant enjoying a stiff pour in the hotel bar.

This three-story, 40-room hotel hasn’t changed much since opening day in August 1856. Garnering the title as “Oldest Operating Hotel West of Mississippi” The National has hosted hundreds of thousands of travelers and locals alike for more than 150 years. That being said, the space was more than ready for some renovations. This is where our preservation hero, Nevada City native Jordan Fife comes into the story.

After leaving to conquer the world, the road looped Jordan back to town carrying his bag of prestigious design accolades over his shoulder. Equipped with the necessary financial backing and personal connection to the hotel,  Jordan is ready to breathe new life The National in a time-honored way.

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My wife and I grew up running through the halls of The National as kids,” explains Jordan. “Returning to the hotel now and walking across the creaky floors, up the slightly tilted lobby staircase, and getting lost in all the wild wallpaper, (so much wallpaper…) still leaves me with goosebumps every single time. And that’s just one of my memories from this place. Every local has a few good handfuls themselves!”

That’s why it’s so important that get this restoration right.

Not only is the hotel significant to the Nevada City community it’s also protected as a National Historic Landmark. Understanding that there are many rules to obey with a delicate restoration of The National, Jordan invited the Historical Society to visit the hotel to help determine what could go and stay. Afterward, he invited the 3,000 community members inside for the chance to purchase select items of the hotel that could not be saved for a very small price.

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“When we had the inventory sale, folks would grab my arm and hardly take a breather as they tried to spill out every detailed memory they had of the place,” shares Jordan. “One couple took me to the room where they got engaged and even showed me where they had hidden the ring box behind a brick over the fireplace! Their story inspired me to want to turn that room into a honeymoon suite, respectfully.”

Jordan believes that the personality and charm of the property come out in its quirky ways. He insisted on keeping that previously mentioned leaning staircase (which will be reinforced but still be allowed to lean), recreating some of the original wallpaper, the dinged wainscoting, the original brass fixtures, and knobs, as well as the original transoms above the doors. The idea is to enhance those cherished flaws – not glossing over them.

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“When The National was built more than 150 years ago, it was to be one of the best hotels in the west and reflected the best of service and design of its period,” says Jordan. “It was also completed without electricity or running water! Those amenities have since been added over the years. The new National will be designed to reflect the original Victorian style with modern influences with a 1920’s gentleman club feel – think tufted leather, oil paintings, taxidermy, built in bookcases with brass rolling ladders, and slightly ominous feel as a nod to the hotels haunted past .”

Speaking of amenities, Jordan is also establishing brand partnerships to offer guests American Made goods. The folks of Juniper Ridge are in the process of creating the scents of the in-room products while Iron and Resin will cater to guests and community downstairs with a full retail flagship store and gift shop.

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Similiar to the hotel, the Nevada City community has done an incredible job holding tightly to its roots as a well-persevered testimony to its history contributing to its spot on Architectural Digest’s “The Best Main Streets in America”.) The downtown area is also registered as a National Historic Landmark. Locals say that if not for the parking meters you’d swear you just time traveled!

Jordan wants people to see Nevada City, not just as a travel destination, but a place of fellowship between locals and visitors when the hotel is complete. It’s close proximity to Sacramento, Tahoe National Forest, and the Sierras makes it the ideal weekend destination for Two Lane travelers.

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The grand-reopening of The National will mean not only circulating money through local restaurants and shops but also into the pockets of skilled laborers like craftsmen, electricians, farmers for kitchen produce, receptionists, and an extra salty bartender to help keep the hotel operating smoothly.

“The heart of the entire project is still for the benefit of Nevada City citizens,” says Jordan. “I know I speak for everyone here when I say that there’s such value in preserving The National as part of California’s state history. We’re excited for folks to check in, drop their bags, and allow us to show them the best we have to offer. It’s incredible to think how a place can hold memories for more than 150 years and still have room for more!”

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Follow the progress of The National Exchange Hotel on Instagram

Go behind the scenes of the build with Jordan on his personal Instagram 

Photos by Ingrid Nelson

 

 

Ride hard and free in our Two Lanes American-Made chopper tee!

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The Two Lanes are calling!

There are 4,092,730 miles of public road in America. We’re gonna show you how to make the most of all of them without the hassle of competing with the crowds at Niagara Falls or draining your bank account to see the Northern Lights. Here are five unique adventures that belong on your summer 2018 bucket list. Each as Instagram-worthy as the next!

(Be sure to tag #ontwolanes so we can follow your journey!)

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LEFT: 50s Airfloat via @theshadydell RIGHT: retro movie/game night via @theshadydell

Rent a ’55 Airstream at The Shady Dell

Bisbee, Arizona

You’re gonna think the desert air is playing tricks on your eyes when you first pull off Highway 80 and turn into a vintage trailer court of Airfloats, (the same trailer models that James Dean and Elizabeth Taylor used as their luxury dressing rooms back in the day). But splash some water on your face because this place is no mirage! Since 1927, The Shady Dell has welcomed travelers looking to hang their hats and relax under the nostalgic high polished sunburst ceilings of the ‘40s and ‘50s trailers fitted with retro amenities. You remember how to use a percolator, right? Drop into The Shady Dell office, where you can borrow records and old movies to take back to your home away from home. Disable notifications, disconnect wifi, and reconnect to the glory days.

 

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LEFT: Interior of McGillian’s via @michaeljdoss RIGHT: Exterior of McGillian’s via @steviebarbagallo

Eat at McGillin’s, one of the oldest taverns in America

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Irish immigrants Catherine and William McGillin opened their ale house in 1860, the same year Lincoln was elected and just a few years after the Liberty Bell cracked. The couple and their 13 children lived in the apartment upstairs until the business became so popular that they sacrificed their home and made it part of the restaurant. When that still wasn’t enough room to accommodate customers, McGillin’sexpanded into the back alley and the oyster house next door. Located just a few blocks from City Hall, this pub is still just as popular today with locals and visitors as it was back then. Order a little bit of everything then walk it off in the city where the Declaration of Independence was created.

 

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LEFT: Longhorn Dam via @skeeter71 RIGHT: The Red Light Saloon via @chisholmtrailks

Take a ride on the trail that created the American cowboy

San Antonio, Texas/Abilene, Kansas

Between 1867 and 1871, Texas cowboys drove longhorn cattle from ranches in San Antonio along the Chisholm Trail to Abilene, Kansas, where the longhorns were put on trains and sent to growing cities in the north. It was one of the greatest migrations of livestock in world history! You can still travel the legendary cattle trail today, crossing the rivers and red dirt roads that carve through prairies and small towns along the way. One of the best is Waco, which straddles the Brazos River and boasts a bridge designed by the same company that designed the Brooklyn Bridge. The trip along the Chisholm Trail offers great vistas of the western plains before it ends in Abilene, just named one of top 10 true western towns of 2018.

 

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LEFT: Bike ride across the causeway via @paige_h_davis RIGHT: View of Lake Pontchartrain from an airplane via @oriontiger05

Drive across the longest bridge in the world 

Southeastern Louisiana

If you have a fear of open water, this may not be your cup of tea, but if you’re up for the 24-mile ride across what the Guinness Book of World Records says is the world’s longest continuous bridge passing over water, then we dare you to drive the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway. This bridge was built in 1955 and stretches across a lake where the bayous meet the Gulf of Mexico, and where alligators, the freshwater apex predators, meet the bull sharks, their saltwater counterparts. For eight of the Causeway’s 24 miles, you can’t see land in any direction …  just a little something to think about as you’re white-knuckling it across the longest bridge in the world!.

 

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LEFT: Bayfield, Wisconsin via @worldpins RIGHT: Kayaking through one of the many caves of the Apostle Islands via @t.brastad

Kayak through 12,000-year-old caves and cliffs around the Apostle Islands

Bayfield, Wisconsin

Located at the northernmost tip of Wisconsin, Bayfield is home to fewer than 500 people as well as The Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. Drop your kayak into Lake Superior and float in and around the towering caves and cliffs along the chain of 22 islands. If you’d like to get below the water, go explore the Lucerne shipwreck on Long Island. When you come back to shore, explore the marinas, miles of beaches, and trails to take you above it all. If you’d still like to get a little higher, make your way to Sand Island and Raspberry Island to get a birds-eye-view from a 19th-century lighthouse!

 

Like to see more? Follow our On Two Lanes Blog for more adventures in America’s small towns and the roads that wind between them!

Kancamagus Highway: The Quietest Stretch of Road in New England

Wild Idaho: 6 Fire Towers For Rent This Weekend

5 Small Towns of Less Than 1K You Need to Visit

Camp Wandaweda: The Return of The All- American Camping Trip

 

 

Inspired by old vintage service and body shop gear SHOP our new service tee!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Across America, little handmade libraries are connecting neighbors and renewing their interest in books.

While walking the dog or picking up your kids’ at school, or perhaps on your Two Lane travels out of town, have you, by chance, come across any colorful wood structures perched in yards? Maybe something that looks like an oversized birdhouse or a land-locked lighthouse? Some interesting little model with a surprise inside – books! Well if you have, you’ve stumbled upon a Little Free Library, a unique book exchange created in 2009 by Tim Bol to encourage book sharing and creativity without the burden of membership cards or due dates.

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To honor his mother, a much-beloved educator, Tim built a mini schoolhouse out of an old garage door, filled it with books, and put it at the end of his driveway in a quiet Wisconsin neighborhood. The sign he hung on it read ”Take a book. leave a book.” And just like that, his Little Free Libraries were born, giving millions free, easy access to books, often for the first time since grade school. His simple gesture has spread into every state in America and to 80 countries around the world, and there are now more than 60,000 registered book-sharing boxes worldwide proving that in this screen-saturated digital world, there is still a love for, and now a place for, the written word.

Johannes Gutenberg invented the movable-type printing press in 1439.

Little Free Libraries, a nonprofit in Hudson, Wisconsin, hires woodworkers in Wisconsin and Minnesota to build beautiful wooden libraries and to fill orders that are now coming in at more than a thousand every month. Each mini-library is shipped to a school, business, or individual who has a passion to preserve the joy of turning an actual page in order to read a story. Once delivered and set up, each unique box is filled with donated books, the library always changing as each book is borrowed and replaced with another.

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The first book ever written using a typewriter may have been Life on the Mississippi; the first novel was The Adventures of Tom Sawyer – either way, Mark Twain for sure!

Books are the original vessels that carry us to castles and mysterious lands. They’re portals we cross to transport our imaginations and influence our way of thinking. No download, wifi signal, or a battery charge required. It’s no wonder the book is always better than the movie! It’s because books allow us to interpret a story in our own way rather than simply ride along on someone else’s vision. (Think about that next time your kids ask for your Netlifx password. Hand them a paperback of “Treasure Island” instead!) Little Free Libraries reopen those possibilities, offering the joy of turning pages and creasing corners to folks of all ages. Even cooler, they’re creating new conversations between neighbors.

73% of people say they’ve met more neighbors because of these little libraries.

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Too often we put up walls between passersby and ourselves because eye contact makes us uncomfortable or we’re too distracted by the podcast playing in our ear. These libraries are shifting that mentality and creating dialogues between neighbors and friends in the community who may otherwise have never met. It’s an open hand extended from the volunteer librarian to the community, and an invitation to come take a look inside.

You may happen upon a college student’s second-hand copy of “The Great Gatsby” or a garden club member’s book about native plants. Whatever catches your eye will be one of a kind because unlike anything in the local public library, each book comes with a personal recommendation from the donor. Some leave bookmarks, highlight their favorite quotes, or leave handwritten notes inside, addressed to the next reader and sharing how this book influenced them.  Flipping through the books and finding those personal touches may be just the thing that inspires you to take that book home, tell a friend, and eventually donate a book that has meant something to you and may now enrich someone else’s life. (Chances are there’s more than one near you. Here’s a map to check!)

little-free-library-3Summer vacation and road trip season is about to start, so now is a good time to pick up some new reading material at a Little Free Library near you.

If you’re looking for a summer project to do with your kid pickers, grandkids, scouts, or whomever, we encourage you to go find some supplies in your garage or order one from Tim to customize and create a Little Free Library in your community. Your act of kindness is your pledge to preserve books while creating a conversation in your community!

Here’s how to get started!
Donate books
Learn more about Little Free Libraries

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Throw on our Antique Archaeology “Sweet Pickin'” dark heather grey t-shirt on your next walk to a little library!

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Paul d’Orléans and Susan McLaughlin travel on Two Lanes, using a Sprinter van as a mobile darkroom, as they capture wet plate-style photos of motorcycles and their owners.

Wet plate photography is an art that’s as old as the state of California. That’s where Susan McLaughlin, a tintype photographer, met Paul d’Orléans, a motorcycle culture expert, author, and rider, in the 1990s, not knowing that one day their two specialties would unite, and discover new ways of picturing biker culture.

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Paul d’Orléans and Susan McLaughlin

“Susan and I have known each other for over 20 years, but I didn’t know she was a wet plate photographer,” explains Paul. “In fact I didn’t know anything about wet plate before 2010, when I saw an exhibit of original 1800s photographic portraits by ‘Nadar’ in Paris, and was deeply moved. These were original 8″x10″ glass plates, and the detail was incredible! It was as if these amazing people were still in the room, even though they were long gone. I mentioned the show to Susan, who explained the wet plate process, as she’d been using it for a few years already.”

Inspired by the remarkable preserved images of those long-ago French faces,  Paul began thinking about his community of bikers back in the States. As a veteran rider, bike blog contributor, author of three books, and founder of The Vintagent (a media company dedicated to vintage motorcycles and biker culture), he knew he could portray motorcyclists through photography in a way that had not been seen before. He had storytelling skills from his career as a motorcycle writer but needed a partner with expertise in the tintype style that had so captured his imagination. His vision would only work if his Susan agreed to join him in this new venture. She said “Yes!” and MotoTintype was established in 2012.

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LEFT: Paul and Susan’s Sprinter van RIGHT: Cannonball riders

For the past six years, Paul, Susan, and their Sprinter van have been attending vintage motorcycle events nationwide – at Bonneville, El Mirage, and the Motorcycle Cannonball – capturing portraits of bikers and their rides using the antique wet plate method. The thing is, it’s called wet plate because you must develop the photos immediately, while the chemistry on the glass or metal plates is still wet. To accommodate that, they transformed the back of their van into a mobile darkroom, allowing them to process their photos on site, and share the prints with their subjects right away. Paul converted the Sprinter just before participating in the 2012 Motorcycle Cannonball, the most difficult antique motorcycle endurance run in the world.

Having been a member of the vintage motorcycle scene since the 1980s, Paul is close to most of the riders they shoot at these events. Being part of the culture and creating the close bonds with riders that allowed them to document the unique details of their individual styles made it possible for Susan and him to build their portfolio. Photographs of these riders and their machines preserve their personal footprints – or tire prints – capturing distinct moments for all time.

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“These riders and I have been on the same journey together for years, but the community was new to Susan,” explains Paul. “She has an incredible presence that makes our subjects feel comfortable, which is important because Cannonball riders come in all types — from rough riders who sleep on the ground to riders with elaborate semi-trailers with machine tools and professional mechanics servicing one or two bikes. Everyone is riding the same 4,000-mile race and I make no judgments, I only want to capture their unique character.”

MotoTintype prefers the wet plate process because of its magical qualities. It’s a true chemistry experiment with silver nitrate, requiring precise execution to develop the perfect photo. (Remember Lindsey Ross and the abandoned gold mines of Telluride?) The process can create unusual light, swirls, and spots that add to the effect, and which are totally unpredictable. Paul jokingly calls them “Victorian Polaroids”.

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“The instant gratification is amazing,” he says. “One of our favorite parts of what we do is bringing the biker into the van to watch the development process. You never know what you’ll get, as the ‘wet plate’ process is sensitive only to ultraviolet light. While it can be unpredictable, the detail is remarkable. Not only are we able to capture surface features like scars and wrinkles, we’re also able to see what’s below the skin, like defects and pigmentation, all which appear darker once developed. There’s nowhere to hide on a tintype, which is what drew me to the style all those years ago. It’s so personal. To look at a portrait of a rider and see every distinct detail representing years of exposure to the elements, allows Susan and I to help tell their story without words.”

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There are many faces, ages, and tastes in biker culture. When motorcycle lovers come together the crowd spans generations and includes all walks of life. Many appreciate the classic design of antique bikes and how with some maintenance, they’re still able to function just like they did in their glory days. They love a bike built with ancient iron that squirts oil and growls. Others may be more interested in a reliable brand new custom bike created just for them. The one thing they can all agree on is that to feed your soul, there is nothing like miles passing under two wheels.

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When he’s not in the darkroom or behind the lens, Pauls likes to reunite with his brotherhood of bikers for a back road cruise on his own vintage ride: a 1933 Brough Superior v-twin. Ask him why he has lived and documented the biker culture for the past 30 years and he’ll say it’s all about the people.

“Motorcycle culture is like a hologram,” explains Paul. “If you break it down, and look at any individual part, you can see the whole picture – politics, industry, finance, design, art, passion, competition, and even the darker human tendencies. It’s all there. I invented a job for myself that allows me to do what I’m most passionate about…. telling the stories of these men and women who love the freedom of the road, and roaming the landscape on two wheels.”

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Purchase MotoTintype photos

Follow MotoTintype’s adventures on Instagram

 

Check out Two Lanes by Mike Wolfe. American-Made adventure brand for this double-sided off-white graphic tee inspired by a vintage shirt Mike found. 

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