ROADS REPORT: Time for a road trip

With the summer driving season officially under way, keep your eyes peeled for these modern roadside attractions

Blog Entry June 07, 2012

David Matthews has been chronicling the unexpectedly humorous side of transportation news for his Roads Report column since 2000. The stories are all true.

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Roadside attractions
Unusual roadside attractions became a mainstay on North American roads in the 1940s, when long-distance road travel became practical. Families looking to take a break from dusty two-lane highways found vegetable museums and giant wooden animals to be welcome diversions.


But with the creation of the interstate highway system, the popularity of mobile gaming devices and the pervasiveness of the dreaded teenage eye roll, families today usually choose to press on rather than stop and enjoy, say, the World’s Largest Ball of Twine.


As a result, many of the old-time attractions have closed, like the Upside-Down House in Florida, the Haunted Gold Mine in San Francisco and the Liberace Museum in Nevada.
Thankfully there are plenty of new curiosities for today’s modern road tripper to check out, and many won’t even require you to leave your car.


The power of poetry
If your road trip runs through New York City, you’ll encounter an interesting new strategy to promote safety: ancient Japanese poetry.


The NYC DOT has placed 216 colorful “Curbside Haiku” signs throughout the city in high-crash locations near cultural institutions.


Each sign features a bold design with an accompanying safety message written in the traditional 17-syllable haiku format, like “She walks in beauty / Like the night. Maybe that’s why / Drivers can’t see her.”


The signs were designed by artist John Morse and financed with local traffic fines. They will be on display until the fall, or you can purchase your own at www.safestreetsfund.org/store.


Playing the role of hero
You never know where you’ll see a Hollywood star when you drive through Los Angeles.


Just ask 17-year-old Weston Masset, who lost control of his Mustang on a Malibu road in April and wound up trapped and barely conscious in the upside-down carnage.
Fortunately, “Grey’s Anatomy” star Patrick Dempsey saw the accident and jumped into action, prying the car doors open with a crowbar.


As TV’s Dr. Derek Shepherd pulled him to safety, Masset asked, “Are you famous?” Dempsey replied, “Yeah, I’m a doctor.”


While Dempsey waited with Masset for paramedics to arrive, he called the teen’s mom to let her know what had happened.


“He had a certain authority in his voice,” Mary Beth Masset told ABC News. “I asked if he was a paramedic and he said, ‘No, this is Patrick Dempsey.’ I thought, ‘McDreamy?’”


Masset sustained a concussion and an eye injury, but is expected to make a full recovery.


White lightning
Every road trip requires a snack break, and for those headed to Disney World in Orlando, Fla., Bob Tibbs was always the man to see about fish and hooch.


From the back of his truck, Tibbs, 69, sold fresh seafood and homemade moonshine along the side of U.S. 1. His personal blend of 130- and 150-proof firewater came in strawberry, blackberry, apple and “regular” flavors.


However police shut down the operation in April, arrested Tibbs and dismantled his backyard still, ending a two-month undercover sting.


While moonshine is commonly associated with Appalachia, the Sunshine State has seen a number of recent brazen bootlegger busts.


In January, a man was arrested for selling moonshine from a barbeque stand outside the Gator Bowl football game in Jacksonville.


And last year, a chef at a country club in Naples was caught making homemade alcohol in the kitchen and selling it to club members.


Given the challenges that Florida faces with immigration, foreclosures and health care, residents were relieved to hear that officials haven’t been distracted from the war on moonshine. R&B

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